UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category

Using Twitter to Meet New People on the Way to Conferences

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 September 2014

Travelling to a Project Meeting

Using Twitter on the way to eventsLast week I attended a #LACEproject consortium meeting in Graz, Austria. The LACE project, which is funded by the EU, is “bringing together key European players in the field of learning analytics (LA) and educational data mining (EDM) in order to support the development of communities of practice and share emerging best practice“.

The consortium meeting provided a valuable opportunity for me to meet colleagues in the project, most of whom I had only come across in our regular video-conference calls.

As the leader of the work package which covers communications and dissemination I have an interest in how social media tools can be used both for supporting communications and collaboration across the project partners and also with the wider community of people with interests in learning analytics.

Developing One’s Professional Network

The potential value of use of Twitter at conferences, workshops and seminars is now widely appreciated. However one aspect which is probably not so well-understood is using Twitter while travelling to events.

This occurred to me last week following my tweet at Heathrow Airport:

On my way to Dusseldorf and then Graz for a meeting.

Twenty minutes later I received a response to my tweet from Nick Pearse (@drnickpearce):

@briankelly I’m off to Graz tomorrow for ECTEL workshop, are you off to that? http://www.ec-tel.eu/index.php?id=681 …

As can be seen from the Storify summary of our Twitter discussions we tried to meet during the EC-TEL 2014 conference but since my meeting took place at a different location we were not able to do this. However our brief exchange of tweets motivated me to look at Nick’s Twitter profile:

Sociologist having fun teaching anthropology + sociology! at Durham University’s Foundation Centre. Digital scholar interested in social media + pedagogy

and visit his Digitalscholar blog. His areas of interests overlap with mine, I felt. But unfortunately it looked as though we wouldn’t have an opportunity to meet.

As I was leaving Graz I made use of the free WiFi available at the airport to, indirectly, say that I was leaving:

At Graz airport. Couldn’t connect to Internet. Rebooted tablet; no joy. Started IE; saw click to connect button. Should I make IE default?

Nick was also at the airport on his way home:

@briankelly i’m here too, are you getting the frankfurt flight?

Unfortunately we were on different flights but we managed to have a brief chat before we left. This confirmed our mutual areas of interests and we agree to get in touch after we had returned home.

Twitter as the Interactive Business Card

Back in April 2008, in the early day’s of Twitter usage I wrote a post explaining one of the benefits of Twitter for academics, especially when travelling to conferences: Twitter? It’s An Interactive Business Card.

Since then the online infrastructure has developed significantly. Many people will now own a smartphone which will provide access to networked tools such as Twitter. In addition no longer is WiFi access limited to conference venues and hotels; increasingly WiFi is available. often for free, at airports and railway stations. We can now exchange our virtual business cards whilst travelling!

Trip to LACE meeting announced on FacebookSome people may have concerns about the risks of sharing their location. It’s true that there can be risks in using one’s phone in dodgy areas, but this is not normally the case in airports. And my approach to minimising the risks associated with people knowing that I am not at home is to make sure I’ve locked the doors! I also shared my location when travelling on an extended trip to south east Asia  as a way of ensuring that details of my journey were publicly available in case I had any problems on the trip.

I should also add that I also use Facebook to check in to train stations and airports when I’m travelling. Again I’ve found this useful, for example, when friends suggest places to visit while I’m travelling. However use of Facebook doesn’t provide the serendipity for making new connections which Twitter can provide.

In the past I have also explored the potential for use of dedicated geo-location services such as FourSquare and Gowalla. However I’ve found that these don’t have sufficient take-up to be of value (and Gowalla folded in 2012). I’ll therefore continue to use a combination of Twitter and Facebook when I’m travelling to work-related events.

Do others do likewise? Do you have any stories to share of the benefits of such approaches, or of the risks?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Social Networking, Twitter | Leave a Comment »

Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Posted by Brian Kelly on 10 September 2014

Background

Back on 19th June 2014 I gave an invited plenary talk on “Open Practices for Researchers” at the Research and Innovation Conference 2014 at the University of Bolton. I was pleased to have an opportunity to share my experiences with researchers at the University of Bolton, an institution which has a clear focus on teaching and learning but is seeking to develop its research activities.

The slides for the presentation are available on Slideshare. However these do not provide detailed information on the approaches I would recommend to researchers who wish to develop their professional networks and maximise access to their research outputs.

On Thursday 11th September I am giving an invited presentation on “Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career” at  a workshop on “How to Build an Academic Career“ in Brussels for the five Flemish universities.  The workshop participants (about 60-100) will mostly be late phase PhD students and post-docs in Life Sciences but there will always be some few senior scientists.

This provides an opportunity to document in more detail the ideas I will be presenting in my talk. As well as providing a wider forum for the ideas, this blog post (as opposed to depositing a paper in a repository) makes it easier to solicit questions, comments and feedback.

Using Social Media to Build Your Academic Career

Should you use social media to support your research career?

This presentation seeks to provide a response to a rather provocative assertion posted on the Smart Scientist blog: “Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!“.

My answer to the question is that researchers should use social media to support their research career. But they should do so for specific purposes, namely to:

  1. Develop your professional network
  2. Engage in discussions and exchange of ideas with your peers
  3. Disseminate your research ideas to a wider audience

The blog post which argued that “Social media profiles are bad for most scientists!” highlighted the risks of inappropriate use of social media:

Displaying photos of yourself being drunk, undressed or being masqueraded as Adolf Hitler, a suicide bomber or a sexually overactive transvestite. Your friends may find these pictures funny, many people will find them unpleasant, crude and bad taste.

The post concludes with the advice:

The golden rule for scientists using social media profiles:

Do NOT use them – or use them professionally.

I propose a modified version of this golden rule:

The golden rule for scientists using social media profiles:

Use them – and use them professionally.

The question then is “how should researchers make use of social media to support their professional activities?” I will seek to provide answers to this question in this post. But before doing so I would like to address the implied suggestion that social media is inherently irrelevant to researchers professional activities.

Tabloid newspapers

Print media has no relevance to researchers! Really?

We could make similar claims about TV if we looked only at reality TV programmes. We could be dismissive of print media if we considered only the tabloid newspapers.  Indeed the Web could similarly be dismissed (and, in fact, was dismissed by some librarians in the early 1990s) as being irrelevant to the scholarly and research activities carried out in higher education!)

We know, of course, that another form of print media, peer-reviewed journals, is very relevant to researchers. And just as we have Keeping Up with the Kardashians we also have BBC 2’s Wonders of the Universe in which the physicist Professor Brian Cox “reveals how the most fundamental scientific principles and laws explain not only the story of the universe, but the story of us all“.

We can see that print media and the TV can be used for trivial purposes as well as supporting professional activities including exchange of ideas with one’s peers (research publications) and dissemination to the general public (as science documentaries on the TV do). Social media can also be used for a diversity of purposes, and it would be wrong to dismiss it by focussing on only its trivial (mis)-uses.

Similarly it would be a mistake to be dismissive of the ‘social’ aspects of social media. If you think about the environment in which research is disseminated consider how conferences not only provide opportunities for disseminating one’s research, receiving feedback and sharing ideas but also for developing one’s network – indeed the conference dinner and late night drinking in the bar have an important role in cultivating one’s professional network and establishing new contacts. The informal aspects of social media tools can hep support this activity.

Personal Experiences Of Benefits of Social Media

@slewth's Twitter profileI have some personal experiences of how such informal use of social media led to a successful research collaboration. A post on “It Started With A Tweet” described how I received a reply to a tweet in which I invited researchers to complete a survey on use of social media. Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) responded. I then looked at her Twitter profile and discovered she had similar research interests (in Web accessibility). I followed the link in her profile to her blog (if it had been to her university web site I wouldn’t have bothered doing this!) and realised that her interests and expertise complemented mine nicely. So I sent Sarah a direct message:

 BTW was interested in your short paper on Aversive Disablism and the Internet. We’ve similar interests. See http://bit.ly/8BVFt

As described in the post “Winner of John M Slatin Award at W4A 2010” that Twitter conversation led to a joint paper on “Developing countries; developing experiences: approaches to accessibility for the Real World” being written. This was accepted by the W4A 2010 conference and subsequently won an award for the best communications paper!

A related example of the tangible  benefits of use of Twitter was summarised just over 4 years ago in a post on 5,000 Tweets On published after I had posted my 5,000th tweet.  As described in the post after presented a paper at the OzeWAI 2009 conference two members of the audience sent me a tweet: @RuthEllison told me that she “enjoyed your presentation this morning about a holistic approach to accessibility #ozewai” and @scenariogirl also showed some Australian warmth: “Fantastic talk this morning, I will come up and say hi at lunch ;)”.

Having my Twitter ID on the title slide for my talk made it easier to receive feedback on the talk. In this case subsequent discussions at the conference also led to Ruth Ellison and Lisa Herrod (@scenariogirl) providing case studies from Australia which were included in the paper on From Web Accessibility to Web Adaptability which was published 6 months after we met.

Being Pro-active: An Implementation Plan

Having gained some unexpected experiences of the benefits of Twitter to support my research activities the next step was to make use of social media in a systematic way.

Use of Slideshare at W4A 2012After hearing that our paper on “A challenge to web accessibility metrics and guidelines: putting people and processes first” had been accepted by the W4A 2010 conference myself and my co-authors – Martyn Cooper (@martyncooper), David Sloan (@sloandr) and Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) agreed that we would be pro-active in our use of social media in order to raise awareness of our paper and the ideas outlined in the paper, hoping that this would lead to real-world actions: citations from other accessibility researchers and take-up of the ideas by practitioners.

We ensured that we knew the URLs for the key resources associated with the delivery of the paper: the URL of the paper in the institutional repository and the slides hosted on Slideshare. This enabled the co-authors to write blogs about the paper in advance and schedule them for publication during the conference.

David Sloan, who presented the paper, ensured that the Twitter IDs of the co-authors was included on the title slide, as shown. The slides concluded with links to the various blog posts and other resources (such as a YouTube video which summarised the paper) we had created.

After the conference had finished we used Topsy to analyse the Twitter discussions about the slides on Slideshare, the event hashtag (#w4a12) and the paper in the University of Bath repository.

It was pleasing to observe positive comments we received from influential Twitter users with large numbers of followers:

@stcaccess (Influential):
Enjoyed “Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics & Guidelines” slides from @sloandr & Co. slideshare.net/sloandr/w4a12-… #w4a12 #a11y #metrics

and how such comments were shared by other influential Twitter users across their communities:

Mike Paciello @mpaciello (Influential): RT @stcaccess: Enjoyed “Challenge to Web Accessibility Metrics & Guidelines” slides from @sloandr & Co. slideshare.net/sloandr/w4a12-… #w4a12 #a11y

Since both of these Twitter users are well-known in the Web accessibility community we hoped that their actions would raise awareness of our work across their communities. But do we have any evidence that our pro-active approaches was successful in raising the visibility of our work?

Shortly after the conference had finished I analysed the Slideshare usage statistics for the three sets of slides which had been tagged with the conference hashtag. I found that after a week our slides had 1,391 views while the others had 3 and 311 views. It would appear that you need to be proactive if you wish people to view your resources – which it probably a truism which is relevant to many digital resources.

But did the popularity of the slides lead to a corresponding interest in the paper itself? The answer is yes: the download statistics for 2012 show that the paper was the third most downloaded of my papers during the year. The downloads also led to citations with Google Scholar Citations reporting that there have been 12 citations of the paper to date.

Aggregate Links to Your Papers

Whilst use of social media to raise awareness of your research activities engage others in discussions about the ideas is an important aspect of use of social media it would be a mistake to ignore the importance of Google – after all this is probably the most important tool people use for finding your research papers, especially once the buzz associated with a conference is over.

ResearchGate_profile: Brian KellyFor some time I have made use of various third-party services for profiling my professional activities. LinkedIn is an important tool for providing an online CV. However in addition to using it to provide a summary of my skills and expertise  a few years ago I used it to include links to all of my peer-reviewed papers.

As researcher profiling services, such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu, grew in popularity I started to use these services to provide additional links to my peer-reviewed papers, which were hosted in Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository.

I then realised that links from such popular services to the Opus repository was likely to enhance the visibility of papers in the repository to Google, as Google ranking algorithms make use of the numbers of links from popular Web sites as an indication of relevance. This led to myself and Jenny Delasalle writing a paper which asked Can LinkedIn and Academia.edu Enhance Access to Open Repositories? We concluded:

A survey of use of such services across Russell Group universities shows the popularity of a number of social media services. In the light of existing usage of these services this paper proposes that institutional encouragement of their use by researchers may generate increased accesses to institutional research publications at little cost to the institution.

I now make use of LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Academia.edu to provide details of my research papers. This is an approach I would recommend to others – and since the profile is likely to require updating on change of jobs or significant change of responsibilities and new content needs to be uploaded only when new papers are published the maintenance work need not be too onerous,- unless you are a very productive researcher!

Reviewing the Evidence

This post has summarised personal approaches to use of social media to support my research activities. But what evidence is there of the value of such approaches?

OPUS statistics: Top authors on 8 Sept 2014As illustrated, the download statistics for Opus, the University of Bath institutional repository, show that my papers have, in total, been downloaded over 51,000 times, compared with over 14,000 and 13,000 downloads for the authors with the next largest numbers of downloads.

There may be a number of reasons for such popularity including:

  1. The quality of the papers.
  2. Effective use of SEO (search engine optimisation) approaches.
  3. Use of unethical ‘black hat’ SEO approaches.

I feel that the second reason is the most likely reason for the large number of downloads. But does this lead to increased number of citations?

According to Google Scholar Citations I currently have a h-index score of 13 and an i10-index score of 18 (as shown below).

Google Scholar Citations (August 2014)

I do not find it strange that in order to maximise the numbers of citations you need to maximise the numbers of your peers (the people who are likely to cite your papers) who download and read the papers. Since, if cultivated appropriately,  your professional social network is likely to comprise of fellow professionals who have similar research interest to yours we should not be surprised at the effectiveness of social networks to develop one’s research career. But do other researchers have similar experiences.

In a blog post entitled “The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it?” Melissa Terras described how:

In October 2011 I began a project to make all of my 26 articles published in refereed journals available via UCL’s Open Access Repository – “Discovery“. I decided that as well as putting them in the institutional repository, I would write a blog post about each research project, and tweet the papers for download. Would this affect how much my research was read, known, discussed, distributed?

Melissa Terras's download statisticsWas this activity successful? Melissa concluded that:

Most of my papers, before I blogged and tweeted them, had one to two downloads, even if they had been in the repository for months (or years, in some cases). Upon blogging and tweeting, within 24 hours, there were, on average, 70 downloads of my papers. Now, this might not be internet meme status, but that’s a huge leap in interest.

The effectiveness of tweeting links to peer-reviewed papers is shown in the accompanying image. It may be that Melissa gained benefits of being an early adopter of use of Twitter in this way. These days I would feel that there is a need to ensure that you tweet links to papers at an appropriate time or context (e.g. when the paper is first deposited; during a conference when it is being presented or when the content of the paper is appropriate to a Twitter discussion.

In an article by Athene Donald, a professor of physics at the University of Cambridge, published on Physics Focus Professor Donald argued that “Tweeting and blogging aren’t wastes of academics’ time – they can be valuable outreach“. She concluded by asking researchers:

isn’t it time you considered blogging and tweeting as part of your professional activity, not just something you ascribe as being only suitable for teenagers or those with time to kill?

What Can I Do?

If you agree with Professor Donald your first question might be “What do I do?“. For those who are new to social media my suggestions are:

  • Identify your personal objectives: Have a clear idea of what you wish to gain from use of social media to further your career as a researcher. Do you wish to use social media simply as a broadcast media to announce your professional activities or will you prefer to engage in discussions with your peers?
  • Identify and follow/engage with your peers: For an effective professional network you will need to establish connections with your peers. Note that even if you are an experienced user of social networks there are likely to be times in your career when you have new responsibilities or areas of work, so you may still need to implement strategies for following and engaging with new peers. Conferences you have an interest in which have a Twitter hashtag provide an ideal opportunity to identify your peers and add them to your Twitter network.
  • Try Twitter for at least 10 days: After you have signed up for a Twitter account you should try and use it on a daily basis for at least ten days. This can help you to ‘get it’. Note that it order to make effective use of Twitter to support your research career you will need to reach a critical mass for your Twitter  community.
  • Make use of social sharing services for your resources: If you give presentations you may find that hosting your slides on a resource sharing service such as Slideshare can provide an effective way of developing your professional network: unlike hosting your slides on your institutional Web side, using a service such as Slideshare enable your slides to be publicly favourited by others and enables other Slideshare users to be notified when new slides are uploaded.

Once you have created and started to make use of a social media services you should ensure that you manage the network and explore additional tools and services you can use:

  • Update your LinkedIn account: LinkedIn is a generic online CV service. As described in a paper which asked Can LinkedIn and Academia.edu Enhance Access to Open Repositories? presented at OR 2012: the 7th International Conference on Open Repositories since LinkedIn is such a popular service links from the service to papers hosted in an institutional repository are likely to enhance the discoverability (the ‘Google juice’)  of paper in the repository. It can therefore be beneficial to include links to your research outputs to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Create an account on a researcher profiling service: Services such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu can complement use of LinkedIn by providing added exposure to your research papers.
  • Monitor use of Twitter through (freely-available) Twitter analytic tools: As described in a post on The Launch of Twitter’s Analytics Service and Thoughts on Free Alternatives a number of analytics tools are available which can help you to gain a better understanding of your use of Twitter and your Twitter community.

Managing Information Overload

Researchgate: configuration optionsInformation overload is a concern sometimes raised regarding use of social media.

By default many social media will try and maximise the time users spend on their web sites as these ‘eyeballs’ can be monetised, typically through advertising.

Although advertising on web sites tends not to be very popular, there is a need to acknowledge that the services do need to have some means of raising money to provide their services.

The good news is that many services enable alerts to be configured: there is no need to accept the default settings.

In order to avoid the need to visit Web sites in order to see if your papers have been commented on, favourite, accessed, etc. you can choose to receive email alerts. Many services will allow you to select the activities for which you wish to be notified. ResearchGate, for example, has notification settings for Profile, Network, Q&A, Publications and Job email alerts (there are over 60 activities which can be managed).

Similarly in order to provide management capabilities for lively Twitter streams back in May 2014 Twitter announced “Another way to edit your Twitter experience: with mute“.

Such approaches won’t eliminate the problems of information overload, but can ensure that such concerns can be managed.

Of course another solution to the problems of information overload caused by social media would be to avoid social media completely. This is an extreme way of managing the problems (as you will also fail to gain any of the benefits). However there is nothing to stop you choosing to switch off social media channels when you are on holiday, at weekends or on other occasions when you need  break form your professional activities.

Addressing Other Barriers

The risks and opportunities frameworkThere are other barriers to effective use of social media for supporting one’s research career. A paper on a risks and opportunities framework was described in a paper on Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends which was later enhanced in a paper on Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web to include details of ways of addressing copyright risks.

In brief, yes there are risks in using social media to support one’s research activities. However there are also risks in failing to use social media (the missed opportunities) as well as risks in simply continuing to make use of existing institutional tools.

The risks and opportunities framework provides a structure for identifying and documenting risks and strategies for minimising such risks.

Conclusions

This post is longer than normal. If you have skipped straight to the conclusions here is the TL;DR summary:

Social media is valuable for researchers in enabling them to easily exchange ideas and engage in discussions with their peers and potential beneficiaries of their research. The evidence demonstrates the value of managed use of social media.

Resources

The slides used in the presentation are available on Slideshare and embedded below.


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in openness, Social Networking | Leave a Comment »

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities, July 2014

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 July 2014

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities

In order to gather evidence of use of Facebook in the higher education sector periodic surveys of usage of official institutional Facebook pages have been carried out for the Russell Group universities since January 2011. The last survey was carried out 0n 31 July 2012, the day before the number of Russell Group universities grew from 20 to 24.

The aim of the surveys is to provide factual evidence which can be used to inform policy decisions on institutional use of social media and corresponding operational practices and stimulate debate.

The latest survey has just been carried out. It is intended that the survey will help inform discussions at the IWMW 2014 event, which starts on Wednesday.

Note that the data provided in the following table is also available as a Google Spreadsheet.

Ref. No. Institution and Web site link
Facebook name and link
Nos. of Likes
(Jan 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(Sep 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(May 2012)
Nos. of Likes
(Jul 2012)
Nos. of Likes
(Jul 2014)
% increase
since Aug 2012
 1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb nameunibirmingham
8,558  14,182  18,611   20,756   88,694    327%
 2 InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Fb nameUniversity-of-Bristol/108242009204639
2,186   7,913  11,480  12,357   27,071    219%
 3 InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
Fb namecambridge.university
58,392 105,645 153,000 168,000  787,347    369%
 4 InstitutionCardiff University
Fb namecardiffuni
20,035  25,945   30,648  31,989   51,108      60%
 5 InstitutionDurham University
Fb nameDurham-University/109600695725424
N.A.  N.A.   N.A.  10,843   31,153   187%
 6 InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Fb nameexeteruni
N.A.  N.A.   N.A. 15,387    29,054    89%
 7 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Fb nameUniversityOfEdinburgh
(Page URL changed since first survey)
-  12,053   24,507   27,574    70,667  156%
 8 InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Fb Name: glasgowuniversity
-   1,860   27,149  29,840    68,667  130%
 9 InstitutionImperial College
Fb nameimperialcollegelondon
5,490  10,257  16,444  19,020    68,347   259%
10 InstitutionKing’s College London
Fb nameKings-College-London/54237866946
2,047   3,587   5,384   7,534   37,370   396%
11 InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Fb nameuniversityofleeds
-    899   2,143    3,091   20,722    570%
12 InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Fb name: livuni University-of-Liverpool/103803892992025
(Page URL changes since survey in May and August 2012)
2,811  3,742   4,410   5,239    63,790   1,118%
13 InstitutionLSE
Fb name: lseps 
22,798  32,290 43,716   50,287  134,799     168%
14 InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Fb nameUniversity-Of-Manchester/365078871967  – TheUniversityOfManchester   (Page URL changed for this survey)
1,978   4,734   9,356   13,751  51,659    278%
15 InstitutionNewcastle University
Fb namenewcastleuniversity
-     115      693    1,084    34,975   3,126%
16 InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Fb nameTheUniofNottingham
3,588    9,991  14,692   17,133   119,444      597%
17 InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Fb namethe.university.of.oxford
137,395 293,010 541,000 628,000 1,564,871     149%
18 InstitutionQueen Mary, University of London
Fb nameQueen-Mary-University-of-London/107998909223423 – QMLNews (Page URL changed for this survey)
N.A.  N.A.  N.A.  13,362    55,545     316%
19 InstitutionQueen’s University Belfast
Fb name: QueensUniversityBelfast
- 5,211   10,063   16,989    19,783       16%
20 InstitutionUniversity of Sheffield
Fb nametheuniversityofsheffield
6,646 12,412  19,308   22,746    67,472     197%
21 InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Fb nameunisouthampton
3,328 6,387  18,062   19,790   49,876    152%
22 InstitutionUniversity College London
Fb nameUCLOfficial
977 4,346  33,853  37,493    91,152   143%
23 InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Fb namewarwickuniversity
8,535 12,112 14,472   15,103    47,204     212%
24 InstitutionUniversity of York
Fb nameuniversityofyork
N.A.  N.A.   N.A.    11,212  19,256      73%
TOTAL 287,767 566,691 998,991 1,116,077   3,600,2652    208%

Note

Summary

Overall Facebook Usage over time: 2011-2014

Figure 1: Overall number of Facebook ‘likes’ for Russell Group universities from January 2011 – July 2014

As can be seen from Figure 1 which shows the growth in the overall number of Facebook ‘likes’ for Russell Group universities from January 2011 – July 2014 there has been a significant growth since the last survey. However please note the following caveats:

  • There has been a gap of two years before the latest survey.
  • There are now 24 Russell Group universities as opposed to the 20 covered in the initial set of surveys.

