Final – A Guide to Weblogs and Wikis

A Guide to Weblogs and Wikis

Weblogs and wikis is a class at BSU that deals with social media. Both weblogs and wikis have transformed the way we operate on a day to day basis. My goal in this guide is to prime students that take this class in the future. I will highlight some features of the course, but I will take it a step further and also explain my work I’m those areas and what they mean to me. How did I approach that topic? Did I find it useful or meaningful? I hope that students can take away from this guide a perspective into topics within the course. Maybe this will affect their work in the course and allow them to get the most out of it.


Those students who don’t have any real exposure to wikis are in for a treat. I came into the course knowing very little other than that wikis were online databases of information. While this is true, they are so much more. I am willing to bet that most students are only familiar with Wikipedia and even then they probably only use it to exploit the information within. I have found that wikis are an invaluable tool though. The course uses a wiki of it’s own, and you will use it extensively. I have used wikis to annotate my readings. This is a fantastic way to organize thoughts and notes. By doing this you can also contribute in a fantastic way. By opening your notes up you can allow people to view your thoughts and offer feedback. Wikis are also a great way to launch a project. For one of my assignments I started a collaborative project to outline all the chapters in one of the course books. By doing this on a wiki I could have other students come in and edit the outlines and contribute. They could add things that they thought were important, or take away irrelevant things. At the very least they could just take the info and walk away a little bit more informed. Whatever you do in this course, don’t write off wikis.


In the course you are also required to maintain a blog. It’s up to you how far you take it though. Most of the time you are just using it to post your assignments. They are also an easy way for you to keep up with what the other students in your class are doing. This is a very important thing and you would be wise to utilize it. Like the wiki, you can annotate readings and post them to your blog. I did this a couple times and I liked it a lot. By using the blog over the wiki for this you can shut down the ability for others to come in and edit your notes, and this is the biggest difference between the two. Keep in mind that your blog is open to the world, keep it semi professional.


There are some students in my class that swear by twitter, but I never really got into it. You will be required to use it at least a little in this course so it’s not a bad idea to talk about it. Twitter has some useful forms (live update from inside a war zone) and some less useful forms (live update of what I’m wearing today). It has been praised a tool for people to gain insight into another persons life. The japan crisis occurred during my semester and it was an excellent time to test out what twitter could really do. I was in a group for this assignment.  We scoured twitter for some feeds dealing with the crisis.  We found some really useful things like a simple  man’s observations of his morning train ride to into his Japan workplace.  He detailed the grim expressions on faces and the tense feeling in the air.  These are the real gems on twitter that are relevant to the context of this course.

Contributing to the Class

In order to really get involved in the class you will need to “drink from the fire hose” as our teacher says.  The Daybook is a place where all coursework from all students in the class will be aggregated.  Check this often and take a look at what other students are doing.  Do what I did and take ideas from these people.  This will allow you to try different things and get a feel for what works for you and what doesn’t.  Often you will find that you are better with some aspects of this course than others.  Don’t be afraid to take something that doesn’t work and change it to work for you though.  Most of the assignments are loose in what you are able to do.  I would change the topic on some of the assignments to suit me a little better.  Once you have read other people’s work, comment on it.  This is your way of contributing back to individuals.

Social Bookmarking

Not everything in this course will work for your even make sense for you to use it.  For instance, I was asked to create and use a social bookmarking account.  Social bookmarking is essentially an open directory of internet links that you create.  You can annotate the link so that others can tell what you are bookmarking.  I did just that for a while, but I didn’t like it at all.  I found that I didn’t utilize it like some others in the class.  I tend to read something in its entirety rather than bookmark it and come back to it later.  Instead I switched to just annotating and aggregating my notes and links inside of my blog or my wiki.  This worked much better for me.  Do what helps you learn best.


At some point in your assignments it might be suggested to you by the teacher to create some type artifact.  Essentially an artifact is an item that re purposes something you have done and re purposing is kind of the idea in this course.  Artifacts can be something simple, like a slideshow, or a picture.  There are more complicated ones though.  For instance I created a Mindmiester for my midterm evaluation.  By creating an artifact you can help others get an idea of what you are thinking or what you have accomplished in your assignment.  I found that I used artifacts to really plot my own ideas though.  But the main point of artifacting, again, is to re purpose material.  This primer is even an artifact.

