01 Nov

Out of context: Aborting Twitter-Facebook experiment

Last week I started my little Twitter-Facebook experiment in which I linked both accounts so that updates from Twitter would show up in Facebook and vice versa. I wanted to see what the changes are for me and for my followers / friends on both networks. Initially, I thought to let the experiment run for a few weeks. However, I will abort it partially today. But let’s start at the beginning.

Getting ready

Once I had decided to link my two accounts, I went in search of the right applications for Facebook to do so. Having Twitter updates displayed as Facebook status messages is pretty simple with Twitter’s own Facebook app. Doing the reverse took a while longer to set up. It finally worked with the SocialToo app for Facebook.

Being excited

After everything was set up, I was pretty excited because the actual experiment could start. I sent a few tweets, I posted a couple of Facebook status updates and they showed up in Twitter and Facebook. As I had predicted, I was more active on Twitter than on Facebook. Thus, the biggest impact should have been in my Facebook network.

Waiting for responses

Coming to the stage of reviewing what was happening in my Facebook account, I can’t really say if anything happened at all. True, I have not polled my friends, but just observed. And there was nothing to observe. OK, a couple of people liked a Twitter message or commented on it, but otherwise nothing. This can mean a few things:

  • they didn’t realize that something has changed
  • they didn’t care that my status messages increased
  • they didn’t care about some of the strange-looking status messages starting with RT
  • they wondered about the strange-looking status messages, but didn’t care to inquire with me what happened
  • they put me on the ignore-this-person’s-updates list due to the strange-looking messages

Getting the hives

Though nobody seemed to notice anything (or at least mention something to me), I got frustrated rather quickly which also led me to abort the experiment quickly.

Incidentally, danah boyd posted her insight into the difference between Twitter and Facebook status updates on the same day I started my experiment (I had not seen the post then). Many of her thoughts and also the comments on the post resonate with me. Conversations are easier to have on Facebook than on Twitter because the comment feature of Facebook places them right below the status update. Furthermore, the status updates and the comments can be longer than Twitter’s 140 characters.

I had already noted the difference in the audiences in my first post. As I use Twitter mainly for ed tech related stuff and Facebook for more personal things, I wondered how that would work out. My tweets are generally pretty straight-forward and include links or references to other Twitter users whereas my Facebook updates can be more cryptic and personal.

However, the single issue that led me to disconnect Twitter from Facebook is the fact that my tweets have context attached to them that my Facebook friends aren’t aware of and that may be strange to them as the majority are not on Twitter. For example: What do you make of a RT? What does a re-tweet has to do in Facebook? As I often refer to other Twitter users with the @ in a message, people don’t know about whom I talk. Of course, they could look up that person on Twitter, but that is too much work. There is no link back to my original tweet, but just a link to the Twitter app in Facebook. Gee thanks. That helps.

Fortunately, @ replies are left out of Facebook when the @ is the first character in a tweet.

Re-tweeting makes sense for me on Twitter as these tweets are either messages from my network or people close to it. I can easily click on the Twitter name of the persons who are re-tweeted and learn more about them or I can follow a link to their the status update and don’t have to search for it. On Facebook all that is taken away. The context is almost completely obscured.

The visual side of me also does not like how RTs look as status updates. It’s just wrong. I can’t really explain it. Maybe my brain has gotten used to the way my Facebook updates look and seeing a RT and @names there is just not visually pleasing. It is perfectly alright in Twitter, be it on the web or in any of the many desktop clients as that’s the natural habitat of my tweets.

Pulling the plug

Pull the Plug by SKellner CC-licensed, 2 September 2009

"Pull the Plug" by SKellner CC-licensed, 2 September 2009

The decision is made: I don’t want to have Twitter updates in Facebook anymore. I will deactivate the application and go back to Facebook-normal. I will keep SocialToo to be able to post from Facebook to Twitter. The good thing about this app is that you can decide an update-at-a-time whether it shall be posted to Twitter or not. If Twitter had such an option, I guess I would leave it connected to Facebook.

