Twitter


11
Jan 14

Twitter and the Reputation Economy in 2014

Back in 2009 when Twitter Lists first came out, I had a little epiphany about the reputation economy.  It isn’t just what you say about yourself online, but what others say and post about you in the aggregate, and all the associated metadata of your online life, that can define “who you are” in the Metaverse.  That only seems to be more true as time has gone on, and despite the over-hype of the “reputation economy” buzzword, I still find it interesting and potentially meaningful, but only if the measures of reputation are accurate.  We’re definitely not there yet, and I’m not sure we’re really any further than we were in 2009, either.

It’s hard to do an analysis of accuracy for anyone but myself, but if I had to say which system seems to currently have the best measure of “who I am” based on what others say about me, I’d have to say it’s not Klout, or LinkedIn Endorsements or any of those obvious attempts to measure reputation.  The best measure as far as I can tell is actually Twitter.  What Twitter Lists people have placed me in, which isn’t obvious at all, and isn’t even something Twitter seems to explicitly leverage as a measure of reputation, is actually a pretty good measure!

[A brief aside, I’m sad that Twitter seems to have buried Lists and made them almost non-obvious, since as far as I’m concerned, Lists are a crucial component of making Twitter useful at all.  Many folks who joined Twitter after Lists came out don’t even seem to know they exist!  If you happen to be one of those unfortunate souls, get thee to your Twitter page > Me > Lists > Create List and start categorizing people.  Or click “Member of” to see what lists others have added to you to.  I bet you’ll find some of them very surprising, hopefully in a good way.  And after you’ve made some lists, tools like TweetDeck will suddenly make a LOT more sense to you, and your Twitter stream will become much more meaningful, relevant and less.. ephemeral.]

But back to the topic.  So what does my Twitter network say about me?  Some pretty good stuff, actually:

Twitter Lists Word Cloud for Fleep

When I boiled the List Names down, I got 191 unique terms and, though I modified the frequency to make the word cloud readable (if I hadn’t, all you would see is: Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Education, Immersive, Cincinnati, which were the top 5 list names), I’d say that’s a really accurate representation of my online life.  It accurately reflects my professional and geeky interests, and if you dig in there a bit, it tells you my gender, where I live, what I do for a living, some of the books I’ve read, games I’ve played, conferences I’ve attended, that I’m old enough to be on someone’s BBS list, and if I can say it humbly, that overall people have a pretty positive opinion of me.   

I am of course quite biased, but I think I have a pretty awesome network of super intelligent people who love digging into the future of technology and education, and who like to think about what all this emerging tech will mean for the future of society, so it’s all the more interesting to see what kinds of categories they create for themselves and where they place me within that context.  (I confess to having some warm fuzzies after seeing how the word cloud came out, so thanks Twitter peeps!)

LinkedIn’s Endorsements are another interesting measure, though of a slightly different sort.  I’d say it’s also fairly accurate, but it pretty much captures only my professional interests and misses all the personal, quirky, or other interests I have.

LinkedIn Endorsements for Fleep 2014

Some folks I know have also complained that they get endorsements for skills from people who aren’t even in a position to know whether or not they have any expertise in that topic, and that happens to me, too.  But in general, I’d say LinkedIn Endorsements are less a measure of what you are actually skilled at doing and more a measure of what people think you are skilled at doing.  They aren’t the same thing, but both are interesting and useful measures.

By comparison, I would say Klout is the least representative of the various “reputation economy” or influence measures about me.  I don’t know how they weight stuff, but it looks like the Klout list was probably fairly accurate about 5 years ago, but as my focus, interests, and activities have changed, Klout hasn’t seemed to have kept up.  It captures the same top 5 categories as Twitter Lists, but that’s about it.  None of the nuance, history, and none of the topics I’ve become interested in since.. what, their initial calculations?  I’m not sure.

I should also admit some bias here, I became very aggravated with Klout when they sent me what seemed like an email every few days to tell me my Klout score was going down, when at the time I was helping take care of my grandpa who was dying of cancer.  The insensitivity of it really struck a nerve, like I should really give a hoot about my Klout score at a time like that?  And how meaningful a measure could it possibly be if I’m less influential because I’m offline doing something important?

No matter what Klout says, I know my network values human life and knows what is and isn’t truly important.  In fact, my guess is that my network would probably rank my reputation higher for having been a dedicated caregiver, not lower.

And of course that’s the big problem with all of these reputation or influence measures – the algorithms can’t yet measure what’s REALLY important: trustworthiness, competence, honesty, reliability, compassion, dedication, clarity, ability to synthesize and make meaning from complexity.  These are the measures I really want to know about someone, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing out there like that yet.

The Twitter List names that people create for themselves, some of which touch on values not just buzzwords, are the closest I’ve seen to anything like those kinds of measures, which for me makes Twitter a potentially overlooked but pretty important tool in the reputation and influence measure toolkit in 2014.


3
May 11

Experiencing History Through Twitter and Other Thoughts about the Death of bin Ladin

President and national security team receive updates about the bin Ladin mission.
Image source: White House on Flickr.

I’ve been very surprised about America’s reaction to the death of Osama bin Ladin.

If you had asked me two days ago what I thought people would do if Osama bin Ladin were killed tomorrow, I would have guessed that most Americans wouldn’t care much – that after 10 years of wars, which at this point in the US, mostly only military families and some politicians pay close attention to, and with any sense of unity we felt after 9/11 a faint memory in the bitter and nasty political climate of today, I would have guessed that the average Jane on the street would feel a momentary sense of “finally got him” and that would be the end of it.

I would have been very wrong.  I was really shocked by how emotional people felt. I was shocked by the gleeful and joyous feelings people felt. I didn’t feel joy, I felt.. ok, some faint vindication, triumph over evil and all of that, but mostly I felt terribly sad remembering the horror of what happened on that beautiful blue sky day in September and sadder still at all the death and war and destruction that followed it. Osama bin Ladin was certainly a mass murderer and a zealot and a terrorist – and his death means that he can no longer plan or proselytize or execute any more death and destruction, and for that I _am_ glad. But not joyous.

