AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | google

Hi, I’m Audrey Rorrer and I’m an evaluator for the Center for Education Innovation in the College of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where several projects I evaluate operate at multiple locations across the country.  Multisite evaluations are loaded with challenges, such as data collection integrity, evaluation training for local project leaders, and the cost of resources. My go-to resource has become Google because it’s cost-effective both in terms of efficiency and budget (it’s free). I’ve used it as a data collection tool and resource dissemination tool.

Lessons Learned:

Data Collection and Storage:

  • Google Forms works like a survey reporting tool with a spreadsheet of data behind it, for ease in collecting and analyzing project information.
  • Google Forms can be sent as an email so that the recipients can respond to items directly within the email.
  • Google documents, spreadsheets, and forms can be shared with any collaborators, whether or not they have a gmail account.
  • Google Drive is a convenient storage source in ‘the cloud.’

Resource Dissemination:

  • Google Sites provides easy to use website templates that enable fast website building for people without web development skills.
  • Google Groups is a way to create membership wikis, for project management and online collaboration.

Rad Resource: Go to www.google.com and search for products. Then scroll down the page to check out the business & office options, and the social options.

For a demonstration of how I’ve used google tools in multisite evaluation, join the AEA Coffee Break Webinar on February 27, “Doing it virtually: Online tools for managing multisite evaluation.” You can register here.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

 

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My name is Dan McDonnell and I am the Community Manager for the American Evaluation Association.

In my last post, we touched on how evaluators can use Google + Authorship to add photos to their blog posts that will appear in Google search results. Besides making search results prettier, these photos can help you with grow your personal brand, as well as increase the likelihood that someone clicks through to read your post from Google. In this post, I will outline a few more tips and tricks for making Authorship work for you.

Hot Tip: Choose Your Photo Carefully

The photo that displays in search results comes directly from your Google + Profile Picture. As such, you’ll want to ensure that you choose a photo that shows your entire face – no avant-guard snapshots! In addition, Google will not display mascots or logos, so a real, human photo of yourself is the best way to go.

Hot Tip: Easy Authorship with Email Verification

The method I described in my last post demonstrated how to set up authorship on individual posts with a rel=author tag. If you have an email that is on the same web domain as your blog (for instance, if I had dmcdonnell@aea365.org) , it’s as simple as adding that email address to your contact information in your Google + Profile. Once you’ve done that, any post you make will simply need to link back to your Google + profile, no rel=author tag needed.

Hot Tip: Even Easier Authorship with WordPress

If your blog is hosted on WordPress, the process is even more automatic. Sign into WordPress.com with your Google + login information, and any WordPress post you make will automatically ‘author-ized.’ Hopefully, Google makes this a more integrated and automated procedure for other blogging platforms down the line.

Hot Tip: Guide to Troubleshooting Authorship

Having trouble getting Google + Authorship to work? Searchengineland.com has created a really nifty guide to troubleshooting issues – see below.

How To Troubleshoot Authorship Issues: Step by Step Flowchart

Do you use Google + frequently? If not, why not?

Dan McDonnell on Google +

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

My name is Dan McDonnell and I am the Community Manager for the American Evaluation Association.

Have you ever Googled something and noticed a photo that has made its way into the search page (see fig. a)? This is a recent Google + feature called Authorship – a neat tool that allows Google + users to have their profile photo appear alongside search results for their blog posts. Not only does this create a link between your blog content and your Google + profile, but it also can increase the likelihood that someone clicks the link to your blog post via search results (by as much as 150%, by some sources), no small feat!

Google + Authorship Example

Fig. A

Here’s how it’s done. Start by opening up a new Google search session. If you’re logged into your Google account (for Gmail and all other Google properties), you’ll see a button in the upper right hand corner that says + . Click this button to visit your Google + homepage.

From here, click the drop down menu in the upper left marked ‘Home,’ and select ‘Profile,’ then ‘About.’ As you scroll down, you should see all of your profile information: the area you want is a tab labeled ‘Links.’ Click the ‘Edit’ button at the bottom of that area. Here, you can add in any blog to which you are a current contributor. If you’re a contributor to AEA365, for instance, you’ll click ‘Add Custom Link,’ and type in AEA365 under’Label,’ then ‘www.aea365.org’ under URL.

Next, if possible, under Contact Information, add in an email address on the same domain as the blog to which you contribute . For instance, if your blog lives at www.greatwidgets.org, you’ll want to add in your dmcdonnell@greatwidgets.org email address. This automates the process. Once you’ve done this, click Save. Most of the heavy lifting is done!

The next time you create a post on a blog to which you’re listed as a contributor on your Google + page, include a link to your Google + profile in the byline, and add in “rel=author” at the end of the hyperlink. This tells Google to display your Google + profile picture alongside search results that show your blog post. See the example at the bottom of this post.

