Always a problem, the counterfeiting issue has exploded this year, sellers say, following Amazon’s effort to openly court Chinese manufacturers, weaving them intimately into the company’s expansive logistics operation. Merchants are perpetually unsure of who or what may kill their sales on any given day and how much time they’ll have to spend hunting down fakers.
Some of the signs of fakers include lots of reviews that say “I received this item at discount in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.” And just because an item is cheapest and/or is listed as the bestseller in the category, doesn’t make it the real deal. As always, caveat emptor.
If you want to weed out the sub-standard products, you will want to get familiar with Fakespot.com.
Last Friday, I resolved to take a short break from social media. I didn’t like what was happening to me there and I needed to step back and assess. As I come back, I’m going to be different.
I’ve been involved in Internet commentary of one kind or another for nigh on two decades now. I once said I started this blog in 2001 because I needed a different outlet than yelling at the TV news, and in that sense, it’s been a healthy outlet at times. But at other times, I’ve let my disgust or fear or insecurities show themselves in angry outbursts and unkind, uncharitable attacks. Unfortunately, social media did not improve that impulse.
Over the past year, as we’ve been bombarded by outrageous news story after story, I’ve found myself veering toward despair. There’s the Sophie’s choice between Trump and Hillary. There’s the Outrage of the Week, whether it’s Gorilla Mom or Stanford Rapist or the Orlando Shooting/Gun Control/Homophobia/Islamaphobia debate. My comments on Facebook have started to tend toward angry and mean and dismissive and abusive. My inability to convey my point in a logical manner was extremely frustrating. People just didn’t seem to get what I was saying.
A Brief Break and a Change
I knew it needed to stop. So I took a long weekend break. And I don’t know when or if I will return to writing on Facebook about contemporary events. In fact, I’ve begun to pare down my Facebook news feed to exclude those who post the sorts of things most likely to elicit my poor responses. That excludes friends who also write about the good things in their lives, sadly.
I’m not quitting social media. Just pulling back a bit.
Some might say I’m hypocritical, but I’m not going to stop writing about controversial subjects entirely. To cut down on the problematic interactions, I write here as much as I’m able, and not on social media.
I will reserve social media for more pleasant interactions. Pictures of the kids. Posts about places we go. Links to interesting stories about books and movies. That sort of thing.
Because in the other direction lies an ulcer and a bitter, old man. I don’t want to be him.
In its efforts to ruin every social network it can get its hands on (or influence), Facebook is preparing to turn on a newsfeed algorithm for Instagram, which it bought for $1 billion a few years ago. This has led to an avalanche of Instagram posts from businesses, brands, and people who want you to turn on notifications so you will continue to see their images.
Why is Facebook doing this? As they said of their own site, most people have so many friends and so many brands they’ve followed that Facebook will now use the mind-reading software they’ve apparently invented to only show you what you really want to see. Because, if I was tired of seeing something, I couldn’t just unfollow the account I was tired of seeing. Thanks, Facebook, for treating us like incompetent boobs.
Thanks to my friend Angela, who linked to this interesting chart. It shows Google search trends over the past decade for the term “catholic church”. Notice the regular pattern of spikes, usually three, but sometimes two? Those correspond to Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Easter.
It tells us that around those three days Google searches for “catholic church” go through the roof. Now try this: Search Google for “catholic church” and the name of your town. How does your parish do? If your Catholic parish isn’t one of the first two or three entries you have some search engine optimization to do.
This article written by me was originally posted in February 2013 to the Pilot New Media blog. After leaving that position, Pilot New Media was folded and the website is now defunct. I am republishing here some of my content that remains relevant. Given the even bigger record-breaking winter of 2015, this post becomes even more relevant now.
The record-breaking blizzard over the first weekend of February, 2013, showed how far we’ve come in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since the Blizzard of 1978 in terms of preparedness and response to major snow events. In 1978, people were stranded on highways and roads and it took weeks to clear them and return to normal. While the 2013 blizzard was significant and caused major disruptions, they were comparatively minor (which is small consolation to the hundreds of thousands who lost power, the hundreds on the coasts who were flooded out, or the handful who died, may they rest in peace.)
