TechSmith – the developers of Snagit, Camtasia and a number of other apps – have taken to Scribd to make their user guides available to all. With a free Scribd account, you can read and download these and a number of other publications from a growing number of sources. And, Scribd has readers for both Android and iOS devices.
Digital storytelling supports your storytelling efforts with inspiration and creative ideas. If you aren’t a subscriber, you can see this week’s edition online.
Evernote continues to develop ways to make note-taking easier. Working with stylus maker Adonit, they recently released a Bluetooth stylus called the Jot Script that works with the Penultimate app to make writing and drawing much easier. But that’s not all. The Jot Script will work with a number of other art and note-taking apps like Procreate, Sketchbook Pro, ArtStudio, PDFpen and GoodNotes. A number of other apps are being updated to use it too. This stylus is not cheap at $75, but it can be well worth the price to artists and students. Currently it’s only available via Evernote. Here’s a look.
I’ve been a fan of the Paper by FiftyThree app for the iPad ever since it was released. It’s a great place to doodle and it’s easy to move those doodles into my DayOne journaling app to give a more hand-crafted/hand-written aspect to a digital platform. Recently FiftyThree announced the release of their new Pencil stylus. This stylus has the look and feel of a carpenter’s pencil but it works via Bluetooth instead of by touch. The FiftyThree app has been updated to put this stylus to work as both a pen/pencil and as a brush. And the programming includes using your finger as a blender.
Pencil is not cheap. The graphite model is $50 and the walnut one is $60. It’s available from FiftyThree. And, right now it only works with the Paper app. See for yourself.
Not only does our family blog serve as a private news center for family news, adventures and photos, it really gets a workout during the holidays. It’s a great support system for organizing family gatherings like Thanksgiving dinner and all the events surrounding Christmas. Rather than trying to keep up with who’s bringing what via round-robin emails, the event host sets the plan – menu, chores, etc. – in a post to the blog. Our blog runs on WordPress and we use JetPack’s email subscription service to automatically send each new post to all subscribers. When they reply to the emailed post, their reply becomes a comment to that post at the blog site. All the family can view the post and its comments to see how things are progressing. There’s also a checkbox to receive each comment via email if they so desire.
We’re hosting Christmas this year. Here’s the “invitation” that will be published later this week. The planning post will be sent soon after.
After the event, any family member can share photos by posting them to the blog. Those who have the WordPress app installed and set up on their phones can post their pictures as they happen!
Not only does a family blog help you organize big events, the organizational posts and comments become a delightful journal capturing the “backstage” view of your family’s world. What’s not to like about that?
Have you or your society considered using blogs as part of a cemetery inventory project? The bloggers of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits have demonstrated how a blog adds much more to the story of a cemetery than just a photo and transcription of the grave marker. They’ve added histories of the cemetery itself, follow-on research about the people buried there and information about the design and symbols used on the markers. Best of all, blogs are very search-friendly and attract researchers who often leave comments that provide even more information about the people buried there.
Doesn’t that sound a lot more interesting than a data table of bare bones text?
While this could be done on just about any blog platform, the tumblr platform combines free blogs, multiple author support and mobile apps into an amazingly easy platform that will not only provide a good home for the stories of your cemeteries, but also impressive tools to post content directly from the cemetery.
The tumblr blog platform can be a great support system for individuals and societies doing on-site cemetery inventories. With a free tumblr blog and companion mobile app [iOS, Android & Windows Phone - free], you can turn loose an army (okay, a platoon) of volunteers who can photograph, document details and post right from their phones.
Tumblr supports multiple contributors (called members) on all secondary tumblrs. [NOTE: A user's first blog is the primary blog and only that user can post to it.] If you’re inventorying multiple cemeteries, it would probably be best to create a separate tumblr for each. The site administrator invites each volunteer as a member of that cemetery’s blog. All it takes is to go to the Member screen and enter the email address for a volunteer, then click the Invite button. That volunteer will receive an email with instructions to join the blog – and register an account on tumblr if he doesn’t already have one. The volunteer will be able to publish posts on the blog, but can’t perform any of the blog management functions. Once the volunteer has joined the blog, he installs the appropriate app on his smartphone and uses that login to connect to the blog through his device.
Now it’s time to do some field work.
