Archive for the 'Research Stuff' Category

Mar 09 2010

Free(Your)Mind

"Free your mind, Neo." (Use FreeMind!)

When Morpheus from The Matrix instructs his pupil Neo to “free [his] mind”, it’s doubtful he was referring to FreeMind–the  online Java program that allows users to form easily editable mindmaps–but I bet Neo would have benefited from using the software, and maybe even figured out he was The One before Switch, Dozer, Apoc, and Mouse had to died.

Alas, Neo chose to do it the hard way.

FreeMind makes it easy to organize your thoughts, letting you construct something reminiscent of the brainstorms your primary school teachers introduced to you.  With FreeMind, however, you’re upgrading from pen and pencil to a digital format that doesn’t require your erasers to shed when you run out of room on carbon paper. And if you haven’t used the brainstorm format since those elementary

FreeMind Screenshot

FreeMind's Digital Method of Brainstorming

school days, it’s a disarmingly simple exercise that’s worth returning to for a try, especially when you’re juggling multiple ideas for that essay due tomorrow.  After all, an overabundance of ideas can crowd the smartest head until a new idea is impossible to generate.

The freeware (yup, free) is a fantastically light addition to your hard drive–4mb for the MS Windows lite version, and 9mb for the all-inclusive package (SVG and PDF export capabilities); and if you’re running a Mac or Linux OS, they’ve got you covered, too.

Stand-out features include the ability to “drag’n drop” nodes (information concepts), the fold- and unfolding of node trees, smart copying & pasting, and a plethora of means to highlight node importance or change its design (icons, background color, bubbles, clouds).  Check out an excellent introduction to FreeMind on YouTube here: FreeMind Tutorial.

So if you’re finding your brain overloaded by your university courses, try freeing up some mental space by dumping it onto your computer’s–and get it all organized at the same time!

Trust me and maybe you’ll find yourself bending some intellectual spoons of your own someday, too.

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Feb 12 2010

You Are What You Annotate

Now that the semester is moving forward you are probably trying to focus on being a productive student. So you came here to find some help in, right? Of course right. If you spend a lot of time researching on the internet there is a site called Diigo that you should check out.

To put it briefly Diigo is a highlighting, bookmarking and site sharing tool.

One of the reasons I started using Diigo was, it gave me the ability to highlight and place sticky notes on webpages. When I have to read a long online text for class a tool like Diigo gives me the option to directly annotate (take notes) on those pieces. So instead of printing out a bunch of pages I just bring my laptop to class and read my (searchable) notes. Plus, I am saving the environment, right? The notations have different setting: private, public, or shared with group. So depending on your need there are different settings. A fun little bonus to using Diigo is if anyone else has it installed on their computer and they place a sticky note on a webpage and make it a public note then anyone else who also has diigo can see it too.

Another great feature of Diigo is the ability to archive webpages in html and image formats. This is more than just being able to bookmark a page for later use, it gives you the ability to capture a site at a moment in time. This can come in handy for websites that have an ever changing face, like Wikipedia. Once you have saved a page in this format through Diigo they become searchable within your personal archive. So, if you can’t remember what words you used to tag a bookmark (or didn’t tag at all, shame on you!) you can find the page by remembering words that appeared on the page itself.

Whether it is strictly for your own personal use or for building a list of resources in a community, Diigo is a powerful way to organize and annotate the content on the web.

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Sep 14 2009

Do the Doodle

Have you ever tried setting up a meeting with a lot of people via e-mail? If you have you probably know the confusion that can occur as people reply, reply-all, change their minds and never respond. Or maybe you already have a day picked out but your group can’t decide where to eat or what movie to see. Is there a web 2.0 solution for your problem? Why yes, yes there is.

Let me introduce you to a lovely site called Doodle.

So how does Doodle work? Let me quote directly from the site
1) Create a poll
2) Forward the link to the poll to the participants.
3)
Follow online what the participants vote for.

I used Doodle to help set up a meeting for those students interested in writing for this site (and if you are let me know!) and with a few clicks I was able to give them many time and day options. A nice feature of Doodle is that it will show you how many votes there are for each day/time combo. It may seem simple but this can give you a visual view of what day/time may be better and if you have more than one option for your get together. Another idea is creating a list of things you need people to bring to a party and have people sign up for what you need.

Give it a try and you will find that is much easier than the back and forth of e-mails and allows for many more nuances than simple e-mailing can’t get at. So throw a party, have doodle help you set it all up and don’t forget to invite your favorite starving students.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Joe Shlabotnik

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Aug 12 2009

Zotero-iffic Redux

As a dedicated Stuff for Starving Students reader I’m sure that you remember the post we did a few months ago on the Firefox add-on Zotero. So I am assuming you know the basics and have been using that add-on for many months now. If not, I would definitely take a look at the post then come right back here for the latest update to one of the sweetest Firefox add-ons.