It should also be noted that comparisons of the numbers of ‘likes’ across individual institutions are probably not very meaningful due to the differing numbers of staff and students across the institutions. However the trends may be more meaningful. especially the trends across the aggregation of the institutions.

The survey published on 2 August 2012 reported that the number of Facebook ‘likes’ for the 24 Russell Group Universities had exceeded 1 million for the first time. However as shown in Figure 2 over half of these likes were for the University of Oxford with the University of Cambridge being the next most popular: these two institutions represent 67% of the total. As can be seen from Figure 3 these two institutions have maintained their positions and now represent 65%.

Figure 2: Facebook ‘Likes’ for Russell Group universities in August 2012

Implications

When Facebook was first launched access was restricted to approved institutions (which the University of Cambridge being the first in the UK to provide accounts for its students). In may 2007 John Kirriemuir felt that Something IS Going On With Facebook! after spotting weak signals of its potential importance. We then saw doubts expressed regarding its relevance for institutions characterised, perhaps, by the statement “stay out of my space“). However the popularity of the service led to suggestions that there was a need for an open alternative – but Diaspora was felt to have the potential to provide an open alternative, but as the post on Whatever Happened to Facebook-Killer Diaspora? concluded the answer was “nothing“.

Now, it would appear, institutional use of Facebook is no longer a policy issue (should we have an account) but rather raises a number of operational issues to be addressed: How should we manage it? How much effort should we allocate to it? and what metrics should we measure to demonstrate the value we get from the service?

Perhaps these are questions which will be asked at IWMW 2014 later this week.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 3 Comments »

Being Post-Digital (or BEL activities in a PLE)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 February 2014

The Research Unbound Launch Event

The Research Unbound Web siteLast Friday I was an invited speaker at IRISS’s launch event of the Research Unbound project. As described on their home page Research Unbound  is “an online journal published by IRISS as a place for sharing research whether completed or in progress” with the aim of “linking research and practice in social care“.

The approach being taken is to encourage open sharing of research activities and practices through, for example, the provision of a blog platform (based on WordPress) which can be used by those working in sector.

I had been invited to give a talk on the role social media can play in three areas:

  1. Supporting dialogue with one’s peers
  2. Developing one’s professional network
  3. Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research

The third area, in particular, can be helped by adoption of open practices, such as making one’s research available with a Creative Commons licence and ensuring that it is easily found through use of appropriate open access repository platforms.

But open access, I said in my presentation, is not sufficient; there are many papers hosted in open access repositories which have very low download statistics.  There are benefits which can be gained through use of social media. My talk was based on a paper on ” Using social media to enhance your research activities” which I presented at the Social Media in Social Research 2013 conference last year. An updated version of the presentation, which I gave at the Research Unbound launch event is available on Slideshare and  embedded at the bottom of this blog post.

BEL activities in a PLE

Since I have previously published blog posts about use of social media to support research activities (see the posts on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities“and “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities – Workshop Session at the #DAAD2013 Conference””) I won’t repeat the contents of those posts here.

What did occur to me, however, was how social media technologies are now becoming embedded in everyday activities, in a wide range of locations and throughout the day.

I illustrated this point by asking how many people in the audience had a smart phone. The answer was all but one person of the 31 people attending the event. The vast majority had accounts on social media services and also used these services for work-related purposes. In response to my final question: “Who has used a mobile device for work-related purposes in bed?” I found that I was not alone, with many of the participants admitting to tweeting, reading email or work-related documents on their mobile phones, tablet computers or e-readers in bed.

The technology, I would argue, is being invisible. Many people are no longer interested in questions such as “What OS does your tablet run?” or “My tablet runs a dual core Atom processor. What about yours?“. Similarly many people are now indifferent about the social media services themselves- when did you last hear a discussion on whether, for example, an open source competitor to Twitter should be used?

We now seem to be moving towards a post-digital environment to use the term coined by Dave White in a blog post on “Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New?” published in 2009 on the TALL blog. In the post Dave argued that:

Too much time is spent arguing about the relative merits of digital spaces such as Twitter and Facebook. The key term here being ‘relative’. We are pitting digital against digital, new against new, a form of one-upmanship which distracts from the larger picture.

A Pub Learning EnvironmentI thought about Dave’s blog post the night before I gave the presentation, when I was in the Blackfrair’s pub with Ian Watson (from IRISS who invited me to speak at the conference) and Sheila MacNeill, formerly of Cetis and now working at Glasgow Caledonia University. While we were in the pub we caught up on what we’ve been up to since we’d last met and, as those with interests in educational technologies and future-gazing activities tend to do, shared examples of developments which we felt were interesting.

As I described it the next day we took part in “BEL activities in a PLE” or “Beer-enhanced learning activities in a pub learning environment“!

Now having a drink and a gossip with friends and colleagues is not post-digital, although there are parallels with the benefits which can be gained from use of social media.

Activity Social Media Pub
Supporting dialogue with one’s peers Joining in a Twitter discussion Joining in a conversation
Developing one’s professional network Being followed by someone on Twitter, looking at their bio and following them back Being introduced to new people and swapping business cards
Enhancing the visibility and ‘impact’ of one’s research Tweeting “Here my latest blog post on xxx bit.ly/xxx I wrote  paper on that. Give me your business card and I’ll email you a copy

But whilst a legal framework and social protocols have developed over an extended period for pubs this is not the case for social media. But what would happen if we were in an environment in which pubs were new, perhaps the prohibition era in the US had lasted until recently and had been extended across the western world, in the same way that social media extends globally?

If Pubs Were A New Invention

Let’s imagine a parallel universe in which President Obama’s election was welcomed across the globe and his first presidential act was to ban prohibition. Just as with the fall of the Berlin Wall, this led to changes across the western world, with pubs, bars and nightclubs being allowed to open. No doubt the risks would be highlighted by those who do not welcome change, and a risk register would be needed to address such concerns.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
They might be used for pornographic purposes. Access to pubs requires signing form stating no illegal activities will take place.
Inappropriate conversations may take place. Recordings made of conversations, which will be analysed for inappropriate keywords.
Illegal activities, such as selling pirate copies of DVDs, may take place. Visitors searched as they enter establishment

In addition to the risks as perceived by those who do not welcome their introduction, there will also be risks as pubs become established and sustainable business models are needed once they move beyond the early adopters.

Risk Responses in the Fictitious Pub Environment
Visitors “social spaces” are “appropriated” for work-related purposes. Informal human protocols become established
Pubs seek to monetise the social environment though advertising, promotions, etc. Although some argue “if you don’t pay, you’re the product not the customer” eventually the need for pubs to make money becomes accepted.

In Dave White’s blog post he concluded

Maybe it’s time for a metamorphosis in approach, away from the digital, towards the postdigital.

True. And maybe the move towards the post-digital can be helped by an appreciation of the pre-digital. What do you think?


View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – [bit.ly]

Posted in Social Networking | 3 Comments »

Responding to “I Don’t Have Time!” Comments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 January 2014

The #BYOD4L Event

The first day of the BYOD4L short event, which I mentioned earlier this week, included a post containing a brief video clip. As described in a post by one of the participants:

Video 2 is of a tutor showing some frustration with her mobile devices. She views technology as a hindrance to her teaching practice and that an insistence that she uses the new opportunities offered by mobile devices as a waste of time. This “I don’t have time” mantra sounds more like an excuse rather than an explanation and is covering up some apprehension about the use of mobile technologies in learning environments.

I have an interest in the potential of innovative technologies and approaches in supporting a range of academic activities. However I’m particularly interesting in understanding the barriers to sustainable innovative practices and finding ways of addressing such barriers.

Risks and Opportunities: Institutional Concerns

I first addressed such issues in a paper on “Web 2.0: How to Stop Thinking and Start Doing: Addressing Organisational Barriers” which Mike Ellis and I presented at a conference way back in 2007. That was followed by papers on “Library 2.0: Balancing the Risks and Benefits to Maximise the Dividends” and “Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web“, both of which were published in 2009. These papers tended to focus on institutional concerns regarding use of social media services (e.g. the sustainability of the services) and copyright and other legal concerns.

However the main areas of concerns now seem to be different. There now seem to be institutional acceptance of the benefits of Cloud services with Janet, for example, providing contractual support for institutional use of services such as Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365.

Risks and opportunities frameworkThe main barriers now seem to be individual: individual lecturer’s or student’s concerns over use of social media services and use of mobile devices. And this is a more difficult area to address.

My initial work led to the development of a risks and opportunities framework which was intended to ensure that institutional concerns regarding the risks of using Cloud services were being considered and addressed. It should be noted that an important aspect of the framework was that the risks of not using the services should also be addressed (i.e. the missed opportunities). In addition it was suggested that the risks associated with continued use of in-house services were also re-evaluated.

In a webinar on “Open Educational Practices (OEP): What They Mean For Me and How I Use Them” I revisited this work and suggested that there was a need to address these new challenges: the concerns of the individual. Note that slides used in the webinar are available on Slideshare.

Risks and Opportunities: Individual Concerns

If institutions are now taking more mature approaches to making use of Cloud service which are often accessed through one’s own mobile device to support their institutional activities, the focus is now moving towards individual attitudes towards use of such devices and use of Cloud services. It would now be timely to view the YouTube video which illustrates the concerns of a tutor who demonstrates her frustration with mobile devices.

How should one respond to such attitudes? Some approaches which occur to me are given below:

Revisiting the past: This is probably nothing new. An one stage computers were used by a minority, mainly scientific researchers, in the mainframe era. Then we saw the growth in mini-computers standalone computers, microcomputers, the standalone PC and Apple Macintosh, networked PCs and Macs, online PCs and Macs and now a flurry of mobile devices. With each new generation of technologies we saw people who were reluctant to embrace the new developments (I recall colleagues in IT Service departments in the 1980s being dismissive of PCs). But as the technologies matured, the winners became ubiquitous and the failures were forgotten (Commodore PETs, Acorns and other microcomputers). So perhaps we don’t need to be too concerned about the late adopters.

Education and training: Clearly there is a need for education (on the potential of mobile devices to enhance learning) and training (how one can make use of mobile devices in one’s specific context). It should be noted that this will need to address some of the subtler aspects of use of tools such as Twitter: treating tweets as a stream of information and conversations which one can dip into when appropriate rather than feeling the need to keep up-to-date with every tweet. This should then be followed by examples of tools and strategies for filtering the information.

Understanding and addressing specific concerns: The #BYOD4L blog posts and Twitter chats (e.g. see the Storify archives of the first and the second #BYOD4Lchat discussions) have covered both use of mobile devices and use of social networking tools. If learners and learning support staff have concerns there will be a need to understand what the specific concerns are. If, for example, the concerns are to do with the privacy implications of social networks, this should not rule out use of a mobile device for activities such as note-taking and keeping up-to-date whilst on the move.

Personal motivation: If mobile devices do enhance learning, we may see this recognised through new opportunities or promotion for those will the relevant expertise.

Mandating use of mobile devices: Rather than a softly softly approach to encouraging use of mobile devices, should they be mandated in particular circumstances? Would, for example, it be acceptable for a learning professional to state that they do not use email?

Acceptance: However rather than adopting hardline approaches it me be acceptable to acknowledge that mot everyone needs to make use of mobile devices and social tools; as long as their learning or learning support activities are not limited significantly by continuing to make use of traditional approaches, then perhaps this is fine. The danger, I would argue, would be if such decisions are made by managers or decision makers who could restrict use of mobile devices and social tools by those who do find them beneficial.

I’d welcome comments on these approaches and suggestions of how you might (or have) responded to colleagues who may be reluctant to embrace use of mobile devices to support learning activities.

Posted in Mobile, Social Networking | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Reshaping my Twitter Network

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 January 2014

Managing One’s Personal Learning Network

Pruning My Twitter Network

In the autumn I took part in the Hyperlinked Library MOOC. One of the assignments was to develop plans for use of an Online Professional Learning Network (OPLN). The specific requirements included developing a Network Maintenance Plan:

This will provide answers to questions such as: How will you maintain your online professional learning network? When will you adjust it? At what points will you actively add to it or delete from it? Is there a particular type of technology that you will employ to make the best use of your network? Will there ever be a point where you would create a new plan from scratch?

As I described in the assignment:

My new job [as Innovation Advocate at Cetis] will provide an opportunity to prune my professional network, removing Twitter accounts, blog feeds, etc. which are no longer relevant to my new role (unless, for example, I still gain value for the personal connections).

Numbers of Twitter followersIn November I began work in pruning my Twitter network, and on 13 November I reduced the number of people I follow in Twitter from 1,426 to 1,397. However it was just before Christmas, on 23 December, when I deleted a significant number of my Twitter community. As illustrated on that date the numbers of people I followed went down from 1,426 to 1,122, a drop of 324 (note the graph is taken from the Twittercounter service).

I used the Social Bro Chrome extension for my Chrome browser in order to help identify followers to remove.

Social Bro list of inactive followersAs shown, this tool helped me to identify the people I follow who appear to have stopped using Twitter. The tool was also useful in highlighting Twitter accounts which may be used by spammers.

Of course, the more difficult decision to make was when to stop following accounts which are being used in a legitimate way, but are no longer aligned with my main professional interests. The decision I made was to remove significant numbers of accounts from contacts I’ve made over the years with the museums sector (unless I had a string personal connection.

As can be seen I did not quite achieve my target of 1,000 followers (and the number has started to grow slowly since the purge). However the exercise was useful and I may chose to repeat it yearly.

Growing my Online Personal Learning Network

My Cwtis and LACE networks shown in TweetdeckThe intention in pruning my Twitter network was to enable the network to be reshaped in order to be able to more effectively engage with communities relevant to my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis.

As I described in the blog post in which I summarised my plans for the development of my online professional learning network I intended to follow the accounts of my Cetis colleagues. In order to make it easier to view tweets from my colleagues I set up a Twitter list.

However since the main Twitter client I use on my desktop PC is Tweetdeck I also set up a Tweetdeck column of my Cetis colleague, which enables me to easily see their tweets and areas of interests which they have retweeted. In addition to work related content which I can find on internal mailing lists or Cetis blogs, Twitter also enables me to get to know my colleagues informally

As shown in the screen shot I have also set up a Tweetdeck column for a new area of work I am involved in – the EU-funded LACE project. As described on the LACE Project Web site:

LACE will:

  • Organise a range of activities designed to actively and passively integrate communities that are conducting LA/EDM research, early practitioner adopters, and those who are building first-generation commercial or open-source software. This integration would be used to stimulate creativity and accelerate the identification of viable and effective solutions to real problems, and hence to drive both current research and technology transfer.
  • Create and curate a knowledge base of evidence. This will capture evidence for the effectiveness and the relative desirability of the outcomes resulting from use of various tools and techniques.
  • Actively participate in the exploration of plausible futures for learning analytics and EDM by combining the creation of imaginative scenarios with participatory workshops and structured methods including a Policy Delphi to assess differences of opinion about the feasibility and desirability of possible future states, thus informing future research and policy agendas.

The LACE project brings together existing key European players in the field of learning analytics & EDM who are committed to build communities of practice and share emerging best practice in order to make progress towards four objectives.

I have started to follow project partners using the #laceproject Twitter hashtag. Interestingly I have just noticed that the @TheLaceProject Twitter account is used to promote fashion and jewelry and so there will be an interesting clash of hashtags!

How Do You Manage Your Twitter Network?

My change of jobs provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my professional networks. This was helped by the Hyperlinked Library MOOC assignment which argued that one need to plan the growth of one’s network and to proactively manage it in order that the contacts reflect one’s changing areas of interests.

I used to have an annual calendar alert which reminded me it was time to check the links provided on legacy project Web sites in order to ensure that technical or others changes hadn’t resulted in problems with the structural integrity of the Web sites (see the audit trail on the UK Web Archive copy of the Cultivate Interactive Web site).

However it seems to me that it would now be more relevant to have an annual survey of one’s professional networks and to see what maintenance may be needed in order to ensure that the professional network continues to provide a useful role. Does anyone else do this?


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in Social Networking | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

One Million ‘Likes': What Can The Sector Learn From Oxford University?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 April 2013

One Million ‘Likes’

Oxford University on FacebookOn Thursday 18 April 2013 the University of Oxford’s Facebook page reached one million ‘likes’. The University took this opportunity to promote a video they had made when it became clear that they were approaching this figure:

Wow! Our Facebook page has more than one million likes. Many thanks for following us! Have you seen our Twitter page @UniofOxford too? Here is a special thank you video from us – why not share this video with your friends and see how quickly we can get to two million! http://youtu.be/uYNOgWgb-5E

Monitoring Weak Signals

As part of my work for the JISC Observatory I have an interest in observing weak signals which can help to spot technological developments at an early stage which may turn out to have a significant impact across the sector.

It was back in May 2007 when I wrote a post entitled Something IS Going On With Facebook! which highlighted “the announcement of Facebook’s F8 platform – a development which lets users embed other services inside their pages in Facebook“.

In November 2007 I post entitled UK Universities On Facebook described how “Facebook search for organisations containing the word ‘university’ revealed (on Friday 9 November 2007) a total of 76 hits which included, in alphabetical order, the following UK Universities: AstonCardiffKent and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)“.

For a period of several years I monitoring growth in use of Facebook, focussing on the Russell Group universities in order to have a manageable sample to analyse. The accompanying blog posts were Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities (January 2011), Is It Time To Ditch Facebook, When There’s Half a Million Fans Across Russell Group Universities? (September 2011) and Survey of Institutional Use of Facebook (May 2012) with the final survey in August 2012 which recorded Over One Million ‘Likes’ of Facebook Pages for the 24 Russell Group Universities capturing a snapshot the day after the numbers of Russell Group universities had grown from 20 to 24 institutions.

It was the final post in which I realised that the most significant growth in Facebook likes was taking place at the University of Oxford, as can be seen from the accompanying image.

Implications

What are the implications of the popularity of Facebook at the University of Oxford for the wider community?

I hope we have moved away from the instinctive dismissive of Facebook for reasons such as “It’s not open source“, “It’s a walled garden” and the strange arguments that we sometimes encounter in the sector: “It’s popular but so is the Daily Mail” and “It’s popular, but so was MySpace and look what happened to it“.

Some questions which may be appropriate to ask include:

  • What benefits can be gained by institutional use of Facebook?
  • What level of resources should be allocated to managing institutional use of Facebook?
  • What ROI can be gained from institutional use of Facebook?

I appreciate that some people feel very uncomfortable with the notion of ROI in an educational context? But since students are now paying £9,000 per year we need to acknowledge that going to university is a significant financial investment for students, with the provision of the leaning experience also clearly having significant costs. Understanding cost effective ways of engaging with students, listening to students, supporting informal learning, etc. will therefore be important.

Facebook fan valueThere is also a need, I feel, to embrace what could be regarded as a ‘post-digital’ perspective on social media, in which the important issues shouldn’t address the technical aspects of services, but their relevance as part of the accepted infrastructure.

Issues such as the institution’s brand value on such services then become relevant. It is then appropriate to see what can be learnt from the commercial sector’s valuation on Facebook.

A post entitled “Facebook Fan value rises 28% since 2010” was published yesterday by BizReport which described how:

Fans of brands on Facebook have significantly upped their worth over the past three years, according to new figures released by social media marketing firm Syncapse, with some brands averaging Fan values in the thousands of dollars.

and went on to provide estimated values:

Fashion brand Zara’s Fans are worth over $405.54, found the research, followed by Levis at $312.01. Meanwhile, the value of Coca-Cola Fan is relatively low at $70.16.

Analytics for Oxford University's Facebook pageIn his tweet which alerted me to this people Dion Hinchcliffe gave a caveat:

Tho’ fans are just 1 measure of #socbiz value & not a good one.

How then can we measure the value of an institution’s Facebook page? What should we make of the (public) analytics for the University of Oxford’s Facebook page which tell us that as of Monday 22 April 2013 there are:

  • 1,002,967 like for the page. 
  • 7,794 people are talking about the page.
  • 9 December 2012 was the most poplar week (why was this?).
  • The most poplar age group are 18-24 year old.

In order to enable others with responsibilities for managing institutional Facebook presences to be able to compare their experiences, discuss operational practices and, perhaps, develop mechanisms for helping to measure ROI and allocate appropriate levels of resources, at this year’s IWMW 2013 event there will be a birds-of-a feather session on “Institutional Use of Social Media Services“.

I hope this session will be of interest to those who, perhaps quietly, are using Facebook to engage with potential students, have conversations with current students (and staff) and, perhaps, looking at enhance use of Facebook.

In order to inform the session a simple survey has been set up which aims to gain feedback on respondents views on institutional use of Facebook. The form is embedded below or can be accessed on the PollDaddy Web site.

The “A million likes: how big is a million?” Video

The video produced by the University of Oxford is available on YouTube and is embedded below.


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: [TweetReach] – [Bit.ly]

Posted in Facebook | 1 Comment »

Twitter Announces Vine. But How Could Higher Education Use 6-second long Videos?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 January 2013

Sharing Brief Video Clips on Twitter

Yesterday Twitter announced Vine: A new way to share video. As described in a TechCrunch article[Vine] integrates with Twitter in the same way that Instagram does, except that Vine never turned off permissions randomly, meaning that Vine videos can be embedded directly in tweets, showing up in followers’ streams“. An article in the Guardian explains how “Vine clips automatically play when embedded in tweets, although their sound is turned off by default. The clips also play within Twitter’s official mobile app. Users can add locations to their clips – the app draws on Foursquare’s places database for that – with three options for sharing: Vine, Twitter and/or Facebook.” The Guardian article instantly attracted comments on how Vine might be (mis-used):

  • Sexting app
  • Advert app
  • oh no it’s the video equivalent of gifs, twitter is gonna become as annoying as tumblr is with these.

although others provided more thoughtful responses:

As with everything, it’s all about how you leverage the technology. 
Yes, for the most part, this app will feature videos of no importance whatsoever, but there will, as always, be some gems in the dirt.

