Fancy a coffee and a chat?


Thanks for the feedback from Meet-o-matic. From the responses so far it looks like the morning of Thursday 3rd October is a good fit; so let’s go for that day. I suggest we go from 11:00am up to lunchtime, so I’ll be in the Costa Coffee in Park Place, Cardiff from then.

Looking forward to seeing all who are interested in chatting about using Dropbox or not) – thanks Simon for the recent post, iOS7 (maybe), MOOC’s (possibly), FutureLearn (almost certainly) and Digidol (probably). All that and more. If you have an idea of something you’d like to chat about – just get in touch using the form on this page.

A change of Google+ posting strategy

I posted this on Google+ to earlier today, and +Simon Wood (@MrSimonWood) suggested I owed it to the twitter community I used to be so active in, to explain where I’d been, and what and why I’d decided to change my Google+ posting strategy that might mean that links to some of my Google+ posts appeared more regularly on twitter. So here’s what I wrote earlier today to the Circles that I post to on Google+. I hope it makes sense. I also hope you don’t mind me hi-jacking “Thought grazing …” for the purpose – again it just seemed the best place to put it.

We ought to have another meet-up at Costa Coffee soon … shouldn’t we?


A change in Google+ direction today for me, so please excuse this post which explains what I’m doing, and why.

My main use of Google+ since it started has been as a platform for targeted postings to Circles – I have many which align with my interests and relationships. Some intersect, some are discreet. When you have quite a few circles (as I have) they’re difficult to maintain and even more difficult to select from, for a targeted post. My strategy has been successful however, I feel, and a few of my circle members are now active users of Google+.

Using such an approach has seen my use of twitter decrease significantly – there’s only so much social interaction you can engage in – but I’m very aware that whilst I’ve enjoyed being part of the new Google+ ecosystem, I shouldn’t have turned my back on twitter as much as I had with Facebook, for which I make no apology for my desertion.

So from today, whilst not changing the way I use Circles and Communities – which really works and provides “safe” places for conversations, I intend to do more Public posting to Google+ all of which will be picked-up by ManageFlitter and tweeted. Hopefully, this will also encourage more of my friends, contacts and acquaintances to become active in Google+ as well. I will have a purpose to look-in on twitter more often as well.

For this to work, I’ll have to make sure the first 100 characters or so of my Google+ post concisely explains the content. A link to the Google+ post will be provided in the tweet, which will lead the reader into Google+.

So to you my Google+ readers … your feed from me may become a little “noisier”. Either turn the volume from me down, or just ignore posts that you’re not interested in. I’ll see how it goes – I’ll be interested in your feedback.

A personal reflection on “Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university?”

My daughter drew my attention to an article in The Observer yesterday … Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university? It’s a really well-written summary of where we are today with online higher education. I don’t think anyone has quite worked out how the business model will end up however. I’ve always felt that accreditation by a traditional university is probably the best way – and that is why Edinburgh’s attempts are interesting.

However, I’m convinced that it’s culture that’s the most significant barrier to change and that this is the most significant barrier to adoption of change. The emphasis is still on research in the older universities; that’s where cudos is gained and that is where significant funding comes from. I can’t see them wishing to move away significantly from that mission. However, we may see new-style universities embracing MOOC and offering accreditation of such courses, and adopting strongly blended learning onsite and supporting online distance learning as well as a counterpoint for under-graduate education. Or, and this will really challenge a large part of the Higher Education marketplace, well-established prestigious institutions will setup different organisations, franchise their brand to others, or have collectives of partner organisations that work with them to award their degrees. This has all been experimented with before. Some institutions have got their fingers burnt in the process, but the incentive to do it again – at least onshore in the UK – is compelling.

This will lead inevitably to consolidation in the sector and less universities and probably more local attendance at universities, if attendance at all. There will have to be real added-value to attend a university as an undergraduate; that’s why another article in The Guardian – Our universities are at great risk. We must act now to defend them – should be read alongside the one in The Observer. My take on the second one is that it is not just academics that need to change, but more importantly the policy-makers and then the administrators. The Guardian article is also interesting because it foresees the student as a customer determining the future of those organisations. Not so much a beauty contest, but more an outcome fest – “what can you deliver for me, that will ensure my future success?” That’s not a bad thing in the fee and debt culture they’re being forced to embrace, but it does mean that university undergraduate education has already changed and will never be the same again.

Of course, all internet start-ups benefit (in the States especially) from vast amounts of venture capital. The culture appears to be more able to embrace technological change and be able to risk failure. What however is significant is that the idealism that drives the innovator eventually has to generate a return on investment; so the success of Udacity, edX, or Coursera is not assured. There’s still time for a different model to emerge that combines the best of online and onsite higher education. However, I still remain convinced that the world of higher education is changing and there will be a lot of casualties along the way for those institutions that don’t address these threats to their current business model.

[Update: On the same day I wrote this, Clay Shirky writes a very entertaining and illuminating blogpost on Napster, Udacity, and The Academy – read it!]

Mindful Social Media (via Beth Kanter)

Came across this, this morning courtesy of a Google+ share from George Brett, a person who I’ve kept in contact with since the early twitter days and I’ve been following Beth Kanter off and on for a while too. I’m including this Slideshare from Beth’s Blog and then will make a few comments afterwards.

