Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ever wonder what kind of avatar to use for online social networking in the workplace? You remember avatars, right? These are the photos or images that appear next to a users name (see example below). I never really gave much thought to using avatars for social media until today. What triggered the thought was a story I heard from Steve Radick, a collegue of mine at work. During his presentation, Steve said he frequently ran into people that would tell him they read his blogs and that they appreciated what he was contributing. That's when the thought crossed my mind: These people would have never known what Steve looked like if he didn't have a photo of himself as his avatar.

Why should you be concerned with the avatar you use? Because, your avatar is your brand and your brand's purpose, as Tom Mochal describes it, "is to establish an identity that conjures up a positive image (2007)." In Steve's case, his brand worked exactly as intended. If your using social media tools for professional purposes, establishing a positive image is what you should be aiming for.

With that in mind, here are a couple guidelines I have found useful for using Avatars across multiple online social media tools (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, and Utterli).

1) Try to stick with using the same avatar for each tool. Again, you're trying to build a consistent message. Using the same avatar will help you accomplish this, not to mention make it easier for people following you online to find you.
2) If face recognition is important, like in the story mentioned above, consider using a photo of yourself as an avatar rather than a graphic image.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Blogging Live Events with Cover It Live

Over the weekend I tinkered with another Web 2.0 app, called Cover It Live. For you bloggers and microbloggers out there, imagine blogging a live event in which you can post your commentary for other people to follow; in a format similar to Twitter or Yammer. However, you as the host have at your disposal richer features in which you can use to engage your followers, such as polling, text, video, and images. Then, once the event is over, all content can be retrieved in one online recording, which differs greatly from other microblog apps I’ve seen. What I also found practical was the ability to easily embed the app in any website, avoiding the need for users to have an account to participate.

I can’t help but think of how many conferences we send staff to that could benefit other colleagues. This app could provide a unique opportunity for people unable to attend the conference to follow topics and gain context specific insights from other staff fortunate enough to attend in person.

Here’s a brief example of a recording I created earlier.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

QR Codes, Mobile Devices, and Learning, Oh my!

[cross-posted from work blog]

An upcoming seminar topic from the e-learning guild attracted me to look into the possibilities of QR codes for performance support. If you don’t think you know what I’m talking about here, don’t worry. Have you ever purchased groceries from the self-checkout line and had to scan your items before paying? Then you’re familiar with how this technology works.

When you scan an item, the scanner reads the data found in the bar code and correlates it to product information stored in a database. These bar codes are used all over the world, and in all kinds of industries. The problem with the bar code, however, is that it is extremely limited in the amount of information it can contain.

QR Codes, also known as 2-d barcodes are a relatively new addition that allows more data to be stored within it, for example web addresses, phone numbers, and text messages. You’re probably saying to yourself, “so what Erik? Who cares?” Here’s the deal. Many new mobile devices, like the iPhone, have built in applications that use the phone’s camera to scan these barcodes. This technology is exploding in Japan right now. Companies are now using these for marketing, communication, and yes, performance support. Imagine this, you’re visiting Yamagata, Japan on vacation and you want to find out the best places in the area to eat. Lucky for you, the Chamber of Commerce has maps and posters available around the city with QR codes on them. Within a couple seconds, you can scan a code on a poster, which directs your mobile device to an English website with the highest rated restaurants in the town. Not bad eh? How about finding out the history of a building? Simply scanning a QR code provided on a brochure could provide this. Or, perhaps you’d prefer to test your Japanese instead? ‚¨D‚Ý

Conceivably, this same concept can be applied to help provide performance support on the job. Need to troubleshoot a piece of machinery that you’re not familiar with? Scan the QR Code with your mobile device and you could be provided an online tutorial or video. But why stop there? Social Media allows us to not only consume information, but also contribute to it. Was the restaurant you ate at in the example above worthy of the five stars? No? Then contribute a review yourself, so the next person that is looking for food in the area has your review handy. Think about the possibilities.

Got the kid writing her own blog

I'm so happy. Not only is my kid using Google Docs to write her stories and poetry, but now she's writing her own blog posts. I wish I would have had the same interest in writing at her age.