Take Advantage of e-Volunteerism's Full Potential: Tips from the Webmaster

Volume I, Issue 3, March 2001

by Kristin Floyd, Webmaster

When I design and post pages to e-Volunteerism, I start with the assumption that our subscribers are a unique group of Web users who are determined to get the most out of their Web experience. Sometimes it's hard to break old print-reading habits though. Do you find yourself printing out each article you want to read, sacrificing the opportunity to easily respond to the author's thoughts? Are you ignoring the audio and printer-ready pieces because you are concerned you won't be able to access them? Are you reticent about responding to articles, or even writing your own article, because you think you need to have more expertise? Well, it's time to enter the Web age, when all kinds of boundaries are being torn down! Since I recognize there is a huge range of capabilities among our subscribers, this article has been divided into sections that can easily be scanned or read independently. Pick the parts that pique your interest and ignore the rest -- a wonderful attribute of the Web!

Keeping Your Browser Current

Before you do anything else, make certain you have the latest version of your browser. Browsers are continually updated to keep current with new capabilities on the Web. The most recent versions always include extra "plug-ins," such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, so you don't have to download them later.

To find out the version you have, open up your browser and select "Help" in your menu. The last item on the list will say "About (Browser Name)." Click on that item. A screen will open stating the version number for the browser. Then go to your browser's Website (see URL below) and check to see if you have the latest version.

Internet Explorer's browser is the most popular browser on the Web and most Websites are designed with this browser in mind. Although I don't approve of the way Microsoft ended up dominating the market, this browser is probably the best choice for easily viewing content on the Web. (I expect to receive some e-mails from people who sharply disagree!)

The latest version of Internet Explorer is at: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/IE/. Then follow the "Internet Explorer" link.

The latest version of Netscape (the second most popular browser) is at: http://home.netscape.com/browsers/.

Listening to Audio

Our publishing editors, Susan Ellis and Steve McCurley, travel throughout the world and talk to a diverse group of people. By bringing along their cassette tape recorders and recording some of these conversations, they've enabled e-Volunteerism's readers to be able to "sit in" on some of these fascinating conversations.

Once the groundwork is completed, it's really quite simple to hear these audio pieces --and the same software will enable you to listen to almost any other audio file on any Website:

Getting Started

Early issues of e-Volunteerism required RealPlayer to hear our audio clips. You will need RealPlayer to listen to these pieces. Later issues also included an audio file that could be accessed using Windows Media Player.

The optimum speed modem for listening to audio is 56.7K or greater. Although the audio will certainly work at slower speeds, the download time is extended considerably.

The audio you hear on e-Volunteerism usually has been taped "in the field," rather than in a sound studio. Although we make every effort to decrease background noises, it is impossible to cut it all out. (Even a fluorescent light emits sound!) Although we feel the "on the spot" benefits outweigh the problems with background noise, we want you to be aware of the issue of audio quality.

Listening to the Window Media Player Version

  1. Windows 98, 2002 and XP systems all have Windows Media Player automatically installed. Check to see if you already have Media Player on your computer by simply clicking on the link to the audio presentation you want to access, and see what happens (make sure your speakers are on!) If Media Playeris already installed, after a few minutes it should open up and begin playing. You will see a set of buttons that are similar to those on your CD or tape player. Simply use the buttons in a similar fashion to stop, rewind and play as needed.

  2. If Media Player isn't available on your computer or isn't working properly, you can download the latest version for free by going to the Microsoft site. The Wed address is shown below:
    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e0175119-9a5b-44c3-b1de-9b2a9aa6cff6&displaylang=en (There are also versions available for sale but the free version will serve your needs on the e-Volunteerism site.)

Click on the download link and complete the download At one point, you will be asked what kind of installation you want. For use on e-Volunteerism, you can choose the "minimum" installation. 

Listening to the RealPlayer Version

  1. First, check to see if you already have RealPlayer on your computer. You can do this by simply clicking on the link to the audio presentation you want to access, and see what happens. If RealPlayer is already installed, after a few minutes RealPlayer should open up and begin playing. You will see a set of buttons that are similar to those on your CD or tape player. Simply use the buttons in a similar fashion to stop, rewind and play as needed.

