What analogies do you use in social media space?

The Town Centre on Saturday afternoon as an analogy for social networksWhat are the analogies you are using to help you and others in making better decisions about social media?

In talking about new technologies I find I often turn to analogies to help in:

  1. Explain how a technology works and what it can do (e.g. describing wiki's as similar to a whiteboard in this guide)


  2. Exploring policy responses to new forms of technology (e.g. in thinking about how youth workers should interact with social networking)

When talking with youth workers, two of my favourites for exploring social networks are:

  • Social networks as a town centre on Saturday afternoon.
    There are many different groups sharing a space, some overlapping with each other, others keeping to their own areas. Adults and young people share the space. Some of the space is effectively public space, some is private and commercialised. There are spaces you wouldn't want young children or young people to go into (pubs / clubs), and there are other very positive spaces (youth centre, sports centre). Many people are in the town centre on Saturday afternoon to meet friends, or to just hang out. Groups of friends cross over, and new friends and contacts are made.
  • Social Networks as a festival (from Greenbelt to Burning Man)
    Festivals as an analogy for social networksThis analogy was from Pete Cranston, and looks at looks at social networks as more fluid and dynamic communities – a space outside of the every-day filled with new experiences and a sense of freedom from many ordainary social norms.

Each analogy captures a different aspect of online social networks – but both should help us to use our intuitions to think about how we respond to them. For example, if detached youth workers are out and about in the town centre on a Saturday afternoon – should they be on MySpace as well? How do parents respond to their young people's participation in festivals? What of that should be transferred to the way they respond to their young people's participation in social networks.

However, as discussion in this post by Ewan McIntosh on a Jimmy Wales analogy for Wikipedia suggests, we can't trust analogies straight off. We need to us analogies as the foundations for thought experiments that take into account not only what is similar between the analogy and it's subject, but also what is different.

Over the next couple of weeks I'm planning a bit more of an exploration of the sorts of processes we need to make those thought experiments work – and as I work on that, I'd love to be thinking about other people's analogies and exploring those. So:

What are the analogies you are using to help you and others in making better decisions about social media?

ProBlogger has been looking a metaphors for blogging – although I'm particularly interested in metaphors for social networking tools and spaces.

Links round up: research ethics, positive youth development and oxfam youth board

Published at last - Positive Youth Development Literature ReviewTo help with clearing the 'To Blog' list before the Christmas Break – here's a quick round up of links that may be of interest…

(Welcome to any new subscribers who have arrived since the flurry of one page guides earlier this week. There will be more of those in the New Year – for now the blog returns to it's general eclectic focus linking youth participation, social change and social media.)

Youth Participation and Youth Work

Social Justice

Cool stuff

One page guides: uk train times and cheap fares

Train times guideOk. I promise this is the last one page guide I'll post this week (possibly this year…) – and this one isn't strictly about a social media tool.

I don't own a car and I don't drive, hence I rely heavily on the UK rail network. And to make that as straightforward as possible, I rely heaving on the fantastic traintimes.org.uk created by Mathew Sommerville (ok, I realise I've raved about this before… which to non-uk-train-travelling readers is possibly slightly odd… but I'm not going to let that stop me). And so that others can benefit from the sheer brilliance of traintimes.org.uk and its bookmarkable URLs (and so they can use if to find cheaper rail fares), I've put together this one page guide to using Traintimes.org.uk.

Ideal to print out and keep by the computer for the next time you're planning a journey and wondering whether taking the train would make sense…

As with all these guides, feel free to download the word copy and edit it to suit your needs.

Attachment: 7 – Train times.pdf
Attachment: 7 – Train times.doc

One page guides: voicethread and motionbox online video editing

Sharing stories with voice threadThese two one page guides were written very specifically for the Young Researcher Network launch conference and look at online video editing and using the voicethread tool for collaboratively narrating slide shows and presentations.

