Flickr for Maps

We already know that Flickr is more than just a photo-sharing platform. It is also an impressive online gallery for a growing number of the world’s prestigious institutions. You can find some truly amazing things here – like these historical maps. If you are looking for historical maps and images to support your research, take a look at the very searchable collections in Flickr Commons.

1783 Map of US Eastern Seaboard

Image taken from page 58 of ‘History of the United States of America: … to the present time by T. P. Shaffner. From the British Library’s collection at Flickr Commons.

Click the map image to view its page at Flickr and you’ll discover even more goodies – including a link back to the library where you can download a PDF copy of book containing this map and others.

Map of Drake's raid.

Baptista Boazio’s Map of Sir Francis Drake’s Raid on St. Augustine (published in 1589) via Florida Memory, on Flickr Commons.

This map is the earliest engraving of any city or territory now part of the United States. Other Flickr collections from Florida Memory include maps of the Spanish land grants in Florida at the time it became an American colony.

The number of institutions using Flickr to display collections continues to grow. The Internet Archive has posted more than 2.5 million illustrations from books in their book images collection and The British Library has more than a million images online with a good number of them maps.

Include Footnotes In Your Posts

Would you like to include footnotes1 in your WordPress posts and pages? If you’re using a self-hosted version of WordPress, you can take advantage of the FD Footnotes plugin. Once installed, this plugin provides a simple shortcode2 which make it easy to add your references right in your text. As you see from these examples, the footnotes are collected at the bottom of the post. The superscripted reference number also serves as a hyperlinked bookmark which will quickly connect you to that citation. Don’t worry about your readers losing their place when they check a citation. The curly arrow icon at the end of each footnote links them right back to the original reference in the text.

How difficult is it to create your footnotes? Here’s what the code looks like in your editor:

Footnotes Example

Type your citation beginning with its reference number, a period and space, and surround the whole thing with square braces. Your citation can include text, hyperlinks and even images. It can’t get much easier than that! And, because the plugin just positions the collected footnotes at the bottom of your post without headings or styling, you can add whatever you want at the bottom of your post to “introduce” your footnotes. In this case, they are being used as simple notes so that is how I’ve titled them.

With this plugin, you can now include formal footnotes, simple source lists or just plain notes quickly and easily within your posts.

Notes:

  1. Citations commonly found at the bottom of a page.
  2. WordPress-specific codes that perform complex functions.

Wunderlist is Wunderbar

I am a big fan of Wunderlist [Mac, iOS, Windows, Chromebook, Android, Windows Phone and Web] and have it on my desktop and iThings. I use it to keep topic ideas for blogging, manage my presentations, organize writing projects and keep up with mundane things like grocery lists.

Wunderlist does for project management what Evernote does for notes management. They are similar in a number of ways. Like Evernote, your content physically resides online at Wunderlist and is automatically synched to all your computers and devices. There are also similar service levels. The basic level is free and offers more than enough features for most users. The Premium level is $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year and offers more space for existing features as well as several additional ones.

Wunderlist screen

A look at the detail panel for the Evernote item in the Presentation Topics list.

List items can have sub-tasks, notes and you can even attach files to them. This alone makes it a very useful project management system. Add the ability to share lists and assign tasks to others and things get real interesting. Then there are public lists. At first I didn’t appreciate the possibilities a public list offered, but once the light bulb went on I’ve found all kinds of uses for them. Among other things, they are an easy way for speakers to maintain their presentation lists. As you see in the example below, the Presentation Topics list is a public list embedded in a blog page. When I update the list in Wunderlist, the embed is automatically updated.

Wunderlist public list

A public list embedded in a WordPres page.

It gets better! Remember the note added to the Evernote item in the first graphic? When a visitor clicks any item in the embedded list, the contents of the note field are displayed for that item giving visitors a description along with the title.

Not every list is something “to do”. I’ve found reference lists quite handy too. I keep a list of all the presentations I’ve given – with the presentation file attached. This has become a very useful reference. Wunderlist also offers an extension for the Firefox and Chrome browsers. Safari users can set up the Share feature to include Wunderlist. I’m using it to grab “read later” things like interesting articles or recipes I might want to add to my cookbook.

The combination of Evernote and Wunderlist have done wonders for my productivity. Not only do they support my research efforts, they are a great help in managing everyday things too.

Life is good!