25 Oct


Brian Lamb gave a keynote today at the 21st WCET Annual Conference in Denver, CO entitled “The Urgency of Openness” – very fitting for Open Access Week.

Thanks to Chris Lott‘s Twitter messages about the keynote and the Ustream, I was able to view the presentation.

In his keynote, Brian Lamb gives his reasons for being open as in open education, open learning, open scholar. Two of his quote stuck immediately:

“Don’t worry about how you are going to share, but start sharing” and “reciprocal economy – it’s not just about the resources you share, it’s how much you give of yourself”.

Don’t worry about how you are going to share, but start sharing. Scott Leslie wrote a great post on just this topic in November 2008: “Planning to Share vs. Just Sharing”. The message in both the presentation and the blog post is clear: If you want to share, just do it and do not wait until all the details are dealt with, until everybody agrees. If you do that, you will never (or only after a long wait) be able to share and the action will be over.

If you can share openly, as Chris Lott and Jared Stein did with the Ustream of the keynote, everybody around the world can benefit from your efforts and not just a small number of people. What’s in it for you? Well, you put yourself out there and connect to people who may have interesting things for you. But you may never have known about them had you not been involved online and shown what interests you.

Sharing is not a one-way street. It is about reciprocity: giving and taking. However, “it is not just about the resources you share, it’s how much you give of yourself” as Brian Lamb quoted Martin Weller who uses the term “reciprocal economy” for that. The things and the way you share your knowledge, information etc. must be of value to others.

Martin Weller uses Twitter as an example which is quite suitable to show that there needs to be more than just resources to share in order to form connections that are valuable to both sides. The social aspect should not be neglected in the online world. I can find prime examples among people I follow on Twitter.

On the one hand, take Twitter user A who only sends tweets about published articles, book chapters etc. I have often followed up on his reading suggestions. However, I do not know anything about this person except that he reads a lot. I have yet to see a reply to people he follows or a retweet. I guess I could send him reading suggestions to his Twitter account and see if he lists them. But I am not inclined to do so because I can’t “see” who he is.

On the other hand, there is the group of Twitter users B who do not only provide links to interesting, funny, thoughtful information, videos, cartoons, blog posts, but who also share bits and pieces about their daily lives. I see the persons in every tweet because they are all different. They do not follow a standard way of writing, but they are individual and convey the personality of these people. The range of things they share is also wide. As they reply to tweets and also retweet, I get to know with whom they connect, where their interests lie, what they may laugh about. It is to those people that I address tweets and let them know about things that they may like instead of just sending out a tweet that gets lost in the constant stream of 140-character messages.

I have probably met only a handful of the people I follow more closely on Twitter, but I know more about them than of a large number of students and colleagues on campus and also friends whom I rarely see. Though these short messages can’t be a substitute for face-to-face conversations or longer online exchanges, they give a glimpse into our lives and make it possible to form relationships online.

Up until now I have kept Twitter and Facebook updates separate though my tweets are aggregated in Facebook so that the people in my network there can see everything. I have pondered about this decision for some time especially since Facebook became more Twitter-like. Is the distinction still necessary? I now also post more links in my Facebook updates than some time ago and they do not show up in Twitter unless I repost them there. Some Facebook updates are of a more personal nature or simply ones that I had not thought about posting to Twitter because the audiences are different. I know most of the people in my Facebook personally though that does not say anything about the degree of “knowing” as these personal acquaintances range from old-time friends, new friends, and colleagues to students whom I saw in a workshop or two. Twitter is more of a professional network with lots of people from whom I just know the tweets, but nothing else.

