social media

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier – review

His most dispiriting observations are those about what social media does to politics – biased, “not towards the left or right, but downwards”. If triggering emotions is the highest prize, and negative emotions are easier to trigger, how could social media not make you sad? If your consumption of content is tailored by near limitless observations harvested about people like you, how could your universe not collapse into the partial depiction of reality that people like you also enjoy? How could empathy and respect for difference thrive in this environment? Where’s the incentive to stamp out fake accounts, fake news, paid troll armies, dyspeptic bots?

Source: Williams, Z. (2018). Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier – review.

I’ve just started reading this (very short) book and it’s already making me weigh up the reasons for keeping my Twitter account. The major benefit I get is that, every so often, my feed will surface a person I’m not familiar with, who writes (or shares information) about a topic I’m interested in. However, I’m also aware that there are other places I could go to more intentionally find out who those people are, and follow them in a different way. For example, most of the time they’re writing on their own blogs, or on Medium. But that’s not where they share the links to the pieces that they care about. I worry that, by deleting my Twitter account, I would lose the serendipitous connections that it facilitates. Maybe a good place to start is by turning off the notifications for @mentions.

Note: I deleted my Facebook account about 2 years ago, I don’t spend much time on Google+, I don’t use LinkedIn or ResearchGate as social media, and I never got into Instagram or Snapchat, so Twitter is the one account I’m still active on.

AI social media

AI Can Now Identify Racist Code Words on Social Media

“We essentially gathered hateful tweets and used language processing to find the other terms that were associated with such messages… We learned these terms and used them as the bridge to new terms—as long as we have those words, we have a link to anything they can come up with.” This defeats attempts to conceal racist slurs using codes by targeting the language that makes up the cultural matrix from which the hate emerges, instead of just seeking out keywords. Even if the specific slurs used by racists change in order to escape automated comment moderation, the other terms they use to identify themselves and their communities likely won’t.

Source: Pearson, J. (2017). AI Can Now Identify Racist Code Words on Social Media.

There are a few things I thought are worth noting:

  • The developers of this algorithm used Tweets to identify the hateful language, which says something about the general quality of discourse on Twitter.
  • The algorithm isn’t simply substituting one set of keywords with another; it identifies the context of the sentence in order to determine if the sentiment is hateful. The specific words almost don’t matter. This is a significant step in natural language processing.
  • The post appeared in 2017 so it’s a year old and I haven’t looked to see what (if any) progress has been made since then.
ethics pht402 social media technology

PHT402 Ethics course: Developing an online professional identity

This post was written for the participants of the #pht402 Professional Ethics course. For many of our participants working online has been a new and interesting experience but for most it will probably won’t progress much more than that. This post is intended to highlight how the blogs that have been created as part of the course can form the foundation of an online professional identity that can be carried forward as evidence of learning in a variety of contexts.

digital_identityIn an increasingly connected and digital world, it often seems that too much is happening, too quickly. Every week another online service, app or device is competing for your time and it can be overwhelming to decide where to focus your attention. Even in our professional lives as clinicians or academics, there’s an increasing sense that “being” online is important, even if we don’t know exactly “how” to be, or “where” to be. There is a move towards the sharing of clinical experiences and resources that can add value to your professional life, if the available services and tools are used effectively. The clinical context is so dynamic, complex and challenging that we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our professions to share what we know.

The Internet offers a perfect platform for this professional interaction, particularly through the use of social media. “Social media” is an umbrella term for a range of online services that facilitate the creation, curation and sharing of user-generated content. It is increasingly being tied in to mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) that make it easy to share many aspects of our personal and professional lives. Some examples of the types of technologies that come under this term are: blogs (like we’re seeing in this course), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (e.g. Wikipedia, Physiopedia), podcasts, discussion forums, virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life), gaming worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and social networks (e.g. Google+ and Facebook). As you can see, the term “social media” covers a lot of ground, which is why it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what exactly someone means when they talk mention it.

