With everyone’s attention span geared toward the 30-second sound bite, we need to keep our writing as concise as possible. One way to do that is to get rid of unnecessary words. Redundancies are a good example.
“Past” and “future” are some of the most common redundant words. You’ve most likely seen or even used phrases such as “future plans,” “past history” or “past experience.”
If you have or are making plans, they are for the future, so you don’t need to state the obvious. A simple, “My plan is to attend NDSU” is sufficient. If necessary, you can modify “plan” with words such as “immediate” or “long-term,” or perhaps a date, to indicate a time frame. For example: “My long-term plan is to attend NDSU.” Or this: “I plan to attend NDSU in 2018.”
“History” and “experience” already have happened, so they are in the past. Again, you don’t need to state the obvious. “My experience leads me to believe this experiment will fail.” “This weed’s growth history indicates it will be about 6 inches tall by August.”
Ellen Crawford, Information Specialist, (701) 231-5391
In 2014, the NDSU Extension Service YouTube channel's 418 videos had nearly 224,000 views, totaling more than 1.1 million minutes. The top 10 videos of 2014 were:
- Planning Ahead: Sump Pump Tips -- 12:07, 57,500 views
- Foundation Insulation Effectiveness: Basement Building Science -- 30:47, 48,400 views
- Finishing Cattle in Hoop Barns -- 1:47, 19,500 views
- Spring Lawn Care -- 9:39, 8,600 views
- Cabbage Harvest -- 2:25, 8,500 views
- Foundation Insulation Effectiveness: Frost-Protected Shallow Foundations -- 7:18, 5,000 views
- -- 8:18, 4,500 views
- Synchronizing Estrous, Heat Detection and AI -- 30:44, 4,200 views
- Measuring Pumping Plant Efficiency of a Typical Irrigation System -- 14:53, 4,000 views
- 4-H Beef Showmanship -- 9:26, 3,700 views
Of the viewers, 93 percent watched the video on the YouTube page itself, and only 6.8 percent watched the video embedded on another website, such as an NDSU page. More than half (55 percent) arrived at our videos by a YouTube suggestion and 13 percent through a YouTube search. YouTube is the second largest search engine, behind only Google.
Of those thousands of views, 445 viewers "liked" any of our videos and 128 "shared" them.
So what do these data tell us?
Obviously, the topics and lengths of the most popular videos varied greatly -- from 1:47 to 30:47. However, we'd have to go into the analytics of each video to see how long the viewers stayed on the video.
In general, the data tell us that video is an important way to educate. Focus on a topic that people want to know about and that lends itself to video with moving visuals, be concise in sharing the information, and promote the URL through links from other sites and in other ways. Even narrated PowerPoint slides teach some people better than Web page text.
Videos can be high quality, even if not produced by professionals. See tips from Bruce Sundeen and Scott Swanson on how to capture high-quality video and an explanation of the different levels of service they can provide to you.
Think about how you can use video in your educational programs. Consider these statistics:
- About 65 percent of the population consists of visual learners.
- More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month.
- More than 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube. That's almost an hour for every person on Earth.
- Mobile makes up almost 40 percent of YouTube's global watch time.
- Adults 18-64 typically spend around 27 minutes a day viewing video.
You can subscribe to the NDSU Extension or other YouTube channels to be notified whenever there's a new video uploaded. Just sign in with your Google account, and click on the "subscribe" button on the page. YouTube is not part of the NDSU Google Apps for Education suite, so you must use a personal Google account, not your NDSU Google account.
In addition to the Extension channel, a few other NDSU Agriculture YouTube channels include:
Becky Koch, Ag Communication Director, (701) 231-7875
This past weekend (Jan. 30 - Feb 1, 2015) the NDSU Extension - Lawns, Gardens and Trees Facebook Page had one of their posts go viral. The previous 10 posts on the page averaged a reach (the number of people a post was served to) of 453.8. The post below reached more than 187,000 people. By looking at the Facebook Insights for the post, we might see a couple of reasons why.
There are definitely reasons for this post going viral that go beyond anything that can be quantified. The photo obviously resonated with people. It got more than 10,000 likes and 2,200 shares. It might be that the photo shows a great idea that many people had not been exposed to before. I call this the "cool" factor. if something you see online makes you say, "Cool," you are more likely to share it because it might make your friends say, "Cool," and make them think that you are cool.
