Malleable Musings

May 28, 2010

Did I just describe a PLE?

I had an interesting phone call last week from someone in the COI. The COI, in case you don’t know, are the UK Government Central Office of Information (COI) – the Government’s centre of excellence for marketing and communications. They do some excellent work providing guidance on all aspects of marcomms.

Anyway, the person who rang me was carrying out a research study for The British Council. They were wanting to identify the media habits of professionals who work in the area of international education.  In particular they wanted to understand potential media which actively engage in issues related to higher education and how these were used.

So during the phone call I was read a list of media titles.  I’d heard of more or less all of the titles mentioned although there were a couple of more obscure titles (journals) where I wasn’t quite so sure.  In discussing the traditional media I explained that print-only media is more or less invisible for me.  The only thing that I receive in hard copy format that I even flick through is the COL newsletter.

So online media is really the only way I access this sort of specific news of information.  I also explained that I wasn’t that likely to visit a particular website to get my news, although I might use an online database, library or datastore if I knew what it contained.

I reflected back and thought about the professional networks that do exist.  They often provide meatspace opportunities but I recognised that very little news was ever highlighted to me offline.  Okay, I’d occasionally find out a little titbit of information in conversation with colleagues from other institutions especially at conferences but it was usually soft anecdotal stuff rather than news or hard information.

This lead to a bit of a discussion about what I thought NEWs was and an explanation from me that I was only really likely to look at NEWs if it was sent directly to me as an email newsletter or highlighted to me in another way, through an RSS feed or crowdsourced by a brand I trusted (either a corporate brand such as the chronicle or a personal brand) or if it hit a search filter of some type that I’d set up.

I also explained my reticence to paywalls and the problems I have with sites that have registration walls (e.g. the FT).

It was a quite an interesting conversation that had me reflecting quite a bit about my current media habits and how they have changed over the past few years.  Two or three years ago I would have given very different answers and even a year ago my thoughts were quite different and search seemed much more important to me.

I didn’t talk about the details of how I get my NEWs these days but whilst I was on the phone I kept thinking have I just described a Personal Learning Environment.

In terms of the details of my PLE, for the past six months or so I’ve relied on my6Sense to keep me updated.   My6Sense is an interesting iPhone app that pulls together your social and RSS feeds.   The idea is that the more that you use it the more it understands your interests and starts to surface the things that you’ll find relevant.  I usually check it a couple of times a day and so far I’ve found it to be pretty good.  Of course, I don’t really know what I’m missing however for some reason it feels better knowing I’ve flicked through a couple of pages of my6sense recommendations than seeing the thousands of items that I never got around to looking at in Google Reader.

I do also occasionally dip in to Twitter and Friendfeed.  Twitter lists, and friend lists on Friendfeed help me catch up on things that particular people have said that I might have missed and I also use Friendfeed to bookmark things to go back to read later when I have more time.

I certainly don’t feel that I’m really part of an international education network.  If an online network does exists for the people who are interested in these aspects of international education then either:

  1. I  haven’t really found it yet (although I have found lots of people who offer some really interesting points of view);  or
  2. I’m too much of a visitor and not resident enough – also read I’ve been too much of a lazy slacker and haven’t worked hard enough to become part of that network yet.

However, I do feel that I’ve got the beginnings of a personal learning environment.  It’s a learning environment that I know will definitely change over the coming years, months and days in ways that I can only dream of, but it’s still my very own PLE isn’t it?


May 10, 2009

Recapping some live-streaming services

Filed under: Conferences, Conversations, Tools — Brendan @ 8:00 pm

I’ve been running moderatered text based IM chats for the past couple of years to help increase conversion of enquirers to applicants and applicants to registered students.

My reasoning for sticking with text only chats was the number of participants that we have around the world with low bandwidth.  However I think simple text chats are a bit backwards these days and I’ve just agreed to do a couple more next month just before I leave London.  So I spent a bit of time this weekend investigating what else might be possible, particularly looking at things like Skype, ooVoo, uStream,, BlogTV, Mogulus, StickAm and the underlying StreamAPI.  I don’t think I’ve yet found the ideal solution.

Most provide a video feed that I could embed in another page alongside a private moderated chatroom.  However I think the adverts and interfaces leave a lot to be desired.

