Posts tagged: Social Networking

Our Social Orbits

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By , January 31, 2011 12:00 pm

Over the weekend, it struck me once again that people really don’t pay attention to LinkedIn. Why? Because often people are on the service so that they can be seen, but they aren’t really doing anything there. The people who they connect to there are perhaps the equivalent of “single serving friends”. You need them every now and again to get something done and for most of us, that is when we are looking for professional movement (ie between jobs/careers). All this got me thinking, and then it struck me that there are shells of tools that orbit our various “selves”. There is the personal/internal (1) self that has tools like Facebook in orbit. Another self, the external/public (2) toolset has in orbit elements such as Twitter. Finally, you have the corporate/professional shell (3). This has tools like email. These selves orbit each other in a delicate dance within something I’m calling the “zone of comfort”, the Egosphere (5). Within this zone, there is also something I call the “Cloud of the Over/Under Ripes” (4). These are tools that we have become comfortable with, but they are not really catching on to one of the three selves. You’ll notice that the orbits of the tools within the Egosphere cross over. This allows tools/services to cross over between selves and get or promoted/demoted. There is one final sphere, the “Aposphere” (6). This is the zone that has all manner of tools or services that the individual doesn’t really care about. Finally, there is an orbital path, an entry corridor actually (7) that new services/tools must attempt to hit just right in order to overcome apathy, become comfortable and then get picked up by either the personal or public individual before it would have a chance of hitting the corporate self.

So, what does this mean for those who try to get into the sweet spot of being considered a valid Social Media tool and perhaps hit that hallowed ground of being so well used that mobile telecom providers include you on the list of “unlimited Social Networking” services? First, it means that a new tool has to be timed just right. It has to come in with enough energy and finally it has know that it might have to disappear for a while (yes, those blank parts are intentional). So if Google, with all it’s might tries to get Okurt to get into the personal orbit, it has to remember it can’t just fire it out and expect it to stick. I think Apple has found this to be the case with Ping. So the big players are a bit heavy footed, but other services like Kik, they exploded with just the right timing and energy, but then they got jettisoned to the realm of over/under ripe services as have many of the other messaging services that popped up afterward (Beluga et al). Remember, these systems are specific to the individual, so my system will be different than your own (I know people who are just as addicted to Beluga as they ever were to BBM).

I would love to hear what others think about this idea.

The Elements:

  1. Personal/Internal
  2. Public/External
  3. Corporate/Professional
  4. Cloud of Over/Under Ripe
  5. Egosphere (Zone of Comfort)
  6. Aposphere (Zone of Apathy)
  7. Entry Corridor

My 2011 Predictions

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By , December 28, 2010 9:03 pm

Well 2010 was certainly an eye opening ride for me, moving between institutions not of my own will and looking to a future that may or may not include academia. But for all that, it has provided me with yet another way of looking at technology and the way that it is used to educate us and help us tell our stories. So without too much extra reflection, here are my points from last year:

  • Augmented Reality – phones and other GPS enabled devices will add value to the world by being able to overlay data that incorporates real time updates, static content and, of course, social data.
  • Increased power of mobile – From payments (PayPal has apps out there now), to creation and management, increasingly you’ll have to be able to do it all mobile.
  • Privacy erosion – we’ll see just how fleeting privacy is, anything that gets transmitted is public, period. We should see much more this coming year, how and why this is the case. But at the same time, the value of the crowd being able to take a peek at what you do will gain value.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – I think (and hope) that cablecos will realize that PVR is the first step in enabling people to get content the way that they want – and that way is file based. I don’t know if the cablecos are going to make this move or if the content creators are, but it’s certainly coming. Fast pipes, big drives and cheap streamers make it very easy to set up one’s home to be able to download last night’s episode of whatever and watch it at a more reasonable time. Apple has some of this going through iTunes, but the system is overly restrictive and I don’t think people like the idea of paying for things twice.
  • Casual Gaming will explode – games on Facebook, Twitter, phones are going to grow and traditional games are going to stagnate… unless they have some social element.
  • Chrome – a non phone web based OS is going to make ripples, especially for those many billions out there who only really surf and turf on their machines. For those who need to handle media files, traditional machines will still be there, but the appeal of the “global roaming profile” will certainly appeal to many.
  • Short URLs – There is a reason why Google and Facebook have got into the game. I think brands are going to go to these to show approval or ownership.

