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Archive for December, 2013

2014 International Year of Crystallography

Crystals shape our world

© IUCr and Wikimedia Commons.
The crystal structure of graphite (bottom) is very different from that of diamond although both are pure carbon.

Crystals —familiar to all in gemstones, glittering snowflakes or grains of salt— are everywhere in nature. Throughout history, people have been fascinated by their beauty and mystery. Two thousand years ago, the process of crystallizing sugar and salt was already known to the ancient Indian and Chinese civilizations. Since then, the study of crystals’ inner structure and properties has known steady progress, giving us our deepest insights into the arrangement of atoms in the solid state and leading to advancements the sciences of solid-state physics, chemistry, biology, medicine and even mathematics, by considering the symmetries behind crystalline and quasicrystalline patterns.

In the early 20th century, it was discovered that X-rays could be used to ‘see’ the structure of matter in a non-intrusive manner, thus beginning the dawn of modern crystallography —the science that examines the arrangement of atoms in solids. X-ray crystallography has allowed us to study the chemical bonds which draw one atom to another. Crystallographers now apply this knowledge to modify a structure and thus change its properties and behavior. Since this discovery, crystallography has become the very core of structural science, revealing the structure of DNA, allowing us to understand and fabricate computer memories, showing us how proteins are created in cells and helping scientists to design powerful new materials and drugs. Thus crystallography has many applications. It permeates our daily lives and forms the backbone of industries which are increasingly reliant on knowledge generation to develop new products, in widely diverse fields that include agro-food, aeronautics, automobiles, cosmetics and computers as well as the electro-mechanical, pharmaceutical and mining industries.

Image: Wikimedia.
Snowflakes are crystals. Their hexagonal symmetry results from the way in which water molecules are bound to each other.

Although crystallography underpins all of the sciences today, it remains relatively unknown to the general public. That is one of the reasons why the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography (IYCr2014)*, and requested UNESCO to lead and coordinate, with the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), the planning and implementation of educational and capacity-building activities during the Year.

2014 marks the centennial of the birth of X-ray crystallography, thanks to the work of William Henry, William Lawrence Bragg (father and son) and Max von Laue —the later was awarded the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals.

A century later, the International Year of Crystallography 2014 highlights the continuing importance of crystallography and its role in addressing post-2015 development issues such as food security, safe drinking water, health care, sustainable energy and environmental remediation; as well as commemorating auspicious crystallography accolades. This Year also commemorates the 50th anniversary of another Nobel Prize, awarded to Dorothy Hodgkin for her work on vitamin B12 and penicillin, and is the 400th anniversary of Kepler’s observation of the symmetrical form of ice crystals (in 1611), thus beginning the wider study of the role of symmetry in matter.

* At its sixty-sixth session in July 2012

Main objectives

© Shutterstock/S_E.
Crystallography can identify new materials that purify water, such as nanosponges
  • Increasing public awareness of the science of crystallography and how it underpins most technological developments in our modern society
  • Inspiring young people through public exhibitions, conferences and hands-on demonstrations in schools
  • Illustrating the universality of science
  • Supporting the Africa Initiative on Crystallography and creating similar programmes in Asia and Latin America
  • Fostering international collaboration between scientists worldwide, especially North–South contributions
  • Promoting education and research in crystallography and its links to other sciences
  • Involving the large synchrotron and neutron radiation facilities worldwide in the celebrations of IYCr2014, including the SESAME project set up under UNESCO auspices

Main activities

Phillip Maiwald/Wikipedia.
Lotfollah Mosque in Iran.
  • Organizing hands-on Crystallography Open Laboratories
  • Encouraging the organization of Crystal Growth competitions worldwide
  • Fostering the organization of Crystallography Exhibitions
  • Launching an open-access crystallography journal
  • Providing all levels of students, from pre-school to university, with crystallography demonstrations at appropriate levels
  • Publicizing the contributions that crystallographers make to the global economy by submitting articles to the press and to magazines or developing television and radio programmes
  • Sponsoring poster exhibitions highlighting the usefulness and wonders of crystallography
  • Organizing problem-solving projects through which students can use their knowledge of crystallography, physics and chemistry
  • Publicizing the contributions that crystallography has made to improve lives, particularly recent developments in drug design and material science
  • Organizing crystal-growing competitions
  • Interacting with governments to underscore the importance of a strong crystallographic education
  • Organizing consultations concerning the best ways to save all diffraction data collected in large-scale facilities and crystallography laboratories

Key events

© IUCr.
Antibodies binding to a virus.
  • Opening Ceremony of the IYCr204, UNESCO Headquarters, 20-21 January 2014
  • Open Laboratories in Crystallography, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, during the Year
  • Asian Summit Meeting on Crystallography, Karachi, Pakistan, 28-30 April 2014
  • Latin America and Caribbean Summit Meeting on Crystallography, Campina, Brazil, September 2014
  • African Summit Meeting on Crystallography, Bloemfontein, South Africa, 15-17 October 2014.


IYCr2014: What crystallography can do for you

The aim of this short video is to announce 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography. Crystallography is that branch of science that is concerned with the investigation of the arrangement of atoms in matter. It is from the basic knowledge of how atoms are linked to each other to form molecules or extended structures that the properties and behaviour of materials can be understood. Crystallography is thus vital in chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, mineralogy, and other disciplines. Hence the title of the video: IYCr2014: What crystallography can do for you. Our commitment for 2014 is to tell the world about the enormous contribution that crystallography makes to society.
The video begins with a view of the beautiful Pulpí geode in Almería in southern Spain, Europe’s largest geode. The walls of this ovoid cave, which measures approximately 8 x 2 x 2 metres, are coated with huge transparent  gypsum crystals.These crystals resemble large blocks of ice, bringing to mind the Greek origin of the word crystal: krystallos, meaning supercooled water. The cave is a magnificent example of the aesthetics of the crystalline world.
From the very moment we get up, and with every step we take, there are crystals all around us. We find crystals as components of our toothpaste, as sugar grains or forming the structure  of an eggshell, thus controlling its mechanical properties. Crystals are also in the liquid crystal displays of alarm clocks, our mobile  phones and our computer screens. Crystals are also in the catalytic converters found in cars, in the snow falling outside or in the frozen foods in our freezer. Crystals are literally everywhere in our daily lives.
Our bones as well as our teeth are made of crystals of a type of calcium phosphate, called hydroxylapatite, which forms our skeleton, allowing us to stay upright. Single crystals of calcite (one of the most common minerals) located in the inner ear control our equilibrium. We do not fall down because of crystals! Advances in the discipline of crystallography help to produce not only biocompatible materials mimicking the size and texture of these hydroxylapatite crystals for better prostheses but also new materials inspired by crystal structures that are part of living organisms, such as snail shells, coral or pearls.
The vast majority of the minerals that make up rocks are crystals. Snowflakes themselves are nothing but crystallized water. In many cases these natural mineral crystals display beautiful polyhedral shapes with sharp edges that tell us about the internal ordered structure characteristic of crystalline matter. Jewels and semiprecious  stones appear mostly as crystallized minerals in nature. Furthermore, the study of the properties of natural crystals improves extraction and processing in modern mining.
The vast majority of today’s materials such as semiconductors, superconductors, light alloys, non-linear optical elements and catalysts are crystalline, as are materials that are expected to play a role in our future, for example quasicrystals and graphene.
New technologies use liquid crystals for watches and telephones, crystals for lasers, semiconductors in the electronic components of chips and LED displays.
Every medicine needs to be crystallized to ensure its purity, verify its pharmacological functionality and improve its efficiency. Thanks to crystallography there are new methods that allow us to visualize the spatial arrangement of atoms and molecules and use this knowledge to understand how drugs work and how they can be improved.
Conserving precious works of art is a continuing problem because of the materials used. Modern crystallographic techniques allow us to identify these materials and understand the reactions that cause the material to age.
Crystals and crystallographic theories play a fundamental role in art and beauty. For instance, the periodic  repetition of matter that constitutes crystals creates patterns that are similar to those found in the mosaics of the Alhambra and even today helps to inspire new decorative designs.The concept  of crystal and crystalline order and the rationale behind it has always fostered an appreciation towards the natural harmony and beauty of the science, which is clearly shown in some of M. C. Escher’s prints in architecture and philosophy. Purist and cubist art as well as the architectural dreams of Le Corbusier that we can see today on the skylines of our cities have been inspired by crystals.
We all know that the most valuable gemstones are crystalline, like diamonds, rubies and emeralds …
… but few people know that the cosmetics industry exploits the properties of crystals: colour and texture depend on the shape and size of the crystalline phase used in the manufacture of beauty products.
We are all familiar with sugar and salt, both of which are crystals. The quality and taste of brown and white sugar depend on how they are crystallized. The prices are different for simple table salt, Maldon salt or “fleur de sel” because they are crystallized in different ways. But you may be surprised to learn that chocolate also contains crystals and that the quality of the chocolate is dependent on how these cocoa fatty acid crystals crystallize. The taste and quality of ice cream depends on the size and shape of the ice crystals it contains.
Crystalline pigments add colour to our lives. But surprisingly it is the interference of light  with the crystal structure of chitin rather than pigments that gives butterfly wings or birds’ feathers their beautiful colours. The exploitation of so-called “structural colours” may play a role in the future of the design industry.
The crystallization of fertilizers, soil conditioners and other agrochemicals must be performed to higher degrees of accuracy now new quality-control measures are in effect.
Solar photovoltaic panels use crystalline silicon to convert sunlight into electricity. The future of solar energy depends on developing new arrangements of crystals in semiconductors. Zeolites, highly porous crystalline materials, are used in petroleum refinement to obtain better and cleaner fuel.
Crystals that form some types of meteorites contain information about the history of the early stages of our planet and solar system.
Revealing the mineral composition of Mars, the Moon and outer space is the first step to knowing about the places we may be destined to explore and live. Data on mineral composition is also crucial in answering the age-old question: is there life on other planets? Crystallography provides the technology to characterize the mineral composition and share some of the secrets of other planets and solar systems.
Currently we do not have microscopes powerful enough to observe the intimate structures of materials. Thanks to developments in diffraction theory and the ability to crystallize large and complex biological macromolecules, crystallographers are able to reveal the atomic structure of nucleic acids and proteins.Thus we are able to understand the relationships between atomic structure and biochemical function of these key molecules, i.e. how life works at the molecular  level.
Thanks to these crystallographic methods, crystallographers have revealed the helical structure of DNA, how haemoglobin transports oxygen and how the hormone insulin  works. And it is crystallography and crystallographic techniques that have shed light on the structure of the target protein involved in AIDS.