Leaving that aside, you have to remember that with Twitter, many people end up forming a close circle of people they meet physically in the real world – so Twitter augments that. 
I don’t give a damn about someone I’ve never mets photo of their dog on twitter, but I do care if a friend of mine posts a picture of their dog.

The same applies to tweeting – to most people, the “Did xyz run in xyz area this morning, totally knackered” is completely meaningless and banal. But to this persons friends, it’s likely to promote conversation when they next meet. “Saw your tweet Dave, how was the run down at xyz? Did a run there recently” …

So, before you instantly dismiss tech such as this, perhaps give it a *little* more thought?

I would agree that we should give a little more thought to the implications of new technologies, especially their potential in higher education.

Initial Experiments

Vine appEarlier today I installed the Vine app on by iPod Touch and recorded a number of video clips. I asked what could be said in 6 seconds (partly to get a feel for what could be said in such a brief period. In my second video clip I said “E=MC2 and the DNA is a double helix” to illustrate how important scientific concepts could be described using the Vine app. By then I had gained some familiarity with the app. In my third post I described what I liked about the app: being able to stop and start reshooting by simply removed my finger for the screen. My four post described what I didn’t like – the lack of support for the iPod Touch’s forward-facing camera.

I then started to write this post – and discovered that I couldn’t find the URL for the video clips I had created and uploaded to Vine. I can view the videos using the Vine app and people who follow me on Vine will see the videos in their Vine timeline but it seems as though they are not available via a Web interface; this was confirmed by Giles Turnbull, one of my Twitter followers who is also experimenting with Vine: “only way to find out the URL of your Vine post is to share it somewhere. if you choose not to share, or forget, you can’t find it on the web“.

I therefore created another clip which is available online. However there does not appear to be a Web interface to my Vine profile, so I can’t access my clips via a Web browser in order to change access rights, delete videos, manage Vine followers, etc.

Perhaps it is unfair to be too critical of the limitations of the initial release of the app: these short=-comings may be remedied in a subsequent release. However I thought I would summarise my initial experiments for others who may wish to evaluate the app. And rather than describe possible use cases for 6-second long video clips in higher education I’d welcome suggestions. If you’d rather not describe possible uses, perhaps you may wish to complete the poll on whether you think Vine has a role to play in higher education.


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: [Bit.ly]

Posted in Social Networking, Twitter | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

What Could Facebook’s New Search System Offer Researchers?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 January 2013

Facebook’s Graph Search Beta Targets Google

Metro headlineYesterday my Twitter stream was full of tweets about Facebook’s announcement that they were Introducing Graph Search Beta – and this morning the headline Facebook’s Search for Supremacy featured on the front page of the Metro newspaper.

The significance of this announcement can be gauged by the BBC news headline: Facebook’s Graph targets Google in which Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent, describes how his initial scepticism may have been misplaced: “If [Facebook's] Graph Search more closely resembles what Bing describes, then users will be able to stay on Facebook, earning the company huge advertising revenues as they search for goods and services“.

A TechCrunch article which asks “What Can You Search For On Facebook Graph Search?” has focussed on the social aspects of this development (dating, finding places to eat and drink, etc.). But what could Facebook’s new search system offer researchers?

What Does The Evidence Tell Us?

Importance of Evidence

Although people may be tempted to be instinctively dismissive of any developments to Facebook, as described in a paper on “What Next for Libraries? Making Sense of the Future” (available in PDF and MS Word formats)” involvement with work of the Jisc Obervatory has led to a greater emphasis on evidence-gathering. In addition the Jisc Inform article which announced “A Bright Future for Independent Jisc in 2013” described how a greater emphasis for development work will be based on the needs of the institutions. There will therefore be a need to gather evidence on how Facebook is being used across UK higher and further educational institutions in order to understand whether Facebook developments can enhance uses of made of Facebook to support institutional activities.

Institutional Use of Facebook

Facebook ‘Likes’ Across Russell Group Universities

Back in November 2007 a post on UK Universities On Facebook provided early evidence of use of Facebook by early adopters, when there were only about 76 universities with a Facebook presence. A year later a post on Revisiting UK University Pages On Facebook started to keep a record of Facebook usage by the early institutional adopters. More recently a post on Over One Million ‘Likes’ of Facebook Pages for the 24 Russell Group Universities provided an indication of the scale of use of Facebook across a selection of UK universities.

This might suggest that the enhanced searching techniques announced yesterday may be relevant for those involved in university marketing activities, although there may be some interesting privacy issues to be addressed.

But beyond use of Facebook by students, what about its potential to support researchers?

Use of Facebook by Researchers

Blog referrers for the yearAs described in a post of The Sixth Anniversary of the UK Web Focus Blog Facebook is “in third place behind Search Engines and Twitter in referring traffic to this blog” (as illustrated). This suggests that Facebook may have a role to play in supporting dissemination activities for bloggers. But does Facebook have any relevance for enhancing the dissemination of research papers, beyond the indirect dissemination which research blogs may provide?

A year ago a post entitled Facebook and Twitter as Infrastructure for Dissemination of Research Papers (and More) described the SpringerLink mobile app.

Springerlink appEarlier today I used the app to search for papers on ‘Web Accessibility. As illustrated a relevant paper can be shared across my professional networks using Twitter or Facebook as well as sharing with selected individuals using email.

As I described in the blog post “the Springlink app suggests that Facebook and Twitter may be becoming part of the dissemination infrastructure for research papers, especially on mobile devices“. But is there any evidence that researchers are using Facebook, in particular, to facilitate access to research papers?

Back in October 2012 a series of guest blog posts were published during Open Access Week 2012 in order to share the experiences of a number of institutional repository managers. In the posts on SEO Analysis of WRAP, the Warwick University Repository by Yvonne Budden, University of Warwick and on SEO Analysis of LSE Research Online by Natalia Madjarevic, LSE there was no evidence that Facebook was a significant driver of traffic to the two repositories, according to the MajesticSEO tool used to carry out the analyses. This was echoed by William Nixon in his post on SEO Analysis of Enlighten, the University of Glasgow Institutional Repository. William described how:

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter don’t appear in these initial results, it may be because the volume is insufficient to be ranked here or there may be breach of service issues. Google Analytics now provides some social media tools and we have been identifying our most popular papers from Facebook and Twitter.

Reading William’s post on the Enlighten blog it seems:

Looking at the data for the past year the following papers have had significant numbers of referrals from Facebook:

van Dommelen, P., Gómez Bellard, C., and Pérez Jordà, G. (2010)Produzione agraria nella Sardegna punica fra cereali e vino. In: Milanese, M., Ruggeri, P., Vismara, C. and Zucca, R. (eds.) L’Africa Romana. I Luoghi e le Forme dei Mestieri e della Produzione nelle Province Africane (Atti del XVIII Convegno di Studio, Olbia, 11-14 Dicembre 2008). Series: L’Africa Romana (18). Carocci, Rome, Italy, pp. 1187-1202. ISBN 9788843054916. http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/48143/

Cockshott, W.P., and Zachriah, D. (2012) Arguments for Socialism.Amazon. ISBN B006S2LW6U. http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/58987/

So at this stage it would appear that this is little evidence that Facebook has a significant role to play in enhancing access to papers hosted in institutional repositories. But are the experiences from these three institutional repositories typical across the sector? Might the early adopters, such as P van Dommelen and W. P. Cockshot and their co-authors be gaining advantages in enhancing access to their papers? And, finally, might the announcement of Facebook’s Graph Search prove of relevance to those with an interest in enhancing the discoverability of research papers?

I’ve asked questions, rather than suggested answers in this post. In part that is because the potential relevance of Facebook’s Graph Search will be based on the use of Facebook, rather than advocacy or critique of use of Facebook in a scholarly context. I’d therefore welcome comments from repository managers, in particular, on evidence of Facebook as a driver of traffic (whether large or small) to institutional repositories. For those who may not wish to leave a comment I’ve created two polls: one of the amount of traffic provided by Facebook and the other on interest in understanding the potential of use of Facebook’s Graph Search in a repository context.

Finally, if you’d like to know more about Facebook’s Graph Search, the following links may be of interest:


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: [Bit.ly]

Posted in Facebook | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Importance of Social Media for Finding New Opportunities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 December 2012

The recent post which summarised the Announcement: UKOLN – Looking Ahead was based on the news of the cessation of UKOLN’s core funding from 31 July 2013. The announcement concluded:

From August 2013, we will continue to build on this reputation and we very much look forward to working with you again in the future.

In order to support UKOLN staff in exploiting new opportunities I recently gave a training session on “Managing Your Digital Profile“. In the talk I described the value of social media in developing relationships with potential new partners, co-authors and funders which can be of value in one’s current job as well as in finding new jobs and opportunities.

During the session I was asked if there was one key service to make use of. I highlighted the importance of LinkedIn and provided examples of effective uses of LinkedIn. Just before Christmas @suebecks alerted me to a post entitled For job recruiters, Monster out, LinkedIn in. This post provided evidence of the ways in which LinkedIn is being used:

LinkedIn, the biggest professional-network​ing website, got into the field early with the introduction of Recruiter in 2008. The service lets headhunters search its more than 187 million profiles and contact potential candidates.

Since last year, Adobe has found more than half its new hires through LinkedIn. Adobe, the biggest graphic-design software company, uses job boards to fill only about 5% of openings.

In the session I went on to describe how I felt it was a mistake to think there was a single key service to use. I argued that there were a range of services which provided different functions and were used by different communities. I went on to describe how researchers could find value in claiming a Google Scholar profile and providing access to their research publications using services such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate, as well as claiming an ORCID ID.

I was asked if Facebook had a role to play. I described how this would relate to the personal ways in which one uses the service – but mentioned that Facebook is the third most important referrer of traffic to this blog. In addition I suggested that Facebook may have a role to play in finding new opportunities, and illustrated this by showing how a Google search for “Facebook Bath jobs found a Facebook page for jobs at Future Publishing. The potential relevance of Facebook for job-seekers was highlighted in the article For job recruiters, Monster out, LinkedIn in:

Two-thirds of companies already use Facebook, the world’s largest social-networking service, to find recruits using the site’s friend-finding search function, according to a June survey of more than 1,000 human resources professionals by recruiting software maker Jobvite. Fifty-four percent use micro-blogging service Twitter to learn about potential candidates’ views and interests, the survey found.

The article then went on to suggest new developments we may see for people looking for new opportunities:

The next challenge is to develop advanced tools that find greater detail on candidates from more social networks, says Brian O’Malley, a general partner at Battery Ventures. His firm has invested in social job-search startup Entelo, which trawls Twitter, Google’s Google+ and other sites, using proprietary algorithms to find candidates for specific positions and predict who among them may be open to offers.

Can you afford not to make use of social media if you are looking for new business opportunities in the future?

Note as mentioned above the slides on “Managing Your Digital Profile” are available on Slideshare and embedded below:


View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in General, Social Networking | 5 Comments »

The Sixth Anniversary of the UK Web Focus Blog

Posted by Brian Kelly on 1 November 2012

This blog was launched in 1 November 2006. A year after the launch I described The First Year of the UK Web Focus Blog. The following year I provided a summary of  The Second Anniversary of the UK Web Focus Blog) in which I provided a link to a backup copy of the blog’s content, hosted on Scribd. In a post on The Third Anniversary of the UK Web Focus Blog I commented that “with over 600 posts published on the UK Web Focus blog, I can’t recall all of the things I have written about!“. In 2010 a post on Fourth Anniversary of this Blog – Feedback Invited provided a link to a SurveyMonkey form and I subsequently published a post which gave an Analysis of the 2010 Survey of UK Web Focus Blog.

Last year’s anniversary post, entitled How People Find This Blog, Five Years On concluded that “most people now view posts on this blog following alerts they have come across on Twitter rather than via a Google search or by subscribing to the blog’s RSS feed“. I went on to say that “to put it more succinctly, social search is beating Google and RSS“.

Figure 1: Referrer Traffic to this blog, 2011-12

But what do usage statistics now tell us about the previous year? Looking at the referrer statistics for the last 365 days (as illustrated in Figure 1) it seems that WirdPress.com has changed how it displays the referrer statistics compared with last year.

Figure 2: Referrer Traffic, 2006-11

Last year’s findings (illustrated in Figure 2) had Twitter in first place, followed by Google Reader and the UKOLN Web site. However this year we find Search Engines in first place, by a significant margin.

This reflects comments made last year by Tony Hirst who felt that the statistics were somewhat misleading:

my stats from the last year show a lot of Twitter referrals, but also (following a three or four day experiment by WordPress a week or so ago), inflated referrals from “WordPress.com”. The experiment (or error?) that WordPress ran was to include RSS counts in the stats. The ‘normal’ stats are page views on wordpress.com; the views over the feed can be found by looking at the stats for each page.

It would appear that last year’s conclusion: “social search is beating Google and RSS” was incorrect. In fact Google continues to be significant in driving traffic to this blog. However I think we can say that “social services, especially Twitter, are beating RSS readers“.

The importance of Twitter is widely appreciated as a means of ensuring that the intended target audience  – those with whom you are likely to share similar professional interests – are alerted to your content. But the thing that surprised me was the importance of Facebook – in third place behind Search Engines and Twitter in referring traffic to this blog.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised by Facebook’s high profile. After all, a post by Daniel Sharkov, an 18 year old student and a blogger, which provided a 9 Step Blog Checklist to Make Sure Your Posts Get Maximum Exposure included the following suggestion:

Did You Share Your Post on Facebook?

An obvious one. What I do is share the post both on my personal wall and on my fan page right after publishing the article.

I appreciate that use of Facebook won’t be appropriate in all cases, but for blogs provided by individuals who have a Facebook account and who wish to see their content widely viewed, it would appear that Facebook can have a role to play in supporting that objective; the evidence is clear to see – even, or perhaps especially, if you’re not a fan of Facebook.

Posted in Blog, Evidence, Facebook | 2 Comments »

Thoughts on Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 September 2012

Recent News: Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook

Tony Hirst alerted me to the recent post on Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook. Facebook is, of course, one of those services which generates strong opinions, rather as Microsoft used to do. In the case of Microsoft the criticisms have been centred around its proprietary file formats and its misuse of its dominance in the desktop computer environment. For Facebook, the criticisms have focussed on Facebook being a “walled garden” and its misuse of personal data.

Facebook Was a Walled Garden

It was back in 1993 when Novell claimed that Microsoft was blocking its competitors out of the market through anti-competitive practices. However as described in Wikipedia the European Union Microsoft competition case resulted in the EU ordering Microsoft to divulge certain information about its server products and release a version of Microsoft Windows without Windows Media Player, in addition to paying a fine of £381 million. Microsoft also eventually migrated its proprietary file format to XML and the Open Office XML format which became an ISO standard in December 2006.

Might we see similar changes happening with Facebook? Back in December 2008 I asked Just What Is A “Walled Garden”? – a post which generated interesting discussion on the pros and cons of walled gardens, with Ben Toth commenting:

I don’t like the phrase at all. Firstly it’s one of those phrases which gives the impression of being meaningful but in practice doesn’t bear too much analysis. Secondly, walled gardens were a pretty clever Victorian technology for creating micro-climates in order to boost food production (http://www.walledgardens.net/intro/intro.htm), so it seems a shame to use the term in a negative way. Finally, all gardens have walls of one sort or another – an un-walled garden wouldn’t be a garden. So the phrase is a tautology.

Max Norton concluded the discussion by observing that:

to leap to judgement just because something can be described as a walled garden is hasty. While my instinct is towards openness I try to be pragmatic about these things and where I feel there are gains to be had in using “walled garden” solutions I’ll use them.

A willingness to accept the benefits that can be provided by walled gardens can clearly be seen by fans of Apple products, with, as described by the Wikipedia entry for Walled Garden (technology) Apple’s iOS devices are “restricted to running pre-approved applications from a digital distribution service“.

In October 2010 I pointed out that Planet Facebook Becomes Less of a Walled Garden following the announcement that “Facebook lets users download data, create groups“; news that was welcomed as “A step in the right direction, by the vice-chair of the DataPortability Project“.

Back in September 2011 ZDNet published an article which provided an update on Facebook’s export options and argued that Facebook finally makes your exported data useful. Since there are also tools such as SafeGuard which enable you to export data from Facebook and other social networking services it seems that we can say that not only can a walled garden provide a safe managed environment, but that it would be wrong to describe Facebook as a walled environment.

Accessing Facebook Activity Data

There are now a number of ways of migrating one’s personal data from Facebook. Facebook provide advice on how to do this, and this approach has been described in an article published in C|net. Meanwhile applications such as Social Safe provide alternative ways of accessing one’s Facebook data – and I learnt that I updated my Facebook profile picture on 13 December 2007.

But it was Tony Hirst’s tweet which interested me that most, since the Wolfram|Alpha service goes beyond the simple exporting of one’s content (status updates and images and videos which have been uploaded) and provides information and visualisations of one’s activity data.

Figure 1: Facebook activities, by time and day of week

Once you have given permission to the Wolfram|Alpha app to access your Facebook data visualisations of how you use Facebook are provided, such as the day of the week and time of posting status updates, posting links or uploading images. As shown in Figure 1 it seems that I tend to use Facebook mostly between 6pm and 9pm, which is not unexpected as I use it primarily for social purposes.

Figure 2: Facebook apps used

Figure 2 shows the Facebook apps which I use. It seems that the one I use most is the WordPress.com app which provides an automated status update when I publish a new post on this blog.

This information simply gives me a better understanding of my use of Facebook. This personal understanding of one’s Twitter use was the angle taken in a post on the Mashable tech blog which described how This App Knows More About Your Facebook Account Than You Do.

Figure 3: Visualisation of my Facebook community

However of greater interest to me is the way in which the Wolfram|Alpha app provides a visualisation of my Facebook community and the connections between the members of the community.

In Figure 3 you can see the various communities, which includes my sword dancing and folk communities and my profession contacts. I can also see the various outliers, of people who have few connections with others, which includes the landlady of a pub I often visit.

Such visualisation of one’s connections will be familiar to anyone who keeps an eye on Tony Hirst’s work in this area. In the past Tony has made use of Twitter APIs in order to visualise the growth and development of Twitter connections, including connections based around an event hashtag.

Facebook and Twitter Social Graphs

Assuming that you are willing to trust Wolfram|Alpha, their Facebook app may be of interest to anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of their own use of Facebook – as well as understanding what Facebook may know about you. Apart from the automated updates when I publish a new blog post, I update my Facebook status in the evening, often when I’m listening to live music in a local pub. Being able to process such information in an automated and global way will be of interest to the service providers who are looking to optimise targetted advertising.

Beyond the individual’s interest in such tools, clearly of greater interest will be developments around the global social graphs provided by Facebook, Twitter and, to a lesser extent, Google+

Tony Hirst has addressed this issue recently when he asked Is Twitter Starting to Make a Grab for the Interest Graph? As Tony pointed out:

If targeted advertising is Twitter’s money play, then it’s obviously in their interest to keep hold of the data juice that lets them define audiences by interest. Which is to say, they need to keep the structure of the graph as closed as possible.

Will Twitter’s increased control over their APIs mean that there will be less opportunity for developers such as Tony Hirst (and Martin Hawksey with his developments based on processing the Twitter data stream) to continue their work which helps to provide a better understanding of how social networks are being used to enhance teaching and learning and research activities? And will, ironically, we find that Facebook provides a more open environment for such work?

NOTE: Following publication of this post Tony Hirst informed me of his posts on Getting Started With The Gephi Network Visualisation App – My Facebook Network, Part I and Social Interest Positioning – Visualising Facebook Friends’ Likes With Data Grabbed Using Google Refine which described his experiments in analysing and visualising Facebook data.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Facebook, openness | 2 Comments »

The Importance of the Opening Paragraph and the Accompanying Image

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 August 2012

My colleague Talat Chaudhri recently published a blog post which asked “Why should universities care about identifiers?” I was aware of the post while Talat was in the process of writing it and was very pleased when I noticed that it had been published.

It was, however, when I spotted the post when it appeared in one of the personalised newspapers I used that I appreciated the skill of Talat’s opening paragraph and the image he used to accompany the post.

The opening paragraph began:

Imagine that you are a senior manager in an institution within the UK Higher Education sector with responsibilities for research: you have read some basic details about unique researcher identifiers and perhaps institutional identifiers. However, it may not be immediately apparent just how important these issues are, which may seem on the face of it to be a relatively superficial and/or trivial organisational matter.

This, I felt, encouraged the reader to read more, and click on the link to the full article. In addition, as can be seen from the accompanying image, an attractive image accompanied the post, which helped to differentiate it from the many other posts on the page.

Sometimes I hear people talk about the importance of attractive PDF designs which aim to encourage reading. A problem with that approach is that there is only one view of the report. As described in a previous post images in blog posts can enhance the user’s experience across a wide range of personalised newspaper services such as Pulse, Flipboard and Zite. This can provide a greater range of dissemination channels to reach the intended audiences, as well as providing the audiences with the flexibility to choose their preferred environment for reading such reports.

But as suggested in the title of this post, blog authors will need to give thought to the opening paragraph for a blog post, and images which can be used to complement the post. In addition, it will probably be useful to summarise a post or a report in a Twitter-friendly fashion. For this report you could use the opening line (which may happen if you use an auto-tweeting service):

Imagine you are a senior manager in an institution within the UK HE sector with responsibilities for research: bit.ly/OAg4VT

Although my preference is for a human-crafted summary, such as the one Talat used to announce the report:

Why should universities care about identifiers? Review on UKOLN’s Technical Foundations blog: bit.ly/OAg4VT

It seems blogs and Twitter are turning us into headline writers as well as picture editors. And if you don’t feel you have the expertise to make your make use of visual imagery the Hubspot Inbound Internet Marketing blog provides some suggestions on six creative ways to make your content more visual.


Twitter conversation via Topsy: [View]

Posted in General, Social Networking | 1 Comment »

“Celebrating 10,000 Followers!”: Social Media is About Nodes and Connections

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 August 2012

 

JISC Celebrates 10,000 Followers

Yesterday a tweet from @jisc announced that their Twitter account had reached 10,000 followers:

NEWS: Celebrating 10,000 followers… and our resources to help engage students through social media: … http://bit.ly/RVLMMv 

This news provided a useful opportunity for JISC to “showcase some resources that can help you blog, tweet and interact your way to better student retention, marketing and teaching online“. The news item highlighted seven resources which were felt to help institutions in using social media to support their students:

  1. Listen to a podcast (MP3 format) on developing your social media strategy with Steph Gray of Helpful Technology.
  2. Read JISC CETIS’ ideas about using Twitter in the classroom.
  3. Learn how Cardiff Northumbria and Bristol universities use Twitter and Facebook to support international students.
  4. Reflect on how your PhD students are using social media and other new technologies to collaborate and stay up to date using the biggest ever survey of PhD students.
  5. Read a case study on engaging students through blogging.
  6. Download the LSE’s guide to Tweeting for academics.
  7. Compare your university to other universities. Find out which social media networks others are using on the UK Web Focus blog post.

