UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Archive for the ‘Social Web’ Category

OpenSocial and the OpenSocial Foundation: Moves to W3C

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Dec 2014

OpenSocial logoYesterday, 16th December 2014, the OpenSocial Foundation and the W3C announced that the “OpenSocial Foundation [is] Moving Standards Work to [the] W3C Social Web Activity“.

In the press release John Mertic, President of the OpenSocial Foundation, described how:

The consensus of the OpenSocial Board is that the next phase of Social Web Standards, built in large part on the success of OpenSocial standards and projects like Apache Shindig and Rave, should occur under the auspices of the W3C Social Web Working Group, of which OpenSocial is a founding member. The OpenSocial community has taken the idea of industry standards to govern the Social Web from dream to reality. By shifting our work now to the W3C Social Web Working Group, we will make the Open Social Web inevitable and ubiquitous.

OpenSocial has already developed a number of mature specifications which have been managed by the W3C Social Web Working Group including Activity Streams 2.0 and OpenSocial 2.5.1 Activity Streams and Embedded Experiences APIs.

The OpenSocial Foundation and W3C are invite participants in the following groups:

  • The Social Web Working Group, which is defining technical standards and APIs to facilitate access to social functionality.
  • The Social Interest Group, which is coordinating development of social use cases, and formulating a broad strategy to enable social business and federation.

The Social Web Working Group (SocialWG) wiki provides a summary of the proposed areas of work. I found the (current) single user case of particular interest: SWAT0, the Social Web Acid Test – Level 0, provides an integration use case for the federated social web:

  1. With his phone, Dave takes a photo of Tantek and uploads it using a service
  2. Dave tags the photo with Tantek
  3. Tantek gets a notification on another service that he’s been tagged in a photo
  4. Evan, who is subscribed to Dave, sees the photo on yet another service
  5. Evan comments on the photo
  6. David and Tantek receive notifications that Evan has commented on the photo

Such functionality will be familiar to Facebook users, but in this case the users don’t need to have accounts on the same service.

It will be interesting to see how this standardisation work develops and, in particular, the extent to which we will see take-up of the standards by existing providers of social media services and the development of new services which may provide competition to existing providers

View Twitter conversations and metrics using: [Topsy] – []


Posted in Social Web, standards | 1 Comment »

“Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” – Workshop Session at the #DAAD2013 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Dec 2013

Earlier today I facilitated a workshop session on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” at the annual conference of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), London.

From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar NowThis is a topic I have spoken about a fair amount since the realisation that the Social Web could be used to support research activities and not just share photos and videos of cats! This year I have facilitated a hands-on workshop session on “Managing Your Research Profile” at the Information Science Pathway’s day on alt.metrics which was held at Edinburgh University in June and, in the same month, presented a paper on “Using Social Media to Enhance Your Research Activities” at the SRA’s Social Media in Social Research 2013 conference.

The DAAD 2013 conference provided an opportunity to explore the benefits of the social web with a new community: humanities researchers and, in particular, German humanities researchers who are working in universities in the UK and Ireland.

I had been informed that, unlike the scientific and library communities I am more familiar with, although the participants would probably have smart phones and use Facebook, they probably didn’t make significant use of social media to support their research or teaching activities.

In my preparation for the session I came across a paper on Re-Skilling For Research hosted on the RLUK Web site which described how (my emphasis):

They [Connaway and Dickey, 2009] found,  for example, that science researchers … are more likely to use Twitter, while mathematicians and computer scientists are more predisposed to archive their own material, and, like classicists, to disseminate their research outputs themselves. Social scientists on the other hand are more reluctant to use new technologies, for example they are less likely to Tweet or use a laptop at a conference.

This was certainly the case for the DAAD conference; for example although everyone in my session had a mobile phone, with most having an iPhone and Android smartphone, they weren’t being used to support conference activities. I therefore began the session by exploring the purposes of conferences for academics and how social media could support such purposes. The previous night I had discovered that the Cumberland Lodge, the venue for the conference, had been designed so that rooms weren’t locked and the were no TVs in the accommodation; design decisions made in order to enhance opportunities for networking, sharing ideas and discussion. I subsequently learnt that participants at the conference were expected to share their room although, as an invited speaker, I had a room to myself.

I drew parallels with such design decisions for conference venues and the typical structure for a conference programme (which also normal provide informal networking opportunities)  with the ways in which social media services can be used to share ideas; discus and refine ideas, develop one’s professional community; gain additional input from others and then subsequently share the outputs from such collaborate activities with one’s peers and the wider public.

I used the physical example of post-it notes to illustrate approaches to using Twitter: write how you might use social media to support your research on a Post-it note and share it with a colleague – that’s similar to a Direct Message. Note put the Post-it notes on a shared notice board so that everyone can see the ideas – that’s a public tweet.

The feedback from the participants was very positive and I enjoyed facilitating the session. But we didn’t really have the opportunity to explore the reasons why use of networked technologies still don’t appear to be widely used at conferences in the humanities. At one stage humanities researchers would probably not have laptops which science researchers would be more likely to possess. But these days even those who have laptops appear more willing to use the own smartphone for tweeting at events.

During the talk I cited the example of a recent blog post entitled From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now published on the LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences blog which describes how:

Digital media is changing how scholars interact, collaborate, write and publish. Here, Jessie Daniels describes how to be a scholar now, when peer-reviewed articles can begin as Tweets and blog posts. In this new environment, scholars are able to create knowledge in ways that are more open, more fluid, and more easily read by wider audiences.

But this was based on experiences from the US. I’d be interested to hear examples of use of social media in amplifying events in the humanities in the UK and to hear suggestions as to why event amplification appears to be so unusual for this sector,

Note that the slides I used are available on Slideshare and are embedded below.

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in Events, Social Web | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Preparing For Major Incidents – How Are We Using Online Technologies?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Apr 2013

The combination of twitter, streaming live police radio, and google maps is pretty amazing tonight

Tweet posted on 20130419On Monday night I was listening to live music in The Bell, Bath when I noticed in my Twitter stream the tweets about the Boston bombings. At 7 am this morning I came across another flurry of tweets from the US< this time about today’s Boston bomb incident, which seemed to have been described using the hashtag #watertown on Twitter, as can be seen from a Twitter search for this hashtag.

When I first heard the news I was surprised that there was no mention on the BBC or Guardian Web sites. However Danny Sullivan, an American living in England who spoke at the IWMW event back in 1999 was my trusted source, who provided links to news sources from the US. One tweet which caught my eye was the comment from Bill Amend that:

The combination of twitter, streaming live police radio, and google maps is pretty amazing tonight. #watertown

As described in an article on “The best place to follow the news as it unfolded: Twitter” and Mashable is compiling real-time updates of the incident on Storify.

It’s all gone horribly wrong: disaster communication in a crisis

How would we respond if there were similar incidents in campuses in the UK, I wonder? This was a topic Jeremy Speller addressed three years ago in a talk at IWMW 2010 entitled It’s all gone horribly wrong: disaster communication in a crisis.

Jermemy Speller at IWMW 2010The abstract for the talk highlighted the importance of IT in responding to major incidents:

How do you communicate with your staff and students and the wider world when it all goes horribly wrong? Is your IT/Web related response aligned with your institutional Major Incident and Disaster Recovery policies?

Over the past few years a number of experiments have been undertaken by various institutions to address these issues. Externally hosted websites are one solution and some have used SMS messaging and third-party services such as Twitter. This talk covers ways in which communications can be disseminated via as many channels as possible while allowing simple access to tools for those in MI teams who need to make announcements.

One day it will of course go so wrong that the only solution is a walk around campus with the megaphone – short of that we owe it to our users to provide information in as coherent and effective a manner as possible.

In his talk Jeremy recollected how IT had used during a major incident which took place during the IWMW 2005. On the 7/7 2005 the IWMW 2005 event was taking place at the University of Manchester. This was the first IWMW event for which a WiFi network was available and about 20 people were able to use their laptops to engage in discussion using IRC (this was in the days before Twitter). Afterwards an archive of the IRC log was kept so we have a record of the discussion:

Jul 07 10:08:02 <Tim>explosion on london underground. entire network closed!!
Jul 07 10:09:04 <--DavidBailey has quit (Quit: CGI:IRC (EOF))
Jul 07 10:10:06 <JeremySpellerUCL>explosion where?
Jul 07 10:10:15 <Tim>liverpool street
Jul 07 10:10:35 <JeremySpellerUCL>Grief
Jul 07 10:10:40 <Tim>metropolitan line, two trains collided, several wounded
Jul 07 10:10:58 <stuart_steele_aston>Tthe bbc site is grinding?
Jul 07 10:11:02 bbc news site not responding - u saw the news report? prrsumably everyone else is trying to now.
Jul 07 10:11:04 <--MilesB has quit (Quit: CGI:IRC (Ping timeout))
Jul 07 10:11:16 <Tim>try the blessed guardian

Jeremy recollected this incident in his talk at IWMW 2010. In addition to his slides being available on Slideshare, a video recording of the talk is also available, together with a mashup of the video recording and the tweets posted during his talk, as illustrated.

