17 Jul

Tweets for student-generated tutorials

Thank you for the great response about student-generated tutorials to my Twitter friends who took the time to send a reply.

The Shar-E-Fest 2011 took place at Wintec in Hamilton on July 11-12, 2011. That was also a chance to catch up with Heath Sawyer, one of the main MyPortfolio Taster Session facilitators in New Zealand. Just a few days ago he had posted questions in a MyPortfolio forum to prompt teachers and students to create supporting posters etc. for guides for the use of the ePortfolio system.

During a session we also came to think about student-generated resources for MyPortfolio, which is an ePortfolio that can be used by all schools in New Zealand and is based on Mahara. There is a user guide available, but as far as we knew no guides produced by students. I then asked on Twitter if MyPortfolio users knew about any such guides. Within a short time (and I apologize for blogging about this so late) I received responses not just from NZ, but the UK and Canada. My question was interpreted more widely in these responses and was taken as asking for any student-generated content and not specific for MyPortfolio.

First I thought: Darn, not quite what I wanted, but actually the responses were great because they led me to web sites of universities that have tutorials, guides and videos from students for students. I had a good time checking out Digital Tattoo and the Learning Commons from the University of British Columbia and some videos from the University of Prince Edward Island.

Digital Tattoo is a great site to which I’ll come back because e-responsibility and digital identity are discussed on MyPortfolio. The other sites give an idea of what students can achieve and how resources can be pulled together and presented.

So, thank you very much @psychemedia, @Bill_world, @sleslie, @phpnz, @brlamb, @UBCLearn for your responses!

02 Nov

To list or not to list

Recently, Twitter launched its list feature which allows users to create lists of people one follows so that they are grouped and their updates can be viewed without the noise of others one follows. Some client applications have already done the same thing. Now the game changer is that lists are officially supported by Twitter. I guess, many hope that these lists can then be used in the clients as well.

Many people have already written about Twitter lists and how they are not quite sure how they will be used (Steve Wheeler), or how they think lists will change the social economy (Dave Troy), or where the dangers lie within public lists (Mark Trapp).

I know that categorizations help me. Heck, I do it every day by tagging resources in Diigo to be able to hopefully find them again when I need them, though the search is most often done in Delicious as I prefer their bookmark panel. Putting things in categories is neat and I know where something belongs. I don’t have a problem with it when I call it tagging because I can give the resources any number of tags / keywords.

Lists and groups, however, seem to have a different connotation. They are stronger categorizations and identifiers that can have lots of impact as Mark Trapp’s and Dave Troy’s blog posts indicate. I have not heard complaints about tagging resources with the “wrong” tag or a defamatory tag (maybe I haven’t looked close enough?). It always happens that people disagree on categorizations and be it only because they come from different backgrounds and contexts in which they encounter a thing or a person. Of course, it is not nice to be publicly be labeled “douchebag” list, but except for blocking this person on Twitter I couldn’t really do anything else.

Would the Twitter lists be as discussed if the lists were called tags? Is the list feature so hotly discussed because it categorizes people and not their blogs / websites / articles / videos etc.? Are the lists thus more personal?

I had set up groups when I checked out Mixero and ran into the problems of not being able to classify people in just one group. However, to avoid seeing tweets twice (the whole point of creating groups for me was to reduce the noise), I did put everybody in just one group which was hard. As these groups are entirely private, it did not matter and I couldn’t hurt anybody’s feelings publicly. Currently, I am still debating whether I should replicate these groups in Twitter itself or whether to find a different classification system and which groups I want to make public and which ones to keep private. I will keep an eye on the Twitter lists and see if I can get comfortable with them.

My groups in Mixero

My groups in Mixero

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…

14 Jun

Future tweet via TwitterFox?

I know that applications like TweetLater allow you to schedule tweets that will be delivered in the future. However, I did not know that TwitterFox, my Firefox plug-in for sending tweets, can also look into the future.

The TwitterFox update that I installed today now also shows when a tweet was sent. Sweet and necessary, especially after a good night of sleep. However, I just sent a regular tweet and TwitterFox told me that it was sent “1 minute from now”. Now that is strange. Is this a bug? Earlier I only saw something like “11 seconds ago” “less than 1 minute ago”.

Am I looking into the future with TwitterFox?

Am I looking into the future with TwitterFox?