And whilst the @JISC Twitter account provides a valuable channel for JISC to disseminate JISC activities and innovative uses of IT across the higher and further education sector, this is complemented by the work of JISC Programme Managers and other JISC staff who use social media technologies for engaging with the sector in the support of development activities. Remember that the solution which may be described in a glossy PDF report or a polished podcast will be the result of rich interactions, discussions and even disagreements; social media provides an environment for supporting such engagement which, ten years ago, tended to be restricted to mailing lists, meetings and trips to workshops and conferences.

It probably goes without saying that the benefits of social media aren’t restricted to supporting students; LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences blog, for example, regularly provides examples of how social media can support research activities. A good example is Mellisa Terras’s post which asked The verdict: is blogging or tweeting about research papers worth it? and described how “Melissa Terras took all of her academic research, including papers that have been available online for years, to the web and found that her audience responded with a huge leap in interest in her work“.

Nodes and Connections

In a recent post I described how Social Media? It’s About The Numbers! The post reflected on how the popularity of Twitter for talking about the Olympics indicated a mass take-up of the channel which appears to becoming an ‘embedded technology’ – a technology which large numbers of familiar with and comfortable in using for a range of activities. The post went on to explain how for many communication channels achieving a critical mass is important in order to maximise awareness, engagement discussion, feedback and marketing opportunities. JISC clearly appreciate the importance of such numbers, and it is very pleasing to see the significant growth in their followers since the account was established on 10 January 2009.

Yesterday Steve Wheeler in a post on Separation and connection reinforced this view when he described how “We are witnessing a time where a mobile world wide web of connections is proliferating, and in which social mores, human relationships and communication conventions have been irrevocably changed“, supporting this view with the evidence that “Facebook boasts over 845 million subscriptions and this statistics grows each month. What is even more remarkable is that these 845 million user accounts have so far generated over 100 billion connections“. Steve concluded with an optimistic view of the role of social media in education: “I believe we have not even started to scratch the surface of the massive potential of social media and mobile technology to disrupt and transform learning. That’s why it’s so exciting to be an educator in the digital age.

But not everyone, I feel, appreciates the importance of ‘nodes’ and ‘connections’ which are at the heart of successful social web services. As I described in a post entitled It’s About Links; It’s About Connectedness! Cameron Neylon’s opening plenary talk at the Open Repositories OR 2012 conference addressed the importance of such connectivity. As reported in the live blog of Cameron’s talk:

Most of you can remember a time without mobile phones. 20 years ago if I’d shown up and wanted to meet for a drink it would have been difficult or impossible. Email wasn’t useful back then either as so few people had it. When you start with nodes and start joining up the network… for a long time little changes. You just let people communicate in the same way you did before… right up until everyone has access to a mobile phone. or everyone has email. You move from a network that is better connected network to a network that can be traversed in new ways. for chemists THIS IS A Cooperative phase transition. Where the network crystalises out from a solution.

Cameron has kindly shared his slides with me (prior to making a more generic version of the slides publicly available) which has helped me to refresh my memories of his talk and reuse some of the images he provided.

Cameron argued that “Networks qualitatively change our capacity” and depicted this ‘phase transition’ as shown: with only 20% of a community being connected only a limited amount of interaction can take place, but this increases drastically as the numbers of connected nodes grows – and imagine the possibilities as the numbers approach 100%!

Cameron provided some examples of such approaches in scientific research including Galaxy Zoo and the Timothy Gower’s experiment in which Professor Gower asked “is massively collaborative mathematics possible?“. The answer was “yes” with a new combinatorial proof to the density version of the Hales–Jewett theorem being found using “blogs and a wiki to organize an open mathematical collaboration attempting to find a new proof ” after only 7 weeks.

The importance is the network effect, with a growth in the number of nodes (the bloggers, the contributors, the Twitter users) leading to a growth in the number of connections (the posts, the comments, the tweets, the retweets) which help in the development of new insights and new ideas.

Let’s Not Kill The Golden Goose!

A concern which needs to be recognised is that the evidence of the benefits of use of social media will lead to organisations seeking to use the social web in inappropriate ways, leading to a failure to provide the benefits based on the network effect. There are dangers that the benefits of the social web are felt to be its ease-of-use and its virality, but that the tools should be used in a corporate way. Seeking to take the individuality away from use of such tools could lead a reduction in the number of nodes and in the connections which often take place between individuals rather than organisations. Such approaches could kill the golden goose and lead to social networks which people abandon due to the lack of openness and transparency and effectiveness.

One barrier which people sometimes mention are concerns of information overload – and this may have been the reaction when I suggested that people should “imagine the possibilities as the numbers approach 100%!“.

Cameron Neylon addressed this as one of the three key issues in his plenary talk at OR 2012. “Filters block” argued Cameron, “Filters cause friction“. And as there’s not a single right filter for everyone (as we all have different needs, with your rubbish being my valuable resources) we should reject inappropriate supply-side filters and focus, instead, on developing and using client-side filters.

Let’s therefore keep on encouraging new nodes to spring up – new Twitter users (many of whom may have started tweeting during the Olympics) and new bloggers – and avoid developing barriers on the creation of new connections – the tweets, the comments and the posts.

But we need to appreciate that those who may be considering the development of top-down approaches to use of social media are probably doing so because they have legitimate concerns. As described in a paper on Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web there is a need for “a policy framework which seeks to ensure that authors can exploit Cloud Services to engage with their audiences in a professional and authentic manner whilst addressing the concerns of their host institution“. And note that such policies need not be difficult to write.

Posted in Blog, Social Networking, Twitter | 8 Comments »

Social Media? It’s About The Numbers!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 August 2012

More than 150 million Tweets about the Olympics over the past 16 days

According to the Twitter blog there were “more than 150 million Tweets about the Olympics over the past 16 days“. The post on went on to inform us that “it was the Spice Girls who stole the night, inspiring more than 116,000 Tweets per minute“. Meanwhile an article on “London 2012, a social media Olympics to remember” posted on the BBC Web site provided a visualisation of how UK-based fans tweeted the Games which is shown below. From this we can see that over there were over 40,000 tweets per hour during the opening ceremony. The web page explained how:

The data was collated by social media sentiment analysts at SoSoLimited in a project commissioned by EDF Energy. They collected tweets from Twitter users who had identified themselves as being from the UK, and monitored posts which mentioned a set of 29 TeamGB-related keywords such as “ennis”, “wiggins” and “London 2012″. The total number of tweets about the Games is far greater than the graph above represents, but SoSoLimited’s data gives a clear picture of Britain’s most exciting Games moments so far.

This doesn’t, however, tell us how many individuals tweeted and how many have started using Twitter during the Olympic Games. It would also be interesting to have a better understanding of the locations used: what proportion were tweeting from the Olympic venues or while watching the games on TV?

It is clear that Twitter has reached the mass market. It should also be clear that the numbers of tweets and of Twitter users are important. This is something to remember when you hear people say “The content is the important thing” or “Content is king“. Clearly the content of the 150 million tweets isn’t the important thing – “Oh no, it’s the Spice Girls :-(” – it is the scale of the communications which is significant.

Of course, we might say that the content is the important thing – and in this case the content is the Olympic Games: the 100 metres sprint, the 5,000 and 1o,000 metres and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and, yes, even the Spice Girls. But if we are talking about communications channels, it tends to be the numbers which are a key feature, rather than the content of the channel.

Many Eyes Make All Bugs Shallow

This sentiment has been articulated by the open source community in Linus’s Law which is summarised as “Many Eyes Make All Bugs Shallow“. As described in a RedHat paper on OPEN SOURCE SECURITY: A LOOK AT THE SECURITY BENEFITS OF SOURCE CODE ACCESS (PDF formata entire section addresses “Strength in Numbers: The Security of “Many Eyeballs” and says:

The security benefits of open source software stem directly from its openness. Known as the “many eyeballs”theory,it explains what we instinctively know to be true – that an operating system or application will be more secure when you can inspect the code, share it with experts and other members of your user community,identify potential problems and create fixes quickly.

In this case the openness arises from open source licences. Similar arguments also apply to research papers and research data which are published under Creative Commons licences, with the argument being that such liberal licence conditions will make it easier for interested parties to read and cite or reuse content of interest.

In the case of social media, the benefits arise from the popularity of the service itself, rather than the openness of the technology delivering the service, as can be seen from the little use which is made of the identi.ca service which is positioned as an open alternative to Twitter. If you visit my profile you’ll see little activity since I joined in 2008. I suspect this is also true for others who bothered to sign up to the service – but I would like to be proven wrong.

Meanwhile, At Bath Folk Festival

The importance of numbers and metrics for social media extends beyond global events such as the Olympic Games. Last year in a post which argued that We Can’t Ignore Facebook I described use of Facebook and Twitter to promote the Bath Folk Festival. Facebook, it turned out, was much more popular than Twitter and so became the service which was used to promote events and to encourage discussion about the concerts and other events.

The post included a graph showing the growth in use of the Bath Folk Festival Facebook page. Unfortunately at first glance the findings do not appear to be comparable with those obtained last year. I am not yet in a position to answer questions such as:

  • Has Facebook usage grown since last year?
  • There are now 528 Followers of the @bathfolkfest Twitter account. How have the numbers grown since last year? Would it be more effective to use Twitter to promote events for this year’s Bathe Folk Festival and to encourage discussions to take place on Twitter?

I suspect that if I spend sometime looking at the Facebook Insights data for the page and Twitter analytics tools I’d be able to provide a better answer to such questions.

My conclusions from this post:

  • For social networks, numbers do matter
  • There is a need to continually monitor the numbers in order to detect trends which may inform policy decisions.

If you’ve also an interest in the content, I’d recommend the concert featuring Spiers & Boden, Bob & Gill Berry and Jon Hick – which should also feature a surprise rapper sword dancing team.

Posted in Social Networking | 2 Comments »

Over One Million ‘Likes’ of Facebook Pages for the 24 Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 August 2012

Background

On 1 August the 20 Russell Group universities was enlarged from 20 to 24, following the incorporation of Durham and Exeter University, Queen Mary, University of London and the University of York. As described on the Russell Group University Web site “[the] universities are to be found in all four nations and in every major city of the UK. They operate globally, attracting international students and academic staff from many different countries, but also have a strong role and influence within their regional and local community.” But how effective are they in using popular social media services to attract potential students, engage with existing students and staff and with the wider community? In order to provide a benchmark of use of the most popular social networking service a survey of the number of likes for the official institutional Facebook presence has been carried out.

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities

In order to gather evidence of use of Facebook in the higher education sector a survey of Facebook usage, determined by links for institutional pages, have been carried out for the Russell Group universities. This survey follows on from previous surveys carried out in January and September 2011 and May 2012 for the 20 Russell group universities which enabled trends to be detected which can inform discussions and policy decisions on institutional use of Facebook. Note that the data provided in the following table is also available as a Google Spreadsheet.

 Ref. No. Institution and Web site link
Facebook name and link
Nos. of Likes
(Jan 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(Sep 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(May 2012)
Nos. of Likes
(Aug 2012)
% increase
since Sep 2011
 1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb nameunibirmingham
8,558  14,182  18,611   20,756    46%
 2 InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Fb nameUniversity-of-Bristol/108242009204639
2,186   7,913  11,480  12,357    56%
 3 InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
Fb namecambridge.university
58,392 105,645 153,000 168,000    59%
 4 InstitutionCardiff University
Fb namecardiffuni
20,035  25,945   30,648  31,989     23%
 5 InstitutionDurham University
Fb nameDurham-University/109600695725424
-  -   -  10,843    -
 6 InstitutionUniversity of Exeter
Fb nameintouniversityofexeter  exeteruni
-  -   -    1,765
15,387
   -
 7 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Fb nameUniversityOfEdinburgh
(Page URL changed since first survey)
-  12,053   24,507   27,574  112%
 8 InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Fb Name: glasgowuniversity
-   1,860   27,149  29,840 1,504%
 9 InstitutionImperial College
Fb nameimperialcollegelondon
5,490  10,257  16,444  19,020    85%
10 InstitutionKing’s College London
Fb nameKings-College-London/54237866946
2,047   3,587   5,384   7,534   110%
11 InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Fb nameuniversityofleeds
-    899   2,143    3,091    243%
12 InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Fb name: livuni
(Page URL change since last survey)
2,811  3,742   4,410   4,655 5,239     40%
13 InstitutionLSE
Fb name: lseps
(
Page URL changed for this survey)
22,798  32,290 43,716   50,287    56%
14 InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Fb nameUniversity-Of-Manchester/365078871967
1,978   4,734   9,356   13,751   190%
15 InstitutionNewcastle University
Fb namenewcastleuniversity
-     115      693    1,084   840%
16 InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Fb nameTheUniofNottingham
3,588    9,991  14,692   17,133     71%
17 InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Fb namethe.university.of.oxford
137,395 293,010 541,000 628,000  114%
18 InstitutionQueen Mary, University of London
Fb nameQueen-Mary-University-of-London/107998909223423
-  -   -  13,362    -
19 InstitutionQueen’s University Belfast
Fb nameQueensUniversityBelfast
(Page URL changed for this survey)
- 5,211   10,063   16,989  226%
20 InstitutionUniversity of Sheffield
Fb nametheuniversityofsheffield
6,646 12,412  19,308   22,746   83%
21 InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Fb nameunisouthampton
3,328 6,387  18,062   19,790  209%
22 InstitutionUniversity College London
Fb nameUCLOfficial
977 4,346  33,853  37,493  760%
23 InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Fb namewarwickuniversity
8,535 12,112 14,472   15,103    25%
24 InstitutionUniversity of York
Fb nameuniversityofyork
-  -   -    11,212    -
TOTAL 287,767 566,691 998,991 1,184,958
1,198,580 
   

Note

Summary

Facebook ‘Likes’ for Russell Group Universities in August 2012

There are now over a million ‘likes’ for the institutional presence on Facebook of the 24 Russell Group universities.

A post on this blog previously described a significant increase over  a period of eight months in the number of ‘likes’ for the twenty UK Russell Group Universities, which totalled about 999K in May. The current increase over a period of about ten weeks is primarily due to the additional numbers provided by the four new Russell group universities, which come to a total of over 37K likes.

It should be noted that, as illustrated 67% of the likes are provided by just two institutions: the Facebook pages for the University of Oxford (with 628K likes) and the University of Cambridge (168K likes).

Note that a Google Spreadsheet of these figures, together with the accompanying charts, is available.

Discussion

In some circles providing evidence of Facebook usage is an activity which  people feel should be avoided, since Facebook is a ‘walled garden’ and has a blatant disregard for individual’s privacy.

In the higher education sector I would argue that we have a need for policy decisions to be informed by evidence. There is therefore a need to gather evidence of use of such services in order to inform decisions on their use and also to learn from their strengths and weaknesses and their popularity, so that such lessons can be used in order to make more effective use of existing services and also to be prepared to use new social media service which could replace or complement today’s popular services. Anyone who would like to see Facebook replaced by Diaspora, say (described in Wikipedia as “a nonprofit, user-owned, distributed social network that is based upon the free Diaspora software … is not owned by any one person or entity, keeping it safe from corporate take-overs, advertising, and other threats“)  would surely benefit from gaining an understanding of Facebook’s popularity.

From looking at the names of institutional Facebook accounts and the corresponding URLs and the popularity of the accounts it would appear beneficial to have an easily remembered name, to avoid fragmentation of official accounts and  to avoid the need to rename an accounts address.

This might suggest that it would be useful for institutions to claim a meaningful name on social networks which may gain in popularity in the future. As suggested in a post on Institutional Use of Social Media in China this has been an approach which has been adopted by 19 of the first 20 institutions with an official presence on China’s Sina Wēibó social media service.

But at a time in which it is increasingly important to be able to justify the return on investment in using new services, it will be important to document the intended purposes of such new services and the benefits which may be gained. Back in May 2007 in a post entitled Something IS Going On With Facebook! I commented on early signals of growth in interest in Facebook following the launch of the Facebook Platform. A few months later, in November 2007 a post entitled UK Universities On Facebook reported that “a Facebook search for organisations containing the word ‘university’ revealed ) a total of 76 hits which included, in alphabetical order, the following UK Universities: AstonCardiffKent and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)” – and it is interesting to note that the links to the Facebook pages for these early adopters still work even though the URLs have changed.

The post generated a large number of comments with Patrick Lauke asking:

so, for those unis who have a “page” (with new revised Ts&Cs) on facebook…what are your strategic objectives? key performance indicators? external target audience, or a mix of internal and external?

Looking back it would be interesting to see if an institutional Facebook presence has supported strategic objectives. Would the 24 Russell Group Universities  have regarded having a total of over a million as providing a proxy measure of some objective? On the other hand, might this be regarded as a failure?  We have five years of experience of institutional use of Facebook, which includes a number of snapshots of quantitative evidence. It will be interesting to see how this evidence of the recent past can shape and inform discussions and decisions on use of social media over the next five years.

I should add that following the survey in May  2012 Tom Wright, Digital Engagement Manager at the University of Nottingham, commented:

Interesting to see these stats, but to gauge how successful universities are with Facebook you really need to look at other metrics around engagement, reach, influence, etc. You can have plenty of likes but very little engagement and measuring likes is very much like judging a web page’s success based on simple page view numbers – a very raw measure that doesn’t tell you an awful lot. 

I would agree with these comments, although I should add that since such information is restricted to Facebook page administrators it is not possible to get a picture across a community.  However a follow-up post which provided a Survey of Institutional Use of Facebook was also published in May which contained information about a survey in which Tom and I invited those involved in using Facebook to support institutional activities to provide details of their work. In order to gain a broad picture of Facebook use across the sector this survey is still open.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 4 Comments »

It’s About Links; It’s About Connectedness!

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 July 2012

It’s about links; it’s about connectedness” explained Cameron Neylon in the opening keynote plenary talk at the Open Repositories 2012 conference which officially opened yesterday.  As described in the live blog of the talk:

Most of you can remember a time without mobile phones. 20 years ago if I’d shown up and wanted to meet for a drink it would have been difficult or impossible. Email wasn’t useful back then either as so few people had it. When you start with nodes and start joining up the network… for a long time little changes. You just let people communicate in the same way you did before… right up until everyone has access to a mobile phone. or everyone has email. You move from a network that is better connected network to a network that can be traversed in new ways. for chemists THIS IS A Cooperative phase transition. Where the network crystalises out from a solution.

But how can the benefits of such connected approaches to work activities be applied more widely?  Cameron argued that we need:

  1. Connectivity
  2. Low friction
  3. Demand on side filters

The connectivity is now widely available: we have a wide spectrum of social media services which can be used to connect with one’s peers and one’s user communities in additional to one’s friends and families.  The global social media service also need to be easy to use in order to survive and so provide ‘low friction’ for their use.  The challenge is the filtering by the user in order to enable the user to identify the content, the discussions, the communities of relevance to them at the time of engagement with the tools.

It’s about links; it’s about connectedness” was the point I made when in the one-minute summaries of the posters in the session which followed Cameron’s opening plenary. I highlighted the relevance of Cameron’s point when I described my paper which asked “Can LinkedIn and Academia.edu Enhance Access to Open Repositories?. These widely used services provide low friction, as can be seen from the survey of their usage across the Russell Group universities. But repository managers do not appear to encouraging their use in a systematic way. Ironically although  repository managers many not be explaining the benefits which can be gained, both to the individual researcher and the institutional repository itself, by links to papers hosted on the repository, as we described in the paper, commercial publishers are promoting use of services such as LinkedIn to  link from to papers hosted behind the publishers’ paywalls!

Learning is a collaborative process: social media can enrich the opportunities for learning

It’s about links; it’s about connectedness” is the point I’ll be making in two hours’ time in my talk on “Social Media: For Ourselves and For Our Customers” at the UCISA Support Services Conference 2012.  The importance of social media for engaging with students is widely appreciated although, as Helen Keegan will explain later today in a talk on “Into the wild:  embracing the anarchy“, while web enabled mobile devices can allow our learners to connect any place, at any time, this shift towards personalisation, ownership and autonomy poses significant challenges for IT services and information systems.

However the main point of my talk will be the importance of social media for engaging with one’s peers:  IT services staff working at other institutions. We need to remember that senior managers in our institutions are capable of using Google to search for “outsource IT in universities”  and might find the article published on The Guardian in December 2010 which suggested that “Universities could save £3bn by outsourcing, says thinktank“. But the IT Services community represented by UCISA do have an ace up their sleeve: the strength of the community.  The question is whether IT Services staff are aware of the value of such collaborative and connected approaches.

In my talk I’ll recommend that the delegates at the UCISA User Support Service Conference watch the video recording of Cameron’s talk on “Network Enabled Research: The possibilities, the path and the role of repositories”  when it becomes available.  I’ll also suggest that UCISA consider making use of social services to support their conferences – in particular I’ll highlight the Lanyrd entry for the USSC12 conference  and suggest that tools such as this can be used to help build one’s professional network.

The slides I’ll be using are available on Slideshare and embedded below.

Posted in Social Networking | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Tools to Support a Community of Practice

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 June 2012

The Web Management Community of Practice

On Monday 18 June I will be co-facilitating a session on “New to the Sector? New to Web Management? New to IWMW?” at UKOLN’s annual IWMW 2012 event. Mike Nolan, Head of the Web Services team at Edge Hill University and Amber Thomas, programme manager at the JISC, will also be contributing to the session, with Mike giving his thoughts from the perspective of a Web manager who has had both technical and managerial responsibilities and Amber describing the ways in which JISC supports the needs of those working in institutional Web management teams.

In my talk on the role of the Innovation Support Centre at UKOLN I will focus on our involvement in the development of the Web management Community of Practice (CoP) through 16 years of the IWMW event and, in the early years, engagement on mailing lists. As described previously the two main lists used by this community have declined significantly since 2002, and now are used primarily for announcements of events, calls for papers and job advertisements. This decline is not surprising in light of the growth of a wide range of communications and collaborative tools during that time.  The challenge, however, is identifying the tools which can support the community and understanding how they can be used.  Or to put in in more concrete terms:
  • What tools are available which can support the professional interests of web managers?
  • What patterns of use of such tools are emerging?
  • Web managers are busy people – can use of such tools provide a positive ROI?
We will now try to address these questions, with a focus on use of such tools across the community rather than within an institution or team.

Engaging with the Web Management Community on Twitter

Sceptics will point out that Twitter is full of trivia, and use of Twitter can be time-consuming. Established Twitter users will agree that Twitter is full of trivia – and James Clay’s regular #thisiswhattwitterwascreatedfor tweets seem to confirm such views. But we should also remember that mailing lists and the Web itself are also full of information which are of no interest and are time-consuming to read – indeed it is also worth pointing out that libraries are full of books which are of no interest to individual readers!  The issue is not the tool itself, but the way in which the tool (or the library) is used. And surprisingly for some, Twitter’s apparent simplicity provides a diverse way in which it can be used, beyond telling people what you had for breakfast.

