Recently in Social Networking Category

Google+ has just extended its Hangouts feature (e.g. video chat/conferencing) to apply to specific posts.

This is pretty cool for reasons I'll explain below. But first, a short story for context...

Just yesterday in the SS&PP department meeting we were discussing methods of sharing information with each other with the example being an informal session I'd hosted for Wilson Reference staff on the World Bank Data site. Van Houlson sat in because he happened to be S30C at the time and said he'd found it really useful (thanks Van!).

However, he wished that he had something he could go back to later to refer to as needed, but it seemed like no part of www.lib.umn.edu really fit with this need.

I pointed out that even if we did have such a space - and I agree that we don't in www.lib.umn.edu - my session was aimed at librarians anyway. I presumed lots of knowledge on the part of the audience and focused on elements of the World Bank Data site that would be of benefit in a reference situation.

However, Google+ _can_ meet this need.


  1. It lets you target posts to specific audiences (reference staff or your department or your students)

  2. You retain access to the posts long after the fact & you can bookmark them, +1 them or save them to special circles for finding again later

  3. It now has hangouts attached to each post

So, instead of hosting sessions in S30C limited to staff who are physically present, I could write a post about using the World Bank Data site, invite people to discuss it via hangouts and participants could bookmark/+1/whatever it for their own use.

This would require that UMN staff adopt Google+ pretty broadly, but it might be worth it for precisely this kind of use.

Also, you can imagine how hangouts attached to specific posts could be used for instruction, class discussions, group projects, etc.

Scholarship and Social Media

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I recently came across a presentation by science librarian John Dupuis titled Scholarship in the Public Eye: The Case for Social Media. You can view his slideshow here:

Even more useful, I think, is this post linking to all of the resources used in this presentation. It's a great compilation.

e-Professionalism

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The University of Minnesota has created a short, interactive online workshops on e-professionalism and using social media. There are two different versions: one for students and one for staff and faculty. Both focus on how to create a positive professional online presence, critical thinking about the information you post online, and privacy/legal issues in an educational context.

You can access the workshops at https://e-professionalism.umn.edu/.

Both versions start with this video to get you thinking about social media:

Graduate Students and Twitter

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twitter_newbird_boxed_blueonwhite.pngA couple weeks ago, I attended a session sponsored Center for Teaching & Learning titled Let`s Tweet Up! Creating a Digital Identity in Support of Research, Teaching, Learning. Dr. Ilene Alexander led us in a discussion of how to leverage Twitter and social media in general as a busy graduate student. This was a great opportunity to hear from graduate students how Twitter is being used in their fields, and to learn about some useful tips and resources.

Some of the big questions the graduate students had coming in to the workshop were:


  • How do I separate my personal and professional identities online?

  • Why should I use Twitter when I already have so many things to pay attention to?

  • How do I fit twitter use into my workflow?

  • How do I find other tweeters in my subject area?

Here is a partial list of some of the uses for Twitter that were mentioned in an attempt to answer some of these questions:


  • crowd source

  • follow sources

  • track professional organizations

  • curate resources

  • post calls

  • contribute

  • intentionally making connections

  • seek new ideas

And finally, here are a couple of resources I came away with that could be useful to a wide array of researchers:


This also inspired me to do some updating of the PIM Social Networking website.

Google+ : GBooks and Games

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Google+ has added a few new features in the last week. The first is that you can now share information from your Google Books account to Google+. In theory you can include the books in your Google Books account into posts for Google+. So far, I've only seen the "+1" button (which is partly like the "Like" button in Facebook and partly a way of saying "me too"). It's a strangely incomplete integration.

Google+ has also now introduced games. I am not a fan of games on Facebook, so I think this is a bit of a shame. On the other hand, I had to look for the Games section which means it's not being forced into the main stream of posts. That's excellent. I'm a little surprised that the first round of games didn't include something similar to Words with Friends. That game is social by design unlike Angry Birds or Bejeweled.

Google Scholar Profiles

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A couple weeks ago, Google Scholar announced that it will now allow users to set up a citations page listing articles and citation metrics. If Google+ also takes off, I wonder if this will be the push that gets academics into social networking.

One question that we've been wondering about here in the Science & Engineering Library is how Google will be handling author ID/disambiguation since they plan to automatically update profiles with new research. Here is what Google has to say about it on their blog:

We use a statistical model based on author names, bibliographic data, and article content to group articles likely written by the same author. You can quickly identify your articles using these groups. After you identify your articles, we collect citations to them, graph these citations over time, and compute your citation metrics. Three metrics are available: the widely used h-index, the i-10 index, which is the number of articles with at least ten citations, and the total number of citations to your articles. We compute each metric over all citations as well as over citations in articles published in the last five years. These metrics are automatically updated as we find new citations to your articles on the web.

Has anybody tried this out yet?

Google+ debuted about a month ago. Despite a limited initial release, its user base has exploded. This isn't that surprising considering the prevalence of Google accounts already in use and the comfort most people now have with the idea of social networks.

Google+ has some characteristics of both Facebook and Twitter. Like Facebook, you can write posts of any length, share interesting finds online, post photographs and (video) chat. Like Twitter, two-way relationships are not required. For example, I follow the public Google+ posts of Randall Munroe (author of the xkcd webcomic), but since we don't know each other he's not following me back.

There are numerous guides to Google+ that go into great detail such as Mashable's Guide, so I won't do so here.

Two early Google+ controversies have arisen from Google's efforts to pin down user identities. Initially, Google+ required users to state their Gender (male, female, other) as public content. Some users chose other in order to maintain her/his privacy, but that led to some weirdness as you might expect. After user complaints, Google+ added privacy controls on this field although the field itself remains required.

Currently, there's considerable controversy over Google's "real names" policy and fairly ham-handed enforcement of it. danah boyd has an excellent post on the topic at apophenia, so again, I refer you there.

The reason I'm writing about Google+ at all is because I think that, over the long term, it could be a very powerful tool for academic social networking. Currently Google+ is only usable with regular, commercial Google accounts and not with domain accounts. Or, at least, not with the University of Minnesota's domain accounts. However, once it is available for the University's domain accounts, then students, faculty and staff will have a place to define a professional Google identity, make (more and better) use of Google's many powerful tools and network with each other in their professional context. As a professional tool, some of the problems that have cropped up so far with Google+ will be a little less acute. For example, the real names policy (as in, you have to use yours or else) makes more sense when you're at work than when you're on a social network for personal reasons. Google+ could serve as the gathering point for your work reading, writing, ruminating, mail and more without having to intrude on your personal identity.

However, Google+ isn't at this point yet. Right now, if you want to try it out, then you will have accept some risk. First of all, if you do use it for work posts, then you're connecting your personal and work identities. You will want to think about this carefully and use your circles judiciously. Second, you will have to pass muster on your name. Not only has Google aggressively pursued users who Google believes to be using pseudonyms, but it's even gone after actual users who happen to have common names. When it does, Google suspends access to _all_ Google products.

So, apart from idle curiosity, why bother? Well, in my case, I've used it as a place to write work-related posts which are too long for Twitter, but not worth a full blog post and which I want to share in a fully public sense (not an option on Facebook). If you already use Google Photos (aka Picasa), it's an easy place to share your photos. Indeed, if you have an Android device, it can be the easiest way to share photos from your device. If you really, really, really hate Facebook, then you might appreciate Google+ simple interface and absence of Farmville. You might also like the video chat.

I'll keep using Google+ because I like to play with new toys, but for most users, it will need to mature before it becomes a must-use tool. If you wish to, you can find me at amyewest.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Social Networking category.

Productivity and Efficiency is the previous category.

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