Part of the reason for the better result was the improvement in communications in the past 35 years, especially Internet communications through mobile devices that stay connected even in a power outage. Cities and towns had emergency response centers on Twitter and Facebook and the City of Boston even had a website that showed where all their plows were at any given time (until the site was overwhelmed with traffic and shut down.)
Churches, too, can and did take advantage of these communications tools. In fact, these tools–-Twitter/Facebook/Google+/email lists/web sites–-can be valuable in any kind of emergency or urgent response situation. For example, many parishes canceled their Saturday afternoon anticipatory Masses because of a just-expiring statewide ban on road travel or because the parking lots and walks weren’t plowed or because there was no heat or electricity. Just as many parishes did have their Masses for the few brave souls who ventured out. Many also canceled religious education on Sunday or other events over the weekend.
In the past, parishes would have to rely on the scrolling tickers or closing announcements in the news coverage on TV and radio, which didn’t allow for much detail at all. Or they’d have to answer dozens of phone calls to the office or rectory asking if Mass was cancelled.
But this time many parishes were able to post up-to-the-minute information on Facebook or Twitter and put notices on their websites. (Those using Our Sunday Visitor’s Faith in Action websites could use the announcements function.) Parishes with email lists were able to push their notifications to their parishioners who were checking their email. Those using a service like Flocknote.com were able to go one step further and send text messages to those who had signed up for them.
We’ve all become more connected than ever and when a major event unites us, we gather together on social media to share information and talk about it. It becomes water cooler, bulletin board, and news ticker all wrapped in one. If we want our pastoral ministries to receive the same amount of attention and if we want our information to get out to as many of our people as possible, we would do well to take advantage of these new and low-cost tools.
This article written by me was originally posted in November 2012 to the Pilot New Media blog. After leaving that position, Pilot New Media was folded and the website is now defunct. I am republishing here some of my content that remains relevant.
One of the thorniest and most confusing topics when it comes to the use of new media by not just parishes and ministries, but everyone on the Internet, is copyright. What is copyright? How do I know what images, music, writing I can use on my website? If I find it on Google, does that make it fair game? If I’m not making money off of it, does that make a difference? The answer to the latter two questions is No, which surprises many people. This post should explain why.
Let us first stipulate that we’re not lawyers nor have we studied law and we are not offering legal advice of any kind. This post does not constitute endorsement by the Archdiocese of Boston or its associated organizations of any of the websites or pages we link or their explanations of copyright law. If you’re not sure what your legal rights are, please consult a lawyer. Parishes and ministries of the Archdiocese of Boston can contact the General Counsel’s office at 617–746–5672.
With that out of the way, let’s discuss some general information about copyright and copyright law. Since we’re most concerned with copyright in relation to websites, we’ll focus on photos, images, and written content.
What is copyright?
The current law governing copyright is in Title 17 of the United States Code, first passed in 1976 and amended many times since. It’s complex and long and suitable for lawyers. We’ll get in how copyright works in a second, but first let’s answer why we have it. Here is the brief explanation for why we have copyrights in the first place from a court ruling:
“the economic philosophy behind … copyrights is the conviction that encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance public welfare through the talents of authors” Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201 (1954)
In other words, the reason we have copyright is so that people will make new things and get paid for doing them. In Christian parlance, we would quote Christ in the Gospels and say “the worker is worthy of his wages” (Luke 10:7; Matthew 10:7). People are entitled to benefit from their work. The incentive to create new works comes from the guarantee that the creator will receive remuneration for his work and craft. In addition, just because you have a good purpose for that person’s copyrighted work or you’re a nonprofit or can’t afford it or because other people are already violating their copyright, you still don’t have the right to use it without their permission.
The copyright owner has exclusive rights to control his work, even if he chooses not to sell, but that those rights are not all-encompassing. There are exceptions to those exclusive rights as defined by the law.
