Friday, November 26, 2010

Social Media keeps me "plugged in" while on mat leave

I'd like to take this moment to thank Social Media (namely Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook) for keeping me "plugged in" to the work world (while on maternity leave) by allowing me to keep up with co worker's discussions online. It's great, and I can even weigh in when I get a minute away from my newborn (although that doesn't happen often!).

Not to say that I don't love being with the little munchkin, but taking care of baby 24/7 can sometimes feel monotonous and make me feel like I'm out of touch with what's going on out there in the world. SoMe not only lets me keep up with news (work related and global), but also lets get some of the gossip - who moved to what job, which department has new social media accounts, twitterwalls at events I'm unable to make it out to (*sigh*). I can't help but wonder what my maternity leave would have been like without social media! It definitely keeps me sane.

Oh, and thanks to all my wonderful colleagues for filling me in on all the gossip (you know who you are :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Having a baby got me thinking about social media accounts

I'm expecting my first child at the end of the month. I was thinking about whether to start reserving social media accounts for him, as I can see that unlike my name (Unique in all the world according to Google: there are at least 4 other Leo or Leonardo Alas' out there (according to Facebook And that's fine on Facebook, but on Twitter/YouTube/Blogspot and other sites that do not allow for username duplicates, it would make sense to reserve now, right? Wrong. I started thinking that 13 years from now (several lifetimes in the Internet world), when little Leo is old enough to start using some of these accounts, there is a good chance that the "Social Media Landscape" will be completely different and perhaps the tools will no longer exist as they do today... and, the race to reserve your name would probably repeat itself. Or, perhaps there will be some other sign-on method that I can't think of/imagine yet.

Well, for now I've only reserved @babyLissansky so I can refer to him on Twitter :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thoughts on Clay Shirky's Book: 'Here Comes Everybody'

The main premise of the book is that the emerging social tools (social networks, forums, blogs, wikis, etc.) have significantly driven down the transactional costs of any group to organize themselves. This results in many "failed" attempts, but the good ones naturally rise in popularity and lend themselves to longevity and community (or political/activist) value.

Here are some of the key passages that stood out for me:
"It's Not How Many People You Know, It's How Many Kinds
...The essence of Burt's [Ronald Burt of the University of Chicago) thesis comes down to a linked pair of observations. First, most good ideas come from people whose immediate social network included employees outside their department. Second, bridging these structural holes was valuable even when other variables, such as rank and age (both of which correlate for higher degrees of social connection), were controlled for. ...this experiment was a test for bridging capital, not mere sociability - the highest percentage of good ideas came from people whose contacts were outside their own department. On the other hand, managers who were highly connected, but only to others in their department, had ideas that were not ranked as highly. Bridging predicted good ideas, lack of bridging predicted bad ones." p. 229-230

Basically, the above quote emphasizes that in order to generate the best ideas, don't limit "brainstorming" or "feedback" sessions to people in your own work unit or branch. Collaboration and consultation with various kinds of groups of people is essential for capturing the BEST ideas. The underlying message is also that those managers that are most open to and most connected with people from various groups/fields/levels/backgrounds, are in turn the most successful in coming up with good ideas for the organization.

"... a 'fitness landscape' -the idea that for any problem or goal, there is a vast area of possibilities to explore but few valuable spots within that environment to discover. When a company or indeed any organization finds a strategy that works, the drive to adopt it and stick with it is strong. Even if there is a better strategy out there, finding it can be prohibitively expensive. For work that relies on newly collapsed transaction costs, however, providing basic resources to the groups exploring the fitness landscape costs little, and the failure of even a sizable number of groups also carries little penalty. ... [In the book Wikinomics] The mining firm Goldcorp made its proprietary data about a mining site in Ontario public, then challenged outsiders to tell them where to dig next, offering prize money. The participants in the contest suggested more thean a hundred possible sites to explore, many of which had not been mined by Goldcorp and many of which yielded new gold." p. 247
The above quote really emphasizes that the reason sites like are so successful is that they have an inherent tolerance for failure (thousands of groups never even have a single meeting), but eventually, the best groups emerge on their own and usually they are not the types of groups that were predicted to be successful by the founders at the outset. And, at times, the entire purpose of the site may be shifted by users.

