Thoughts on Google+

Posted on September 28, 2011. Filed under: education, facebook, google, libraries, library 2.0 | Tags: , , , |

Google+ achieved 20 Million users in its first 24 days and having earned #8th place in the top 10 social networking sites this week, it is set to become a key Facebook and Twitter competitor (for comparison, Twitter took 1035 days and Facebook 1152 days to reach 20 million) .

Now that Google+ has been opened up for anyone to join after two-and-a-half months in closed testing [see] you may be having a look at it and thinking about how it may be useful to you or to librarians and education even.  It is still very early days and no doubt there is more functionality in the pipeline, but in the mean time here are some thoughts.

Like other social communications media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc) Google+ is a place where you can create, stream, share and comment on information including photos and links etc and meet with others who share your interests.  You create your own profile and add people (friends colleagues etc) to ‘circles‘, this enables you to share particular things with certain people and not others if you wish.  Your circles are private, others can’t see them and they don’t know which circle(s) you have added them to. Google+ also provides real-time text and video chat functionality (hangouts, similar to Skype). Hangouts may provide an alternative to Library livechat e.g. Questionpoint for example and with the ability to share screens and documents, could be a useful module tutorial/work space.  As with other networks, critical mass (the number of ‘active’ people in your network) is important, you are more likely to find it useful if your network is regularly posting and interacting.

In Google+ you can +1 posts, which is similar to ‘like’ in Facebook, you can also share other people’s posts with your friends. You can save searches in Google+ too, so if a group of colleagues agreed to use a particular phrase e.g. Digital Literacy in their posts then the latest posts on that subject can be found by viewing the saved search.  There are already groups of librarians, students and academics using Google+, it will be interesting to see how these evolve and what aspects of Google+ they find most useful.

This slide (taken from Must See Google Plus Presentation from Zenslide) compares Google+, Facebook and Twitter features.  Those of you who use Facebook will realise that it does also have lists and re-sharing features and, following recent up-dates, it now has a twitter-style news ticker and it’s now possible to only share your status up-dates etc with selected lists and/or hide them from specific people or lists if you wish.  It’s worth mentioning that games (which can be used as a method of attracting and retaining users as well as generating revenue) feature in both Facebook and Google+ but not in Twitter.

Comparison of Google+, Facebook and Twitter functionality

Other social networks can quickly add new communications features and as mentioned above Facebook are already doing so, rapidly catching up with those in Google+.  So the ability to search,

to find updates from your circles, news from around the web and public Google+ posts, giving you instant access to the topics you care about and the people who care about them along with you.

and the location of Google+ within the Gmail user’s ‘desktop’ environment are perhaps Google’s killer applications.   Not forgetting Google+ integration with other Google apps e.g. Google docs and Picasa which further strengthen its position.  Facebook is also in the integration business, Spotify tied its future to Facebook last week so that new users have to also have a Facebook account (see Is Spotify too friendly with Facebook?).  It seems the race is on for social networking sites to provide the best communications features and more importantly, integrate key online applications and so win new users, with both Google and Facebook sharing the same aim, to increase market share and hence advertising revenue.

At the moment Google+ is focused on individuals and not on organisations or businesses. It’s not yet possible to create a business profile or Facebook-type business ‘page’ or a ‘group’. On July 22nd 2011 Christian Oestlien from Google said:

“…we expect to have an initial version of businesses profiles up and running for EVERYONE in the next few months.  In the meantime, we ask you not to create a business profile using regular profiles on Google+. The platform at the moment is not built for the business use case, and we want to help you build long-term relationships with your customers. Doing it right is worth the wait. We will continue to disable business profiles using regular profiles. We recommend you find a real person who is willing to represent your organization on Google+ using a real profile as him-or-herself.”

So for the moment we can figure out Google+ as individuals, and interact with others in Google+ as ourselves but if we want to we can promote what our own organisation is doing e.g. by sharing links in Google+ to our blog posts.

