Saturday, April 19, 2008

New media, new conversations (with the same old people)

Let me crossblog this story from my Dutch blog, because I enjoy blogging about my daughters (apologies if it becomes boring..). My youngest (6 years) insisted on have a gmail account like her bigger sister, so we finally gave in. As soon as she had it, unlike her sister, she became an enormously active mailer, collecting mail addresses and checking replies. She asked her teachers for their email addresses and then sent them a mail talking about the noise in class and how it disturbs her. The teacher replied empathically, and asked whether she had any solutions. So she mailed grandma to ask about the situation in class in the part.

The story is illustrative on where I see the power of new media. I don't see everyone blogging (maybe they will, but I don't think they have to), but new media can make people enthusiastic by giving them new means of communicating. And it leads to a different kind of conversation. Ofcourse if all children start mailing the teacher, she may become crazy, but at least my daughter is using it creatively, and feels happy to discover new means of communication. My mother has learned to use email too. Even though I was the one trying to stop her (!) I can see she is happy. Her friends are sending around all the emotional and religious powerpoint presentation stuff ("you know a real friend by..." etc). Though it seems nonsense to me, it makes them -apparently- happy.

To be fair I should also mention all the conversations I did NOT have with my children because I was busy blogging...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

7 Introductory resources into web2.0 tools

Wikis, weblogs, mashups, photosharing, mapping, social bookmarking. People who start to learn about web2.0 tools, ask me where they can get a good and short overview of the various web2.0 tools. Honestly, I don't have one great resource to recommend to them. It's quickly overwhelming for people new to the field. Seven pointers:

1. Euforic is developing a web2share wiki, which is good basic resource.

2. The commoncraft show with its series of videos on tools like blogging, wikis, social bookmarking, twitter. It explains the advantage of the tools in very clear easy to understand language.

3. Tim Davies has developed some one page guides like this on social bookmarking. You can access the whole series here.

One level up in terms of overwhelminess:

4. The top 100 social media blogged by Steve Dale

If I really want to browse for tools (level 5 in overwhelminess) I go to:

5. Go2web20 website or

6. The organizer's toolkrib (less elaborate) and

7. The Seomoz web2 awards website

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Enough about bloggers, how about the blog readers?

Via a message by Stephanie to the online facilitation yahoo group I read an article on called Simple tools would enhance bloggers, blog readers experience. "UC Irvine researchers have provided new insight into blog readers' online habits and experiences, as well as how they perceive their roles in blog-based communities. ...The UCI study examined in-depth the blog-reading habits of 15 participants of various ages to determine how they consume content and interact with blogs and blog writers.". Two results that resonated with me:

1. Readers include non-technical elements in their definition of blogs. Social aspects, including the presence of conversation or personal content is important to them.
2. Regular blog reading often becomes more habitual and less content oriented. Similar to e-mail checking, blog reading can become ingrained into users' online routine.
I can imagine there are huge differences in blog readers. You may read one blogpost, or you may follow a blog systematically. I try to follow less than 50 blogs systematically, but I'm now at 70. There is a difference in commitment I have to the blogs. For some I really try to read the blogposts, even if there is a backlog to read. For others, I simply skim through and pick out any interesting topics. I recall that in the beginning I didn't dare to read some of the blogs because the content seemed so personal and not meant for my eyes, and when I started blogging my experience changed in that regard. At times, people ask me whether they can read my blog. Though I'm now surprised by that question, because I blog in public, so anyone can read it; I can recall the way I felt about reading blogs in the beginning and recognize the idea behind it. By blogging you get beyond a certain level of embarrasment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How can nonprofits succeed in the online attention economy?

I like the approach of Netsquared to ask a group of bloggers to write about the same question. Though I struggle with some of the topics because I don't feel I have enough expertise, I want to try to participate this month with the question: How can nonprofits succeed in the online attention economy?

Britt Bravo explains what is meant by Online Attention Economy in this blogpost. As more nonprofits, businesses and individuals create blogs, podcasts, rss news feeds, wikis, social networks, YouTube accounts, Twitter feeds, fundraising widgets, mashups, etc. what do you think nonprofits need to do to attract and maintain people's attention online?

Richard MacManus writes:
"A key point is that The Attention Economy is about the consumer having choice - they get to choose where their attention is 'spent'. Another key ingredient in the attention game is relevancy. As long as the consumer sees relevant content, he/she is going to stick around - and that creates more opportunities to sell."

