Category Archives: Social Media

Catching Up with Google+

Today I (finally) posted an article about Google+ over at Inside Online LearningGoogle+: New Social Media for Education?

I just set up my account last week and have been experimenting a bit. My second post asked:

So, are you using Google+ in addition to the rest (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…) or is it replacing your efforts in these networks?

I was thrilled to get a bit of conversation going with three folks from my fledgling Circles. A lot of people are also writing about this and the reviews are mixed. There’s no consensus, but everyone seems to be watching it closely and experimenting with the various tools.

My take so far – Google+ looks like it might turn into something, and there are some interesting new features and functions, so what not give it a try? If you already have a Google Profile, you’re halfway there.

Now to find the time to manage the account and really explore…

I linked a few resources to the other article, focused primarily on use in higher ed, but here are a few more that might be helpful from the instructional design, freelance perspective.

As always, your thoughts are welcome. Let us know about your early impressions, reviews, and predictions.

Image credit: Creative Nerds

Social Bookmarking with Delicious

My previous post on Feedly sparked a question about Delicious – just one of the many social bookmarking tools available right now. It took me a while to get organized with Delicious, but since I “got it”, the system has been a lifesaver. While there was a brief scare a couple of months ago when Yahoo put it on a short list of tools to shelve, the latest word is that Delicious will continue (whew!) under new ownership.

In my current role as an education writer I read about and research a lot of topics related to online education, current trends, etc. and need a way to catalog what I find, the useful bits anyway. More importantly, I need a system that allows me to locate these finds at a later date, when I really need them. Delicious has become that system for me.

Set-up and Access

I realize Delicious isn’t new, and maybe not as feature-rich as some of the other options out there, but it works for me. Here are a few reasons why…

  • Browser Add-ons: For this tool, any tool really, to be helpful it needs to be easy and convenient to use. I am currently using the browser add-ons for both Firefox and Chrome. Installing these adds Delicious icons to your toolbar – when you are on a site you want to bookmark, click on the ‘tag’ icon, enter your tags (keywords for search later) with the pop-up window, and save. This takes a little set-up time on your part, but it’s quick.
  • Network Privacy: You can select whether or not you want to share your information and collection with others. (Go to Settings>People>Set network privacy.) At first I kept my account private, but eventually found opening it easier as I started sharing some of the information – more on that below.
  • In the Cloud: Having this kind of account, where all of my links/bookmarks/favorites are “in the cloud” is great for moving around. I have access to everything, and the ability to keep adding new things, from any computer or location as long as I have an Internet connection.

Developing Your Tag System

Part of “getting it” is figuring out a way to label and categorize. Your way will be different from mine, but plan for this a bit before you get started. You’ll need to decide how to label things – a taxonomy of sorts. I’ve gotten better at this over time, but need to do a little housecleaning. A few ideas for planning your tagging taxonomy:

  • Levels of interest – Much of what I save is related to education, but I try to narrow that a bit by using, higher education, K-12, for-profit, etc.
  • Nouns or verbs – For example, blog or blogging? Sometimes one makes more sense than the other and there may be a place for both. Just think about your approach so you can find it later on.
  • Singular or plural Blog or blogs? Developing a rule like this will help you keep your list tidy and prevent you from having to search for both versions when you are looking for something.
  • Multiple words – If a single keyword is actually two words, Delicious will save it as two separate tags unless you link it together somehow – highered, highereducation, higher-education, higher_education
  • Abbreviations – This is another option for keeping your list neat and retrieval easy – ID for Instructional Design for example.

A classic example of where I could have done better is aggregate. If you look at my list of tags you’ll see all of the following: aggregating, aggregation, and aggregator. At the risk of sounding a little obsessive compulsive, this bothers me. You’ll also find aggreating – since Delicious doesn’t provide a spell check and will accept as a tag, pretty much whatever you type in.

A few other ideas for tagging that might be helpful:

  • Author’s name
  • Publisher
  • Source – if I found the link on Twitter, I might add @username as a tag.
  • Type of site – I use .gov as a tag.

Remember – the goal of all of this tagging is to be able to find the item again later when you need it. What about the piece will trigger your memory? Maybe that will be the topic and author, or that it was in the New York Times, or even that it was a list of things. Try to find the tags that will allow the item to surface when you search your collection.

The “Social” Part

Consider using your bookmarks for conference presentations. Tag all of the links that are in your presentation slides with something (a hashtag perhaps?) and invite attendees to access the links that way.