Here are some good artifacting tools and ideas.

Social Media

Pretty much everything previously talked about in this primer can be used as a form of social media.  It probably goes without saying that social media has a large impact on our world today.  In this age of technology we have amateur journalists wherever we have an internet connection.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  Amateur journalists are just that, amateur.  We run into the problem of having people like you and I taking these stories for fact.  What people need to remember though is that the stories published are not always the same quality as those posted by professionals.  Professionals have fact checking and supposed objectivity.  I don’t mean to paint social media in a bad light though.  We can get lots of good things from it.  For instance, we can receive live updates from someone living in a war zone.  What we get here is a really intimate and personal insight into a war zone that we just cant get from a professional reporter.  In addition to this, I believe that it is better that we can have amateur journalists getting their stories read.  Before this era only those with a printing press could publish.  Obviously this is no longer the case and there is next to no regulation on someone who wants to post a story.

How is social media changing other aspects of life?

The way we learn

Nowadays we don’t have to be present in a classroom in order to learn.  You will probably find that out in this class since a lot of emphasis is placed on self learning.  This is for a good reason though, because I feel that is where we are heading.  MOOCS are massive online classes that people can sign up for.  The format feels a lot like this class actually.

I did a lot of looking into back channeling this during my semester and you might choose to take it upon yourself as well, if not just to see how it is evolving.  The idea behind backchanneling is to pass along information to people who aren’t present at the time the information is given.  An example would be tweeting highlights of a keynote speech to a group of people who could not attend the conference.  At the time of this writing, there are teachers who are trying to incorporate backchanneling into the classroom.  They aren’t doing it in an effecient (or even correct) manner.  Perhaps by the time you take the class though, they will have figured out a way to successfully utilize this social media tool.

Crowd sourcing is a lot like Wikipedia.  We have a group of people all working to create something.  This is the basic idea behind crowd sourcing.  The context is varies greatly, but the most useful forms come in a professional setting.  Professionals can call upon other professionals, or even amateurs to solve problems.  There are lots of representative projects out there.  This is often done over the internet since it allows people from across the globe to participate
in the process.

The End

I hope that students have a decent idea on what to expect and how to approach the subjects of this course.  This is by no means an official guideline that MUST be followed.  Try everything in this course and keep an open mind.  It’s very easy to write of the teaching/learning style of this course.  Instead of doing that, use this course as a true learning experience into the way this mobile computing world is heading.


Back Channeling in a Mobile Computing World

Back Channeling is an easy enough concept to understand.  Think about listening to the radio.  Now think about listening to something like a sports game on the radio.  You have one or two personalities talking about the game and highlighting plays as they happen in real time.  This is the original back channeling.  Wikipedia defines it as “the practice of electronically passing notes among some or all of the audience/students during the lecture”.  This definition could expand on that a little bit I believe.  Nowadays with smart phones and extremely mobile computers we can pass these notes to people outside of the class or audience.  So now anybody has a live feed into a lecture or presentation.  Expand this beyond the university classrooms and we have live streams of information from sporting events, expos, and interviews.

I feel that this is one of the better things to come out of mobile computing.  This is because it has real world uses that isn’t limited to some form of socializing.  This is something that professionals can and do use.  My experiences with it have been great.  Since I’m a poor college student I can’t make it to some of the electronics or video game expos that I wish I could attend.  Instead I find on a major website, or a journalists blog, a back channel of information from the expo.  Some of the channels from major sites employ an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) room so that users can even suggest questions for the person attending to ask, or just to clarify certain information.  I’ve also seen twitter users post tweets throughout a presentation, passing along valuable information.

My teacher also gave us a couple real world examples in class.  He back channeled from the presentation explaining the budget cuts to our university.  Perhaps the most interesting thing he provided us though was in his example that featured his wife tweeting a synopsis from a meeting with a politician.  It was interesting because the politician reprimanded her for having her phone out.  The second punch came when he found out that she was actually broadcasting something he said in context that he might have believed to be less public.  His wife was asked to take down the comment, the politician said that he didn’t say that particular thing at all, and that he meant something else entirely.