I also wondered today how much my perception was colored by the experience of learning about it and participating in the immediate reaction on Twitter – which was wildly fast paced and .. words truly fail me. At times it was hysterically funny, the first time you read the “long form death certificate” joke it was funny, by the 50th time not so much. At times it was uncomfortable, or at least I felt uncomfortable with the glee that so many seemed to feel.   And at times it was inspiring, to be part of such an amazingly multi-threaded conversation, with comments whizzing by in English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, and more, you had a sense that to experience historical events today is somehow different – with Twitter and Facebook and a cell phone in nearly every pocket, it’s not even that news travels fast, but that our reactions to it travel just as quickly.

Image hat tip @mixed_realities, image source @miguelrios (submitted by pleated-jeans).

From speculation to confirmation to reaction in minutes, and your immediate reaction tempered by the hundreds and thousands of others’ reactions erupting simultaneously. The ones cracking jokes, the ones shouting “GO USA!”, I literally saw calls for bin Ladin’s head on a spike on the #tcot hashtag (not surprising), calls to be reflective, reminders that bin Ladin was just one man and al Qaida is more than one man, remembrances of 9/11.. it was crazy! And some of it very discomfiting.

I was heartened to see others in my Twitter stream expressing discomfort with the celebratory tone, even as I felt conflicted about my own feelings. I wrote:

@annehaines I think part of the “celebration” aspect is that these wars have been SO long SO costly SO complex. A simple victory resonates.

@annehaines And US is divided by so many things, when we can feel unified about something, I think it amplifies the emotion.

After reading more about what happened and reading and listening to all of the voices on the net and in my networks, I think that maybe it’s too simplistic to say that Americans were celebrating the death of Osama bin Ladin. Certainly some were, and it really WAS and IS that simple for many, but in some part I think it was an outpouring of pent up emotions that maybe we didn’t even realize we were feeling.

By my view, the world really did change on September 11th, and it has been a long, brutal, depressing decade since. Whatever innocent naivete I still held at the wise old age of 25 began to crumble as those towers fell and the 10 years since have held many bitter lessons still. Wars that seem unending and against people and ideologies that are complex and don’t lend themselves to simple narratives about “defeating our enemies”. A decade of absolute fiscal corruption and robbery that would have made the robber barons blush. A political system that seems barely functional on the good days and completely ill equipped to address any of the real issues facing our nation. Catastrophes like Katrina from mother nature, and catastrophes of our own making, leaving people without homes and jobs and even those of us who still have both ever fearful that they could disappear tomorrow.

There hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot to celebrate since September 11th and I think the reaction to bin Ladin’s death was less about dancing on one man’s grave and more about the resonance of a simple, understandable victory against at least some small part of all of the tremendous uncertainty and evil in this world.

And I guess that’s ok, or at least it makes the emotion I saw and sometimes felt a little more understandable.

I think the important thing will be to see if in death, the symbol that bin Ladin became in our minds and in the media can become a symbolic closing of that sad chapter in our history. The Arab Spring certainly gives hope that radicalism will give way to revolution of the kind America’s forefathers would understand, and I hope against all hope that the end of these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will come soon.

As for the rest of it, this explosion of pent up emotion and the rush to cheer about SOMETHING after so long a drought of things to cheer about.. well, it’s partly our own doing we’re in this glum mess. Though the world is complex and we have an important role to play in it, I think we really need to spend some time cleaning up our own house and maybe then we’d have truly joyous reasons to celebrate.


16
Jul 10

Interview posted – Discussing Social Media on WVXU’s Impact Cincinnati!

Chris Collins & Chris Brewer in the WVXU Studios

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Brewer from Northern Kentucky University on WVXU’s Impact Cincinnati show with host Maryann Zeleznik.  Our topic was how new communication tools are impacting our lives and we discussed all the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. in addition to the changes iPhones and Android smart phones have brought to the scene since our last show back in July 2009.

From the Impact Cincinnati website:

Topic: How new communications tools are affecting our lives

Millions of people each day now access Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and other social networking sites, using home computers as well as a rapidly growing array of sophisticated mobile devices that allow anywhere, anytime internet connections.

Guests include:
University of Cincinnati Instructional & Research Computing department IT Analyst Chris Collins
Chris Brewer, a social media consultant for clients such as Apple and the New Media Consortium, Director of Online Technology for NKU’s College of Informatics, and the developer of GrooveRiver.com, a niche social network for Cincinnati musicians.

Listen to the Program

It’s always fun to get a behind the scenes look at our local NPR station studio and I hope we encourage Cincinnati listeners to try out some of the social media offerings that can help expand your personal and professional networks.   Check out the recording here and many thanks to Chris and Maryann for a great conversation about social media!


22
Nov 09

Reputation Economy: Twitter Sez Fleep Is…

It was a startling moment the first time someone uploaded a picture of me on Facebook and tagged it with my name.  It wasn’t a very flattering photo, first of all, I never would have posted that picture anywhere publicly.  😉  And it struck me quite suddenly that the web really is a two-way street – it’s not just what I say about me, it’s also what they say about me.  You know, them, those other people out there.

Twitter lists are another example of this two-way street.  The image above shows a word cloud of tags and phrases taken from twitter lists that other people have created and put me, @fleep, in.   I should note that this is a doctored word cloud, if I’d left it at the true frequency, you wouldn’t be able to read anything but secondlife, edtech, education, virtualworlds, and cincinnati because those tags are by far the most common.

But I wanted to bring out the other words as well because they paint a broader picture of who and what folks on twitter think I am.  It also better demonstrates how much CAN be known about a person when a bunch of disparate voices start chiming in and contributing what they know about someone.  Some of the folks who know me on Second Life might not know I live in Cincinnati, just like some of the local people might not have known I was involved in Second Life.  Put all their contributions together, however, and you (and they) can learn a lot more about me.

