Choose Your Friends Wisely


One of the commonly recommended actions for people wishing to create their own Online Learning Network in a Web 2.0 world is to get a Twitter account.  It’s great advice and, when worked properly, can give you an incredibly powerful group of people to learn with.  However, keep in mind that not everyone on Twitter may be a good friend.  Some of my thoughts and observations below.

The key is to check out their vitals before you become friends.  Just go to http://twitter.com/<their name> and look in the top right corner of the screen for their activity.

The Troller
From out of the blue, this friend befriends you.  Upon further review, you check and find that that they follow hundreds or even thousands.  But, they have 0, 1, or 2 followers.  They also have one update which includes just a link to a website.  They’re just trolling for traffic to their website.  Not a good person to follow and it might even be hazardous to visit their website.

The Leader
These types are interesting.  They follow nobody or just a few but have legions of followers.  Typically, they are followed because of some sort of infamy.  Their value to your Online Learning Network may be in what they say, but there are two other potential sources of value.  They may take you to their website where there’s a wealth of resources.  Or, because of their leadership qualities, the others that follow them may be leads to like minded folks who you wish to befriend.

The Leader-Bot
And I do mean this in the best of ways.  Rather than a single person, this may be an entity that has a number of different people who post to the account.  They’ll have 0 or very few people that they follow themselves but will have enormous numbers of people that follow them.  A good example of this are the many news services that are on Twitter.  CBCNews, for example, posts breaking news stories.  By subscribing to them, you’ll get the scoop within minutes of it being posted.  Think of this as RSS on steroids.

The Life of the Party
What can we say about these types?  They follow lots of people and they have lots following them.  In some circles, there is value in big numbers.  A common value determination that you may find of value is a person’s “authority”.  One of the attributes of a person in authority is in the number of people that follow them.  The problem with the life of the party is that they have so many contacts that they can’t really give you the time that it takes to generate a thoughtful reply because of their own traffic.

The Balanced User
This is probably what most of us look for in a Twitter friend.  They follow a manageable number of people and have a manageable number of people following them.  They post quality messages on a regular basis and comment back when one of the folks that they follow posts something.  This may well be the interaction that works best for folks.  What does “manageable” mean?  It varies depending upon the commitment to the network this person contributes.  You’ll know if when you see it.  They contribute wit, comments, resources consistent with what you’re here for.

The Leech
These are the people that are just here to scoop everything that they can.  They’ll follow lots of folks and have a few tweets back.  However, they contribute nothing in their return.  Usually, their comments are searching for answers to questions that they pose or a request for further details.  They get a great deal from others but really don’t contribute back.  Probably not someone that you want in your network.

The Abusers
These folks are easy to spot.  They’re just there to sell you something, drop an F-bomb or two, and then move on.  Thankfully, the management at Twitter is working hard to kill these accounts as they pop up.  If someone’s posts are annoying or don’t feel right, don’t give them any credibility by following them.  There can be little satisfaction by taking on someone online.  The most hurtful thing that you can do to them is to ignore them completely.

Did I miss someone?  Did I get some of this right?  some of it wrong?

On Twitter, I’m @dougpete and as of this post I follow 482 people and leader-bots, have 424 following me, and I’ve made 4092 updates.

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links for 2008-12-30


Ontario Meetup #1


The concept was very simple.  In the large province of Ontario, we have people testing and exploring and learning about and with Web 2.0 technologies.  Like so many things, though, it is in isolation and we learn what we can take away from these experiences.

So, this idea originated from Rob DeLorenzo from TheMobileLearner after the RCAC Symposium that we needed an opportunity to chat.  Rob took the initiative and posted an invitation to get together to talk about the development of Personal Learning Networks.  After all, everyone’s talking about them but who’s doing anything about it in Ontario?

I look at Personal Learning Networks like this.  In your day to day life, you can use words like Twitter, Delicious, Facebook, Skype, Wikis, Blogs … and some people may join the conversation.  But, even more just roll their eyes and think about the weather or other things and hope that you go away.  Where do you turn after that?  After all, we have managed to learn together in other venues like book clubs and we’re quite comfortable about this.  An Online Personal Learning Network is a little different in that you learn online about the tools, using the tools.  At this point, the notion is still in its infancy.  I foresee a time when the concept becomes more seamless and fluid as connectivity and the tools mature.  To be frank, I don’t know what it will look like but it’s exciting getting in on the ground floor and watch it mature.

So, Rob’s got this great idea and invites us to go online at a certain time at a certain location.  No problem, says I, and I open my calendar to make an entry to ensure that I don’t miss it.  Then, the problems start.  In his zeal to make this a success, Rob has announced it on Twitter and in his blog.  I’ve supported the notion by posting about it on my blog and on Twitter as well.  It makes sense, right?  Use the tools to announce such an event.

What was unforeseen was that this little online experiment might intrigue folks from the other side of the world.  Now, in Ontario, we deal with two time zones.  What to do when you have folks from 12 time zones away wishing to join in.  Again, turn to the tools and we start to compromise on a time that would let a guest from Perth, Australia in on the action.  Ultimately, we have participants representing a few Australian time zones, New Zealand, and Tasmania. Yes, I know that Tasmania is a state but I just like typing it.  I’ve never used the word Tasmania in a blog post before…

Timing is easier when you just need to worry about Toronto, Amherstburg, Waterloo, Komoka and Ottawa.  But, back to basics and a starting time of 6:00pm ET, 11:00pm GMT works out to early morning or noon for these participants and it’s locked in.

