Changing faces!

Decided that it was about time to have a (minor!) change of appearance here; so have gone with one of the default themes (Twenty Eleven). I ran into a minor problem with header; I’d uploaded a couple (incidentally, if anyone knows of a tool, like Wordle & Tagexdo, that allows you to specify the size of canvas to fit the text to, I’d be interested to know) – but didn’t like one of them. Removing them wasn’t that easy ย – though I eventually found a solution.

I may yet make some more changes, as it is pretty similar to the old one – the main change really is being able to have links to (selected) pages at the top (or, indeed, anything else I’d like to link to)


Yet again, a period of silence on my part. I have been using twitter, where I’m @emmadw, and have started using Google+ – but trying to decide how to best manage things! I know that some people like the fact you can have circles in G+, in order to target posts; I know others like to send the same update to multiple locations (twitter/facebook/G+); I’m trying to decide what works for me.
Blogging I know I’ve been lax, but when I get back into it, I think it does work; for me. I’m thinking, though, that I’ll primarily see this blog as ‘me’ stuff, if others want to read & share they can. But, I’m my primary audience.
Twitter Good for sharing – especially work related; and easy to use. Definitely part of the toolkit! (For now, till I change my mind!)
Google+ Has its uses, though I think they’re limited. However, with the fact that now students have it via their myport accounts, I think I might use it more – with a dedicated account there. I’ll probably keep two accounts, one for work related, external use (as I’m currently using it) and another for more internal, student focussed uses.
Facebook Though I originally set up Facebook for work related purposes, it’s now very much social. I’m trying to gradually remove people who are purely work related, who I’ve never met etc., from Facebook & redirect them, should they want to remain in contact with me, to G+ and/or Twitter. Maybe, I’ll end up moving away from Facebook, to say a G+ a/c associated with my personal gmail addy, but not at the moment. My friends are there, I’m not going to get them to move, but if they move, then I’ll follow. For that particular case, I don’t think being a trendsetter will work!

N.B. Just had a few problems writing this post! In Firefox, all worked as I wanted. In Chrome, the buttons to edit the code were missing. (I could type them myself, but if they were missing, wasn’t quite sure if anything else was! In IE, while the buttons were there, it was utterly determind to put all links right at the start – no matter where the cursor was, what was highlighted etc. Firefox behaved beautifully! The edit buttons are all present & correct, any links I pasted in went where I wanted them to go …

HEAICS 12th Conference

I’m just back from the HEA ICS’s 12th (and final) annual conference.
Inevitably, a fair bit of discussion was taken up with what the changes to the Academy are going to bring for the community, but, for now, I’ll concentrate on a bit of looking back over the conference, than trying to employ my prophecy skills!

Some of the highlights included a session with Bruce Scharlau from Aberdeen – playing some of the games he uses with his MSc students as part of a 1 week course just prior to their projects, I could see some potential for induction week – especially if we can get the Software Engineers to spread themselves round the group – to share the knowledge they already have.
The software that Norman Creaney was using for helping students understand the range of ethical dilemmas that can occur in the workplace looked great – and something I think we could use not only with the MSc FIT students, but also with some of the research methods students to give them other approaches to the inevitable ‘survey’.

Updated: January … just having a tidy up of the database & realised I’d not published this …

A change is as good as a rest ….

… though not when it’s your Social Network doing it!

This week, Facebook comments have been somewhat dominated by the recent changes; changes from a view that few liked when it was introduced! I’ve had mixed thoughts on it; there are some things I like, others that I’m less keen on. I’ll look at them in the order I’ve encountered them, as I can’t think of any better way.
I’d already used lists quite a lot, I seem to remember when I first used facebook, there was a default list in there called “Limited Profile” – but, from talking to others, I think it vanished for a while, though has now returned as “restricted”. Over the years, I’d configured it so that what I used as limited was more or less the same as the default settings in Restricted. I’d have merged the two lists, had I not just been through & unfriended those on it!)
There are two other default (empty) lists – Close friends & Acquaintances. I’ve got lists anyway that more or less have those type of contacts in; I just had different names. They’ve also got ‘Smart lists’. In some ways, I like these, they tend to mirror more or less what I already have. But, they are pre-populated, and can’t be removed. (though you can remove people in them). To add further to the complication, you can’t merge smart lists – they can only be merged with custom (i.e. old fashioned) lists. And, they’re not that smart – I have two smart lists, both called after my old school – as two of my friends have used differents ways of naming it. And I can’t merge *them*!

Verdict on lists:
I like the default ones; makes it easier to do what I was doing anyway.
Smart lists – would rather have them optional – enabled or disabled.