What’s The Current State of Play?

How are institutions preparing for major incidents today, I wonder?

The University of Bath has used its official Twitter stream in the winter during heavy snowfalls to alert staff and students when the University was closed, due to dangerous conditions on the roads on the steep hill leading up to the University.

But if social media will have an important role to play during major incidents, how should social media services such as Twitter be used? Equally important, how should concerns that incorrect, misleading or even fraudulent tweets are posted?

On a weekly basis the final alarms on campus are tested and their are occasional fire drills in which staff and students need to leave the building and assemble at designated assembly points. Do we need similar drills in use of social media, I wonder? But if this is not possible, do institutions have plans for use of social media during major incidents? And are institutions aware that, unlike fire drills, they do not have control over use of social media? A post by Paul Boag posted in December 2008 entitled The power and problems of twitter highlights the problems which can happen when a jokey tweet is misinterpretted as a cry for help. As Paul described in the introduction to the post “I take no pleasure in this post. I do not like embarrassing myself in public. However, I need to both publicly apologise and also share a valuable lesson in the use of twitter. If you use twitter, please read this post. It is important that you do not make the same mistake.

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

Posted in Social Web | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Leave Instagram (or Facebook, Google Drive, …) Until You’ve Considered the Implications

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17 Jan 2013

New Year: An Opportunity to Delete Social Media Accounts!

A few days ago I received the following email from Instagram:

As we announced in December, we have updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. These policies also now take into account the feedback we received from the Instagram Community. We’re emailing you to remind you that, as we announced last month, these updated policies will be in effect as of January 19th, 2013. 

That’s right, as of Saturday 19th January 2013, the new terms and conditions come into operation.

Did you delete your Instragram account before Christmas, once you saw the tweets and the blog posts about how Instagram intended to sell the photos you have taken of your loved ones? Perhaps you made a new year’s resolution to cancel subscriptions to services for which you don’t pay a subscription, so that “you’re the product“. Or maybe you have taken the opportunity to delete accounts which you simply don’t use perhaps Google+ appeared promising when it was launched but it hasn’t found a place in your regular workflow.

Are You Making An Informed Decision?

Is your decision based on a correct understanding of the appropriate policies? Are you aware of the possible risks in deleting social media account?

Back in April 2012 a post which asked Have You Got Your Free Google Drive, Skydrive & Dropbox Accounts? was written in response to a tweet from @sydlawrence which said:

Holy crap. Google owns everything on google drive. Tell me a business that will use it… … 

which linked to the following screenshot of the Google Drive terms and conditions:

Google Drive terms and conditionsThe screenshot quite clearly states that “You retain ownership of any intellectual property that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours“. It’s therefore not surprising that the image was subsequently deleting – but not before the post was retweeted 1,109 times and favourited by 115 Twitter users!

This provides a good example of how an incorrect summary (whether through a mistake or malicious intent) of the terms and conditions of a service can be easily repeated and, through Twitter’s power in viral communications, lead to such misinformation being widely accepted as the truth.

The situation with Instragram is not as clear-cut since the company have admitted their failings:

it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities – to communicate our intentions clearly 

and explained how, in the light of user feedback (emphasis provided in original):

we are reverting … to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010

Instragram now echo Google in providing an unambiguous statement regarding ownership of content uploaded to the service:

Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.

So if you deleted your Instagram account because you had been led to believe that you were losing ownership of your content or your content could be sold without your permission then your made this decision based on incorrect assumptions!

Further Thoughts on Deletion of Social Media Accounts

“If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product”

Back in November 2010 a post on the LifeHacker blog gave the background to the statement If You’re Not Paying for It; You’re the Product:

This particular quote comes from a discussion on MetaFilter, regarding the massive changes at the social aggregation news site Digg earlier this year. MetaFilter user blue_beetle accurately observed that “if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. This sentiment doesn’t just apply to unhappy Digg users but to a significant portion of the online experience and many real life interactions.

I’ve commented previously on the flaws in this argument: I didn’t pay for my education as a child – does this mean that I’m simply a product of the capitalist system which will seek to exploit me as a worker and provide free health care so my productivity is maximised? Similarly I don’t pay to watch ITV; in this case the adverts are the TV companies’ key services which I am encouraged to consume, with the TV programmes filling the gaps between the advertising breaks.

In reality many of the social media service seek to monetise the ‘attention data’ in order to make a profit, as well as cover the costs of providing the services. Like many people, although by no means everyone, I am prepared to accept this environment and have not chosen to purchase a premium account which many social media companies provide for those who wish to avoid seeing advertising materials.

I am not alone in my views on the phrase. The Powazek blog contained a post entitled I’m Not The Product, But I Play One On The Internet which was published in December 2012 which described how:

But the more the line is repeated, the more it gets on my nerves. It has a stoner-like quality to it (“Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at your hands?”). It reminds me of McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” a phrase that is seemingly deep but collapses into pointlessness the moment you think about using it in any practical way. 

The post concludes:

we should all stop saying, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product,” because it doesn’t really mean anything

There will be legitimate reasons why you may chose not to use a service because you are unhappy with their terms and conditions – but such decisions should be made because of an informed decision and not just because you aren’t paying for the service.

Social Media Accounts Which Aren’t Being Used

But beyond the issue of the terms and conditions, should you delete an account because it is little used? Although this would appear to be a sensible decision there is a need to consider the associated risks.

Back in January 2011 a post on Evidence of Personal Usage Of Social Web Services described the long gestation period for services such as Twitter. As I concluded “in the case of Twitter it was only after two years of first using the service that it became embedded in my working practices” – there was a need to have (a) have a critical mass of Twitter followers with whom I could engage with; (b) have more effective tools than the Twitter Web client I used initially and (c) have a compelling use case which convinced me of the value of the service (this turned out to be use of Twitter at a conference when I was away from the office for a period and meeting new people).

I would admit that I have not yet found a compelling use case for Google+. But I will keep the account, partly because the account is used to authenticate myself with other Google services. But in addition I would not wish to miss out on the occasional use I do make of Google+ or to have to rebuild a Google+ community if I delete the account and subsequently find uses for the service.

Similarly my Facebook account provide an address book for friends and colleagues and a means of keeping in touch beyond annual Christmas cards. But in addition, as I suggested in a post which asked What Could Facebook’s New Search System Offer Researchers? recent Facebook developments, such as the Facebook Graph Search, may provide new opportunities which could be of value to me. Stephen Downes on the OLDaily blog has commented that:

A graph search makes sense, and would eventually provide better results than Google, but it really depends on people being engaged enough with Facebook to generate useful data, and that is far from clear. More from E-Commerce TimesSocial Media TodayBBC NewsMashableBrian KellyClickZTechnology ReviewBen WerdmullerWired News..

I agree that it is unclear whether Facebook will have sufficient momentum to provide a useful service; for me, this is also true of Google+. However I have judged the risks of continuing to use the services as low, with the loss of my networks on such services meaning that it would be difficult and time-consuming to regenerate such networks if the services did turn out to be useful.

I have summarised the decisions I have made and the rationale behind the decisions. Have you chosen to delete any social media accounts? Or have you considered deleting accounts and decided not to? I’d welcome your thoughts.

PS: A tweet from @digisim reminded me that I had intended to also add that one reason for subscribing to social media services which aren’t used is to claim your username. I have claimed briankelly on the service in case that service (touted as an open alternative to Twitter) ever takes off. However as I have only posted four times since July 2008 and only have 12 followers it seems unlikely that the service will take off.

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] | View Twitter statistics from: []

Posted in Legal, Social Web | 19 Comments »

Using Social Media to Publish/Share Ideas/Opinions Which Have Not Been Peer Reviewed

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 Jan 2013

In The Bell, Listening to Fat Man Swings

Fat Man Swings at The Bell

Fat Man Swings at The Bell (I responded to a tweet during the break)

Last night I was in The Bell in Bath listening to Fat Man Swings when I noticed someone had mentioned me in a tweet:

@NSRiazat no but briankelly may be able to help

The message related to a discussion on the #phdchat Tweetchat during which Nasima Riazat (@NSRiazat) asked:

Has anyone used social media to publish/share ideas/opinions which have not been peer reviewed prior to sharing? #phdchat

According to her Twitter biography Nasima Riazat is “#PhDchat moderator. PhD research expertise in capacity building, distributed leadership, leadership sciences, developing middle leaders – Open University UK“. Her question was therefore very relevant for those who participate in the #phdchat discussions, which I have commented on previously.