One of those exceptions to the copyright owner’s exclusive rights is the concept of fair use. While there isn’t a concrete definition of fair use in the law, William T. McGrath provides some guidelines in his article Copyright Issues in Today’s Church:
“…[T]he statute provides as guidance some illustrative examples of types of use that might be fair (such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, and research)…”
“… [F]our “factors” that must be considered. These are: 1) the purpose and character of the use (i.e., is it commercial or nonprofit? is it transformative or is it very similar to the intended use of the original?), 2) the nature of the work, 3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used, and 4) the effect of the use on the market for or value of the copyrighted work.”
McGrath tells us that all four aspects must be considered. No single one is determinative, so for example that fact that you’re nonprofit doesn’t trump the other considerations.
Public domain isn’t really an exception, but it refers to all the material not under copyright. It could be the copyright expired and wasn’t renewed (or eligible for renewal), there was never a copyright on the material in the first place for whatever reason–such as some materials produced by the U.S. Government–or the material was released by the creator into the public domain and he explicitly refused any copyright.
Creative Commons is a relatively new approach to the use of original works online. Creative Commons encompasses all forms of copyright and public domain through various licenses that owners can place on their works. The licenses can be anything from public domain to attribution-only to noncommercial-only and several variants in between. The idea behind Creative Commons is that it takes into account the reality of the Internet-age and digital copying, allowing creators to make their works available for use but still giving them ownership and control over how the material is used, if they wish.
Ignorance is no defense
It’s also very important to keep in mind that ignorance of the copyright is not a defense according to copyright law and precedent. A plea of “I didn’t know” likely will fall on deaf ears in court. You also shouldn’t assume that no one will notice your use of the item on your website or Facebook page or in the bulletin PDF that you upload to your website each week. Copyright owners have new technology at their disposal that crawl the web relentlessly searching out examples of their work that are being used without their permission. The first time you’ll hear from them is when you receive a letter in the mail from their lawyer with a demand to take it down and to send them a check for your allegedly infringing use.
How do I know the copyright status?
The short answer is that in the absence of a clear copyright or public domain notice, the safest assumption is that it is under copyright. Otherwise, look for a notice right on the photo, in the caption, or somewhere on the page referring to the copyright. Sometimes the whole website will have a copyright notice on it. Keep in mind that the presence of a copyright notice is not required for someone to maintain or assert ownership.
Keep in mind that just because what’s depicted in the photograph is old, it doesn’t mean the copyright for the image is expired. For example, the courts have ruled that a photograph of a painting cannot be copyright because there is not enough originality in thought or expression. A photograph of a portion of the painting plus additional content (e.g. a room) can be copyrighted, unless it is a derivative work of an existing copyrighted work. See how confusing this can be?
The rule of thumb is that for anything made before 1900, copyright had probably expired. Between 1900 and 1978, copyright may have expired. After 1978, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
Finally, certain pieces of fine art or even architecture are themselves copyrighted and thus any exact photographs of them cannot be used without the original owners’ permission. An example of that is the famed Flatiron Building in New York City.
Proper credit and attribution
There is no one correct way to provide proper credit and attribution for photos that you have permission to use, although if the owner of the work gives you text to use, you would do well to use that. Sometimes you can put the copyright notice right on the photo itself using an image editing program or you can put in a caption field or someplace on the page that makes a logical connection to the image. If the owner asks for a link to a website or page, then include that. And always provide the proper language for the license, whether it’s “Public domain”, “Used with permission”, “Creative Commons”, etc.
Where can I find images to use on my site?
All that said, there are sources for images on the Internet that won’t cost you an arm and a leg to buy the license for. Some are free and some have a nominal cost.
If you click on “Use this file on the web” next to the photo, Wikimedia will give you the HTML code you will need to either embed the photo on your site with proper credit and at a variety of sizes or, if you prefer to download the file and manipulate it and embed it yourself, the proper language (in HTML, optionally) for correct attribution. (Click on the image to see a larger screenshot of the Wikimedia page).