So how did I do?

  • Augmented reality – we are certainly seeing what the increase in GPS capable devices has provided. The boom of location based services, while not really “augmented”, is certainly an enhancement.
  • Increased power of mobile – well mobile payment is increasing and the sudden rise of the iPad shows that mobile is certainly something people were waiting for, even if they didn’t know it or know where/how it would fit in their digital life
  • Privacy erosion – Facebook anyone? Check this Google News link.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – well TV and terrestrial radio didn’t die out, but YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Boxee and many more certainly went main stream.
  • Casual gaming – Hear about Zynga? I doubt Google would have bought in if it wasn’t going somewhere.
  • Chrome – well I missed on that one, ChromeOS test platforms only now started shipping.
  • Short URLs – and Pro anyone – I think I got this one on the mark.

So what are my thoughts for 2011?

  • More mobile – who really cares what the latest computer is? Everyone is buzzing about phones. Between the fast revisions, portability and dropping price, the promise of capable computing in your pocket (as opposed to the office/den) is appealing to everyone
  • Social everything – we’ve seen how powerful Facebook has become, and it’s not going to weaken anytime in the future. There might be some ripples with Diaspora or other new services, but if they don’t use existing services as a rooting point, they are not going anywhere. To make change, you’ll have to convince a planet wide mob.
  • Bandwidth battles – net neutrality will come to a head again and there is going to be more available, but the providers are going to find more ways to charge for it
  • Text will still rule – even though video and audio will be easier to capture and transmit, people will still post and communicate using letters.
  • Education might actually get the hint that social and mobile compute is something that should be given consideration – well I can hope

So not as many this year as in previous years, but things are moving through a bit of a bottleneck right now and maybe in 2011 something will blow things open, or we see things crystallize in the nxt 8-13 months and then some real changes arrive in 2012.

Kiking the tires, thinking about Titan and the three desires

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By , December 14, 2010 4:25 pm

You might remember, a few weeks back, Facebook came out with news on the new messaging service that it wants to roll out – Project Titan. Not the email killer that many thought it would be, many people seemed to be puzzled about what (and why) Facebook was expending its energy on (sounds like Wave eh?). Facebook described the system as a means of unifying messaging across multiple modalities and to my mind, it is merely the completion of an idea that Google started with Chat that could send messages to SMS, Chat and Mail. A few fewer weeks back, Kik Messenger was kicked off of RIMs BIS network. It is claimed that Kik is violating some copyright or patented technology that is property of RIM. Many people understood this one right away. Kik was, and is, basically BBM (Blackberry Messenger) lite “for the rest of us”. It doesn’t have the group sharing elements of the BBM platform, nor does it integrate with anything other than the address book, but it does the “killer” thing that BBM does. Deliver messages fast and allow for a means of knowing the status of a sent message.

Fast forward to this week as I finally pulled the messaging part of my phone plan into the tail end of 2009 with a limit that is more than 100 or so messages. People who know me, know that I don’t like txting long back and forth conversations. I had this disposition for two reasons, the first was that it would chew through my allotted message limit very quickly and second that it would suck down battery just as fast. For this reason, I preferred using Google Talk or other messaging systems. So when Kik showed up, I quickly grabbed it, longing for a return to those heady days that I was still a Crackberry Addict and could send messages instantly and know when they were read. I know you can do the same thing with SMS, but who really wants all that noise within the system? BBM and Kik have it integrated and noise less. But, unlike BBM and Kik, Google Talk records all the messages that users send, and there are utilities to do the same with SMS, but not with BBM/Kik.

Scoot ahead to this afternoon, when out for my afternoon walk around the Legislature, it struck me why and how all these elements come together. There are three desires we have when communicating. We have the desire to know that we can reach our audience specifically, we want to know that they have seen our message and then we want to be able able to move through the messages that we have sent and received. I’m sure this is nothing new to communication studies (or allied discipline) people, and it isn’t really new to me either, but what it new in my mind is that there is now a potential pathway that, through the use of technology, would make it easy for people to experience the three desires. The problem is that the tools that would enable this confluence is currently behind one wall or another.

