Our Boom De Yada

I’m sure many of you have seen Discovery’s advertising campaign, “The World is Just … Awesome,” in which lots of people sing a modified version of I Love the Mountains, called Boom De Yada. Discovery’s version is really inspiring, so much so that if you go to YouTube you’ll find hundreds of versions of it from people all over the world.

I spent a little time over the weekend watching a bunch of them and once you start exploring it is tough to stop. So many of them are really inspiring, but the one that really made me smile is an original version from a fourth grade class.

Now, you can say this is just people imitating other people but if you ask me there is something deeper going on here. I am of the mind that the web is a platform for starting conversations — and I’m not just talking about online conversations. If you follow what probably happened in the example above you can begin to see how powerful this is … perhaps their teacher saw the commercial and got the idea that his class could make their own. This simple thought (enabled by technology) motivated that group of kids to work together to create something original, new, and challenging. They had to work together to make it happen … and then by sharing it with the World gave a whole other set of people the inspiration they need to try something new together.

So that’s exactly what happened after I showed the two videos above to Madeline and all her cousins Saturday night while we were in Bloomsburg … they instantly wanted to make their own. Over the course of an hour or so, they each wrote pieces to the song and decided who was going to do what. It was so cool to see all of them working together to make something. In the middle of it they wanted to find a way to include two of their cousins who live in Florida so they wrote them in as well. It was amazing watching them come up with the words and perform it. I think it made the whole house a really happy place! I know I had a blast getting to spend time with them while they laughed, sang, and edited with me.

Twitter Responsiveness

On Thursday I asked a really simple question on Twitter on a whim, “Quick Poll: What are the first 3 applications you fire up when you log in?” I got dozens of responses on both Twitter and Facebook … and it stunned me. This reminds me once again about what is right with Twitter for me personally — connectedness. To me the idea that I can shout a question into a 140 character text box and get something back from all sorts of people all over the place is a very interesting thought. There’s no need to take it any further … but I would love for you tell me why Twitter is important to you if care to share.

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I took a little time to gather the results of the question (totally unscientific) below … note that I combined similar applications and tried to take into account things like gmail, google calendar, and other web-based productivity tools (that, as my Mother-in-Law reminded me, are applications). I also just lumped a bunch of stuff like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc into “Other” as there were a bunch of one-offs. The other thing to consider is that these are a percentage of the total responses — so while nearly every single person said a browser, they all almost all said email as well. So the chart is a bit misleading … I choose unwisely with that, but my data is at work and that’s life. BTW, my first launches are Mail, Safari, and Evernote (which no one else mentioned).

With about 60 responses accounted for.

With about 60 responses accounted for.

Community Question: Lifestreaming

With the closing of several Google services I’ve been thinking about some of the content I (and a bunch of other people) publish across the social web. So much that I want to get some ideas about what many of you think about it all. If you step back and think about how many new people are joining and actively participating in social networks, one has to consider where we go from here. What do we do to protect the emergence of our meta identities — each crafted in small pieces across many networks. As a simple example, take a look at the emergence of Facebook with adults … according to a new report issued by the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey:

The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% now.

That is a whole lot of people creating lots of real data about themselves and their relationships. Even if you don’t worry about closures or server meltdowns, consider the following from a post on Read Write Web:

The most obvious example of this loss of access to lifestream data? The inability to access anything beyond beyond page 162 on Twitter. No matter how many times you’ve posted, you cannot go back any further than 3240 tweets. So, every new public message you send removes one from your history. (To see this in action, simply add “?page=162” to the end of any Twitter user’s default URL.) Those who had seen Twitter as a journal of sorts for recording fleeting moments for posterity, suddenly found those moments just as fleeting online.

I’ve talked to lots of people who think that their Twitter streams belong to them. The reality is that we are trapping our thoughts, relationships, and content in someone else’s microblog. It has bothered me since we used Twitter in my CI 597C course — much of the course dialogue happened in the backchannel there and much of it is lost. Clearly this only one small example, but I am guessing you get the idea.

So I am curious about what kinds of strategies we should be considering as we continue down this path? I doubt the answer is to stop participating — the ship has left the port and it isn’t coming back in. What do we think?

Community Definitions

I think for the most part we all walk around with a working definition of community … I’m not sure we’re on the same page when using the term, so I was wondering if we could crowd source it.  With that in mind I am hoping we can try to build a shared definition given how much we all toss the term around.  I also wanted to try something a little different … instead of just leaving a comment here, I was hoping we could experiement a little bit in the use of video as a communication medium.  If you’d like to participate, follow the link to the embedded video below to youtube and post your response as a video comment. I’ve added a video to show how to do just that.

What would be cool if we could get a series of 30 second responses that we could use to mash together to maybe drive to some opportunities for an extended conversation.  I could see the outcomes coming together in a lot of interesting ways — a single video, a series for further exploration, and much more. If people do participate, I could see this being an ongoing series where we could essentially create a bunch of these questions and responses to be used for all sorts of things.  I am at once both interested in seeing how youtube really works for facilitating computer mediated discussions and to explore the use of interactive video for building shared understanding.  Anyone willing to participate? Please don’t leave me hanging!

As if the video isn’t enough, I added some quick thoughts on this that I recorded on my iPhone on the way to work this morning. Take a listen to the podcast.

Wall Streams

When you get off the elevator on the second floor of the Rider Building you see a small plasma display hanging there that typically has a Twitter stream of ETS staff displayed on it. It is cool to see and I often notice people walking by and stopping to read what is visible. It gives an interesting view into some of the activity happening in and around our office.

If you’ve been to an education technology conference worth its weight then you have probably seen something similar — someone has set up a Twitter account so people can be followed by the event and their back channel stuff can be displayed live as people move around the event. Good enough and a smart way to get a crowd sourced idea of what is happening at the moment.

I’ve wanted something that goes beyond just the standard Twitter stream to use at our annual TLT Symposium, but haven’t wanted to take the time to build something that aggregates more of the social stuff together — Tweets, pictures, links, etc. This weekend I stumbled across a new feature by the folks at Brightkite … they call it The Wall. The Wall is a simple to setup tool that gives you a way to aggregate content posted to the Brightkite network into a very simple full screen view. It gives you the option of using the location of the event as the determining factor — which is nice, b/c once you check in with Brightkite that you are in a certain place, all your updates are counted … no need to use a hastag or anything else. You can also choose a search term which I admittedly didn’t try out (but plan to) as well as person stream. Take a look below to see what I mean …

Setting up the Wall.

Setting up the Wall.

Once it is setup, in my case, I choose to use a location — State College, PA. When I launched my Wall I was surprised to see activity talking about the Blogs at Penn State from someone I know, but who isn’t in my network. It was very cool. It even pulls in pictures posted to Brightkite from people checked in at that location. Have a look …

Full Screen View.

Full Screen View.

This will be a great addition to the Twitter stuff at any event, but the issue still exists of asking people to create a Brightkite account. I think you can join in via texting to the site … check out the Wall for 16801 and give it a try. But, now think of how cool it could be in a class where you have much more more control over the networks that your students post to. A Wall featuring updates in one spot would be very attractive to help bind community. I’d be interested in hearing other ways this could work. I am very attracted to the mash up of location, community, and content … I wonder if it works to drive additional context for a community?

Update: BTW, I have 15 invites for Brightkite. If you want one, just leave a comment.