SHEEN Sharing

A Project of the Scottish Employability Co-ordinators' Network

Improvements to This Blog: Feedback Still Welcome!

During the course of SHEEN Sharing’s initial nine month phase, we received quite a bit of feedback re this blog.

Some of this arose from the original ambiguity about the blog’s purpose.  While we were getting started, this blog was both a dissemination tool for the project, and a sandbox/demonstrator for the ECN to see how different Web 2.0 tools worked.  So, we had not only project news, documents and postings about how to use Web 2.0 tools, but also various feeds and widgets in the right-hand columns demonstrating how other tools and tags could be used to enrich the content here.  Some ECN members were very keen at the start, and tried using the blog to post about things they wanted to discuss with the rest of the network, or employability resources they were interested in.

Now, we are much clearer about what we want to achieve and which tools we want to use for which purpose.  We are using our Netvibes page as our one-stop-shop site, kind of a virtual “repository”, for disseminating quality employability resources to the ECN’s stakeholders.  We are using Diigo for two purposes: one is for co-ordinators to save, share, discuss and disseminate their favourite employability resources, the other is to use Diigo’s excellent social networking tools to provide safe online group discussion spaces.  You can see how using Diigo to save and share resources can feed directly into our Netvibes page with no additional work by the ECN by looking at this tab and this tab.

We are using this blog, plus our Twitter account, to disseminate the SHEEN Sharing project itself.  It will stand as a record of the proecess we went through and what we achieved.

With this in mind, I have removed several of the “sandbox” widgets with feeds from the right-hand columns, and also re-arranged and re-configured the remaining items there in a way that I hope will make the blog easier to find your way around.  Please do have a look and feed back to me if you can suggest any improvements.

I’ve also updated the SHEEN Sharing Project page and several of the Scottish Employability Projects’ pages, to indicate progress made.  In particular, check out the pages:

Sharing Student Experiences Trial Group


Voluntary Sector Project Trial Group: SHEEN Placements

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Bookmarking, Group Spaces Online, Microblogging, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Dissemination, Social Networking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on the first SHEEN Sharing Diigo Training Day

Trepidatious no more
I’m sitting on the train home to Glasgow from Aberdeen after our first SHEEN Sharing Diigo training day. It was a gorgeous blazing hot sunny day. I approached this training with some trepidation. It felt a bit like Cherie and I had gone out on a limb in recommending Diigo as the tool of choice for the Scottish Employability Co-ordinators’ Network. On paper (and in my experience) it looked very close to meeting all of the ECN’s requirements, but getting people to try a new tool is something different. Didn’t feel we had much of a fall-back position if they didn’t like it, or if they found it too hard to bother learning to use.

Stoked by the chaos and keenness
Anyway, I’m absolutely stoked. I remember when I used to run training sessions on the Stòr Cùram repository, and I’d have my slides and lesson plan and handouts lined up. Then they’d see the first slide, log onto the repository, and proceed to ignore me for the rest of the session except to call out questions in a chaotic manner while digging hell-for-leather into the software. It was a bit like that today. You know it’s gonna work when they get on with it without you.

Getting started on Diigo: a community of practice in miniature
In true community of practice fashion, James (Robert Gordon University) ended up practically training Joy (Aberdeen University) under my nose, because he had already not only imported his bookmarks from Firefox, he’d installed the Diigo Toolbar and pretty much taught himself to do the bookmarking, highlighting and annotating of Web resources that is the key to Diigo’s goodness. I’d not wanted to burden participants overly before the session, and had felt guilty about even asking them to get Diigo user accounts and import their bookmarks. I wasn’t sure about how the latter would succeed, at home or in their offices with different OS/browser setups. I’ve found that Diigo can be slow and buggy when importing bookmarks from file from browsers or other bookmarking services. I also hadn’t wanted to get involved in trying to get folk to install the Diigo Toolbar until we got into the training session. The thing is, once you have the Diigo Toolbar installed, you can import your browser bookmarks in a couple of clicks, without going through the export file / import file palaver. Which James worked out for himself.

Look out future Diigo trainees: you’ll need to prepare!
Pam (St Andrews University) had also got herself a user account and imported her Delicious bookmarks (with tags intact) in preparation for the training day. She’d installed the Diigo Toolbar without realising she’d done it. It’s that quick and easy. So I have fewer qualms about asking folk to do this before the next two training sessions. I’m further pushed to this by the fact that university computer labs won’t let you install new software in the training session, so my original idea of showing them how to do it is moot anyway.