So, what do we think of this?  Is it ethical to post information in such a way?  Should this only be used for presentation?  The answer is still up in the air really.  I say everything is fair game though.  Let’s see where this new form of communication takes us.  I think that as this technology becomes more comfortable to everyone that we will start seeing lots of back channeling, it’s too useful not to exploit it.  I can see kids at universities skipping class and just tuning in to a back channel from a generous (possibly naive) student who is actually there.  More and more people will probably do similar things to what I had been doing.  I think in some way we will all become little journalists.  Good for a few sentences, but not much else.  I think that the biggest thing we are missing is a Twitter or Facebook for back channeling.  Some sort of super website that takes off in popularity.  We need a site that aggregates all back channels and allows us to browse them and join in.  Wait, I’m a programmer….   brb


Critical links:  (top 10 back chanelling sites/tools) (10 back channeling observations from another person)

Social Media and Privacy

To start out with this post I had to really sit down and identify the major issues with social media and privacy.  I eventually found my way to a blog post that pretty much summed up the main points, found here.  In addition, the site also gives some pointers on how to handle some of the privacy concerns. This post is essentially going to be my take on each of these issues.  Is it a legitimate issue?  Who stands to gain or lose from the issue?  Can it be prevented?

The most common issue with privacy and social media seems to be problems with collateral damage from posting to your social media site.  What I mean by this is when a person makes a post, it sometimes isn’t meant for everyone to see.  When the people that aren’t supposed to read the post come across it, the outcome can be a disaster.  We have all heard some rumor along the way about this happening, here is one that I have seen a few times around the net:

“OMG [oh my God] I HATE MY JOB!!” “My boss is… always making me do s**t stuff just to p**s me off!!… “

“Hi Lindsay, I guess you forgot about adding me on here?” [He continued with] “… that s**t stuff’ is called your ‘job’, you know, what I pay you to do. But the fact that you seem to be able to f**k up the simplest of tasks might contribute to how you feel about it. And lastly, you also seem to have forgotten that you have 2 weeks left on your 6 month trial period. Don’t bother coming in tomorrow.”

I find this hilarious in every way, even if it isn’t real.  If it is fake, I’m sure that something similar has happened before.  What we need to take away from this though is that posts on social media sites should always be considered public, never private.  This is especially true when you consider the article from Boyd and video from Shirky. In the article/video they talk about how sites like Facebook nonchalantly tell you that they have changed the privacy setting and that you should revise them.  The number of people that ended up actually changing their settings was 1 in 3.  This disaster was compounded when the changes made it so that the site took a default setting of public, and then the option of switching to private.  Why would they do such a thing?  Probably because their business partners would have a lot to gain from it (see: Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol).  Don’t be naive, always assume that the one person you don’t want to read your post is going to somehow find it and read it.  I do not feel bad for these people who lose their job because of social networks.   Also, are people really being fired over pictures of them drinking alcohol?  Last I checked, it’s not illegal and it definitely shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of.  If anything, its shows some form of normalcy.  Pro-tip: either embrace it fully, or just get off the social network.

Another large concern with privacy in social media is the use of public information.  When a person posts information to their profile on a website, do they really know what they are doing?  Do they know where that information is going?  What is being done with it?  I don’t think they do.  This is probably because you are only really asked for small tiny pieces of information at a time.  First your email to sign up, then your first and last night.  Now maybe they want your birthday.  Soon they could be asking for city of birth, and so on.  By concatenating all this information, a professional could build a very detailed profile of you (recent Google folly ring a bell?). What about places like LinkedIn?  It’s on online database for professionals.  But I can go in there and look up a person, see where they live, where they have worked, and even get a picture of them.  Surely everyone can see the potential for danger in this.

Just recently I noticed that one of my Facebook applications took the liberty of adding itself to the “interests” section of my profile.  This was without my knowing, and had I known that was happening, I would have immediately uninstalled the application.  Outside of the electronic world, I struggle to find the line between when I just don’t care about someone having some of my information and when I’m concerned enough to do something about it.  On the internet though, once I’m passed the initial feeling of being flattered,  I’m irate that someone took information without my knowing.  I’m genuinely creeped out by ads that are engineered based on my interests an habits.  How are they getting my information! (again, see: Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol)  Stop it!  These ads are useless anyway and they are never things that I would actually be interested in.  So maybe that’s a bigger slap in my face, they steal my information, then don’t even use it to benefit me!  I think the reason I get so mad about it is because I don’t have the option to sell my information, it is just taken.  I know I put it out there, but still, a more formal warning would be nice.

