I really like this title a lot as it captures what this post is really about. I ran across this phrase when reading Chris Sessums’ post on using Twitter to help in course design. I’ve borrowed it for the title, as you can read. I hope Chris doesn’t mind.
Before I begin, this post isn’t about tools. Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s more about building out a presence and the way in which tools can be associated together to build a digital platform. But if you don’t like posts about tools in anyway shape or form, stop reading now…
I’ve begun to build out my digital presence, or “life on the screen” in new ways, and for a number of reasons. Most of this is associated with my work as a school administrator whose responsibility it is to lead a school-wide goal on the intersection of technology and literacy. Some of it is also directed towards adding new ways of engaging people beyond our school community in things that I feel are important to schools. So the purpose of this post is to help me intentionally clarify the structure of my digital presence, and see what you think. I’ll be talking tools here, and how they combine to serve a higher purpose for me, and potentially for our school community.
When I sat down and put all of this down on paper, I was surprised at how many tools I actually use, and the interesting way they combine together. At the present time, there is some overlap as I negotiate the value that competing products have for me. For now, it seems they fall into three groups: 1) information services, or those tools that support the storage, retrieval, and management of information, 2) presence services, or those tools that support presenting ideas to an audience, and support the development of my online presence, and 3) mobile services. or those tools I can use on my Droid. Now, this framework is fairly artificial, and there are gray areas, as well as overlap, especially in regards to the mobile apps, but I guess that is to be expected. Here they are:
del.icio.us: social bookmarking tool I couldn’t live without, although being challenged by Evernote. A huge component of del.icio.us (and yes, I am still del.icio.us old skool and type the name with periods) is the subscription feature, which enables me to subscribe to tags and get information from all users, which is something I use all the time. I’ve never got into Diigo, although I have imported my del.icio.us content there.
Box.net: online file storage which has been indispensable for me-I’ve got all my presentation files there, along with all the images I have purchased from istockphoto.com. Box makes sharing files and folders very easily, and it partners with many other services that I can select to use that add functionality to my Box account (Twitter, post to WordPress and Gmail, plus about 30 other cool services). For example, I have added Picnik, the online photo editor-so when I have an image in a Box folder that I want to modify, I use the pull down menu associated with the file, open the file from Box into Picnik, do what I need to do, and click the button in Picnik that enables me to save back to the original Box location, either as a new file, or to replace the one I am working on. I lose usb drives, I can’t lose the Internet. All my files are available on my Droid.
Evernote: wow, Evernote blows me away. I’ve been using it for about two weeks so I am still learning it, but it is simply fantastic. Sign up for an Evernote account and get an online account, then download the client to each machine you have. This enables you to sync information between the Web and all machines. You can use the Web-clipping feature to “clip” anything on the Web and organize it in folders, along with searchable metadata information. It also has outstanding iPhone or Android support, with the ability to take photos, create text notes, and audio notes directly into my account, which is a function I’m beginning to value more and more, with the ability to interact with my resources from my mobile. I’ve not yet got the file upload to work that’s available from the Droid app.
Dropbox: online file storage, but what this does exceptionally well is place a folder (for example, on your desktop) where you can drop files into. Install dropbox on any other machine and it all will sync together. I have a home and work desktop, plus two laptops. Using dropbox enables me to have the same files on all machines, a continuual problem for a disorganized person like myself. It works perfectly and its free.
Mozy: file backup. This is different than storage, my files constantly backup offsite automatically. I currently have the 2GB free account, but after testing, Ill upgrade to the unlimited backup for $4.95 a month shortly. Piece of mind for the price of a happy meal.
Google Apps: useful collaboration tool, especially with the forms feature, which has really taken off at my school for survey work. All of our students will have Google Apps accounts and this will form the student content creation space in our multi-dimensional learning space.
Google Reader: aggregator that keeps me in touch with really smart people.