University computer labs not the best places for Web 2.0 training sessions?
Speaking of university computer labs: we had planned a 3-hour training session, of which I thought we needed every minute. Lucky we didn’t need every minute, because it took us an hour to get sorted out so we could start. First off, I’d asked those that had them to bring wifi-enabled laptops (by no means a given in the ECN)- luckily all three of today’s participants had them. Otherwise we would’ve had to let some folk use the computer lab PCs, on which they couldn’t have the Diigo Toolbar installed, which was no use at all. However, the next fly in the ointment was that the wifi signal wasn’t strong enough in the lab! So we had to go to another room, get everyone on the wifi there, after much faffing. In the end though, James and Pam were so far ahead of where I’d expected them to be, and the group was so small, we still managed to get through everything I’d wanted to cover in two hours. The next two training groups are bigger though, so I’ll need to be on the ball about making sure we have adequate technical support beforehand.

Joy of Joy: and getting quick help from Diigo
We even managed to get Joy up to speed right there in the session, even though she hadn’t had time to do any prep. It helped that she doesn’t bookmark much anyway (she relies on browser history, and Google, which I can related to!) so we didn’t have to install any prior bookmarks. She was the only one using IE though and we found that the edit bookmark popup wouldn’t appear for her when she tried to edit tags for a bookmark. I was off straight away Tweeting @diigo for help- and they responded really quickly. We didn’t get that problem solved by the end of the session but it was impressive and comforting to see how on-the-ball they were- for the participants as well as for me. We pretty much ganged up on Joy and told her to get Firefox anyway.

Sharing student experiences via Diigo Webslides and MediaWiki
Pam had asked if she could speak with me after the training to get some support and ideas around her idea for a SHEEN Sharing Student Experiences Group. She wants to better be able to both encourage students to share case studies of their work placement experiences for the St Andrews Careers wiki (e.g. see their School of Modern Languages page, with some student experiences at the bottom), and to find a better way of presenting said case studies. Well, I am certain she’s already doing a good job extracting the case studies from students, however, we both thought a little added bribe of offering a draw for an iPod or an Amazon voucher might help; I didn’t really think offering a more Web2.0ish method than the wiki form she’s already set up would help. What we did come up with was using Diigo’s Lists and Webslides feature, which lets you set up a live Web slideshow of links you have bookmarked*, to showcase the case studies (the main problem being the gnarly wiki structure which made it difficult for Pam to provide easy access to them). We examined how you can publish a Webslides List slideshow to many and varied places, and also how you can get an iFrames widget and embed it straight into a site, including, if you have the correct extension installed, into a MediaWiki page. However, we don’t yet know if her university’s IT manager will allow the latter, so she’ll be happy with the former, and just make a link in the wiki (and anywhere else she can think of). They’ve had a few issues with students not wanting their personal stories and pictures being too widely publicised, so she’ll just be keeping it on St Andrews Careers site, and she’ll be creating different Webslides shows for different subject and discipline areas. We also decided to start using the Diigo Groups feature to start an ECN discussion about collecting and disseminating student experiences.

The Twitter open plan office
Pam also mentioned that she misses working in an open plan office- she enjoyed the face to face chatting, laughing and immediacy of ideas and help today. She’s already trying Twitter: I know Cherie and I think Twitter would work much better as a virtual open plan office for the ECN (distributed as they are around Scotland) if more joined, but one thing I promised was to send her the blog post about setting up TwitterFox so she can have it at least sitting in the corner of the Web while working.

A SHEEN Sharing case study for Diigo?
Maggie Tsai at Diigo had emailed me a week or so ago asking if I could submit a case study of our use of Diigo in SHEEN Sharing. I’ve held off responding until now because I just wasn’t sure how well it would go down with the ECN group. But I’m feeling more confident now. I’ll be emailing her back this week.

* For an example of a Webslides slideshow, here’s one showcasing four examples of Netvibes and Pageflakes used for projects that I put together as a List of links on Diigo:

June 29, 2009 Posted by | Bookmarking, Group Spaces Online, Microblogging, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Events & Meetings, Social Networking | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Diigo Training Dates and Venues

Look here (and save this URL) for details re our upcoming Diigo training days. I’ll update this page as soon as possible with further details such as maps, exact times and parking instructions. If you haven’t already done so, please email me your RSVP regarding which training day you want to attend.


