11 May 2013

Can Reading Be A Social Experience?



Reading has a reputation for being an isolated activity. We often think of people in their pajamas or bathrobes, sunk into a massive armchair in front of a roaring fire, with a mug of hot cocoa in one hand and a page-turner in the other. Books have the unique ability to suck us into a whole new world where our imaginations are the only limit. So how can reading be social?


Discussion, that’s how. I know that when I finish reading a well-written book, I need to go out and tell somebody about it. I need to find someone else who’s read that same book so we can talk about it, maybe for hours if the book was that good. Reading may be an individual activity – nobody sits around in a circle and reads aloud, right? – but the social aspect afterwards is what truly completes the joy.


So, yes, reading is an intensely social experience. One way to partake in that experience is to join a local book club, but if you’re looking for more of a technological, modern medium for reading socially, then here are some great communities that you should consider joining.


Goodreads



It’s impossible to talk about “social reading” without mentioning Goodreads. Launched in 2007, Goodreads started off as a cataloging website that acted as a database for books, book reviews, and annotations. Within one year, Goodreads boasted over 650,000 members and 10 million books. Within five years, the member base increased to over 10 million and the database is constantly growing.


When you sign up on Goodreads, you can manage something called a “bookshelf”, which is just a collection of book titles that you’ve read, are currently reading, or plan to read one day. Once you’ve read a book, you can give it a rating and an optional review. The social networking aspect involves the ability to make friends with other readers so you can see each other’s bookshelves and discuss certain titles together.


Based on what you’ve read and liked, Goodreads helps you discover new books that fit into your interests. Personally, I’ve been using Goodreads for about two years and I’ve found dozens of great books that I never would’ve read if I hadn’t joined. Highly recommended, and not just by me: check out Erez’s article on why Goodreads is a must for readers!


LibraryThing



LibraryThing is like a less hip, more cerebral version of Goodreads. Even though it debuted nearly two years before Goodreads, their minimalistic interface and their refusal to catch up with the times has kept their community from blowing up. Depending on your viewpoint, that can be good or bad. Still, LibraryThing has over 1.6 million users and 78 million books.


With LibraryThing, you can create and manage your own personal library of books: books you’ve read, books you’re reading, books you wish to read. You can tag, rate, and review books. Since everyone builds their own personal libraries, you can browse them and interact with other people through comments and forums. LibraryThing gets their book data from Amazon and over 700 libraries globally.


Most book-related social networks will let you read and write reviews and leave comments, which LibraryThing does, too. However, the big draw of LibraryThing, in my opinion, is their Talk forum section where you can have high quality book discussions. And let me tell you: their forums are extremely active.


One cool feature is their Early Reviewers program, where you can receive free books in exchange for well-written reviews. In addition, they have a version of their site that’s optimized for mobile devices so you can participate on the go.


BookLikes



BookLikes is a newer social network that focuses on allowing users to share their thoughts on books in their own space. In a way, you can think of it as MySpace for books: everyone can create a shelf of books that they’ve read/are reading/will read (nothing new here) but everyone also has a blog for expression. The networking aspect is that you can search and browse the blogs of other users.


Honestly, it’s a great concept when you want more substance than simple book reviews and forum threads. The blog format allows for deeper thoughts while giving users the freedom to follow whoever they’d like to follow. Being able to see the shelves of your friends is useful, too, especially when you want to start reading the favorites of someone who thinks like you.


The only downside is that they’ve currently limited registration. Instead of instantly creating an account, you have to request an account and wait for them to approve you. Perhaps they’re still developing some features behind the scene and will open the gates soon. If you don’t mind waiting a bit, go ahead and request an account now.


Online Book Club




Let’s say you want to be a social reader but you don’t like dealing with social networks. Sounds a bit contradictory but it’s entirely possible. If blogs and social networks aren’t your cup of tea, then what about good old-fashioned forums? Forums are great for digitally enacting the oldest form of social reading: book clubs.


And Online Book Club is aptly named. Their forums are quite active with daily threads that cover topics such as: book discussion, author discussion, reviews and recommendations, e-book discussions, books of the month, and there’s even a subsection for aspiring writers. You’ll find a lot of reading enthusiasts at the Online Book Club and it’s an entirely free community.