This is the basis for the reputation economy that’s coming – in the days ahead, your resume and your profiles and your website, all the things that you say about you, will matter a lot less than all the things that they say about you.  You know, them, those other people out there.  They will likely be much more verbose about you than you are about yourself, and they will come from all of the different spheres of your life – personal and professional, your private life and your work life, your social clubs and your work buddies, and yes, even people who don’t like you or what you believe in, your enemies and detractors.   You will have much less control over what the world knows about you, because you have no way to control what everyone else says about you.

If you google for “reputation economy” you’ll see that it’s often applied in the context of companies needing to protect their reputations, but the same applies to individuals, too.  Do you know what the web says about you?  Beyond vanity-googling yourself, do you have google alerts set up to let you know when someone mentions your name?  Trackbacks enabled on your blog?  A saved twitter search of your @username?  Are you checking out the twitter lists people are putting you on, and are they the kinds of lists you want to be on?

And if not, what should you, or can you, do about it?


8
Nov 09

Educause 09, Copyright/IP in Virtual Worlds, Dusan’s War

This week seemed impossibly full of interesting, with not enough time to process.  Wait, who am I kidding, I never feel there’s enough time to process, but this week more so than usual.  So a quick roundup to remind myself to keep thinking about these things:

EDUCAUSE 2009

I made a vow last year to reduce my conference travel.  It seemed prudent to cut back on expenses in this tough budget climate, but more than that, all the conferences began to run together in my mind, all the sessions sounding the same, the airports and hotel rooms one big blur.  From time to time I’ve felt sad to miss seeing good netfriends, at SLCC09 especially, but it also felt good to take a step back and not be so darned harried.  Until this past week, when so many people I admire gathered at EDUCAUSE 2009, and for the first time I felt a tinge of real regret.  Because it sounds like maybe this year’s EDUCAUSE breathed a bit of fresh air into the room.

Fortunately, I was able to follow at least some of what was happening through the ever fascinating tweets of EDUCAUSE attendees, and the conference organizers (bless them) streamed many sessions on the web, so those of us who couldn’t attend don’t get too terribly left behind.  I haven’t watched all the sessions, but two in particular that I want to keep thinking about:

Point/Counterpoint:  Disrespectful and Time-Wasting, or Engaged and Transformative
The Mile High Twitter Debate (Gardner Campbell and Bruce Maas)

I first met Gardner Campbell (@gardnercambell) through an NMC Summer Conference several years ago (another conference I was sad to miss this year) and I’ve been a faithful reader of his blog Gardner Writes ever since.  His passion for teaching, and for exploring the use of technology in teaching in meaningful ways, has been illuminating.  He’s the kind of faculty member I want to learn from and collaborate with, and he’s always been unbelievably approachable for such a rock star.  😉   So when I heard he was taking the pro-Twitter position in a Point/Counterpoint session, it seemed like a must-see and I wasn’t disappointed.

From now on, when administrators and faculty ask me what the point of Twitter is, I’m not even going to discuss it, I’ll just send them a link to this video.  If they aren’t convinced after that, there’s no hope.

Thanks to Gardner and Bruce Mass for a great debate and a terrific resource we can share with others.

It’s About Time:  Getting Our Values Around Copyright Right
(Lawrence Lessig)

The other “must-watch” video from the conference is really a must-watch for more than just educators.  Netizens everywhere need to be thinking about this issue, especially in light of the ACTA treaty negotiations that were leaked this week (see the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s take, ReadWriteWeb, Wired, and more – universal sentiment is “BAD – VERY BAD”).  I’m beyond outraged about ACTA and hope to make a separate post on that topic soon.

In any case, Lessig delivered a powerful talk about copyright that I hope you’ll take the time to review.  You won’t be sorry you did.

On Copyright, Intellectual Property Rights, & the Rule of Law in Virtual Worlds

These issues, of copyright and intellectual property, are not abstract for many Second Life users.  Indeed, I often imagine that these Second Life content creators (the ones who make the virtual clothes, hair, buildings, cars, etc. that you can buy in Second Life or on the web) are likely some of the very people who downloaded pirated music, software, or movies without a second thought in earlier times, but now the tables are turned after experiencing what it is like to create something from your own imagination, market it, sell it, and have it stolen out from under them.  (Reminder to self, experience is truly the best teacher. )

I refer to the great angst and gnashing of teeth over content theft in virtual worlds.  Linden Lab responded to the lawsuit filed by SexGen bed maker this week, a group of content creators staged a 48 hour period of creating nothing to protest content theft, Ben Duranske urged everyone to register their copyright with the US government, and the very controversial Emerald Viewer team filed a DMCA notice to Google about the much vilified Neilife viewer.

Oh, and by the way, Michael Risch at the West Virginia University College of Law makes a compelling case that the rule of law has been an abysmal failure in virtual worlds.  From the abstract:

The article finds – unsurprisingly – that virtual worlds now lack many of the elements of the rule of law. Which aspects fail is more surprising, however. Provider agreements and computer software, the sources of regulation that are most often criticized as “anti-user,” provide the best theoretical hope for achieving the rule of law, even if they currently fail in practice. On the contrary, widely proposed “reforms,” such as community norms, self-regulation, and importation of real-world law face both theoretical and practical barriers to implementation of the rule of law in virtual worlds.

What are we to make of all this copyright/IP mess?  I dunno.  I don’t have any easy answers either.

But I have long argued that one of the greatest benefits of being involved in virtual worlds like Second Life is that you get to see some of the great issues of our time being played out in another context, a different context than the “real world” – a smaller context – and that this gives us a new perspective with which to view what’s happening in the “real world”.   It’s so difficult for me to articulate this thought, I wish I could do a better job of it, but it’s the primary reason I feel like educators – no – academics and intellectuals of all stripes – should be involved in what’s happening in virtual worlds.  This copyright issue is just one of many examples, it’s fascinating to see how it plays out in the context of a conversation at EDUCAUSE versus the context and conversations of Second Life.

