I have been using WordPress for around 8 years now – from the days when you had to install it yourself using a ftp client and make hacks to the code to do anything fancy – but as this article proves, it has come a long way since then and is now a great platform for all – whatever your technical ability. Go on, give it a go!
Now a full twenty four hours into the Google Wave preview, you have to sit back and wonder how the hell you are going use Wave. For all the bluster, what is actually useful? It’s anyone’s guess, or really any developer’s ability, to guide the product’s future. But, from a blogger’s perspective, Wave opens up seemingly one hundred doors for future and current use. If you do not blog, you might find this post a bit stultifying.
Live Blogging For An Audience:
If you have enough contacts in Wave, you can allow in an audience while you write. TG tried this today, as intrepid reporter Holden Page attempted to write a post on Cliqset live for some of the technorati elite (Scoble et al). He described it as feeling naked. Make a mistake, everyone sees you goof. Not pretty, but I did learn a lot about how other people write. I nearly never delete a whole paragraph. Holden did twelve times. Aside from the human aspect, the live post felt like watching a concert, but with words. For the more straight-shooting blogger, this might become a normal thing to do.
Also, when writing for an audience, they can chime in below and ask questions, clarification, even point out errors. Also, the nice ones could hop in a correct your grammar. If the text move from Wave to WordPress is simple, I will start doing this soon. Other thought: build Wave into WordPress or vice versa. That would solve the movement problems.
Team Posting Collaboration:
At least at TG, we often have more than one person write a post. During the TechCrunch50, Michael and myself burned through 50 writeups together in two days. It was a constant annoyance to have to choose between Google Docs or using WordPress one after the other. Wave solves these problems in one movement.
Versioning of Posts:
If you leave a post in Wave, it is constantly in play. Anyone involved in the Wave can tinker. So, add your whole team to the post on a breaking news article, and anyone can hop in and make the changes as the news comes in. It frees the work from one person. Again, the ability to comment is important. Now, if there was WordPress integration, you could tinker with the Wave, and hit “update” to let it get back online. You could even have a script that tracked the “UPDATE #” in the title as the post was republished.
One Post Per Topic:
If you are tracking major topic, why use multiple posts? Have a single wave, and use each comment section as a post on the topic. You can even imagine that the wave could be copied, and actually be a post on your blog.
Community Interaction Into Breaking News:
You could select the power readers of your blog and give them edit access to posts, bring in the people at the event, and get everyone on the same page at the same time writing the same post heady stuff.
Really, this list could go on forever. You could use Wave to interview someone. You could make it public, and have the other wavers be able to chime in and ask the interviewee questions. Wave is going to change the way that we wok, and interact. What are you using it for?
Still havent got my invite 🙁
There is a lively discussion at the moment about the relationship between twitter and blogging in a ‘cloud’ of the same name, is twitter killing the blog?, at Cloud Works. I’m not quite sure where the discussion started but it was the topic of a debate between Josie Fraser and Graham Attwell at a F-ALT09 (ALT-C 2009 fringe conference) session at the Contact Theatre, Manchester on Tuesday 8thSeptember. The answer to the question, for me at least, is no. The evidence suggests that regular and frequent tweeting seems to be associated with a reduction in the frequency of blogging. Although this seems to be the case for me, I was already blogging less often before I became involved with Twitter and tweeting. In fact I am not a regular tweeter and tend to do so in little pulses of activity around conferences and other events, for instance the ALT 2009 conference that took place last week. On the other-hand, my lurking in Twitter is rather more constant. Speaking for myself, I feel that my use of Twitter may well revitalise my blogging, perhaps not so much by increasing the frequency of posts but, hopefully, by stimulating rather more considered and reflective posts. Generally in the past I have posted in order to record and clarify ideas and produce notes and resources for my future reference. This has been done largely for my own benefit but with the notion that it might be of interest and use to others and perhaps even solicit some response by way of comment. If so, this was a bonus rather than the prime motivation. Ideas about developing a ‘digital’ identity and a personal research network came later when I began to ‘listen in’ on conversations round these issues in the edublogosphere. However, because my posts are beginning to be inspired by conversations in Twitter, they may become of greater interest and relevance to others than before.
