Monday, December 31, 2007

When leaders admit mistakes

When this football season started, Quentin Groves was 4 sacks shy of beating the Auburn University's record of 26 sacks held by Gerald Robinson. Quentin made 2 sacks during the Kansas State University game--the 1st game of the season.

Two games later at the Mississippi State University, Quentin was still 1 sack away from tieing Gerald Robinson's sack record. MSU was able to produce on Auburn's mistakes throughout the game, handing Auburn a very disappointing loss on Auburn's home field. Simply, MSU did what they needed to do to create a win. Coach Sylvester Croom who has had his share of growing pains in developing the MSU Bulldog team is improving each year.

During the MSU-AU game, Auburn fans booed the quarterback and coaches. Geez, I will never understand why fans boo college players. What makes any fan believe booing his own team will make the players play better?

Fans continued to spout lots of blame and disappointment toward the Auburn quarterback and coaches during the following week. The one who stepped up to the challenged and brought a light of leadership to the team and to the public was senior defensive end Quentin Groves.

Quentin publicly blamed himself for the lost. Auburn led 14-13, MSU had the ball in the final few minutes of the game. Stopping MSU could have forced a long field goal attempt. On a draw play, MSU carried the ball 18 yards, setting up a touchdown. MSU won 19-14.

"It’s my fault," Groves said Saturday. "Shame on me."
Groves admitted he was more focused on pass-rushing than covering the run in that situation.
"Being the great pass-rush mind that I am - God forgive me - I lined up too wide," Groves said. "It hurt our team."
"It was third-and-12, and I was just like, ‘I know it’s going to be pass."
Groves said. "I should have been thinking like a coach: They just wanted a field goal to go up."
"I was being selfish."
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said Groves went overboard in putting all the blame on himself. But that’s the kind of leadership the coach likes from his seniors.

I believe, like Will Muschamp, Quentin was too hard on himself. I also firmly believe that any game cannot be lost by one single play. Many plays--many decisions--could have resulted in any number of outcomes.

However, admitting the mistake seem to bring a new level of respect toward Quentin. It also challenged others to evaluate their own plays and decisions.

Why is important for leaders to admit their mistakes?
Leaders who admit mistakes:

Finally, in the book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes that leaders of the "great" companies take responsibilities when things are not going well and share the credit when things are going great. In contrast, the leaders of the "good" companies (sometimes companies that eventually become poor companies during the 30 year study period), the leaders blamed outside sources for failures and took much credit when things did go well for the companies.

My favorite quote on mistakes is found in the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie.

When we are right, let’s try to win people gently and tactfully to our way of thinking, and when we are wrong - and that will be surprisingly often, if we are honest with ourselves - let’s admit our mistakes quickly and with enthusiasm. Not only will that technique produce astonishing results; but believe it or not, it is a lot more fun, under the circumstances, than trying to defend oneself.”
The rest of the Quentin Groves story
Quentin missed a few games because of an injury, but was able to tie the sack record during the Louisana State University game.

Quentin Groves has been awarded Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and the Pat Dye Leadership Award Chuck Bednarik Award (to name a few of his recognitions). At the end of the 2006 season, Quentin had the opportunity to play professional football during 2007, but instead he chose to stay at Auburn and finish his final year of eligibility. He finished his undergraduate degree in Fall 2006, and is currently taking graduate classes while playing his last year at Auburn University. Coach Tommy Tuberville describes Quentin as a skinny kid when he came to Auburn, he became a good player, then, became a great player during his college tenure.

We wish him well in his professional football career and wherever his future takes him.

Detailed explanation of Creative Commons

Since I started a discussion for uses of Creative Commons licenses for educators, I thought it is important to bring attention to a more in-depth discussion about Creative Commons licenses.

Larry Lessig addresses ASCAP's essay, "Common Understanding: 10 Things Every Music Creator Should Know About Creative Commons Licensing" by explaining in detail.

Though Larry Lessig explains Creative Commons as it relates to music creators, a lot of good information is provided to help others understand Creative Commons licenses.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sources of information: A Pew internet research report

Here are a few snippets of information found in the Pew Internet & American Life Project report on How people use the internet libraries and government agencies when they need help.
  • 58% of those who were seeking help used the internet, at home, work, a public library or some other place.
  • 53% said they turned to professionals such as doctors, lawyers or financial experts.
  • 45% turned to friends and family members for advice and help.
  • 36% consulted newspapers and magazines.
  • 34% contacted a government office or agency.
  • 16% consulted television and radio.
  • 13% went to the public library.
Those in the low-access (low-Internet access was defined as dial up or no access) group were less likely to report being very successful in their searches than those than those with high-access.
  • 63% of broadband access group were successful.
  • 61% of the dial-up internet access were successful.
  • 50% of those with no access at all were successful.
Those in the low-access group were less likely to have interacted with government in the previous year or visited a library. They were more likely than high-access users to say they consulted TV and radio as sources of information.