Flickr is a large community of photographers who post their photos online and includes everyone from parents taking snapshots to the Archdiocese of Boston to the office of the White House photographer to the Library of Congress archives. Flickr was one of the first major photo sites to incorporate the Creative Commons license into its service. To search for photos that you can use, sign up for a free account then enter your search in the search box and click the button. Now, on the next page, click on “Advanced Search”.
On the subsequent page, scroll down, click on the checkbox for “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content” and click the “Search” button. The resulting images should all have Creative Commons licenses. You just need to pay attention to licenses to make sure that it gives the proper permissions.
The results of a Flickr seach can be uneven. Some photos are of low-quality. Some are obviously copyrighted works that others have posted in violation of that copyright. Use prudence and good judgment when using these photos, but you should be all right.
Pixabay is another resource for public domain photos and graphics. These tend to be more conceptual images rather than topical, so for instance, you’ll find general clip art when searching for “pope” but nothing when searching for “Pope Benedict”. (You’ll also see offers to for paid images from Shutterstock.com in your search results. We’ll discuss those services in a moment.) If you search for, say, “Advent” and find an image of candles and a wreath, you can then download the image and use it as you wish.
When you just can’t find the right image from all the free sources, sometimes you just need to turn to the professionals and pony up some cash. There are many commercials stock photo services available, some very expensive ones that cater to the professional publishing industry and others intended for those with a much lower budget. Here are a few that we’ve used at Pilot New Media that we’ve found useful:
In most cases, the photos you’ll get from these services are professionally shot. Most of these sites also provide stock music, sound effects, and/or video clips to use in various multimedia projects. Prices vary from $1 for a photo and up while a few also offer subscripton services. In general, you’ll only need these for very specific purposes, when you need that perfect image to illustrate a concept, perhaps for an event or a seasonal celebration.
A very specific kind of stock photo house is Art Resource. This company owns the rights to sell images of hundreds of thousands of pieces of fine art, including many famous masterpieces of Christian art, from . If you really must have, say, Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew”, you can license it, but it will cost you a pretty penny.
Finally, you could just hire a professional photographer or find a talented and willing volunteer in your parish to take photos, if what you need is photos from parish events or people in the parish or the like. A professional photographer can be a good choice if you need staff headshots for the website, for example, because they usually know not just how to shoot the photo, but how to make the people being photographed at ease so the shot comes out best. Just be sure to talk to the photographer about copyright and your usage rights. Remember, the photographer usually retains copyright unless you and he explicitly agree otherwise in advance.
What not to do
We’ve covered this a bit, but it bears repeating: Just because you find an image (or poem or other work) in a search engine doesn’t mean that you can just use it. It is likely still under copyright and even if it’s on a dozen different websites, unless you confirm otherwise, those websites either confirmed their right to use them with the owner, determined the photo was available for them to use, or they ignored their obligations under copyright rules.
Likewise, if something is labeled “royalty-free” it’s also not free for the taking. Royalty-free means that once you acquire the license to use the image (whether through purchase or permission), you won’t have to pay for each additional use.
Also “free clip art” doesn’t mean free. The images on clip-art CDs and clip-art websites are the property of their original owners and are often copyrighted, but the owners of the artwork have allowed it to be distributed freely. However, that art often comes with restrictions on use. For example, they may allow you to use them in your parish bulletin but not on your website. Be sure you understand any restrictions before using any image from them.
The Internet has given us access to professional-quality media to improve our websites and other communications like never before and at prices that are often in the reach of the tight budgets that Catholic ministries often work within. Yet, the ability to easily capture and copy digital media opens us up to the potiential to misuse that content like never before. We have not just a legal duty, but also a moral and ethical duty as Catholics involved in ministry to uphold those standards both to protect the Church from liability, but also as examples and role models for others.
There are many options available to us for inexpensive or free digital media that respect copyright. Are there any I’ve missed? Do you have questions about this area that we–as non-lawyers–might be able to answer?