Conclusion


Reading is both an isolated and social activity. Sure, you can enjoy your book and lose yourself into the mind of a compelling protagonist, but who are you going to talk to when you’re done? Sharing in the experience of that book is just as important as reading it, so use the communities above to find like-minded readers with whom you can discuss stories.


Know of any other social reading websites that I missed? Please share them in the comments. I’d love to check them out and see what I’m missing out on.


Image Credit: Reading Girl Via Shutterstock


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Is the Microsoft Fix It Service Really Any Good? [MakeUseOf Tests]



Have computer problems? Microsoft’s Fix It service attempts to fix them for you. If you’ve browsed Microsoft’s help pages, you’ve probably seen a variety of “Fix It” programs you can run to quickly fix a problem without walking through a complicated troubleshooting process. We’ve covered the Fix It Center in the past, but now we’re really going to put Microsoft’s Fix It service to the test.


The Microsoft Fix It Center desktop program is no longer available for Windows 7, but Microsoft hosts a web page where you can browse all their Fix it solutions. This page allows you to locate a Fix It that will hopefully solve your problem and run it. You may also find Fix It programs suggested to you when you browse for help elsewhere on Microsoft’s website. For example, there are Fix It scripts for repairing your Internet Explorer settings, fixing Windows security settings, and more. We’ll find out whether Microsoft’s Fix It scripts are actually any good for fixing computer problems or whether you shouldn’t bother with them at all.


These Fix Its work on Windows 7, Windows Vista, and even Windows XP.


Help, My USB Drive Doesn’t Work!


To put our first Fix It to the test fixing a USB drive that failed to work, we:



  • Inserted a USB drive and used the DISKPART tool to delete all partitions on it, making it unusable until it’s partitioned again.

  • Disabled the USB drive device in the Device Manager.


After this, we ran the “Diagnose and fix Windows USB problems automatically” Fix It with the USB drive inserted. This Fix It did not find the problem, only recommending that we use Windows Update to install USB drivers.



To be fair, Windows Explorer itself prompts us to repartition the USB drive — so the only real problem is that the USB drive itself is disabled in the device manager.


We gave the Fix It service another chance to fix the problem by running the “Hardware devices are not working or are not detected in Windows” Fix It. This Fix It did find the problem.



Together, the two Fix Its found the problem, but they’re a bit too fine-grained. How is a user supposed to know whether the USB device isn’t functioning because of a USB problem or if it isn’t functioning because of a hardware device problem? You almost need to know what the problem is to choose the right Fix It — and if you knew that, you wouldn’t need the Fix It service. One Fix It that ran through all the related problems would work better.


Fixing Internet Explorer Problems


The Fix It service can’t check for problems with other browsers, but it can with Internet Explorer. It can theoretically set Internet Explorer’s settings to recommended ones.


To test this, we:



  • Disabled the pop-up blocker.

  • Disabled protected mode.

  • Set the cache to it lowest possible value.

  • Set an invalid proxy server, preventing IE from connecting to the network.


The Fix It service didn’t even make it past the invalid proxy server, failing to connect to the network and providing no help on solving the problem. However, to Internet Explorer’s credit, it noticed the invalid proxy server itself and suggested we disable it.



The Fix It service noticed all other problems and offered to fix them. However, don’t rely on the Fix It center to fix network problems, even if it’s downloaded directly to your computer ahead of time.



Internet Connection Problems


We were going to test the Fix It service’s ability to help you solve Internet connection problems, but we skipped this part — based on our test above, it wouldn’t even be able to contact the Internet and download the appropriate data. The Fix It service doesn’t even attempt to help you repair Internet connection problems if it can’t connect to the Internet. It gets a failing grade here, which is too bad as this would be a great use for Fix It tools.



Securing Windows


Microsoft offers a Fix It tool that promises to help make Windows more secure. To test this, we:



  • Disabled the Windows Firewall.

  • Disabled User Account Control (UAC).

  • Disabled real-time protection in Microsoft Security Essentials, our installed antivirus program.