The question, and its timing, may well horrify those who do not ‘get’ Twitter and are worried about being inundated with tweets during every hour of the day and having to respond during out-of-work hours. However established Twitter users will understand that Twitter provides a steady stream of content which you can dip into when it suits you and @ messages can often be ignored. On this occasion I felt the question was of interest and so I responded during the break to say I would address the question. The interaction, incidentally, including taking and posting a photo of the band probably took less than a minute.

Publishing and Sharing Ideas Which Have Not Been Peer Reviewed

Back in October, during Open Access Week I gave a series of talks on Open Practices for the Connected Researcher at the universities of Exeter, Salford and Bath in which I described the benefits which social media could provide for researchers. The talk was based on personal experiences of use of social media to support my peer-reviewed papers, especially in the area of Web accessibility. I described how social media could be used to develop one’s professional network (with the example of how I met Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) on Twitter and subsequently collaborated on a paper which won an award at an international conference). I also described how use of services such as Twitter and Slideshare could be used by one’s co-authors during a conference presentation in order to maximise the numbers of views of the paper and accompanying slides by those who have a particular interest in the conference – those who may subsequently cite the paper in their own research publications or take actions based on the ideas described in the paper.

But although social media has proven value in developing one’s professional network and enhancing access to research publications, the question which was raised addressed a different scenario: Has anyone used social media to publish/share ideas/opinions which have not been peer reviewed prior to sharing?

I suspect the answer to this question will be influenced by the area of research together with personal approaches towards openness and the culture within one’s research group or host institution.

In my case my areas of research are based on the Web (Web accessibility, Social Web, Web preservation, Web standards and institutional repositories). My organisation (and our funders) has always been supportive of open access for the research outputs. In addition I have sought to embrace open practices in my work. I should add that I do not feel that others should adopt similar approaches; as I described in a post on The Social Web and the Belbin Model my preferred roles as a ‘plant’ and ‘resource investigator’ in the Belbin model are well-aligned with use of social media services such as blogs. I am therefore comfortable with the notion of exposing one’s ideas to public view at early stages, with the intention that flaws in the ideas will be identified at an early stage and the value of the ideas will be enhanced by contributions from others.

For me the ideas published in a blog post (or even a tweet) can be subsequently developed and used in a peer-reviewed paper. As an example, in September 2012 I wrote a brief post which asked “John hit the ball”: Should Simple Language Be Mandatory for Web Accessibility? After the post had been published I came across a tweet from @techczech (Dominik Lukes) which commented:

Should Simple Language Be Mandatory for Web Accessibility? < Bad idea for #a11y – ignorant of basic #linguistic facts

I looked at Dominik’s Twitter biography (“Education and technology specialist, linguist, feminist, enemy of prescriptivism, metaphor hacker, educator, (ex)podcaster, Drupal/Wordpress web builder, Czech.“) and followed the link to his blog and read his post on “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?”: What every learning technologist should know about accessible documents #ALTC2012. I realised that we had similar interest so I decided to follow him on Twitter and then had an interesting phone conversation on Web accessibility and language issues.

I subsequently submitted a brief paper on this topic with Alastair McNaught, JISC TechDis, to the W3C WAI’s online symposium on “Easy to Read” (e2r) language in Web Pages/Applications. As described in a post on ‘Does He Take Sugar?’: The Risks of Standardising Easy-to-read Language the paper was not accepted. However since we were not restricted to the 1.00 word limit imposed by the organisers of the online symposium Alastair and I expanded on our original which were further developed through the contribution provided by Dominik. Our article entitled ‘Does He Take Sugar?’: The Risks of Standardising Easy-to-read Language was published in the Ariadne ejournal just before Christmas.

Although the article was not peer-reviewed we have subsequently realised that the ideas described in the article could provide a new insight into our previous work in developing a framework for making use of accessibility guidelines such as WCAG. We are currently discussing how we can build on these new insights.

To summarise, a brief blog post was commented on in a tweet. This led to an exchange of tweets, a phone call, a joint Skype call and a joint article – with an understanding that we will look for opportunities for further collaboration. Without the blog post and without the tweet, this would not have happened!

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy] – []

Posted in Accessibility, Social Web, Twitter | Leave a Comment »

Social Media Analytics for R&D: a Catalan Vision

Posted by Brian Kelly on 5 Nov 2012

Social Media Analytics for R&D: a Catalan Vision

In this guest post Xavier Lasauca i Cisa reviews how institutions that are part of the Catalan R&D environment make use of social media and described the benefits of this approach. Xavier also discusses the metrics  used by the Catalan Administration to evaluate and measure the impact of the government’s presence in this area and their benefits for the public.

This guest blog post builds on previous posts on this blog which have described use of social media in the UK higher education sector, including posts on Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts Provided by the 24 Russell Group UniversitiesUse of Facebook by Russell Group Universities and Links to Social Media Sites on Russell Group University Home Pages.

The post has been published in the run-up to the Spot-On London (SOLO12) conference which includes sessions on Assessing social media impact (#solo12impact), Altmetrics beyond the Numbers (#solo12alt) and Using Twitter as a Means of Effective Science Engagement (#solo12Twitter). The post aims to provide a wider view on approaches to use of social media and evaluation of its impact beyond the UK.


The Directorate General for Research is the unit of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) responsible for promoting science and technology research centres, planning training and career development of researchers, promoting Catalan participation in national, European and international research programs, and designing actions on science communication and dissemination in Catalonia, among other functions. This unit, along with the Directorate General of Universities, is part of the Secretariat for Universities and Research, which at the same time is part of the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge, headed by Minister Andreu Mas-Colell. The parallels with the British political system lie in the fact that the Directorate General for Research is the equivalent to the Government Office for Science within the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

As the person responsible for Knowledge Management and ICT on R&D, I am in charge of the management of R&D computer applications at the Directorate General for Research, of the technical coordination of the research website of the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge, and of an electronic newsletter (RECERCAT). I am also the person responsible, in conjunction with the Communication department of the Secretariat, for  the administration of  the Directorate General for Research profiles on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc.). In addition, I maintain a personal blog (“L’ase quàntic” or “The quantum donkey“) where I write about innovation in Public Administration, the use of social media in universities and research, the Open Galaxy (Open Access, Open Science, Open Data, Open Courseware…) and the issue of women in science, among others.

This article focuses on the use of social media by the units within the departments of the Catalan Government (specifically the Secretariat for Universities and Research), research centres, large research support infrastructures and the reference networks in Catalonia. I would like to thank Professor Miquel Duran, from the University of Girona, for his support in the preparation of data on the number of Twitter, Klout and Kred followers of the organisations analyzed during the second week of October this year.

A General Overview of the Catalan R&D System

The Catalan public R&D system is primarily composed of universities, research centres, large research support infrastructures, hospitals, science and technology parks, networks of reference and research groups.

The central topics in science policies applied in Catalonia in recent years are, on the one hand, talent attraction and retention, with excellence and internationalization as their benchmarks (a good example of this line of action is ICREA, Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies), and on the other hand, a sustained increase in research funding, with the bulk of the spending allocated to research structures, both research centres and large facilities (such as the Alba synchrotron light facility or the MareNostrum supercomputer).
A good sign of the health status of the Catalan scientific system is that, if we consider that the size of the population in Catalonia represents 1.5% of the EU-27, the system has managed to attract 2.2% of the financing available from the European Union Seventh  Framework Programme, and has obtained 3.4% of European Research Council (ERC) grants. Another relevant fact is that 2.9% of scientific publications in the EU-27 have been written by Catalan researchers. You can find these data and more information on the Catalan research system in the article by the Secretary for Universities and Research of the Catalan Government, Antoni Castellà, published in the issue 1 of the journal Global Scientia.

Institutional support

Three social media accounts are being managed from the Secretariat for Universities and Research: the Directorate General for Research account ((@recercat), the Directorate General of Universities (@universitatscat) and the Secretariat for Universities and Research (@coneixementcat).

The Twitter account of the Directorate General for Research is used to disseminate the scholarships and research grants funded by the unit, as well as the publications of the institution (for example, the most important news published in the newsletter RECERCAT). It is also used to post news and updates from the web, to promote the scientific dissemination activities from the unit and from the Recerca en acció (Research in action) website, as well as events, awards, scholarships, publications and other information from the system related agents. Apart from this public information service, the Twitter account also serves to promote government action (with links to press releases) and to share institutional statements from events or interviews of policymakers.

The institutional account management of the Secretariat for Universities and Research, as well as of other departments of the Catalan government, is based on the Style and usage guide of the Government of Catalonia’s social networks, produced by the General Directorate for Citizen Services and Publicity (GDCSP), at the Ministry of the Presidency of the Government of Catalonia. This publication establishes common guidelines for a consistent presence of the Government  of Catalonia on social networks and lists the different social media utilities, their various uses, the purpose of each network, recommendations for an appropriate and productive presence, and criteria for finding the best communicative style for each tool.