*** All participants: please download and follow these instructions before coming to your Diigo training session. The instructions are to get you a Diigo account, get the Diigo Toolbar installed on your computer, and get your existing bookmarks and favorites imported into Diigo before we start ***


29 June, 12-3pm, Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University.

*** Update: read my reflections on the first training day here ***

Contact our kind host James Dunphy re parking or other venue queries.

Please bring a wifi-enabled laptop if you have one!

Venue details: Room A52 in the St Andrews Street Building (Aberdeen AB25 1HG). This building is around 15mins walk from the train station:

21 July, 12-4pm, Glasgow, Strathclyde University.

Contact our kind host Cherie Woolmer re parking or other venue enquiries.  Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Please bring a wifi-enabled laptop if you have one!

Venue details: Computer Lab Room 6.34, 6th Floor, Graham Hills Building, 50 George Street, Glasgow G1 1QE.

We’ll meet for lunch at 12 midday in the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE) in the Graham Hills Building, after which Cherie and I will take you upstairs to the main venue.

Maps from Strathclyde website in various formats here – make sure you go into Graham Hills at the 50 George Street entrance, not the 40 George Street entrance.  It’s about a 10 minute walk from Glasgow Queen Street Station, and is the same place where we’ve met with Cherie many times.  Come to CAPLE on the 2nd floor.

23 July, 10am-1pm, Edinburgh University (King’s Buildings, a wee bit out of city centre).

Contact our kind host Ruth Donnelly re parking.  Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Venue: James Clerk Maxwell Building (rear entrance), King’s Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JF (adjacent to the
Michael Swann Building).

However, it’s difficult to find the correct entrance so we will meet Ruth Donnelly and Gavin McCabe at the Michael Swann Building and they will take us to the venue.

Directions and map for the venue available here.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Bookmarking, Group Spaces Online, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Events & Meetings | , , , , | 1 Comment

Next phase under way: a community ECN site plus a lovely resource sharing tool

SHEEN Sharing to date: many tools, little time
Since we kicked off in January this year, SHEEN Sharing has shown Scotland’s employability co-ordinators a lot of Web 2.0 stuff, possibly to the point of overwhelm at times. This phase has been necessary just to make sure folk start getting a glimpse of what’s out there; you can’t elicit decent requirements from people if they don’t know what’s possible. We’ve also been doing a lot of listening to the ECN’s priorities, and thinking hard about ways to meet them in the short time available. We’re now ready to recommend a couple of tools, only one of which the ECN will need to “learn”.

Priority One: sharing and recommending employability resources
While our plan to work with small groups of co-ordinators and other stakeholders in trialling different social media and other Web 2.0 tools is still burbling away in the background, the most important priority is the one that brought this project into being in the first place. The Employability Coordinators’ Network want a way to share, discuss and recommend good quality employability resources, and a way to make sure those resources (and discussion on their quality and use) can be made available to current and future stakeholders. We knew we didn’t have the resource for a formal, sustainable repository, so we’ve been investigating the freely available tools out there currently which make resource sharing and recommending, and community building, easy.

A one-stop shop for employability resources: Netvibes
We’ve now established that Netvibes will let us set up a project site for free, which will allow a place for the ECN and other stakeholders to come and find resources that the ECN has shared and discussed. Netvibes does this without us having to build a website; it pulls in stuff from anywhere on the Web using newsfeeds and widgets, and presents them in any structure you like. It can also have a public face (for stuff you want to push out to different stakeholders) and a private face (just for those with logins).

I can set up the Netvibes page; we don’t need ECN folks to do anything but feed back on how that’s looking.

A place for a community to share and discuss resources, and build a wider network of interested people
We’ve also found the wonderful social bookmarking site Diigo, which does a lot more than store your bookmarks. It meets most of our requirements, for both private and public group activities around sharing, discussing, recommending and commenting on resources.