On one hand, we hear Lessig imploring educators and edtech IT folks to find ways to honor the rights of content creators in ways that do not turn our kids into terrorists.  He says, and I agree, that the creativity unleashed by mashups in the digital age cannot be stopped.  We hear Lessig warning us that by forcing people to live a a life outside the law, we undermine the very rule of law that democracy requires.  He urges us to help find a third way, a middle road between copyright extremists on both ends of the spectrum.

In another context, in the microcosm of virtual worlds and Second Life, we hear that the rule of law has yet to even emerge, all while we watch from the sidelines as real life courts are asked to adjudicate a potentially precedent-setting case about virtual content theft.   We hear some virtual world content creators arguing they must have the right to back up their work, to port their work, the products and artifacts of their creativity, into whatever medium they desire, whatever grid they happen to be on.   Other content creators are arguing that so long as the tools to make this backup/portability possible can also be used to steal THEIR content and creativity, these tools should NOT be available.  Even though they already are.  And, I think they are here to stay, no matter how much Linden Lab tries to enforce some kind of 3rd party registration for viewers.

Much to think about.  And I wonder,  what would the content creators who staged the 48 hour “create nothing” protest say to Lessig’s point?

I’ve run out of time to finish this post, and didn’t even get to the other big stories of the week.  I’ll add some links to remind myself, because they all play into this conversation even if I can’t synthesize it all at the moment:

Linden Lab offers standalone “behind the firewall” servers at $50k a year price – are they crazy?

Dusan talks about the Lab being at war with itself, and humanity at war with ourselves, and with technology – what?  I want to respond to this, I want to argue some of us ARE stopping to think about it – obsessively thinking about it even –  but it’s just all happening so damned fast (see this post, I can’t even get a few hours to properly synthesize):

But there’s a Masonic feeling to the whole thing: we’re not just individual actors contributing to the common good, we’re individual actors contributing to the evolution of digital spaces that have no governing body, and we’re hoping that in so doing our collective contributions will lead to a common good, without always stopping to have much of a conversation about it, although we start to get worried if it happens all over again: if Google actually turns out to BE the next Microsoft, although it’s typically only the big, easy-to-spot targets that we worry about – the rest of it is too granular, too innocuous, the metadata is invisible to us, it’s all held in those windowless rooms.

Healthcare reform passes the House after bitter partisan vote – will it actually improve anything?  Is this REALLY what democracy has come to in the digital age?  Am I the only one disgusted with the sausage making mess?

A fellow from the team writing recommendations for the National Education Technology Plan comes to Second Life for feedback – did he get anything useful from the process?  I greatly appreciated the effort of the ISTE organizers and all the speakers, and that he made the effort to reach out to cutting edge educators, but I found the process chaotic, frustrating, and unsure what the take-away was.

I’ll have to stop here.  Too much to process this week.


1
Nov 09

Twitter Lists, Google Wave, & Verizon’s Droid Phone

Twitter Lists

Twitter recently added the ability to categorize the people you follow into “Lists”, with quick links on your right sidebar to the status updates of all the people in that category.  Your lists can be public or private, with private lists only visible to you, and other people can follow your lists en masse or see the individual people you’ve added.

You can check out my Twitter lists to see if any of them interest you (though I’m not done adding people yet!).

TheNextWeb has a “how-to” guide if you’re not sure how Twitter Lists work, and so far it seems like it’s working out pretty well for me, despite the fact I’ve only got some small percentage of the people I follow categorized. Wow, talk about tedious work to add people!  New twitter users won’t have this problem since they can add folks to lists as they go along, but for those of us who have been around a while, this is a major chore.  I’m trying to do a few more each time I sit down at the PC, but it’s kind of slow going.

Still, the functionality seems worth the effort, since this gives you an easy way to “check in” with different categories or communities of people you follow, much like we’ve been able to do with 3rd party apps like Groups on TweetDeck.  As I posted to Twitter, I’m creating lists based on what’s most useful for _me_, not with the intention of creating a great list for someone else to follow, though if someone else finds a list of mine useful, more power to them.

Besides the obvious, I see a few other good or interesting uses for Twitter Lists:

  • Vanity list checking: It may be completely vain on my part, but I’m finding it interesting to see how people categorize my tweets and what tags they use to describe me when they put me on a list.  Many of them are obvious like “secondlife” or “education” but some of them have been surprising.  It’s also another example of how YOU are not always in control of your “brand” or your identity on the web.  What if someone put me on a list called “totaljerks” or something?
  • Making lists for your followers, instead of for yourself. I’ve seen some folks making lists called “recommended” or “moversandshakers” where it seems like people are aggregating lists less for their own consumption and more to help their followers find OTHERS to follow.  If that makes sense.  I definitely would be more judicious in my choices if I made a “recommended tweeters” list than I have been with the lists I’ve created so far, so perhaps curating a good list will become a useful Twitter skill.  I think I might try that once I get through the first phase of adding folks to lists.
  • Lists as another metric of quality. I don’t think this is very useful yet, as most established twitterers are probably, like me, still in the process of getting all their followers categorized.  But once lists are being used ubiquitously (and I think they will be), this feature adds a new metric to judge the quality of a tweeter before you add them.  Now, in addition to their profile and number of people they follow/follow them, you can also see how many people took the time to add them to a list, and what kinds of tags they use to describe them.   Hopefully this will be a less game-able metric than sheer numbers of followers, but I guess we’ll see.
  • Lists will be great for newbie Twitterers. I hope lists will help people new to Twitter get engaged with communities of interest more quickly than before.  If I introduce someone to Twitter and I know they also dig Second Life, I can point to that list as a great starting point.   They can either follow the whole list, or sort through it to pick and choose individual people to follow.
  • As a corollary, raiding your friends’ lists for new people to follow just got a whole lot easier since you can follow people only from the communities you’re most interested in.

