Social Media in Education – on BBC Radio Sheffield

On the 30th June and 1st July, a fantastic couple of linked events were held on Social Media in Education at Doncaster College. Organised by Rob Wilmot, who is Chair of Governors of the College, among his many other roles, and featuring the renowned Chris Brogan, who flew in from Boston, Massachusetts, especially for the event, the Social Media Podcamp, was followed by a seminar delivered by Chris the following day.

Ahead of the event, I appeared on Radio Sheffield to talk about some of the issues it raised. My appearance at 7:20am, was followed an hour later by Rob Wilmot and Chris Brogan who amplified the themes further. Both segments of the programme are presented here;

User-friendly BlackBerry apps are a key to Digital Engagement

I’ve been having a play with the new official Twitter app for BlackBerry. It’s quite nice, in fact, I’ll go as far as to say it’s one of the best applications I have used on a BlackBerry. It seems to me that it is the closest any BlackBerry app has got to an iPhone-like user experience. Following the iPad launch, we now know that Apple is avowedly aiming to engage non-computer users, which means also, that, looking retrospectively, the iPhone must be seeking to engage with non-smartphone users.

My reasons for exploring this issue are related to digital inclusion, digital engagement, and e-services. One of the problems we still face is the large numbers of key decision-makers, including people like politicians and senior public sector managers, who still fail to grasp the transformative power of ICT, because it has never really impacted on their personal lives, and they have others to perform key ICT-related tasks for them in their working lives. BUT, a large proportion of these people have BlackBerries. In many cases they have graduated from pagers to BlackBerries and have managed to grasp the BlackBerry email programme to keep them in touch with their offices. These people are, in the main, probably never going to become iPhone users, because they don’t know why they would need one, and their office is never going to buy them one. They also have little interest in using their BlackBerries for purposes other than email, partly because they don’t know what else it can do, but also, partly because most BlackBerry applications except email are still so clunky and unfriendly to the user, particularly in comparison to iPhone apps.

So, I would argue that more user-friendly BlackBerry applications is an objective vital to the future of digital inclusion and engagement. Only when we can open the eyes of BlackBerry-using decision-makers to the power of digital devices will we be able to make the step changes in digital engagement the country needs. And, although those of us who are iPhone users can continue to wax lyrical over what a wonderful device it is, the people we need to convince are not going to migrate.

Thus, I hope the quite lovely official Twitter app for BlackBerry is the first step towards BlackBerry apps that are really a pleasure to use. Then we might stand a chance of converting some of the luddites.

How to Share Video on Twitter from iPhone 3G

I worked out today how to share video on Twitter from the iPhone 3G (not 3GS). I was very pleased, a couple of weeks ago, to discover the Qik Video Camera app for the iPhone 3G (and original iPhone), which, at last, brings decent quality video (of suprisingly good quality given the limitations of the 3G’s camera) to the 3G. I was disappointed, however, that, unlike Qik’s other applications (for the 3GS, among others) it doesn’t allow the live broadcast of video. It also looked like it was difficult to share the video it captured.

I tried downloading Twitvid, which is a programme I have used for tweeting videos I have shot on other phones I have owned, but that just gives a message “this phone appears not to be configured for video” when you try and do anything useful with it. I then discovered that the Qik Video camera app does have video sharing options built in. One of these will upload the video to Facebook, another will send it by email, and a third will upload the video to Qik’s own servers and let you send the link by SMS. What I discovered through trial and error, however, that this third option puts the link into the iPhone’s clipboard, and it can then be pasted anywhere, including in a Twitter app. So, there is a round-a-bout way of sharing iPhone 3G videos via Twitter, I wish it was a bit easier, but it does work. The resulting video is below.

Another strange thing about this is that there appear not to be any settings which allow you to link the videos to your Qik account, and they are consequently posted as being from “Temp User”, who appears to be based in the United States. I don’t know if this means they won’t be hosted permanently. Watch this space

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Barnsley Twestival 10th September 2009

I will be speaking at Barnsley Twestival on Thursday 10th September 2009 at around 5:30pm UK time. As part of a “Big Debate” I will be putting the case for Twitter, being opposed by a proponent of face-to-face networking. The irony of this is that I am a great fan of face-to-face networking, and will be saying so in the debate, and I think Twitter is a fantastic adjunct to f2f, it finds me new people to f2f network with, and helps me keep in touch with them between f2f contacts.