I can set up Netvibes to make public the results of this resource sharing and discussion on Diigo (only those bits we want to be public of course!). This can be done in as fine-grained a way or as broad a way as possible. For instance, we can have a section on our Netvibes pages just for “anything related to employability”, and one on some narrow topic of interest, such as PDP for international post-grads. We could have a feed out of Diigo, appearing in the Netvibes page, just for our own group discussions on third-sector voluntary placements, alongside a feed listing everything being discussed around the world on Diigo by anyone on this topic, and some individual feeds from prominent blogs and websites in this domain. The possibilities are many and varied.

Both Cherie and I have been playing with Diigo’s numerous features in the past few weeks, and we’ve both used the words “falling in love” to describe our reaction to this very cool free tool. And don’t worry: as previously mentioned, if you are already using Delicious for your Web-based social bookmarking, it couldn’t be easier to use them both with no extra effort, or to swap over to Diigo.

The next ECN meeting
We’d like to use our slot at the next ECN meeting on June 1st to show you Netvibes and Diigo properly, with some prototype stuff set up so you can get a feel for them. We’ll be taking feedback and suggestions at this point.

Training on Diigo
From there, if folk are happy with the approach we are recommending, and with the support of the SHEEN Sharing Development Group, we’d like to set up some training sessions to get folk started on using Diigo to share, recommend and discuss resources. Our hope is that this wonderful site will take over from the ECN JISCmail list as the place to go when discussing and sharing resources with other employability co-ordinators. And of course, finding resources again that you’ve previously heard about or saved.

Finally, Cherie has noted to me that one of the things she finds exciting about Diigo is the way it allows you to find other resources out there that you hadn’t previously known of, and indeed to come across other networks of people with similar interests who may be of use to you in your work.

So, ECN members: see you on June 1st! And don’t forget to drop into one of our weekly Wednesday SHEEN Sharing webinars if you’d like a preview, a taster, or any other help with anything SHEEN Sharing related!

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Bookmarking, Group Spaces Online, Resource sharing sites, SHEEN Project Dissemination, SHEEN Project Events & Meetings, Social Networking | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diigo: a match made in SHEEN Sharing heaven?

I spent some time this week digging deeper into Diigo, to see if it is as close a fit to SHEEN Sharing requirements as it looked at first.  It’s certainly very promising, and I’d like to show it to the ECN in detail soon and recommend it as the way forward for the core work of the SHEEN Sharing project.

Diigo is like a next generation Delicious: it’s social bookmarking with the ability to also append comments and discussions on resources to the resources links, and to highlight and comment on sections of resources you’ve linked to.  Being a Web2.0 tool, you can then expose these resources, comments, discussions and highlights to other applications using feeds and widgets.  This means that the ECN can use Diigo to share resources and their experiences with them in one common place, but the results of this can be picked up and exposed in any site or repository.

This post goes into a bit more detail about how all this actually works, with special reference to how SHEEN Sharing might use it.

Web-based social bookmarking

Delicious is the widely used tool for this: instead of saving your favourites or bookmarks in your browser, you save them to your account on the website; this way, it doesn’t matter what computer you are on, you can always access them.  You can import your browser bookmarks into Delicious when you start.

  • You can save bookmarks as private, or public.
  • You can add descriptions/comments to them.
  • You can tag them with different keywords to help you and others find them.
  • You can make newsfeeds of your public bookmarks available elsewhere, for instance in your Facebook page, your Netvibes site, or on your blog.
  • You can share them with your network of Delicious contacts.
  • You can create feeds based on particular tags, for instance, you can make a feed of everything tagged “employability” by anyone using Delicious, or a feed just of resources you have tagged “employability”.

Some examples of Delicious feeds can be seen on this blog, in the far right-hand column.  We decided at the start of the project, as an experiment, to tag anything useful we knew of on the web about employability with the tag “sheensharing”.  We then put a feed from Delicious pulling all resources tagged “sheensharing” into the blog.  This was just done as an example, to show how social bookmarking and tagging can be used.

Diigo is a next-generation social bookmarking site.  It includes features for sharing and exposing annotations of, discussions around, and highlighted portions from resources, as well as really useful group features, allowing groups with specific interests to discuss and share resources.

Diigo: highlighting, rating and discussing resources

  • You can highlight a portion of text on a website and bookmark this.  Here’s an example: I’ve highlighted a portion of a job ad relating to employability in the Guardian:×64.  Follow the link and see the highlighted portion.
  • You can add a comment to a resource.  This one is a different job ad in the Guardian, with a comment appended:×67.  Click on “comments” in the Diigolet bar at the top.
  • You can comment on a highlighted portion of text, or add a “sticky note”.
  • You can expose these comments and discussions about resources publicly using newsfeeds.

