28 November 2008

Tag Dragging [Quick Tip]

Sometimes, in the course of your research, you open a slew of tabs, and then realize, for one reason or another, that the order of the tabs is less than optimal. Don't forget that in all browsers you can remedy this situation by dragging tabs into an order that more approximately suits your needs.

In this case, I want my ancestry.com tab to move to the second tab position. Just click and hold the tab, then drag the cursor to place you want the tab to be:

Release the button, and voila'!

Your tabs are reordered like magic, and your addled brain has one less hurdle to overcome while doing vast amounts of online genealogy research!

26 November 2008

Wordless Wednesdays: Sites To Checkout

24 November 2008

Read It Later, Part II [Site Review]

Last week, we talked about the online bookmarking tool Read It Later, and how it can help you organize web sites that you want to mark to read, but don't necessarily want to bookmark.

This week I want to talk briefly about another feature of Read It Later, namely its integration with RSS feed reader Google Reader. This feature is only available with use of the Firefox extension, so those who have installed and use RIL on another browser will not find this post of use.

Reading It Later, Blog Style

If you subscribe to a number of different blogs in a number of different areas of interest (as many of us do), you may find that you have a difficult number of blog posts to track and read. Using Read It Later can help maximize the time you spend reading blogs, while minimizing the time spent wading through hundreds of thousands of posts.

Here's a shot of my Google Reader genealogy pane, with the Read It Later Firefox extension installed. Notice the line of checkmarks which has been added to the list-view lines, between the stars and the blog post titles:

While browsing posts in list view I can select blog posts that look to be of interest to me by clicking on the checkmark:

Doing so adds those blog posts to my Reading List, visible here as the last three items on my list:

I can now mark all the items in my genealogy folder as "read" within Google Reader, and I am no longer drowning in unread posts that make for a daunting visit to my RSS Reader!

The Best Part

The excellent thing about this feature, is that when clicked on to read from the Reading List, these items will open on their original site. That is, the integration between RIL and Google Reader means that you can bookmark the pages of the original blog posts without ever leaving the Google Reader environment. Previously, a user would have to see the blog post in Google Reader, click through to the original item on the original blog site, then add the page to the Reading List. The new integrated version accomplishes the same things with much more efficiency!

21 November 2008

Read It Later, Part I (Site Review)

Online bookmarking tool Read It Later takes a slightly different approach to managing your online reading endeavors, one which I find particularly useful. Today I am going to give an overview of Read It Later, and why it may be helpful to you for taming the growing list of "Gotta come back to this!" bookmarks that develops when online research is done. On Monday, I'll examine the tool's integration with Google Reader, and discuss how it can help make blog reading more efficient and manageable.

What It Is

I think the demo video for Read It Later gives a fairly good overview, so let's let them give you some background:

In other words, Read It Later can help you manage those sites, pages, articles, etc. that you come across during your online browsing, but which you don't have the time, mind, or mental faculty to read at the moment. You might ask, "why not just bookmark it?". If you have a bookmark list of hundreds or (like some I know) thousands of links, the answer may be that bookmarks tend to get lost, because there's no easy way to remember to revisit items that you deemed interesting. With Read It Later, you have an organized, cohesive list of items that you want to revisit, which can be accessed at your leisure. As the video shows, once you revisit items, and if you find them useful enough to bookmark, that is easily done. Read It Later ends link purgatory, allowing you to keep or toss links to pages that serve you well or don't serve you at all.

Getting Started

Setup for Read It Later is very easy. Simply visit the homepage and follow instructions which apply to your situation. Firefox users can skip the web interface and go straight for the extension. Other users will have to include bookmarklets as I show below.

In Firefox, as soon as you install the extension and restart your browser, you'll notice a few changes, such as the Readitlater checkmark in the address bar, and the reading list button in the navigation bar (my browser has been altered somewhat, so your browser will probably look different, but as long as these items are present, you can rest assured that your extension has been installed and is operating correctly). Here's how my browser appears with the extension installed; note the checkmark and the button:

In Internet Explorer and other browsers, you'll create an account (takes about two seconds) and log in to your account. Go to the bookmarklets page and install the buttons for Read It Later as follows:

1. Right-click on the first button ("Read It Later") and select "Add to Favorites"; if the browser warns you it "may not be safe", just click Yes and proceed:

2. Select "Links" from the drop-down menu on the window that pops up, and then click "Add". The button should appear in your Links menu. (If nothing is appearing, make sure that your Links menu is active by going to the File Menu, View > Toolbars. Select "Links" if there is not a checkmark next to it.)

