As everyone knows, the Internet is a great resource for finding a ton of information for academic or personal purposes. But such a great resource has its problems too. Use a search engine and what gets returned? A fire hose blast of information comes your way. And information you do find can be too difficult for some of us to read. There are no controls on reading levels or quality of the information (you know, like books have!).
So this week, I thought I would share some tools for helping to tame information overload and help make web content more accessible.
If a website is too difficult to read, or if you just don't have time, there are plenty of sites that will read you the content of a site, but this one is pretty user friendly. Sign up for a Sound Gecko account with your e-mail address. Then copy and paste the URL of a page you want read out loud into your account. You will get a link in your e-mail to an mp3 file that has an audio version of the text. You can also get extensions for your web browser or a mobile app to use with the account so you can skip the whole copying and pasting thing.
Most websites have too much clutter that gets in your way (e.g. ads), or a complicated layout or small or unreadable font or other issue. Readibility does two things well. So you find a website you like. You don't have time to read it now and it is to hard to read for one of the reasons mentioned above. Just click the readability bookmarklet that you put in your favorites bar. Readibility reformats the page with a white background, and readable black type and not ads or other clutter..You can adjust the layout, font properties and background. Even better, if you don't have time to read it now, you can click the read it later button and store it in your Readibility account and access it later.
Wikipedia articles are great timesaver if you want a quick overview of a topic. But if your are not a great reader, the amount of text can be overwhelming and out of your reach. Instead, type your keywords into Wiki Summarizer. The program distills the article into a summary of the main points and gives you several options for presenting the summaries.
Starting a research project can be daunting. You might not know anything about your topic. That is where Instagrok comes in. If you type your initial topic into the search box and you get a visual breakdown of related keywords on the left. Click on any keywords and get a new set. On the right, results are broken down into categories starting with fast facts about your topic. Use a slider at the top to change the difficulty level of the results There are a lot of features here, and the interface can be difficult to navigate at first, but this is a powerful tool.