Twitter lists

When Twitter lists first came out it was unclear as to what benefits they would provide. However a number of applications now make use of Twitter lists. I have created a list for IWMW 2012 attendees who have provided a Twitter ID on their registration form. Viewing the  Twitter stream doesn’t provide much value (at the time of writing people are tweeting about a Euro12 football match and what they’re having for tea). However this list can be used in application such as Flipboard enable a personalised newspaper to be created based on content from a variety of sources including RSS feeds, Facebook and Twitter. Further examples can be seen in the post on  Who Needs Murdoch – I’ve Got Smartr, My Own Personalised Daily Newspaper! – although the Smartr app is no longer available the post illustrates the concept of how a Twitter list can be used as a filter for links to resources posted in Twitter.

Bottlenose

A post entitled How Bottlenose Can Help Turn Twitter into a High Signal Channel illustrated how various tools developed around the Twitter environment can provide ease of access to quality content.

The accompanying screenshot shows a search for the hashtag #eucookielaw.  As can be seen, this enables you to focus in on tweets with other hashtags (such as #iwmw12) or keywords (such as ICO).

The point of these two examples is to illustrate how Twitter can be useful in finding content of interest. However the main purpose of this post is to illustrate how Twitter can be used in the support of a community. We will now explore examples of such uses.

Twitter as an Identity Provider

You do not have to post tweets in order to gain benefits from having a Twitter account.  If you are a speaker at events you can include your Twitter ID on your title slide, along with your email address. This can help you find what people were saying about your talk afterwards e.g. a tweet saying “Great talk by @johnsmith” will arrive in @johnsmith’s incoming messages whereas “Great talk by john smith” will be more difficult to find.

Lanyrd

The Lanyrd service enables a user with a Twitter account to link their attendance at an event (as a speaker, delegate or organiser)  with your Twitter account.  As can be seen for the Lanyrd entry for the IWMW 2012 event you can see the 56 people who have currently associated their Twitter ID with the event.  Selecting a user, such as my colleague @MariekeGuy, you can view the other events she has been involved with, as well as the other users she has appeared with at other events.

Social Ties

The Social Ties app, available for the iPhone and Android platforms:

…  shows you which friends are present and list everyone else by our ‘shared interests index’. Anyone you don’t know becomes a ‘discovery’, the highest ranked are those who talk about the same things as you.

This is an example which seems to provide the ability to help develop one’s community of people with shared interests, based on attendance at forthcoming events. As described by the developers:

Social Ties is an iPhone app that utilises advanced AI algorithms to mine Social Network data to provide you with detailed profiles of people at the conference or event that you are attending, and orders the results according to how interesting we think you will find them.

It should be noted that Social Ties gets its event data from Lanyrd.

Shhmooze

Unlike the other examples given so far, Shhmooze is not part of the Twitter infrastructure. Rather, as I described last year, Shhmooze  is designed to facilitate networking at an event. We have set up a Shhmooze entry for the IWMW 2012 event and will be inviting delegates to try out the tool during the three day event.

Conclusions

The session on New to the Sector? New to Web Management? New to IWMW? which will be held next Monday “will provide orientation for those who have not attended the event previously or are new to the sector or the community“.  I will give an overview of the IWMW event and suggest that it is not the skills of members of institutional Web teams or the services provided by the teams which have the potential to be the key aspect of a sustainable institutional Web team.  After all, policy makers within the institution are capable of carrying out this search query and looking for alternative providers of Web services. But what members of web teams within the institutions should have is the strength of their community.  Let’s continue to build and develop this community!

Posted in Events, Social Networking | 3 Comments »

Survey of Institutional Use of Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 May 2012

Total nos. of Facebook Likes for Russell Group universities.

A recent post entitled  What Next, As Facebook Use in UK Universities Continues to Grow? summarised growth in institutional use of Facebook in the 20 Russell Group universities in the UK, based on the number of ‘likes’ for the official institutional Facebook page. As can be seen in the accompanying histogram, there has been significant growth since the surveys in January and September 2011.  However as Tom Wright, the Digital Engagement Manager at the University of Nottingham commentedto gauge how successful universities are with Facebook you really need to look at other metrics around engagement, reach, influence, etc.

This is certainly true, but such metrics are not always publicly available and so in order to be able to answer the question “Are universities successful in their use of Facebook?” it will clearly be advantageous to be able to see a greater range of metrics. But in addition, the metrics themselves need to relate to the intended purpose(s) of the services and institutions may be using Facebook for a range of different purposes.

In order to help gain a better understand of how Facebook is being used across the sector, Tom and I have set up a SurveyMonkey form on institutional use of Facebook which invites respondents to summarise the purposes of institutional Facebook pages and the metrics they use to monitor the effectiveness of Facebook to achieve these purposes.  As Tom describes:

Understanding the roles which social networks such as Facebook can have in supporting business requirements is important for universities such as Nottingham with campuses in China and Malaysia and students from around the world. Facebook, with its international audience, has huge potential for today’s higher education institutions with their increasingly global reach, in the areas of student recruitment, marketing, internal communications and alumni support.

The survey is intended primarily for those working in institutional Web management or marketing teams in UK universities or FE colleges.  However we appreciate that universities around the world will have similar interests in the role of Facebook, together with concerns regarding the sustainability of the service, privacy issues and its relevance in supporting educational needs.

Such issues have been described in a paper on “Social Networking and Education: Using Facebook As An Edusocial Space” published in the Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2011 (pp. 3330-3338). This paper is also available on Scribd. The abstract for the paper states that:

The acceptance of Facebook by school-aged users is evident, but the potential of using social networking sites for educational purposes is still being debated. This paper explores the use of Facebook within a high school science-mentoring program. Results indicate that the use of Facebook positively affected the relationships between mentors and mentees. In addition, students believed that they learned more by using Facebook and would like to use Facebook for other educational purposes.

and concludes:

Social networking is already one of the most common ways that communication occurs virtually. While the majority of users spend time communicating with those who they have already built relationships with in reality, it may also have the potential to build relationships virtually.

Participation of a mentor and mentee on the Facebook group page was seen to positively affect their relationship both online and offline. Students and mentors that interacted regularly, posting questions and receiving feedback through the page, were observed as having a stronger relationship than other mentor-mentee pairs.

Might this suggest that there is a role to play in the development of Facebook apps which can support such collaborative activities? Back in March 2010 in a post entitled OU Facebook Apps, Reprise Tony Hirst mentioned work at the Open University which was “looking at rebooting the OU’s Facebook strategy. With a bit of luck, this means that we’ll be doing another push on the OU Facebook apps that were developed several years ago now and which I still believe provide a sound basis for a range of community building and social learning support services“.

But although the Open University might be working in this area, what is happening in the wider sector?  The concluding section on “Recommendations for future research” in the paper mentioned above described how:

Additional research is needed to explore the most beneficial design for an edusocial space. Though Facebook has been used for some educational purposes, research could explore the specific kinds of activities that are most beneficial to learners. Using social networking sites, however, is still a controversial issue with most schools blocking the site from students and faculty. Thus, it must also be understood if students can view sites like Facebook as educational spaces and be able to engage in learning activities at appropriate times.

The survey on institutional use of Facebook aims to gather information on such development activities.  We intend to present the findings at UKOLN’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, IWMW 2012, in Edinburgh on 18-20 June.  We hope that people within the sector will respond to this survey in order that we can gain a comprehensive picture of use of Facebook across the higher and further educational sectors.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 4 Comments »

What Next, As Facebook Use in UK Universities Continues to Grow?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 May 2012

Facebook IPO

On Tuesday a headline in the Guardian announced Facebook raises price range ahead of IPO with the article describing how “Facebook has increased the price range of its stock in what will be Silicon Valley’s biggest-ever initial public offering to raise more than $12bn (£7.4bn), giving the social network a valuation that could exceed $100bn“.

What will the reaction be after today’s IPO launch? I suspect that my Twitter network will be talking about a bubble which is about to burst (if the shares go up in price) or will gloat if the price goes down. I don’t expect people to say “the financial injection can support developments which will be beneficial to use of Facebook within higher education“!

But how widely used is Facebook within higher education? And are the trends suggesting that usage has peaked, with users becoming disillusioned with social networks such as Facebook or, perhaps, moving to other services, such as Twitter – as the recent announcement in the Guardian that “Twitter now has 10m users in UK” with the “UK [being] the fourth-largest country for Twitter users in the world, with 80% accessing it with mobile phones” may suggest?

Facebook Usage for Russell Group Universities

In order to gather evidence to support discussions on the relevance of use of Facebook in the higher education sector a survey of Facebook usage, determined by links for institutional pages, has been carried out for the 20 Russell Group universities. This survey follows on from previous surveys carried in in January and September 2011 which will enable trends to be detected. Note that the data provided in the following table is also available as a Google Spreadsheet.

Institution and Web site link
Facebook name and link
Nos. of Likes
(Jan 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(Sep 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(May 2012)
% increase
since Jan 2011
% increase
since Sep 2011
 1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb nameunibirmingham
8,558  14,182  18,611 117%    31%
 2 InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Fb nameUniversity-of-Bristol/108242009204639
2,186   7,913  11,480  425%    45%
 3 InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
Fb namecambridge.university
58,392 105,645 153,000 162%    45%
 4 InstitutionCardiff University
Fb namecardiffuni
20,035  25,945   30,648  53%    18%
 5 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Fb nameUniversityOfEdinburgh
(Page URL changed since previous survey)
-  12,053   24,507 -   103%
 6 InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Fb Name: glasgowuniversity
-   1,860   27,149 -  1,346%
 7 InstitutionImperial College
Fb nameimperialcollegelondon
5,490  10,257  16,444 200%    60%
 8 InstitutionKing’s College London
Fb nameKings-College-London/54237866946
2,047   3,587   5,384 163%    50%
 9 InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Fb nameuniversityofleeds
-    899   2,143 -    138%
10 InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Fb nameUniversity-of-Liverpool/293602011521
2,811  3,742   4,410  57%    18%
11 InstitutionLSE
Fb nameLSE/6127898346
22,798  32,290 43,716  92%    35%
12 InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Fb nameUniversity-Of-Manchester/365078871967
1,978   4,734   9,356  373%    98%
13 InstitutionNewcastle University
Fb namenewcastleuniversity
-     115      693 -  503%
14 InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Fb nameTheUniofNottingham
3,588    9,991  14,692  309%   47%
15 InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Fb namethe.university.of.oxford
137,395 293,010 541,000   294%   85%
16 InstitutionQueen’s University Belfast
Fb nameQueens-University-Belfast/108518389172588
- 5,211   10,063 -   93%
17 InstitutionUniversity of Sheffield
Fb nametheuniversityofsheffield
6,646 12,412  19,308  199%   56%
18 InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Fb nameunisouthampton
3,328 6,387  18,062  443%  183%
19 InstitutionUniversity College London
Fb nameUCLOfficial
977 4,346  33,853 3,365%  679%
20 InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Fb namewarwickuniversity
8,535 12,112 14,472    70%   19%
TOTAL 287,767 566,691 998,991  241%    76%

Note

  • The data for the surveys was collected on 11 January 201125 September  2011 (estimate) and 16 May 2012.
  • The Facebook page for the University of Edinburgh has changed since the last survey.

Summary

Figure 1: Growth in total nos. of Facebook ‘Likes’ for Russell Group universities.

In brief in a period of eight months we have seen an increase in the number of ‘likes’ for the twenty UK Russell Group Universities of over 432,300 users with the largest increase, of almost 248,000 occurring at the University of Oxford. The largest percentage increase in that time has taken place at University of Glasgow, which has seen a growth of 1,346% from 1,860 to 27,149 and UCL which has seen a growth of 679% from 4,346 to 33,493.

The overall trends are illustrated in the accompanying histogram. As can be seen this shows a significant growth in the overall number of Facebook likes across the Russell Group universities.

It should also be noted that according to Russell Group University Web sitehalf a million students are enrolled at Russell Group universities – one in five of all higher education students in the UK“. Although the numbers of Facebook likes will include members of staff and other interested parties, the data does seem to suggest that a significant proportion of students are using Facebook.

Discussion

I suspect that social media consultants who advise the higher education sector will find the evidence presented in this post useful in demonstrating the importance of Facebook. However some caveats need to be pointed out:

  • There may be significant growth when six formers are deciding which universities to apply to. The ‘liking’ of a university may provide a bookmark which is not an indication of engagement with the institution.
  • New students may like their new institution’s Facebook page when they arrive, but may not use the service during their time at the institution.
  • Students may not unlike their institution’s Facebook page when they graduate, meaning that the number of Facebook likes will include people who have left the institution and may no longer use the service or have an interest in the information provided.

In addition to the need to the interpretation of the data there will also be a need to make policy decisions which should be informed by such evidence, but may not need to be determined by the evidence. It may be that Facebook can be regarded in a similar way to mailing lists: people use them and gain some value from them but development work is likely to take place using other technologies. Alternatively the popularity of Facebook may mean that that it has a role to play as a platform for development of new services. As described in a post on Facebook and Twitter as Infrastructure for Dissemination of Research Papers (and More) publishers such as Spring are providing mechanisms for researchers to share peer-reviewed papers using Facebook and Twitter, so perhaps Facebook could have a role to play as a sharing tool which is embedded within institutional tools.

Alternatively might Facebook have a role to play in more significant development work. The initial popularity of the Guardian’s Facebook app suggested that Facebook could have a role to play in sharing one’s reading activities across one’s networks, although more recent evidence, as described in a post on “Facebook Social Readers Are All Collapsing” suggests that Facebook apps which provide ‘frictionless sharing’ are declining in popularity. A more recent post TechCrunch post which described how Decline Of Reader Apps Likely Due To News Feed Changes, Shows Facebook Controls The Traffic Faucet provided a more thoughtful analysis of the reasons for the decline in usage, but also highlighted the dependencies which organisations will have in reliance on commercial companies whose business decisions may adversely effect organisations which rely on their services.

Figure 2: Facebook ‘Likes’ for Russell Group universities
(see Table for institution names)

The question “What next for Facebook use in UK Universities?” will be an interesting one. And with over half a million ‘likes’ will Oxford University be thinking about benefits which can be gained from such a large network? Alternatively will institutions such as Newcastle University with small Facebook networks shrug their metaphorical shoulders at such suggestions and argue that Facebook has no value to their teaching and learning and research activities? Or might the popularity of Facebook at Oxford and Cambridge Universities, which, as can be seen from the histogram, has a significant effect on the overall totals for Russell Group universities, simply reflect the brand awareness for these two institutions?

What are your thoughts? And what evidence will you need to gather if you feel that alternatives to Facebook will have a significant role to play?

Footnote: A follow-up post about a Survey of Institutional Use of Facebook has been published. This contains information about a survey in which we invite those involved in using Facebook to support institutional activities to provide details of their work. We invite people to complete this survey in order to provide a better understanding of Facebook use within the sector.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 6 Comments »

Institutional Use of Social Media in China

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 March 2012

Reviewing Recent Surveys of Institutional Use of Social Media

A number of recent posts have described institutional use of social media by UK universities, including surveys of use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and links to social media services. These surveys were followed by a post on Institutional Use of Social Media In Europe. Such evidence-gathering can be helpful in identifying patterns of usage and informing policy-making.

But what about institutional use of social media by UK universities hosted in other countries?

Following my post on Links to Social Media Sites on Russell Group University Home Pages André Shappo, who teaches IT Internationalisation at Loughborough University and who has written about his interests in Chinese social networking services on his blog, sent me an email in which he informed me that:

There are also a small number of UK universities using China’s Sina Wēibó social media. So far I have found 20 UK universities using Sina Wēibó, two of which are Russell Group universities. My list is at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6fab54120100vhyh.html

André went on to add that:

Much more impressive is the number of western companies/brands using Sina Wēibó. So far I have found over 300 of them. My list is at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_6fab54120100wohn.html There are also other regional social media systems that could be used. It seems to me that UK universities are, in general, slow to take advantage of regional social media.

Are the twenty UK universities which André has identified leading the way? Are they established practices which could be adopted by others? A brief survey is described below which aims to provide evidence of the ways in which UK universities are using the Weibo social networking service. Note that as described in Wikipedia:

Sina Weibo (Chinese: 新浪微博; pinyin: Xīnlàng Wēibó; literally “Sina Microblog”) is a Chinese microblogging (weibo) website. Akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, it is one of the most popular sites in China, in use by well over 30% of Internet users, with a similar market penetration that Twitter has established in the USA. It was launched by SINA Corporation on 14 August 2009 and has more than 250 million registered users as of October 2011.

The Survey

The survey was carried out on Wednesday 29 February 2012. The findings are given in the following table, which includes links to the institutional entry on the Weibo service. Note that the survey is based on the twenty verified UK University accounts mentioned in André Shappo ‘s list. André has informed that there this is at least one additional institutional account, but this has not yet been verified.

Ref. No. Institution Sina Page Nos. of Fans
 1 Birmingham City University http://www.weibo.com/bcuchina  1,603
 2 Coventry University http://www.weibo.com/coventryuniversity  2,858
 3 Kingston University London http://www.weibo.com/kingstonlondon 13,836
 4 Lancaster University http://www.weibo.com/lancasteruni   3,190
 5 Leeds Metropolitan University http://www.weibo.com/leedsmetropolitan   1,330
 6 London Metropolitan University http://www.weibo.com/londonmet   1,455
 7 Northumbria University http://www.weibo.com/unnchina   2,605
 8 Sheffield Hallam University http://www.weibo.com/shuuk     800
 9 University of Bristol http://www.weibo.com/bristol   4,612
10 University of Derby http://www.weibo.com/derbychina     315
11 University of Essex http://www.weibo.com/universityofessex   4,408
12 University of Huddersfield http://www.weibo.com/hudchina 30,340
13 University of Leicester http://www.weibo.com/leicesteruniversity   3,648
14 University of Manchester Business School http://www.weibo.com/mbschinacentre   3,180
15 University of Northampton http://www.weibo.com/northampton   1,486
16 University of Sheffield http://www.weibo.com/sheffielduni   3,312
17 University of Sunderland http://www.weibo.com/sunderlandchina   2,941
18 University of Ulster http://www.weibo.com/u/2184786424   1,827
19 University of Wales, Newport http://www.weibo.com/newport     829
20 University of Westminster http://www.weibo.com/westminsterchina   4,919
TOTAL 89,494

Discussion

We can see that nineteen of the twenty organisations have a branded URL for their presence on the Weibo service. However it was interesting to note that whilst some institutions make use of the institutional name (coventryuniversityleedsmetropolitan and universityofessex) others provide a Chinese context (derbychinahudchina and westminsterchina).

The University of Huddersfield has the largest number of followers by a significant amount, with over twice as many followers as the next largest (Kingston University).

The University of Huddersfield’s site is illustrated. Since the site was viewed using the Chrome browser it was possible to use Google’s translate feature to read some of the posts. It was interesting to spot one post which illustrated how the University is making use of the service:

Revisiting Andre Shappo’s suggestion that:

It seems to me that UK universities are, in general, slow to take advantage of regional social media.

it does seem to me that, in light of changes to UK University funding models, we will see a greater emphasis on ways of marketing to and engaging with potential students from overseas. Clearly use of social media should provide a more cost-effective mechanisms for such engagement than physically transporting people and publications to countries such as China. However in order to maximise the benefits to the UK higher educational institutional as a whole we should be looking to identify and share best practices across the sector. This initial survey aims to provide an initial summary of use of Weibo by the early institutional adopters.

Paradata: The data published in the table was collected on Wednesday 29 February 2012.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Evidence, Social Networking | 5 Comments »

Further Reflections on My Predictions for 2012

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 January 2012

“Massively Scalable Sensemaking Analytics”

A recent post outlined My Predictions for 2012. However rather than just posting some idle speculations on technological developments which I feel will have an impact across the higher education sector this year, I also pointed out that there was a need  at a later date to be able to identify ways of gauging whether the predictions were accurate or not.

This suggestion followed on from a recent post in which I described “The Need for an Evidence-based Approach to Demonstrating Value“.  This post was highlighted by Stephen Downes who introduced me to “people like Rudolf Carnap [who] used to talk about ‘the requirement of total evidence’ and the ‘principle of indifference’” and went on to add that “These are as valid today as when they wrote it“. These two post inspired further discussion by Keith Lyons in a post on Probability and Sensemaking on the Clyde Street blog who cited a post on massively scalable sensemaking analytics which has links to other posts in this area including:

Sensemaking Systems Must be Expert Counting SystemsData Finds DataContext AccumulationSequence Neutrality and Information Colocation to new techniques to harness the Big Data/New Physics phenomenon.

This provides another take on my suggestion of the importance of Collective Intelligence. I’m therefore pleased to have been alerted to further relevant posts in this area. Indeed I can repeat the final two paragraphs in Keith’s posts as they are equally applicable to me:

It is fascinating that two early morning links can open up such a rich vein of discovery. At the moment I am particularly interested in how records can be used to inform decision making and what constitutes necessary and sufficient evidence to transform performance.

I have a lot of New Year reading to do!

But in addition to the analysis of big data in order to help make sense of future trends, it can also be useful to explore what other experts are predicting.

16 Predictions for Mobile in 2012

In my list of predictions I made uncontroversial comments regarding the growth in ownership of tablet computers. My interest was  not in tablet computers per se but in the implications of increased opportunities for content creation and curation, as well as content consumption which such devices would seem to provide.

On the GigaOm blog Kevin C. Tofel provides his more detailed predictions on development in mobile computing. Here are my thoughts on the implications of some of Kevin’s predictions:

Wearable computing becomes the next mobile frontier: Even more opportunities for content consumption, creation and curation. And, as explained in a post which described how “It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Fact That You Did It” favouriting a tweet or +1ing a post can be useful and valuable activities.

A jump in wireless home broadband adoption: More opportunities for online access in the home environment.

Windows Phone usage grows, but slower than expected: There will continue to be a diversity in devices, operating systems and applications, so it will be important to provide device- and application-specific services.

Windows tablets in 2012 will sell like Android tablets did in 2011. There will continue to be a diversity in devices, operating systems and applications, so it will be important to provide device- and application-specific services.

Research In Motion will no longer exist as we know it today: Some platforms will fail, so it can help to minimise the risks by minimising developments of platform-specific services.

Nokia uses Symbian as a backup plan (but doesn’t call it Symbian): See above.

The patent wars worsen: Sigh :-( The W3C will seek to avoid standards which are encumbered by patents, but the devices themselves, their networking connective, etc. may be covered by patents which could, as we have seen recently in the case in which Dutch court blocks Galaxy phones in parts of Europe | ZDNet UK, can lead to devices not being allowed to be sold. Best avoid developing device specific services, then!

Apple’s next iPhone will be the iPhone 4GS: When will 4G arrive in the UK, I wonder?

There will be an iPad Pro available in 2012: Ooh, so we should develop apps for the iPad, should we?

Android’s momentum will continue thanks to Android 4.0: Oh, and the Android?

Hybrid apps with HTML5 will be the norm: Maybe not!

Predictions from the BBC

The BBC News blog has a post entitled Mind-reading, tablets and TV are tech picks for 2012 in which a panel of experts “look ahead to the technologies that will change the way we live and work in 2012 and beyond“.

