Explaining Twitter in one page…

I’ve been trying to create a general purpose one page guide to Twitter for a while. I’ve made two attempts in the past for particular situations – although with the end of SMS based access to Twitter in the UK those guides are both out of date.

But – I think I’ve finally created a guide I’m happy with – with this guide created for an Action Learning Set on Youth Participation and Social Network Sites I’m currently co-facilitating – but written to work as an introduction in just about any circumstance.

You can get the PDF of this one page guide to Twitter from Scribd.com (look for the download link) or, as this guide, like all the other one page guides, is provided you can download an Open Office copy (ODT) to edit and re-purpose as you wish (just make sure you let me know about any updated versions).

(Thanks to Harry @ Neontribe for photos and feedback used in this guide)

Guide preview:

Five-to-nine Volunteers

It’s always good when I discover one of the long term ToExplore items sitting at the top-right corner of my white board in the offices is actually already being done by someone else.

One of the items that’s been there for a while is trying to explore the idea of ‘Five-to-Nine Volunteering‘ in more depth – exploring how micro-volunteering tasks could be completed by commuters on the train or tube, or people sitting around with little to do.

Well, thanks to a post from Tessy I’ve just discovered The Extraordinaries – working on exactly that sort of mobile micro-volunteering concept – and getting close to launch.

Best of all, as the SlideShare below shows, The Extraordinaries is not just a project about crowd-sourcing small tasks, but the team involved see it as a hook to engage people in longer term volunteering.

How can Facebook fight AIDS?

[Summary: help us explore the role of social networks in the fight against AIDS]

The world has been managing the global AIDS epidemic for more than 25 years. 2031 will mark 50 years since the first report of AIDS. While great strides have been made, there are persisting as well as emerging challenges that must be addressed.

aids2031 is not about what we should do in 2031, but what we can do differently now, to change the face of the pandemic by 2031.

aids2031 is a consortium of partners who have come together to look at what we have learned about the AIDS response as well as consider the implications of the changing world around AIDS.
AIDS2031 Consortium

The world is changing. The way people communicate is changing. And AIDS communicators are thinking about how they need to respond.

    How are Social Network Sites changing the way people communicate?

    How are Social Network Sites developing in different ways in different countries and communities?

    What are the implications for AIDS communication and AIDS communicators?

Those are some of he questions I’m exploring on a research project led by Pete Cranston, and commissioned by the Communications Sub-Group of the AIDS2031 Consortium. And we could do with your help.

We know that Social Network Sites means many different things to different people – and that they are adopted and used in different ways in different communities. Only some of that it written up in literature, and our on-the-ground research partners can only cover four of five different countries and contexts. So – whether you work with local government in a UK inner city, you’re using social networks to connect with friends and family in countries across the world, of you’re not using social networks at all – we would really value your insights.

Take a look at the four questions on our project blog and please do take a few minutes to offer a comment or two.

(This is a short-term research project, so the blog is only open until the end of Feb – and we hope to share some of the initial research findings from the blog soon after.)

TV, Channels and Social Networks – a day with DigiTV

I was speaking yesterday at the DigiTV Stakeholder Event alongside Steven Flower of Substance/Plings – exploring how information providers can ensure their information and services are ready not just to feed into the ‘channels’ young people use, but also into the networks and social networks through which young people and the wider population are increasingly accessing information*.

Presentation slides
If you were at the event and are looking for the slides I promised to share, you can find them as a a PDF download here or Slideshare here.

The future of TV
The last time I lived in a household with a TV was 2003 and that was an old analogue set, so I’ve not yet got my head fully around the current versions of digital TV. Which meant that and hearing Ian Valentine from Miniweb (and formally from the R&D team at Sky) speak about both the present and the future of digital TV was a bit of an eye-opener for me. The convergence of TV set and always-on broadband internet connection looks set to have some really interesting implications.

Below are a few quick reflections on some of the content of yesterday:

  • An interactive platform for the household? – The mobile phone, laptops, and even family computers are set up as private screens. One user at a time. The TV still appears to operate in most settings as a shared screen. With digital messaging (TV e-mail / RSS feed to TV?) and social interaction features (share with a friend etc.) built directly into the television watching experience, not as separate applications that requires a move away from TV watching to access, is there a potential for digital messaging and social-networking features based less around the individual, and more around the household?
  • Digital TV services are not just for access at home – Continuing the theme of the shared screen – one presenter talked about how they have installed digital TV in some community venues they work in, in order to provide access to the services they have developed digital TV interfaces for. At first this seems odd – surely those venues already had internet access and computers which could be used to access the very same services. But the Digital TV interface was, perhaps significantly because of the constraints of the platform, much easier for the target group of the service to use. The idea of simple interfaces to interactive tools on a shared screen is really quite appealing for a lot of contexts (e.g. youth group working on a consultation without other digital distractions etc.).
  • Service delivery via digital TV will no longer just be a way of reaching the 30% or so of internet non-adopters. As the TV becomes a broadband internet access device to parallel other alternative screens such as the phone screen, it is reasonable to assume it will become increasingly important to create TV-ready websites. Ian from MiniWeb spoke a bit about the wTVML markup gateways they have been developing as a way of translating standard CMS driven websites into TV-ready interfaces with the addition of a little XML to the website templates. This makes it more important than ever to develop standards compliant sites from the start.
  • Social Networking comes to the TV. Some of the features of next-generation digital TV shown at the event highlight the potential for rich social networking tools and platforms to be built into the TV. This is one to keep an eye on when it comes to Youth Work & Social Networking – and thinking about safer social networking.

