Create Online Presence With Posterous

I remember hearing about Posterous when it first came out.  It was nice, but at the time didn’t really stick out above all of the other social sites coming out at the time.  However, I took another look at Posterous when a student in a class I am adjuncting featured it in a project.  What a difference a few years make!

Posterous is a service that allows you to update all of your social sites through an email.  It is designed to be intuitive – so if you attach pictures, they will get posted in your Flickr account.  Videos can go into YouTube.  But, a text post won’t end up in some weird corner of either one.  You can also update blogs like WordPress and your attached images and video go into the post, too.

The two features I am digging the most are site-specific emails and groups.  Usually, one email will go to all the sites that you set-up for autopost.  Don’t want your short Twitter update to post to your Drupal blog?  Just send an email to  Your little tweet only posts to twitter.  You can also combine emails, like

The group feature is really nice.  Just invite other contributors and have them send emails to a bit more specific email address that identifies your group.   Any one’s email can then go out to a whole slew of social sites (great for organizations, school news, or conferences) in a matter of seconds.  Or, make your group private and host a class that way (you don’t have to autopost anywhere if you don’t want).  Every post goes out to all contributors by email, and you can comment by just replying to the email.  Any pictures or videos added are intuitively inserted into the post.

It will even update your FaceBook status, or load pics/videos into FaceBook.

As you can guess, this is a great all-in-one tool for mobile blogging.  Posterous itself can act as your blog, or it can push your posts out to most major blogging platforms.

Now I wish we could see Posterous pluck SocialThing away from AOL before it is totally killed and become a one stop place to post and follow all of your networks.  They would need some kind of comment tracking system for that, because I would hate to have to keep up with comments on all the sites the support.  Or maybe that can be an idea for future features – a way to sync comments from all the sites they support.

Is Twitter a Waste of Time?

Every time I start talking about Twitter, I get the same response: “Why would I want to read short messages about what someone ate for breakfast?”.

You wouldn’t – but that is the wrong question to ask.  It is the same as asking “Why would I want to watch TV when there are soap operas on there?”  If you pick the most inane use of any technology, then of course it will seem like a waste of time.

So is it a waste of time? If you use it that way – then yes, it is.  If you have a bigger vision for it, then… no, it isn’t.

What is the bigger vision? Think problem solving, research, and breaking news.  Twitter users broke the miracle on the Hudson story, after all.

The New York Times has a good break down of what I am talking about with this article: Putting Twitter’s World to Use.  I was surprised to see that Twitter is now the third largest online social network behind FaceBook and MySpace.  No wonder I keep getting server errors from them :)

I love this quote from the Times article:

“Twitter reverses the notion of the group,” said Paul Saffo, the Silicon Valley futurist. “Instead of creating the group you want, you send it and the group self-assembles.”

What about Twitter in education?  Chris Duke taught a great session at the 2009 TxDLA conference called Learning With Microblogging and Twitter.  Some great ideas were shared in that presentation – you can see the session materials online here.

In fact, at TxDLA 2009, several people Twittered about internet problems at their hotel and received fast responses from the that hotel’s corporation.  Think nobody cares about Twitter? Think again.

Here is a TwitterFountain widget about TxDLA ’09 to help you sere some of the bigger vision:

Is Social Networking Getting Old, Or Just Getting Started?

In the current Web 2.0 world, many have predicted that “trends” will have a very short life.  Many have written off Microsoft already because they already had their five years of dominance.  MySpace and FaceBook have had their day and will die out soon, according to some.  Twitter never really caught on in the mainstream (AOL is dead now, and it has way more users than Twitter), so micro-blogging in general is going the way of the bulletin board according to some.  Pownce just decided to close their doors, and Jaiku just disappeared after all.

But is social networking getting ready to claim its spot in cyber history, or just getting ready to really, truly explode?  Maybe it will die, or maybe we will see a steady increase in the future instead of another explosion.  But there are some interesting developments.

