UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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Posts Tagged ‘altc2009’

If It’s Not “All About The Technology” Then What Else Is It Not About?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30 Sep 2009

The announcement of the availability of a video summary of the event reminded me of the opening F-ALT session, held on 8 September in the Lass O’Gowrie pub  (a pub I always try to get to when I’m at a conference at Manchester University).  This was my first time at F-ALT, the ALT’s Fringe event, and I was looking forward to meeting up with the F-ALT organisers and participants, many of whom I’ve met previously or may not have met but read their blogs or follow on Twitter.

From what I’d heard of last year’s F-ALT, the Fringe event would provide an opportunity to discuss topics related to elearning in a informal and friendly setting. I’d heard anecdotes of last year’s debate on the “Edupunk” meme and was looking forward to a similar light-hearted evening of geeky fun.  However the topic of the opening F-ALT session was “Postdigital” and the description on the F-ALT wiki  read:

What does this mean? Why is it not two words? Is it just Dave making-up another term in an attempt to get keynote gigs? No, it actually has some substance to it and could be a very helpful way of framing the learning-tech discussion over the next few years. If you are sceptical about all this then you should definitely turn-up. The chances of an argument breaking out are very high.

Perhaps this year’s F-ALT wouldn’t turn out to be  the informal evening and drink and chat that I had expected! The participants at the event were asked to give a two-minute response to a number of ideas we were presented with. Mine was, if I recall correctly:

The speed of the change, however, has left us with the mistaken belief that social change was somehow ‘created’ by the digital rather than simply played out on a the canvas of the digital; that the digital itself is the main driver of change.

Being presented with this serious topic in the pub on the opening evening of the conference I tried to response in a light-hearted fashion. I suggested that it was appropriate that this topic was raised in a traditional Manchester boozer, possibly a pub which Fredrick Engles drank in when he spent time in the city. And just as we call for ownership of our scholarly works in ours IRs (institutional repositories) so Engels called for ownership of the means of production in the better known IR – the industrial revolution.  So the arguments we are having now aren’t about primarily about the technologies, but reflect arguments which date back hundreds of years (indeed Martin Weller has suggested that the debates go back many centuries).

The publication of the video summary of the evening (which is embedded below) provides an opportunity to revisit ‘postdigital’ debate …

If, as Dave White suggests in a post on “Postdigital: Escaping the Kingdom of the New?“, we tend to overhype the new and exciting, and fail to appreciate the aspects which are actually useful, what are the implications? Perhaps this is a topic which is worthy of more considered thinking. 

Now maybe it is correct to suggest that we in the development community, who consider ourselves to be agents of a transformational change to a better environment, fail to appreciate that our users often ignore our developments and our vision. After all, if the initial evidence reflects a more general trend, we seem to be living in a world in which most users use an MS Windows platform to access institutional resources – they’re not interested in Linux, for example, despite many years of evangelism from the open source community. A computer’s a computer, just like a fax machine is a fax machine – only nerds care about what goes on underneath the bonnet.

But if this is true, what are the implications for accepting that we are in a postdigital age?  Don’t we then accept that our IT environment will be owned by the mega-corporations – Google and Microsoft. And let’s forget debates about device independence and interoperability – unless the mega-corporations feel such issues may provide a competitive edge.

It strikes me that the postdigital agenda is a conservative one, in which we are asked to accept that we (in our institutions and in our working environment) cannot shape our digital environment. And for me that is a worrying point of view which I don’t accept.


Posted in Events, General | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Use of Twitter at the ALTC 2009 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Sep 2009

Back After A Week Away

Last week was unusual – not a single blog post published in the week. Although there were suggestions at last week’s ALT-C 2009 conference that blogging is in decline with established bloggers making greater use of Twitter, my failure to blog last week was due to being away all week at the ALT-C conference followed by the ALPSP 2009 conference.  And although I’d brought along my ASUS EEE PC, I couldn’t get it connected to the network in my bedroom at either of the conferences. So my connectivity was restricted to use of my iPod Touch and HTC Magic mobile phone – which I used for reading email messages, tweets and RSS feeds and writing the occasional Twitter post.