One of the most important chapters in the guide is dedicated to metrics, an essential tool to monitor the activity that is being done and to assess and measure the impact, in this case, of the presence of the Administration in this environment and the benefits it represents for citizens. Metric indicators are based on the following key concepts:

  • Dialogue: measures the degree of dialogue that the Government of Catalonia maintains with citizens on different social networks.
  • Reach: information on the distribution of the Government of Catalonia contents to the people who are part of the social network.
  • Action: indicates whether the content shared on the networks promotes activity.
  • Interaction: shows the global relationship between an account and its audience.
  • Acceptance (Applause): quantifies the degree of satisfaction.

For each of these key concepts, the indicators shown in Table 1 (List of indicators for Twitter and Facebook) and Table 2 (List of indicators for YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare) are used:

Concept  Twitter Facebook
Audience Followers Friends
Tweets sent Entries
Interactions Mentions Comments
Retweets (RT) Shares
Clicks to links Likes
Interest Dialogue Mentionts/tweets Comments/entries
Reach RT/tweets Shares/entries
Action Clicks to links/tweets
Applause Likes/entries
Interactions (Mentions+RT)/tweets (Comments+shares+likes)/entries
Commitment Dialogue Mentions/followers Comments/friends
Reach RT/followers Shares/friends
Action Clicks to links/followers
Applause Likes/friends
Interactions (Mentions+RT)/followers (Comments+shares+likes)/friends

Table 1: List of indicators for Twitter and Facebook

Tool Indicator
Youtube Total number of videos uploaded
Videos uploaded during the month
Number of views of all the videos uploaded
Visits to the channel
Flickr Total number of photos published
Photos published during the month
Number of views of all the photos
Slideshare Total number of presentations and documents published
Presentations and documents published during one month
Number of downloads of all the presentations and documents published
Number of visits of all the presentations and documents published

Table 2: List of indicators for Youtube, Flickr and Slideshare

In order to facilitate a better interpretation of the metrics, the GDCSP prepares a quarterly report that shows the evolution of these indicators graphically and sends it to each of the units responsible for corporate social media accounts. These reports help the units to evaluate the effectiveness of their activity on social media and to consider whether the previously defined objectives are being achieved. In addition, the information obtained can serve as a basis for predicting future actions and planning campaigns. After all, assessment in the Administration must serve to identify public policies that work, knowing the impact and to what extent it is attributable to the intervention of Public Administration. Table 3 shows the number of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube followers of the institutional accounts of the Universities and Research areas in the Catalan Government, as well as the Klout and Kred reputation indices:

Secretariat for Universities and Research accounts Twitter FB YT Klout Kred
Directorate General for Universities (@universitatscat) 3,300 859 52 718 5
Directorate General for Research (@recercat) 2,970 538 53 697 5
Secretariat for Universities and Research (@coneixementcat) 1,467 49 656 4
Research in action (@RecercaenAccio) 1,438 87 49 616 3

Table 3: Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts of  Secretariat for Universities and Research of Catalan Government

The Twitter and Facebook accounts of the Universities area lead the classification ahead of the Research accounts, probably because their target audience is considerably larger. The Twitter account of the Knowledge area of the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge of the Government of Catalonia ranks third, whereas the account of the science dissemination website Research in action closes the classification.

Research Centres in Catalonia: Increasingly Intensive Use of the Social Web

As regards research centres in Catalonia, it has to be mentioned that the CERCA Institute  is the Government of Catalonia’s technical service and its means for supervising, supporting and facilitating the activities of the 47 research centres in the CERCA system. These research centres are independent entities with their own independent legal status, partially-financed by the Government of Catalonia (which provides them with stable funding through programme contracts) and their main aim is excellence in scientific research. They follow a private sector management model that is totally flexible and based on multi-year activity programmes within the framework of a strategic plan and ex-post supervision  that respects the autonomy of each centre.

The aim of this model is to encourage co-ordination and strategic co-operation between  centres, to improve the positioning, visibility and impact of the research carried out and to facilitate communication between public and private agents. To illustrate  the efficiency of the system, out of the 60 ERC Starting Grants awarded in Catalonia during the 2007-2012 period, 34 were awarded to researchers from the CERCA centres (56%), whereas in the case of the ERC Advanced Grants, the percentage rises to 63% (19 out of 30) for the 2008-2011 period.

Out of all the 47 CERCA centres, 25 use social media tools, primarily Twitter, as part of their communication strategy. Table 4 summarises the most important indicators of their presence on social media:

CERCA centres accounts Twitter Facebook YouTube Klout Kred
1 IJC – Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute >2,344 >44,758 >245 >50 >730 >3
2 i2CAT – Internet and Digital Innovation in Catalonia 1,503 44 638 4
3 CTFC – Forest Technology Centre of Catalonia 1,195   957    21 49 650 3
4 CREAF – Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications 1,191 51 681 5
5 IPHES – Catalan Institute for Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution 1,097 1,048    29 49 677 5
6 IGTP – Health Sciences Research Institute of the Germans Trias i Pujol Foundation   923 50 667 5
7 CRG – Centre for Genomic Regulation   905  449    58 50 675 6
8 IDIBELL – Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute   777  234     3 52 685 5
9 IDIBAPS – August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute   772  185 43 597 2
10 ISGlobal-CRESIB-Barcelona Centre for International Health Research   758  353 52 694 6
11 IMIM – Municipal Institute for Medical Research Hospital del Mar   744    24 44 583 3
12 VHIR – Vall d’Hebron Research Institute   734  301    62 47 644 3
13 ICCC – Catalan Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences   617  217 39 595 4
14 ICIQ – Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia   499  428    12 45 600 4
15 IRB Barcelona – Institute for Research in Biomedicine   295  448    13 43 576 3
16 IRSI-CAIXA – Institute for AIDS Research   283 46 597 5
17 ICP – Catalan Institute of Palaeontology Miquel Crusafont   258 2,683    20 42 545 3
18 CVC – Computer Vision Center   252    93 43 577 4
19 ICFO – Institute of Photonic Sciences   228  197 45 619 3
20 IMPPC – Institute of Predictive and Personalized Cancer Medicine    70 31 434 2
21 IC3 – Catalan Climate Sciences Institute    33  218 31 351 2
22 CTTC – Catalan Telecommunications Technology Centre    29    12     1 25 344 1
23 CMR[B] – Centre of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona    21    21   52 0
24 IBEC – Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia  265     7
25 CReSA – Centre for Animal Health Research     6

Table 4: Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts Provided by CERCA centres

As for the number of Twitter followers, the Josep Carreras Foundation, on which the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute depends, leads the account classification with 2.344 followers. At a certain distance, and above 1.000 followers, we find the i2CAT Foundation (Internet and Digital Innovation in Catalonia), the Forest Technology Centre of Catalonia and the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications.

Regarding the José Carreras Foundation, which also tops the rankings on Facebook (over 44.000 followers) and YouTube (with 245 subscribers), it should be noted that the Foundation probably generates a very significant number of emotional supporters, which may not occur in most other centres.

In the case of Facebook, 18 CERCA centres are present in this network. Apart from the aforementioned first position, the second one goes to the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology Miquel Crusafont, and the third is for the Catalan Institute for Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution, both of them with over 1000 followers.

About YouTube, the top channels in number of subscribers correspond to the Josep Carreras Foundation, the Center for Genomic Regulation and the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute. As we can see, there is a wide variety of fields of knowledge regarding the top positions of the various social media.

As regards to reputation indices, the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal-CRESIB) lead the Klout ranking (Klout 52), and there are four centres over 50: the Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications, the Center for Genomic Regulation, the Health Sciences Research Institute of the Germans Trias i Pujol Foundation, and the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute. Interestingly, when analyzing the Kred index substantial variations are not observed with respect to the centres that occupy the top six ranking positions of the Klout index, except for the entry of the Catalan Institute of Human Palaeoecology and Social Evolution into the Top 6, which moves the Health Sciences Research Institute of the Germans Trias i Pujol Foundation up to the seventh position.

Apart from the 47 CERCA centres, Catalonia has 21 centres from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), which are public state-owned agencies. Among these research centres, we wish to highlight the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (IIIA), with 369 followers on Twitter, the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB), with 306 followers, and the Institute of Robotics and Industrial Computing (IRII), with 144 followers.

Large research support infrastructures

Large research support infrastructures require large investments for their construction and maintenance, with the aim to advance cutting-edge experimental science. Catalonia has basically two major infrastructures: the Alba synchrotron light facility at the CELLS Consortium and the MareNostrum supercomputer at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS).