But there is hope, and for all that Facebook doesn’t do well, it might be that Facebook has in place, at least in principle, the ways and means to build a system that allows for the confluence to occur. If the final form of Titan is truly “input independent”, then it would make sense that Kik/email/SMS/Chat/enhanced smoke signal/what have you, could all be used to interact with the stream of messages that are stored in Facebook. Ideally, the transfer of messages would also be fast and feedback as to the status of the message would also be available without extra noise. I’m also sure, that like Google, Facebook is going to keep each and every one of those messages forever.

Ok, so where am I going with this? The world outside the classroom has figured out why it is important to keep messages and make sure they flow in a manner that alerts those involved as to their status. Why hasn’t education? Why is education thinking that messages only last for, at the most 12 weeks? Why is there no way to know if anyone involved in the communication cycle has received a message, or indeed who would have received the message in the first place. Unless formal education enables this form of communication, I think it will fall even further behind where it is now in terms of preparing students for the connected and engaged world that they will see in their future and that they are starting to see in their homes.

Four Weeks on Foursquare

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By , March 2, 2010 7:56 am

Getting back from the winter break, I had heard quite a bit about a social media game called Foursqaure. I had seen some activity from the game in my Twitter feed toward the end of 2009. But just as I returned from vacation, I spotted this on Mashable, so thinking if it is good for Harvard, it might have something good for the U of A or the Faculty of Science as well. But in order to determine that, I would have to get my hands, well fingers, dirty and play the game to see what is so compelling or interesting.

First the compelling part. If you are part of an organization, Foursquare provides and amazing means to track and examine what your target group/employees/students are up to. You can reward certain behaviours and perhaps identify problematic ones. It could potentially help get new students/members oriented to a new location and it could help provide tips and referrals for both old and new members find out more about their area. So for a large campus, like Harvard, or like the U of A, this seems to be a no brainer as a tool for recruitment, engagement or orientation.

But what about the negative? Well, you don’t have to try that hard to find someone with something negative to say about these geolocation games. The first and most important, is that you are giving away your location, and lack of same (RWW). You are continually spewing into your social media stream details that are just not needed (emoderation). It is also completely honor based, so you don’t really have to be at a location to say that you are checking in, you just need to be honest about it. So between the noise and the lack of transparency, Foursquare as a tool to be used by organizations seems to be problematic. Even though there are merchants who are keen to give mayors discounts, it is very easy to spoof that information.

So what is my take after “playing the game for a month”? Well, it is an interesting experiment, but like the Facebook games (Farmville, etc), they generate noise that erode, or potentially erode the systems that one would use to maintain one’s network. Using the basic update paradigm, one can likely do much more to get relevant information to their friends. Organizations can use existing tools like groups and hashtags to organize and orient.

I’ve heard it many times online that the wonderful thing about Social Media is that it is changing all the time, so nobody can really be an expert. But having said that, we seem to collectively know what does and doesn’t work in that stream – and it is different for different groups. For the groups that I deal with, I don’t think games like Foursquare fit very well. So, much to the pleasure of some of my friends, you may have seen my last location update from that system (next is Buzz). Officially however, I’m retiring from Foursquare politics, the mayoral duties I have are crushing my home life.

Relationships important for success

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By , June 29, 2009 1:39 pm

While this article by Bergin & Bergin (Attachment in the Classroom – DOI: 10.1007/s10648-009-9104-0) talks about students in k-12 and their attachment to parents and teachers as an important part of what it takes to succeed, it might be logical to extend what they say into higher ed as well and perhaps using social networking or other “old school” technologies the recommendations that are put forward might be adapted.

