Getting to know Slido

This week, I am attending a cybersecurity symposium hosted by OAS and CISA, among other OAS states. During one of the panel sessions, I was reminded about a collaborative communication and feedback app called Slido.

I first used Slido in an K-12 education conference in a technology support role. Today, I am using it as a participant. So what is exactly is Slido? Well, according to the website, it is a way to include everyone in your meetings.

The way it works

The presenter must first create a Slido account and then add questions. The page contains the question for the participants and as the group of participants’ responses will appear on the screen, the presenter can also share the results on screen. In this case, the first question was: What are you hoping to learn today? In this meeting, the question was also translated into Spanish (for this symposium, perhaps Portuguese should have been added).

Slido is a great way to check for engagement, especially with a large group. It gives the participants a way to provide input, especially when individual on-microphone interaction is not possible. It also provides an easy way to prepare and conduct a live survey of participants.

I personally have not had an opportunity to utilize this in any of my own presentations; however I can imagine that in a large group English/Spanish/Portuguese/French class, this would be a great way to ensure participation.

So how are you engaging in your presentations? Send us an email with info about your app and we’ll post it in a future blog. Let’s share ideas!

Sound Settings: Hoopla

Have you ever worked in an office place where someone, perhaps from another culture, selects the music for the office? If the ‘DJ’ has any awareness, s/he opts for a station that plays a variety of genres. If not, the music in office environment can feel alien and be disruptive to some, while others enjoy it.

I work at home, alone, so sometimes the silence is just too silent. Music helps to fill that silence a bit. It’s not the same as having co-workers in the next cubicle or over the wall to chat with, or impromptu chats near the drink machine, but it will have to do.

For those fortunate enough to choose their own music at home or in office, whether using a headset or a speaker that can blast tunes out that bounce from wall to wall, Hoopla offers a broad library of music (and audio books) that will appeal to all tastes.

I play calm, soothing instrumental music during periods when I need to focus. I prefer the type of background music that I barely notice. I play dance music during my short breaks when I do a quick set of push-ups, crunches, kicks and bicep curls. Gotta remember to take those screen breaks!).

Focused work calls for instrumental tunes, with switch to dance music during exercise breaks. I call it EXERWORK!

Hoopla is a great choice to set the tone for the workspace. I have also used Amazon music, Spotify and independent radio stations to set up the sound environment for my home office. In addition, I have CDs (yes, I know that’s ancient) and mp3 music that I have purchased and downloaded. There are days when I don’t listen to music at all when I work, but most days I have something playing. Always nice to have options!

In addition to playing music while I work, when I teach languages, I recommend that learners listen to music in the target language. Singing the lyrics helps learners to develop a more authentic accent, and improve listening. Hoopla makes it easy to search for Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English-language artists of all kinds.

Specify target language in the search
Some Spanish titles

What technologee are you using to play music when you’re hard at work? Focus music? Podcasts? Send me a message and let me know. Let’s share ideas!

Fake Jobs

Ever been sick and tired of being sick and tired? That’s how I’m feeling right now. I have been bombarded with spammy phone calls and emails concerning fake jobs. This impinges on my valuable time that can be used searching for, and responding to, legitimate jobs. So this month, I am sharing some information to help you sift through, and delete, these time-wasters, and possible phishing attacks.

Fake job announcements are overflowing in my spam folder.
Continue reading “Fake Jobs”

Time Traveling: Virtual Machines

I recently worked on a project with a team based on the west coast. I’ve never been really good at time travel or collaborating in a different time zone. This time I decided to try something different.

I downloaded a virtual machine, installed the necessary software and changed the time zone to Pacific time. All of my applications, including email and calendar, are set to match the clock time of all other members of the team. It has definitely helped with communication, even something as minor as discussing when to break for lunch.

The VM pictured below is Windows 11. I have Windows 10 installed on my machine so this also gives me an opportunity to test out Windows 11 without committing to new drivers. 😑

Windows 11 virtual machine set to Pacific time (yes, it’s late!)

When I need to switch to my normal time zone, it is as easy as minimizing the virtual machine window (running in VMWare) and working on my desktop.

I have used VMs to access software that I did not have licenses for but never considered using it to align with a team time zone. I cannot believe I didn’t think of this before!

Got something to share about how you are doing your best work virtually? Send me a message and let me know! Let’s share ideas!

Video Subtitling Made Simple

If I had to choose between Articulate, Camtasia, PowerPoint, Captivate and Adobe Presenter for the ease of creating eLearning content, I would probably always go with Camtasia, with PowerPoint in a close second.

Back in May 2020, around the time the world fell apart, I posted a blog titled One Cannot Live by Camtasia Alone (well maybe), which described my first use of Articulate 360. Since then, I have had the opportunity to use other applications but I still keep coming back to Camtasia.