These major research support infrastructures in Catalan territory are mainly consortia participated by the Government of Catalonia, the Spanish State and other organizations that take a minority stake. Apart from the two major infrastructures mentioned above, there are up to 10 other major research support infrastructures. Only five out of these 12 structures are present on social media as shown in Table 5:

Catalan large infrastructures accounts  Twitter Facebook YouTube Klout Kred
Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS) 385 236 11 45 597 4
Center for Scientific and Academic Services of Catalonia (CESCA) 158  45  0 31 523 3
Ebre Observatory  99 137 38 494 2
National Centre for Genomic Analysis (CNAG)  64 40 395 3
Montsec Observatory 940

Table 5: Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts Provided by Catalan Large Infrastructures

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) ranks first in the number of Twitter followers, while the Montsec Astronomical Observatory leads the Facebook network.

Reference networks of R&D and innovation

Reference networks of R&D and innovation consist of a series of groups from different institutions that carry out research and innovation projects, and other activities collaboratively. These groups have common goals and the networks aim at promoting collaborative, interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work, as well as the optimization of infrastructure and R&D and innovation facilities in Catalonia. Four out of the eight reference networks are present on Twitter, as shown in Table 6, with the Reference Network of R&D and innovation on Theoretical and Computational Chemistry leading the classification:

Catalan reference networks accounts Twitter Facebook Klout Kred
Reference Network of R&D&I on Theoretical and Computational Chemistry (XRQTC) 117 35 516 4
Catalan Biotechnology Reference Network (XRB) 112 41 498 4
Reference Network of R&D&I on Aquaculture (XRAq)  63 74 23 396 3
Reference Network of R&D&I on Food Technology (XaRTA)  39 17 220 1

Table 6: Social Analytics for Institutional Twitter Accounts Provided by Catalan Reference Networks

How Can We Measure the Reputation of a Research Network?

Is the number of Twitter followers a good indicator of the presence of an institution on the net? In my blog, I regularly analyze the presence of research structures in Catalonia on social media, based on the number of followers. I realized that this indicator may not be a sufficiently complete indicator, so I decided to introduce also the Klout and Kred indicators, in line with the analysis of Professor Miquel Duran, an expert in analyzing metrics in universities of the Catalan-speaking territories, and Brian Kelly, UKOLN,  University of Bath, with his detailed analysis on the presence of the UK Russell Group universities (note the latter also includes indicators such as  Peerindex or Twitalyzer). Both Klout and Kred provide complementary and useful information in order to assess the impact of bidirectional communication.

Klout is a social networking service that measures influence using data points from Twitter, such as the size of a person’s network, the content created and how other people interact with that content. This analysis is also done on data taken from Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, and other sites. Klout creates profiles on individuals and assigns them scores ranging from 1 to 100. Despite being criticized because of its opacity, this service has become quite popular and I believe it is a good complement.

Another interesting measure of influence is Kred. Unlike Klout, Kred provides a fully transparent view of the actions that compose any user’s score and it is the only influence measure to openly publish its algorithm. Kred’s scoring system, which is based on Twitter profiles, is composed of two scores: Influence measures a user’s ability to inspire action from others like retweeting, replies or new follows and it is scored on a 1000 point scale.  Outreach reflects generosity in engaging with others and helping them spread their message and it is scored on a 10 point scale. Outreach score is cumulative and always increases, and it is measured on Twitter by your retweets, replies and mentions of others.

The Importance of Being Present on Social Media

In late May 2012, I gave a presentation at the University of Barcelona on dissemination using Web 2.0 (Com divulgar en el web 2.0). The workshop aimed to provide tools and strategies for scientific knowledge dissemination to researchers and other agents linked to R&D and innovation system, so that they could be in a better position to spread the object of their research.

Although my remarks focused on the importance of having a blog and a Twitter account to disseminate research, I finally mentioned other instruments that could contribute to it such as repositories (Slideshare, YouTube, Flickr) or social networking tools (ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Google+). During the talk it was mentioned that, while Facebook has been considered a very suitable network for personal rather than professional purposes, currently a trend has been detected among young people to use this network to disseminate research. Therefore, it should be considered in future studies.

Twitter and Facebook are the social networking tools where research structures in Catalonia are mostly present, although with slightly different communication strategies. The centres use these media mainly to disseminate research and, in some cases, to make dissemination activities organized by the centre more widely available and to engage with the public, even as a teaching support. Moreover, these tools are often used to post vacancies at the institution. According to Raül Toran, science writer at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), “generally the topics that are forwarded mostly are the ones related to cutting-edge research and job vacancies at the institution“.

Social media at the research centres are basically managed by the Communication Departments at the same institution although in most centres, some researchers use social media mostly for personal rather than professional activity. Cinta S. Bellmunt, Head of Communication at the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) states that the researchers in the centre “are aware of the value and visibility that social networks provide to research, because quite often I have to refer questions that arise in the group to them, so they realize there is movement, interrelation“. To follow up on the impact of the communication strategy of the centre, tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are used.

A good example of the impact of the dissemination activity of social media by the centres is to be found in the increasing traffic to their websites, as well as an increase in the number of job applications for possible vacancies. Inevitably, this communication activity results in a continuous increase in the number of Twitter and Facebook followers. As far as readers’ preferences is concerned, it is highly variable and it depends on the centres: in the case of the IDIBELL, there is more interaction via Twitter (direct messages, mentions, RT, etc.) than via Facebook (Likes or comments), while in the case of IPHES the situation is reversed.

As regards privacy, there is growing awareness that knowledge must flow, but with precaution in order not to affect the privacy of others, respecting authorship and quoting the source of what is being communicated.

Open social network tools such as Diaspora or, are still little known in Catalonia. In contrast, a growing increase in Catalan researchers in the ResearchGate network has been detected.

In summary, we could say that research structures in Catalonia are consolidating and increasing their presence on social media, especially on Twitter and Facebook, which has become part of their communication strategy, increasing visibility. To disseminate the research that is being carried out and to approach society are the main goals. In addition, communication units are progressively incorporating metrics tracking tools designed to evaluate and measure the impact of the communication activity and its benefits to the target audience. And good news is that research, often funded with public money, engages with the whole of society.

About the Author

Xavier Lasauca i Cisa is the person in charge of Knowledge Management and Information Technologies on R&D (Directorate General for Research, Ministry of Economy and Knowledge, Government of Catalonia).

Twitter: @xavierlasauca

Image: 2.0, by Maricel Saball (CC BY 3.0), adapted from My social networks

View Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

Posted in Guest-post, Social Web | 12 Comments »

Are You a Roundhead or a Cavalier in Your Views on Social Media?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 Aug 2012

Do We Value Talent or Effort?

The New Statesman (13 August 2012) featured an interesting article on “The Olympic Afterglow” by Ed Smith. As described in a summary of the current issue the article provides a left-of-centre perspective on the Olympic Games:

Team GB could not have won many of its medals without the support of the state. Only a few sports can nurture elite athletes (and their coaches, equipment and nutritionists) in a free market; most require handouts from the taxpayer.

But it was the issues of “talent” and “effort” which I found most interesting. The article explains how:

“Talent” has often been used as a dirty word, replaced by nouns with a clear moral dimension – guts, determination, sacrifice. The message is clear: medals should be earned by an effort of willpower, preferably a triumph over adversity.

The article went on to challenges such views:

Yet the natural human instinct – what viewers feel before they are told what to think – is to thrill to raw talent whenever we see it. Usain Bolt cheerfully admits that Yohan Blake trains much harder. “But I have a talent”, Bolt adds truthfully. And it is his talent that is so wonderful. he is one of the world’s most popular sportsmen because he has not been dulled by the platitudes of professionalism. At the Beijing Olympic in 200m, in the 100 metres final, he stopped trying at 70 metres. In London, he sprinted almost for the full 100 metres. But he never lost his boyish incredulity at his own brilliance. Nor have we.

I suspect it was the New Statesman’s copy deadlines which meant that they didn’t include any references to Usain Bolt’s late night celebration’s after winning the 100 metres, but before competing in the 200 metres and 4×100 metres relay races. This was described in The Telegraph under the headline: Usain Bolt celebrates 100m gold with Swedish women’s handball team with Bolt himself supplying the accompanying photograph.

Roundheads and Cavaliers

The article reminded me of a programme on BBC 4 entitled Roundhead or a Cavalier? Which Are You? which I had been alerted to recently. The BBC Web site provides the following summary of the programme:

In the middle of the 17th century, Britain was devastated by a civil war that divided the nation into two tribes – the Roundheads and the Cavaliers. In this programme, celebrities and historians reveal that modern Britain is still defined by the battle between the two tribes. The Cavaliers represent a Britain of panache, pleasure and individuality. They are confronted by the Roundheads, who stand for modesty, discipline, equality and state intervention.

