From digital nomadism to digital feudalism to…?

Really interesting thread from Alexander Singh (@automaticyes) discussing our current state of digital feudalism:

We’ve been discussing the death of the open web for a few years now, but it’s time to start discussing it more specifically in terms of economic and political freedoms like this. Will feudalism win this time? I’m hoping not, but there are days when I wonder.

A troubling realization about my personal digital infrastructure

I just realized this afternoon that Slideshare is, for all intents and purposes, dead.

I suppose that should tell me something, that a platform that was so critical to my professional and career growth from 2007-2014 manages to dry up and blow away, and I didn’t even notice. I loved Slideshare back in the day. At first, it was a strictly utilitarian tool for me – I needed to share my PowerPoints with hundreds of students each semester under my terms, in a time where the LMS was just Horrid and Unusable, and I was committed to using Web 2.0 and social media tools for learning.

And then something glorious happened. The Presentation Zen/Slideology movement took off, and Slideshare became a great place to learn, share my work and network with other people. It was a lot of fun for slideware junkies like myself.

But from 2015-today, I hadn’t really had much need for it. The Wild West digital infrastructure I’d built for myself had decayed in the years since I left teaching. Wikispaces, Flickr, PBWorks, Slideshare and a dozen other sites all just sort of…decayed. And I had been too busy to notice.

Not to mention that Social Media has largely become a sewer. Twitter, which was so important to me for so many years (I joined in 2007), is almost unusable today. Facebook? Don’t even get me started. Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. All fairly quiet, except for the noise of self-promotion these days. Instagram is really the only service that keeps my attention anymore.

Other people I respect have had things to say about this recently.

  • M.G. Siegler: “My mindset about these networks these days is almost the opposite. In no way should you share the “real” you in these places. I’m not saying you should quit them — though for some people, that’s undoubtedly healthy — but instead you should use them with the full understanding of what they are: tools. You should go in knowing what you’re trying to get out of them. Maybe it’s news. Maybe it’s jokes. Maybe it’s promotion. Etc. But again, the one thing I don’t think you should be looking to do there is to put your actual life on display. There are just too many downsides to this.”
  • Anil Dash recently shared why and how he decided to unfollow everyone on Twitter. I’ve done a dramatic unfollowing on Twitter and started relying much more heavily on Lists. But, I’ll admit – I’ve been sorely tempted to start over with a new, professionally focused account and delete my original one.
  • Warren Ellis has been talking a lot about his changing approach to social media on his Orbital Operations newsletter the last 6 months or so. Warren was once Internet Jesus, seemingly everywhere online. Now, he keeps things much quieter, dipping in only when he needs to for work/promotional purposes.

So it struck me today: it’s time to start over. What got me here won’t get me there. What do I most enjoy these days? Newsletters, podcasts, artisanal blogging. Quieter, more intimate, more fulfilling. So, I’ll stretch and try some new things. Other channels, even long-standing ones, will likely be let go. It’s past time really.

Looking forward to what’s next.

Internet-Old (but #BIF2015 makes me feel young again)

It’s quiet.  My internet generation has a ton of (aching, bruised) muscle memory for communicating and reading in several windows and apps across a couple of devices simultaneously.  The new silence has my muscles twitching, yelling that we’re being lazy, but it’s just because nothing’s happening and nobody is talking.  I read a thing the other day saying that the drop-off in new Twitter users is down to the fact that it’s now so loud that it’s lonely.

Warren Ellis, “So Loud It’s Lonely

I have to admit to feeling this way most days. I miss the Twitter of 2007-2009. It was easy to meet new and interesting people outside your usual networks and find some amazingly creative things going on. The key part in that last sentence is relationships. Twitter is mostly broadcast, now, you see, and I already have an RSS reader that’s quite well tuned, thankyouverymuch. It’s easy to find the sub-networks within my feed, as they’re the few folks still @mentioning each other with any regularity. Mostly it’s just link-sharing and shouting into the void. I read somewhere recently that your “Followers” (ugh, hate that word. Why not Subscribers?) have only a 1 in 50 shot at seeing anything you Tweet. That’s just sad. And lonely. And the Internet-old man in me starts getting shouty with the kids in a get off my lawn kind-of-way.

Anyway, most mornings I still fire up TweetDeck and put the candle in the window of the Internet – do some RT’ing, reach out to a few people (most of whom, I’m happy to say, still respond). But there’s no scenius there for me anymore.

