Thursday, 29 November 2007

Blogs and Social Networks

Further on the current run of posts about Facebook, social networking and privacy, are some issues raised at the UKOLN workshop entitled Exploiting the potential of Blogs and Social Networks , which I attended earlier this week (the workshop wiki is worth a look, especially if you’re interested in the current variety of institutional approaches and attitudes towards these technologies). Whereas there appeared to be general all-round enthusiasm about the benefits of Blogging in learning and teaching - as well as its undoubted usefulness in facilitating staff communications and encouraging prospective research networks - the outward-facing, external use of social networking seemed to pose more questions for discussion, particularly from an institutional perspective. For instance: should we have a set of guidelines for social networking or a university approach..and if so, what should it entail? What is the best way to manage the institutional reputation?

Commercial networking sites seem to be trusted by students (apparently more hands-off than educational sites) but can be challenging to align with typical IT and technology strategies. Even so, it was impressive to hear the ways that colleagues in different universities are embracing their potential in initiatives to widen the variety and reach of their communications. We heard of examples of Facebook and other social networking sites being used to disseminate information and to keep in touch with potential students and alumni.

Different arrangements fit with different lifestyles. If prospective and current students are checking Facebook 3 times a day, it seems sensible to use these channels – at least to consider providing the option. Despite the often real hazards of commercial social networking sites (issues of privacy/ institutional reputation management etc), they clearly have some value, particularly for those who do not have access to our internal networks. One thing that occurred to me was the way in which effective collaborative arrangements are developed across departments working together; for example, promotions, recruitment, Web developers and a central role for student unions. One thing I’m still pondering is whether there are particular departments or roles, student union apart, that may be best suited for facilitating communication along the often blurred boundaries between the social and educational aspects of the typical student’s life – any views?
Brian Kelly (UK Web focus) haswritten a summary of the workshop.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Facebook Users Complain Of Tracking

Some users of the online hangout Facebook are complaining that its two-week-old marketing program is publicizing their purchases for friends to see.


Searching Video Lectures

MIT is offering a video search tool that can pinpoint keywords in audio and video lectures.


Friday, 23 November 2007

Facebook Research

Some Research on Facebook for your reading:


Boomers in thrall to a wiki universe

In an article which appeared in the THES on 16th November 2007 (Boomers in thrall to a wiki universe pg 14 if you want to check it out) Tara Brabazon argues that there is a threat to the university library from Web 2.0 initiatives because Google is the new library catalogue and the web is almost a library anyway. Brabazon, a Professor of Media at Brighton, see Librarians as the new Jedi (her allusion, not mine) fighting against the evil empire which constantly reduces funding for knowledge and stops people having the space to think - not sure Obi Wan had that in his job description. Web 2.0 is seen as the empire's new death star (OK that is my allusion) which is being used to batter the librarian/jedi. Perhaps the most telling idea in the article is the argument that spaces such as Wikipedia, Myspace, Facebook etc have democratised information but in the process reduced the role of the expert so that there is now confusion between "finding information and building knowledge". Brabazon argues that if everything is available, instant, downloadable, able to be viewed again at any time, then there is no time to think about things deeply - it is all too easy and too shallow.
what do you think?


Thursday, 22 November 2007

Food for thought - don't talk with your mouth full!

A conversation at work got me thinking, it was about 'food and children' - how children/young teens are increasingly eating finger foods and packed lunches (sandwiches) and most children don't fully have the opportunity to use cutlery (knife & fork) at all meal times and thus don't know how to use them properly or need to be corrected at a skill which should have been attained at a young age. I know we have to go with the times ...but this got me thinking about how our younger generation is shaping up in other areas which do have an influence in how they interact with others - their communication skills. (Without trying to sound like a minister) as we are getting increasingly digital in most aspects of communication (mobile phones, gaming, personal and social and in education) it concerns me that the essential value of face-to-face interaction is not undermined.

It's great that we have these avenues of communication which allow those who prefer to express themselves in this way can, but I feel in a learning environment in particular that we do not undervalue face-to-face real time interactions which are vital so that core essential communication skills are developed and reinforced.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Do small firms really need a website?

OK so this article is about small-businesses and not HE, however it indicates to some valuable points about having some sort of web presence for any luddites that may be lurking in DMU! ;-) Mohamed
As far as web-literate consumers are concerned, internet search engines generally offer the best way to track down a local plumber or find out where the local pet shop is based.

