I ASKED STEVEN GILL to share a few thoughts on my blog after his first month in the creative multimedia degree programme at Tipperary Institute. He writes:
I believe I am trying to show readers that you do not have to be that cliche student type to be in higher education. I want mature students to be able to read this and say "Damn! He can do all this?" I want to show younger readers that anything is possible if you can put your mind to it and plan your time.
I am a real student with a hectic stressful life. I will try to pick up on other issues and comment on them in time but first I want to get a feel of this.
JULY MARKS THE TIMEFRAME when I do two things online. First, I observe the anniversary of my time on Typepad, remembering that it was July 2003 that I started posting on Six Apart servers. I started using the system because I trusted Ben and Mena Trott, liked MovableType and found easy conversation when connecting with James Corbett and Euan Semple, two of the pathfinders for Typepad. I also use July to trim back artefacts--like my about page (partially scraped at right). One of my About Page sidebars pulls in a reading list from late 2004. I think some of the links are dead now and I know the Typelist of things I read regularly needs to be updated. If I do it properly, my about page will answer the question that arises every time I give a public presentation. I'll finally have something that's easily accessible and helps answer the question, "How do you keep up with all those things?" I'd like to be able to answer, "I read what pathfinders are suggesting." And I think those pathfinders deserve a place in my about page's sidebar.
One of the problems with the sidebar is it's linked text only and I inform my judgment with text, static images, occasional videos and a lot of audio snippets. I also get a lot of cross-talk from bog-standard Moleskine references. That Moleskine activity deserves special treatment. But for now, I'll start by revising my About Page and that will ensure it's current for the dot conf at the National College of Ireland on Thursday, 22 July 2010. I'm going to learn from Irish creatives who are usig web technologies in very innovative ways.
AFTER I FINISHED READING more than 200 comments to Una Mullally'spost on Irish blogging, I realised that blogs in Ireland are no longer friendly hitching posts in cyberspace. Today, many of my respected conversationalists use other methods, such as Qik video clips at left. Five years ago, you could click through Irish blogs and get an interesting digest of things worthy of consideration by local newspaper editors. Some of the topics encouraged quality debate and discourse but with micro-content options like Twitter and Facebook, there's a less compelling social reason to run a blog today. When you consider the phenomenal growth of Facebook in Ireland and look at the sustained development of Twitter, it's easy to see where new bloggers encamp today. If you're thinking about hanging out online, you're probably going to hang out on Facebook or send a few tweets to people in your own time zone. And when you interact that way, you'll get faster feedback. In a lot of people's minds, that means you're getting better social interaction than with a longer blog post. So from my seat, a place where I teach third level students how to blog, I'm using a list of bloggers who use Twitter as the first port of entry for newbies. I'm also showing unfamiliar students newsfeeds on Facebook and daily digests on LinkedIn. Both of those places incorporate a flow of interesting points percolating in from well-written blogs.
WHILE FLICKING THROUGH a few Christmas cards, some containing short letters from cousins separated by an ocean, I thought about some of the people I followed this year during live events. Sometimes I didn't attend the events and I learned valuable things from these modern day scribes.
BASED ON A FIVE-YEAR analysis and more than 200 comments on TwentyMajor's blog, my main blog will retire itself within another five years. That's what the downward slope from Statcounter suggests in the above screenshot. I opened my Typepad blog in mid-2003 and watched it ramp up in readership until 2007. It's been downhill ever since, smacked downwards by microblogs, YouTube, and other ambient streams. But that makes my blog a perfect set piece for the web analytics module I teach in Tipperary Institute. During 12 weeks in the classroom, we'll explore how to plumb the ambient streams that can help reverse my downslide. And we'll test drive several analytics packages that may help finger exact strategies. As a bonus, I'll pay students for consultancy services that actually work to reverse the downward slope shown by my blog's statistics.
Techcrunch -- "The Dawning of Ambient Streams" 20 Dec 09.
Twenty Major -- "On Irish Blogging Being 'over'" and some lively commentary on 5 Jan 10.
RIGHT ABOUT THE TIME this blog shed 200 daily page views, I figured that something other than a disinterested readership or a distracted community was at work. In fact, Six Apart's spam filters were suggesting that more than 20% of the visitors to my blog were potential spammers. Something about Typepad's anti-spam controls caused unwanted commentators to be flicked away without notching up a page view. I could see that happening in reports that StatCounter served me. Over time, I noticed my daily visitors decreased from more than 1200 to less than 900. At the same time, I also reduced the admin time required to clean up spammy comments, especially those concerning hotels (not the nice one at left). Then something interesting started to happen. The spammers started writing me with offers for text links and embedded content. I train copywriters to produce this kind of work so I listen when approached because some of the requestors often come from my academic classrooms. I'm also interested in carving out an online ecosystem for like-minded merchants in County Tipperary and text linkages are a natural place to start.
