I’ve been putting together a workshop on social media for the Physics department here at Leicester. It’s two hours to cover Web 2.0, so to cover it all I’d have to work at the rate of 1.0 per hour. Instead I’ve opted to cover a small range of the most useful tools. delicious, Google Reader and blogging, which I’m using Posterous for. The more services you sign up for the more diffuse your presence, so I’m putting Friendfeed at the centre of the workshop to pull it all together.
The model I’m using is one I’ve stolen from Alan Cann which is that Friendfeed is Facebook for scientists. I know it’s not exactly, but it’s close enough as an introduction. In some ways it’s a Twitter substitute too. I’ve left Twitter out of the workshop, which I know is a big hole, but Twitter takes a couple of days to understand because it doesn’t make sense without the replies and interaction, while Friendfeed has more tools for sharing stuff. Friendfeed needs interaction too, but it is at least a bit easier to see the point of Friendfeed using the Facebook model. If you’re not really plugged into the idea of networks then Twitter looks like a dull and crippled rip-off of Facebook.
So while I’ve been putting this together I’ve also been thinking about how I use websites. Blogs are still the place for gathering longer ideas like this, and reflecting on them. They’re not so good for some other things. I find interesting things on the web and I want to share them. This is a problem, and it’s one that Brett Holman blogged on while I was putting this post together.
How do you put together links for a blog post? You could just put up the links and titles, but that doesn’t make for much of a post. You could blog on each one, but that’s a lot of work. In the past I’ve used things like delicious or ma.gnolia to compile posts from bookmarks. The problem with that is that you need a certain number of bookmarks in a post else almost every posts is Links for %date%. On the other hand if you store up links in groups of 10, then link 1 could be out-of-date by the time you have ten links to make a post. Blogging used to be the best way to share links, but now there are better ways. Brett Holman is using Twitter. I’m using Friendfeed, because the way it handles comments is easier and it can post to Twitter anyway; it’s not an either/or choice.
I don’t see it as blogging versus twittering as some people have either. You could see the move to put links onto Friendfeed as cutting back on blogging. I prefer to see it as freeing the blog from having to carry posts that don’t suit it. Friendfeed or Twitter is the perfect place for point to this photo of cute nuzzling cheetahs.
There are some problems with Friendfeed. People import their twitter streams, and that doesn’t usually work very well. Conversations appear out of context, but it’s an easy enough issue to solve. Friendfeed has a ‘hide’ button, and you can hide all entries from Twitter unless they get a ‘like’. You’re relying on other people to find the noteworthy tweets for you, but if you’re on Friendfeed you’re probably also on twitter too — so it’s no great loss.
Following that, I’ve made a slight change to the front of the blog, with the Friendfeed stream going to the front instead of the features gallery. If you want to follow me, then you can find my Friendfeed account at http://friendfeed.com/alun and if you tell what account you’re using I can follow you back.
I’ll be posting a link to the worksheets for the workshop once the class has started on Friendfeed.