Martha Lane Fox and co-founder of Brent Hoberman pose to promote the website. The boundaries of internet and traditional start-ups have blurred. After all, a reputable company will have its own website, right?


Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Facebook faces UK data probe Why can't we delete accounts?

Facebook is facing investigation by UK data protection watchdogs after a complaint from a British user who tried, and failed, to delete his account.

Facebook accounts can be "deactivated" but not actually deleted. Your profile remains in the Facebook servers but cannot be accessed by anyone else.


Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Legal Warning to Abusive Bloggers

The Directors of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club have won a high court ruling against a website to reveal the identity of anonymous bloggers who made serious allegations of greed and dishonesty against the club's chairman, directors and shareholders. Indeed exposing the identity of those who post defamatory comments on a website has become a growth area for lawyers. FE and HE institutions are cautiously reminded of the legal sanctions that may well be imposed in relation to defamatory content posted on their websites.


Excerpt taken from JISC Legal newsletter October 2007.

Pirate Website Shut Down

One of the world's leading pirate film websites has been closed and a man arrested following raids by Gloucestershire Police. The website was providing links to illegal film content that had been recorded by camcorders at the cinema. The links provided access to illegal material hosted by other websites.
FE and HE institutions should be aware of the legal risks associated with video piracy and their need to adopt an anti-piracy policy. Read More...

Excerpt taken from JISC Legal newsletter October 2007.

Monday, 12 November 2007

When the Patient Is a Googler

When the Patient Is a Googler
By Scott Haig

We had never met, but as we talked on the phone I knew she was Googling me. The way she drew out her conjunctions, just a little, that was the tip off — stalling for time as new pages loaded. It was barely audible, but the soft click-click of the keyboard in the background confirmed it. Oh, well, it's the information age. Normally, she'd have to go through my staff first, but I gave her an appointment.


Scrabulous anyone?

I'm in my sick-bed reading the Guardian and happening upon this article on Facebook. I heard a 50-something businessman chuntering on about social networking without a shred of understanding on 5Live business a few weeks ago.

The section that most caught my attention was:
"Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said that managers should be realistic. "Britain has some of the longest working hours in the developed world. Employers have created this culture. It is natural for people to have to use work computers for organising their personal life." Social networking has boomed over the past 12 months. Facebook alone now has more than 5 million regular users in the UK."

Perhaps this is just the meshing of work and social life. Or simply that "life" cannot be demarcated between personal, work and other. The technologies that empower each area of a life would support that. However, we still have that JISC evidence that suggests students do not want academic life impinging upon social networking...

Social networkers warned of risk

Users are being warned not to post personal details on their profiles
A quarter of the 11 million Britons who use social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook may be leaving themselves open to identity fraud.


Friday, 9 November 2007

BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme

I don't know whether anybody listened to the latest edition of Analysis last night but I found it to be of interest. The programme looked at social networking, particularly the rise of Facebook and Myspace. It probably didn't uncover any new ground but did manage to sum up the current state of play fairly well I thought.
You can download the programme as a podcast or use the BBC's "Listen again" facility. All relevant links are on this webpage as is a transcript of the programme which might prove useful:


Thursday, 8 November 2007

Give me a 'learning' network anyday

A few of the following thoughts crossed my mind as a title for this blog. What is the point of this blog? (not in a sarcastic way), what is the purpose of this blog? I ask these questions because i am wondering whether another vehicle i.e a ning social networking site would be a far far better option to better foster debate and discussion on the many interesting blog entries that are posted.

My assumption is that a lot of the blog posts are initiated to stimulate interest, discussion and maybe illicit a response. The comment feature i believe is inadequate to encourage debate and don't think it has really designed for that purpose.

If this blog is just about relaying information then this can be done just as easily on a ning social network environment with all the added benefits of further developing arguments and discussions.

I don't know what the dynamics or the chemistry involved are but these easily created personalized ning social networking sites have an interface that seems to encourage interaction and collaboration amongst its participants.

If as part of the project this blog is a stipulated part of the disseminating of information then my view is that with the advent of social networking the blogging approach has been superseded by a much more flexible, usable and multifunctional option - the personalized 'learning' network.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Learner experiences

So the Guardian education section appears to have picked up on the JISC's learner experiences report. Under the banner of trendy academics get out of MySpace the report focuses upon the separation of the academic and social life of students.