Ning was started as a “create-your-own-social-network” service a while back.  While it didn’t exactly change the world, it is inspiring others to do the same.  Shout’Em is a new service that allows you to create your own micro-blog service.  Right now it is in Beta, but you can see the EduGeek Shout’em site to see what it is like.  It does have a few features that Twitter doesn’t.  You can also create a private network, or customize the look of your network.  This could be great for creating your own network for your class… except for one glitch.  After the private Beta, they plan on charge $10 a month for each upgrade you want.  So, if you want a private network for your class with a custom design, that would be $20 a month.  Probably a deal killer for doing this on a class level, unless of course you can be okay with having an open network.  Which sounds like a good idea to me, at least at the college level.  (If you want to join the EduGeek network, you can use the invitation code of “doneright” – thanks to for the tip)

With the fees that they charge, Shout’em seems to be targeting businesses more than schools.  Yammer is also doing this, but with a different approach. Yammer seems to  base their networks around your email address.

Another interesting development is Google FriendConnect.  You can see the widgets in the sidebars of this site to see what they are like.  Google is letting you create social networks based around a site that you own.  They say they are going to roll-out some more features in the future.  Feel free to join ours to see what it is like.  The only hindrance with this one is that it can only be used by the person that owns a site.  You can’t add this to, say, a class hosted on BlackBoard.  If your school installed BlackBoard on their server and also will install the two required files on their site, however – you could be in business.

And speaking of Blackboard, I will say that I liked the integration with social networking tools that I am starting to see in their software.  Not sure if I can say exactly what I saw yet, but they are taking that in to consideration.

iPhone 3G: My First Impressions

Yes – I am as surprised as you that I waited this long to get an iPhone. You can revoke my geek cred if you like – but I had bills to pay. However, the old cell was dying, I really wanted to upgrade to some kind of smart phone, and the iPhone ended up being the cheapest true smart phone out there now (I’ve been on AT&T for years with no problems). So I took the plunge.

And spent most of the weekend playing with the crazy thing! Many of the features of the iPhone are well know. I would have to agree with many that the killer app on the iPhone is the App Store. That is what I spent most of my time playing with.

Much has been said about the apps that add games or to-do lists to your phone or what ever. Those are nice. But what was cool for me were the apps created to interface with websites like FaceBook and Ebay. Which may seem weird to some since there is a web browser on there. But think about the size of the screen on the iPhone. Sure, you can zoom in, but surfing sites like Facebook and Ebay are still a pain. No problem – just download the free app for your favorite site (if they have one), and then log in. You get a one touch login for site, and most of the information from the site is re-formated to fit on your iPhone screen. I was checking eBay auctions, writing on friends walls, and Twittering away all while walking around the house.

Even cooler is how the applications can interact with weach other. I could take a pic with the camera and upload it to faceBook or Flickr or even set it as my AIM avatar. The GPS locator is also a plus, especially when used in conjunction with free Yellow Pages app. In a new neighborhood and hungry for Chinese food? Look up what is near you, pick a highly rated one, and get turn by turn directions to get there. Nice. Unfortunately, there is no free app for Wikipedia, RSS feeds, or Flickr (yet), but the ones that are available are pretty cheap. Twitter was just a ‘meh’ aplication to me until I started being able to send updates from anywhere (I’ve always been too cheap to buy texting plans… pay to send little burst of data through a phone? What a rip-off!). Most apps are still new, and so they don’t have everything, but they are getting there.

The ability to realize “anytime, anywhere” education is greatly expanded by the apps, especially since others are rushing to copy the iPhone. Think about it – have your students do a scavenger hunt. Or maybe have them create a mobile blog (WordPress app is free and nice)? How about intergrate their everyday life in to their learning activities? “As you travel around town today, look for examples of ______ art influence, or _____ policy on city planning, and take a pic and send it to me with 500 words on why it is_____”.

I wish that LMS companies would spend more time creating apps for mobile phones rather than FaceBook apps that don’t seem to be popular or well accepted. Something like this would fit well in to my evolving view fo LMS programs, something I need to blog on soon the in the future.

