Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Your New Gmail Icons

Gmail changed its appearance earlier this month. Some users were offered this option right away, and everyone else was promised the switch would become mandatory. (This post was written in advance, maybe it already happened!

It was the updated icons that required the most adjustment, so I thought I would cover that. My current system is to separate my messages by "unread" and "everything else" so that may look different to you in the screen shot below.
You'll notice that the icons that usually sit at the top are gone. They appear, as seen below, when you click on a message. 

Like this:
Here are the icons on their own. Maybe you're an Old Person who does well with symbols. Or maybe you're like me. (My overall tip is to hover your mouse over an icon you don't know and wait for a description to appear.)

 The icon on the far left is the SELECT icon. You might use this to SELECT ALL messages.
The next icon is a folder with an arrow on it. This ARCHIVES your messages (to ALL MAIL; it will keep any labels you have applied). The third from left icon is a STOP SIGN. This reports a selected message as spam. The TRASH CAN sends messages to the trash.

I hope "mark as read" is explanatory.

Here's the MOVE TO in action. This is what you see when you click the arrow. You then move the message to the option provided.

And here are the LABELS.
 And this is MORE:
Remember, when in doubt, hover!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Technology Lesson: Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a website where people can submit a fundraising proposal and collect money, via the Internet, to fund their projects. (This is called "crowdfunding.") The subject and goals of these projects vary. One might require only a small sum, whereas another may attempt to fund a film.

I'm feeling mildly lazy. I'll let Kickstarter explain itself:
Kickstarter is the world's largest funding platform for creative projects. Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.
A new form of commerce and patronage. This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project.
All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.
Each and every project is the independent creation of someone like you. Projects are big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. They’re inspiring, entertaining and unbelievably diverse. We hope you agree... Welcome to Kickstarter!
That's a quick crash course, no?

Here's artist Amanda Palmer on her experience. Palmer, and her husband Neil Gaiman used Kickstarter to fund a tour across the West Coast:
One thing that I've been noticing about Kickstarter, and that was confirmed when I went in and had a meeting with the folks who work there, was that many people WANT TO SUPPORT and will simply SUPPORT AT THEIR DESIRED LEVEL, regardless of what's being offered. Often people will decline to even give their T-shirt size when Kickstarter sends the follow-up email — they didnt' want the shirt, they simply wanted to donate $100 and that level came with a shirt... and they already own 200 black T-shirts, they don't need another one. This is fascinating.

Here is what a page might look like. I've used an expired project by the Graduate. The band wants to release a DVD of its farewell shows.

I forgot to donate. Lest this happen to you, there's a button on the right (where that star is) that will remind you to donate.

You can see the left column features a video. (This is common.) The video explains why this project needs donations, what it helps to accomplish, and what you can receive in exchange for your donation. The right column features a countdown (zero, since the project has ended), the number of backers needed for completion, and the fundraising goal.

Donors are often given a tiered level of donating. From the Graduate's page, again:

In this example, the tiers continue up to $100.

Some other projects, as examples, are Coffee Joulies, stainless steel beans that regulate coffee temperature, Matt Porterfield's film I Used To Be Darker, and Moveable Type, a cross-country print lab.

Additional Resources:
Kickstarter's Twitter
Kickstarter: Does It Even Matter What You Sell? Insight Community
Coffee Joulies
Moveable Type
Arts-donation website helps Matt Porterfield turn his new film into a cliffhanger, The Baltimore Sun

This is not an advertisement for Kickstarter. I ran out of ideas, and Movable Type, which was funded by a campaign, gave me the idea.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Culture Lesson: Human Microphone

The Occupy Wall Street protests, which originated in New York City in September, and may or may not have ended by now (I write these posts in advance), have used a variety of tactics in communicating a variety of messages.

One of these techniques has been the Human Microphone. It's a technology free way to disperse a speech to a large crowd.

What is the Human Microphone? Allow me to explain! This is what happens: A man or woman stands in front of an attentive crowd. He or she shouts, "Mic check!" This signals that the man or woman has something to say. When the crowd responds, "Mic check!" the man or woman knows that he or she has the crowd's attention.

