Smarter Search with DuckDuckGo

David-sized search engine DuckDuckGo is a sweet package of search goodness. While it certainly doesn’t have the vast tentacles of a Google or even a Bing, it offers some features that might persuade you to join the flock.

Duck Duck Go’s results are a duck soup made from many sources, including Yahoo! Search BOSS, Wikipedia, and its own Web crawler (DuckDuckBot). Although it has been around since 2008, the Duck flew across my radar this morning, when I happened on Robert Scoble’s stream of conciousness post on DDG’s new use of Twitter lists on the home page. So, being the curious sort, I checked it out.

DDG offers a great search result, free of most advertise-y, spammy, content-farmy sites that pervade the larger players. It also is private in that it does not track or retain your search and browse history. It even looks clean. I personally like the all-on-one-page feature – you simply keep scrolling down and new items load. Navigate the results with keyboard shortcuts if that is your thing. For some results, DDG will offer alternative sets of results that it “thinks” might be of value. And, if you like ads, you might want to avoid DDG – there are none. Whew!

It also has a pretty cool feature called iBangs. You can use a dropdown button next to the search box and it will put results from your most frequented sites at the tope. Or, for certain sites, simply type an exclamation point before the site name and the subject of the search and your results will come from the site. A simple ! or !ducky takes you to the first result. So, even though it does not yet have a video tab, searching !youtube will limit your search to only YouTube videos.

So what’s this about Twitter lists? Apparently, as of yesterday afternoon, you could embed a list on your DDG page and make that your homepage. Essentially, you could get search and your fav Twitter stream in one stop. Pretty cool, especially if you consider Twitter a search resource.

Have you used it? Will you use it? I intend to check it out, if for no other reason than I am sick of ads choking out my valid results.

Research: When The Web Beats The Books

Bad news for advocates of traditional, book-based, brick-and-mortar library-centric research: the Web may be a better place to get your answers. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan compares the efficacy of on-line and off-line search methods, with on-line search providing answers a greater percentage of the and with 2/3 less time invested. From the study’s introduction:

Using a random sample of queries from a major search engine, we evaluate the amount of time participants spend when they use a search engine versus when they use the library without access to Web resources; any quality differences in the information found from the Web versus non-Web resources; and any differences in affective experiences between online and offline search processes.

Here is what the researchers found:

Searchers are significantly more likely to find an answer using web search. Of the 305 questions, 99.7% are answered in the web treatment, while 90.2% are answered in the non-web treatment.

Web search yields significantly more positive affective experiences than non-web search.

Online search takes significantly less time than offline search. Online search takes on average 1/3 of the time of offline search.

Searchers under the web condition looked at and used more sources than those under the non-web condition.

While non-web sources are judged to be significantly more trustworthy and authoritative than the corresponding web sources, web sources are judged to be significantly more relevant and more likely to contain enough information to answer the question. Furthermore, the accuracy of answer source is not significantly different across the two treatments. Balancing all factors, the overall source quality is not significantly different across the two venues.

I feel it necessary to point out a caveat to these conclusions, which even the researchers recognize. The research questions underpinning the study were all gleaned from the Web, with the implication that the Web would be the best place to answer Web questions. It is not certain that the same results would obtain for research questions first posed in a library setting. Nonetheless, the study certainly is sufficient to point out that for a subset of questions, the Web is definitely the place to go.

But, I still love libraries. 🙂

More Free On-Line Space – Amazon Cloud Drive

Further to last week’s cloud management and storage post, I just happened on this deal this morning. You can 5GB of cloud storage for free from none other than Amazon via their brand new Cloud Drive. While it appears intended for use with Amazon’s music downloads (and uploads), it appears able to store all sorts of media. Purchases of MP-3’s from Amazon’s store are stored for free and don’t count against your 5GB space. You can buy additional space for reasonable change – essentially $1 per GB per year. Get your tunes in the cloud for free and a little extra storage space to boot. Beating Apple and Google to the cloud music-punch, with a freebie on the side. Nicely done, Amazon.