Now I am curious. I will embark on an experiment (don’t know yet how to monitor it and how easily I can gather the data from the past in Facebook) linking my Facebook updates to Twitter and vice versa so that they show up equally on both systems. What will the changes be for me (self-perception)? Will there be noticeable changes in Facebook and / or on Twitter, e.g. increased amount of comments, more replies? I assume that the biggest changes (if any at all) will be on Facebook as I generally do not change my status update daily. Although I am not a heavy Twitter user, I think I post there more often than on Facebook.

Off to install a Twitter app in Facebook…

09 May

Walls Optional: Livestream, live chat, live fun

On May 1, 2009, the mini conference Walls Optional took place at Camosun College in Victoria, British Columbia. Alec Couros was invited to give the keynote, A Tweet and a Poke, How Educators Can Harness the Power of Social Networks, at this one-day event. Luckily for everybody who could not make it to Canada, the keynote was streamed live. Unfortunately for me, I could not watch it because the stream would not want to come through without huge buffering problems.

Thus, I looked forward to the recording, but that also had problems. The only hope I had left was to contact tech support. Clint Lalonde, Distributed Education Web Specialist at the college, was incredibly kind and quickly replied that they worked on a solution to make the stream available somewhere else. Within a few days after the keynote, I received the link to the recording on blip.tv and could watch Alec’s presentation which was great. I had already downloaded the presentation file, read the notes, and knew what I was getting myself into watching the recording.

However, seeing the tour de force on video was something else. Time flew by quickly with the many examples of social networking and how we can benefit from it that Alec showed. He also dared to do a live presentation of Omegle, the chat-with-a-stranger, with which you never know what the stranger on the other end may say. The stranger Alec and the 120 people in the room chatted with was a good sport and actually wanted to get to know all the participants. 😉 He received the link to the stream, but it was never found out whether he watched it or not.

Alec made his point clear that building up a personal learning network is important and also very beneficial for learning and in particular for professional development.

09 Sep

What is the role of the quality of connections?

Over the weekend I read “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” by Clive Thompson in the online edition of the New York Times Magazine. The article deals with the value we gain or think to gain from social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter as well as explores whether we have become more social beings now that we have many more “friends” online than in the real world. Dunbar’s number is brought up which basically states that an average person can handle up to approx. 150 stable social relationships.

As I interviewed some of the most aggressively social people online — people who follow hundreds or even thousands of others — it became clear that the picture was a little more complex than this question would suggest. Many maintained that their circle of true intimates, their very close friends and family, had not become bigger. Constant online contact had made those ties immeasurably richer, but it hadn’t actually increased the number of them; deep relationships are still predicated on face time, and there are only so many hours in the day for that.
But where their sociality had truly exploded was in their “weak ties” — loose acquaintances, people they knew less well. It might be someone they met at a conference, or someone from high school who recently “friended” them on Facebook, or somebody from last year’s holiday party. In their pre-Internet lives, these sorts of acquaintances would have quickly faded from their attention. (Clive Thompson)

Although many of our acquaintances fall into the category of “weak ties”, they are nevertheless part of our network in some capacity because otherwise we would not follow them or friend them. Or if we became a weak tie in somebody else’s network without wanting to, we could block them or ignore their friend request.

As these weak ties are part of our network, I wonder how network theory and connectivism deal with them. As I am not yet very familiar with it, I do not know if George or somebody else has already addressed that issue.

I would assume that these weak connections may receive a different treatment than well-established connections that are rich(er) in meaning depending. Or does that only depend on the kind od structure that underlies the network, i.e. hierarchical networks display weak ties whereas non-hierarchical networks don’t? Does their importance increase the more weak ties of a similar kind are established? Will they become a different kind of tie when they become more important to me, e.g. because my weak ties can help me solve a problem much better and faster than my long-time friends could?

Certainly, I’ve gained a great deal from my weak ties. Not so much that many actual problems were resolved, but more in terms of learning about resources that I may have never or only at a later stage come across, of confirmations that stuff I posted was useful for others, and that we were on the same track.