Filed Under (Blogging How To, Social Networking) by Jeff Hino on 02-07-2010

Tidbits of wisdom for social media as dictated by the stars, planetary alignment, moon phases, and other Earth-bound sources*.

Taurus: April 20-May 20. Not a good day to be boring. Express yourself today about what you know, and do it with passion. Don’t think of the facts, but instead think “story”. It’s the most powerful media. And follow your bliss today. It’s infectious.

Gemini: May 21-June 21. Try not to “push” your content today: celestial bodies indicate that we are in a “pull” market.

Cancer: June 22-July 22. Passing along other’s wisdom is something that is best used in moderation. The planets are concerned that you might overuse hashtagging when you are orbiting in the Twittersphere.

Horoscope Leo: July 23-August 22. You are filled with compelling, creative energy today — so create something new that uses your own voice and expands your personal brand.

Virgo: August 23-September 22. Be authentic and put your attitude in your stories. Romance–well, let’s say more effective relationships with your audience– will follow! It’s a good time to make new friends, and to expand socially.

Libra: September 23-October 23. You are a major trailblazer today, so get out there and create great content that will bring the eyes of the world to your website. Your audacious spirit can make a big difference for you.

Scorpio: October 24-November 21. Today looks auspicious for inserting yourself into other people’s online conversations. Build bridges and contacts by being heard regularly. It’s a good time to show off your connectedness and reach for your potential.

Sagittarius: November 22-December 21. Express your essence through your blog today, and know that you will be ushering new contacts to your website. Remember that Twitter and Facebook will work to your advantage to bring new relationships to your blog.

Capricorn: December 22-January 19. Your creative energies are in alignment, and you should be ready to make the most of it. Create some new inroads with your use of video, audio, as well as the written word. Experiment a little today; but make your choices wisely and follow your strengths.

Aquarius: January 20-February 18. Direct your inquisitiveness outward today. Build your online relationships by asking your clients, “What can I do for you?” Remember, the universe is always asking WIIFM? Your energy will attract all sorts of wildly different individuals your way, so you can expect some interesting conversations.

Pisces: February 19-March 20. You are in a good position to create an online space that works for your communication. Be bold, and go where your audience is. But be cautious of those who will confuse policies versus best practices as you build your identity.

Aries: March 21-April 19. Your lucky numbers are 9,22,42, and 53. Be aware that 42 is particularly important at the cosmic scale.

* All the above aphorisms taken with a grain of cosmic salt from the author’s recent interactions at the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE) annual conference in St. Louis, and from a particularly invigorating presentation there by Gary Vaynerchuk discussing his ideas from his book “Crushing It: Why Now Is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion.”

A recent reference in the New York Times indicates the U.S. Army is close to declaring war on PowerPoint. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Times, “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” For many, PowerPoint has become “a way of knowing.” But is knowledge always best represented by a linear sequence of bullets? Are there alternatives?
No PowerPoint
The concept of a nonlinear presentation tool has been has been around for a while. Rather than lead your audience in a step-like manner, why not give them more control over the sequence of your presentation? If the group is interested in one or two aspects of your presentation, why should you lead them through four or five others? A nonlinear approach gives you the potential to respond to audience needs by altering your presentation to match those needs. With a nonlinear approach, you can assess audience clues, cues, and questions to move the presentation into more fertile and relevant topics.

I attended a very effective presentation on nonlinear storytelling that took it a step further and used audience response system clickers to query the audience on which path they wanted to take through the presentation.

How do you create a nonlinear presentation? In earlier blogs we have discussed Pachyderm, a nonlinear multimedia authoring tool. This open source web-based application allows a non-programmer to create media-rich flash presentations that incorporate text, graphics, videos, audio, and external links using a simple template-driven approach. Pachyderm is first and foremost a tool for creating interactive presentations for individual viewing on a browser, but if carefully designed, it could be a means to create nonlinear presentations for smaller groups. The newly released version 2.1.1 offers a toggle to increase font size for accessibility issues and could offer a solution for more intimate small group presentations.

Buzz has been growing about Prezi, a cloud-based nonlinear presentation design tool that offers a striking new paradigm for creating and delivering presentations. Rather than a linear sequence, Prezi acts more like a Google map of your information, letting you fly over an information landscape at will, zooming in to objects of interest—text, images, videos, links, etc—to pick up additional details. Prezi offers free access to public and educator versions, with 100MB of storage space. Additional features available are for an annual fee.