Diigo lists

Diigo groups

  • You can create groups within Diigo, and belong to any number.
  • You can create feeds and widgets exposing groups’ shared bookmarks, including comments and discussions on the resources.
  • Groups have forums for general discussions, and these forums can be exposed via feeds and widgets, or be kept private.
  • Groups can be set up to auto-post to a blog: see the previous post here for an example, using a trial group I set up called “Employability”.
  • You can set up a Group Tag Dictionary which recommends tags to group members, making it easier to create feeds based on tags you’ve all agreed to use for various topics.
  • You can have a private group, where noone but group members can see forum discussions, comments and annotations on resources; you can also belong to public groups; when you save a bookmark with annotations you get to choose which group you are saving the comment and bookmark to, and you can edit this later.  So discussion can take place in a private group, but if you want to share something publicly you can do that too.
  • Within groups, you can vote for resources (it’s a basic “thumbs up”, not star ratings, and you can’t expose these votes externally yet).

Diigo and Delicious

  • You can import your browser bookmarks or favourites into Diigo.
  • You can import your Delicious bookmarks into Diigo.
  • You can set up Diigo so that when you save, describe and tag a bookmark in Diigo, it is automatically saved, described and tagged in your Delicious account too.  This means any existing feeds or widgets you have set up in Delicious will still work.  It also means you have an effortless belts and braces approach- if anything stops working in Diigo, it will still work in Delicious, and vice versa.

Diigo and Netvibes

We’re trialling using Netvibes as a central gathering and dissemination point for resources shared and recommended via the ECN.  Netvibes lets you put any number of “blocks” or widgets into it so it’s a one-stop-shop with little windows into feeds and pages and tools from other sites.

  • You can put a block in Netvibes from a Diigo group; you’ll see resources shared publicly within that group, along with tags, descriptions, comments, discussions, and highlighted portions of those resources.
  • For each resource you can either view all the Diigo commentary on the resource, or view the resource directly (you can toggle easily between these in Netvibes).
  • You can link straight from that block by tag, by user, by group, and by resource, and go straight into the relevant place in Diigo.
  • You can have a block in Netvibes showing a public group’s  forum discussions.
  • You can have a block in Netvibes showing your resource list slideshow.
  • You can have blocks in Netvibes based on feeds for specific tags, e.g. a block showing everything tagged “employability”.  This means you can have a fairly fine-grained structure within Netvibes, making it easier for visitors to the Netvibes page to find things on the main topics of interest.

Things to note

  • You can’t (yet) set up feeds for groups by tag within the group into Netvibes (or anywhere much).  They are working on this, but it being a free service, no telling when it might come.
  • All group activities are either public or private according to the public or private setting of the individual group so you have to make sure you set things up properly and folk understand what they are doing when they bookmark and discuss resources.
  • Diigo doesn’t allow you to upload resources, it’s for link-sharing only; for those creating their own resources and wanting to share those, they would have to use another method of making the resources available online, then bookmarking them in Diigo.  Alternatively, all resources of this nature can be shared via groups on other services, and feeds and widgets from these services can also be exposed via Netvibes.
  • Examples of how all this looks in Netvibes will be made available very soon.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Bookmarking, Group Spaces Online, Resource sharing sites, Tagging, Using Newsfeeds | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Examples of NetVibes for project dissemination

We’ve all realised fairly quickly that a blog like this, while a good tool for project dissemination and a great way to get started as a sandbox and exemplar of using Web2.0, is not a good place for the complexity of knowledge-sharing requirements at SHEEN Sharing.  We need a space that can pull in resources in a well-organised and structured way, make them available to different interest groups, and allow “push” out again to other interested sites and services (e.g. HEA EvidenceNet).  That space needs to be fairly easy to maintain and self-sustaining, and it needs to be able to interoperate with all the other Web2.0 tools folk in the employability arena might be using.

We looked at Elgg, which allows you to create a website/portal type space pulling in a lot of different Web2.0 feeds, blogs, Twitterstreams, etc.  But Elgg requires a local server, and some technical expertise, neither of which are within the project scope.  Nonetheless, to see an example, look at this JISC-funded communities of practice project Elgg site: Emerge.

