What Do Boulder Media Women Know About Tech? Plenty

(UPDATE 3/2/2006: This awrticle was originally written and posted on 2/23/2006. A couple of days after that, my blogging software mysteriously ate most of this posting. It took a little wrangling, but I was finally able to get this posting restored from backup. Here is the complete version, once again.)

Last night I attended the monthly potluck dinner of one of my favorite local networking groups: Boulder Media Women (BMW). Many thanks to our gracious hostess, Julene Bair.

These dinners are always followed by a group discussion when we take turns introducing ourselves, mentioning what kinds of media things we’re up to, and to ask questions or request/offer assistance. This time, we did something a little different. Each of us also volunteered our favorite gadget or web site. (This was Catherine Dold’s idea, although she couldn’t attend last night.)

I was probably one of the geekiest women at the meeting, and I was pleased to learn a lot! So, as I promised the attendees, here’s a roundup of all those geeky tidbits we shared…

Mimi Sander’s geeky tips: Mimi, who does a lot of conference coverage, extolled the many uses of a digital voice recorder. In particular, she recommends the Olympus DM20, used in conjunction with a compatible microphone. She also recommended VersionTracker to find useful, free software, and OfficeTime time tracking software (Mac).

Andrea Meyer’s geeky tips: This business writer has often found herself in need of wifi. So she recommends getting a special USB data cable to connect your laptop to your cell phone. The you can connect to the internet via your cell phone. Here’s how that works.

Debbie Slobe’s geeky tips: Debbie manages communications for the Playa Lakes Joint Venture. Like any nonprofit, their resources are precious – so why waste money on a clipping service? She’s a big fan of Google News Alerts, which are available as a daily e-mail or by feed (RSS or Atom format). Just do any search in Google News, then look in the left-hand sidebar on the results page. You can then subscribe to either a free daily e-mail or a feed notifying you of fresh matches to your query. Debbie’s current favorite gadget? Her guitar tuner.

Melanie Mulhall’s geeky tips: Not surprisingly for a spirituality writer, Melanie loves mindmapping software. She tipped us off to Mooter, a search engine that groups results by relevance in a mindmap-style display. Way cool!

Beth Hayden’s geeky tips: A former coaching client of mine, Beth has become enamored with feeds. Her favorite feed reader (and mine) is Sage, a plugin for the web browser Firefox. (And by the way, if you use a PC and use Internet Explorer to browse the web, you should switch to Firefox immediately! Explorer is a security nightmare.) Beth’s favorite new music source/toy is Pandora, the uniquely intriguing music matching service.

Corinne McKay’s geeky tips: As a professional translator, Corinne has found using a double monitor extremely helpful: the French document on one screen, the English version on the other. This required a minor computer modification (extra video card), but it allowed her to employ a very inexpensive used second monitor, rather than buy a large, costly new portrait display. She also recommends the GMaps mashup Gmaps Pedometer for calculating the distance of jogging or walking routes. And finally, Corinne has figured out how to use Google Gmail for backing up important files.

Geeky tips from Amy Gahran (that’s me): I gave a brief explanation of what feeds are and why Boulder Media Women should care. I think it made sense – but then again, the members of this group tend to be spectacularly intelligent 😉 I also described the web archiving and social bookmarking service Furl, which I’ve written about many times, and which I use many times daily. Of course, being a bookaholic, I’d be bankrupt without BestBookBuys comparison shopping site. And if you need research advice, don’t miss Tara Calishain’s ResearchBuzz blog, or her book “Web Search Garage.”

Suzanne Venino’s geeky tips: A longtime independent editor, who’s worked extensively in book publishing/packaging, Suzanne wisely recommended buying an external hard drive for simple, reliable backups. Good backup software can make this task much easier. Carbon Copy Cloner is great for the Mac (and free). For the PC, try ASIS Backup. For offsite backup (PC only), try the fee-based service iBackup. Suzanne also considers Mapquest to be an indispensable tool for getting around.

Rosie Piller’s geeky tip: An instructional designer, trainer, and tech writer, Rosie thinks very highly of Macromedia’s Captivate – software for creating interactive simulations and software demonstrations.

Julene Bair’s geeky tips: This noted novelist (author of “One Degree West“) has found the Tracfone prepaid cell phone service quite handy, especially when on the road. Also, since she researches her stories extensively, she’s a fan of the data-rich USDA web site.

Gail Storey’s geeky tips: This author of wickedly outrageous novels “The Lord’s Motel” and “God’s Country Club” heartily recommends the “Red Devil,” a fun gadget she bought at Fascinations. Of course, safety goes hand in hand with sex, so she also recommends Norton AntiVirus.

Sallie Greenwood’s geeky tips: A longtime editor, permissions editor, illustrations editor, fact-checker, Sallie always needs the facts and the details. She strongly praised the research tips she learned in a workshop offered by fellow BMWer Mary Ellen Bates. Two of Sallie’s favorite research resources are NatureServe (“connecting science with conservation”) and the USGS Geographic Names database.

…That’s it! Many thanks to all my BMW colleagues for sharing their tips!

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