The video ends with an animation featuring the two great discoveries on which crystallography is built. The first discovery, in the 19th century, is that a crystal is made up of the periodical arrangement of units of matter (either atoms, molecules or macromolecules) and that, as a result of this internal periodical order, crystals display external polyhedral shapes with precise symmetry. The second landmark discovery in the early years of the 20th century is that the interaction of crystals with a beam of X-rays produces diffraction patterns that contain valuable information about the internal structure of the crystals. Crystallographers have been able to develop theoretical and experimental tools to deconstruct these sets of spots and transform them into images of the atoms and molecules from many types of materials, from common table salt or the most healing medicines to the complex constituents of life: nucleic acids, viruses and proteins. And with that critical information, crucial advances in medicine, materials engineering, chemistry, geology and pharmacology have contributed to and continue to improve social welfare. No wonder  then that the Nobel Committee has awarded the discipline 28 Nobel Prizes.


Learn about crystallography

These pages link to information about the subject of crystallography.




MOOC on “The Fascination of Crystals and Symmetry”


Beauty and Structure

Glistening rubies, sugar, stones or snowflakes – we encounter crystals in our daily lives. Even though they all look very different, there is one thing they have in common: their molecules are arranged in lattices. How do these structures form? What properties do they contribute to these materials? How can you classify them? This is shown in this course. The focus is placed upon the creation of a crystallographic basis, enabling you to decipher and understand the cryptic language and the abstract concepts of crystallography. With this basis, you will be prepared for the advanced lectures and readings in solid state chemistry and physics, material sciences, crystallography or mineralogy.­

Aesthetics and Fundamentals

After the definition of the term “structure” and the notion of what makes a crystal and why anisotropic properties (specific materials properties are direction dependent) result from this, the correspondence principle (relationship between the inner structure and the outer shape of the crystal) is introduced and visualized in aesthetic images. We will treat the concept of the unit cell – the fundamental building block of every crystal – in detail. We want to use platforms like flickr or twitter to share everyday life examples with each other; thereby the concepts of translation lattices and motives are taught. In this context, there will be enough challenging exercises to train and apply what has been learned so far. Another unit will cover the hierarchical systematics in the classification of crystals (crystal systems, crystal classes, Bravais lattices) and its benefits. Occasional excursus will be used to link course content to current events and questions in research (i.e. the International Year of Crystallography or 2011’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals).

Explore Crystals in 3D

Next, the symmetry of crystals is dealt with. All macroscopic and microscopic symmetry elements and symmetry operations (mirror planes, glide planes, centers of inversion, rotational axes and screw axes) are characterized and illustrated with many examples gathered through crowdsourcing. We hope that you will take many pictures, we can discuss together regarding symmetry elements. Finally, the connection to the systematics of crystals is shown and we will discuss the concept of what is called “space group”. The last part of the course will focus on practical experience. Using free computer programs for three-dimensional crystal visualization (Mercury, VESTA etc.), you are given the opportunity to discover countless crystal structures, which are freely available on the internet as CIF-files. Concepts like the asymmetric unit, fractional coordinates, general and special positions, multiplicity and Wyckoff positions can be discovered, developed and understood on the fly. Of course, the respective tutorials to use the software will be provided.

Learning targets / Educational objectives

Upon completion of this online course you can answer the following questions:

What do the patterns on wallpapers and the structures of crystals have in common? There are innumerable appearances of crystals. How can all crystals in this world be classified into seven different crystal systems? Why is it sufficient to know the positions of only a few atoms to precisely describe a crystalline solid consisting of a myriad of atoms? How can you find crystallographic data and how can it be analyzed regarding symmetry? What relationship exists between the structure and the properties of a material? Why is diamond so hard and how can you explain phenomena such as ferroelectricity?

Prior Knowledge

Basic knowledge in chemistry (atoms, simple molecules).



Top 13 Influencer posts of 2013

11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader:

Being likeable will help you in your job, business, relationships, and life. I interviewed dozens of successful business leaders in my last book, Likeable Business, to determine what made them so likeable and their companies so successful. All of the concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Below are the eleven most important principles to integrate to become a better leader:

1. Listening

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors. Here’s why the best CEO’s listen more.

2. Storytelling

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McAfee Brown

After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you’re telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video – storytelling wins customers.

3. Authenticity

“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” -Oprah Winfrey

Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social internet has blurred that line. Tomorrow’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.

4. Transparency

“As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” -John Whittier

There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night – unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one.

5. Team Playing

“Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” -SEAL Team Saying

No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likeable leader. You’ll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.

6. Responsiveness

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

The best leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder today is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a tweet, responding shows you care and gives your customers and colleagues a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organization.

7. Adaptability

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Ben Franklin

There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.

8. Passion

“The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.” -Steve Jobs

Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.

9. Surprise and Delight

“A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” -Charles de Gaulle

Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likeable leaders underpromise and overdeliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. There are a plethora of ways to surprise without spending extra money – a smile, We all like to be delighted — surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

10. Simplicity

“Less isn’t more; just enough is more.” -Milton Glaser

The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so today’s leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.

11. Gratefulness

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -Gilbert Chesterton

Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great! Donor’s Choose studied the value of a hand-written thank-you note, and actually found donors were 38% more likely to give a 2nd time if they got a hand-written note!

The Golden Rule: Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated

By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers, and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company’s likeability and motivates others to work with you. This seems so simple, as do so many of these principles — and yet many people, too concerned with making money or getting by, fail to truly adopt these key concepts.


Three Things I’ve Learned From Warren Buffett:

I’m looking forward to sharing posts from time to time about things I’ve learned in my career atMicrosoft and the Gates Foundation. (I also post frequently on my blog.)

Last month, I went to Omaha for the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. It’s always a lot of fun, and not just because of the ping-pong matches and the newspaper-throwing contest I have with Warren Buffett. It’s also fun because I get to learn from Warren and gain insight into how he thinks.

Here are three things I’ve learned from Warren over the years:

1. It’s not just about investing.

The first thing people learn from Warren, of course, is how to think about investing. That’s natural, given his amazing track record. Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of people stop, and they miss out on the fact that he has a whole framework for business thinking that is very powerful. For example, he talks about looking for a company’s moat—its competitive advantage—and whether the moat is shrinking or growing. He says a shareholder has to act as if he owns the entire business, looking at the future profit stream and deciding what it’s worth. And you have to be willing to ignore the market rather than follow it, because you want to take advantage of the market’s mistakes—the companies that have been underpriced.

I have to admit, when I first met Warren, the fact that he had this framework was a real surprise to me. I met him at a dinner my mother had put together. On my way there, I thought, “Why would I want to meet this guy who picks stocks?” I thought he just used various market-related things—like volume, or how the price had changed over time—to make his decisions. But when we started talking that day, he didn’t ask me about any of those things. Instead he started asking big questions about the fundamentals of our business. “Why can’t IBM do what Microsoft does? Why has Microsoft been so profitable?” That’s when I realized he thought about business in a much more profound way than I’d given him credit for.

2. Use your platform.

A lot of business leaders write letters to their shareholders, but Warren is justly famous for his. Partly that’s because his natural good humor shines through. Partly it’s because people think it will help them invest better (and they’re right). But it’s also because he’s been willing to speak frankly and criticize things like stock options and financial derivatives. He’s not afraid to take positions, like his stand on raising taxes on the rich, that run counter to his self-interest. Warren inspired me to start writing my own annual letter about the foundation’s work. I still have a ways to go before mine is as good as Warren’s, but it’s been helpful to sit down once a year and explain the results we’re seeing, both good and bad.

3. Know how valuable your time is.

No matter how much money you have, you can’t buy more time. There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day. Warren has a keen sense of this. He doesn’t let his calendar get filled up with useless meetings. On the other hand, he’s very generous with his time for the people he trusts. He gives his close advisers at Berkshire his phone number, and they can just call him up and he’ll answer the phone.

Although Warren makes a point of meeting with dozens of university classes every year, not many people get to ask him for advice on a regular basis. I feel very lucky in that regard: The dialogue has been invaluable to me, and not only at Microsoft. When Melinda and I started our foundation, I turned to him for advice. We talked a lot about the idea that philanthropy could be just as impactful in its own way as software had been. It turns out that Warren’s brilliant way of looking at the world is just as useful in attacking poverty and disease as it is in building a business. He’s one of a kind.

Photo: Bill Gates 


10 Things To Do Every Workday:

I’ve always been focused on performance. I’m a list person. I love the feeling of crossing things off. It makes me feel productive. Plus, consistent productivity has the wonderful byproduct of accomplishing more. Jeff Haden’s recent article on Linkedin summarizes the value of having a daily to-do list beautifully: You don’t wait to do the work until you get the dream job – you do the work in order to get the dream job.

I’ve never shared this list with anyone until now.

It’s the list of ten things I try to do every workday. Yes, there are days when I don’t get them all done, but I do my best to deliver. It has proven very effective for me. They are:

  1. Read something related to my industry.
  2. Read something related to business development.
  3. Send two emails to touch base with old colleagues.
  4. Empty my private client inbox by responding to all career coaching questions within one business day.
  5. Check in with each team member on their progress.
  6. Have a short non-work related conversation with every employee.
  7. Review my top three goals for my company that are focused on its growth.
  8. Identify and execute one task to support each of my top three goals.
  9. Post five valuable pieces of content on all my major social media accounts.
  10. Take a full minute to appreciate what I have and how far I’ve come.

This list could be longer. BUT…

If it was longer, I wouldn’t be as good at getting them all done. This list is manageable to me. Of course, I do more than these ten things every day. But, these are the ten I choose to do with consistency. Why? Over the years, they’ve proven the best way for me to grow my career and my business. The collective results have made completing these tasks consistently; even when I don’t feel like it, well worth it.


Stop Using These 16 Terms to Describe Yourself:

Picture this. You meet someone new. “What do you do?” she asks.

“I’m an architect,” you say.

“Oh, really?” she answers. “Have you designed any buildings I’ve seen?”

“Possibly,” you reply. “We did the new student center at the university…”

“Oh wow,” she says. “That’s a beautiful building…”

Without trying — without blowing your own horn — you’ve made a great impression.

Now picture this. You meet someone new. “What do you do?” he asks.

“I’m a passionate, innovative, dynamic provider of architectural services with a collaborative approach to creating and delivering outstanding world-class client and user experiences.”

All righty then.

Do you describe yourself differently – on your website, promotional materials, or especially on social media – than you do in person? Do you use cheesy clichés and overblown superlatives and breathless adjectives?

Do you write things about yourself you would never have the nerve to actually say?

Here are some words that are great when other people use them to describe you – but you should never use to describe yourself:

1. “Innovative.” Most companies claim to be innovative. Most people claim to be innovative. Most are, however, not. (I’m definitely not.) That’s okay, because innovation isn’t a requirement for success.

If you are innovative, don’t say it. Prove it. Describe the products you’ve developed. Describe the processes you’ve modified.