  • Disabled checking for new Windows Updates.


The Windows Action Center started to complain about many of these changes, alerting us to them. We went ahead and ran the “Automatically fix Windows security settings to keep your PC safe” Fix It tool.


The Fix It tool prompted us to re-enable UAC and automatic updates. It also noticed that our antivirus was “not up-to-date” — not an ideal message, but at least an indication that something is wrong.


It didn’t notice any problems with the Windows Firewall at all, even though it was disabled. This is disappointing — there appears to be another Fix It that handles problems with the Windows Firewall, but we should be able to run the security Fix It and fix all security problems. This is the same issue as the USB and Hardware Fix Its above. They should be logically grouped together, but are separated to the detriment of users.



The Verdict


The Microsoft Fix It service isn’t perfect. In addition to not offering enough Fix it scripts, it isn’t robust enough to deal with network problems. It solved many of the problems we caused, however. To its credit, where the Fix It service failed — with an partitioned USB drive or an invalid proxy server — other parts of Windows noticed the problem and alerted us to it. However, you may have to run several related Fix It tools to identify and fix your problem.


The next time you have a problem, should you run a Fix It script you see on a Microsoft support site or even head to the Fix It center and look for one to help you? It certainly can’t hurt. Fix It does help. Unfortunately, it’s rather limited in what it can do.


Whatever your problem, you’re likely better off using the troubleshooter utilities included in Windows 7 and Windows 8, which can handle network connection issues and other more difficult problems.


To be honest, the Fix It utilities feel like a beta test for the troubleshooting tools found in Windows 7. This is a shame, as Windows Vista and Windows XP users would benefit from having more robust Fix It tools available. They’re also still advertised on Microsoft support sites, including to Windows 7 users.


Go ahead and run a Fix It tool if Microsoft suggests one — it can’t hurt and can only help. Unfortunately, given their limitations and the low number of tools available, you’re probably better off looking for help elsewhere than fixing your problems with Microsoft’s Fix It service.


Have you had any luck with the Fix It service in the past, or has it been unable to solve your problems? Leave a comment and share your experiences!


The post Is the Microsoft Fix It Service Really Any Good? [MakeUseOf Tests] appeared first on MakeUseOf.



10 May 2013

How To Edit PDF Files In Office Word 2013



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Portable Document Format, popularly known as PDF, is supported on all major desktop operating systems as well as mobile operating systems. Plenty of free and paid apps available for computers as well as smartphones to view, create, and edit PDFs. The main advantage of PDF is that you can convert almost any document type or [...]

What Are the Fastest Tools for Windows Desktop Search?



The more I use my computer, the more I realize how much I take search for granted. How many times have you lost a pair of socks or misplaced your keys only to wish you could search for them and have the location spit back out to you? Fortunately, Windows (and most other operating systems) comes with a handy search feature.


On top of the default search feature, there are a number of third-party tools that claim to be better and faster at searching your computer for relevant files and folders, and that raises a few questions. Is Windows desktop search slow? And if so, how much faster are the alternatives? I took a look at the best known Windows search tools and compared them – the results were surprising.


Note: I’m on a Windows 7 desktop so I’m testing these tools against the default search on that operating system. You can safely assume that Windows XP search speeds would be slower than Windows 7, but I don’t know how much more the Windows 8 search improves. So if you use Windows 8, just keep that in mind.


Windows Search



Interface: The Windows search integrates nicely into the actual operating system, so you’ll feel right at home using it. Open up any explorer window (basically, any folder) and the search bar will be up in the top right. You can also search Windows in the Start Menu if you prefer it that way.


Search Time: Average 3m 30s for unindexed search; average <1s for indexed search. If you enable Windows search indexing, your computer will constantly keep an index of all files and folders, which helps to improve search speeds.


Features: I don’t know about you, but I’ve always viewed the Windows search as a primitive function. That might be because I had some poor experiences as a child on Windows 98, ME, and even XP. However, rest assured that the latest iterations of the desktop search aren’t so bad. There are a few tricks to improve Windows 7 search that you can use.


