“On this day”

Facebook’s “On this day” often throws up things I’d totally forgotten about. Today’s was work related, and, in many ways, it’s still as relevant now as it was 7 years ago:

I’’m recently starting to think more and more about Web2.0 and teaching; more specifically how much is actually “web2.0” (on the assumption it can be defined) and how much is what I’’m getting the students to do (or, indeed, what I, as I extend my own knowledge am doing). Is just looking at videos on YouTube any different from looking at them in the VLE? What happens when they start to upload them / attach them to a discussion posting in the VLE?
So, (and I think this is where my research is increasingly going)

  • Who should the audience be? (self / select group/ class / uni / world … and various stages in between!)
  • Where should it be hosted? (What backup do we have if it goes down [internal or external!]
    • Who’’s funding the hosting?
  • Why are we using it? Is it primarily to gather information; to disseminate; to organise personally; to collaborate (because we have to?)
    • Are the roles of all users the same – or does the original user have a different reason to all/some of the audience
  • What do we want to do? (Before/during/post using tool?)

Clearly, there are a lot of overlaps … but equally as the task/meaning etc., becomes more important, so the actual tool may become less important.

I’d also written about writing a blog post .

I was on the train yesterday, with very poor mobile broadband – so thought I’d test out Blogging from Word, by creating a post, in order to posting it when I got back here.


Some of the issues I had weren’t Word’s fault – this laptop has a (finger print print controlled) Password Bank. It was desperate to save my blog details – the very reluctant to let me edit them when I realised I’d got the URL wrong.


That sorted, I then managed to publish it! Awful! The formatting was sucked in from Word, badly. It couldn’t cope with lists at all. Finally in desperation I saved it as text, opened in Notepad & pasted in here.


Am going to experiment with Google gears instead!

[Here, in this case, referred to Facebook]

Google gears has long since vanished – and I can’t remember the last time I wanted to blog offline, but I’d probably just use Evernote or so & then paste in later.

And, on the subject of “On this Day” – it was June 2nd that snow famously stopped play in a cricket match in Buxton. The reason I can remember it is that’s my Dad’s birthday – and I was heading back to school after half term, insisting that, as it was the Summer Term, I had to wear summer uniform. My mother argued it was snowing, and not to be so silly. I won the argument. And shivered!

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.

Do Bebo and Facebook have educational potential?

In this week’s Multiple choice (in the Guardian Education Supplement), a parent, teacher & student were asked the above question.
Both the teacher

As a teacher, I think this kind of site has got to be part of the future.

and the parent

but I do think it’s possibly more likely you’ll get more from teenagers from Facebook than from having them hand in a conventional essay.

were more positive than the student:

I don’t think we should access MySpace or Facebook during lesson time, but some social networking sites could be involved in learning as long as they were used at break time or after school.

I tend to side more with the student, in that it’s the informal use of Facebook etc., that will be of use. The points that both the parent & teacher make, however, would cover the use of tools used to develop specific learning networks – using the skills students have developed using social networks.

I’d be wary of using the same tool for both; I like to keep personal life & work separate. However, others are less pedantic – roll on true “open Social” I say!

(N.B In the online version, the student & parent views were labelled in the opposite way to the paper based version. I’m assuming the paper is right, as the comments fit better that way)

Facebook, Meet Blackboard

How to put students off Facebook in one easy step?
I’ve tried to add it, but I’m told that our administrator has blocked access to it. I’m not quite sure whether I think that’s a good idea, or a bad one.

In someways it’s good, as there is the worry that Facebook may use the data inappropriately, however,

When it was still open only to college students, Facebook profiles often featured users’ course schedules with links to their classmates. Sync offers similar functionality, but within the private space of the application itself. In other words, it doesn’t show up on profiles at all.

“It’s a private application, so there’s sensitive information there that you wouldn’t want published to all your friends,” Gage said. Still, she said Blackboard hopes that students will use the application to connect with classmates and form study groups in what Michael L. Chasen, Blackboard’s president and CEO, referred to as “a new kind of social learning community” in the company’s announcement.

“Sync offers similar functionality, but within the private space of the application itself. In other words, it doesn’t show up on profiles at all” suggests to me that the data should be relatively safe; though, of course we have the issue that it’s on a US server, and we’re bound by stricter, EU regulations. So presumably that’s why they’ve blocked it.

I also wonder how much we want to encourage students to by pass Victory, it may be better to ensure that they go to it initially, and then (inevitably!) to Facebook.

The other issue is, of course, that students will start to move from Facebook to something else…

Overall, I think that blocking it was the right decision.

Facebook Chat

Facebook Chat is being rolled out. My personal feeling is that it’s going to prove very popular – quicker than walls, and, presumably, much easier to control privacy and who can see it. From that report, it seems that chat will be one to one, which could be a limiting factor, on the other hand it does mean that you can only chat to a friend, not a friend of a friend.
In my view – it’s going to increase Facebook’s usage, probably quite lot.

User centric or Community centric?

Several people have been talking about Ning recently – it’s come up in discussion with my students – “egrommet” has used it with his students, Josie noted that several of the nominations for this years Eddies were Ning based communities.

I’m just not sure about Ning. I find it irritating that I have to login to each community, as well as in general. If I look at “My Page” in each community, while some things are core to all (e.g. the photo), others seem to need to be set in each community. While this can be useful in some ways; it’s also annoying to have to enter the same details again and again. The ideal would be the ability to enter general info on my “Ning Profile” page – and then to alter particular bits for particular communities.

The “My Page” also seems to have a blog – again, one per community – and the summary of posts that apply to that community.

It strikes me that Ning is very much community centric. So, while you can have several groups in a community; you can’t easily have an overview of your activity in several different communities. It reminds me of WebCT – having discussion boards/ blogs per unit – without an easy way of seeing all of your work at the same time.

Eduspaces (Elgg powered) and Facebook, on the other hand, seem to be far more user centric. I can see on my Blog page (Eduspaces), or my Profile page (Facebook) everything that I & my friends have done.

From an Educational point of view, I think that it’s important to have that easy access to the personal overview. Because of the unitisation of the curriculum, many students find it quite difficult to see how one unit relates to another. WebCT doesn’t enable an easy overview – whereas something that’s more User Centric can.

While it can be useful to have that separation between aspects of ones life – integration is also important.

I guess that the ideal Social Networking site would allow the ability to have a (private) view of your personal activity in all areas – while a public view that could, if wished be customised for particular communities.

I think all three have their strengths in the way that they work – but all three have limitations.

Popular News – facebook.

I’ve been wandering around Facebook – trying to see what I can see on the two networks that I’m part of. I’m registered with Uni. Portsmouth (thanks to working here), and Durham – as an alumni. I’m not entirely sure how the Durham network works, as I’ve got one friend who is also there – he’s listed as Faculty (though he was actually a classmate when I was there – which is how he located me). I’ve just realised, though, the reason that I’ve not got him listed when I go to the Durham network, is that I’ve not made him a friend. He’d only sent me a message, I’d not actually made him a friend!

What struck me, though, looking at the list of popular news items on both sites, was the similarity in interests between Portsmouth and Durham students.