This has garnered a huge amount of comments. As far as I can see, to a large degree it’s what was there anyway, it’s just more obvious. So people who’d previously used “friend of friend” as a default, think that Facebook has changed things. So, probably a Good Thing, as it is making people look at who they are sharing with.
One thing I’m less sure about, however, is that if you have a custom list & share with it, people can see that it’s Fred Bloggs & 48 others who can see your post (by hovering over the icon to the right of the ‘6 minutes ago’ info). [G+ has the same behaviour]
It doesn’t tell others what you’ve called the list – just who’s in it. Not sure if I like that, though, to be honest, if it said, shared with “Emma’s Friends’ – then my friends could just have gone to my friends list to see who they are. It’s only a subset after all!
What I’ve not yet tested is putting anyone in the ‘Close Friends’ default group – will that say ‘Shared with Emma’s Close Friends’ – or will it say ‘Shared with Fred Bloggs & 48 others’.

Verdict. Probably overall useful – if only to make users think. [Of course, many will have actively decided they want to share with friends of friends. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it. You’ve always seen comments on your friends posts made by those you don’t know].

I’ve already mentioned that your friends can see which subset of friends you’ve shared with; I like the new drop down list for sharing – and, as far as I can tell, to get to ‘friends of friends’ you have to go to custom. (But that could be the way I’ve set it up; can’t remember now!). It’s similar to the system Google Plus has – and that Elgg has had for years. Also, if you’re on a particular list’s updates, then, as far as I can tell, you can only post to that list – to post to a different audience you have to return to your main page. Again, that seems a sensible approach.

Verdict. Useful. Have wanted it for ages.

Updates from others – types and order
Again, something that’s really caused discussion; in particular the order. The feed is now generally ‘Top Stories’ I thought, to be honest, that the previous version defaulted to ‘top stories’ & you could get to ‘recent’ by clicking on a link at the top. It’s just it wasn’t so clear. There is also the ticker – which shows everything – including all those things that appear to be intrusions of privacy, but in reality I think it’s just the way others have set their accounts up. In addition, if you look fairly regularly (measured in hours, I suspect, rather than days!) it does put ‘recent’ at the top. Not sure where the cut off point is, whether it’s time dependant, or posting frequency of your friends!
Types – this is, far as as I can tell, the best thing they’ve done! You now ‘subscribe’ to people; lists have their default subscription types. Anyone who is in your ‘close friends’ list – by default you get everything; anyone in the acquaintance lists, it’s the bare minimum; others are inbetween. But, it’s also possible (on an individual’s profile, or a list page) to select types of updates. So, I can now have No Games updates. Woohoo! No longer do I have to block them individually!

Order: can see that this is a pain for some, and any algorithm that decides on importance (as Gmail does – if you want it to!) is always going to not be as intelligent as you’d like. So, not sure on this one, a bit more choice please.
Types: Excellent!

As far as I can tell, most of the updates I’ve encountered so far aren’t really changing the nature of Facebook that much, but they are changing the usability – and, few like change (especially, when it’s unexpected. Twitter have also changed their home page; but, for months, there was a ticker across the top warning you it was going to happen & suggesting you use the new page now, rather than waiting. So, time to get used to it)
At Facebook’s recent f8 a lot more changes were announced. It’s being seen as an Entertainment Hub – so more integration with Spotify & Netflix – if the services are available locally, so not the latter at present in the UK. I’m less sure about that; it’s also not very clear from what I’ve read so far whether the apps that are going to be required to share them, are also going to be required to know your friends have shared.
The Guardian App is already here. I thought I liked the sound of it, but, it seems that anything you look at goes into your stream, not just those you want to comment on. So, not playing with it yet!
There is also the Timeline which claims to be able to go right back through your Facebook life. (When I first looked at Facebook, it was in the days when you had to have an academic email address & you were automatically a member of your University Network. Wasn’t sure then, as there were only a handful of UoP people in it – none that I knew!) By the time I got round to sorting it out again, it had exploded! Just hope I posted something in those early days. But I bet I didn’t!
From a security / privacy point of view; I’m less sure … Wonder if you’ll be able to keep your timeline to yourself. Meanwhile, if you’re desperate to see it & can’t wait till Thursday you can enable it now.

I’m just not sure about either of these changes. I could see it interfering with the way I like to use Facebook. I’m not a great music listener, so don’t use Spotify. But, I know others do alot; they frequently tweet about their current listening. So, hoping that I just don’t have to join in.

