The Beginning

So … It’s the end of the adventure. We’ve had our last session of the Social Media Driving Licence. We ended the course with some Lego Serious Play which gave us the chance to reflect on what we’d learnt and how far we’ve come. Even though the classes have finished I’m not seeing it as the end of social media and me, but rather the beginning.

The course has given me the confidence to try out many social media tools and take those skills forward to incorporate them into my personal and professional lives. I’ll go into a little more detail, but if you want, feel free to skip to the end and just watch the movie ūüôā

20140724-034430-13470938.jpg

Before starting this course I was aware that social media was passing me by – to my detriment – both personally but especially professionally. Being late to the party – so to speak – can sometimes make it difficult to know where to join in. Which tools are right for me? When am I going to find time to try them out?

I didn’t know what to expect but I hoped I’d be challenged to use a wide range of social media platforms. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be ambushed by a giant chair on the second week, but after that anything seemed possible.

20140724-140651-50811289.jpg

The greatest advantage of taking this course has been the opportunity to try out many different types of social media in a structured environment with a group of people of varying experience who can help each other along. If you get the chance to do something similar I’d say go for it – even if you have social media experience, you may be surprised by what you learn.

Some of the tools we used I had heard of, others were completely new to me. It was also great to be able to try things that you might not necessarily want to use long term – it gives you an instant community to try them out with and means you can reject them if they don’t suit you.

I feel I now have a foot in the social media door and the confidence to carry on developing the skills I have learned further. Thanks for that has to go largely to our social media teachers who put so much effort into the course and deserve a lot of credit for the work they’ve done.

There have been many firsts during these eight weeks – first blog, first tweet, first Creative Commons acknowledgement, first Black Jack sweet in years – so I thought I’d end my final blog post for this course with another and upload my first YouTube video showing my journey through the Social Media Driving Licence … enjoy!

photo credit: jakeandlindsay via photopin cc

photo credit: technotheory via photopin cc

Following a Prolonged Squawk

I was disappointed to miss the live tweeting session of the Social Media Driving Licence.medium_5415215092

My first experience of using Twitter came just a week before the start of the SMDL course and involved a live Q&A chat. It was really relevant to the project I’m working on and too good an opportunity to pass up so I decided to take the plunge and try and get involved before being drawn safely under the wing of our social media guides.

I think the best way to describe this experience was like trying to pat your head, rub your stomach while doing somersaults and reciting the 37 times table – it didn’t go brilliantly!

So it was a shame to miss the chance to practice tweeting in a live situation. Trying to keep track of what is being said by the speaker, comment on it and interact with others who are also commenting is, I think, a skill that requires practice. Nevertheless I got the chance to catch up on the session from afar and see it from a different perspective to those taking part.

Catching up with the session was easy through the #CJBSsmdl hashtag. The context of this live session meant that there were a lot of voices tweeting at the same time – more than you’d probably find in a usual scenario, at a conference for example.

While this gave a lot of information about the event it was hard from the tweets alone to follow the story of the session and the separate conversations that were taking place. Thankfully a Storify of the session was also created which really helped to contextualise what was tweeted and help clarify what was being referred to.

20140724-032301-12181565.jpg
Aside from a form of note taking for your own reference one of the key benefits of live tweeting an event has to be opening it up to those who are not able to be there. This can be a huge benefit and a great aid to promotion for an event – if it’s a conference and looks really interesting for example you can make a note to ensure you can attend the next time. My personal impression is that live tweets can be useful but to give them the full impact that they should deliver requires taking that extra step and curating them with some added information (it only has to be brief) using a tool such as Storify.

Another great benefit of tweeting live is the instant connection and conversation it can provide you with others who share your interests, particularly in a professional work context. It was great to see this happening during the SMDL event, and the connections that we’re being made both within the room but also with others looking in from the outside.

I can certainly see the benefits of live tweeting. Whether I will enable to do it and get benefit from it remains to be seen but I’ll definitely give it a go.

photo credit: Ian Sane via photopin cc

photo credit: Matt Hamm via photopin cc

Watching Me & Watching You

There’s a¬†question I’ve heard a number of times, and have even asked of myself during the Social Media Driving Licence: who is going to bother looking at what I put out on social media?

According to Karen Siegfried in her excellent podcast on social media and employability your future employers are.

And it might not just be the content you hope they’ll see that they find. You can professionally craft your LinkedIn profile but employers may also be looking at Facebook, Twitter, blogs you write and any other channels you use. Also it won’t just be content that you’ve put out that they find but information, especially photos, that others may have tagged you in.

20140722-003241-1961969.jpg

This could be seen as quite unnerving by some and your natural instinct may be to hide and not get involved at all. But this may not help either. Employers are now expecting you to have a social media presence and having none could be just as detrimental to your employment prospects as having a negative one.

