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May 25, 2015 / carlispina

Learn More About Beacons

This month I had an opportunity to write my second entry in ACRL’s Keeping Up With… series, which offers brief summaries of new technologies and topics that have potential applications in libraries. I wrote about bluetooth low energy beacons, which make it possible to trigger events on mobile devices that pass into range of the beacon. If this is a topic that you find interesting or are considering trying out at your library, I recommend checking out my full Keeping Up With…Beacons piece.

Also, I wanted to note that this summer, I will again be blogging only once a week. Twice weekly posts will resume in the fall.

May 21, 2015 / carlispina

Add GIFs to Your Emails With Giphy for Gmail

Are you a fan of GIFs? Are they your favorite way to convey reactions and emotions? Do you include them in all of your internet communications? If so, you’re going to love Giphy for Gmail. This new Chrome extension brings Giphy‘s database of GIFs directly into your Gmail account.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 8.13.07 PM

When you open a new email, the Giphy logo will appear directly to the right of the send button as seen above. Clicking on the icon pulls up a small Giphy box which automatically displays several top GIFs. If none of these suit your purpose, you can navigate through a list of reaction types or search through the entire Giphy database.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 8.13.21 PM

Once you find the GIF you want, you simply click on it to have it added to your email. The GIF will expand to full size within the email and you can add text before or after it. The GIF will also include a small credit line below that links back to the GIF on Giphy, which makes it easy for both users and email recipients to find the original version of the GIF. If you are a frequent GIF user, this free extension will be a fun addition to your Gmail account. If this doesn’t quite meet your need, try Giphy’s other Chrome browser extension, which makes it easy to search Giphy from within the browser to add GIFs to anything from emails to tweets.

May 18, 2015 / carlispina

Make Interactive Videos With Storygami

Storygami logoVideo tutorials and promotional videos can be a great way for videos to connect with their patrons, but it can be difficult to make them interactive. While some video editing software allows for this, it is often expensive or has a steep learning curve. Storygami is a new tool that makes this process easier and more manageable.

With Storygami, you can add interactive elements to existing videos that are hosted on YouTube or Vimeo. The first step in the process of creating an interactive video is to find the URL of the video that you want to use. This can be any video on YouTube or Vimeo for which you have a URL; it does not have to be a video that you created. You then create your Storygami by entering the URL and the title for your project. At this point, you will select a theme, which basically amounts to a color scheme for your project (users with free or “Lite” account can choose from 8 themes but those with paid accounts can customize their theme). Then, all that remains to be done is dragging elements into your project. You can choose to add images, maps, videos within your video, a profile, text, or social media elements and the Storygami website suggests that the ability to add forms may be on the horizon. Since the tool is in beta, features are being added all the time, and those who pay for Enterprise accounts can even put in feature requests at any time. Elements in your project will appear in your project’s menu but you can also choose to have them pop up at a specified point in your video either as a visible pop-up or as a transparent but clickable overlay. Each of these elements can be added to your video or moved around within your project by simply dragging and dropping them and all of the features make use of easy-to-understand controls and options, which will make even beginners feel at ease. You can also track the popularity of your resulting project using the analytics that are available to gauge whether your project is connecting with the desired audience.

Overall, I found that Storygami allows even new users to quickly add interactive elements to existing videos. The resulting projects can be shared via link or embedded on an existing website using the provided code. Storygami also makes it easy to share the project on social media. If you are looking for an easy way to add interactivity to videos and track its popularity, Storygami is worth a try.

May 14, 2015 / carlispina

Create Dynamic Images with Fyuse

Fyuse LogoThis week on the YALSA Blog, I took a look at Fyuse, a new app for both iOS and Android devices that lets users create impressive images that bring the experience of 3D photos to your mobile device. This free app is a great option for creating a whole new type of image on your mobile device. You can check out my full review on the YALSA Blog.

May 11, 2015 / carlispina

Deekit – A Collaborative Online Whiteboard

Deekit LogoCreated by several former Skype employees, Deekit is a new application that offers a collaborative, online whiteboard. The idea behind the tool is to take the experience of using a whiteboard in an office to an online space, which means that there is a focus on recreating that experience in a collaborative online way. For example, Deekit allows users to draw and diagram on their boards in much the same way that they would on a whiteboard, and even when users opt to include typed text, the font is one that is meant to look as though it is handwritten.