So overall what is my take on social media and privacy?  I agree with essentially everything that Boyd and Shirky are saying.  The system is not in place online to interact with others in the same way that we do in real life.  I’m ok with that.  This is still a relatively new phenomena and it isn’t fully developed yet.  In a few more years if we still have the same problems then that is another thing.  I don’t think its ok at all that businesses are stealing our information though.  I know its on “public” webspace, but as Shirky noted, if you knew someone was listening in on a conversation, you probably wouldn’t talk about the same things or talk in the same way as you would in a more candid situation.  I love it, I hate it, I just deal with it.  Learn to adapt to the new form of communication.  Just stop stealing my damn information without asking!


Annotations of links and readings:

  • By and large, teenagers, according to Boyd, are more conscious about what they can gain by being public, while adults worry more about what they could lose.
  • Just because you can see somebody, doesn’t mean they want to be seen.

  • When interacting in real life, we can really control who hears/sees what.  But when you are online, its either public or private.
  • Are all your friends in one big bucket, though, in real life?
  • Facebook is implementing a system that will allow you to specify who see certain posts, not just the two options of public/friends only.  This will sort of be like email mailing lists.  Maybe you can set up certain groups.

On my facebook:

  • apps adding themselves to my interests.

LinkedIn – website meant to advertise yourself (career related) or do they take the info without asking?

Social Media – Japan Earthquake

Looking at a lot of these twitters my group has various thoughts on how social media is working.

First of all, for me, twitter can be very hard to follow when reading a persons page for the first time.  I’m not sure who is talking to who, what is original, and what the context on a lot of comments is.  I found that I valued the tweets from people living in Japan, talking about their train ride in to work and how tense it was.

Lot of “internet experts” on social media sites, contributes to a number of bad things.

Gilbert Gottfried. – Fired from job for comments on Japan eq. – comments on this photo.  Lots of people that aren’t very sympathetic to the situation that caused the action in the photo.  Only considering the face-value of the picture.

Youtube comments – seems like some person will provoke other people by saying something ludicrous.  The more useful comments get filtered up to the top.  Lots of youtube videos seem to just be news clips.

Just in class I was talking to group member about death toll numbers.  We had incredibly different numbers for the toll, so somewhere along the way, bad information is getting spread around using social networking.

Classmate found the above link.  Army’s social media response to the earthquake.  People were able to find evacuation information/safety information on the social media sites. (Looks like the posted links on twitter and facebook etc..)



So how has social media been dealing with the Japan earthquake?  On one level, it is simply informing.  I think this is the most basic level and the one that is used the most.  On another level, social media has been used to rally.  Whether it be organizing support (monetary), or creating another organized effort like maybe the army link posted above.  The army link was essentially rallying its troops to remind them of disaster training and lead others through this disaster and help educate them.

What do we gain?  From the youtube video conversations – nothing other than to realize how there are still idiots out there.  The videos themselves serve to inform, and so do pictures from other social media sites.  We gain insight into the daily life of an individual living in a country post-disaster via twitter.  Direction in what we can do to support those dealing with the disaster.

What’s missing?  Tough question, we can’t really come up with what is missing.  It seems like everything is being done already.  Maybe we need a different question here.  Could come up with one if more time.  (actually, quality control would be nice, but at the same time, that might restrict what social media is essentially)

How do we respond?  We can join in on the rallying from other sites.  Donate, volunteer, etc…  We can annotate and spread our opinions over the internet, like we are doing now for this class.  We can be misinformed and spread that bad information through our blog…  Do nothing…

A Time for Reflection

It is week 6 in Weblogs and Wikis and it is time to take a break and look back at everything that has happened so far.  I have learned a good bit about a few different things in this course and have even changed my opinions on the usefulness of certain new technologies.  The two biggest fronts that I based my class campaign from were blogging and wikis.  I think the best way to go about reflecting will be to look at one I’ve done in each of those areas and annotate on that.  This will allow me to reflect even further.


This assignment is sort of like what I am doing right now!  I took the readings that were assigned for this particular week and essentially took online notes about them.  Very useful.  This was significant to me because it allowed others to see my notes, take away what they wanted from them, but not be able to edit them, just comment.

