Welcome to iHCPL: The Next Generation. This site was created as the next step in Harris County Public Library's iHCPL Learning 2.0 Program; a discovery learning program designed to encourage staff to explore new technologies. The original iHCPL program was adapted from The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County's Learning 2.0 Program.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Consumer's How To #44: How To & Make

Garage Sale In Monroe
Day 53: Ms. Fix It,
originally uploaded by jk5854.

Have you ever been stuck in the middle of a project without a single solution in sight? Or have you ever wondered how to start a task, but have no idea how or where to begin? Well, help has arrived in the form of “How To” sites that will guide you through just about every problem-solving dilemma you can think of.
Many of the How To sites found on the Web contain different types of formatting, making it easy to locate a format that is compatible with your style of learning.
Sites such as eHow, WikkiHow, HowStuffWorks, and Instructables provide visitors with written articles that guide the user through the selected process step-by-step. The eHow site contains over 250,000 articles many of them are professionally written. With over 17 million visitors to this site per month, articles and videos are constantly being added to their online community.

WikkiHow credits itself as a “high quality How To manual”. This site allows users to receive RSS feeds along with access to wikki manuals in several languages. All of the text shared on the WikkiHow site is under a “Creative Commons License” and the site is going green by operating as a “Carbon Neutral” website.

The HowStuffWorkssite was developed in 1998 by a professor at North Carolina State University. This site is owned by the Discovery Communication, which also owns many of the popular Discovery Channels. The site divides each manual into subjects that allow users to quickly gain access through homepage tabs. The HowStuffWorks site has been recognized with several Webby awards, along with Time magazine, and PC Magazine.

The Instructables site was developed in the MIT Media Lab. This site also allows users to access subjects through tabbing and is the most vibrant of the listed How To sites. Before you exit this site, check out the Instructables online store that sells t-shirts, totes, aprons, caps, shoes and more.

The site Quamut is published by Barnes & Noble. Users have two choices for viewing guides on this site. Users are able to view all Quamut guides free of charge on their computer screen. However, the site charges a small fee for users needing to download and print guides. Guides printed on laminated charts are also available for a fee that can be purchased at local Barnes & noble stores. It is worth noting that there is one free Quamut (How To) guide of the week available for downloading and printing.
If a visual option is your preferred choice Expert Village and Video Jug provide users with video instructions. The Expert Village site states that the information provided can be trusted by users based on the fact that that the acquired information is both “professionally created and researched”. What makes this site unique is that each video guide has a photo and profile of the “Expert” that created that particular instructional video.

Video Jug is described as an online “encyclopedia of life”. The site contains features that allow users to download videos directly onto a Mobile, iPod, and/or MP3 player. This site also allows users to download a Video Jug widget directly to a blog.

1. Look at the different types of How To sites listed above, of the choices provided which sites appeal to you? Did any of the sites listed not appeal to you?

2. Select one How To site from the list above and pick a topic to you would like to learn about. Once you have gone through the selected video or article, post about it or link it to your blog and write about what you learned.

HCPL Staff: Have you completed the two posts in this module? Then Submit your Registration of Completion

This post is brought to you by Daisy Camarillo (FM), Michele McKian (FB), Melanie Metzger (CYF), Rhiannon Perry (LAP), & Sandra Silvey (BC).

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Consumer's How To #43: Buying & Selling Online

Garage Sale In Monroe
Garage Sale In Monroe,
originally uploaded by johnbeagle.

One of the great things about the Internet is it opens up a world of commerce sites and how to sites. In two posts this month, we'll explore buying and selling online and how-to sites. This module is worth 1 training hour.

Remember garage sales, craft fairs, and swap meets as a way to get rid of item you don’t want and make some money in the process. They are all still around, even in the digital age.

Selling online is a great way for anyone to make extra money from home. It is especially good for stay at home moms and people who are retired but still would like to work. It allows you to set your own hours and you can work as hard or as little as you would like. It is also fun to search for treasures that might be worth something. At first selling online is a little confusing, but once your have sold a few things you will understand how to do it.

eBay is a site that allows you to sell your items in two ways; by auction (highest bidder wins) or for a set price. Items on eBay can be from anyone in the world. It’s a wonderful site to find the hard to find, rare, or more global items

Half.com, who recently merged with eBay, focuses on the buying and selling of media. (books, music, videos, and videogames)

Craigslist is a site that focuses on more local items. Generally you place an item for sale and you usually make arrangements with the buyer to either ship or meet with them to complete the purchase.

Even Amazon has gotten into the individual sellers market with their “Sell Your Stuff” section.

If you are more into crafting and selling items you made yourself, then Etsy is the site for you.

How to get started:
A local member of HCPL who sells items on eBay has created the following list of tips for how to get into selling your “treasures” on the internet

Ten Tips for Selling on the Internet

  1. Start with items around your house you no longer use to learn the selling system
  2. Sell something that interests you, or something easily available and cheap in your area that may be harder to get in other places. (ex. Used instruments in Nashville, pottery or turquoise jewelry in New Mexico, etc)
  3. Don't be intimidated, jumping in is the best way to learn
  4. Don’t forget if you don't like one site there are others out there that may work better for you
  5. Make sure photos are clear. A good photo will secure a better sale
  6. Don’t forget customer service is very important
  7. Visit the local Post Office or UPS store to research shipping costs. Ask them what is the best day to ship to avoid the high demand times.
  8. You might want to open a P.O. Box for your own safety. (It’s never good to give out personal information)
  9. Most sellers have a certain niche, keep trying to sell various items until you find yours
  10. When you first start selling offer an incentive like free shipping or a small extra item to encourage customers and entice them to your sales

And of course, all the sites listed above allow you to purchase items from their sites as well. Some even have special features to customize your shopping experience such as Etsy that allows you to request the custom creation of an item through their “Alchemy” feature or Craigslist that allows for the bargaining or swapping of items or services to essentially get your item for free.

Safe Transactions:
Whether you are buying or selling on eBay or other sites, you should become familiar with PayPal; the preferred payment method many online shopping sites. There are many benefits to having an account with PayPal.

By paying with PayPal, you can pay without revealing your credit card number. You simply give PayPal your payment information and they will keep it secure.

If you are only planning to buy online, you can sign up for a personal account. Since this type of account has limited features, it is free. You can pay at many online stores and you can even transfer money to someone's account.

PayPal also has the benefit of a Buyer Protection Program. When first using a site like eBay, you may be concerned that the seller will not ship your item or the item you receive will not be as described. This is where PayPal comes in. They will make sure that you either receive your item or get your money back. Of course, there are a few rules you must follow, but they are very simple. PayPal will give you an allotted amount of time to make your claim after your purchase.


  1. Take a look at the consumer sites listed above. Search for a couple of items of interest and see what the selling pages look like. Write in your blog what your thoughts are these sites. Which one(s) do you like the best/least? Have you already used one of the sites to buy or sell an item?What was your experience like? If you haven’t could you see yourself using these sites to buy or sell something?
  2. Visit PayPal and watch the short clip titled "What is PayPal?" Blog about ways you could personally use PayPal. Check your favorite online stores to see if they accept this method of payment. If you already use this service, blog about your experience

This post is brought to you by Sandra Silvey (BC), Daisy Camarillo (FM), Michele McKian (FB), Rhiannon Perry (LAP), & Melanie Metzger (CYF).