Friday, February 29, 2008

On Twitter, Hillary, Barack and Paul.

When I first heard of Twitter I was less than complementary in my judgement.
I think I was wrong.

When I noticed that Twitter was integrated within Flock, I was persuaded to try again.
At first I twittered from my Mac Book, yesterday I twittered using my mobile phone.

Wikipedia tells us that Twitter is is a
"free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (or "tweets"; text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) to the Twitter website, via short message service, instant messaging, or a third-party applications"
"Updates are displayed on the user's profile page and instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone is the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email or through an application."
I'm not certain I'll use it often, I don't need to be so connected; but there are people for whom such connectivity must be important.

I explored and searched for interesting tweets and on finding that Cardiff University was offering news tweets, I became a follower.

Encouraged and made curious by a note from Tweet, I observed that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are using Twitter. I don't suppose they do their own Twittering, their staff must do it for them; but I could be wrong.

Here are Barack's last three Twitters.
Feb. 21. Excited to learn about winning the Dems Abroad primary today. Getting ready for the Texas debate. It will be live tonight at 8pm ET on CNN.

Feb. 19. Is encouraging everyone to tell friends in Wisconsin to vote until 8pm tonight. And tell friends in Hawaii to get to their caucus by 6:30pm!

Feb. 12. Encouraging everyone in DC, MD and VA to vote today. Heading to Madison, WI for a Rally for Change event at the Kohl Center (6:15pm tonight)
and here are Hillary's
Feb. 28. I’m looking forward to the “Solutions for America” town hall in Hanging Rock, OH tomorrow in the Appalachian region.

Feb. 27. Want to help win in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont? Visit to start making calls!

Feb.27. Today I’m attending an Economic Solutions Summit in Zanesville, Ohio followed by rallies in Saint Clairsville and Belpre.
Is it me or is there a difference in style between these two twitterers?
Is it possible to notice a diffference of style in only 140 characters?

Hillary's stats reveal that today she has 1,436 followers and has made 51 updates.
She's following no one.
Barack's stats reveal that today he has 6,661 followers and has made 73 updates.
He's following 6,793 twitterers, of whom I am one!!

Presumably if I Twitter about him, one of his staff will notice.
It seems that Hillary doesn't care about what I might say.

Ron Paul can also be found in Twitter.
His stats reveal 1,011 followers and 85 updates.
Like Hillary he's following no one.

Might we be able to predict who will win this seemingly never ending selection process by counting twits?

Blogged with Flock

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Firefox and iGoogle

For some time now I've been researching personalised start pages including iGoogle. The problem with such pages is that you can't view the content and be elsewhere on the Internet at the same time without opening a new tab, a new window or by moving away from the start page.

Today while reading Digital Inspiration I was pointed in the direction of a Firefox extension that places iGoogle in the sidebar. How clever is that?

This provides us with the best of both worlds, full firefox capability plus continuous visible access to everything on my personalised home page. Access to all the tabs in iGoogle is provided in the sidebar, as is the ability to move widgets on the homepage and the iGoogle themes show in the sidebar!

With a careful choice of widgets, I think most of the features of Flock can be replicated using this extension.

The screen capture at the top of this post shows Firefox running with two sidebars open, one carrying sage (my feed reader) and the other running the iGoogle extension with the Facebook widget open displaying my status and my own widget showing news feeds from the faculty.

I think it's called multitasking.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Facebook and Lent.

What did you give up?

On the BBC!


Now what do I do?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

For Misanthropes

This just made me laugh.
(via kottke)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Facebook Statistics

Here's an interesting web site / company.

Adonomics an open analytics and advertising platform for Facebook
(Note, they state that their site is in no way affiliated with Facebook)

It's well worth going to exploLinkre this site which contains a weath of statistics and information about applications in Facebook.

Their leaderboard shows the total (world wide) numbers of users of particular facebook apps. The board shows the total number of installs per application, the number of active users of an application and the percentage of active users.

Their charts page shows a top 25 list of facebook application companies, clicking on the company name provides a list of applications and a to show daily active users graphed over time.
A superficial examination of random graphs reveals that many of these apps have declining user numbers.
Go see for yourself.

Adonomics offer their services to application developers, and provide a Marketplace for application sellers.

Those of us who are curious about Facebook, its users and its applications can find much to explore here.

On "Bill Gates Quits Facebook"

Back in October 2007, with a little help from Lyn Bader the New York times noted that Bill Gates' Microsoft had acquired a stake in Facebook.

Four months later The Wall Street Journal tells us "Bill Gates Quits Facebook"

In an article written before Facebook dealt with the issue of deactivation or deletion, and drawing on reporting in The Sun we learn that Bill can't use the book because of his "excessive celebrity"

Now the question remains is his account deactivated, deleted or abandoned?

Blogged with Flock

On Deleting Facebook (2)

Mashable reports that Facebook has responded to an article in the New York Times.

The instructions on how to deactivate / delete your Facebook account have been changed. Facebook has responded to disquiet about their deactivated yet not deleted accounts policy.

