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Posts Tagged ‘Social Networking’

Using Netvibes to collate your online presence

20 Oct

If you have multiple spaces online, Netvibes could draw them together for you. If you are involved in multiple projects, particularly those which involve content from other people and from the library community, then Netvibes really comes into its own! This is essentially a post about discovering a really useful too, which I’d heard of but never previously understood.

Some context: I couldn’t attend Internet Librarian International this year, but luckily a lot of people on Twitter did. I think it was Bethan Ruddock whose tweet I saw, drawing attention to the fact that Phil Bradley now points people towards his Netvibes page as his ‘home page’.

I’ve looked at Netvibes before, particularly around the time CILIP set up the ‘cilip future’ dashboard, but never found a good use for it – all it seemed to do for me was display the results of a bunch of key-word searches. But then I saw Phil’s public page and it all made sense… I still don’t use the private page (iGoogle does sort of the same role for me) but I’ve now set up a public Netvibes page – check it out at www.netvibes.com/nedpotter – and I’m really pleased with the possibilities it opens up. On the one hand, I’m loathe to add YET ANOTHER online place for people to go to, as my e-dentity (has that been used before? If not I’m gonna trademark it :) ) is fragmented enough as it is. But what I’ve found Netvibes does for me is aggregate all these online presences into one place, and also allows me to draw together the various projects I’m involved with. I’ve been meaning to update my website for ages, and I will still do so – but in the meantime, it’s massively quicker to drag and drop some content into Netvibes than to bash away at DreamWeaver for hours to edit thewikiman.org. I figure I’ll still give my blog URL out as my ‘primary’ address, but will give out the Netvibes one if people are particularly interested in an aspect of what I’m doing (whether that’s Library Routes, LISNPN, the Echo Chamber thing, or anything else).

A picture of my Netvibes Public page

This is how my public Netvibes homepage looks right now

So, my Netvibes page currently has four tabs – the ‘General’ homepage contains a little bit of free text and a picture, and then links to a few things such as thewikiman.org. Mainly though it contains embedded content drawn in from all over the place (all which will of course be updated in real time as it changes elsewhere) – my Twitter feed, my blog feed, my Youtube videos, my flickr pics, a precis of my LinkedIn profile, It also contains a presentation from Slideshare,  and the papers and presentations page embedded from thewikiman.org. This gives people an enormous amount of stuff from which to build a picture of me and my professional activities.

The way in which Netvibes has really convinced me, however, is with the other tabs. The Echo Chamber tab, for example, gives a far better summary of the whole thing than is available anywhere else online. There’s some free text explaining the concept, there’s the Prezi presentation that Laura Woods and I created and are adding to as we go along, there’s a blog search and a twitter search on the subject, and there’s my one-page article from Library & Information Update which explains the whole thing. This is the first time I’ll have had a URL to point someone towards which pulls everything together. I know that my own website could (and probably should) do this, but there are two reasons why Netvibes works better – firstly it would take time and expertise I don’t have to embed all that stuff on my own site, and secondly I feel that this netvibes platform is better for bringing in content created by other people (which is to say blogs, tweets etc) than my own website, which somehow wouldn’t be appropriate.

I’ve created a LISNPN tab and a Library Routes tab which work in much the same way, and will soon be adding one for my actual day-job too. Take a look and see if you think Netvibes could do a similar job for you.

If you agree it might be useful and are anxious to get started, here, as ever, as some top tips I discovered through trial and error which I’d have like to have known from the start:

  • Enable your Public profile right away. You don’t have to tell anyone it’s there until you’re ready – but I spent ages mucking about with my page before realising it was only the private one. I thought I could ‘make it public’ but you have to create a separate public one, so I had to start again…
  • Use the Settings Menu to choose a theme. It’s in the top right hand corner – choose something you like early on and then arrange the content to suit it
  • Tabs = good. The ‘general’ default tab is great for giving a summary of all your online stuff, but if you have particular projects or areas you’re involved with, give them their own tab. That way if someone asks you about something specific, you have a URL to point them to directly (rather than just saying ‘it’s own my website’ which can come out like, ‘go look for it yourself’.)
  • You can edit the tab layout easily. Each tab has an ‘edit’ button – click this and you’re given options as to how the content will be arranged. Number of columns, whether stuff goes all the way across the page or only part of the way, etc etc. It’s easy to pick a layout that suits whatever you have on that particular tab – so don’t be trying to crowbar a massively wide website into a half-screen column when you don’t have to.
  • Before you embed a website, see if there’s already a widget for that site on Netvibes. Here’s the Essential Widgets menu (which you get to by clicking ‘Add Content’ in the top left corner):
    A picture of the Widgets dashboard on Netvibes

    This screen shot is of page 1 of 2 for 'essential widgets'

    So Twitter, LinkedIn etc – it’s all there for you, just drag the widget where you want it to go, put in the relevant URL and it does the rest for you. Some sites, such as Slideshare, aren’t represented in the widgets – for those,  you can use Link Module (not sure if you can see it on the pic above – it’s top row, just to the right of centre, next to Web Page) – this creates a little thumbnail of the site, which looks nice. (You can see an example for my own homepage, in the middle at the bottom of the picture.)

