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"The Commons" - A Great Source for Images

I've written here many times in the past about how important images are in online communication. Images have a positive effect on user engagement on websites, blogs and social media.There are many sources for of images you can legally use for free (here's a list of some of them), but I want to highlight one in particular.

"The Commons" is a project started by Flickr and the Library of Congress in 2008. The project has 2 objectives, to increase access to publicly-held photography collections and to allow the public to tag the photos, adding important information like who is in a photo or where was it taken.

Today, nearly 100 other institutions have joined the Library of Congress and shared their photos on The Commons, including the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. National Archives and the New York Public Library. The photo below was shared by the University of Washington Libraries.

Cooking in Home Economics Class

The Commons is a great source of images for your website, blog or social media posts, but it is also an example of public institutions openly sharing their resources and inviting the public to cooperate with them in adding value to those resources.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Write the Right Word: Avoid ‘Actual,’ ‘Actually’

“Actual” and “actually” are among the most overused words in the English language.

I’m sure you’ve heard something such as this: “I actually saw it happen!” or “What’s the actual situation?”

“Actual” and “actually” shouldn’t be used to suggest concepts such as at present, current, up to date, at this moment or now. If you saw something, such as an accident, all you need to say is, “I watched the cars collide.” Or if you want to know the latest news about a particular incident, just say, “What is the situation?”

Use “actual” or “actually” when you want to indicate something is a fact, not just a possibility, or you are attempting to correct a mistake or misunderstanding. For example, “The actual cost of the new building is $23 million.” Or this: “He actually attended NDSU, not South Dakota State University.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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Images as emails are not user-friendly

When creating an email, it’s important not to have an image as the message because people may not be able to view it. Some emails come through where the message is an inserted picture as the message, vs. typed text in the body of the email.

The email client on the desktop may not allow you to download images, or the sender may not be on your safe sender’s list. Have you ever seen a blank email that prompts you to “Click here to download images?" That can be a problem because every extra step you make someone take to open a message is a risk in losing them. Delete.

Same goes for mobile. According to Litmus, 43% of all email opens were on a mobile device. That was of August 2013. Surely that nummobile no nober has risen by now as the adoption of mobile devices steadily increases. Look how this message displayed on my phone. There is no way to view the message. Delete.

It’s every emailer's dream to have the audience complete the call to action or share with others to increase your audience. Let’s say you were able to view this email because the sender is on your safe sender's list. But what if you wanted to share this email with someone else? Regardless of whether they open on mobile or desktop, they could run into the same problems because their settings may be different than yours. That's another lost chance to get your message across.

The desktop version of the email has a link that is underlined but not hyperlinked, so you're not taken any where by clicking on it. This is very confusing for the audience. I’m not even able to copy and paste the link into a browser to see where they want me to go. There’s probably not many people that are going to take the time to check out that URL by having to retype the web address. Again, you’re losing a potential “customer” by making it painful for access your information.

For readability purposes, it’s best to use text in your email to assure your audience can view your message. Don't type up your message and save it as a .jpg or .png and hit send.

 

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Creating Images With Canva

Creating images is an important part of online communication. Images make webpages and blog posts more attractive, engaging and shareable. Even creating a social media presence requires Facebook Covers, Twitter Headers and more.

Canva offers an easy to use, drag-and-drop interface for creating all kinds of images. Using their website or iPad app, you can use their templates, design themes, photos and fonts to create your own image.

Here's one I created with one of my own photos and a Canva layout.

An Image Created in Canva

Canva features templates for Facebook Covers, Instagram Posts, photo collages and much more. Once you choose a template, you can build on a blank slate or choose one of Canva's layouts. Like Canva's photos and fonts, some layouts are free and some are available for a small charge, usually $1. If you use elements that aren't free in your design, you'll be asked to pay for them before you can download the image you've created.

There are plenty of elements that are free, allowing you to create some really interesting images at no cost.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Don’t Fall for the Latest Facebook Hoax

A Facebook hoax from 2012 is being recirculated in reaction to recently-announced changes to its privacy settings. You may have seen people posting a “legal” notice that disallows Facebook to use your information or posts.

A snippet:

“By this statement, I tell Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, broadcast, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and or its content.”

