For a while, I was a big user of the Google Chrome Similar Site utility.  It served me well; I would do a search for something and then use the Similar Site utlity to find sites like the one that I found.  I found that it was a terrific way to refine my search and get better results.

As a matter of secure connections, I do have extensions that force an https:// connection which result in a warning that the site can’t be analyzed because of the secure connection.  That’s actually quite comforting that the extension doesn’t try to get around the rules just to do its thing.  Sadly, though, it does render using the extension useless.

Then, I read Stephen Downes OLDaily yesterday.  Someone had suggested a new website to Stephen that does check for similar sites this time via the web.

The site is: and it works very nicely.

Just enter the site that you are interested in finding similar sites to and let it do its thing.

So, of course I did what Stephen did and searched for myself.

A good group of people to be similar to!


Advertising Isn’t What It Used To Be

In the beginning, there was a big of advertising.  I think that most of us who are connected to the web remember back to when you’d see these little unobtrusive adverts appearing as you worked the web.

They took up a little real estate on your screen but, in your heart of hearts, you knew that having them there was the right thing to do.  After all, someone or something has to pay the bills.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But then things changed.  Advertisers started shoving flashing and spinning things our way to attract our attention.  Or, even worse, instead of trying to stand out, spent the time to make advertising look like just another piece of information on the page.  Never mind the fact that we became serious about our privacy and tracking on the web – malware detecting programs were letting us know who and/or what was tracking our browsing habits.  Advertising companies were becoming more sophisticated, serving up advertisements depending upon what it was that we’re doing in our browser.  That’s kind of a scary thing.

In fact, the annoying habits became even more annoying and opened a market for a new product – advertising blocking extensions.  I think I downloaded my first version of Ad Block for Firefox a few years ago and was immediately impressed.  My lethargic web connection improved dramatically.  I never really realized how much some advertising was taking.  I suppose that, with a faster internet provider, it might not be noticed.  But, with a slow connection, speeds improved dramatically.  If you’re paying for data on your smartphone, that data also includes the advertising that’s coming through.  I was hooked and have used it with every browser since.

One of the news stories that I had read recently talked about how Google was removing ad blocking programs from the Google Play store.  It was too bad.  Google’s advertisements weren’t all that intrusive.  But, this was one of those things on my “to do list” – spend some time investigating this.

Fortunately, Stephen Downes did the leg work.  In today’s oldaily, Stephen commented on the story “New Adblock Plus Doesn’t Need No Stinking Google Play Store.”  Bottom line is this – if you want to continue to use Adblock Plus on your Android, you’re going to have to look elsewhere.  I hope this is not a trend that spreads.

Thanks, Stephen, for bringing this article to our attention.

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Tips for Bloggers

I really like a recent blog post by Edna Sackson.  It was titled “10 Tips for Reticent Bloggers“.  In the posting, she laid out some tips for people to become more successful in their blogging pursuits.  I thought her list was bang on and would recommend the reading for anyone.  The tips are equally as applicable for students as they are teachers.  She could turn it into an infographic that could be posted on classroom walls!

I’d lke to continue her list with some of my own thoughts.

  • Use a blog editor – I found that I’ve been a great deal more successful with less frustration when I use LiveWriter, Qumana, or ScribeFire.  Why?  At any given point in time, I might have up to a dozen potential blog posts on the go.  For me, ideas come when I’m watching television, walking the dog, reading a blog, testing software or many other things.  I’ll just open one of these tools and jot a few notes to myself and potentially finish them later.  Since doing this, I’ve never felt “under the gun” to create a post.
  • Use a graphic organizer – Sometimes, the random thoughts from the blog editor need to be arranged or otherwise manipulated.  Just like we tell students to organize, it can work for us.  My choice of graphic organizer is currently Popplet but I’ve used and had success with many others, some which have ended up here in a post.
  • Read a lot – When I read, I find that I’m also researching.  Particularly when I’m reading an article that challenges what I think I know, it opens the door to other possibilities.  One of my favourite writers is Stephen Downes.  I subscribe to his OLDaily where he shares what he thinks is significant in his daily reading.  It’s a format that works for him and I’m the beneficiary of his efforts.
  • Don’t worry about being right – Regular readers of this blog should be able to agree with that!  It’s amazing how people who interact with a blog post can steer your thinking and that may be the single most valuable reason I blog.  Bonus – it’s always really good when people agree with you.
  • Evaluate things – Another of my favourite technology writers is Jerry Pournelle.  When he wrote for BYTE magazine, he never seemed to get anything to work the first time.  Or, at least that seemed to be his style which I enjoyed.  Beyond that, he was always discovering things.  That sent me on a road of discovery and blogging about it just seems natural.
  • Don’t get hung up on replies – I may be out on a limb here.  There are some bloggers who write one post that generates hundreds of replies.  I’ve yet to have that type of “success”.  My primary goal is to get my thoughts posted and it’s gravy if someone happens to add a reply.  Since I announce posts on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook, feedback can also come from there.  And, some readers subscribe by email so they’re not even at the blog to read it.
  • Find your niche – or have no niche and enjoy it.  Stephen Downes is a perfect example of consistency in approach and regularity.  I’d like to think I’m completely different because I’ve given myself license to write about anything and experiment with things like my recent interview series.
  • Enjoy yourself – I’ll be honest.  I don’t think I would enjoy blogging for a living.  (although if I was offered enough money…)  I enjoy it as a hobby and a way to get some of my thoughts out into the open.  I’ve met some incredible people online and face to face because of it.

There you have it.  My extension to Edna’s original post.  If you’re a blogger, what tips would you give others?