The photo is also timely. It was posted on January 30 (more on that later), 15 days before Valentine's Day. Some people might be looking for Valentine's Day gift ideas, and along comes this photo. The photo clearly shows it's subject. Some people may have been tempted to take a photo of the entire display table and posted it with text like "Look at all the great ideas at this event!" I don't think a post like that would have been as effective. The actual post contained a single idea that could be shared and replicated instead of a table full of ideas that were unclear.
By looking at Facebook Insights I found some more tangible reasons why this post might have spread so widely. The first thing I did was to look at where the earliest shares of the post came from. This wasn't easy. You can access the shares from the admin view of the post, but by the time I looked at the shares there were more than 2,000, which meant a lot of scrolling to get to the earliest shares.
The post was put up at 4:40 p.m. (Central) on January 30, 2015. the first share happened at 8:48 p.m. That first share got 10 likes and 3 comments. The second and third shares had similar numbers of likes and comments, but the fourth share at 10:57 p.m. got 128 likes and 21 comments. The next 3 shares again had modest numbers of likes and comments, but at 12:10 a.m. on January 31, the post was shared on the Sweetstuff's Sassy Succulents Facebook Page garnering 249 likes and 10 comments. After that more and more of the shares began coming from Facebook Pages rather than people on Facebook, and the post began to reach more people. By 10:07 a.m. on January 31, the post had found it's way to the Facebook Page of Garden Design magazine, a page with 406,403 likes. When they shared the post it received 1,941 likes and 181 comments. By the standards of other NDSU Extension Facebook posts, it had gone viral.
Facebook Pages tend to have more likes than individual people on Facebook have friends, so the numbers are in their favor. Facebook Pages also have an imperative to share content they think is valuable to their audience, so they are looking for quality information with the intention of sharing it. I'm not saying you should focus all of your Facebook Page activity on reaching other Facebook Pages, but connecting with other Pages, especially those outside your organization that may reach a different audience than you reach, should be part of your strategy.
Let's get back to the timing of this post. It was posted late in the afternoon on a Friday. If you post to your Facebook Page only when you are in your office, you might not post very often on a Friday afternoon. The NDSU Extension Service - Lawns, Gardens and Trees Facebook Page hadn't posted on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday since October 2014. By posting late on a Friday, they potentially reached an audience they had not reached before, or they reached their audience at a time when it was more convenient for them to share.
If you look at the general data, like they do here, you might think weekends are a bad time to post to Facebook, but you aren't trying to reach 1.1 billion Facebook users. You are trying to reach your audience. You need to find out when your audience is on Facebook and when they are ready to engage. The best way to find out is to post at a lot of different times, then look back at your Facebook Insights and see what you can learn. If there is a time your audience seems more engaged, you might want to schedule important posts for that time, but don't forget about the rest of your audience. Continue to spread out your posts to reach more people.
Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381
Facebook is rolling out a new "Call-To-Action" feature for Facebook Pages for brands, businesses and organizations. It's pretty simple, but pretty useful as well. It allows you to create a button at the top of your Facebook Page that links to any destination on or off of Facebook. Currently, you can choose from 2 buttons, ""Shop Now" or "Sign Up."
I used the feature to create a "Sign Up" button on the Nourishing Boomers and Beyond Facebook Page that leads to the signup form for the program's e-newsletter.
As you might have noticed in the image, Facebook has added a new metric for "CTA Clicks" which will track how many times your call-to-action button is clicked.
To create your own call-to-action button, log in to Facebook, go to the Facebook Page you administer and click on the "Create Call-To-Action" button. Just put in the web address of the web page, Google Form, Qualtrics survey or whatever you want the button to link to.
Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381
On January 29, 2015 Microsoft launched new Outlook apps for Android and iOS.The new apps offer some features you don't get by connecting your NDSU Microsoft account to the native "Mail" and "Calendar" apps on your smartphone or tablet.
I downloaded and installed the Outlook app for iOS on my iPad mini and, after some confusion due to mistyping my password repeatedly, was able to get logged in by choosing "Exchange" when prompted, and entering my full NDSU email address and password. There was no need for defining the "server" or touching any of the other advanced options you may have had to use to set up your NDSU email on your phone or tablet in the past. The set up of the Outlook app on my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) was identical to the setup on my iPad, right down to the same delay due to my bad typing skills.
As soon as I opened the apps, I was taken in by the look and feel. They are definitely an improvement over the the generic mail apps on iOS and Android.
