Archive for the ‘things’ Category

Thing 4: Wikis

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

What’s a wiki?

A wiki is software that one or more people use to write and edit documents on the Web. The

wikiwiki, CC License

software is designed to be easy to use, and easy for people to cooperate in preparing materials. The collection of information put together with this type of software is also called a wiki.

The first wiki was developed by Ward Cunningham. The story goes that he remembered a Honolulu International Airport counter employee telling him to take the “Wiki” shuttle bus that runs between the airport’s terminals. According to Cunningham, “I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for ‘quick’ and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web. ”

The most famous wiki is Wikipedia, a project started by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001. Wikipedia is easy to search, and the information in articles with references or citations can be checked for accuracy. The project has over 3 million articles contributed by people throughout the world. At the time of this writing it has been translated into over 200 languages. Take a look at “Wikipedia: Statistics” for details.

There are several other special-purpose wikis such as Travelerspoint, a traveler’s wiki, Jurispedia, dedicated to world-wide law, and the collection Entertainment Wikis

A public wiki is likely to be indexed by one of the major search engines so results from wikis often come up in searches using a general-purpose search engine.

Usually, each wiki page has a subject, and the entire collection of pages within a wiki can be searched by keyword. By contributing to a wiki you are adding your knowledge to the Web, which makes it a richer and more informative resource. In some wikis, editors need to register to obtain a login and password in order to edit it. In others, there is no such requirement. In Wikipedia, for example, most pages can be edited by anyone, but having an account makes it more likely that your contributions will not be deleted by someone else. Wikis can be private or public.

One of the most famous wikis is Wikipedia, a collaborative encyclopedia with millions of entries on a wide variety of topics. Thousands of people throughout the world continue to create and edit its content.

How do they work?

A wiki allows anyone to easily update and upload content on the site, typically providing a simplified interface allowing editing, page creation, and collaborative writing.

  • Most wikis allow you to see the history of page changes. This is useful when you’d like to go back and see what a page looked like before. The page history shows the name of the person who edited the page if they have a login name attached to the content update. It’s also a way for people to republish information that may have been deleted inappropriately or incorrectly.
  • Some wiki software is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) enabled. This means that a person can add information easily without knowing any special markup language. Other wiki software has markup language that one has to learn. Usually if there is markup language the wiki will provide a user guide to help you.
  • Some wikis software allows you to tag the wiki pages with subject keywords. These keywords can sometimes appear in tag clouds

There are many free, highly customizable platforms, including the popular Wikispaces

You can find many types of wiki software at WikiMatrix.  Some are hosted, while some require download to your computer. Wikimatrix provides a “Wiki Choice Wizard” that helps you pick and compare software packages that have features that you need.

Things to read and see


1. Explore Wikipedia. What is on the main page? Determine the copyright status of the material in Wikipedia.

2. In doing some research I came across the article “Unearthing the Truth About Organic Food,” by Dennis T. and Alex A. Avery, and it’s posted on a Web site produced by the Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI). Use Wikipedia to find information about CGFI. Then use Wikipedia to see who the major sponsors of the group that supports the projects of CGFI.

3. Try your hand at editing a Wiki page. I’ve sent each student an invitation (to their UMW email address) to join in the wiki  at Accept the invitation. Working with another person try your hand at one of these.

  • Things to do this summer
  • Improvements to UMW
  • Things that are done well at UMW
  • The future of the Internet.

Thing 3: Social Networking

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
social networking

About Social Networking

Social networking sites offer ways to not only create an online presence, but also to find others online and to establish links to one’s own personal online ‘social network.’ The social network is based around creating links of friendship to others online within the social networking community, which is reflected in social networking site names such as “Friendster.”

Six Degrees, which began in 1997 and shut down in 2001, was one of the earliest social networking sites (the name is from “six degrees of separation,” from a “small world” experiment by Yale University psychologist Dr. Stanley Milgram on social interconnectedness in 1967). Among the largest and best known sites are Facebook and MySpace, but there are also others such as Plurk. Some social networking sites are especially popular in particular countries such as Google’s Orkut, which is heavily used in Brazil; others focus on a particular interest area such as business and professional networking at Linked In, or a variety of other hobbies and shared interests at Ning and MeetUp.