Updating this to our current environment this could begin:

In the early part of the 21st century, the UK’s higher education sector is mildly agitated by disagreements that are dividing the sector into two tribes 

with those who take up the freedom and opportunities provided by blogs, Twitter and other social media services in encouraging individualistic approaches to their work continuing the Cavalier tradition, but encountering resistance from Roundheads who wish to see a continuation of the modest, disinterested and managed approaches to such activities and are willing to endorse institutional interventions in order to ensure such traditions continue.

This reminded me of my recent paper on “Can LinkedIn and Enhance Access to Open Repositories?“. In my one-minute summary of the paper, available on Vimeo, I described how I responded to our Pro Vice-Chancellor’s question on how I had managed to have the largest number of downloads in the University of Bath by saying “Simple, it’s about the incoming links from LinkedIn and and similar services“. But repository managers don’t appear to be proactive in encouraging researchers to link to papers in open access repositories, unlike commercial publishers who, we have found, do encourage researchers to link to papers hosted behind the publishers’ paywalls. “Why! tell me why?” I asked at the end of the summary.

I think I now understand the reason why. Some people don’t choose to make use of simple solutions to provide professional benefits because of their Roundhead tendencies and feel benefits should only be gained after hard work and discipline. On the other hand I’ll admit to being a Cavalier and am happy to use technologies which work for me, even – no, especially – if they don’t require any hard work. So for me using the social media service which works is the ideal. if you’re a Roundhead you’re more likely to prefer the hard work and disciplined approaches which installing open source software on you own server and the domain you manage.

I’ll also admit to admiring the Cavaliering approach taken by Usain Bolt who won 3 Gold medals in less than 2 minutes of competitive racing at the Olympics (with times for partying between races) to the Roundheads’ hero, Mo Farah, who spent almost an hour winning his 2 gold medals at the Olympics.

What approach do you prefer?  

Twitter conversation via Topsy: [View]

Posted in General, Social Web | 1 Comment »

Guest Post: Further Evidence of Use of Social Networks in the UK Higher Education Sector

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Jun 2012


Further Evidence of Use of Social Networks in the UK Higher Education Sector

A series of recent posts on the UK Web Focus blog have summarised use of social networking service such as Facebook and Twitter by the 20 Russell Group universities. In today’s guest post Craig Russell, a Web Systems Developer at the University of Leicester, provides a picture across the UK higher education sector. Craig’s work is particularly timely as it has been carried out shortly before UKOLN’s IWMW 2012 event. Craig will be attending the event and will welcome feedback and comments from fellow participants on the survey and, perhaps more importantly, the implications of the findings and how they should inform policy decisions.

These are lean times for UK universities. The second half of this year is going to be a challenging one for all of us. Purse strings are being pulled tight in response to post-September uncertainty and we are all finding ourselves spread thinner than before, having to find new ways to do more-for-less. Universities have a strong history of academic collaboration, a practice that we in the corporate and support services should seek to emulate. By way of an example, I’d like to share my experiences of sharing a project of my own with the university community and the great benefit that this has returned.

In recent weeks I’ve set out to compile a dataset of all UK university social media (SM) accounts. Initially I was working alone in compiling the data set, and I got a fair way with it, but it wasn’t until sharing my work with the university web community that it grew in to the comprehensive resource that it has become.

I began with a list of institutions taken from the Guardian League Tables, which turned out not to be the best source as it didn’t use the correct names for institutions nor did it list all HEIs in the UK. When I shared the dataset with members of the WEB-INFO-MGT mailing list I received a few responses from institutions who were disappointed to find they weren’t included in it. Wanting to make this resource as inclusive as possible, I later adapted it to use the institution list provided by HESA in their “2010/11 Students by Institution” dataset. In addition to being more complete and accurate, this allowed me to include the HESA Institution ID and UK Provider Reference Number, which will make it easier to join this dataset with others in the future.

Figure 1: Number of social media services used

Initially I only collected data for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and iTunesU accounts. My thinking at the time was that that the first four were the most popular (and therefore the only interesting ones – herp) and I had a general interest in iTunesU. While collecting the data I noticed that other networks were also fairly common among universities. This revelation was reinforced by the emails I received from web maintainers, which listed a variety of services. So in the revised version I included every service that universities identified themselves as using. The dataset now lists 16 different services that are currently being used by UK universities. A surprisingly broad spread.

Expanding the dataset in this dimension allows an important questions to be asked; what are the social network that UK universities are currently using, and how popular are they? The chart below answers this question. The data shows that my initial hunch about the top four was correct (but all the better with evidence), though I expected Flickr to be more popular than it is. In contrast, LinkedIn is better represented than I had thought. Also of note is the low position of Google+, echoing the general attitude towards the much-hyped service.

Figure 2: Distribution of accounts across institutions

Another question worth asking is; how many social networks are universities using? The histogram shown in Figure 2 the distribution of accounts across institutions. Most universities have a presence in 3 or 4 networks, with a significant minority above and below this range. The peak at 0 suggests missing data, therefore it’s likely that university presence in social media is in truth greater than this chart would suggest.

Though this is only a fairly superficial analysis of the data, these results raise many more questions than they answer. Why do most institutions have only 3/4 social media accounts? I suspect that the availability of resources in the university to manage an on-line social presence is the primary limiting factor, though the response to the popularity of these services in our target markets should also be considered. The combination of popular services is interesting too. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and to a lesser extent Flickr, seem to provide a complimentary suite of tools – why?

I’m also interested to understand the strategy guiding the use of these services. Having glanced over a few accounts I see that some institutions use twitter primarily as a broadcast medium to share information about themselves, whereas others use it as a two-way channel to communicate and converse with their audience. On a related point, while most universities linked to their SM accounts from their homepage, those that did not, commonly linked to it from their news and events pages. This implies a ‘broadcast’ view of social media, though it may simply reflect where responsibility for managing these accounts lays within the organisation.

I originally compiled this dataset to answer a few questions of my own. But thanks to the involvement of the university web community it has grown and developed in to a resource that has been useful for me and (I hope) you too. If you use this dataset as a basis for your own work, or if you have data of your own that others may find useful, I’d encourage you to share it. Post a few links to the WEB-INFO-MGT mailing list or better yet attend an event such as IWMW12 to meet and discuss your work. The chances of you being the only person who finds your work interesting or useful is vanishingly small, find those other people and help one another.

The UK University Social Media Accounts dataset is up on Google Docs. Please do email me with any updates, corrections, comments or criticisms. I will be attending IWMW next month, so do come say hi if you’d like to chat about this – or anything else for that matter. Finally I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the dataset and sent messages of encouragement, I am very grateful.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

We may well have found ourselves shoe-horned in to the free-market, but I strongly believe that it is through our cooperation, not our competition, that UK universities will continue to thrive in a challenging future.

Posted in Guest-post, Social Web | 8 Comments »

Institutional Use of Social Media In Europe

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22 Feb 2012

A recent series of blog referrer links from a post entitled entitled “Rànquing d’universitats i estructures de recerca de Catalunya a les xarxes socials” brought my attention to a number of benchmarking surveys of use of social media in higher educational institutions outside the UK.

The blog post — which can be read in an automatically translated English version if you do not understand the Catalan language :-) — describes how:

The presence of social networks and academic institutions doing research is increasingly consolidated. Realizing the importance of this fact, I thought it might be useful to show what institutions are visible to the networks and to what degree.

The blog post provides a summary of use of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in the seven public universities (and a number of research organisations) in Catalonia. The findings are shown in the accompanying image (and note that the original was an image rather than a table).  The findings can be compared with the findings for Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities, carried out in January 2011 from which we found a much greater diversity on the number of followers, which ranged from 965 to over 12,000 and Use of Facebook by Russell Group Universities also carried out in January 2011 for which the number of ‘likes’ ranged for 977 to over 137,000. The much greater popularity of Twitter and Facebook in the UK is perhaps not surprising, as such US inventions are likely to have an impact initially in the English-speaking world, but it is interesting to notice the much greater variation within the UK.

The article provides a link to a post summarising use of Twitter in French universities for which the findings are shown in the following table. This table also shows that Twitter is more popular across many, although not all, Russell Group universities.

No. Name of Institution
(and link to Twitter account)
Nos. of Twitter
1 Université de Nantes 2,817
2 Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1 2,191
3 Université de Lille 1 2,125
4 Université Pierre et Marie Curie 2,103
5 Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 1,762
6 Université Panthéon-Sorbonne – Paris 1 1,649
7 Université Lumière Lyon 2 1,648
8 Université d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse 1,632
9 Université de Lille 3 1,530
10 Université de Rennes 1 1,515

A similar survey, which was also published in January 2012, provides details of the ten most popular Facebook pages for French Universities.