Give us something real so your innovation is unspoken but evident… which is always the best kind of innovative to be.

2. “World-class.” Usain Bolt: world-class sprinter, Olympic medals to prove it. Lionel Messi: world-class soccer (I know, football) player, four Ballon d’Or trophies to prove it.

But what is a world-class professional or company? Who defines world-class? In your case, probably just you.

3. “Authority.” Like Margaret Thatcher said, “Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren’t.” Show your expertise instead.

“Presented at TEDxEast ” or “Predicted 50 out of 50 states in 2012 election” (Hi Nate!) indicates a level of authority. Unless you can prove it, “social media marketing authority” might simply mean you spend way too much time worrying about your Klout score.

4. “Results oriented.” Really? Some people actually focus on doing what they are paid to do? We had no idea.

5. “Global provider.” The majority of businesses can sell goods or services worldwide; the ones that can’t are fairly obvious.

Only use “global provider” if that capability is not assumed or obvious; otherwise you just sound like a small company trying to appear big.

6. “Motivated.” Check out Chris Rock’s response (not safe for work or the politically correct) to people who say they take care of their kids. Then substitute words like “motivated.”

Never take credit for things you are supposed to do – or supposed to be.

7. “Creative.” See particular words often enough and they no longer make an impact. “Creative” is one of them. (Use finding “creative” references in random LinkedIn profiles as a drinking game and everyone will lose — or win, depending on your perspective.)

“Creative” is just one example. Others include extensive, effective, proven, influential, team player… some of those terms may truly describe you, but since they are also being used to describe everyone they’ve lost their impact.

8. “Dynamic.” If you are “vigorously active and forceful,” um, stay away.

9. “Guru.” People who try to be clever for the sake of being clever are anything but. (Like in #8.) Don’t be a self-proclaimed ninja, sage, connoisseur, guerilla, wonk, egghead… it’s awesome when your customers affectionately describe you that way.

Refer to yourself that way and it’s obvious you’re trying way too hard to impress other people – or yourself.

10. “Curator.” Museums have curators. Libraries have curators. Tweeting links to stuff you find interesting doesn’t make you a curator… or an authority or a guru.

11. “Passionate.” I know many people disagree, but if you say you’re incredibly passionate about, oh, incorporating elegant design aesthetics into everyday objects, to me you sound over the top.

The same is true if you’re passionate about developing long-term customer solutions. Try the words focus, concentration, or specialization instead.

Or try “love,” as in, “I love incorporating an elegant design aesthetic in everyday objects.” For whatever reason, that works for me. Passion doesn’t. (But maybe that’s just me.)

12. “Unique.” Fingerprints are unique. Snowflakes are unique. You are unique – but your business probably isn’t. That’s fine, because customers don’t care about unique; they care about “better.”

Show you’re better than the competition and in the minds of your customers you will be unique.

13. “Incredibly…” Check out some random bios and you’ll find plenty of further-modified descriptors: “Incredibly passionate,” “profoundly insightful,” “extremely captivating…” isn’t it enough to be insightful or captivating? Do you have to be profoundly insightful?

If you must use over-the-top adjectives, spare us the further modification. Trust that we already get it.

14. “Serial entrepreneur.” A few people start multiple, successful, long-term businesses. They are successful serial entrepreneurs.

The rest of us start one business that fails or does okay, try something else, try something else, and keep on rinsing and repeating until we find a formula that works. Those people are entrepreneurs. Be proud if you’re “just” an entrepreneur. You should be.

15. “Strategist.” I sometimes help manufacturing plants improve productivity and quality. There are strategies I use to identify areas for improvement but I’m in no way a strategist. Strategists look at the present, envision something new, and develop approaches to make their vision a reality.

I don’t create something new; I apply my experience and a few proven methodologies to make improvements.

Very few people are strategists. Most “strategists” are actually coaches, specialists, or consultants who use what they know to help others. 99% of the time that’s what customers need – they don’t need or even want a strategist.

16. “Collaborative.” You won’t just decide what’s right for me and force me to buy it?

If your process is designed to take my input and feedback, tell me how that works. Describe the process. Don’t claim we’ll work together — describe how we’ll work together.


The One Thing Successful People Never Do:

Success comes in all shapes and colours. You can be successful in your job and career but you can equally be successful in your marriage, at sports or a hobby. Whatever success you are after there is one thing all radically successful people have in common: Their ferocious drive and hunger for success makes them never give up.

Successful people (or the people talking or writing about them) often paint a picture of the perfect ascent to success. In fact, some of the most successful people in business, entertainment and sport have failed. Many have failed numerous times but they have never given up. Successful people are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on trying.

I have collected some examples that should be an inspiration to anyone who aspires to be successful. They show that if you want to succeed you should expect failure along the way. I actually believe that failure can spur you on and make you try even harder. You could argue that every experience of failure increases the hunger for success. The truly successful won’t be beaten, they take responsibility for failure, learn from it and start all over from a stronger position.

Let’s look at some examples, including some of my fellow LinkedIn influencers:

Henry Ford – the pioneer of modern business entrepreneurs and the founder of the Ford Motor Company failed a number of times on his route to success. His first venture to build a motor car got dissolved a year and a half after it was started because the stockholders lost confidence in Henry Ford. Ford was able to gather enough capital to start again but a year later pressure from the financiers forced him out of the company again. Despite the fact that the entire motor industry had lost faith in him he managed to find another investor to start the Ford Motor Company – and the rest is history.

Walt Disney – one of the greatest business leaders who created the global Disney empire of film studios, theme parks and consumer products didn’t start off successful. Before the great success came a number of failures. Believe it or not, Walt was fired from an early job at the Kansas City Star Newspaper because he was not creative enough! In 1922 he started his first company called Laugh-O-Gram. The Kansas based business would produce cartoons and short advertising films. In 1923, the business went bankrupt. Walt didn’t give up, he packed up, went to Hollywood and started The Walt Disney Company.

Richard Branson – He is undoubtedly a successful entrepreneur with many successful ventures to his name including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music and Virgin Active. However, when he was 16 he dropped out of school to start a student magazine that didn’t do as well as he hoped. He then set up a mail-order record business which did so well that he opened his own record shop called Virgin. Along the way to success came many other failed ventures including Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vie, Virgin cards, etc.

Oprah Winfrey – who ranks No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognised as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career as iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. In her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, which included getting fired from her job as a reporter because she was ‘unfit for television’, getting fired as co-anchor for the 6 O’clock weekday news on WJZ-TV and being demoted to morning TV.

J.K. Rowling – who wrote the Harry Potter books selling over 400 million copies and making it one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. However, like so many writers she received endless rejections from publishers. Many rejected her manuscript outright for reasons like ‘it was far too long for a children’s book’ or because ‘children books never make any money’. J.K. Rowling’s story is even more inspiring because when she started she was a divorced single mum on welfare.

Bill Gates -co-founder and chairman of Microsoft set up a business called Traf-O-Data. The partnership between him, Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert was based on a good idea (to read data from roadway traffic counters and create automated reports on traffic flows) but a flawed business model that left the company with few customers. The company ran up losses between 1974 and 1980 before it was closed. However, Bill Gates and Paul Allen took what they learned and avoided those mistakes when they created the Microsoft empire.

History is littered with many more similar examples:

  • Milton Hershey failed in his first two attempts to set up a confectionary business.
  • H.J. Heinz set up a company that produced horseradish, which went bankrupt shortly after.
  • Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, the company he founded. Only to return a few years later to turn it into one of the most successful companies ever.

So, the one thing successful people never do is: Give up! I hope that this is inspiration and motivation for everyone who aspires to be successful in whatever way they chose. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are there other things you would add to the list of things successful people never do? Please share your thoughts..


9 Qualities Of Truly Confident People:

First things first: Confidence is not bravado, or swagger, or an overt pretense of bravery. Confidence is not some bold or brash air of self-belief directed at others.

Confidence is quiet: It’s a natural expression of ability, expertise, and self-regard.

I’m fortunate to know a number of truly confident people. Many work with me at HubSpot, others are fellow founders of their own startups some of whom I’ve met through my angel investment activity. But the majority are people I’ve met through my career and who work in a variety of industries and professions.

It comes as no surprise they all share a number of qualities:

1. They take a stand not because they think they are always right… but because they are not afraid to be wrong.

Cocky and conceited people tend to take a position and then proclaim, bluster, and totally disregard differing opinions or points of view. They know they’re right – and they want (actually they need) you to know it too.

Their behavior isn’t a sign of confidence, though; it’s the hallmark of an intellectual bully.

Truly confident people don’t mind being proven wrong. They feel finding out what is right is a lot more important than being right. And when they’re wrong, they’re secure enough to back down graciously.

Truly confident people often admit they’re wrong or don’t have all the answers; intellectual bullies never do.

2. They listen ten times more than they speak.

Bragging is a mask for insecurity. Truly confident people are quiet and unassuming. They already know what they think; they want to know what you think.

So they ask open-ended questions that give other people the freedom to be thoughtful and introspective: They ask what you do, how you do it, what you like about it, what you learned from it… and what they should do if they find themselves in a similar situation.

Truly confident people realize they know a lot, but they wish they knew more… and they know the only way to learn more is to listen more.

3. They duck the spotlight so it shines on others.

Perhaps it’s true they did the bulk of the work. Perhaps they really did overcome the major obstacles. Perhaps it’s true they turned a collection of disparate individuals into an incredibly high performance team.

Truly confident people don’t care – at least they don’t show it. (Inside they’re proud, as well they should be.) Truly confident people don’t need the glory; they know what they’ve achieved.

They don’t need the validation of others, because true validation comes from within.

So they stand back and celebrate their accomplishments through others. They stand back and let others shine – a confidence boost that helps those people become truly confident, too.

4. They freely ask for help.

Many people feel asking for help is a sign of weakness; implicit in the request is a lack of knowledge, skill, or experience.

Confident people are secure enough to admit a weakness. So they often ask others for help, not only because they are secure enough to admit they need help but also because they know that when they seek help they pay the person they ask a huge compliment.

Saying, “Can you help me?” shows tremendous respect for that individual’s expertise and judgment. Otherwise you wouldn’t ask.

5. They think, “Why not me?”

Many people feel they have to wait: To be promoted, to be hired, to be selected, to be chosen… like the old Hollywood cliché, to somehow be discovered.

Truly confident people know that access is almost universal. They can connect with almost anyone through social media. (Everyone you know knows someone you should know.) They know they can attract their own funding, create their own products, build their own relationships and networks, choose their own path – they can choose to follow whatever course they wish.

And very quietly, without calling attention to themselves, they go out and do it.

6. They don’t put down other people.

Generally speaking, the people who like to gossip, who like to speak badly of others, do so because they hope by comparison to make themselves look better.

The only comparison a truly confident person makes is to the person she was yesterday – and to the person she hopes to someday become.

