Highlight an App – Easy Chirp

by Rachel Luna

There are myriad Twitter applications out there (e.g., TweetCaster, Echofon, HootSuite,etc.), and each has it’s own spin on how social media is consumed.  For today’s Highlight An App post, I’m turning the spotlight on Easy Chirp, a Twitter application focused on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Formerly known as Accessible Twitter, Easy Chirp is described as “web-accessible alternative to the Twitter.com website.”  The look, feel, and function of this app is optimized for compatibility with assistive technology, such as keyboard-only navigation and screen readers.  In a nod to universal design principles, these structures and systems are not only helpful to folks with disabilities; they also make Twitter more accessible to people using older web browsers, slower Internet connection speeds, and those who do not use JavaScript.  At first glance, it may seem to lack the bells and whistles of Twitter, such as favoriting a tweet or viewing replies as conversations, but rest assured all the functions are there.

In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which just passed on May 15, the folks at Easy Chirp unveiled a new feature that I think is a potential game-changer: the ability to add accessible images to tweets by including alternative text.  Alt text is particularly helpful for people who have visual disabilities or are otherwise unable to view the image you’ve uploaded.


I tried out the new feature and found the process simple and intuitive (check out my tweet about yummy cupcakes).  The accessible image is presented on a clean page with my image and chosen description.  To be fair, there are some limitations to posting images with this method, some of which are described on the Easy Chirp image help page.  The biggest issue for me is that the image is not uploaded to Twitter directly, which means it shows up in tweets as a link instead of an image.  This also means images don’t preview in tweets nor do they become part of Twitter media feeds.  Despite these drawbacks, this is a cool feature and an important step toward more web accessibility for all users.

I encourage you to explore the Easy Chirp app and try creating your own tweet with an accessible image.  Here’s the process, as described by WebAxe:

  1. Log in to Easy Chirp with your Twitter account.
  2. Select Write Tweet.
  3. Select Add Image.
  4. Select an image from your device.
  5. Enter a title of the image (short description).
  6. If necessary, enter a long description of the image.
  7. Click the Upload Image button. A URL will be inserted in the tweet input (text area).
  8. Finish writing the tweet and click the Post button.
  9. Happiness!

Share your adventures in accessibility by posting your tweets in the comments or tweeting at me @RachelHLuna.  I’m excited to see (and read) your accessible images!

Highlight an App – Easy Chirp

Productivity Tech Tip: Images that POP off the page!

by Jess Samuels

In the business of student affairs you wear many hats.  For those of you who sometimes find yourself making flyers for events, you are likely looking for the quickest way to get something done without sacrificing visual appeal.  As someone who regularly makes graphics for my office, non-profits, and the NEACUHO Navigator newsletter one of my most utilized tricks has been Instant Alpha.

Instant Alpha is a Mac only trick, so you PC folks can do things the long old fashioned way in photoshop (or you can buy a Mac 😉 )

Here’s how it works:

1. You find a image you want to go on your flyer that doesn’t have a transparent background.  White or black backgrounds works best, but anything without a lot of variation can work.


2. In Mac Pages, Keynote, or Preview you select “Instant Alpha” from the format menu.


3. Select the space around the object and expand the circle to to make the area transparent.


4. Voilà! You have a wonderful image that really POPS off the page.

Instant alpha 0

Productivity Tech Tip: Images that POP off the page!

10 Females to Follow on YouTube

By Josie Ahlquist

Recently an article from the dailydot.com called How YouTube is Failing Women, reported that only 17 of the top 100 YouTube channels were presented by women.  Currently, the highest-ranking woman on YouTube is Rihanna at #7, followed directly behind her by Jenna Marbles at #8.  But from there few female YouTubers are anywhere to be found in the top subscriber tiers.

Today, I am choosing to feature a number of YouTubers who are women.  Their channels showcase many vantage points including pure entertainment, lifestyle, gaming, how-to’s, sketch comedy, music, education and more.  While a couple of them are very popular, they all create quality content and deserve many more subscribers.

YouTube is a relevant choice for both personal and professional development in the Student Affairs profession.  It’s not just for cat videos or rap battles!  From inspirational speeches, to how-to tutorials, this video platform has something for everyone.  Videos are quickly digestible, sharable, and usually lead viewers to other related content.

There are a number of very successful channels (83 in fact in the top 100) on YouTube that are created/fronted by men.  These channels work extremely hard and I applaud them.  But the fact remains, more of these need to be women.

So, as promised I offer you 10 female fronted YouTube channels to follow.  There are many more I would love to include, but I tried to offer a comprehensive and diverse collection of women who entertain, empower, educate and/or all the above.  In no particular order, I’ve included their YouTube link, as well as their ‘about’ information which is their brief bio written by each YouTuber herself.  I also gave you a sentence or two of my take on their channel so you can get an idea of what they are like.

Happy Subscribing!!  

1.  MaryDoodles

“Just drawing stuff. And Things.”

