Searching the web without Google (gasp!)

The topic of search engines came up during a recent  conversation with Tony Karrer.  I told him I use Google some (Google News is actually my browser start page), but that I’ve set the default in the Firefox search engine list to GoodSearch.

“Why use something other than Google?”, he asked. “When do you use GoodSearch, and when do you use Google?”

For very specific or obscure searches, I’ve found that Google works better (i.e., provides more relevant results).  But for everyday, general searches – and to support my general personal learning activities – GoodSearch is more than sufficient.  If I’m looking for a general article, a popular news story, or just trying to track something down, GoodSearch is where I start.  If I can’t find what I’m looking for quickly, I’ll jump over to Google.

This does maybe slow me down just a little bit in trying to find something online, but there is a benefit to using GoodSearch.  If you are not familiar with GoodSearch, here are the basics:

GoodSearch is a search engine which donates 50-percent of its revenue to the charities and schools designated by its users. It’s a simple and compelling concept. You use GoodSearch exactly as you would any other search engine. Because it’s powered by Yahoo!, you get proven search results. The money GoodSearch donates to your cause comes from its advertisers — the users and the organizations do not spend a dime!

Personally, I GoodSearch for St. Louis Elite nfpc, the non-profit that supports my son’s Trampoline and Tumbling team.  Chances are very good that a non-profit organization near-and-dear to your heart is set up with GoodSearch, too, so check them out and start putting all those web searches to work for a good cause.

For more on this, and other, conversations with Tony check out these 100 Conversations.

10 days of Twitter

After 10 days on Twitter I have 31 followers, am following 19, and  have posted 74 updates.  As one of his 100 conversations, Tony Karrer is interested to know how I use twitter for personal learning.  I’m not sure I’m to the point where I’m doing any real learning through twitter yet, but here are some preliminary thoughts on my brief experience with twitter so far.

Most of the people I am following are people I already know and had only occasional contact with.  By using twitter, I am able to keep in “contact” with them even if I don’t respond to every update they make.  Just knowing what is going on with them is often enough.  I expect that this goes both ways, as I will get almost instant responses from these folks to some of my tweets (there, I said it) and nothing from others.  It is especially nice to be able to link my twitter updates to my Facebook status; I hardly ever updated my Facebook status because I’m not in Facebook very often.

I was a bit less successful in using twitter as a way to engage in an ongoing conversation, specifically Autism Twitter Day.  A bit ironic considering that event is what prompted me to join twitter in the first place.  I’ve never been one for online chat sessions among a bunch of people I don’t know, and that is essentially what that event was, or what it seemed like to me.  Not quite as synchronous as an actual chat, but then again not as asynchronous as an e-mail listserv (on which I typically lurk, with very little participation).  Perhaps twitter is one of the social media tools that Dave Snowden sees replacing tools like listserves, but not for me.  (Not yet anyway.)

I’ve also been playing around with exactly how to use twitter.  I’ve used the web interface, and have twhirl running as a client, but I know there are many other options and possibilities.  Not sure where that will end up.

Perhaps the best thing about twitter, in my mind anyway, is the 140 character limit.  It forces me to keep things short, sweet and to the point.   (You may have noticed on this blog that I tend to have recurring bouts of what my HS English teacher would likely call diarrhea of the keyboard.)

In his post What is Twitter, Shawn over at Anecdote has a very good description of how I’ve been using twitter in these first few days (not that he wrote the description specifically about my use of twitter):

It’s a mistake to think Twitter is only for reporting the minute detail of one’s life, which by the way is an important activity because it helps up create stronger social bonds. Twitter is also effective for asking questions and getting answers, sharing useful links on the web and getting those frustrations out when things are driving you nuts.

For now I think I’ll just keep on using twitter in this way, and see where it takes me.

Recommended Reading – Personal Learning and Mastery

Tony Karrer recently asked for recommendations of books for learning professionals (see #38 of his 100 Conversation Topics.)  There are many good books in this category, but for the purposes of this conversation I have 4 recommendations.

The authors of these books each come from a different perspective: Gelb looks at what made the greatest learner of all time the, um, greatest learner of all time; Leonard tells his own personal story of learning and mastery after finding Aikido later in life; and Waitzkin distills the lessons he has learned from his early life and success in chess and Tai Chi Chuan.  But they also have much in common.

All break down the process of learning.  All stress the importance of your environment and surroundings, and taking advantage of the opportunities offered you as well as those you make for yourself.  And even though they give some ideas on how to become a lifelong learner – for instance Gelb’s 7 da Vincian Principles – they all let you know that learning is anything but a cookie-cutter process.

Learning is a unique and individual process that requires constant attention and refinement.  Something important for learning professionals to remember, so they don’t fall into the rut of one-size-fits-all.

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Stop by the eLearning Learning Community for more of Tony’s 100 conversations.

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