One impression I have is that currently nonprofits can reap the benefits from 'being the first' and can currently have a comparative advantage in attracting online attention by virtue of using the 'cool' new media like videos, weblogs, podcasts, etc. Once the 'hype' around these tools is over and everyone is using these tools, you don't have people read your blog because it's one of the few blogs on international development for instance. (by the way, I'm looking forward to this!). I think we'll an interesting situation at that point because then quality of the nonprofit's work and engagement with constituency (is this a good word?) will matter more.

At that point we'll be back to having nonprofits be assessed for their merits and quality. What will be different from the situation before social media were used is that organizations will have a double strategy to connect with their constituency: online and offline will be seamlessly blended. For constituents the work done by the nonprofit will be more transparent and they can make more informed choices. They will not just connect with nonprofits rather because a marketeer in the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam convinced you to become a donor or a large advertising campaign. This will make nonprofits more accountable to their constituents. And last but not least there are more ways for small initiatives to connect, using network sites like helpalot or

So my answer to the question: how can nonprofits succeed in the online attention economy? is: by being very transparent and accountable about your actions, and by becoming good in blending on- and offline strategies to engage people for your course. (so the next round of netsquared questions is likely to become: how does a well blended on- and offline engagement strategy look like? :)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Is everything miscellaneous?

When I made a picture of my professional books for my Dutch website I realized that all the social media expertise I gained was through experiencing it (online hours) and reading online resources, but not books. I thought it would be good to start reading some books too, as they give a more thorough understanding of a certain topic. I started with the famous book by Weinberger, Everything is miscellaneous. The book has its own website and blog (books are lucky nowadays). I blogged a video with Weinberger before, but I'm happy I read the book.

The miscellaneous in the title is an analogy to the disorder in one drawer of your cupboard. Everyone has a drawer where all things end up that don't have their proper place in your house, that's the miscellaneous drawer. Weinberger argues that online everything is now miscellaneous. His virtue is the thorough explanation of the 3 orders in organizing information.

First order: books on the shelf, one book can only be on one shelf

Second order: meta data about books on cards, allowing you categorize a book in several categories

Third order: Digital data and meta data, endless number of data possible and mixing of data and meta data

The first and second order give some level of control and power to the person or organization doing the organizing. One person or institute decides on which shelf the book will go. The strong example given of the Dewey library system is very illustrative of the cultural biases that are imposed or transferred to others by that process. They Dewey library system developed by a American (Melvil Dewey) has provided Judaism with its own number, but Islam has to share its number with Babism and Baha'i. And Buddhism doesn't have its own number but falls under the category of 'religions of Indic Origin'.

The third order or the miscellaneous (for an example, think of for social bookmarking online) hence endangers some of the well-established institutions who gain their authority on their grip on the knowledge. That in itself explains some of the resistance to web2.0 developments like wikipedia and weblogs. It's a new way of working and organizing information and there are people who lose authority. But there are others that gain! Weinberger has made me more attentive to the people and institutions who may loose in the development of information as the miscellaneous.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Weinberger doesn't explain in detail what the consequences are for working life, and knowledge management (though maybe that's too much to ask for). He does touch the upon the semantic web and explains that having all information miscellaneous on the internet may lead to fragmentation and to the effect that groups become more and more polarized in their views. I'm thinking there are problably new groups in control of determining the agenda (the social media converts??) and I'm left wondering how this works out. What does the miscellaneous offer in terms of reversal of power for marginal groups? Can we truely accomodate all views into solutions? It is evident that the English wikipedia is larger and more consulted all over the world than the Swahili wikipedia, but will the miscellaneous help to surface different views? Will people be more open to explore it? Personally, these are some of the questions I have after finishing 'Everything is miscellaneous'. Its explanation of the deep shift and giving examples of who may be effected is very useful. I'm thinking with these questions I may reread the last chapters to see whether there are no more answers!

As a professional I think the miscellaneous information has some opportunities to expand your professional learning process and widen your horizon. An example of this is the use of the word web2.0 versus social media. I noticed many people tag resources with social media rather than web2.0 which made me to explore the different notions between the two. As a teacher, I noticed that when I explain the 'current reality tree' student are capable of finding all kind of additional information, so the role of the teacher as source of information changes. That may be another example of how the development of the miscellaneous information on the web may be threatening to a group of professionals that used to derive their authority from being the source of information.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

How to make short videos with your mobile phone

Blogging questions and answers...I received a question some time ago about: Do you know of teaching materials about making short videos with your mobile phone?