No. Name of Institution
(and link to Facebook page)
Nos. of
1 Université Lumière Lyon 2 8,775
2 Université Paris Sorbonne – Paris 4 6,797
3 Université Pierre et Marie Curie 6,763
4 Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1 6,304
5 Université d’Auvergne – Clermont-Ferrand 1 5,456
6 Université Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC) 4,774
7 Université Paul Valéry – Montpellier 3 4,745
8 Université Panthéon-Assas – Paris 2 4,509
9 Université Paris 1 – Panthéon Sorbonne 4,325
10 UVSQ 4,307

The automated translation of this page provides the ‘paradata’ for the survey:

  • This ranking takes into account the number of “gross” of fans at the time of measurement
  • we do not weighted by the number of students in the school.
  • only the “official pages” are taken into account (or group or community pages …)

The article also provides a graph showing growth in the Facebook communities from October 20010 to January 2012.

Back in September 2011 I wrote a post entitled Bath is the University of the Year! But What if Online Metrics Were Included? In the post I whether since University league tables such as those provided by the Sunday Times and the Times Higher Education based on teaching and learning and research activities are well-established, in light of the acceptance of  the importance of the online environment in university activities  might we expect online metrics to be included in future surveys.

In light of these surveys across Catalonian and French universities I now wonder if  a future equivalent of  The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2010-2011 will include metrics for institutional engagement with social media services?


Posted in Social Web | 4 Comments »

My Trusted Social Librarian

Posted by Brian Kelly on 16 Feb 2012

I’ve mentioned recently how I use the Smartr app on  my iPod Touch to view the content of links which have been tweeted.  I have set up a number of Twitter lists, such as my JISC list, which enables me to view the content of links posted from such official accounts but I tend to prefer the serendipity of reading content posted by people I follow generally on Twitter or particular groupings, such as attendee at events.

I tend to download new content in Smartr in the morning while I am waiting for the bus (using a neighbour’s WiFi which I can legitimately access using BTFON). This then provides me with timely content to read on the bus travelling to work.

This morning I noticed that several of the interesting links which were being posted had been tweeted by @aarontay. This may be because Aaron works at the National Library of Singapore so that when I am getting up it is the middle of the afternoon for Aaron. He is therefore more likely to be using Twitter to share resources of interest while colleagues in the UK will be describing what we had for breakfast! However this is only partly the case – I also find that Aaron’s Musings about Librarianship blog is valuable reading.

In light of Aaron’s proven track record in creating useful content and sharing links to content provided by others it occurred to me that it might be useful to create a Twitter list containing just Aaron’s Twitter account so that I would be able to easily see the content of links which Aaron has shared and read then, even when I am offline.

As can be seen from the accompanying image I am now able to view the content using Smartr. It occurred to me that this is an example of how a trusted librarian contact can provide a ‘frictionless’ presence in social media. Tony Hirst wrote about this recently in a post entitled Invisible Library Support – Now You Can’t Afford Not to be Social? which followed up on ideas previously described in a post which asked Could Librarians Be Influential Friends?

In his post Tony wondered:

whether it made sense for librarians and other folk involved with providing support relating to resource discovery and recommendation to start a) creating social network profiles and encouraging their patrons to friend them, and b) start recommending resources using those profiles in order to start influencing the ordering/ranking of results in patrons’ search results based on those personal recommendations“.

Coincidentally earlier today I was looking for blog posts about the VALA 2012 conference which UKOLN Director Liz Lyon had spoken at recently. As illustrated my Google search provided a link which Aaron had recently shared on Friendfeed. My trusted librarian contact is helping me to find resources which may be of interest to me on Google as well as Twitter.

Last year Aaron richly deserved to win a Library Mover and Shaker award. Although I’ve never met Aaron we have spoken on Skype and had discussions on Twitter and via our blogs. I’m pleased that recent technological developments are now enabling me to gain value form the resources which Aaron is ‘frictionlessly’ sharing on services such as Twitter and Friendfeed. Who are the other librarians I should also follow in order to ensure that I can keep up to date with new developments, I wonder? Or to put it another way, I have found one intelligent agent who searches the web and finds content of interest to me. I’d like another one please!

Posted in Social Web, Twitter | 5 Comments »

Favouriting Tweets, Openness and Frictionless Sharing

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 Feb 2012

Yesterday I favourited (or should I say ‘favorited’) a tweet from @lisaharris which had a link to an article on “Scholars Seek Better Ways to Track Impact Online” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. An hour or so later I received a direct message (DM) asking me if I was interested in exploring possibilities of joint work in this area.  We exchanged a few messages and agreed to discuss this more using a technology which allows for more in-depth discussions – the telephone :-)

It occurred to me that this is an interesting example of frictionless sharing – I spotted a link to an interesting resource and decided to bookmark it (using Twitter’s ‘favorite’ function) for reading later.  The bookmarking takes place in public (as, for example, I also do when I wish to bookmark web resources using Delicious or Diigo). And as a result of this public action Lisa Harris, who posted the tweet on Sunday morning, got in touch with me.

I have found that being aware of such Twitter favouriting activities has become easier following recent developments to Twitter’s mobile client.  As shown in the accompanying image (on the right if viewing this post in a web browser), such activities are readily accessible via the web site on a desktop PC.  But since, as with increasing numbers of  other Twitter users, a mobile device is now my preferred method of using Twitter, it’s the Interactions tab on my iPod Touch which typically alerts me to similar activities, as shown below.

From this we can see, for example, that @lualnu10 (Marisa Alonso Nunez) favourited and then retweeted my comment:

Great post from @ambrouk on “Why I Blog”. Good to see open reflections based on “vanalytics” & “pimpact” (TM Amber :-)

It should be noted that access to such interactions are not available on all Twitter clients.  A lack of awareness of Twitter’s more subtle aspects is perhaps an example of why people may fail to ‘get” Twitter. As I mentioned in a recent post on Twitter? It’s Better Than The Most Things (According to Sturgeon)  there is a need to understand techniques for filtering Twitter content which are best exploited by using a dedicated Twitter client. In this example, however, we can see that there can be benefits in accessing content (interactions) which may not be available on all clients.

It is appropriate that the screenshot of recent interactions mentions Amber Thomas blog post on “Why I Blog“. In the post Amber explains why she is embracing ‘open practices in her role as a JISC programme manager. She cites Lou McGill’s definition of open practices:

By Open practices I mean a broad range of practices which have an ‘open’ philosophy, intention or approach […] Informal and formal open practice takes place within wider societal contexts which are evolving rapidly. Open practices take place in, and are enabled by, a highly connected socially networked environment”

Amber’s post primarily addresses the open practices within the context of blogging, and covers associated metrics which can demonstrate the ways in which the content is being used and shared.  However as we can see Twitter also provides an example of open practices in which the value lies not just in the content which is shared in the 140 characters or the embedded links but also in simple frictionless sharing actions such as favouriting and retweeting.

Of course there may also be risks in public bookmarking activities: it you favourite a tweet on “how to deal with a difficult boss” you may be sending unintended messages to your manager! But open practices will always entail risks – I suspect the question will be what your personal attitude to risks are. And perhaps if you are an optimist you will see the advantages which can be gained in open practices, as I suggested in a post on “A Tweet Takes Me To Catalonia“.  But if you are at heart a pessimist, you may well worry about how your tweets could be used against you.   I can’t help but think that embracing open practices says a lot about the individual rather than the technology. On reflection, this is an over-simplistic analysis as I know several people I follow on Twitter who enjoy sharing their grumbles on Twitter, particularly related to public transport failures around the south west!

Posted in openness, Social Web, Twitter | 2 Comments »

How Higher Education Uses Social Media [Infographic]: US and UK Comparisons

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 Feb 2012

A post on How Higher Education Uses Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC] published two hours ago by provides an infographic on how US universities are using social media services.

Much of the content is based on bland summaries of how the services are being used: “Class announcements and discussions are shared on sites like Twitter” and unsurprising statistics: “Facebook is the most used social media tool in higher education”. However there were also some more detailed statistics, including the following information of the top social media colleges according to Student Adviser.

But how do these figures compare with leading UK universities? The findings for the five highest ranked UK universities according to the Sunday Times university guide for 2011 (as listed in Wikipedia) are listed below.

Institution Facebook Hubspot Twitter YouTube
University of Cambridge 128,310  –  27,399 2,341,548
University of Oxford 398,203  –  31,029     95,628
Durham University    8,785  –   1,980   256,933
LSE 38,730  –   4,660     91,964
University of Bath   37,744
 –  10,440     48,697

As the original article is an infographic, it would be inappropriate to  comment on these findings further :-)

Posted in Social Web | 5 Comments »

Further Reflections on My Predictions for 2012

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 Jan 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 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 »

Links to Social Media Sites on Russell Group University Home Pages

Posted by Brian Kelly on 18 Jan 2012

Providing a Benchmark of University Use Of Social Web Services

In a recent post in which I gave My Predictions for 2012 I predicted that “Social networking services will continue to grow in importance across the higher education sector“. But how will we be able to assess the accuracy of that prediction? One approach is to see if there are significant changes in the number of links to social media services from institutional home pages.

