How to Use Flipboard: Curated Content & Feed Reader

How to Use Flipboard: Curated Content & Feed Reader

What is Flipboard?

Flipboard is a place to discover and share content you enjoy. “Over the years,” they say, “in partnership with the world’s greatest publishers and with you, our community, we’ve built a curated experience with a plurality of voices, where people can find quality stories on any interest, investing in their lives and their passions.”

Flipboard is curated by individuals, like you and me, and by publishers, like CNN or your favorite bloggers. Including me.

How to Sign Up

Signing up with Flipboard is easy. Just go to flipboard.com. You can Sign up using the link at the bottom of this dialog, or you can sign in using Facebook, Google, Twitter, or a registered email account if you already have one.

Click on your profile picture (or the gray circle) at the upper right corner of the screen to display the drop-down menu shown below:

Click Profile. Here’s an example of what you might see – but with fewer Magazines, until you create some!

Start by clicking Make a New Magazine (the first square below Magazines). Add a Title and give it a Description. If you want to keep your Magazine private and not publicly viewable and shareable, click to deselect the checkbox next to Public – let everyone see my magazine.

Next, start flippin’! There are several ways to do this:

Browser extension:

Share buttons (if available on the website – see the bottom of this post, for example, and feel free to try it out):

Manually, using the URL and the pencil icon (upper right corner, next to the magnifying glass – search icon) on Flipboard:

Use any of those, and you will see this dialog (if you are using the last method listed above, you’ll be asked to enter the URL; the other methods will prepopulate the link and show a preview image):

You can, optionally, add a comment – perhaps a note about why you found the content interesting or why you think others might enjoy it. Then, click Flip (or Cancel).

What is a Publisher on Flipboard?

In theory, any producer of content with an RSS feed can apply to be a Publisher. This allows you to automatically publish RSS feeds to a Magazine (you’ll see one additional option, Source, in your Magazine options). Make sure that the content meets Flipboard’s standards before applying, and have your RSS feed URL handy. When I applied, several years ago, review and approval took months. Be patient, if you do decide to apply.

How to Sign Up as a Publisher

Click on your profile picture (or the gray circle) at the upper right corner of the screen to display the drop-down menu shown below:

 

Click Settings. Scroll down to the Account Settings section, then click Become a publisher.

You will need to add an RSS feed to your publication, and wait for Flipboard to review your application.

 

Notifications? Really?

Notifications? Really?

I finally started using Microsoft’s Snip & Sketch utility – the coming replacement for the old Snipping Tool in Windows. You can open it from the Start menu or Windows Logo Key + Shift +S. If you don’t have it already, download it from the Microsoft Store. It’s free, and it’s convenient. I was resistant, but this little app slowly converted me into a fan, at least while I was on my work PC.

At home, I had other tools: Paintshop Pro, for one. It was easier just to prt sc,  paste the whole thing into Paintshop Pro, add annotations, and crop out the bits I didn’t want, than to use the Snipping Tool to snip the bits I did want and then edit in the annotations.

I’d only recently started using the little known, built-in Snipping Tool, when Microsoft shoved Snip & Sketch in my face and said, basically, “Wanna try it now? We’re going to force you to switch, pretty soon! Get a preview, now, before we do that!” They still haven’t forced anyone to switch, as of this writing, and it’s been years. At least three of them. Two, since the utility last had an update. @Microsoft, if you’re reading this, we don’t all have a touchscreen and stylus – please make it easier to add text to the snip.

Why Does It Work Differently on Different Laptops?

I liked the way Snip & Sketch worked on my work PC. I hated the way it worked on my home PC. The shortcut key to open the utility was the same on both: Windows Logo Key + Shift + S. But at work, this opened a new window for Snip & Sketch to add annotations and highlight things. At home, all this did was let me snip – and whatever bit I snipped was available only on the clipboard until I used Ctrl + C or made another “snip”! The only way to capture a snippet of the screen and edit it in Snip & Sketch (this is really its main advantage over the old Snipping Tool) was to run the app, click one of the capture buttons at the upper left, capture part or all of the screen, make my edits, and save. That didn’t save me any time over other tools.

I diligently checked all the app settings. Both were the same:

The app versions were identical, as well. But just to be sure, I updated both. I even uninstalled and reinstalled a fresh copy of the app on both PCs. The behavior was unchanged: at work, the app behaved as expected; at home, not so much. I left feedback about this on the Microsoft site, but it’s hard to describe, there, what’s going on – and when Feedback says, “Hey give us a screen recording of this thing happening to you,” it miraculously appeared to work the same way on my home PC as it does on my work PC! But this only happened during screen recording – the minute I finished and closed the feedback box, thinking there was really no point leaving feedback if the app had somehow fixed itself, it went back to not working on my home PC.

I had a mystery on my hands, but no time to investigate. There was so much more interesting work to be done.