While the main theme of this post is to highlight the benefits of creating and maintaining an online professional presence, bear in mind that it’s not enough to simply “be” online. The main advantage of having an online professional identity is that it allows you to interact and engage with others in your field. Twenty years ago, academics and clinicians could only rely on the (very slow) process of publication and citation to learn about changes in the field. Now, with the affordances that the web provides, crafting a professional online identity can happen very quickly. However, it’s the interaction and engagement through conversation and discussion that builds reputation and a sense of presence, rather than simply “being there”.

You might be feeling that this is all a bit overwhelming and that you don’t have possibly have the time to get involved with all of these services. And you’d be right. Try to think of this as a developmental process, one that is going to take time to evolve. You didn’t emerge from university as a fully-formed, well-rounded clinical practitioner or researcher. It took time for you to develop the confidence to engage with colleagues, to share your ideas and to contribute to professional dialogue. Establishing an online identity is no different.

Whether you decide to continue updating your blog, or to start tweeting, the point is that you start somewhere, and start small. As your confidence grows, you’ll want to begin experimenting with other services, integrating them with each other and building them into your workflow. This is the most crucial part because if you think of this as just another thing you have to do, or another place you have to go, you’ll find yourself resenting it. Build a foundation in one space at a time, and only use services and applications that you feel provide you with value.

In the beginning, you may feel more comfortable “lurking” on social media sites, listening to the conversation without really contributing. This is OK and is likened to a form of Wenger’s concept of legitimate peripheral participation. Over time, as you gain confidence you may begin to feel that you have something to say. This may be as simple as posting your own content (e.g. a tweet, a blog post, a status update), sharing the content of others, or agreeing / disagreeing with something that someone else has said. Whatever it is, don’t feel pressured to say something profound or clever. Just give your sincere input to the conversation.

In case you’re wondering if there are any rules or regulations in terms of using social media as a health care professional, that’s hard to say. Many organisations and institutions do have a set of policies that can inform practice when it comes to employees using social media, although it’s hard to say if these are rules or guidelines. One of the biggest difficulties is that as a health care professional, the public often perceives you as always being “on duty”. A physio is always a physio, whether you’re working or not, which makes it difficult to determine what is appropriate to share, and when. The following list of health-related social media policies may help you to tread the fine line between your personal and professional online identities.

Developing an online professional identity and presence is an essential aspect of modern scholarship and increasingly, clinical practice. Not only does it allow you to connect and engage with researchers, academics and other clinicians in your field of interest, but it helps to develop your professional reputation by giving you an international platform to share your work and your ideas.

There are many services and platforms already available, with more becoming available all the time. While it’s not necessary to have a presence and to participate in all possible online spaces, it helps to be aware of what is available and how the different services can be used in the development of your own professional identity. Finally, while developing a professional presence is advisable, be aware that what you share and how you share will have as much of an impact on whether your share or not. There are some guidelines that are particularly relevant for health care professionals and researchers, but even then, the area is under such rapid development that it’s difficult for institutional social media policies to keep up. If in doubt, always check with your employer and colleagues.


I enjoyed reading (December)

reading outsideI’m going to try something new on this blog. At the end of every month I’ll write a short post highlighting the things I particularly enjoyed reading. I found that simply pushing them into a Twitter or Google+ feed would tend to obfuscate them among all of the other things that I wanted to point out to people. I guess this post is a way to say, “Of all the things I read this month, these are the ones I enjoyed the most”. I’m not trying to summarise everything I read, just present a small sampling. I’ll try it out for a few months and see if I like the process.


The web we lost (Anil Dash). A look back over the past 5-10 years of social media and how things have changed, usually not for the better. In many instances, we’re actually worse off now than we were before the rise of the new social platforms. He talks about how we’re progressively losing control of our online identities, of the content we create and share (and which makes those platforms as powerful as they are), and lost sight of the values that actually led to the development of the web in the first place. Here’s a quote from the end of the article:

I know that Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. They’re amazing achievements, from a pure software perspective. But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks.

