S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Life's lessons online

How do we learn?
Learning is for a lifetime. I am a "late bloomer" to education. I earned a Master's in Social Work at age 52. These are the ways I have always learned that I want to share with you.
  • Persevere: When I first started South by Southwest almost a year ago, I knew nothing about blogging. I broke many written and unwritten "rules." I did not know how to link, what to write, when to write, or even who my audience would be. But over the months I learned bit by bit. One of the biggest shortcuts I developed was a big time and effort saver. I discovered that using two browsers simultaneously allowed me to research and blog at the same time. I open my SBC Yahoo! browser window as my composer window in blogger and, at the same time for the other reference window, I open IE Explorer for news, searches, etc. Then it took me forever to learn to make a page link in a post, to copy and past a web address, to use my internal clipboard and to insert an image into a post.

  • Copy off someone else's page: Following up from "persevere," above, here is a little lesson. It is about how to avoid retyping a web address when making a link in a blogger blogpost: Step 1) In the reference window, highlight the address of your current page (the one to which you wish to link) by clicking your cursor in an empty spot on the "address" box of your toolbar. Step 2) In your main toolbar, hit "edit" then "copy" from the dropdown box. Step 3) Switch to your other composer windowHit the link button in your composer and backspace in the URL box to clear out the "http:" Step 4) Hit "edit" again, then "paste," then "ok". Voila! Example: How to website.

  • Read and do: I used to think that I had to have a computer book to operate my computer. So I bought various versions of Windows/XP/etc. for Dummies. And that still helps as a last resort, and when I want to overhaul or improve something step by step. The other things that you "read and do" are the Help buttons in each program, or a set of DVD tutorials. Example: Video Professor for DVD's.

  • Trial and error: This tactic can have painful consequences. I still remember some of these events, with which you perhaps relate. I have downloaded several little "free" programs, only to be unable to completely uninstall it when I found out it had a bug of some sort. Their ghosts still longer in my old desktop. Rarely do I download the unproven "freestuff" any more. Instead I wait until I see something mentioned over and over, read what others say about it, and finally try it out. Example: organizer for favorites.

  • Look it up: "Search" is my friend. What on earth did any of us do before we learned to "google"? The Myway site makes its money as a search driven site - no ads!A more sophisticated kind of search is known as "boolean" where you easily narrow down what you want to find. Dogpile "combines all the best search engines into one," thus feeding my "more is better" side. Example: "search" search.

  • Vow to never do "that!" again: Yesterday, I had written an entire blogpost here which I subsequently lost. It was so disheartening. And I have done the same thing with e-mails and at the TPMCafe and DailyKos websites.I have also sometimes posted a comment with a silly and embarrassing typo, because I have trouble proofreading my own stuff. The remedy, of course, is to periodically save writing as a draft or preview. So I am hitting the "Save as Draft" at this very moment! Whew. Example: Here's how to download a program where you can write and edit in MSWord, then post it directly to Blogger, i.e., Blogger for Word.

  • The joy of discovery: Television is to some a boon, and to others a bane. Our daughter, who is a 3rd grade teacher, kept strict control of the amount of TV time for her three preschoolers. I never saw a television until I was 19, so it is still magical to me. The gifts of PBS and C-SPAN still feel like entering the Wizard of Oz castle to me. And I use them as crucially important online resources for blogging. The other crucial source of learning what is going on is a news aggregator. Example: Bloglines aggregator.

  • Habits that stick: During my year of blogging here are some things I now do routinely. I link to my references, crediting the originators. I use bold beginnings to new subjects, make shorter sentences and paragraphs, and include shorter quotes. I am now writing more original material and I have themes to which I regularly return. There is more self-disclosure and I am finally gaining confidence - and readers - and finding my real voice. Example: "Taking stock" my 3/5/06 S/Sw post.

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