Ask, and you shall receive — with help from social media

Facebook
Discussion on the Facebook group for Tidbits readers.

This Sunday my colleague Barb Iverson and I will give a workshop called “Web Productivity and Tech Tools Workout” at the Society of Professional Journalists conference in Washington, DC.

We’ve mapped out several cool topics to cover. This is the first of a few posts that will serve as “living handouts” for that workshop.

In my work as a journalist, consultant, blogger, trainer, and speaker, I’ve often found that the smartest thing I can do is surround myself with smart and relevant people. Therefore, for me, the main concrete benefit I’ve experienced from participating in social networking sites is the ability to quickly share knowledge with a trusted network of friends and colleagues.

I currently use two popular social networking services: LinkedIn and Facebook. One very useful feature of both services is that they allow you to easily pose questions within your personal network of contacts, or to other selected groups. Yeah, you could do this by personal e-mail, but it would be a major hassle.

Here’s how this can help your work and career (especially if you’re a journalist), and the basics of how to do it…

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One Laptop Per Child: Why Media Folks Should Care

Laptop.org
Don’t know what to do with a computer that looks like this? Don’t worry — you’re not the target market.

Lately I’ve been learning more about, and getting quite intrigued by, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. Yesterday I listened to an IT Conversations podcast talk by Michael Evans, VP of corporate development for Redhat, one of the leading producers of Linux and open-source technology. That really tied together for me why this project is so compelling.

Originally I’d thought this project was interesting but rather frivolous. I mean, when millions of kids are dying around the world every year from malnutrition, dirty water, preventable diseases, and toxic environments — let alone the lack of energy and communication infrastructure in many populous parts of the developing world — a laptop sounds a bit like like Disneyland.

But now I think I get it. Here’s what I find so compelling and significant about OLPC…

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Social Bookmarking in Plain English, and then some

Over at CommonCraft, Lee LeFever recently published a great basic video tutorial, Social Bookmarking in Plain English. Here it is:

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

Of course, there’s more you can do with social bookmarking than what Lee describes — he was just trying to cover the bare basics. For instance, you can use del.icio.us, a popular social bookmarking tool, to automatically create a daily post to your blog of all the links you’ve bookmarked in the last 24 hours. This is how I generate my links posts.

To do that, in your del.icio.us account click “settings.” Then under the “blogging” heading, click “daily blog posting.” After that you’ll have to fill in some geeky information. This feature only works with certain blogging tools, and it usually takes a little trial and error to get it working right, but it can be a great easy way to post more often to your blog while also getting all the other benefits of social bookmarking (which Lee’s video explains well).Now, if you use del.icio.us to create daily linkblog posts, then you’ll soon discover that you might want to have more than one del.icio.us account — one for posting links to your blog, and another for other stuff you want to remember and share but not necessarily post to your blog. If for that reason or any other you have more than one del.icio.us account, a hassle-free way to manage them is to get the del.icio.us complete add-on for the Firefox browser. I’ve been using that for a couple of years, and it’s brilliant.

Shared Docs: Gateway Drug to Wikis?

Chris Carfi, via Flickr (CC license)
Wiki maven Liz Henry of SocialText.

At the unconference segment of BlogHer 2007 in Chicago, I sat in on a small-group discussion about wikis (sites that can be collaboratively edited either by a defined group, or by anyone at all).

The discussion was led by one of my favorite wiki mavens, Liz Henry of Socialtext. I was glad that this group included some total wiki newbies (even wikiphobes) as well as wiki fans. That diversity of view was useful because, I’ve found, the concept of a wiki is rather alien and even suspicious to many people. It’s hard to give up the idea of one person having control over a document.

One thing that emerged from this discussion is that most of the wiki newbies or wikiphobes did know, and had used, shared documents via services such as Google Docs or Zoho. That concept was less alien to them than a wiki because it utilized familiar document types (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.) and because it solved a common problem — the frustration of a team working on a document passed around by e-mail.

That got us thinking: If you’re trying to introduce a team or community to wikis to aid some sort of collaboration, and if you’re meeting resistance or low adoption rates for the wiki, try working first with a shared document. Once they get used to the idea of collaborating on a document (any document, really) via the Web, wikis start to look more appealing and make more sense.

What do you think of this approach? Have you tried it? Did it work or not? Please comment below.

(NOTE: I originally published this item on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)