Mt predictions of the continuing growth in importance of tablet computers and social networks, including Facebook, are echoed by Robert Scoble who points out “in terms of the businesses I follow – start-ups – they’re all building into Facebook’s Open Graph technology” and adds “I think business is going to have to have a Facebook Open Graph strategy next year. Even if we’re ignoring it because it’s too freaky on the privacy side, they’re going to have to at least consider it.“.

I suspect that universities will be amongst those businesses which will be exploring how to make greater use of Facebook. As Scoble pointed out “I visited Yahoo recently and they said they’re seeing 600% more visits from Facebook because of it” – with an increasingly competitive market place across higher education I suspect we will be seeing even greater use being made of Facebook during 2012 and, as mentioned above, there will be a need to consider “the requirement of total evidence” and the “principle of indifference“.

But in addition to Facebook as an application environment, Scoble’s comment reminded me of the importance of Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol.  I wonder whether it will be possible to gather evidence of Facebook’s success by monitoring the growth of the social graph rather than simply the numbers of Facebook users.

The continuing importance of social networks was also the key message given by Tim Barker of Salesforce.com. Barker felt that:

The big one is the social enterprise revolution.

It’s the idea that you can see the power shifting from companies to consumers. There are more than 1.7 billion people on social networks now; Facebook is the size the entire internet was in 2004.

It’s really defining the way that consumers and customers interact with companies and what they expect from them.

Such issues are equally relevant for the university sector, in part because the increasing costs of going to university will mean that future intakes of students will see themselves regarding themselves as customers who are paying a lot of money for the ‘product’ they are buying. In addition something that both staff and students have in common is that we are all consumers when we leave our ivory towers and go into town for the January sales!

We may not like such terminology and be concerned about how the future seems to be arriving, but remember “the requirement of total evidence” and the “principle of indifference“.  On the other hand, perhaps we shouldn’t be so fatalistic about the future.  But if we do wish to build an alternative reality we will still need to gather the evidence.

Posted in Facebook, jiscobs, Social Web | Leave a Comment »

Should Higher Education Welcome Frictionless Sharing?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 January 2012

Frictionless Sharing and The Guardian Facebook App

I recently described developments which suggest the potential for Facebook and Twitter as Infrastructure for Dissemination of Research Papers (and More). The post pointed out that links Facebook and Twitter seem to becoming more embedded within services, such as bibliographic services, in order to make it easier for researchers to share papers of interest across their professional network. Recently Martin Belam (@currybet) tweeted “Frictionless sharing – exploring the changes to Facebook” – a piece I’ve written for FUMSI magazine http://bit.ly/z930Wc and his article explored other developments we are seeing which can make sharing of resources even easier than clicking on a Like or Tweet button. Martin is the Lead User Experience & Information Architect for the Guardian Web site and blogs about UX/IA, digital media & journalism on currybet.net. He is also a contributing editor for the FUMSI online magazine. His opening paragraph, in an article aimed at information professionals, suggests that he feels that Facebook can bring benefits to this sector:

As 2012 begins, Facebook remains one of the amazing growth stories of the internet. Some argue that an eventual flotation will mark the high tide of a second internet bubble, whilst others are awe of the fact that a website that started in a college dorm has grown to have nearly one billion members

The main focus of his article are the recent technical developments which make sharing of resources transparent:

One of the biggest changes for content providers is “frictionless sharing”. In the past, users had to actively share content by pressing a “Like” button on a website, or “Like”-ing a Facebook page, or including a URL in their status update. Facebook is changing this. They have opened up what they call their “Open Graph”, which allows apps and publishers to automatically insert “actions” into a user’s Facebook timeline. And, in plain English, that means that for some sites or apps, simply listening to a song or reading an article is enough to see it posted to your Facebook activity stream without you lifting so much as a mouse-finger.

At the time of writing only a handful of applications have been launched which take advantage of the feature, including those by Yahoo!, Spotify, the Guardian, Independent and the Washington Post’s “Social Reader” app. That is sure to change in 2012, but the roll-out of further apps seems tied into Facebook launching “Timeline” – a new way for users to view their profile pages.

As an example of what is meant by frictionless sharing a screenshot of my Facebook news updates showing the Guardian articles I read using the Guardian’s Facebook app is shown. As can be seen the articles I read included ones on “Sherlock: BBC will no remove nude scenes” and “A Thatcher state funeral would be bound to lead to protests“. Note that the links I have provided go directly to the Guardian Web site so you can follow the links in the knowledge that your interest in nudity and right wing politicians will not be disclosed to your liberal colleagues :-)

This provides an interesting example of the risks of sharing the articles you read, without having to manually select an article of interest and consciously share it, whether on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious or whatever, across your network. And this is a reason why some people, including people in my network whose opinions I respect, have concerns over this development. On the other hand, the Guardian Facebook app does seem to be popular. It seems I was not alone in reading the article on how “Footage of nude dominatrix shown before 9pm watershed have prompted more than 100 complaints” and the hypocrisy of the Daily Mail in expressing their outrage whilst including the ‘shocking’ images in their web site.

But the 8,995 people who viewed the article shortly after it had been published was beaten by the 11,686 people who read the article on how Pale octopus, hairy-chested yeti crab and other new species found (warning the first link is to the Guardian Facebook app).

So how popular is the Guardian Facebook app? A post which suggested that We Can’t Ignore Facebook described how the Guardian Facebook app was launched on 22 September 2011. Statistics for a number of the Guardian sections collated on 14 January 2012, just over three months after the app’s launch, are given below.

Section Like this Talking about this
Main 242,326 13,593
Society 13,451      862
Technology 16,662   1,053
Data 3,486      100
Football 14,820      888
Sport 905       68
Culture 38,261   3,699

These figures seem to suggest the popularity of the Guardian Facebook app although, as ever, care must be taken in interpretting figures. In particular I do not know if these figures may include use of a pre-frictionless sharing app. In addition this single set of figures doesn’t provide any comparisons with views of the Guardian Web site or shown trends.

But returning to the recent FUMSI article Martin Belam provided some suggestions aimed at information professionals

Think again about Facebook metadata
Facebook’s Open Graph is a metadata standard for marking up your web content. It sits quietly in the HEAD of your HTML, and replicates many fields that you might be familiar with from metadata standards like Dublin Core. The fact that anyone can access it via a web request allows Facebook to say the standard is “open”, although they tightly control the spec themselves. To take advantage of the new frictionless sharing, even if you don’t build an app yourself, making that metadata available is going to be a requirement to have your content display properly within the many social reading experiences that are sure to be developed.

Think again about audit trails
“Frictionless sharing” changes the nature of our digital audit trails on Facebook. From a competitive intelligence point of view, it is great news, because potentially seeing what someone from a particular company is reading about and watching can give you clues as to where their work may be heading. It also means being careful not to leave audit trails yourself if you want the research you are doing to be kept “under the radar”.

Discussion

The ‘Frictionless Sharing’ Term

Martin Belam’s article generated some interesting Twitter debate on the day it was published. I spotted the initial tweet from @currybet and shortly afterwards read @ppetej’s comment that:

Much as I loathe the whole ghastly “frictionless sharing” thing, some useful thoughts/pointers by @currybettinyurl.com/6rvnqx7

and @mweller’s response:

@ppetej frictionless sharing is interesting I think for academics – it certainly shaped the way I wrote my last book

I curated the discussion on Storify since I felt it raised several interesting issues, in particular in taking the discussion about frictionless sharing beyond one particular instance (Facebook, which tends to focus concerns on other aspects of Facebook’s activities) into the more general issues of frictionless sharing in an educational context. Indeed, as Pete Johnston pointed out, a post on Martin Weller’s The Ed Techie blog published back in 2008 described The cost of sharing in which Martin made the point that “The ‘cost’ of sharing has collapsed, but institutions don’t know this“. Martin went on to point out that:

Clay Shirky argues that the cost of organisation has disappeared, and I believe this is because sharing is easy, frictionless. If I come across something I share it via Google shared items, Twitter, my blog, etc. If I want to share I stick it up on Slideshare, my blog, YouTube. There is a small cost in terms of effort to me to do the sharing, and zero cost in anyone wanting to know what I share. Sharing is just an RSS feed away.

Hmm, so back in November 2008 Martin Weller stated that “sharing is easy, frictionless“. Can anyone find an early reference to use of this term in this context? In a post on Sharing Learning Resources: shifting perspectives on process and product Amber Thomas used the term to describe activities taking place in the 1990s: “For example, the late 90s to early 2000s emphasised the benefits of collaborative resource development. Later on, some advocates of Open Educational Resources (OER) brought to the fore the concept of content as by-product, exhaust, frictionless sharing” but was not using the term at the time. I wonder if the Sharing article in Wikipedia should include a reference to ‘frictionless sharing’ and whether Martins’ blog post would be an appropriate reference for an early citing of the term in the context of sharing resources on social networking services?

Whenever the term first originated (and on Twitter Martin Weller suggested that “around the time of the dot com bubble ppl talked about the frictionless economy“) by December 2011 the ReadWriteWeb was predicting a Top Trends of 2011: Frictionless Sharing. This article illustrated frictionless sharing initially by Facebook are doing but also sharing music and news items.

But what of the potential for frictionless sharing in higher education?

Martin Weller feels that such approaches are already becoming embedded in some of his working practices, in particular: “frictionless sharing is interesting I think for academics – it certainly shaped the way I wrote my last book“. In My Predictions for 2012 I suggested that we will see an increase in the amount and types of ‘open practices’ including not only the well-established areas of open access and open educational resources, but also open approaches to being recorded and videoed. But such areas are still related to the creation of content. Frictionless sharing is interesting as it relates to openness in a more passive content: openness about what you may be reading (and as well as Faceboook, apps such as GoodReads allow one to share information on what you are reading).

Tony Hirst explored these ideas in a post published in October 2010 entitled in which he asked Could Librarians Be Influential Friends? And Who Owns Your Search Persona? when he asked “: if librarians become Facebook friends of their patrons, and start “Liking” high quality resources they find on the web, might they start influencing the results that are presented to their patrons on particular searches?“. Tony referred to this post last week when he revisited the potential role of librarians in supporting sharing of resources in a post in which he asked Invisible Library Support – Now You Can’t Afford Not to be Socials? His comment that:

The idea here was that you could start to make invisible frictionless recommendations by influencing the search engine results returned to your patrons (the results aren’t invisible because your profile picture may appear by the result showing that you recommend it. They’re frictionless in the sense that having made the original recommendation, you no longer have to do any work in trying to bring it to the attention of your patron – the search engines take care of that for you (okay, I know that’s a simplistic view;-). [Hmm.. how about referring to it as recommendation mode support?]

was particularly interesting in that Tony seems to have changed from using ‘invisible’ to ‘frictionless’ during the course of writing the post.

The Challenges

In some respects pragmatic advice regarding privacy issues and uncertainties as to how such data could subsequently be used would suggest that you should avoid the risks associated with frictionless sharing. Indeed, I made this point in a post in which I asked Is Smartr Getting Smarter or Am I Getting Dumber? following the Smartr app’s unannounced release of frictionless sharing for reading Twitter links read by members of one’s Smartr network.

But as the evidence of the Guardian app seems to suggest, people may be willing to share their interests in a passive fashion, and benefit from ways in which members of their networks reciprocate.

I guess the questions to be answered are:

  • What other types of frictionless sharing are there?
  • What benefits can frictionless sharing provide?
  • What are the risks in frictionless sharing?
  • Will the benefits outweigh the risks?

But before we can start to discuss these questions we perhaps need to define the terms. So what is ‘frictionless sharing‘? On this occasion Google currently seems to suggest that the term relates primarily to a recent Facebook developments, but I’m interested in the generic meaning of this term.  And perhaps we can use the Wikipedia entry for Frictionless sharing to agree on a definition.

Posted in Facebook, jiscobs, Social Networking | 12 Comments »

Facebook and Twitter as Infrastructure for Dissemination of Research Papers (and More)

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 January 2012

 

A tweet from @Wowter (blogger, information specialist and bibliometrician at the Wageningen UR Library) alerted me to the news of the “Free new #SpringerLink mobile app: Access 2,000+ peer-rev. journals, 49,000 books,127,000 #OA articles.http://ow.ly/8gv9W“.

I installed the app on my iPod Touch and was interested to note that there were just three ways of sending information about the 2,000+ peer-reviewed journals, 49,000 books and 127,000 open access articles: as illustrated the three dissemination tools are email, Facebook and Twitter.

Via @Wowter’s Twitter timeline I also found the news, initially announced by @MFenner, of the “New blog post: CrowdoMeter goes Mobile http://blogs.plos.org/mfenner/2012/01/04/crowdometer-goes-mobile/“.

The blog post describes how “Two weeks ago Euan Adie from altmetric.com and myself launched the website CrowdoMeter, a crowdsourcing project that tries to classify tweets about scholarly articles using the Citation Typing Ontology (CiTO) … This project is far from over, ideally we want 3-5 classifications per tweet or an additional 1,000 classifications“. In order to “make the classifications as simple as possible, and to help further with this we today [4 January 2012] launched a mobile version of CrowdoMeter. Simply browse to http://crowdometer.org with your iPhone or Android phone [and] sign in via your Twitter account“.

I did this and captured the following screenshots:


Initially in this post I intended to highlight how the Springlink app suggests that Facebook and Twitter may be becoming part of the dissemination infrastructure for research papers, especially on mobile devices. However when I read Martin Fenner’s blog post I realised that Twitter, in particular, may have a role to play in the curation of information about research papers and scientific data.

Hmm, I wonder if Twitter will catch on outside this niche area?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Facebook, Mobile, Twitter | 15 Comments »

Things We Can Learn From Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 October 2011


image

Are you pleased, angry or indifferent to Facebook developments (photograph taken at Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow)

Looking at the Evidence

What is your take on recent Facebook developments? Are you feeling angry and have perhaps already deleted your Facebook account as have one or two of my Facebook followers? Or perhaps you are indifferent or even unaware of recent Facebook developments. In which case you are probably just using Facebook as a tool and aren’t taking part in the discussions about Facebook and privacy.

Shortly before a trip to Glasgow this weekend I asked for suggestions on places to visit and things to do. I decided to use my three main social networks in order to gain some anecdotal evidence on current usage of Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

In response to my query I received three responses from four people on Twitter (including one who suggested that I should visit Edinburgh!), 16 comments from fifteen people on Facebook and four comments on Google+.

Whilst that would suggest that Facebook is the most effective social networking environment for me, there is a need to related the numbers of responses to the size of the social network.   But since I have 2,583 followers on Twitter, 625 friends on Facebook and 417 followers on Google+ this seems to confirm the personal value of Facebook to me.

But what about the bigger picture? In a post entitled “Why Facebook’s new Open Graph makes us all part of the web underclass” by Adrian Smart and published recently on the Guardian Web site Adrian argued that “If you’re not paying for your presence on the web, then you’re just a product being used by an organisation bigger than you“. This was, I felt, a very elitist article, with the suggestion that:

When you own a domain you’re a first class citizen of the web. A householder and landowner. What you can do on your own website is only very broadly constrained by law and convention. You can post the content you like. You can run the software you want, including software you’ve written or customised yourself. And you can design it to look the way you want.

suggesting that you are a second class citizen if you primarily use your institutional Web site or, as I do. on the WordPress.com site which constrains the plugins used and look-and-feel for this blog. Actually, you’re worse than a second class citizen:

When you use a free web service you’re the underclass. At best you’re a guest. At worst you’re a beggar, couchsurfing the web and scavenging for crumbs. It’s a cliché but worth repeating: if you’re not paying for it, you’re aren’t the customer, you’re the product. 

In this elitist view, it seems that unless you control your own domain you’re a member of the underclass. The article goes on to take a sideswipe at Facebook, in particular. But it was amusing when I saw the tweet from the Guardian’s @currybet (Martin Belam) which pointed out that:

That “peril of Facebook” post by @adrianshort has 2,000 Likes and has been read nearly 3,000 times in our Facebook apphttp://bit.ly/pUKVXP

Yes, it seems that the “Web underclass” is willing to share their engagement with their peers  using a Facebook  Like or the walled garden provided by the Guardian Facebook app – and in quite large numbers.

Avoiding The Echo Chamber

I have described a polarised situation in which posts describing the various problems with Facebook such as the reasons series of articles which have described how Facebook tracks you online even after you log outFacebook denies cookie tracking allegations, Facebook fixes cookie behavior after logging out and US congressmen ask FTC to investigate Facebook cookies.

But whilst Nik Cubrilovic, author of the post in which he accused Facebook of tracking its users even if they log out of the social network has subsequently written a post on how Facebook made changes to the logout process in which he describes how the cookies in question now behave as they should (they still exist, but they no longer send back personally-identifiable information after you log out) we are still seeing tweets in which the initial findings are being repeated.  We also seem to fail to hear other perspectives including the comment from Facebook engineer Gregg Stefancik:

I’m an engineer who works on these systems. I want to make it clear that there was no security or privacy breach. Facebook did not store or use any information it should not have. Like every site on the internet that personalizes content and tries to provide a secure experience for users, we place cookies on the computer of the user. Three of these cookies on some users’ computers included unique identifiers when the user had logged out of Facebook. However, we did not store these identifiers for logged out users. Therefore, we could not have used this information for tracking or any other purpose. In addition, we fixed the cookies so that they won’t include unique information in the future when people log out.

I feel there is a need to have a better understanding of the complexities of the issues and  be willing to listen to the views of others and not just respond to views expressed on ‘echo chambers‘ such as Twitter.

What Can We Learn From Facebook?

In order to move the discussion on from the Twitter echo chamber I’d like to summarise some aspects of Facebook which should be considered in more depth.

“Seamless sharing” could be an appealing concept: A recent post on the Bashki blog announced “Facebook Wants to Change the Way You Share” and described how “Facebook wants to remove as much friction from sharing as possible so that it’s seamlessly integrated with a user’s online activity“. When I heard the term ‘seamless sharing’ it reminded me of the JISC’s vision, over 10 years ago, for the Distributed National Electronic Resource (the DNER as it was initially referred to).   As I described in a poster entitled “Approaches To Indexing In The UK Higher Education Community” presented at the WWW 9 conference in May 2000: “The DNER aims to provide seamless access to electronic resources provided by JISC service providers“. The ideas in the paper were a reflection of the vision for the DNER described by Reg Carr, Director of the Oxford University Library Services who, in a paper on “Creating the Distributed National Electronic Resource, argued that “if the DNER is to deliver the goods in the way envisaged, it will have to do so in a carefully integrated, flexible and seamless way“.

Let’s be honest and admit that in higher education we too are looking to provide a seamless sharing environment.  This is a positive term and we should avoid misinterpretting this term.

We want to understand and respond to user interactions: I recently attended a meeting on learning analytics which Wikipedia describes asthe measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of data about learners and their contexts, for purposes of understanding and optimising learning and the environments in which it occurs“.

Back in 2008 Dave Pattern in a post on “Free Book Usage Data Available from the University of Huddersfield” described how the Library Service had “released a major portion of our book circulation and recommendation data“. Eighteen months later in a post on “Non/low library usage and final grades” Dave described how analysis of the library usage data had showed that “it’s those students who graduate with a third-class honour who are the most likely to be non or low-users of e-resources“. In this case analysis of user interactions (and non-interactions) can lead to an institution taking actions, which could include promotion of appropriate Library resources, training, etc.

Facebook  also analyses its user attention data.  If it notices that I am following England’s rugby team’s exploits in the Rugby World Cup it might also respond to failings, but rather than providing an advert for a Library training course, it might suggest I console myself with a pint of Carling!

Walled gardens can provide a nurturing environment: The term ‘walled garden’ is widely used to dismiss Facebook as a closed environment. Facebook clearly was a closed environment when it was launched, with access restricted to those working in approved academic institutions. However now anyone can have a Facebook account (including organisations) and content can be made public too all or access restricted (in ways not easily achieved on conventional Web sites).  Facebook can be used as a platform for walled garden application, with users needing to install the app in order to access the content – but since standard Facebook content can be published openly it would probably be incorrect to describe Facebook as a walled garden, unless we wish to use the term to describe Intranets.  However a mobile phone app which can only be deployed on a singly platform could, possibly, be described as a walled garden – and as several institutions are developing such apps we need to avoid inconsistencies in the terminology we are using.

In addition to the need to be more rigourous in defining the term there is also a need to reflect on the potential benefits of walled gardens.  I have heard a walled garden being described a providing a ‘managed’ or ‘nurturing’ environment. The institutional VLE may be regarded as a walled garden, but this point is very rarely heard when the term is being used to dismiss technologies one doesn’t approve of.

Users understand the need for sustainable business models: I have always been rather bemused by the statement: “if you’re not paying for a service you’re the product“. When I watch the Rugby World Cup matches on ITV I can also be described as ‘the product’.  ITV isn’t broadcasting the matches as a favour to me and other sports’ fans: it’s doing so in order to make money from the associated advertising.  And just as TV viewers understand the business models so too will users of social networking services understand that the service providers need to make money, both to fund the service and to provide a profit for the owners.

Let’s be honest and admit that faced with a choice of business models based on subscription services, advertising or even nationalised services, the evidence suggests that many users are willing to use services which provide adverts.

Isn’t there a lot which we can learn if we avoid the simple slogans and reflect on the Facebook experiences and successes which users seem to find beneficial?

Posted in Facebook | 17 Comments »

Is It Time To Ditch Facebook, When There’s Half a Million Fans Across Russell Group Universities?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 26 September 2011

Implication of Changes To Facebook

The changes to Facebook announced at Facebook’s F8 Developers conference last week haven’t gone down well in some circles with a number of the people I follow on Twitter expressing their concerns at the privacy implications of recent changes and one or two having gone as far as to delete their Facebook accounts.

Might those technically-savvy people be setting a trend which will become more widespread as the privacy concerns become more widely known beyond those who read blog posts which describe in detail how Facebook can monitor your interactions, even when you are logged out of the service? Or are these people in a minority and will we see that once the changes have been fully deployed and problems fixed in light of user feedback could be see an increase in Facebook usage?

Gathering Evidence of Institutional Use of Facebook

In order to be able to gather evidence of possible changes in usage patterns within the UK HE sector I have updated a survey of Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities which was carried out in January 2011. A summary of the numbers of people who have ‘liked’ the pages, together with details of the changes from the previous survey are given in the following table.