Saved Searches Save Time

One of the most amazing features found on today’s computers and apps is the saved search. For the family historian with a growing archive of digitized files and research material, this little jewel is a dream come true. It will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. No, I am not exaggerating.

I first learned about saved searches in my photo organizer app. iPhoto not only captures metadata embedded in the digital photos I add to my collection, but also makes it easy to bulk edit photos to add more – like keywords. In iPhoto they call their saved searches “smart albums”.  When I create a smart album, iPhoto walks me through a procedure to define the parameters that will be used to determine whether a photo will be added to this smart album. Every new photo added to my iPhoto collection that meets this criteria will be automatically added to this folder. Only one copy of the actual photo file resides on my computer, but it’s possible for that photo to be displayed in any number of smart albums.

saved search in iPhoto

Crafting a saved search to create a smart album in iPhoto.

iPhoto’s smart albums soon became one of my favorite features. I wasn’t having to make multiple copies of a photo just to display it in different albums. And if I decide I want a different set of folders, all I have to do is add, remove and update the smart album properties. iPhoto does all the photo-shuffling for me. Life is good.

When I first began using Evernote, I had notebooks for each of the surnames I’m researching and was copying notes related to multiple families into multiple notebooks. This was almost as tedious as the paper workflow I found so cumbersome. Then I discovered Evernote’s saved search feature and managing my research became a joy. Today I only have one Family Research notebook. When a note or record relates to more than one family, I just add more tags.

Evernote saved search

Creating a saved search in Evernote.

Once an Evernote saved search is created, it’s faster to run the search than it is to navigate to a specific notebook.

Evernote's search panel

To activate a saved search, click in Evernote’s search box. The existing saved searches appear and you click the one you want to execute.

When you mouse over a saved search, the Edit button appears on the right so you can update or remove that search. Drag a selected search to the Shortcuts section of your Evernotes sidebar and it can be accessed with one click. Saved searches appear with the magnifying glass icon.

I’m not sure what’s happening in the Windows world lately, but there used to be File Manager features for smart folders there. I don’t think they called them “smart” folders though. Mac systems now support smart folders and they recently included the ability to add tags to files too. You can even batch edit tags by selecting them and clicking the tag icon in Finder’s toolbar.

Saved searches and smart folders are amazing organizational tools. Yes, it will take some time to learn and time to develop workflows to best use them. This is one example where technology really can make things easier and faster.

Updated: Build a Photo Slideshow on Flickr

One of my favorite iPad apps is Flickr Studio [iPad – $4.99]. I bought it originally to upload photos to Flickr while traveling, but have found it is also a delightful way to browse Flickr’s fabulous collections. And, when the iPad is on a stand, it can beautifully display a Flickr slideshow.  When I tried it out, I noticed that the app picks up the title of each photo when presenting the image.

. . . Hmmmm . . .

Like most of us, I’m in a hurry to get my latest photos safely tucked away on Flickr, often only providing the most basic information for those photos before I upload them. It’s important to insure that the details get added to those photos before my memory gets the best of me. (In my case that means do it now!) Fortunately, Flickr has created impressive apps for just about every mobile device which includes tools for organizing photos and performing batch edits. The apps are free and I highly recommend using them. However, they do not include any sort of slideshow capability. Right now, only Flickr Studio can build and display a slideshow of Flickr photos on the iPad.

Let’s take a look.

Flickr Studio editing

Batch editing in Flickr Studio

This first example shows you the batch editing capabilities in Flickr Studio. The information entered into this form will be attached to each of the photos you see in the grayed-out background. This can be done either as part of the upload process or at a later time.

Adding tags to a batch of photos in Flickr Studio.

Adding tags to a batch of photos in Flickr Studio.

In this example, I’ve selected a group of photos so I can add tags to them. From this screen I can also add them to sets (albums) or groups and edit who has viewing access to these photos.

Editing metadata in Flickr Studio.

Adding metadata to individual photos.

In this example, I’ve tapped the Batch button at the top of the screen to display this metadata panel where I can add titles and descriptions along with other metadata.

Although I can use the batch editing tools to add titles and descriptions, I prefer to do this individually when I’m doing a slideshow. Since many of the apps and devices used to display theses photos will include at least the title and often the description, this gives me an opportunity to tell the story of the photos.

Slideshow on Flickr

Viewing the set as a slideshow in Flickr Studio

Here’s what the basic Flickr set slideshow looks like on your iPad. The info panel can be turned on or off by the person viewing the slideshow.

