Sneak Peek at Internet Archive’s New Look

Yummy!

The Internet Archive has opened up its beta site so we can get a look at the new design. It’s quite impressive.

Internet Archive beta home page

Here’s a look at the new home page.

The look is much cleaner and easier to navigate with the search box front and center. I typed in “St. Augustine, Florida” and got 151 results – all listed as cards as you see below.

Internet Archive beta search results

Search results appear as cards.

Item pages are much cleaner too. There are even embed codes for sharing content on blogs and social networks. I tried them on both WordPress and Tumblr but it appears this feature isn’t working yet. I also noticed there is a WordPress shortcode embed option but that it only works with WordPress.com. My next question is how long before that shortcode will be included in Jetpack for the rest of us WordPress users?

Think of what these new sharing and embedding features could do for genealogical and historical societies . . .

Is Blogger Next?

Today’s news that Google+ would be broken down into Photos and Streams wasn’t unexpected and won’t have a significant impact on my “social life”. My real concern is Blogger, Google’s blog platform. Except for setting up hooks into Google+ way back when, the platform has basically been ignored for years. 

WordPress continues to innovate as does Yahoo’s Tumblr platform and SquareSpace. Blogger just recently posted to its official blog for the first time in a year. 

 My concern is for the large number of geneabloggers using Blogger. Many have been blogging for years and have a huge collection of posts. Migrating to a new platform will be a challenge but it can be done. 

WordPress.com has step-by-step instructions on how to make the move. Migrating to a self-hosted WordPress site is very similar, but with more manual steps – most related to moving custom domain names. SquareSpace also offers Blogger migration but limits how much can be migrated to a trial account. 

One important point. Migration only moves your content and media from one platform to another. You will not be able to bring your theme – and many of your widgets – with you. Yes, it will be an effort to “remodel” your blog at your new digs, but there are advantages that can make it worth that effort. Most of the themes at these blog platforms take advantage of the latest in web technology and the platform’s newest improvements. This means you will have mobile-friendly sites, mobile apps and enjoy the other advantages those technologies support. 

Take a look at your current blog to estimate the number of posts you need to migrate and the amount of images included in those posts. This will not only help determine how much effort migrating will be, but also what account level you will need. Next, look at the various blog platforms, their features, migration support and costs. 

If you have special needs, contact the support staff to see if they can accommodate them. Most blog platforms will do everything they can to help you move TO their site . . . and make it as painless as possible so you’ll stay. That doesn’t mean every migration is perfect. Be prepared for some cleanup. 

Take a look at the other blog platforms available to you. Create an account and experiment to see how things work and how those features fit into your blogging workflow. Once you find a platform you like, learn everything you can about their migration tools. You have time now to experiment. You have time for a do-over if things go south. Your Blogger blog will remain your primary blog until you are happy with the migration. 

You have time now. Who knows how long that will last?

Firefox Hello

Now this is a new twist . . .

The latest update to Firefox includes the ability to connect to anyone and enjoy a free video call. There are no accounts to create or systems to sign into. All you need is Firefox. What about the people you call? It would be best if they also used Firefox, but not necessary. They can use the Chrome or Opera browsers and receive your call. It’s just that Firefox is needed to start a call.

Of course, it’s also helpful if they have a webcam, speakers and a microphone . . .

If you haven’t updated your Firefox browser lately, do it now. Once the update is complete, you’ll see the Firefox Hello announcement on the splash screen and the Hello button in the toolbar. To start a conversation, click the Hello button.

Firefox Hello screenshot

Now click the Get Started button.

Firefox Hello screenshot

Click the Start a conversation button.

Firefox Hello conversation panel

Now a panel opens in the bottom right corner of the browser window and your camera and mic are activated. You can give this conversation a name if you wish. Instead of “calling” you “invite” the other participant to join your conversation. This is done by emailing the link to them or copying the link and pasting it into a text message. Use the appropriate button at the bottom of the panel to do this.

When the person you’re calling receives her invitation and clicks on the link, a conversation page is opened. She then clicks on the Join the Conversation button and answers the prompts to share the mic and webcam. It’s that easy!

You can learn more about Firefox Hello at the Firefox Help center.

