I read an interesting post by danah boyd this morning titled, “Twitter is for friends; Facebook is for everybody” that lays out an interesting teen use case for Twitter in light of Facebook’s continued growth and popularity. We’ve known for some time that the age demographic on Twitter is skewed much more towards my place on the spectrum than say college kids or teens. We also know that more and more high school (and middle school) kids are adopting either Facebook or MySpace as a place to connect and socialize with friends. It is in that point that danah makes a really interesting observation when she says the following in response to a high school student named Dylan that she recently interviewd …
What Dylan is pointing out is that the issue is that Facebook is public (to everyone who matters) and Twitter can be private because of the combination of tools AND the fact that it’s not broadly popular.
What she is saying is that because Facebook is so over the top popular with teens, their parents, relatives, and nearly everyone else that Facebook itself might as well be public. Sure it has a lock on the front door, but if every single person you know in real life has that key then there really aren’t any secrets. What is fascinating to me is the behavior “in the know” teens are exhibiting in Twitter to game this “openly private” conundrum they are in … they create private Twitter accounts so only their real friends (not Mom and Dad) can have access to. So FB becomes the place they shout everything, while Twitter is under the radar enough that they can whisper quietly to each other. Amazingly simple and amazingly smart. danah goes on to wonder if Twitter continues to become more popular will teens end up with yet another social network where they really aren’t free to be? Good question.
In my mind I see the same kind of thing emerging in my own social network use — I need different platforms to do different things. Facebook is overrun and I cannot use it like I really want to. Too many people have access to my profile for me to post some of the content I might want to post. Sure FB has the message features, but they feel really out of place — almost like I am violating some code of conduct by sending a private message to a single person in my network instead of writing it proudly on their wall. The Twitter direct message feels very different and I use that quite a bit more. I’ve felt the same pain with IM … over time I collect too many people that add way too much noise to my communications channels and have to create a new account. It seems like we are stuck in this loop and until something more like Google Wave hits we may be stuck in it. Any thoughts?
We’ve been crazy about making tag stickers for all sorts of events. We use moo.com and take images that either we create in house or ones people coming to the events submit to us. Last summer we had some really cool ones made for the Learning Design Summer Camp from personal icons people submitted to the wiki. A few months earlier, we had an amazing set of them made for the 2008 TLT Symposium that became quite the popular item around campus and beyond. I even stuck some to my laptop and the back of my Cinema Display!
My Laptop. Credit ghbrett on Flickr.
For one reason or another we chilled on the tag stickers at this year’s Symposium and instead got a bunch made that were really designed to be a save the date. I have to say I missed not getting a brand new killer book of them, but seeing that I still have a bunch left over from the last several events I think I’ll live. Well, here is the really strange thing … and this is a little beyond odd. I was in the Men’s bathroom in our building on campus the other day and I noticed a tag sticker under the toilet seat. I’ll have to say it shocked me, but it is a hell of an advertising location — either that or someone is trying to tell us something. Either way, you can now save the date for March 27, 2010 for our next TLT Symposium. We just landed Michael Wesch as our opening keynote and I know the program and planning committees are already starting to do their work. Perhaps this new sticker location is the work of the marketing and communications committee?
Over the last couple of years most of us have become ultra familiar with link shortening services like tinyurl and bit.ly to save extra characters when using Twitter or for sending out really long URLs in emails. I’ve heard lots of thoughts on how to make them better and have had more than one conversation about why they could lead to the end of the web — I think that is probably greatly exaggerated. The argument goes something like, if everyone uses [insert service name here] to share their links and that service goes away, we have no real record of where we were linking to. I have seen instances where tinyurl has been down or eaten links so I’ve moved away from it.
I have been using bit.y a little more often and this morning took the time to explore what I think is really powerful — the dashboard style view into what is going on with those links as soon as you send them out. Essentially bit.ly provides you with some nice anayltics into how many clicks you get from sending them out. What I don’t know (but would love to experiment with) is if the person who clicks on bit.ly shortend link is also signed into the service, do I get to see that person’s username? That would be incredible as part of an open edu focused approach … I could essentially replace the same kind of click through tracking an LMS offers by simply passing URLs through an authenticated service.