7. They aren’t afraid to look silly…

Running around in your underwear is certainly taking it to extremes… but when you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally being in a situation where you aren’t at your best.

(And oddly enough, people tend to respect you more when you do – not less.)

8. … And they own their mistakes.

Insecurity tends to breed artificiality; confidence breeds sincerity and honesty.

That’s why truly confident people admit their mistakes. They dine out on their screw-ups. They don’t mind serving as a cautionary tale. They don’t mind being a source of laughter – for others and for themselves.

When you’re truly confident, you don’t mind occasionally “looking bad.” You realize that that when you’re genuine and unpretentious, people don’t laugh at you.

They laugh with you.

9. They only seek approval from the people who really matter.

You say you have 10k Twitter followers? Swell. 20k Facebook friends? Cool. A professional and social network of hundreds or even thousands? That’s great.

But that also pales in comparison to earning the trust and respect of the few people in your life that truly matter.

When we earn their trust and respect, no matter where we go or what we try, we do it with true confidence – because we know the people who truly matter the most are truly behind us.


How I Hire: Focus On Personality:

There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team. If you get the perfect mix of people working for your company, you have a far greater chance of success. However, the best person for the job doesn’t always walk right through your door.

The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, you are on to a winner.

Personality is the key. It is not something that always comes out in interview – people can be shy. But you have to trust your judgement. If you have got a slightly introverted person with a great personality, use your experience to pull it out of them. It is easier with an extrovert, but be wary of people becoming overexcited in the pressure of interviews.

You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.

Some managers get hung up on qualifications. I only look at them after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take risks when building your team. Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. Some of the best people we’ve ever hired didn’t seem to fit in at first, but proved to be indispensable over time.

If you hire the wrong person at the top of a company, they can destroy it in no time at all. Promoting from within is generally a good idea as the employee who is promoted will be inspired by the new role, already know the business inside out, and have the trust and respect of their team.

Equally, bringing in fresh blood can reinvigorate a company. Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia recently brought in CEOs from outside – John Borghetti at Virgin Australia and Craig Kreeger at Virgin Atlantic. They have brought a lot of fresh ideas into the company, as well as experience of what the competition is doing well and what they are doing badly.

When companies go through growth spurts, they often hire in bulk and company culture can suffer. While it may seem a desperate rush to get somebody through the door to help carry the load, it is worth being patient to find the right person, rather than hurrying and unbalancing your team. I heard a great line by Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai at the IoD Conference in London (quoting Apple’s Dan Jacobs) about making sure you hire (and fire) the right people: “It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”

Photo Courtesy


The 3 Questions People Always Forget to Ask in an Interview:

Getting an interview for that dream job is a perfect chance to sell yourself and you need to make sure that you get everything right.

Preparation is vital and it goes without saying that you should turn up for the interview knowing everything there is to know about your prospective employers and the role that you have applied for.

Of course, no two interviews are ever the same and the line of questions that you take will be determined by the nature of the company and the people who are interviewing you.

But I have always been more impressed by candidates who ask ME questions. The process should never be one sided – you need to take control. The best way of doing this is to ask as many questions as the interviewer does.

There are at least three questions you should definitely have ready to ask for every job interview you go for. Remember the aim is to sell yourself as a bright, motivated and ambitious individual but it is important not to be too obvious. The people who are interviewing you will have heard it all before and they will be looking for someone who has that little bit extra quality or personality which sets them apart from the rest of the crowd.

Here are three questions that you should always try and ask:

What qualities are you looking for in the person you are hoping to appoint?

This may sound like a very obvious starting point but it is vital for both parties to grasp exactly what it is needed from candidate in terms of skills and experience. Remember the whole point of the interview is to prove you are the person that they want and are looking for. There is a much better chance of being able to do that if you actually ask the interviewers straight from the start what their ideal candidate would be.

What scope is there for personal development at your company?

It is important to show any prospective employee that you are the type of person who is ambitious and is looking to move their career forward. No one wants to take on an individual who is going to be content to coast and you need to show that you are not coming along just for an easy ride. Any ambitious and forward thinking company will be looking for like minded individuals. Ask a question which will give you give the chance to show just how driven you are.

Is there anything you have seen in the other people on the shortlist that you have not seen in me?

This is a great question to throw into the mix as the interview is drawing to a natural close. I remember a candidate asking me this once and I had to smile because it left me with nowhere to go. As well as turning the tables on the panel it is also a great way of gauging just how well or how badly you have performed throughout the course of the selection process. You should always be looking to improve and getting feedback from an interviewer is a crucial part of this. It is a risky strategy to take because you might get an answer you are not happy with. But if you are prepared to take a risk, then this final question is a gamble that just might pay off.


The Most Important Interview Question of All Time – Part 1:

(NOTE – this is not the ONLY question, just the most important.Make sure you check out THE ANSWER (Part 2) post. Part 3 is for job-seekers on how to prepare for the interview.)

Over the past 30+ years as a recruiter, I can confirm that at least two-thirds of my hiring manager clients weren’t very good at interviewing. Yet, over 90% thought they were. To overcome this situation, it was critical that I became a better interviewer than them, to prove with evidence that the candidate was competent and motivated to do the work required. This led me on a quest for the single best interview question that would allow me to overcome any incorrect assessment with actual evidence.

It took about 10 years of trial and error. Then I finally hit upon one question that did it all.

Here’s it is:

What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?

To see why this simple question is so powerful, imagine you’re the candidate and I’ve just asked you this question. What accomplishment would you select? Then imagine over the course of the next 15-20 minutes I dug deeper and asked you about the following. How would you respond?

  • Can you give me a detailed overview of the accomplishment?
  • Tell me about the company, your title, your position, your role, and the team involved.
  • What were the actual results achieved?
  • When did it take place and how long did the project take.
  • Why you were chosen?
  • What were the 3-4 biggest challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?
  • Where did you go the extra mile or take the initiative?
  • Walk me through the plan, how you managed to it, and if it was successful.
  • Describe the environment and resources.
  • Describe your manager’s style and whether you liked it or not.
  • Describe the technical skills needed to accomplish the objective and how they were used.
  • Some of the biggest mistakes you made.
  • Aspects of the project you truly enjoyed.
  • Aspects you didn’t especially care about and how you handled them.
  • How you managed and influenced others, with lots of examples.
  • How you were managed, coached, and influenced by others, with lots of examples.
  • How you changed and grew as a person.
  • What you would do differently if you could do it again.
  • What type of formal recognition did you receive?

If the accomplishment was comparable to a real job requirement, and if the answer was detailed enough to take 15-20 minutes to complete, consider how much an interviewer would know about your ability to handle the job. The insight gained from this type of question would be remarkable. But the real issue is not the question, this is just a setup. The details underlying the accomplishment are what’s most important. This is what real interviewing is about – getting into the details and comparing what the candidate has accomplished in comparison to what needs to be accomplished. Don’t waste time asking a lot of clever questions during the interview, or box checking their skills and experiences: spend time learning to get the answer to just this one question.

As you’ll discover you’ll then have all of the information to prove to other interviewers that their assessments were biased, superficial, emotional, too technical, intuitive or based on whether they liked the candidate or not. Getting the answer to this one question is all it takes.


The Number One Job Skill in 2020:

What’s the crucial career strength that employers everywhere are seeking — even though hardly anyone is talking about it? A great way to find out is by studying this list of fast-growing occupations, as compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sports coaches and fitness trainers. Massage therapists, registered nurses and physical therapists. School psychologists, music tutors, preschool teachers and speech-language pathologists. Personal financial planners, chauffeurs and private detectives. These are among the fields expected to employ at least 20% more people in the U.S. by 2020.

Did you notice the common thread? Every one of these jobs is all about empathy.

In our fast-paced digital world, there’s lots of hand-wringing about the ways that automation and computer technology are taking away the kinds of jobs that kept our parents and grandparents employed. Walk through a modern factory, and you’ll be stunned by how few humans are needed to tend the machines. Similarly, travel agents, video editors and many other white-collar employees have been pushed to the sidelines by the digital revolution’s faster and cheaper methods.

But there’s no substitute for the magic of a face-to-face interaction with someone else who cares. Even the most ingenious machine-based attempts to mimic human conversation (hello, Siri) can’t match the emotional richness of a real conversation with a real person.

Visit a health club, and you’ll see the best personal trainers don’t just march their clients through a preset run of exercises. They chat about the stresses and rewards of getting back in shape. They tease, they flatter — maybe they even flirt a little. They connect with their clients in a way that builds people’s motivation. Before long, clients keep coming back to the gym because they want to spend time with a friend, and to do something extra to win his or her respect.

It’s the same story in health care or education. Technology can monitor an adult’s glucose levels or a young child’s counting skills quite precisely. Data by itself, though, is just a tool. The real magic happens when a borderline diabetic or a shy preschooler develops enough faith and trust in another person to embark on a new path. What the BLS data tells us is that even in a rapidly automating world, we can’t automate empathy.

Last week, when the BLS reported that the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs in May, analysts noted that one of the labor market’s bright spots involved restaurants and bars. Waiters, cooks and bartenders accounted for a full 16% of the month’s job growth. As the Washington Post’s Neil Irwin put it, “A robot may be able to assemble a car, but a cook still grills burgers.”

Actually, it’s the people in the front of the restaurant — and behind the bar — that should command our attention. The more time we spend in the efficient but somewhat soulless world of digital connectivity, the more we will cherish a little banter with wait-staff and bartenders who know us by name. We will pay extra to mingle with other people who can keep the timeless art of conversation alive


On GPAs and Brainteasers: New Insights From Google On Recruiting and Hiring:

“We found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

That was just one of the many fascinating revelations that Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people operations, shared with me in an interview that was part of the New York Times’ special section on Big Data published Thursday.

Bock’s insights are particularly valuable because Google focuses its data-centric approach internally, not just on the outside world. It collects and analyzes a tremendous amount of information from employees (people generally participate anonymously or confidentially), and often tackles big questions such as, “What are the qualities of an effective manager?” That was question at the core of its Project Oxygen, which I wrote about for the Times in 2011.

I asked Bock in our recent conversation about other revelations about leadership and management that had emerged from its research.

The full interview is definitely worth your time, but here are some of the highlights:

The ability to hire well is random. “Years ago, we did a study to determine whether anyone at Google is particularly good at hiring,” Bock said. “We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess, except for one guy who was highly predictive because he only interviewed people for a very specialized area, where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.”

Forget brain-teasers. Focus on behavioral questions in interviews, rather than hypotheticals. Bock said it’s better to use questions like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.” He added: “The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Consistency matters for leaders. “It’s important that people know you are consistent and fair in how you think about making decisions and that there’s an element of predictability. If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, because then they know that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want. If your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.