My biggest complaint, other than not having an easy way to add multiple people to a list quickly, is that Twitter perversely orders your lists in the REVERSE order you created them, so my most frequently used lists are at the bottom rather than the top.  I hope they fix that little issue quickly.

Also, has anyone come across any iPod/iPhone apps that include list functionality yet?  It looks like Tweetie2, my favorite Twitter app, doesn’t do that yet.

Other than those complaints, I’d say Twitter Lists is two thumbs up.  Yay for tools that help break big info streams down into more manageable chunks!

Google Wave

Wish I could offer the same enthusiasm about Google Wave, touted as an alternative to email, but I must say my initial experience is “less than impressed”.  (And no, I don’t have any invites to give yet, I’ll let you know as soon as I do!)

I know this is still a beta service (what google service isn’t in perpetual beta?) but I guess I expected something more.. intuitive? easy? fast? useful?    At least on my machine, Google Wave is very slow to load everything – contact lists, inbox, and especially the content of the wave.   I even get such terrible typing lag when I try to make a reply that it sometimes takes 3 or 4 seconds for what I’ve typed to show up on the screen.  Reminds me of the 1200 baud modem days, waiting for things to appear.

Other sundry complaints:   Navigating through a wave is kind of tedious, I can’t tell what I’ve already seen and what’s new.  The scroll bar dealie on the right confuses me, the arrows at the top and bottom don’t actually jump you to the top or bottom of the wave.  Playback on a big wave either doesn’t work at all or goes very slowly and I can’t figure out how to speed it up (plus it seems to crash FF from time to time).  In general, I just can’t figure out why I would use this instead of email..?

I’ll give it some time and keep playing.   As I said, I know it’s early days for Wave, so perhaps I’ll see more utility when it’s more useable from a lag/organization standpoint.  But first impressions can be tough to shake and my first impression of Wave is it’s doing the opposite of Twitter Lists, instead of making big info streams more manageable, it seems to turn manageable email chunks into one big info stream.  Not a fan yet.

Verizon’s Droid Phone

Ok, I lied, I haven’t actually gotten my hands on one yet, even though @tom_streeter had one in the office last week, I was too darned busy at work to pester him about it.

For those of us who are on Verizon’s network, and thus unable to get an iPhone (insert major annoyance here), we’ve been waiting and waiting for a smartphone alternative to the iPhone and the web chatter says the Motorola Droid is Verizon’s first possible competitor.    CNet has the best review I’ve seen so far, and several Cincinnati area tweeters were given a first look through a Verizon promotion #droiddoescincy so you can see some real people reviews.

Me, I’m definitely keep an eye on it, but I don’t want “the next best thing” to an iPhone.  I want something equal to or better than an iPhone, otherwise, I think I’ve got most bases covered between my current phone and the iPod Touch I recently picked up.

So, uh, Tom, if you still have it next week, can I take a peek?  🙂


15
Dec 08

Public Twitter Station in Second Life: The “Presence” Problem

Concepts like “place” and “presence” can get really mushed up when you’re working in the metaverse. I’ve been puzzling about these concepts so intently over the last couple of weeks that I was actually motivated to do some (*gasp*) scripting to see if I could mediate that “sense of presence” in Second Life. Let me explain.

The Presence Problem

Right now I am sitting at my desk in my office at home physically, and at least nominally I’m also sitting at my desk in the Chilbo Town Hall virtually (which is where I park my avatar to let people know I’m probably off in another window instead of paying attention at that moment), AND I’m also “on” Twitter and IM. So, if you wanted to get in touch with me for a synchronous conversation or “visit” with me, you could come to my house in Cincinnati and ring the doorbell, but a) that would probably freak me out unless you’re a really good friend and b) being an internet peep, you’re more likely to send me an @fleep or DM on Twitter, or if we’re good friends you’ll poke me on Gtalk or AIM or send me an SMS on my cell, or if you’re a Second Life resident, you’ll log in and look for me in the Town Hall.

So many places I’m in at once, and that’s just trying to keep things simple – we’re not even including all the asynchronous options. But if you asked me “Where are you right now?” the answer I’m likely to give depends on context – if you called me on the telephone or sent me an SMS I’d say I was at home, but if you IMd me the same question in Second Life, I’d say I was in Chilbo, and if you asked me on Gtalk or AIM or Twitter, I don’t even know which way I’d answer. BUT, the truth is, I’m am in all those places and locations and “mental spaces” simultaneously – and yet it’s not REALLY simultaneous because my attention can only be focused on one “space” at a time.. Or is that really true?

And forget about me for a moment, “where” are all my friends right now? What are they up to and if I have a question or want to visit with them, “where” do I go to find them? With so many options and each relationship/friend connected to me in different ways through different media (some are on Twitter, some aren’t; some are in Second Life, some aren’t, etc.) it gets to be quite complicated not only figuring out where _I_ “am” but also where my friends “are” too.

This is probably a round-about way of approaching this issue, but that’s how the question/problem presented itself to me a few weeks ago when I was crunching numbers from the Chilbo Community census data and saw many comments that Chilbo often felt “empty” and that the residents of Chilbo didn’t know as many other residents as they’d like. I was a bit surprised by that finding, since the traffic reports show Chilbo gets pretty steady traffic, between 700-900 visitors per week, and because I am connected to so many Chilbo folks on so many different platforms, Chilbo rarely feels “empty” to me because even if a Chilbo resident’s avatar isn’t in the sim at that particular moment – I still “hear” what they are up to on Twitter and can still contact them any time through Second Life IM or Gtalk or wherever. I have a sense of where people are from all these other tools and that tenuous connection is enough to convey their “presence” to me that it doesn’t matter that they are not physically in the room with me or virtually in the sim with me. But are others having that experience?

If you’re not on Twitter or other web places, does Chilbo seem even more “empty” or disconnected than if you are? And could that be mediated with some way to “blend” these spaces?