Here is the gist of my argument. Twitter produces ideas, thoughts and topics as part of a fairly loose distributed discussion amongst those I follow and engage with on Twitter. As a matter of interest, I enjoy the social banter and seeming trivia as well as finding useful ideas, references, information and relevant focused discussions. All the ‘useful’ content is coming to me filtered by a network of people who in some sense I know, relate to, empathise with, value and trust as more rounded and real (rather than virtual) friends and colleagues, all to some extent sharing a similar(ish) world view and hopes and aspirations. This comes over far more strongly in Twitter than through the more formally written, structured and focused blog posts. This is a big plus for Twitter. So the general picture emerging is as follows. Discussion, banter, information exchange etc. in Twitter leads to the gradual emergence of an idea for a blog post. Some topic and a set of ideas and thoughts coalesces. In this respect discussion and comment precedes and shapes the blog post. The post summarises and clarifies (in the eyes of the author at least) thinking on the tweeted topic and, hopefully, feeds back into the ongoing discussion in Twitter. If this is the case, the relationship between Twitter and blogging is one of mutual enhancement with the bonus that your co-tweeters and bloggers are already contributors to the blog post and are more rounded and human to you as a result of the broader social contact made within Twitter. Blog posts become sites for summary and reflection within the stream of tweets and as such, and to some some extent, may contribute to, create eddies, even divert, the stream itself.
Another quick thought. Some one at ALTC2009 said (was it Alan Cann?) that their use of RSS has diminished somewhat since using Twitter. I think this is true for me. My feed reader only tells me what has been posted. My twitter network tells me what is worth reading – the wisdom of a crowd I have selected and am very happy and priviledged to be some part of. And technology, used in ways that its originators did not intend or foresee, has made this possible.
If anyone doubts the value of Twitter and the people it connects, surely the use of Twitter for the #altc2009 conference has given them pause for thought? What a pity the ALT powers that be did not see fit to project the #altc2009 Twitter stream in the keynote presentations. A lost opportunity. Perhaps next time.
Or, Answer This: Why Do You Participate?
Ever wonder why we blog? Or where our insatiable appetite to tweet comes from? How about why we update our Facebook statuses constantly?
The first response that comes to mind is that we have an intrinsic need to share our thoughts with others and there’s a particular joy that comes from enabling conversation between both friends and strangers alike through our social-media contributions.
Additionally, and even more personally, there’s the lift of self-esteem one feels from reading a positive comment related to something you had a hand in producing — be it a video, tweet, a Digg post, etc.
This serves as something inherently more than just platonic emotional validation, because at the core, social media helps people grow closer and spread and build ideas.
To find the answer to the initial question, though, let’s track back to the theories of a man who never blogged, tweeted or created a Facebook page — though he does have countless Facebook groups dedicated to his genius: Abraham Maslow.
Roughly 66 years ago, Maslow’s “Theory on Motivation,” which is kindly referred to as the hierarchy of needs, profoundly changed the way we think about human behavior. Being as it is, Maslow detailed a hierarchical progression where each level served as a right of passage before ascending to the next level. As a reminder to those who may have not taken a psychology course in a while, Maslow’s pyramid began with the physiological needs of basic survival elements, progressed to the needs of security, then ascended to the need for friendship, recognition and ultimately maximizing personal potential through self-actualization.
But how does Maslow apply to the social-media ecosystem? Too often, it doesn’t.
Sadly, both brands and people have abused social media in the name of a cheap transaction. There is no shortage of tactical examples of brands that have attempted to use social media as, in the words of Crayon’sJoe Jaffe, a campaign vs. a commitment. Instead of asking themselves, “Why do I feel the need to participate in social media?” some companies (and people) have used existing communities to achieve self-serving agendas with very little benefit to those involved. In those cases, social media becomes an endless loop powered by ego and people seeking a vague interpretation of friendship through self-actualized authority: the Social-Media Egosystem.