GPAs don’t predict anything about who is going to be a successful employee. “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said. “Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything. What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.”

That was a pretty remarkable insight, and I asked Bock to elaborate.

“After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” he said. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently. Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment. One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”


Top Crowdfunding Sites To Fuel Your Dream Project

Do you have a dream? No, not the kind you get from eight hours of sleep, a dream dream. Your legacy to leave in this world that people will remember you buy. You know, like creating an epic video game, or recording a great music album, or the next social network to take the world by storm? Never hurts to dream big, right?

Alas, in this materialistic world, dreams are expensive – scratch that, dreams need a great deal of money to take off. That’s where crowdfunding sites, a place where everyone could donate money to fund your dream project, can help you kickstart your dreams!

crowdfunding site

Today, driven by our passion to spread this great news among dreamers, we want to introduce to you 10 crowdfunding sites that could be the key to seeing your dream come to life. You will see the features and advantages of each site, which can help you pick the site to feature your dream in.

So cheer up, buck up and fire up your dream project and do your best to convince these angels that the world still needs dreams like yours.

What Is Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding, as its name suggests, is a funding method where common people like you and me, henceforth the crowd, fund your personal or business project with their own money. There’s a term that we commonly use to describe this money-giving action; it’s called a donation.

avengers artworks
(Image Source: Fotolia)

The main difference between crowdfunding and donation is that crowdfunding is tied to the American JOBS act that allows online sales of small stock to a huge pool of investors, although the act has not been passed yet. Nonetheless, you could still embrace the crowdfunding method to raise your project funds, as long as you don’t sell any kind of stock.

Different crowdfunding site could have different a purpose or approach , but overall the concept is simple – you post your project to a large group of site users, or “potential investors”, and they will fund your project with money if they are interested in the project. you can start a crowdfunding exercise for free as you will only be charged when your project has raised some funs or the full amount. There’s nothing to lose and this is great for publicity.

1. Kickstarter

Probably the hottest crowdfunding site on the Internet is Kickstarter, which raised a total of $220 million from 61,000 launched projects so far. Thousands explore its listed projects every second waiting to give away their money to the project they think is most deserving! According to theguidelines, Kickstarter accepts all major kinds of creative projects but not for causes or awareness campaigns, charity or scholarships, and definitely not for vacations or a new digital camera.


The submission process is really intuitive and straightforward, you just need to sign up an account, then fill out your project details. You are encouraged to describe everything in great detail, as there will be crews reviewing your form and determining whether to accept your project or not.

Special Feature

Backer Reward: create a small reward with a certain price point, and if the backer pledges the price and claims the reward, he will get the reward but only if the funding is successful(which means you reach your funding goal). Very easy and straightforward! For more info, go to theirBackers section.


Kickstarter charges 5% fee for every successful project. As Amazon Payment is used to receive the fund, Amazon will apply credit card processing fees, which are 3-5% of your raised project fund. And the biggest downside here is that you have to be a permanent U.S. resident with a Social Security number. So, no luck if the project creator is not a U.S. resident.

2. Indiegogo

Indie is the short form of ‘independence’, so from the name you already know that this crowdfunding site is aimed to help you raise funds and make you personal project ‘go-go-go’ without any difficulty. The site’s layout is similar to Kickstarter so it’s easy to adapt to if you have tried Kickstarter. Unlike Kickstarter though, you can kick-start any project including donations for charity. Its “Backer Rewards” feaure is known as “Perks” here.


Special Features

Anyone, U.S. resident or not, can receive funding, using PayPal as the payment option. There is a funding plan called ‘Flexible Funding‘, in which you could receive the fund even if the project has failed to reach the funding goal; Indiegogo charges you a higher fee for that.


Indiegogo will get 4% from every raised fund, and 3% will be charged for credit card processing, plus $25 wire fee for non-U.S. campaigns. If you’ve applied for the Flexible Funding plan and your campaign failed to reach the goal, Indiegogo will charge 9% of the fund, but you still get to take the remaining funds away.

3. RocketHub

RocketHub is definitely a popular station to fuel your project for launch. The site boasts a 3-step simple process to upload your project. You can then track the progress and status of your project. If you are just interested in crowdfunding, you can go for FuelPad, but RocketHub’s winning feature is the launchpad.


Special Features

LaunchPad: presents offers for RocketHub members to work with top-notch brands, companies and marketers to help them raise public interest and seek more potential opportunities for their projects. Prizes range from photography exhibition venues to 4-week media outreach campaigns with top marketers. A great plan for creatives such as artists, photographers and musicianswho seek for rare opportunities and publicity.


Rocket Hub charges 4% of the fund for successful project, and 8% for project ended without reaching the financial goal. In addition, 4% of credit card processing charge will also be applied.

4. GoFundMe

If you’re looking to just raise money online, for a cause, or for yourself even, GoFundMe is the best fundraising option you can use. In here, you get supporters to donate for your personal campaign, and it could be everything from a personal traveling fee to your pet’s medication fee. It’s truly about donation.


Special Features

Sharing is caring: Unleash the sharing power of widgets, a dashboard with social media integration, and even multiple donation pages to spread the message to every possible corner of the Internet for greater success.


GoFundMe take 5% from each donation (hence the total donation) you receive. Depending on your preference, you could either use WePay or PayPal to process your payment; they both charge fees ranging from 2.9+% to 3.5%.

5. Razoo

Claiming to have raised more than $97,000,000 for thousands of worthy causes, Razoo is the next crowdfunding behemoth that you, as a fundraiser should seek help from. The site focuses heavily on causes than profitable projects, but they do have a dedicated section for non-profit fundraising projects. Razoo divides fundraisers into 4 major categories: NonprofitsIndividuals,Corporations, and Foundations, and they each have their own benefits.


Special Features

What’s strong about Razoo is obviously its technological advantage that helps you to spread the word about your projects effectively. With the old school yet incredibly useful Donation Widget and Facebook Widget, you are able to create any donation section in any part of a blog by embedding the widget into it. Razoo even has an iPhone app that enables you to manage your project and engage your donors. Talking about hi-tech social marketing!


Razoo charges a very low rate, just 2.9% of your total fund. Bear in mind that this an all-in flat rate as other crowdfunding site often charge higher than 4% not including credit card fees.

6. Crowdrise

Crowdrise specializes more on dealing with real world issues than fueling profitable creativity. They fund for animal welfare, arts, cultures, diseases, education, and even religion. It even labels itself as a platform that help raises money for Charity.


However, that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t raise money for personal causes! The fundraiser could still raise funds for their personal life activities like birthdays, weddings, or even college projects. That being said, charity and personal fundraising section are clearly separated into Fundraiser andNonprofit categories.

Special Features

CrowdRise Poins: the more people donate to a certain fundraiser, the more CrowdRise Points the fundraiser will gain. Based on the points, Crowdrise members will then know which fundraiser or organization has made more impact to the world; it helps the organization raise their popularity and improve their reputation.


This is pretty complicated. Generally, there’s a flat 4.95% charge for the profit fundraising event, but there’s a blurry transaction fee involved in extra charges. For non-profit organizations, you could choose from a range of account types from free, to one with a $199 monthly fee.

7. PledgeMusic

This one is a crowdfunding effort to bring in new talent into the music industry. The career of a music artist is an expensive one that requires major funding and publicity. PledgeMusic is one such crowdfunding site. Music-related sites are usually philosophical, with a hardcore user interface, but PledgeMusic is clearly an exception. Its interface looks persuasive and intuitive at the same time, just like the Kickstarter and Indiegogo!


Special Feature

Backers will definitely get a reward even if they bear the lowest pledge, which is usually that they are supportinga digital download of the artist-produced music album. And as usual, the more fund you pledge, the richer the rewards you reap.


PledgeMusic charges 15% out of the fund you raised. You probably have to weigh the worthiness between your project, the site popularity and the fee before you go all in.

8. Sellaband

Since its launch in 2006, Sellaband has coordinated recording sessions of more than 80 music artists, and, over $4,000,000 have been funded to music bands via the site. Different from its earliest version, Sellaband offers 100% freedom for your music creation: you are free to make the deal with any label, management company, or publisher without any limitations.


Special Features

You could change the background design of your page to match your music genre and public image. It’s like MySpace with crowdfunding ability. Additionally, the artist could create a standalone web page as their blog page, biography page, and even photos and videos page. As a Sellaband artist, you are offered special prices for professional third-party solution services, such as promotion and CD printing.


Similar to PledgeMusic, Sellaband charges 15% out of the budget in order to support their full-time working assistants.

9. Appbackr

You want to do something on mobile devices? There’s an app for that! You want to fund your app? There’s a site for that! And it’s called Appbackr. It offers you a chance to let the backers fund the apps that are currently on sale or in the stage of development, but backers could earn back their money by backing the app!


Special Features

The concept, sounds really complicated for anyone who isn’t into business but it’s basically something like this: buy the app listed on the Appbackr with a lower price, and the money you pay will be deposited to fund the app or its development. Once the app makes its earnings in the app store, Appbackr will pay the backers back with the sales price of the app. So if you bought the app during its developmental stages at $1 ten times but the app is eventually sold for $2 at the app store, you would have forked out $10 but gotten back $20! The app gets funded, you get your return on investment. It’s a win-win! Appbackr will handle the entire trade process.


Generally Appbackr takes a certain amount out of your fund to run their crowdfunding business, but there is no fixed percentage here. The amount will depend on your app price, and it could even vary based on several factors. It’s recommended that you read the FAQ and contact them for clarification. This may sound complicated at first, but once you master it, Appbackr could be your goldmine for future app development projects.

10. Crowdfunder

So you’ve browsed through a list of quality crowdfunding sites, but in the end you still prefer to let an Angel Investor fund your company. If you need help getting their attention, Crowdfunder can help. Crowdfunder allows U.S. startup and small businesses to raise funds by selling equity, debt and revenue-based securities, while attracting Angel Investors and Venture Capital to your company.

As the site is still in beta mode, you can’t start selling any of the above yet, but you could probablyadd your company details to the site while it ripens! The crowd can vote for their favorite company, so that they could invest in the company when the beta phase is over.


Special Features

To attract even more potential companies, Crowdfunder has organized a startup contest where you simply create your company profile, then let the crowd vote for it. The Judges will pick 10 startups to pitch at the live event of the Vegas Tech Fund. The winner will get up to $500,000 in funding, not a bad deal to attract funding while test-firing your company ideas!

This site is really a brand new thought as it kinda breaks the fundamental concept of crowdfunding, in which the crowd should be the backer. However, Angel Investors are certainly beneficial and most importantly, professional in many aspects. So if you have full confidence on attracting the glorious Angels to kick-start your legendary company, go with this one.


Open Source Options For Education

This document presents options for open source software for use in the education sector. Some of these may have uses outside of education, but they are presented here in the context of their specific benefits to educational establishments, or their use in the course of teaching and learning.


Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
  • Blackboard
  • Echo 360
  • Desire2Learn
  • StudyWiz
  • Frog
  • Moodle is used internationally by hundreds of institutions.
  • There is a highly active Moodle user community providing support.
  • Moodle can be extended an integrated with other systems using the large library of available plug-ins.
  • The Sakai project was founded from a collaboration between Indiana University, MIT, Stanford and University of Michigan. It currently maintains two systems – the Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE) and the Open Academic Environment (OAE).
  • Manchester Metropolitan University selected Moodle as its VLE after an extensive review. Reference
  • The Open University uses Moodle to deliver distance learning courses with one of the world’s largest Moodle instances. Reference
  • Over 4000 schools, colleges, universities and companies have an active Moodle site in the UK alone. Reference
  • The University of Oxford uses Sakai as the basis of their WebLearn platform for teaching, research and collaboration. References
  • In August 2013, Sakai OAE was relaunched as Apereo OAE.
  • The Utah Education Network replaced Blackboard with Canvas in 9 state-owned colleges and universities. Ref
Lecture Capture/Podcasting
  • MediaSite
  • Panopto
  • Matterhorn provides an end-to-end solution from automated lecture capture through processing and distribution.
  • Videos can also be published to existing public platforms such as YouTube or iTunes.
  • Captioning, keyboard navigation and screen readers are well supported.
  • Media can be encoded using standard formats, ensuring your media isn’t locked in to a particular system or playback software.
  • Oxford Brookes University are piloting Matterhorn, including integration with their Moodle VLE. Reference
  • Loughborough University use Matterhorn, using it to capture around 90% of lectures in 2011. Reference
  • Camtasia
  • Adobe Captivate
  • iSpring Presenter
  • Jing
  • SMART Notebook page recording feature
  • CamStudio allows you to make a video of what’s happening on your screen. It will also capture audio from a microphone.
  • As well as capturing a lecture or presentation, it can be used to record a tutorial or walk through of a system.
  • Videos can be recorded to AVI, or to SWF for streaming via Flash.
  • Windows Sound Recorder
  • GoldWave
  • Mobile phone
  • Audacity is a fully-featured audio recorder and editor for Windows, Linux and Mac.
  • Multiple tracks can be recorded separately and edited together.
  • Additional audio tracks can be imported.
  • Files can be saved to a number of formats.
  • University of Oxford recommends Audacity for recording an editing podcasts. Reference
Online Lectures/Webinars/Remote Participation
  • Adobe Connect
  • Blackboard Collaborate
  • Mega Meeting
  • These systems allow multiple participants to participate in a session via the web.
  • Users can collaborate on a shared “whiteboard”.
  • Video, audio and text chat are supported.
  • Users can share presentations and applications from their screen with other users.
  • University of the West of Scotland rolled out BigBlueButton in September 2012 following a successful pilot. Reference
  • Goldsmiths University of London provide BigBlueButton for use through its Moodle VLE. Reference as Guest)
Video Streaming
  • Planet eStream
  • ClickView
  • MediaCore
  • vShare
  • PHP Motion
  • These products provide a locally-hosted “YouTube” style system.
  • Users can upload videos which are converted into a streamable format and shared.
  • Videos can be embedded into a web page or VLE.
  • Users can rate and comment on videos.
  • Bonn University uses Plumi for its podcast portal. Reference
  • University of Mary Washington moved away from Kaltura after finding the open source version limiting.
Interactive Content Creation
  • Adobe Authorware
  • Articulate + Articulate storyline
  • HotPotatoes
  • Qwizdom
  • Xerte allows you to create interactive learning materials, including multimedia content and interactive exercises.
  • Content can be created locally, or online using Xerte Online Toolkits.
  • Once created, Xerte packages materials in a standard format that can be imported into most VLEs, and viewed using Flash.
  • The XENITH project allows materials authored with Xerte to be viewed using HTML5, providing support for more devices.
  • Materials created using Xerte allow users to change fonts and colour schemes, as well as supporting text-to-speech, ensuring that materials are accessible to all users.
  • Xerte was developed by the University of Nottingham. Reference
  • University of Derby support Xerte as part of its Technology Enhanced Learning resources. Reference
Ebook Authoring
  • Microsoft Office
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • OpenOffice and LibreOffice provide word processing and drawing programs that can be used for simple desktop publishing.
  • Documents can be saved to PDF format.
  • iBooks Author
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Sigil is a cross-platform suite for authoring ebooks in the standard and widely-supported ePub format.
  • Provides a WYSIWYGinterface, as well as allowing direct source editing.
  • TeX and variants
  • TeX is a powerful typesetting mark-up language designed to allow users to easily create high-quality electronic or printed books which display consistently across devices and platforms.
  • TeX is particularly useful for displaying mathematical and scientific formulae in a consistent manner.
  • Documents written in the TeX mark-up language can be rendered to files in the DVI file format, or converted to other formats.
E-book management
  • iBooks
  • Google Play Books
  • Kindle apps
  • Calibre is a cross-platform tool for managing a personal ebook library.
  • Converts between formats including PDF, ePUB and MOBI (Kindle).
  • Supports a wide range of e-readers, tablets and phones for syncing.
  • Provides a desktop e-book reader.
  • Links to online libraries to allow the download and purchase of e-books.
E-book Text-to-Speech
  • Daisy Player
  • eBook Speaker
  • Hardware DAISY readers
  • IVONA Reader
  • Daisy Player and eBook Speaker allow blind or visually impared students to read eBooks through Text-To-Speech
  • Daisy Player supports DAISY talking books
  • Ebook Speaker supports most common ebook formats including ePub, PDF, MOBI and more
  • Daisy Reader includes features aimed at educational users, such as bookmarks and a numerical keyboard
Collaborative Authoring
  • Google Docs
  • Etherpad provides an interface for multiple users to collaborate on a document in real-time over the web.
  • Basic formatting is supported, and users’ contributions can be identified by colour.
  • Documents can be imported and exported using various formats, including HTML and MS Word.
  • The entire history of a document can be viewed using a time slider.
  • Gobby provides similar functionality to etherpad, but uses a client-server infrastructure.
  • Gobby clients are available for Windows/Mac/Linux


Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
High-stakes assessment
  • QuestionMark
  • Rogō aims to provide an online assessment system with a focus on consistent quality, usability and security.
  • The system supports informal progress tests and surveys, self assessment, as well as formal exam papers.
  • A range of common question types are supported.
  • Features for managing the assessment life-cycle are included, such as standards setting and peer review of papers.
  • Rogō supports Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) allowing it to be connected to VLEs implementing the LTI standard.
  • University of Nottingham provides Rogō for online assessment. Reference
  • 5 UK institutions including University of Oxford and University of the West of Scotland engaged in a pilot project to assess Rogō against the needs of HE institutions. Reference
  • PebblePad
  • Elgg
  • Mahara allows easy integration with Moodle. Students can save work created or submitted in Moodle to their Mahara portfolio. Single Sign-On is also supported.
  • Students can present selections from their portfolio through customised pages, which they control access to.
  • Students can network with one another and share artefacts through groups.
  • The LEAP2A standard is supported for interoperability with other e-portfolio systems.
  • Southampton Solent University uses Mahara for it’s myPortfolio system. Reference
  • Sparsholt College, Hampshire uses Mahara to support it’s ICT Key Skills programme.

Classroom Tools

Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
Interactive Whiteboard Software
  • SMART Notebook
  • Promethean ActivInspire/ActivOffice
  • OpenSankoré provides an interactive cross-platform interface for whiteboards, touch tables, or any type of computer.
  • Whiteboard-style drawing is supported, as well as inserting documents and media.
  • The environment’s functionality can be extended by the addition of Widgets.
  • OpenSankoré was originally developed and used by the University of Lausanne. Ref
Classroom Management
  • SMART Sync
  • LANschool
  • InterCLASS
  • iTALC provides tools for managing the PCs in a classroom.
  • A teacher can view students’ screens in overview mode.
  • Computers can be remote controlled to provide assistance.
  • Workstations can be locked to reduce distractions.
  • Demonstrations can be broadcast to all workstations.

Library Systems

Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
Integrated Library System (ILS)
  • Heritage
  • Koha includes modules for circulation, cataloguing, acquisitions, serials, reserves, patron management, branch relationships, and more.
  • Koha supports standard formats and protocols to ensure interoperability with other library systems.
  • An online demo of Koha is available on the project’s website.
  • The open source Koha project from is not to be confused with LibLime Koha or LibLime Academic Koha. LibLime Koha is a fork of the original project managed by LibLime, while LibLime Academic Koha is a separate product developed for a consortium of institutions.
  • OpenBiblio is an automated library system containing OPAC, circulation, cataloging, and staff administration functionality.
  • Staffordshire University use Koha hosted by PTFS Europe
  • The British Library for Development Studies at the Institute for Development Studies uses Koha
Reading Lists
  • Talis Aspire
  • Refworks
  • A demonstration of LORLS and its features is available on the project’s website.
  • LORLS is developed by the University of Loughborough and is used by several universities around the UK. Ref

Mobile Solutions

Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
Mobile Apps for Students
  • CampusM
  • Molly provides a framework for building information portals for mobile devices.
  • A range of mobile devices are supported from low- to high-end through a single web interface using feature detection
  • Data can be pulled from a range of sources
  • Molly can be run in-house, allowing all institutional data to be kept secure within the institution’s network.
  • Molly powers Mobile Oxford, used by University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes. Ref

Enterprise Architecture And Service Management

Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
Enterprise Architecture
  • Archi and BizzDesign Architect are both enterprise architecture modelling applications that use the Archimate standard.
  • Archi has been used to introduce Enterprise Architecture modelling to several universities around the UK, including Staffordshire University, University of Bolton, and Coventry University. Refs,

Management Information Systems

Solution Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
Management Information System (MIS)/Student Records
  • Ellucian Banner
  • PeopleSoft Campus
  • A1 Academia Has many core modules for Mid-Large campus management e.g Student Records, Students Finance, Admissions, Registration, Curriculum Management, Course Mgmt, Exams, Hostels etc
  • SIMS
  • SchoolTool is a web-based student information system with features including student record management, attendance logging, gradebooks, and timetabling.
  • SchoolTool integrates with systems including the Moodle VLE via CAS authentication.
  • CanDo is a competancy tracking application built on SchoolTool by teachers and students in Virginia. Ref

