Magic Bookshelf - New Site Features and a Question for Readers

Greetings, all, from the Great White North!

It's been a busy last couple weeks here, so I thought I'd better get my act together and get back to the Magic Bookshelf. My greeting notwithstanding, we have no snow up here yet, but they say it might come next week. Any of you down in the warm places interested in a house guest for a while? I promise I'll clean up after myself and not eat you out of house and home...

New Security Feature - The Captcha

But seriously, I thought I'd cover a couple upcoming site features first. Early next week, we'll be introducing a new security feature that you may have seen on some other sites. The idea is to prevent 'bots' (automated programs) from using our Community to deliver unauthorized commercial messages. The feature is officially called a "captcha". It's a little box that appears with letters or numbers that bots can't read but humans can. Here is an example of one:Example of a Captcha Now, we know that some of our users' eyes might not be what they used to, so we chose numbers. My eyes are fine, and I have trouble reading some of the letters in the captchas on some sites, but I have no trouble reading our new ones, so hopefully you'll feel the same. We regret that this is necessary, but we know you already get enough garbage and we want to do everything we can to prevent you from getting more.

Upcoming Changes to our Free Designs section

We're also getting set to launch some changes to our Free Designs pages. Users will soon be able to search for free designs by keyword, category and even design contributor. The search will be available to all users of the site, although not all the designs that turn up in all searches will be available to non-Club members. I also have some good news for those who have been asking why we haven't added to our collection of over 6000 free designs in a long time. Within the next couple weeks, we'll be launching a new feature of Ann's Club, whereby Ann's Club members will have a section where new free designs are added every week. I suppose these designs can't technically be called completely free, as they will only be accessible for Ann's Club members, but these new features took a lot of work and we're hoping our users can understand that, in order to continue to improve the experience of the site and offer as much as possible to those on a budget, we have to try to make sure that these new services can at least pay for themselves.

Is our Community Tech-Savvy?

One of the original purposes of this Magic Bookshelf blog was not only to provide a guide on how to use the "techie" features of our Community, but also to inform readers about the larger tech world in general. I attended a conference yesterday at which many interesting new ideas about how to use technology were being presented. One thing struck me though, as I kept looking at these great ideas - many of them were being presented in a way that would not have given them much traction with our users. Surveys that we have done of our userbase show that 97% of our users are women, and 70% of those are over 45 years of age. We now have almost 300,000 regular users of the site, and my sense was that, even though some of these great new ideas that I was hearing would have had huge benefits to many of our users, they weren't presented in language that our community would necessarily understand. Don't get me wrong, we have some extremely tech-savvy users in our Community, but judging from feedback we get, they still represent a fairly small minority.

What Do You Want to Know?

With that in mind, I think there is room in this space to cover a few more general areas that the section of our users who aren't so tech-savvy might want to know more about. In other words, what are the things that your kids or grandkids are talking about that you'd like to understand better? I've put a list of ideas below, but it is by no means comprehensive. Please feel free to add anything about which you are curious and I'll do my best to cover it.

  1. Social Networks like Facebook and MySpace
  2. RSS readers like iGoogle
  3. Twitter
  4. Instant Messaging/chat
  5. Widgets and Gadgets
  6. Photo sharing sites like Flickr and Photobucket
  7. The iPhone, Blackberry or other smartphones
  8. Blogs that talk about technology and new ideas
  9. Online games (Final Fantasy) and online environments (ie. Second Life)

What Do You Do Online?

To that end, we'd also like to know where you're spending your time when you do go on the computer. Is it just for your hobby (ie. searching for information, shopping) or do you do other things online. I recently read a fact that absolutely shocked me - there was a study that showed that a specific demographic had overtaken teenage boys in playing online games. Can you guess what it was? Women over 40! Surprise This is something I would never have guessed in a million years. So, I have to wonder what other shockers might be out there. What do you do online besides things related to your hobby. Do you play games? Do you get your news online, or bank online? Do you use music or video sites? Or are you just happy with knowing how to do a search in Google and pick up a few things from an online store? I'd love to know.

So, please, for those of you who are curious and want to keep current with what's happening online, what would you like to know more about, and for those of you who already spend a lot of time online, what else do you do?

To leave a comment, just make sure you're signed in, type your comment in the field below and click the 'Add' button. Hoping to get lots of comments...



Comments (26) -

Hey BB

Great idea here. I consider myself somewhat tech savy, and yet not nearly so as the kids... whew!! what a knowledge base they are.

I would love to know more about flickr. My daughter has a flickr page and tells me to sign on... duh... if I knew what she was talking about, I would.