Mary makes time-lapse art videos of her whimsical watercolor paintings. The videos are set to music and often finished off with a word from Mary herself showcasing her strong, quirky personality. I love watching her videos when I’m just looking to relax and take a break from writing.  She also is a great example of a woman being her authentic self, pursuing what she loves to do.

2.  Michelle Phan 

“Just another old soul dreamer with childlike faith. Teaching and inspiring everyone to become their own best makeup artist 🙂 So sit back, enjoy and let’s play with makeup!”

With over 5 million subscribers, Michelle has proven her relevancy online.  Her approach covers how-to beauty and lifestyle videos, applicable for all ages.  I appreciate her angle of education, using fashion and make-up to teach others to ‘feel fabulous in their own skin.’

3.  Grace Helbig 

“Yes. You’re right.” 

Formally known as Daily Grace, Grace Helbig uploads videos nearly every day.  As her former name suggests, this channel showcases the hilarious daily life, opinions and reflections of the one and only Grace.  Viewers are drawn in masses to her straightforward humor and continual insight into her very own life.  In March she will be starring in a featured film called Camp Takota.

4.  Emily Graslie 

“I’m Emily, the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum in Chicago, former volunteer of the University of Montana Zoological Museum, and I’d like to share some of the amazing things we have in the collection with the Internet!”

Like a professor of YouTube, Emily provides educational related videos mostly about animals.  You will not only be educated by her videos, but also entertained and fall in love with her witty personality.  I appreciate the type of content she produces, serving as a fabulous role model for young girls looking to go into sciences.  While she has only been on YouTube one year, she is gaining subscribers and views at a cheetah-like pace.

5.  Lindsey Stirling

“I love to play the violin, dance, write music, edit videos, play dress up, and perform.  So, I combined it all together and this is what happened.” 

Lindsey is a prime example of how YouTube can help get you discovered.  She began in 2007, choreographing and performing violin performances of cover songs.  It is unlike anything you have seen.  Not only are the videos captivating to watch, but also you will want to purchase her original music to rock out even when afk. (away from the keyboard).

6.  Lizzie Bennet Diaries 

“My year long video diary of my sisters, my best friend Charlotte, and eventually a guy named Darcy.”

Technically Lizzie Bennet is a fictional character on YouTube, just like the web series she stars in, adapted from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice story.  In the form of vlogs, Lizzie and a cast of characters are set to have you entertained. Student Affairs professionals may also find it interesting that Lizzie is a Communication Graduate Student.

7.  Christina Grimmie 

“As you can probably tell I love singing, writing songs, writing music and I play piano and a little drums & guitar!”

Her voice will have you hooked.  Young, extremely talented and sticking to her values, Christina is on her way to world tours and gold albums.  Popularized by cover songs, she is making her own now with solid original music.  She reminds me of the musically talented students I have worked with over the years, providing a positive example of how hard work will pays off over time.

8.  Brittani Louise Taylor 

“My name is Brittani, and I am an actress/artist/super nerd!”

The quirky, hilarious and all out there Brittani Louise Taylor is pure fun.  If you can keep up with her quick humor, you’ll quickly forget about the worries of the day.  I find that she is extremely connected with her subscribers, building a community of engaged fans.  She openly talks about how she was bullied growing up and works to empower her viewers.

9.  Katilette 

“Please keep the video comments clean or I will block you….Thanks” 

Colette Butler, commenly known by her YouTube persona Katilette, is the wife of popular YouTuber Shaycarl.  Their family composed of five children are part of a daily vlogging series called ‘Shaytards’.  While Colette uses another name online, who she is both in person and online are extremely congruent.  She is genuinely caring, authentic and inspiring.  Just like her channel description reads, she challenges viewers to be appropriate and positive community members.  She is a wonderful example for both young girls, as well as moms.

10. Louise Watson

“Aloha! I love beauty, babies (particularly mine) and shopping. Come on in, the water’s fine!”

Get ready for some serious sparkle; Louise calls her subscribers ‘Sprinklerinos’!  Who says lifestyle and beauty vlogs can’t come with a pack of personality?  Even further, Louise delves into deep topics like self-harm, body issues and self-esteem.  I recently sought out this channel after meeting Louise at a YouTube event, she is just as lovely in person as seen online.

Interested in an entire collection of female content on one channel?  Check out these two:

What other female YouTube channels are on your must-subscribe list?  Please include them in the comments below!

10 Females to Follow on YouTube

Apps for your soul

By Valerie Heruska

Some of us like to start our day with a cup of coffee. Some of us like to start our day with reading books and newspapers. I like to start my workday with quotes and I have some great apps for you to get to feed your soul with words of inspiration. On most of these apps, you can set the time you receive the quote (I get mine at 8:00AM, so it is the first thing I read in the office) and you can also post them to both Twitter and Facebook.

For the runner: Mile Post

Mile post brings the best quotes from runners. If you feel like you need that little boost of inspiration to run, get this app full of good quotes. Here’s one:

” Some seek the comfort of their therapists’s office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy” – Dean Karnazes

For the Daily Quote:  Daily Quote of the Day

For the Yoga person in your life: Yoga Quote of the Day

For those who need inspiration: Inspire Me Today

Do you have any other apps that you use to feed your soul? Let me know!