Mindful Social Media

View more presentations from Beth Kanter

The message is simple – or so it seems to me; don’t let technology drive your life. We all know that is good advice, but increasingly find it hard to resist or avoid. The cases of how disruptive technology can really disrupt relationships and real-life are plentiful, So, we need assistance in getting back to real and meaningful engagement with social media, and with life itself, and also the place our work time effects that relationship with both our friends and colleagues.

So … we grab for our mobile devices at any time we don’t appear to be doing anything else, on the bus, on the loo, before we go to sleep; but the act of doing this is a replacement for doing something else – observing, reflecting, relaxing! Take the test that Beth sets you and you may be upset, or disturbed. I certainly didn’t end-up at the Mindful end of the scale! In addressing this (if you perceive you then have a problem) I particularly like Howard Rheingold’s Mindfulness cartoon, reproduced in this slideset. I was introduced to the idea of nine calming breaths by my sister and certainly the awareness of one’s breathing could be a useful antidote to anxiety-raising constant connectivity, having objectives and re-viewing and re-prioritising them, and re-focusing are things we know we should always be doing, but sometimes the social media trap gets in the way and drags us down into doing things just because they’re presented to us. The lesson again – don’t get driven by the technology.

The penultimate slide is both instructional and frightening. Ponder for a moment and consider the coping mechansims that you could put in place; and then finally, the feedback loop to enhance attention and hopefully to improve both state of mind and productivity is both simple and achievable – you can change behaviour!

Finally, and a personal comment with absolutely no rigorous scientific basis … could there be a link to Learned helplessness here. Is our coping mechanism to bombardment from social media streams an introduced self-imposed control, a process we put in place to protect us – “I do, therefore I am, and therefore I am in touch”. Just a thought!

How Facebook threatens “the social network” [UPDATED]

It won’t have gone un-noticed to any readers of this blog that I’ve been quite impressed at Google+ – what it can do, and more important what it could be possible of doing to our use of social networks. I’m particularly impressed at the implied movement away from the “social graph” to what has been described as the “interest graph” and the focus on task-related posting rather than people-focussed posting. In fact the demise of Google+ which has been trumpeted by the tech media press is almost certainly the result of posts disappearing from the “public stream” with more selective posting to Circles. A success story therefore you might argue for anyone who values their privacy.

Copying is said to be an indication of success too, and we’ve seen a “re-launch” of Posterous, trumpeting a feature that was always there which looks very similar to Circles, and of course there’s been the changes to Facebook. These have been thick and fast over the past few weeks, culminating in the announcements last week. First of all, I have to hold my hand-up … I’m not a great, nor active, Facebook user. It’s just too complicated to get the privacy controls correct, and as they keep on changing things, there’s just that nagging doubt always present in my mind that I might inadvertently be sharing something with people I don’t want to share with. So what goes on Facebook (from me) is generally of little interest to my “followers”, or it is factual and not likely to cause me any concern. But all that’s just changed because Facebook wants to change “the social network”, hold even more information about you – which you can’t get out without deleting your account, and wants to share that information with even more people that you don’t want to share it with.

Every time Facebook changes the timeline, or your profile, or whatever, a groundswell of complaint can be heard “from those in the know”. Of course Facebook probably doesn’t care about them (us) anyway – they’re more interested in the information they’ve trapped inside the Facebook firewall provided by the far greater number of users who don’t know, or who prefer not to know, what they’re doing. However, this time there’s been an up-welling of comment that beats most previous announcements and I thought I’d share some of that comment with you.

First of all take a look at the summary of features listed here. [If you want a sickening few minutes (you won’t want to stay to the end) watch the video of Mark Zuckerburg’s launch address.] “Is Facebook trying to kill privacy” – well yes it is, and this is seen by their view that “the social graph” should be open, so that everything you do can be made visible to just about anyone – read a review from Wired here. All those apps that you’ve allowed access to your Facebook profile, well now they will be following you, and what you do, even though you’ve not given them permission to do so – read Phil Bradley’s excellent post here, and as he and others have commented – it’s shameful that The Guardian has signed-up to this invasion of our private lives, and I’ll be even more worried if The Independent follows suit.

Two more links I ought to share with you as well are this one, detailing how the social reading apps will work, and this one which gives very wise advice – never leave your browser logged into Facebook, the cookies may be tracking everything you do.

[UPDATE: The storm doesn’t seem to be abating – @briankelly this morning (26/09/2011) tackles some of us who were tweeting that Fb is a walled garden with a riposte that suggests Russell Group (and presumably all Universities) can not afford to ignore it as there are so many fans using Fb Groups and suggests its not a walled garden anyway. However, my doubts are beginning to firm up even more and you ought to read “Facebook’s New Features Might Not Be as Private as You Think” and some of the comments that follow to help you come to your own conclusions.]

So … I’ll be reviewing my applications on Facebook again. I won’t be taking any of the new features and if I’m forced to change I’ll be deleting my account. My “followers” will always be able to find me on Google+ where I can then decide whether I want to follow them, or more importantly, post updates to them. I suspect The Force will remain undisturbed by any actions I take!