ALT-C 2009 Summaries

A number of valuable summaries of the conference have already been published. I don’t intend to repeat what has already been said, apart from mentioning that the two plenary talks I saw (from Michael Wesch and Martin Bean ) were both excellent (I had to leave on the final morning and so unfortunately missed Terry Anderson’s closing plenary talk); the VLE is Dead debate was entertaining, with witty contributions made from the four speakers and was useful in raising issues and providing insights which I hadn’t previously considered.

Twitter at ALT-C 2009

But what of the use of Twitter at ALT-C 2009? Philip Paasuke, an e-learning enthusiast based in Adelaide, Australia, has described how he followed the conference from home using a variety of technologies: watching the keynote plenary talks on Elluminate and using Tweetdeck to follow the back channel discussions. As Philip describes: “The Twitter postings gave me an interesting perspective on what participants at the conference and those observing it remotely were thinking about the various presentations“. Philip went on to add that “Following ALT-C 2009 on Twitter has also led me to increase the number of people that I am following using this service from what might loosely be called ‘the elearning community’. The Twitter posts also included a lot of useful links to more detailed blog postings by some of the conference participants“.

Summary of #altc2009 usageBut how extensively was Twitter used at the conference? And what was the profile of its usage?

I have previously described how I used a variety of Twitter analysis and management tools to analyse use of Twitter at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 event. For that event, which had 200 participants, there were 1,530 tweets. For the ALTC 2009 conference, with had over 700 participants, there were over 4,300 tweets published in a week! This figure, which was obtained using the wthashtag service, provides a summary, illustrated above, based on tweets posted from Monday 6 to Sunday 13 September. We can expected further tweets this week, as other participants get round to writing their reports on the conference and continue the discussions. And I should add that Philip Paasuke’s blog post mistakenly gives #altc09 as the official Twitter hashtag –  there were a further 128 tweets using this tag from 51 contributors.

During my analysis of #iwmw2009 event Tweets, I discovered that tweets seem to disappear after a short period of time. I subsequently came across a TechCrunch post which reported that tweets currently become unavailable from the Twitter search API after about 10 days.

In order to carry pout more detailed analyses, it will be necessary to ensure that a copy of the relevant tweets is kept, ideally in a format suitable for data analysis. I have therefore once again used the wthashtag, Twapperkeeper and Tweetdoc services to keep a local copy of the conference tweets. Links to the data and to these servicesis available on the UKOLN Web site.

Why The Interest?

What is the point of the analysis of the Twitter posts made at the ALTC 2009 conference? Isn’t the point of Twitter it’s spontaneity and perhaps its subversive use?

Trending words at ALTC 2009Well although that may be one use case for Twitter, it’s not the only one. The interest in use of Twitter as an educational tool can be gauged from the popularity of the Teaching With Twitter workshop facilitated by Steve Wheeler and colleague. And mining the data might also provide interesting insights into the event, the community and the ideas discussed and shared. Looking at the summary of trending words provided by the Tweetdocs service, for example, might indicate an interest in Twitter (to be expected) but also in openness and people. And the two people who seem to have been most discussed (or, in the case of James Clay, contributed to the discussions) seem to be James Clay and Anderson (probably Terry Anderson, the final plenary speaker).

The conference organisers might be pleased to see the popularity of the words “good” and “great” – but what about the criticisms that were made of the queues for the food and coffee and the conference accommodation? Will analysis of the Twitter discussions start to form part of an organisation’s debriefing after an event –  and might not the venue itself have an interest in what was said about the facilities?  Well the data is now available for reuse.

Posted in Events, Twitter | Tagged: | 15 Comments »

Hashtags for the ALT-C 2009 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 Aug 2009

This Year’s ALT-C Conference

I will be attending the ALT-C 2009 Conference at the University of Manchester in a couple of weeks time where I’ll be facilitating a session with Martin Weller on “Realising Dreams, Avoiding Nightmares, Accepting Responsibilities” – a title chosen to reflect the conference theme of “In dreams begins responsibility“.

Yesterday I was involved in discussions on Twitter regarding use of hashtags (hash tags?) for referring to specific sessions at the conference. The conference tag has already been agreed – it is altc2009 and this has been announced on the conference home page. Let’s hope that this high visibility avoids tag fragmentation.