Today's Writing Lesson: How To Write A Manifesto

Not that lawyers need to write manifestos frequently (although perhaps a bit of professional editing might aid in the process). It never hurts to broaden one’s writing skills. KimMok Copyrighting (via BoingBoing blog) offers this simple, visual recipe for the perfect manifesto. Simply insert your fruit of choice.

Website Notation & Sharing Now Clear As Glass

Does your work ever require you to review and share notes with others regarding the information you find on websites? Glass offers a specialized tool to assist that effort. Fresh out of private, invite-only beta, you can freely try this new application out and see if it fits your needs.

Via Firefox and Chrome plug-ins, you can easily and quickly add your own thoughts to a site, much like peering through a layer of glass. Those thoughts can include text, links, images or video. Then, send these thoughts to others via a messaging-type interface, with real-time like updates. There is a companion mobile application, iOS only at this time.  With the features in the interface, you can create a pretty solid annotation to the page, something worthy of sharing. And Glass does offer a measure of SSL secure encryption to the interaction and comments are not sharable by default.

Sort of like a social bookmarking site, with more collaboration, and a smooth-as-Glass execution. Nice new toy to play with, for certain.

Cavalier Attitudes About Mobile Phone Security

We are all going mobile. And, generally speaking, that isn’t such a bad thing. To have a tool the approximate size of a deck of cards with you at all times that can manage your business and personal affairs over the “air” is a compelling sell indeed. However, along with the obvious benefits, there are certainly drawbacks, with security or lack thereof being not the least among them. In many respects, the lack of security does stand to some reason. What is far more troubling, however, is the general lack of awareness among mobile phone users regarding the risks associated with such “always on” connectedness.

BeSpacific blog highlighted a March 11, 2011 report by the Ponemon Institute, a group focused on security issues, on the findings from a survey of 734 U.S. mobile phone consumers over the age of 18. Ponemon was trying to get at two pieces of information: are consumers aware of the risks; and, do consumers care about the risks? The results, culled from their answers, are a tad shocking.

Ponemon reports that the key finding from their research is that users are unaware of the type and extent of security risks associated with mobile phone use and are not terribly concerned about them.  Users are far more concerned with security on their laptop or desktop computers than they are with respect to their mobile phones. They are also far more concerned that a marketer will try to contact them over their phone then they are about weak links in the security chain. A sizeable percentage store sensitive data on their phones, but over 50% of users have not enabled the basic security of a keypad lock or password protection. And a 57% majority report that security is not an important feature on their phone at all. Nearly half of consumers are unconcerned about transferring a device to another person without properly wiping the phone’s data. Most are unaware of being “tracked” while using their phones or the lessened security that accompanies jailbreaking a device. Less than half are concerned about insecure wi-fi to phone connections. Only about half are aware of and less than half are concerned about “cross-over” – security of business information jeopardized by personal use of a device.  And, it appears, a large percentage of smartphone use is mixed business and personal, with employers paying some or all of the bill.

Now, I am sure that Studio readers are well aware of the risks associated with mobile smartphone use and have implemented security measures to prevent against harm. But, as a public service, I list below the security scenarios addressed in the report. Maybe there is one you overlooked, who knows? But, knowledge being power and all, this is one arena in which ignorance is definitely not bliss.

1.   location data embedded onto image files can result in tracking of the smartphone user

2.   Smartphone apps can transmit confidential payment information (i.e. credit card details)

3.   Smartphones can be infected by specialized malware called “dialerware” that enables criminals to make use of premium services or numbers resulting in unexpected monthly charges.

4.   Smartphone apps may contain spyware that allows criminals to access the private information contained on a smartphone

5.   Financial apps for smartphones can be infected with specialized malware designed to steal credit card numbers and online banking credentials.

6.   If a social network app is downloaded on a smartphone, failing to log off properly could allow an imposter to post malicious details or change personal settings without the user’s knowledge.

7.   A smartphone can be disposed of transferred to another user without properly removing sensitive data, allowing an intruder to access private data on the device.

8.   In many cases, people use their smartphone for both business and personal usage, thus putting confidential business information at risk (a/k/a cross-over risk).

9.   A smartphone can connect to the Internet through a local WIFI network that is insecure. This may result in a virus attack to the smartphone.

10.   Smartphones contain basic security protections that can be disabled by jailbreaking, thus, making the smartphone more vulnerable to spyware or malware attacks.