The following survey provides a summary of links to social media services which are hosted on the institutional entry point for the 20 Russell Group universities.

Update: The information published about Imperial College was incorrect. This has been updated.

Ref No. Institution Services Type of Link Screenshot Icons for KCL
1 Birmingham None
2 Bristol None
3 Cambridge [iPhone] – [iTunesU] – [YouTube]
– [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [Flickr]
Direct link to institutional presence on social media service
4 Cardiff None
5 Edinburgh None
6 Glasgow [Generic bookmarks] – [WordPress] – [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [email] Link to visitor’s own presence on social media service.
7 Imperial College None [Delicious] – [Twitter] – [Digg] – [Stumble] – [Facebook] Link to visitor’s own presence on social media service.
8 King’s College London [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [Favourites ] – [Digg] -[Delicious] – [RSS] See sidebar
9 Leeds [Facebook] – [Twitter]
10 Liverpool None
11 LSE [iTunesU] – [YouTube] – [Twitter] – [Facebook] – [Delicious] – [RSS] – [Flickr] Link to page on institutional web site providing information about institutional use of social media services.
12 Manchester [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [Google Maps] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
13 Newcastle [Facebook] – [Twitter]
– [YouTube] – [iTunesU]
Link to page on institutional web site providing information about institutional use of social media services.
14 Nottingham [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [Flickr] – [LinkedIn] – [FourSquare] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
15 Oxford None
16 Queen’s University Belfast [Facebook] – [Twitter] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
17 Sheffield [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
18 Southampton [Facebook] – [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [iTunesU] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
19 UCL [Twitter] – [YouTube] – [Facebook] – [Soundcloud] – [Flickr] – [iTunesU] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
20 Warwick [Facebook] – [YouTube] – [Twitter] – [iTunesU] Direct link to institutional presence on social media service.
Total 59 64

A summary of the number of occurrences of the services is given below.

Service Occurrences Note
Facebook 14 15 Links to institutional Facebook page.
Twitter 14 15 Links to institutional Twitter page.
YouTube   9 Links to institutional YouTube page.
iTunesU   6 Links to institutional iTunes page.
Flickr   4 Links to institutional Flickr page.
Delicious   2 3 (1) Provides access to links provided by the Careers Service and (2) allows page to be bookmarked.
Soundcloud   1 Links to institutional SoundCloud page.
LinkedIn   1 Links to institutional LinkedIn page.
FourSquare   1 Links to institutional FourSquare geo-location service.
Digg   2 Allows site to be bookmarked.
WordPress   1 Enables WordPress users to create post with link to University home page.
RSS   1 Purpose of this icon is not defined.
Stumble   1 Allows site to be bookmarked.
iPhone   1 Link to iPhone app about University
Google Maps   1 Link to map of University.
Generic Bookmarks   1 Link to bookmarks providing access to several social media services.
Email   1 Provides an email facility.
Total 5964


If either all of the Russell Group University home pages had links to the same social media services or none did, this survey would be uninteresting. However since about 30% of the institutions do not have such links this seems to be suggesting that the value of having such links on a high profile page is not universally agreed.

For those institutions which do provide such links we can see that Facebook and Twitter are the most popular services, followed by social media sharing services. A number of services, including LinkedIn and FourSquare, have links from only a single institution.

It was also interesting to observe that although most institutions provided links to their institutional presence on social media services, a number of institutions used such links to allow visitors to provide links to the institution from the visitor’s own account, so that the institutional home page could be bookmarked or commented on.

Finally we can also observe how institutions label access to these services. This includes use of terms such as “Join us“, “Follow us“,”Find us on …“, and “xxx in the Social Media“.

From a user perspective we should also note that the different purposes provided by these links may be confusing. The norm is for links to provide read access to an institutional presence on a social media service. However in a number of cases the links are intended to allow users with accounts on particular services to bookmark or cite the institutional page on the service. Although this usage may be appropriate across a group of pages with the same purposes (for example, blog posts) this approach may cause confusion for a visitor who is either unfamiliar with the service or who expects the links to provide read access to the service.

Looking to the Future

This post has sought to identify patterns of usage of links to social media services on Russell Group university home pages and highlighted areas in which it may be beneficial for institutions to reappraise their uses of such services. However the main purpose of this survey was to provide a benchmark to help identify future trends in institutional use of social media.

Use of institutional home pages for such benchmarking can be beneficial since changes to institutional home pages will probably require approval at a senior level, and will therefore be less likely to reflect short term technological trends.

It will therefore be interesting at the end of the year to observe whether:

  • The current popular social networking services continue to remain popular.
  • New social media services are provided on social media services.
  • The ways in which the links to social media services are labelled and the functionality they provide changes.

I’d welcome comments on patterns across the wider University sector.

Posted in Evidence, Social Web | 10 Comments »

“It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Fact That You Did It”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Jan 2012

There’s a tendency to emphasise the benefits of tangible activities which involve significant investment of time and energy: carrying out the scientific experiments; interviewing the stakeholder communities; writing the research paper; developing the software; organising the events; etc. Outside the higher education sector we see this, for example, from the New Year’s Honours list which describes how “In total 984 people have been recommended to The Queen for an award. 70 per cent of the recipients are local heroes, who’ve undertaken outstanding work in their communities“. You don’t win an award or get promotion for a trivial piece of work, would you?

I wouldn’t like to be critical of people “who’ve undertaken outstanding work in their communities” – although, as described in the Observer “It is far more difficult to see the reasoning behind the award of an unprecedented third of knighthoods to bankers and businessmen, including Paul Ruddock, a hedge fund manager and Tory donor who profited from the collapse of Northern Rock“. But rather than make this obvious political point, I feel there is also a need to reflect on the implications of the minor decisions and actions we can all make which can have an impact across the society we live in.

This is clearly true in the parliamentary democracy we live in. Last year I took part in our democratic processes by voting in the General Election. And whilst it’s true that I am unhappy with the result and the subsequent consequences, I know that that’s how western democracy works and I’ll have to accept the implications of my vote for the Lib Dems, in order to keep out the Conservatives in Bath.

Voting in general elections every four to five years is accepted as how parliamentary democracy works in the UK. But it has recently occurred to me that we are also seeing similar effects happening in the online world, in which the small actions of individuals can have a significant influence in both the online and offline (real) worlds.

We see this with Google searches, in which the first sets of results will be affected by the numbers of links to the pages. People who create Web pages containing links to other pages are therefore helping to vote for pages which will be displayed at the top of a Google search.

The influence of individual Web page authors is now likely to be fairly minimal, as Search Engine Optimisers will be using a variety of other techniques in order to manipulate Google’s search algorithms. However the social media provides an alternative means by which simple actions can have an influence.

The University of Oxford’s Facebook page informs us that there have been “349,820 likes” and “5,549 are talking about the page”.

Looking at the most recent Facebook status update for the page, the season’s greetings from the institution, we can see that 707 people have liked this and 192 comments have been made.

The implications of lightweight activities such as liking a resources, favouriting a resource or following a user struck me after the recent update to the Twitter Web site (and Twitter client on my iPod Touch).

The activities of people I follow on Twitter are now highlighted so, as illustrated, I can see how the Twitter account for the J Paul Getty Museum has favourited a tweet from Carl Silva, how Garret McMahon has started to follow Elaine Byrne and Clay Shirky, James Burke and Mike Gulliver are now following Rupert Murdoch.

Back in June 2010 Christina Rogge suggested ways in we could go about BUILDING A COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE WITH TWITTER and, In November a post on the Mashable blog described How Hashtagging the Web Could Improve Our Collective Intelligence. Also last year Anthony Deacon suggested ways of Using Facebook Groups to Harness Collective Intelligence.

In the 2010 General Election there were 10,706,647 votes for the Conservatives, 8,604,358 for Labour and 6,827,938 for the Liberal Democratic Party (including one from me). There have also been 349,831 Likes of the University of Oxford Facebook page, also including one from me. I wonder if my trivial activities on social media sites will have a more productive outcome than my vote in the last election? And although we will still need people to “undertake outstanding work in their communities” we should also remember that, to a certain extent:

It ain’t what you do, it’s the fact that you did it. That’s what’s gets results.

The “it” can involve a mark on a voting slip or a click on a Like or +1 button. Activists understand the importance of the need to persuade people to exercise their vote at elections. We will need to understand the potential significance of similar small-scale actions in the online environment.

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Social Web | 5 Comments »