On-Line Tools for Gardening - May 19, 2010
Jeff Schalau, Associate Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County
Why would I ever want to be more closely tied to my computer or mobile phone than I currently am? Where will I find time for blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, RSS, and the multitude of other social networking tools? What can they do for me? Well, you may think these newfangled computer tools are only for younger people, but if you don’t get on board, the train may leave the station without you. These tools are worth your time and can be beneficial for inquisitive gardeners and connect you with other gardeners having similar interests.
I recently attended a presentation by Cooperative Extension colleagues from Kentucky titled Enhancing Extension Teaching through New Technologies. They were there to promote eXtension: an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the smartest land-grant university minds across America. eXtension (pronounced E-extension) is a national website for reliable information about gardening, canning, farming, animal health, horses, wildlife, pest management, and many other topics. I know that regular readers of this column would appreciate what eXtension has to offer at www.extension.org. The remainder of their presentation discussed new opportunities for public outreach through social networking, blogging, and other computer tools.
This may or may not be a surprise to you, but many people now consider e-mail passé with texting replacing it. Group networking sites like Facebook, Ning, and MySpace allow groups of people with similar interests to connect, form groups and share ideas. While there are similarities in group networking sites, there are some differences too. A blog (from web-log) is a type of website that is usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. There are lots of gardening blogs, but let me direct you to a blog of local significance called the Yavapai Gardener. It is maintained by Nora Graf, Yavapai County Master Gardener, and has links, events, pest alerts, etc. The Yavapai Gardener blog is accessible at yavapaigardener.blogspot.com. Check it out!
Another popular social networking tool is Twitter – undoubtedly you’ve heard about it. It is a “micro-blogging” service that enables users to send and receive short messages called tweets on their computer or mobile phone. Tweets are text-based messages of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers. Twitter is free and currently has more than 100 million users worldwide. Go to twitter.com to see what it’s all about. You must register on the Twitter website to follow others. This is where the twitter “feeds” you subscribe to will be displayed. I have created a Twitter link on the Backyard Gardener website (cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/). To receive weekly BYG tweets, click on that link, create your Twitter account (if you have not joined already), and become a follower. I will send you a tweet about that week’s topic and a link to that week’s column. I hope BYG readers join – I am very excited about this!
Six years ago, when I wrote about using the Internet for gardening, I discussed search engines and gave names of various web sites. Well, things have changed! Below I have linked the items discussed (and more) as well as a very interesting 5 minute video that my colleagues at eXtension have created about social networking – it will open your eyes to how information world is changing.
You don’t need to search for information anymore, with all the new social networking tools, you can have the information you are interested in sent directly to you to peruse at your leisure. You can also easily pick and choose the information you are interested in and protect yourself from unwanted attention through proper setup of the accounts. There is another advantage of staying near the cutting edge – you will be able to keep up with the younger people in your life. There is much more to explore and the only way to keep pace is to dive right in!
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has publications and information on gardening and pest control. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Cottonwood office at 646-9113 ext. 14 or E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your address and phone number. Find past Backyard Gardener columns or submit column ideas at the Backyard Gardener web site: http://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/.
Additional Links and Information
Five Minute Video from eXtension about Social Networking (note: you may need to click on the "active Content Bar at the top of the page to allow viewing)
Facebook Home Page (Social Networking Site)
Ning Home Page (Social Networking Site)
Digg Home Page (Social Networking Site)
Yavapai Gardener Blog
Twitter Home Page (Micro-blogging Site)
Backyard Gardener Twitter Page (Follow Backayrd Gardener Column)
Flickr Home Page (On-line Photo Sharing)
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Last Updated: June 21, 2010
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