Shopping at Ordinal Enterprises

That was my question. And so I embarked on trying to modify Ordinal Malaprop‘s fantastic TwitterBox script to see if I could attempt to blend two different “spaces” together – the virtual location of the Chilbo sim and the .. “mental space” of Twitter (and if you use Twitter and SMS on cell phones, you know Twitter can be used on the go just about anywhere you are physically).

Now I should note, despite taking a programming class (I got a B+ and was thrilled), I remain stubbornly obtuse when it comes to understanding all of the logic involved in scripting. The lines of code, the variables, the repetition, the test-fail-test-fail all to no avail.. I find it incredibly frustrating. And, it turns out that in my ignorance, I attempted to modify the wrong script – instead of working on the basic one Ordinal gave me, I began with the more complicated one, so this probably took me many many many hours longer than it should have, and I was determined to try to figure it out myself and not bug one of my coder friends to help me, so it was an even longer time before I realized I’d taken the hard path. Doh. However, I am very pleased to report that THIS “Fleep Tries to Program” story has a happy ending! I eventually had to ask for help, but I learned much more about the Linden Scripting Language than I probably have in ages, and I have a working prototype going in-world, so I think all the torture and 3AM nights was worth it.

Chilbo Public Twitter Station - Instructions Poster

So what does this thing do? Considering all the effort it took, it sadly does not do your dishes or laundry. What it does do is a) imports tweets from the Chilbo Twitter account and all the people that account “follows” and reports them back out into the Chilbo sim in Second Life by printing the line in local chat and b) allows anyone in the Chilbo sim and within local chat range to send a tweet OUT of Second Life to the web world (through the Chilbo account).

So, if you’re walking down the street in Chilbo and happen to be near a Twitter station, you might hear a little birdie tweeting sound and see text appear on your screen that says “fleep: I’m waiting in line at the grocery store” and a few steps further down the road one that says “malburns: I’m visiting this cool sim in Second Life” or whatever our tweets might say. If you know Fleep and you know Malburns, even if they are not there in Chilbo with you, might you feel that Chilbo is less empty if you have some sense of what Chilbo people are up to at any given moment? Does it change your sense of presence if in some ways Second Life and Twitter are blended together so that your attention does not have to be focused on one OR the other, but can engage with people in both spaces at the same time?

Chilbo Public Twitter Stations disguised as birdbaths..

Will it change the sense of “community” and “connectedness” the residents of Chilbo feel with each other if they can send and see communications to and from Second Life even without being logged into Second Life, or for that matter, even if they don’t have personal Twitter accounts?

I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve been working on lately. I guess we’ll see how it works out. I’m still tinkering with the script, but if you’d like a copy in progress just let me know..


17
Sep 08

CCK08 – Disconnected

(This post is about the Massively Online Open Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 1900 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)


Storm damage in Cincinnati, photo by elycefeliz used under CC licensing.

On Sunday, the remnants of Hurricane Ike traveled all the way up to Indiana and Ohio, and though I’ve certainly seen my fair share of weird weather phenomena, I have never seen a wind storm like that! I lost my biggest shade tree in the back yard and have a little roof damage, but other than property damage, all my friends, family, and coworkers are ok. Being so far inland, this part of the country is certainly not prepared for hurricane or tropical force winds, and it caused a massive blackout in the region, shortages of gas and food, school closings, and a new understanding and sympathy for those in Texas who took the brunt of the storm.


And suddenly, in the middle of the Connectivism course, I found myself forcefully Disconnected.

I’ve had brief power outages before, but not for so long and never for so long in the summer. When you get a big winter storm, there’s a snowy white visual barrier between you and the rest of the world and you know it will melt and things will get back to normal. This time, there was no visual, nothing but the hanging powerlines and broken telephone poles to remind you that our modern society and all of our connections are really quite tenuous. Without the juice that those cables provide, and the pipes that transmit all of those 01010101011110001’s, those of us who are hyperconnected online may be more isolated and disconnected locally than ever before. It was a sobering thought.

It wasn’t until sometime on Monday when I began to worry that the power might not be back by Tuesday’s Connectivism course meeting in Second Life that I remembered my Utterz account. I have Utterz set up in such a way that I can call Utterz from my cell phone and record a message. Utterz then creates a post automatically on my blog, and WordPress is set up with a plug-in to automatically send a message to Twitter whenever something is posted on my blog. This means that when I was stranded with no electricity, internet, or landline phone, I could flip open my cell phone, record a message, and within a few minutes my voice was online and my network of twitter friends were notified. Chilbo residents Malburns Writer and Tara Yeats noticed it, and Tara is also in the Connectivism course, so she very kindly sent an email out to the Second Life Cohort to let folks know I was offline. (Thanks Tara!)

Hmm, so maybe not so disconnected after all. But it was quite strange to be standing in the dark and sending out what felt like an SOS of sorts into the ether. What to say when you’re talking to.. well, anyone? Should I direct the message to my blog readers, to the Connectivism course? Without access to my online calendar, I wasn’t even sure who else I was supposed to be meeting with, so maybe it should be as general as possible? I realized I am quite weirded out by posting a voicemail to anyone who happens to hear it!

Mobile post sent by fleep using Utterzreply-count Replies.  mp3

And then a few days later I ran across a post by fellow Connectivism student Janet Clarey, who writes about my Utterz post, saying:

Chris Collins (a/k/a Fleep) sends a mobile post to her blog because she has no power and no Internet connection. She’s letting her ~2,000 online course mates (in the CCK08 course) know that she won’t be in attendance today. No biggee right? It’s no different than a voice mail sent to a group. Or is it? I think it’s significant. She’s communicating with anyone.

I’m not sure I could be as creative if I found myself without power or a connection. Perhaps that’s because Fleep seems to have several less wrinkles than I do and doesn’t carry the weight of my prior telecommunication experiences. Or maybe I’m just not cool.