There are a number of variants which you can read about here and here. ↩
A quick related tip: If you have trouble finding exactly what you want in Wikimedia, then do the same search in Wikipedia and click on the image found in the Wikipedia article. That’s what I had to do when searching for St. Francis de Sales for this post. ↩
One great resource on Flickr is the artwork of Fr. Stephen Cuyos, MSC, who produces graphics suitable for the liturgical season and made freely available for anyone to use. ↩
As we’ve said, it’s not just photos and artwork that are subject to copyright, but any creative work, including poems, news articles, books, recipes, and so on. Each has its own requirements and examples of fair use, which we don’t have the time to address right now. If you’re interested, please consult the general counsel’s office or an attorney, or Google “fair use” and the type of work involved. ↩
A Facebook friend the other day posted a link to a story about an actress who had died. It wasn’t someone you’d know by name, but you’d recognize their face and perhaps express some surprise and a normal amount of regret, as in “Oh, that’s sad. I liked their work.” Or you’d do that if you weren’t a boorish troll on the Internet.
The very first person to comment on his post started by saying, “Never heard of her.” Okay, not exactly condolences and while they could have just clicked the link to find out who she is, it’s not exactly lazy, boorish behavior… yet. Then another commenter adds Standard Catholic Comment on TV-related Posts No. 1: I don’t watch TV any more. Then adds the qualified and obligatory wish for her soul to rest in peace “along with all the nameless and no less important people who died today.”
Really? Look, if you don’t care about the deaths of famous people or about TV stuff in general, here’s some simple advice: Shut up. Keep it to yourself. Frankly, it’s just rude to do what these people did. Remember your mother’s adage? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. If all you have to share is the equivalent of “I don’t care about what you posted”, then move on and keep your fingers off the keyboard.
It is the height of self-centeredness that when you encounter someone noting the death of someone else whose work they enjoyed, you make it about yourself. And that’s precisely what these people did. An actress died and one person says he never heard of her and the other proclaims her disdain for TV. It’s not about you!
Yes, famous people are not members of our family, but it’s a perfectly human response to show regret and sadness at the death of someone whose artistic work you enjoyed, no matter how low and unworthy you consider that work. I’m no fan of hiphop and rap, but I appreciate that some of my friends still mourn the loss of Tupac Shakur. I would never dream of showing up on their Facebook pages to mock them for their musical taste.
Boorish trolls bloviating on social media–including so-called conservatives rejecting “the world and its glamour”–do more harm to our culture than good.
Automation Is Great, But Nothing Tops The Human Touch
Rely On Reporters To Help Curate The News
Have Protocols In Place For Breaking News
Clarity Over Cleverness: Rethinking Headlines
Let’s start at the top. Certainly, Catholics should know as well as anyone that the human touch is paramount, given the Church’s constant refrain about the dignity of the individual person. But it’s also about the compassion and intelligence and insight that a person can bring that no algorithm can ever.
The example from the New York Times involves a function that autotweets headlines. In this case, the original headline “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Casualty Who Became A War Hero” was tweeted and then a human editor tweeted a link to the story again, but with a new text to accompany it: “He got kicked out of both Nirvana and Soundgarden. Then he became a war hero.” The latter got many more hits than the original because it was a much more human-friendly sentence.
The second lesson is to “rely on reporters to help curate the news”. Parishes don’t have reporters but they do have priests and lay ministers. The New York Times has an official Twitter account that acts as the official source for all the newspaper’s stories, but individual reporters and editors have their own Twitter account. Those individuals frequently break news or provide on-the-ground color that the main account can re-tweet. That helps the main account provide good content without linking to a story on the main site, while the invidual gets the exposure and cachet from the Time’s retweet to it’s large audience.
Parishes and dioceses could do likewise. For example, when the parish sends a group to World Youth Day, the main account can selectively retweet the best content from the youth minister leading the pilgrimage and even the pilgrims themselves. That way the parish gets the benefit of new, compelling content while being selective about what to share. (We don’t need every selfie that 16-year-old pilgrim took with girls from every country represented at WYD.) Like the newspaper, the parish gets to stand on the credibility of the individuals it’s retweeting.