Also, how do you go about creating your own blog page? Not on ATG sight, just your own page somewhere?

Thanks for the wonderful information you provide

cme    8^)


Yes, I am one of those people who hate the captchas. When I type in what i think it says, I am wrong.... then I have to do it again. I hope the ones on this sight is easier.

What do I do online? I pay bills, IM (instant message), yahoo chat, play games, and research thinkg that I hear about and think "is that right, are they right? what a line of hooy"

cme   8^)

I appreciate the fact that you check out our comments prior to their being posted.  I have learned so much by reading blogs & forums.  Thank you everyone.  I am limited b/c I am disabled so am on a fixed income.  I read (study) when I can't actually sew. As to the captcha; I am glad. I don't want junk on my computer.

I have a free virus protection (again b/c of limited funds).  I just got started last Dec. but b/c of new gdaughter born in Febr.,7 hrs. away, I kind of got a slow start.  She had a bro.18 months w/no family less than 6 hrs. away.  I've said all this to say; it is expensive to get started & I have spent all year with almost no help on supplies, etc.This site is good for me & others like me.  Please keep this in mind. I refer your site to others. I also, try to help my local store stay in business. They are exceptional teaching so other can learn to the art of sewing & pass it on! Thanks u again!


Let's see. I do play games on my computer, but not online games. I do like to Google up information when I'm curious about something or have a question about something. I Instant Message with my kids, DS more than DD, I'm afraid and with my embroidery and scrapbooking colleagues. I digitize embroidery designs and design scrapbook grfaphics. I do nearly all my shopping online and pay most of the bills there, too. Sometimes I'll watch movies or TV shows at Netflix while I'm on the treadmill. I sync my cell phone and load music onto my iPod. I think that's probably about it. Doesn't seem like much, but it seems as if I'm always on the computer doing something.

I am "retired" to a point - I do my handicapped husband's physical therapy daily, etc. I have just gotten into the online stuff as I was a littled burned out on the computer from working for years on them.  It seemed to me that I was back at the grind stone instead of having fun.  Have now ventured in the unknown world of online and am going crazy with the amount of embroidery designs out there.  My husband gave me a membership to ATG and I spend most of my time on her website. I email friends and family especially my son and daughter in law in London.

I know nothing about the space pages or whatever they are called.

Love Ann the Gran!


Im stoked about this! Right now I'm searching for a phone design, do you think I can find one! lol. Bring on the search! :o)

I love the captcha idea!  Occasionally, I have trouble with the letters and the numbers will be much easier to read.  As far as online usage, I pay bills, IM (especially with my daughter & granddaughter in Australia), play games, shop on-line for ME and quilting items (buy most of my fabric on-line), read the latest news and use it for numerous searches on various topics.  It has become a major tool in the household and is a lot of fun too!

How do I use my computer?  Wow!  To stay in touch with my sister.  To keep up with my friends.  Of course, my embroidery, both for buying designs and checking on new developments with my sewing machine.  Then there's my banking, keeping track of my bank accounts and how much $$ I am losing in the stock market (Yuck!).  I get new recipes, shop, get weather forecasts (right now we're under a tornado watch).  Notify the post office and newspaper when I am going to be on leave.  I schedule my piano lessons.  Share photographs.  Get new sheet music for my piano.  Yes, I do play solitare and put together jigsaw puzzles, despite the times I've resolved not to do so.  I keep my prescriptions up to date, pay bills.  Stay current on the news.  And, yes, sometimes I even fall asleep in front of it.  I've made new friends through it, and rediscovered friends I've lost touch with.  I send greeting cards.  And the list could go on and on.  But I won't bore you any more.  

I get designs to Emb. and learn from what others write bout embroiderying.  Also keep in touch with friends and playSolitary and Freecell sometimes.   I enjoy your site and may the Lord richly bless you for all your effort to help us have a little fun.  You are special.  Mary

These are really great ideas, both from you BB and the commenters!

I qualify for over 40, I am 1,999 according to my profile.  I think I am relatively computer savvy, having taught software like Word and Excel for many years, but that darned IM, I just cannot get it to work!

I am going to put more into my profile as well because it is like "my space" for the ME who hang around these parts.  I love making new friends.


I never play games online (or off) but do use the computer for e-mail, shopping (as I live in a tiny rural town), and information gathering.  Do some embroidery downloading as well but not a lot.  Don't enjoy blogs and rarely read any of them.  Am glad that the captcha will be easy to read as have tried several times to enter a site only to be stumped by whatever the magic word was supposed to be when it is totally distorted.  

