Category Archives: EOTO

For Gen Y: Social media tips for organizations

xkcd map of social media

A crop of students are moving off to summer internships, paid and unpaid, and many have social media as a chunk of their work. It’s a task that many organizations are happy to outsource or delegate, especially to the digital natives.

But, as you know, doing it right is different from just having a thousand friends on Facebook.

Add to that wave the number of rising seniors or recent graduates who want to leverage social media for their resumes and job searches. The work requires a shift in thinking from using Facebook for personal reasons. Most digital natives have certainly learned the power of Facebook for organizing and the pitfalls of TMI on social networks, but there’s always more to learn.

The first step: Recognize that managing social media for an organization is different from using the tools for personal use.

Plenty of advice exists. Finding the good advice is hard.

Here are some pointers to sources, sprinkled with tips:

From Mandy Jenkins, DC social news editor for the Huffington Post: Social media guidelines to live by. Her full blog: Zombiejournalism.

From Sara Gregory, recently of The Daily Tar Heel: Visual fun slideshow of Twitter tips for journalists, good for anyone.
All posts by Sara Gregory tagged “Twitter.”

Shortening websites addresses for Twitter: Use on a separate tab, and sign up for a account. You can add a plus sign to the end of any shortened url to get specific data about the number of clicks on the link, and you can get other data with a account.

From Noel Cody, recently of Reese News at UNC: Best practices for live tweeting.

How to spot spam followers on Twitter (and there will be spam followers on Twitter). This post is a bit outdated as bots and spam morph constantly, but it’s a starting point.

Important Twitter spam tips: Don’t click on links sent to you via @ or direct message from someone you don’t know (just like Facebook). Look at the stream of their other tweets first to decide if they’re real or if they’re a bot or a spammer repeating the same message to many people. Beware photos of pretty women or even women who look like your mom. They’re often disguises. Always judge Twitter people by taking a good look at their stream of recent tweets, not just one tweet.

Personal or pro? Draw a line between your personal use of social media and your professional use, but feel free to explore where that line should fall. Trust your gut. Make good choices. You get to decide when or whether to use your network of 1,000 friends for the benefit of your organization. Don’t exploit your real friends, but evaluate when they want to know something that you’ve learned through your work. Consider separate accounts, for personal and work. You can inject personality into professional accounts, but be smart.

Listen and read: Use social media for listening, reading and smart searching, not just broadcasting. Use advanced search tools through Twitter search to look for keywords. Pay attention to what others are saying about your organization. Keep in mind that growing companies (and future jobs) are specializing in the analysis of content in social media, so learning how to search smartly will serve you well.

On Facebook, read up on the strategy, timing and best practices from people who know what they’re doing and keep up with changes (which seem to happen all the time). Suggestions: Why Facebook users unliked you, by Scott Hepburn, Walk through Facebook privacy settings, from Jeff Elder and how to use Facebook for an organization from Facebook itself.

Good organizations will give you advice from those who have gone before, room to experiment and a list of their own rules. Read them. CEO John Paton of the Journal Register has a strong list of social media rules.

More broadly:

Making the most of your internship, from Steve Buttry:

Steve Buttry about journalism, Twitter and other social media. You can use the search button to just focus on social media.

UNC’s Andy Bechtel about editing and headlines (a writing style quite similar to tweets), plus UNC student posts on his blog.

Twitter software clients:
Twitter for iPhone (simple, fast, mobile)
TweetDeck, as an app downloaded to your computer or your phone. More complicated than basic Twitter, but good for searching, categorizing and filtering when accounts get large
Cotweet Multiple accounts, multiple users.

Image: From XKCD, used through a Creative Commons license.


Free online journalism classes gain ground

Edupunk image


The head of Creative Commons, Joi Ito, is teaching a free online journalism class through Peer 2 Peer University. The online class syncs with a graduate-level class Ito teaches at Keio University in Japan, with a UStream presentation and IRC chat once a week.

IRC chat? Yes, the class glues together tools like UStream and IRC, and the platform continues to evolve, using a base of Drupal. P2PU’s organizers make it clear they know the tools aren’t perfect, and they’re refining as they go with feedback from participants.

I joined the class at the last minute. The New York Times had written about P2PU, an online community of open study groups, in April, as well as other open learning communities outside of traditional institutions. I stumbled across the article while searching the word “edupunks.”

The concept of coaching outside traditional educational institutions has fascinated me for almost a year, with a focus on how professional journalists can share their knowledge with new creators of online content, be they “citizen journalists,” neighborhood activists or seasoned newspaper people working on building online skills.