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Reading, Writing and Arithmetic on the Web or the Wii

Posted on December 3, 2007. Filed under: children, collaboration, education, edutainment, gaming, kids, technology, wii |

I’ve just had a quick go on a few games on the Arcademic Skill Builders site, having read a blog posting by the Shifted Librarian “The Three Wii R’s“.  Arcademic Skill Builders are providing free educational ‘arcade’ games for (younger) children that can be accessed over the web, or using a Wii browser and ‘mote.   There are single-player and multi-player games available.  So up to 4 children anywhere in the World can play against each other.  I’m looking forward to trying this out with my daughter on our Wii. 

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More on Journal Articles: Ratings and Comments

Posted on November 22, 2007. Filed under: collaboration,, education, indexing, information, library 2.0, sharing, technology, universities, web 2.0 |

This post is further to my earlier post on Journal articles: ratings and comments (7th November, 2007).

Yesterday I attended the JIBS workshop: “Is Library 2.0 a trivial pursuit”. The presentations were all excellent. They included one by Dave Pattern, Library Systems Manager at the University of Huddersfield: “Making the catalogue a good place to be: Lipstick, cowbells and serendipity.” I asked the question:

“How long will it be before people can rate and comment on articles aswell as books; and how long will it be before we can find out ‘people who read/downloaded this article have also read/downloaded these articles’ ” and “Are fed search providers e.g. Exlibris looking at doing this sort of thing?” No-one was aware of anyone doing anything in this area.

However, Ale de Vries, Product Manager, Elsevier, in his presentation: “A publisher’s view of Library 2.0” mentioned 2collab, a beta system that will enable sharing and collaboration between researchers in particular fields. Ale’s presentation also included a last-minute slide (following my question earlier in the day) on how they are going to provide article download/useage information and rankings based on this. So perhaps the rating, recommendation and review of journal articles and papers is not far off.

Personally I think that this would work best as a mash-up of a type-system with a LibraryThing/Zotero type system so that you can save the references to the articles (and add your own tags and comments/reviews to them) wherever you have found them (e.g. within a web-based bib database to which your library subscribes or in a web-journal, e.g. Ariadne) and share them with your colleagues wherever they are based.

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Anyone else blogging/writing elsewhere about this? Should I patent the idea?

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Journal Articles: Ratings and Comments

Posted on November 7, 2007. Filed under: education, indexing, library 2.0, sharing, technology, web 2.0 |

How long will it be before it is possible to rate and comment on articles and papers and see that people who read this also read…  these papers and these books and want to read these ones?

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Virtual Edutainment Worlds for Children

Posted on October 26, 2007. Filed under: accessibility, barbiegirls, children, club penguin, education, edutainment, funkeys, future, gaming, kids, play, sharing, technology, tygirlz, webkinz |

When speaking at the Virtual Worlds Forum in London this week about the game-related worlds targetted at children (primarily those that link membership of the world to ownership of a toy) Lord Puttnam (who is incidentally the new Chancellor of The Open University) presented the following challenge:

“The challenge ahead is this – to ensure that virtual worlds are increasingly places that offer real meaning to their lives and in the real world to learn from the sense of community and collaboration that’s been experienced in virtual worlds” (BBC News, “Virtual worlds threaten ‘values'”, 2007-10-15.

I think that the challenge should be wider than this. Children-centred virtual worlds should be more educational. The developers should be challenged to produce children-centred virtual worlds that include educational games and activities that link with and enable them to build on the educational experiences that are available in the real world.

Children-centred virtual worlds should provide opportunities for children to learn through interacting and networking and through sharing experiences and collaborating on projects with other children from all over the world. The challenge is to ensure that the worlds remain safe, fun and engaging; that there are a variety of educational experiences available to all levels from pre-school up-wards; and that the worlds are accessible to all, including those with disabilities.

The Club Penguin virtual world provides free access to a subset of the functionality available to paid-up members and although CP merchandise (t-shirts, key-rings etc) is available from the site it does not tie membership of the world to the ownership of a toy (unlike webkinz, Funkeys, BarbieGirls, TyGirlz and others).

Club Penguin offers non-members simple strategy games like 4 in a row that can be played by two friends. It would be good to see more educational games that 1, 2 or more friends can participate in. Club Penguin offers a safe mode in which children can only chat using ‘safe’ phrases provided by the site. It provides a forum in which children can learn and practice social and networking skills – e.g. to wait for their turn to speak; to keep a conversation going and the engagement of their friend; practice how to respond to people who are annoying them (throwing snowballs at them perhaps); how to get to know and make friends with other people.

