Connect(in)EDucation

I have been reading the book Connected by Dr Christakis and Dr Fowler, and I have to admit that they have managed to give me a whole new perspective on the issue of connections constructed in social networks and beyond. I have also read the blog post by Audrey Watters on the sharing of educational resources in and on social networks, and especially her views on Google+ and Twitter and what these might imply.

To be honest before I started using Twitter myself, and using it for real I never understood the real power of its potential for harvesting huge amounts of data and presenting it as knowledge into context. Reading through the blog post, reminded me of something which I came across in the book. What Twitter essentially builds upon is the power of the networks as connections are established within a cleverly constructed structure. What happens initially is that networks are established amongst the people or connections who are somehow related or considered as “trustworthy”. Most often these people know each other previously and physically and the connections between these people are in fact seen as ‘strong’ ties. However, research has shown that keeping connections only limited to these strong ties, might inhibit certain creativity, innovation and the ability to find solutions which go beyond, the mentality or culture of the circles which predominantly feature amongst people having strong connections. What Twitter does, is ultimately providing the capabilities of establishing what are termed as ‘weak’ or loose ties, which occur as a result of intermediary people in the network which help connect groups to other groups with differing individual capabilities. This is what happens when the power of the whole, is so much more than the power of the individual – the information spread is much more effective and successful and the drive towards a common goal is thus enhanced.

This can also be seen in the various guilds which are established in MMORPGs – the most succesful case study of which is World of Warcraft, is an embodiment of this concept. Strong connections which are established naturally as guilds form, give the group a steady direction, and a common goal to aim for built upon elements of trust which would have been established prior to the formation of the guild. The weak ties which are established following the natural guild formation, ensures creative capabilities, a more competitive drive and an attainment of knowledge and skills which is made up of the ‘whole’ rather than the individual.

So to come back to social networks, Twitter and Google+ the power which they hold is that of providing the right structure to facilitate these connections. How this is done seems to work differently for both Twitter and Google+ although inherently they may be based on the same principles. As research has shown, the most important thing is that for a successful enterprise, whether this is education or not, is the way the connections are established and maintained over time. Twitter has shown that it can do it, but can Google+ live up to the challenge now?

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Google+: is it a yes, no or too soon to say?

Well this morning, saw a lot of tweeting around the Google+, then read a bit about it and finally decided to get myself invited to it, and see what they “buzz” was all about.

In actual fact, as a first impression it is not too far off from the dreaded Facebook. Having said that, I am not an advocate of Facebook, although I am an advocate of the power of social media, and I, of course, admit that Facebook is really THE social network. It has indeed taken the world by storm and not just the tiny rock on which I happen to live.

What I don’t appreciate of Facebook is the triviality of the matters which arise, the language at times rather rude, or arrogant of the people commenting, the mediocre language of the masses if you wish. And that in reality, can happen with any SN and this includes Google+ if this picks up. The solution is of course, to delete my Facebook account so that I am no longer participative of the discussion of the 300 or so “friends” some of whom I hardly know, and hardly care about knowing what they are actually doing in their daily lives. But something, and don’t tell me what it is, keeps me back. Would I lose out on a chunk of information if I opt out (no matter how much I criticise it?) – so well I’m still in… still there. IF and if Google+ manages to pick up, it will be pretty much like it I suppose, but I keep thinking that maybe Google+ will not pick up with everyone, but only those who actually dare to switch one SN interface with another, and therefore I won’t be missing out, but maybe I might be with those few who are much less into triviality and more into things which matter in life.

So for the +, I think it’s a ***** star rating for the integration with all the Google apps of course – same profile accesses all the features and functions.

It’s a **** star rating for the circles… I mean it’s replicating the FB groups but the interface is much cleaner, nicer to work with too.

On the negative side, there is one FAIL for the lack of integration with the twitter app. The fact that you cannot tweet from it, or follow tweets, is something which definitely needs improvement and which I sincerely hope Google will do something about.

The next low star ** rating is for the notifications which are turned on by default – this really irritates me in SN networks… why on earth is that these features which bug you, and in FB’s face are also even privacy-related on by default? I think that most people have no idea that they need to turn these off in order to lessen influx of mail, or in FB’s case to retain some degree of privacy over your own face.

Another negative point is in the discussion thread, which seems to be rather inexistent and which therefore makes it more like FB and less like a discussion board – maybe give it that less trivial tone, and more of a serious kind of SN. But I wonder, would that work out for Google, and in the end – do we really want another product which is only triggered by mass trivialities?