Click to See Detail
What is interesting to me is that this is yet another very simple piece to a very open and flowing LMS concept — I’ve written about the New York Times TimesPeople toolbar before as a simple way to push resources to a cohort … now in cooperation with something like bit.ly URL tracking I am getting a solid way to see what is going on with those resources. Nothing to earth shattering here, but a little something interesting to think about over the weekend. Anyone have a bit.ly account and want to experiment a bit?
Last night I was exploring Flickr a bit and started to look at some really cool tilt-shift photos that make scenes look like models. I’m no Photoshop pro so my results really don’t compare, but I have been having more fun playing around with pictures lately than in a long time. I’ve been doing some fake lomos that I’ve enjoyed, so I decided to give it a shot. I was able to easily find several good tutorials to follow … the best (and simplest one) is what I ended up following. It might be fun to do shots like this from all over campus and put them into a group on Flickr. As a matter of fact I started one if anyone is interested in adding some, please feel free.
I have to say that I am falling deeper and deeper into the google universe these days. Not sure if it is the right thing to do, but the combination of all the Docs features and their overall simplicity has me spending more and more time using them for everything. One of their tools that I’ve always admired but didn’t use too much is Gmail. My wife lives in it — she constantly has it open on her MacBook. It is her only email client and she swears by its functionality. Between that and a conversation I had today I decided to take another step into the cloud and forward my work email into Gmail. I know it may sound crazy, but I am really digging it — so far.
This could be another one of my failed experiments and I’ll be back to my Apple Mail.app before too long. But so far I am finding a few things that I really like. The first is the overall customization of the platform itself. I can do lots of interesting things to make the space look and react the way I want it to. I have it set up with multiple inboxes so messages from certain people get their own little space … they still flow into my inbox, but this gives me the ability to highlight certain people more easily. When I combine that with the filters and labels I get a nice way to keep certain messages well organized.
I am also already finding that the mobile access simply kicks ass. The gmail interface on the iPhone is killer … I can do all the same stuff I can on my iPhone Mail.app and then some. It reformats for iPhone on the fly and it is speedy over the 3G connection. I haven’t tried it on Edge yet, but I do know at least one other gmail user on edge and he seems very happy with it. The search is available and that is one thing the Mail.app on the iPhone cannot do. I can also create a simple button that points right to my inbox and replace the standard Apple Maill.app button on my iPhone menu. I do lose notifications, but without push email here at PSU it isn’t a big deal.
Speaking of notifications, the ability to install something as simple as gmail notifier is a major bonus. Without having my browser open I can see what is new and I even get a little heads up display (a lot like a growl notification) that gives me a peek into what is new in my inbox. I’m already finding I am less distracted by not having my Mail.app client open all the time.
Finally, I have it set to send with the return address being my psu email address so it looks like it is actually coming from me at PSU when appropriate — and if I want to send it from my gmail address there is a little drop down menu that lets me do that. Easy. All in all I am digging it for now. I’ll keep trying it out and see where it leads me. Anyone else gone this route?
This morning I talked to a large group of Alumni Association staff about ideas related to connecting communities. The talk was titled, Emerging Trends for Connecting Communities, and focused on the emergent opportunities within social environments, content creation spaces, and the rise of mobility. It is always quite a bit of fun getting to talk to people outside my specific area of focus and I always discover that we have far more in common than I expect going in.
Another nice thing was that I got to give the talk in my old stomping ground at the IST Building … in the IST Cybertorium no less. That space has a lot of memories for me — I spent several years working on planning the building with colleagues and then several more spending nearly all of my work time walking the halls. Each summer I got to teach my PA Governor School scholars in the Cybertorium and loved every minute of it.
Nothing too earth shattering with today’s talk other than it served as an amazing reminder of how interesting all of what we do is to people in general. The ideas related to connecting communities move effortlessly from teaching and learning to alumni relations. I think one of the things it means to me is that the work we are doing in promoting digital expression and engaging via mediated platforms is in the sweet spot. I really don’t think it has anything to do with the technology per se, but instead in what the technology provides. I received a good question about how to get alumni service groups to break out and embrace the new environments (he was asking specifically about Facebook, Twitter, etc). I responded in a way that I think surprised him a bit — I asked him to ignore the technology and instead start to press on what it enables. Alumni Associations are all about staying connected with their communities … so if his administration is balking at Twitter, why not ask if being able to stay ultra connected to a very active network of people is important? Coming at it from that perspective it gives you a wedge to then introduce a solution that fits that scenario.