Near the end of the book, Shirky goes on to comment on the "revolution" that is happening as a result of the rise of online social tools...

"Anyone inclined to see the good effects of the coming changes can assure a positive value to society simply by deciding to weight the benefits more heavily than the disadvantages, while anyone who believes that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket can support that conclusion by the evidence, simply by deciding that the new bad things are worse than the new good things. The advantages and disadvantages of mass amateurization are a judgment call; people who dislike the current increase in mediocre writing or photos or video can simply declare those things to be worse than any advantages that come from the democratization of production, or from the surprisingly good work that comes from the most talented amateurs. Arguments about whether new forms of sharing or collaboration are, on balance, good or bad reveal more about the speaker than the subject." p. 297

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone trying to understand social media from a sociological, organizational or managerial perspective.

If you've read the book, feel free to share your thoughts on what stood out for you!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Social Media Tools Demo at Carleton University

Last Friday (January, 15, 2010), I was fortunate enough to be invited by @ThomKearney to present to his 4th year Interactive Multimedia Design (IMD4500) class at Carleton University on the topic of Social Media. Essentially, I was asked to demo the tools I use professionally.

Here are the tools I chose to demo, along with the "show of hands" informal usage survey at the beginning of the demo (out of 25 students present):

• Delicious - 10 (use)
• Google Wave - 10 / 3 (have tried it, use it)
• Google Docs - 22 (use)
• Twitter - 5 (use)
• Linkedin - 3 (use)
• Blogger - 3 (blog)
(Note: these numbers are estimates, based on a quick glance at a show of hands)

I was pleasantly surprised that 22/25 student used Google Docs! I certainly use Google Docs, but not as much as I use Word (given it's the wordprocessing software at work), and it was clear to me that there was no need to demo it. However, now that I think about it, it shouldn't surprise me, since most projects are done collaboratively in groups, Google Docs seems like the most plausible tool.

I began with my Delicious account where I had links to the other tools I was to demo.

Then I went to TweetDeck. Luckily, I had already recruited @bxmx to help out with the Demo. So when I showed @ replies and retweets, it was in a live and interactive conversation with @bxmx (who is based in BC by the way). Twitter went well, many students were curious and had quite a few questions. As always, I tried to emphasize that everyone's Twitter experience is going to be unique because it depends on who you choose to follow - so if you follow celebrities or people who talk about their breakfast, then that is what you'll get.

I then moved on to a Wave demo, and here's where @bxmx came in handy again. He and I tested it a few days before so that we would be able to demonstrate several features all in one wave and fairly quickly. The students were most interested in the "replay" function, so I simply ran through the wave we had prepared. It showed how to embed images, video, maps, and gadgets (such as the "wikify" gadget which turns a term into a link to its Wikipedia page).

Next we moved on to Blogger, and I must say that I was a bit surprised by the fact that only 3 of the students blogged. I proceeded to open my Blogger account and showed them a few unpublished posts in the edit view.

Lastly, I covered Linkedin, where I went to the search window and typed a relevant job title - the students asked me to use "Game Designer", and low and behold, there were thousands of game designers displaying, essentially their entire resumes, for public view on Linkedin. I also showed students a few Linkedin Groups I'm an active member of, such as the Government of Canada group, and a few social media focused groups. They were intrigued, but not necessarily convinced. I then pointed out that many of the senior managers/vps and professors that I can't find on Facebook and Twitter, I am able to find on Linkedin and that the median income on the site is $100K, which says something.

Although in the case of some tools, students seemed skeptical as to their professional value, I think overall, they enjoyed the presentation, and I thoroughly enjoyed presenting too!

At the end, I took a photo of the class and tweeted it, and that if they'd like to see the photos, they should visit Twitter. :)