On average, each person sought help or information from 2.74 sources.

80% of internet users expect the government websites to provide what they need, compared with only 41% of those who do not use the internet.

Source information:
Authors: Leigh Estabrook, Evans Witt, Lee Rainie
Title: "Information searches that solve problems, How people use the internet, libraries, and government agencies when they need help."
Source link:
Date: December 30, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Options beyond All Rights Reserved Copyright

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to someone speak to a group of educators about copyright. The discussion was a typical one, focusing on the definition of copyrighted works, the dos, and mostly the don'ts, of using products, publications, and information that were produced by others.

Often when you hear about copyright, you hear the extremes--control the content and products by using copyright or freely give it away without constraints.

Creative Commons licenses give options that fall between two extremes. Creative Commons licenses open a plethora of opportunities to use works and derive new products from existing products.Therefore, educators should not only learn about copyright law, but should also understand that there are other options.

Using other products and content under Creative Commons
When you find products and content under Creative Commons licenses, you have options the content based on the license that the creators of the content have chosen. Creative Commons licensed works enable you to take advantage of many resources to improve your programs and use your creativity to improve these products.

Using Creative Commons for your products and content
When you use Creative Commons license, you, as a provider of content, information and educational products, decide how you want your products to be distributed and copied. From the Creative Commons website:

Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.
By "inviting certain uses of your work", you are encouraging your work to be disseminated and improved upon.

The choices within Creative Commons licenses are:
  • Attribution. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.
  • Noncommercial. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only.
  • No Derivative Works. You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.
  • Share Alike. You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.
Larry Lessig explains how creativity is encouraged by removing controls. The presentation is 19 minutes long.

By the way, the Creative Commons for my blog and most of the work I post on the web have the following Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License

which is Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Creative Commons license for my work tells me:

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

How would you like to share your work?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays

Christmas tree As I was thinking about ways to wish my colleagues and online friends a happy holiday, I thought of how, at home, we traditionally send Christmas cards and a photo of the kids, and sometimes, a letter.

Most of the cards are mailed to people we don't see very often. We also love getting cards, letters, and photos of our friends. It simply is a way to stay in touch with people we see way too little.

Online greetings
I have often described relationships, partnerships, and the learning process in the online environment are much like those processes and relationships in the physical office and learning environments. The processes online mimic the processes we have in-person.

My question became how do I send holiday greetings to those I know mostly online? Most of my online friends, I have met at conferences and see once, maybe twice, a year. However, through twitter, blogging, and even social bookmarking, I know these acquaintances much better.

What is an appropriate online holiday wish "card"? Facebook offers ways to send holiday wishes through wall posts; I certainly enjoy getting holiday wishes on my wall in Facebook.

For my online holiday greetings, I wanted my contacts in Facebook, Twitter, as well as others, to receive the greeting. I also wanted to utilize online technologies that enable expressions in ways beyond text and a single photo graph.

Blending family, work, and online activities
While there is a clear distinction between my family and professional life, there are also many reasons and ways to blend the two. Discussions at home about work and discussions at work about home help build respect and understanding among those we work with and those we live with.

I began the process of creating a video when I tweeted I was looking for Christmas music to embed in a animoto video, but having trouble finding music I could distribute. Daniel Maher of Yorkshire, UK, responded by sending his version Silent Night and Dreaming of a White Christmas on a mp3 file. Many Thanks Danny!

Note: the lesson learned is that Twitter works! I have never personally met Danny, but because of a few previous Twitter conversations, he offered his help. He contacted me through Facebook and then sent me the file through email. These systems that generate weak ties help create products and ideas, I have no doubt.

Among the season's celebrations and worship, this time of the year is also a time of reflection--a time to think about events, accomplishments, contacts, and learning that occurred throughout the year. The video is a summary of events, including family, work, and online activities. Although most of the images will mean nothing to you, you will recognize a few from my phatic Twitter posts or from the conferences we attended.

May you have a joyous holiday season and best of year ever!

Photos, images, and ideas for the video were provided by: Anne Adrian, Kelly Adrian, Mark Bransby, Deb Coates, Floyd Davenport, Jonathan Davis, Kevin Gamble, Virginia Morgan, Greg Parmer, Ann Beth Presley, Rusty Presley, Scott Snyder, James Robinson, and Jason Young. In addition to family events, ACE / NETC and Red Imported Fire Ant conferences are highlighted.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

MS Office 2007 Terms

Not only does Microsoft Office 2007 look very different than newer versions, it also has new formats for its files, and it uses terms that maybe new to you.

Vince Verbeke, IT Specialist with Pennsylvania State University, College of Agricultural Sciences in Tech News offers a short list of terms for MS Office 2007.

