Category: Information

Category about information, informing, or being informed

Be a Curator of Information

How do you stay informed?

If you are responsible for being an expert about a specific topic it is very important to stay informed on that topic. How do you do that? You can curate information using Google Alerts. By using this feature you will receive a message when content you have tagged as important is published online.
Catch all important updates using Google Alerts. Use your existing Google account or sign up for a new one, (you can learn about their policies here). Go to <>.
Create an alert using any relevant words including names of people. You can use Boolean operators as well. For example, if you want to receive an alert for the word “information”, “inform”, “informed”, or “informing” you can enter “inform*” the asterisk captures all words that start with those letters.
Settings wheel:

Set delivery time: This is a handy way to manage the emails. Rather than getting a message whenever content is published, you can have one message sent with a list of each piece of content. You can also set the time you want to receive the content.

Digest: Receive all alerts in a single email. (This will abbreviate the list, you may miss content)

Flag as irrelevant: If you need to search a word like “senior” you will receive alerts for a number of different uses for that word, for example both elderly people and people in their last year of US high school. Use the flag as irrelevant option to customize your alert.

An Accessible Website in 12 Steps

Information is being put online at a dramatic pace. According to IBM, 90% of the data in the world has been added in just the past two year alone! People who could not previously access information now can. And because of this, each person’s ability to learn, communicate, and share information has been drastically changed. Barriers no longer exist where they previously did. In 2011, the United Nations declared the internet a human right. It is a human right because it enables other human rights. The internet allows people to access information about work, education, healthcare, housing, and other social services and necessities. It facilitates abilities.
A disability is any experience that puts a barrier between what a person wants to do and what a person can do. It is possible to be disabled in one situation and not another. The online world presents opportunities to tear down barriers. As creators of online content we are responsible to ensure web-based barriers are mitigated.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that works as a leader for web discourse. The W3C is committed to ensuring and advancing web accessibility. To do so, the W3C established the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These guidelines are divided into three areas, designing, writing, and developing. By following their guidelines your website participates in an online community committed to benefiting everyone regardless of their physical, mental, or social ability.
If you think people with disabilities don’t visit your website reconsider what you think a disability is, who it affects, and what kind of benefits we’d all gain if everyone could fully participate in our online community. Web accessibility is not just about seeing content and moving a mouse. It also involves understanding and interacting with content, knowing and responding to web based jargon, searching and browsing, and moving through the architecture of websites.
Here’s a list of 12 items for designing an accessible website:

  1. Provide sufficient contrast between the foreground and background.
    A white background with black text allows for the greatest contrast.
  2. Don’t use color alone to convey information.
    Don’t use just colour to indicate a required field for a form. For example, use another indicator such as an asterisk as well. Underline hyperlinks and use a different colour for the text.
  3. Ensure that interactive elements are easy to identify and manipulate.
    Buttons should be easy to click on with a mouse, they shouldn’t be too small.
    Make hyperlinked text descriptive of what it link does. Do not link the word “click here” or “read more,” instead include the hyperlink on an article’s title.
  4. Provide clear and consistent navigation options.
    Have you ever noticed how stores have distinct sections and aisles? This allows shoppers to find what they need (and sometimes stumble upon things they don’t). Websites should provide the same experience. One handy feature is breadcrumbs on each page, this allows the user to know where they are in the website –for example: the household goods store > bedding > pillow cases. This provides for easy navigation through the website and helps users find information.
  5. Ensure that form elements include clearly associated labels.
    Form elements may include a login or contact us forms. Be clear about what you are asking the user to do and provide feedback in more than one way. For example, use an asterisk.
    This is a good place to consider Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart or CAPTCHAs. This is the little quiz at the end of a form to tell if you are a robot. They can be very difficult for some people to respond to. (I have difficulty deciphering them every time!) If it really is necessary for your website to have one, there are a few options that facilitate accessibility more than reading an encrypted word. Some options include images rather than words or a tick box for “I am not a robot.” But in the same way CAPTCHAs block spam, they also block accessibility. Before installing a CAPTCHA feature consider if it is really necessary or the concern of your website’s visitors to reduce the amount of spam you receive.
  6. Provide easily identifiable feedback and instruction.
    When visitors interact with your website they should be able to know what they need to do and get good feedback, especially when they’ve made an error. If an error is made when filling out a form, for example, clearly indicate where the error was made. If users need to provide information such as a telephone number or create a password, provide an example of how the number should be entered or the character requirements for a password.
  7. Use headings and spacing to group related content and convey meaning.
    It is easy to get overwhelmed with web pages that are full of clutter. It is hard to read text and retrieve information from websites that aren’t clean and clear. So, use white space and proximity to separate different content and use style headings to group content. Reduce clutter on the page and make images relevant to the topic. This will make the webpage easier to scan and understand. Also, make the content easy to read.
  8. Provide informative, unique pages titles.
    Page titles provide an introduction to the content below. It allows users to scan and anticipate the information. Each section of your website should be distinct from other sections.
  9. Create designs for different viewport sizes.
    Websites need to be responsive. Always check how your website appears on different web browsers, devices, and in print.
  10. Provide alternative text for images.
    All of the tips included here not only make your website more accessible, they also make it better. This is especially true for alternative text. Alternative text is the metadata included in each picture. When a picture is uploaded there is an opportunity to enter a few specific points of data –the title, description, and caption. Input the metadata in each image. This allows screen readers to read what the picture is. It also allows Google’s search feature to read what the picture is, which is a very good way to boost a website’s search optimization. So that being said, ensure the information you enter is accurate and descriptive.
  11. Provide controls for content that starts automatically.
    This includes slider images that present content on a rotation. Really, evaluate anything that moves on a webpage and decide if the movement is necessary. Content that moves can be distracting.
  12. Provide alternative ways to receive information.
    Include captions on videos, transcripts for audio content, and ensure pages can be easily printed or converted to pdf.
    This list in not exhaustive. Excluded from this list are more specific guidelines for developing a website. To read the complete list of tips check out the WCAG requirements Tips for Getting Started with Web Accessibility [

    IBM What is big data. Retrieved: June 2016.