Subject-Specific Tools

Subject Software Consider as Alternative to Comments Real World Use
  • ProTools
  • Cubase
  • Sibelius
  • Audacity enables recording, editing and mixing of audio tracks. It provides a comprehensive suite of editing tools, as well as supporting a range of effects through LADSPA plug-ins.
  • Ardour also provides a suite for recording and editing audio, but unlike Audacity, also supports multi-track recording.
  • Unlike Audacity, Ardour is a “non destructive” editor, allowing effects to be adjusted repeatedly.
  • FL Studio
  • Sibelius
  • Rosegarden provides a multi-track MIDI sequencer and composition environment.
  • Hydrogen is a cross-platform drum machine.
  • MuseScore allows you to create, play and print sheet music.
  • MuseScore is used internationally by schools, universities and private music teachers at all levels, including by Redbridge College and De Montfort University in the UK. Refs,
  • Hydrogen is used at Glen View High School in Beaumont, California for teaching loop-based audio production. Ref
  • Grégoire
  • Gregorio provides tools for the typesetting of Gregorian chant notation.
  • Gregorio can be used via a command line, through the TeXWorks GUI, or integrated with the Scribus DTP package.
  • Reason
  • Ubuntu Studio is a specialised Linux distribution focused on media creation.
  • While there is no single open source application that provides all features of a comprehensive package like Reason, there are distributions of Linux designed for studio workstations, combining several applications to provide comparable features.
  • Featured software includes multi-track recorders, MIDI sequencers, virtual amplifiers and effects processors.
  • Ubuntu Studio also features JACK, an advanced audio system allowing the audio inputs and outputs of separate applications to be connected together.
  • As with many Linux distributions, studio-focused distributions can often be run from CD for testing without installing anything to the computer’s hard drive.
Film/Media Production
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Adobe Premiere
  • KDEnlive and PiTiVi are fully featured multi-track non-linear video editors.
  • Based on open source media libraries, a wide range of video and audio formats are supported from a large number of devices.
  • Output to standard formats including H.264 is supported, as well as lossless formats.
  • Blender is an industry-quality tool for 3D animation.
  • The 2010 Undergraduate and Postgraduate fine art exhibition at the University of Reading featured a piece of digital sculpture created with Blender. Ref
  • University of Plymouth use Blender as part of its Media Production degree, and for data visualisation in their planetarium. Ref
  • Lancaster University provides Avidemux in its computer labs. Ref
  • Q Light Controller is a cross-platform application for controlling DMX or analogue lighting systems like moving heads, dimmers, scanners etc.
  • QLab
  • SFX
  • Soundboard is a cross-platform tool for building and executing sound cues.
  • Final Draft
  • Celtx is a fully-featured cross-platform screen-writing application.
  • Celtx can sync with cloud services and mobile apps, although these are not open source.
  • Fountain is a plain-text format which can be used for screen writing and rendered to a formatted screenplay.
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Z Brush
  • The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) provides a complete set of tools for editing bitmaps, including layering, effects, and colour tools.
  • Plug-ins and scripts are supported to provide extensibility.
  • Images can be imported from a range of formats, including from scanners and Photoshop files.
  • Images can be saved to a range of standard formats.
  • A large community of users have produced extensive documentation and tutorials on The GIMP’s features.
  • The engineering department at the University of Cambridge uses GIMP for image manipulation. Ref
  • London Metropolitan University provides GIMP as an alternative to Photoshop. Ref
  • Adobe Lightroom
  • Apple Aperture
  • Adobe Bridge
  • Photography workflow and RAW processing tools
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Inkscape is a cross-platform program for creating vector graphics, based on the standard SVG format.
  • Importing and exporting of bitmap graphics formats is supported, as is import of Adobe Illustrator files.
  • The Oxford Internet Institute uses Inkscape to produce data visualisations. Ref
Design and Technology
  • Adobe InDesign
  • QuarkXPress
  • Scribus is a cross-platform Desktop Publishing application.
  • As well as typesetting, a range of standard image formats are supported, as are Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator files.
  • University of Oxford IT Services run a termly course on Desktop Publishing with Scribus. Ref
  • 3ds Max
  • As well as animation, Blender can be used for 3D modelling.
  • Models created in Blender can be used for 3D printing.
  • The Blender community has a forum for discussing blender usage in Academic and Research contexts. Ref
  • AutoCAD
  • QCAD and LibreCAD are a cross-platform 2D CAD packages.
  • LibreCAD is based on QCAD but provides a more modern interface
  • AutoCAD
  • SolidWorks
  • FreeCAD is a 3D CAD package.
  • Microsoft Visual Studio
  • Eclipse and NetBeans are both popular general purpose Integrated Development Environments (IDEs).
  • Eclipse is used as the basis for many platforms’ Software Development Kits (SDKs), including Android.
  • Eclipse and NetBeans support a variety of languages through plug-ins and extensions.
  • MonoDevelop is an IDE specifically designed for building cross-platform software using an open source implementation of the .NET framework (Mono).
  • Pascal
  • Delphi
  • Visual Basic
  • VB.NET
  • Scratch is a language designed for teaching programming concepts, allowing students to create programs by dragging blocks onto a canvas rather than typing commands.
  • Ruby, Python and PHP are all widely-used interpreted programming languages.
  • Lazarus is an alternative to Delphi, can run on both Windows and Linux platforms and uses an almost identical interface.
  • PHP is designed for building dynamic web applications.
  • Many common web applications such as WordPress, MediaWiki, Drupal and Moodle are written in PHP.
  • Ruby and Python are powerful multi-purpose languages which can be used to build both desktop and web applications.
  • Ruby and Python feature consistent intuitive syntax which makes them ideal for teaching.
  • Each language is supported by a vibrant community of users and developers, which comprehensive documentation.
  • A recent survey of the UK Computing At School (CAS) and Computers of Education Society in Ireland (CESI) communities showed Scratch to be the most widely taught language for 11-14 year olds, Python and Scratch to be the 2 most widely taught languages for 14-16 year olds, and Python to be the second most widely taught for 16-18 year olds. Ref
  • Presentation
  • Applications that help in running experiments in psychology, for example presenting stimuli to subjects and measuring responses
  • PEBL comes with a library of common tests
  • Allow users to develop their own experiments using scripting or programming
  • PsyScope is used by many university Psychology departments in the UK, including University of Bangor.
Geography Related Subjects
  • Bentley Map
  • MapInfo
  • Geospatial
  • gvSIG Educa is a customization of the gvSIG Desktop Open Source GIS, adapted as a tool for the education of issues that have a geographic component.
  • The aim is to provide educators with a tool that helps students to analyse and understand space, and which can be adapted to different levels or education systems.
  • gvSIG Educa is not only useful for the teaching of geographic material, but can also be used for learning any subject that contains a spatial component such as history, economics, natural science, sociology…
  • Facilitates learning by letting students interact with the information, by adding a spatial component to the study of the material, and by facilitating the assimilation of concepts through visual tools such as thematic maps.
  • gvSIG Educa provides analysis tools that help to understand spatial relationships.
  • Other open source GIS packages provide similar feature sets.
  • gvSIG Educa arose out of the gvSIG Batoví distribution, which is available to all children of Common Education (grades 1 to 6) and their respective teachers in public schools across Uruguay, thanks to the Ceibal project. Refs
  • NI MultiSIM
  • Open Circuit Design is a collection of tools providing features such as PCB layout design and component simulation.


The Invisible Web:Exploring Hidden Mystries

The Ultimate Guide to the Invisible Web

by Andrew Churches 

“Considering search engines reveal only a fraction of overall search results, perhaps the Invisible Web, or Deep Web, could hold the real information you seek. But what is it, and how do we get to it? The staff at OEDb provide us with the know-how to do just that in the following article. ”


Search engines are, in a sense, the heartbeat of the internet; “googling” has become a part of everyday speech and is even recognized by Merriam-Webster as a grammatically correct verb. It’s a common misconception, however, that googling a search term will reveal every site out there that addresses your search. In fact, typical search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing actually access only a tiny fraction – estimated at 0.03% – of the internet. The sites that traditional searches yield are part of what’s known as the Surface Web, which is comprised of indexed pages that a search engine’s web crawlers are programmed to retrieve.

So where’s the rest? The vast majority of the Internet lies in the Deep Web, sometimes referred to as the Invisible Web. The actual size of the Deep Web is impossible to measure, but many experts estimate it is about 500 times the size of the web as we know it.

Deep Web pages operate just like any other site online, but they are constructed so that their existence is invisible to Web crawlers. While recent news, such as the bust of the infamous Silk Road drug-dealing site and Edward Snowden’s NSA shenanigans, have spotlighted the Deep Web’s existence, it’s still largely misunderstood.

Search Engines and the Surface Web

Understanding how surface Web pages are indexed by search engines can help you understand what the Deep Web is all about. In the early days, computing power and storage space was at such a premium that search engines indexed a minimal number of pages, often storing only partial content. The methodology behind searching reflected users’ intentions; early Internet users generally sought research, so the first search engines indexed simple queries that students or other researchers were likely to make. Search results consisted of actual content that a search engine had stored.

Over time, advancing technology made it profitable for search engines to do a more thorough job of indexing site content. Today’s Web crawlers, or spiders, use sophisticated algorithms to collect page data from hyperlinked pages. These robots maneuver their way through all linked data on the Internet, earning their spidery nickname. Every surface site is indexed by metadata that crawlers collect. This metadata, consisting of elements such as page title, page location (URL) and repeated keywords used in text, takes up much less space than actual page content. Instead of the cached content dump of old, today’s search engines speedily and efficiently direct users to websites that are relevant to their queries.

To get a sense of how search engines have improved over time, Google’s interactive breakdown “How Search Works” details all the factors at play in every Google search. In a similar vein,’s timeline of Google’s search engine algorithm will give you an idea of how nonstop the efforts have been to refine searches. How these efforts impact the Deep Web is not exactly clear. But it’s reasonable to assume that if major search engines keep improving, ordinary web users will be less likely to seek out arcane Deep Web searches.

How is the Deep Web Invisible to Search Engines?

Search engines like Google are extremely powerful and effective at distilling up-to-the-moment Web content. What they lack, however, is the ability to index the vast amount of data that isn’t hyperlinked and therefore immediately accessible to a Web crawler. This may or may not be intentional; for example, content behind a paywall or a blog post that’s written but not yet published both technically reside in the Deep Web.

Some examples of other Deep Web content include:

  • Data that needs to be accessed by a search interface
  • Results of database queries
  • Subscription-only information and other password-protected data
  • Pages that are not linked to by any other page
  • Technically limited content, such as that requiring CAPTCHA technology
  • Text content that exists outside of conventional http:// or https:// protocols

While the scale and diversity of the Deep Web are staggering, it’s notoriety – and appeal – comes from the fact that users are anonymous on the Deep Web, and so are their Deep Web activities. Because of this, it’s been an important tool for governments; the U.S. Naval research laboratory first launched intelligence tools for Deep Web use in 2003.