When we first talked about Zotero it could only live on one computer but the upgrade that everyone has been waiting for has occurred. Now, Zotero allows you to access your library from any computer so you no longer have to worry about being at your computer to access your research information. Even better is you can now collaborate with other users through group libraries, so sharing the information you have come across in your research is even easier.

Zotero Groups Screenshot
cc licensed flickr photo shared by umwdtlt

Now with the access to your library anywhere and collaborative group libraries you have no reason not to use this add-on for your research. I know you are probably so used to doing things a certain way but, try it for at least one paper or project and I am sure you will see what all of us at Stuff for Starving Students love so much about Zotero. If you are not satisfied we have a money-back guarantee so what are you waiting for? 😉

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Aug 04 2009

ResearchGATE: Get Your Science 2.0 On

Attention all you budding young scientists (and you older ones too!), here is your chance to make some scholarly connections. If you’ve been around the internet you’ve probably noticed the plethora of social networking websites, tools for collaboration, discussion, and search engines. If you are a scientist and have been looking for a place that brings all the previously mentioned tools together (and more), pull out your microscope and take a closer look at ResearchGATE.

First of all ResearchGATE acts as a social networking site that allows you to create a profile that lists all your important information (your papers, interests, skills, etc). You can then add other researchers and scientists as contacts. This opens the door for possible research partners in the future. Like other social networking sites ResearchGATE allows the users to create groups around interests and topics. The significance of have such a feature for researchers has already been seen during the current swine flu crisis. At the end of April 2009, ResearchGATE blogged about a group that had formed to discuss influenza research. Within a short time the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) contacted ResearchGATE to offer their support for the activities of the research group.

A key feature of ResearchGATE is its ability to allow researchers to collaborate more effectively and efficiently over the web. It enables easy document sharing and participation so there is limited confusion on edits and saves time on e-mailing documents back and forth.

Lastly, ResearchGATE’s powerful search engine gives you the semantic advantage when searching. There is not only internal access to the documents other researchers put up on the site but, it also can search externally with access to over 30 million documents publication metadata. In addition, the Similar Abstract Search Engine (SASE) lets you submit an entire abstract and the intelligent design of the search algorithms will bring up relevant and related research, very cool. The search capabilities of the site allow you to easily discover other peoples work and keep track of the research you are most interested in.

Signup is free and most basic services come at no charge and as you know, we like free.

ResearchGATE brings many robust features together in one place and is encouraging more thoughtful and effective collaboration between researchers. We here at Stuff for Starving Students have to wonder are sites like this the next step in the evolution of research? If so, what are the implications of this paradigm shift in communication between researchers? Only time will tell but, it is exciting to see the glimmer of what the future might hold.

Image in post is cc licensed flickr photo shared by pheezy

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Jul 02 2009

It Is Like Progressive, Except For Books!

Have you ever seen those Progressive insurance commercials where they tell you how they let you compare rates with other insurance companies so you know you are getting the best deal?

Well, BookFinder is a tool that allows you to crawl the web and compare prices on books, including textbooks. If you don’t already shop for your textbooks online you should. I very rarely go to the school’s bookstore because I can often find the books I need much cheaper on Amazon, even when the cost of shipping is included. Last semester I did a little cost analysis and realized I saved an astounding 50% by going through online sellers. BookFinder is a simple little tool that helps you find the best price for whatever textbook you need. So quit spending so much money on textbooks and use this search engine. Also, make sure you share the savings love with your fellow starving student friends.

Riverby Bookstore

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Jun 11 2009

Wolfram Alpha: Badass Biker Name or Computational Knowledge Engine?

Biker uploaded by kamshots

As you might have guessed Wolfram Alpha is not a badass biker name (although I think it certainly could be) it is the name of the new computational knowledge engine developed by Wolfram Research. Now at first you might think this is another search engine like the almighty google and who would dare try and encroach on that territory? But it is different from web search engines, Wikipedia gives a quick blurb on what exactly Wolfram Alpha does. It “computes and infers answers and relevant visualizations from a core knowledge base of curated, structured data. Alpha thus differs from semantic search engines, which index a large number of answers and then try to match the question to one.” That is a mouthful I know. Basically WolframAlpha isn’t pulling information from the web like other search engines, but is drawing from an internal knowledge base to answer queries.

So what kind of questions should you even ask this thing? Why not take a look at the Topics Page and you’ll see the power of this engine. WolframAlpha aims to be able to answer any question that can be answered with systematic factual knowledge. So no crazy opinions from some zealot blogger, just the facts ma’am. Now that I think of it “Just the Facts Ma’am” would have been a better title for this blog post and not quite as weird.

picture-1

I did a quick search of the University of Mary Washington and WolframAlpha provided me with some interesting information. It has a surprising amount of information that I didn’t know was available such as a breakdown of the number of annual degrees awarded by field. While some of the statistics on UMW might not be terribly exciting try searching on something else and be amazed on what kind of stuff you will find. It can tell you what kind of things were happening on your birthday. From the phase of the moon to how many days old you are (according to WolframAlpha I am 7776 days old today!). Go ahead and get familiar with the site (especially you math/science people) because this engine is roaring and ready to get you to the information you need.

