Is Storify and Twitter enabling a new method for academics to record conferences and take notes? It might seem so. Conferences tend to have Twitter hashtags these days as a means of allowing the audience to tweet about the conference as it progresses. If enough people do it, then the hashtag can actually recreate an aspect of the presentations in a bullet-pointed form. Storify is one means to capture, archive and store those tweet for use later and for sharing with others.
Here are a few examples:
Social Media Knowledge Exchange conference Day 1Day 2
Storify doesn’t just allow you to create a collection of tweets. It allows you to borrow from other social media (such as Facebook), websites and blogs. You could create a digital archive of an event that draws in everything mentioned about it on the web. You could do the same about a specific subject or anything you could imagine. However, there are some limitations. WordPress, for example, limits what you can do with Storify (see here). It is possible to embed a Storify story on Tumblr (see here).
At the moment Storify is an interesting development which could be highly useful. I was skeptical at first but I’m now beginning to see how it could be used and used well. Only time will tell of course if it is taken up by academics but it might well be worth a look.
If you are interesting in integrating social media into your work practices then a useful place to look for information is the recent Social Media conference held at the CRASSH centre at the University of Cambridge. The conference was the final part of the SMKE (Social Media Knowledge Exchange) programme. It included talks by the SMKE scholars on various social media projects that they have been working on, and other presentations about copyright and ethics, networking, and much else besides.
Last week I presented the Blogging for Historians project to the Social Media Knowledge Exchange (SMKE) conference. I was the first one up on the second day (the only thing keeping the audience and myself from the coffee). A video from this will be made available soon from SMKE, but in the meantime I thought I would share with you a few items from the talk.
1. Slide Show and video
Some of these slides won’t mean much without the context. I’d rather not upload the text from my talk here, simply because it is not yet in a format that is legible to anyone but myself, however I would like to talk you through some of it.
Slide two shows the History SPOT blog (my first ever blog). I began my talk with this blog as I wanted to point out the problems that can occur and stay with a blog if it is not carefully planned from the very beginning. To this day the url and the name of the blog (at least on a superficial level) remain generic and unexciting (see the arrows). This was in part because I didn’t know at the time exactly what the blog would be about or what the name of the project would eventually become. The History SPOT blog has been a success, but the legacy of not knowing the importance of the name, especially for the url, remains with it.
The third slide shows a screenshot of this blog (Blogging for Historians) – an example – I hope – of how far I’ve come in choosing good names (or at least adequate ones). Slide four shows the outputs for this project followed by slide five in which I have outlined the principal types of blogs that I have found being used by academics and practitioners in the History profession.
Slide six is where I introduced all of the blogs and bloggers who were interviewed for the project. Here I broke them down into the categories mentioned in the previous slide. I explained that my selection of bloggers was based on trying to get a wide range of types so that I would get a good understanding from each person I interviewed of best practice, positives and negatives of blogging, and a range of reasons why a blog has been setup in the first place.
The slides that follow highlight two aspects of the interviews:
1) why was the blog set up (it’s reason for existence)
2) how is the blog managed
I went through each in some detail then (as you can see in slide 13) summarised some of the other questions and answers. I then showed a video that is a rough cut taken from the interviews on the question of what makes a good blog post. You can watch this here:
I really enjoyed making this video, although I am the first to admit that it is a little rough around the edges. I think it’s useful. Each of the interviews are 20-30 minutes long – not many people will listen all the way through, if at all I suspect. This video is only a few minutes in length and focuses on just one aspect of blogging but from various different views. I’m hoping to make up more of these in the future from the interviews already conducted (perhaps adding some more illuminating video aspects along the way).
Back to the slide show – slide 15 through to 18. In the talk I now moved on to one part of the project that I felt didn’t work very well – the online survey. I would like to thank all of you who did take part in the survey. Your views were very valuable and useful. However, I only received a little over 120 responses; not enough to truly gain a clear understanding of peoples views and opinions. This is certainly part of the project that I will need to think about more carefully in the future.
The final slides take a look at the upcoming toolkit or guide to blogging, that forms the final part of this phase of the Blogging for Historians project. Here I have just outlined the principal parts of the guide and given an example from the section looking at blog platforms. There will be more about this (and the toolkit itself) on this blog very soon.
I finished my talk by looking toward the future. I’m hoping to conduct more interviews, although for now these will most likely be e-mail based. I’m also hoping to create more videos by breaking up the interview audio into smaller chunks. I will also, of course, continue to add to the Blogging for Historians blog and build up a stronger and hopefully useful resource for anyone considering blogging for the first time (or indeed anyone wishing to learn more about blogs who already has one).