Now, I concede there are individual examples of where social media exemplifies Maslow’s pyramid. Look no further than David Armano’s Daniela story, which became a powerful meme (and case study) on how digital communities can bond as strongly as a real-world neighborhood.
Additionally, there’s the lesser-known (yet equally powerful) example of hip-hop producer James Yancey, known as J Dilla, who passed from lupus in 2006. J Dilla’s legacy lives on through posthumous released records that are promoted through countless social media blogs, communities and charitable concerts dedicated in his name. How relevant has J Dilla become to hip-hop culture? His name has transcended the music he created with fans throughout the world being spotted wearing “J Dilla Changed My Life” T-shirts.
And communities such as Kiva.org seem to touch both the lower end of the pyramid, through the community-based loans given to those in poverty, and the very top of the pyramid, through the need to give back.
In my search for an answer, I stumbled upon a blog post by social-media consultant Ray Schiel, who I believe summarizes social media’s need for esteem perfectly. Ray explains, “If the need to be respected and to respect others exemplifies the category of Esteem Needs, then social media is very much a vehicle for these as well. However, this can be a gray area for many as we have seen countless incidences on social media sites where the need for personal attention overshadows the need to make a personal contribution to others.”
To brands that are deciding whether to dip their toes in the social-media waters, this is an extremely powerful question that no tactically focused advertising agency should solely answer on your behalf. Yes, you’ve got a corporate bottom line, but remember: Sustained, productive relationships — which are built through commitment, not campaigns — can pay dividends.
In closing, take inspiration from a former colleague of mine and brilliant mind, Jon Burg, who tweeted last night, “Social (media) makes us feel less alone. It turns the “I” into the “us.” This is why it’s so touching and amazing and counterintuitive to many businesses.”
Frankly, Jon, I couldn’t agree more.
“Good old Maslow and his ‘Hierarchy of needs’ gets everywhere, doesnt he?” – Julia
Update July 2014 :
This is Part 1 of a three part series of articles detailing a case study that I undertook in 2008 as part of a research project into social media and online communication and was originally published on my own personal blog Ffynnonweb which continues to undertake a journey across the changing online landscape, observing and chronicling developments in social technology and noting how they impact upon online communities – with a particular focus on opportunities in education known as ‘technology enhanced learning’ (TEL).
A full list of all the posts in the social media research project can now be found on this page Social Media Research: JA
Please also read:
to gain the full picture…
When I was deciding upon a suitable topic for my dissertation, (extracts from which can be read in other posts on this blog) I decided that a rewarding area of research would be to investigate the social side of the web and to attempt to prove my theory that social communication online mirrors social communication offline and has done so from the very early days of online communities right up to the latest revolution in online social networks. That the internet has in effect come full circle with the new emphasis on people, user generated content and social communication but that online communities have remained the same, it is merely the platforms they operate in that have changed.
Online Communities may be defined as follows:
- Communities of Purpose – members are trying to achieve a similar objective.
- Communities of Circumstance – generally more personally focused.
- Communities of Interest – united by a common theme or interest but whose members may know very little about each other outside this shared interest.
- Communities of Users – beginning to be developed by some of the more innovative business networks to engage with their customers in a more informal, interactive way than had hitherto been the case.
- Communities of Practice – perhaps the most well-known and researched in academic circles – these are communities of people who are engaged in the same profession, vocation or ‘practice’ – they facilitate professional exchanges which may also add value to offline networks.
The initial motivation for undertaking this particular project was the desire to move a splinter group of an existing online community of interest from a Web 1.0 forum to a newly created online social network. The decision to move to a social network on the new Web 2.0 platform rather than another Web 1.0 forum, was made because it was instinctively felt that the members of the current forum who were principally interested in the social science of observation and analysis of behavioural patterns, albeit through the 24/7 observation of the housemates in the television show Big Brother via the TV or Internet Live Feed, would also be interested in and embrace the enhanced social aspects of the Web 2.0 software. It was expected that change management issues would be of great significance at all stages of the move and it was decided that this would be a rewarding subject for in-depth study.
