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Shout Out To My Heros: Help Boards

Today, I’d like to do a shout out to the unsung heros, help boards. Most of the time, these over-worked administrators and moderators only hear the rants and ravings of an unhappy poster. But, you can bet if you’ve got a problem that you need solved, there’s a help board with the resources you need to solve it.  I want to say thank you! You’ve saved my butt on numerous occasions.

Like the time I needed to hook up a Plasma TV to a LCD 15 minutes before a speaker was to go on–Thank you High Def Forum!

Or the time an app was preventing my computer from booting–Thank you Mac Community Forums

Or the time a software update crashed my site-thank you Stack Ideas forum. and Red Component Forum.

Sure, there are some boards I’d rather not visit at all for various reasons: too hard to search; bad attitudes; flamers; or its just not a topic I’m interested in, but most of the time I came to that forum searching for the answer for a very specific problem or area of interest.
When you are looking for assistance on a forum, its best to narrow down the forum to the exact product or question rather than go to a general topic forum. It’s a real time saver because you’re all speaking the same language so to speak. If you don’t understand the conversations, then be honest and confess that you’re a newbie and need the instructions as simple as possible. 
Some of the best forums out there are forums supporting open-source software. Open-source makes it’s code available to everyone and so their support forums, because of its very nature,  creates the free exchange of ideas. One of my favorites is the Joomla Community Forum because there are many helpful, knowledgeable people.
The key to a good forum, I’ve found, is the tone of the community and the knowledge of its users. The key to getting answers to your questions is to know the guidelines of the forum you’re posting which can usually be found at the top or bottom of the front page of the forum. Check it out before your first post. 
The second way to get your question answered quickly is including all the specifics around the item that is in question. For instance, if you’re asking about a TV connection problem: give the product number, and the exact name of the unit you’re trying to connect it to. Try not to voice your frustration too much or be too sarcastic. We all know you paid good money for what ever it is, so there’s no need to re-state it. You can never say too much about what the product is because the more information they have, the better your chance of getting an answer.
Also, if you run across a forum post where you know the answer, it’ll increase your Karma by sharing your knowledge. If you kinda, maybe, somehow have a hunch you have the answer, hold back posting until you can be more sure. There’s nothing more frustrating than following bad advice.
And, the next time someone helps you in a forum, please respond to their good deed. Let them know that it solved the problem for you. That way they can mark the problem solved and others with similar problems can also benefit from the answer to your question.
Finally, remember to thank them.
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Stumbleupon: ‘You Have Reached the End of the Internet’

Yesterday, I was informed by Stumbleupon that I had reached the end of the internet. I backed away to reread it. My eyes not being what they used to be I was sure I was mistaken. Apparently I had already gone through all the links in my interests list and there were no more interests to select from. 
I looked at the URL. Being a savvy websurfer, I’d heard about the trick of adding  .ro.ro at the end of any link to get you to the end of the internet. For instance if I changed my website url from pastisenterprises.com to pastisenterprises.ro.ro/ I would end up at the end of the internet — but it didn’t have that suffix. It wasn’t a joke. 
Restaurant at the End of the Universe
I paused for a much needed drink at a hip hotspot called The Restaurant at the End of The Universe with a couple of old friends who always happen to be there. Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian were working on some math problem. “How can it be 42?!” Arthur was yelling over the roar of the band.  As they droned on, my mind went over my options:
  • I could start over
  • I could start recommending more sites to Stumbleupon. 
  • I could look at the Stubleupon alternatives.