The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that’s about Twitter’s business model or Google’s social features or anything else. We have to know what’s been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.

Update: Here’s a follow up post from Anil on Rebuilding the web we lost.


Mobile Learning, Non-Linearity, Meaning-Making (Michael Sean Gallagher). What I liked most about this post is the suggestion, presented below, that the true power of “mobile” is that it transforms every space into a potential learning space.

They refer to the ‘habi­tus’, the sit­u­at­ed locale of the indi­vid­ual. Yet the locale doesn’t define the learn­ing per se as the process of mobile learn­ing trans­forms the habi­tus into a learn­ing space. Tools, con­tent, and com­mu­ni­ty are recon­struct­ed to allow for meaning-making. Turn­ing the envi­ron­ment in which we hap­pen to find our­selves into an envi­ron­ment for learn­ing. Mobile tech­nol­o­gy assists in bring­ing these ele­ments into con­junc­tion, an orga­niz­ing agent in this process. But it is real­ly about the trans­for­ma­tion. From space to learn­ing space. From noise to mean­ing.


Arm Teachers? (Tom Whitby). When I first read about the suggestions to arm teachers, in the wake of the Newtown shooting, I dismissed it as ridiculous without even considering it. What I liked about this post from Tom is that instead of just dismissing the suggestion out of hand, he follows it through to some logical conclusions. I realised that his approach does far more to systematically dismantle the argument than simply rejecting it.


The demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark (Carl Sagan). Carl Sagan is one of my heroes. Few people have done as much as he did to bring a sense of wonder about the world, to the public. This book is an exploration of scientific thinking over the past few centuries, highlighting the many areas where a lack of this critical approach to the world has led to a stumbling of our species. Think of the hysteria of witch-burning, UFO abductions, racism and all the other instances where a lack of critical thought has brought so much suffering and misunderstanding about the world. This book should be required reading for everyone.


The robot teachers (Stephen Downes). Stephen argues against the idea of universities and higher education in general as a system designed to maintain division between a cultural elite and everyone else. He suggests that the solution is not to open up those institutions (i.e. MIT, Harvard, etc.) but to build a better system outside of them.

We must develop the educational system outside the traditional system because the traditional system is designed to support the position of the wealthy and powerful. Everything about it – from the limitation of access, to the employment of financial barriers, to the creation of exclusive institutions and private clubs, to the system of measuring impact and performance according to economic criteria, serves to support that model. Reforming the educational system isn’t about opening the doors of Harvard or MIT or Cambridge to everyone – it’s about making access to these institutions irrelevant. About making them an anachronism, like a symphony orchestra, or a gentleman’s club, or a whites only golf course, and replaced with something we own and build for everyone, like punk music, a skateboard park, or the public park.

research technology

Social media and professional identity: Part 4 (ResearchGate)

Over the past few months I’ve been working towards my final PhD submission, and so haven’t had much opportunity to continue my my series on using social media to develop a professional online identity. Now that I have at least a little bit of time again, I’m going to try and finish it up over the next few weeks. This article is about using ResearchGate to connect with other researchers as part of a private academic social network.

ResearchGate is a social network for academics and researchers in a variety of scientific domains, although the medical field (see image below) is by far the best represented, with almost 400 000 users, and nearing 8 million shared publications (statistics accurate June, 2012).

On ResearchGate, you can create private profiles (i.e. only visible to other registered users of the site) where you highlight your publications, your areas of research interest, level of experience and engage with colleagues who have similar interests. ResearchGate offers some useful statistics based on your publications, for example, who your top co-authors are, the top journals you’ve published in (measured by the impact factor) and the general keywords your articles have used, which is a useful indicator of the areas that your publications cover. See below for an example of a profile page on ResearchGate.


