Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blog Reflections

I'm happy to report that I enjoyed blogging much more than I thought I would. At first I was a little intimidated because I wasn’t confident that my writing was good enough to put out there publicly, or that I had something interesting to say, especially on technology-related topics. Throughout the process I really felt like I found my voice and had some fun along the way. I stayed away from getting overly technical, since that isn't my strength. I tried to keep an open-mind and approach the blog as an explorer, although my hesitance and skepticism clearly came out at times.

My initial intent was to review new technology and tools to see how I can integrate them into my work and life. While I did stay somewhat true to that mission, I also brought in some relevant news items and a couple of funny, odd little discoveries to comment upon. I realized that it was too time-consuming, and quite challenging to review a new piece of technology or tool for every blog post (especially when I would've had to blog about 45 times in 7 weeks to get A on the project).

My goals for this blog were not overly ambitious. My hope was that the few people that read the blog would find it enjoyable and informative. A month ago I was nowhere to be found in the search results, now I am the second search result if you Google “worth my while” or “worth my while or not”. On Bing, I am the third search result for “worth my while” and the first search result for “worth my while or not”. Sweet!

I wish I could report detailed analytics for the life span of my blog; however, I made a mistake when setting up the analytics and didn't correct it until it couple of weeks ago. In about 12 days, I had a total of 113 visits, 245 page views, 41 unique visitors, 2.17 pages per visit, with an average of 3.09 minutes per visit.

Through looking at the Google Analytics map overlay feature to track the origin of my web traffic, I know that my sister in Washington only reviewed my blog twice (I am going to bust her for that), 15 visits came from California (thanks mom), and 90 from New York. I did have one visitor in Miami and one in Connecticut, which could be strangers since I don't think that I know people in these states, unless my friends are accessing my blog while on vacation.

Most of my blog traffic was from referring sites (all of my classmates linked to my blog from their blogs), which goes to show the power of “link love”, and also the power of Facebook. Posting links to my blog on my Facebook status updates definitely worked to drive traffic to my site.

If I had to do it all over again, I would've chosen a different name for my blog to make it more unique and search engine friendly, but I definitely would stick with the Blogger platform because I found it to be quite user-friendly and I like that it was integrated with my other Google accounts.

I struggled over whether or not I wanted to reveal my full identity on the blog because I didn't know whether I wanted it tied to me professionally. In retrospect, although I am proud of my work, I do feel that it is more personal musings, versus my professional opinion as a communicator, so I feel that I made the right decision to keep it anonymous (although clearly it's not anonymous to my friends and followers).

Overall, using this blog as a platform to further explore digital communications, both through first-hand experiences and following developments in the news and blogosphere, helped me to shape and express my opinions about this changing world of technology. If it weren't for this class, or for this project, I would not have challenged myself to explore this topic on my own, which I think is critical and relevant for communicators in all fields.

Although I have enjoyed blogging, I don't think I will keep this up, at least not in the short-term, because I have so many competing demands for my time (and I need some rest and relaxation, hello summer!). Now that I am more interested in keeping up with the world of digital communications, I am sure that as I stumble across new tools or articles I will immediately think “this would be a great blog post!” Maybe at that time, after a bit of a rest, I will feel compelled to pick it up again.

Hopefully my blog was worth someone’s while, but if not, at least I personally got a lot out of doing it. Enjoy the rest of the summer; I know that I will!

The Ultimate Mind Blower

I sit here writing (or rather dictating to my still quite annoying Dragon software) with a mixture of excitement and relief, and oddly, a bit of sadness. My digital communications course has come to an end, now I am just trying to eek out a few more blog posts to solidly get a B on the assignment. I walked out of class on Monday telling my professor that my last blog posts were going to blow his mind, then left thinking... "oh crap, I was only joking, what am I going to write about to wrap this thing up?"

So I decided to give you a list of a lot of cool things (online tools, websites, apps) that I learned from my classmates during our weekly knowledge share. I wanted to review many of these for blog posts, but didn't quite get to it. I can't vouch for whether these are worthwhile, because I've not tried them myself, but my classmates are pretty knowledgeable and trustworthy. There is a little something here for everyone, enjoy!

For the do-gooder:

If you still like to print paper, but feel guilty about it, GreenPrint allows you to print only the parts you want from any kind of document.

FirstGiving allows you to select a particular charity and fundraise on behalf of someone, without having to be linked to a particular event.

For the social media buff:

Tired of logging and different sites and see what your friends are up to? allows you to sign into all of your accounts at once and have the streams appear in one dashboard view.

For those Twitter lovers, Twiangulate compiles Twitter lists and lets the user triangulate the data which helps them to find and revise the list of people that they follow.

For the creative types:

Issuu is a digital platform for individuals, businesses, and publishers to create content with traditional print design features (i.e. turns pages like a magazine) but with greater interactivity.

Customink allows users to create their own designs on all sorts of merchandise: t-shirts, mugs, hats etc.

For the effective project manager:

LessProjects is a free application for managing collaborative projects.

Remember the Milk, is a free, Web-based to-do list manager (with a poor name) that allows for offline use so you don't always need to be connected to the Internet.