At the cemetery, capturing details about each grave is as simple as creating a photo post, taking one (or more) photos of the grave/marker, adding whatever text information is required, then publishing the post. At this stage of the process, content is more important than style. You may want to have a volunteer sitting at home on a desktop computer reviewing the posts as they are published. This volunteer – who has a full-size screen and a standard keyboard – can review the photographs, clean up any typos and call field workers when a photo needs to be retaken or there’s a question about the post.
Although tumblr doesn’t have the organizational features found in more sophisticated blog platforms, a good system of tags can make it easier to access any of your posts. Tags can be added at any time – as part of the original posting from the field and/or during any of the reviews or updates performed by your staff. The key is to build a taxonomy (standard) for the tags you’ll use to define your posts. Surname is one obvious tag, but you might want to include tags for marker styles or to define a mausoleum. There’s no limit to the number of tags you can use, but consistency is important.
Individual posts can be edited at any time to add additional information. If you want to research individuals, you can add the information you’ve discovered to the existing post or create a new one. Some creative tagging on your part will allow visitors to pull together all the posts associated with a particular surname or topic by just clicking a displayed tag.
In the example shown below, you’re looking at an individual post in the Huguenot Cemetery blog. Notice the tags in the left column. A visitor could click any of those tags and tumblr displays all posts containing that tag. Now look at the menu across the top of the page. Tumblr supports pages although they are a bit clunky to create. This blog uses the page feature to provide the history of this cemetery. Additional pages could be created to list research resources or whatever information you want to provide.
Using a blog to inventory a cemetery can add value to your society archives. Using a blog platform such as tumblr can help simplify the process. Want to learn more about tumblr? Tackling Tumblr is a good place to start.
For some time now I’ve been looking for a way to make my genealogical society’s quarterly article index available online. We celebrate our 50th anniversary next year so you can imagine that there’s much to index. One of our members spent weeks compiling it as a spreadsheet. It’s an impressive piece of work, and an easy format to export to almost any database. The problem was finding an online database app that could give us a searchable, sortable index on our site.
Finally, I stumbled upon an amazing WordPress plugin called TablePress. It makes building beautiful data tables as simple as uploading an Excel spreadsheet. When the first row of the spreadsheet contains the column headers, TablePress uses that to define the columns in your data table. The Import function lets you choose to create a new data table, replace an existing one or append to an existing one. That last option means our article index can be easily updated after each issue is released.
Once a data table has been built, all it takes is a simple shortcode to place it on a page. As you can see in the example above, you can have text on the page with the data. I was delighted to see how beautifully styled my table was when it was first displayed. And, there is a facility built into the plugin to edit the CSS if I wish.
Simple data edits can be done online in WordPress’s Dashboard, however the size of our index data table makes that a tediously slow process. On the front end, that same data table displays quickly and both searches and sorts – visitors can resort the table by clicking the up/down icons in the table headings – are almost instantaneous.
Since the article index isn’t the only data table I plan to include, I’ve installed a separate WordPress site just for the archives. I don’t want the archives impacting the society’s site performance or vice versa so this just makes sense. By using the same theme and duplicating the site menu on both sites, most visitors won’t even notice.
Once installed, you’ll find a new TablePress section added to your WordPress dashboard. Here you can create and manage your data tables. Once a table has been created, you’ll find each record displayed in the Table Content section. In the example above there’s only one record – the column headings. This is also where you can edit those records, but as I said earlier, that is a rather clunky process.
Here you can see how easy it is to add a table using the import function. For my quarterly index, I had almost 3500 records so I chose to import them in blocks of 400 records so each new block was appended to the existing table. This is also how I will add new records as each quarterly is released. Since most of our society’s staff and volunteers are comfortable using spreadsheets, this means they can continue working with familiar tools to maintain this and any additional data tables we should add. It will require a review of the spreadsheet’s structure to insure it’s “presentable” as an online data table and that it has appropriate columns for things like tags [I love tags!] or links to outside sources.
Right off I can see our society using TablePress for cemetery inventories. Since a TablePress data table is placed on a normal WordPress page, we could have a page for each cemetery. That page could begin with a history of the cemetery and then place the inventory data table below the intro. Records could even include links to outside content – like a Find-A-Grave page if one exists. That’s only the beginning . . .
There’s still much to learn about this very impressive plugin. Looks like I have found a fascinating project to keep me busy – and away from the shopping madness of Thanksgiving weekend. Yum!