So there you have it! Give it a go, and try Googling the blog post in question to see your smiling face in the search results. Congratulations on your Google + Authorship!

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Dan McDonnell on Google +

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Jan/12

14

Susan Kistler on Tracking aea365 Growth

I’m Susan Kistler, the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director, and I post each Saturday to aea365. On January 1, 2010, we started aea365 with three subscribers – myself, John LaVelle our intrepid intern responsible for overseeing aea365 startup, and a relative who shall remain unnamed but wanted to support our efforts.

In the first few months, John worked diligently on two fronts. First, he encouraged authors to contribute to aea365, knowing that the readership was low and the forum untested. I strongly encourage you to check out the aea365 archive to read some of the earliest contributions (as well as over 700 others). Second, he worked with a number of people to reach out to AEA members and nonmembers alike to encourage people to subscribe – to receive a tip-a-day right in their email boxes. And subscribe you did. Approximately a year ago, in January of 2011, I reported that by December of 2010, 1,560 people viewed aea365 via email or RSS each day. The rise in subscriptions has continued steadily in our second year.

 

Lesson Learned: We use Feedburner to track subscribership. This May 2010 post will tell you more about it if you haven’t heard of Feedburner. The chart above shows our subscribership growth from aea365’s start in January of 2010 through to the end of 2011 when we recorded 2821 aea365 subscribers on an average day.

Hot Tip: Share you [blog] data. We’re sharing here so that association colleagues may have a case example of a blog’s growth trajectory, so that our potential authors will gain an understanding of the likely size of the readership, so that we are transparent regarding aea365’s readership, and finally as an entrée to saying ‘thank you.’ Thank you to every single subscriber, for taking the time to read and learn and share (lots of posts are passed along!). And a double thank you to all of our writers, over 500 to date, who have contributed their knowledge and expertise to aea365.

Get Involved: If you are an email-based subscriber, who joined on or before December 31 of 2011, you’ll be receiving a very short survey (I promise – 5 minutes max!), asking you about how often you read aea365 and how, if at all, you have used aea365 content. For one example, stay tuned for Monday’s post from Sheila Robinson Kohn and Kankana Mukhopadhyay talking about how they have used aea365 as a teaching tool.

And, if you have an example that you would like to share with the world, consider posting it in the comments or sending me a note at susan@eval.org regarding possibly submitting it as an aea365 contribution.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Hello, my name is Juan Paulo Ramírez, independent consultant, sole owner of “GIS and Human Dimensions, L.L.C.” How many times have you used spreadsheets or sophisticated statistical software (i.e., SAS, SPSS) to estimate frequencies of a population and you asked yourself: is it really necessary to do this using very expensive and sophisticated software? Or, spending hours and hours cleaning up the data to make it consistent within and between records and variables? Would there be a better and more efficient way to complete these trivial and time consuming tasks? There is, and Google Refine is the answer!

Lessons learned: Google Refine is a free desktop application (not a web-service) that you install on your computer (you can download it here). Google Refine allows users to seamlessly and efficiently calculate frequencies and multi-tabulate data from large datasets (i.e., hundreds of thousands of records), along with cleaning up your data. What I found is that you learn more by trial and error with Google Refine, and discover how easy it is to get the information needed in a few steps. Google Refine has saved me days of hard work! Google Refine works with numeric, time and text data and allows you to directly work with Excel files.

The following are a few examples of how I have used Google Refine: 1) Getting demographic frequencies (i.e., gender, age) and cross tabulating it with economic variables (i.e., income) and location (i.e., county). 2) Cleaning up data that it is inconsistent, since people have sometimes answered questions without any written restrictions (i.e., lengthy responses, spelling error, blank spaces). 3) When you select a date variable, Google Refine creates a bar chart with two ends that you can adjust, dragging them with your mouse to define specific time periods. 4) If you make a mistake, Google Refine allows you to undo everything you have done!

Rad resource: There are three videos available that show the potential applications of Google Refine. You can watch them here. I watched the first video once and it was enough to convince me that this was a must have application. I started using it right away, and it became one of the most essential tools that now I use in my work.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I’m Shelby First, an overworked, underpaid, totally exhausted, happy with my life, graduate student. This is a companion piece to the one written by John VanDyke earlier this week, John wrote about Lifehacker, Zenhabits, and MakeUseOf – three of my favorite  sites for hacking your life by finding those little efficiencies and tools that make you more productive and more at peace, giving yourself a  you-upgrade. I want to add one more to the list and to share a great item as well.

