It's been some time since I've written a post, but I've got a few things on my mind that I want to share and get some feedback from. Prior to my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I sent out a tweet and Plurk about what I should do on the plane. Should I:

a) read Here Comes Everybody, a book many are suggesting to read
b) read some magazines - I have a huge stack laying around
c) just sit back and listen to my iPod (music, not ed. related)

The majority of the responses suggested I read the book. I'm not a huge book reader, but decided I'd give it a shot. While I'm not quite done with it, I did take a few notes about things that raised an eyebrow or two. I plan on blogging about more of those thoughts in the coming weeks, but for now, here's the first.

The topic of collaboration has come up quite a bit in my school district lately and we are trying to find time to work collaboration into our daily schedule. In addition, I've been trying to find time to communicate with those in my PLN, whether it's through blogging, Skype, Twitter, or Plurk. While we never seem to have enough time for the things we need to do, we now have some tools in place to help us get over this obstacle. Prior to NECC, there was some frustration with Twitter, a collaboration/social networking tool of many. Some were moving to Plurk because of technical difficulties, but realized that their networks were not as big as they were on Twitter. I started to wonder how valuable Plurk would be to me compared to Twitter if not as many people were using it.

This issue hit home when I read in Shirkey's book, "The invention of a tool doesn't create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it." I thought about the tools I was using to work with and learn from and realized that no matter how good the tool was, if no one (or at the least, very little people) were using it, it would not be very valuable. Email, text messaging, and instant messaging are great ways to communicate, but have only become more useful because they are part of the norm for many people.

There will always be new tools that pop up that will allow people to communicate with others - some of these will be better than others, but the real success will be which ones a large number of people use. This idea brought me back to NECC and a quote I heard from Chris Lehmann, "The best collaborative tool is the one we all agree to use together."

The tool doesn't matter, it's the people who make the difference, well stated Chris.

2 comments

  1. Dan Gross // August 26, 2008 at 10:51 PM  

    I tried to decide if I should blog and trackback, or just simply leave a comment - with the multitude of tools we have today, we even have choices in how we respond.

    Just a few chapters before you quote, Shirkey talks a bit about FAME and being famous. In part of his definition, he states that part of being famous is not being able to respond personally to all of your followers. It almost sounds as if the highest plane of enlightenment is to BE famous ~ something we all strive for.

    But we don't.

    It doesn't matter if "everyone" uses the tool. Just as when you blog, you may or may not publish for the masses, or you may just be publishing for your "friends." I think it is incredibly wrong to assume that the tool with the most users is therefore the most inherently valuable ~ especially when you consider the length in years that Twitter has been around, vs. the months that Plurk has.

    But even so, silly moniker withstanding, there are those with small networks of only a dozen people or more who have incredibly rich relationships and find the support they need without a global audience ~ and they do it right before our very eyes, while some of "us" are still thinking we have to be "famous."

    So I would caution you that "usefulness" and "followers" are not synonymous. And if you really want to get technical, Twitter uses a direct follower 1:1 formula - you follow me, I have 1 friend. But Plurk uses an exponential system that involves friends of friends - so having 10 friends, each of whom have 10 friends, means your network is actually much larger, and more robust - than the same relationship on Twitter.

    You gone one really key part right though - It is the PEOPLE who make up the network. Its the ones who take time to listen to you, to respond to you - to read your blog posts and respond to them. And it doesn't matter what tool you use, it is the simple fact that you are part of a PLN that develops a caring about you, helps you, supports you, and where you feel "welcome."

    It means you have become an important part of the community.

    tftbp!

  2. IMC Guy // September 2, 2008 at 10:09 AM  

    Dan, I agree with what you said. What I meant about the tool was this - if I love a networking/collaboration tool, but no one else is using it, then it's not as valuable as one others in your network are using.

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