Prezi Map

A Prezi map.

In my first attempt at using Prezi, I found that I had merely taken a linear presentation and forced it into a nonlinear template. The result was disappointing. The power of Prezi’s nonlinear delivery was lost: zooming into information became just another transition effect linking my fixed linear slides. I realize now that using a tool like Prezi–like Pachyderm–requires rethinking how you plan and organize your thoughts. For example, rather than an outline, create a concept map. Use that to create a map that you can fly over, zooming in to key concepts and media at will, and in any sequence.

Here’s a showcase of Prezi examples. One that grabbed me is “The Future of Video” created by Jody Radzik from the Institute for the Future.

Note that Microsoft has just completed a beta test for an add-on for PowerPoint called pptPlex that provides similar nonlinear capacity (PC only).

Planning a nonlinear presentation using these tools or others will challenge you to rethink how you organize your information, and to just “let go” and give the audience more control over your presentation.

I am not dismissing traditional linear presentations with PowerPoint, Keynote, or other tools; I am challenging myself and others to consider an alternative when the topic lends itself to a new, fresh approach. If you give it a try, let us know how it works for you.

Filed Under (New Media, Social Networking) by Jeff Hino on 12-10-2009

There’s a lot of traffic on the blogosphere about best practices for social media. But we need to be cautious not to confuse best practices with “rules.” Many of our colleagues in higher education in general, and Extension in particular, are seeking some hard and fast policies about social media. Here are four misconceptions that could encourage the development of “rules” about social media, and why I think we should totally ignore them.

1. “Social media needs to be carefully monitored for accuracy.” There is a fear in industry of compromising proprietary information, that loose social lips will sink corporate ships. Educators have their own version: removing the center of information sharing from the subject matter expert will compromise the credibility and accuracy of information. Instead of seeing value in social interaction with knowledge, they fear it. They are no longer the sage on the stage. In the Information Age, we have been taught since grade school to check our sources, to ferret out accurate, unbiased information. In the Google Age, it’s a flat out survival skill. We need to trust people’s judgments, and get over it.

social rules quote52. “Social media needs to be controlled.” In some policy conversations it’s not uncommon to see the word “manage” used in the same sentence as social media. From my perspective, managed social media is an oxymoron. It is by its very nature unmanageable; it is creative chaos. But recognizing patterns in chaos is just what the human brain is designed to do. We’re good at it.

3. “Social media can waste valuable work time.” Is time spent interacting with social media yet another way for workers to shirk their duties to engage in personal communications? Some think so. But given that social media has surpassed email as the preferred means of communication, this makes no sense. That’s where your clients are, and your colleagues/employees need to be there, too. For many newbies, getting comfortable with social media will require playing with it. Industry understands this. “Make social media part of the job, just like email,” says ENGAGEMENTdb in their report evaluating how well the top 100 global brands are engaging their consumers using social media.

4. “Best practices are the same for all.” Because so much of what is published about best practices—and policies—comes from private industry, it’s only natural that many will look to them for ideas. But the drivers for industry—revenue and profit—will influence their approach to social media, and not always apply across the board to educational settings where social media will necessarily be practiced differently. Educators need to study what industry is saying about social media, and then apply it with their own twist.

That’s just four “rules.” There are more, I’m sure, and I look forward to your additions of what else to ignore.

Our office has been receiving numerous requests to help incorporate social media tools into a variety of communication and education projects. Our clients want help creating blogs, wikis, collaborative workspaces, and social networks.

We’ve responded with cautious optimism. We’re always happy when our clients want to try out something new with technology. But we also have to be frank and point out that if you create a social networking space, there is no guarantee that it will be used. You can’t mandate that your audience “be social.”
In several recent cases we suggested our clients survey their intended audience before launching into social media. Here are a few of the questions we’ve developed and have subsequently used in our surveys:

• What social media tools (if any) are your target audiences currently using?
• Do the audiences currently participate in collaborative work online?
• What is their comfort level with social media?
• How do they characterize their online technology profile? Are they toes-
over-the-edge pioneers or information grazers? Or something in-
• What features would they find useful? Working collaboratively on
projects? Accessing news and events? Sharing best practices?
Q&A? Chats? Tweets?

Read the rest of this entry »


Social media networking from Twitter and Facebook, to whatever the next hot idea that evolves has one rule for success. “Know Your Audience!” is rule number one in the world of interactive communication. The real issue is less what we know about our audiences , than why we need to know.

