All posts by Catharine

iOS 9 Wi-Fi Assist

In case you missed the news, there’s a CellurWiFiAssistnew setting in iOS 9, that you might either love or hate. But Wi-Fi Assist could come as a big surprise at the end of the month when your bill comes. When Wi-Fi Assist is turned on (as it is by default) if your wi-fi connection is poor, your cellular data will be called on to fill the gap.  You know, I’ve been some places where the wi-fi connections were so miserable, that I have switched to cellular. But I like knowing that I’ve made the choice, so my cell phone bill isn’t a huge shock.

You’ll find this new setting under Settings>Cellular and scroll down to the very end of the section. Its also a good reminder to go through all your apps and restrict which ones can use your cellular data.

What I learned on my summer vacation

5 Things I Learned On My Summer Vacation

I volunteer as a Board Member for the Redcliff Public Library.  We are a small library in a small town, but we’ve agreed that one of the important things that we need to do is to promote our library  on Social Media. Of course, there is no extra money to hire additional staff to perform this responsibility. And so, one of the tasks I’ve taken on, is handling the library’s social media campaigns. It has been a good experience, partnering with our Library Manager to promote our library through various social media channels*.

This summer I worked on 3 different campaigns promoting the library. While I’m rediscovering the wheel here; I think the wheel is the same shape regardless of the size of your audience/campaign. So, here are 5 things I’ve learned about using social media effectively.

#1 Organization is Key

If you’re not prepared to be organized about your social media you might as well not start any kind of social media campaign. The problem – many people (including myself at the start of this project) think of social media in terms of hanging out on Facebook and Twitter and playing on Pinterest. They don’t think of it as real work. If you’re going to do it right – it is real work and you need to get organized to do it. After running three social media campaigns for our library, I’m building a workflow and the tools to support that workflow. I also think about the workload differently now. Various campaigns may represent peak effort, but in order to keep the connection with our audience alive (see #3), we need to plan to stay active all the time.

#2 Know Your Audience

It seems so simple, of course you’ve got to know your audience. But really, who are you talking to? To get the best results for your effort on social media, be prepared to re-evaluate who your audience is. For example; initially on Twitter our follows were of other libraries and and book oriented accounts. But the longer this social media project goes on, the more our definition of our audience and our purpose for talking to them evolves. Currently, we see all social media channels as methods for connecting with our patrons. And by demonstrating our strong connections with our patrons, we are also using social media to influence our funding agencies.

#3 Silence is Golden – Except When it Isn’t

Don’t wait for your announcement/programs/promotion before you start to speak to your audience. The social media space is a busy place and people aren’t going to hang around watching to see if you’re about to say something.

Instead

#4 Give First

Bring value to the conversation with information that is useful and/or interesting to your conversation partners. This is good manners and good conversation in real life, and it works online too. Good value can be kitten pictures or local information. Targeting your audience will help you decide what information serves them best. I  won’t say the worst thing you can do is post random stuff, but random does make you appear less focused. It makes it harder for your desired audience to understand what you can do for them.  Take advantage of the analytics provided by the various social media channels. What posts are liked and shared? What tweets are viewed most often?

#5 Make Connections

Make connections with complementary organizations. Linking to partners also helps with the ever present problem (demand) for more content. It wasn’t until I started including information from the Town of Redcliff’s Programs and Events calendar; that I felt like our information stream started to achieve a natural flow. That is; we’re publishing lots of useful posts/tweets, without always harping on our particular program reminders and solicitations. Instead, “our stuff” is placed in an attractive context of useful information.  Connections have helped with content and those connections extend our reach by sharing and reposting  our content.

Have I figured everything out yet? Of course not, social media is a work in progress and so is how we use it.


Footnotes

* What do I mean by Social Media Channels. For now, for us, it is Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
†By workflow, I mean creating a series of steps that will take an idea and create a series of posts, tweets etc to promote it. Very little of this is automated. My goal is to create a workflow that any volunteer could follow.
My tools include at this point: an Excel spreadsheet, an IFTTT account, Google Calendar, and a bit of Hootsuite. This article from Hootsuite started me thinking about how I wanted to design my own spreadsheet.