Disqus – Where Comments Get Social

Disqus is a commenting platform that works with just about every blog platform. But to call Disqus a commenting system doesn’t come close to explaining what Disqus can do. Here’s a sample:

  • Comment on any Disqus-supported site using one login – your Disqus account.
  • Easily include links, photos and even video in your comment.
  • Begin conversations by replying to other commenters.
  • Follow other commenters to keep up with their comments wherever they post them.
  • @Mention another Disqus commenter to attract her attention. That person is notified of the mention and can check out the conversation.
  • Use your Disqus profile page as a mini social network where you can track comments and replies across all the Disqus-supported sites you follow. You can add your own replies from here too.
  • If you ♥ (recommend) a discussion, every Disqus user who follows you will see that discussion in their profile.

It costs nothing to use and can be installed on your blog in a matter of minutes. When I added it to the Gazette, it even imported all of the WordPress comments – almost 7 years worth – with ease. You maintain control over your comments with some very nice moderator tools both on site and in your Disqus profile.

Recently there’s been some discussion on whether or not blogging was declining and, if so, were social networks to blame. Blogs are an important resource for documenting and sharing our family history and a major asset to the entire genealogy community. Incorporating Disqus as our commenting platform not only makes it easier to comment on posts, its social functions make it even easier to connect with other geneabloggers. Even better, our blogs remain the center of this network getting the attention they deserve.

So . . . what do you think? Add your thoughts below and see for yourself what an impressive platform Disqus is.

Updated: Capture Your World in Your Journal

When I hear someone rant about how email is destroying the personal letter or the disappearance of cursive handwriting in the digital age, I just smile. Thanks to technology – and particularly the app phone with its still/video camera – we’ll leave behind a rich view of our world and our place in it. I love playing with my camera along with an outrageous number of apps for editing and manipulating the photos I take. And, because I no longer have to buy film or pay to develop my photos, there’s no need to wait for the “perfect” shot to take a picture. The same is true for video.

sample journal entry

The specials board at our favorite diner.

I don’t know how many times I’ve wished I had a photo of the soda fountain at McCartney’s Drug Store or the lobby of the Matanzas Theatre during a Saturday afternoon matinee. These and many other places that were part of our day-to-day lives are no longer there, but because they weren’t “special” we never took photographs of them. Today, thanks to my iPhone’s camera and the Day One journal app [Mac – $9.99, iOS – $4.99], I’m not only capturing photos of our favorite places, the camera and Day One automatically add details like date, location and weather for me. No, I’m not going to tap out a description during dinner. That can wait until I’m back home and have time to add details.

So now I have some delightful views of my world captured in my journal thanks to my phone’s camera and Day One. They include a number of not-so-momentous occasions like dinner on the deck at Aunt Kate’s or the dogs at the front window supervising road work along our street. I’d like to think future generations will enjoy this look at our world, but even if they don’t, I will.

Note to Android users . . . check out the Day Journal app [Android – free]. It’s got many of the same features as Day One.

WordPress Redesigns Mobile App

I’m writing this post in the updated WordPress mobile app. The editor has received a nice facelift including the ability to edit image settings without leaving the editor screen. There’s now an image icon on the editing toolbar that takes you right to the Photos app to select the image you want to import. At the top of the editing screen you’ll find the Settings and Preview icons which also make it much easier to access the tools needed to write, publish and manage your content.

editor screen in mobile WprdPress app

A look at the updated editor in the WordPress mobile app for iOS.

Once you’ve inserted an image, tap on it and a pencil icon appears as an overlay on the image. Tap the icon to display the image’s settings. Add titles, captions and alt text, then set your appearance choices. Tap close and you are right back in the editor screen ready to keep typing.

These updates have turned the app into a truly functional editor – and one I’ll be using a lot more often.

WordPress Mobile for iOS is free in the app store.

Archiving Email

Personal Archive BadgeEmail continues to be a primary communications tool for personal, household, business and research communications. Today, a good part of our lives resides in our inbox. Do you have a plan to manage and archive your important email? If not, why not?

Most of us know that we want to archive certain messages but have hit a brick wall trying to determine how best to do it. There are so many different email systems – webmail, IMAP and POP – and email clients – Outlook, Mail, Thunderbird, etc. – that finding a solution can be a challenge. A challenge, yes. Impossible? Not even.

First, you need to have a digital document management system in place. Although you can build your own using your computer’s file management system, having a document management app can make dealing with large collections a whole lot easier. [See Document Management Systems for more information.] If you don’t already have PDF creation software, you will need that too. With these two tools in place, it’s easy to archive your email – all you do is print!

That’s right. To archive a message, just print it using the PDF “printer” most PDF applications install on your system. Mac users can take advantage of the system’s built-in PDF capabilities for this effort. Why print instead of just saving as a PDF? My experience on my Mac has been that printing to PDF will include all the images, backgrounds and design elements while saving to PDF does not.