The third lesson is to have protocols in place for breaking news because when something important is happening newspapers have competing needs to get information out fast, which is what Twitter is good for, while also ensuring that the information is correct. Parishes don’t always have breaking news, per se, but they do hsave critical information that needs to be disseminated both quickly and accurately. If there’s a snowstorm and there’s a change to the Mass schedule or religious education schedule or a dinner is postponed, that information has to get out, even if it’s after hours on a Saturday night. Whose job is to send out that information? Are they on call 24/7? If the director of religious ed calls the person responsible for the Twitter account to ask them to make an announcement, does the social media person need to clear a change in schedule with the pastor? Should they make sure other staff members are in the loop before the public is informed? If a parish has mutliple Twitter accounts (main account, pastor, youth minister, etc.), how do you ensure that everyone is disseminating the same information?
These are all questions that should be asked before it’s crunch time so they can be considered rationally and coolly and when all the participants can be asked for their input. Formulate a policy, make it known to staff, and then review it occasionally to make sure everyone knows what to do.
By the way, this is the place to point out that if you use scheduled social media updates, using a tool like Hootsuite, when something happens be ready to turn off the flow of auto-tweets. You don’t want happy, chirpy tweets to be posting from your account in the aftermath of a national tragedy. In April 2014, I was in charge of the social media accounts for the Archdiocese of Boston. When the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, it was a state holiday and I was at home with my family. As soon I saw the news, I got on Hootsuite and suspended all automated tweets. Then as news trickled in, I posted measured updates such as open-ended calls for prayer, and avoided using inflammatory language like terrorist attack until there were official confirmations of events. When you tweet from an organization’s account, you are its official voice, so be careful.
The fourth lesson is that the standard pun-riddled or stilted headlines that work in print don’t always work as tweets. Writing for the digital context isn’t just about figuring out how to write your message in 140 characters, but it’s also about providing clarity in whatever space you have. On Twitter, too much cleverness can result in misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or just disinterest in your tweet. Be clear, be clever to a point, but if you’re linking content, let the reader know as quickly and transparently as possible why they should click.
The final lesson is to repeat yourself. As they say in the article, even the most addicted Twitter user isn’t on 24/7 and if they’re following more than just a few people then their timeline is usually too crowded to go back and read everything since the last time they were on. Thus it can be useful to repeat tweets and to vary the times of day and days of the week you send them out. If you have a big event coming out in four weeks, post a link this Tuesday at 2:30pm, then again next Wednesday at 6pm, then the following Thursday at 9am, and so on. And be sure not to miss the weekends. You may not be working, but that’s when a lot of people have the time to read Twitter and when they may be thinking about church-related matters. That’s where scheduling tweets à la Hootsuite comes in.
Of course, that’s not an exhaustive course in how best to use Twitter in a Catholic context, but those are five good lessons that a very large and old media company can teach us. What other lessons should we take from them or from anywhere else for that matter? Please contribute your lessons either below or on social media links to this blog post.
There are a hundred blog posts and articles that want to tell you the best time to post your social media updates. What’s important is to do it when it’s the best time to reach your audience. That’s a topic for another blog post I think. ↩
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Evernote, the web service with mobile and computer software for recording everything. I’ve been using it for about six years now and it really has become my second brain, storing everything from receipts to articles clipped from the web to every social media update I post.
Here are some of the ways I use Evernote. I won’t claim to be using it the most efficiently or that there’s some secret mojo here, but maybe I can give some ideas to others.
1. Your secret email address
Every Evernote account comes with a unique secret email address and anything sent to that address gets saved to your notebooks. I often add it as a BCC for emails to people with whom I’m working on a project. Or I forward emails to it that I want to save like receipts or emails about projects.
