Consolidation of info streams and a MOOC
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?