Tag: social networks

The fate of private social networks

I knew this had been coming for the last few years, really, but today I discovered that Path, the social network I use with my family, is shutting down. We’ve been using it since 2010 to share photos of our children growing up, and to keep each other up-to-date with family life.

Last year, I started paying for Path, as a small effort towards making it sustainable. Obviously not enough people were doing so. To be honest, the value proposition for paid versus free accounts wasn’t exactly awesome. After all, there’s only so many sticker packs you can use!

So my family will be looking for something that replaces Path. This turns out to be something that’s both of personal and professional interest to me at the moment, as I’m leading the MoodleNet project.

My first port of call when I’m looking for an alternative to some software is alternativeto.net. Their crowdsourced list of apps that could replace Path doesn’t quite do the job, unfortunately. I’ve been trying to think about why that is, so fired up Google Slides and created image at the top of this post. You can remix it if you want.

My point here is to show that there’s many kinds of social interactions. I’m focusing on what my family uses, so haven’t put MoodleNet on there, but if I had, I think we’d be looking at it being right in the middle. The small grey arrows show the direction of travel I think that each app is, or has been, on.

It would be easy to look at this and conclude that we’re living in a world where everything’s moving to being more synchronous and public, but I’m not sure that’s true. Ideally, I reckon we want the option to communicate with one another in all four quadrants here.

What do you think? Is there anything out there which would replace Path? We’ve been trying out a private Google+ community, but it’s somehow not as… fun.


Update: after a quick dalliance with Google+ we’re currently trying out Vero.

How emoji triplets could help with trust and identity on decentralised social networks

Inspired by what3words, I want to share an idea that solves some problems I’ve been thinking about in the context of MoodleNet:

  1. With services that allow users to change usernames and avatars an infinite number of times, how do you know who you’re really talking to?
  2. On decentralised social networks such as Mastodon, users on different instances can have the same username. This is confusing when trying to @ mention someone.

If what3words can describe everywhere on the globe using three words, then we can describe all users of a social network using three emojis.

As I’ve explained before, LessPass (a deterministic password generator) uses emoji triplets to simultaneously obfuscate your password while providing a check that you’ve entered it correctly.

LessPass

In addition, as my colleague Mayel pointed out when I shared the idea with him, the first emoji of the triplet could indicate which instance you’re on.

Mastodon profile

As you can see above, I’ve actually already added three emojis next to my username on both Twitter and Mastodon. I think it serves as a really nice, quick, visual indication that you’re dealing with the person you expect.

3 reasons I’ve decided to resurrect my LinkedIn account

In June 2014 I decided to close my LinkedIn account. The reasons I gave were threefold: the spam, the desire to own my professional identity, and the growing backlash to the service.

Why then last week did I decide to create a new account?


1. Hypocrisy – this is the main reason, actually. I realised that when I come across someone new, the first thing I do is search for their name. This almost always takes me to their LinkedIn profile, which gives me an at-a-glance of what they’re about. If I’m doing it to others, why shouldn’t others be able to do it to me?

2. Google juice – this is related to the above. Apart from Wikipedia pages, LinkedIn profiles seem to be some of the highest-ranking types of results when you search for people’s names. Instead of someone else’s page that mentions me, I might as well have something I curate in the first page of search results.

3. Contactability – I really try to keep my contact list up-to-date. But, at the end of the day, people don’t always communicate that they’ve got a new job or have moved on. The good thing about LinkedIn is that you get passive updates of these things.


Do I think LinkedIn is perfect? No. I don’t even think it’s good. But then I could say the same about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… every social network that’s run by publicly-traded companies. Shareholder value comes before everything.

One of the ways LinkedIn creates ‘value’ is by making it a social silo. Some of the stuff in there is inaccessible without a login. You don’t even think twice about this if you’ve got an account, but it’s a constant source of frustration otherwise when you haven’t.

So there we are. I’m not proud of going back on my decision from last year but, given that so many people asked, I thought it was worth explaining. It’s all about connecting with people and adding value.

Over the course of 2015 I’ll be building out my profile and connections. My ‘sniff test’ for accepting connection requests is, as before, whether I think you’d know who I was if I bumped into you at a conference or walking along the street.

I’ll be syndicating my posts into my LinkedIn feed, so it’s also another way to keep up with this blog. 🙂

Image CC BY Nan Palermo

What I got up to during #BelshawBlackOps12 (and what 2013 has in store)

TL;DR version: Best of Belshaw 2012 is now available as an ebook, I felt a little lonely working from home without interaction via social networks, and I’m trying to travel less in 2013.


The difference between working in an office or classroom versus working from home is fairly obvious. When I was in the former I had constant, relevant co-located conversations about work and related areas; in the latter the only occasional interactions I get are not work related. Of course, this is mitigated to a great degree by social networks and the calls I have as part of my working day.

What happens, though, when you consciously try to minimise your use of social networks – as I did last month? You get a bit lonely when you’re at work, that’s what. I really missed the continual partial attention and wealth of information that comes down the tubes, especially via Twitter.

Happily, though, when I wasn’t working I also wasn’t using social networks and therefore spent a lot more time being both physically and mindfully ‘present’ with my family. Which was nice. I played a lot of games, especially FIFA12 (with my son) and OLO (with anyone within my general proximity). I went down to the wonderful beach at Druridge Bay more times in December than I did in the rest of 2012, I reckon. Most of that was down to investing in Scandanavian waterproofs for the children.

I read a lot. Whilst I didn’t quite make it to 10 non-fiction books, I did manage to read seven, which isn’t too bad. I also succumbed and re-invested in the Amazon Kindle ecosystem both for myself and my wife. I feel a bit guilty given the vendor lock-in but, honestly, it makes reading on an ereader a stress-free experience. In addition to the fiction books I read or re-read (including Crime & Punishment and a Jack Reacher novel), I read the following. I’ve ordered them from best to worst:

  1. The Connected Family – Seymour Papert
  2. Society of the Spectacle – Guy Debord
  3. Reality is Broken – Jane McGonigal
  4. The Signal and the Noise – Nate Silver
  5. The Bed of Procrustes – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  6. A Whack on the Side of the Head – Roger von Oech
  7. Slow Reading – John Miedena

The book I was looking forward to reading most, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I didn’t get a chance to read due to the Norovirus paying a visit.

What I didn’t do in December was write any more of my ebook The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. I’ll be prioritising that in the first months of this year. What was I doing instead? Putting together my Best of Belshaw 2012! You can download it for free:

So what’s in store for me in 2013? Well, hopefully a lot less travel for one thing. I followed a similar strategy in my first six months at Mozilla as I did with my first year at JISC infoNet – getting out and meeting as many people as possible. Now, though, over and above the things I’ve already committed to, some essential travelling, and the inevitable really interesting stuff, I’ll be focusing on my work around Web Literacies and Webmaker badges.

Of course, 2013 will also be the year of world domination for Open Badges. Oh, and the year of Linux on the desktop. 😉

What are you up to in 2013?

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