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October 21, 2008

Twittering and Microblogging for Public Health

I don't move as fast as I need to these days. I post the slides, and some one else blogs them before I get around to it!

eHealth: Twittering for Public Health: http://ehealth.johnwsharp.com/2008/10/18/twittering-for-public-health.aspx?ref=rss

Anyway, here are the slides from the noon brown bag class I gave at School of Public Health on October 7th. Sorry it took me so long.

Posted by pfa at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2008

xTimeline Embeds for Easy Dissemination of Timelines

Over at the Public Health blog, I just added an entry on the 100th anniversary of water chlorination.

100 Years of Clean Water: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/PHLI/archives/2008/10/100_years_of_cl.html

For the blogpost, there was a timeline that had been sent to me to include that I didn't have a good way to put online. So I popped over to xTimeline, entered minimal data, added in some pics to spiff it up, and voila! Please note, most pics were from Wikimedia Commons or other copyright free sources, and all images linked back to the original source.

xTimeline: Events Leading to Widespread Chlorination of US Water

Even better, the timeline itself is embeddable, although it really doesn't fit well in the confines of the blog layout. Play with it here.

Best of all, xTimeline is a wiki, so I can go back to the person who sent it to me, and invite him to edit it. That should save me a lot of work, and of course he could invite other people to collaborate as well.

Nice tool!

Posted by pfa at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2008

The New A.viary (Dollars and Making Sense and Sweet Spots)

There is an interesting class being taught at the School of Public Health on social technologies by Gillian Mayman. Yesterday, at her request, I taught an intro session on getting started with A.viary. I love Aviary. I love it so much that I did something I've never done before and started teaching sessions about it while it was still in beta.

Gillian and I discovered that Aviary has changed a LOT in the past couple weeks. No more beta, no more invites — it is now live and open to all comers. They changed the look and feel of a lot of pages. They fixed some long-standing problems. For example, it looks like the text glitch in Phoenix is better now, but I'm not sure because they didn't say so in the Forum discussions on the topic.

The big thing is that A.viary now charges money. Sort of. I am hearing different things in different places, and trying to figure things out from their FAQ on the site. What I'm hearing doesn't quit add up, so I'm not entirely sure I've got this right. I did a little testing, with the help of my friends, and here is what I know right now.

1. You can create an account, log in, and make stuff without being asked for any money. That is the good news.

2. That account you make is a trial account.

3. If you like it, you are supposed to pay. They have two rates.
a) $7.99 per month for one A.viary application
b) $14.99 per month for all A.viary applications

4. There is NO annual account option; there is no persistent free account level.

Personally, I loathe trial accounts with a passion. When I encounter something I need to test out that has the trial account option, I make an account, grab a few screenshots, write a blog post or something to tell folks about it, and then I abandon the site and never return. Trial accounts give me hives. The problem with most trial accounts is that they have a time limit. I am always really busy, and doing a decent test within a specific time span is just not gonna happen in my life.

A.viary is doing something a little different with their trial account. They say, "Aviary is Trustware. We allow you full access to the tools, but trust you to pay for them." Well, I kind of like that, but then don't call it a trial account. That is going to be a bit confusing since the phrase is not being used in a standard way. That actually might account for some of the different understandings and assumptions I've been hearing about.

What I would personally like to see is something like this.

1. A basic free account with restrictions of some sort, probably allowed to make/upload only X number of images per month, like Flickr. Maybe two flavors: all apps, no more than 3 images per month, or one application per month with slightly more numbers.

2. A pro account that has unlimited access and no restrictions.

3. A hobbyist account that has all apps and access between free and pro.

4. An inexpensive ANNUAL discounted educational account that gives access to all applications at a level around the hobbyist, preferably priced around the same level as the Flickr pro account.

For myself, I'm teaching Aviary to different groups. I tend to use it rarely to sporadically in between classes. When I'm preparing for a class, I use it heavily and test all new features I can find. My pattern of use doesn't fit any of the account types provided currently. If I was using this heavily for personal use (like I use Flickr), then I would be willing to pay, but would probably not be willing to pay as much as they are asking. I certainly won't continue teaching this if the pricing stays at this level. I am looking for free or inexpensive tools that can be used by students, educators, and underfunded professionals such as those in academia, K-12 education, health advocacy and support, public health outreach, independent small consulting firms, etcetera. Yes, some doctors and independent consultants make a lot of money. Trust me, they are not likely to be editing their own images, and if they do, they'll be buying Creative Studios (CS). If you want to dominate that in-between niche market, get in with education, get the kids so used to using your product that in five or ten years they won't care about CS. You start with hobbyists, but if you want brand loyalty, get in with education, and make it easy for them to do so. Most educators don't have budgets for toys like this. They will end up paying out of pocket. They are very ethical and responsible, and are unlikely to explore or promote a tool that would cost students money. You have to make all of this really easy and accessible for them.