The first hurdle was to forget the large province of Ontario – there’s a whole world out there.  There were a couple of other hurdles but they’re easily overcome when the host has more than one computer at his disposal and gets one that decides to play nice with Adobe Connect.  Then, we’re off to the races.

Things fall into place even for me.  Usually, for events like this, I have everything except for my good USB headset.  As luck would have it, it is with me and I’m in chatting with friends, new and old, quite nicely.

The first session’s content didn’t solve all of the ills of the educational world.  Rob took us though a presentation outlining his thoughts about Online Personal Learning Networks.  We had a chat pod open with a great deal of back channeling happening and I worked as the gate keeper approving new guests as they arrived throughout.  I think that, at its high mark, we had 21 or 22 folks participating.

After Rob’s presentation, we opened the floor to discussion and opened up a whiteboard for doodling at Jo’s request.  The whiteboard quickly turned into a mind map as ideas were brainstormed.  As I write this, I kick myself for not capturing the result.  Rob’s closed off our meeting room so I can’t go in and snag it now but that’s OK.

The take away from this was learning that there is an interest among educators (Ontario and beyond) to get together and learn together in this manner.  That’s a powerful concept when you think about it.  Rob has just posted his reflections on the event and there are already queries about when the next one will happen.

This is good and a signal that we may be ready to stop learning in isolation.  Stay tuned for an announcement of the next meetup.

Some learning links from the session:

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links for 2008-12-29


What’s on my iPod


Now that Christmas has come and gone, I no longer have to be a closet iPod Touch user.  The kids found theirs under the tree and are now busy tapping away on their own.  Me too, now openly at home.  Pre-Christmas, I was only using it outside of the house.  I decided to come forth and share what’s on my iPod and let blog readers tell me what’s good and what I need to add to the suite of applications that I’m using.

While the basic premise is still the same (it’s a great music and video playing device), this new device runs applications.  These applications are very high quality and raise portable productivity to a new level.

So, here’s what’s on my iPod.  Let me know what I’m missing.

Screen 1
For the most part, there are the standard applications that come with the iPod.  I had installed Earthscape as a world browser before the Google Earth application became available.  It’s still there and I find that there’s a lot of functionality to it that I really enjoy, including the picture overlays.  In the bar at the bottom are the four applications that I use all the time.  Music and Videos come with the iPod.  Twittelator is my connection to Twitter.  It’s got everything that I do on the service and was a welcome purchase for me.  The Facebook application lets me update things on Facebook and informs me of notifications.  If I could only play Bowling Buddies, I’d be ecstatic!

Screen 2
Then, we get into some of the productivity tools.  FreePing allows me to manage wireless internet.  iGCT is a buddy for my hobby of Geocaching.  If you’re a Canadian coffee drinker, you need to know how to get to the closest Tim Horton’s for a refill.  Interestingly, the third closest store is only 9km away but is estimated to take 75 minutes.  Why?  I have to drive north to Windsor, cross to the USA through Detroit and then head south to Trenton.  The WordPress application gives me access to my blog and I can create entries here.  Typically, I use it as a scratchpad, upload a sketch to WordPress and then log on with a full computer to tidy it up.  MiGhtyDocs gives me access to my Google Docs, a handy feature.  MobileZodiac helds me decide whether or not to get out of bed.  I use my Delicious account a great deal and have quick access to my stored sites.  WorldWiki is terrific for research when watching the news.  Flashlight – Actually used it to find something on the floor in the dark one night.  NotepadSync is a quick and easy way to synchronize notes from the iPod to my computer and back.  Finally, the Calculator is awesome.  It looks like and works like my old HP RPN calculator.  You can’t beat a good RPN calculator if you’re a mathematics geek.  None of that algebraic stuff for me.

Screen 3
Cooliris is everywhere for me.  It’s 3D wall display and Internet image search functionality are second to none.  Wikipanion is a quick and easy interface to resources on the Wikipedia.  Google Earth – the popular mapping program comes to the iPod.  Like everyone, first thing I did was check out my back yard.  And, finally, the free version of Twittelator.  It’s a great app and I demo it to folks as a free way to get into Twitter but personally use the Pro version.

Screen 4
Finally, you can’t have one of these devices without a few diversions.  The Boy told me about iPint, a promotional application from Carling.  Even though I can’t use Bowling Buddies from Facebook, I can use iBowl.  It’s a perfect reason to get an aisle seat on a plane but you do look a little silly.  iSlots is an intriguing gambling simulation.  I am a real fan of Mahjongg and so Moonlight Lite is a terrific time killer.  Poppin’ demonstrates that you can actually touch the screen and make simulated bubble wrap pop.  Untangle is an interesting puzzle to solve, as is Fuzzle.  Who knew that you could double in and play Darts on an iPod.  Yep.  JellyCar defies explanation and it’s a simulation that draws you into the application.  Lightsaber is a fun little app to duke it out with the kids.  PenguinLite tests you sense of travel and gravity.  SporeLE brings the popular life simulation to the iPod.  Finally, I have ongoing challenges with word games with my girls.  I practice with WordWhirl and Word Warp.  They still beat me though.

So, that’s what I’m carrying around on my iPod.  Suggestions for more entertainment and productivity are welcome.

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