Google’s Policies: 6 essential must-knows

Some say the biggest lie told online is ‘I agree.’  So what exactly are we lying about? Services in Action has been reviewing the privacy policies and terms of use of companies whose software services are used every day. The purpose of this exercise, besides diving deep into some fascinating material, is to know exactly what commitments are in place when we invest our information in a third party.
We’re scouring these documents so you don’t have to. Part two of this series focuses on Google.
Google’s services are numerous including Gmail, YouTube, search, chrome, analytics, and android products. Many of these services are relied on as key features of a business model.  Certainly this is the case for Services in Action. So what exactly are we entitled to in this vital relationship?
Google is clear about their policies and terms of service, the only trouble is there are many links driving the reader away from the main document which can cause the reader to question if their ‘choose your own adventure’ version of their policy is the most fulsome. Nonetheless, the information is easy to access and read, provided you have the time (and inclination). Assuming you don’t, here it is –six essential points:

  1. Google will aggregate all your data into one place to create a customized experience.
    • Any information you provide Google (either directly when you set up an account, or indirectly like the language you use to search, services you have install or uninstalled, email content, and other information regarding your technology and location) is collected and stored. This information is used to customize your experience –including advertising, search results, sharing, and connections. For example, if you search for a product, you’ll see ads for that or other similar products.
    • Information not provided by you, the user, may be accessed with cookies or other similar technologies. For example, information about the YouTube videos you watch are is collected and stored along with the other data included in you Google account.
    • All information collected about you is stored in your account and is treated as private. You can access, change, or delete the information in your account unless Google has to keep it due to business or legal reasons, or if it would require a disproportionate effort.
    • Your name is used across all Google platforms, your name may replace previous names associated with your account. If someone else uses your email or other information that identifies you, they may see your public account information, like name and picture.
  2. When you interact with Google services information may be gathered regarding that interaction and shared with partners via Google Analytics or advertising services.
  3. Information may be stored locally on your device or anywhere in the world.
  4. Your information may be shared with a third party for external processing or to comply with legal requests. It is also shared with a domain administrator if, for example you’re a Google Apps users.
  5. The information you store, upload, submit, send, or receive through Google remains your intellectual property, but may be used by Google to “use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute such content.
  6. Any changes to Google’s policy will be posted. Google will notify users regarding more significant changes to the policy or if Google is involved in any mergers, acquisitions, or asset sales.

If you’re interested in managing the information stored in your account or to learn more about the collection and storage of information and how that affects the user you can visit Google’s Safety Centre:

Dropbox’s Policies: 8 essential must-knows

Privacy policies and terms of use are not titillating. They usually conjure up images of long documents with small text, filled with words like ‘herein’ or ‘whereas’. But they’re important. My work, and probably yours too, is quickly moving from a desk to various mobile devices, and the more we work outside of a structured office space, the more we rely on software services to send, store, and share work documents. Google and Dropbox offer great, free, or inexpensive solutions, which are easily accessible from multiple devices. But what exactly are they responsible for? Say Dropbox gets sold or goes out of business tomorrow, what happens to all of your work? Knowing the policies of software services you rely on is essential for protecting your work. Although Dropbox does a pretty good job at clearly articulating their privacy policy and terms of conditions, here are 8 essential must-knows:

  1. Dropbox collects data from the user’s profile. This is done to enhance the user’s experience. Data is collected from places like the device you use to access Dropbox, your browser, and the webpage you visited prior to going to Dropbox.
  2. They may share information about their users with a third party, but will not sell it. The information collected is shared with third parties for Dropbox’s business needs to perform tasks on their behalf or comply with the law. Should Dropbox receive a government request for user’s data, Dropbox will “be transparent, fight blanket requests, protect all users, and provide trusted services.” This is really only concerning if you work in an environment that can offer privileged information.
  3. Dropbox can store the information you store in your account anywhere in the world or use your local device.
  4. If there are changes to Dropbox’s policy, service, or business structure they will notify users via email. These changes include a reorganization, merger, acquisition, or sale of the company, or anything else Dropbox deems important.
  5. You are responsible for what you store in your account and what you share with others within Dropbox.
  6. Information stored by you in your account is your intellectual property. It does not become Dropbox’s property.
  7. Dropbox for Business –The administrator of this account is governed by the policies of their employer. So as the end user, you have as much privacy as your company grants. A couple noteworthy points:You may lose access to your Dropbox account if you lose access to the email address associated with it.
    If you merge a personal Dropbox account with a Dropbox for Business account, the account becomes part of the business’ domain. It is possible for you to lose access to it.
  8. If things don’t go well and you become displeased with Dropbox’s service they ask users to tell them. In the event things get litigious, they do not accept class action lawsuits.