Archive for the ‘socialnetworking’ Category

The future of social networks?

August 30th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Regular readers of this blog will know I have never been a great fan of Facebook. It was probably my own fault – I just approved almost everyone who wanted to be friends with me and did not get round to creating groups. But the constant interface tweaking, the intrusive adverts – not to say the paid for entries – and Facebook’s obvious conflict of interest between personal privacy and their desire to make money out of the site, all put me off. However, I recognise the appeal of the network for other people – it is just not for me.

I have long thought that the future of social networking lies in more niche networks – geared to individuals interests. At one time it seemed like Ning could break through in this direction, until they lost their nerve and started charging for networks. In the education field ELGG had its day, before  becoming a more general content management system. And of course, many educationalists have been active on Twitter, but that too has arguably become less useful for professional or work purposes as entertainment has taken over.

Two things started me off thinking about the future evolution of social networks in the last week. The first was I finally accepted an invitation to join ResearchGate. ResearchGate describes itself as a site “built by scientists, for scientists.” It started, they say, “when two researchers discovered first-hand that collaborating with a friend or colleague on the other side of the world was no easy task.” It is not new, having launched in 2008, but now has more than 3 million researchers as members. Not everyone is a researcher, and not all researchers will find it to their taste. But, if like me, you forget what you have published, if you want to make your research freely available, if you want to find useful and freely available research by others and talk to other people working in the same area as you, it appears very good.

The second article which got me thinking was a ‘White Paper’ by Jane Hart entitled  Building an Enterprise Learning Network in your Enterprise Social earning Network: The way to integrate social learning in the workplace. Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are internal platforms that are designed to foster collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing among employees.

Jane points to the growing use of social networks in enterprises citing a report from Deloitte that 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies will have a enterprise social network by the end of 2013. She proposes setting up Enterprise Learning Networks within an Enterprise Social Network offering the opportunity to offer a range of new services, activities and initiatives – many of which have been adapted from popular approaches on the Social Web.In fact I worked on a project some three of four years ago doing just this – working with an English careers company with some 400 employees and it was highly successful. Its just we didn’t have the jargon at the time!Within the Learning Layers project we are looking at how to scale the use of technology for learning within industrial clusters,. and it struck me that establishing social learning within a (cross enterprise) social network might be a useful approach. One critical question would be the extent to which companies are prepared to share knowledge – and what sorts of knowledge. That is the subject of plenty of theoretical and empirical research – but I wonder if establishing a  network and exploring what happens might be a more productive approach.I’d be very interested in hearing from anyone else with experience or ideas in this area.

 

Open Standard for Social Apps

December 10th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I think this is important. For day to day work – both research and teaching and learning – we use a lot of different social software programmes. We  know we cannot rely on these in the long term. Intrusive and inappropriate advertising can render applications useless. Services may disappear. Others move from being free to being paid for. And yet others change the conditions of use. But with a multiplicity of services and with new applications appearing almost daily, it is usually possible to find something which will do the job.

At the same time for more critical services – such as web sites or database services – we use our own leased servers. That too works fine.

The problem comes with longer term development projects – such as the Learning Layers project. On the one had we need the advanced infrastructure that better funded social software providers are able to offer. But we also need some guarantee of longevity and stability in terms of service provision plus an openness to allow us to develop on top of these platforms. And here we have a problem.

Mozilla seems to be developing an answer to this problem. According to webmonkey, Mozilla’s “newest Social API demo removes the need for social websites entirely, tapping emerging web standards to create a real-time video calling, data sharing app — one part Skype, one part Facebook, all parts web-native.”

The Social APi is built through WebRTC, which is a proposed web standard that Mozilla and others are working on in conjunction with the W3C. The RTC in WebRTC stands for Real-Time Communications, and the core of WebRTC is the getUserMedia JavaScript API, which gives the browser access to hardware features like the camera and microphone.

As the Firefox blog explains:

Prior to WebRTC, video calling applications were either stand-alone, isolated apps (like Skype) or browser plug-ins which lacked the tight connection to the browser internals to guarantee a good quality call.

We share data in WebRTC using DataChannels, which Mozilla is the first to implement.  DataChannels is a powerful component of WebRTC that can be used by itself or combined with an audio/video chat to send almost any data that the browser can access.

This could have huge potential for developing new applications – both for business and learning – and free us from the dilemma of either using proprietary applications or being forced into substantial infrastructure development..

Linkedin Endorsements

October 15th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

There have been many discussions in the educational technology community about recommender systems. And there have been a number of projects attempting to develop systems to allow people to recommend or verify the skills and competences of other people.