Mystery Solved, But WHY, Microsoft?

Thanks to recent retirement and the pandemic lock-down clipping my wings, I have time on my hands. I finally went on a quest to solve this mystery. Someone else’s instructions on using the app gave me a clue: They mentioned snips showing up in the Notifications and Activity pane in Windows. I rarely use or think about that pane, and I’d turned off notifications altogether, on my home PC. Could that somehow be related? Surely not…

But apparently, the behavior I wanted (which was for Snip & Sketch to work on my home PC to exactly as it does on my work PC) is tied to allowing Notifications in Windows. This is as brilliant, @Microsoft, just like only allowing Feedback from users who also allow you to run Cortana and capture all their speech and writing so you can “give them a better user experience.” That’s another nit to pick, another day – but I am tired of Cortana reactivating on my PC and randomly “listening” to my conversations. I do not want it sending my novel drafts and emails to the Mothership. And no, I did not say anything that sounds remotely like “Hey, Cortana,” so don’t even.The closest you get to that excuse is me, occasionally swearing at “Coronavirus,” and I’m starting to wonder if Cortana thinks that’s her real name.

So, to recap, Snip & Sketch works so much better if you enable Notifications in Windows. Why the app’s behavior is tied, in this way, to Notifications, I cannot begin to guess. I’d say it’s a bug. Certainly an opportunity exists, here, to “improve the user experience.” Are you listening, Coronavirus? Please pass it on to the brilliant folks at @Microsoft.

To enable Notifications:

  1. Go to Settings > System > Notifications & Actions.
  2. Turn Notifications ON, as shown below.Now, each time you create a snip by using Windows Logo Key + Shift + S, your new snip will appear as a toast notification and you can access it by clicking the notification as it pops up, or through the notifications bar.

Sure, there are other screen capture utilities out there, and some work much better, but this one’s free. It’s also great for showing people, visually and quickly, what you’re trying to explain how to do for umpteenth time on Facebook, without going to a lot of trouble to create professional-looking illustrations for a manual.

Enjoy!

 

 

Teach Me to Fish

Teach Me to Fish

Just Give Me a Logical Reason!

One of my first jobs out of college was to code selection statements that would automate the printing of just a few pages or sections of much larger reports to distribute to individual recipients. This involved using Boolean search operators, much like what you might use in Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go today, to define specific text located in precise locations on the printed page.

For some strange reason, I enjoyed this. I enjoyed finding needles in haystacks, and made it a personal challenge to sift through as little hay as possible in order to find the needles with gold tips and hooked ends. At one point, I had a complex report defined in a single selection statement that probably ran on for five or six lines. I had parenthetically grouped and nested sets of search criteria and operators – it was a lengthy but precise statement of exactly what I wanted to include in the report, and I was inordinately proud of it. But it didn’t run. It didn’t give any error messages, either. It simply produced nothing.

Where Did That Quote Come From?

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

If you thought this was a Biblical proverb, you’d be in good company, but incorrect. The fishing allegory is most likely attributable to Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie,  the daughter of the prominent writer William Makepeace Thackeray. The same general idea was expressed by the 12th-century philosopher Maimonides, who wrote about eight degrees in the duty of charity. See Quote Investigator for more details and source citations.

 

The Occasional Oops!

If you are one of the founding members, you probably got an email, yesterday, with a now-broken link. One or two of you hit that link before I deleted it (or, technically, changed it without benefit of a redirect). That’s because I forgot the cardinal rule: No post may be published before its time!

For my readers who don’t blog, this means:

  • Write the post.
  • Give the post a catchy title and a featured image. If you wonder why some of the featured images here don’t exactly go with the post, it’s because I prefer to create my own. That way, I know I’m not violating anyone else’s copyright. Occasionally, I may use others’ images if they are clearly marked with a Creative Commons license or I have written permission from the photographer or artist.
  • Check that the title and permalink (e.g., the part that says “teach-me-to-fish” right now, in your browser address bar) go together.
  • Choose a Category for the post. Categories are what you see in the menu bar and its subsections.
  • Add a few tags to help people find the post. Tags are like index entries. You can just use the Search function, but tags might give you more conceptual information that isn’t explicitly part of the text within a post.
  • Craft an Excerpt. That’s the little descriptive blurb you see in search engine results and on the front page of this site. If there is no Excerpt, WordPress is set to use the first few words of the post in place of one. Unless you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole to arrive here, you know that the first few words of any post here may not provide the best description of what to expect.
  • Preview the thing to ensure that formatting is correct.

I forgot a step or two, in my haste to respond to yesterday’s poetry challenge from Raven Darkly. I did not mean to drop you into a black hole, but some random numbered permalink would not do, and I decided a dragon was a better Shadowbird than a white heron.

 

Update on Theme Customization

As mentioned in my first post, I’m using Elegant Themes‘ Divi and the Divi Builder, which is a brand new experience offering many new challenges. As predicted, I broke the blog on Wednesday, but was traveling. I could not fix it and threw caution to the wind: I asked for help.

Back in 2012, I won a Lifetime Membership to Elegant Themes. I loved their cleanly coded, easy to use, easy to customize themes. I moved away from those in 2016, mainly because they appeared to be phasing out all the themes I loved and going all in on their theme and builder combination they called, “Divi,” which I had tried and, frankly, hated. I paid for a different premium theme, called “Fullby,” which I loved, but chose to move away from for two reasons: The developer was not responsive to support requests, and I could see that it was not likely to keep up with the inevitable changes to WordPress–namely, the dreaded Gutenberg block editor. Divi was before its time. I fought that block editor as long as I could, while some raved about how wonderful it was and others wrote plug-ins to disable it and restore lost features of a bygone era. Mainly, I fought it because it did not allow for the easy fine-tuning of alignment between text and graphics. I was ready to hand-code each post in HTML if I had to, just to get those elements to align.

And then I thought, “Fine, I have a Lifetime membership to Elegant Themes, and it seems a shame to waste it. Let’s give Divi another go. I have vacation, plenty of time to waste. I can do this.”

I am grudgingly ready to admit that Divi and I are starting, mostly, to get along. I still half expect it to eat my posts (the main reason I despised it, early on, was that I’d tried it – then switched to a different theme – then switched back, and all my posts were gone).

But this weekend, I broke my blog. I entered a plea for help in Elegant Themes’ chat support. And waited. Nothing happened. I went to bed. In the morning, I had a lovely email from Abd, asking me to enable the support and admin features of Divi. At first I balked: Give someone else admin privileges on my blog? I don’t think so

Then, “Why not? What are they going to do, delete it?” There was nothing here to delete. There are no members but me, and admin me has access to pretty much nothing. So I enabled Support and Admin privileges. Next thing I know, Abd and Vojin from Elegant Themes had gone to work fixing my world.

At first, I thought I broke my blog, but the real problem was not my messing around in the style.css file, trying to change the color of elements not accessible via the Customizer. The real problem was another plug-in.

Instead of the usual, “It’s some crappy plug-in you’re using. Disable them all, then re-enable one at a time to figure it out on your own,” they told me what was wrong and they wrote some code in the Divi theme to work around it. I didn’t have to disable the crappy plug-in. Sweeet!

Then, I asked Vojin how to change the color of the elements I was trying to change. He asked me what color I wanted. I explained that I’d rather understand what I needed to do–that I wanted him to teach me how to fish, not throw me a mackerel and feed me for a day. He got it, and did both, providing a little snippet of .css code to do what I’d wanted.

So now I am back to being a huge fan of Elegant Themes–yes, and Divi–because of their expert and kind support staff. It usually does come down to the people, doesn’t it? I’m willing to put up with a little technical annoyance if the support staff goes above and beyond. It’s why I’ve been a T-Mobile customer since back before their coverage was better than AT&T’s, and why I’ve stayed with them for nearly a decade. And now it’s why I recommend Elegant Themes’ Lifetime Membership, as well.

Oh, and the more I work with Divi, the less “technical annoyance” I’m encountering. It’s just a very different way of working. And now I know that if I get stuck, I am not stuck without the help of some very kind and knowledgeable people.

Craving Answers

The “real systems engineers” and the “real programmers” (I did not consider myself one, at the time) reviewed my logic and syntax and could find no flaws in it. “Just break it down into two or three separate statements,” they suggested.

“Why?” I asked, hoping to understand and learn.

They shrugged. “Because what you’re doing isn’t working? Because if you simplify it, it might?” They really couldn’t – or wouldn’t – give me the logical answer I craved, so I chafed at the idea, but finally relented as there didn’t seem to be any other alternative.

It worked, but I was unsatisfied. I was still telling this story, ten years later, as an example of unsatisfied thirst for knowledge. Until one day, a man overheard me and started laughing as he began to stroll over to where I stood with a few colleagues. “I’ll bet I know what the problem was,” he said.

“Oh?” I was skeptical, but after ten years, I really hoped that he did.

“I used to work for IBM,” he said, asking if I knew whether the mainframe computer’s operating system was a particular version. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed likely. “That operating system only supported nine levels of nested parentheses. I’ll bet you used more than that.”

I could’ve kissed a stranger, that day. “I’m sure I did,” I said. “Thank you for finally giving me a straight answer that makes sense.”

Remember that when children, friends, or colleagues ask, “Why?” it may be easier, and certainly kinder, in the long run, to teach them than to keep doing a thing for them, or worse – ignoring them. I am a big believer in learning to fish, rather than simply hoping for someone to share their catch, and I have appreciated those who took the time to teach me.