Vince created his short list of terms from Mini-glossary: Office 2007 written by Deb Shinder of Tech Republic.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Simply said: Do what is right

In the junior high weight room, centered between the weight lifting schedules and expected routine--squats, bench press, dead lifts, and military press were two sets of instructions for students.

One set of instructions emphasized grades, discipline responsibility, effort, desire and education.

The other one is so simple, yet, so relevant to all of us.

  • Do what is right.
  • Do your best.
  • Treat all with respect.

Written by Jason Wright, Auburn Junior HIgh School Principal.

Great words to live by!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Resources to explain Web 2.0

In a recent post, Beth Kanter in her keynote: Nonprofits in the Age of Social Networks, has provided her slideshow for her keynote and the notes. Additionally, a wiki which holds notes for the conference is also provided.

Because I often struggle to articulate Web 2.0 tools and concepts, I find resources like these helpful. In particular, Holly Ross' keynote, Lose Control: Why and How Web 2.0 Matters to Nonprofits is an interesting way of presenting Web 2.0.

Have fun investigating these resources!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Advantages of Twitter

I have struggled explaining the advantages and purposes of Twitter. What's the catch? Why use it? The reactions to my explanations of using Twitter is similar to "That's the dumbest thing ever?"

There is value, but not value you can easily quantify or explain. The best way for you to to determine its value, in terms of value for YOU, is for you to try it. Reading your friends' (the ones you follow) tweets in one stream helps you engage more meaningful later when blogging or in face-to-face conversations.

John Dorner suggests:

The only way to 'grok' these is to get in there and try it for a couple of weeks. Find some friends and do it together.
For me, I find Twitter a great way to keep in touch with friends and colleagues. Personally, something is comforting in knowing that others have daily frustrations, too. Also, it's amazing how often in 140 characters or less, my friends make me laugh. Laughter makes work so much more interesting.

Simply, Twitter allows for connections with others in an easy and unobtrusive way.

Daily Blog Tips blog also suggests that microblogging, like Twitter, can help you become a better blogger.

Microblogging allows you to develop skills that will make you a better blogger. It’s also a lot of fun. What more could you ask for?

Interesting description of Twitter can be found on a Tale of Two Network Experiences.

A few possible advantages of Twitter are:

Twitter is not a save-all or a definitive profit making tool, but it does create opportunities for connecting and sharing. Twitter is a low-barrier application.

  • Sign up for an account.
  • Start following others.
  • Make friends on Twitter
  • Convince some of your co-workers to join in.

The tweets from your friends is what makes it valuable and fun. You will get more value if you send the messages to your phone via text (SMS) messages.

I asked some friends in Facebook what they liked about Twitter. Their answers are grouped below.

Keeping track of friends and colleagues

  • Maintaining relationships with friends.
  • Getting to know folks and having fun with friends.
  • Keeping in touch with friends - strengthening friendships - a good laugh (momku).
  • I enjoy seeing and hearing what people are up to. It's just fun. I also often pick up new ideas and appreciate the quick feedback. On the downside, I have very few close colleagues or people I actually KNOW who use Twitter.
  • Interesting way to stay in touch, although I have a hard time believing people really are interested in what I am doing when I twit.
  • I think its a fun way of telling a bunch of people what's going on in your life. For me, I use it more recreationally.

Functions of Twitter

  • The informality; private & public messaging; being able to CHOOSE who you listen to; quick & easy!
  • Funny friends. The "track" function. Cellphone availability.

Non (or seldom) user

  • Not sure yet, but can see how it could be useful, especially with hand-held. Maybe I need to explore some other outside applications for it.
  • I don't know. What's a twitter? Sounds like a skin itch . . . Oh no, I've got the twitters!I don't use Twitter. (Note: I am sending this person a Twitter invite and a link to this page.)

Other uses:

  • In the context of events.. it allows me to stay connected to individuals even though we may participating in separate events.
  • It has the potential to be useful in an emergency since you can send a message to a group of people at once, especially if everyone is using it with their phones. Unfortunately, the way some people use it discourages others from enabling the phone feature.
  • I have found it useful when used in the context of a project, an event, or in keeping track of colleagues I don't get to see often.
  • it's only 140 characters.
  • not very time consuming.
  • it's easy.
  • it's fun.
Just Twitter.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What is a blog? Continuation

The conversation of "What is a blog?" continues. John Dorner describes blogging slightly differently, in Do You Blog? or Why Blog?

He describes blogging as a:
  • Vehicle for self expression.
  • Time saver.
  • Replacement for "newsletters".
  • Way to help others.
  • Payment to others--a "Pay it forward" type thing.
  • Learning tool.
  • Money maker.
Check out his post for his full explanation.

What is a blog?

Lee and Sachi LeFever of The Common Craft Show have produced Blogs in Plain English an easy-to-understand introduction to "What is a blog?"

