Monday, May 26, 2014

Twitter for awareness, Google+ for discussion?

This is a follow up post to the one I wrote in February, regarding the lack of in depth discussions on social media and the fact that people often share links to posts they have not even read.  The suggestion was that the academic world needs its own "Acamedia" rather than rely on social media alone.

Since then both NPR and NY Times have echoed similar thoughts which leads me to suggesting a Twitter + Google+ model for academia.

NPR played a terrific April Fool's joke:
From ""
NY Times had an opinion piece by Karl Taro Greenfeld which discusses how one can fake cultural literacy by picking up bits of information on social media streams instead of consuming the primary source.

The author states,
"It's never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything."
An example from the piece,
"What was Solange Knowles's elevator attack on Jay-Z about? I didn't watch the security-camera video on TMZ - it would have taken too long - but I scrolled through enough chatter to know that Solange had ...."
Some may argue that spending any amount of time to learn more on that story is time wasted but if you have to know something so you don't feel left out at some cocktail conversation, IMHO this is a fair use of social media.

One would just hope that people are upfront and state that they are expressing an opinion without having read or consumed the primary source.
This gets back to the point about the role of social media for discussing academic literature.  Social media is great for sharing links to articles and thus increasing awareness about new evidence as it comes out.  Folks new to social media need to realize that sometimes folks that share may not have read the posts they are sharing.  They are essentially just sharing the fact that the headline is interesting.  In my February post I suggested that sites like Twitter should add a check box to indicate that the "sharer" had actually read the article.

Another option is to put in a disclaimer that you have not e.g. TL;DR (Too long; Did not read).

Maybe as the culture of popular social networks (e.g. Twitter) evolves, everyone will realize that this is the default.  Maybe once you identify the article or post to discuss with like-minded people, it is necessary to do it in a different setting which has a different cultural default - one where you don't post unless you have read the piece? Thus a physicist may use Twitter to keep up with trending health news stories like new lipid guidelines but use a different medium to discuss the latest article on Higgs Boson particle while the converse may be true for a physician.

Google+ may be a perfect model for this.  It has several factors to support this model:
  • Ability to connect with other people with similar interests
  • No limits on length of posts
  • Communities
  • Authentic profiles 
  • Hangouts and Hangouts on Air 
My previous post had an example of using Google Hangouts on Air for a CME panel discussion.  Once there is full integration between Gmail, Blogger, Google Drive and Google+  and Hangouts, it will create a perfect ecosystem for authentic synchronous and asynchronous discussions - an Acamedia?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Google Hangouts on Air - a Game Changer for CME?

I recently had an opportunity to put together a CME course on Social Media and Web 2.0 in Medicine for the Cleveland Clinic CME department.

After the participants had learned about and had a chance to experiment with Twitter and Google+ hands on, we wanted to organize a panel discussion with several Social Media experts in the healthcare arena.  The budget for the CME course would not accommodate travel expenses to get panelists from out of town for a face-to-face discussion.  In addition it would be quite inconvenient to have people travel for a "one-hour" panel discussion.  These factors would limit who we could invite to the panel.

So in stead of compromising on our panelist selection, we decided to explore options for doing an online panel discussion.  Since the course was on the use of social media the natural choice was to do a Google Hangout and broadcast it live on YouTube (Google Hangout on Air).  What could be better than using the tools that you are learning about in the course!

The panelists were
Vineet Arora (@FutureDocs)
Katherine Chretien (@MotherinMed)
Anne Marie Cunningham (@AMCunningham)
Michelle Kraft (@Krafty)

This is the YouTube video of our Hangout on Air.  For a first time effort, it worked pretty smoothly. If you think you may want to do one of these yourself, read on.

The process of setting up the G+HOA the first time can be complex. So I am listing the steps here in case someone else wants to try this out.
  • Make sure all the panelists are on Google+ and you have circled each other
  • Make sure your YouTube account is linked to your Google account.
  • Click Hangout from the menu on the left and click on Start Hangout on Air
  • Give the Hangout a name and invite someone to it. This does not have to be the panelists or the audience.  I have a couple of different Google+ profiles and I just invite myself to it.
  • Now start the Hangout
  • Click on agree to any notifications that come up
  • Invite your panelists
  • This part is still not LIVE.  This is called the green room.
  • You can talk to panelists, adjust lighting, microphones, go over the logistics etc.
  • You can have everyone install the app Hangout tool box and enable the lower third (allows everyone to add their name and tagline or affiliation).  This will look mirrored but will appear correctly oriented for the audience.
  • From the bottom right grab the YouTube link (this is the URL where the broadcast will appear live on YouTube).
  • Share this URL with the audience - either on G+, in a private community or Twitter or FB.
  • When they click on the link they will see a YouTube video with the message - "Starting soon".
  • Now click on Start broadcast.  In about 10 seconds the broadcast will go live.  You can start your panel discussion as soon as it goes live.
  • The moderator (the person who initiates the Hangout) can control which speaker shows up in the main window by clicking on their profile in the bottom of the hangout window
  • The YouTube video shows up after a short delay (about 30 seconds) but then runs quite smoothly.
  • Once the discussion is over, stop the broadcast
  • You can debrief with the panelists and then end the broadcast.
  • Afterwards you can edit the video adjust the title, description etc and then set the privacy settings in your YouTube video manager.
Several course participants were surprised learn about this functionality of Google+.  Several wanted to know how they could do this.  Our CME department wanted to discuss various uses for this technology - both for live courses and for creating enduring material.  