In this post I examine the ways that blogging works itself into the things that I am most interested in.  I liked this because it forced me to go out and find blogs that should interest me.  I don’t do a lot of searching around for this sort of thing, so it was nice to learn how to search for blogs.

This was towards the beginning of the class, I re purposed some content that I had explored for myself.  I created a post that others could then take and learn from.


My first dive into wikis and wiki editing.  Only used WikiPedia in the past so I had a limited view on what the could be used for.  I decided to start a collaborative project to outline the chapters from the text for this class.


I had a couple tweet, but nothing serious.  I still feel that Twitter is not good for me.  I believe that it has its uses, but I don’t think that I will tap into them.  Pretty much the same with my social bookmarking site.  I am the kind of person that sits down and reads what I come across until I am finished with it.  I almost never come back to the material.  Maybe one day it will work better for me, but not now.

I didn’t do a ton of commenting on other classmate’s posts.  I read a lot of them though, and enjoyed most of them.  I guess I just felt that we are all learning and that our topics were often so different that I didn’t feel like it was my place to comment on their work.  This is perhaps something I should work on in the future for this class.


Looking Forward
I would like to work more wikis, that is for sure.  I believe that it can become a very valuable tool for me in the future.  Im thinking of a project that deals with my software engineering team.  Maybe we could use a wiki to track bugs or what each member is currently working on.  As far as blogging, I will continue to annotate the readings on my blog.  I believe that it is very useful to others.  I would also again like to try and really comment on the work of others.



So coming back after writing all the previous content, I went and made a MindMeister.  Here is the finished product.  Nothing fancy, I just did it to get a feel for the tool and see if it will be useful to me.

New Wiki Page

I am currently working a wiki page that will feature chapter summaries from “The Complete Guide to [[Wikis]]” book.  It can be found here.  Feel free to contribute.

Annotation of Required Readings

Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not

  • Weird to reflect on the point that the internet was supposed to be a collection of knowledge, not a global supermarket.  -not sure how I feel about his, but it definitely makes me think.
  • Wiki – Hawaiian for “quick”!
  • Content is ego-less, time-less, and never finished. Anonymity is not required but is common.  – This is a great thing for me, I don’t like when other cast judgment on my work.
  • I agree that a wiki works great as a list of a collection of link or information.  Just look at our class page.  It works, and works well.  I wish other teachers would adopt a class wiki.
  • “Using the wiki has allowed us to share and collaborate on the research that we would have otherwise done individually. This allows for easier information management during the project, and will improve the quality of our finished product.”  – I wish my programming team could get behind something like this.  Just seems to make sense to do it this way.
  • Rick Heller – This is the only way I could write a book.  Very neat concept.
  • Soft security – what happens when the community shrinks, but the information is still valuable?
  • “Darwikinism” -“subject to ruthless culling and replacement if they are not considered ‘fit.’ “
  • Wikipedia – the online “Tower of Babel”?
  • “Yes, even wiki enthusiasts acknowledge that the pages could be more readable”
  • I can’t even believe that “wikis look boring” is an argument or a reason to not like them.  Style that shit if you think its boring.
  • – this guy has style

The Complete Guide to Wikis

The first chapter started out great.  Lots of good info, gave me a few different wiki environments to browse.  Basic functions were introduced.  At the end of the chapter I was left puzzled though.  The book seemed to argue that Wikipedia is a valid research option.  However they have a disclaimer saying that students should still research using other methods.  Why would they do that when all their research is in one central location?  I thought you that Wikipedia was a legitimate research tool?  Just for good practice?

Chapter two, very nice.  Again more types of wikis and examples of those types, helpful.  Was getting really excited to learn how to set up and host my own wiki.  Was disappointed to see it in a chapter that was not assigned.  What, now I have to learn on my own!?  (Chapters 3 and 11 look like the chapters to read about hosting your own wiki, for those of you who are interested.  I will giving them a look.)

Above and Below the Double Line

Driving home the idea of thread mode and document mode.  Discussion here is important.  This is because it leads to re factoring.  I’m familiar with re factoring since I am a software engineer.  In coding, the idea is to change existing code slightly to make it work for you.  This is exactly what we are looking to do here.  Take this discussion material and put it in a format that works for us, while at the same time moving the wiki forward.  Finishes up with some suggested methods for turning the mess of thread mode into something that is usable.