The video describes blogs as sharing news ("Isn't everything news to someone?"). Michele Martin of The Bamboo Project Blog says "The only thing I think is missing is a discussion of blogs as a learning tool."

I, too, want to expand their definintion of blogging. Blogs (for me) are more like conversations. I see blogging as a way to:

  • Share knowledge and thoughts.
  • Share my passion and interests.
  • Learn.
  • Support learning.
  • Provide continuous timely, pertinent, and response.
  • Build professional relationships.
  • Build professional reputations.

The video, Blogs in Plain English, is a nice, brief introduction to blogging. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Animoto: New way to present photos

Aminoto (beta) is a cool web application that automatically generates videos from images and music.

Upload your own images or retrieve them from Facebook, Smugmug, Picasa, and Photobucket.

Add your own embed music from the Aminoto's selection or use your own.

The 30 second version is free, but the longer version current costs $3 or you can get unlimited access for $30 per year.

Possible uses of aminoto are:

  • showing activities during anual reports to local funding agencies.
  • summarizing a season or year for a group.
  • setting the stage in an opening of a meeting by using an upbeat video.
  • creating video scrapbook.
According to the animoto site, future plans are to:

  • provide additional user control over speed in the near future.
  • user control over the photo.
  • allow downloading of the videos.
  • add text to videos (currently to add text you should edit the photos in a photo editor to create a photo with text).

Why does animoto charge?

The main reason we charge has to do with the intensity of our video production process. In order to be able to offer something different from what's out there on the web, namely the type of "high-end" motion design and effects used in TV & film, we actually have to produce from scratch EACH new frame of your Animoto video... and there are 24 frames in each second of video! As you can imagine, this takes massive amounts of processor power, so we unfortunately can't afford to give everything away for free, particularly full-length videos, which really have intense demands on our render system. Fun fact: did you know it takes Pixar Studios 408 hours to render each second of their films using 3000 computers? Makes what we're doing here at Animoto seem pretty whimpy.

For demonstration, I used a set of photos taken from a trip that members of the Alabama Agricultural County Agents and Specialist Association made to help a few citizens in Hancock County, Mississippi one year after Katrina (September 2006). The story behind the video can be found at .

Tips for blogging: An analogy of blogging and Thanksgiving Dinner

Taking a break from early morning cooking on Thanksgiving Day, I read a post from Michael Martine of Blogging Tips, How a Blog is like a Thanksgiving Dinner.

  • Focus, but variety matters.
  • Prepare, plan.
  • Please your guests, by writing what you like AND what they like.
  • Follow best practices.
  • Serve “leftovers” in a variety of creative ways. One way is to link to previous posts, but say your message differently.
  • Put a twist to the traditional. Staying with the traditions (which is still important, albeit) only, gets boring.

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The front page is not the entry point-not even looked at

We have known for a long time that the front page of our web site is not the entry point to people outside of our organization.

After analyzing the Iowa State Extension page, Brian Webster Brian Webster found that less than 1% of the total visits saw the home page after coming into a different page.

Another important point is that underlying pages are very important.

One thing that jumped out is that “The Long Tail” definitely exists on our web server. This says that a small number of pages have the highest visits per page. However, when aggregated together, the less popular web pages make up the bulk of the visits.

This probably true of any informational and educational sites, at least the ones I am most familiar with. Where do we spend most of our time developing? Does this change the way we plan and development our web sites?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Challenging the process is a must to move from good to great

What are we doing to facilitate innovative ideas? Who are we asking and watching? What processes do we need to question as to their appropriateness in our organizations today?

This week I will be helping facilitate a Leadership Challenge workshop. I attended this workshop in the Spring and was asked to help with this session.

The Leadership Challenge concept is based on the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner researched that exemplary leaders practice these competencies. Anyone can provide leadership within their organizations.

The five practices are:

Model the Way which leaders voice and clarify their values and set examples for others to follow.
Inspire a Shared Vision which leaders envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become.

Challenge the Process which leaders look for opportunities and seek innovative ways to improve their organizations, by stepping into the process, experimenting, and taking risks.
Enable Others to Act which leaders foster collaboration and actively involve others, making others feel capable and powerful.
Encourage the Heart which leaders recognize and celebrate contributions that individuals make.

I am facilitating this workshop with the 3 instructors from the Spring workshop. Francesca Adler-Baeder, Rebecca Dollman, and Denise Michelle Cole.

One of my responsibilities is to facilitate the "Challenge the Process" module. The point is to encourage participants to challenge the way things are done in order to find creative solutions. Doing the same things over and over will not create innovative ideas. Innovations, are not usually created by one individual, but ideas are developed by seeing other products, services, and communications outside of our normal processes. An idea can be sparked by a simple notion or a conversation.

Another point of this module is that successful change happens in small steps. These small steps invokes confidence and can more easily be used as trial and error exercises. One example used is how U. S. Mint transformed from a non-responsive agency into one with great customer service and cutting edge web presence by taking the changes in steps.