ResearchGate also suggests other users to follow based on institutional affiliation and research interests. Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of ResearchGate is that it connects you with local or national academics who are doing research in areas that you might be interested in. When you follow other researchers, you’re notified of their status updates, which can include new publications that they’ve added, comments, questions and conversations that are happening online. See below for an example of a question on co-authoring and the conversation it stimulated.

ResearchGate is a great service to use for the discovery of new content and for engaging with researchers who have similar interests. The content you add to this site is not available publicly, so this is not necessarily a great service to use if you want to be found through a web-based search. However, within the user-base of the site, you will be discoverable. One of the things I really like about ResearchGate is their innovative approach to determining a user’s “scientific reputation”. They don’t only look at publication as a way of measuring your value as an academic, but also your engagement and (informal) contributions to the community. You can score points in the traditional way by sharing your publications from peer-reviewed journals and conferences. However, you can also increase your impact on the community by asking and answering questions that are posed by colleagues. In this way, your informal contributions to the field are recognised, in addition to your more traditional impact.












If you’re an academic looking to connect with other researchers in your field, or from your institution, then ResearchGate is definitely worth having a look at. The user interface is attractive and intuitive, sharing your work is easy, and the innovative approach to measuring impact is great.


HELTASA conference – Day 1

Opening keynote address in a church? I like it.

Analysing the professional development of teaching and learning at UWC form a political ethics of care perspective (Bozalek)

5 elements of ethics of care:

  • Attentiveness: Identifying that there is a need that should be met, understanding the needs of others. “Transmission-type” teaching means not being attentive to, nor caring about, students learning needs
  • Responsibility: Acting in some way to addressing the identified needs (“not doing” something is a moral failure), this goes beyond formal obligation / duty. Teaching isn’t an obligation or a duty. It means going beyond what is expected of you.
  • Competence: Care work must be done well and the care needs must be met. Even if you care, and do something about it, the intended outcomes must still be met.
  • Responsiveness: The receiver of care must respond. There is the possibility of abuse of power in the relationship
  • Trust: Not the same as dependency or reliance. Allowing someone to take care of something that one values. There should be a choice of who we trust. Trust grows iteratively as the dynamic is reinforced through behaviour.

All of the above are not regarded in isolation, but are integrated as “Integrity of care”. Whole process must fit together and requires more than good intentions. Requires a deep and thoughtful knowledge of the situation and of all actors situations, needs and competencies.

“Care” as a concept is integrated into UWC (graduate attribute 2): “Students must aspire to contribute to social justice and care”

Care: an activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue, repair our world so that we can live in it. It includes our bodies, our selves and our environment. “Care of the self” is also an important aspect of care. Responsibility of others might drive us so hard that we neglect ourselves.

Resources (time, money, human expertise) is required to deliver good care. If we think about what it means to be a good teacher (who cares about student learning), it is a resource-intensive business.

How do you resist your own will to gain power?
How do you differentiate between what someone wants and what someone needs?

Presence and absence: How a research-led SA university (re)presents teaching and academic staff development in its own public self-description (Jeff Jawitz)

Used the institutional website to generate a sense of the university’s self-representation.

Academic staff development is the knowledge and practice around teaching and learning within the context of higher education

Presence: what is there and what could be there, but also understand as absence being what is lacking

Discourse: a broad level of representation, positioning of text
Genres: ways of regulating the text / images / events (e.g. website), an action in terms of how the discourse is represented
Styles: using language to self-identify with a particular way of occupying a social role

3 clicks into website, and only public-facing documents

Order of discourse: neoliberalism

Prime location
UCT positioned in terms of it’s physical and geographical location. Primary discourse on the site = higher education is about position. Distances itself from the real world of Cape Town.

Research-led, Best in Africa
Positioning within Africa
Limited explicit reference to teaching and learning, graduates are products

Teaching and learning is positioned as a way of managing difference. Texts around teaching and obfuscated by structure. Staff development is about skills development, which is aimed at managing difference among students.

Who is the author of the most public representation of ourselves (i.e. our websites)? What are we about? The answer to that is contested, few people agree what we’re here for and what image is presented to the world.