2. Twitter feed
Throughout all the presentations over the two day conference many people in the room twittered online. In this regard I’m still in the pen and paper age, but I might well give it a go at a future conference as the result (which has been stored by SMKE on Storify) is quite interesting and represents well the outline of the two days.
3. Six responses to the Social Media Knowledge Exchange conference
As a light epilogue to the two day event a few of us were asked to comment on the conference and projects which has now been made up on a short video on youtube. Just bare in mind that this was recorded over lunch and we had only a few seconds to compose something in our head before finding ourselves in front of the camera.
For the last two days I was at the SMKE Social Media conference (Social Media Knowledge Exchange). It’s been really great few days, with plenty of interesting ideas raised, concerns and thoughts expressed, and meeting lots of people with interesting areas of research and interests. My deepest thanks go out to the SMKE organisers, especially our hosts the CRASSH centre at Cambridge. Anne Alexander especially deserves mention for coordinating everything so well.
A large element of the conference was the SMKE scholar projects that have been funded over the last year. We had everything from research into computer games and virtual realities, to social media as a tool for protest and organisation. Questions of legitimacy and verification were raised, concerns over ethics and copyright discussed, and thoughts about the benefits and risks of social media mulled over.
As a whole these sessions proved to be much more than showcasing projects, but thought provoking talks that showed off the various benefits and weaknesses of social media and gave a hint as to future ways forward.
First thing on the second day (Wednesday) it was my turn to talk about the Blogging for Historians project. I went through some of the things that were said by the bloggers who I have interviewed for this project, and discussed a little bit about my findings. It was interesting that it was the comment about word length and the style of writing for a blog that provoked the most interest and discussion. How long should a blog post be? Should we be suggesting a minimum or maximum? Is length really all that important or is it the style of the post that really matters? What draws people in and what sends them away? I’ll be thinking about this and other things as I finalise the toolkit for this project and I will try and post here about some of those musings as they begin to take form.
I’m told that the SMKE website will soon display lots of content about these and the other presentations, but for now here’s a link to the conference programme and to the Storify collection of Twitter posts (day one and day two) that they have gathered together. There was a lot of twittering, which is perhaps not that unexpected considering the topic of the conference but it surprised me just how much these 150 character long pieces managed to capture a good fraction of the conference for posterity.
Have you ever considered Unicron for dinner? If not, why not? Oh, right, yes of course – Unicron’s don’t exist. There goes my dinner plans. On Tuesday 29 January 2013 the Institute of Historical Research held a workshop on Social Media for the SMKE project. The second talk was by Julian Harrison of the British Library, who discussed the British Library’s Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts blog. The Unicron recipe came from a post about a long-lost medieval cookbook containing recipes for hedgehogs, blackbirds and Unicron’s. It has some great images and advice, just a shame the post was published on 1 April (see blog post here).
Harrison didn’t just talk about spurious blog posts, however, the purpose of the blog is more serious – to showcase the work that the British Library does and its holdings to a wider audience than was ever possible before the advent of social media. In using blogs, the British Library is trying to connect users with their content, facilitate research, and have a bit of fun in the process. The blog stats were particularly interesting. The Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts blog began in 2010 and received 14,000 views. In 2011 this increased to 70,000 views and then in 2012 it really took off with a massive 300,000 views. Harrison broke down the stats for 2012. Visitors came from 189 countries although the US (38%) and UK (23%) were by far the largest group. It is interesting that there was more interest from America than from the UK. Harrison mentioned that they had started to time some of their posts for the American audience – placing them at midnight UK time so that Americans could receive the posts near the end of their working day (about 4pm on the West coast).
Julian Harrison also outlined his seven golden rules of blogging. These are:
Post on a frequent basis
Write in a lively manner
Include pictures or images
Know your audience
Don’t be afraid to ‘plog’ (i.e. plug your blog – promote it – tweet and re-tweet)
All in all, this workshop was very useful in highlighting the usefulness of social media, including blogs, for the historian. The claim was made that in the current climate maintaining an online profile through social media is to be viewed as vital to securing jobs; someone findable online are more likely to be given a job than someone who keeps his or her research offline. I’m not certain if this is entirely true, yet, but I can easily see it going this way. I don’t think this should be the principal reason for entering the world of social media though. Self-promotion might prove useful, but it will only be successful – I think – if the reasons for posting blog posts and engaging in Twitter or photograph networks – is to further your own research and interest in a subject. If you are excited by what you are doing, and would like to express that excitement to others, I suspect that your online presence will be better received and more enjoyable and useful to both yourself and to others.