Mac print to PDF dialog

The Save to PDF dialog panel on the Mac print options pane.

I use Paperless for my document management system and, as you see in the above example, it installs a link in the PDF option of my print dialog. So, all I do is click on the PDF to Paperless option, then complete the index record shown below.

Paperless index panel.

Paperless index panel.

Attachments in messages are not automatically included. You will need to open the attachment and either repeat the “print” to Paperless steps or you can set up a Paperless Droplet on your desktop (File > Create Droplet > Finder Droplet) on your desktop and drag the attachment right from your original email message to the droplet’s icon on your desktop. Once both the message and attachment are indexed in Paperless, you can select them then right-click and choose the Combine Documents option to keep them both together. If the attachment is a media file, gedcom or some other data file, save it in an appropriate location and make note of it on your message’s index record.

Note, too, that since I use MacJournal, it’s also listed as a “print to” app. Using that I can include special messages in my journal with just a few taps. Think of the possibilities that offers . . .

This system works with both web-based email systems and desktop email clients and it includes the messages in with the rest of your personal archive rather than off in a world of their own. When you search your archive for information related to a specific topic, your results will include any applicable email messages along with documents. You can also take advantage of Paperless’s collections feature to “virtually” organize documents. While you only have one actual file stored on your hard drive, it can be associated with any number of collections. You can have surname collections, record type collections or anything else that helps you manage your research.

I recommend that you keep your “original” messages stored on your email provider’s server when at all possible. They do a much better job of backing up their information than even the best of us ever will.

With a bit of planning and a couple of handy tools, your desktop computer can make organizing your life a lot easier. Archiving important email is just part of it.

NOTE: This article was originally posted in March 2013 and has been updated with current information. And, if you’re wondering what that creature is in the message’s photos, it’s my very talented sister’s latest creation – an armadillo jug. 

The Evernote Periodicals Index

Have you wanted to build an index of the articles in your genealogical journals and quarterlies, but found all that data entry more than you could handle? Put Evernote to work and you can have it done in no time.

First, create a notebook for your periodicals index then use the Evernote app on your phone or tablet to photograph the table of contents for each issue you want to index. You’ll need some good lighting, a flat surface and maybe a few weights to help flatten the page while you photograph it. If the resulting image isn’t perfectly flat or perfectly squared, don’t worry. Evernote can handle it and as long as you can read it you’re good.

Each captured table of contents becomes its own note. Use the note title to identify the periodical and issue. That’s it!

Evernote Indexing

Evernote’s search makes it easy to find articles. Evernote can read the text in your image and will present you with the notes and text matching your search criteria. In the example below you see the results of a simple search. The title tells me which periodical and issue to dig out of my files.

Are you getting digital editions of your periodicals? Even better! Use Evernote as your library – saving each issue in your periodicals notebook. In this case the entire publication is searchable.

This article originally appeared in the Moultrie Telegraph.

Short Stories

As the mobile phone with camera becomes more common, it opens even more opportunities to capture those special moments that will become a part of our families’ history. Sure, we all know how to take a picture and email it or post it on Facebook, but isn’t it time to learn how to use these tools so we can do more than just take a picture. We need to look at these devices as tools for telling a story.

Look around and you’ll find lots of inspiration. National Geographic has taught geography to generations of children just with photos and captions. How many times has a photo caught your eye, then the caption grabbed your interest to the point that you actually read the article? Even when it didn’t, they still managed to give you a lot of interesting information in that simple caption.

Barrett Bathing Beauties

What better way for the Barrett girls to show off their new high heels from Grandma than posing as bathing beauties in a swimsuit contest. What if Mom had an iPhone and the Internet to share moments like these with Dad when he was at sea?

Instead of posting your photos to Facebook, consider posting them to a photo-sharing site like Flickr. Why? Flickr stores full-sized images along with the metadata embedded by your camera – including geo-codes identifying where the photo was taken. In addition, you have full control over who can and can’t see them. Using the free Flickr app [iOS and Android], you can capture live events and share them immediately. Both the desktop and mobile apps give you the ability to add titles and descriptions then share copies to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, email and your blog with little effort. You don’t have to worry about documenting date, place and time. The camera and Flickr take care of that for you. Spend your effort writing a caption. Think of it as a short story like those you found so fascinating in National Geographic.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but with a good caption it becomes a story. And a collection of stories can then become a family history.