The Outlook apps automatically separate your messages into 2 tabs, "Focused" and "Other." Important e-mails are supposed to be shown under the "Focused" tab. The apps did a pretty good job of that for me right from the start. I did find a few important emails under the "Other" tab, but it was easy to move them to "Focused" by opening the message, touching the menu icon and choosing "Move to Focused Inbox." The app asked me if I just wanted to move the message or to move it and create a rule that would put all future messages from that sender in the "Focused Inbox." As you move messages back and forth between "Focused" and "Other," the app will start to learn which types of messages are important to you.
The apps also feature the ability to "schedule" a message, which means you can delay it, scheduling it to return to the top of your inbox at a time of your choosing. This is great for managing those messages that are important to you, but you can't deal with them right away. By swiping left to right on a message, you can choose to "schedule" it to return to your inbox in a few hours, in the evening, the next day or at a custom time. Being able to interact with messages by swiping is a major feature of the new Outlook apps. By quickly swiping right to left on a message you can archive it. By swiping right to left a little more slowly, you can delete it.
I'm still exploring the apps, but one of my favorite features is access to the calendar from inside the Outlook app. Microsoft is also talking up the ability to easily insert links to files from Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive and Box.
Overall, I think the new apps are a big improvement over just connecting your NDSU Microsoft account to the "Mail" and "Calendar" apps on your iOS or Android devices. You can download the apps for free (see the links at the top of this article). Give them a try, and let me know what tips and tricks you discover.
UPDATE: I just came across this excellent post from ProfHacker, "Outlook for iOS and Android: An Email App Administrators and Staff Will (Really!) Love," with more information of the features of the new Outlook apps.
Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381
Have you ever had to manage a calendar or signup sheet with someone outside of our organization? Last summer, one of the counties requested help in building an online calendar where volunteers could sign up for the Community Garden. More recently, another county office and local Farm Service Agency wanted a place where either of them could book appointments for the agent to provide Farm Bill education.
Inside our organization (those of us with a @ndsu.edu email) the Microsoft Outlook calendar works great to help manage your time. You can create calendars for scheduling too. In Ag Comm, we have a schedule to book the 5a Conference Room, videoconferencing and even break room clean up.
Unfortunately, our Outlook calendars are internal-only and cannot be shared with the “outside” world. This can pose a problem for many of you who work with the public and other agencies to collaborate on projects.
A solution is Google docs, which have handy templates ready for you to customize. They are easy to share and collaborate on and use, no matter if you’re inside or outside our organization.
Create Your Calendar
Check out the sample calendar I made from the template. It is actually a spreadsheet, but functions as a calendar. I made up a fictional event “County Fair Booth Volunteer Shifts” for the week of June 14, 2015. I put three shifts on the calendar. The intent is to make this accessible by anyone, so they can review the available shifts and then add their name to a shift on the calendar.
Set Calendar Accessibility
So where can people find this calendar? There’s several ways to get the word out and you do that by hitting the Share button in the upper right of your screen, or on the File menu > Share.
Option 1: Share with others (via email). Just enter their email address and choose what level they can access (can edit, can comment or can view).
Option 2: Get shareable link.
A link will be generated for you and you can set the access levels:
In the calendar example for the County Fair booth sign up, I would make the calendar public so that anyone could access it and “edit” or sign up.
Get the Word Out About the Sign Up
Now that we have our calendar that can be accessed and edited by anyone, we need to direct our audience to it. Use the copied link in the previous step to paste into an email or text. Or, you could choose to email them directly from the calendar by entering their email address (you can even add a note).
Calendar Update Notifications
Now that you’ve gotten the word out about the calendar, you’re hoping it fills up with people who want to take the shifts. You could go in and check on progress as often as you want, or you can have updates emailed to you directly by setting up a Notification. Choose Tools > Notification Rules.
You can choose what kind of notifications you want and how often you want the notifications.
Give It a Try!
To put all of this together, go ahead and register yourself for a time slot on the calendar at http://bit.ly/1Hsd2yz. You don’t even have to hit “save” because Google Docs automatically does it for you. Although you won’t be able to get the notifications, I will see them.
If you ever need to collaborate on a calendar with the public or another agency, give Google Docs a try.
For more information or help with this, please contact me or Bob Bertsch.
Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403.
To provide faculty and staff with appropriate, high-quality, cost-effective computers and to provide support efficiently, Ag Communication Computer Services suggests certain computers be purchased.