Hi. I enjoy using my computer I am self taught , it was a good help when my husband died chat to a lot of people , Now using it for banking , email, skype chat with my girlfriend of more tan 40 years in Denmark I live in Austalia, also weekly contact with my family on skype . used it for my embroidery program. I have remarried and we both using the net for research, can spend hours on it. Love Ann the Gran site, and other sites like this not many australian ones. First grandaughter to christmas we have 7 grandson, soi will be making a lot of lovely things for the new baby.

Aase Irene

Wow, loving these comments! Please keep them coming!

cme - Personal blogging is definitely something I can cover - thanks for the great idea. Flickr is also a great tie-in to what Stacy is doing with the digital scrapbooking over on her blog, so I might even enlist her help on that one. Her tech-savviness (?) puts even me to shame! From your list, you are clearly comfortable online - I love my Yahoo IM as well (just ask Ann!) and I love to hear when people research things online. We hear so many about which we are not sure what to believe - knowing the places to go online to get good information can improve everyone's life.

LDiane - It's great to know that you find the site educational - it's our pleasure. That really is what we are aiming - that you will see it as a resource where you can go for good information. We definitely appreciate your referrals, and we definitely see ourselves as a supplement and not a replacement to your dealer. In fact, we'd love to have a dealer write a blog for us. Dealers reading out there - any takers? Imagine the exposure!

Ann - You already know you're my favourite tech Grandma! Thanks for getting me some comments this time from your great intro!

maggi12 - Great to hear that you're back in a discovery phase! Anytime you have a specific question or something you want to know, just let us know and we'll be happy to help.

snuzal - We're stoked too, and we're bringing it! It's just in internal testing now and we'll have it up as soon as we've worked out all the kinks. Make sure you give it a try once it's up!

boinkers (great username - I can relate) - It's a great household tool in my house as well. We just got off a Skype chat with webcam with my wife's Mom, sister and brother in England. It was the first time my two girls had seen their uncle in anything other than a photo, and that would never have been possible without the technology.

msjeanie - Bore me? I was hope you were just getting started. If you're falling asleep in front of it, you and I may be dangerously alike...

baseball - Thank you so much for your comment. It's nice to know that our work is appreciated.

Pat - Yes, exactly, ATG is the MySpace of the ME world! Great way of putting it!

Sewist2 - I can imagine that online shopping is especially great for you being in a remote area. I'm sure it's saved you a few trips into town!

aaseirene - Skype is great, isn't it? Maybe I should do a feature on those kinds of services. Sometimes we assume that everyone knows about something like Skype, but when I think about it, Skype has 276 million users, which is a lot, but it certainly isn't everyone. Glad to hear you enjoy the site - feel free to post or comment any time.


I guess I can say "ditto" to most of the above.  I'm a women, closer to 60, retired but now in an at-home lembroidery business.

I was a technical designer, and after the "ink and mylar on drawing board" days turned into computer days I got my fill of computers!  I kept up pretty well until we went on a mainframe and then had to call the "help desk" for everything.  That's when I began to get out of touch with the advances of computing of of an mainframe.

Now that I'm retired I'm getting reaquainted with my PC!!  I use it for lots of things - email, IMing, Blogging, Forums, Yahoo Groups, tech support, Calendar (in Outlook, synced to my Palm Pilot), banking, business, bookkeeping, research, writing, dictionary & thesaurus, shopping, News and Weather, Stock Market (depressing!), and play some off-line games like Spider and Solitaire, and online Sudoku, just for a break!

I use my Web Cam to share pics with friends and family.  A "70-something" women friend showed me how to use it!  But we haven't figured out to use it in real-time.  I haven't had time to research that yet!   We take pictures of things we are working on and then send them so we can see what we are talking about.  And I share pics of my granddaughter with friends.  It sure is fun!

I also use Corel Draw, Embroidery Office, and the Floriani Suite for doing my design work.  I like Art Explosion for stock clip art.

I don't know how we survived before without a computer!  And some days I wish I could throw it out the window!  I spend a large part of my day on the computer, but I still feel pretty far behind in computer literacy!  Any info and training would be welcomed by me!!

I don't understand RSS Feeds, and would love to learn about any new technology.  I love learning - keep it coming!  And thanks for asking for input from all of us.


Sew Mary

I love your web site, I have recently been forced to retire due to a stroke that left my left hand paralyzed; therefore I am having to learn to use just one hand to hoop,etc.  It has been very changleing.  I use my computer to keep up my skills it is slow going but time is all I have.  My income is limited so I enjoy your free designs.


conniephillippe 11/16/2008 12:21:31 PM

Greg, Since you are a music lover, check out my sons web site and his newest CD. Fabulous for kids and the Green movement. I would like to know more about "skype" I have a web cam but have never used it..