Rad Resource – HackCollege – Where the tagline is “Work smarter, not harder.” HackCollege has a mix of articles aimed at students. Recent ones included “Friday Fun: Make Your Reheated Pizza Suck Less with These Three Techniques” and “How To Tackle Huge Projects With the Dash Method.” Their content ranges from the extremely practical (recipes) to the more academic-oriented (research guidance) to the student-specific (note taking). To use John’s categories, it is roughly 50% tech, 50% everything else.

Rad Resource – Google Search Tips – I thought that I was great at googling to find things on the web until HackCollege published the Get More Out of Google infographic guide below. I didn’t even know you could search by file type or find items only with specific phrases right in the title.

Get more out of Google
Created by: HackCollege

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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My name is Susan Kistler. I am the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director and I contribute each Saturday’s aea365 post. At AEA’s annual conference in Anaheim earlier this month LaMarcus Bolton and I gave a demonstration of low-cost/no-cost tools for evaluators. We shared great tools that we’ve used, ones recommended by colleagues via aea365, and also got great suggestions from the audience.

Rad Resources: The PearlTree below has links to over 40 low-cost, no-cost tools.

Hot Tip – To get the most from the PearlTree: Click back to the aea365 website  and find the November 19 post if you are reading this via email (yes! It’s worth the click), then click on any of the Pearls to connect to that resource. you’ll notice that some of the pearls have little trees on them – that shows that they are nodes for subtopics. For instance, click on the pearl labeled “Free Photo Sites” to find links to multiple free photo sites as well as to two previous aea365 entries about free photo sites. Use the little [ -……..*……..+ ] slider at the bottom right to change the size of the pearls for easier reading.

Want to see this PearlTree full size? You can view it here on the PearlTrees website (you may need first to close the PearlTrees encouragement to download its iPad/iPhone ap).

Hot Tip: Many of the tools were recommended by the audience (check out the ‘Attendee Recommendations’ pearl node). We seem to have misplaced one of the flipchart pages with audience suggestions – if yours isn’t up there, OR if you just have a great low-cost/no-cost tool to recommend, add it to the comments please and we’ll grow this resource. We’ll also be reaching out to colleagues to get aea365 posts related to some of the tools for which we don’t yet have fuller narratives. See one up there without a linked aea365 post and that you use regularly? We’d love to hear from you!

Hot Tip: PearlTrees make a fun, green, easy, way to share materials related to a presentation or to a project. Joining PearlTrees is free and it is super easy to use.

Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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I’m Susan Kistler, AEA’s Executive Director, and contributor for each Saturday’s aea365 post. This week I’m writing on Thursday and queuing it up for Saturday, anticipating a couple of busy days ahead. I also serve as a houseparent at a small Boarding school on the south coast of Massachusetts, known as “the School by the Sea.” We’re right on the water and the school’s assets include a 92 foot schooner and a slew of other boats. It’s looking like we’re in the predicated path of hurricane Irene and that means the disaster preparedness plan goes into action and we’re looking at two days of hauling boats and moving the contents of labs and classrooms and homes to higher ground.

Lesson Learned: I’m fascinated by major storms and watching the radar and predictive models that strive to anticipate their path. I’ve written before about how thinking evaluatively is a way of life, and storm tracking and response brings that to the fore. Rather than succumb to the hype “the storm of the century is coming your way,” evaluative thinking based on data and experience from previous events allows us to take action, respond to changing conditions, and stay safe.

As I was keeping an eye on the storm (it is soon to pass over my mother’s house in the Bahamas), I was reminded of other mapping resources of use to evaluators.

Rad Resource – MapAction Field Guide to Humanitarian Mapping: This past month, MapAction released a free (thanks to a Dulverton Trust grant) updated version of this guide. While the context is guidance for humanitarian organizations, and thus would be particularly useful for those working in international M&E, its articulate explanations of the fundamentals of GIS, using google earth for mapping, and data sources would be valuable to anyone considering a mapping project, including those undertaking community mapping endeavors.

Rad Resource – Google Earth and Mapping Resources: This curation tree provides links to a range of google earth and mapping resources. To make the most of it:

  • Hot Tip: Note that the software is flash-based and thus doesn’t work on iPad
  • Hot Tip: Drag the ‘curated by’ box down and to the left to get it out of the way
  • Hot Tip: Click on any of the nodes (the outer circles) to view the referenced site and, once on the site, you can use the “Next” box in the upper right to scroll through all of the recommended sites without returning to the curation tree

Rad Resource – Intrdouction to GIS and Spacial Analysis in Evaluation Workshop: Arlene Hopkins and Stephen Maack will be offering a mapping workshop specifically for evaluators at AEA’s 2011 annual conference this November in Anaheim.

The above opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice.

