Is blogging the “new” lifestream?

A little while ago I was wondering what platform I could use to aggregate my various online properties (Flickr, Delicious, Twitter, etc.) in a so-called “lifestream” and someone suggested that Friendfeed might be feasible. I looked into it for a while, but couldn’t commit to it because something didn’t feel right about using one service to point to all the other services.

With the recent Facebook acquisition of Friendfeed, I figured out what I didn’t like about using Friendfeed as a gateway, and that is that it’s not mine and never will be. It’s unlikely, but what if Facebook decided to kill Friendfeed? That in itself wouldn’t make a huge difference because Friendfeed would only be aggregating my content that is hosted elsewhere. But the principle is that building on a platform I don’t control just seems like a bad idea.

Which brings me to the blog…or at least, the self-hosted blog. With all the plugins available nowadays, it’s possible to incorporate virtually any content from most of the popular services, directly into the blog. I’ve had my Twitter and Flickr streams on /usr/physio for ages, and in the last few months have included additional content from Slideshare and Scribd. My blog is not going to go away anytime soon because I control the platform, down to the version of the software I run. No matter what services crop up that I decide to make use of, it’s only a matter of time before someone writes a plugin that I can use to incorporate that content into my site.

Of course there are issues with interaction on the blog, with most commenting systems incapable of integrating with each other (i.e. my Twitter feed is displayed on my blog, but any reader can only respond via Twitter, rather than directly from the blog…and the same goes with any other services that I’m using). But this problem would exist with any current “lifestreaming” platform.

So, is the blog going to make a comeback?

Faculty writing workshop

I just got back from an academic writing workshop at the Houwhoek Inn (their site needs some serious work). The point was to go there with an idea of an article you were going to write, spend 3 days writing it and getting feedback from the other participants and to end up with a draft that would be suitable for submission to a journal with minimal revision.

My article is based on a survey I did among the physiotherapy students in our department last year that looked at the knowledge and use of some of the most popular social software, including Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Digg, Delicious and Wikipedia. The idea was that if we’re going to use some of these services (like social bookmarking by subject, module, class, etc.) then it’d be useful to have an understanding of what the students already know and use. It would give us an idea of what kind of preparation we’d have to do before starting, as well as what level of use we could initially expect from the students.

It’s going to take me a little while to get feedback from the journal editor and reviewers, so it won’t be out anytime soon. I’m hoping that it’ll be published in the next few months though.

Here’s the abstract:

Institutions of higher learning are under pressure to respond to the changing needs of today’s learners and the use of information and communication technology has been at the forefront of that change. The use of social software that enables people to interact with each other in a dynamic way, has been identified as one possible approach. This survey sought to identify the knowledge and attitudes of South African physiotherapy students towards the use of social software in a physiotherapy department. The design was a cross-sectional, descriptive survey that took place in a university physiotherapy department in the Western Cape, South Africa. It included 135 students and used a self-developed questionnaire. Results showed that these students had a superficial understanding of social software. They did however, show an openness to new approaches and a willingness to interact with lecturers outside the traditional classroom setting. A lack of access to appropriate technology was identified as one possible factor for their lack of understanding. Any attempt to incorporate social software tools into this department would have to include significant training and support.