During the workshop, the participants will come up with their own ways to seek innovation ideas and to step outside of our boundaries.

As I have been preparing for this workshop, I have thought of Ron Brown's talk on the Future of Extension. Several times, he referred to Jim Collin's book Good to Great. Ron talked about how we are good, but if we want to become great, we cannot keep doing the same thing over and over and listening to ourselves.

One example that we could ponder is: We will not create a great Extension's web presence by simply moving a print format and approach and a classroom learning approach to the web. We can be good at some of this, but we cannot become great with standard approaches.

What can we do in our own organizations that will help create innovative processes? How and which successful organizations should we be observing? What do we know about what our clients want?

In addressing Web 2.0, some people want to create online communities--develop online communities based on our traditional ways of education and providing information. Moving toward existing communities and current online conversations seems to be a more appropriate way to step into the process of developing innovative ideas. In this scenario, we go to our audiences rather than them coming to us. Getting started in online conversations is a start--a beginning point.
We have more ways than ever to seek changes and involve people from outside of organizations. We have more ways than ever to seek partnerships with nontraditional organizations? The possibilities through easy connections are endless.

Another thought when preparing for this workshop, is that we should also be looking into the future. Technologies are obviously advancing, so how can we prepare our workforce to take advantages of the newest technologies? How do we prepare them so they are ready to use new technologies effectively--before these changes arrive? One way is to be knowledgeable of the development of technologies. We need to develop an understanding of the newest technologies--even if we and our clientele cannot currently afford them.

We simply cannot make decisions based on the technologies we have at-hand. The following video is an example of a telepresence technology. Thanks to Mitch Owen for the link. Mitch mentions technologies take 20 years to develop. I don't believe it will be 20 years. What are the implications? With this technology, what are the possibilities of using this technology if 5 years, 10 years? What other technologies will change the way we communicate and operate?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Beyond the beginner blogger--measure your blog

Tony Glover has been blogging only a couple weeks, I like his approach to blogging and think that his blog can serve as an example to other knowledge workers who are considering blogging.

Tony is a regional Extension commercial horticulture agent, located at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticulture &Environmental Center at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham, Alabama. Tony's blog, Heart of Dixie Gardener, serves as a model for a beginning blog because:

1. Tony is blogging his knowledge, job, and passion.

2. He expands his reach by using everyday questions from clients as topics for his blog posts.

3. Tony is using links within his blog so others can investigate the topic further. While this technique takes a little bit of time,
By linking to it, you are 1) giving credit for your inspiration and 2) giving the reader an opportunity to delve into the topic for more detail and explanation.

4. Tony is using pictures as a way to demonstrate his point.

Now what? My advice is to keep blogging (obviously).

One particular question he may be asking is "How do I know how many people are reading my blog?" My advice:

1. Claim his blog in Technorati.

2. Use Google Analytics.
The statistics in Google Analytics count the number of visits to his blog, the number of pages visited by during each visit, length of time spent on his blog, what directed the visitors to his site, and where the visitors are located.

3. Use Feedburner.
When the feed is fed through Feedburner, then the number of feeds that are routed through Feedburner can be counted.

Daily Blog Tips blog offers explanations for measuring blogs.

Tips for beginner bloggers can be found:
Tips from a New Blogger
Blogging: Stepping into the learning process
Make mine chunky -- Write and present information in chunks

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trust in Web 2.0 and Social Networks

Mitch Owen makes some good points about trust in online learning environments. Using a blended approach--one that consists of online and face-to-face interaction--for self-improvement or behavior change may prove to be successful.

The leadership implication is that effective use of Web 2.0 will best be done in a blended manner, where it is coupled with other methods of working together. It also suggests that if you formed a virtual group using one of these tools, you need to find a way to have a trust building experiences.

Like Mitch, I am a true believer in individual influence. We often underestimate the power of individual influence in our conversations and in our behavior. Unlike Mitch, I think that individual influence through many Web 2.0 technologies can be powerful as well. The blended approach is probably the most effective, though.

The relationships developed through online technologies may not be the deep-seeded relationships that Mitch describes, but they can be built around professional trust and respect, nevertheless. This kind of trust and respect is like the trust and respect that you developed for your favorite professor.

Before I explain my thoughts, first let me direct you to what others are saying about specifically about social networking.

Social networking: What are others saying
Some, like Steve Rubel, Micro Persuasion, believe that social networking tools are increasing the quantity of relationships, not necessarily the quality.

On the other hand, Anne Truitt Zelenka says that her "relationships with friends and acquaintances are stronger." Without these social networking and presence technologies, we could not keep up with this many friends and professional contacts.