The best resource I know of in terms of teaching material is Beth Kanter's wiki:
Video Blogging wiki

There is an instruction for a session of video blogging by Michael Szpakowski:
Video blogging for artists

Jennifer Proctor has developed teaching resources for university level:
Teaching resources for instructors

My own blogpost is specifically focusing on helping starters in video blogging to vlog a meeting or presentation:
How to vlog a meeting or presentation

And there is the yahoo group on video blogging led by Jay Dedman (I gave up on it because it has something like 50 messages per day!):
Videoblogging yahoo group . The group has a very good wiki on videoblogging

Saturday, April 05, 2008

'Can you repeat yourself?'

I love working in intercultural settings. So I'm very happy that I find myself in this situation again working in the Netherlands teaching an international class of students. All of us have English as a second or third language. Yesterday I swapped stories with colleagues. I shared that there are times when you simply don't understand what a student is saying. Depending on the situation, you decide whether you ask him/her to repeat it. At times, you think it's best to nod in agreement and really hope that it wasn't a question! Others shared how it works for them to fill in the empty spaces in what you hear with some empathy. And try to summary and check whether your understanding is right.

A pitfall in these situations is that you may confuse intellectual/analytical skills with skills to express oneself. Being aware of this pitfall hopefully helps. As a teacher, I try to work with as many signals about the students performance as possible (it's an experiential course without test exam). Therefore I attended some team meetings too. That really gave a different view as compared to the class situation. Furthermore, I stimulate students to communicate online by using e-mail or our google group. The google group has helped in two or three confusing situations to clarify the situation. In that way, the multiple channels seem to contribute to improve 'regular' communication in class and clarity about the work.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Italian man who went to Malta

Via Guido Sohne I discovered this video with the Italian man who went to Malta. It's a funny example of miscommunication. At the risk of causing another layer of intercultural miscommunication about Italians ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Interview with Clay Shirky

By coincidence I read the name Clay Shirky in David Weinberger's book (Everything is miscellaneous) that I'm currently reading, as well as on several internet sites. So I got interested and started reading this online interview with him, conducted by Jon Lebkowsky. It's very interesting, so please go ahead and read the full text at the World Changing site. Anyhow here's the juicy part for me. Lebkowsky and Shirky talk about the intuition people have for the use of various media, when to call by phone or when to meet face-to-face use email. With all kind of new media added to the repertoire available to people, we might get confused. They hope that it's more intuitive for young people. I can imagine that even it's intuitive for youngster in their friends interactions, it might not be intuitive for them in the workplace either. So we have people with different media uses and preferences, and we lack the intuition to know which one is the best, setting us up for confusion/miscommunication. Here's part of their conversation:

"Jon Lebkowsky: We have everybody online now publishing with the same forms of media, everybody's got access to everything, and you've got mass communication on one end of the spectrum, and on the other end you have very intimate but still public conversations, which is kind of interestingly weird. Is that a gradual continuum? How much are people really confused about the kinds of conversations they're having?

Clay Shirky: This is an experiment I want to see run, but I think this is a very interesting question. Here is my hypothesis: that one of the things that people create some kind of really deep mental model for is modes of communication. People my age and older have a very good sense of when to call someone on the phone, and when to send them a personal letter, and when to go see them. But we don't have such a good sense of when to email them, or IM them, or Twitter or what have you, because all of that stuff was invented after we had already solidified our sense of the media landscape. All of those things are still new.

One way to test this would be to see whether fifteen year olds today have a literally more intuitive sense of when to call, when to SMS, when to email, and when to IM. And I think they do. I think that the confusion around media is largely with people who have grown up in the environment we grew up in, where television is one thing, whereas the phone is another thing. The medium that reaches groups isn't a communications medium. The medium that is a communications medium doesn't reach groups. When all that has gotten overturned, it looks strange to us that people having group communications in a public medium – you know, these half a dozen friends, are all Live Journaling one another about their trip to the mall, or the party last Friday. But to those kids I don't think it seems weird at all. And if that's true, then that's the kind of generation gap that came up around the use of the telephone or the use of the telegram, and I think it's something society will have to weather for thirty years. If I'm wrong about that, which is to say, if increased numbers and kinds of media actually lead to increased social confusion, then I think that society is going to have to develop some formal methods of etiquette in order to figure out how to manage all of this proliferation of new communications options we've gotten."