We’ve also looked at Netvibes and Pageflakes.  We have some great exemplars of NetVibes being used in the way that the ECN would like to use a space like this.  It can be organised into tabs by subject/interest area, or any other criteria, and it can very simply be composed of feeds and lists and bookmarks and Twitter feeds from all over the Web.  But don’t try to imagine it.  Here are some really good examples:

Connected Practice: Researching Social Services in the Network Society

This is the NetVibes page of Neil Ballantyne at IRISS in Glasgow; even though he has set it up to reflect his own interests, it really looks like a project site, and it is easy to see how the sort of structure he has given it could be used in SHEEN Sharing.  Note- all the “blocks” under all the tabs are dynamically composed of feeds from other sites: blogs, journals, etc.  Also, it looks pretty.  Neil is a one-man project!

Innovation in Public Services

This is a really pretty one; it looks like it’s had some professional design input.  It’s a neat example of the use of a NetVibes site to support a community of practice and provide a one-stop-shop both for the CoP to visit, and for it to push out things it is interested in (e.g. via blogs).  Worth a good hunt around: it should be fairly clear where things have been locally created and where they have been pulled in via feeds.  Really good use of feeds based on searches of blogs and Delicious tags too, so you’re pulling in stuff from all over the Web on a daily basis, not just the stuff you already know about.

The Rhizome Project

This Eduserv-funded project on digital identities’ NetVibes page is not so pretty, but nice and clean nonetheless (I like it anyway).  Just a good contrast to the above: a project using this tool to create something that will live on beyond the project’s end.

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Group Spaces Online, SHEEN Project Dissemination, Web2.0 Tools, Tips and Tricks | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tips and Tricks: Getting Started with Twitter

Wondering what Twitter is, exactly? Not sure why you’d want to get started using Twitter? Wondering what the benefits might be? See my previous post on Twitter, and also my newer post on universities’ careers services using Twitter to disseminate to students and others.

First Steps
First, you need a Twitter account.

Then you need some people to follow.

Then, people will start following you as well. If everyone with an interest in SHEEN Sharing gets onto Twitter and starts following each other, we will have a nice web of communications.

Have a Look at SHEEN Sharing on Twitter
SHEEN Sharing itself now has a Twitter account that you can follow. Go to: to see the SHEEN Sharing Twitterstream. The messages in the big central column are the Tweets sent by SHEEN Sharing so far. In the right-hand column you can see basic information about SHEEN Sharing and also who SHEEN Sharing is following and who is following us (see the “following” and “followers” links). At time of writing, Cherie Woolmer and I (morageyrie) are following SHEEN Sharing. I’m sending its Tweets out, but can easily give others access. HOWEVER: the idea is to give you something useful to follow on Twitter when you set up your own account!

How to Set Up Your Twitter Account

1. Go to

2. Click on the “Get Started – Join” big green button (there’s also a helpful video you can watch from the main page).

3. Fill in the form to create your account.

4: Add some identifying details for yourself in Settings. A brief blurb so potential followers know what your interests are, or indeed can work out *who* you are; not everyone uses their real name on Twitter and once you have dozens of followers it can be hard to remember who is who! Uploading a profile photo helps too: it can be of anything but it means followers have a visual reference to remember you by.

5. Get started looking for people to follow, e.g.:

5a: Navigate to and click the “follow” button (which will only appear if you are already logged in using your new Twitter account).

5b: You can also choose to follow me as an individual: You may find this useful or amusing or overwhelming or annoying: I use Twitter a *lot* (which is why I set up a separate SHEEN Sharing account). But you are very welcome to follow me: you can always un-follow me if it gets too much!

5c: Check who else is following SHEEN Sharing; click to follow them if you wish (there should be a “follow” button under their name in the list; if there isn’t you may already be following them). Most folk allow anyone to follow them, some folk may have their profiles locked so they have to approve your request to follow.

Learn a Few of the Tricks

*** Tweets must be 140 or fewer characters; it’s like learning to write Haiku!

*** You can Direct Message (or “DM”) people; only you and they will see these conversations.

*** You can reply to a Tweet and everyone who follows both of you will see it; you can get something very close to threaded discussions this way. Most Twitter tools let you click a “reply” button of some kind but you can also do it manually by typing @ then their username at the start of your Tweet.