The nature of friendship itself, is shifting. It is no longer the byproduct of physical proximity, it is no longer strongly bounded by geography, and it is strongly mediated by our social tools. Texting, blogging, and trafficking (what we are doing in flow apps) have become essential to our continued connections with our friends, and we could no more keep up our relationships without these tools than we could put aside language itself.

Andrew McAfee suggests that social networking creates and maintains more weak ties. Weak ties offer access to information, knowledge and loose relationships of individuals across groups. These weak ties are not the ones that we look toward for personal development, but rather weak ties may be valuable for organizations to minimize groupthink, and under certain situations, increase innovation.

The implication for SNS (social network software) is obvious: Facebook and its peers should be highly valuable for businesses because they’re tools for increasing the density of weak ties within a company, as well as outside it. My Facebook friends are a large group of people from diverse backgrounds who have very little in common with each other. Furthermore, their profiles give me a decent way to evaluate their expertise. These online friends, in other words, are a large group of bridges to other networks.
Then there are others, like Scott Karp, who thinks that using Facebook for business is nonsense.

Facebook is a fantastic platform for PERSONAL social connections, keeping up and communicating with close friends and family.

But business and professional needs are NOT the same as personal needs. I have no need to “poke” my professional colleagues or specify that our working relationship began when we “hooked up.” I don’t need to know about my professional colleagues what gender they are interested in mating with, or what they are looking for in a relationship, or what their favorite TV shows are — these things may be of voyeuristic quasi-social interest, but they don’t help me connect or collaborate professionally other than maybe topics for idle — or embarrassing — chit-chat).

Using social networking for invoking change
Social networking--not just social network sites, like Facebook, but also presence technologies and forums--has its very important place in online learning and behavior change. Knowledge workers who transfer their knowledge to invoke behavior change can use social networking, collaborative tools, and presence technologies:
  • among colleagues, peers, and others--individuals for which you have strong and weak ties--to keep up and share information, knowledge, and products and to build diversity in within the knowledge bank.

  • with local clients in conjunction with their local programs to maintain and strengthen their relationships and to continue transferring knowledge, even when there is little or no physical presence.
As we transfer knowledge, we hope that behavior changes as a result of the new knowledge. What better way to assist in invoking change than to be constantly available and relying on others in a virtual world to support the change?

Trust in creative, knowledge, and learning networks
Of the 3 organizational networks that Mitch describes, Creative, Knowledge, and Learning, Web 2.0 offers plenty of opportunities for developing innovations and knowledge--not in the way that Mitch describes--trust in a physical board room--but professional trust and respect for others at a distance.
Sure there are individuals who I have met using Web 2.0 tools, but the level richness and trust in these relationships is low. Only through time together and experiences where trust is built will I develop a true social network.. that takes time.. not something I can do using IM.

Social networking and mentoring
The Learning Environment which Mitch describes as coaching individuals is more difficult to do in social networks, but not impossible. Recently, within our organization, a state leader told a group of new employees that one of the most helpful things they could do is to identify someone who can mentor them, show them connections in the organization and with industry, and to understand how to conduct programs. He relied on his two mentors during the early part of his career in the early 1980s.

This kind of individual influence is so very important! But, in our organization, most of the professionals serve regions. While they have a "home" office, there is usually no one co-located who could serve as a mentor within the same area of work expertise. Creating a physical local "Learning Network" is very unlikely.

Within our mobile and regional workforce, there are few opportunities for employees to encounter each other face-to-face. I don't know of any other way to help employees stay connected, communicate and learn from each, and to build trust than to use these technologies.

Social networking and building and maintaining professional relationships
Additionally, Web 2.0 can be used to maintain and build upon existing professional relationships. Let me give a personal example.

I see some of my colleagues from other states only 1 or 2 times a year. Social networking, blogging, commenting, Twittering, and instant messaging (and Facebook, to a much lesser degree) helped build upon the acquaintance of our relationships into a higher level of professional respect.

Now, when we see each other at conferences "we start in the middle of conversations." The respect and understanding of philosophies were not created through the face-to-face time, but rather through (online) casual and informal conversations and through blogging.

Without social networking--particularly, blogging and presence technologies--this would not have happened. On a few occasions, confidential remarks have been made in IM or email--mirroring how we communicate with our local trusted professional friends. Are any of these online friends my "Top 8" closest professional friends? Not yet, but I will not discount that from every happening.

Likewise, I believe that others have developed a trust and respect for others in my department.

Higher level of trust
Mitch asked:

Think of a stranger you have met online... in what way would you develop a high level of trust using WEB 2.0?
I can think of at least two individuals that I have not met personally, but through online relationships and communications who have influenced my practices. I have communicated with them through blogs, comments, and Twitter. Even social bookmarking (specifically, has been influential in my understanding of their philosophies.

I have communicated with only one of them in Facebook. I see one of them modeling online behavior that would be helpful for me to follow.

