I Feel Like I Should Have This Figured Out

With all the drama around claims that blogging is dead I find myself more confused than ever about content production, sharing, and everything in between. As someone who embraces the whole idea of sharing stuff, you’d think I wouldn’t be at such odds with myself over a few basics. I find myself constantly struggling with the notion that this blog can be the home for nearly all of my stuff … yet I go out and start a photo blog, start pumping content into Tumblr, and ignore posting to the one place that is under my control.

photo_blogI’ve been really trying to figure out why I find it so difficult to use my own space right here to post one liners, links to interesting things, pictures I really want to share, and these longer posts. Blogging is not dead in my mind as there should always be a place to track ideas and share thoughts. But as I engage in more and more online communities I wonder why I can’t just settle on something instead of continuing to fracture my online identity across Facebook, wordpres.com, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and on and on.

I understand the value of the embedded community, but at the end of the day everything I post here automatically finds its way to Twitter and everything that finds its way to Twitter finds its way into my Facebook profile. Those are probably my two largest sources of visitors and consist of the people I am looking to share stuff with (other than the handful of people who either show up here every now and then or subscribe via RSS). So, I ask myself again and again why can’t I see this space as a place to just drop pictures, videos, links, and random short thoughts? I just can’t seem to figure this one out. Anyone else in that boat?

Community Question: Identity

After last week’s experiment with crowd sourcing the definition for “community” I was curious to see if we could keep the momentum going with a new community question.  This week I am hoping to hear from you as it relates to the concept of “identity.”  This is another one of those terms that we all throw around quite a bit — does it refer to a role you play in a particular social context, is it a mash-up of all the stuff you do on and offline, or is it something all together different?  I’ve written and struggled with this concept in the context of the web and learning design for quite some time and could use some help. I’d love to hear how you define identity in 30 seconds or under.

Ideally you’d post this as a video comment over at the youtube page the video below is embedded from.  If you need to know how to do that, I’ve uploaded a screencast showing how to post a video response.  Please help me keep this going and lend your voice to this week’s community question!  Thanks in advance.

My Identity. Some New Thoughts

I am seriously conflicted about the state of my own digital identity. On one hand I am thrilled to see the wealth of social sites out there filling specific niches, giving us new ways to share and express ourselves. But, to say that I am a bit underwhelmed by the lack of meta connections these sites afford is an understatement. I have a few thoughts that are really beginning to pull me in new directions.

I’ll start with Twitter as an example of my overall frustration. I use it, not as much as some, but I am usually paying attention to the stream and even update a handful of times each day. It is what it is and I know I have written many times in the past about how much I do really like it. One problem is that there are new services that are moving beyond it and people are noticing. Maybe the features it doesn’t have is what keeps people there — there is something to be said about simplicity. But the only thing that keeps me from jumping ship all together are the people. So the community is the only feature of Twitter that really keeps me there. I know it has provided a tangible result in the binding of the learning design community, but it is missing some of the things that could really make it powerful. The second thing that bothers me is that I am investing a lot of 140 character identity pieces on a daily basis. These things disappear and are not long-term artifacts. No matter, the people keep me there.

Flickr is another example of a place I post pieces of my identity on a regular basis. The features are nice and I really like the simplicity of the environment in general. In this case it isn’t so much about wanting to leave to try out new environments (only because I still think it is the best social sharing photo space), it is that my established network is there. I would never be able to drag them out. So, again, the people keep me there.

I could go on with other spaces, but I’ll spare the review of these other environments. At the end of the day I stay because of the people and the connections.

But, help me envision something that looks a little different. I have a blog — I am guessing you know that as you are reading this post here. I use my blog to act as a bit of a hub to my online identity, but I am very concerned about where all this leads. I am still willing to pay $25.00 a year for my Flickr Pro account, but when they go, so do my pictures and my network. I found out the hard way that Twitter doesn’t keep real historical records of my old Tweets … I wanted everything I Tweeted during class last Spring to use it as part of my research. The network remains, but the pieces of it that I want are gone — the evidence of community growth no longer exists. So, what I am proposing is to not abandon the social sites, but to leverage the network while using my own blog (or personal publishing platform) as the place where everything begins and ends.

So if I post a picture I do it at my blog and my blog also posts it to Flickr — it grabs the meta data, uses my post preferences, gives it a title, and all the other things that would happen at Flickr but in this case the photo still lives in my personal space. Same with Twitter, Facebook, status, and so on. What if it started in my space and ended up in those spaces? I could even choose to show or hide that content in my own blog space, but I would have overall ownership of my stuff — in one place. I’m not asking the network move, I am moving my content from my space to the places where they are. As I want to explore new environments, I can still keep it all flowing from my blog out to those places. It can’t be that hard … who knows how this could help keep our content for the long haul. As I try (and leave) more and more environments I am depositing small identity artifacts that I can no longer track and I am feeling like I am fracturing my it more and more along the way.