Now Linkedin has jumped big time into this area. In fact Linkedin has long had a system for allowing people to provide a reference or recommendation for others. I wrote a recommendation for Josie Fraser for her work for Jisc as a ‘community architect’. But whilst some people – like Josie – have been fairly diligent in seeking recommendations, I suspect most people have never bothered. And the old recommendation system required some effort on the part of the person writing the reference. Writing more than 148 characters has long gone out of fashion in the days of Twitter and the Facebook like button.

So Linkedin have launched a new system to allow you to ‘endorse’ people. As far as I know, they have not published how it works. But it seems to be based on matching your self claimed skills and competences to others in your network and then asking them to endorse you.

It is an interesting development but I have serious doubts about its credibility. Will employers take such a one click system seriously, especially given that there is no requirement for you to actually know the prso0n you are endorsi9ng or to have any real expertise for whatever you are endorsing them? Or will we all end up trying to game the system to make our endorsements look more impressive?

Some years ago, the UK government decided that one way to increase peoples’ employability was to send unemployed people on a CV writing course and to help them produce a professional looking CV. The result of course was CV inflation with everyone havi8ng a great CV regardless of their real abilities to do a job. And I suspect that is what will happen with Linkedin endorsements. We will all end up endorsing each other and end up where we started.

Anyway I’m off now to endorse some of my friends.

Twitter and Personal Learning Networks

July 4th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I’ve not read more than the abstract so far. But I have added this Masters dissertation by Clint Lamonde  entitled “The Twitter experience : the role of Twitter in the formation and maintenance of personal learning networks” (see abstract below) to my dropbox collection of papers for reading on my iPad on long trips!

Having read some of the papers for next weeks #PLEconference in Aveiro and Melbourne, there seems to the the emergence of a great deal of serious research on Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks. I think this research is important in helping us understand how people are using technology for ICT mediated relationships and informal learning.

I will publish more links to recent papers over the next couple of weeks.

Abstract:

This qualitative phenomenological study involving in-depth interviews with seven educators in K-12 and higher education examines the role that the microblogging service Twitter plays in the formation and development of Personal Learning Networks (PLN) among educators. A double hermeneutic data analysis shows that Twitter plays a role in the formation and development of PLNs by allowing educators to; engage in consistent and sustained dialogue with their PLN, access the collective knowledge of their PLN, amplify and promote more complex thoughts and ideas to a large audience, and expand their PLN using features unique to Twitter. This research also examines the nature of a PLN and shows that participants believe their PLN extends beyond their Twitter network to encompass both face-to-face and other ICT mediated relationships. Secondary research questions examine how Twitter differs from other social networking tools in mediating relationships within a PLN, what motivates an educator to develop a PLN, how trust is established in a PLN, what the expectations of reciprocity are within a PLN, and what is the nature of informal learning within a PLN. Keywords: Twitter, microblogging, Personal Learning Network, PLN, informal learning

 

Why Facebook IPO debacle may be good news

May 29th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The Facebook IPO was very interesting for a number of reasons.

Facebook has managed to screw everybody. Firstly they persuaded us to sign over our data to them and then made a fortune out of selling it to others! And then they sold that model to investors a vastly over-hyped price.

At the end of the day Facebook has little market value, other than selling our data to advertisers. But in this they face three big challenges. The first is to actually get us to buy anything from Facebook ads. OK – I am pretty advert resistant. In fact I don’t actually ‘see’ most adverts. But if I do want to buy something, I certainly don’t go to Facebook. Like mots of us, I guess, I use a search engine. lately I have been using DuckDuckGo for the very reason that it doesn’t track my data, but if I use Google then very occasionally I might look at the sponsored results. More often though, I will buy a travel ticket and then find as a result of Google tracking, Guardian newspaper ads are advertising flight tickets to places I have already bought one for!

But back to Facebook. Their second challenge is getting us all to agree to open up our data. And that means relaxing privacy controls. So Facebook goes through a circle of relaxing privacy – leading to protests – and then having to produce new controls as a result.

But possibly more important in the long run is a commercial problem. Much of the protests around the IPO was that the banks behind the share release gave information to big customers which was withheld from smaller investors. And the main point of this was that Facebook are having problems selling adverts for the mobile version of the social networking site.

My guess is that it is not just Facebook. Whilst we can happily ignore advertising on a big screen, it becomes invasive and annoying on a mobile device. Quite simply users don’t like it.