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My name is Philippe Buteau and I am an analyst at my own small co-owned firm, Buteau and Lindley. Back in May, Susan Kistler briefly wrote about Google Refine on aea365 and prompted me to take a look. Since then, I have used Refine in a number of ways and thought that I would submit a more extended post elaborating on this tool for data cleaning.

Rad Resource – Google Refine: First of all, what is it? Google Refine is “a [free] power tool for working with messy data, cleaning it up, transforming it from one format into another, extending it with web services, and linking it to databases.” To be more explicit, it allows you to import a data set and then to clean that data set in multiple ways. If you are a programmer, Google Refine allows you to do lots more, but I am limiting my focus here to the more generally applicable function of data cleaning.

Lessons Learned – Cleaning Data: Here are three examples of ways in which I used Refine for cleaning data and a comparison to doing the same in Microsoft Excel:

  • Removing erroneous rows: I imported a financial data set that included multiple subtotal rows. All I wanted was the rows that had specific categories and transactions, so that I could work with these. The subtotal rows created problems when sorting or filtering. In Refine I chose “Text Filter” from the column heading and then identified all of the rows with “Sub” in them, then deleted these rows all at once. Verdict: This as similar to what could be done in Excel, but was easily accomplished in Refine as well.
  • Combining multiple similar responses within a field: Once your data is imported, select Facet – Text Facet from the pull down list for a particular column. A column representing all of the responses and how many times that response appears is generated. You then just select each one that you want to merge and give it a common name. Thus, I could combine “New York” “NY” “NY “ and “NNY” so that they were all “NY”. Alternatively, there is a smart clustering feature that tries to do this for you – guessing at what responses are similar and should be combined. You can then review its guesses and fix as needed before the clustering is actually done. Verdict: Both the hand-combining and clustering were accomplished much more easily than would be possible in Excel and the clustering tool’s guesses were surprisingly accurate and a huge time saver.
  • Finding Outliers: From the column pull down list of a numeric field, select Facet – Numeric Facet. This will immediately show you a small histogram with the distribution of all of the values in that column as well as the range of values in the column. Each side of the histogram has a handle that slides back and forth. Sliding the handle to display only the most extreme values to the left or right side of the histogram filters all of the rows in the dataset so you are looking only at the ones within the constricted range of outliers. Verdict: Much faster and more intuitive than options for doing the same in Excel and the combination of viewing graphically and the fields themselves provided a richer understanding.

Lessons Learned – Undo: The history feature was a godsend. It allows you to undo mistakes and step backwards through your cleaning. I also found that it gave me the confidence to try out some things, knowing that I could undo them immediately.

Lesson Learned – Download to Desktop: Google Refine can be downloaded to your desktop so you don’t have to upload your data and you retain full control and ownership of it.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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Good day! Susan Kistler here, AEA’s Executive Director and aea365 regular Saturday contributor. Everyone has used Google to search (ok almost everyone) but here are five items I’ve used from Google in the past month that you may not yet know about.

Hot Tip: First, in most cases, you’ll need a google account. They are free. When you go to www.google.com, click on the “Sign in” link in the upper right corner – even if you don’t have an account, this will take you to where you can set one up.

Rad Resource – Google Refine: Data is messy, in particular public data sets. Google refine helps you to clean messy data and it is pretty amazing. It helps you to quickly fix inconsistencies in coding, resolve problems in mismatched data types, and reshape your data for use in other analysis programs. Best of all, it is a desktop application that you download and run on your desktop (although you interact with it through your browser) so that you need not upload sensitive data.

Rad Resource – Google Calendar: Google calendar serves the mundane task for keeping me organized, replacing my paper calendar. But it goes many steps further. I manage multiple calendars (personal, aea, aea365, and over 10 more), all of which I can show on a single interface and view or not view at will. Each calendar may be shared with others and sharing may be set to show details or just to show that you are busy at a given time.

Rad Resource – Google Tasks: This is the unsung hero of Google Calendar – an application embedded within Calendar itself. Pull up the tasks calendar and you can create to do lists, set due dates, provide details, etc – and then see all of the items on your main calendar.

Rad Resource – Google Labs: This is where you’ll find prototypes of possible future google services. Right now, they’ve got 55 experiments that you can try out ranging from shared spaces where you can collaboratively develop a mind map, to google goggles that allows you to take a picture of a place with your phone and return search results based on the picture, to public data explorer through which you can visualize and analyze large public data sets.

Rad Resource – Google Moderator: Google moderator, a google labs experiment, lets someone who will be a speaker at an event identify possible audience questions or topics and have users vote on those they would most like to see answered. Don’t quite get it? Here’s an example where you can submit questions for everyone’s favorite Sesame Street character, Elmo, to answer and vote on those you would most like to see answered.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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