  2. If RealPlayer opens but you still have a problem playing the audio, you probably need a newer version of RealPlayer (even if the message says it is a "server problem.") Follow the directions in #4 to download the latest version.

  3. If RealPlayer doesn't automatically open, you will probably receive instructions on how to download RealPlayer. If you don't receive these instructions or if you need to download a newer version, do the following:

    a) Go to http://www.real.com/player/. There will be a number of versions of RealPlayer. The programs you have to pay for are most prominent -- no surprise! Look very carefully for the free version. Last time I looked, it was a tiny link in the lower left corner and was called "RealPlayer 8 Basic - free."

    b) Click on the download link and complete the download At one point, you will be asked what kind of installation you want. For use on e-Volunteerism, you can choose the "minimum" installation. 


Contributing Articles and Ideas

The e-Volunteerism staff is determined to have a wide range of articles from all over the world and from practitioners as well as academics or consultants. We're confident that most of our readers have developed an expertise or have a unique perspective worth sharing with others. This vantage point could be turned into an article.

As important, we'd like to hear your ideas for additions to e-Volunteerism. Are there topics that particularly intrigue you? Is there a new service you'd like us to offer? Let our editor hear from you at editor@e-volunteerism.com. We are open to experimenting!

Downloading Programs 

Downloading programs off the Web has become easier and easier. Here's how to download the programs we mentioned in this section :

  1. Find the program you want and click on the download link.

  2. Often you will be asked for some basic information about your computer, so that the proper program will be downloaded. Usually you will need to know your operating system (Windows, Mac, etc.) and the speed of your modem (28.8 kbps, 56 kbps, DSL, etc.)

  3. Once you've provided your computer information, you will be given the option to download from several geographical locations. Generally, pick the location closest to you (although "close" might be relative, like across the country rather than across the ocean).

  4. When you are asked where to save the download file, choose a directory on your computer that you can easily find after you are finished downloading and remember the name of the downloaded file! I encourage you to create your own "Download" folder so you'll never forget where you put files you download from the Internet.

  5. When your download is complete, find the file and double click on it. The installation process will begin and you will receive instructions on how to follow.

Accessing Printer-Ready Files

Although we generally encourage readers to stay online as they view e-Volunteerism, there are clearly times when it is nice to have a printer-ready copy of a training design or handout. The printer-ready pieces are saved in PDF format. This is a format that can be viewed on any platform (Windows, MAC, Unix, etc.). However, you need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this file format. Nowadays, the most recent browsers have this program as part of their browser software. 

If you are still having trouble viewing the file, get the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader on the Adobe Website at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/update.html

Responding to Articles

An exciting part of this journal is the ability to respond to all or parts of an article. This is the most amazing aspect of Web technology. "Hyperlinks" allow many levels of commentary and exchange to go on simultaneously.

We encourage you to respond to e-Volunteerism articles, regardless of your level of expertise in the field. Sharing your questions and opinions or any deas that an article provokes will help e-Volunteerism to reflect the full scope of the volunteerism field.

Here are some ideas for responding:

  • Make a "sound" to share your reaction -- for or against -- a point made in an article by submitting a very brief note such as "right on!" or "wish I'd known this sooner." Disagreement will probably require writing a few explanatory sentences, but healthy debate makes things so much more interesting for everyone.

  • Give the URL of a Website that you think contains material relevant to the point made in the article (examples, more data, etc.).

  • Pose a clarifying question to the author of the article, who will later respond so that all subsequent readers see the exchange between you.

  • Share a real-life anecdote that highlights the information in the article.

  • Return to the site after you've tried the suggestion, the training exercise, or the Web reference and report your experience. Remember that all past issues of e-Volunteerism will remain available in the archives and that you may continue to add comments (especially to share your experiences in applying the material) at any time.

The "response process" is simple. In most articles, you have two ways you can respond:

1) Respond to one section at a time.
Look for the button at the end of each section. Simply click on it and a page will appear where you can type your response. After you've submitted the response, the browser will return you to the article where you left off.

2) Respond after you've completed the article.
At the very end, there will be a link to "Respond to the Entire Article." Simply click on it and you will be shown a page where you can type your response. After you've submitted your response, the browser will take you to where you can read other people's responses.

Your response will show up within 48 hours after submission. We review all responses for typos and inappropriate language and then post them.

Volume I, Issue 3, March 2001

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