I was introduced to VoiceThread by Al Upton and the miniLegends during the 31-days to a better blog challenge this summer. It's a really interesting tool, and so, with this one page guide my aim has been to offer an introduction to VoiceThread, but to leave open to discussion it's possible applications. I'd love to hear stories from those who have used VoiceThread in any consultation, participation or youth work contexts.

You can download the introduction to VoiceThread as a word file here (PDF coming when I get hold of a better PDF convertor which handles translucency without it looking horrible…).

Online Video with MotionboxThe second guide outlines how you can edit video online using MotionBox. For users whose computer systems are firmly locked down by the corporate or local authority IT department, online editing may well present one of the best options for quickly creating and sharing effective video content.

You can download the Online Video Editing with Motionbox guide as a PDF here, or grab the original word file to modify from here.

MotionBox is one of many tools that have recently emerged for editing video online. I chose it for this guide as, of those I knew at the time, it seemed to offer the best 'walled garden' of video content that I felt comfortable using with a group of young people aged 13 to 25. I'm planning to explore JayCut as an alernative tool worthy of a one page guide soon.

Does anyone reading have experience with other online video editing tools? Which would you recommend?

Attachment: Sharing stores- with voicethread.doc
Attachment: Online video – with motion box.pdf
Attachment: Online video – with motion box.doc

One page guides: online mapping & google earth

Custom online maps with maps.google.comThese two one page guides were written for the Young Researcher Network launch conference where they were used as part of a session introducing social media tools for young researchers.

I've always found geographic and mapping visualisations to be really helpful in participation projects (as in this series of workshops on the local offer), and so these two guides explore how Google Earth and the My Maps feature of Google Maps can be used to add an online dimension to community mapping projects.

In the 'Custom Online Maps – with maps.google.com' guide I've tried a new technique, picking up on the annotated screen shot style of Sue Waters (example here) to show the different options available on My Maps.

You can download 'Custom Online Maps – with maps.google.com' here as a PDF for printing, or if you want to edit and adapt a copy, grab the original word file here.

Google Earth

The 'Mapping your community with Google Earth' guide explains:

Google Earth allows you to view high resolution satellite images of your local area on a 3D globe.

You can add annotations and notes onto Google earth to record information about your area.

You can add lines and shapes to mark out particular areas on your map.
You can share your annotations so that they can be accessed on Google Maps (maps.google.co.uk) or in other mapping tools.

You can download the 'Mapping your community with Google Earth' guide as a PDF here, or as a word document for editing it is available here.

This guide is only a very brief introduction and is very specific in having been designed for a 25 minute mini-workshop introducing Google Earth. I'm mainly sharing here for those who were at the workshop and have asked for a copy…

The Young Researcher Network launch conference where the workshop took place also explored how you can use Flickr to create a photo map. There is an earlier guide that mentions that to be found here.

Attachment: Online maps.pdf
Attachment: Google Earth.pdf
Attachment: Google Earth.doc
Attachment: Online maps.doc

One page guide: online surveys

Online surveysI wrote this one page guide on running an online survey in response to a suggestion from Damien at ChangeMakers Virtual Volunteering programme, and to go towards a section on online consultation and participation I've been putting together for Participation Works.

You can download the guide for printing here (PDF), or for editing here (Word doc).

The guide gives an overview of setting up and running an online survey with SurveyGizmo.com. The sharp-eyed reader will notice that in fact the screen-shot in the guide is of a SurveyMonkey survey. This is no particular reason for this other than I had that particular survey open at the time. And it shows diversity.

As with all the guides in this series, it is aimed at someone who has perhaps heard of online surveys (or blogs, rss and wikis etc.), but doesn't really know what they have to offer or how to get started. The guide is designed to at least show that it's not that scary – and that these online tools have real practical applications.