Tell me why this is ridiculous and why it won’t work. At the moment I can’t figure out why we wouldn’t want it to work this way.

Life Streaming

About two years ago I was hooked on the idea of building a social life stream application … I went so far as to email a few of the smart people I know, sharing diagrams, and video chatting with said smart people to see about building something. After I spent hours and hours drawing sketches and driving myself crazy I sort of gave up on the idea. My idea was to not only stream my stuff into one place, but to organize all my friends stuff based on the social network/online spaces they publish in. We’d all have accounts with our own stream in them, but could pull together everyone else in a nicely organized way. FriendFeed was close enough, so I gave up on building something.

That hasn’t stopped my intense interest in powerful aggregation and life streaming options. It is so important for so many things. We are all spreading our identity across several sites and having a place to assemble the meta identity seems as though it is still an emerging and powerful need. When you think about teaching the notion of powerful and well organized aggregation gets even more critical. Think of a class where all 350 students have blogs and are writing on a regular basis … now that we disaggregated the content management by moving outside the LMS/CMS, we need new ways to pull it all back together (sort of ironic). Here is another killer use for a solid life stream style application.

This past spring my colleague, Scott McDonald, and I used Pligg to aggregate all of our students’ posts into one place. It worked well, but Pligg was not ready for non-technical folks to administer. It has to be easy.

This morning I came across my next tool du jour … SweetCron. This life stream application is the first one I’ve come across that I would use to replace the front of my own site. It is a very slick open source solution that looks great and (so far) works really well. It needs work as it is a pre-one dot zero release, but it is still a breeze to use and great to look at. I took 15 minutes this morning to get it installed and to add a few of my feeds. The admin side is easy enough and with a few tweaks to the css, the end user version looks really nice as well. My own SweetCron powered page is sitting over on my colecamplese.com space.

My Life Stream

My Life Stream

I will be working to look at this more so we can understand the affordances, but right out of the gate I am impressed. On a professional level, what I am really looking for are several options that could be used for teaching and learning and for events. This seems so much more powerful than simply showing a Twitter stream at a conference — tags could be subscribed to from all over the web to really a paint a killer picture of what people are saying about an event. As a matter of fact, the TechCrunch 50 conference is using it. So for now, take a look and help me think about how this could be used within a teaching and learning context.

My Time Machine

For one reason or another Twitter has come back into the center of my digital life in a big way. I know it started at ELI 2008 in San Antonio. There were so many people that I try to follow at the event who were sitting in sessions sharing thoughts that I decided it was the best (only) way to keep up. It has sort of brought back the feeling of being connected to both the larger education technology community and the one right around the corner here at PSU. Another big factor has been teaching this semester and seeing my students showing up in my Twitter stream … I have to admit I am getting to know the students in my class who are twittering on a regular basis a little better — not sure if “better” is the right word, but they are quickly becoming a component of my Twitter community and I am a little more tuned into what they are thinking about.

With my interest in Twitter returning I find myself updating on regular basis again … I enjoy the renewed feeling of connectedness. I did something this morning as I was reading a particularly refreshing post from one of my students — I set out to find my first Tweets and blog posts about the service. I am not sure if Twitter was intended to be used as a personal content management system of sorts in the way I use my blog and my old fashioned analog journal, but with the frequency of Twittering I was doing a year ago it is obvious it is a great way to look into the past. So I did just that and turned up what I was doing at this exact moment a year ago. I was also able to read through my Twitter tagged blog posts and see that we were thinking about some interesting uses of Twitter way back in the day (last year) that I’ve seen put into use at conferences, events, and by organizations. When I asked Twitter what I was doing literally last year at this moment it was able to tell me … not as easy to search as the blog, but the results turned up the following:


So I am feeling like it is more important than ever to keep the thinking moving forward and to keep documenting what is going on in my day-to-day life. As with blogging, I feel almost like I am leaving little anthropological records of my own thinking for my own reflection in the future … so I’m sorry if I tweet about things that seem odd, disconnected, and even irrelevant, but most of it (when looked at from a meta level) gives me solid insight into my own thought development. I’ve been saying it for a while now, but it is becoming very clear to me that all of my online identities are coming together to form not only my self in the present progressive sense, but also as a sort of time machine for me to return to the thinking that is forming my research, my organization, my thinking, my relationships, and so on. In essence, Twitter is always asking me to respond to the simple question of “What are you doing” when I am now seeing it as an amazing opportunity to travel into the past to understand the answer to that question in a more reflective and holistic sense.