Thursday, June 30, 2011

Consolidation of info streams and a MOOC

This is a brainstorming, trying-to-figure-out-what-I-actually-think, probably irritating-to-read type post. You may see several of these in the next few weeks. I've signed up for a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course, on Online Learning. Dubbed eduMOOC, it's now got over 2000 participants, all over the world, mostly online instructors and instructional technologists, but also includes students, librarians, and other interested parties.

It does really bring home an issue I've been working with lately--how many streams of information can I actually follow, from a practical standpoint. For eduMOOC, there is the Google Sites homepage, the Google Group, a Twitter hashtag, a Twitter list, an etherpad, several wikis, Diigo and Delicious tagging, and participants' own blogs (like this one) using tags like #edumooc. (And more, some of which I haven't found yet, I'm sure.)

The problem is I can only seem to work with a limited number streams of information at a time. Right now those are Facebook (mix of personal and professional), Twitter (mostly professional and local info), and Email (separate accounts for work, personal, and non-work professional). I used to use an RSS reader for most of my professional reading, but that's mostly been moved to Twitter and Facebook when the blogs/sites/people I've been following have Twitter or Facebook accounts. I'm still missing a few RSS feeds that I'd like to follow. (Suggestions welcome.) I used to use the news reader in Outlook (effectively combining RSS feeds with my work email), but the Outlook 2011 for Mac doesn't have that feature. I may have to figure out how to integrate an RSS Reader back into my schedule.

What I'm trying to do is consolidate my streams. This does run the danger of turning the steam into a flood, which is what happened to my RSS reading originally--too much info and I can't follow any of it, then get the dread 'unread anxiety'. But I've found if I don't consolidate, I simply stop checking things. (This is essentially why I don't watch TV: as soon as I start missing shows, I stop watching at all.) I also have different roles (personal, professional, etc.) in which I have different networks and information needs. So the trick is to find a balance.

(How ironic. The writing of this post was interrupted by a phone call about a new social networking site for academics and researchers.)

That balance is limited by the technological and policy decisions of the services. For instance, while I can get my own tweets to post on my wall in Facebook (so that my Facebook friends can see my Twitter posts), I can't get my Twitter timeline (the tweets of those I follow) into my Facebook news stream. Or vice versa. If I want to read those together, I need to investigate one of the third party social network aggregators, which are limited by what the various services will allow you to do outside their own site. Some allow you to read but not post, or only post certain types of things, etc. After all, Facebook really wants me to be on their site, seeing their ads, not on some other site seeing someone else's ads. Also, with some services I could have multiple accounts, like I do for email, for personal and professional, but Facebook forbids this (and will cancel a second 'fake' account if they find out.)

The MOOC has really brought all this home to me. I've been thinking about it vaguely for a while, knowing I'm loosing control over my info stream, again, and not sure what the most effective thing to do about it. But the MOOC! How in the world do you work with a network of over 2000 people? The answer, of course, is that you don't; you work with only a portion of the network. How do you choose? I think the answer ends up being a combination of research and serendipity (like many things in life). Find out what you can, and then trust your networks (the setting up of which is part of research) to find out the rest.

And that's why I want to manage my info streams better. My networks are a valuable, perhaps the most valuable, part of my personal and professional development environment. Cultivating them is worth spending time on, but not so much time that I can't get anything else done.

To any who read this far, how are you dealing with your info streams, personal learning networks, or whatever you want to call it?



Blogger Dan Maloy said...

At a technological level, I've started using TweetDeck's Chrome app to manage my Facebook and Twitter streams thanks to eduMOOC. I can't say for sure that I'll be sticking with it long-term, but it's made some of that easier. Other than that I've simply set aside about 10 minutes every couple hours at work to check the Groups postings. I haven't gotten involved with any of the side projects (yet), so I can't say how I'll keep up with that.

For the way I handle information streams, this is working pretty well. I skim what's out there, dipping in where my interest (professional or personal) is caught.

