Guide to using some web 2.0 services in JISC projects – part 1 of 3
At the recent start up meeting for projects in the JISC Information Environment Programme 2009-11 some people suggested that it might be useful to produce a guide to using web 2.0 services in JISC projects.
With the help of Brian Brooks of the Clarion project, I have written the guide. It focuses on using tags to aggregate content about and related to the projects, to communicate about the project and to monitor any discussions related to the project.
The guide is quite long and likely to only have a relatively short shelf life so we have decided to serialise the guide on this blog and deposit the complete document in the ie repository.
Here is part 1 – setting up tags, blogs and twitter
Giving your project an identity – setting up a Tag
Perhaps the first thing to consider if you want to take advantage of the various web 2.0 services out there is to give your project a short catchy identifier – a “tag”. A tag is a label that is used to aggregate the content that gets stored and created on these services. If you consistently use the same tag in blogs, Twitter, bookmarks, etc, then it becomes an easy way for people to search for content across many systems.
Tags are usually an acronym or are similar to the project’s name. They should ideally be short and unique. They should not be a common word or name – you want the tag to stand out if someone searches for it in a search engine such as Google. When you’re deciding on a tag, it is worth doing a few Google searches with possible tags to see if they are being used by anybody else before you start to use them.
Example tags: We are using the tag “inf11” for the Information Environment Programme 2009-11. We use inf11 in all the web 2 tools that we use. You can type “inf11” into Google or other web tools and it will show content created under our programme. Another tag we use is “jiscri”, which we use for the rapid innovation strand of projects within this programme. We may use these tags individually or in conjunction depending on the audience we want to reach.
Q: Is there a particular syntax for tags?
A: Use numbers and letters but no punctuation marks (hyphens, commas, spaces etc.)
Q: Do you recommend any tags for me to follow?
A: Yes we are using the tag inf11for the Information Environment Programmer 2009-2011 and jiscri for the JISC Rapid Innovation strand of projects. We are using this tag in a variety of different web 2 sites and the instructions below describe how to follow these tags in the various services. We recommend you follow your own project tag to see if anyone else is talking about your project.
Q: How can I find out what tags people are using?
A: There is no easy way to do this at present but UKOLN are developing a prototype in this area.
Blogs are a great way to communicate about project developments or interesting issues, debates and problems that arise during the course of the project. This not only helps with project dissemination but acts as a project journal which makes the process of preparing formal reports about the project much simpler as deliverables and issues have already been written about and can be copied into the formal report.
Tagging is very useful on blogs as it allows aggregation across individual blogs via sites like Technorati and also enables subject specific RSS feeds from within a blog. So, for example, it would be easy to see all the blog posts from a project on the topic of software development.
If you do blog as a project then it is important to engage in the blogosphere and read other people’s blogs in relevant areas, link to them from your blog and comment on other’s posts. This helps make new contacts and encourages people to look at and comment on your blog.
Of course there are an awful lot of blogs and keeping up with them can be hard which is why it is essential to investigate feed readers and aggregation pages (see part 2 of this series) until you find the one that suits you. A good reader or aggregation page can be your subject-specific newspaper and can be an invaluable resource.
Q: How should I ensure that I keep up with relevant blogs?
A: Two main methods. First is to simply remember to regularly look at the blog’s website. Second is to use an aggregator (see part 2 of this series) to grab updates from all the blogs you’re following, and then read from the one location.
Q: Which are the blog hosting sites that are commonly used by JISC projects?
A: JISC runs a service called jiscinvolve which is a blog hosting platform. It is very easy to set up blogs on jiscinvolve. Simply go to jiscinvolve and follow the instructions. Of course there are plenty of other hosting options. One example is wordpress – it’s free and open-source. You can set up a site for your project, and you’ll get a URL such as myprojecttag.wordpress.com
Q: Can you give some examples of good project blogs?
A: You can see the aggregation of project blogs and other recommended blogs at the inf11 netvibes page
Twitter is a networking communications tool for short messages, essentially it is like text messaging on your mobile but communicating to many people instead of one or a few. It is free to use. The messages – “Tweets” – are visible to anybody, but can also be directed to specific people. Twitter is perhaps the most divisive of web 2.0 sites, you will find plenty of people who love it and plenty who hate it. However there are some very useful aspects of it that can be turned to a project’s advantage.
It can be used for communication and networking with your programme manager, other projects and other people working in similar areas. Twitter is only useful if you find a decent amount of relevant and interesting people to follow. Your programme manager will be able to suggest relevant people to follow and looking at who other people follow is also a good way of identifying useful people.
It can be a good dissemination channel for short, frequent bursts of information that are relevant to the area you are working in or that you have learned and want to share or simply something that you want to publicise.Twitter has a few conventions which are opaque to the first time user.
- You can address other people on twitter by prefacing their username with an @ symbol e.g. @andymcg. This sends the tweet to the named recipient, but be aware that it still shows up in your list of tweets
- You can add a tag to a message by putting a # symbol in front of a tag e.g. #inf11. The tag can be typed at any point of the message. Tags are very important in twitter as they allow you to see all the people talking about a certain topic even if you don’t follow them.
- You can publicise someone else’s tweet (re-tweet) by copying it and putting RT and the person’s twitter ID before the copied message.
We use twitter as a monitoring tool as well, so we have searches set up for mentions of jisc and use of relevant hashtags such as #inf11 and #jiscri. These searches are done using search twitter and the RSS feed of the search is grabbed and put in an aggregator such as netvibes (see part 2 of this series). This could also be done for project tags or for searches relevant to the project. Projects may be interested in monitoring the programme hashtags to see what the programme or other projects are up to.
This kind of tag monitoring is particularly useful at events where twitter becomes a back channel for conversations, questions and networking.
One important thing to be aware of is that Twitter does not let you search back for more than a couple of weeks of messages. Therefore if you want to keep an archive of all tweets using a certain tag then it is advisable to use a service such as Twapper Keeper to set up an archive for a particular tag. See the jiscri archive for an example
Q: Can you recommend a tool for managing and reading Twitter?
A: Twitter can be monitored using a normal web browser. Other alternatives include:
- Tweetdeck and Seesmic are popular options
- An aggregator page like netvibes or igoogle can also be used (see part 2 of this series for more on these).
Q: How do you use #tags in Twitter?
A: For example, the following message is tagged with “#jisc” and “#inf11”:
- This is a tweet containing tags #jisc #inf11
Q: I’ve seen webpages used at conferences to display tweets, what are they?
A: These include:
- Twitterfall – e.g. http://www.twitterfall.com/#inf11 will follow #inf11 tweets
- VisibleTweets – e.g. http://visibletweets.com/#query=#jiscri follows #jiscri
- These do not allow you to moderate the twitter stream so beware of spam. There is software that allows you to moderate the stream, these tend to be commercial software such as tweetriver but a site called twubs is free while it is in beta.
Q: Can I search Twitter?
A: Yes, at http://search.twitter.com
Q: How can I see what #tags are available?
A: Try for example:
- Hashtags - Displays current tags & allows searching
- WTHashtag - A list of what each #tag means
- Look out for an upcoming service from UKOLN.
Q: Can you recommend a site to learn more about Twitter?
A: Try for example:
Part 2 of this series will cover: social bookmarking, aggregation and note-taking
Part 3 of this series will cover: skype, publicising contact details and further information