3. Repeat steps one and two above until you have installed all three buttons on your Links bar. Your bar should look something like this:

Using Read It Later

Now, whenever you come across a page you are interested in returning to, you can mark this page using either the address bar checkmark (in Firefox) or the "Read it Later" button (in other browsers). Once you do so, the page will be added to your reading list. In Firefox, access this list by clicking on the button in the navigation bar (in other browsers, click on the Reading List bookmarklet):

You can set your options to mark pages as read as soon as they are opened in your browser, or you can opt to manually mark them as read.

As the video notes, users in Firefox can use the extension to one-click bookmarking of sites to a favorite bookmarking tool:


I highly suggest giving Read It Later a try for maximizing online research. Monday I'll talk about RIL's integration with Google Reader as yet another great facet of its organizational potential.

20 November 2008

Graveyard Rabbitin' [Personal]

Just wanted to let everyone know that I am rabbitin' up a storm over at my Graveyard Rabbit blog, Graveyard Rabbit of Contra Costa County!

Thanks a million to Terry Thornton for bringing a fun new endeavor into my blogging mix.

17 November 2008

Automate Your Online Searches-Google Edition [Quick Tips]

Google now allows you to receive updates from their Google Alerts tool via RSS feed. This change updates the tool and removes one of my long-standing grudges against Google Alerts: that they cluttered my email inbox!

If you don't know what a Google Alert is, never fear. I've got a quick tutorial below which will get you up to speed. Give Google Alerts a shot and rest easier at night knowing that the power of technology is scouring the web for you (even while you sleep!) and alerting you to the newest information being added to the web about your research subjects.

What Google Alerts Are

As I rhapsodize above, Google Alerts are automated searches that you can setup through your Google Account. Much like running a regular Google search, these alerts search the web for sites matching your search terms. The beauty of Google Alerts is that the searches managed through Google Alerts run continuously, and you receive updated search results from your alerts whenever new content matching your terms is indexed by Google! How very handy.

Let's set up an alert, and you'll see better what I mean. (Note that you have to have a Google Account to setup and manage alerts. If you don't have one, you can set one up here. You will also need to use or be using Google Reader or another RSS feed reader in order to make use of the RSS feed.)

Setting up Google Alerts

Once you have signed into your Google Account, go to the Google Alerts page to set up your alert.

Once there, enter your search term in the box on the right. (Note that the intial alert set-up form has not been altered to allow you to select an RSS feed; we'll do that later).

I am entering the name of an ancestor that I am researching. Since this is an unusual name, I won't be adding any qualifiers to the search (like "+Charleston" or "+steamboat") to refine it as I would with a more common name:

Ordinarily, if you set up a standard emailed Google Alert, you can select the frequency with which you receive results. However, once you change to an RSS feed, your frequency request will automatically be reset to "as-it-happens".

Once you have hit "Create Alert" you will be taken to this page, where you will see the alerts you have already setup (if any). Click on the "edit" link to the right of the alert you want to change into an RSS feed:

The alert will change to edit mode. Select "feed" from the drop-down menu, as shown, then click "Save":

The alert now shows up as an RSS feed, and can be viewed in Google Reader:

If you don't use Google Reader, you can click on the Feed chicklet to get the alert feed's URL for use in another reader.

Here's a view of my new Google Alert RSS feed in Google Reader:

14 November 2008

Pinpoint Addresses in Google Earth [Site Review]

Digital Inspiration presents a potentially handy tool which allows you to identify the address of any place on Google Earth. The tool is as easy to use as Google Maps, has no fuss, no logins, and no frou-frou beyond its job.

I found good use of this tool to get a current town name for the land where my great-grandfather originally homesteaded in Montana:

The tool may also be helpful in determining more exact locations of properties (city or otherwise) that no longer exist, but for which an old map shows a location. Keep in mind you can use coordinates to locate properties via Google Earth.

Try the tool here.