The Case Study.
The story ostensibly began in the summer of 2007 with the launch of the reality TV program Big Brother UK, but had its roots back in 2003 when I first joined a Big Brother forum on a large public website.
Initially, I contented myself with what has been described as ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ (Lave and Wenger)1 which, in the world of online communities, is more colloquially termed ‘lurking’.
I watched the programs on the TV, subscribed to the 24/7 Internet Live Feed from the Big Brother House and read the threads in the forums where members discussed and analysed the housemates’ actions and behaviour. After a little while, I felt sufficiently confident and knowledgeable to begin to join in these discussions and moved from a ‘lurker’ to a ‘newbie’ – literally a new poster in the forums. Over the years, I increased my level of participation through every series of BB, until I had become something of an expert on the subject and had raised myself to the level of ‘practitioner’ in the community where I was able to help and guide other, newer members of the forums and became a ‘Key Contributor’.
The diagram below that was designed for the Lurker Project, illustrates the three types of people who may be found in an online community.
When I was not absorbed in Big Brother, I was developing a keen interest in the Internet and the web and set about increasing my knowledge by creating, designing and developing websites, whilst also becoming fairly proficient in the creation of web graphics. This interest in web graphics led me to open my own graphics website and I began to write tutorials and build up a large collection of resources on the subject. Gradually, the resources and the tutorials broadened their scope to include more general topics related to web development and the Internet in general. In this way, I became particularly fascinated by the new Web 2.0 social media that was beginning to make its appearance on the internet and had already begun to dabble in some of these areas by the summer of 2007 when Big Brother was launched.
Many members of the BB forums were absorbed by the turbulent relationship of two of the housemates in that season – and a number of us began posting regularly in the ‘XXXX’ thread throughout the summer and autumn as we continued to follow their media activities outside of the BB House. In the ‘post-XXXX’ era (after the relationship between the two housemates had ended acrimoniously with a ‘Kiss and Tell’ story in the Sunday newspapers), followers of the relationship split into two camps. This led to a war of words ensuing in the BB forums (dubbed the ‘XXXX Wars’) and in an attempt to restore harmony to the general BB forums, moderators eventually forcibly split the two groups into separate Appreciation Threads, where supporters could converse and share information. Those members who had supported both parties continued posting in the joint appreciation thread. Unfortunately however, this thread was continuously ‘invaded’ by supporters of each individual housemate and was eventually closed.
The small nucleus of remaining ‘XXXX’ supporters thus found themselves metaphorically ‘homeless’ and I started a new ‘refugee’ thread in a general forum to allow us to chat quietly amongst ourselves, away from the warring factions. After a short time though, we were ‘discovered’ and the previous discordant atmosphere was replicated in the ‘refugee’ thread. The moderators had no choice but to close this thread as well and we were advised against creating any more similar threads for obvious reasons.
At this point one of our group members contacted us all via private message to tell us that a new private forum away from the public website had been created for us to use. Membership of the forum was by invitation only and this was to be limited to our small ‘XXXX’ refugee group.
However, it very quickly became apparent that invitations were being passed on to virtually everyone who had ever posted in the Big Brother forums about either housemate.
Naturally, this soon resulted in the disharmony that had been such a problem in the BB forums being transferred to the new private forum. There were some major differences however, because the public forums are very heavily and anonymously moderated with miscreants being summarily banned from the forums, either temporarily or permanently.
The new private forum consisted of several different boards catering for a variety of entertainment interests as well as just ‘XXXX’. Individual boards for both halves of ‘XXXX’ were created to ensure that members would not squabble amongst themselves as had been the case in the public BB forum. Unfortunately, the ‘one size fits all’ mentality of only posting in one single ‘on-topic’ thread on one board that the group had become accustomed to on the public BB forum remained ingrained into the psyche of most members of the new forum and they all clustered into the one joint thread and refused to move out.