We are purchasing HP computers through the state contract for Extension cost-share and other purchases. These HPs are the business class of computers, which means that the hardware configuration usually stays the same for about 1½ years. This helps in support (warranty work) and pricing (stable figures). They have plenty of memory and speed to do nearly everybody's work, not like some inexpensive computers available online and at big-box stores. All these computers come with a four-year warranty that compliments a four-year cycle plan.
Many staff are pleased with the HP EliteBook 850 G1. See the specs on the AITAG hardware baseline. With many staff purchasing this notebook, we can more quickly get the machine set up and troubleshoot problems if they occur.
Some people are wanting tablets instead of notebook computers, but here are some things to consider:
- An HP TouchPad weighs about 1 1/2 pounds, though the HP notebook weighs only 3 1/2 pounds.
- If something goes wrong inside your tablet, we can't open it and fix it like we can with a notebook. They're considered disposable in today's market.
- If you're going to buy a keyboard anyway, you might want to consider the laptop instead of the tablet.
- Consider how much memory you need on your machine. If you're using the Office 365 cloud storage, you may not need as much as if you're crunching numbers and saving photos or video files.
If you have any questions about purchasing computers, please contact us.
Coming from an academic institution, we surely should know how to use “graduated” properly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
When you are referring to someone who is a graduate of an institution, you must include the word “from” after “graduated.” For example: “He graduated from NDSU in 2004.”
Here’s a way to remember why you need to add the “from.” The act of graduating is something a school does to a student, not something a student does to a school. In other words, schools graduate students. So if you say “He graduated NDSU in 2004,” you are saying this student did something to the university.
Another way to look at this is that the shortest form of this sentence is “He graduated in 2004.” The “from NDSU” simply is a descriptive phrase giving the reader or listener more information.
Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391
Keeping Outlook clean by removing unnecessary files helps it run smoothly. As with any program, the more files or messages it has to track, the harder it works. As the number of email messages grows, Outlook can take longer to start and can sometimes be a little sluggish to use.
In the past, the NDSU email server automatically deleted all items in the deleted and junk email folders after 30 days. However, this is no longer the case. Because of this, we strongly encourage you to periodically check and clean out your Deleted Items and Junk Email folders. To do this, open Outlook and locate the appropriate folder in the list on the left side of your screen. Then, right-click on the folder name and select Empty Folder.
Permanently removing messages can be stressful for some people. The chance that an important message may have accidentally ended up in the Deleted Items or Junk Email folders can cause people to avoid cleaning them out from time to time. Fortunately, if you discover you accidentally removed a message that you still need, Outlook has the ability to recover messages that were recently removed. Just locate the folder the message was removed from, right-click on it and select Recover Deleted Items. This will open a window with a list of recently deleted messages. Select the message you want to recover, and at the top, click on the Recover Selected Items button (looks like an envelope). The item you recovered will be added back into your folder. If you have multiple messages to recover, you can do that, too. Just hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on the messages to recover or press Ctrl + A to select them all.
Jerry Ranum; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685
Ever get invited to complete an online registration or application but eventually you don’t submit it because it was just too many questions? People tend to have very short attention spans these days, especially when online. It’s always a good idea to make your survey as concise as possible, without of course compromising the data you really do need to collect.
Sometimes however, long forms are inevitable. I recently worked with a specialist who was using Google Forms for an online grant application. She narrowed down the questions as best she could, but really needed to ask quite a few to collect all the data that would be used to decide the grant's winner.
Here’s a few tips to help people through a long form:
1. Let them know what they’re getting in to.
Tell them upfront “This form has x # of questions and will take around x minutes to complete”. They might've started your form on their form in a waiting line but then dropped of when they got to the head of the line and completely forgot to go back to your form.
2. Add a progress bar on your form to let them know how far along they are in the process. Google forms and Qualtrics allow progress bars. Here's how you set it up in Google Forms:
3. Along the same lines, number your questions so they can see exactly where they are in the process.
4. Break up sections of your form by either using headers or page breaks. Let’s say you’re taking training registration. The first section of the form could be “Contact information” and ask for first name, last name, company name, job title, business address, phone and email. The second section could be “Training sessions” they want to attend. The third session could be “Meal Preferences”. Breaking up each section should be a little easier for the form taker to digest.
Let me know if you need help making long forms less painful.
Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403