Do I trust either of these with questions about my career and my leadership? I don't know. I have not thought of their role in this way. They have, however, influenced me positively, giving me confidence to continue blogging and creating helpful resources.

If I were to think of one of them as a mentor and discuss my career and personal development, I would probably start with one-to-one dialog online. Possibly, using Facebook and instant messaging. Eventually a phone call or two may be in order--even then--using Skype maybe the easiest tool, rather than the phone.

I will continue to have my closest professional confidants. Some of these are, of course, local--some are not. These are my sounding boards. I call them when trying to make a decision. I ask for their opinions or advice. I have known these people for years. I cannot expect that my social networking activities in the last 9 months could produce friends like them in just 9 months. Maybe after years of getting to know someone--I will develop a "at a distance" confidant.

For my current friends who are not local, it is a shame that I don't have more constant contact with them so we can engage in conversations more often. Online tools are helping; some are adopting these tools, and we are beginning to find that geography is not preventing us from staying in contact.

One final note: Web 2.0 is about a change in attitude toward open content, sharing, and collaboration. Social networking is part of Web 2.0. The social networking sites (Facebook, Linkedin, Ning) and presence technologies smooths the zigzag route of collaboration. From Wikipedia, Web 2.0 is referred to as:

a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users.
To expect great deep-seeded trust to be built through Web 2.0 is overstretching its immediate expectations. However, Web 2.0 can help all of us create diverse knowledge and share and improve knowledge. Web 2.0 tools provide mechanisms for developing professional trust and respect that results in influencing behavior.

From my observations, professional trust can and is being built online. It mirrors the way trust is built in physical environments. I learn to trust individuals by observing their behavior, attitude, language, and tone, and by listening to their philosophies. We can observe the same kinds of things online, but in different ways than they way we observe physically.

Web 2.0 does not mean that we forget about Web 1.0. Do you no longer search on the Web? Of course not. Does online social networking mean that we no longer meet face-to-face and make phone calls? Of course not. What social networking and Web 2.0 may mean is that in our face-to-face encounters, we start in the middle of conversations.

I do like Mitch's question:
"Think of a stranger you have met online... in what way would you develop a high
level of trust using WEB 2.0?"
Describe how you began to trust that person. Describe what you might have learned or how your attitude or practice may have changed.

Custom Google search for Cooperative Extension sites

eXtension has developed a search interface, powered by Google, that will search (currently) 773 Cooperative Extension web sites. If you have had wanted Google to search only Cooperative Extension sites, this is your link.

In the future, eXtension will list included URLs and an interface for eXtension ID holders to contribute to the list.

Monday, October 8, 2007

eLearning Conference--Online, of course

Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations is a free online learning conference, registration is required, scheduled for November 15-20. I like the fact that they are using open technologies to talk about elearning. This is an indication that they understand learning and opportunities of open environments.

I have been wanting to get a better grasp of trends and changes of elearning, particularly within organizations. This conference, hopefully, will give me that opportunity.

My only problem is that I have a conflict on the first day of the conference. Since the sessions will be recorded, I can catch up by watching the recordings.

The conference details are being organized in the
wiki. You, too, can contribute to the list of discussion topics

Target attendees: Corporate leaders, directors, chief learning officers, trainers, and consultants
Why: To discuss the directions and innovations in corporate learning
Dates: November 15-20, 2007
How: Speakers will present live --online (all sessions will be recorded). Attendees will form connections and exchange ideas through online forums

Thanks to
Tony Karrer for publicizing this conference.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Content is infrastructure--not king nor dead

I cringe when I hear polarized comments that oversimplify a complex concept. An example is when I hear "content is king", or I hear too, "content is dead". How can either statement be absolutely true? If either were so obvious, then why say it all? Since the two statements are direct opposites, how can either or both be true?

Here is only one example (from AKA Marketing) of many.

On the Internet content is king and always will be. This is because the Internet is the information superhighway and most people use it for information of some sort.

In another example, Content is king, but Linking is Queen.

Many also claim that quality content is king. Applecraft describes that it takes quality content to drive traffic to your website.

And then, there are those who announce that Content is Dead, Community is King.

Community killed content and stole the throne.

The problem with such descriptions is that they leave out the other elements. What about presentation, credibility of the source, content within context and applicability, and individuals' choice to read and learn what they want to? Is community more important than the content? Are presentation, design, and organization more important than the content? Can content alone be the delivery and serve our communities? Where does the individuals' value of the content fit?

David Wiley of Terra Incognita (Pennsylvania State University--World Campus) describes Content is infrastructure. Content is the staple. By having open content, we have the freedom to be innovative and creative.

...we must understand that content is infrastructure before we can see radical improvements in education.