11:19 AM, June 30, 2011  
Blogger Bethany said...

:) Does it help to hear that you're not alone? Your post certainly made me think about all the different strategies I've tried and abandoned in an effort to consolidate: Google Reader, Google Alerts, email notifications, saved Twitter searches, consolidation blogs (e.g. my blog where I've tried to pull together many streams related to #edumooc). In fact, consolidation blogs might be my most often used strategy. I do tend to create topical blogs and then pull together a bunch of resources for each topic of interest. That way, when I turn my attention to biking, for example, I simply go to my bike blog to catch up on latest tweets, articles, blog posts, etc. Of course, I still have to update those resources to make sure to incorporate new/changing streams... :) no strategy is perfect I guess. Anyway, I wish you well on your consolidation efforts.

12:40 PM, June 30, 2011  
Blogger Sandy Hale said...

I'm bookmarking all sorts of things on Diigo for later reading. Right now that's the only way I can keep up with posts, etc. If I stopped to read links as I encounter them, I'd be doomed!
Sandy Hale

1:39 PM, June 30, 2011  
Blogger MrsTsWorld said...

100% agreement about the MOOC itself. I'm working on setting up my courses for the Fall and trying to determine how large and how varied the information stream I provide needs to be. It's good for me to experience from a 'student' side to get a feel for what's manageable.

I am a K12 educator and I'm using Edmodo for my base connections and sharing. I'm trying to determine if maintaining my class website is an efficient use of my time when edmodo provides most of my needs. I do push RSS feeds into edmodo both for my own use and for sharing with students. Our district adopted the Google Apps though so Google's reader may be more efficient. There there's Diigo which has been an ENORMOUSLY useful tool for me as an individual and provides options for class use that may also be redundant with edmodo.

Decisions, decisions.

5:29 PM, June 30, 2011  

It's my first Mooca. I have dedicated time each day to go:

- Course Web site created in Google Sites
- Discussion group on Google Groups
- Blog containing a logbook of the main responsible for the course
- Wiki for collaborative authoring according to the interests of participants
- Group social bookmark in Diigo
- Online newspaper with daily releases
- Accompany and participate in some blogs, like this.

10:58 AM, July 01, 2011  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Navigating chaos aka the info stream is the perennial mooc dilemma, the white water rapids. Social media consumption swells the info streams. Every one manages the flow differently - and not always the same way twice. That river, really.

I've been think about TweetDeck, may try it, probably next since my new app/tool/platform dance card is full and I don't want to wear out my learning curve prematurely.

Rss, reader, social book marking, email, tag AND like a madwoman, duplication OK (see delete comment).

I load up feeds before the MOOC. Sub blogs that look interesting. Sort and prune later. Better that than trying to remember the name of that blog you really liked but forgot to bookmark.

Then when you have all this in front of, remember that you don't have to read all of it. Better not try.

It does get easier, although never quite manageable. Meeting some of the same participants at the next one also means you can pool resources, share sorting

11:35 PM, July 01, 2011  
Blogger Rebecca Hedreen said...

Oddly enough, I didn't consider iGoogle before. I think this might work: I've got a new tab labeled eduMOOC. On that I've got the Wikispaces changes, Diigo, Delicious, and Google Group new messages RSS feeds set up, my Gmail, Google Reader 'eduMOOC' tag, and a Twitter gadget. (Twitter took down the RSS feed links, and I can't remember how to find them now.) I didn't see an RSS feed for changes to Google Sites, so I'm adding a bookmark box with that link, the Facebook group, and whatever else I want to check that doesn't have a feed. The Facebook gadgets available only show the general news feed, not specific groups, as far as I can tell anyway.

Let see how this works...

11:18 AM, July 07, 2011  
Blogger Vanessa said...

check out for a tool to burn your own feeds when none show for a site

1:07 PM, July 07, 2011  

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