Institution and Web site link
Facebook name and link
Nos. of Likes
(Jan 2011)
Nos. of Likes
(Sep 2011)
Percentage
increase
1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb nameunibirmingham
8,558 14,182 66%
2 InstitutionUniversity of Bristol
Fb nameUniversity-of-Bristol/108242009204639
2,186 7,913  262%
3 InstitutionUniversity of Cambridge
Fb namecambridge.university
58,392 105,645 81%
4 InstitutionCardiff University
Fb namecardiffuni
20,035 25,945 29%
5 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh
Fb name: University of Edinburgh/108598582497363
(None found in first survey)
- 12,053 -
6 InstitutionUniversity of Glasgow
Fb Name: glasgowuniversity
(None found in first survey)
- 1,860 -
7 InstitutionImperial College
Fb nameimperialcollegelondon
5,490 10,257  87%
8 InstitutionKing’s College London
Fb nameKings-College-London/54237866946
2,047 3,587 75%
9 InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Fb name: universityofleeds
(None found in first survey)
- 899 -
10 InstitutionUniversity of Liverpool
Fb nameUniversity-of-Liverpool/293602011521
2,811 3,742 33%
11 InstitutionLSE
Fb nameLSE/6127898346
22,798 32,290 42%
12 InstitutionUniversity of Manchester
Fb nameUniversity-Of-Manchester/365078871967
1,978 4,734 139%
13 InstitutionNewcastle University
Fb name: newcastleuniversity
- 115 -
14 InstitutionUniversity of Nottingham
Fb nameThe-University-of-Nottingham/130981200144
TheUniofNottingham
3,588 3,854 9,991 7% 178%
15 InstitutionUniversity of Oxford
Fb namethe.university.of.oxford
137,395 293,010  113%
16 InstitutionQueen’s University Belfast
Fb nameQueens-University-Belfast/108518389172588
- 5,211 -
17 InstitutionUniversity of Sheffield
Fb nametheuniversityofsheffield
6,646 12,412  87%
18 InstitutionUniversity of Southampton
Fb nameunisouthampton
3,328 6,387  92%
19 InstitutionUniversity College London
Fb nameUCLOfficial
977 4,346 345%
20 InstitutionUniversity of Warwick
Fb namewarwickuniversity
8,535 12,112 42%
TOTAL 286,169
287,767 
560,554
566,691 
96%
97%

Summary

In brief in a period of nine months we have seen an increase in the number of ‘likes’ for the twenty UK Russell Group Universities of over 274,000 users or almost 100% with the largest increase, of over 155,000 occurring at the University of Oxford.

Discussion

The previous survey highlighted emerging patterns of institutional use of Facebook and provided some suggestions on best practices (such as providing a Facebook page rather than a group and having a short and branded URL).  It seems that institutions are implementing such best practices more widely.  We are also seeing a huge increase in the number of Facebook ‘likes’ with apart from Nottingham’s 7% increase, all of the other institutions seeing a growth of between 33% and 345%.

But might this represent a peak for institutional use of Facebook?   Since we have over half a million users, many of whom will be staff or students at Russell Group Universities we might expect this particular demographic to have a better understanding of the dangers of misuse of Facebook than the general public.  It will be interesting to see how these figures change over the next academic year.

Beyond the Evidence of Usage – Is Facebook a Walled Garden?

This post has focussed on institutional use of Facebook to provide services to end users (a business-to-consumer relationship).  Of course there are privacy implications associated with use of Facebook and it might be argued that Universities shouldn’t be using unethical network providers – just as there were pressures on universities not to support businesses which had links with South Africa during the apartheid era.

I’ve not heard people seriously suggesting that Universities should stop their institutional use of Facebook, but there is a need to have a better understanding of the concerns people have regarding Facebook, in part so that we can ensure that possible alternatives to Facebook don’t repeat such concerns. The one particular areas of concerns I’d like to address in this post is that Facebook is a ‘walled garden.’

This morning I was involved in a brief Twitter discussion in which Twitter was dismissed as a ‘walled garden’. It was suggested that, just like AOL, you need to sign up to access content hosted on Facebook. Surely not? So I logged out of Facebook and visited the University of Warwick page and, as can be seen, I can view the page.

But rather than restrictions on accessing public information, perhaps Facebook is described as a walled garden because you can put information in, but not get it out again?

This was the case at one point, but know there is a Facebook Export service which “uses the Facebook Open Graph protocol to export your Facebook data to an xml file. Facebook Export does not store any data about you. You can then use this xml file to import your data to other services and websites that support the Facebook Export (FBE) format.

Or perhaps the concern is that use of Facebook apps locks information into a particular application? I feel there may be an element of truth to this concern – you can develop Facebook apps which do trap the data into the app.  But the Russell Group University Facebook pages seem to be using the default Facebook features, so this isn’t really a current concern. And even apps such as the Guardian Facebook app shouldn’t be regarded as acting as a walled garden since the same data can be accessed in several other ways, such as via RSS feeds, Android and iPhone apps and on the Web itself.

I, therefore, am unconvinced that current institutional use of Facebook can be regarded as using a Walled Garden and that Universities are promoting a propriety service.  Of much greater relevance will be how people react to the recent changes in Facebook. If people start to leave, there will be a need to reconsider Universities’ uses of Facebook as a marketing and engagement service.

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 32 Comments »

We Can’t Ignore Facebook

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 September 2011

An Example Of Facebook’s Success

During the summer I was involved in using Social Media to promote the Bath Folk Festival. Although I set up a Bathfolkfest Twitter account, I discovered that, apart from a small number of the performers, folkies don’t appear to make significant use of Twitter. The Bath Folk Facebook page, in ccontrast, was very popular, and currently has 124 ‘likes’ in contrast with the 27 people who are following the Twitter account. But how, specifically, widely used was it?

From viewing the Insight statistics for the page it seems that during the week of the festival there were no fewer than 10,854 views of the status updates with 166 people interacting with the page during the week.  As might be expected views of the page peaked during the festival, as is illustrated below.  But since those people are still connected with the page we will be able to reuse the connections which have been established for next year’s festival, as well as providing updates of folk events held in Bath throughout the year.

I haven’t posted about this previously, in part because my involvement with the folk festival was a personal interest. But in addition I suspect that many readers of this blog will regard Facebook as many Microsoft products: they both tend to be disliked for a variety of reasons but they are also very successful.

However in light of yesterday’s Facebook’s F8 conference I feel those involved in development activities, as well as those involved in mainstream marketing and student engagement activities, can’t afford to continue to disregard the potential relevance of Facebook.

Areas of Interest

Looking at the various articles and blog posts about yesterday’s news it seems that much of the focus focussed around links with Spotify, with the BBC News having the headline “Facebook focuses on media sharing and adds timeline“. However I would like to highlight two specific areas: the implications of the decisions by the Guardian to release a Guardian Facebook app and how, behind the scenes, Facebook seem to be endorsing use of RDFa and how this could help growth in use of Linked Data.

Guardian Facebook App

I was surprised when I saw yesterday’s announcement of the launch of a Facebook app for the Guardian newspaper. I currently have access to articles published in the Guardian provided as RSS feeds or via the Guardian app on my iPod Touch and Android phone. In addition I recently made use of the Kindle app on my Android phone to read the Guardian for about  a number before I decided that, although the experience was better than using the Guardian app or an RSS reader (to view articles not included in the view provided by the app). It was very interesting, therefore, to discover that the Guardian had chosen to invest resources to develop yet another app which allowed the content to be viewed within the Facebook environment.

I have installed the app. As can be  seen one can choose to view a variety of sections including the main Guardian section, Guardian Technology, Guardian Football and Guardian Data all of which I have ‘liked’.

In the accompanying image (of the Guardian data section) I have removed details of my Facebook friends who have also liked the page (and the NPR page). Clearly there are privacy issues in allowing one’s Facebook friends to not only see the games you may be playing but also the content you may be reading.

But in addition to being able to see the sections of the Guardian which one’s friends have liked I was surprised to spot in the app’s activity stream that using the app will disclose the sections you are reading.  As illustrated, a friend of mine has been reading an article on “Why we need a debate on the British way of death”. As I described in a recent post which asked “Is Smartr Getting Smarter or Am I Getting Dumber?” sharing, perhaps unknowingly,  details of what one has been reading whether, as in the case on Smartr, links to pages posted on Twitter or, in this case, Guardian articles, does raise interesting tensions related to sharing, openness and privacy.   It is perhaps surprising that the Guardian newspaper doesn’t seem to be unduely concerned about such issues, with the Guardian Facebook App FAQ simply stating:

Can everybody see what I “Read”?
The Guardian Facebook app is a “social reading” environment. Your Facebook friends will be able to see links to articles you have read within the Guardian app environment, and you will be able to see what they have been reading. We think this will help people discover content that they might be interested in.

Facebook’s Social Graph

I have recollections of attending a Linked Data session at the WWW  2010 conference and hearing from a senior Facebook developer about the technologies used in Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol. The response to the question “Why are you developing your own approach? Why aren’t you using RDFa?” was (I paraphrase) “We were unaware of RDFa until this conference. It seems cool – we’ll use it!“.

Last night on Twitter two Linked Data experts whom I follow seemed to be pleased with the news announced at thre Facebook F8 developer conference.  Manu Sporny, “Founder/CEO of Digital Bazaar. RDFa/RDF WebApps Chair @ W3C. Champion for art/science, distributed banking/commerce, @PaySwarm, JSON-LD, semantics and puppies.tweeted:

Facebook’s new OGP launch today uses RDFa 1.1 (developer docs): http://ow.ly/6CafT #rdfa #w3c

whilst Kingsley Idehen, “Founder & CEO, OpenLink Software, An Open Linked Data Enthusiast”, provided an interesting reweeet:

RT @aliriop: #Facebook #OpenGraph Seeks to Deliver Real-Time Serendipity on.mash.to/qKEoBg . #SDQ #LinkedData

The Linked Open Data Graph has been used to demonstrate the growth and size of the Linked Data environment. However critics have argued that it shows that Linked data seems to be over-reliant on content provided by DBpedia. It will be interesting to see if the large-scale use of RDFa across Facebook will demonstrate the value of Linked Data and help to encourage take-up in other areas.

Implications for the Sector

On Twitter Linda Bewley commented last night:

My Facebook cynicism is balanced out by respect for their ability to innovate. Direct access to phone’s native app data = result!

Although the issues of privacy are still very relevant, as I highlighted in the case of the Guardian app, it does seem to me that there will be a need to reflect  on the potential for greater business uses of Facebook. I’ll be interested to if, over time, Facebook’s Timeline oculd have a role to play in enhancing the Bath Folk page.  And whilst this is a trivial example, Universities will no doubt be considering the implications of yesterday’s announcements in the support of their marketing activities. But who, I wonder, will be in a position to take advantage of the Collective Intelligence which Facebook will be gathering?

Posted in Facebook | 6 Comments »

Is It Now Time to Embed Use of Google+?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 21 September 2011

Is Google+ Dead?

Is Google+ dead?  Dan Reimold certainly thinks so. In a post entitled “Google+: Social Media Upstart ‘Worse Than a Ghost Town‘” he suggest that Google+ may “simply [be ] a social media step too far” and is now “worse than a ghost town“.  In his conclusions he reflects on his personal experiences as a Google+ user:

As it stands, my Circles are sparse. The stream of updates has basically run dry — reduced to one buddy who regularly writes. My initial excitement about signing on and inviting people to join me has waned. Nowadays, I apparently get tired just thinking about it. 

A similar discussion about the relevance – and perhaps sustainability – took place amongst some of my Twitter followers recently. It seems that some feel Google+ is irrelevant and others are pleased with what they claim is a failed Google service and are waiting for the Diaspora service to be launched. However, as I said in the Twitter discussion, I am not convinced by this argument.

Why Google+ May be a Slow-Burner

Lessons from Growth of Twitter

In January 2011 in a post on Evidence of Personal Usage Of Social Web Services I described how use of the Tweetstats service provided me with evidence of growth of my Twitter usage which contradicted the understanding I had at the time. I had thought that I was an early adopter of Twitter and had used if fairly consistently since my first tweet in January 2007. But the Tweetstats graph (illustrated) shows little use in 2007. It wasn’t until early 2008 that I started to use Twitter on a regular basis.  The gaps in graph in the early part of 12008 puzzled me initially until I came across a blog post in which I described how I had made intensive use of Twitter whilst attending the Museums and the Web 2008 conference.  It seems that, perhaps due to a glitch in Twitter or Tweetstats, no usage had been detected for a period of a couple of months, which included the time when I first start to use Twitter on a regular basis.

Looking back it seems that attending a conference abroad made me aware of the benefits which Twitter can provide during a conference and that I soon became aware of the additional benefits which can be gained by developing links with one’s professional network.

A few days ago Aaron Tay pointed out that:

Some technology rewards getting in early e.g Twitter (early accs get more followers) & some don’t e.g qrcode http://j.mp/mUncdt

The post he cited (on the Seth Godin blog) made the observation that:

Worth considering: The difference between a technology where getting in early pays dividends, and those that don’t. For example, having a website or a blog or a Twitter account early can help, because each day you add new users and fans.

QR codes, on the other hand, don’t reward those that get in the ground floor. You can always start tomorrow.

Seth pointed out a important advantage that early adopters of social networks can have – the ease of gaining the critical mass which may be needed in order for the service to provide value.  There is a danger that this may be construed as a suggestion that the numbers of followers alone is a key factor in having an effective social networking service – and seeking new followers simply to enhance one’s Klout or Peerindex ranking is an example of misunderstanding of the relevance of a critical mass. Rather than simply indiscriminately seeking to grow large numbers of followers it you are looking to use a social network for professional purposes there is a need for to be reach the critical mass across one’s peers.

I recently installed the Social Bros application which provides evidence of personal use of Twitter.  I used this recently to investigate the number of followers the people I follow on Twitter have.  As can be seem most of the people I follow have 100-500 followers, with significant numbers having 1,000-5,000 and 500-1,000 followers. In order to develop a community of this size it can be useful to be an early adopter so that one can stake a claim. The following influx of users will have to search for contacts, and, having spotted and made contact with you, you will be able to reciprocate, if  you so choose.

As described in a Wikipedia entry on the Network Effectsites like Twitter and Facebook [become] more useful the more users join“. But as well as users needing a critical mass and an understanding of the benefits of the service, there will also be a need for east-to-use tools. Initially I used the Twitter Web site but as I discovered from reading my early posts about Twitter,  I was using the Twhirl client around the time my Twitter use became embedded in my daily work routine.  The Tweetstats service I mentioned earlier also provides me with statistics on the Twitter clients I have used.  As can be seen Tweetdeck is now my preferred tool, with the usage statistics of the Web client primarily either reflecting, I suspect, my early use of the Web or use in Internet cafes.

Implications for My Use of Google+

What lessons might we learn from these reflections on how Twitter developed from claiming an id but making little use to finding valuable (and unexpected)  use cases which lead to the service being embedded in my professional life which can be applied to Google+?

Like, I suspect, many others of my peers I have claimed a Google+ account and have established contacts with people I know from both real world and online interactions (there are currently 116 people in my circles and 385 people who have included me in their circle).

Yesterday I found that Google+ accounts are now freely available to everyone, so the comment I have heard that Google+ is exclusive to the early adopters is not longer the case.

I also heard yesterday that Google+ have released APIs which should help in developing a richer environment of tools and services based around Google+ (in this case, use of Huddle) which, I feel, was valuable in Twitter becoming mainstream.

The Google+ service itself is becoming richer in functionality, with recent tweets from Aaron Tay alerting me to articles which describe how “Google+ Hangouts Go Mobile & Get More Collaborative” and explain “Why Google Plus Hangouts is the Killer App: Docs“.

It seems to me that it is now timely to explore ways in which Google+ may deliver benefits and also to gain an understanding of best practices including personal work flow processes.  Earlier this year I set up a daily blog which I used to keep notes and ideas.  I spotted using it after six months, partly because I felt I was getting little new from using a second WordPress blog.  However I’ve now made a decision to use Google+ as a middle ground between the (sometimes, as in this case, long) posts I publish on this blog and the conversations and  announcements which take place on Twitter.

Anyone else planning to make greater use of Google+? Or, like Dan Reimold, do you feel it’s a ghost town and is unlike to have a significant role to play?

Posted in Evidence, Social Networking | 9 Comments »

Event Report: Metrics and Social Web Services Workshop

Posted by Kirsty Pitkin on 18 July 2011

In this guest post, event amplifier Kirsty Pitkin reports on the key messages from the recent UKOLNeim workshop – Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact.


Introduction

In introducing the event, Brian Kelly emphasised that the aims were to explore ways of gathering evidence that can demonstrate the impact of services and to devise appropriate metrics to support the needs of the higher and further eduction sector.

Many people argue that you cannot reduce education to mere numbers, as it is really about the quality of the experience. However, Kelly argued that numbers do matter, citing the recent JISC-funded Impact Report, which found that the public and the media are influenced by metrics. As we have to engage with this wider community, metrics are going to become more relevant.

View the introduction in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Why Impact, ROI and Marketing are No Longer Dirty Words

Amber Thomas, JISC

Amber ThomasThomas mapped out the current landscape, drawing on her own experiences and those of colleagues working in other areas at JISC. She observed a dominant culture of resistance to measurement within education for a number of reasons, including the concern that caring about metrics will mean that only highly cited people or resources will be valued. She noted that the search for an effective impact model is taking place on shifting sands, as issues associated with the value, ownership and control of media channels are being contested, as is the fundamental role of the university within British society.

In discussing impact, Thomas noted that it would be tempting to use the language of markets – with education as a “product” – but stressed that this not how we see ourselves in the education sector. One of the challenges we face is how to represent the accepted narrative of the sector as a nurturer and broker of knowledge, through the use of metrics.

Thomas went on to describe some of the dirty words in this space and the measurements that are associated with them. However, she noted that these measurements can be used for good, as they can help to instigate change. To support this, she provided a model for the role of metrics in decision making, with metrics being one form of evidence, and evidence being only one form of influence on the decision maker.

She concluded by outlining our options for responding to the impact debate: we could deny the impact agenda is important, or we could deepen our understanding and improve our metrics so they work for us and are fit for purpose. The possible directions we could take include developing business intelligence approaches, improving data visualisation techniques and looking for better tools to give us deeper understanding of the metrics. She also stressed that we need to look more closely at the use and expectations of social media in the commercial sector, as we might find we are expecting too much of ourselves.

“I don’t think we can ignore the debate on impact and metrics… what we need to do is engage with the impact debate and use the sort of language that is expected of us to defend the values of the sector a we wish to defend them.”

View the presentation in full at Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Surveying our Landscape from Top to Bottom

Brian Kelly, UKOLN

Brian KellyKelly provided an overview of the surveys he has been carrying out using a variety of analytics tools.

He began with a personal view: discussing the picture of his own Twitter usage provided by the Tweetstats tool, and how this differs from his own memory. He noted that the data did not always correspond with other evidence, emphasising that we cannot always trust the data associated with such tools.

“You need to be a bit skeptical when looking at this data… you can’t always trust all the data that you have.”

From an institutional perspective, he asked: “What can commercial analytics tools tell us about institutional use of Twitter?” He compared the Klout scores of Oxford and Cambridge Universities’ Twitter accounts, showing how visualisations of the numbers can give a much better understanding of what those numbers really mean than the numbers themselves do in isolation.

He continued in this vein by demonstrating Peer Index, which he used to analyse participants of the workshop. He noted that the top seven people are all people he knows and has had a drink with, so asked whether this shows that the gathering is really a self-referential circle? Kelly also noted how easy it can be to gain extra points and questioned whether it is ethical to boost your score in this way. However, he observed that research funding is determined by flawed metrics, and gaming the system is nothing new. So will universities head hunt researchers with valuable social media scores?

Next he looked at Slideshare statistics, using a presentation by Steve Wheeler as a case study. Wheeler made a presentation to 15 people, but his slides were viewed by over 15,000 people on Slideshare. Kelly asked us to consider the relationship between the number of views and the value of this resource. He also examined statistics from the collection of IWMW slides, observing that the commercial speakers had higher view rates, and that the most popular slides were not in corporate look and feel. This evidence could be used to challenge standard marketing perspectives.

Finally, Kelly compared Technorati and Wikio results to demonstrate that four people in the room were in the top 67 English language technology blogs. He pondered whether they should they share their success strategies, or how we could tell the story of this data in different ways.

To conclude, Brian emphasised that he believes this kind of analysis can inform decision making, so it is important to gather the data. However, the data can be flawed, so it is important to question it thoroughly.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Learning From Institutional Approaches

Ranjit Sidhu, SiD

Ranjit SidhuSidhu focussed primarily on the role of pound signs in communicating particular messages and connecting social media metrics to reality in a powerful way.

He began by observing that the data is often vague. The analytics institutions receive look exactly the same as the analytics used by commercial organisations, despite the fact that their needs and objectives differ widely. He attributed this to the dominance of the technology, which has taken control over the information that gets delivered, thus ensuring everyone gets data that is easy to deliver, rather than data that is meaningful to them. Sidhu also observed that universities often fail to break down their data into relevant slices, instead viewing it at such a high level that it cannot usefully be interpreted in financial terms.

In a self-confessed rant, Sidhu emphasised that you have a chance to tell the narrative of your data. Most social media data is openly available, so if you don’t, someone else will and you will no longer have control over that narrative.

“You need to be proactive with your data. If you’re proactive, people don’t sack you.”

Sidhu went on to demonstrate the type of analytics dashboard he creates for universities, discussing the importance design as well as the analysis itself. His dashboard features nine groups of data and only three key themes, which fit onto one A4 sheet and are arranged in an attractive way. He also discussed his methodology when creating these dashboards, which involves finding out what people want to know first, then finding the data to match those requirements. This is the reverse of common practice, where people take the data that is readily available and try to fit that to their requirements.

He explained the need to match up offline experience with online experience to help to generate projections and quantify the savings produced by online tools and social media. He exemplified this by talking us through one of the most powerful statistics he creates: a calculation demonstrating the amount saved by online downloads of prospectuses compared to sending printed versions. This is usually around £500 per month. This takes the online data, combines it with existing data from the comparable offline process, and creates a tangible value.

He extended this to show other types of story we could tell with such data, including the potential value of a website visit from a specific country. Once you have this, you can more effectively demonstrate the monetary value of social media by using referrer strings to show how a visitor from that country reached your site, and therefore make better decisions about how you attract those visitors.

You have to justify your spend. Your justification has to be based on what you are trying to do at that particular time.

View the presentation in full at Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Identity, Scholarship and Metrics

Martin Weller, The Open University

Martin WellerWeller posed many questions and points to ponder, focussing on how academic identity is changing now we are online.

He observed that identity is now distributed across different tools, with a greater tendency to intersect with the personal. There are more layers to consider: where once you had your discipline norms and your institutional norms, now there are more social media norms to observe to create cultural stickiness. You end up with a set of alternative representations of yourself, so your business card is now a much messier thing.

Weller went on to define impact as a change in behaviour, but emphasised that telling the story of impact online is actually very difficult. Your impact may be more about long term presence than an individual post. The metrics we currently use do not necessarily correspond to our traditional notions of academic impact: after all, what do views mean? What do links mean? What do embeds mean? How do they compare to citations?

He put forward the accepted view that blogging and tweeting provide you with an online identity, which drives attention to more traditional outputs. He placed this in the context of a digital academic footprint, which helps tell the story of the impact you are having within your community. Whilst metrics can be useful for this, he warned that they could also be dangerous, with official recognition leading to a gameable system.