Everything



Interface: Everything’s interface is as simplistic as they come. It’s just an empty window with a small search bar across the top. As you type, the search results show up in the list below. There really isn’t much else to say. Minimal and to the point – just how I like my tools to be.


Search Time: Instantaneous real-time. Everything is an impressive bit of search technology due to how fast and responsive it is. Like Windows search, Everything works by indexing your entire computer’s file structure, which allows it to present immediate search results as you type your search query. Everything can index a fresh install of Windows 7 in just a few seconds.


Features: You’d think that such a fast search tool would come with a downside. Well, as far as I can tell, there are no downsides to Everything. It barely uses any resources – less than 5MB RAM and less than 1MB of hard drive space. It also monitors file system changes live, so your index is always up to date.


Listary



Interface: The Listary interface is fantastic in my opinion, but I can see how it might be cumbersome or annoying for some users. Essentially, Listary doesn’t have an interface of its own. As you browse around on your computer, all you have to do is start typing and Listary will know based on context whether you want to search or not.


Search Time: Average <1s for computer-wide search.


Features: Listary’s search is extremely flexible. The query matching isn’t verbatim, so you can just type multiple terms until you get the match that you were looking for. The search only performs in the current directory, though you can easily manipulate the search query to search in other locations if you want.


Pro Version: Though the Free version is feature complete and available forever, you can upgrade to the Pro version for $19.95 USD, which unlocks a few advanced features.


Conclusion


The absolute search times listed above have a lot of factors going into them, such as the size of my hard drives, how many files and folders I have, other programs running in the background that take up CPU resources, etc. However, just focus on the relative search speeds between each program and you’ll see that all of them are quite good at fast searches.


My winner? I prefer Everything. Listary offers the same “find as you type” instantaneous search results but the interface can sometimes be intrusive, especially when you accidentally bring it up. I like how Everything is both fast and compact and only shows up when I open it myself.


I tested out a few other search tools that didn’t make it onto this list. With indexing, Windows search is quite fast already. Everything and Listary were the only ones that could offer the same (or better) speed while adding extra features on top. Know of any other Windows search tools that are just as fast? Share them with us in the comments.


Image Credit: Magnifier Via Shutterstock


The post What Are the Fastest Tools for Windows Desktop Search? appeared first on MakeUseOf.



7 Sticky Notes – The Most Full-Featured Sticky Notes Program [Windows]



It won’t be until you actually give digital sticky notes a try that you’ll understand how useful and effective they are. I won’t argue that physical sticky notes pressed around your desk or monitor is an unbeatable solution, but it also isn’t the prettiest, fastest, or cleanest. If you use a desktop or laptop, sticky notes are especially useful because of how many applications offer to bring them right to your desktop. We’ve reviewed many of these useful applications, such as Stickies.


After using a handful of these kinds of software, I’ve come to realize that a lot of them really fall short. Sticky notes are a pretty big deal to me and have almost completely replaced my need for an application like Evernote. That’s only because I’ve recently come across one of the most feature-packed solutions to desktop sticky notes – 7 Sticky Notes.


7 Sticky Notes


7 Sticky Notes currently sits as my favorite sticky notes manager, and there are a lot of reasons why for us to go over.The current version, 1.9, is only a 5.86 MB download and is compatible with 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 2000, XP, Server, 7, and 8.



7 Sticky Notes does what every software should do today, and that’s offer you to install the application completely portably. You can install it straight to your desktop, a Dropbox folder, or a removable drive. It’ll work perfectly all the same.


Should you choose to install the application portably, there are a few additional steps you may have to take.



Depending on your User Account Control settings, you may receive the above error when first attempting to run the application. If you do, run the application again with administrative privileges, and 7 Sticky Notes should be able to automatically register the DLLs for you.



You may also be told that 7 Sticky Notes is unable to find your database file after your first run. Should this happen, just select the option to create a new database as is shown in the screenshot above.


After a successful run, your first note will be automatically created, conveniently giving you a quick tutorial on how to best use the application.



I advise that you read over this note, as it answers the most basic questions that many new users would have, and it also introduces some of the most important shortcuts for controlling 7 Sticky Notes.