Just as Deep Web content can’t be traced by Web crawlers, it can’t be accessed by conventional means. The same Naval research group to develop intelligence-gathering tools created The Onion Router Project, now known by its acronymTOR. Onion routing refers to the process of removing encryption layers from Internet communications, similar to peeling back the layers of an onion. TOR users’ identities and network activities are concealed by this software. TOR, and other software like it, offers an anonymous connection to the Deep Web. It is, in effect, your Deep Web search engine.

But in spite of its back-alley reputation there are plenty of legitimate reasons to use TOR. For one, TOR lets users avoid “traffic analysis” or the monitoring tools used by commercial sites, for one, to determine web users’ location and the network they are connecting through. These businesses can then use this information to adjust pricing, or even what products and services they make available.

According to the Tor Project site, the program also allows people to, “[…] Set up a website where people publish material without worrying about censorship.” While this is by no means a clear good or bad thing, the tension between censorship and free speech is felt the world over; the Deep Web. The Deep Web furthers that debate by demonstrating what people can and will do to overcome political and social censorship.

Reasons a Page is Invisible

When an ordinary search engine query comes back with no results, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is nothing to be found. An “invisible” page isn’t necessarily inaccessible; it’s simply not indexed by a search engine. There are several reasons why a page may be invisible. Keep in mind that some pages are only temporarily invisible, possibly slated to be indexed at a later date.

  • Engines have traditionally ignored any Web pages whose URLs have a long string of parameters and equal signs and question marks, on the off chance that they’ll duplicate what’s in their database – or worse – the spider will somehow go around in circles. Known as the “Shallow Web,” a number of workarounds have been developed to help you access this content.
  • Form-controlled entry that’s not password-protected. In this case, page content only gets displayed when a human applies a set of actions, mostly entering data into a form (specific query information, such as job criteria for a job search engine). This typically includes databases that generate pages on demand. Applicable content includes travel industry data (flight info, hotel availability), job listings, product databases, patents, publicly-accessible government information, dictionary definitions, laws, stock market data, phone books and professional directories.
  • Passworded access, subscription or non subscription. This includes VPN (virtual private networks) and any website where pages require a username and password. Access may or may not be by paid subscription. Applicable content includes academic and corporate databases, newspaper or journal content, and academic library subscriptions.
  • Timed access. On some sites, like major news sources such as the New York Times, free content becomes inaccessible after a certain number of pageviews. Search engines retain the URL, but the page generates a sign-up form, and the content is moved to a new URL that requires a password.
  • Robots exclusion. The robots.txt file, which usually lives in the main directory of a site, tells search robots which files and directories should not be indexed. Hence its name “robots exclusion file.” If this file is set up, it will block certain pages from being indexed, which will then be invisible to searchers. Blog platforms commonly offer this feature.
  • Hidden pages. There is simply no sequence of hyperlink clicks that could take you to such a page. The pages are accessible, but only to people who know of their existence.

Ways to Make Content More Visible

We have discussed what type of content is invisible and where we might find such information. Alternatively, the idea of making content more visible spawned the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry. Some ways to improve your search optimization include:

  • Categorize your database. If you have a database of products, you could publish select information to static category and overview pages, thereby making content available without form-based or query-generated access. This works best for information that does not become outdated, like job postings.
  • Build links within your website, interlinking between your own pages. Each hyperlink will be indexed by spiders, making your site more visible.
  • Publish a sitemap. It is crucial to publish a serially linked, current sitemap to your site. It’s no longer considered a best practice to publicize it to your viewers, but publish it and keep it up to date so that spiders can make the best assessment of your site’s content.
  • Write about it elsewhere. One of the easiest forms of Search Enging Optimization (SEO) is to find ways to publish links to your site on other webpages. This will help make it more visible.
  • Use social media to promote your site. Link to your site on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other social media platform that suits you. You’ll drive traffic to your site and increase the number of links on the Internet.
  • Remove access restrictions. Avoid login or time-limit requirements unless you are soliciting subscriptions.
  • Write clean code. Even if you use a pre-packaged website template without customizing the code, validate your site’s code so that spiders can navigate it easily.
  • Match your site’s page titles and link names to other text within the site, and pay attention to keywords that are relevant to your content.

How to Access and Search for Invisible Content

If a site is inaccessible by conventional means, there are still ways to access the content, if not the actual pages. Aside from software like TOR, there are a number of entities who do make it possible to view Deep Web content, like universities and research facilities. For invisible content that cannot or should not be visible, there are still a number of ways to get access:

  • Join a professional or research association that provides access to records, research and peer-reviewed journals.
  • Access a virtual private network via an employer.
  • Request access; this could be as simple as a free registration.
  • Pay for a subscription.
  • Use a suitable resource. Use an invisible Web directory, portal or specialized search engine such as Google Book SearchLibrarian’s Internet Index, or BrightPlanet’s Complete Planet.

Invisible Web Search Tools

Here is a small sampling of invisible web search tools (directories, portals, engines) to help you find invisible content. To see more like these, please look at our Research Beyond Google article.


10 Search Engines to Explore the Invisible Web:

<firstimage=”http:”” wp-content=”” uploads=”” 2010=”” 03=”” maze.png”=””>No, it’s not Spiderman’s latest web slinging tool but something that’s more real world. Like the World Wide Web.

The Invisible Web refers to the part of the WWW that’s not indexed by the search engines. Most of us think that that search powerhouses like Google and Bing are like the Great Oracle”¦they see everything. Unfortunately, they can’t because they aren’t divine at all; they are just web spiders who index pages by following one hyperlink after the other.

But there are some places where a spider cannot enter. Take library databases which need a password for access. Or even pages that belong to private networks of organizations. Dynamically generated web pages in response to a query are often left un-indexed by search engine spiders.
Search engine technology has progressed by leaps and bounds. Today, we have real time search and the capability to index Flash based and PDF content. Even then, there remain large swathes of the web which a general search engine cannot penetrate. The term, Deep NetDeep Web orInvisible Web lingers on.

To get a more precise idea of the nature of this “˜Dark Continent’ involving the invisible and web search engines, read what Wikipedia has to say about the Deep Web. The figures are attention grabbers ““ the size of the open web is 167 terabytes. The Invisible Web is estimated at 91,000terabytes. Check this out – the Library of Congress, in 1997, was figured to have close to 3,000terabytes!

How do we get to this mother load of information?

That’s what this post is all about. Let’s get to know a few resources which will be our deep diving vessel for the Invisible Web. Some of these are invisible web search engines with specifically indexed information.


invisible web search engines

Infomine has been built by a pool of libraries in the United States. Some of them are University of California, Wake Forest University, California State University, and the University of Detroit. Infomine “˜mines’ information from databases, electronic journals, electronic books, bulletin boards, mailing lists, online library card catalogs, articles, directories of researchers, and many other resources.

You can search by subject category and further tweak your search using the search options. Infomine is not only a standalone search engine for the Deep Web but also a staging point for a lot of other reference information. Check out its Other Search Tools and General Reference links at the bottom.

The WWW Virtual Library

invisible web search engines

This is considered to be the oldest catalog on the web and was started by started by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web. So, isn’t it strange that it finds a place in the list of Invisible Web resources? Maybe, but the WWW Virtual Library lists quite a lot of relevant resources on quite a lot of subjects. You can go vertically into the categories or use the search bar. The screenshot shows the alphabetical arrangement of subjects covered at the site.


invisible web search engines

Intute is UK centric, but it has some of the most esteemed universities of the region providing the resources for study and research. You can browse by subject or do a keyword search for academic topics like agriculture to veterinary medicine. The online service has subject specialists who review and index other websites that cater to the topics for study and research.

Intute also provides free of cost over 60 free online tutorials to learn effective internet research skills. Tutorials are step by step guides and are arranged around specific subjects.

Complete Planet

search invisible web

Complete Planet calls itself the “˜front door to the Deep Web’. This free and well designed directory resource makes it easy to access the mass of dynamic databases that are cloaked from a general purpose search. The databases indexed by Complete Planet number around 70,000 and range from Agriculture to Weather. Also thrown in are databases like Food & Drink and Military.

For a really effective Deep Web search, try out the Advanced Search options where among other things, you can set a date range.


search invisible web

Infoplease is an information portal with a host of features. Using the site, you can tap into a good number of encyclopedias, almanacs, an atlas, and biographies. Infoplease also has a few nice offshoots like for kids and Biosearch, a search engine just for biographies.


search invisible web

DeepPeep aims to enter the Invisible Web through forms that query databases and web services for information. Typed queries open up dynamic but short lived results which cannot be indexed by normal search engines. By indexing databases, DeepPeep hopes to track 45,000 forms across 7 domains.

The domains covered by DeepPeep (Beta) are Auto, Airfare, Biology, Book, Hotel, Job, and Rental. Being a beta service, there are occasional glitches as some results don’t load in the browser.


how to use the invisible web

IncyWincy is an Invisible Web search engine and it behaves as a meta-search engine by tapping into other search engines and filtering the results. It searches the web, directory, forms, and images. With a free registration, you can track search results with alerts.


how to use the invisible web

DeepWebTech gives you five search engines (and browser plugins) for specific topics. The search engines cover science, medicine, and business. Using these topic specific search engines, you can query the underlying databases in the Deep Web.


how to use the invisible web

Scirus has a pure scientific focus. It is a far reaching research engine that can scour journals, scientists’ homepages, courseware, pre-print server material, patents and institutional intranets.


TechXtra concentrates on engineering, mathematics and computing. It gives you industry news, job announcements, technical reports, technical data, full text eprints, teaching and learning resources along with articles and relevant website information.

Just like general web search, searching the Invisible Web is also about looking for the needle in the haystack. Only here, the haystack is much bigger. The Invisible Web is definitely not for the casual searcher. It is a deep but not dark because if you know what you are searching for, enlightenment is a few keywords away.

Do you venture into the Invisible Web? Which is your preferred search tool?

Image credit: MarcelGermain


Resources to Search the Invisible Web:

The invisible web includes many types of online resources that normally cannot be found using regular search engines. The listings below can help you access these resources:

  • Alexa: A website that archives older websites that are no longer available on the Internet. For example, Alexa has about 87 million websites from the 2000 election that are for the most part no longer available on the Internet.
  • Complete Planet: Provides an extensive listing of databases that cannot be searched by conventional search engine technology. It provides access to lists of databases which you can then search individually.
  • The Directory of Open Access Journals: Another full-text journal searchable database.
  • FindArticles: Indexes over 10 million articles from a variety of different publications.
  • Find Law: A comprehnsive site that provides information on legal issues organized by category.
  • HighWire: Brought to you by Stanford University, HighWire press provides access to one of the largest databases of free, full-text, scholarly content.
  • Infomine: A research database created by librarians for use at the university level. It includes both a browsable catalogue and searching capabilities.
  • MagPortal: A search engine that will allow you to search for free online magazine articles on a wide range of topics.