There's a new paragraph which quite clearly explains that Facebook has now made it possible to have your account deleted for you. No more deleting all of your posts, messages, interests one by one.
"If you deactivate your account, your profile and all information associated with it are immediately made inaccessible to other Facebook users. What this means is that you effectively disappear from the Facebook service. However, we do save your profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate at some point, your account will look just the way it did when you deactivated. Many users deactivate their accounts for temporary reasons and expect their information to be there when they return to the service.

If you do not think you will use Facebook again and would like your account deleted, we can take care of this for you. Keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added. If you would like your account deleted, please contact us using the form at the bottom of the page and confirm your request in the text box.
So now we have a choice, deactivate or delete.

Why did it take them so long to offer this facility?
Will users rush to delete their accounts?

Somehow I doubt it.

(Another question.
Why do online newspapers insist on having articles that are spread over several pages?)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On School Councils, websites, teachers, pupils and governors.

This is a curious story.

According to Estyn it would appear that School Councils have had "little impact on the running of Welsh Secondary Schools". Is that really so much of a surprise? Despite there being an obligation (since 2005) for pupil led councils to play an active role in schools, it seems that in pupil input has been limited to "minor improvements in the arrangements for uniforms, toilet facilities and meal choices"

For some reason the Welsh Assembly Government places importance on giving pupils a stronger voice in the running of their schools.
Despite the rhetoric I'm afraid I don't understand why.

But here's a quote from the report press release that may well be of interest those of us "On the Hill".
"Less than a third of teachers have used the Welsh Assembly Government website which aims to support the development of School Councils. The forum sections of the website have not been used by teachers, governors or pupils since it was created a year ago. However, most teachers surveyed feel that the website is easy to use and find the case studies the most useful aspect. Estyn recommends that the Welsh Assembly Government makes sure that the website, and other guidance, meets the needs of school councils that are already well-established."
Digging further in to the report proper, we find that
"Teachers responsible for the school council in about half of the schools surveyed are aware of the website, but less than a third have used it."
Its difficult to decide why this might be the case.
In fact there are a whole range of questions one could ask eg.
  • Is the web site no use?
  • Is the available material poor?
  • Do the teachers concerned not have internet access?
  • Do the teacher's concerned not have the time to use the web site?
  • Are the teachers concerned interested?
  • Do those involved in the running of schools actually think School Councils have a purpose?
  • Are there any real statistics available about the way that this web site is used?
The report also clearly states that
"No teachers, governors or pupils have used the forum on the website."
Another sentence that raises even more questions?
  • Do teachers, governors and pupils actually use on line forums?
  • Do they have anything to talk about?
  • Is there a need for this forum?
  • Are there any similar forums not being used?
  • How connected are our teachers, pupils and school governors?
Finally another question, Primary Schools have School Councils, ....... any news?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On MyCBBC and Social Networking

A blog that is well worth worth reading is the BBCs Internet Blog, which has risen to the top of my must read regularly list.

The BBC works hard to provide it's users, readers, watchers, listeners, consumers of all ages and nationalities with access to a vast range of material of the highest quality.

iPlayer has transformed the way I watch television. I'm watching more, now that the unmissable is really unmissable.
Right now I'm glad that downloads aren't supported on my mac, for there are only so many hours in the day that one can access media. I know the iPlayer experience isn't perfect, sometimes it's a bit clunky but it's a new technology and can only get better.

Consider this post by Richard Deverell, in which he describes clearly the BBC's plans for MyCBBC and replies to recent press and political speculation.

Children will be assisted in the creation of "a personalised space on the CBBC web site."

How brilliant is that?
What are we in academia spending our time considering?
Finding ways of assisting our students, pupils, business partners and colleagues in the creation of useful personalised spaces.

Read on
"These pages will take the form of a child's den in which they can aggregate their favourite content from BBC sites and from approved external websites. They can choose posters, furniture and gadgets to personalise their den. Each gadget will provide a useful function: the PC stores their favourite website links; the plasma screen plays video clips; the calendar gives the dates and times of favourite shows and their own personal dates such as family and friends' birthdays.

There is also a "treasure chest" in which they can store any content they have created on the CBBC site - for example, a link to their Roar park or latest message board conversations. And Newsround feeds, based on topics such as sport or current affairs, are given an engaging wrapper using the metaphor of virtual magazines.

Children can further personalise their dens by displaying their interests and hobbies by selecting the relevant "stickers" from a pre-determined list of symbols. They can design virtual versions of themselves - avatars - with different looks and clothes. They can also choose from a range of moods each day, represented by a weather system around the avatar's head."
Compare the BBC's plans with this "angry" press report, read the observations of politicians, look at the comments at the bottom of the page; and then read the last paragraph of Deverell's post and note how he highlights the need for our young people to be educated in using the web safely. It is obvious that MyCBBC is not going to be a social networking site per se, but it has enormous potential to be the place where children will learn and acquire the new skills they will need when they join their older siblings and parents in real social networking sites.