When you’re familiar with the basics, right-click the note. You’ll now see a list of options, and from here you can simply delete the note. Don’t worry about possibly needing it again at a later date, because deleted notes are stored in the in-application Recycle Bin rather than permanently deleted.



As you can see, there’s a lot of functionality that is offered per note. You can roll up or resize a note, set it to remain on top of all other windows, lock the note, duplicate it, export it, change the theme, and more. Keep this in mind.



Right-clicking the tray icon offers your next set of options, where you can then pull up the Notes Manager, which really acts as a log and agenda for all of the notes you’ve ever made or had deleted. If you check the Recycle Bin here, you can immediately catch previously-deleted posts.


Clicking on a section’s heading will activate the “plus” sign, thus allowing you to create your own notes from this screen. I personally choose to make all of my notes from the Notes Manager screen because the agenda-style approach is just better overall. Remember that notes can be created by hotkey or just right-clicking the tray icon and selecting that action.



The notes themselves are very stylish and completely configurable. You can choose font styles, transparency levels, themes, create drop shadows, add image attachments, set your notes to snap to a grid, add clickable URLs and hyperlinks, and more. Not only do they look very nice, but these features make them more useful than any other alternative application that I’ve tried out.


Advanced settings and configurations of 7 Sticky Notes are very deep.



Shown here, you can see some of the general settings. These include automated sizing, URL detection, enabling or disabling confirmation dialogs, and all-important keyboard shortcuts that you can tinker with.



7 Sticky Notes’ backup and synchronization options are definitely to be appreciated. The application comes with automated ways to periodically backup your notes database and keep your notes synchronized. For me, this is incredibly important.


Additional features within the options include adding and modifying themes, setting up alarms for your notes, protecting your notes and the Notes Manager by password, and more. Again, 7 Sticky Notes doesn’t look to just slap notes to your desktop and call it a day. This is an extremely complete solution that, if used correctly, can be a replacement for any note-taking software.


What do you think of 7 Sticky Notes? Is there another alternative software out there that you think handles sticky notes in a better way? Let me know in the comments!


The post 7 Sticky Notes – The Most Full-Featured Sticky Notes Program [Windows] appeared first on MakeUseOf.



Paid YouTube Channels



YouTube launched a new kind of channels for premium content: paid channels. The list includes 53 channels and the price is $1-7/month, depending on the channel.



There's an offer that lets you subscribe to 7 channels for $10/month. The channels are from the Entertainment Studios Networks: Cars.TV, Comedy.TV, Pets.TV, Recipe.TV, MyDestination.TV, ES.TV, Justice Central.



There are many channels for kids, channels with fitness instructions, sports channels, movie channels, documentary channels and more. There's even a channel for woodworkers. Most channels are available in the US and many are available in Canada and the UK.









"Starting today, we're launching a pilot program for a small group of partners that will offer paid channels on YouTube with subscription fees starting at $0.99 per month. Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates. For example, Sesame Street will be offering full episodes on their paid channel when it launches," informs YouTube.



You can buy movies and TV shows, watch pay-per-view events and now subscribe to paid channels. There's a lot of content that will make Google TV and Android tablets more useful, but it will be available on almost any smart device.


Cleanr Video – Make YouTube Less Of a Time Sink



Strip down YouTube until only what you want is left – the videos. Cleanr Video is a simple extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari that removes everything – and I mean everything – from YouTube beyond what you absolutely need. Comments, recommended videos, ads – all gone, and in their place white space. If minimalism sounds good, this is one to check out.


Google loves – and I mean loves – changing the YouTube layout. Over the last couple of years it’s gone from focusing on helping everyone discover the same videos, to helping everyone see the latest videos from their subscriptions, to the current incarnation – showing you videos it thinks you’ll appreciate for reasons mere mortals cannot discern. If you’re sick of the cycle – or just want to avoid the rabbit hole of recommended videos and comments – Cleanr Video can help clean up YouTube for you.


From Minimalist for Everything to services that de-clutter the web for readers, we’ve outlined more than a few ways to make the web a less busy place. Cleanr Video is just one more.