The idea of posting in the one thread would have been perfectly fine if membership had been restricted as originally envisaged. The fact that a more diverse group of people had joined caused problems from the outset. I likened it at the time to a large family wedding when a number of family members who do not really get on with each other are herded together into a crowded room and forced to co-exist. One is fortunate if several fights have not broken out by the end of the evening!
Anarchy was threatening to take over due to this ‘family wedding’ atmosphere, so I offered to help out. I had operated several similar forums on my own websites in the past and thought that I could easily take some of the pressure off by running the administration control panel and undertaking some moderating duties in the forum. What I failed to realise and this only became clear to me much later on, was that my general approach to the group as a whole was completely at odds with that of the founding members and that my offer of assistance was only accepted out of desperation. With the benefit of hindsight, my intervention, far from being the cavalry turning up to save the day as I had rather naively and optimistically hoped, merely placed a sticking plaster on a deep wound that actually required major surgery to allow the healing process to take place.
The group that formed over the shared bonding experience of following the fortunes of ‘XXXX’ was a somewhat idiosyncratic, extremely diverse collection of people although the majority of members were females between the ages of 35 and 65. Many of these people were highly opinionated and became incredibly passionate in their devotion to and defence of one or other of these housemates. Perhaps because two of the housemates remained in the public eye for longer than is normally the case, the supporters group also stayed together longer, and deeper friendships were formed.
This goes some way to explain why so many of us moved across to this forum and why so many of the members continued to squabble and attempt to settle old scores when they got there. They had been restricted from doing so in the public BB forum under the threat of a lifetime posting ban – the management style there was very authoritarian, with members being treated in a similar manner as employees on a production line having no say whatsoever in the process. Threads were summarily closed, posts removed and entire chunks of conversation deleted if they became contentious. Forum moderation is anonymous and autocratic with little or no right of appeal.
On reflection, I can now see that most people moved to the new forum with a sense of release and a feeling that they would be afforded ‘freedom of expression’ as one member succinctly put it, without the draconian moderation of the public forums. They did not want to be moderated, organised and controlled and revelled in the new freedoms. However, with freedom comes responsibility and I think it was widely expected that people would use these new freedoms sensibly and responsibly, without any real need for management or supervision. Unfortunately, some members took full advantage of this relaxed atmosphere and this was when anarchy began to take over. I set about attempting to impose some rules and regulations and this had the sticking plaster effect as described above, for a short time.
Meanwhile, some people continued to flout the terms and conditions on other public forums to the point where they were banned for life from posting in public forums. A few members got round this by creating new online personas, but others did not and were forced to decamp permanently to the new private forum.
One fascinating fact about online personas is that they are often (but not always) quite different from the person’s real offline personality. It has been observed that extrovert personality types are less comfortable in an online persona than introverts, perhaps because they need to be seen and heard and are used to being the centre of attention. Introverts by contrast, find it easier to hide behind a computer screen and develop a much more aggressive, lively or passionate persona online than the one that they exhibit in the real world. I can only conclude that this must be the case with some members of the XXXX group, because if they exhibited the same aggression and combativeness offline as they did online, they would all either be high-powered CEOs running multi-national companies or part of a criminal underworld! The fact that most have ordinary jobs and families and are probably nice, mild-mannered folk generally, lends a certain credence to the above argument about on and offline personas.
As the atmosphere in the forum worsened, my role amounted to little more than a daily routine of fire-fighting with no back-up. Finally, things became so bad that I decided that it was ridiculous to spend all my free time doing something that was supposed to be enjoyable, but had become unpleasant and was making me unhappy. It slowly dawned on me that I was being over-worked, under-valued and used for my technical ability, but that I was not really wanted in the role I was performing. I knew then that it was time for me to leave, but had got so used to spending all my time with some people that I had grown quite fond of, that I wondered if there was some way that this friendship could be continued in surroundings that were more conducive to fun and enjoyment.
This is when I had the idea that I might be able to combine leisure and research in the form of a new online social network.
1 Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.
Update June 2014: A full list of all the posts in the social media research project can now be found on this page Social Media Research: JA