Just So You Know: Creepy Treehouses

We all see many trends, new web sites, and Buzzwords floating around the EduGeek-o-sphere. Most of them I just let pass because I don’t think they are going anywhere (of course, I might comment on something hoping to build buzz for something that I still don’t think will go anywhere but is still so cool that it really should…. but seeing that I haven’t been successful yet, I guess my big to rule the world is still falling short of my lofty goal). An example of something that I thought wouldn’t go anywhere and still hasn’t is the term “creepy treehouse.”

If you look up “creepy treehouse” at, you will see that it was added in April of this year and only has four ratings. Contrast that with a word like “driving finger“, added August 14th and already over 300 ratings. Are we really even dealing with a term that actually means anything to that many people? If you Google the term, you see the first several pages are mostly a handful of people all referencing each other’s blog posts, and not really a wide range of diverse sites examining the issues. Maybe it will still catch on – it’s still a relatively new term. Older than EduPunk, it seems – which is much more popular.

I’ve been arguing for a while that we don’t need to integrate LMS programs with existing social networking sites. Yes, it does invade student’s social networks that they probably want to keep separate. But I think that we need to make sure that it’s not the teacher using the tool that is the problem, it’s the concept of forcing their way in to social circles that could possibly make students uncomfortable (let’s also be realistic in noting that no one actually quotes any real scientific studies to see what students really think about this practice). If you are an instructor and you want to have a Facebook group or a Twitter account or whatever – go head and do that. Just realize that these are social circles and you shouldn’t force students to let you in their social circles. A FaceBook page is a new circle that you are creating – but also realize that it is a closed circle that pretty much mimcs everything that most LMS tools do.

It’s weird how we have the Marc Prenskys of the world telling us how stupid we are for not using these tools, and then this group of people telling us how creepy we are if we do use them. Can someone please do some research here?

Educational Benefits of Social Networking

Harriet pointed me to a Converge Online article about a study that uncovered the educational benefits of social networking. The basics of it are that MySpace allows lower income students to learn web design, programming, and digital technology. I guess the assumption is that rich kids already know this stuff? Oh, yeah – people still believe that digital native rubbish.

Kidding aside, I think that maybe you can infer that all students are learning these skills, and MySpace is helping that. I would have liked to see them study some pedagogical and constructivism factors using MySpace, as well as other sites like Facebook. But it’s great that some of the benefits of social networking are getting some more recognition.

Great article – thanks Harriet!

Organizing it all – Socialthing & FriendFeed

So we now all now belong to all these social networks – facebook, myspace, youtube, twitter, jaiku, etc. How in the world are we now going to keep up with all of them? Do you have one instance of Firefox (or Flock — either one is cool enough for an EduGeek) with all tabs devoted to your social sites?

Or, have you stumbled across a social aggregator that can combine all of your social feeds into one friendly feed? So far, I’ve checked out two:

  • FriendFeed
    • Nice.
    • Easy to add services.
    • Seems to be a little slow in updating this morning.
    • Had a little difficulty adding my Jaiku feed, but working now.
    • Has 41 services you can import.
  • SocialThing!
    • Very nice!
    • Currently invite-only and still in beta.
    • Very nice interface and very easy to add service.
    • Currently only imports digg, facebook, flickr,, twitter, youtube,, pownce, and vimeo
    • They’re currently working on adding myspace, livejournal, and rss feeds, and you can vote to add services (jaiku currently has 522 votes).
    • Kind of shows threaded twitter discussions, which is nice.
    • Can easily reply to twitter and facebook posts through ST!
    • Shows that I have updates on my Firefox tab (my tab is now named ‘(2) Socialthing!’, telling me I have two updates)

So, right now, I’m going with ST! It’s the Jaiku to my Twitter. Cleaner. More user-friendly. Very promising. It doesn’t yet have all the services that FriendFeed has, but they’re working on it.

My questions for you: Have you used either or both? What do you think? Which do you prefer? Is there another social aggregator that is totally awesome that you can’t believe I haven’t mentioned?

Oh, and would you like an invite to Socialthing? I have one to spare. If so, post your email address in the comments, and I’ll send my one last invite your way!