How Cleanr Video Works


So, just how much does Cleanr Video strip down? Rather than tell you, I’ll show you. Here’s how the page for a YouTube video looks normally.



…and here’s how it looks with Cleanr Videos installed:



As you can see, everything but the video itself is stripped away, leaving you with a video to watch and nothing more. When you’re done watching, you’ll simply get to whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing – no clicking related videos and no scrolling through comments. This could help you stay focused.


The home page for YouTube is similarly cleaned up. Instead of seeing this hot mess…



…you’ll see this…



Click the “See More” button to show the videos that usually show up on the YouTube home page – and nothing else. If you’re looking for simplicity, you found it.


One Problem…


If you’re like me, you love your YouTube subscriptions. You found the YouTube homepage useful, until recent changes stopped showing the latest videos from your subscriptions and started showing…something. I’m still not sure what this seemingly random assortment of videos is supposed to be, but I know I’m not a fan. It’s why I’ve been habitually clicking the “My Subscriptions” link every time I open YouTube.


Which brings me to my problem – Cleanr Videos hides the “My Subscriptions” link. At first I was panicking, but then I did what I should have done a long time ago – I added a link to the Subscriptions page on my browser toolbar. The link, in case you didn’t know, is:


http://www.youtube.com/feed/subscriptions


Why YouTube doesn’t offer a setting for making that page the default I’ll never know. Maybe Cleanr Videos should redirect users, though, because I don’t think anyone actually wants to use YouTube’s default homepage.


Download Cleanr Video


Sick of reading about Cleanr Video, and ready to download it? Head to Clea.nr. The process should be simple for Firefox and Safari users. Chrome users, however, have to do some extra work. This video explains how to install the extension:



For those who hate video tutorials – you need to download the .CRX file from Clea.nr. Then, head to the “Extensions” menu in Chrome (hit the settings icon to the right of your extension icons, then Tools > Extensions). Open the folder to which you downloaded the CRX file using your operating system’s file browser, then drag the CRX to the Chrome window where the Extensions menu is open. The extension is now installed.


This used to be a simpler process, but a (relatively) recent update to Chrome made it harder to install extensions not from the Chrome Web Store.


Conclusion


This app not only makes YouTube look great – it can also help you to be productive. YouTube can be a huge time sink. Watching videos online when you’re supposed to be working is bad enough, but a quick video viewing can quickly turn into a spree if you follow a long enough line of “Recommended Videos“. Removing this temptation just might be Cleanr Video’s best feature, but blocking comments isn’t a bad thing either.


Do you have any other cool minimalist browser extensions to share? Please, do so in the comments below. Those of us who haven’t blocked all online comments will be happy to read them.


The post Cleanr Video – Make YouTube Less Of a Time Sink appeared first on MakeUseOf.



09 May 2013

New Interface for Gmail Chat History



Google tests a new interface for the chat logs saved in Gmail. The new interface shows profile images and hides the regular buttons and menus that are displayed for almost all messages and conversations. For some reason, Google removed buttons like "move to inbox", "delete", "labels", the "more" drop-down, the "reply" button and the associated menu. Timestamps are only displayed when you mouse over a chat line.






There's a new "resume chat" button and a "delete messages history" button that triggers this warning: "Deleting the history will permanently delete all messages in this chat conversation. The messages will not go to the Trash. You will still receive messages that are sent after this action."






I don't see this new interface in my Gmail account, but maybe you have more luck. You can find Gmail's chat history here: https://mail.google.com/mail/#chats. The interface should only look different for recent conversations, so you can still see the old UI for the other chat conversations.



{ Thanks, Igor Marques. }


Windows 8 Task Manager For Windows 7



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Despite the fact that Task Manager is part of Windows operating system for close to two decades, it’s used by a small percentage of Windows users. The Task Manager is generally used to check system status, view and kill applications, stop services, and processes that aren’t responding or can’t be stopped from the desktop. The [...]

How To Use Apple iCloud On Windows PC



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If you own a Mac, iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, chances are that you’re already using the iCloud service to store your photos, contacts, music, and documents. For those who don’t know what iCloud is, it’s a free service built-into all recent iOS devices and Macs to store contents on the cloud and access them [...]