In the fall, I submitted a Knight News Challenge proposal for an online class, 260 Open, with face-to-face components. Students would have been required to produce coverage of civic events, and experienced journalists would edit their work closely. The concept was designed to not only spread civic knowledge, media literacy and strong journalism skills but also to increase the amount of news coverage in particular communities.

I proposed that the class use Moodle open-source software, a learning management system that is has been adopted for institutional use in many places, including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College.

Then in May, I pitched the concept at the news entrepreneur boot camp through the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of Southern California. One strength of that pitch was that many others at the boot camp are building news organizations with education components to broaden capacity of communities to help cover their own news.

What I needed, however, was a proven business model, with customers who can pay.

Certainly many large media companies are seeking community help covering the news these days, and the need exists to improve skills in broad communities that have lost local news coverage. But finding actual paying customers willing to support classes for the public good is a tough nut to crack. As large companies rush to create content to wrap around new local ads for small businesses, though, perhaps that business model will become clearer.

By contrast, P2PU isn’t focusing on the business model at the moment. Instead, organizers are building a community, refining their tools and experimenting. That’s inspiring.

In fact, Mozilla has teamed up with Hacks/Hackers in a collaboration launched at Knight’s Future of News and Civic Media conference to use P2PU to allow programmers to teach journalists and journalists to teach programmers. Mozilla and P2PU are also launching the School of Webcraft, with a call for course proposals by July 18.

P2PU’s current journalism class has shown me that perhaps we just start, with imperfect tools, even before funding or business models are clear.

In Charlotte, media folks have shown a commitment to peer coaching and support with some journo/bloggers meetups. We just started, with little regard to organizational structure. Dave Cohn of Spot.Us showed up via Skype for one meeting.

P2PU shows that the possibilities exist, spread across the globe. It demonstrates the power of asynchronous communication and online tools for learning, as students in Japan go to class at 9 a.m. on a Monday and I listen and watch at 8 p.m. on a Sunday, at the same time. It’s quite a time shifter, right out of Harry Potter.

What I’d like to see next: Taking the concept of online tools to teach journalism to local communities, with tools that individuals can use for independent courses, simply. Those classes could be augmented with local meetups to strengthen ties and build strong networks. Local journalists familiar with the civic and social nuances of particular communities would add great value.

Perhaps there’s a business model in there somewhere. But more importantly, the concept provides more tools for journalists to share knowledge and perhaps help sustain themselves as teachers and coaches, while broadening the capacity for communities to write their own stories.

Maybe we can make it so. Thoughts?

Image credit: Image via Flickr from bionicteaching.
Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Lessons about technology

Amanda Toler has done an excellent job in her Each One Teach One project in researching the issues of technology in K-12 education.

She has a 5-year-old. I have a 17-year-old. So I offer some perspective, and I hope much of it applies to the use of technology beyond the classroom.

My child entered public schools in 1995, just before computer labs became the flavor of the year at well-equipped schools. She’s wrapping up her senior year now, and she has benefited from online Flash chemistry simulations, verification of papers and online college applications.

Through the years, some themes emerged that apply broadly, to businesses and media as well as classrooms.

GIGO: Garbage in, garbage out. An online grade report for students and parents does no good if teachers lack the time or training to input the data.
Hardware solutions to software problems won’t get us anywhere. We can’t just throw money at it. I’ve seen boxes of brand new computers sitting at a school a month after school began, waiting for someone with the time and talent to plug them in. Meanwhile, older printers had been taken away, and students without home computer access desperately needed to print college application forms at school.
TMI (Too Much Information) exists: Email alerts of opportunities and information can be emotionally overwhelming and clog in boxes at the same time. It’s like subscribing to too many magazines or newspapers — if they just pile up at home and make you feel guilty every time you see them, you’re likely to opt out of a subscription, whether it’s paper or email.
Social mores, fads and friends have huge impact: The IM craze of middle school at times degenerated into meanness for some. But a whole generation learned to type, quickly.
Documentation and certification lag behind new developments: The public-school curriculum and testing of technology skills is often outdated before it becomes adopted. Successful students need to go way beyond the basic levels of skills the state of North Carolina currently requires.
One good teacher is a gift to be cherished: In seventh grade, a teacher came up with a class project of planning and budgeting for a trip around the state. Students had to research different cities and the price of hotels, restaurants and attractions in each city, then add up costs for the entire trip. The students mapped the trip as well. (This was before Mapquest. Believe it or not, such a time existed.) This project was a killer, especially with dial-up access, but it gave students lasting experience in finding information on the Internet.