Bergin and Bergin recommend:


  • Increase warm, positive interactions with students
  • Be well prepared for class and hold high expectations
  • Be responsive to students’ agendas by providing choices
  • Use reasoning rather than coercive discipline that damages relationships
  • Help students be kind, helpful and accepting of one another
  • Implement interventions for difficult relations with specific students


  • Provide a variety of extracurricular activities for students to join
  • Keep schools small
  • Keep students with the same teachers and/or peers across years
  • Decrease transitions in and out of the classroom.
  • Facilitate transitions to new schools or teachers

In higher ed, I think all the teacher points are transferable (even discipline, which is an increasingly sticky issues on many campuses). For schools, higher ed might want to consider ideas like (these are not supported by any research, rather they are from my own observations/understandings):

  • Develop and maintain small student cohorts, supported by faculty or departmental advisers
  • Teach core/required courses with permanent staff rather than sessionals
  • Increase the contact options with instructors/advisers
  • Facilitate transitions to grad school or other undergraduate programs

The last point might be the kicker in this day were students are perhaps taking one part of their degree on a traditional campus while attending a different institution online. If the institution somehow figures out that it is not the one and only academic destination for the student, and rather it is a point on the journey, it may find that students will feel far more attached than they would otherwise. The institution that best facilitates the development of networks for students is likely going to be the one that is remembered later by the students. Those networks will help the students succeed while attending and they may help the institution later through alumni funding.

Facebook is now allowing custom sharing

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By , June 24, 2009 12:55 pm

facebookpublicbitsIt looks like people will be able to choose how their status updates and other published items are shared. This only makes sense after the Vanity URL move because right now, it makes no sense to send people to your URL unless it is to make it easier to find you. With this, you now have the opportunity to put something on that page. Hopefully it spreads through the system quickly. Now all Facebook needs to do is to allow for some way of “retweeting” to allow sharing between otherwise closed/isolated networks.

If we want kids to grow up digital, it might mean

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By , June 17, 2009 8:28 am

… that, like the Millennials in this report (RWW) who are often successfully dictating to their IT departments what type of technology they want to make use of to communicate for business (often in ways that are similar to those used for pleasure). This new generation of employee seems to have little regard to privacy (as we’ve seen and read many times before) and are often ignorant of IT policies (likely leading to much of this “end running”). So with this generation entering the prime of their career at the front end and somewhere within their first post-secondary degree/diploma, it seems that there is only 5-6 years max before we see another massive disruptive force starting to come through our schools – the children of the Millennials are going to be entering kindergarten and those children as likely as not will have many of the same attitudes toward technology as their parents, and will certainly be raised with them. So while the education system may buy itself a few years with the comfort that kids in k-3 are more interested in playing in the sand as opposed to silicon, this won’t last. As soon as we ask them to start to gather information on their own, it will be game over for the old guard of school IT as well.

With any luck, many of the techno-phobic practices of the more senior teachers will have faded by the time these students are moving through and ideally, there will be some revisioning of curriculum to include the technologies that are, if not current, basic to the age group. The problem with this is that by the time these technologies and media sources are identified and sent to the government in charge of “blessing” it to be a valid curricular resource, the technology will have changed. But assuming that the government changes to allow the teachers on the ground to choose based on their professional opinion what technologies are sound, what could those technologies be? Certainly there will be some element of social networking, there will be some manner of instant communication and some element of sharing. But just as the parents of these kids are/will be working around their corporate IT, will these kids? I think so. @courosa pointed out in a tweet last night:

w/ citizens creating proxies for Iranian citizens, & many tutorials provided, I bet students using their own proxies in schools will rise.

and why not? We want our children to grow up to be responsible and good citizens right? Part of that means that they should have the strength be able to help those in need, how they can and to make sure that they alert others of injustice. Right? So if we want them to be able to do like so many are doing for those in Iran right now, we would be foolish to think that this would not happen in schools.

Clay Shirky (from an interview with Chris Anderson related to the post from yesterday) mentions:

What do you make of what’s going on in Iran right now.
I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is reallly extraordinary.

Which services have caused the greatest impact? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?
It’s Twitter. One thing that Evan (Williams) and Biz (Stone) did absolutely right is that they made Twitter so simple and so open that it’s easier to integrate and harder to control than any other tool. At the time, I’m sure it wasn’t conceived as anything other than a smart engineering choice. But it’s had global consequences. Twitter is shareable and open and participatory in a way that Facebook’s model prevents. So far, despite a massive effort, the authorities have found no way to shut it down, and now there are literally thousands of people aorund the world who’ve made it their business to help keep it open.