I would very much like to demonstrate the power of Twitter during the debate and I hope that you will help me out by feeding in comments, particularly your experiences of how Twitter has helped you build and maintain your professional networks. It looks like we will be using the hashtag #tweetbsly Please help me by contributing from the many and various talents of my Twitter community and re-tweeting the message which led you here


The Nature of Personal Relationships in the Connected World

In the car yesterday, I was listening to a track by my favourite band, Rush, which set me thinking about how personalised relationships operate in the connected world. The track in question was “Limelight”, a song which deals with issues around the difficulties of fame and the fact that “famous” people are often seen as public property by their fans. The lyrics, as with most of Rush’s songs were written by Neil Peart, who was immortalised in Jack Black’s film “School of Rock” as “the world’s greatest drummer”. Peart’s lyrics are one of the key reasons I like the band so much, some people think they are pretentious, I think they are often perceptive. “Limelight” is an early manifestation of Peart’s thoughts on the contradictions of him having chosen a career which has made him well-known and sought out, while being an intensely shy person who does not welcome intrusion into his private life. In recent years, Peart has developed a second career as a moderately successful travel writer (see, and his books have given him the opportunity to expound on these contradictions, as he eschews the rock star lifestyle by travelling between gigs with his close friends on a motorcycle, documenting the people and countryside as he goes. Even on stage, he hides behind his drum kit, observing individual audience members, and saving up thoughts about them for his journal.

One of Neil Peart’s complaints, referenced in “Limelight” and elsewhere in his writings, is that fans think they have an open invitation to intrude in the star’s life. And his books describe how he has often responded to the question “Are you Neil Peart”, with the response, “You, know people are always asking me that. I wonder if people ask him if he’s me”.  The problem with these kinds of relationship is that they are one-way. The fan thinks (often mistakenly) that they know everything about the star, while the star knows nothing about the fan, but is expected to enter into an instant rapport with them, when accosted unexpectedly. As Peart says in “Limelight”;  “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend”.

That latter line, in particular, led to think about the modern connected world and whether connectivity is changing the nature of such relationships. It could be that it’s different for “celebrities”, even the well-documented efforts of the likes of Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross to use tools such as Twitter to communicate with their audiences are unlikely to result in them getting to know everybody who wants to connect with them. But, for the rest of us, with a more limited range of contacts, perhaps social networking tools are indeed changing the way we interact. Twitter, for instance, has been described as the “Watercooler for people who work online”. There are those who deride the trivial chatter which goes on through the likes of Twitter, but for many people, myself included, the essential nuggets of professionally useful information which they derive through Twitter, are often all the more legitimate when coming from someone , whose likes and dislikes you know something about, although you may never have met them in the flesh, and with whom you may have exchanged some idle, Twitter-delivered, banter.

I have recently engaged in several discussions about the word “geek”, a former playground insult, which seems increasingly to have been reclaimed and made into a badge of honour. No longer is the geek the teenage boy sitting in his room refusing to come out until he’s finished that last bit of programming. These days, the geeks have the tools to communication in the modern world, and, as we all know, often the skills to become very succcessful in the modern economy.

Several outposts of the “old media” infrastructure have generated heat recently by attacking online social networks as damaging to personal relationships. Many of us feel this to be akin to the last thrashing of the dying dinosaurs. The reality of modern online social networking, is that it often enhances personal relationships. I have a number of examples of interactions through Twitter which have led to face-to-face meetings and the beginnings of mutually beneficial professional relationships, which would definitely not have happened without Twitter. On the other hand, brief initial face-to-face meetings have also subsequently led to a more substantial relationship through later online interactions.

I contend therefore, that the ability to get to know someone via an online social network, before ever meeting them face-to-face, is an immensely beneficial aspect of modern technologies. And, just maybe, it may allow us to break down barriers which prevent us from treating “a stranger as a long-awaited friend”.