I recently upgraded to Camtasia 2021 and I was happy to see that the developers did not or change the GUI–like so many other companies do–in such a way that a long-time user would find it difficult to use, nor did they make changes to imitate other application GUIs.

I upgraded to 2021 in order to work on a contract translation and audio subtitling/captioning project. The client created a Camtasia project and upon attempting to open their files, I found that the files were not compatible with my outdated version.

The transition to Camtasia 2021, and the completion of the project, could both be aptly described as “seamless.” In addition, it did not cost very much to upgrade (~$100).

Camtasia Captioning

Captioning in Camtasia is simple. Start by clicking the CC Captions button in the left side menu, then start typing. The application has predefined time segments that can be adjusted for the audio segment length and the speakers rate of speech. Add additional captions by clicking the green Add Caption button.

Camtasia 2021 GUI Captions

I never view the training unless I cannot find something intuitively. Yes, I do realize that I am missing out on features that I could probably be using. Sometimes I am lucky and discover them on my own. This time the discovery was an ADA button. [Disclaimer: I am not sure whether the old version had this option].

Making the captions ADA compliant is done in two clicks: Clicking the ADA button, and then choosing the make compliant option. Gotta ❤ that!

To make the application even more useful for language professionals, I would suggest a few additional improvements. The two use cases/features that come to mind immediately are:

  • a plain text, csv or Excel spreadsheet import tool that would read the start and end time stamp
  • a multilingual spell checker

In the meantime, I will continue working with Camtasia and a separate text editor. Great application, 10 years, 3 versions and counting!

So what tools are you using for movie and video subtitling? Let me know and I’ll post about it in the future. Let’s share ideas!

Signing out

This week I was talking with family members about their last wills and testament, final plans and all the sorts of topics that no one wants to think about (but everyone has to). Most of the important documents are filed with the local court, or notarized or in some other manner made legal for future use when we “sign out.”

View of a Businessman holding a cloud of social media network icon

For those of us on social media, signing out also means planning ahead to have our accounts taken down after we die. If it’s a paid account, naturally the service will expire and the account will eventually go offiline. However, for free accounts like Instagram, FaceBook and Twitter, we should appoint someone the duty of disabling our accounts post mortem.

To help you prepare, eere are the details for several social media sites:

Something to think about. Hope this information is useful!

Let me “Hollo” atcha

Soon we will be able to beam ourselves anywhere in the world–the real world.

Not to start this post on a negative note but, I loathe video meetings. I will agree that it is a good alternative to meet with family, friends and especially colleagues at work and yes, I do use it. However, as a tested and approved introvert, I find it difficult to be stared at on screen for any length of time. Holding my head still, keeping a smile and talking to a screen consumes too much cognitive energy talking to one person, let alone >1. Beyond that, it’s just intrusive. But, c’est la vie, n’est pas? We do what we have to do to keep the connections (and our jobs).

Well, now it appears that the days are numbered for the 2D flat video interactions. Next stop: beam me out to the meeting! Okay not quite but sorta-3D holographic images are close!

Holograms are the current revolution in remote interaction. Ever since the first time I heard about it, I have been watching, waiting for and anticipating the arrival and actual implementation of holographic technology. Recalling the first time I used video telepresence meeting room (which was very exciting after being confined to voice only phone conferences, and later screen sharing), I was super excited when I saw that Microsoft Research video six years ago.

In that video, the host demonstrated various interactions in a mixed reality or 3D teleportation (Star Trek anyone?) space.

That technology grew to become HoloLens, a technology used in manufacturing, construction and engineering, and healthcare. I have not used it myself but I am hoping to have the opportunity to use it in technical training.

Portl, a U.S. based company, has taken it one step further to create a new projection device. Portl has gone to market with their hologram projection unit. Their holo portation or hologram telepresence device places a pseudo 3D artist, trainer, salesperson, physician or any other person in the room with her/his/their audience. It incorporates speakers, lighting and cameras to achieve the effects.

Because of the hefty price tags, it may be a while before the HoloLens Portl can be widely adopted (i.e., I can purchase one for my business). In the meantime, I will keep watching for other companies to produce new technology that moves us beyond the flat screen.

Seen any new developments in the holographic space, especially affordable ones? Send them to me and I’ll write about them in a future post. Let’s share ideas!

Muting the File Sharing Worries

Recently I decided to add a BitLocker password encryption to the hard drive of my PC and also on an external hard drive that serves as a backup drive. It’s a pretty simple process and as long as I memorize my passwords, then I feel secure that my data will be protected in the event of theft of hardware.