WordPress Blog (The Strength of Weak Ties). I’ve divided up my presence for posting my writing/ideas between my blog, my Posterous site and Twitter. TSOWT will be my site for posting most of my in depth writing and ideas, while Twitter is, well, Twitter. I’ll use Posterous as a bridge between the two for posting quotes, quick ideas, notes, and imagery. In 2009, I believe its about representing yourself, presenting yourself, in multiple ways across multiple venues. Blog to Posterous to Twitter provides me with a gradient that I can engage people socially and intellectually on different levels.
Posterous: I really like this site a lot with its ease of use, clean look, the ability to post via Gmail (which means an easy post with my Droid), and the way it handles multiple media types, all with ease. But probably the best feature is the ability of the site to Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, Youtube, Vimeo, Tumblr, WordPress, Xanga, and Blogger in any combination. So, not only is this a place for sharing ideas, it’s also a distribution platform to extend voice. To give you some data: since November 30, I’ve put up 25 posts that have had a total of 5,322 page views!
Twitter: a place for fun, some ideas, and seeing a lot of great resources I wouldn’t have. Interestingly, I’ve been watching the page views of Posterous posts, and most go over 200 very quickly, simply by links being sent from Posterous into Twitter, and then being amplifed by the network.
Web site: My main Web site presence, Jakesonline.org, where I host a lot of my Web content. Personally, with my presentation work, I need a place where I could do a little more (for example, hosting multiple media types) with building Web content. I could do that with wiki technology, but that technology wasn’t there yet, when I needed it to be. So, I’m sort of traditional here, with a dedicated Web site.
Wiki site: available at jakes.editme.com. I use this principally to host my presentation content, and its a lot easier to update than my Web site. Plus, I need a place to host collaboratively created content, which to be honest, I haven’t done as much as I should. I really like the Editme.com site, which has fantastic customer support, and is a unbelieveable bargain at $4.95 a month. Plus, at that cost, it gives me the granular level of control I want, with public view, registered view, administration view, as well as public, registered user, and administrator content creation rights, all which can be combined in a various permutations.
Facebook: one site I need to explore further, certainly more social than anything, which is ok. Not sure where it fits into my overall presence, as I’m not that big of fan.
Slideshare: I really like this site alot, especially with the ability of the site to generate embed code and put it in different locations. I currently have 51 slidedecks at the site.
Dim Dim: pretty excited about this one, which for$19.00 bucks a month gives me the opportunity to deliver Webinars. We’ve also integrated this into our Moodle instance at school, so I’ll be interested to see how it works. I’ve got some ideas how to leverage this kind of environment in school environments, which I’ll share in another post. Be sure to watch for an announcement on Twitter about my first Webinar, which I think will focus on presentations and slide redesign.
Adobe Presenter: I’m playing around with it, as it integrates into Powerpoint, and provides the ability to create video/Powerpoint online slide decks. I’m not satisfied with the performance so far, and at $500 for the license, I’ll probably look for something else. But I want the capability to do this.
Adobe Connect Pro: I’m also considering this for webinars but it carries a more hefty price. Still trying this out.
Flickr: a must for any digital presence, I really like how I can use Pixelpipe to distribute photos from my Droid directly into Flickr.
Youtube: I be looking at developing my YouTube presence in the new year. This is probably going to be one of my biggest growth areas.
TwitPic: a repository for my photos from my Droid. Again, not a competitor to Flickr, buts it free and easy, and I can post out of PixelPipe directly here, so why not?
PixelPipe: an awesome app that ties together a lot of my online tools to my Droid phone and let’s me publish ideas to a variety of media sites. I currently can publish in one click to Box, Flickr, Google Docs, Posterous, Scribd, Slideshare, Twitpic, Twitter, and YouTube. That’s pretty phenomenal and although I only 9, there is access to 114 sites. Wow. Read more about my PixelPipe use here.
AudioBoo: gives me the ability to post audio through my Droid, directly into Posterous. Sweet.
This is the infrastructure of what I do. It’s important, it’s pretty cool, and it provides me with a lot of flexibility in an media-based world. Combined together, they represent a suite of tools that enable me to express ideas, engage people in conversations, and learn. Additionally, I can connect to most of this through my phone, which for some reason still amazes me. In an upcoming post, I’ll explore how I’m using all of this as more of a mobile user.