Use Delicious to collect all of the reading you are using in a course. If it is available online, you can tag each item with your course number and make your list available to your students.

Answer a request for help! If someone in your network is looking for resources related to X, you can send them a link to your Delicious account with the relevant tag.

Delicious badges are available for your website and I just added a widget to this blog in the sidebar that links to my account. You can also link your Delicious account to Twitter so that you tweet your new additions.

Other Options

While Delicious is my favorite, there are other applications you might want to try.

There’s more to Delicious, and social bookmarking in general, than what I have described in this post. This is just where I am finding value. The goal is to find something that has the features and functions you need, and an interface that works for you so that you’ll use it and keep coming back. Once you get it going, your bookmark list will be your first stop.

What about you? What additional features and functions are you using? What other bookmarking tools are your favorites?

Photo credit: chrisheuer, Flickr

RSS Reader Review: Feedly

If you are like me, you’re trying to stay current, to manage the flow of information, and it seems like an uphill battle. After several failed attempts at Google Reader I decided to try Feedly.  I’m about two months in at this point and am glad I made the move. Feedly isn’t new, but if you are looking for something to organize all the stuff you want to read online, you might want to check it out. Here are a few of the reasons Feedly is working for me.

Cover page format – Advertised as “magazine-like” I have found this to be true, and I think this format is the key to me coming back to actually read. It offers a nice, simple layout and combination of headlines, text, and images. On this main “cover” page, and in the other views as well, you can view the details of each post, many in full text, before deciding whether or not you need to go on to the site. This page also gives you a quick look at the headlines.

Categories – You can assign each new blog or website you add to your Feedly account with a category. This works well to keep the work related streams separate from other interests for example. This feature also allows you to view just the feeds related to a specific category you’ve created.

Tie-in with Twitter – It’s extra easy to send a link out via Twitter within the Feedly page. You need to link your accounts then you are ready to share. Feedly offers several social networking elements that might be interesting to you. You can also share via LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Reader, Instapaper, Tumblr, and others.

Tie-in with Delicious – I am a diehard Delicious fan and Feedly allows me to quickly add a link to my collection there. You can also add to Evernote, Pinboard, Diigo, and others.

“Latest” view – Probably my favorite view at this point. Gives you a long list of what’s been posted most recently – one line per entry with the blog or site it came from and the title of the post. Checking this view has become part of my routine at the end of the day.

Apps for iPad and iPhone – When I first started using Feedly, I didn’t find an iPad  app and was a little disappointed. But that has been remedied! The app interface is a little different, but you still get that magazine like feel and the “latest” view option and tie-in with Twitter.

Firefox Add-on – Another component that adds to the ease of use is the add-on. Use this to quickly open your Feedly account at any point and to add a feed to your account from an open blog or other site.

While I still have many, many unread entries, I am able to quickly identify a handful each day to read in full. The format allows me to scan for issues that are important to me and to easily share what I find.

Building a Reading List

Deciding which feeds to read is an ongoing process of adding and deleting. If you try Feedly, or any other RSS reader, give yourself the flexibility to continuously fine tune and stay on the look out for new sites and authors. Here are just a few of the feeds I am now following and recommend:

What about you?

What sources should we all add to our lists? Your recommendations are welcome! Suggest a few of the blogs and websites that you follow to stay informed.

If you have tried Feedly, please consider sharing your experience here. If you are hooked on another reader, let us know which one! What are the features that make it helpful to you?

Managing the Flow of Information (or Not)

Information and advice about instructional design and technology is everywhere. And it’s being generated everyday, 24/7 – on websites, at conferences, in journals and magazines, in email newsletters, in social networking communities, and on blogs. Much of what I find sits in my Delicious bookmarks account – neatly tagged, but unread.

How do we manage the constant flow of information? And perhaps more importantly, how do we attend to it?

At the end of a recent keynote presentation titled Say it in Photos (which was apparently presented from bed), Alan Levine (@CogDog) was asked: how do you keep up with the stream of information? Alan’s answer was quick and to the point: you can’t. I think he even laughed a little bit when he said it. His advice was to focus on the things that “give you energy” and “empower the work you do.”

This advice is both permission to step off of the information treadmill and a challenge to identify those sources that can make a difference. There’s also a hint here that it’s personal. What energizes and empowers you may be different from what energizes and empowers me.