Apps for your soul

Highlight an App: Groupme

By Niki Messmore

These are strange times for communication. We live in a period that has dozens of available platforms to communicate with others (phone, Skype, Facetime, Facebook, Twitter, etc) yet it can still be difficult to touch base with those we care about. While 3-way phone calls were a hip thing back when I was a teen, society’s methods for group communication have evolved. Yet besides Facebook and email, what are the best ways to communicate with a group?

If you say texting, you’re only partially correct – while many of the smart phones will create a group text that allows everyone to see all responses, if a person has a different brand phone or a ‘dumb’ phone, then it appears as randomized texting gibberish that gets confusing to understand.

Groupme is the alternative that brings together a group conversation over text regardless of phone type. This app is available for download over phones, tablets, and computers. You register using your phone number and then, upon granting access to your phone, groupme will bring up all your contacts who use groupme. Have a contact who does not? No problem! As long as you have their phone number you can add someone to a group conversation – even if they haven’t downloaded the app.

The app is simple to use and allows images to be sent along with texts as well. All images sent within the group are saved, providing you with a private photo album.

I enjoy groupme for keeping in touch with groups of friends. It allows us all to communicate and send updates on lives at once, hereby making it easier to keep in touch and have ‘real talk’ about life updates. It can also be great for special event planning and other work opportunities when having quick contact with one another can be crucial.

I’m not a heavy user of groupme just yet – mostly because a)I’m a grad student, b)it is October; ergo c)I have less time for social fun – but I think it is a simple and creative way to communicate with groups of people. Special shout out to Courtney Rousseau for introducing me to the app!

So what do you think – is groupme an efficient and fun way to keep in touch with people? Or are there better alternatives out there? Let me know in the comments or hit me up via Twitter @NikiMessmore


Highlight an App: Groupme

Highlight an App: GoodNotes

by Niki Messmore

There are plenty of things that I do not believe in – shoes (prisons for your feet!), Miley Cyrus’ ability to twerk, and wasting printer paper. Fortunately, I have a solution for the latter – my beloved iPad.

Allowing me to download articles for easy perusal, my iPad has been a savior throughout my time as a grad student. However, some of the platforms for reading PDFs can limiting. Thanks to my friend Anna, I’ve discovered my new favorite app for PDFs: GoodNotes.

GoodNotes app allows the user to download PDFs, make handwritten notes, and highlight key information. I love the ability to write in the margins (using different pen sizes and colors) and highlight when I’m researching – all without needing to kill trees (and print credits!) by printing off articles. Not to mention, it is fun to doodle all over the page (especially when I get frustrated by long articles) only to click the ‘reset’ button and have it revert to its shiny new state.

Worried that your handwritten notes will look rubbish? Goodnotes’ pen function flows easily across the screen. Even if that does not work, there is also an ‘insert text box’ option.

There’s even an ‘insert image’ function! Imagine: You have 200 pages of articles to read. You are weary. But! There is hope in the form of fun graphics. You can insert images of student affairs grumpy cat or the cast members of SuperWhoLock to the end of different pages in order to reward yourself for a job well done!

Additionally, the navigation tools are easy to use, allowing you to bookmark and flip through the pages easily.

The only downside? The initial download is free but only allows one PDF. In order to process more, the user is required to purchase the app for $5.99….which, for a grad student, is a little painful to spend.

Eh. I’m the kind of person who attends all the campus events with free food in order to reduce my spending, but surprisingly I love this app enough to make the commitment. It simplifies my crazy #sagrad life and for that I am grateful.

Do you enjoy using GoodNotes? Got any tips on other similar apps? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or via Twitter at @NikiMessmore.

Highlight an App: GoodNotes

Highlight an App: Retail Me Not

by Valerie Heruska

It’s back-to-school season, and whether or not you are going back to school or you have little humans who are attending school — back – to – school specials are filtering the TV left and right. I mean c’mon.. Target and their recorder/xylophone version of Salt n’ Peppa’s “Push it” = Amazingness.

Anyway, I’ve been using the app “Retail me not” for awhile and I love it. It’s very handy if you’re the non-coupon clipper type like myself. Any time you are near a mall, or store, you just open up retail me not and it will find the specials going on in the store (or extra coupons) and online.  For example, I was in “The Body Shop” just wandering around and looking at nice smelly things and Retail me Not told me that I could get a free membership to their “Love your Body rewards” ($10.00) plus $5.00 my purchase of $15 or more. I tried it out and it worked. It wasn’t a special that the store actually advertised and I wouldn’t have known about it  if not for this app.

There are a ton of stores on this app and you can get everything from hardware (Home Depot) to food (think Auntie Ann’s pretzels) just buy using this app. Best of all, it’s free on iTunes.  The other cool part about it is that anytime you’re near a mall, Retail Me Not will send you alerts for some of the most popular deals going on inside the store.

What are some of your back – to -school apps?

Happy Shopping!

Highlight an App: Retail Me Not