Mogulus, StreamAPI, and our current chat provider, Parachat, may all have solutions that fit my needs but I need to explore more and figure out what kit/staffing we’ll have on the day and figure out what the cost will be.

What was interesting was going back and looking at the services with a fresh pair of eyes.  Looking at uStream in particular (with it’s chat and twitter integration) reminded me to go back that I need to go back and look at these ideas about sharing conference presentations more widely and efficiently.

February 4, 2009


Filed under: BTP, Conversations, International Student Recruitment, Social Media, Tools — Brendan @ 12:30 am

Over ten years ago, I remember being surprised when a friend of mine who worked on advertising strategy for one of the fancy London agencies told me that rational argument isn’t that important in advertising, what’s important is pushing an emotional connection. I was reminded of this thought again at the weekend courtesy of @TobyKeeping.

What Toby’s excellent post on what defines a recruitment relationship got me thinking about was the importance of listening.

Why? Well, in order to gain that emotion connection, I need to be able to listen and understand what’s being said or communicated.

  • I need to listen to know what language I should use so that potential students can easily comprehend.
  • I need to know what, if anything, is likely to excite and enthuse or repel the different segments of potential students I’m working to attract.
  • I need to be able to respond to potential students in a timely fashion, especially in a Web 2.0 world.
  • I need to listen to know what’s being said about my brand and intervene when necessary.
  • I also need to listen in order to help provide the guidance and advice that’s needed once a prospects is ready to enter that recruitment relationship.

The listening process has definitely changed over the past few years, especially for prospects. In the past I would have run surveys and held in-depth conversations, often in a face-to-face environment. Whereas today and in the future much of the listening is (will be) carried out using tools like the Social Media Firehose, through specialist Search Engines like Who’s Talkin’, Social Mention via Alerts and RSS feeds, by following people on Social Networks and utilizing existing spaces where comment and feedback happens anyway.

The tools mean that it’s easier to listen at a superficial level, but the understanding or knowledge that comes from the listening process seems to have changed.

What’s more the amount of chatter that is suddenly opened up to us by using these tools is staggering and knowing where to begin is difficult.  At the moment I’m grappling with how I monitor what’s being said and how I aggregate this, report on it and make it all actionable, which leads to questions like:

  • Who should handle a comment about X
  • Is it important that comment Y is floating about on website Z
  • How are leads qualified, assigned and followed up
  • How will any interaction be viewed by the prospect (their influencers)?

In thinking about these questions I believe that this recent Harvard Business Review Article hits the nail on the head. The listening and communicating needs to be done at the front line. Essentially what’s needed is the killer mindset rather than the killer technology.

So what does this mean for me, well I’ve got to get to grips with the tools and do what I can to change things so that the “I” becomes “we”.  What’s more in the university sector the “we” is an expanded “we” – it’s not just staff that need to be involved.

January 24, 2009


Filed under: Conversations, Life at home, Millenials — Brendan @ 10:18 pm

I had a really interesting conversation today at my parents-in-laws house.

The conversation touched on all sorts of topics in between but we started talking about my wife’s aunt who has just lost her husband of fifty years just after moving to rural Ireland a few years ago. She’s a very sociable person who now finds herself many miles away from her family and friends.

Her 17 yo grandson was taking part in the discussion which ended with
us talking about how the mobile (cell) phone is his absolute lifeline (but for SMS and internet access rather than calls).

It was one of those conversations involving people from three generations which highlights the differences across the generations and across people generally.

I was obviously reminded that technology moves on. When my Father in law (who is in his seventies) was 17 I doubt he had used a fixed-line phone much. When I was 17 mobile phones didn’t exist (car phones did but they cost and weighed as much as the car).  Today’s teenagers have mobile phones and get used to the technology from an early age – my 4year old probably has more idea how to use my iPhone than my wife does!

However, it wasn’t the technological change, or the cultural changes related to this (think about how we’re moving to a society that know how to convey extremes of meaning by SMS) that really interested me.

What really got me about the conversation was the point that people are different.  Some are naturally more sociable than others.  Some people want to hear their own voice and lead a conversation, some want to contribute to conversations, some will sit quietly and listen taking it in, whilst some will sit quietly and ignore the conversations going on around them.