If Facebook was a country …

If Facebook was a country … yeah, but it isn’t.

I like infographics and social media statistics, but this is the one that has always annoyed me. Liking Facebook (a global network) to the population of a single country is inaccurate.

However instead of saying “if Facebook was a country (population X) it’d be the largest” you said “if Facebook was a government of a country (with population X) it’d be the largest in the world” sounds far more accurate. It’s not about the position or the size of the population, for me it’s the appropriateness of the comparison to geographic countries or responsibilities to it’s ‘population’.

According to Wikipedia Facebook is marginally ahead of China in population, with China at 1.36 billion, and Facebook reportedly at 1.39 billion.

And this is really what it is – Facebook is not a country, it is a government, of sorts. It has ‘residents’ or ‘citizens’, they are real people (for the most part), they have communities and shared interests, passions, ‘likes’, they poll/vote, etc. and they do all this in the area their government is managing.

I’m sure Facebook probably knows more about it’s citizens than most governments do (it knows when we’re happy, sad, ill, socialising, etc.). What I’m not sure on, however, is how many other governments sell this data to other governments?

This reminds me of the opening track from the 22 year old Billy Idol album ‘Cyberpunk‘ where it says:

The future has imploded into the present.
With no nuclear war, the new battlefields are people’s minds and souls.
Mega corporations are the new government.
The computer generated info-domains are the new frontiers.
Though there is better living through science and chemistry, we are all becoming cyborgs.

The computer is the new cool tool, and though we say “all information should be free”.
It is not.
Information is power and currency in the virtual world we inhabit, so mistrust authority.

Is there a similarity in these words and where we find ourselves today as we freely give our data, our currency, to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google, SnapChat, Apple, etc.?

Image source: Kārlis Dambrāns (CC BY 2.0)

Book review: The Social Leadership Handbook @julianstodd

“What we know today will get us to tomorrow, but we’ll have to learn more again tomorrow to keep ahead … welcome to the Social Age, where change is constant and we live in constant beta.”

I’ve never thought about learning like this before, other than I know I get bored quickly so find new things to keep me engaged and entertained. But, with the constant bombardment of new technologies, new networks, new applications to old techniques, etc. we are indeed in ‘constant beta’.

And I mean ‘we’ in the context of learning professionals (which I’m exploring with my next book project: follow here for news -#EdTechBook) that we need to not only keep up with developments but somehow keep ahead of them. I know this is near impossible, but we can at least be proactive in how we approach the changes, reflect on our own experiences, and make suggestions and engage with each other (and the students). From this will come better understanding and a clearer picture of what could be used, how, where, why, and (importantly) by whom. 

The Social Leadership Handbook This is why Julian Stodd’s book The Social Leadership Handbook is another book that has found it’s way on to my reading list.

Whilst Julian has clearly aimed the handbook at leaders and managers I see it resonating so closely with those of us who work across disciplines, as we often need to exhibit skills more aligned to management than technical.

“The Social Age is about high levels of engagement through informal, socially collaborative technology. It supports agility by allowing many and varied connections and the rapid iteration of ideas in communities that are ‘sense making’.”

Julian’s NET model is built around three themes, or dimensions. These are ‘narrative’, ‘engagement’, and ‘technology’. You see now why I think this is such an important book for learning professionals? Just this concept could be used to explain the role of a Learning technologist – we need to curate to share our knowledge (‘narrative’), we manage our networks, reputation, and communities (‘engagement’), and we use social collaboration and reach to learn more than we already know (‘technology’). And it doesn’t stop, we keep cycling through the three stages, not spending the same amount of time in each phase, each time we reach it, but moving and shaping our own learning, and thus the learning of those who we encounter and interact.

“Technology facilitates the experience, it facilitates learning, but doesn’t guarantee it … you can control the technology, but you can’t control the conversation, and when push comes to shove, it’s the conversation that counts. Technology is transient and adaptable. I can just bring my own device.”

I have not had chance to read the whole book properly but I know enough already that this will have an impact on hows I think about myself, my work, and how I approach the different elements: “the [NET Model] circle represents an agile journey .. once we have mastered the skills, we continue to refine them.

Main image source: Julian Stodd / SeaSalt Learning

Digital Distraction

“The mere presence of a cell or smartphone on the table can disengage people during in-person conversations and hinder their empathy, according to a new Virginia Tech study that finds your attention is divided even if you’re not actively looking at your phone.”

The article ‘Your smartphone could be turning you into a lousy friend – even when you’re not using it‘ is as much about the social impact of the always-on connections we have through our mobile devices as it is about how we manage them.

“For many, digital distraction involves the “constant urge to seek out information, check for communication and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds,” the authors write.”

I like the term ‘digital distraction’ as it is something I find very easy to relate to – I am digitally distracted and I admit it. I look at my phone all too often – for the time, checking email, checking Twitter (saved searches, hashtags, lists, notifications, etc.) – as well as spending a little time on it – a few minutes on BBC News App or a game while waiting for the kettle to boil, Flipboard for something different, checking the weather, etc. – to a lot of time – YouTube or iPlayer videos, games, Kindle books, etc.

In the linked article ‘Digital overload: How we are seduced by distraction‘ it is easy to see why, by the end of the day, my eyes are sore, thumbs aching, and my iPhone battery is nearly dead. It’s been in pretty much constant use all day, even if for only short (<1 minute) periods – it still needs to connect to a network or search for a data connection.

If I could stop doing this I’d be happy, but I know what I’m like – I want to know what’s going on, therefore I will continue to  access my online networks. It’s not a fear of missing out (although I’ll admit there may be an element of it in there somewhere), it’s more a need to know about is sooner and not later as it could help me out in the here-and-now.

How digitally distracted are you (if at all)?

Digital distraction

Image source: Michael Verhoef (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Internet (in real-time) Infographic

We all love infographics (well, I do. Well, decent ones anyway) which is why this one is really interesting. Instead of being a static “this is what happens in an Internet-minute” like this one and this one) you can see the number of posts, likes, tweets, pins, emails, views, downloads, clicks, saves, etc. build over the time it takes you to view the details of the infographic.


Click image to open interactive version (via Penny Stocks Lab).

Social media for engagement #jiscinform

Whilst reading the excellent JISC Inform newsletter (I’ve not paid this enough attention in the past – I will from now on!) I read the article on ‘social media for engagement’. Go read it now!

“The role of social media has the potential to extend beyond learning and teaching to support student engagement in the broadest sense. It offers a new way to develop relationships between the student or learner and their institution, as well as an alternative means to raise awareness of an institution’s engagement efforts.” 

… and this excellent image from Fred Cavazza will help you realise how ‘simple’ it could be to bring these social tools into your teaching and learning.

Social Media Landscape

Also available is this guide produced by Lis Parcell and JISC RSC Wales: Social media for student engagement: 20 good practice suggestions for higher education in Wales

Image source: Social Media Landscape 2013 (CC BY-ND 2.0)