2. Keep your Inbox at the top
When you set up Evernote you specify a default notebook where notes that don’t have a designated notebook end up. I choose to name mine Inbox, but I go further by putting ‘@’ before Inbox so that it sorts to the top of any alphabetical listing.
3. Takeout history
I have a notebook called Takeout Orders that I share with Melanie. Whenever we order takeout from someplace, this is where I record our order. On the one hand, it’s a handy place to jot down what we want and if I’m picking up the order I can refer to Evernote on my phone to make sure we got everything. But it’s also very handy as a record of what we’ve got so that when Melanie says, “What did I get last time that I really liked?”, I can just read it off to her. It’s also a record of how often and the last time we ordered from any particular place.
I also use this notebook to store scanned takeout menus as well as the receipts for our favorite Chinese restaurant’s reward points system so we know if we can get that free appetizer this time.
4. Appliance manuals
We used to have a file cabinet drawer nearly full of product manuals for every appliance and consumer electronics device and other products we owned, but it was an undisciplined mess and a waste of space. It turns out that with a little Google-fu you can find PDF versions of nearly every product’s manual on the market today, which I download and place in an Evernote notebook cleverly named Product Manuals.
If I can’t find the manual online, I tear it apart and feed it through the document scanner and save it as a PDF.
The bonus is that when I need to consult the manual, I just search Evernote for “manual” and “vacuum” for example and up it comes, whether it’s part of the text I typed or text in an image.
5. IFTTT and Evernote
IFTTT (If This, Then That) is a web service that allows you to connect a variety of other web services in unique ways. I won’t get into too much detail about IFTTT, but I’ve created several Evernote-related “recipes”.
For example, I use the email app Mailbox on my iPhone and iPad to quickly sort through email. When I encounter an email that I want to save to Evernote, I put it in the “Add to Evernote” list, which in my Gmail account is a label called “Add to Evernote”. IFTTT is watching that label and when it sees an email there, it creates a new note in Evernote for it.
Another set of recipes create an archive of all my social media updates. Since you never know when Facebook or Twitter or any of the rest of the social networks will get bought out/disable your account for some spurious reason/experience data loss, etc., you can’t rely on them to keep an historical archive of your pithy bon mots. This is not merely frivolous self-indulgence if you ever find yourself needing to prove exactly what you said and when you said it. So all of my Instagrams, all my Facebook updates, all my tweets, all tweets that I’ve favorited, every Foursquare check-in. Likewise, I can send an RSS feed to Evernote and so every new post on my blog is archived too.
6. Hello and business cards
I don’t get lots of business cards, but I get some and especially when I go to an event like the Catholic New Media Conference or last year’s Catholic Media Conference I end up with lots. In the past, those cards ended up in a drawer and if I later wanted to contact somebody, I had to go digging, but now with Evernote, it’s much more automated.
I like using the Evernote Hello app on my iPhone to quickly enter all the relevant information into the Contacts app, which syncs everywhere, and find other information about the person on social networks. You can either enter the info by hand or better, take a photo of their business card and let the app pull it apart and put it in the appropriate fields. Then it looks to LinkedIn to pull in whatever data wasn’t on the card, including profile photo, to flesh it out.
Hello is also nifty in that it looks at your current location and what’s on your calendar right now to associate the contact within a context. For example, if you’ve put a banner on your calendar that you’re at XYZ Conference and the phone locates you at the Convention Center in Anytown, then Hello will make a note on your contact that effect, helping you remember later where you met so and so. Even if you don’t scan the cards until you’re back home, you can manually set the location and event.
The contacts also end up in your main Evernote database in a notebook of your choosing, which lets you find them in searches.
7. Tables of contents
If you select a whole bunch of notes in Evernote, you get several options, including an option to create a table of contents. This makes a new note that containts a list of all the notes you’ve selected which are themselves link to the original note. It can be very handy as an index, like in the old days of paper files when a list of the contents of the file would be staped to the inside of the manila folder, for example.