Download your Website Archives from Google Reader



You can download the full archives of your website, or that of any other site, from Google Reader and these may come handy later when you need to recovered a deleted page.



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Digital Inspiration @labnol This story, Download your Website Archives from Google Reader, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 08/05/2013 under Google Reader, Internet.



Does The Internet Need A ‘Delete’ Button? [We Ask You]



The Internet has grown from a mere concept to an integral part of the everyday lives of most people in developed countries. And in a relatively short space of time. If you’re on the Internet then you’re truly on the Internet, with your name, location, and a host of other data about you following you around the Web like a bad smell; a bad smell that companies such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft can track.


Most of us are worried about maintaining some level of privacy online, but it’s insanely hard to embrace the new opportunities the Internet presents while anonymously hiding away in a dark recess of the Web. It’s all good until things go pear-shaped, at which point there is really no option left open to you.


This Week’s Question…


We want to know, Does The Internet Need A ‘Delete’ Button? This question is prompted by a discussion between Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and economist Nouriel Roubini at the New York University’s Stern business school, as reported by Fast Company.


Roubini grilled Schmidt about Google’s role in devolving privacy online, with some people suggesting that the search and advertising giant is one of the main offenders eating away at the idea of privacy. Schmidt defended his company, saying, “Let me be very clear that Google is not tracking you … it’s not doing all these things.” But then conceded the point that the Internet represents a challenge to the sense of fairness when it comes to an individual’s right to privacy.



He stated that “[the] lack of a delete button on the Internet is in fact a significant issue,” continuing to say, “there are times when erasure [of data] is the right thing … and there are times when it is inappropriate. How do we decide? We have to have that debate now.” A debate? Now? MakeUseOf delivers.


We want to know whether you believe the Internet needs a ‘Delete‘ button, which obviously wouldn’t be a literal button but an accepted process by which an individual could wipe their online slate clean, removing all traces of themselves and their activities from databases.


Should companies be allowed to track you across the Web as they currently do? Is it our own fault for giving up so much of ourselves to the Web companies that use us as their business models? Do you worry about your privacy on the Internet or do you accept that it’s an outdated concept that those of us who spend our lives attached to Internet-connected devices have given up on?


Drawing Conclusions


All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen for the coveted Comment Of The Week, getting their name up in lights, the respect of other readers, and 150 MakeUseOf points to use for MakeUseOf Rewards. What more motivation than that do you need to respond?


We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.


Image Credit: Matt McGee


The post Does The Internet Need A ‘Delete’ Button? [We Ask You] appeared first on MakeUseOf.



Need Help Fundraising? Here Are 5 Alternatives To The ChipIn Widget



alternatives to chipinFundraising is a difficult task. In the old days, you’d have to throw an event or go door-to-door in hopes of soliciting donations from people in person. That still happens today, but the magic of the Internet has taken the idea of fundraising and elevated it to the next level – crowdsourcing. Never before has fundraising been so easy.


When used in a fundraising context, crowdsourcing is an online method where you set up a central location for your fundraising campaign and point people there, where they can make the choice to donate to your cause or not. It’s the inverse of traditional fundraising; instead of going to them, they come to you. In tandem with other tools like social networking and online marketing, crowdsourcing can be extremely effective at raising lots of money very quickly.


ChipIn used to be my fundraising widget of choice, but on February 4 they announced the discontinuation of their service and on March 7 they shut down completely. That sent me on a wild chase for viable alternatives to ChipIn and here are the 5 best alternatives that I’ve found.


PitchInBox


alternatives to chipin


PitchInBox is eerily similar to ChipIn. The account creation process is the same, the widget looks almost identical in design, the feature sets are as close as can be, and the names even sound the same! Instead of chipping in, people can pitch in to help you with your fundraising. All you need is a website where you can embed the PitchInBox live widget.


Then again, none of that should be a real surprise since the developers of PitchInBox is meant to be a near-perfect substitute for ChipIn. As people make donations using your widget, the money will instantly be added to your PayPal account; there’s no need to meet a minimum goal before you receive your funds. It’s real-time and convenient.