See, I’d call someone even though anyone would be the better choice for learning (e.g., what was covered during her absence). She’s inviting dialogue over monologue.

Janet gives me too much credit. =) I am actually old enough to remember shared phonelines, dialing telephones, and pressing 9 to get an outside line. I’m old enough to feel awkward speaking to just anyone who happens to hear, and I’m still experimenting with and feeling out my own boundaries about what is and isn’t appropriate to broadcast out to the whole wide world. The only difference, perhaps, between Janet and myself, is that I had previously played with Utterz, had taken the time to set up the cascading automated linkages that would make that audiopost > blog > twitter chain happen, and remembered it during the blackout. But on the inside, I’m still uncomfortable both with my connectedness and disconnectedness, I still feel unsure, strangely vulnerable talking to anyone and yet discomfited when the lights were out and the PC buzz was palpably absent.

I think we’re all still learning how to be connected, how to cope with disconnection, and where our comfort level begins to stray into uncomfortable territory. One of the lessons I took from this (besides the fact that I really should have a bigger store of batteries and non-perishable food!) is that there turned out to be great value in the hour or so I spent playing with Utterz.. what a year ago when I set that up? It turned out that by connecting my blog and twitter to some new service I wasn’t even sure how to use or what to use it for would eventually come in handy. That the few minutes I spend from time to time listening to my friends’ Utterz was back there in my memory, recalled in the moment of need. Setting up connections is time consuming, and sometimes I don’t know what value, if any, it will have, but in this case, it turned out to be very handy indeed.

And it wasn’t just the technology connection that made this work, it was also the people connection. Malburns and Tara are good online friends, good citizens of our community, and good hyperconnected netizens. Who knows how many people saw/heard that post and did nothing, but Tara took the time to not only listen to the message, but then to compose a message and forward it on my behalf, completing a circuit in the chain that was NOT automated (notifying the Connectivism SL cohort) – and it was our personal relationship and connection that made that part happen, not the technology itself.

Lesson: Need batteries and better emergency stores at home – you must plan for the unexpected.

Lesson: Our electronic connections are more tenuous than they sometimes appear. The energy crisis and degrading infrastructure in the US is a Serious Issue that we need to pay more attention to.

Lesson: Keeping abreast of and playing with new online tools and ways to connect can have big payoff in the future, even if you don’t see value in it now.

Lesson: Technology facilitates many things, but it’s the people connections that ultimately save the day.

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30
Aug 08

Palin on Twitter: Shock, GenY Response, & Misogyny

Want to know what netizens are thinking about John McCain’s pick for VP, Sarah Palin?

Click here.

Left, right, center, confused, mainstream media, international – one of the wonderful things about Twitter is that you get a truly bizarre cross-section commentary from anyone with a Twitter account.

I’ve been addicted to watching the scroll this morning, in fact I haven’t done much else. I haven’t turned on the TV even once, I haven’t yet read a newspaper, I haven’t gotten information from anywhere about Palin but from Twitter. And the emerging picture is.. fascinating.

Shock & Awe(ful)

Predictably, McCain supporters are jazzed and crowing about her rock-solid Christian, pro-life, gun-totin, positions, while Obama supporters are laughing at what appears to be a completely ridiculous choice. Non-political junkies appear to be confused since they’ve never heard of her till yesterday (or this morning), international commentary seems decidedly anti-Palin, and above all, everyone is shocked and a bit confused by the choice and drowing in “Little Known Fact” jokes, a take off the “Chuck Norris” internet meme. If you don’t know what that’s about, google it. Here’s a sampling from the last 10 seconds:

psicocaccola: La Stampa abbocca alla copertina finta di Vogue sulla Palin: storia e pdf solo per oggi http://www.typepad.com/t/trackback/1133195/32917548
less than 10 seconds ago · Reply · View Tweet

bluenc: BlueNC | Sarah Palin’s Screen Test With Ted Stevens: John McCain knew he had to put Sarah Palin on.. http://tinyurl.com/6f934p (expand)
1 minute ago · Reply · View Tweet

radiogretchen: Really bummed not to have Tim Russert interview Sarah Palin tomorrow morning.
1 minute ago · Reply · View Tweet

shawnr: Palin was born in Sandpoint, ID. Strategy: McCain locks up the Idaho-Alaska vote, securing much of the Total Nutjob wing of the GOP.
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

Shripriya: OMG -Palin is sitting on a huge bear http://snurl.com/3lb9b (expand) McCain seriously thinks women will just see the choromosomes and vote? Insulting
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

huffpost: is still trying to find the Sarah Palin hook that makes her a good choice for Miss Dairy Festival, let alone VP of the USA -JackiSchechner
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

aefoley: Little Known Fact: Chuck Norris’s Second Life character is Sarah Palin.
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

amandaelend: Palin is still nursing her 5-month old son with Down Syndrome
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

squeezyb: @bill_beal butting in-Tina Fey, who looks like Sarah Palin, plays Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. Kenneth is the NBC page on the show. Who is Cleo?
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

jbum: Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin and Tina Fey have never been seen in the same location: http://tinyurl.com/6jzaav (expand)
2 minutes ago · Reply · View Tweet

RedheadWriting: I’m a Conservative and I’m OK – http://tinyurl.com/6mdu5z (expand) More thoughts on Sarah Palin, John McCain and props to @myklroventine!

GenY Response

In all of this link surfing and rant reading, I’ve been specifically looking for reactions from younger people. I personally think this election may see the largest youth voter turn-out of any election in American history. Whether left or right, younger voters seem highly engaged this time around, and the availability of information, news, discussion forums, and videos on the internet is transforming and informing a new generation of voters. Increasingly, I am seeing more political commentary from young bloggers, tweeters, and party activists.

From PhillyD.TV we get this:

and from @lindsaypw (college student): Palin, shes anti-choice, homophobic, elitist, inexperienced, likes guns, hates wildlife, has her own scandal, and won a beauty contest.

and from @Bags1: Anyone else confused about Palin?