As we think about social networking beyond the technology we can think that the topic of social networking is more profound than the applications we use. Here are two TED talks that amplify the notion of social networking.

How Does It Work?

Users of social networking sites register an account and then complete a profile page. Once this is done, a variety of social networking and linking options become available such as finding and ‘friending’ (establishing reciprocal links with) other users, joining a group, and/or becoming a ‘fan’ of another user. Users can post daily updates about themselves and see updates about their friends; they can also visit friends’ pages, send messages, and post comments. For some users, social networking is replacing e-mail for many of their communications.

While many sites focus around online social interaction, on other sites such as MeetUp, users can find and join groups which schedule local area activities, such as hikes, bicycling, or discussions. Some sites such as Facebook and Myspace feature ability to add customizations, plugins and widgets such as for playing online games, videos, music, and showing artworks or book collections.


A number of concerns have been raised dealing with the expectation of privacy in these social networks,a nd the amount of privacy guaranteed.

One the one hand, some groups (typically the over-30 crowd) raise concerns about the notion of exposing one’s name, email address, interests, groups to others – some known, some unknown – within a social network implemented via technology such as Facebook. They balk at having a lower expectation of privacy in these environments than in their traditional  networks. Others though, readily join the Facebook and other Internet networks and give out personal information without giving it a second thought, or so it seems. The following articles address these issues.

Most recently Facebook changed the way it deals with what some thought was private or personal information. They put practices into place that were contrary to the expectation of privacy of Facebook’s members.

Hands On

Take a look at Plurk, Ning and MeetUp and write a summary of their differences.

Read these articles regarding privacy on Facebook.
A Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users

If you don’t have a Facebook account, create one.

As a member of Facebook examine your privacy settings based on the recommendations and concerns in the articles listed above.

Write a blog post about social networking after completing the items above.

CC License for image above / CC BY 2.0

Thing 2 – Microblogging

Monday, May 21st, 2012

About Microblogging

Microblogging is a form of communication that allows users to publish short pieces (usually 140 characters) of content on the Internet. The content may include text and/or links to articles, pictures, videos, or other types of media. Microbloggers create profiles and post information that others may or may not “follow.”  Twitter is currently the most popular microblogging tool.

It allows users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets).  A user sends a tweet  to their Twitter account using the Twitter Web site, Web-enabled cell phone, or through another Web-based application. A very few countries allow tweets to be sent via SMS (short message system). The tweets are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to

other users who have signed up to “follow” them.

Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, SMS (text messaging), RSS, or through applications such as TwitterMobileTweet DeckFacebook, and Twidget.

Twitter has inspired other micro-blogging sites, including  Yammer (seeWikipedia’s list of other micro-blogging services), as well as many third-party applications, ultimately making the service easier to use as well as wildly more popular.

How Does Twitter Work?

Signing up for a Twitter account is free:

Twitter users can have “followers” to their post, or “follow” others’ posts.

Posts can appear on the Twitter home page for all to see, or posts can be made private, sent only to groups of friends. Twitter groups, trends and tags can be seen on

To access information relayed via Twitter, use the Twitter search engine:

There is also a “Yellow Pages” directory for Twitter:

Twitter’s Impact on Research: Searching the Live Web

While Twitter began as a tool primarily used by individuals to let others in their community know what they were doing, it has grown to be a significant communication tool for institutions, companies, journalists (including “citizen” journalists documenting local news they have witnessed), and more.  Some recent events such as the Iranian election ,  the 2010 earthquake in Haiti,  and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan show the power of Twitter to document events that the mainstream media is unable to cover.  By searching Twitter traffic using, we can follow live breaking news stories as they happen.  At any time of the day or night Twitter is capturing news.  The news may be as  mundane as a traffic jam on a major thoroughfare, or as tragic as a tsunami in Japan, but for those affected by an event, any news may be important.