Since Facebook’s financial model is built on selling targeted advertising and more and more people are using mobile devices to access the site, this is bad news for them. But what is bad news for Facebook (and Facebook investors) may be good news for the rest of us. It may force developers to move away from a model of selling our data to advertisers and look for more sustainable and – dare I say it – more people friendly and socially responsible business models.

 

My first opinion of Google+ – thumbs up

July 3rd, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Like many of you I guess, I have been playing around with Google+ this weekend. And, unlike the clunky experience when Wave first came out, it is fun. Google seem to have got it more or less right in judging when to make a new app at least partly open to the world. Too soon, it doesn’t work and puts people off. Too late, not enough user feedback to be able to judge whether you are going in the right direction.

Google+ has four main ‘areas’. Like most social software interfaces it provides an activity stream but with the ability to switch between different ‘group’ views. These groups are set up through Circles which provides a visual interface to grouping your social network. the interface is pretty intuitive, although it looks far better on my large screen iMac than on my notebook. Working out how to group different contacts is another questions though. I guess I would like the ability to set up subcircles, so I could put all my project colleagues in a circle called projects, and then sub circles for each different project (although you can add people into as many circles as you like already.

Sparks is a little underwhelming, providing essentially access to saved searches, but with little functionality, for instance the features of advanced search, or the ability to add RSS feeds.

Hangout is cool, providing audio and video as well as text conferencing based on a circle or individual members of a circle. I have only tried it with one person so far and the interface and quality was stunning. Be interesting what it looks like with more people. It needs more functionality such as the ability to share files and to share urls and well as just Youtube video but i guess that will be added to in the next few days.

The interface is very clean free of all the usual Facebook clutter. And at the moment it is advert free, though I can’t see that surviving long term. At the moment it is rather sealed off but rumour says Google have develop a full API for + which will be rolled out at some point. Picasso is also built in with a free 7MB storage area for photos.

Perhaps most refreshing is that Google seem to have learned the lesson from Facebook about ownership and privacy. Content is owned by the user and you can get your content out of the application. That is vital for use in education.

And Google+ provides fine grained privacy with the ability to decide who you share with on an action by action basis.

The only thing I have struggled with is the Android App. The reviews say it is very good but I can’t persuade it to conect with my .mac account, rather than my gmail account, which I only use occasionally.

Who is it for? The press reviews tend to think Google is taking on Facebook directly. I am not so sure. Only last week I speculated that the real target for many new social networking apps is the enterprise market, previously the preserve of smaller social networking companies such as Yammer. And linked to Google docs and other cloud services (I assume there will be some levels of integration int he near future) Google+ looks a good contender. Whilst Facebook is a good market place for advertising and publicity, be it for enterprises or education, its shortcomings in terms of ownership and privacy really make it a non starter as far as serious social networking goes. Will people trust Google? I guess it largely depends how they behave. But so far they seem to have learned the lesson from previous less successful ventures into the social networking jungle, and are playing up the privacy aspects of +.

Next week Facebook are expected to hit back with a release of Skype for Facebook. But Skype is now owned by Microsoft and I can’t help thinking Google have timed this well in terms of offering a simple to use free service for video and audio conferencing. Certainly I am going to give it a go for project meetings. The world of social networking is certainly not dull at the moment!

Where is social networking going?

June 27th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The latest figures for Facebook are interesting. Facebook appears to have had fewer monthly active users at the start of June than at the start of May in the US, UK and Canada — at least according to one data source — even as it has grown bigger than ever worldwide. this could suggest that the market is by now saturated or even that people are moving on.

My own take is that whilst Facebook has alienated significant numbers of people with rampant commercialism and a cavalier attitude to privacy this is probably only amongst early adopters and the tech community. More important is the growth of more niche social networking applications.

Although Linkedin can hardly be described as niche, it is interesting to see the growth of Linkedin Groups and the high level of activity – at least in the groups of which I am a member.

I suspect people are increasingly separating out their presence (and digital identities) in different social networking applications and communities. And whilst size may be good, in terms of income the ‘professional’ social networks may turn out to be more sustainable and profitable tin the long term.

Interesting then to see the launch of a professional networking application for Facebook. In the last few weeks i have had some tens of messages saying:

“I’d like you to join my professional network on Facebook.

Graham – it’s professional networking with friends and friends of friends on Facebook. Feels like it can be very valuable to us.”

The messages come from a Facebook app called BranchOut. Given they all had the same wording I ignored them, but thinking about this blog post I did have a look. But once more I was put off by the privacy or lack of it. Although the video from BranchOut makes a big point that they will not access your photos, it asks for permissions to your wall, to all of your friends and demands an email address to send mail.