It also enables them to explore and navigate within an online environment and learn how to play games to win (coins). Penguins (children) are able to purchase items (clothes, pets, pet food, backgrounds for their profiles, furnishings for their igloos etc) and so they learn something about the value of money (all be it a virtual currency) and that hard work (winning a game) pays off. If they buy a pet then they have to learn how to look after it (feed, play, exercise it and bath it – all of which cost coins) and in doing so they learn from their decisions – e.g. that too many treats and not enough exercise reduce your level of health. They also see their number of coins going up and down and so learn about addition and subtraction during the various games available. The children can reflect and develop their personalities in the clothes, accessories and igloo furnishings that they choose for themselves, in the same way that many of them do in real life. They can develop their reading, spelling and keyboard skills through chatting and reading the club magazines and story books.

I’m on the look out for more ‘safe’ worlds like Club Penguin, especially any that provide educational content, collaborative educational experiences and opportunities to use and develop imagination and storytelling. I would also like to see edutainment worlds linked to classic children’s books to enable them to explore ideas in the books further, act out scenes as the characters and make up their own storylines.

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End of PROWE event

Posted on October 5, 2007. Filed under: cpd, education, library 2.0, OU, PROWE, technology, web 2.0 |

I am organising an end of project event on Wednesday 12th December for the JISC-funded OU-led PROWE project ( which looked at the use of informal repositories within wiki and blogs to meet the Continuing Professional Development needs of part-time tutors.

We will be disseminating PROWE’s findings at the event. If possible I would also like to include talk(s) by other speakers who have been researching or implementing web2.0 technology to support CPD. So I am looking for people who are working in this area who I could contact.

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Podcasts and indexing

Posted on September 26, 2007. Filed under:, education, future, indexing, lectures, podcasting, students, technology, universities, web 2.0, You Tube | Tags: |

Brian Kelly’s post “The Future As Today, But More So” started me wondering whether today’s university students, who audio/video record their lectures (or whose lecturers provide them with recordings) bother to take full handwritten notes. Perhaps it is down to the individual student and the quality of the recording/accessibility/reliability of the technology. If it was me I would probably store the videos on my PDA and make the odd handwritten note (probably on my PDA) – e.g. points I want to find out more about or questions I want answers for, any urls/references given by the lecturer that I want to look up etc.). I would want to be able to link my notes with the podcast file.  When it comes to assignment or revision time, is it more time consuming to revisit all the video/audio files, or to read through a load of ‘old-fashioned’ notes to find the piece that you want? Perhaps lecturers/students are tagging their videos, eg. within YouTube or Or maybe they are using free web2.0 software that enables them to either manually or automatically index their videos? If not then is this something that we will see in the future?

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PROWE wins best poster at ALT-C 2007

Posted on September 7, 2007. Filed under: ALT-C, education, OU, PROWE |

The JISC-funded OU-Led PROWE Project won the ‘best poster’ competition at ALT-C 2007 in September. The poster is available here:

The poster focussed on the PROWE Ecology and How-to/Questions to Ask guides developed by Anne Hewling.

The winning poster is mentioned the October 2007 issue (10)  of the ALT Online Newsletter.

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Google for Universities

Posted on June 14, 2007. Filed under: collaboration, education, google, strategy, technology, universities |

Google is providing universities with “Google Apps for Education” – gmail, google calendars and google document sharing/collaboration tools. Trinity College Dublin appears to be the first UK University to sign up. An advantage to students (and staff!) is that they can still have access to their email account when they leave. See:

Something that I have been pondering is whether students would find it useful to have a tab within their igoogle containing their University’s gadgets. The student could create such a tab from scratch themselves, but for some having a tab pre-populated with gadgets relevant to their life at uni, e.g. their course (e.g. news feeds, course calendar); their library (catalogue search box/website search box) etc that they can edit (add more gadgets to – not just those provided by their uni – and remove things from) may be useful – perhaps?

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