Follow the money: From a movie, to Sunlight

There’s a new movie out soon — “August Rush” — that tells the story of an orphan musician in search of his birth parents (that’s not it in the short Youtube video above — more on that later). The movie is high on my 17-year-old’s list of movies to see, but looks like a fairy tale that glamorizes what is often a quite difficult situation.

Movies hold huge power in determining thoughts and actions on issues such as safe sex, abortion, etc. I haven’t seen it, but know I’ll want to weigh in on the issues whenever the Kid sees the movie.

In light of all that emotion, I appreciate Traci’s fact-based approach in her class blog to issues like these, which need to be discussed and considered before issues arise. Traci’s blog adds greatly to the conversation.

One of Traci’s main concerns involves the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. She thinks it should stop. In my view, federal funds are spent in many other questionable ways. Blackwater and Halliburton get federal money too.

Oversight by our society about how our tax money is spent is crucial. New technology and bloggers can help, if given the tools, and this fact makes Gordon’s focus on e-government hugely important. In 2006, a bill was passed to make a public, searchable database of federal contracts awarded. Bloggers and citizen groups helped pass the bill after some folks in the Senate tried to hold it up. (Reference: Christian Scientist Monitor)

In addition, the Sunlight Foundation is working to give ordinary wired citizens access to information on government spending, of time and money. The foundation is using all the tools at its disposal — Youtube (you knew I’d get to the above video sometime), Facebook, a wiki and a website. And it’s asking citizens to help analyze the data. At least one newspaper is highlighting the information as well. The crowdsourcing capabilities of this effort seem as if they have great potential — as long as someone is watching.

Shifting legal sands

Josh Voorhees at A Newspaper with Infinite Bureaus and David Shabazz at Write for Freedom tackle the changing legal ramifications of the Internet.
Josh focuses on privacy issues and David bores in on defamation.

I appreciate the clear, concise way both writers explained the background of these important issues. I’m also impressed with the quantity and depth of the links they both provide for further study of the issues.

I’d like to add a twist to one fear that Josh lists about privacy: identity confusion, as well as identity theft. People with common names run the risk of being confused with someone else — I’ve seen this confusion happen on Facebook for my daughter. If someone with the same name is “tagged” in a photo, the photo can appear on my daughter’s profile. Similarly, some bloggers have taken precautions to protect their online identities, using Claim ID. Here’s an example, from Mindy McAdams, who teaches at the University of Florida.

As the defamation rules evolve and debates continue about anonymous postings at forums and blogs, I’m glad both writers have provided summaries and links with context amid shifting sands.

Second Life: Soma or remedy?

Cindy Anderson at The Write Reason explores Second Life, a place that sounds intriguing but also a little creepy and self-indulgent.

Frankly, I need all my time, creativity and brain power to deal with my First Life.

A few years ago (quite a few, actually), I had the game “Myst” on my home computer, and my family followed that with “SimPark.” Both were incredibly addictive for me, but at least “SimPark” seemed to have some educational value. “Myst,” on the other hand, became a total retreat from reality for me, and could suck up hours of my time without me realizing it. I stopped playing.

I’m afraid Second Life would be the same for me, so I’m just not going to go there.

I must admit, looking around on Youtube this evening (another addiction I rarely let myself do), I can see that perhaps blogging, forums, You Tubing, Second Life and other technical innovations might give people ways of connecting with others when real face-to-face life becomes too problematic. Still, I wonder whether those connections can be detrimental when carried to extremes. Balance seems key, as it is in First Life.

And I can see marketing advantages in being in Second Life, but so far I have doubts about its journalistic value. I’d love to hear more, outside of Second Life, from the Reuters reporter who’s been stationed in Second Life for about a year now. Is his job just becoming a marketing job with Reuters and Acura car partnerships, or is there any real journalism there? Can media organizations afford what looks to me like that extravagance in this economic climate? What about the energy usage that Second Life eats?

Each one teach one: Crystallizing the question

Class discussion helped me figure out how to state my research problem more clearly and succinctly:

What is the best way for societies to pay for their journalism?

Old ways don’t work; it’s not about buying printing presses and selling advertising anymore.

From there, it’s easy to move on and use the global community to look at other models, like the BBC. Or extrapolate into other resources, like asking, “What is the best way for societies to pay for their health care? Or their energy resources? Or their music?”

So if you like, start here. Tell me your ideas on how should we pay. I challenge you to answer in less than 100 words.