For the data nerds:

Many Eyes is a cool online data visualization tool that allows users to create interactive visualizations of their data (sounds kind of like Wordle, but more extensive). is an extensive library of tutorials for software such as Flashbuilder, Excel, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Avid Media Composer, Encore, Illustrator, etc.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Minty Green

Today is the first day of better managing my money. I just set up my account on Thanks to my bro, Jeremy Pope, for introducing me to the site.

The service is free and easy to use--you simply link up all your bank and investment accounts, credit cards, student loans, etc. to begin using the service. I have to admit there were a couple of glitches in establishing my profile on the site, for instance, one of my accounts says that I entered the incorrect login and password, although I know this is not the case. This is a bit annoying and I still have not managed resolve the issue.

Theoretically, having access to all of my financial information in one place will allow me to keep tabs on what's going on with my finances much more easily. With, you can set financial goals and budgets, and the program monitors your spending to keep you on track and offers you helpful tips and tools along the way to save you money. also has iPhone and Android applications, so if you are smart phone user, you can manage your money on the go.

In a short amount of time, has already gotten to know me well. It is acting like the spouse that I do not have and keeps offering me unsolicited advice on how I can spend less money on food, entertainment, and shopping. Come on Mint, I already know that (I am a single girl in the city, what else am I going to spend my money on?), stop riding my back! Perhaps I should spend less time shopping online and more time on (refer back to Distracted by Discounts)!

My boyfriend scared me a bit about giving all this information to a third party, but I am apparently very trusting, and am more concerned about someone sifting through my mail in the trash than I am about having my information hacked through this site. Millions of people use the and it has received a lot of press and backing from reputable sources. uses bank-level data security. Also, you are anonymous on the site; you don’t share your name, address, social security number or account numbers.

If you are looking for some help in the budgeting department, I think is worthwhile, but of course it depends on how comfortable you are with their online security. I also think that the more you use the tool, the more you will get out of it. At this time, I haven't yet established my budget or goals, but I plan to ASAP. The first step was to establish an account, you've got to start somewhere, right?!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Social Petworking

For our weekly "knowledge share" in my digital communications class, my dear classmate and fellow blogger Helena told the class about two new social networks, Dogster and Catster. I'm still processing my feelings about this-- a mixture of amazement, joy, fright, and confusion. Might this be a sign that social networks have gone a little too far? Or maybe it's about time that we involve our faithful pets in the joys of social networking (a.k.a. petworking).

Navigating by Bike

My new, vintage three-speed Schwinn Collegiate has changed my city-dwelling life. I've lived in New York for seven years, and never thought that I wanted a bike because I was scared of city riding. I recently threw caution to the wind when I purchased my new wheels (and helmet).

Now I pretty much go everywhere on my bike, with a little help from my friend, Google bike maps, which I can rely upon to find the safest riding route.

This worked quite well for my trip from Clinton Hill to Williamsburg yesterday, but I realize I should have also noted the reverse directions since it's not quite as simple as reversing your route, especially with limited bike lanes, many one-way streets, and crappy road conditions that are pretty common throughout Brooklyn.

I wish that I could have Google bike directions sent to my phone via text. I didn't see this as an option, however if you have a smartphone you can e-mail the directions to yourself, which would've come in handy.

Happy cycling!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fun With Word Clouds

Everyone loves word clouds, even if they don't know it. A couple of semesters ago my professor showed the class a cool tool, Wordle, to convert text into a visual, a.k.a. - a word cloud. All you have to do is copy text into the box, and poof, out comes this little picture that you can customize with various, fonts, colors, and shapes. To ilustrate, I copied my resume text to create the Worldle image in this post.

Wordle gives more prominence to words that are mentioned more frequently, so can help to illustrate trends. This little trick has proven useful for several projects. I created a Wordle using open-ended survey responses to visually display the results in a presentation. I also made a Valentine for my boyfriend and used our first few months of email corresponce, cut it into a heart shape, and pasted it onto red construction paper.
The possibilities are endless. Thumbs up for Wordle!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Just Another Dumb Phone

A couple of weeks ago I found my phone in the bottom of my kitchen trash in a pool of old pineapple and banana scraps. I solicited advice on Facebook on how to revive a phone after incurring water damage. The prevailing wisdom is to take it apart and let it sit in a bowl of uncooked rice to soak up the water. I let it soak in a bowl of dry quinoa (I didn't have any rice), and my phone did come back to life temporarily, with all this quinoa stuck in the nooks and crannies (I would recommend a larger grain, although quinoa is super delicious and healthy), but it eventually died about a week later.

I'm not the type of person who gets excited about buying a new phone. I wasn't ready to make the leap to a smart phone. I don't want the additional expense of having to add a data package onto my monthly bill. Also, I am accustomed to using my phone the old-fashioned way, to call people and text. I don't "need" all the bells and whistles, although I am sure if I had them I would probably like it.

My new phone is working just fine for me. I ended up going with T-Mobile's Samsung Gravity 3 phone. It has more features than I will probably ever use, and it is an upgrade for me since I didn't even have a keyboard on my last phone.

If I were to buy a smartphone, I would want the iPhone--it seems more fun and has more utility than a Blackberry, despite all the hoopla around the iPhone 4, which I have been following pretty closely because I recently wrote a paper about "antenna gate" for class. This video pretty much summarizes the iPhone 4 debacle in a genius song. I pretty much agree with this guy on all points. Check it out!

Maybe in the future I will step it up to the iPhone, but for now I am locked in for another two years with my T-Mobile contract.