But there are many sessions at ALT-C and many parallel sessions. So an active Twitter community – which we are likely to find at the conference – may well find itself talking at cross-purposes if nothing is done to differentiate between the sessions. It may also be useful to be able to be able to identify particular sessions using a short and unambiguous tag e.g. so people can say “Are you going to Brian’s session?” or “What did you think of Martin’s session?” without confusion and using fewer characters.

Experiences of Using Hashtags at UKOLN’s IWMW 2009 Event

At UKOLN’s recent IWMW 2009 event we allocated a two-digit code for the plenary talks (P1-P8) and the parallel sessions (A1-A9, B1-B4 and C1-C5) . This short code was used consistently on the Web site, initially for selection of the parallel sessions.

Hashtags used to find tweets about #iwmw2009 and #p3Shortly before the event we encouraged use of these codes, together with the codes we assigned for the plenary talks, in Twitter. And, as I’ve described previously, after the event we captured the tweets for the plenary talks and provided links to this record of discussions which used the Twitter hashtags in this fashion (see, for example, the tweets made during Paul Boag’s plenary talk P3 which is illustrated).

After the event we used the Archivist Twitter archiving tool in order to capture these tweets are store them locally. These local archives are available in CSV and XMLformats. As can be seen, for Paul Boag’s talk, 78 tweets containing the pair of hastags were found.

What To Do For ALT-C?

What approach should be taken to use of hashtags at this year’s ALT-C conference? A similar answer might be to do nothing other than use the event’s hashtag. After all, some may argue, Twitter’s strength is its simplicity and adding anything new is likely to undermine this simplicity. Whilst I’d agree with this sentiment I don’t feel that adding an additional optional tag is complex. And we know have some examples of the benefits of doing this, which I’ve described in a recent screencast published on this blog.

But how should we select the hashtags for the session? I recently discovered that the unique identifier for the workshop myself and Martin Weller are facilitating is 113. And looking at the conference introduction and abstracts which arrived in the post a few days ago it seems that the session ids range from 0012 to 0322. I’m assuming that the unique ids were assigned when the proposals were submitted as the numbers aren’t consecutive (hmm, were the first 11 proposals rejected, I wonder?). To avoid confusion and to save space I’d suggest that leading zeroes are ignored. So my proposal for a hashtag to identify the session would be #snnn – in my case this would be #s321 #altc321 and James Clay’s four sessions would have the identifiers #s208, #s221, #s286 and #s301.

These tags would be used in conjunction with the main conference tag. A Twitter search for “#altc2009 #s321” should find tweets referring to my session. Simple? Indeed a simplification of my initial suggestion of #altcnnn as a session identifier.

But although this approach worked at IWMW 2009 and would work for my workshop session it has been pointed out to me that this approach won’t work for the sessions which have multiple papers being presented. Although the individual papers have a unique identifier, the sessions themselves do not. Owen Stephens suggested that the identifier used in the conference’s CrowdVine social networking environmentcould be used but this then causes potential confusion with the identifiers allocated by the conference and won’t easily be found by conference participants who aren’t using CrowdVine. And further discussions is only likely to lead to confusions and unnecessary complexity.

So my proposal is this:

  • The conference hashtag is #altc2009.
  • If Twitter users wish to identify a specific session they should use the #altc2009 hashtag in conjunction with a session tag which has the format #snnn when nnn is a the session identifier given in the conference programme, with leading zeroes omitted (the prefix s standards for the session identifier).

Is this approach worth trying?

Title slide for session at ALTC-C showing proposed Twitter codeIn light of the workshop session on Teaching With Twitter which Steve Wheeler will be giving at the ALT-C Conference, I can’t help but think we do need to be experimenting with ways in which Twitter can be used in a learning context and in enriching its use in community building.

Reflecting on Tony Hirst’s recent post on “A Quick Peek at the IWMW2009 Twitter Network” which analysed and visualised tweets at the IWMW 20009 event in order to “help to identify amplification networks” it occurs to me that something similar might be useful at a larger event such as ALT-C. Do, for example, the Twitterers who @ each other and RT tweets tend to go to the same sessions, I wonder?

And if you still think this may be too complicated I intend to include details of the session hashtag on the opening slide for the session Martin Weller and I will be facilitating, as illustrated.

Posted in Events, Twitter | Tagged: | 12 Comments »