Leveraging Twitter

First off, I want to welcome everyone back to DIY Ivory Tower. You might have noticed that the blog went on a brief hiatus during the late fall. My dissertation and the job market kept me quite busy during the past few months. Now that I’ve got another chapter drafted and a large pile of letters off to search committees, I have time once again to devote to DiYiT. Now on to the post…

Twitter LogosReturning home from the annual American Historical Association conference a few weeks ago, I found that one of my most important post-conference chores was the addition of dozens of scholars, editors, archivists, and librarians to my Twitter feed. During the conference I used Twitter extensively and for a variety of different purposes. And I wasn’t alone. All tolled, Twitter users sent over 4,200 messages about the AHA meeting to the public micro-blogging service during the conference. And since then another 500 or so tweets have rolled in as conversations begun during the conference have continued on Twitter. Given the value of all that tweeting, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a post describing the basic uses of Twitter by academics.

If you are completely unfamiliar with Twitter, I suggest that you check out this PDF describing the basics of Twitter put together by the Public Policy Group of the London School of Economics and Political Science. If you are familiar enough with the service to understand terminology like “tweeting” and “following,” then we can get right down to business.

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Use Creative Commons Search to Find Text, Images, and Other Media

Creative Commons SearchA few weeks back I posted some advice about how to best display images in PowerPoint. That post ended with mention of a few online resources for finding images. Today I want to highlight another, more comprehensive option. The fine folks over at Creative Commons have put together a page which provides quick and convenient access to a variety of search engines. The Creative Commons Search page can draw data from Google, Google Image Search, Flickr, blip.tv, Jamendo, SpinXpress, and Wikimedia Commons. With one search at Creative Commons you can tab through the results from each of these engines.

For those of you unfamiliar with Creative Commons, it is a non-profit organization which promotes the sharing of creative and intellectual property. Here at DIY Ivory Tower, we’ve elected to publish our posts under a Creative Commons “share and share alike” style license. It allows others to share, copy, distribute, and adapt our work so long as they provide proper attribution and make the resulting content available in a similar manner. You can learn more about our license in particular and the organization in general by following the Creative Commons link at the bottom of the content bar on the right side of this and every DiYiT page.

Creative Commons Search

As you might expect from Creative Commons, their search page automatically limits your results to the text, images, videos, music, or other media available for legal reuse. The search page gives you the option to find results which can be used for commercial purposes or those which can be legally adapted, modified, or built upon. Creative Commons does note that they do not have any control over the results displayed by these search engines so you should definitely double check the copyright status of any media you intend to use.

A few weeks back I posted some advice about how to best display images in PowerPoint. That post ended with mention of a few online resources for finding images. Today I want to highlight another, more comprehensive option. The fine folks over at Creative Commons have put together a page which provides quick and convenient access to a variety of search engines. The Creative Commons Search page can draw data from Google, Google Image Search, Flickr, blip.tv, Jamendo, SpinXpress, and Wikimedia Commons. With one search at Creative Commons you can tab through the results from each of these engines.

For those of you unfamiliar with Creative Commons, it is a non-profit organization which promotes the sharing of creative and intellectual property. Here at DIY Ivory Tower, we’ve elected to publish our posts under a Creative Commons “share and share alike” style license. It allows others to share, copy, distribute, and adapt our work so long as they provide proper attribution and make the resulting content available in a similar manner. You can learn more about our license in particular and the organization in general by following the Creative Commons link at the bottom of the content bar on the right side of this and every DiYiT page.

As you might expect from Creative Commons, their search page automatically limits your results to the text, images, videos, music, or other media available for legal reuse. The search page gives you the option to find results which can be used for commercial purposes or those which can be legally adapted, modified, or built upon. Creative Commons does note that they do not have any control over the results displayed by these search engines so you should definitely double check the copyright status of any media you intend to use.

Use URL Shorteners to Create Custom, Trackable Links

In the last few years we’ve seen an explosion of web sites offering a simple service: shrinking long URLs down to nice manageable sizes. Demand for URL shortening has been driven largely by Twitter’s 140-character per tweet maximum. Without a URL shortener you’d have little room in a tweet to say anything about an included link. The URL for this post, for example, would take up nearly three quarters of a tweet’s real estate.

Long Tweet

Fortunately for the web user, competition in the URL shrinking business has resulted in the rapid development of new features. Various shortener services now offer integration with web browsers or social media sites, link previews, and even profit sharing based on advertising. All in all there are far too many options out there for me to attempt any reasonable summary of them. A quick Google search for “best URL shortener” will net you plenty of blogs and other sites that have attempted to shoot that particularly quickly moving target. For this post I want to highlight two features offered by many URL shorteners that grads and academics might find particularly useful, whether you’re using Twitter or not.

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Mac users, try Skitch for annotating images

Sometimes you want to show someone else what you’re looking at online. You can email her a link, post it on Facebook, or share it on Twitter. But sometimes, you need to show someone exactly what you’re seeing. Why? It might be because you see an error that someone else doesn’t see. Or, you might want to call attention to just part of a website, a program on your computer, or something else on your screen.

This is a classic case where you want to take a screenshot. Screenshots allow you to show someone else what you’re seeing. A few weeks ago, Adam showed Windows users how to take simple screenshots. Today, I want to show Mac users how to take screenshots and then annotate them.

OS X has a built-in screenshot program called Grab. It can handle both snapping a photo of your entire screen as well as what ever is within any given window. But I found Grab’s TIF default file format annoying, since if I want to upload my screenshot to Flickr, I’ve saved my screenshot in the largest file size possible. And if I then want to annotate my screenshot, I have to open the TIF in Photoshop or Fireworks.

Skitch is a free app that allows you to take screenshots, annotate them, and share them via the web all within the workings of one program. Continue reading