I'm planning to experiment with some more 'platform agnostic' guides in the near future – but so far I've found that because every provider names things slightly differently ('analyse responses', 'create report' etc.) it gets quite difficult to create something that will help a new user feel secure rather than worried…

Attachment: Online Surveys.pdf
Attachment: Online Surveys.doc

One page guide: introducing wikis

Introducing wikiAnother post in the one page getting started series. This time taking a look at the humble wiki.

From the document:

A wiki page is a bit like a whiteboard. All you need is a marker pen and you can change the content of the whiteboard. On a wiki page, just search for the edit link and you can change the page contents directly from your web browser.

Unlike a whiteboard, however, a wiki will store a history of page changes so you can see how a page has changed over time, and can bring back an old version if you want to.

A wiki website is build up of interlinked wiki pages. It is easy to create new pages. Wiki pages are usually created in plain text with special ‘markup’ to indicate links and formatting.

You can download the guide for printing here, or for editing here.

Because of the group I designed it for, this version of the guide suggests that users get familiar with the wiki concept by trying to edit a relevant page on Wikipedia, and then uses Wikispaces as it's example of a build-your-own wiki. This may not be suitable for all groups – but, as the sheet is Creative Commons licenced you are free to apapt it to suit the context you are working in.

A few wiki links:

  • Wiki Patterns a toolbox of patterns & anti-patterns that will make a wiki work – and a guide to the different stages of introducing a wiki into a group or organisation setting.

    I particularly like the Barn Raising pattern, which reminds me, Watford Gap and I had earlier this year thought about a UK not-for-profit bit of wiki barn-raising on Wikipedia. A new-years-resolution project for 2008 perhaps..

  • Wikis in plain english excelent video introduction to wiki concepts by Common Craft.
  • Wikispaces – Free hosted wiki of choice for most of the mini-collaborative projects I've come across.
  • DokuWiki a suprisingly powerful and effective wiki system to install on your own servers or intranet. My wiki of choice for keeping myself organised on a day-to-day basis.

Attachment: 8 – Wiki in One Page.pdf
Attachment: 8 – Wiki General.doc

One page guide: finding and reading blogs

Finding and reading blogs

This is the next in my series of one-page getting started guides – and the first of quite a few to be posted this evening.

The concept for these guides is fairly simple, although one I'm still experimenting with.

The goal is that each sheet should take someone from not knowing what a particular social media tool is, nor how they would use it – to at least having taken the first steps to using it in a sensible and sustainable way. And it should do that in no more than one side of A4.

So – attached to this sheet is a getting started guide on 'Finding and Reading Blogs'.

You can download this as a PDF for printing, or a word document to edit and adapt for your own use.

If you or the target audience you may use this sheet with have not already started using an RSS reader then you may find it useful to start with this guide on reading RSS/Blog feeds with NetVibes.

Attachment: 6 – Reading Blogs.doc
Attachment: 6 – Reading Blogs.pdf

Online video for policy and participation: discussion starters

Common Craft Video

A quick pointer to two interesting sets of online videos that could be useful to youth workers and participation workers:

Youth-led media makers Catch 21 Productions have a YouTube channel where this week they've shared some short 'newsbite' video inputs on current policy issues. Nothing flashy. Just a really well scripted video perfect to introduce the issues in a group discussion. Here's their newsbite on sex education…

You can find more of the newsbites over here. And with YouTube you can subscribe to the channel to get updates by e-mail when new videos are available – meaning that if Catch 21 keep up the great work you can always have a video on hand for help exploring contemporary topics with any youth groups you are working with.

And I've recently discovered that explanation experts Common Craft not only offer the low-down on social media tools, but have also turned their technique to explaining School Finance in Calafornia. .

Ok, so unless you are in Calafornia this particular video may not be very useful to you – but it certainly raises questions for me about ways this style of video could provide stimulus and context for deeper consultation on complex issues.

What do you think? Have you seen other good examples of online video that could be used in youth work and participation work contexts?

(This post has two embedded videos in. If you're reading this in an e-mail update or an RSS reader you may not see the videos. Simply click through the title to the full post to view the videos.)