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Posts Tagged ‘donate’

MIT OCW is one of the best things that happened in education in the last few years. It features hundreds of course materials available for free to anyone who is interested. I became interested in OCW to improve my CS and Math skills. So far, I have completed multiple courses and currently I am trying to follow their MultiVariable Calculus course.

It always amazed me that MIT was willing to put such high quality stuff out in the open – Sure, my toiling on Calculus or Linear Algebra does not have a “tangible” outcome – meaning, I am not going to get MIT certified for all the hours I spent on it. But it does help me do well in courses in my university based on these courses. For eg,  I have a different perspective of how things work in data mining or machine learning after watching few of MIT lectures on  Calculus / Linear Algebra etc.

MIT OCW has a detailed page on donating where they provide all necessary information. I do try to support MIT OCW by donating at least couple of times a year – But as a student my monetary contributions are limited which always bothered me. 

A Simple Idea

Few days back, I got an idea after reading this post . Basically, the post details the amount of referral money that GNOME foundation gets from Amazon when users buy songs from Amazon MP3 store via Banshee. Sure, the amount is small as the audience is small – People who use Linux AND Banshee AND buy from Amazon within Banshee !

I also remembered that MIT OCW does have Amazon referral link. More details are given at OCW’s Amazon referral page. Amazon gives MIT OCW 10% referral when people buy items from Amazon when either clicking on book links from OCW or when they visit to Amazon through the URLs in the referral page. Since the OCW audience is considerably bigger, I searched for the amount of referral money that Amazon brings. The details are scarce but this link says the amount is around $30,000 at the end of 2009.  That is pretty impressive considering it is almost 20% of the visitor donation of 2009 !

Whenever I want to buy something in Amazon (that’s my primary choice as I have Amazon Prime) , I directly search using the Chrome’s Amazon search instead of going to Google. So, I reasoned that if I could somehow make MIT OCW as the referrer, then OCW will get the referral fees from whatever purchases I make. Even though it might be limited, it indirectly increases my “contribution” to MIT OCW.

A small technical detour

Before we modify our browsers to make MIT OCW as the referrer , we might have to change some habits – Don’t worry , it will only make you more efficient 🙂

First, when you are buying do consider Amazon. Of course, not at the expense of your finance. But lot of times, I find that Amazon has the cheapest rate or the difference is reasonably negligible. Since most of the blog readers are students, you may be interested to know that they offer one year free Amazon Prime for students. Your shipping will be free if you chose two day shipping. Even otherwise, Amazon has free super saver shipping for most items above $25. Most of textbooks cost  a fortune and you will be eligible most of the time.

The next is to directly search in Amazon instead of searching the item in Google and going to Amazon by clicking the link. If you feel you might miss some cheaper alternatives, check out other book search engines like vialibri.net which searches multiple sources anyway.

One of the coolest Chrome Geek tip is to use its search engines effectively – Chrome comes with lot of built-in ones and allows you to assign keywords for them. To manage them, click on the Wrench icons and select “Preferences” (Options in Windows) . In the “Basics” tab, go to the section on “Search” and click on “Manage”. You will get a new window listing known search engines.

Lets change the way you search items, in say, Wikipedia. Go to the entry for Wikipedia and click on ‘Edit’. You will see a new smaller window. The item we are interested is the second textbox which is labeled as “Keyword”. Set it to some mnemonic you want -  For eg wiki. I set it just w. Now click save and close the window. Go to Chrome’s address bar and type “wiki Blah” (or in my case w blah). Watch Chrome magically take you to the appropriate wikipedia page directly – No intermediaries like Google ! Think of all the seconds that you can shave off for each Wikpedia search 🙂

I have mnemonics for everything in my Chrome. I use y for Yahoo, b for Bing, a for Amazon and so on. So all you need to do to search for some item in Amazon is to type “a item” in Google’s address bar (assuming ‘a’ is mnemonic for Amazon).

If you are using Firefox, then its now as straightforward. Firefox does come up bundled with few search engines and Amazon is one of them – but reaching is a bit tricky. Now press “ctrl+k” to reach the search pane (or use the mouse !) Once you are in search pane, you can switch search engines, by using the arrow keys. Once Amazon search engine is selected, type the appropriate keyword and the Amazon’s result page pops up.