Pat - I also have trouble remembering what life was like without a computer, even though I'm old enough that about half my life was pre-computer. Sounds like you're doing great. I'll definitely put RSS on my list, and the webcame in real time.

Mary - I can't imagine re-learning to do all manual tasks with one hand, especially something as involved as hooping. Keep up the great work!

conniephillippe - Thanks for the recommendation. Interesting idea your son has - my kids grew up listening to one of the all-time classics of socially relevant children's music - Free to Be You and Me, from the 60s. Hopefully what your son is doing will also become a childhood standard. We've had a a few people talking about Skype, so that sounds like it might be a good place to start.

I am not very computer savvy, but can do a few things, like search for free designs and sewing patterns, download and transfer to my compac flash cards. I have aJanome 10000plus I just love. I email friends and family, play a few games, but not on-line. Love doing jigsaw puzzles from Tat's Rose Angels (I think!) Read the news, at least the headlines. Love to do the embroidery hunt fests offered on some sites, belong to lots of embroidery sites, but don't post very often. Sometimes feel out of the loop, can't keep up, have no idea what you were talking about in most of your letter, sorry. I just do what I am able to do, hard for me to learn new things fast. DH does banking, bill paying on-line, know I'll really need help if anything happens to him. I'm 59, by the way, and not employed. ATG was one of the first embroidery sites I ever went to, when I had my first embroidery machine, a Janome 8000. Thanks so much for all the free designs and tips over the years, I really appreciate all of it.

Vivian 11/17/2008 1:51:16 PM

I use my computer for about everything! I find I am always on it. My last child is in school full time and I am exploring the world of on-line sewing!  I have never down loading any embroidery stuff YET! Give me time... just checking out all the really cool stuff that is on this site so far.

I am stocking up and getting ready, setting up and declaring my space in our new house!

Hoping my older kids buy me a membership for Christmas, or maybe hubby?

Thanks for the tip and I will keep looking for more upcoming information


Vivian - Thanks so much for your comments. Sounds like you've been online for a while - I'm surprised you don't know some of the stuff I mentioned. We'll have to do something about that!

Judith - Congrats on your days being freed up! My wife had the same feeling when our youngest finally started full-day school. Feel free to suggest an ATG Gift Certificate to hubby for Christmas - then you can buy what you want. One little tip - you might want to change your username so it's not your e-mail address. Spam 'scraping' programs crawl sites and look for publicly displayed e-mail addresses, which will increase the amount of spam you'll get. To change it on our site, sign in, go to our Home page, and click on your account, then make the changes and save when you're done.

As you can see if you're signed in, the captcha feature is now implemented, and we've turned e-mails from the system back on, so those of you who have been missing your "forum fix" can now get back in the loop.


I forgot to answer your original question.  I pay bills, study all kinds of interesting subjects, medical (tho one has to be careful) email, look for ME sites, etc.


My first embroidery machine was the PE150 from Walmart. I had to go to (an hours' drive away) to the only Brother dealer in the area to figure out why I could only do the designs in the machine! But she was the one who hooked me up with ATG, and I love the site. Finally joined.

I use computers at work (nurse) and can maneuver my way around the sites. Some of the language is foreign to me. I use the computer for shopping, mostly for embroidery stuff, as I don't have many options where I live (SW PA). I buy blanks to embroider often. I have PEdesign 5, which I still haven't figured out how to use to digitize but use to edit.  Bill paying, sending pictures from digital camera. Do searches for info. Online classes and continuing education stuff for my job. Use power point for work projects. Learning slowly excel. Play games on/offline sometimes. Haven't any interest in myspace type blogs but do use the ones in the assorted groups to which I belong. Have web cam on laptop but only used it once or twice, and haven't any idea how to use it when talking. Need a kid to show me how!

Love the site, keep up the good work.


tourlady522 1/6/2009 2:43:05 PM

Greg Please go back to the old pages for the free designs the new ones are too hard for us oldies to find what we are looking for ans all we get are red x's where the pictures should be.

Sorry, Bonnie, I missed this for some reason. Have you sorted out the red 'x' problem? I'm sure our Support team would be pleased to help you if you're still having difficulty. It is likely an easily-changed setting in your browser, but that isn't really my area of expertise. Once your red x problem is solved, you should have no problems, as you're a member and you should actually find the experience very smooth.

I would love to get instructions on how to do the polo shirts without hooping. I am doing 33 for our pep squad and would realy like to do it the easy way.

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