Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Help! I'm Trapped... Free Rice!

Free Rice is not only cool for the it's purpose - to give away rice through the United Nations World Food Program, it's also an addictive vocabulary game. Huh?

From the FAQ:

How does the FreeRice vocabulary program work?
FreeRice has a custom database containing thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty. There are words appropriate for people just learning English and words that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are thousands of words for students, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people… everyone!

FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level of vocabulary. It starts by giving you words at different levels of difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a word wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three words in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the “outer fringe” of your vocabulary, where learning can take place.

There are 50 levels in all, but it is rare for people to get above level 48.

If FreeRice has the rice to give, why not give it all away right now?

FreeRice is not sitting on a pile of rice―you are earning it 10 grains at a time. Here is how it works. When you play the game, advertisements appear on the bottom of your screen. The money generated by these advertisements is then used to buy the rice. So by playing, you generate the money that pays for the rice donated to hungry people.

If you are a "wordie," or simply find the free rice part to be an interesting concept, take a look. So far I have donated 600 grains of rice!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Making Contact

Even though I know how to create forms in HTML, I have always considered them a pain in the butt. I was never overly thrilled with the way my hand-coded forms worked with my email client, and it rarely seemed worth the effort when I was trying to create forms for the various and sundry blogs I write or administer. I tried a number of third party forms, but they were either riddled with advertising, clunky, or ugly - until now.

I used Wufoo for the contact form on this blog. You get up to three forms for free on Wufoo, and the forms are pretty customizable in term of look and purpose. You can add fields, change colors, add your logo, create surveys, invitations, conference and program registrations, job applications - you name it. It takes a bit of playing with at the start, but so far my forms built with Wufoo work great and look the way I want them to. Thumbs up.

Reachby is another option I am employing at the new Rhode Island Library Association blog. Reachby is about as simple as it gets. It's a plain form with no real customization options. But if you are looking for a form that protects your email address, sets up in seconds, and just simply works, Reachby does the trick. It's free, and you can have one form per email address.

If you use WordPress, you have several form widgets to choose from. If you administer a multi-page site, you probably will take the time to create a form using whatever web tool you use. But if you have a blog or simple webpage created with any of the gazillion online blogging platforms and webpage tools, both of these options offer a very easy way to get a form up and running. And, even if you run a fully interactive library site, using Wufoo for a "temporary" form, like a program registration, might save loads of time.

Need a form? Check 'em out.