11.   Smartphone users can be targeted by marketers based on how the phone is used for purchases, Internet browsing and location. As a result, the user may receive unwanted marketing ads and promotions on their smartphone.

Virtual Assistants To The Rescue!

Yesterday’s news feeds brought me two new applications that can ably serve as assistants in your process of getting things done. The first is FellowUp, a tool that helps you make the most of your various social web connections. The second is Flow, a beautiful group task management app that puts your to do list front and center in a very dynamic way.

First, FellowUp. This CRM tool tackles a problem made almost monumental in the digital, social sharing age: how do you maintain relationships across social networks, relationships that might actually yield positive experiences and networking fruit? You connect your social networks to the application, which then mines your networks for “insights”, such as important events, happenings, job changes, etc. From FellowUp’s dashboard, you can then comment or connect over the “insight”, making a positive impression on your friend or colleague and, in essence, “following up” with them. Get quick note of important life events and even common interests, which you can then act on if you wish. Of course, like any good CRM, FellowUp affords a useful mechanism for saving and storing contact information across networks in one place for easy access. Mobile access too, with a companion iPhone application. FellowUp has a more personal feel than competitors such as Salesforce, Xobni or LinkedIn, and a more effective interface for acting on events. Another cool feature: use it as a personal “to do” application by creating a new contact for yourself and adding notes, reminders, tasks or anything else you need to bring to your frontal lobe. FollowUp currently connects with Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Outlook. The site indicates that the team is working to add iCal, Yahoo, Twitter, hotmail-live, Salesforce, MySpace and more. A plug-in for Gmail and Outlook is in the works. FellowUp is in private beta right now, but even at this early stage, it promises to be an interesting way to deal with burgeoning online communities of friends, colleagues and acquaintances,  helping us make more meaningful connections in a rapidly disconnecting world.

Next in line, Flow. Flow is all about managing and delegating tasks to your team. In their sample vid, the “team” is a group of kids (I know, aging myself here) setting about to have a party. But your aspirations with this gorgeous app can certainly rise higher. The problem Flow is attempting to solve is similar to FollowMe – how to pull together disparate tasks and to-dos scattered across various applications and platforms and localize them in one place for easy management. Use Flow from your browser or a companion Mac desktop application. Use if for personal and work related tasks, by entering a name, a due date, contacts you’d like to include in the task-completion process, and relevant tags. You can group tasks into projects. Collaborators can add content to tasks, including real-time comments, which is a huge boon on a short deadline. You can add tasks and can delegate by email and all team members get access to a single dashboard. And, of course, there is the ubiquitous companion iPhone application.

To say the interface is pretty would be an understatement. But, at $9.99 per month, it should be. Still, let it be known that $99 per year for a virtual assistant is not a bad deal, particularly if it helps you get your work done and done effectively and efficiently.

Check out these very cool new apps. And be watching for more – clearly developers are plagued with the same professional problems as us little folk and keep coming up with creative ways to solve them.

Manage Your Cloud From One Spot + Free Storage Options

I have a collection of free cloud storage accounts and, while not impossible, it is slightly challenging to organize and manage all of them. I stumbled on a local option for handling some of those cloud accounts – Joukuu. Joukuu, which means “cloud” in Japanese,  is a free, Windows-only (Mac version promised soon) download that helps you interact with three of the most popular services: Dropbox; Box.net; and Google Docs. You can pretty much manage your entire process with this app – access your files, sync and open with local applications.

Edit files, and create and sync on the desktop without having to log-in the cloud or open separate windows.

How about one-click backup? Just right click on your selected files, and choose the account, the files will backup to your online accounts automatically.

Move files between accounts in your Joukuu with simple drag and drop.

Joukuu does not copy any files to its own servers, so you need only worry about your own desktop and the various cloud providers it links to as far as security goes.

So, this whole Joukuu got me to thinking – just how much cloud storage can you pull down for free? While I can say for certain this isn’t an exhaustive list, you might be surprised at just how much you can expand your storage space for no cash. Dropbox starts you off with 2GB for free, but you can earn 3GB to 10.25 GB if you get people to sign up via referral from you. Box.net gives you 5GB for free with a personal account. Google Docs gives you 1GB for free. Each provider offers different limits on file sizes and access – definitely check them out. But, right out off the bat, Joukuu can help you manage between 8GB and over 13GB of storage without any investment.