Studies have shown that this behaviour by employers is increasing. It’s understandable, as social media becomes more engrained in everyday life and the content there is taken increasingly seriously by a larger proportion of the population it is natural that employers will start vetting candidates using any information they can find.

As awareness of this use for social media content becomes more prominent I wonder if it could change the way people interact with these tools. Instead of encouraging openness could it lead to a restriction of the information that people are willing to share? As younger generations realise that content they post in youth could impact their future careers will people increasingly put a veneer over what they share and become less inclined to interact honestly? Could it also lead to wider discrimination in the workplace with employers able to access information about candidates that they shouldn’t be asking for?

Well it doesn’t need to turn out this way. In my view this use of social media provides opportunity. Used well it can be a powerful tool that could lead to a whole realm of job opportunities. Any chance for interaction with your future employer is an advantage giving you the opportunity to put yourself ahead of the competition.

People should be concious of how their content could be used and perceived and employers should be responsible in their searching of this information. But this won’t happen naturally and this is where another opportunity presents itself – for librarians and information professionals. We are in a unique position to guide users on how to make the most out of these tools, how to manage your personal data through social media and so get the best experience you can.

photo credit: CJS*64 via photopin cc

Feedly : Your web through one window

Why go to the web when you can get the web to come to you?20140719-183429-66869837.jpg

In week 5 of the Social Media Driving Licence we looked at several tools to help create and control your social media and web experience. One of those tools was Feedly.

Probably not the most ‘social media-y’ of the social media tools we’ve looked at in the SMDL Feedly allows you to create your own personalized homepage to the web, drawing together blogs, articles, news headlines and much more into a single interface no matter how diverse your interests are.

It will aggregate your news content, read your RSS feeds and can use social media to connect you to what’s important. Since Google decided to put its own RSS aggregator¬†Google Reader out to pasture Feedly provides an excellent alternative to give you your personalized gateway to¬†web content that interests you.

The main benefit of this service has to be the time it can save. By bringing the content that interests you together you no longer have to spend the time jumping around the web checking sites individually. If you follow blogs you don’t need to keep checking ad-hoc for new posts, just follow and wait for those new stories to pop up on your Feedly homepage.

20140719-230600-83160535.jpg

The site design could probably be best described as minimalist in look, but rather than being a negative this allows your chosen content to shine through and also makes it simple to set-up and interact with.

Logging in using an existing account from any major web service such as Google, Facebook or Twitter allows you to get started instantly without the need to remember yet another account name and password. Once in just search and add content either through the preexisting subject categories or simply pasting the URL of the site that interests you in the search box.small_6278217328

You can theme your content by subject, either using the topics suggested by Feedly or create your own headings – so if extreme knitting, milk bottle collecting and/or competitive dog grooming happen to be what interests you then you can set up a section dedicated to each.

The site will allow you small_3417636072to connect the content you’ve selected to your social media channels, tweet a link to an an interesting blog post directly from the Feedly homepage.¬†There are also convenient Android and iOS apps that allow you to look at your content on the go.

Would it be considered an essential tool for accessing the web? No. But will it enhance your web experience and save you time? Almost certainly yes.

photo credit: AJC1 via photopin cc

photo credit: Drumsara via photopin cc

photo credit: dustmans via photopin cc

photo credit: Jessicastjohn via photopin cc

Be Excellent to Each Other

This week on the Social Media Driving Licence has been all about caring and sharing and how to be the best social media citizen you can be.

More specifically we focused on the fair use of material, how to stay on the right side of copyright and credit others work that you use. This is an important area to consider when using social media and not just because it’s nice and the right thing to do (although it is both of those things).

The SMDL course has shown us that social media is a conversation, an interaction with others, and just like real (face-to-face) life people don’t like it if you take something from them and don’t acknowledge or credit it in an appropriate way.

20140714-231725-83845804.jpg
photo credit: Bunnyrel via photopin cc

By crediting others you open up the conversation you are having, you encourage interaction and you give people insight into your thought processes allowing them to see the tools you’re using and steps you’ve taken to reach your conclusion or viewpoint.

It can be easy to overlook or ignore this final step in your social media interactions whether through forgetfulness, laziness or because it doesn’t seem important.

Fortunately, however, the web is a wonderful place full of tips, tricks and tools that simplify and clarify this process and mean that it should never need to be missed out. Two brilliant aids that we covered are the Creative Commons licence and PhotoPin.

People enjoy creating material and putting it “out there” on the web for others to consume and use, however many would be upset by the prospect of their work being used commercially by a brand they have no control over or cause they may not support. Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that provides a set of free legal tools which allow creators of material to specify what can be done with it and users to search for material that has an appropriate licence for their needs.

This can be simply to say that it’s there for anyone to do whatever they want with, or to say that if you want to use it you must give credit and make no alterations.