The Future
When these changes first came into play, quite a lot of people were talking about Google Plus. (Strangely, they launched their public version on the same day as f8 … guess they anticipated *something*)
Last time Facebook changed radically & everyone complained, there wasn’t anywhere to go (they’d already rejected MySpace). So people stayed. Now, it’s different. There’s something that’s being offered by a company everyone is *very* familiar with. Could that cause enough people to move to get them to drag the rest of their friends there?
Of course, the issue is that you have to be where your friends are. You can’t, at present, have some friends in one SNS, and some in another, and seamless integration.
Until there are really good interoperability standards (as there are with email), then people are going to have to follow their friends.

What will I do; well, I’d already started to try to move work related contacts from Facebook to Twitter and/or G+. (shame you can’t get G+ with Google Apps accounts). I think this could speed up the process, especially as work related contacts are mostly geeky & willing to try new things.
For more social related contacts; it’s more difficult. Many of them find Facebook challenging – to get them to experiment with something new (which could be temporary – who knows what’s coming in the future … )

Twitter vs. Facebook.

A chance comment by Rosie Sherry on Twitter caused me to think about the differences between the two. Her point was that it’s easier to keep up with people in Facebook – which I’d agree with, but, I see that as a benefit of having two accounts.

When I first used Facebook, I couldn’t quite see the point. I so wish I’d taken screen shots! At the time, you had to have a University email address, and were automatically a part of the University Network. There were 4 of us from University of Portsmouth. And I didn’t know the other 3. I didn’t see the point. So, I let it drift for a long time. Eventually, I decided that I needed to understand it, but primarily from a work point of view. So, I reactivated the account, started to add work colleagues, join work related groups. Then my friends / family started to find me. I realised it was much better for that! I can control who can see my updates (they’re all set to friends only, and I have a list of people who only get to see limited information [aka, nothing!]). I have to accept friends. I’m now starting to periodically remove those I just know through work, have never met etc. I’m just leaving in people I know well & socially via work, and those I see as ‘friends’ (e.g. I would invite them round to my house).

Twitter also took me time to see the potential; yes, it’s much harder to have a conversation; it’s do-able, but there are countless (well, quite a lot, I suspect I can count that far in the case of my readership) readers, it’s a dip-in/dip-out medium. There are some advantages – you get to see the most recent updates, unlike Facebook, which has a can have a habit of deciding what it thinks is important, it’s quick. But, for really having indepth conversations, it’s limited, unless you’re blessed with brevity. Which I’m not.

I feel I need them both.

Galleries on WordPress.

In the last post, I just uploaded 3 photos; it gave me the option to create a gallery, but I could only do it with the 3 photos I’d uploaded. I actually wanted to have one on its own, and two together. (Got over it by having them immediately after each other).
However, it made me realise that i can only make a gallery of the photos I upload. Suppose I want to create one with, say, the Wordle images I’ve uploaded in the past, to get an overview. Can I? (Using WP 3.1.2 at the moment, with no gallery type plugins, just the default one)

Getting Sugar talking!

(No, nothing to do with Sir Alan!)
I’ve got an OLPC , and have an Acer Aspire Netbook with Sugar On A Stick installed – and was trying to get them to recognise each other, in order to demonstrate the mesh & collaborative working.
I was able to get both onto the Uni Network (though I had to get both machines’ mac addresses recognised on the network using different OSes).
However, they wouldn’t see each other (though I’m sure they have in the past, but I had updated both the OLPC and the version of SOAS that morning). A tweet by @Mokurai got me thinking.
On the OLPC, I could see Mesh 1,6 & 11, while the Acer was showing Ad-hoc networks 1,6 & 11. I assumed they were the same, so joined both to the same numbered one (11, for what it’s worth), but that didn’t work.
The OLPC jabber channel wasn’t set, so I set that to the same as the SOAS one.
Strangely, the OLPC then showed lots of other sugar users (though not the acer!)
OLPC connected to the Jabber network - lots of peers available
So, then I thought about the comment he’d made re. mesh. I then connected the OLPC to Mesh 11, and the Acer to Ad-hoc 11. Suddenly, on the OLPC, an ‘ad-hoc 11’ (though not 1 or 6) appeared.
Now they could see each other.

(Neither were online at the time, but hey, that’s the next stage!


I’ve now got it all sorted so that I can use the updating features from within WordPress, upload photos etc., etc., etc.
Have also worked out how to create webusers (which I think I may well use to enable my students to host websites next year, not just build them). I’ve tried creating a sub-domain … though not quite there with that, yet, though not sure why. Oh well, this new system seems more flexible in many ways than the old one. ๐Ÿ™‚