He or she says a short portion of a speech. The section in front of the man or woman, the first group within hearing distance, repeats the speech. A section behind those people repeat it. That bit is repeated, echoed, to the back of the crowd. It's like a round: the speaker does not wait for the stragglers in the back to receive the opening of the speech to continue. (That may take forever.) The speaker waits for the section of people in the front to finish and then continues. This process will go on until the speaker is finished.

This is a speech using the Human Microphone, as posted by New York Magazine:

For measure, here's NYM on the process:
Rather than using an agreed-upon Twitter hashtag, bullhorn, or sound system (the latter two require permits from the city) the group is using a "human microphone" technique: simply shouting back the words of the speaker so the rest of the group can hear. As you might expect, the message can get a bit garbled, and basic sentences (AND BASIC SENTENCES!) can take three times as long (CAN TAKE THREE TIMES AS LONG!) to complete (TO COMPLETE!).

So, why is a group largely organized via technology relying on lungpower to make a speech? Because one requires a permit for a bullhorn. (And a permit was supposedly issued! But the noise level was too loud. I'm still trying to verify that.) From The Nation, which also explains the fine details of camping in Zuccotti Park:
The thing is—there's no microphone. New York City requires a permit for “amplified sound” in public, something that the pointedly unpermitted Occupy Wall Street lacks. This means that microphones and speakers are banned from Liberty Plaza, and the NYPD has also been interpreting the law to include battery-powered bullhorns. Violators can be sentenced for up to thirty days in prison. Further complicating the matter is the fact that Liberty Plaza is not actually a public park. It’s privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties, landlords to Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, and in addition to amplified sound, they’ve also sought to ban sleeping bags, tents and other equipment from what they call “Zuccotti Park.”

Additional Resources:
Video: A Brief Lesson on Using the Occupy Wall Street Human Microphone, New York Magazine
Man Uses Occupy Wall Street’s Human Microphone to Propose to Girlfriend [Video], Observer
Human Microphone, Urban Dictionary
We Are All Human Microphones Now, The Nation
When the Multitude Shouts With One Voice, The Wall Street Journal

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Technology Lesson: Facebook Notification (Update)

Facebook has been making a lot of changes, and hopefully the next few lessons will shed light on these adjustments—which you have surely adapted to—and provide an update to the outdated archives.

Before Facebook enraged its users in September with privacy changes (AGAIN), it e-mailed its users regarding Facebook notifications. I preferred my old settings. If you want to reset your notifications, or modify them in any way, read on.


Click the arrow at the top of your screen (next to HOME).



To undo the changes Facebook made, click the checkbox at the top of the page.


If you'd like to tweak your settings while you're there—maybe you want MORE e-mail, less e-mail, or just need to tweak your notification for unrelated reasons—begin your customization.

The first rows will disable e-mails for the notifications related to your recent activity. My first note is from (previous contributor) Bryan, who liked my Facebook photo. (Thanks, Bryan!) If I click the envelope, I'll disable the notification settings I already have in place. (No e-mail, but a note when I sign in.)

Scrolling down to ALL NOTIFICATIONS will allow you to tweak settings individually. (This is probably what you want.) Click EDIT to see your preferences and make changes.

There are my preferences! We're on personal terms, now.

Click SAVE CHANGES when you're done.

Technology Lesson: How to Get Facebook Notifications

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Technology Lesson: Blue Screen of Death

Windows 8, the newest operating system from Microsoft, has a new Blue Screen of Death (BSoD; above).

The Blue Screen of Death is formally known as a Stop Error or Bug Check. The screen usually pops up unexpectedly, and strikes fear and/or irritation in the user. I'll let Wikipedia explain what's happening when the blue screen appears:

Stop errors are usually hardware or driver related, causing the computer to stop responding in order to prevent damage to the hardware, whereupon, in the latest versions of Windows, the screen presents information for diagnostic purposes that was collected as the operating system performed a bug check.
The old screen, below, was blue with white text. It provided a length bit of code for developers pre-reboot, to "explain" the error. The new screen provides significantly less information for developers. It's still blue, but includes a sad face emoticon. This is laughable in the technology community, but at least Windows acknowledges the stress and frustration accompanied with a Blue Screen of Death?

Additional Resources:
Windows 8 Upgrades the Blue Screen of Death, Mashable
Windows' Blue Screen of Death, PC Mag
Blue Screen of Death, Wikipedia

Previously:Technology Lesson: Emoticons