Becoming A Better Writer

You know, I always thought that I was a fairly good writer.  After all, I have Sheila and Lisa to correct the mistakes that slip through my writing cracks.

But, in all of us, there’s room for improvement.

In my quest for summer improvement, I installed the ProWritingAid into my instance of Google Docs.  It comes with a basic collection of tools for free and then premium features if you want to go that extra step.  

Those of you who have been interviewed here on the blog know that it’s done through a collaborative document in Google Drive.  All of them, except for my Microsoft friend Alfred, where we did it using Microsoft’s similar product.

I try my very best to make sure that I’m on my best writing behaviour there.  The results reflect both on me and the person being interviewed. 

My most recent interview was with Instructional Coach Jennifer Aston.  Once I installed the application, I ran it against our interview.

Here’s a bit of the results.  (Normally, I would throw in an ellipse but I now know that’s wrong.)

Uh oh.

Now, I’ll not bend a bit about using Canadian spelling, even if it’s identified as UK spelling!

But, the rest of the document analysis would imply that I’ve got some serious work to be done with my writing/proofreading skills.  But, that’s a good thing.  If it makes me a better writer, I’m good with that!  After all, WordPress complained that I was a passive writer and I worked on that.

Can I beg off the rest by saying this is my face to face voice?

You can find the application in the Add-ons menu in your instance of Google Docs or directly here.

Note:  I did run this through the aid and came back with no problems.  Am I better to read?

Transferring with Tone

I’ve been reading a lot about the new Tone extension for Google Chrome so I had to check it out.

The premise is that the extension, when installed, will send a URL from one computer using Google Chrome to another via sound.  

Now, the concept of transferring via sound isn’t new for us long timers.  If you’ve ever connected to another source via modem you’ve done it.  Who hasn’t picked up the phone line only to hear the sounds of two modems communicating?  NO CARRIER  Or, a fax machine?  

This extension gets rid of the wires!  It uses your computer’s microphone to head what another computer is sending.  The extension descriptor gives you all kinds of caveats about situations where it wouldn’t work – noisy rooms, distance, etc.  That only makes sense.  

So, I had to try it out here at the labs, er, reclining chair.  Proof of concept confirmed!

Now, there are the sort of issues that you need to be aware.  The extension doesn’t ask for permission to use your microphone; it just does it.  So, you should have a bit of concern of what else the extension is listening to!  In terms of public etiquette, a certain volume is required in order for the transfer to be successful.  Hopefully, that won’t destroy the ambience of a conversation at a coffee shop with people sharing URLs!

The bottom line here is that the innovation world is all right.  Good people thinking about new ways to push technology.  

Hiding the Colonel

I’m a big fan of Google Maps, Earth, and Streetview.  When I’m going to a new place, I’ll often enter the address, kick in Streetview to get an idea of what the place looks like so that I’ll know it when I see it.  It’s also a great way to kill some time just exploring.  I just find it fascinating.

So, you’ve got to believe that I fell for the bait when I saw this story.

10 Secret Places Google Earth Doesn’t Want You To See

It was kind of dumb because if Google doesn’t want me to see them, why would my immediate reaction be to load up the service and see for myself?

But, it was point #3 that I was really taken by – Google doesn’t want me to see Colonel Sanders?  I grew up admiring the guy’s work.  I remember fondly driving to Goderich for an order with my family and then going to eat it on the beach.

Rules are rules, I guess.  The Google position is that real people should have their image blurred.  There’s some comfort in this but he was also a hugely successful trademark.  After all, it really isn’t a picture but a sketch.

I had to check this out.

Sadly, the franchise has closed in town so I virtually moused my way over to Leamington to check it out.

Son of a gun.

Here’s the Streetview of the location, strategically located just across the road and down a bit from Leamington District Secondary School.

His image didn’t beat the odds with the road sign either.

I guess I’ll just have to rely on my memories from his wonderful commercials from years gone by!

What a great starting point for a discussion of corporate ethics though!

Just a Mystery

But, it’s a time saver so I don’t mind.  It’s just my own personal note of inquiry.

Recently, Google has added a new service to Google+.  It’s called Collections.  The first descriptor I read about it was that it was “Pinterest-like”.  I took a look at it and it was easy enough to access.  It just is another service added to Google+.

Then comes the million dollar question.  What would I use it for?

Well, what would I use Pinterest for?  It turns out that I use Pinterest as just another place to collect my blog posts.  It started out as just a demonstration in my presentations about how to use Pinterest.  Instead of collecting recipes and clothing ideas, I wanted to show that you could easily collect anything.  Depending upon the browser that I’m using at the moment, I either use the Pinterest Pin Button or Shareaholic to post my stuff there.  It takes just a couple of seconds and I had another way to collect blog content (and another backup).

So, I decided that I might use Google Collections as a way to collect my own blog posts.  I’m not short of ego so I set up a collection for the task.

Now, I already share my post posts to my Google+ friends.  It just gets added to my Google+ stream of consciousness.  It actually works very nicely – I just paste the URL to the post in a new message and Google reaches out to the blog to get the details and include an image to spruce it up a bit.  I changed my morning workflow just a bit.  I paste the URL in my main stream and then open my collection and paste it there.  That’s it.  Nothing else done on my end.