An Important Caveat:

While Twitter traffic may be useful for research, you can’t rely on the information to be authoritative or even truthful.   It’s important to evaluate the information that is posted and not rely on it without first investigating its veracity.

Learn More About It


Watch the Common Craft Videos:

Cheat Sheet and Articles to Read

Hands on Activities

1. Sign up for a personal Twitter account at Click on “Sign up now” and follow the directions.

After signing up your account, for more information about how to use Twitter, see:

2. You can protect their tweets so that only those who you approve to follow you can see what you are tweeting. This will prevent spammers from viewing your account and keep your tweets protected from those who you do not want to see your account.

  • >Go to “Settings” in the top right hand corner.
  • Under the “Account” tab scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Protect my tweets” box.
  • Once this is checked whenever someone tries to follow you, you will receive notification that requires you to approve their viewing of your profile.

3.  Find a friend or a news agency or other publication that you’d like to follow.

  • Type in a friend’s name, college or university, media site, or library that you would like to follow.
  • Choose who you would like to follow by clicking on the “Follow” button on the top left of your screen.
  • Now every tweet that this person or institution posts will appear in your timeline to view.

4. Search Twitter for events happening in country other than the U.S.
Go to to access Twitter Search. Type in a topic with a country’s name to see the real time tweets that people are posting about this subject. An example would be, “afghanistan NATO” or “italy earthquake” After clicking on “search” you will be shown all of the real time tweets that people are posting on this topic.

5. Report on your blog what you found.

Thing 1 – Blogs

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

About Blogs & Blogging

A blog is a frequently updated Web page that contains links to resources, personal commentaries, and opinions. In the mid-1990s, when blogs first made their appearance on the Web, there were maybe a few dozen in existence. According to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008, there are over 133 million blogs. In 2004, the number was around 4.3 million.


Take a look at  “WHO: Bloggers, Brands and Consumers – Day 1 SOTB 2010,” to read some descriptive statistics about who is blogging. If you have your own blog, then where do you fit in to those statistics?

According to Wired Magazine, Jorn Berger coined the phrase “weblog” in 1997. The Economist wrote in 2006 that “in 1999, another user, Peter Merholz, playfully broke the word into ‘we blog’, and somehow the new term—blog—stuck as both a verb and a noun.” Justin Hall is referred to as the “the founding father of personal blogging.” (

One of the reasons why blogs have become so popular is the simplicity of publishing them. There is no need for the author to know HTML, and there are free blog automated publishing tools, such as Blogger,, that make it easy for anyone to create a blog. Blogs are often defined as personal online journals, operated by individuals who compile lists of links and comment on these links to provide information that interests them, with new links on the top of the page, and older ones at the bottom. Recently, however, blogging culture has grown to include political campaigns, institutions such as libraries and museums, and virtually any entity that wants to create a community of interest around particular topics.

Blogs are also a good way to uncover news that the regular media cannot or will not cover. It is important to keep in mind that because virtually anyone can publish a blog, you must evaluate the information the blogger has provided. Make sure you can verify the author’s credentials before relying on the information that he or she has published.

How does blogging work?

There are many free, highly customizable platforms, including the most popular:

To compare blogging platforms by criteria including hosting features or system requirements, use

To search blog contents, use a blog search engine:

Much of the value of a blog is in the interaction between the author and the readers and among the readers. This takes place in the comments section of any blog post.


Videos & Articles about blogs and blogging



For You to Do:

  • Read the Wikipedia entry on the topic “blog.” Make a list of at least three things that you learned about blogs from reading the entry.
  • Post those three things as a blog entry to your blog.
  • Post your blogging experiences as a comment to this blog post.

Ask me a question.
Links for images:

If we have time. – Nicholas Carr: The Shallows on the Colbert Report, June 30 2010.  (about 5 minutes)