Want more? Check out Windows SkyDrive which offers a whopping 25GB for free (50MB file upload size max). Zumo Drive gives you up to 2GB for free. Or Memopal which gives you 3GB for free. iDrive offers a consumer friendly 2GB free. ADrive offers 50GB of free online backup – wow! 2GB uploads, and ad-supported. With a little finagling you can lay claim to around 90GB of free, on-line storage. Several of these offer mobile apps for file storage on the go, particularly helpful with my iDevices. Not bad, not bad at all.

Research Tip Of The Day: Getting More Out Of Wikipedia

As much as I rail against it, Wikipedia still seems to be a mandatory stop on the Web for lots of web researchers. If you want to get more out of the massive wiki, check out this tool offered up by Lifehacker called The Full Wiki. The web app organizes the information on the page and will even help you pull cites for highlighted sections – not bad if you are thinking of citing to a Wikipedia page, as you might as well go right to the source. The app is in beta right now and has only mined a small subsection of the vast universe of articles for citation purposes. Even so, you can use some of the other tools to map and tree your topic and find other, better sources of content for your research. It is a great idea and a means of leveraging Wikipedia’s content in a more meaningful way.


The Real Dummies Guide to the New Facebook Pages

UPDATE:

Interested in testing out your new coding skills for iFrames in a risk-free environment? Check out this cool, free tool Paste HTML. It’s a free, anonymous sandbox for playing around with HTML, CSS and Javascript. You can see how your Biz Page will look in iFrames before sending it out live. Nice one!

ORIGINAL POST:

Yes, Facebook has been at it again. Just when you thought you had your business page all straightened out and in tip top shape, they go and change EVERYTHING. Right down to the language for customizing pages. Out with FBML, in with iFrames.

But, I am getting a little ahead of myself. I had to endure the pain of change, and I thought I could share my experience with you, in the hopes that you can have an easier time of it when you go about tweaking, dusting, polishing, and modding your own page in keeping with Facebook’s new page parameters.

Overview of Page Changes
Let’s start with an overview of what is new. For starters, Pages now look a lot more like Profiles and the home page. No more tabs underneath the status box. Your previously organized tabbed navigation is now found in a column list to the left of the main content section, underneath the Page image. Like Profiles, the new Page layout allows you to upload and show a gallery of five thumbnail images along the top.  The gallery shows the five most recent images you have uploaded or tagged, but they appear in random order every time the Page is viewed, so it is difficult to organize a fixed layout as many creative Facebook users did with the new Profiles image strip. But, you can still get creative with images that best illustrate your Page’s interests, particularly if you have a bit of graphic design skill.

Another interesting new feature is the ability to toggle from the Page whether you are “on” Facebook as your personal profile or as Page Administrator. The option is to the right of the main wall area – “Use Facebook as AdvantageAdvocates” or something similar. This opens up all sorts of options for getting your Page noticed – by liking other pages or commenting across Facebook as your Page, you can subtly spread the word about your Page. Plus it allows you to easily switch between your person and your Page as you navigate your own Page’s content and communicate with your Page members. As Page, you can pretty much do any of the things you can do on Facebook as yourself, with the designee of the action being the Page. Very cool add.

Another annoyance that has now been solved is the ability to get email notifications when someone comments on your page. Go into Edit, Your Settings, and click the email notifications box.

Page Profile pic size also has been reduced from the previously spacious 200 px wide by 600 px long, to 180 px wide by 540 px long. Shrink that puppy down!

You can feature favorite Pages – go into Edit, Featured, Edit Featured Likes, and select the boxes for the ones you wish to have visible on your Page.

Admin View offers the ability to show Most Recent or Hidden Posts, to the right of the Wall header. You can  or remove posts, and ban spammy posters and report users – simply click the “x” on each post and the drop down menu includes these options.

Your business category now shows on your Page, so you may want to take a moment and make sure it adequately describes what your Page is all about.