Additionally MyCBBC might be the place for them to develop their media literacy skills which will help them to distinguish fact from fiction as they watch television, listen to the radio or read our national press.

You can read more here, here and here!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

On Democracy in Action

At a time when it is almost impossible to open a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the television without coming across coverage of the American elections.
It was refreshing to come across this story about voting in the Chicago Sun Times.
(via Boing Boing)

Can it be true?

Friday, February 08, 2008

On Watching the Internet.

Two separate and yet related stories.

Lewis Page writing in The Register observes that Sir David Pepper, Director of GCHQ has noted how difficult it is to monitor conversations on the Internet. It would appear that GCHQ's
"ability to intercept conversations and messages is seriously undermined by internet-protocol (IP) communications."
In his report to the Intelligence and Security Committee the Director reported that the Internet is not quite like the telephone network!
"The Internet uses a very different approach to communications in that, rather than having any sense of fixed lines like that, there is a big network with a number of nodes, but for any individual communicating, their communications are broken up into shorter packets. So whether you are sending an email or any other form ofInternet communication, anything you send is broken up into packets. These packets are then routed around the network and may go in any one of a number of different routes because the network is designed to be resilient…
This [represents] the biggest change in telecoms technology since the invention ofthe telephone. It is a complete revolution…"
Readers in Wales will be interested no doubt to note that the ISC is chaired by The Rt. Hon Paul Murphy, MP (Torfaen) recently appointed Secretary of State for Wales.

In a similar story Nicholas Carr points us to the Washington Post, which notes that
"U.S. intelligence officials are cautioning that popular Internet services that enable computer users to adopt cartoon-like personas in three-dimensional online spaces also are creating security vulnerabilities by opening novel ways for terrorists and criminals to move money, organize and conduct corporate espionage."
It would seem that Linden's Labs virtual world could pose a threat. While we in the UK are wondering whether Second Life could be of educational use, the CIA has moved in and
"created a few virtual islands for internal use, such as training and unclassified meetings, government officials said."
Second Life doesn't need this kind of publicity, so
"Officials from Linden Lab have initiated meetings with people in the intelligence community about virtual worlds. They try to stress that systems to monitor avatar activity and identify risky behavior are built into the technology, according to Ken Dreifach, Linden's deputy general counsel.

Dreifach said that all financial transactions are reviewed electronically, and some are reviewed by people. For investigators, there also are also plenty of trails that avatars and users leave behind.

"There are a real range and depth of electronic footprints," Dreifach said. "We don't disclose those fraud tools.""
Even Big Brother has a Second Life.

On the Trying on of Widgets.

In keeping this blog I have deliberately avoided cluttering it with widgets and tools. I have always thought that they serve no real purpose on a blog.

Until recently On a Hill offered a widget linking to my Flickr account (my collection of three photographs not unsurprisingly has attracted little interest), a widget linking to my collection, and a few links to a few blogs that I enjoy.

I take note of my visitors with Google Analytics and Site Meter both of which run quietly in the background, and last year I added a Google tool providing search for visitors. I really don't know if anyone has used it, somehow I doubt it.

This week I added two new widgets that might or might not stay On the Hill.

The Feedjit Live Traffic Map.
Feedjit state that their "mission is to provide high performance real-time widgets for the blogging community that are free and easy to use".
I'm trying their map. It shows the world pointing out where you and other visitors came from to visit The Hill. Not much use to you the reader, because you know where you are, but I like to see where you are in the world.
Clicking on the map brings up a larger zoomable display showing further information about the last hundred days worth of visitors. At the moment the map looks a little bare, but it will soon be covered with flags. :-)

The Quintura Cloud.
Quintura is a visual search tool (based in Russia?) which has just released a search option for individual web sites. The tool is based around a dynamic tag cloud, which modifies your search as you click on each tag.
I may not be the best person to judge its efficiency as I rarely look at the blog from the outside; only you the users can tell.

So if it helps you find your way around The Hill tell me.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

On Social Network Fatigue

Anyone who is interested in the world of social networking reads Mashable the social networking news blog. They point at new applications, highlight industry news and provide gossip.

This recent article caught my eye and reminded me that it is time for me to check out the Welsh Facebook stats.

Writing for The Register, Chris Wiliams suggests that people are bored of social networks. Here is the heart of his argument.
"it seems .... that a delayed Friends Reunited (remember that?) effect is kicking in.

When Friends Reunited enjoyed its "phenomenal" growth period people would join, log in maybe a dozen times, catch up with those class mates they wanted to, then forget about it.

On Facebook behaviour seems much the same; join, accumulate dozens of semi-friends, spy on a few exes for a bit, play some Scrabulous, get bored, then get on with your life, occasionally dropping in to respond to a message or see some photos that have been posted.

Similarly, once the novelty of MySpace wears off, most people only stop by to check out bands or watch videos."
While these observations reflect what many of us think, it appears that the facts are beginning to confirm what we know.
(The raw figures can be found at Creative Capital)

I wonder if these figures are reflected by users of social networks in Wales?
Can I find out?