To make this even more useful, click the button to set a reminder on the Table of Contents note (don’t bother setting a notification date) and now a link to the TofC note will be permanently at the top of the notebook list, or at least until you clear the reminder.
8. Reminders don’t have to be dated
Speaking of reminders, I use them as a way to keep active notes sorted at the top of a notebook. I have a notebook I use for planning my radio show’s topics and guests. When I’m still actively working on a show, I set an undated reminder on it so it shows in the special reminders list. Once the show is past or I abandon the topic, I clear the reminder and it’s gone from the list while remaining in its place in the notebook.
9. Public shared notebooks for clients and customers
I have a shared notebook which I use as a repository for web clippings that I want to share with folks who work in Catholic social media at parishes and ministries in the Archdiocese of Boston. I have linked to that notebook on my office’s website. Someday I would like to create a widget that shows the titles of the most recent five items I’ve added to the notebook.
10. Private shared notebooks for family
Melanie and I have a couple of shared notebooks for our household needs. We have one called Shopping that includes several notes for different kinds of shopping lists: groceries, hardware store, clothing, etc. We also put birthday wishlists for the kids in there. Another is called Household ToDo and Wishlist, which holds notes related to various chores that need to be done, projects we’d like to do, articles about home repair and DIY, etc. Either one of us can add to the notes as we see something that needs to be done or we’d like to do.
Another notebook contains various kinds of information about the kids that either of us may need to access, whether it’s clothing sizes or medical information. Still another notebook has all our favorite recipes.
So that’s ten random tips and tricks for Evernote that I use all the time, but there are many more which I may truck out in a follow up post sometime. What are your favorite Evernote tips and tricks?
Only BCC (blind carbon copy) as opposed to CC because you want to keep this address secret. Any email sent to this address will end up in your Evernote notebooks. ↩
Not to mention quite a few we didn’t own anymore since cleaning out the drawer when we tossed old or broken stuff wasn’t a high priority. ↩
I do the same thing for a Mailbox list called “Add to Omnifocus”. Any email put in there gets added to the Omnifocus inbox to become part of my todo list. ↩
Unfortunately Twitter has removed the ability for outside services to access what other people tweet so the conversations it records are one-sided. ↩
NBC News reports on a study out of Princeton University about social networks and like almost all mainstream reporting on academic studies, well, it’s dumb as a box of rocks.
This “study” –which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and is in fact a paper presented at a symposium–claims that Facebook will lose 80% of its users by 2017, based on epidemiological models of infectious disease, and compares it to MySpace’s demise. This is so dumb on its face, it’s hard to believe Princeton is associated with it. That’s because the proxy they use for measuring usership of Facebook and MySpace is how often the terms are used alone in a Google search.
What? How does that have any relationship to how much people use Facebook? MySpace was, in fact, killed by Twitter and Facebook. What is replacing Facebook? Not SnapChat. Not Google+, to the consternation of its fans.
As you read the study, you begin to suspect that the authors–who are not epidemiologists nor computer scientists, but are associated with the the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton, aren’t even qualified to draw these conclusions. In fact, the authors Cannarella and Spechler are Ph.D. candidates in fields that have nothing to do with this subject.
So why is this a big deal? Because when a big news outlet like NBC News runs a story, people believe it. They don’t stop to read the original paper and if they did, the academic jargon would make it incomprehensible to most. But it has an effect. Facebook is a publicly traded company. A story like this could affect the stock price and change the valuation by millions. It could also be the sort of thing that creates the end it predicts by convincing people that Facebook is dying and they should go somewhere else.
Mainstream media reporting on academic papers and studies is an ongoing problem because of the facile way they are treated, as if conclusions drawn in the paper equal hard scientific fact. But we’ve all seen that studies aren’t the end-all. Once upon a time we were told that salt was a killer and now we’re told that maybe many people don’t get enough. We were told to eat no more than one egg per week and now we should eat an omega-strengthened egg per day. The list goes on and on.
So take what you see in the media from studies with a giant grain of salt and rest assured you’ll be enjoying Facebook for years to come.