Our university and all of the land-grant and non-land-grant peers around the country and the world are grappling with a significant issue in the new media world. We have a lot of content, which we want to push out to our target learners. Following rule number one, we know what they need. I mean really, we’re the “experts,” right? It’s our job to know who they are and what they need.

Our problem is we’re heavy on content and light on engagement. Or so says, ADVERGIRL in her latest blog post.

She lists the top four universities for actual engagement using social media networks. I’ll save you the suspense, Oregon State University is not one of them. But I think the ideas these institutions are pursing offer interesting possibilities for Outreach and Engagement at OSU.

When we consider social networks as tools for our enterprise, too often we miss the point and obsess on the “social” aspect, as if they are something that can’t be used “professionally.” However, if you focus on the “network” part of the concept it is easy to see how and where our audiences can begin to gain value engaging with us. If our goal is reciprocal, i.e. learning from the interaction as much as telling someone what we think they need to know, then the possibilities for real communication seem to surface.

The question is do we have the understanding and interest to develop online social networks that can take advantage of what we know from 100 years of face-to-face education and training? As Clive Thompson points our in his Wired magazine blog, this will not come from managers and CEOs.  Effective use of social networking will come from those who best understand their audiences and peers. It will come from those folks anywhere in an organization that are already adept at networking and understand the fundamental value of being connected.

A social network is basically the foundation for an effective team. Teams of people who know each other from some level of face-to-face interaction can be more effective in the short run than virtual teams thrown together with a goal but no previous interaction. Pure logic, it seems.

Read the rest of this entry »

I recently had a family vacation turn into a nightmare. But that nightmare was mitigated in part due to the power of social networking.

There is a lot of discussion about the value of Web 2.0 tools in educational settings. But I want to share this decidedly personal experience about how a social networking tool—a blog— helped my family make it a through a time of extreme emergency and stress, both physically, and emotionally.

My wife takes her first sip of water after surgery.

My wife takes her first sip of water after surgery.

While staying with friends in Bonaire (in the Lesser Antilles, part of the A-B-C islands, 50 miles north off the coast of Venezuela) my wife suffered a life-threatening infection to her lower intestine. While Bonaire has a relatively effective local hospital, it quickly became obvious that my wife would need more sophisticated health facilities if she were to survive.

Skype was literally a lifesaver in the resulting frenzy of phone calls to contact our stateside insurance carrier and coordinate international communications between the hospital in Bonaire and distant health providers. Within eighteen hours, I was able to arrange an air ambulance to retrieve us from the tiny island and fly us to the nearest qualified medical facility in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

But now I found myself three thousand miles from home in an unfamiliar place with no friends, no family, no connection to the community, and my unconscious wife going into surgery. That’s when I found a whole new dimension to social networking.

A friend called to offer support, and told me about CaringBridge, a nonprofit, free online service developed to keep friends and family connected during critical illness, treatment and recovery. CaringBridge offered what amounted to a well-designed blog where I could publish our story to friends and family, keep them informed of progress with journal entries, and post pictures taken with my cell phone. As much as I liked phone calls from concerned friends and family, it would quickly become exhausting to repeat our drama to each caller. The blog solved this problem elegantly.

And most importantly, the blog provided a means for others to post messages in a guestbook, that I (and later my wife) and site visitors could read. It was here that I recovered my connection to friends and family that sustained and guided me through some very difficult emotional terrain. The power of a social network lies here, in developing community.

I have been very involved with Web 2.0 technologies, both at work and in my private life; but this particular incident will stand out in my memory as the most powerful on-line experience I have ever had.


When I worked as director of publications at the Soil and Water Conservation Society, I set up the SWCS network. Within minutes of invitations being sent out, people started joining, posting information, and forming groups on a variety of topics of interest to them—conservation photography, water quality monitoring, cover crops, etc.swcsnetwork

The networking technology was a necessary component, but one of the most interesting aspects of the network was the social experience. Members of the network began voluntarily taking on the responsibility of welcoming other new members. Old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, separated by geography, “bumped into each other” in forums in which they shared an interest.

The content generated in the network was user-centered. The old model of experts delivering information to audiences was, in this context, replaced by a network of individuals sharing information according to the needs of the network members.

So, I started thinking, social networks are social and technological, but are they educational? To answer that question, I had to start to understand the concept of social learning.

Read the rest of this entry »