Kids growing up digital now seem to be doing so in an environment that is open, and engaged. To think that traditional IT practices and methods will contain them is just asking for trouble, kids are already getting around school IT and it would seem that it is only going to continue.

Generations of Media, SNS and the Ballot

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By , June 16, 2009 12:13 pm

I last wrote about Shirky in November, and now I’ve spotted a TED talk from his as well. This one was just recorded and addresses how social networks are changing patterns of communication and how those networks are perhaps able to if not shake the Earth, at least report it.

Right now, Twitter is going nuts about the Iranian “election” and in these situations it seems that the democratizing power of the ‘net is most evident and all of the sudden borders start to melt. We saw this before in the US ’08 election and the prorouge event in Canada.

PS. If you are interested in helping out what is going on in Iran through the ‘net, here are some pointers. I know that I’ve forwarded proxies in the clear – realizing it only after the tweet went out and then not being able to get to a computer in time to delete it – but after reading this, if I happen to come across some helpful information, I’ll know better how to deal with it.

So Mr Jones, you broke Facebook did you?

By , June 16, 2009 9:02 am

Well, it was only a matter of time before all the wisenhiemers who chose geeky/hacky usernames would break something. Now it looks like whoever went for something.aspx has broken something within Facebook. Yesterday, one of the guys in the office (a Mr. T Jones) chose 500.aspx as his URL. Everything worked, until last night when all he got when he logged in was:


Trying the other famous aspxer, Christine Shipley, the same thing happens. But if you Google her URL… guess what shows?:
Google’s already indexing these new URLs, so it seems that Facebook better get some coding done in a hurry, either than or crater these vanity URLs at let the geeks reselect.

Update 6/17/09 – it seems that the .aspx URLs are working again.


Update midday 6/17/09 – Broken again.

Vain in the name

By , June 15, 2009 9:21 am

These last few days have seen quite the interest in who scored which vanity URL from Facebook. Outside some commercially styled or really geek usernames (default.aspx an example – et al) most are true to their owner’s identity. That is assuming that you had a name that was uncommon enough across the millions of Facebook users that you could land your firstname.lastname or some other common combination or concatenation. If you are lucky (or unlucky enough) to have a more common name, you likely wound up with a whateverX username. Not very vanity nor very unique and in many ways, much like the email systems that made many pre-social networking users feel so very “non person”. One of the things that I remember hearing from non geek friends when they started into Facebook and the other systems was that they were now themselves online “Bob Jones” not jones.robert10. It seems that those days are slipping away. Where once there was a database reference ID of ten digits making everyone unique, now there are a string of characters that has taken us back to what it seems that social networks were helping us move away from. This generification of identity on social networks could be a good thing – it can help ensure that you are able to contact the right Bob Jones, when you need to get something done, or as one of my tweeps does find out about/contact babysitters.

If for whatever reason you want to, or need to change your name, you can’t right now. So that makes choosing your username somewhat difficult. Especially for those with an established online identity. So for myself, as much as I wanted to get /idarknight, I went with /boora. Why? Well, if/when someone is looking for me and they are facebookcentric, they are as likely as not, not going to know my idarknight handle, they will be looking for /boora. If Facebook ever allows secondary URLs, I”ll be sure to catch that one, but in the mean time I have the “old school” vanity URLs covered –, and

So why is all this of any interest to anyone? Outside of the once or twice a month when you are looking to add some new contact to your Facebook contacts when you are sorting through which Bob Jones from your town you are actually looking at especially when they all haven’t put anything with their real face on their profile, are you ever going to use that URL? I don’t know. But if Facebook wants their service to be more than just a website, it might fit into that plan. It might also be another attempt to get some attention away from Twitter who has done the for quite some time now (at least in ‘net years).

I’m certainly not the only one thinking about this, others include Wired (again), Silicone Beat and GigaOM.

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