Except, occasionally, there is. The Business Innovation Factory Innovation Summit is like a pop-up scenius for me each year in September (this will be my 6th Summit, which makes me an old man at #BIF2015, I fear). In many ways, the BIF community functions like Twitter did for me in the early days – it connects me to people doing fantastically creative things in networks outside my usual circles. [NOTE: There are still 34 seats left to this life-changing conference. I hope you’ll consider registering while there’s still time here. Also, I highly recommend the warm-up #Innobeer event at the Trinity Brewhouse.] It starts on Twitter (Saul Kaplan @skap5 was one of the early friends I made on Old Twitter) with hashtags like #TheBIF, #BIF2015, #Innobeer and #Innochat and melts into a warm, energetic extended family that welcomes the newcomers as well as the regulars. It’s a community that renews itself annually as it moves from Twitter to Providence to Twitter again.

As the social web begins to darken and contract a bit (private Slack communities are all the rage now), events like the BIF Summit become even more precious to me. So set your Twitter to read-only (or even DM-only), but find the spark, the light that made it so interesting to begin with, at the dawn of the social web. Because, like me, you can be Internet-old, but still feel community young.


Getting Social in the Classroom: Teaching in a Web 2.0 World (SLIDES)

Since I’ve had a few requests for these, I just wanted to share my slidedeck from my September 17, 2010 presentation, “Getting Social in the Classroom: Teaching in a Web 2.0 World” for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky.

[slideshare id=5234277&doc=gettingsocialintheclassroom-100919124946-phpapp02]

To answer a couple of questions:

  • I use Slideshare to upload and publish my slidedecks. It’s free and easy to use, and in keeping with the theme of the presentation, takes a traditional activity (sharing of slides) and makes them more useful by adding a social dimension to it. This deck is posted on a new Slideshare account I’ve created, but you can view some of my past decks for courses at I’ll be moving some of the “greatest hits” from that account to my new account at soon.
  • Almost all of the photos in the presentation were found on Flickr’s Creative Commons pool and attribution is provided on each slide.

Thanks to everyone who came out Friday! And for those who were unable to make it (it was a glorious September Friday afternoon, after all!), I look forward to seeing you at my next presentation (I have an upcoming session on Copyright and DRM as part of this series to be scheduled for later in the Fall).

Originally published on

Building and Using Your Personal Information Network

So, last time I mentioned the importance of building your Personal Information Network or PIN (PS, thanks for the great comments – keep ’em coming!). Today I’d like to share an example of how this can work in practice.

I woke up this morning and fired up Google Reader and Twitter first thing to see what I’d missed overnight (told you I was addicted). Found a Tweet from Chris Brogan, social media guru, with a link to an article on Twitter Best Practices at a blog I’d never heard of. I don’t know Chris, but I follow him as part of my PIN, to keep up with what’s happening in the world of social media. Chris is a particularly generous Twitterer and blogger, and so is a veritable fount of information. Trusting Chris’ insight, I clicked on the link which led to David Lee King’s blog and a gem of a post on “Twitter Best Practices So Far.” It’s a great post, with great tips like writing a great profile, making sure to say hi to people who follow you (PS, this is how you build community, folks), and even taking care to put up a background image on your Twitter homepage (the handsome devil on mine is my Second Life avatar, Ricetopher Freenote. Say Hi if you’re ever in-world). Please take the time to read and absorb David’s Twitter suggestions.

So, I read through David’s blog, really found his first few posts useful, so I added his blog’s rss feed to my Google Reader folder on Social Media. BANG! Another node in my Personal Information Network. I would have added David to my Twitter stream, but could not find his Twitter information. Lesson? Always make your Twitter address easy to find and add. PS, that’s how you build community, folks! At any rate, another valuable addition to my PIN.

As a bonus, David’s post included a link to a site I’d found and bookmarked before, but had forgotten: TwitterPacks. TwitterPacks is a great example of using a wiki to build a common knowledge base around a particular subject (yes, I promise to blog about effective use of wikis soon!), in this case, Twitter. It proposes the simple question: “If someone were joining Twitter today, who might they follow?” TwitterPacks is a collection of Twitter contacts, organized by subject area. So, if you wanted to find the Twitter contacts of people involved in education, social media, public media, etc, you could go the the appropriate page and find them, look at their Twitter stram, and then decide whether or not to add them to your PIN. A grassroots organization could build a similar wiki with Twitter contact info for their members organized by areas of interest, geography, etc. Check out Twitter Packs and start adding to your PIN today!

I hope you’ve found this follow up on how to build your PIN through Twitter to be helpful. If you have any other suggestions for how to build your PIN, won’t you please leave a comment and share the wealth with others? PS, that’s how you build community folks! 🙂

See you next time with more on potential uses of Twitter for activism.

Why and How I Use Twitter

Hi, my name is Chris and I’m…I’m a Twitter addict.

Hi, Chris.