New Design Challenges

From a designing point of view, the most massive change is from the old Facebook design language, FBML, to the new iFrames language. Now don’t get me wrong – I totally get why iFrames is the better way to go. However, it will require you to either hire a developer who can write custom HTML / CSS style page layouts or develop a Facebook App for your Page or learn how to do it yourself. The good news is that HTML, Javascript and JQuery seem to work very well within the iFrame environment. There are some limitations – your frame height needs to be less than 800 px or you will get a scroll bar on your Tab content. You can also breathe a partial sigh of relief – your existing FBML tabs (like the Static FMBL app)  will remain, at least for the foreseeable future. But, as with anything Facebook, this will be subject to their whim, so you should consider modernizing the coding at some point to stay up to date.

There are a few options out there to help simplify the process – to a point. Most require some minimal level of HTML understanding as well as the ability to host images if you want some graphic interest.  One option comes from Wildfire Interactive, which has launched a fairly simple  iFrames for Pages app. I played around with it a bit and it seems pretty solid. It’s free right now, but may well become paid in the future, so get in on the action soon if you want to use this ready-made option. It’s a Facebook app, so it will ask for some permissions. You then select the page you wish to install on, fill in some contact information, turn on or off the “fan gate” – the page that shows only to people who haven’t yet liked your page, likely urging them to join the fun, and then load your image or your HTML in a box that shows for non-fan reveal, fan reveal or both. You get a new “Welcome” tab, but you can rename the tab within the Facebook Page edit settings themselves.

image
I used the Static HTML: iframe tabs, (shown above). Once I was able to work out the HTML, it really was pretty easy to use. Click and install like any other Facebook Page app. Go to the newly showing “Welcome” Tab in that lefthand tab list and click on it, you will  get two boxes: content for fans and content for non-fans. Although I didn’t use, the editor apparently can convert FBML to iFrames. You can edit within the tab, but I chose to do it outside of the tab in a WYSIWYG editor and pasted the code into the box. After struggling with the free BlueGriffon WYSIWYG editor, which actually is a very awesome program but gave me agita when it came to loading it effectively into the tab, I ultimately found that editing my content within the “code” view in the Advocate’s Studio blog dashboard itself was the easiest way to go. Remember that any graphics must be no wider than 520 px, text will wrap accordingly. Images also can be hosted on your WordPress blog, and you can save your “draft” Facebook Page post for future reference and editing. When you are finished in WordPress, copy the code view from the “new post” dashboard and paste it right into the box on the Static HTML: iFrame Tab, hit save and view – text and graphics should show beautifully. Be aware, as administrator, that when you click the tab in the left column going forward, you will see the boxes and code, not the finished image. But rest assured, it’s there for everyone else to see.

Here is my new Welcome Page, which shows now for non-Fans, now in HTML within an iFrame tab:

And here is the page that shows to Fans, within the same tab:

There are other options. One is TabSite – I have a TabSite tab on the Page that I haven’t really done anything with. But it has a very simple WYSIWYG editor built in, plus the cool ability to insert a functional “like” button within the Tab content itself.

Three other options that I haven’t yet tried include: iwiPage (add tabs within the tab, website builder with HTML support, a WYSIWYG editor that supports iFram, Javascript, and Flash, with the ability to incorporate Google Analytics too; free and paid); Hosted iFrame by MonsterApps (drop in HTML or XFBML, 25MB of hosted images and hosted CSS files and Google traffic tracking); and, for the WordPress fans, WordPress for Fan Pages (8 templates, WordPress styled editor, $37 onetime fee on their Facebook Page). The WordPress option might be a good one for us non-coding, blogger-types and $37 doesn’t seem like a lot to pay for a decent, familiar Facebook Page editing tool.

Of course, there are many other apps that will work to customize your page in lots of different ways. Check out this post by Facebook guru Mari Smith over at the Social Media Examiner that lists 75 different Business Page apps that you can use to tailor the look and functionality of your page.

Last of all, don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up and update your page – while I found it a wee bit frustrating at times, the end result is worth it and you might learn a few tricks along the way. My business page always shows up high in the Google search results for my business name – why not put your Page’s best face forward. Drop me a line if you have any questions or problems – I am happy to help out if I can.