Related Story:
2008 Killer Apps – Tools for Managing Multiple Social Networks

3 C’s of Social Networking in Education: Context

To conclude my series on the three C’s of social networking in education, I will now attempt to examine a rather ambiguous concept: context.

Context is pretty ambiguous because I can’t really give you a range of steps on how to determine what the context is in your particular educational situation. Your context is your context, and it is different from my context or anyone’s for that matter. But those differences are important and crucial in determining which social networking tool you use and how you use it.

For you theoretical types out there who think I have missed the big “P” word, I hate to break it to you: I am using the term “context” in place of the term “pedagogy.” I’ve noticed that recently I’ve been growing tired of the word pedagogy, even though for a while I couldn’t tell you exactly why. Then George Siemens published a blog entry called “Pedagogy First? Whatever” that pretty much helped me realize what my problem was. I can pretty much sum up my feeling with one quote from Mr. Siemens: “if you want to create your very own pedagogy, you can likely find research that supports it.” I can create a sound pedagogy for flogging students with a rusty slinky if I tried hard enough. So just asking if a certain social networking tool is pedagogically sound will really mean nothing.

What you really need to ask yourself is: “will this tool be the right option for the context of my class and the outcomes that I desire for this activity?” Hopefully Mr. Siemens is not as uptight about the AP is with quoting, but here is some more meat from his excellent post:

“Few Utopian situations exist where our decisions on how to teach can be based exclusively on pedagogy. Resources, expertise, technology, needs (of learners, educators, society), and funds impact what we choose to do. In a world: context. The mix of multiple, mutually influencing factors determine what we types of technology we select.”

Determining your particular context maybe easy in some cases and difficult in others. See this page on Evaluating Context for some helpful guidelines.

Presidential Twitter Debate

Very interesting story on NPR about the current presidential twitter debate going on between the Obama and McCain camps. Listen to the store here.

Weekend Edition Sunday, June 22, 2008 – Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, a Web site that focuses on the intersection of politics and technology, talks about the Twitter debate between presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama. He also discusses the forum’s upcoming conference.

The story also discusses how Web 2.0 and the internet has and will change democracy, and it even ponders how our country would be different had our founding fathers had access to the internet.

(You can listen in on the twitter debate here or here.)

3 C’s of Social Networking in Education: Community

To continue my series on the three C’s of social networking in education, I will turn my attention next to the one that seems to get overlooked the most: community.

The web has long been dominated by a “Field of Dreams” mentality: if you build it, they will come. Now that we have the ability to publish our own sites, blogs, videos, micro-blogs, etc – we tend to follow that line of thinking. If I put up a blog or FaceBook group or even create my own social networking site, people will just start showing up and using it.

But then a scary thing happens – few people show up and fewer even do anything when there.

Creating your own corner in some social network is just the very first step. People won’t come unless you get out there and invite them. In education, this usually is not that much of a problem because most educators will tell students and colleagues where to go. But regardless of whether you have a captive audience already or are just opening up a general site for anyone to come along, you have to spend time getting the word out. This is just the first step in building a community.

The next step is probably the most important one. Building a community takes consistent action and activity. You have to consistently give people something to socialize about. This is where I see many educational social networking activities fail. People set up a new blog or FaceBook group or other tool and then use it as if they are still stuck in Web 1.0. To use a few buzzwords, they use a “red/write” solution to publish “read-only” content. They don’t ask questions, start discussions, or even put anything worth commenting on. This is what many blogs tend to do – some even intentionally shut off the comments feature. Even some micro-blogs are not worth checking more than once a week at the most.

So, when you are thinking about setting up some social networking site or group, think about what people who come to your network will actually do or discuss. Give them something to socialize about. Give them a reason to network with others. Don’t just use it to show off your own witty statements or thoughts. Make it an actual activity to join in, not just another site to read. Thousands of new blogs and sites are started every week online – so give your small niche of visitors some reason to stick around. Think of a reason for them to socialize and build a community.

This can even be a problem in educational settings where students are required to visit. If you don’t do something interesting and educationally valid with the network, students will be tempted to just contribute the bare minimum and hit the road to a more interesting site or network.