So, yes, I’m a Twitter addict. Just a moment ago I cursed loudly (LOUDLY!) at Twhirl as it pitifully looked at me and told me that Twitter wasn’t talking to it right now because Twitter was so damned busy. So yeah, I need need NEED Twitter even though it has let me down a lot lately. The platform still has work to do in order to scale in a feature-rich way. It can be very frustrating at times.

However, in my work as an educator, researcher and consultant, I find that there are a lot of potential uses for Twitter, for professionals and for activist/nonprofit organizations. Let me tell you about two important and easy uses for Twitter: Building a Community of Practice and Building Your Personal Information Network (PIN).

Building a Community of Practice

I tend to use Twitter as a continual, low-level informational tool to keep up with what’s going on with people of interest to me. Some are close friends, some are professional acquaintances, some are people I’ve never met. It lets me take a look at what they’re thinking about, and sometimes people will post (using TinyURL) links to things they are reading or have written. For me, the end result is that it creates an ad hoc community of practice around my personal issues of interest, keeping me informed on a more-or-less continual fashion as to what’s going on and who’s doing it.

In terms of community building, Twitter is great because the transaction costs per interaction are so much lower than blogging, forum participation or even email. Twitter can be run on your desktop or laptop, or you can use your phone if you’re more mobile (but you need to have Unlimited Text Messaging if you follow a lot of people). Community arises naturally out of using the tool, and you can participate as much or as little as you like. Twitter is being used by activists in places like Thailand and Egypt to coordinate Flashmob-type action.

By linking up with people in my vicinity doing social media work, I’ve learned a lot about new social media platforms, tips on how to use them effectively, and have been able to find solutions to small problems. In the process, it’s also allowed be to expand my personal network and begin to build friendships that would have never happened otherwise. Twitter has helped me to get better at what I do while meeting more people who do related work. In short, it has helped me to build a community of practice.

Building Your Personal Information Network

One great way to use Twitter is to build a Personal Information Network (PIN). Take a look at the Twitter pages of people you are interested in and see who they are following. So, for example, if you go to my Twitter page, you can hover over the mini-icons of people I am following, click on them to go to their Twitter page, see who they are following, and by repeating this process, find plenty of people thinking about issues you are interested in. Each tweet is only 140 characters long, so messages are short and to the point (which is why you need TinyURL to post links).

This differs from Building a Community of Practice in that you are following people in order to gain information on a variety of topics, not necessarily because you are trying to enter a network or community or trying to build a personal relationship with them. These will often be the people on your Twitter “following” list (people whose Tweets you read) and not on your “followers” (people read your Tweets) list. for example, I follow Warren Ellis and Matt Fraction to keep up with what’s going on with their comics work, Xeni Jardin to follow her journalism and work on Boing Boing, Sustainablog to keep up with news on sustainability and global climate change, Barack Obama to follow the campaign, etc.

I don’t expect these people to follow me, but I follow them to engage in what Futurists refer to as the scanning process. Follow as many or as few people as you like to do this. I try to add more and more of these type of people all the time. You must beware of throwing your “signal-to-noise” ratio out of whack when doing so. For example, I recently dropped one such person from my Following list because she was starting to Tweet WAY too much, with too little value. She was introducing too much noise, overwhelming the signal of the information coming in. So i dropped her. You’ll have to experiment with this to find the right balance. Journalists are beginning to follow people on Twitter in order to get the jump on breaking stories. You can do the same with your PIN.

In my next post on Twitter, I’ll talk about ways in which organizations could think about using Twitter to enhance their work. For example, one interesting application for activist organizations might be a page on their website site which functions as a collection page for the RSS feeds of their membership/community members, presenting a rolling feed of what everyone is up to. Or, imagine a Downtown Lexington activist group at a city council meeting in which strategic updates flow between phone-equipped activists in real time during a meeting, allowing adjustment of strategy, passing of information and relevant data to improve efficacy of speaking during hearings. There are many possibilities for enhancing activism using tools like Twitter.

In the meantime, I’d love for you to leave a comment or email me with the ways YOU use Twitter in your personal or work lives.

Intro to Politics 2.0: Online Politics 101

The amazing folks over at e.politics have recently released a new edition of “Online Politics 101: The Tools and Tactics of Online Political Advocacy”, a nicely packaged collections of articles from the site explaining the basics of using social media tools for online political activism and campaigning. This 52pp. FREE PDF book covers everything from online fundraising to Search Engine Optimization to viral campaigning to social networks. It’s a quick read, but chock full of helpful tips for incorporating more online tools into your organization’s work. Well worth your time.

I also have e.politics as a regular read in Google Reader. Check out the site and let me know if you find it useful!