PAT QUIRKE, from PFQ.ie, spent 20 minutes tonight in front of 24 people, explaining the evolution of his business from a brochure site to a blog and onto Twitter. His audience was attending a Clonmel Chamber of Commerce event in Tippperary Institute, hearing Pat the storyteller weave a yarn from three generations back. He dropped onto the web in 2001, with guidance from a former student of mine (not the one at left). Version 4.4 of his site is one of the first HTML 5 web properties I've used because we are looking at real estate in Clonmel. Pat Quirke's evolving Twitter identity intrigues me. I think he will tap a mother lode of interest by offering direct message tweets to 30-somethings who are in the market to upshift in a down market. Pat Quirke Estate Agents already serves people who know their offerings, know the office staff, and trust their service--but don't know the centre city location of the fine plate glass window where properties can be viewed in the main street of County Tipperary's largest city. The story of Pat Quirke online makes me realise that the 50 students on my Social Media module next semester will have a local case study to learn how to monetise their tweets, blog posts and Flickr shots. And because I know Pat Quirke will spot this post, I hope he'll leave a comment below where he confirms he'll meet up with my diligent cohort of students in Hearns Hotel Library (the front bar) at 3PM on the last Thursday of January 2010. I'll serve the first round.
EVERY TIME I watch a Qik clip from Barry Meehan and every blog post I read from his cycling shop, I feel guilty for idling my panniers. In an earlier life, I dropped more than a thousand of today's euros into cycling during a time when I rode 14 mile round trip miles to work. Because of Barry's enthusiasm, I know I'll have a new bike next year. He opened his shop in 1999, set up a website in 2004 and today he gets visitors that justify the name WorldWideCycles.com. Barry credits Keith Bohanna for specific pieces of guidance that have saved him bundles of money and several false starts. During a 15-minute presentation, Barry offered some cautionary notes about detecting online fraud, including some important facts about charge-backs by banks and credit card companies. Selling bikes online is challenging. And so is assembling bikes at home. When I buy from Worldwide Cycles--online or through the front door of the shop--I'll have a fully assembled bike. I'm off now to check on the gortex gear that I'll need to bash through the Irish winter weather.
THREE YEARS AFTER I first started skimming Twitter and four years after latching onto Facebook, I have to say that Facebook delivers more of a community spirit. It's all the more evident when part of my Facebook newsfeed delivers real-time community-centred. This real-time evolution towards authentic communications happened because genuine people are trundling onto Facebook with really interesting streams of information, from textual to photographic to video to audio clips. This change of Facebook's value surprises me because my initial impression of Facebook came through an inundation of applications. I used to loathe visiting Facebook because I would be confronted with dozens of pokes, quizzes, and games that just got in the way. But after manually deleting or blocking hundreds--yes, hundreds--of Facebook apps, I've a clean sheet when opening my Facebook account. On top of that, real people from decades ago have connected with me on Facebook, resuming communications as though we were between rounds in the pub. But over on Twitter, things are different. What should have been an elegant microblogging platform has now evolved into a faceless mass of wannabe celebrities jostling with each other while their PAs tweet a version of Hello! Lite. Other faces have evolved their microblogging into a clever form of in-stream advertising. I'm getting a rising number of porn bots in my "replies" tab. Twitter is evolving in a direction that doesn't suit my lingering attention. Its evolution has me subscribing to selected people and to the "favorites" that some power users want to share. Next week, I'm recording a conversation with Liam Burke, the guy who cajoled me onto Twitter in 2006. I'll share those thoughts here as well.
TWO YEARS AGO, when prominent Irish bloggers were spending an increasing amount of time flopping around inside Twitter and Jaiku, I overheard a conversation at Barcamp Cork about the rising number of channels that were competing for people's attention. I remember that chat because the consensus seemed to be that people spent most of their time in 15 sites. Even though some of those barcampers professed to open more than 70 tabs at a time on Firefox, their online worlds were no more expansive than 15 sites. Since that time, I think our online environment has atrophied even further, mainly because things like tight email windows on iPhones and 140 character limitations on Twitter have spotlighted the finite nature of human attention. My blogging has slipped. The number of Irish blogs hovers around 4,000 with no real change during the past year. Five years ago, I'd punch out five posts a day without realising it. Now I'm lucky to get one post up every day. And when I produce more than a single post, it's normally because I've sent something up to the cloud from my mobile phone. In Google Reader, the number of fresh posts from Irish bloggers is dropping off the chart. And I also thik there's a declining interest in RSS as well, perhaps pounded into submission by the iPhone's lack of RSS support.