Even so, I’m sticking to the Radio.

Promoting positive activities – a strategy game

A game for planning positive activity communication tools
A game for planning positive activity communication tools

I love the social media game model. It works in so many contexts.

So, over at the Plings blog you’ll find the ‘Plings Out Game’, or in more general terms – a planning game for exploring different communications tools that youth services could use as part of promoting positive activities.

Instructions and cards to download available.

E-Safety. Moving from restrictions & messages to critical questions

Moving from messages to questions
Moving from messages to questions

[Summary: Practical questions to use in e-safety education when working with social media and social networking sites]

Later this month the House of Lords will be spending two and a half hours discussing young people and social networking sites in a debate initiated by Lord Toby Harris. As Shane McCracken has pointed out, a focus on “the adequacy of safeguards to protect [young people’s] privacy and interests” risks as debate leading towards legislation to restrict and control how social network sites function or young people’s use of them. However, even if Shane’s more hopefuly scenario of “increased awareness about the need to educate young people and parents about internet privacy issues” results, we could still end up heading in the wrong direction.

Far too often e-safety education places it’s focus on communicating ‘safety messages’ which are either counter-intuitive to the active social network using young person (‘don’t share any personal information online’) or which end over-detailed, complex or in contradiction with the way social network sites operate (‘use a nick name’ – ‘but it asks for a real name’). Plus, being aware of a safety message and putting its content into practice are two very different things.

In a project I’ve been working on for the Brent Local Safeguarding Children Board E-Safety Subcommittee we’ve tried to explore how, instead of a focus on safety messages, we can use critical questions* to structure education about safe use of social media, whilst promoting the opportunities that new technologies offer at the same time. Using a critical questions approach can enable professionals to facilitate young people’s own exploration of safe and effective uses of new media, without the professional needed to be a new-media expert.

Here’s the current working draft of our question-bank:
All these questions were designed be asked in the context of some form of purpose driven online-communication – such as using a blog, social network or social messaging tool to run a campaign on a local issue. The questions are divided into six sections.

1) Think about: the idea

  • What are you trying to communicate?
  • Why?

2) Think about: intended audience

  • Who are you doing it for?
  • Who might also be interested in what you have created/posted/shared?
  • How long do you want it to be available online for?
  • Do you want to allow others to copy and remix it? Or should it be covered by copyright?

3) Think about: the impact of the information or media you are sharing

  • What difference do you want it to make?
  • What other impact could it have?
  • Could anyone get upset because of it?
  • What good things could happen because it it? What bad things could happen?

4) Think about: identity
Thinking about how you have/will share this information or media:

  • Is it/will it be linked to personal information about you? Who can see that information?
  • Do you just have one identity online, or are you a different person in different spaces?

5) Think about: interaction
Thinking about information or media that you have shared:

  • Who are you connecting with through it? Do you know them? Is it ok if you don’t know them?
  • Can people leave comments and feedback on it?
  • How would you respond to a comment from someone you don’t know?
  • How would you respond to a comment that said something hurtful or aggressive to you, or to a friend?

6) Think about: each other

  • What would you do if a friend shared a photo or video of you online that you didn’t want shared?
  • What would you do if you had shared a photo of someone and they asked you to delete it?
  • What would you do if someone you know was spending all their time talking to someone online who they have never met?
  • What would you do if you were worried about your friends being bullied?

Using critical questions

Whilst these questions don’t give explicit safety messages – in encouraging young people to develop their own understand and literacy with digital tools they are designed to act as a vehicle for exploring safety messages. In Brent I’m hoping that, with continued development, they will form the backbone of a programme encouraging young people to develop their digital literacy whilst creating and sharing online content about their local area.

Draft structure for the Content Creators programme
Draft structure for the Content Creators programme

However, I believe that moving from a ‘safety messages’ to a ‘critical questions’ and a ‘literacy building’ frame of engagement with social networking and social media also has other implications:

Some questions for you

I’ve not yet had chance to pilot and evaluate the critical questions framework in depth – and I’m keen to make sure it continues to develop to be as useful as possible in ensuring young people take up online opportunities in safe and effective ways. I would really value feedback from anyone working on e-safety:

  • In your experience, how well equipped are the young people you work with to respond to these sorts of critical questions about their online activity?
  • Are there other key questions you would add to get young people to consider issues not raised above?
  • How would these questions work with different age groups? In our experience is there an age range for whom safety messages, rather than critical literacy building, is the only option?

*Critical questions – as in ‘constructive criticism’ or ‘questions that make you think and re-evaluate activity or behaviour’.