Flickr Studio Slideshow

Viewing a set slideshow in Flickr Studio

And this is the Flickr Studio slideshow. I can adjust timing, photo size and effects used in the show by tapping the image to display the menu.

Your iPad isn’t the only place you can present a Flickr slideshow. Your photos are even more impressive when displayed on a big screen. Thanks to devices like the Roku box, Apple TV and the growing number of Internet-connected televisions, you can display your Flickr photos on your high-definition, big screen tv. And, they are drop-dead gorgeous!

You will need to experiment with your app/device to see how it works with Flickr. For example, my Roku box (an older model) allows me to play sets – and in the order I’ve arranged the photos – but doesn’t display information when on automatic play. I switch over to manual and it all pops up.

Once you’ve mastered the art of the slideshow, you can create photo sets just to tell stories. These can become fascinating exhibits at family or class reunions. I like to set up slideshows on the tv for family functions. And, I can always send a research cousin the link to a specific set/show at Flickr to share old family photos and the stories behind them.

Creating a Flickr slideshow not only builds an entertaining look at your family history, latest travels or a special place, it insures your photos are documented properly. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Here are some of the Internet-connected devices that support Flickr:

Meet Ulysses

I spent a delightful day yesterday getting acquainted with Ulysses, a new-to-me writing platform for Mac – and now iPad too. Those of you familiar with Scrivener will find Ulysses quite familiar but with a much shorter learning curve. The biggest visible difference is that Ulysses uses Markdown (they call it markup) for formatting text.

When you first open Ulysses, you are presented with a finished writing project – the user guide. It walks you through everything you need to know about the app. It took about 30 minutes to work through the guide and my first trial export – first to PDF, then to ePub – just blew my mind. It’s drop-dead easy and the results are quite stunning. Ulysses uses style templates and there’s a growing number of them available at their site. It’s quite possible to build my own style, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

Ulysses for Mac

Ulysses for Mac work area

Here you are looking at the Ulysses work area on the Mac. The panel on the far left is the sidebar. It contains groups and filters. Groups are used to organize and arrange content elements much like the folders in Scrivener. Filters are more like smart folders where content is collected based on a search. For example, I could tag content elements as “needs work” and have a filter set up to keep me updated on what I still need to do. The center panel contains what they call Sheets – text items – contained in the selected group or filter. Select a sheet and it’s content appears in the editor panel. There’s a fourth panel, called attachments, where I can stash notes, tags, and images related to this sheet.

Like Scrivener, groups are arranged in an outline format and both groups and sheets can all be rearranged just by dragging them to their new location.

Ulysses for iPad

Ulysses on the iPad

The iPad view above shows that it’s not always convenient to have every panel open at once. Ulysses makes it easy to just display the elements you need at any given time. On the iPad, it’s as simple as swiping left or right.

Users have the option to store their project content on their local drive or in iCloud. If you are using both the desktop and the iPad apps, using iCloud makes it easy to move between the two. As long as you have Internet access, your project is within easy reach.

If you aren’t familiar with Markdown, it may take a while to get comfortable with the markup schema Ulysses uses for formatting text. It uses simple characters like hashtags and asterisks to define formatting options like italic and bold text as well as headings. Both versions of Ulysses have a cheat sheet included in the user guide and the iPad version has a toolbar built into the on-screen keyboard. When using a Bluetooth keyboard, that toolbar is at the bottom of the screen.

The formatting toolbar on the iPad's keyboard.

The formatting toolbar on the iPad’s keyboard.

Yes, there’s still much to learn, but in less than one day I was quite comfortable with the app’s basic operation. I will need to develop workflows and define how I will deal with front matter and other repetitive content, but right now Ulysses’ ease of use, amazing export function and style choices along with an impressive mobile app make it a lot more attractive than Scrivener.

Ulysses for Mac is available in the App Store for $44.99. A free trial can be downloaded at the Ulysses site. Ulysses for iPad was just released this week and is $19.99. The iPad edition and a nice bluetooth keyboard could be all you need to write your own masterpiece.

Conversational Blogging

I’ve been using the Disqus commenting service on most of my blogs – WordPress and Tumblr – for several months now. I love it! Not only does it give me a much richer commenting experience – conversational threads are easier to follow and it’s easy to add links, photos and even embed video in a comment – but it also provides a central location where I keep up with the conversations at all my blogs.

