GROU.PS: Exploring Learning and Sharing Links

In the last week I have been glued to Twitter! On 21 December I wrote a post about Vicarious Learning and Reciprocal Altruism and after Christmas I thought I would explore Twitter at what might be a quiet time of the year. It proved a fascinating time to be sampling tweets. Not only were there end of year items there were end of decade items too. I discovered GROU.PS (an open source social operating system) during this process and liked their approach.

I decided to aggregate all the Twitter feeds into a GROU.PS site and use the wiki function the social operating system provides.  GROU.PS has “a bunch of modules that you choose from and mash up very easily! You can enrich your site with blocks”.  Although I could choose from twelve GROU.PS basic modules I wanted a cleanskin look as my starting point.

Between 29 December and this evening I read each tweet of the 286 people I have been following and ended up reading many more retweets too. I used an ongoing inclusion approach to the themes that were emerging in the tweets and to date have forty-six themes.

I found it fascinating to aggregate articles about Twitter. I was led to twenty-three posts in a week:

  • Horton Hears A Tweet In this article we share some of the insights gained using Twitter as an instructional tool and explain why we think Twitter, despite its drawbacks (and really the drawbacks of social networking in general), can add value to online and face-to-face university courses.”
  • Do You Tweet? (100104) “Turns out I was.  There are thousands of other educators, professors, administrators, and Technology Integration Specialists on Twitter.  There are groups on twitter that are important to follow.  In less then a month I went from following 3 Twitter accounts, to over 50 (so far).  I went from being followed by my brother to over 50 (so far).”
  • Twitter U (100104) “This wikispace was inspired by a blog post of @darahbonham on Twitter. Check out his post and then feel free to join in the fun. Think about all the links you miss during the school day. Imagine if those links were accompanied by a hashtag that would make it easier to search by topic. The first Hashtag: #PBL was created last week. Check it out!”
  • Twitter as a PLN (100104) “One of the most interesting things I learned about Twitter before I even tried it was that it is like Marmite. It polarises.”
  • 10 Things You Need To Stop Tweeting About (100104)
  • 48 Ways to Explain Twitter to Skeptics (100104) “On Christmas Eve with my family, my brother Peter brought up Twitter and expressed skepticism. Rather than try to explain Twitter myself, I tweeted to see what others had to say. I just love the answers that came back! I’m still laughing at some and others are simply profound. Isn’t it amazing how nearly 50 people can answer something, each in 140 characters or less, and in just a few minutes you have a better explanation than any one person could possibly think of in a lifetime! And people jumped in from all over (Coogee, Australia and Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic to name two).”
  • Twitter Search Widget (100104)
  • Priceless (100104) “Hello World” is a simple game I often play with my 4 year old son (‘Mr 4’). We fire up Twitter, say ‘hello’ from Fremantle, Western Australia, get a globe or an atlas (old school, I know, but it is wonderfully tactile) and wait to see where people are saying hello to us from.”
  • Share places and events on Twitter (100104)
  • Select Your Widget (100104) “Widgets let you display Twitter updates on your website or social network page
  • Our widgets are compatible with any website and most social networks. Simply choose one where you would like to include it.”
  • Twimages (beta) (100103) “Revealing who talks to you on Twitter”
  • Why Twitter Will Endure (100103) “Like many newbies on Twitter, I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice.”
  • Why My Research is on Twitter (100103) “Twitter represents a new way of communication. After lifestreaming on Twitter for over two years and researching it for over 12 months,  I understand the nuances of the communities on it, and have watched it morph as it has moved from being a geek tool to a plaything of the mainstream.”
  • Tweeting with Change Agents (100103) “I suspect that many edubloggers can relate to Will Richardson’s admission in What’s Changed?, that he’s done less blogging and more tweeting in the past 12 months. Though microblogging may be shallow, it has proven to be very accessible to educators, with Twitter being leveraged on both mobile devices, and school computers.”
  • The Listorious 140 Twitterers (100102) “Who’s Been on Twitter the Longest? We only include people who are active on Twitter and that someone’s added to a list.”