 

Never be the first

Never be the first to  upgrade  software or buy new hardware. It’s a good rule of thumb that’s helped me avoid problems like this. Personally, I usually wait a week, watch the tech websites and then decide if it’s the right time. I’m sure I will upgrade to iOS 9. It will just be a matter of timing.

Also, back up your device before upgrading, so if the worst happens you don’t lose everything.  If you can, perform your upgrade via iTunes – not wifi.  In my experience, choppy or poor wifi connections can lead to upgrade grief.

Has there been an update that I regret? Well yes, upgrading my mini2 to iOS 8 was really a backwards step in terms of performance.  And subsequent updates to 8.4 etc. didn’t solve the performance problems. But I knew it was risky when I did it. But I wanted to see the accessibility features (which were an improvement) in action.

In fact, my mini might be the first device that I do upgrade to iOS 9. Since I don’t have much to lose at this point, it might be a good way to check out the backwards compatibility of iOS 9. In theory with iOS 9 Apple is doing more to ensure that older devices will continue to perform well. I’ll let you know.

Apple 9/9/2015

Did I get what I want from the Apple Event today?   Yeah, pretty much. Although we still don’t know if any podcast improvements are happening.   🙁

But in the main I’m pretty happy with what I saw today. Apple is pretty clearly positioning the iPad Pro  for business users and as serious competition for gaming laptops.   The mini 4  gets a much-needed hardware update.  And there certainly is enough  improvement in the iPhone 6S category to warrant an upgrade from a 5S.

What I’m hoping for from Apple

Well it looks like September 9th is the date when we find out what’s coming out this fall from Apple. As usual, there’s all sorts of speculation, although things are kind of quiet on the iPhone end. I think because of last year’s physical changes to the phone people can’t quite imagine what they’ll do to the phone next.

The iPad however is a different question. Some of the changes coming with iOS 9 that were previewed in June have pundits predicting a “business sized” iPad to be called the iPad Pro. In particular, the ability to tile multiple apps on screen.

One of the wonderful things about the iPad is its’ portability. However, it really wouldn’t take much of a size increase to bump up the display to the rumoured 12.9″ dimension.  Increasing the physical form to roughly the size of a standard 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper would do it. The other aspect of the Pro size is that it would have more space available for accessibility options, much like the iPhone 6 Plus offers larger icons and viewing options. For a certain demographic this will have real appeal.

Of course, this kind of leaves the iPad mini in the dust. And people have been predicting the death of the mini since the new larger phones came out. I regretfully put my mini aside for a newer Air 2 a few months ago, and while I love the power of the Air 2, I miss the portability of the mini. It was great for travel and reading. But my version the mini 2, simply couldn’t cope with iOS 8.

I’d love to see a better processor in the mini. An improved camera would be great too. While taking pictures with an iPad remains kind of dorky looking; people do it all the time. Why not give them a better camera?

Design-wise, I hope that the move to ever smaller touch points comes to an end.  I’m not sure if the entire iOS design team has run their fingers through pencil sharpeners in order to use their devices. But regular humans aren’t about to do that.  I assume that the improved text selection in iOS 9 is an attempt to make life easier for people with normally sized fingers.  I’d also really, really like to see the Podcast app get some love. Since iOS 8, the podcast app has become a real battery hog, and running it noticeably heats up my phone.

What are you hoping for from Apple on Wednesday?

 

Smart Playlists

I have an intense dislike of iTunes. I used to think that  it was deliberately lousy on Windows machines. Then we got a Mac and I found it was just as terrible on it as well.

But there is one thing that I like about iTunes,  and that is the ability to create a Smart Playlist.   A smart playlist is one that adapts; automatically adding songs based on the criteria that you set. Right now, smart playlists can only be created through iTunes but I have hope that soon I’ll be able to create them through the music app on my iPhone.

iTunes Smart Playlist
iTunes Smart Playlist

To make a smart playlist  select the  File, New,  Smart Playlist menu choice

from within iTunes.