Aviary, you have a sweet product line. Personally, I think education could be a sweet spot for you. Think about it. Maybe give it a try. :) Meanwhile, here are my slides from last week's class. I have another class scheduled for the first week of November. I'm waiting to see what Aviary does next before I decide whether or not to teach that class.

Aviary: http://a.viary.com/
Aviary FAQ: http://a.viary.com/faq

Posted by pfa at 01:28 PM | Comments (2)

October 02, 2008

After the Twitter Blackout, part 2: What are "Best Practices" Now, Two Months Later?

Today is the 2 month anniversary of when Twitter accidentally deleted my account. Actually, my first post on this was shortly after midnight on August 2nd, so the account was deleted on the first. Here is the background for those who missed this.

Twitter Banned Who?: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/twitter_banned.html

Twitter "Banning", Day Two Report: Social Media Troubleshooting: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/twitter_banning.html

After the Twitter Blackout, part 1: Lessons Learned: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/lessons_learned.html

I find, even two months later, that this event had a large impact on my life and how I work. I grieve that even a month after the original event, there were people still suffering the same problems. One individual had to wait over three weeks to get Twitter to restore their account, if you can even believe that.

Get Satisfaction: Twitter: Account Deleted/banned with no reasoning: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/lessons_learned.html

At the time my account was deleted, there were several other accounts deleted. There was a fairly substantial community outcry and expression of concern. Many people offered suggestions and asked for Twitter to make visible changes in how it handles community support. Has Twitter addressed the concerns? Not as far as I know. Maybe they did, but it was done quietly? One of the most often repeated requests was for Twitter to post information about this problem and its solution to the blog. This certainly never happened.

As a result, my personal engagement with Twitter has changed. Frankly, I don't trust them anymore. I still Twitter, but I am not as enthusiastic about it, I'm not there as often. The relationship has been wounded, and the wound seems to be totally one-sided. So, what am I doing about it?

I have changed how I microblog — I have become diverse, and work aggressively to be present in a variety of microblogging platforms. I am pfanderson in Twitter, Plurk, identi.ca, Pownce, Jaiku and Friendfeed. I spend time in each of them, in roughly that order.

Web 2.0: Microblogging Web 2.0: Microblogging
Web 2.0: Microblogging Web 2.0: Microblogging
Web 2.0: Microblogging Web 2.0: Microblogging - FriendFeed

How am I maintaining a presence if I don't visit them equally often? I'm using Ping.fm.

Web 2.0: Microblogging

Ping allows me to post simultaneously to several locations, and allows me to customize groups or subsets of places I want to post at the same time, as well as allowing individual posts. Advantages are many:
- present in multiple spaces;
- posts are archived in many places as well as in Ping;
- time efficiencies;
- convenience.

Twitter, Plurk and Identi.ca I try to check daily or more often. Pownce and Jaiku I visit monthly or when I receive a notice that someone has commented or replied to something I've posted there. I wish I could be equally present in all, but I just don't have the time to manage it. If anyone else has worked out a good approach, let me know. I'd love some ideas on best practices for microblogging.

Some people really dislike the approach I've taken.

Web 2.0: Microblogging

It is a bit like being a tourist or summer resident in a beach property. You engage with the community, but only three months of the year. The relationships are not as rich, as intense, as deep.

Aside from microblogging itself, I am relocating my blog to a platform that will allow me to archive my tweets as blogposts. This blog is currently in a branded institutional Movable Type platform. It lacks a lot of functionality, which I have tolerated specifically to be associated with our institutional brand. No longer. It is costing me too much. I will be switching this blog to WordPress sometime over the next month, I hope.

The really big thing for me out of all this is FriendFeed. I am starting to love it kind of like I used to love Twitter, but ... I am reluctant to trust any one platform at this point.

I am sad about it, a bit. Excited to have learned these new tools and strategies. I miss being deeply engaged with Twitter, marinating in it the way I used to. I have found new communities in the other spaces. I wish all my Twitter friends were in FriendFeed or the other spaces, so I could really easily engage as richly and deeply as I used to. It is kind of like moving to a new town. You miss your friends, but you make new friends.

I welcome other thoughts and suggestions. Exploring widely ...

Posted by pfa at 08:59 AM | Comments (2)