Part of our project will involve evaluating the student experiences of particular Web2.0 software, in particular to enhance retention and progression, and to attemptto understand how specific technologies, like podcasting, can integrate with the student's technological expectations.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Web2.0: Security, Privacy, Safety & Legalities

This is a mini response to Richard's "The great Blackboard Facebook mash-up: part two". The issues that Richard refers to in his post have been occupying my thoughts to recently.

I must admit i find myself being a bit blaze about the situation because the massive educational advantages are so strong that it seems criminal not to leverage these fantastic tools to best advantage. With all the talk of security, safety & legalities it's got the whole 'health and safety legislation' feel to it where for either honest or obstructive reasons the most important aspect of education the learning is stifled and creativity nullified.

That said, we at DMU just like any other organisations need to stop skirting around the issue and really identify what the problems are. Are there issues - well let's nail it down one way or the other and start developing some policies - i think i working group needs to look into this.

So where is the security threat coming from? is it from Hackers or from the organizations that are providing the service. I am just about to post messages in various learning networks i am involved with along the lines of "have you ever experienced i case of hacking into your social networking site, wiki or blog". This threat is often spouted, but i have not heard of this being a big problem at all.

So with regard personal data, contributions, data tracking of activity, my question is who is the real danger from? Strikes me that if my first theory is not a big problem then the threat comes from the organizations offering the web 2.0 services.

So institutions like ourselves need to scrutinize privacy policies of sites like blogger, facebook or maybe just google and yahoo! We might find an unpalatable truth that there is not a great deal that can be done, and then choices have to be made.

One choice is creating your own social network with a trusted partner or in house, which can achieve a lot and be effective, but this will not get away from the isolationist approach that will deny access to the world and vice versa.

wrapped up in all of this are personal privacy, security and safety of individual students and the many legal issues that will be faced by institutions and individuals. So do we blaze on ahead with no regard, shy away from the educational advantages or develop a policy that can address any concerns?

ps: on the specific point about retrospectively deleting comments - if you withdraw from a site. If you make a comment, then that's it part of history done - it's part of the conversation - would be a bit strange to me to retrospectively keep stripping comments out when people leave a site. This is one of the issues that students need to be aware of - it is difficult to take things back, comments, photos, videos etc - so be careful about what you are doing?

Monday, 5 November 2007

The great Blackboard Facebook mash-up: part two

The European Network and Information Security Agency has produced an interesting position paper on social networking. Some of the key issues in this particular paper focus upon the following issues.
  • Who do you trust? We share our data very easily in social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook. Do we really know how information is being used and who is accessing it? Do we really know how our information is being shared? Or how it is being stored?
  • The impact of secondary data. How transparent social networking sites in their management and monitoring of your data? Who gets to see this data? Who gets to see how many times you have accessed a particular friend's profile? Who gets to see your individual transactions in the form of links that you have made on a particular social networking site? A key recommendation of the paper is that the European Union should look at the data protection issues surrounding secondary data on social networking sites.
  • With the economic value of social networking sites rising, how do we know which advertisers and which marketers are targeting, which specific cohorts of users.
  • How do we control the digital dossiers which are held about us by third parties? How do we maintain control of our own identity? How do we prevent profile squatting and reputation slander? How do we prevent threatening behaviour, like stalking and bullying?
  • We are seeing an increase in Web services mash-ups, akin to that between Blackboard and Class Top. These mash-ups may also include face recognition, with the platform of data being held about a person, and being used to track interactions. this can also lead to information-leakage from within particular trust networks.
  • An individual's control of their own data. For instance, how do we know, when we have deleted our own personal data from a site like Facebook the interactions or comments that we have made with other people's profiles are also deleted?
  • Spam, viruses and worms can all be scripted, and can all lead to unsolicited problems for users.
It is critical that users are educated, in order that they understand the possible threats to their data. For instance, students should not give details about the courses that they are attending, and the times of their lectures to people, whose interests they cannot validate.

Perhaps as important is the fact that social networking sites are social. They involve networks of individuals. As such, where access is granted to a network by a particular individual, that network needs to be assured that it interests are being secured and maintained. The key to this are trust and the appropriate management of data. therefore, educational awareness raising must be encouraged by institutions.

This paper is a highly important addition to the growing evaluation of social networking sites. institutions need to take account of its recommendations and look to develop appropriate policies and awareness raising activities with both staff and students. Partnership with a range of central services, and student unions is critical.