So why do this now? Well, after taking apart an old laptop and extracting the hard drive, I marveled at the relative ease of connecting that drive and using it as an additional storage device. Also, the rise in use of ransomware to lock and block access of data has me backing up my data on a fairly regular basis. Finally, beyond being concerned about my data, Russian cyber-attacks and the rumor-of-war-turned-invasion of Ukraine are creating an overall feeling of unease.

It’s very easy to extract data from an unprotected hard drive.

Rather than sit and bite my nails for the day, I instead took the time to update my firewall software, check email spam settings, did a network check and changed a few important passwords. I also backed up my website just in case…

Working from home necessitates the sharing of electronic files. Other than sending via email, I use Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, and a few other password-protected file sharing options.

Normally, I password protect the file and then call or text the recipient with the password. It’s not ideal but most of the people I email are not using encrypted email. I am using encrypted email and my team members let me know when they are unable to decrypt the files!

I still use a locking file cabinet but the online data protection is what concerns me most!

What steps are you taking to protect your files? Let’s share ideas!

There, but not really

At the beginning of the pandemic, some very creative young people figured out how to record a desktop video and have it loop during their virtual classes. It seems that the idea was also found to be useful in professional spaces, likely by people tired of sitting through online meetings. The idea caught on, at least until people started getting caught.

Years ago when Microsoft Teams was just starting to be an office must-have, my work team was relying on the status indicator in the chat application to know whether someone was available for work communication. Most of the time, I would leave my status as available (green), unless somone became particularly chatty and I would initiate a phone call to save my typing fingers.

Microsoft Teams User Interface

Sometimes, I would type messages to my team members, wait for a reply and eventually walk over or call if I did not receive a timely reply. I noticed that I often arrive at one person’s desk and he would never be there. I always assumed that he had just walked away minutes before.

Later, I found out that this particular colleague would rarely be at his desk, and in fact, would often be out of the building. His computer would appear to be in use but he would not be locatable.

Microsoft Teams Status Indicator

So what was going on? He would play media files on his PC to trick the Teams presence monitor into believing that he was at his computer. His manager figured out what he was doing and it was used as part of the evidence to terminate him.

Today there is yet another method to fool any presence monitoring software. They are called Mouse Movers Apparently, they are being used to evade employer surveillance. Also known as Mouse Jigglers,they are the latest tool in the battle against “big brother.”

In case you’re interested, please note that these gadgets are rather pricey. The one above retails for $62.00. If you do not want to purchase a mouse mover/jiggler, I suppose you can find other alternatives to help you appear there, when you are not really there…

Pet mouse pusher

Anything interesting in your work at home toolbox? Send me an email and I will post about your find. As always, I am happy to report on the latest technolo-gee,—I didn’t know I could do that!

Not so new but Calendly keeps it moving

Fortune magazine told the story of Nigerian Tope Awotona’s voyage to get Calendly off the ground. Fast forward a few years and the app is a global business staple.

For years, I have used Microsoft, Yahoo and Google products for scheduling meetings. The choice between the three options was made based on whom I was inviting to a meeting.

If the person had a Google account, I would simply send a Google mail invitation. By doing this, I was making the communication easier for my clients but making things harder on myself. The client would not have to download and import the .ics file (*this is still required in some cases!) but I would have to merge several calendars into one.

Using the multiple calendar approach became difficult to manage when business started picking up. Calendly was a welcome innovation and I learned about it when I was scheduling an interview as a trainer for another organization. I was immediately converted by the ability to do some minor setup tasks, copy and paste a link and have clients and students to schedule themselves. Today, I use Calendly for scheduling new meetings and interviews, as well as training and other public sessions.

Two Talk LPS Calendar on Calendly

Because there is often a payment component to my meetings, creating a meeting request via Calendly does not result in a confirmed meeting. There are some additional background processes in the workflow, including payment via Cash App. Calendly integrates with different apps, including those that collect payment. However, I use a manual approach and I’ll explain why later.

Calendly integrates with web browsers and with apps to facilitate virtual meetings, market to customers and send email. This is convenient, especially for marketing professionals.

Calendly integrations

Despite the high level of integration, I have only used a portion of the capability. Why? As always, I am concerned with cybersecurity risks. Having links to multiple accounts across multiple apps has its advantages but it has never been appealing to me. Hackers are known to exploit system and network vulnerabilities. All of the apps contain digital security but the users often have risky behaviors. For example, there are risks for accountholders when they utilize the same password across apps, or when allow the applications to store their passwords.

In my opinion, Calendly is as good as it gets when it comes to managing a public calendar. Write me and let me know how you are using it. If you’re using another app, send that too and I will review it in a future post. Let’s share ideas!