The power of fur.ly – part one

Screen shot of EduVel blog

Since starting my #sugsnip challenge back in the New Year, I’ve had many opportunities to ask (some) readers what they thought. They think it’s a good idea and many have taken the opportunity to comment, either directly to me, via Twitter or via their own RTs and Paper.li’s. This has been encouraging. What has been less encouraging though, has been their (slight) misunderstanding of the role fur.ly plays in my #sugsnip, or of the huge potential fur.ly offers many educationalists and learners.

I have a few ideas for how the service can be used and will use this blog post and the next to explain a couple of these.

First let me explain fur.ly’s basic functionality, because that is one thing my discussions with #sugsnip readers have led me to believe is underestimated at best.

Also see my previous post: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/fur-ly/

Services such as http://bit.ly, http://tinyurl.com, and http://snipurl.com offer URL shortening services where long URLs are greatly reduced in length (e.g. my previous EduVel blog post would reduce from https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/response-to-kathy-schrock/ to http://bit.ly/hdIBe1; http://tinyurl.com/6c8dddh and http://snipurl.com/27rqug respectively. A saving of 45, 39 and 40 characters – which is important when we consider the increasing use of micro-blogs such as Twitter, which are often character-limited (Twitter has a maximum 140 characters, so a saving of this size is a huge benefit).

So the first advantage of fur.ly then is URL length – as it returns a URL length of 18 characters, a saving of 47 over the original. The second and for now, most powerful advantage is that it can hold more than one web address within the URL it presents. It is a URL aggregator.

However, this can cause problems for users/readers, as it is not always obvious that there is more than one web page tucked away inside it. The following URL holds three of my Web presences: http://fur.ly/5hyw

screenshot of the fur.ly top bar

Fur.ly presents one of the packaged URLs for you straight away. This leads the user/reader to (often) assume that this is the only page hidden behind the shortened URL – because that is what they are used to. However if you look closely at the top of the page you will see that this is in fact only one of .. (in this case three) pages:

screenshot of advance button on fur.ly top bar

Notice the arrow is pointing to the area that indicates which page (of how many) you are on.

For me and my #sugsnips this has a double advantage as not only do I save 47 characters (x 2, because that’s how many URLs I’ve said I will post to ‘prove’ the #sugsnip) but I also get to add extra justificational URLs to my Tweet. So – please, if you are are exploring my #sugsnip Tweets, do explore the forward arrows to see other sources of justification 🙂

Now all of this has led me to explore other potential uses for Fur.ly and I will detail those on my next blog post.

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Coffee

Last week I was involved in a MoLeNET ‘boot camp’. The premise was simple: we all get together and thrash out pedagogical issues which are to be included as part of a resource/activity creation tool, which is being developed on behalf of the MoLeNET community.

We spent two days sat around our laptops in a smallish room at the excellent Novotel in Leeds. Although this post isn’t about the food, it would be a crime to mention the hotel and not mention the food. As always the lunchtime buffet was a delight, with a huge variety of seafood, cold meats and salads to start with and the usual carvery type fayre for mains – but served up in an interesting way. The first day we also had bacon sandwiches (with croissant, ham, preserves and fruit), which was a delightful surprise. Thank you Novotel.

Anyway – they also brew a passable (not great, but passable) coffee. And there’s the rub: we were all free to get tea and coffee whenever we liked. Each morning we had a selection of biscuits to soak up the drink and on both afternoons we were presented with a selection of cakes and buns. So the tables in our small rooms gradually filled up with the usual long meeting detritus.

So let this story be a warning to everyone – cakes crumbs and coffee do not go well with laptops.

We’d almost finished our two-day meeting and I was returning from the bathroom to begin packing up, when a cup of coffee was accidently knocked over my (I still think of it as new) MacBook Pro. I think I went into an instant ‘oh it’s only a keyboard’ form of stasis. It had never seemed a big thing before, keyboards on college machines had always been the cheapest of the cheap and any lasting damage from spills could only be caused to the PC itself, often hidden right away under the desk or sat at the back of the desk – a fair way from potential damage. But the Mac (or any laptop) is much more vulnerable than that – potentially £1,200 of vulnerability.

Luckily, the MoLeNET Mentors are such a stellar team that they instantly sprang into action. Instructions were being shouted from all over the room: the main one being ‘remove the battery’. I’d already pulled the power cable and the machine was by now being held upside down so the ‘remove the battery’ instruction was probably a laptop saver, as I would not have thought to do that. Paper towels and serviettes were coming from all over the place as colleagues rushed to help and the mess was eventually cleaned up. Apart from one person’s ashen face, my otherworldly stasis and an upside down MacBook Pro with an overwhelming smell of coffee, things soon settled down to the normal goodbyes and see-you-laters.

I was advised not to use the machine again for a minimum of three days to let it dry out completely, before being allowed to cross the fingers of one hand whilst turning it on with the other. All the advice was coming from people I trust; long-term Mac users, so my stasis would continue into Sunday – only 48 hours, but my fingers WERE already very tightly crossed.

When I finally turned on the MacBook Pro, it worked. I opened as many windows as I thought fair and breathed a slow sigh of relief when nothing ‘blew’.

Then, later, I noticed that the keys were sticky. We’d wondered whether the coffee had had sugar in it, but not knowing whose it was made that impossible to know – I’d hoped not, as the sugar would have made it nigh on impossible to fix without some kind of surgery. But all of the keys eventually came unstuck and now, 24 hours later, they seem to be working fine.

I’d looked on the Internet for sticky keys advice and two helpful addresses were sent to me by Simon Finch on Twitter: http://bit.ly/6SATq8 and http://bit.ly/4qiBmw. Apparently you can carefully lift off the keys (which I didn’t do) – James Clay suggested cleaning them with baby wipes; Mick Mullane said cotton buds and distilled water. In the end I loosened the sticky keys by tapping them and then blowing compressed air across the keypad. I’m sure that this practice is frowned upon as it may move debris into more corruptible areas of the machine – but it worked for me.

LATEST NEWS – somehow, the video-out slot has become faulty. I’m not sure yet whether the coffee is responsible but at the moment, the only way of connecting to an external source is to keep pushing the plug right in – sadly there’s no way of keeping pressure on.

So three things to say as I wrap up this post:

· There are many sites out there aimed at helping you in times of technological stress:

· Thank you to all those of you who volunteer to help people in need – Simon, James, Mick – thank you.

and

Don’t leave coffee (or tea, or biscuits, or food/drink of any kind – and while we’re on it – all pets, young especially – but older are not immune to walking all over the keyboard) anywhere near your laptop!