I have been trying some new communication tools for the last several months. Two in particular that I am finding a great deal of value with are Yammer and Diigo. While both of these tools are social tools and are very similar to other platforms I take advantage of, they seem to be supporting slightly different kinds of work for me. This is not a call to arms per se, but it is an attempt to introduce them to a wider audience and to see if having more people in the mix drives more utility for me (and us).
This is really about trying to stay better connected in my new position with those in and around TLT at Penn State. Not that I am not using these tools with people outside TLT, because I am, it is that I do think there area handful of affordances with these spaces that need to be better understood and explored. Both of these tools are also things I have been working with my peers at PSU to adopt in our senior leadership team for very similar reasons, but the key reasons are to help our group stay more easily and efficiently connected and aware of daily activity. I’ll try to share a bit about why I am interested in exploring these spaces and would ask for your feedback about how and why you might want or not want to participate.
I have had a Yammer account for a couple of years, really from right after they hit the scene. As a very early twitter and facebook adopter the idea of a social stream application made sense to me. When I first started using yammer what didn’t make sense was the need for yet another social network — a closed one at that. I just didn’t see the value. My job allowed me to freely write, podcast, broadcast, etc really anything I felt like so hiding updates in a closed network provided zero value. Since starting in my new position that need has changed for a few reasons.
The first is that I oversee staff in lots of places across PSU — here at University Park and at various campus locations throughout the Commonwealth. This poses an amplified challenge for me in that I am collocated with less than a third of the staff that makes up TLT. Whereas when I was director of ETS I could almost yell down the hall and connect with about 85% of the staff, that just isn’t in the cards now. The other, and perhaps bigger reason, is my own temporary need to be more guarded with blog posts about organizational discussions. This has nothing to do with hiding my thinking out of fear, it has almost everything to do with simply not yet fully understanding the boundaries of my new position. As it did with ETS, the level of understanding will emerge with time. Clearly I am still blogging (as this post proves), I am just doing it far less and with less open organizational thinking. Yammer may prove a safe place to test my voice.
At any rate I am giving Yammer a fresh try. I have created two new private groups — one for TLT and one for the ITS SLT. As one might expect with such a new endeavor, I am seeing uneven participation in each but am very encouraged by how it is connecting some important dots for me (especially in the SLT context). Those that are participating are helping me see the bigger picture each day — and I have to admit that seeing what they are up to and up against is somehow both very interesting and encouraging. I get to see short bursts of information throughout the day that helps inform me and keep me pressing towards our shared vision of what our organization is all about. What I am hoping to arrive at is the right mix of tools that can drive towards a more collaborative and engaged TLT organization over time. I would love to have everyone in TLT join the PSU TLT group in yammer so we can explore if that goal is attainable in part by taking advantage of this shared online space.
I started taking Diigo seriously back in November or December when the much hyped demise of Delicious was leaked across the web. Again, Diigo was something I have had an account at for years but didn’t find enough interest in the environment because it didn’t offer anything compelling over the large, connected network that delicious did. That changed when I invited members of the SLT into a private group and started to see posts show up regularly from my boss. This allowed me to gain some critical insight into the kinds of things that captures his attention, and with diigo’s advanced annotation tools I could see the exact pieces of the articles that he found interesting.
Like yammer I then created a TLT group that I have watched grow in both membership and posts. What has blown me away has been the depth and substantive nature of conversations that have emerged with diigo itself. In a lot of ways it has become an active sub-community where we share content, thinking, and ideas related to the things we are collectively exploring. I like that quite a bit. Again, what I would love to see are more people asking to join from across TLT so we can open the conversation up to more activity. I honestly want to know what it looks like when I can stay current with what people across TLT are finding both interesting and relevant enough to annotate, save, and share with their colleagues.
I remain convinced that the easier and more efficient we make it to stay connected and share the stronger an overall organization we can become. I have been amazed with the collective intelligence of TLT whenever I have a chance to be in a room with members of our group — the problem is that the realities of time and location keep us from assembling like that very often. Using both yammer and diigo have given me a new chance to stay engaged, albeit in different ways as before, with people across the University. It has also allowed me to share things and generate new forms of conversations. It is all very interesting and exciting to me. Anyone else feel like joining in?
This originally appeared in my PSU Blog space. Sorry for any multiple alerts to its publication