*** You can also “mention” other users in your Tweet; it’s just again typing @ then their username; these mentions will appear in their @replies list so they will notice them easily! For instance, I might Tweet in response to SHEEN Sharing “@sheensharing thanks for the conference update. I wonder what @Cheriewoolmer thinks of that?” .. both SHEEN Sharing and Cherie will see this in their @replies section.

*** You can pass on Tweets you find useful if you think not all of your followers will have seen them. This is called “Re-Tweeting”, and the convention is to type RT: then copy and past the entire Tweet (including the original sender’s username). However, most tools now have a “Re-Tweet” button that will do all this for you.

Optional Stuff for the Really Keen

*** Set up your mobile phone so you can post to Twitter by sending a text. (You can also receive text updates if you are a Vodaphone subscriber). Go to Settings > Devices (instructions here).

*** Twitter is getting bigger so you can get marketing spammers and such following you, but it’s easy to block them when they do. However, you can set up your Twitter account so your updates are only viewable by those you approve. This means that, if someone clicks to “follow” you, you have to approve them (so they have to wait for that), and that your Tweets will not appear in any live Twitter streams anywhere, nor be searchable by anyone outwith your followers etc. Go to Settings and scroll down to the bottom, read the blurb and if that’s what you want to do, check the checkbox. NB: If you do this, your Tweets will not be visible anywhere to anyone except those who follow you; so, for instance someone searching for Tweets on “employability” using TweetDeck or similar won’t find anything you’ve posted.

*** Find a Twitter tool that makes it easy for you to keep up. TwitterFox is great for those using Firefox as a browser. If you have an iPhone there are various apps for that. You can get a newsfeed of your Twitterstream and read incoming Tweets in your feed reader (makes it hard to reply easily though). But you may wish to keep it simple at first and just keep a tab open in your browser with your Twitter account on it.

*** Set up Twitter to automatically update your Facebook status.. two birds with one stone.

*** Set up any number of tools (e.g. Delicious) so that when you post to them, a Tweet automatically gets sent to your followers.

There is so much more you can do! Just Tweet me or comment here with questions!

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Group Spaces Online, Microblogging, Social Networking, Web2.0 Tools, Tips and Tricks | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Easing our communications, sharing info, supporting each other: in praise of Twitter

Already know you want to get started with Twitter but not sure how? See my next post with tips and tricks here.

What is Twitter?
Twitter is known as a “microblogging” tool; think Facebook status updates without the rest of Facebook around them. Or tiny emails only from and to people you choose to be part of your own personal community. Or miniature blog posts appearing in your feed reader.

Each update (or “Tweet”) must be 140 characters long or fewer. You read the Tweets only of folk you choose to “follow”. There are many free tools for reading your “Twitterstream” (all the Tweets from people who you follow) – or you can just read your Twitter account in a webpage, feed reader or email inbox.

Why Twitter?
I was planning to avoid talking about Twitter during the early phase of SHEEN Sharing. I felt like it was currently being over-hyped in the media with consequent negative feelings running rampant (amongst those who haven’t used it that is). And I just wasn’t sure it would be useful for people just starting to explore this Web2.0y stuff.

I was wrong about all of that. In several meetings it has come up that people find the deluge of emails and managing information overload difficult these days. With the best will in the world, it’s really difficult for such a widely distributed and busy group to stay in touch and work together supportively (although the ECN folks certainly do manage well with the time they’ve got). Someone said that they wanted something like the way you chat to colleagues in the lunch queue at a conference.

How Twitter Has Eased My Working Life
Consequently, I often found myself explaining how I use Twitter for work and how it has eased my working life to a considerable degree, especially with regard to communications and support within my professional community of practice, and for getting relevant information in a very timely manner. Gradually those interested in SHEEN Sharing have expressed an interest in trying this wonder tool.

How is Twitter Useful?: A Personal View

Here are the ways I find Twitter useful:

1. Ease of integration into my daily work
I don’t have to log into anything- not even a separate webpage in a new tab. I use Firefox as my browser, and there is a free Twitter tool called TwitterFox. TwitterFox sits in the lower right hand corner of my browser window, and has a little number on it showing how many new Tweets have come in.