But, a couple of days in, look what happened.

Unknown to me until I thought I’d look at my collection and see how things were going, Google+ somehow made the connection that I was posting URLs to my blog both on my main feed and in the collection.  I guess the folks in the “Let’s make things easier at Google” department decided to streamline things for me.  It appears that it recognized what I was doing and made the post for me automatically.  Me, being somewhat oblivious to things, continued to post the URL in both places.

I did a “Whaaaaa?” and decided to test the theory for a few days.

Sure enough.  When I post something in the main stream, Google+ was adding the entry to my collection automatically for me.  Now, I might understand it if I was using Blogger for a platform but I use WordPress.

I’m at a loss to explain this and would appreciate any insights that anyone, anywhere have for this.  Artificial intelligence?  Learning how I work?  Did I touch a setting?  (I swear that I didn’t purposely.)  I really can see the advantage of a Collection taking a big stream of things and breaking it into little digestible pieces.  (See my Diigo account for a dog’s breakfast of things)

Right now, it’s just a mystery and I hate it when I can’t explain things. 

Adding to the List

Over the weekend, I had written about going on a little photo discovery activity “Around Every Corner“.  In it, I made reference to Google Views as the source for my images.

In a few minutes after it went live, I got a reply from my friend Peter.

I felt badly.  I’d completely forgotten about his incredible resource Google A-Z.

After all, I’d blogged about it before.  “All That Google Has to Offer“.

Thank goodness Peter had my back on this to keep his document up to date.  As it turned out, I had read this article at/around the same time.  “Google+ launches Collections, a Pinterest-style sharing board“.  So, this time I knowingly passed along the addition of Google Collections for Peter’s inclusion.

And just this morning, another App on the horizon — “Timeful: This Google app can help you find time for yourself“.

With all these resources, how’s a person supposed to stay up with things?

The answer is simple.  Bookmark Peter’s A-Z document.

You’ll be so glad you did.

Around Every Corner…

….there’s a picture….

When you’re not from a particular town or city, you never really fully understand the history of the place.  So much is told in the buildings and architecture.  Downtown Windsor is such a place for me.  You can drive around and look at the spectacular buildings and homes and just imagine the stories that go along with them.  You recognize part of the history from the names of the places.  There are so many locations with “Walker” in their names or anything with “shire” in it.   Sometimes buildings actually have the name of a local historical person attached.

Such is the Paul Martin Sr. Building in the heart of the city.  It’s a building that I’ve driven by many times.  It’s such a beautiful building that would have been far more magnificent in its day.  These days, sidewalkers need to be protected from falling pieces from structure.  It’s so sad.

Last night, while watching the evening news, they reported that the Federal Government is committing $6M towards restoring the outside of the building.

Now, short of hopping into the car and driving in to take a look to see the “before” picture, I did what any digital citizen would do…I loaded Google Maps, zoomed into downtown Windsor and did a streetview look at the building.  It’s a discovery activity that I really enjoy doing.  I’ve mentioned before that I’ll do the same thing to get my bearings before a Formula 1 race.  It’s probably more useful there since I can’t just get in the car and drive to Catalunya.

Now, Google Maps shows the images as it does its drive-by pictures.  There’s so much more in this day of taking pictures and tagging them by location. 

Another way to explore a location is through Google Views.  Just the random landing page when you launch views is worth the trip to the site.  Clicking on any of the location dots takes you in to a picture and story that go with it.  In my mind, it was like my Streetview routine but powered by images provided by the user rather than the Google images.

At this point, I’ll admit to losing focus — big time.

I launched Google Views and headed to downtown Windsor to look for dots.

What I found consumed the rest of my waking hours!  As you might expect, there is a rich collection of pictures taken along the Sculpture Gardens and Riverside Drive, many featuring the Detroit skyline.  It was like feeding time at the zoo for me.  I want another one and then another one and then another one….  There were also images of what Google calls Photo Spheres.  I’d call them panoramas but hey…

I did eventually remember what I was looking for but, sadly, there was no complete image of the Paul Martin St. building.  But, there sure was a lot else!

For the geo-picture lover, this is awesome.  In the classroom where you’re trying to put a location in context, the combination of Google Streetview and Google Views just can’t be beat.

Oh, and here’s the view from the Spanish Grand Prix!


Robben Island Prison

One of the true educational gems in the collection of all things Google is its Cultural Institute.

Using the power of its technology, Google takes us to places that we’d normally never see.  A recent addition to the collection is a sombre reminder of time gone by.

Join Vusumsi Mcongo, a former inmate at the Robben Island Prison in South Africa for a tour.

The presentation is part slideshow, part 360 panorama.

If you’ve ever navigated Google Slides and Google Streetview, you have the skills.

Click the arrows on the sides of the screen to move forward or backward.

It’s a humbling time on the tour.  I just can’t imagine life working in the quarry or living in the cells.

This tour, and many of the other resources from the Institute should be well bookmarked as classroom resources.