Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Wouldn't you know it? Just as I give up on Facebook they go and pull a wiki!

Maybe I should start this post with an explanation, my main reason for social networking is to learn and grow professionally. As a teacher I also think it is vitally important that we try and understand our students' world, and where suitable and/or possible implement their tools of expression in the learning environment. As such I applied to join Facebook to find out first hand what it is, to discover what the pull is, what people do on Facebook and to see if it held value for my own professional development and/or as an educational tool.

Recently Social Networking has become a 'buzz' word in Education, networks built on Ning, such as Classroom2.0 and many others, have become hubs of educational discourse and activity. Israel saw the launch of Edureshet the SN for Israeli Educators (built on the Hebrew translation of Ning) and many Israeli Educators have started testing the Facebook waters, I too decided to give Facebook a second shot.

Two days ago I decided that Facebook still didn't 'do it' for me and in order that my friends wouldn't think I was ignoring them posted this status message: "given up on Facebook can be found on twitter or edureshet".

A friend, asking what it was about Facebook that I found so frustrating, made me realise that I had never really tried to pinpoint it.

Wouldn't you know it, I went in to facebook to find out why I didn't like it, only to discover that they have added a wiki application!

Notwithstanding the wiki app, I still don't see myself Facebooking very often, the list of reasons seems to grow longer minute by minute - so here goes...

1) One of my main frustrations is the need to actually go into facebook to get updates. I would much prefer an RSS feed that I could access using the reader of my choice, or pull in to other services, then again, is it neccessary to have an RSS feed to follow the amount of nonstuff that comes through Facebook?

2) The privacy options are still very unclear to me, I've looked at them a few times but find them hard to understand.

3) I find the page organizer very unfriendly and the lack of customization options annoys me.

4) The page that greets me when I enter facebook serves to distract rather than focus. Instead of getting on with work, I find myself either reciprocating to various forms of inane cyber affection/abuse - pinches, pokes, hugs and smiles - or wondering whether I really should bother to compare myself to people I don't even know, or find out just how Jewish I am, which of course will involve giving permission to yet more applications to access my facebook profile.

5) Advertisements - We are not supposed to use services which include ads with our students -

6) The need to allow applications to access their accounts over and over again would make using the service wisely very difficult for the Non English Speaking school student, they would more than likely agree to everything or disallow everything just because they didn't understand what they were being asked.

I realize that not being a particularly social animal or a "fun" person, I am probably not in a position to make the most of what facebook has to offer. But I do wonder how many other users are, like me, just trying to get a picture of what facebook is and will eventually decide it is not for them.

When I just started using Social Networks I found Classroom20 built on the Ning platform to be an excellent entry point and in fact on Classroom 20 I made most of the connections with whom I continue to be in contact today in other networks.
On Ning, discussions and topics are tagged so that information is easy to find. Every blog and forum has an RSS feed. There's no need to add more and more applications in order to participate in conversations or add content from other services. While profile page customization is still limited there are more options and it is much more userfriendly than facebook. Within a Ning Network the opportunity to discuss topics with other members without having to join their circle of friends enables one to make wiser decisions about friend requests.

Today I find twitter to be an extremely useful service for networking with edufriends. When used in conjuction with a messenger - twitter is open all the time, but takes up no browser space, the messenger window just pops open whenever an update is posted, and posts can be made using the same messenger window. If using Gtalk, all twitter notifications are saved in gmail chat archives and therefore searchable. There is an rss feed! (and many other useful applications provided by twitter fans.) Of course twitter updates also include a lot of by the way information, but unlike Facebook, there is no guilt associated with failing to reply.

I will probably regret not counting to 10 before posting but what the heck! Forgive me - it is still New Years Day after all!