It was a fun and very thoughtful group of people. It is honestly a real honor to get to talk to people outside my domain and have it be received in such a positive way. I especially liked getting to tell someone what ROFLMAO meant when it came up in a Twitter search. This is powerful stuff and it is relevant in so many ways … if one stops and investigates the affordances and not just the tools.
I got my new MacBook Pro yesterday morning. I was thrilled … it combined the keyboard I’ve loved from the Air with the speed and screen size of the 15″ MacBook Pro. I couldn’t have been happier. And then I felt the crushing blow that was the WWDC Keynote. I fully expected a speed bump — I went and pushed the speed of my new laptop to a custom level because of it. I did not expect such an aggresive update so soon after the announcement of the uni-body machines not too long ago. The battery life is the thing, I travel and sit in meetings without a power outlet — a lot. The extra few hours is a real difference. I also really like the SD slot … one less cable to carry. All in all it is a shame.
The other thing this means is that my love affair with my Air is waning. I still love the form factor, but it has gotten to the point where my expectations of performance has outpaced the affordances of a very small machine. I thought long and hard about a 13″ MacBook, but that was before it became part of the Pro lineup and at the time it didn’t seem to add up. It doesn’t mean however that my “year in the cloud” hasn’t fundamentally changed my computing habits … I am still working really hard to keep my machine lean and mean. I did break down and install Word although I doubt I’ll use it much given how much I rely on Google Docs.
I spent at least half of this past year living mostly on a MacBook Air and I have been very happy with my transition to a mostly cloud based portable experience. I don’t have Office, Adobe PhotoShop, or many other large apps running on it — and I don’t miss them one bit. I have adopted Google Docs, learned how to use Apple’s built in Preview App and iPhoto to do image editing, taken lots of notes in Evernote, listened to my music online at La La, and have used this space and my PSU blog as an outboard brain with much success. I’ve found relying on local storage as being a limiting factor — and I am betting that more and more students will move in this direction this year.
So while I am moving back into the land of a bigger laptop, I am still committed to using less client based software and to keep things floating out there. I just wish that I would have waited another couple of hours to open the damn box for my old MacBook Pro.
Last night I spent some time with “the not ready for prime time” version of Google Chrome for Mac OSX. I didn’t think I’d like it on any level, but have heard that it is really fast using the Google tools. I can say that it is fast, really fast when using the Google suite — Reader, Docs, Calendar, and iGoogle. All were noticeably faster than what I am used to with Safari. After playing with this early build I am already convinced Google is on to something with a browser that is optimized for web applications. I know for a fact that I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in Chrome once it when it gets a bit more stable.
Better than Expected
I’ve never been much of a Firefox fan, so the idea of using a non-Safari browser hasn’t really been high on my list. But if Chrome continues to progress and if the features continue to develop I’ll use it quite a bit. I’ve stepped away from using Office except for very rare occasions so having a faster and more feature rich browser to live in Docs is very appealing to me. This could essentially be the space a good portion of my productivity and collaboration happens — especially after Google Wave comes along.
If you’ll indulge me for a minute there is one thing the notion of a browser built for specific purposes reminds me of … an idea I had over ten years ago — a browser built to support education. It seems insane now that we’d need such a thing, but back in 1998 bandwidth was scarce and the level of interactivity was very low (unless you embedded a bunch of shockwave pieces). What I was thinking about was a client application that had all sorts of standard functionality built in that a simple text file could unlock. If you needed to do complex in-browser activities, the browser itself had the functionality and the text file would simply provide the content and the context to let it happen. All the tracking would have happened on the client side and be pushed to the server when a network connection was available. Seems hilarious now, but it seemed to make so much sense at the time. I know it is funny, but lots of ideas look silly after progress … I wonder if all the stuff we are hyped about now will look insane in 10 years?