Anyone else have good examples of young bloggers/tweeters responding to the Palin pick?

Identity Politics & Misogyny

Which leads me to my next thought, that this has truly been and still is the most interesting election of my lifetime, particularly in terms of identity politics. The right has long accused the left of being nothing more than a coalition of various identity groups banded together with no coherent, cohesive theme. This criticism rang true in the 80s and 90s, but seems less so over time – and makes McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin even more surprising to me, as it seems to be a move to energize the various identity groups on the RIGHT: women, evangelicals, pro-life, 2nd amendment supporters. Has the Republican Party fallen to scrambling for identity coalitions now that the Democratic Party has emerged with a strong policy theme grounded not on identity politics but by political ideals? Very interesting.

The cynic in me says that while racism and misogyny still run strong in this country, misogyny continues to be the stronger of the two. If I think back to the small town where I grew up, where prejudice and “traditional” values still hold sway, I imagine that the vast majority don’t vote at all, those who do wouldn’t vote for a “damned librul” if their life depended upon it, and whatever tiny, miniscule fraction that might have been on the fence certainly can’t and won’t vote for a woman, even if she’s a “babe”, as Rush Limbaugh described her.

In just one day of reaction, Palin’s choice has caused the internet to erupt in oversexualized references to her appearance, questions about her returning to work 3 days after giving birth to a baby with special needs, and her opposition to abortion even in the case of rape. McCain’s choice has thrown the doors wide open on some of the most contentious gender issues of our time, just when the furor over Hillary was about to die down following the Democratic National Convention. Political commentator QueenofSpain thanks McCain on her blog, saying:

Although maybe once the evangelicals catch wind of her balancing work and family, and people become outraged that she is a woman running for office…maybe then we can have a real discussion in her party’s base about those “family values” they like to push. Maybe then it will be “ok” since she isn’t a baby-killing lesbian hippie.

So thanks John McCain, thanks for picking a woman as your running mate so America can (once again) have these discussions.

I’m not so sure I’m thankful. I’m afraid that images like the one from Valleywag will simply yank us back three decades in the debate about women in positions of power, where sex overshadows qualifications, and cynical jokes elicit laughter that underscores the most hateful and subversive kinds of misogyny.

Photoshopped image of Sarah Palin posted on Valleywag[/caption]
Photoshopped image of Sarah Palin posted on internet-gossip site Valleywag, ironically submitted by a woman.

If McCain had chosen a well-qualified woman, a substantial leader with proven experience, who had already been vetted, who had already faced the kinds of tawdry and misogynist undercurrents in American political culture, like Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Olympia Snow, Elizabeth Dole, or Christie Todd-Whitman, then perhaps it might have re-opened a good conversation about women in high office. Instead, I think I agree with Newsweek that Palin has been set up for failure – and as much as she represents all women, she sets us all up for failure, too.

I no more want to see Palin become a target of hateful, misogynist mockery than I did Hillary (though I was not a Hillary supporter), even if I vociferously disagree with her politics.

No, I think this was an ill-fated choice that ultimately backfires on many levels – but especially for women.

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8
May 08

Weblins – another transitional step to 3DWeb?

I was hanging out with @malburns and @tarayeats yesterday evening in Chilbo and we were having a wide ranging discussion of all things Second Life, Web 2.0, and virtual worlds more generally, when Malburns mentioned this cute little program at http://weblin.com. He was describing how it gives you a little avatar and you “teleport” from webpage to webpage, but I couldn’t quite grasp what he was saying until I tried it for myself.

Weblin.com homepage

This is a screenshot of the Weblin.com website, and you’ll notice along the bottom of the screen that there are a bunch of little avatars down there. Mine is in the lower right corner and hey presto, it’s actually an image of my Second Life avatar.

So in effect, you download this program and install it (doesn’t work with Macs yet), and then as you browse the web, you are represented by this little avatar and you can see the avatars of any other Weblin user if they happen to be on the same page as you. Which means, of course, that the solitary and isolated experience of browsing the web is transformed into a _social_ experience. I can pop over and see who else is checking out the CNN homepage. I can start a spontaneous conversation. I can add friends and invite them to view the web page I happen to be at. I can hang out on my OWN webpage and see who stops by for a visit and say hi.

I think this is something of a paradigm shift, and another transitional step to the fully immersive 3D Web or whatever you want to call the evolution we see happening with online social networks and virtual worlds technology.

How could this be useful for education? I’m glad you asked!

Weblins at the UC Blackboard page
University of Cincinnati Blackboard homepage, with little Weblins hanging out below.

Imagine students going to their course website to get information about an assignment, but instead of being there “by themselves” they run into a classmate who happens to be there at the same time. The visual representation of an avatar, something that indicates co-presence, opens up all sorts of opportunities for spontaneous dialogue, greater engagement with the course material, and additional network building. Imagine if the instructor popped in and was available to answer questions about the assignment on the spot, or even held “office hours” at the course website at specific times.

But wait, you’re saying, this is already possible with Instant Messenger or an embedded chatroom or any number of other tools, and of course that’s true, but the sense of _co-presence_ we keep talking about in relation to 3D immersive environments is simply not replicated in a text based chatroom environment. I can’t _SEE_ you in a chatroom. I can “see” you with a weblin. Beyond that, the chance encounter aspect, the ability to meet random other people who happen to be, for that moment, reading the same webpage that I am reading, wherever they are in the world, is something that intentional entry into a chatroom can’t replicate.

Co-presence, immersion, deeper engagement, serendipity. These are some of the keys, even if I’m not sure exactly what we’re unlocking.

Want to try it for yourself? Click this link which should take you back to my website, but this time with a little demo Weblin of your own. And maybe I’ll be around here to say hi. 🙂

(With thanks to twitter friends @iAlja and @iYan for stopping by the UC Blackboard page so I could get a good screen grab!)