Ruud Questions: Carol Skyring

by Ruud Hein February 5th, 2010 

Carol Skyring is not only the founder and CEO of LearnTel " that would have made her "just" interesting to follow on Twitter. No, she's also a doctorate student in microblogging.  That makes her fascinating.

I asked for " and got " an interview.

You're doing a doctorate, at the Queensland University of Technology, on microblogging. One of the questions it will seek to answer is the why; why do people microblog.

So…. why do *you* microblog — and what do you suspect are some of the common reasons "we" microblog?

Carol DauntI microblog for the following reasons:

  • I can learn directly from the experts I follow (I dont have to wait until they write an article or a book)
  • I can harness the collective intelligence of the people who follow me to give a variety of responses to a question or solutions to a problem I might pose
  • The people I follow form a type of human RSS by sharing ideas & resources that are useful " saving me time & exposing me to resources I would otherwise not have found
  • Its a quick & easy way to stay in touch with overseas colleagues
  • I can gain profile for myself by sharing ideas & resources that are valuable to others
  • I simply enjoy sharing resources with others

I suspect that these are common reasons for others to microblog.

The question of "why" can hardly be answered otherwise then by asking it of people. Yet as humans we're notoriously bad at understanding why we do what we do. How do you work around this self-reporting problem?

Carol DauntWow " are you in cahoots with my supervisor to make me justify my research methodology?!

Im investigating a specific use of microblogging and that is the use of microblogging for professional learning by educators.

Its an interpretive study and the question actually goes beyond just why.

Im interested in what activities and experiences occur while educators participate in microblogging, the perceived value of participation in microblogging and how microblogging can support professional learning.

It will be important to frame the questions I ask in such a way that Im not asking people to interpret their own behaviour, but simply to report on what they are doing and it will be my task, as a researcher, to interpret that data to give an understanding of how and why educators microblog.

Email, Usenet groups, email lists, forums, blogs, microblogging, status updates: what's the next thing?

Carol Dauntpresence technology
will
have a
major impact on
our personal
and professional lives
I think presence technology will have a major impact on our personal and professional lives.

Theres some confusion around the terminology of presence so Ill explain what I mean.

We have the type of presence that has already emerged with applications such as Skype or the Microsoft and Adobe suites eg you can see when your colleagues are online and by what means they are available to communicate with you. This has been further extended by the latest mobile devices that can broadcast your whereabouts if you choose to do so.

We have a second type of presence " commonly called telepresence – that is designed to enable people to believe that they are in a place other than that in which they really are. This has emerged in two forms: 1) when people interact with and immerse themselves in virtual reality or virtual environments and 2) through very high quality videoconferencing where people feel that they are actually in the same room with those they are connected to via the technology.

I see that there will be a convergence of all of the above and enhancements that will enable us to seamlessly move between real and virtual worlds to communicate and collaborate with others. A teleworker, for example, may participate in real-time office activities by joining virtually from their computer. (One example of this already in operation is Suns Virtual Workspace MPK20.)

Imagine for a moment that you're talking with someone outside of the social media echo chamber. By which comparison would you show the relative importance of Twitter and Facebook: radio? television? the book press?

Carol DauntOnline social networking/social media has had an impact as profound as the printing press.

I choose this particular invention as I believe that the printing press changed distribution of, and access to, information for all time. It gave widespread access to information that was previously unavailable to the majority of the population. Once people had this access they demanded more and we have seen this thirst for information ever since.

Applications such as Twitter and Facebook have extended this access even further by enabling people to create and distribute information as opposed to being just consumers of information that is distributed and controlled by others.

In your Twitter stream updates via the web interface and via Ping.fm dominate: why that choice? And have you used or tried other interfaces such as TweetDeck or Seesmic?

Carol DauntI generally tweet from my laptop as I tweet ideas and resources that I discover in my everyday work or research " as opposed to updates on my whereabouts or activities.

Ping was one of the early applications of its type which Ive been using for a long period of time. I use Ping because its convenient " it allows me to post to several social networking spaces at once " although I do post individually to the various spaces & engage in conversations specific to each space. I havent tried other interfaces simply because Ping works for me & I havent felt the need to try others. However, I do like GeoTweet which allows me to post a tweet, picture and map of what Im doing on the move " from my iPhone.

Wiki's have become a teaching tool. Education-specific web software such as Moodle has become more or less common ground in education. What if any is the place of microblogging in education?

Carol DauntIm investigating the use of microblogging for professional learning by educators and I think that this is one important use.

With the decline in professional development programs in many education systems around the world, microblogging is allowing educators to support each other and share resources. It is an important component of many personal learning networks (PLNs) and I believe that many students can benefit by using microblogging in their PLN.

Imagine the rich information and resources that a university student could have access to by being connected to experts and practitioners in their particular field. Creative teachers will set tasks to be solved by using microblogging as the research tool. Creative students will use microblogging to comment on their lessons as they are in progress!!! (I see this happening now.)

Besides "inevitable", how do you view the growing presence of marketing in microblogging?

Carol DauntAnnoying is another word that comes to mind!

key is to use marketing sparinglyI have no problem with the use of microblogging for marketing purposes " I do it myself sometimes. Actually, most of us are marketing ourselves through the messages we post. However, I see many people using microblogging for spamming others with their marketing message – which is most annoying.

Microblogging is an ideal medium for getting a marketing message across as the viral nature of reposting information can promote your message to markets far wider than you could traditionally reach. The key is to use marketing sparingly or your audience will quickly switch you off via the unfollow button.

Our parents saw radio, TV — they were bystanders to the Internet. Will we have seen the birth of microblogging or is it of much less importance?

Carol DauntMicroblogging is just another tool on the journey to ubiquitous collaboration. It has certainly changed the way in which we communicate and this will have an effect for years to come.

However, in two years microblogging will have evolved into some kind of rich media presence tool that allows us to communicate and collaborate from wherever we are. Think the ultimate mashup!

Now that you're rereading this interview years and years later (you're 75 now) … what turned out to be important?

Carol DauntMmmm…. Id prefer that read years and years AND YEARS later if Im now 75 ;-> It was important to understand how and why microblogging was being used. This understanding enabled us to further develop and enhance microblogging tools into the collaborative spaces they have become.

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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One Response to “Ruud Questions: Carol Skyring”

  1. I have never heard of a doctorate in blogging! ;-)