  • Twitter’s Most Influential Topics of 2009 (100102) “Klout today released its Top 2009 list of the topics that captured the attention of the most influential voices and their communities on Twitter.”
  • Obsessively manage your Twitter relationships with Tweepi (091231) “If you’re an aficionado of data then you’re going to love Tweepi.”
  • Best Job Application Ever: Twitter Genius “if this application is more than 600 characters or so, you’re done. And you better be damn well ready to talk briefly about how you can best self-promote, or you’re done. Also, it’s probably better if you don’t want too much money. But don’t say why, keep it short.” (091230)
  • 5 Reasons Why Twitter is my Dream Machine (091230)
  • Twiducate “is a free resource for educators. Developed in 2009, our goal is to create a medium for teachers and students to continue their learning outside the classroom. We attempt to fill a need for a more educationally focused, safe venue for teachers, schools, and home learners in a social networking environment. We understand that many social networking sites exist, however the control of content is limited for teachers. Also, many of these social networking sites are continuously being blocked by school firewalls and administrators. Our service proudly differs in that only teachers and students may view classroom posts, thus creating a private network for you and your students and a safer online learning environment.” (091230)
  • Finding your number 1 Twitter Fan (091230)
  • Historical Tweets (091230)
  • Twitter 2009 Retrospective (091230) “For me 2009 goes down as the year other people discovered Twitter. It went from a small and fairly intimate place to hangout to a busy bustling intersection of information, commerce and conversations. It felt almost like moving from a small town to a big and somewhat impersonal city.”
I really enjoyed David Carr’s post in the New York Times and noted that he was “in narrative on more things in a given moment than I ever thought possible, and instead of spending a half-hour surfing in search of illumination, I get a sense of the day’s news and how people are reacting to it in the time that it takes to wait for coffee at Starbucks. Yes, I worry about my ability to think long thoughts — where was I, anyway? — but the tradeoff has been worth it.” He observed that “On Twitter, anyone may follow anyone, but there is very little expectation of reciprocity. By carefully curating the people you follow, Twitter becomes an always-on data stream from really bright people in their respective fields, whose tweets are often full of links to incredibly vital, timely information.”
David’s advice about tweeting struck a chord with me “Like many newbies on Twitter, I vastly overestimated the importance of broadcasting on Twitter and after a while, I realized that I was not Moses and neither Twitter nor its users were wondering what I thought. Nearly a year in, I’ve come to understand that the real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice. (My emphasis)” A day later The Oatmeal Comic made it very clear what I must not tweet about.
I am very conscious that this post has broken Rule #4:
Notwithstanding Oatmeal’s exhortation I was fascinated to look at the Listorious information about people on Twitter since 21 March 2006 and wondered what the 10 who signed up that day talked about. I wondered too what kind of narrative Ashton Kutcher has with 4.2 million followers and the 284 people he is following.
From my perspective a week of holiday Twitter has left me with some thick description to review and develop.
After a week of sharing people’s insights and links I found Mark Szakowski’s review of Digital habitats: stewarding technology for communities. His review concludes with these observations:
social software technology is in an unusual phase of rapid evolutionary development, where great opportunities arise, but not everything succeeds, and no one tool does it all. This book is not about the specifics of such tools – there are many books and resources for that. Instead, it is about the patterns and best practices for how to bring community and online forms together in appropriate mosaics, how to look at a community’s orientations and intentions, and be able to speak to and for that community in a tech-savvy way. This job did not exist a decade ago. Every community is realizing it needs someone(s) to fill that job.
Over the course of a week I found 200+ nuggets of information and a vast amount of personal story telling. I think it is very appropriate that I have been able to fossick in Twitter this week. My home village of Mongarlowe was a turn of the century gold mining town.
Photo Credits

Subway, 1934: Lily Furedi.
Radio Broadcast, 1934: Julia Eckel