The added advantage that Deekit offers over physical whiteboards is that it can be shared online seamlessly. Each board can be kept private or shared with anyone users wish to collaborate with on a project. In addition, Deekit goes beyond the features available on a physical whiteboard by including several templates that make it easy to use an organized, preset format for projects such as brainstorming or SWOT Analysis. Users also have the option to create their own template if they plan to frequently use a particular set up for their whiteboards. Though Deekit is not the first tool to try to bring the whiteboard experience online, its features are well thought out and will appeal to users who like clean design and a focus on limited but useful functionality. I could see this being particularly useful for remote teams or for online classes, which are two of the uses that the company suggests on their website.

In my time trying out Deekit, I found that navigation was a bit difficult on a desktop, though the tool does seem a bit better suited at this time to use on a tablet. It is in beta, so it is not surprising that some features could still use some polishing, but I still think this is a tool that is well worth trying out if you are looking for new ways to collaborate with coworkers or students over a great distance. When paired with other tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts, this tool will help users to recreate the in-person collaborative process in an online environment. I hope that it continues to develop so that it can meet its full potential by the time it exits beta; if so, I think it could be a really exciting tool.

May 7, 2015 / carlispina

Create an Interactive Experience for Your Audience With Sli.do

With mobile devices continually increasing in prevalence, many events, teachers, and presenters are finding new ways to add interactivity to their presentations and classes. There are a number of tools available to support these activities, from those like TodaysMeet that facilitate event backchannels to tools like Socrative that make it easy to ask your audience questions and share their responses. A new option in this area is Sli.do.

Using Sli.do, event organizers can offer audience members a way to ask questions online, vote on which questions are the most popular, and answer poll questions. Audience members can participate by navigating to the Sli.do website and entering the event’s unique code. This will take them into the event’s virtual space, where they can ask questions, see the questions being asked by others, and vote for the most interesting questions. As audience members vote on questions, the list is ranked with the most popular at the top of the page, making it easy for the presenter to see which questions the audience would like to see answered. Sli.do also offers a presentation view that can be projected at the front of the view which shows both the event code needed to log into Sli.do and the list of ranked questions.

In addition to soliciting questions from the audience, Sli.do can also be used to ask questions through the polling feature. These questions can be set in advance of your event and when they are opened to audience members, the presentation view will show a graph of the results in real time as audience members respond. Both the polling data and the questions are stored after the event as well and Sli.do offers analytics on how the tool was used at your event, which can be helpful for planning future events.

Sli.do offers the option for a free account, but if you do opt to pay to use the service, you will have access to several additional features. One of the most interesting of these features is the ability to moderate questions before they are displayed to the audience. Unfortunately, the free account does not have any comparable options, but Sli.do is willing to work with educational institutions and non-profits that are interested in using the tool. If you have found the existing event backchannel tools lacking for your needs, Sli.do is an interesting new option that is worth checking out. You can see the basic question feature in action in the video below and you can find other alternatives on this Teaching Tools guide.

May 4, 2015 / carlispina

Learn More About Fair Use With The U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use Index

Last week, the U.S. Copyright Office released a brand new Fair Use Index. This new resource aims to make the complicated concept of Fair Use more approachable to those who may not have a background in law by offering a database of some of the most important court cases that deal with Fair Use. While it is a very helpful and interesting new resource for those who are interested in copyright, I think it is important to carefully consider what it does and does not have to offer.

Users can navigate the Fair Use Index by both court and subject category by selecting or deselecting from the options given as seen below. As options are checked or unchecked, the list of relevant cases at the bottom of the page automatically updates to show only the cases that meet the selected criteria. Beyond this, there is no way to further refine search results and there is no option to conduct a keyword search.

Index Screenshot

For each case that is included in the Index, this results list displays the citation, year, court, jurisdiction, subject categories, and case outcome. Clicking into a case does not display the full text of the opinion, but instead offers a fairly brief summary of the facts, issues, and holding of the case. While legal experts would be quick to point out that this is no substitute for the full text of an opinion, I think the Index intentionally opts to provide only summary information to highlight the fact (as stated on the homepage) that “it is not a substitute for legal advice.” Having said that, the summaries are more accessible to users without legal training than a full court opinion may be and offer an overview of the key holdings with respect to Fair Use.

The Copyright Office has said that it will periodically update the Index to include more cases and I think that it will be a valuable resource for those interested in learning more about Fair Use. However, I do hope that users without legal training understand that these case summaries do not represent the full legal nuance of concepts related to Fair Use and are only a way of guessing how a future case might be decided rather than an absolute answer. But, even if this database cannot answer every Fair Use question that might arise, it will help people to gain a fuller understanding of how courts have applied Fair Use in the past and, hopefully, will encourage people to feel more confident in their determinations of what Fair Use means for their own work.

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