[Via MakeUseOf]

10 November 2008

Quick Post to Blogger via iGoogle [Quick Tip]

If you use Blogger to wield your virtual pen and muse on all things genealogical, it just got a little easier.

Blogger recently announced the release of the iGoogle Blogger Post Gadget. Meaning as soon as inspiration strikes, you can take it to "print" without even leaving your iGoogle page.

The gadget is a little stark (I'm using it right now). There's no preview, no keyboard shortcuts for things like formatting and anchor links, and no auto-fill when you tag your entry. There's also no access to advanced publishing options like timeset publishing.

Overall, great for a quick jot, but not so hot for more in-depth blogging that requires a more robust feature set. Worth a try though, as anything that makes getting those blog posts out quicker is great, especially if you use your blog as a notepad for research and ideas.

This all reminds me... since iGoogle's massive redesign, we're due for another Site Review on what's new and great (or not so great) about this latest revamp. Keep your eyes peeled for that post coming soon!

07 November 2008

Public Domain Sherpa [Quick Tip]

As a quick follow-up to a previous post on determining copyright status of a particular work, I wanted to note the very handy, very user-friendly calculator with a very cool name, The Copyright Sherpa! Almost fun to use, and totally worth giving it a try.

Also, the Open Knowledge Foundation Wiki has a list of other useful public domain calculators for many countries including the United States here.


06 November 2008

Oakland Genealogy Website

Just a short post to let everyone know that today I've officially launched my newest endeavor, OaklandGenealogy.com.

The bones of the site are up, but like everything else, this site will be growing steadily as I sneak in work while my toddler son is sleeping. Ultimately, I want this site to reflect my "dream" genealogy site for a city. Comprehensive, broad-based, a basket for pertinent information needed and desired by any genealogist researching in a particular city. I am trying to intertwine history and genealogy on this site, creating a site where a researcher can step into their research period in a more visceral way.

The site clearly isn't there yet, but eventually it will be! Please stop by the site, check it out, and let me know what you think. Thanks!

05 November 2008

On President Obama [Personal]

I have been today, like much of last night, crying and feeling amazed.

Whoever you were rooting for in this election, one has to feel pride that America has done something momentous, something that re-establishes and re-asserts the truth of what seemed to be the mythology of our society; namely, that we are a meritocracy, and do not winnow those who seek to excel by their sex, background, or race.

I become truly amazed when I see this election through the eyes of my son. He's 1.5 now; by the end of Obama's first term, he will be in Kindergarten, and understand who the President of the United States is. That it will never occur to him that a black man with a "funny sounding name" could NOT be President, that he will be incredulous that we've only had ONE black president, will make my heart warm all over again.

There is a whole generation of children in this country who are living in a better world not because of Barack Obama and his politics, but because of the voters of the United States, who reaffirmed once again that barriers stand no chance against the progress of this amazing country.

Wordless Wednesdays: Great-Great Grandparents

My great-great grandparents, George Washington Burgess and Maria Ann Boans. Image obtained initially via the Boston Studio Project, now viewable via Nebraska Memories website.

03 November 2008

Covering Your Copyright Back [Site Review]

If you are a genealogist and blog, or if you have any content online which you consider to be proprietary, you may be interested in a few websites which aim to provide easy searching for misuse of your own content on sites across the internet.

CopyrightSpot.com and Copyscape.com are both simple enough to use; simply enter the URL of a page of content you would like to search for (you can also enter the address for an RSS feed), hit search, and the sites report back with sites that have duplicated your text.

No News is Good News?

I used my blog as a trial:.

Both sites got some results, which was impressive, but on a usefulness scale they scored pretty low. Particularly, CopyrightSpot listed a variety of sites which graciously list my blog on a blogroll; as these blogrolls tend to include a snippet of new posts as they scroll through the roll, they come up on the copyright search as potential content crime!

Copyscape came up with similar results, although from some different sites. Because the duplicated text in these cases were dynamic (i.e., they scroll through the roll and then disappear), click-throughs on the results, which would typically highlight occurrences of duplicated text, only resulted in a message saying the sites "appear to have removed your text":

The sites work well enough for what they purport to do (the search engines obviously have no way of delineating real plagiarism from quotes or blogrolls), so are worth checking out for a quick check on how (or if) your content is being used by someone else on the web. In this case, no news definitely is good news!

[Via: MakeUseOf.com]