When a new Tweet comes in, a little balloon pops up, just at the edge of my eye-line, with the full Tweet text (140 characters) and sender’s name and icon in it. I can tell in an instant if I want to follow it up. If I want REAL radio silence (say if I’m writing something heavy duty), I can switch it off. If I want to see recent Tweets, I just click the icon and the balloon expands, but not enough to obscure the page I’m currently reading or working in. I can have it open while, for instance, typing this into our blog post editor online.

2. Choosing my community
I see messages only from those I want to be in communication with. I choose to “follow” people whose messages are of interest to me. I can un-follow them at any time. I can block people who I don’t want following me, or restrict my followers to only those I consciously approve.

3. Flexible configuration for different purposes
I can use a more flexible tool like TweetDeck to group Tweets according to my interests. For instance, I have a TweetDeck stream that only shows messages from colleagues around the world with an interest in repositories. If I’m working on repositories stuff I can look at that stream. Or, I can run a search in TweetDeck for “repositories” and get a stream that only includes Tweets that mention that word.

4. Amplifying conferences: being in many places at once!
I can keep up with conferences and other events or issues without needing to attend them. Conversely, if I’m running a conference I can make sure that it is “amplified” out to many more people than just those physically present.

People at a given conference (e.g. #altc2008), or interested in a current news topic (e.g. #G20) agree to use the same “hashtag” (a term with a # in front). Then, anyone interested in that topic can follow all Tweets that include the hashtag. I’ve followed numerous conference presentations from my desk in this way: people who are at the conference Tweet news, impressions, discussion points etc., and I can respond via Twitter and get further discussion and feedback from others- all in real time. Or, I can go back and read the Tweets later to catch up on what happened. Conference webpages and blogs can include Twitterstream feeds. And so on…

5. “Dear lazyweb” – accessing a world of expert advice and information
I can easily ask for help on a topic by typing a Tweet question, again in the lower right-hand corner of my screen, no need to navigate to a new page or log into anything. My question will go to those interested: firstly, all the people who follow me will see the Tweet (and ignore it if they’re not interested); and secondly, if I’ve included a useful keyword or hashtag in the Tweet, people from further afield might see it and respond. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gathered invaluable information that I’ve needed, generally within 5 minutes of Tweeting. This has also often led to new people joining me via me following them, or them following me, or both.

A good example of this was the SHEEN Sharing Trials Planning Meeting in early April. We explored briefly the idea of using something like NetVibes as a more permanent community web presence for SHEEN Sharing and the ECN. I only had the example of my own rather pitiful NetVibes page handy (I’d only put it together for our initial introductory workshops anyway; it’s not something I was familiar with in detail). Everyone was somewhat unimpressed. While we were at lunch I quickly sent a Tweet: “dear lazyweb: anyone got any examples of NetVibes used as project dissemination?” and within 10 minutes had four rather lush examples (more on that later), better than even I’d anticipated, and showing NetVibes being very close to what we wanted to achieve. When we started up after lunch, I was ready to go! And I still had time to eat.

6. Community membership and support
As a social tool for keeping up with ones community and feeling supported, validated, amused, informed, or just plain part of something bigger, Twitter is the best. I work alone at home, but I feel like I’m in a big, silent room, where I can stand up and walk about, ask if anyone wants a cuppa, ask a pertinent work-related question and get answers, hear some gossip or the latest news, or just tell people I’ve got a headache and get sympathy in response. Kind of like working in an open plan office that you can switch on and off at will.

The thing I can’t emphasise strongly enough is the ease, speed, and lack of intrusiveness with which this happens. And Twitter can now be integrated with most other web tools you might be using, including email, feed readers, blogs, wikis and other websites.

Usually at about this point (or rather, about two-thirds of the way through the above information), someone says “But there isn’t enough time in the world… ” or “How do you find the time… ” etc. All I can say is that it saves me time, as well as bringing benefits I can’t get elsewhere. There is still the problem of using anything like this as a distraction, or getting overwhelmed with incoming information and messages. I don’t think the need to manage these problems as individuals is going away any time soon!

So, the next post will be a HowTo specifically to get you set up on Twitter, and also an announcement: follow SHEEN Sharing itself on Twitter!

April 23, 2009 Posted by | Group Spaces Online, Microblogging, Social Networking, Web2.0 Tools, Tips and Tricks | , , , , , | 1 Comment