...Take the roads (an example of civic infrastructure) as an example. When there are enough roads, going enough places, with enough capacity, and without tolls, we can expect to see significant experimentation and innovation on top of this infrastructure. In the case of roads, we can see people establishing a variety of transportation services (taxis, shuttles), delivery services (food, packages), support services (towing, tire repair), and other services. In the case of content, when there is a sufficient amount of open educational content on a sufficient number of topics at sufficient quality, we can also expect to see experimentation and innovation in localization services (translation, low-bandwidth delivery), accreditation services (degrees, certificates), and support services (tutors, study group locators).

I think I might have used other examples of services, like remixing content and individuals in online communities supporting each other rather than the examples that David uses.

In any case, open content initiates innovations and creativity into services we haven't thought of. Open content means that learners learn to grasp content and and use the content in ways we have not imagined because individuals value the content in various degrees and for various purposes.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Displaying Trends: Gapminder

In his blog post, Paradigm's shifts, John Dorner mentions a beta version of a Google application that presents data in animated graphs displaying relatedness to the data in ways you may not have seen before (at least I have not). The demonstration web site shows population changes for 1975 to 2004. Other demonstrations include Internet use and economic growth.

Google's blog describe Gapminder's Trendalyzer software.

Trendalyzer generates moving graphics and other novel effects in the display of facts, figures, and statistics in presentations. In its nimble hands, Trendalyzer views development data—such as regional income distribution or trends in global health—as literally a world of opportunity.

I immediately thought about uses:

  • my husband who is an economist would find this useful in presenting information to students and to clientele as they want to consider global trends.
  • how the same kind of data that is demonstrated in the Shift Happens video is backed up in the data displayed on the Gapminder site.
  • how other data might be displayed. Showing obesity data in a moving map form for United States, then for Alabama by county would prompt us to think where we need to concentrate educational and behavior changing programs.
  • there are lots of applications and information that can be shared this way, and I can't wait to see more.

The video that John Dorner refers to comes from Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths with the best stats you've ever seen. Han Rosling makes some interesting points, both on presenting data and on population and other trends. The video is 20 minutes long.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More on Brick Walls and Professor Pausch

Jeff Zaslow of Wall Street Journal of Moving On provides a recap of Professor Randy Pausch's Last Lecture and how individuals, media, and Carnegie Mellon University have reacted to his lecture.

Though you will find the 4 minute version inspiring, take the time to listen to his entire lecture. It is well worth your time to let him inspire you.

The 4 Minute video essay:

Be sure and watch the
entire lecture on Google Video (1 hour, 44 minutes).

It is tempting to recap his lecture and to write my thoughts on any number of characteristics or philosophies that he shares. However, I believe that the points that mean the most to you will jump out at you and you don't need me to help guide you to these great philosophies of living, learning, and working. Like grieving and emotions, you will find his points very personal--taking on meanings that you will understand best.

As I back away, not listening to his words and the content of his stories, but observe his actions, his energy, and attitude, I am in awe of his humor and his ability to share his very personal thoughts, to teach us, and to not focus on brick walls.

Professor Randy Pausch has taken advantage, maybe unknowingly, of his tragic situation to give us all opportunities to live our personal and work lives more positively and with more respect and with creativity.

May God bless him, his family, friends and colleagues.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Social news sites: Ranking web content

Have you wondered when or even if you need to consider using social news sites for ranking web pages? Steve Spalding of How To Split An Atom compares Digg, Reddit, Stumble Upon, Shoutwire, Slashdot, and Truemors from the perspective of increasing web traffic.

I found his article, How to use social news sites, helpful in understanding the differences and what types of articles are the focus of readers of these sites.

Popularity of topics center around politics and very unusual stories or pictures. Digg readers hate Bush, love Linux, Apple, and pictures. Submissions have a 24 hour time frame in which to get voted up.

Digg also has implemented a major update this past week that enhances the site to a more social environment. Some of the improves include: increased friend capabilities so individuals with like-interests can communicate, and emphasize content by sending links to friends and discussing topics on message boards.

Popular stories are more “news worthy” than stories in Digg. Reddit users like news, good titles, dislike Bush, Digg, and spam. Politics are big topics.

Stumble Upon
Stumblers like videos, cute pictures, and interesting content that can be presented at a glance. Stumble Upon is review based and is not time based. When submitting an article, think how the article can catch readers' attention in 5 seconds. Also, choose your category wisely.

Very few stories are promoted a day. When a page makes the top list, it will be there a while. The Shoutwire readers are politically outspoken. Readers on this site like social issues, partisan politics, and non-technical articles.

Slashdot is the oldest of social news sites. It gets lots of traffic and has a crowd that includes industry insiders and a insightful community. Slashdot is almost exclusively a “news” portal and the stories are chosen by a combination of users and editors.

Technology related, particularly focusing on security and online rights, and science news articles are rewarded. How-to articles are rare. The new “Firehose” feature has added some social voting features. Slashdot users are the most likely to have insightful comments.

Everything has a chance to be promoted, particularly because the number of submissions is small.