My favorite smart playlist is one that finds songs that I haven’t listened to in the last  month  and plays them for me.   It’s a great way to keep from listening to the same music over and over again.  As songs are played, they are removed from the playlist and new unplayed songs are added to the playlist.

Smart playlist settings
Smart playlist settings

Here are the settings that I use to make my  Not Recently Played  playlist. The  most important setting is to ensure that song has not been played in the last month. The rest of the filters remove holiday theme music, videos, audiobooks, podcasts  and any music I’ve given a 1 star rating to.  Right now I’m limiting the  length of this playlist to  30  songs.  The random selection option, is acting more like an alphabetical selection right now. Previously it was truly random *shrug* (the oddball behaviors of iTunes are nothing new).   I’m hoping that this will repair itself with the next version of iTunes.

When you sync your iPhone with iTunes be sure to  select  your Not Recently Played playlist,  so the playlist is pulled over to the phone.

List of smart playlists
Smart playlists have a different icon than regular playlists

In the new music app, this is what your playlist will look like.  These playlists have a different icon, and of course you can’t add songs to them manually. You can see from my list  that I also have a smart playlist looking for the word  “happy” in the song title  and playlists looking for recently added music on the basis of  musical genre .

Those playlists are a little less successful because genre tags are not always applied consistently. Or at least music is not always classified the way I would classify it.  Again,  it would be great to be able to add metadata to songs from within the  music app on the phone. But that type of editing has to be done from within  iTunes on the computer. So I usually don’t bother.  Nevertheless, I really like my Not Recently Played  playlist since it does  find gems that I would otherwise forget are in my music library.

 

iOS 8.4 Music App Impressions

iOS Add to a Playlist
iOS 8.4 Music App menu

A lot of virtual ink has been spilled discussing the Music app in iOS 8.4.  Since I don’t live in the U.S. or have unlimited streaming data, most of this has left me cold. However, one little feature does make me very happy, and that is the ability to add songs to a Playlist on the fly.

Now when you are listening to music and pull up a menu you’ll find the “Add to a Playlist” option. Select this and you get a list of all your playlists. You can add the current song to one or many playlists.

At last! I’ve been waiting for this feature for a long time. Now I can hope that the native podcast app will get some improvements in iOS 9.

On the downside, I hate the tiny tiny buttons in this app. They seem to get smaller in each version.

New Postcards have arrived!

Picture of new postcards
Picture of new postcards, one for each tip.

Woohoo! The postcards based on the series of posts I did on sharing calendar information in various forms have arrived!

 Postcard back:  sheared Editor calendars
Shared Editor access
 Postcard back: subscription calendars
Subscription calendars
 Postcard back: one time schedule
One time schedule sharing
 Postcard back: owner sharing
Owner sharing

The fronts are pretty and the backs with the tips themselves are looking good too.

One-Time Schedules

In my last post I discussed Subscription Calendars. These are a useful way to keep up to date without requiring you to re-enter important dates in your calendar. Today, I’m talking about One-Time Schedules. These are useful when you have a schedule of events, usually of relatively short duration, that you don’t anticipate a lot of changes to. For example;  perhaps you are organizing a soccer league and want to give the schedule to coaches and players in a convenient format. Creating a One-Time Schedule lets you create a file you can quickly email to users, that they can import into their preferred calendar. This is also a technique you can use to bring a work calendar into your personal calendar.

One-Time Schedule

Exporting a One-Time Calendar from iOS Importing a One-Time Calendar into iOS
The iOS app Week Calendar, can easily export a calendar in a number of formats. This is a paid app, but it has a number of useful features.I recommend creating a new calendar to contain the one-time calendar, to avoid accidentally exporting personal appointments. Start by filtering your view to only the calendar you wish to export. Depending on the version of the app (iPad or iPhone) use the Share or Settings button. Look for the Share or Export option. Enter the Start and End dates for the appointments you wish to export.From the Type option select the ICS calendar format (most modern calendars use the ICS format, if you are exporting for someone using an older calendar format, then select CSV).Press the Export option.

