Smarterer drops public profile pages

As of 20th September, it seems as if Smarterer has dropped public profiles and badges. A blog post on that date states

 

In support of this shift from external recognition to private validation, we’ve also replaced public profiles with a personal dashboard to house these new learning tools.

 

As a long time Smarterer user, I welcome the change in focus that this post announces but I think that dropping the ability to (optionally) have a public page showing your results is a mistake. The removal of public profile pages also seems to have resulted in the removal of public badges. There is a dashboard section which allows you to share your test scores but this is limited to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, none of which are an adequate substitute for embedding badges on your own site or resume. The ephemeral nature of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets make those options particularly useless.

Hopefully, Smarterer will restore public profiles and badges in the near future but, for now, I have removed the sidebar links to their site.

 

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Enhance and test your Google Search knowledge

I’ve never counted, but, at a conservative estimate, I probably use Google Search at least a couple of hundred times every day. Unfortunately, like most things that are so habitual, I’ve gotten into a rut when searching and, rather than using the most appropriate query to find exactly what I want, I usually search in the same way I did last time, and the time before that. Yes, I do sometimes remember to put quotes round an exact phrase I’m looking for, or restrict pages to only those updated in the last year but that’s about the extent of my efforts.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Google Search has an incredibly rich query language – dozens of options let you filter and refine your searches. Some of these options are tucked away behind rarely used menu items while others, like searching for number ranges, require the use of operators. Even those that appear prominently displayed in the sidebar can have unexpectedly powerful uses as I discovered today while viewing the lessons for the first class in a tutorial from Google entitled “Power Searching with Google”.

Launched earlier today this free, six class series looks certain to provide an great introduction to making the most of Google search. Between now and the 23rd of July a combination of video tutorials, activities, Google+ Hangouts with search experts and discussion forums will provide an immersive learning experience. I found the first class, presented by Google Senior Research Scientist Daniel M. Russell, to be excellent – Dan is a relaxed and confident presenter who clearly knows his subject and how to make it accessible. The material is clearly presented and the production values are high.

The whole of the first class took me about and hour including watching the videos (+/- 35minutes) and completing the activities. Being the first class, there wasn’t much that was new to me but, even as a refresher, it’s well worth the effort. Hopefully this will be the first of many such ventures from Google.

The classes can be taken any time to suit your schedule and the videos will continue to be available after the course ends on the 23rd of July. Only the mid-class and post-class assessments won’t be available after that time.

 

Once you’ve completed the course, why not test your new skills with the Smarterer Google Search test?

A word of warning though, there are a few tough questions in there…

 

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Smarterer image “gotcha”

Creating a Smarterer test to allow others to evaluate their skills is fairly easy – the system is straightforward and takes you step-by-step through the process.

However, as is the case with most endeavours, a little preparation goes a long way – this is especially true when creating an image to go with your test. The image will appear in search results and at the side of your test, next to the description, so you want it to look professional. What may not be immediately obvious when you upload your image is that, to look good in all situations, it must be a PNG with a transparent background. This is especially true if your image has an irregular shape and a white background. When you upload your image it’s previewed against a white background but that’s not the colour it will ultimately be placed on.

The following two screenshots illustrate the problem. Firstly, despite the circular shape, the Pinterest logo looks good –

whereas the rectangular white background of this logo makes it look out-of-place:

Creating a PNG with a transparent background is very simple. There are lots of free online tools that will allow you to upload an image and select the colour to be made transparent so there is no need to install anything on your computer. If you make sure your image has a solid background colour to start this will be a pain-free and very fast process.

What if you’ve already uploaded an image to Smarterer without a transparent background? Unfortunately there is currently no way to change the image once it’s loaded – you have to send Smarterer the new image by email (support@smarterer.com) and they will replace it for you.

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Are you a Byword Master?

If you have used the Byword Markdown editor on the Mac you’ll already know that knowledge of the keyboard shortcuts is essential if you really want to get the full benefit of the clean, uncluttered interface, especially in full-screen mode.

As a complement to my recently created set of flashcards for Byword I have created a new Smarterer test. With 59 possible questions, offered in a rapid-fire multiple choice format, this test will allow you to really evaluate your skills in just a few minutes.

After successful completion of the test you’ll receive a badge indicating your skill level that you can add to your resume or website. You can see mine at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar… unfortunately WordPress (.com) doesn’t allow embedded Javascript so it doesn’t appear exactly as it should but it is still effective.

 

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Test your Google Chrome knowledge at Smarterer.com

Smarterer is a great way to test and authenticate your (mainly) computer skills with timed online quizzes. Tests are crowdsourced and regularly updated to ensure their relevance – they aren’t going to replace your Microsoft MCSE certification but for new, fast changing or specialised subjects such as jQuery, Twitter, Google Search, etc. they can be an excellent way to appraise and highlight your skill set.

On completion of a test you’ll be awarded a badge showing your achievement level that you can add to your website or resumé. You also have your own URL that shows all your awards (thankfully you can also hide those you’ve scored badly on). I’ve found most of the tests I’ve taken so far to be of a fairly high standard and both challenging and relevant enough to provide an accurate assessment of my skill level.

If you use the Google Chrome browser on Mac OSX you might like to test your knowledge of its keyboard shortcuts with a new Smarterer test I created earlier today.
There are 40 questions altogether though you may not see them all at first as the questions shown, the order they’re shown in and the points awarded are all determined by algorithm not by the test creator. If you do well on this test I think you can be confident you know your way around Chrome.

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If you take the test I’d love to hear your feedback.

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