Social Media Inventory 2015

Occasionally I like to do a social media inventory of sorts to see what holds up, what needs to be let go, and what I need to try to pay attention to in order to stay fresh and connected.

MAINSTAYS:

Facebook—warts and all—stays in rotation for me. Though, I imagine, my leftish tendencies have provoked some if not a lot of “unfollows” and a few unfriends as well. All the better. I return the favor, I’m certain, but worry sometimes I might not be offering my own perspective a chance to be challenged every time I do. I want to hear from others who see things differently than me, and not just along the theoretical bent of party lines from issue to issue; I want those perspectives APPLIED to scenarios happening in the world. I want my person and practice baptized in the fire of discourse. That’s a bit much, but still, if the Internet doesn’t mature past our flame-wars and inane comment-brawling to the place where we actually do engage in exchanges that are sharp, deliberate, and simultaneously respectful, then we might as well get back to the Amazon deal of the day or the latest Kardashian photo shoot.

Twitter continues to be a delight for the social scientist in me. It’s an intellectual-communicatory vacuum tube that lights me up and broadens my thinking. It also happens to have ENTIRELY displaced my need for ever buying a newspaper again (I miss you Sunday NYT but you did this to yourself). Every morning of the week starts with coffee, a single lamp, a comfortable chair, and scroll through the stories posted in my tweet stream. I want to know not only what happened but how individuals are responding to these stories online. Whether it’s helpful to the public conversation or not, I still think it’s fascinating that people are tweeting, retweeting, commenting, replying, etc.

I also find myself called to action by the daily #BFC530 “Breakfast Club” chat for teachers. These human beings are some of the best in the profession. They’re up. They’re positive, and they’re championing each other. What a wonderful thing to participate in from time to time before heading into school to face Period 1. It is making a profound difference in kids lives, one confident and positive teacher at a time.

HANGING BY A THREAD:

Beyond that, I obligatorily snap to Instagram but find it a total drag; mostly for user interface/user experience than anything. I’m enamored with the allure of SnapChat (not that it’s shed it’s *sexting* reputation). I love the idea of Pinterest, but it doesn’t feel “sticky” to me. I forget about it for months then BINGE for a couple hours. Tumblr’s connected to my WordPress blog which even I don’t find compelling to read though I post essays there from time to time, mostly because I have for over a decade now. Can you believe that? A decade of blogging. Yet I NEVER go to Tumblr. Not sure who does. I want to like Medium but, blerg.

In my practice, I get more out of my Twitter #PLN than most any professional development offered at the school or district level. Eric Sheninger’s school and the company he keeps in the New Jersey education community have turned a number of rock star teachers into Twitter sages and published authors. Their blogs extend the conversation beyond 140 characters.

ON THE RISE:

Soundcloud, YouTube,

Here’s the thing: both of these apps weren’t setting out to be social networking platforms. But they’re attracting audiences and exchanges around produced content. I’ll be interested to see if YouTube squashes or acquires SoundCloud, but I sort of hope they don’t. I love the SoundCloud concept of allowing embedded text comments in a track that’s uploaded. And I’m sort of fond of their celebrating the audio waveform in their design ethic. YouTube is 10 years old now and just keeps getting better. They’re finally accomplishing video production capabilities in the browser I dreamed about a long time ago. I expect to see things mushroom here and more of the other video sites to shutter in the next five years.

The way these two bring people together for seeing and hearing creative content across genres is a really compelling phenomenon. The production quality of amateur to low-budget material is stunning, and their mobile device companion apps guarantee you’ll never be bored waiting at the doctor’s office or BMV.

As an educator, both of these are becoming indispensable. Publishing quick, single-cut videos and/or screencasts is a boon for teachers trying to reach students who are struggling. Adding a RøDE smartLav+ to your smartphone of choice, and tethering it to your SoundCloud account guarantees any lectures get added to a playlist for further review or absent students. Teacher who get in the habit of REGULARLY creating and publishing content will find people hungry for their lessons worldwide. It’s happening every day.

OUT:

What’s out for me? Google+, Voxer, Flickr, LinkedIn, FourSquare,

These apps have suffered from developer starvation (a common Google Abandonment Syndrome), or are currently in the growing pains of users trying to figure out the etiquette for the platform. For example, I get entangled in Google+ communities, conversations, and hangouts. The lines are really blurry, and people just default back to emailing each other. This is a tragedy because email is in hospice as a communication channel. Or should be. It can’t be the junk drawer for all of our communication. Yet, Google is flailing about in providing alternatives that would reduce the strain on email, thus making it the de facto channel for one to one or one to few conversations.

Voxer is a brilliant idea that is going to get its aorta punctured before even jumping into the fray. Facebook Messenger and Apple’s Messages have copied their push-to-talk walkie-talkie-on demand mashup, bringing the feature to where the people already are. If I could, I’d do ALL my SMS conversations through FB Messenger because of it’s full feature set and ubiquity across my devices. I love the idea of Voxer groups that have focused conversations just like Twitter hashtag chats, but the format of real time audio makes it tedious while driving home after school. (and yes I know it can be sped up). What needs to happen is for the best practices to become a bit standardized. And not codified in some written commandments; just inside baseball. We need to limit groups to a few voices and instill a no jargon sort of ethos.

Flickr has been obsolesced by unlimited storage from Google and Amazon’s photo storage apps but also reduced in its sharing by the allure of Instagram. Foursquare gave a master’s class on how to do the exact same thing that Netflix did but not care at all what people thought. Perhaps they’ll rebound. In the meanwhile, I’ll tolerate Yelp for reviews of restaurants and trying to beat out friends for dominion over Egg Roll #1.

What about you? What works, what doesn’t? Why?

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