StumbleUponImage via WikipediaStumbleupon is a website surfer’s dream. You click on the Stumbleupon add-on icon in your browser’s toolbar and it whisks you away to a random website. The more you click “like” the more options it has to take you to the next time. And, if you find a really cool site, you can click on Stumbleupon’s share button to show others your great new find. When I’m having a stressful moment, or need to take a break from a project I’m working on, I use Stumbleupon to change my mood, lighten up, or just to distract me. Unfortunately, Stumbleupon had decided that I was done. That’s ok, maybe I do need a change. There are tons (hundreds) of other sites that allow you to bring up random websites. Here are a couple:

First. there’s always Google’s Feeling Lucky button. I say, first, because Google is set to be my home page on all of the browsers I use. You put in a topic and click on the “I’m feeling lucky” button, instead of getting a selection of search results, Google pulls up the top rated website that has to do with that search. Usually the top rated website tends to be someone who paid for that spot. So, I’ve never been a big fan.
Spinsnap describes itself as a channel surfing tool for the internet. You pick your favorite channels and when you click “spin again” you are taken to a website involving a completely different topic. Spinsnap offers some very small niches that others don’t offer, including genealogy. Need a little more structure? That’s there too. Spinsnap has a lit of the most “liked” sites in each category.
If you join Yoono you won’t ever miss one of your friends’ shared links again. Yonoo allows you to view all the tweets and status updates while you continue to browse the web. Share and view links among the friends in your various social networking accounts including Twitter, Facebook, Linked in, and some others. It doesn’t, however, have google plus yet.  A word of warning though. It can be quite distracting. If you use the Firefox plugin, unless you collapse it, it takes up about one-quarter of your browser. I usually surf on my 14-inch MacBook pro and need all the viewing space I can get. So I usually collapse the sidebar. The sidebar contains all your connected friends posts and a popup appears on the right corner every time one of your friends updates their “status” either by tweeting, or posting on Facebook. It also notifies you of any new posts with this annoying “boing” sound. One of the first things I did, was try to figure out how to stop all the Farmville posts from appearing in the links without eliminating Facebook posts all together. I couldn’t find a way to apply filters to the Facebook feed. What I really like about Youno, though, is they have a lot of different ways to use it. You can use it in with addons in Firefox or Chrome browsers; you can use it on a mobile app; or there’s the desktop app for PC and Mac.  When I first used it, they only allowed one account for each of the social networks, but I believe they’ve extended it to other accounts. When I click on share, it tells me what account I’m sharing it with, so I’m assuming that means that you can add other accounts. Its easy to setup accounts, just by going to the website and clicking on “connections” but that’s another item on my to-do list. 

Open Share IconImage by Si1very via Flickr

This isn’t really like Stumbleupon, in that you don’t click on something and it takes you to a random place, but it does allow you to share your links on Stumbleupon, as well as a gazillion other social networking sites. You connect your accounts and click on the icon in browser toolbar (you have to install the add-on first) and it shares it to the site(s) you select. What’s great is you can see what your friends are sharing and so in that way you can find some new sites that you would have never thought to go to.
If you’re a fan of wikipedia, then you’ll love this one. Paste this link in your browser bar and get a random topic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random You can also add it as a button in your browser toolbar and the next time you’re bored click on it and be taken away to a whole new world. I usually end up on some topic I never would have gotten to on my own. For instance, I was just taken to a page John Garrison Marks, a retired hockey player. I have never had a repeat, so this can go on for a long time.
Delicious is a social bookmarking service, which means you can save all your bookmarks online, share them with other people, and see what other people are bookmarking. But, did you also know you can find some great random websites? The best way of finding random links is to go to the most popular bookmarks being saved at any given moment. Because there are a lot of people using delicious, it tends to change from minute to minute. So, just refresh your browser and get a whole new list. It’s a great way to stay in the loop because it lets you know what people are doing this very second.
In the mood for a little less reading and more viewing? See random Twitter Pics being shared by going to http://twicsy.com/top/hour. There are some very funny, really inspiring, and/or really disturbing photographs being shared on Twitter. Twicsy lets you see the top retreeted images. And, when breaking news is happening this is the place to be as you see photos being taken of the event as its occurring, rather than what’s shown on the 6 o’clock news.

42, The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Lif...Image via Wikipedia

There are so many more random website servers that I’d like to share with you but right now, my friends at Milliways have finished their argument and agreed that the answer is indeed 42, and Zaphod has offered me a lift back home in his Infinite Improbability Drive, so I gotta run.
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