  • Use the Webnote widget to introduce the page. You don’t need any knowledge of HTML or programming to throw your page together. If you use the Webnote module (top left in the Essential Widgets screen-grab above) you can just type into it normally – I use it at the top of some of my tabs to just give a brief outline of what that tab is about.
  • Use the search widgets. On page 2 of the Essential Widgets there are various ‘search’ widgets – search the web, search images, search videos, search blogs, search Twitter etc. These are great for pulling in content from other people, to give wider context about a given topic. You can say what you think about something, and you can show what other people think about it too.
  • For the blog search function, use IceRocket. I’ve never heard of IceRocket before, but when you use the Blog Search widget, you get by default several tabs, referring to different ways of searching blogs for the same topic. I found that the IceRocket tab produced by far the most relevant and pertinent results, more so than Google Blogsearch. I’ve mostly got rid of the other tabs and just kept IceRocket, or in a couple of cases IceRocket and Google Blogsearch.
  • And that’s it! Have fun.

- thewikiman

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you read it here first!* Twitter’s got bird-flu…

06 Aug

*Admittedly, you probably didn’t read it here at all. The blog had 8 subscribers when I wrote the post I’m referring to. But it makes a better headline than the excruciating ‘Twitter ye not’, eh?

I don’t use Twitter. This is for various reasons.

I am unmoved by the concept of micro blogging. I tend not to like many new trends of this sort because they end up with the tail wagging the dog, and either libraries or Information Professionals scurrying round trying to find uses for the technology, rather than the technology serving us. I’m not into social-networking generally; my MySpace account has lain dormant for months, and although I can see benefits of FaceBook I think overall the quality of my life is improved by never having to check it (and spend 6 hours a month like UK users do on average – that’s a significant chunk of time, and I already while away enough hours on online frippery as it is). Twitter can crash, like it apparently did at 3pm today (admit it – your first thought was to Tweet wondering why you couldn’t Tweet), and it can be quite expensive (I know it is free to sign-up, but footballer Darren Bent’s Twitter Rant cost him in fines from his club a figure it takes me more than three years to earn)…  I can’t quite get my head round the idea that people are interested enough in my daily life to post 140 character updates as to what I’m doing, although I can see that it’s a useful mechanism for instantly disseminating information or sparking debate, in a professional context. But the final nail in Twitter’s coffin for me was signing up under a test name to see what the fuss was about, and amassing a small group of followers despite never having tweeted… What were these people thinking?

Anyhow, not so long ago (a mere two blog posts, in fact) I wrote a practical guide to creating a website. In the section about why it was worth having one of your own at all these days with so many different ways of enjoying a presence on the web, among other reasons I wrote that your own website may be a little more future proof than any social-networking platform, what with the latter being subject to the whims of internet companies or the possibility of their being a fad. The example I gave was that they could go the way of Friends Reunited – purchased by ITV in late 2005 for £120 million as their grand new foray into Social-Networking, with a total spend of £175 million; soon superseded by the likes of FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter itself, and put up for sale for around £15 million last month (losing ITV an estimated 90% of their investment, stat-fans!).

Well, that prediction of doom looked more likely than ever to come true today, as Ofcom released their Communications Market Report. This is worth a look, for Information Professionals, whether you care about Social Networking or not. It showed that while internet use in the UK is still booming (up 21.5% year on year), there has been drop in the use of Social Networking sites (down 5%) by the key 15-24 year-old demographic, for the first time.  The basic reason for this, suggested by The Guardian and others, is that the 25-34 year-olds have moved in, cluttered up the space, and made it frightfully uncool for the younger generation. So we can no longer claim to be helping Information Professionals communicate with the Google Generation via Twitter…

Of course, this isn’t really the death-knell for Twitter at all. The figure of 2.6 million users given in the Ofcom report is thought to be out of date already, such is the site’s rate of growth. But it is a reminder that things which seem all the rage can die away very quickly indeed (Second Life has lost massive amounts of users, apparently:  good, nothing winds me up more than libraries trying to be down with the second-life kids, although I’m sure someone, somewhere, has managed to do it well. Possibly) and that it doesn’t do to invest too many of your communicative eggs in one potentially transient basket (or in this case, nest)…

And I challenge anyone to find a more laboured metaphor in the info-pro blogosphere than that!

- thewikiman

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