There’s an -oodle for that …

In January, we had to elect new EAHIL councilors for Germany. We examined the possibility to vote by email, but what a hassle of to- and for-ing and counting emails this would have been! By chance I had used Doodle [1] a lot in the last months for scheduling meetings and found this web tool very helpful. It is straight forward, easy to use, and registration-free. I was surprised to learn that Doodle offers also voting, named “Make a choice”. After some trial and error we set up an election site with hidden and one-time-only voting. It made the election process an easy and playful experience. It’s not an exaggeration: in social networking, everything is like that. No matter what your task or demand is: on the Internet is a (free) service can be found for it! In the following I will point out some of them, which may be useful for your library. I will omit the most obvious ones such as free blogs, bookmarks, or wikis, because I had described them already in detail in former columns.

Documents
Make PDFs from your documents and publish them on Scribd [2] “so others can read them online or download them. It’s also a great place to find articles and papers written by others.” [3] Upload your PDF on Issuu [4], they will convert it to a high quality output with animated pages. Let them do the usage statistics for you as well.

Are you looking for a place to publish your PowerPoint slides? The default is SlideShare [5], where there are literally tons of presentations. It offers not only storage capacity, but you can share, comment and follow the presentations of hundreds of people as well. You may even add a recording of your speech and customize it, so that the slides change in accordance with your speech.

At Google documents, you can store, edit and share almost anything, from PDF and text files to spreadsheets to drawings or presentations. But Google is a big brother and you never know what they do with your data. Google documents may not be evil on their own, but in combination with Google Mail, Google search, and their other services, they can know you better than yourself. So maybe it is wise to use others services such as DivShare or myDrive [6].

When it comes to paper, presentations and citations, you need bibliographic software too. The former killer appliances such as Endnote or Reference Manager have gotten very strong (and free) web competitors such as Citavi, CiteULike, LibraryThing, Mendeley, or Zotero. [7] These offer almost all features of commercial bibliographic managers, and may even exceed them with services such as metadata extraction from PDF (Mendeley).

Web Conferencing
You are working with someone on a shared document? Put it on Google documents and discuss it side by side with a Skype “group conversation”. Or use Elluminate (ex-Wimba) [8] and start in 50 seconds your own online classroom (free for up to three people). WebEx from Cisco is a wide spread commercial web conferencing tool offering free trials. [9]

Cloud Computing
Google documents, SlideShare, Flickr and a lot of the other mentioned services make use of cloud computing to offer file sharing, but in the following I would like to address some specialized tools which act as your remote hard disk. The most used is obviously Dropbox [10]. It comes for free and offers a data plan of 2 Gigabytes (50 GB for $ 99 a year), which you can upload on there servers and share with anybody (including your iPhone or iPad of course). SugarSync offers 5 GB for free (30 GB for $ 50 a year) and offers more privacy [11], a least in the “terms of service”, than Dropbox. [12] Frequently, smartphone apps are accustomed to use Dropbox, SugarSync or Boxnet [13] as file folders.

Alerting
What you do, if your Professor of Sports Medicine requests an RSS feed from you, which should alerts him on scientific papers as well current news items for “Sports and COPD”, “Exercise and Elderly” and so on? Just go to Yahoo Pipes [14], where you can embed, filter, merge, and manipulate feeds from PubMed, SportDiscus or Reuters Health in a variety of ways. If you want only to merge some feeds or put them on the Web, Google reader [15] or Feed Informer [16] may do the job quite well too.

Medicine
There are many, many web tools targeted to doctors or patients. AIRO is a system for clinics / hospitals / medical centers to record incidents, problems, and changes [17]. For patients, there comes Mentaline, a booking system for online therapy or coaching sessions with +275 coaches, psychologists, psychotherapists and other therapists – you can choose between audio/video through Skype and phone sessions [18]. Or ReliefInsite, a secure online pain management system, for helping patients “take a more active role in their health” and better communicate with their doctors. [19] Slogan: “Tracking your pain is one of the best things you can do to treat it.” Patient record management systems (much needed and much offered) are usually subscription based.

Some more tools

  • Mindmeister.com is a free mind mapping tool on the web;
  • Prezi.com is for animated, breathtaking presentations;
  • Netvibes.com is for creating comprehensive worlds of information, updated automatically;
  • Sitemeter.com offers little html snippets, which will tell you how much your web site is used (Google analytics is better, but in some countries it is illegal to collect personal information. And see above: “Google is not evil”);
  • Host discussion groups on Homepagemodules.de;
  • Publish surveys and analyze answers with Surveymonkey.com (coming with basic services for free and subscription plans for bigger surveys with more options);
  • BasecampHQ.com for online project management and collaboration. I tried it not by myself, but there is certainly a big need for that;
  • Lobbying for your library? Use Epetitions.net for collecting votes against the closure of your library.

If this short but not comprehensive list did not suit your demands and you are still seeking something, I can recommend two especially valuable directories:

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2010 List
Compiled since 2007, the recent list derives from the contributions of 545 learning professionals worldwide [20]. Among the top 10 you will find pretty much every tool that I described in past issues. Moodle, a prominent course management system, comes in at rank 10.

Webtools Directory of the UK National Health System
The NHS Web Tools [21] “is showing you, what’s out there. As the Web changes fast these days, it’s hard for busy NHS managers and clinicians to keep track of what’s out there. NHS Web Tools is for helping this special clientele by selecting and annotating useful web tools.”

References

1. http://doodle.com
2. http://www.scribd.com
3. Carol Skyring in [2]
4. http://issuu.com
5. http://slideshare.net
6. http://www.divshare.com/, http://www.mydrive.ch/
7. http://blogs.plos.org/mfenner/reference-manager-overview/
8. http://www.elluminate.com/
9. http://www.webex.com/
10. http://www.dropbox.com
11. http://www.sugarsync.com
12. http://www.dropbox.com/terms#privacy
13. http://www.boxnet.com
14. http://pipes.yahoo.com
15. http://reader.google.com
16. http://feed.informer.com
17. http://airohq.com
18. http://mentaline.com/
19. http://www.reliefinsite.com
20. http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/recommended/top100-2010.html
21. http://www.nhswebtools.com/

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One Response to There’s an -oodle for that …

  1. Kasaba says:

    hi oliver, thanks a lot for introducing these tools. good compilation! the only tool that i don’t like at all is scribd. because last time i checked, to not only view the pages but also save the pdf or even print it, you had to either login with facebook and grant scribd various rights or you had to register with scribd – probably granting the exact same rights. i don’t like that. #fail

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