20140714-232827-84507351.jpg
photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc

Although not exclusive to this type of media Creative Commons licences are often seen and associated with pictures on the web. There are billions of images out there that appear attached to most web searches. Many are uncredited and reused without permission and it can be tricky to search for an image that it safe to use.

Creative Commons licences mean it is much easier to find images you can use freely for whatever purpose you require. One of the most established and largest photo sharing sites, Flickr, allows you to narrow down your searches to the exact type of license you are looking for. However PhotoPin is a neat little site that simplifies the process even further.

As well as only pulling out search results from Flickr for images that are available for use under a creative commons licence it will give you a range of quick download options and, best of all, a line of HTML code that can simply be copied and pasted into your blog, webpage etc. and will automatically give the relevant credit to the images creator. Simple.

The caring sharing week of the SMDL has provided examples of some of the most useful tools yet to make your social media experience all that it should be, and if in doubt as to whether you need to remember or bother being a good social media citizen remember Bill and Ted and be excellent to each other.

Beyond boundaries with Google Maps

Try and remember a world without Google Maps …. I’ll give you a minute …. it’s harder than you might think. It’s been with us for less than a decade but has become an integral part of so many people’s lives it can be hard to think of life¬†without it.

Maps are a hugely powerful tool. They have been with us for millennia in many varying and wonderful shapes, forms and sizes. They have allowed mankind to view the earth from a vantage point that it has, until relatively recently, been impossible to attain and they can have a palpable effect of people’s emotions.

google map pins! XDD

As a map librarian I have been fortunate enough to see first hand some of the greatest works of cartography and how they chart the level of understanding we have of the world we live in.

In this role I am often asked about Google Maps, usually in hushed tones by those who think I will decry it as the death knell warning of the destruction of all the “good” and “proper” mapping that has come before it.

But this is not how I see it. I see it as opportunity and excitement, as a key part of the next major stage in the world of mapping.

IMG_PicturesPerspectivesPlans2

If you follow the history of cartography you will see the styles, designs and uses of maps have changed continuously as new technology has become available. It is a field that has always seen advancement towards greater degrees of accuracy, whether geographic or thematic, and depiction of information.

Online digital mapping is merely the next chapter in this history and while Google Maps are certainly not the only player – Openstreetmap, Ordnance Surveyand Apple to name a few, are all worthy and interesting alternatives – they are the best known and widely adapted digital map platform.

I’m excited about the future that these maps will bring. Some benefits to traditional mapping are well highlighted in this interview with David Rumsey:

But I am sure there is more to come. Google Maps is now much more than the route finder of its early days. It can be adapted by its users in an ever increasing number of ways, building layers of data that can be manipulated and analysed to provide a wealth of information.

The number of users is increasing. The tools they are using are becoming simpler and faster and the maps they are producing are ever more interesting and complex. Digital mapping is heading to its next level and I’m sure Google will be at the centre of that.

Have I been a twit about twitter?

Of all the social media stuff we’ll be looking at during the¬†Social Media Driving¬†Licence¬†I think Twitter was the one I was most unsure about getting involved with.¬†One of the main reason’s I’ve taken the course is that¬†I would – with some help and guidance – have¬†to give it a go.IMG_8564

Not long after our first Twitter session I¬†was watching France vs Honduras in the exciting World Cup while playing the ‘guess which¬†teams are playing from¬†the 3 letter code on the screen’ game with my other half (not a football fan … me: “no it’s not FRAnkfurt vs HONolulu”). Early in the second half BBC commentator, Jonathan Pearce, had a bit of a meltdown when¬†goal line technology was needed for the first time to decide whether the ball had crossed the line (it had).

From where I was sitting, and it seems others agreed as well, this new technology worked perfectly, sorting out what would have in the past been a contentious and controversial moment. Pearce, however, just wasn’t getting it. He seemed unable to fathom¬†what the technology was showing, launching into tirades against everyone involved for making it so complicated, despite the fact that to me, his co-commentator, many others and lots of subsequent replays it seemed as clear as daylight.

As the SMDL is now never far from the front of my mind (cough!), after a few minutes getting increasingly irate with his inability to get what was going on it occurred to me that this is maybe the kind of reaction¬†I’d been having to¬†Twitter.

Caught up with the hype of inane “celebrity” stuff, the offensive trolling that often gets reported in the media and uncertainty as to whether I could construct anything worthwhile or coherent in 140 characters, have I been missing the benefits of having discussions with people of similar interests and finding networks that can be beneficial in both personal and professional life? I think there’s a possibility that I have.

I’ve now tweeted, it’s not as hard to stick to¬†140 characters as I thought it might be – especially when your brain gets focused¬†in the right way. My original concerns have not entirely gone and I think making myself find the time to fit it in will be a challenge,¬†but it’s definitely not as hard or off-putting as I had¬†thought it might be.

It’s definitely something I’ve had a blind spot about and something I’m looking forward to using more – that’s after week 1 anyway, it might have all changed again by next time…