He concluded by illustrating a sandwich model explaining why metrics will be increasingly important to what academics do: with top-down pressure from above to demonstrate impact when applying for funding, and bottom-up pressure from individuals asking why their impact via social media doesn’t count. Once you’ve got those two pressures, you have an inevitable situation.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Impact of Open Media at the OU

Andrew Law, The Open University

Andrew LawLaw discussed the activities of the Open University when monitoring the various media channels used to disseminate content and how these metrics have led to real, significant funding decisions.

He observed that several of their online media channels did not necessarily have a very clear strategic remit. However, they found that the data was increasingly asking the question: “What is the purpose of all this activity?” Deeper analysis of this data led to the development of clearer stategies for these channels, based on their core institutional aims.

Law emphasised the importance of having all of the information about the different channels in one place to help dispel the myths that can grow up around particular tools. He used the example of iTunes U, which gets huge amounts of internal PR on campus, whilst channels like OpenLearn and YouTube sit very quietly in the background. However, the reality is very different and he observed that one of the challenges they face is ensuring that the broad story about the performance of all of these channels is well understood by the main stakeholders.

Law expanded on this, noting that whilst the iTunes U download statistics provide a positive story, it does not actually perform well against their KPIs compared to other channels, despite little or no investment in those other channels. He observed that their pedagogical approach to iTunes U – which includes offering multiple, small downloads, with transcripts and audio downloaded separately – can inflate the numbers. He compared this to their YouTube channel, which has received very little investment, but is performing very effectively. He also discussed the OpenLearn story, which has been quietly outstripping other channels against their KPIs – particularly in terms of conversions, because it has a lot of discoverable content. He emphasised that this is a very positive story for the university, which needs to be told and built upon.

By demonstrating these realities, the data has demanded of management a much clearer sense of purpose and strategy. This has led to real investment. The OU has massively increased the amount of money spent on YouTube and OpenLearn, representing a significant change in strategy.

In conclusion, Law did note that, so far, the data has only helped the university, not the end user, so their next steps include mapping journeys between these channels to identify the traffic blockages and better tune the service delivered across the board.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The Script Kiddie’s Perspective

Tony Hirst, The Open University

Tony HirstHirst provided a set of observations and reflections, which ranged from ethical issues about the use of statistics through to practical demonstrations of visualised data.

He began by observing that social media are co-opting channels that were private and making them public, so there is nothing inherently new going on. He quoted Goodhart’s Law, emphasising that, whilst measuring things can be good, once measures are adopted as targets they distort what you are measuring and create systems open to corruption.

Hirst went on to discuss the perils of summary statistics and sampling bias. He emphasised that the way you frame your expectations about the data and the information that can be lost in the processing of that data are both vital considerations if you are to accurately tell the story of that data.

Hirst discussed the role of citations as a traditional measure of scholarly impact and the ways your content can be discovered, and thereby influence through citation. He highlighted three layers of discovery: the media layer, the social layer and the search engine layer, each of which enables your material to be discovered and therefore influence behaviour. He noted that if links come through to your own domain, you can already track how they are reaching your content. What is difficult to track is when there is lots of social media activity, but none of it is coming back to your domain.

Hirst demonstrated some approaches to tracking this type of activity, including the Open University’s Course Profiles Facebook app; Google search results, which are including more personalisation; and social media statistics gleaned through APIs, many of which can be accessed via an authentication route using OAuth.

Hirst concluded by discussing some visualisations of Twitter communities to show how these can provide insight into external perspectives and how we are defined by others in our community.

View the presentation in full on Vimeo

The slides to accompany this talk are available on Slideshare

Conclusions

The workshop brought forward a number of concerns, that were often less about the tools and technologies involved, but more about the ethics and pitfalls of formalising the measurement of social media activity. The main concern seemed to be the potential for creating a gameable system, or metrics do not reflect reality in a useful way. Ensuring that the metrics we use are fit for purpose will not be an easy challenge, but the discussions held within this workshop helped to identify some potential routes to improving the value and integrity of social media data.

Posted in Evidence, Guest-post, Impact, Social Networking | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

Thoughts on Facebook, Linked Data and Other Developments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 29 March 2011

A Week of Facebook Developments

Last week saw a number of interesting Facebook developments which may have implications for the higher and further education sector.  A new Facebook feature, Facebook Questions, was rolled out to all users on March 24 and the following day an Operation Developer Love: Facebook Hack Day took place in Berlin which generated some interesting discussions on Twitter.   Whilst I am aware that many developers and others who have interests  in the use of networked technologies to support educational and research activities have concerns regarding various aspects of the Facebook environment I feel that there is a need to monitor significant developments and to have an open discussion about the potential of such developments as well as possible concerns.

Facebook Questions

A post was published on Mashable on 27 March 2011 which outlines reasons why “Why Facebook’s New Questions Tool Is Good for Brands & Businesses“. The post began:

Brands and businesses are looking for ways to leverage Facebook’s recently unveiled Questions tool in ways that differ from what they’re already doing on Q&A sites such as Quora, Yahoo Answers and LocalMind.

This new feature, which functions as a recommendation engine, was rolled out to all users on March 24. According to Ben Grossman, communication strategist for marketing agency Oxford Communications “It also presents a major opportunity for businesses to conduct market research and crowdsource in a far more elegant way than was previously possible“.

Looking at my Facebook contacts I’ve found that an early user of the new feature was Euan Semple who responded to the questionCheck out the new Facebook Questions what do you think? :)“. The answer, it seems, is that 8 people aren’t sure, 4 love it, 16 feel it could be a useful tool whilst one person doesn’t like it at all.

Whilst many of my other Facebook contacts have been answering fairly trivial questions (such as “FOOTBALL OR RUGBY ? WHICH IS BETTER ? ” and “WHO WOULD WIN IN A FIGHT“)  Aaron Tay, a librarian at the National University of Singapore (who was also recently named as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker 2011), has started to explore how the service can be used to support his professional interests, asking, for example, What is your favourite database/ search engine (excluding Google & Wikipedia)?

I have not yet come across any universities making use of Facebook Questions to gather feedback but as described in the Mashable blog post the feature can be used by organisations and groups and not just individuals. Once a Facebook page owner has set up the appropriate configuration options:

Brands, businesses, groups and organizations can then use Questions in several ways. For example, Grossman said:Ice cream parlors can find out what the flavor of the week should be.

  • A gym can find out what time is best for its new hip-hop yoga class.
  • Radio stations can determine the hottest concerts for the summer.
  • Manufacturers can do a pulse check on fans’ holiday shopping plans.

In light of the increased importance of marketing an institution to new and existing customers (and since many new students will be paying £9,000 per year to attend University we should be regarding them – or their parents – as customers) I suspect we will start to see greater use of Facebook Questions. Is any University already using it, I wonder?

The Operation Developer Love: Facebook Hack Day

The #fbdevlov Twitter Discussion

On its own Facebook Questions is simply a new feature which has been deployed by a large scale social networking environment. Of greater interest to the develop[er community was the Operation Developer Love: Facebook Hack Day (see also the Facebook page) which took place in Berlin on Friday 25 March.

I became aware of this event through spotting tweets from three people in my Twitter stream: @gkob, @kidehen and @ldodds. I follow these three individuals as I am aware of their active involvement in Linked Data developments, which is illustrated in the following biographical details provided on Twitter or, in @ldodds case, his personal Web site:

@gkob (Georgi Kobilarov):
CEO at Uberblic Labs. data geek. building data infrastructure for the Web. trying to change the world. linked & open data advocate. ex dbpedia developer.

@kidehen (Kingsley Uyi Idehen)
Founder & CEO, OpenLink Software, An Open Linked Data Enthusiast.

@ldodds (Leigh Dodds)
Until recently Leigh Dodds was the CTO of Ingenta where he was responsible for the ongoing development of their publishing platform based on Semantic Web technologies. Leigh has recently joined Talis as Programme Manager for the Talis Platform

Since I am aware of their involvement in Linked Data development activities I was fascinated by the Twitter discussion which took place around the tweets for the Facebook Developer Love Hack Day. The Twitter hashtag for the event was #fbdevlove. I created a Twapper Keeper archive for the hashtag and also used Storify to keep an archive of the discussions around structured data available through Facebook and Linked Data developments. In brief  Georgi Kobilarov (@gkob) initiated the discussion with a message to other Linked Data developers::

#linkeddata folks: forget all your RDF & Sparql, you’ll have to compete with Facebook’s Graph API, and that war is about developer love

Kingsley Idehen (@kidehen) responded:

@gkob Facebook (#FB) is just another Data Space plugged into the global #WWW Data Space. It’s all good re. #LinkedData. “AND” is good :-)

@gkob #Facebook has been creating a massive#LinkedData hub since inception. It doesn’t have to be hardcore #RDF to be useful Linked Data.

@gkob key thing is this: #Facebook is a massive#LinkedData Space plugged into the global #WWWdata space. User Agents can query it.

@gkob I don’t have any problems querying#Facebook or meshing its data with data from other places en route to richer #LinkedData. All good.

@gkob #RDF != #LinkedData. What #Facebook#Microsoft #Google #Yahoo! etc.. r doing re. structured data (without #RDF) is quite valuable.

An interesting perspective, I thought. To put it another way, the global Social Web providers, such as Facebook, are well positioned to significantly enhance deployment of Linked Data by providing access to the large-scale structured information repositories they host.

Facebook’s Open Graph API

An example of a tool which developers can use to explore Facebook’s Open Graph API  was mentioned by @sicross: his Facebook Graph API Explorer. I have used this tool to retrieve data for two institutional Facebook pages: the University of Bath and the University of Cambridge. You can view the output for the Universities of Bath and Cambridge.

I have previously surveyed institutional Facebook pages for Russell Group Universities in order to identify emerging patterns of usage.  This survey provide a manual comparison which would be resource intensive to carry out across all UK Universities (and even more so if international comparisons were to be made).  However use of the Facebook Graph API Explorer has helped to identify patterns of usage which could be carried out in an automated way including the following numerical data:

University of Bath:

Nos. of likes: 3,357
Nos. of checkins: 1,081

University of Cambridge:

Nos. of likes: 69,824

We can immediately see that people have been using the Facebook Places feature has been used a significant number of times at the University of Bath but not at all at the University of Cambridge.  I must admit that I initially found this surprising: I would have expected an institutional geo-location service to have taken off in an institution which has many buildings scattered throughout the city as opposed to a primarily campus-based institution.  However, on reflection, it seems the opposite is true: checking in will have little value for an institution which has based in a large number of locations.  Of course it may be that geo-location services provide little value in the context of institutional use. Alternatively it may be that Facebook Places has failed to have an impact in this market – a suggestion which seems to be confirmed by an article published yesterday in the Daily Telegraph which informs us that “Foursquare has doubled its users since Facebook Places launched says chief“.

The potential to gather statistics on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ in an automated way will, I feel, help to provide evidence which can be used to inform policy decisions on institutional  use of Facebook and the resources which should be assigned to such work.  There could, of course, be dangers that such statistics would be used to publish league tables – but since the aims of higher educational institutions aren’t about maximising numbers of users on  Social Web services, such concerns shouldn’t be taken too seriously.  However the data gathered  could be used in order to help identify the effectiveness of online marketing activities.  And if an aim is to ensure that UK Universities are best positioned to market their services to overseas students the UK economy as a whole would benefit from a shared understanding of the benefits and the best practices.

“Is Facebook Killing Off The Company Website?”

A white paper entitled “The Effect of Social Networks and the Mobile Web on Website Traffic and the Inevitable Rise of Facebook Commerce” (PDF format) was published by Web Trends on 17 March 2011. In response Jeff Bullas published a blog post in which he asked “Is Facebook Killing Off The Company Website?“. This discussion centred around evidence of traffic to Fortune 100 company Web sites. The study revealed that “68% of the top 100 companies were experiencing a negative growth in unique visits over the past year, with an average drop of 23%“.  In order to identify whether Facebook was responsible for the significant decrease in numbers (as opposed, for example, to the effect of the recession) the numbers of visits to a number of company web site were compared with unique visits to equivalent Facebook pages  In a sample of 44 companies it was found that “40% exhibited higher traffic to their Facebook page compared to their website“.

It might be argued that University Web sites are very different from those provided by commercial companies – Universities are concerned with the complexities of teaching and learning and research whereas companies such as Coca Cola and Ford are simply produce drinks or motor vehicles. Such views were made on the Twitter channel during Ranjit Sidu’s talk at the IWMW 2010 event entitled “‘So what do you do exactly?’ In challenging times justifying the roles of the web teams” in which he suggested that the higher education sector could learn from the way companies which sell cars identify the effectiveness of their online activities). It was interesting to note that several participants echoed such sentiments.  So let’s be honest and admit that commercial companies and higher educational institutions are not dissimilar in having many diverse objectives and sometimes little understood complexities – and that both sectors may be in a position to exploit social Web services such as Facebook for a variety of purposes (marketing, sales consumer engagements, etc.)  but may also feel threatened by such services.

A Challenge For Developers

It was interesting to observe the tweets from the Facebook Developer’s Love hack day and not only to see the enthusiasm for making use of Facebook APIs but also hearing about how Facebook content could be made available as Linked Data on the Web.  There are still unresolved issues such as privacy and ownership of data associated with Facebook – but as we have seen similar issues are also faced by Twitter, with still some uncertainties regarding the copyright and ethical issues associated with use of tweets published by others and the ways in which Twitter can enforce their conditions of use of their service. But just as Twitter subsequently toned down the conditions governing reuse of their data, we are also seeing Facebook moving away from their ‘walled garden’  approach and providing APIs to allow others to reuse their content.

As can be seen from the recent post on Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities Facebook clearly has a role to play across higher educational institutions. Managers and policy-makers within institutions will need to make decisions on how such services should be used and how much effort should be allocated to support such work.  Such decisions should be informed by evidence such as “How extensively is Facebook being being used across the sector?” and “What patterns of usage are emerging?“.

Since APIs are available such answers need no longer have to be based on manual surveys. A challenge I would like to pose developers is to provide answers to the following questions:

It should be possible to provide answers to these questions be simply using the Facebook API to query the Facebook data store. However Linked Data developers may relish the challenge to combine this data store with DBPedia in order to answer the following additional question:

  • Is there a correlation between the numbers of Facebook ‘Likes’ and the size of the institution – or to put it another way, which institution has the largest number of ‘Likes’ per student?

In the longer term it will be useful to monitor trends in institutional use of Facebook – which may, of course, include a decline in such usage if alternative offerings, such as Diaspora service (which will not claim any rights on content uploaded to the service).  But in order to be able to help identify a decline in Facebook usage it will be helpful to have a benchmark of current usage – so even developers who do not approve of Facebook terms and conditions may wish to participate in this challenge.

Posted in Facebook | 6 Comments »

Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 January 2011

Background

At a time of flux and upheaval in the higher education sector there is a need to be able to understand how institutions are responding to a changed environment. There may be a particular need to understand how networked services are being used which may have previously been regarded, in some areas, as inappropriate for institutional use. This is particularly true of Facebook which has been the subject of criticism for being a ‘walled-garden‘ and for what may be regarded as a cavalier approach to privacy.

But are institutions now making significant use of Facebook because of the benefits it is perceived to bring, such as the large ability to provide marketing to large numbers of users and the ability to embed other services within an environment which many users may be familiar with? Anecdotally we are hearing suggestions of the benefits which Facebook can provide,  such as the recent tweet from Stuart Brown which stated that  “10 course registrations attributable to OU FB apps Course Profiles and My OU Story“.

In order to provide a better understanding of how UK higher education institutions may be using Facebook a brief survey of official usage by Russell Group Universities has been carried out. The aim is to ensure that evidence is available to inform discussions on policies and practices.

Profiling Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities

A recent post summarised “Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities“. The twenty Russell Group Universities have also been used for a survey of institutional use of Facebook. There have been suggestions that a more comprehensive survey across all UK Universities would be useful. Whilst this may be true it would be resource-intensive to carry out such a survey. The Russell Group Universities has therefore been selected partly because of the geographical diversity of these institutions, which includes institutions based in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In addition since these institutions describe themselves as “the 20 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector” we might expect the institutions tom be taking a leading role in exploiting social media to support their activities and provide examples of best practices which the wider community can learn from.

The survey of institutional Facebook usage by Russell Group Universities was carried out on 11 January 2011. The survey used Google to find an official institutional Facebook presence. Note in a number of cases no obvious institutional Facebook page could be found (note that Facebook pages for departments were not included).

A summary of the numbers of Facebook users who ‘liked’ the institution’s page is given, together with the numbers of ‘favourite pages’ the institution provides.   A list of additional pages available via the tabbed interface is also provided.

The results are given below.

Institution/Facebook page and Description Type Nos. of Likes Additional Pages (in addition to Wall and Info)
1 InstitutionUniversity of Birmingham
Fb name: unibirmingham 

Description: “The official page for the University of Birmingham.”

Branded URL 8,558 Welcome, Heroes, Events, Flickr, YouTube
2 Institution: University of Bristol
Fb name: 2202911691 

Description: “For all University of Bristol students, past, present and future.”

Facebook group 2,186 Photos, Discussions

NOTE Appears full of spam.

3 Institution: University of Cambridge
Fb name: cambridge.university 

Description: “We are one of the world’s oldest universities and leading academic centres, and a self-governed community of scholars. Cambridge comprises 31 Colleges and over 150 departments, faculties, schools and other institutions”

Branded short URL 58,392 YouTube, Photos, Twitter, House Rules, Notes
4 Institution: Cardiff University
Fb name: cardiffuni 

Description: “We want you to enjoy using our pages. To improve your experience, commercial posts & URLs are welcome in ‘Discussions’ but we will remove at our discretion anything we think could bring the University into disrepute. Thank you.”

Branded URL 20,035 About Us, Quick Links, Discussions, Photos, Events
5 InstitutionUniversity of Edinburgh

No official institutional page found (The Edinburgh University page seems to be a student page and the wall contains spam)

6 Institution: University of Glasgow

No official institutional page found

7 Institution: Imperial College
Fb name: imperialcollegelondon 

Description:  “Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research.”

Branded short URL 5,490 Photos, Discussions, Boxes, Video, Events
8 Institution: King’s College London
Fb name: Kings-College-London/54237866946 

Description: None

Facebook page 2,047 Photos, Boxes
9 Institution: University of Leeds

No official institutional page found. A University of Leeds Latest Update application is available but this does not seem to be being used.

10 Institution: University of Liverpool
Fb name: University-of-Liverpool/293602011521 

Description: None

Facebook page 2,811 Photos, Discussions
11 Institution: LSE
Fb name: LSE/6127898346 

Description: “The official page of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). This page will be updated with recent news from the School as well as information about forthcoming public events.”

Facebook page 22,798
12 Institution: University of Manchester
Fb name: University-Of-Manchester/365078871967 

Description: “Britain’s largest single-site university with a proud history of achievement and an ambitious agenda for the future.”

Facebook page 1,978 Photos, Discussions, Events, Video
13 Newcastle University

No official institutional page found

14 Institution: University of Nottingham
Fb name: The-University-of-Nottingham/130981200144 

Description: None

Facebook page 3,588 Photos, Boxes
15 Institution: University of Oxford
Fb name: the.university.of.oxford 

Description: “This is the official University of Oxford Facebook page. Our website is at www.ox.ac.uk

Branded URL 137,395 Boxes, Photos
16 Institution: Queen’s University Belfast

No official institutional page found

17 Institution: University of Sheffield
Fb name: theuniversityofsheffield 

Description: “Founded in 1905, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading Russell Group universities with an outstanding record in both teaching and research.”

Branded URL 6,646 Photos, Events, YouTube, Discussions, Videos, RSS/Blog
18 Institution: University of Southampton
Fb name: Southampton-University/77399508053 

Description: None

(Note as described in a comment the unisouthampton Facebook page was recently created and currently has 71 ‘likes’. This note added on 21 Jan 2010)

Facebook page 3,328 Photos, Boxes
19 Institution: University College London
Fb name: UCL/92637159209 

Description: “UCL is London’s leading multidisciplinary university, with 8,000 staff and 22,000 students. UCL was the first university in England to welcome students of any class, race or religion, and the first to welcome women on equal terms with men.”

Facebook page 977 Photos, Discussions
20 Institution: University of Warwick
Fb name: warwickuniversity 

Description: “The official Facebook page for the University of Warwick. This Facebook page was created and is maintained by the University of Warwick Communications Office and is the only ‘official’ university page.”

Branded URL 8,535 Discussions, Photos, Video, YouTube, Events
TOTAL 286,169

Summary

A summary of the data collected is given below:

  • Nos. of institutions with branded Facebook URL: 7
  • Nos. of institutions with Facebook page: 7
  • Nos. of institutions with Facebook group: 1
  • Nos. of institutions with no easily found institutional Facebook presence: 5
  • Nos. of institutions with neglected (or unofficial) institutional Facebook presence: 1
  • Range of ‘likes':  2,047 – 137,395

Related Surveys

The popularity of Facebook usage at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge has been confirmed by a recent post on “Top 10 of Social Media in HE” published by the Science Guide blog. The Science Guide survey “conducted research and created a Top 10 list of [European] HE of the best in social media and presents three prestigious universities that lose out in the race for Twitter, Facebook and co“.

The survey went on to point out that:

UK universities are by far outperforming other countries in communicating via social media. More than 60% of all university twitter followers are connected to UK institutions. They also account for 42,4% of all Facebook members.

In addition the “institutions that are widely regarded as elite and prestigious in Europe …  are ranked highest in quality of research, but … still have to find their way into the 21st century” due to very limited or no use of Social Web service did not include any UK Universities.

Such comments suggest that UK Universities should be pleased with ways in which Social Web services are being integrated into existing services. But what additional observations can be made from the survey results published in this blog?

Discussion

How important might Facebook be to institutions?  I heard that at the recent Learning Without Frontiers conference it was suggested that Facebook users find the management capabilities of Facebook valuable as it makes it more difficult for content, such as embarrassing comments and photos, to escape into the wild.  Perhaps the ‘walled garden’ nature of Facebook is being regarded as a positive aspect of the service.

But is Facebook something which is only useful as a marketing  tool to attract new students or might it have a more significant role to play?  And rather than a one-way marketing channel might it have a role to play in facilitating discussions and debate and, if so,  might Facebook prove useful for internal discussions as well as engaging with new students?

I suspect the answers to such questions will be answered by observing patterns of usage, with, despite Facebook’s growth, the service is not liked by many who engage in actively discussions on blogs.  But looking at evidence of evidence of how Facebook is being used, rather than speculating on the relevance of Diaspora “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network” I feel it is worth looking at the approaches being taken by Cambridge University, with its page on “House Rules” and Cardiff University, who, from the information provided on their Facebook page appear to be positive about the benefits the service can provide.

Is it realistic to argue against the popularity of Facebook (142,176,215 unique visitors according to compete.com) and for institutions, at a time of cuts, to promote alternatives? Or should we be making use of the service to support a variety of institutional activities?   If you feel the latter is a decision  we need to make (and many of the Russell Group Universities already have) then in order to ensure Facebook is being used effectively there is a need to share emerging best practices. Wouldn’t you agree?

Posted in Evidence, Facebook | 21 Comments »