According to snopes.com, this declaration is meaningless:

“While (Facebook) does not technically own its members content, it has the right to use anything that is not protected with Facebook's privacy and applications settings. For instance, photos, videos and status updates set to public are fair game.”

The best way to protect your privacy on Facebook is to adjust your Privacy Settings to your comfort level. You can adjust who sees what, and even what ads you see. For the basics, see the Facebook Privacy page.

So if you see that Facebook post, be sure not to share it. Remember to apply the CRAAP test if you’re not sure about the accuracy of a post.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Mobile-Friendly Sites are Favored by Google

Google recently announced that mobile-friendly websites will stand out in search with labels and possibly, rank.

I tested this out by searching “ndsu ag comm”. Sure enough, mobile-friendly versions ranked higher than the non-mobile-friendly result.

 Screenshot of mobile-friendly search

Ag CMS sites have been mobile-friendly since March 2013. Roger did all the work designing the mobile template and had the foresight to know that more and more users are using the Mobile Web.  

Just take a look at our most recent Google Analytics for all Ag CMS sites:

Mobile analytics table

 

Note that desktop sessions have only grown by 3.67% so far in 2014, but our overall number of sessions is up by 22.5%, mainly due to mobile traffic. We have had nearly 5 times as many mobile sessions already this year than we did all of last year.

Without having to worry about design, you can concentrate on the content. Here’s some tips on writing for the Mobile Web.  

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Including

Despite the way “include” or “including” seems to be used these days, it does not mean “all” or “everything.”

Use “include” or “including” before a series only if you are not listing everything. For example: “The family has several pets, including three cats and a dog.” Using “including” in this case is OK because the family also has two hamsters and a parakeet.

When you list everything in a series, use “are.” For example: “The three color options for this model are white, green and light blue.”

One more hint: Do not tack “etc.” or “and more” to the end of a list when you precede it with “include” or “including.” The words “include” and “including” are a clear indication that the list is not complete, which makes the “etc.” or “and more” unnecessary.

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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Lindquist Shares How to Own the Stage

Mark_LindquistMark Lindquist opened the Sept. 30 - Oct. 3 Extension/REC Fall Conference sharing how those of us who give presentations can use his acting and speaking tips to "Own the Stage."

Develop a rehearsal habit. Rehearse to an empty chair, and give it your all in practice. You can't control everything, but you can control practice. Amateurs rehearse until they get it right; professionals rehearse until they don't get it wrong.

Prepare short stories/vignettes to use as appropriate. Let somebody else tell the story for you.

Use images, not PowerPoint bullets. Photos and graphics truly are worth a thousand words, illustrating stories and leaving images with your audience. Don't read slides to your audience.

Establish your credibility. Share why you're qualified to speak on this topic.

Be confident, competent, compelling and charismatic.

In summary, Lindquist said, "Only 11 percent of people have passion for what they do. You have a story worth telling and a mission worth doing."

Becky Koch, Ag Communication Director, (701) 231-7875

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Get notified when somone submits your Google form

More and more Extension and REC staff are using Google forms to collect registrations, evaluations, email addresses for newsletter sign up, and more. Sometimes staff would like to know right away when someone completes a form. For instance, Bob and I have a simple Google form on the Ag CMS homepage that collects information for people who need an Ag CMS login. We like to get these people signed up right away so they are still enthused and also for good customer service. When someone fills out the form, Bob and I get an email notification and we can take the information the person provided and get them set up in ag CMS right away.

Not only can you get email notifications for when a user submits a form, but also changes to your form like if a collaborator was added or if any changes to the spreadsheet were made. You can set the alerts up to come into your inbox once a day, or as-it-happens.

Here's a quick video on how to set up email notifications for Google Forms.

If you need help with setting up notifications, please contact Bob Bertsch or myself.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Both and Either

“Both” and “either” often get overused. That’s especially the case in sentences where an “and” or an “or” makes them unnecessary.

For example: “Mary and John went to the store.” The “and” clearly indicates the two of them went to the store. You don’t need to say “Mary and John both went to the store.” However, if you do not use their names, then “both” is OK: “Both also went to the movies.”

You don’t need to use “either” when you give two options and connect them with an “or.” For example: “The producer had a choice of planting corn or soybeans” (not either corn or soybeans).

One additional note on “either:” Use it to mean one or the other, not both. For example: “You can use either door.” However, “The woman placed planters on both sides of her front door.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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