Consider the advantages of this technology for CME
  1. Cost savings 
    1. Travel costs
    2. Free technology
  2. Convenience
  3. Ability to invite best panelists/speakers without above limitations
  4. Feasible to for live audiences both face to face and remote
  5. Since YouTube automatically archives the session, you can also embed the videos into online enduring materials.
Google+ Hangouts on Air might just be a game changer for CME.  What do you think?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Social Media Fire Hose Waters Down Discussions - Does Education Need Its Own Acamedia?

I love the ability of social media to let me build my personal learning network (PLN) and engage in discussions with people with similar interests.  But social media can be frustrating and as more people join and flood it with content, it is but natural that not everyone would be there for those reasons.  Thus social media is also used for marketing, building an identity, customer service, etc.  As someone who often touts the various potential uses of social media for learning and education, I wonder about the best way to prevent new adopters from getting disillusioned.

A case in point: People very often share links to content that they have not read

This tweet by Tony Haile (CEO of Chartbeat) sparked a series of posts in the blogosphere [The Verge][Small Business Trends]

This "unread" sharing maybe for many reasons - e.g. The title was funny, or the content was shared to someone who might read it, etc.  In the real world a share would be similar to a recommendation; it should mean something like, "I read this, found it worth reading and so am sharing it".  When you print out an article and leave it in a colleagues inbox with a sticky note, the recipient would assume you had read it.  If you had not, you would state something to that effect on that note, e.g. "Not my cup of tea but I thought you would find this interesting".  

It seems sharing on social media might be evolving into something different; we knew before Tony Haile's tweet that people may not have read something they shared.  In addition, there is less of an expectation of a rich discussion when sharing.  Some of this is specific to the platform.  

Thus Facebook is becoming limited to social sharing among friends and family (e.g notable and not so notable life events) and anything intellectual or cognitively stimulating can get frowned upon.  For example a resident recently posted an abstract of her paper that was published in a prestigious journal on FB.  She had to preface this with an apology for a "nerdy post".  There were over 40 likes and "Congrats" but not one question about the abstract or the implications of the study.  Most of the folks who commented were in the medical field.  This is not to criticize the author of the post or her friends, but more a reflection on the culture of the platform.  
The purpose of the interaction appears to be to acknowledge that you saw the post; it is more of a head nod or a high-five rather than an intellectual discussion, an opportunity to truly engage and learn in the process.  

Twitter is a truly terrific platform but the 140 character limit poses a barrier to rich discussions.  The unfiltered timeline moves at a disconcerting pace and can be distracting for some.  Tweetchat sessions can be great for group discussions but take some getting used to.  For some there can be a need to increase follower numbers as can be judged by the many how-to articles describing strategies to do this.  This can lead to retweeting posts by "celetweeps", using multiple trending hashtags and similar methods to try and gain attention.  There are other reasons why it may be difficult to have discussions on Twitter. Many people use sharing tools integrated within the website that they are looking at or use a scheduling service like Buffer.  Thus they share to Twitter but are not actually using the Twitter interface.  They may not see your response till much later.

Recently a physician tweeted a link to a nice study that calculated the number needed to treat for most common treatments for a common condition.  The article was behind a paywall and the abstract did not mention what outcome measure was used to calculate NNT.  This was not a condition that would lead to hospital admissions or death and thus did not have a well-known or guessable outcome measure. I replied to the tweet asking for this information but got no response.  There could be many good reasons for this in this particular case and it is interesting that it did not surprise me too much.   In RL if someone gave you a paper to read, one would expect that he or she would take the time to respond to a question you had.  Unfortunately on Twitter people are "giving out" tens of papers to hundreds and thousands of followers which removes the expectation of responding to all the questions.  

The norm it seems is, "I just shared that with you and the whole world. Don't expect me to be to engage in a discussion on it or to have even read it deeply."  
The Verge article cited above discusses that there are folks who do read the entire article before sharing.  The concern is that it is difficult to separate the two.  Those of use who have used social media for a while have a somewhat robust PLN and continue to grow it.  Twitter is actually a great place to find people with similar interest to build your PLN.  But for recent digital immigrants, the experience can be quite disappointing.

As educators we have seen the potential of social media to create and build PLNs, for lifelong learning, for online journal clubs, for communities of practice and communities of inquiry.  This potential is still there but we may never fully realize it if the culture of the platforms is diametrically opposite to this philosophy.    

So what is the answer?
  • Back to blogging? - unfortunately one would have to post on Twitter to get people back to Blogger to discuss the post.  The problem is folks will retweet without ever visiting the blog!
  • Use Google+ - the ability to create very granular circles for viewing and sharing and lack of character limits are huge plusses!  An additional benefit is the integration of Blogger with Google+ that prevents fragmentation of the conversation
  • Use filters e.g. Lists on Twitter to engage with people who are interested in discussion?
How about Twitter adding a check box, "I have read this"?  It would be a box that would pop up anytime you add a hyperlink or retweet a post that has an embedded hyperlink.  Checking the box would indicate that you are also interested in a discussion on the topic and it is not just a FYI post.

The interface could look something like this:

What do you think?  Maybe social media is just mirroring or even magnifying real life?  Maybe social media was meant to be just that - social, and academia needs to get with it and build its own platform for professional media - maybe call it acamedia?  

Maybe social media is teaching us a real-life lesson - it is not simple to build your PLNs - it is a process that one has to go through and Twitter is a great learning lab to learn this process?