Firefox also offers an easier way. Click on the list of search engines list in search pane and select ‘Manage Search Engines’ . Now in the new window, select the appropriate search engine and click on ‘Edit Keyword’. For eg, you can set ‘a’ for Amazon. Then you will be able to type “a item” in address bar to search for “item” in Amazon directly !

Changing Referrer in Chrome

Changing the referrer in Chrome is easy. Click on the Wrench icon and select “Preferences” (Options in Windows) . In the “Basics” tab, go to the section on “Search” and click on “Manage”. You will get a new window listing known search engines. Now select the entry for Amazon and click Edit. (I f you cannot find the search engine for Amazon, then go to Amazon and search for dummy stuff and check again). In the “URL” textbox append the words “&tag=mitopencourse-20”. In Ubuntu, your URL field will look like this (you can even copy this one !)

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/external-search/?field-keywords=%s&mode=blended&tag=mitopencourse-20

In Windows, my entry looked like this :

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=%s&x=0&y=0&tag=mitopencourse-20

The word “tag=mitopencourse-20” is what that makes MIT OCW as the referrer. I have assumed that you are using Amazon US. If you are other versions of Amazon, use the following table and swap the word “mitopencourse-20” with the other.

Amazon Locale

Referrer Code

US

mitopencourse-20

Canada

miop-20

France

miop0c-21

Germany

miop0a-21

Italy

miop01-21

UK

miop-21

 

Now search for something in Amazon directly using the keyword you set previously. For eg, if you used “a” as mnemonic then try “a itemName” and find if the tag that you just set appears in the url of the search results page. If so, then great ! Else, recheck the previous steps.

 

Changing Referrer in Firefox

Changing the referrer in Firefox is a two step process – Since Amazon comes a default search engine, modifying it directly does not seem to work. Instead , you have to move the item to your local search plugins folder and then change referrer there .

Ubuntu (Or Linux)

1. Find your user specific firefox search plugin folder. Typically it is at ~/.mozilla/firefox/<profileFolder>/searchplugins. Replace the word <profileFolder> with appropriate name. For me it is at ~/.mozilla/firefox/72p71i29.default/searchplugins . If it does not exist, create it.

2. Assuming English as your firefox locale , move the file /usr/lib/firefox-addons/searchplugins/en-US/amazondotcom.xml to your profile folder. It is important that you move the file and not just copy it.

3. Open the file in some editor like vim. Check for the line that starts like

<Param name="tag" value="someRandomText"/>

4. Now modify that line and change the value to “mitopencourse-20”. Your line must look like

<Param name="tag" value="mitopencourse-20"/>

 

Of course if your Amazon locale is different, use the above table to find the appropriate referred id. Reopen Firefox and search for something in Amazon directly using the search engine (either the search engine in search pane or using its keyword). If the search result has the tag for MIT, then great ! Else please repeat the steps again more carefully.

 

Windows 7

1. Find your user specific firefox search plugin folder. Typically it is at C:\Users\<userName>\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<profileName>\searchplugins . Replace <username> with your actual username and profile name with your actual profile name. For me it is at C:\Users\zionWin\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\jon9mxki.default\searchplugins . If it does not exist, create it.

2. Move the file “C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\amazondotcom.xml” to your profile folder. It is important that you move the file and not just copy it.

3. Open the file in some editor like notepad++. Check for the line that starts like

<Param name="tag" value="someRandomText"/>

4. Now modify that line and change the value to “mitopencourse-20”. Your line must look like

<Param name="tag" value="mitopencourse-20"/>

 

Of course if your Amazon locale is different, use the above table to find the appropriate referred id. Reopen Firefox and search for something in Amazon directly using the search engine (either the search engine in search pane or using its keyword). If the search result has the tag for MIT, then great ! Else please repeat the steps again more carefully.

 

Conclusion

The effort needed to make this change will be only few minutes – You are not killing kittens. Also this does NOT increase the price of your item that you buy from Amazon. All that happens is that when you buy something from Amazon, MIT OCW will get a 10% cut.  It is not clear to me whether that applies only to textbooks or to any items. Typically, referrals works for all items.

I think this might be the simplest way that you can contribute to MIT OCW without much effort from you. Please spread the word !

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