PitchInBox only works with PayPal (no idea if they have plans to expand later) and you’ll incur PayPal-related fees on each donation, but otherwise PitchInBox is entirely free to use.


Kickstarter


chipin widget alternative


I’m not sure Kickstarter even needs an introduction, but those of you who still haven’t heard about this awesome website should pay attention. Kickstarter is probably the most well-known fundraising platform in the world. Launched in 2009, Kickstarter has helped raise over $500 million for over 90,000 creative projects.


Here’s how it works. After you create your project on Kickstarter and set your final goal, users can pledge any amount of money to help you out. However, you only receive your money if the amount of pledges you receive meets your final goal. You can also set certain rewards depending on how much a user pledges. In the end, this system is great motivation for project leaders to work hard while keeping users safe from (most) snatch-and-run scams.


We have a series here on MakeUseOf where we look over various Kickstarter projects with cool concepts and executions. Some of them succeed and some of them fail, but Kickstarter has proven to be a wonderful tool when it comes to crowdsourcing funds.


ImRaising


chipin widget alternative


Like ChipIn, ImRaising provides users with a live donation widget that collects donations and tracks progress on the fly. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s new (launched in early March of this year), so you can expect nothing but improvements over the next few months. Even though it’s such a recent startup, ImRaising has helped raise over $70,000 already. It works.


At the time of writing this article, there are two widget types available: a Live Bar widget that displays custom donation stats as well as the default ImRaising widget which shows goal information and current progress. In the future, ImRaising will release two more widgets: one for the latest donor comments and one for displaying the top/latest donations made.


ImRaising has a slight fee for private ventures but it’s entirely free for non-profits. Widget appearances are customizable, donation payments are made in real-time, and the widgets work flawlessly on mobile devices. In addition, ImRaising provides you with a donation landing page and provides analytics/reports for your fundraising campaigns.


GoFundMe


chipin widget alternative


GoFundMe is a really nice platform that lets you create your own campaign page for collecting donations. While most donation platforms will be either real-time donation campaigns OR all-or-nothing campaigns, GoFundMe lets you choose which type of campaign you want to run. Plus, there’s a “charity campaign” option where all proceeds are immediately forwarded to a charity of your choice. That’s pretty awesome in my book.


In terms of features, GoFundMe is spectacular. The setup process is extremely easy and you can have it ready to go in less than 5 minutes. The website makes it painless to share your campaign through Facebook and Twitter. And if you’re wary of GoFundMe’s efficacy, there are tons of success stories and testimonials for you to check out.


There is a fee associated with GoFundMe, though: they deduct a 5% fee from every incoming donation. This fee is on top of any fees incurred by your money handler, whether it be WePay or PayPal or whatever else. If you’re a US customer, GoFundMe automatically creates a WePay account for your donation campaign. International customers can use PayPal. I tried to use PayPal as a US customer but I couldn’t figure it out; maybe it’s not possible. And, unfortunately, there’s no live widget option.


PayPal Widget


alternatives to chipin


If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles of a donation platform (like a campaign page), then maybe the official PayPal Widget is the best fit for you. As long as you have a PayPal account, you can easily set up one of these widgets for your website. There are no fees except for the standard PayPal transaction fees so there’s really no reason NOT to use it.


The widget itself has a pleasant design, which is something I find important. After all, nobody likes an ugly widget that detracts from their site aesthetics. The widget makes it easy for your website users to make a donation, which may even increase the number of people willing to chip in for your cause.


If you’re just looking to run a campaign through Facebook or MySpace, you’re in luck. PayPal offers two specific widgets that work specifically for Facebook and MySpace. They’re just as easy to use as the original widget, but if your users are mostly social networkers, then those widgets might be more effective in the long run.


Conclusion


Fundraising is a difficult task, but you can make it much easier and much smoother by utilizing a donation aid. ChipIn may be gone but there are many viable alternatives to ChipIn that can fill the void that’s been left behind. Between the 5 services described above, you should be able to find the perfect solution for your needs.


The post Need Help Fundraising? Here Are 5 Alternatives To The ChipIn Widget appeared first on MakeUseOf.