I guess once they have your friends list, they are auto spamming with messages such as above. Although once more this may result in rapid growth, I doubt it will do much for their reputation.

Linkedin may be a little staid and boring. But at least it seems to have evolved sensible privacy rules.

I think this will be critical for anyone trying to break into the social networking market.

Thye social web – a huge shopping mall?

January 18th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

The Facebook privacy arguments won’t go away. In part this is because as a society we are having to rethink what we mean by personal privacy and how much we are prepared to live our lives openly on the net.

And it is also in part because Facebook are keepi9ng the pressure on for ever more disclosure of data. last weekend Facebook announced that it had expanded the information users are able to share with external websites and applications, to include home addresses and mobile phone numbers. True, this had to be authorised but as is often the case the interfaces for doing this were less than clear. In the event Facebook backed off and on Monday announced they were rethinking this feature. But they will be back.

In one of a series of articles she has written on Facebook in the Guardian newspaper, Jemina Kiss explains Facebook’s motivation:

Facebook’s future – if it is to meet the increasingly inflated aspirations of its “incentivised” investors – is to use a combination of its scale and the acres of intimate information it holds about all of us to find the real money in targeted advertising. The strategy is to gradually open our personal data more and more, making open information the norm, desensitising us to any uncomfortable feelings we might have had about our personal data being released into the wild.

And in turn Facebook’s incentivised investors are driven by the aspirations of Facebook to control the social web and eat into Google’s search driven advertising revenue.

This raises a big question. If ‘social’ is indeed the future of the web, do we necessarily have to give over control to a bunch of investors. Is the web just to become one big shopping mall. Or indeed, is that what it is becoming already?

Three dimensions of a Personal Learning Environment

November 24th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

First a warning. This is the beginning of an idea but by no means fully tho0ught out.It comes from a discussion with Jenny Hughes last week, when we were talking about the future direction of work on Personal Learning Environments.

Jenny came up with three ‘dimensions’ of a PLE – intra-personal, inter-personal and extra personal which I presented at the #TICEDUCA2010 conference in Lisbon

The first – intra-personal – describes the spaces we use to work on our own. This includes the different software we use and the different physical spaces we work in. It is possibel that our intra personal spaces will look quite different – reflecting both our ways of thinking and our preferred ways of working. one interesting aspect of the intra personal learning environment is the importance of aesthetics – including the look and ‘feel’ of the environment. And whilst many of the3 developers I work with undertake usability standards, I do not think they really ever consider aesthetics.

The third dimension – extra personal – refers to the things we do out in the web – to our publications, to blogs like this, to the videos we post – to the things we share with others.

But perhaps the most interesting is dimension is the intra-personal learning environment. This is the shared spaces we use to collaborate and work with others. All too often such spaces are imposed – by teachers or by project coordinators or those responsible for web site development. And all too often they fail – because users have no ownership of those spaces. In other words the spaces are not seen or felt of as part of a PLE. How can this be overcome? Quite simply the inter-personal space needs to be negotiated – to develop spaces and ways of working that everyone can feel comfortable with. Of course this may mean compromises but it is through the process of negotiation that such compromises will emerge.

The problem may be that the PLE has come to be overly associated with personalisation rather than negotiation and ownership and too little attention has been paid to collaboration and social learning. I think it would also be interesting to look at how ideas and knowledge emerge – or as the Mature project would say – how Knowledge matures. In developing ideas and knowledge I suspect we use all three dimensions of our Personal Learning Environment – with new ideas emerging say from reading something in the extra PLE, moving ideas back to the intra PLE for thinking and working and developing and then sharing and working with others in the (negotiated) inter Personal Learning Environment. Of course in practice it will be more complex than this. But i would like to see how these processes work in the real world – although I suspect it would be a methodologically challenging piece of research to carry out. Anyone any ideas?

Solidarity with the students

November 13th, 2010 by Jenny Hughes


Graham and I have just got back to Germany after a meeting of the Politics project team in Cardiff. We were following Wednesday’s demonstrations against the proposed hike in university fees live on TV at Cardiff airport – both of us getting very excited and cheering a lot.

The occupation of the Conservative Party headquarters in London was an impressive piece of collective action so to all those involved in the organisation and to all those that turned up on the day, a message of support from Pontydysgu!

However, it did make me wonder how we ever used to do all this without mobile phones, computers or social networking media. Apart from using print media, I seem to remember a lot of organising time spent in public telephone boxes pressing button A and button B. In fact, one of my early ICT competences was learning how to tap the receiver rest up and down to mimic the operation of the dial in order to save the 4d (less than 2p) it cost.

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    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


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