Sidebar: I still stand by my assesment that Wolfram Alpha would be a good biker name. Plus Wolfram Alpha is like the Harley Davidsons of computational knowledge engines.

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Mar 10 2009

Tasty!

I know you are probably tired of hear about social networking this and that, but let me just turn your attention towards a wonderful site called del.icio.us.

Now, at first it might just appear to be a site that lets you store and organize your bookmarks through tagging and a handy-dandy add-on for you Firefox users out there (which you should all be if you read this site). It certainly does that; and for those of us who have more bookmarks in our browser than we know what to do with it is a great solution to keep track of many websites.

(handy-dandy delicious firefox add-on)

Delicious is more than a way to bookmark your favorite sites, it is social too! When you sign up you create an account and by doing this you have the ability to follow other people and see what they are bookmarking. You can also send bookmarks to these friends too, so sending off the latest YouTube video of something ridiculous becomes that much easier! It may seem a bit silly, but once you get into it and you start following people and using it all starts to make sense. Delicious allows you to get a glimpse into other people’s minds (just what you always wanted to do, right?) and form a connection, a community.

Here is the best part, you can add content to this Stuff4StarvingStudents! Once you’ve signed up on delicious (you are signing up, right?) you can bring cool stuff that you find to our attention by tagging the sites with this tag: sfssumw. So once you start tagging stuff it will appear on the front page of this site, how fracking cool is that?

What are you waiting for? Sign up, tag and share in the delicious(adj.) delicious(n.) love.

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Feb 17 2009

A Spoken Word Is Not A Sparrow…

…Once it flies out, you can’t catch it.

But we are not talking about just any spoken word, we are talking about SpokenWord.org and this is the kind of stuff that we don’t mind slipping out.

So, what is SpokenWord.org? I am glad you asked because it is a number of things.

First of all it is a directory for audio and video spoken-word recordings. So instead of hitting up google (and we do love google) hit up SpokenWord and you’ll find a plethora of just recordings that can satisfy your audio desires. SpokenWord also has the added benefit of being a user-generated content community. So if you know of some good recordings out there (hey free PR, baby!) you can submit it to the site and get mad Internet-props for not just being a consumer.

Now here is where SpokenWord takes it up a notch. While SpokenWord does not actually host any of the recordings (again just a directory) you can create ‘collections’ and subscribe (like an iTunes podcast) to those audio recordings you dig. SpokenWord can do this through an RSS feed of the recordings and if you aren’t familiar with RSS this quick video is a great way to learn. In addition, you can subscribe to your own collection or others users collections in iTunes (or whatever feed reader you choose). I know you are asking, how will I find other people’s collections or more importantly how will people find my awesome collection of audio recordings? Simple, you can tag your collection with various key terms that will help you find what you are looking for and help people find you.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up, contribute, and share – the wheels of the web don’t run if users like you don’t move.

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Jan 31 2009

User Submission: Cool Tools for School

Sharing is Fun!

This isn't a picture of Kristen M., but she understands sharing too!

Here at SfSS we’re celebrating today! We’ve had our first user submission of a resource, and we couldn’t be happier. Kristin M. sent us to to this list of handy tools for students, and there’s a lot of great stuff here. Some of our favorites:

  • This dynamic, interactive periodic table lets you quickly and easily visually filter the elements based on any number of criteria.
  • LiveMocha is a social network for language learners. It can help you connect with other students around the globe who either speak the language you’re learning or are learning it at the same time.
  • FoldIt is a game that lets you attempt to solve scientific puzzles — specifically, by competing with others to fold proteins in the most efficient way possible. The solutions you provide could be used by scientists to predict actual protein folding patterns!

One of the most intriguing tools (and one that’s received a lot of attention in the press) is wePapers, which is basically a site for sharing, browsing, and reading academic papers and participating in virtual study groups. There’s a wealth of academic information here, and many institutions are participating. In many ways, it embodies the greatest features of the Web by creating a platform for anyone to teach and learn. However, some folks worry that it’s just a huge repository of papers to be plagiarized. (NOTE: Here at SfSS we NEVER condone plagiarism. Not only is it a serious violation of UMW’s honor code, it’s just a sign of intellectual laziness and an unwillingness to really commit to your own education. Don’t plagiarize. It isn’t cool.) We’d be interested in hearing our readers’ take on sites like wePapers. Do you see yourself using it as a valuable study resource? Or do you think many students will just abuse the access to all of that academic content?

BTW, we’d never seen the site where this list came from: makeuseof.com. It’s a pretty cool tool in it’s own right. There are regular posts similar to what we’re providing at SfSS, pointing you to interesting online tools and tips. Check it out.

Thanks again to Kristen M. for the contribution. Keep sharing!

Creative Commons License photo credit: clapstar

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