Read on…

What do you rely on for instructional design and technology news and information? What and/or who energizes your work?

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Have you been to PubCamp? Notes from South Florida

Active in social media? A fan of public media? Interested in getting involved with your community? I answered ‘yes’ to these questions and found myself at PubCamp Miami (#pubcampMIA). I had been following tweets from #pubcamps all over the country so when I saw a notice for the event in Miami I registered immediately. As an instructional designer (and blogger) my interest was in how public media could leverage social media to educate members of the community. I was looking for possible learning initiatives and ways to get involved.

The Format

The unconference format meant no scheduled sessions. There was just one formal presentation followed by large group discussion resulting in a list of breakout groups, topics of interest, and initial thoughts on possible collaborations. The event and the projects that may develop as a result provide a way for us to volunteer and support our public stations outside of fund raising drives.

This was a two-day session at the local public radio station @WLRN. The audience was somewhat small, maybe 30-40 people, but diverse and included a mix of artists, web developers, small businessmen and women, marketing experts, educators, local and national public radio professionals, and listeners like me. The common threads were interests in social media, the local community, and local radio programming.

The Take-aways

A list of a few of the discoveries, ideas, and possible projects that emerged…

  • Public Insight Network – The Miami Herald is working with American Public Media to register local residents who are interested in providing input on stories. Over 1500 have registered so far and their responses are already being integrated.
  • Spot.us – This site encourages “community funded reporting”. You can pitch an idea for a story, take on an assignment, and help provide funding for a story you are interested in hearing more about.
    • Could this open source project be adapted at a local level?
  • Citizen Journalists – There was a lot of discussion about recent downsizing of newspaper staff and the potential impact of having members of the community cover stories to be distributed via existing outlets. What does it mean to be a “journalist”?
    • Think about local bloggers – how can they work with public media outlets to develop and broadcast local voices? Are bloggers journalists?
    • Could someone interested in working with a local media outlet be trained to provide story ideas, and even write and produce stories?
  • Social Media – One of the draws of this event was the social media piece. Participants were already involved in blogging, Twitter, podcasting, etc.
    • Can volunteers help extend the reach of public station staff via social media?
    • There is the potential to partner with other local groups and events, such as WordCamp, BarCamp, and Social Media Club to encourage participation and seek out expertise.
    • Consider a public media hosted tweet-up with an open mike format to solicit ideas for stories.
  • Community Diversity – PubCamp emphasized the fact that the local community of South Florida is an international community. How can social media be used to gain input from this community? Provide services and education to this community?
  • Funding – While volunteers can make a huge impact in terms of manpower and additional resources, funding could make that impact more substantial. The Knight Foundation gave a brief presentation outlining some of the types of grants available, the process of selection, and upcoming opportunities.
  • Supporting Local Artists – Many of the attendees were artists using social media. How could this artist community help with and be supported by PubCamp initiatives?
    • Getting the word out is a major challenge for these artists. There are multiple event calendars and many are conducting their own publicity efforts online. Could the creation of an API resource help to unite these efforts?

Getting Involved

WLRN’s request was for us to develop our ideas and submit proposals. I am meeting with two other PubCamp Miami participants next week to keep the discussion going and continue to refine ideas for possible projects.

If you are interested in getting involved, take a look at these PubCamp resources, contact your local station, and find an event in your area!

  • #pubmedia chat on Twitter, Monday nights at 8pm ET.
  • Public Media Camps – list of local events, wikis, etc. (Check out the Prezi from PubCampNC!)
  • @Pubmedia

Figuring Out Facebook

Today I logged in and was asked to accept connections to/with employers, schools, and other sites related to my profile (previously identified interests and groups). When I chose not to connect the related information dropped out of my profile, but there’s more going on here.

Since this morning, I’ve seen a lot of Twitter traffic about the issue. There are of course pros and cons. ‘Opening up’ Facebook to track interests across the Internet could prove to be powerful in terms of social networking. It could also result in a significant loss of privacy in terms of what anyone might be able to access about anyone else’s activities, interests, etc.

In an effort to inform, here are several perspectives:

I think my own frustration begins with the changes being an opt-out instead of opt-in situation. Also feeling a little left out. As a user should I have been asked what I thought about it? Perhaps we are all along for the ride.

What do you think? Did you change your privacy settings?

Photo credit: Brenda Starr, Flickr