Choose Send by e-mail and the ICS file will be automatically attached to an email.

From the email, touch the ICS attachment. Press the Add All button. Select the calendar you wish to import the events into. Press the Done button.

 

Exporting a One-Time Calendar from Google Importing a One-Time Calendar into Google
The Android app iCal Import/Export CalDav (Free and Pro), can export a calendar in ICS format. This is a paid app, but it has a number of useful features. I recommend creating a new calendar to contain the one-time calendar, to avoid accidentally exporting personal appointments. Open the iCal Import/Export app. Start by selecting the calendar you wish to export. Use the Active Calendar link to open the Choose/edit Calendar window.Touch the Choose other calendar button to open a list of your Google calendars. Touch the calendar you wish to export.Use the back button to return to the main screen.

Touch the Export button.

The Export calendar window will open.

If it is not already selected, choose Email as the delivery method.

Enter the filename you want for the calendar in the Filename text box.

Enter the email of the person you will send the calendar to.

Add a subject line to the email.

Press the Start Export button.

The file will be created and the Export finished window will appear.

Click on the OK option.

The Gmail app will open and the email with the attached file will appear.

Send the email.

From the email, touch the ICS attachment. The iCal Import/Export app will launch and open to the Import Calendar screen. Use the Active Calendar link to open the Choose/edit Calendar window. Touch the Choose other calendar button to open a list of your Google calendars. Touch the calendar you wish to import into.Press the Continue button.Press the Import button.

 

I hope this series of posts on Sharing Calendar information has been useful.

One-Time Calendar Postcard Front and Back
One-Time Calendar Postcard Front and Back

Related Posts:

Subscription Calendars

In my last post I discussed creating calendars with Shared Editor access.  Granting Shared Editor access calendars allows multiple accounts to view and edit appointments on the same calendar. Subscription Calendars are a solution to a different problem. Many public organizations create Subscription Calendars to allow the public to view (but not edit) the organizations’ schedule. I know it is useful  to know your local school district’s schedule of professional days when you are planning holidays.  Perhaps your favourite sports team publishes their schedule this way, or a community group has a public events calendar. Or possibly you’d like to do this yourself, by creating a Subscription Calendar that others can use regardless of whether they use an iOS or Android phone.

Subscription Calendars

If you are planning to create a Subscription Calendar, I recommend subscribing to a calendar or two. Get a feel for the steps required, because you will be asked how to subscribe! While in theory subscription calendars can be created using iOS accounts; my tests have shown that receiving updates outside of the Apple environment is very slow. I recommend creating subscription calendars using a Google Account.

Subscribing to a Calendar in iOS Subscribing to a Calendar using Android
Locate the URL of the calendar you are subscribing to. It will look something like (note the ics extension):

(this is a calendar that I have created based on the Prairie Rose School Division Calendar) Go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars> Add Account and select Other from the list of account types. Select Add Subscribed Calendar. Type or paste the URL of the calendar into the Server text box. Press the Next button. Choose whether to Remove Alarms from this calendar.  Press the Save button. In the Calendar app, choose to display the subscribed calendar.
From a web browser, go to the page with the subscription calendar. If there is a Google Calendar button for the subscription calendar, click on it. The Calendar will open and a dialog box will ask “Do you want to add this calendar?” Click on the Yes, add this calendar button. If there is no Google Calendar button, you can copy the calendar URL. Then open the Google Calendar. Click on the drop-down beside Other Calendars. Select Add by URL.The Add by URL dialog box will open.Paste or type the calendar URL into the URL text box.Click on the “Add Calendar” button.

Here is a sample of what a Subscription Calendar looks like, when embedded into a website. Note the Google Calendar button at the bottom right of the calendar. Google’s sample code for embedding includes the button automatically.

In my next post I’ll look at creating and distributing One-Time Calendars.

Subscription Calendar Postcard Front and Back
Subscription Calendar Postcard Front and Back

related posts: