For a long time, perhaps too long, the HR and training functions have dictated learning for employees. But workers have started taking things into their own hands as they realize their competitive advantage, their employability, is tied directly to their skill set. This shift from relying on L&D to self-directed has left many organizations wondering what their next move should be.

The best place to start is putting yourself in the learner’s’ shoes and examine the human behaviors around growth and development.

At Degreed LENS, Tim Quinlan of Intel shared the value of approaching your workforce, the learners, as consumers or customers.

“I said, “How do you learn today? What do you want to learn about and how do you learn? If you’re curious about something how do you do it?” And [the management team] said, ‘Well, I have this trusted third party I go to or I do a Google search.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s my experience as well… I think what I want is something that will seriously complement or compete with a Google search because that’s the learning tool at Intel.”

Degreed research compliments Tim’s story. Almost 85% of survey respondents said they learn things for work by searching online at least once a week, nearly 70% learn by reading articles and blogs every week, and 53% learn from videos in any given week.

HR, training and L&D provide the mostly high-value learning experiences people need sometimes, whereas Google or asking a peer or boss for guidance happens all the time, every day, right at the moment of need and not 3 weeks down the road. Recognizing that learning is happening all the time, not just through L&D offerings, it makes sense that “a new type of employee learning is emerging that is more “consumer- like,” commented Josh Bersin during his presentation at Degreed LENS.

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“Learner-centric” practices are at the heart of what more effective organizations deliver in their learning. Organizations that are more mature and advanced tend to deliver a lot less training through traditional methods and more through experiential, social, collaboration. Learning teams that are aligned with and meeting expectations of the larger organization empower “always-on learning, and a culture of exploration and discussion to enable continuous invention1.”

The most important tool in your kit for 2017? Your workers. “If you’re not focused on the experience of the employee, and you’re focused on what you want to do and the content you want to build and how great it is, you’re missing the boat,” added Bersin.

Want to hear more about how organizations such as Intel and Atlassian are embracing the consumer mindset? Check out the highlight video from Degreed LENS in San Francisco.

For more content from the LENS event, visit the Digital CLO content library!


1 – Predictions for 2017: Everything is Becoming Digital, Bersin by Deloitte, 2016

The workforce is changing and it’s affecting how we all work every day. It’s also changing the expectations that people have about who they work with, how they work, and where they work. I recently met with a group of Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) and learning leaders to talk about the four trends disrupting the workforce today and how that impacts the way we think about learning in the corporate environment. We uncovered four common trends.

  1. Different generations in the workforce

People have been talking about this for years now, but the reality is that we have many generations working together in the workforce today.  By 2020, 70% of the workforce will be made up of millennials, but in addition, boomers are working into their 70s and 80s.  What does this mean for the workforce and learning?  It means that we are more diverse and have greater opportunity to learn from each other.  As for learning, although it may be true that millennials are digital natives and generally very comfortable with technology, the CLO group I was speaking with agreed that the way people like to learn has less to do with age and more to do with personal comfort level with technology.

Judy Dutton, Senior Director at eBay, shared that there is a large increase of millennials coming into the company. The 32nd most recognized brand in the world according to Interbrand in its annual ranking of Best Global Brands, many don’t know that eBay also does a lot of slick things with technology including big data, machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In 2017, their HR function is focused on new ways to attract top talent, especially millennials, by revamping their intern program and recruiting from more diverse universities. Their learning teams are embracing a new digital and in-person on-boarding experience, and completely rethinking their career development and approach to development.

  1. Rise in digital technology

Technology is changing the way we think about both business and learning.  As I wrote in a previous blog, learning leaders need to be tech savvy and include a digital learning component as part of their overall learning and employee experience strategy.

At eBay, a learning technology manager helps drive the ongoing technology requirements for the global Talent and Organization Development team.  This new role has also become more heavily involved with IT, the office of the CIO, and HR analytics since the learning technology need is increasingly prevalent.  But it’s not just about technology; there has to be learning expertise among each employee too.

These are just two of the four workforce trends that are changing the role of learning leaders. We will visit the remaining two trends, an increasing rate of change and the new relationship between employees and employers, in Part 2 next week.

Before you read any further, indulge me for a moment. Tuck your phone away (unless you happen to be reading this on your phone). If you’re reading this on your computer, close the other 10 tabs you have open. Shut down your email. Now, take a few deep breaths. Are you with me?

Ok. Remember this feeling. Let’s begin.

At Degreed, we often talk about how learning happens all the time. I certainly believe that to be true. Given our infinite access to information these days, there is no shortage of opportunities to be learning something at any moment of the day. However, with the daily grind of our jobs, family activities, and continuous digital connection, it can be tough to pinpoint those exact moments in our lives where true learning happens.

Linda Stone refers to a behavior called continuous partial attention. Perhaps you steal a few minutes in your day to peruse Facebook where you come across a Nifty video on how to remove permanent marker from your skin. Or maybe you’re in Flipboard and you come across This Cheat Sheet Full of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Shortcut Keys. Our lives are full of these serendipitous nuggets of learning.

The problem is, when we rely solely upon serendipity, we lose focus of our true personal learning objectives. Not that serendipity is bad, but relying upon it as your only method of learning can serve as a hindrance to retention.

These constant distractions and competing priorities in our lives have powered a movement around mindfulness in the workplace. The benefits of mindfulness, as it relates to productivity, are well documented. It’s time that we pause and consider the benefits of being a mindful learner.

Taking time to learn is often thought of as an indulgence. Instead, consider learning as a necessity in order to acquire knowledge to complete a task, solve a problem, or generate new ideas. To gain these benefits requires a more mindful approach to the time we invest to learn.

When I refer to being a mindful learner, I’m referring to creating the conditions by which our mind can focus on the present learning opportunity. Mindful learning is about creating conditions by which your mind can focus on deep learning and comprehension.

Here are 4 ways you can begin creating optimal conditions to learn:

  1. Setup your physical space. Figure out where you learn best. Ideally, some place where you can remove yourself from as many distractions as possible. Turn off your phone or anything else that might steal your attention. If you are going to be using your mobile device as your learning tool, consider turning off  notifications. If you’re going to read a book, set it out so that it’s staring at you when you’re ready.
  2. Plan your learning time. Schedule it on your calendar and honor the time. Don’t ignore it, don’t let someone else schedule over top of it. Remember, this time is an investment in you. Invest a little time in yourself now, in order to grow later. If you think you can’t commit 30 minutes or an hour, start with 10 minutes. Split this time between spending 5 minutes reading on a subject that interests you or watching a video. Use the other 5 minutes to capture what you learned. Speaking of capturing what you learned…
  3. Reflect on your experience. This part is important. Jot your learnings down in a notebook or write post about it on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you’re using a Kindle, use the Notes function to highlight and capture your thoughts. Do something that will cause you to take a moment to reflect on the time you just invested to learn.
  4. Take a cue from Google’s “20% Time.” If you’re a in a leadership position at your company, you have the ability to set the tone for what behaviors take place. Google is well known for giving their employees time to work on side projects they believe could benefit Google. This, in part, is successful because they actively promote the effort, give people the time, and have given people the permission to do it. You should do the same for allocating time and space for people to learn. Perhaps consider a “Study Hall” campaign where the entire company blocks a day to learn. Encourage people who are interested in similar topics to Meetup and share their learnings.

So, now that you’ve spent  a few minutes learning about how to be a more mindful learner, what are your takeaways? While you’re thinking of it, jot them down. Tell someone else about what you learned. If you took the steps I recommended at the start, congratulations! Remember how it felt to give yourself permission to focus. Remember to give yourself that same permission the next time you invest the time to be a more mindful learner.

 

 

If you don’t think your organization is creative enough to implement design thinking, think again.

Design thinking isn’t about how good you are at design tools such as Photoshop, but rather it’s about using human elements when figuring out how to create products that addresses the real needs of people.

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Using the design thinking process, everyone is a designer and design is everywhere – the way you plan out your day, the way you arrange furniture in your room, the way you match clothes. In the corporate setting, it’s important to find out and integrate the end users’ needs from the beginning, so that you don’t end up spending all your time solving the wrong problem.

As Degreed’s Project Manager Ryan Seamons pointed out on the Design Thinking webinar with Chief Learning Officer, it’s important to realize that design thinking isn’t something you tack at the end of a project, but rather, it’s a mindset. It’s the process of constantly trying to understand the user and the problem at hand.

This diagram shows you a simple framework for approaching a problem using Design Thinking:

Design-Thinking-Graphic

As you can see, this framework is applicable to many types of organizations. Earlier this month, I wrote about how a design thinking program at a local high school positively impacted the students’ confidence and creativity. Here are the 4 actionable steps you can take to implement design thinking and bring its benefits to your organization:

1. Focus on the problem to solve

Companies fail to effectively solve their problems or meet their goals because they don’t correctly identify the person or problem.

Tips for identifying the problem:

  • Listen. Put yourself in other people’s shoes or problem and think from their perspectives what the problem is
  • Ask questions. What is the problem? Who is it for?
  • Have un-siloed conversations. Engage with not only one but multiple people; sit in that area and aim to understand what their life is actually like
  • Stay unbiased. Don’t impose what you think the problem is or the solution. Be open-minded and you might find something else you weren’t expecting

2. Get design thinking skills on your team

In past, ideation phase of the design thinking process were typically saved for Project Managers or Engineers, but that doesn’t mean it can only be used by that department or function. Since design thinking is the mindset of asking questions, understanding and testing, everyone has the ability to do this. Don’t worry if you don’t have the budget for a new role.

Tips for getting design thinking skills:

  • Practice the mindset. Start implementing the process in your role whenever you can. For example, if you oversee onboarding, think about ways you can test a new approach or understand the new employee mentality by getting  feedback via survey
  • Foster interests in design thinking. If you have someone on your team who wants to take initiative and expand their skillset, make sure to nurture that interest, whether it is encouraging experimentation or reimbursing them for design thinking classes

3. Have more debriefs (or start having them)

This is the part that people have the most trouble with: it’s important to understand that design thinking isn’t a one time thing, but rather it is a process of iterating on previous experiments so that the product can improve and become better. However, learnings can’t be implemented if there is no feedback process.

Tips for creating a learning culture:

  • Be open about what went wrong. Set an example that it’s okay to talk about what tests failed and use that to determine what can be better next time.
  • View failure as learnings. If one approach did not work, it narrows down the list of possible approaches and gets you closer to the approach that will work.

4. Embrace the feedback loop

The goal of design thinking isn’t perfection, but to get the best answer possible. The best answer likely won’t be the first answer; thus, there needs to be a constant loop of getting feedback and testing new assumptions.

Tips for implementing loop:

  • Test and iterate as much as possible. Find new ways and angles to test your assumptions, you might come across something you would’ve never thought of otherwise.
  • Have feedback sessions often. When you embrace feedback, not only does it create a safe space to innovate but also by talking about it, it prevents the same mistakes made again.

Design thinking can help leaders like you to identify and solve meaningful problems for your organization. Like anything new, the process is like a muscle that you need to build and use. With a design thinking mindset, you can spend time effectively on solving the right problems and building things that will impact your organization’s success – and you can start now.

Disney doesn’t sell theme park tickets. GoPro doesn’t sell cameras. They sell stories.

Storytelling is the underlying narrative behind every brand. The greatest brands of our time realize that the physical products and services they offer are secondary to the way that they make us feel. We follow brands whose products fit into the picturebook story of our better selves.

In 2015, GoPro flew athletes to a storytelling camp where their training, product development, and media production teams taught the athletes how to create the best possible stories through their content. On GoPro’s instagram page, each photographer tells a story about the shot they’ve taken.

Storytelling

Stories are how we connect with others and affirm who we are. We all secretly envy that friend who manages to enthrall the dinner table with their most recent epic adventures. Beyond the dinner parties, great storytelling helps develop strong business strategies, makes you a better marketer, and helps you sell yourself as you grow your career.

Nowadays, there are dozens of online courses about storytelling, and we’ve rounded out 3 of our recent favorites.

OneMonth – Storytelling for Business

Taught by Master Storyteller Kevin Allison, from the popular podcast ‘Risk!’, this is an intensive 30-day workshop that breaks down every aspect of storytelling. Take this course if you want a deep dive on storytelling from a pro. This course registration ends on May 27th (this Friday!), so you’ll need to sign up quickly. OneMonth is also giving our readers 10% off their course by clicking this link.

IDEOU – Storytelling for Influence

From the great minds at IDEO, this course gives you a flexible tool kit for storytelling from the Design Director at IDEO who led the consultancy for brand strategy and storytelling for Marriott, Mattel, and others. You’ll learn from actual case studies from IDEO in order to build your storytelling tool kit.

Udemy – Storytelling for Public Speakers: From Zero to Hero

For a lighter introduction to storytelling, this Udemy course will give you the tools to improve your public speaking. This course is taught by Alex Glod, a trainer and TEDx speaker.

There are also hundreds of free resources across the web. Sign up for a Degreed account, search for storytelling, and start learning today.

1984 wasn’t just a dystopian novel by George Orwell, it was also the year Richar Saul Wurma materialized his idea for bringing technology, education and design together into a unique learning experience called TED. Now TED talks touch on almost every topic imaginable. One of my favorite additions to the TED family is TED-Ed. These are short, animated videos that dissect a thought-provoking topic in an easy-to-digest lesson. Writing this particular article took me longer than I anticipated, mostly because TED-Ed videos are addicting. But eventually your mind becomes numb and unable to be hold anymore, and that’s when you watch one more and call it a day.

The following six videos are some of my favorites from TED-Ed. But just a word of warning: you may want to make sure you have some time to kill before you start because it will be hard to stop with just one or two videos.

First up is one that was just recently uploaded to the TED-Ed channel. It dives into the science of snowflakes, which is pretty fascinating. If you have ever wondered why snowflakes are different than ice even though they are both just frozen water, or if the rumor that no two snowflakes are the same is true, this is a worthwhile watch.

1. The science of snowflakes

 

It’s hard to drive anywhere in this world we live in without seeing a car tagged with a 26.2 sticker or one of the many other humble-bragging variants. There are also more varieties of 5k races than there are jelly beans (that may or may not actually be true.) Either way, running is popular. And that means treadmills are out there being put to good use. But did you know the treadmill has a rather dark past? And have you ever wondered why it’s called a treadmill? The early days of the treadmill was nothing like today’s cardio cinema, and this TED-Ed video will show you exactly why.

2. The treadmill’s dark and twisted past

 

If you’ve ever listened to the smash-hit podcast, Serial, you’re well aware of the inherent problems with the human memory. It’s almost impossible to remember specific details of things that happened even two weeks ago. Do you remember what you ate for lunch two Tuesdays ago? If you do, do you know why you remember? This video explains the science behind how memories are stored as well as how they are lost in our minds.

3. How memories form and how we lose them

 

Have you ever wondered why left-handed people are far less common than right-handed people? What’s interesting about handedness is that left-handed people have been far less common than right-handed people for the last 500,000 years. You would think that over time lefties would begin to catch up to righties, right? Well the reason lefties still only make up about 10% of the population is a little more involved than you might think.

4. Why are some people left handed?

 

These last two videos are a bit different than the previous four. These are lessons in philosophy.

This first video is deep, but will still leave enough of your mind unblown so that it can be sufficiently blown with the next video.

5. How do you know you exist?

 

How do we know that what we are experiencing is reality? Do we discount the knowledge of others because we are ignorant, or are other people ignorant to the truth that we know? This one will really get your head spinning.

6. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave

Hopefully at least one of these videos served as a springboard for you to explore more from TED or TED-Ed. It’s pretty remarkable that we live in a time where so much knowledge is readily presented and available at our fingertips. You should definitely be taking advantage of that. Don’t forget to record what you learned by clicking the “add to Degreed” button below, and check out the newly redesigned Degreed.com!

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Long-distance running is not an activity to be taken lightly. Running, in general, is the kind of sport that is truly humbling. You, and you alone, are the only person standing in the way of what you define as success. Up until 2013, I had never understood the weight of strength and difficulty that it took to run a half marathon or marathon. I had always considered myself a strong runner, as I was a very committed athlete throughout high school.

In the Spring of 2013, I signed up for a half marathon and marathon back-to-back, just on a whim. I had enough confidence and arrogance from my youth and assumed that it would carry me across the finish line. Little did I know, there was so much more to long distance running than just guts.

Training for a half-marathon or marathon, along with any other race of further distance, requires a great deal of commitment – you submit yourself to months of training yourself physically and mentally, rest, proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and many other factors that come into play during the time leading up to the big race.

After that length of time throughout a marathon training period, one earns knowledge and ability. Becoming stronger in their movements and in-tune with their capabilities. After such an intense training period could one be considered an expert?

Merriam-Webster defines an expert as “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced”

What makes a person an expert in any given field is the amount of time and work that it took for that person to arrive at where they are; to be able to speak confidently, act, and react with their abilities to handle a given situation.

Marathon training is all about time and effort. The time that it takes to prepare, the time that it takes to recover, and the time that it takes to finish the race. Marathon training is a long game, made up of concentrated efforts that built up over time to create the endurance needed to accomplish a goal.

It may take more time for some individuals to do any of the things required to successfully prepare for a marathon, but that doesn’t discount their level of expertise in relation to knowing what it takes to complete a race of that distance.

A full marathon is 26.2 miles. 26.2 miles worth of mistakes. 26.2 miles worth of pain and joy. 26.2 miles of focus and dedication- just like the journey to expertise.

The average global time it takes for an individual to finish a marathon is 4 hours and 21 minutes.  That’s a lot of time that could be used to accomplish a thousand other things, yet, instead you’re running.

Behind the final race time is weeks and months, sometimes years of preparation. Marathon training teaches us about expertise because it teaches us about time and hard work, the very things that are essential to learning, practicing, and perfecting any skill. The very things that make people into experts.

November

When the temperature begins to change from “bearable with a hoodie” to “don’t go out without a coat” you know November is upon us. To me, it seems like once Halloween is over, everyone goes into Christmas mode and November just gets skipped over. I’m a strict no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving kind of guy. I’ve always felt bad for November. So to stick up for the month that gets ignored, here are three things to learn that will help you slow down and appreciate all that November has to offer.

  1. Why Election Day is on a Tuesday in November

Voting is one of the most important functions of our society. Back in the day, states used to be able to hold their voting day any time within a 34-day window before the first Wednesday in December. However, that started to cause some problems. The outcome of earlier elections swayed heavily the outcome of elections held closer to December. In 1845, in order to make the process more effective and fair, congress passed a law that mandated all elections be held the first Tuesday of November.

So what’s up with Tuesday? You can blame that on the farmers. Most people in the 1800s were farmers and the polling locations usually required a day’s worth of travel to get to. Since most people were in church on Sunday and farmer’s markets were generally on Wednesday, Tuesday was decidedly the most convenient day for everyone to be able to make it out to vote.

In addition, the beginning of November was also most the convenient because it didn’t interfere with the planting or harvesting season, and the weather wasn’t usually as cold and unbearable as it is in December. So there you go, we vote on a Tuesday in November because it allowed 19th century farmers to go to church and sell their crops while still being able to cast their votes.

  1. Where Veterans Day came from

On November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., an armistice to end World War I went into effect. At the time, World War I had been considered the “war to end all wars.” Little did anyone know how untrue that was. However, to commemorate the end to the war, the year after the armistice president Woodrow Wilson organized the first commemoration of Armistice Day.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

On June 1, 1954, November 11 officially became Veterans Day instead of Armistice Day in order to honor all American veterans “for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

  1. How football and Thanksgiving became two peas in a pod

The annual Turkey Bowl: the one time a year uncle Dave gets to relive his glory days and everyone has to listen to him spout off his tall tales. Even if he did throw the game-winning touchdown in high school, you’d never be able to tell with how many interceptions he throws Thursday morning. The tradition of football on Thanksgiving dates back a lot further than I ever thought. In fact, it’s said that sports and activities were even part of the very first Thanksgiving in 1621.

Football evolved from an apparently “crude game of ball kicking” on college campuses around the 1840’s. Eventually people began implementing rules and football became a popular college sport. The very first organized college game was played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869. At that time the rules prohibited players from running with the ball. They could only throw it, kick it, or head butt it.

Over the next six years, more college teams formed and an actual Intercollegiate Football Association was created. In 1876, the IFA scheduled the championship game to be played on Thanksgiving Day in front of an eager crowd of paying spectators. From there, football became an integral part of Thanksgiving day.

And there you have it! Three things you probably didn’t know about November. If you have any other interesting facts about November, I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below or tweet them at me @bradensthompson, and  follow me on Degreed here.

“All my life I’ve looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time.” -Ernest Hemingway

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Choosing the right word is never easy. Whether you’re writing a blog post or arguing conversing with a loved one, the words you select can make or break you. They can accurately express your ideas, or they can muddle things up. And in this age of social media and other digital communication, many of our words are permanently recorded for all the world to misunderstand interpret. Yet most of us continue to pluck the first that come to mind.

With so much riding on the particular words we speak and write, it’s a good idea to reflect every now and then on their importance, their power, their quirks; to behold the myriad ways they are currently being used in society. Sometimes we need to put on our Hemingway glasses and look at words as if we’re seeing them for the first time.

Here’s an eclectic array of content from around the web that will get you thinking about words in a new way .

George Orwell and the Politics of the English Language – If you haven’t read this classic piece, now’s the time. Here are the rules about word usage that Orwell recommends:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

What is a word? – If you’re feeling brave, see what the philosophers have to say about words.

Recent Articles

What do Donald Trump and the Pope Have in Common? – Clue: they both like “big” words.

These Words Would Knock Your State Out Of the National Spelling Bee – Here’s a state-by-state rundown of the words people googled for spell check the most during the last year (Arkansas, should we be worried?). For more insight into regional word usage, check out this State-by-State Map of the most unique descriptive words used by online daters.

Musicians with the Most Diverse Vocabularies – Spoiler Alert: The winner by far is Eminem.

How do you speak American? Mostly, just make up words – If you’re a fan of made-up words, you’ll also love this fascinating book by Lizzie Skurnick.

What it’s like to write speeches for a rude, rambling and disgraced politician – Recent review of a book that some think will become a classic on political communication.

Think of “Mullet” as a 1980s Word? It’s Not. – My favorite slang for “mullet”? Kentucky waterfall.

Words jump-start vision, psychologist’s study shows. Even during the first electrical twitches of perception, words are already shaping our vision.

Twitters Knack for New Words – Much praise here for Twitter’s neological invention.

Why Is There So Much Hate for the Word “Moist”? – Finally scientists weigh in on this strange case of “moist” aversion.

Sherbet vs Sherbert – A lot of commenters have weighed in on this debate. What do you think?

Greek crisis: A reader’s guide to puns and portmanteaus

Oxford English Dictionary’s New Words – Well it’s about time that “shizzle” and “koozie” were given official status.

Reference Guides

We’re all familiar with the Oxford Dictionaries, Cambridge Dictionaries, and Dictionary.com. But sometimes we need a different set of references to guides our word searches. Here are some you should check out.

Urban Dictionary – Crowdsourced online dictionary of slang words.

Pseudo Dictionary – More crowdsourced terms.

Dictionary of American Regional English – The full panoply of American regional words, phrases, and pronunciations.

Online Etymology Dictionary – Best place to discover the origins of English words.

Metaphor Map of English – Shows the metaphorical links between different areas of meaning, and allows us to track metaphorical ways of thinking and expressing ourselves over more than a millennium.

Visual Thesaurus – Offers a floating constellation of related words. Visuwords has a similar. interface.
Acronym Finder – Find out what any acronym, abbreviation, or initialism stands for.
Eggcorn Database – Searchable database of words and phrases that came about from the mishearing or misinterpretation of other words.

All-Vowel Words – The title says it all.

All-Consonant Words – Ditto.

Blogs for Word Nerds

About Words – Best feature: weekly list of possible new words that lets users vote on them.

The Word Detective – Words and language in a humorous vein.

One Letter Words blog – Strange and unusual references from a word genius.

Word Spy – The word lover’s guide to new words.

Literal Minded – Commentary on words by a guy who takes things too literally.

Fritinancy – Names, brands, writing and language from a professional wordworker.

Pain in the English – Discusses all the gray areas of the English language.

Cruciverb.com – The ultimate crossword database. A true word lover’s heaven.

NY Times Wordplay blog – Crossword blog of the New York Times.

Podcasts

The Allusionist – Etymological adventures with Helen Zaltzman in a fortnightly podcast ( My favorite).

A Way With Words – This NPR classic examines language through the lens of history, culture and family.

Lexicon Valley – Podcast about language pet peeves, syntax, etymology and neurolinguistics.

Lists

34 Interjections You Should Be Using

79 Common Mispronunciations

107 Regional Slang Words

83 Old Slang Phrases We Should Bring Back

11 Terms for Self-proclaimed Smartypants

Top 10 Words with Bizarre Meanings

39 incorrectly used words that can make you look bad

25 Maps that Explain the English Language

A List of Words about Words

Compendium of Lost Words

Wiki list of English portmanteaux

Most searched for words on Google

Most searched for words by NY Times readers

Palindrome List

 

You just learned about english, grammar, and pop culture. Get points for this article on Degreed. Catch Jedd McFatter tweeting the most powerful words possible at @ATYPICAL.

Information overload is a real problem for many Internet users. Daily sifting through websites, emails, news feeds and social media can be overwhelming, especially when a lot of time is wasted filtering out the junk. So whenever we decide to search online for a particular thing, we’d like to be able to cut the extraneous noise and exert as much control as possible. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the skills needed to perform powerful online searches, and thus rely on results that often barely skim the surface of available resources.

If you want to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your search skills, here’s a quick and easy guide on how to find just about anything online.

Search-Tips-Find-Anything-Online

Master Google’s Advanced Search Features

If you’re not sure how to use Google search operators to produce targeted search results, you should pause for a moment and download this handy Power Searching With Google reference guide. Follow the tips and you’ll dramatically reduce the number of irrelevant sources you review, and increase your chances of finding quality data. One of my favorite techniques lets you limit your search to a specific type of file. For instance, if you use the format:

[filetype:.pdf]

the search will return only PDFs. So let’s say you’re trying to find financial information about a company. Using this search operator can significantly narrow and improve your search, since many financial documents, such as tax returns, are often stored online as PDFs.

Google also offers powerful filtering options that allow you to further customize your searches. Another option is the Advanced Search interface, which has a lot of these features built in. And if you truly want to become a Google search Jedi, take Google’s Advanced Power Searching class for free online.

 

Know Where to Get Free Data

There will be times when the information you’re looking for can’t be uncovered through a Google search. In fact, the majority of data on the Web is stored in databases that can only be accessed through customized search interfaces or specific queries. Some of this data is locked behind pay walls or sites that require registration and login, but a lot of it is open and free to use. Here are some tips and resources to help you find this kind of data.

  • Delve into all of the free government datasets that are available online. You might be surprised by the vast array of public data that has been collected at the Federal, State and Local level. Gov and Census.Gov are good places to start if you’re new to this and want an idea of the kind of information that’s available. The Sunlight Foundation is another good source for free government data and research tools.
  • Peruse huge public data sets from groups like Freebase, Socrata, Data Hub, Knoema and Amazon Web Services. In addition to the information you find there, you’ll be exposed to other networks of datasets, and eventually gain a feel for where to find particular types of info when you need it. Buzzfile is another good site to check out. It provides comprehensive business information and allows you to build lists.
  • Start thinking of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn as massive databases that can be mined for info unique to their respective platforms. There’s a lot of data from these sites that might be missing from your usual Google search results. For Facebook search tips, check out this tutorial. For advanced LinkedIn search tips, read this.
  • Sign up for newsletters that provide updates when new data and resources become available. A couple of my favorite providers of this info are ResearchBuzz and beSpacific.
  • Bookmark lists of free data for future use. Here are a few to get you started:

 

Deep Web Research and Discovery Resources

30 Datasets and Public Information

Comprehensive List of Open Data Portals from Around the World

Legal Resources

19 Sources for Consumer Research Data

122 Data Sources

 

See What the Academics Are Up To

Nowadays it’s fairly common to find summaries of scholarly articles on blogs and news sites. Nevertheless, most academic research remains hidden from general web searches. If you truly want to dig deep with your online search, you’ll need to know how to tap into these sources.

The first place you should visit is Google Scholar. This freely accessible search engine allows you to search for physical or digital copies of scholarly books, articles, court opinions, dissertations, and more. If you find a particular scholar who’s an expert in what you’re researching, you can explore all of their related research. You can also track a particular topic and receive email alerts when there are new developments in the field. Google Scholar offers several other search tools, so there are plenty of options for customization.

If you’ve identified a professor as an expert on your research topic, you can also look up their University faculty profile for more info. Sometimes professors will post PDFs of their published articles that are otherwise stored behind pay walls in the journals where they originally appeared.

 

Ask for Help

Let’s say you’ve identified a professor or some other expert on a topic for which you can’t find much data. What’s stopping you from emailing the person with your questions? Or picking up a phone and calling? I’ve done this multiple times, and it’s resulted in the exchange of datasets, articles, tips and interesting discussions. If you’re ever stuck, or would like to go deeper in your research, it’s worth trying. Local and university librarians are another great source for info, and they’re usually willing to help as much as they can. In particular I’ve had success contacting librarians on twitter.

You can also try the new personal research service Wonder. Just type in a question and a team of experienced researchers will send you 5-7 links and a summary answering your question. I’ve been a user for two months and am impressed with the customized research I receive.

Search-Tips-For-Researching-Online

Experiment with free research tools

Developers are constantly coming up with clever tools to help users find information online. Keep a lookout and try the tools you find most interesting. Here are a few I’ve been experimenting with lately:

Proper Channel – Web application that allows people to collaborate on finding the most efficient way to navigate bureaucracy. Provides access to thousands of instructional flowcharts.

Atlas – New platform for discovering and sharing interactive charts. Powered by Quartz. One great feature is that users can download the data behind the charts.

Import.io – Tool that lets anyone, regardless of technical ability, to extract structured data from any website using extractors, crawlers and connectors.

Quandl – Platform that hosts data from hundreds of publishers on a single website, and provides tools that make it easy for users to get data in their preferred format. Their mission is pretty lofty: “to make all the numerical data in the world available” on their website.

Degreed – Online community of learners with platform that allows you to track, organize, share and validate everything you learn. Degreed also provides the Web’s most comprehensive list of free places to learn, so no matter what you’re searching for, you’re almost certain to find a way to learn more about your topic.

 

You can find Jedd McFatter on Twitter. Click the links below to tell us what tools you use to find the best content on the web!

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