Just yesterday I stumbled onto an article describing how to build a Blurb baby book from Day One journal entries. The article was great but the discussion in the comments was awesome. The article was published almost a year ago and the conversation is still going on. The commenters not only asked questions but also offered their own solutions as well as links to useful resources. Since it’s a topic I want to know more about, I added a comment so I can now follow it right in my Disqus profile. In addition, I’m also following all comments from the father who wrote the article because he’s just as fascinated with Day One as I am and I can learn from him.

Later in the day TNW did an interview with Disqus co-founder, Daniel Ha, using Disqus. Brilliant! I was delighted to learn there will soon be an iOS app. They are also experimenting with different ideas for building conversations across the web.

Disqus Profile

Here’s a look at my profile at Disqus showing my comments in the baby book conversation. To view the entire conversation, I just click the View in discussion link. I can also edit my comments. If I click on another user’s name (like Trevor in the example above), I’m taken to that person’s profile.

I see Disqus as opportunity. For bloggers, it’s a way to put the focus back on the blog. Since it works on just about every blog platform – WordPress.com is the only exception I know of – there’s only one login to remember. Keeping up with conversations on different blogs is easily done via your Disqus profile. And I’ve yet to see the first spam comment on any of my blogs. That’s got to be a record!

How can you put Disqus to work on your blog? Here are some ideas:

  • Interviews
  • Open Q&A sessions
  • Blog book tours
  • Chats during live events
  • Special interest groups

Want to see for yourself? Follow the link to this article and join the conversation. It will only take a few seconds to set up your Disqus account. The topic of this discussion is Conversational Blogging: Can comments become conversations?

Genealogy in My Pocket

Have you seen the new update to Ancestry.com’s iOS app? It’s very nice! Randy Seaver has a full review of the update at Genea-Musings if you want to learn more. There are a growing number of genealogy-related apps available for iOS, Android and even Windows devices. Some of them are simple, yet smart – like the BillionGraves Camera App that captures the location of the grave using the device’s builtin GPS services along with the photo of the headstone. And, you can add details about the grave and marker while you are standing in front of it. 

 Others, like Mobile Family Tree, are quite impressive. I’ve found I’m spending as much time in Mobile Family Tree [iOS – $14.99] as I am in its companion Mac Family Tree [Mac – $49.99]. Why? Because my iPad is always nearby when a thought or idea inspires me. The really interesting aspect of these companion apps is that both are fully-funtional alone and they keep their databases synched via iCloud. The synching is done automatically in the background. If I’m not mistaken, Mobile Family Tree is currently the only fully-functional genealogy app for mobile. I expect we’ll see more apps like this soon. 

By combining Mobile Family Tree and Evernote, I have a very functional mobile research platform. At this point I use it mostly for “spur of the moment” ideas or searches. And since my iPad is my reading platform of choice, I find I’m doing more and more record reviews and analysis here too. My big screen desktop still is my primary research platform because I can have multiple sites and programs open at the same time and easily move between them all. I don’t see that changing soon.

What I do love about my iThings is that one or both of them is always nearby when an idea strikes. The key to using them effectively is developing workflows. What is a workflow? Basically, it’s the steps involved in completing a task. The research workflows I learned in school were all paper-based. Yes, I can adapt those procedures to digital content, but it doesn’t save me any time or effort. The challenge is to develop a workflow to make my life easier. In my case it involved trading in notebooks, tabs and copied files for tags and smart searching. 

I don’t see my desktop computer going away anytime soon, but as my research transitions to a digital world I find that my mobile devices are taking on an even bigger role. 

Life is good.

Yearbook Journaling

Do you journal your memories? I do. Often they are just quick “snapshots” – like cleaning fish for a neighborhood fish fry or getting the car stuck in the sand at the beach. Sometimes they are actual snapshots – scanned copies of old family photos along with a description. Sometimes they are longer entries about special places that no longer exist.

Recently I was looking for a photo of one of those special places – McCartney’s Drug Store. It was a favorite hangout after church or the movies when we were kids. I decided to look in the advertising section of my high school yearbooks. Not only did I find an interior shot of McCartney’s, I was delighted to find an ad for the Straw Market – a shop my mother owned.

Journaling from a yearbook

This business was a part of our lives for more than a decade. We all worked there and our lives revolved around the store. This one advertisement has brought back a number of memories that will soon become even more journal entries. Now, imagine what journal entries the rest of the yearbook will inspire!