The public website shows people what is valued at the university. For example, UCT spends a lot of time positioning itself in terms of its history and location, rather than what it is for. Websites are dominated by a marketing discourse, and not part of a teacher’s remit.

Reflecting on the knowledge management practices of a university of technology (Prof. Desere Kokt)

Knowledge is a public good

How knowledge is generated, stored, and distributed calls on universities, as “holders of knowledge” to change how they manage that knowledge in order to benefit society

What are our knowledge resources? What are our knowledge management practices?

“Knowledge” has different meanings depending on the social and cultural contexts in which it is used

Knowledge stored and disseminated through ICTs

Types of knowledge (?):
1. Organisational knowledge
2. Advanced knowledge
3. Innovative knowledge

Four critical aspects of good knowledge management strategies:
1. Effective organisational communication
2. Well-functioning ICT system
3. External knowledge sharing
4. Continuous training for staff

Many staff believe that knowledge management is the sole remit of “management”

Knowledge shared between academics at the same hierarchical level, but often not up and down the hierarchy

Creating opportunities to publish ODL research (Jean Mitchell)
Currently, Progressio: South African Journal of Open and Distance Learning Practice is one of only three accredited ODL journals

There is more academic publishing than ever before, putting a strain on publishers, editors and reviewers. Also, the increase in volume often means a decrease in quality of submitted papers.

Successful publication depends on:

  • Quality of research and writing
  • Enthusiasm, knowledge, dedication and intuition of the editor
  • Expertise and insight of the reviewers

(Mis)framing higher education in South Africa (Bozalek and Boughey)
How to make HE more inclusive?

Using Fraser’s 3 dimensional theory of social justice (a normative framework)

Social justice: the ability to participate as equals and full partners in social interaction, interact as peers on economic, cultural and political dimensions

Economic: disparity on the disproportional distribution of resources
Political: move away from viewing injustice as located within nation states, as a result of influence on a global level

Who is included / excluded? If you are excluded, then you are reliant on the benevolence of others

Higher education under apartheid -> fractured system, even the physical spaces of universities were designed to limit student gathering, with limited free passage through areas

Historically Black Institutions (HBIs) had to give back all unspent money at the end of the year. Led to spending sprees as the end of the year, no ability to build up financial reserves, and poor ability to manage budgets

Blogging to enhance reflective practice in nursing education (Lorraine Fakude)
Aim: Improve reflective practice of PG students in the nursing education module

Reflection is hard to do, it doesn’t come naturally, students need to develop skills in reflecting, teachers need to help students learn how to reflect.

Also important for students learn how to deal with / receive constructive criticism and feedback

Emphasis should not be on marks as a form of assessment

Using vodcasts for formative and summative assessment in 4th year social work practice at UWC (Dr. Neil Henderson)

VOD = video on demand

Limited literature on the effectiveness of vodcasting in teaching and learning

Student self-report used (in some of the literature) as an indicator of “effectiveness”

Having students create their own materials for vodcasting has been shown to have students engage with content more deeply

Interesting video shown on students interviewing criminals in Pollsmoor.

Rural South African university students’ technological habitus (Prof. Laura Czerniewicz)

Contextualise the study within a broader view of rural education in SA

Continue to suffer from poor resources

These students do worse on national tests than students from urban areas

This ethnographic study looking at one student from a school in the poorest area of the country. His school had 2 computers, which had not been touched by anyone.

Rural background can have a negative impact on university experience i.e. universities are not well prepared to assist students from rural areas

Practice happens in a context, therefore it’s important to understand the context without divorcing it from the practice

Habitus: Ways of acting, feeling, thinking and being…how they carry their history, how they bring this history into their present circumstances, and how they then make choices to act in certain ways and then not others

Different kinds of capital: economic, social, cultural, and symbolic

Habitus + Capital = Context (all of this is relational)

Use of the internet is framed by economics e.g. peers had phones that could access the internet, but no money to buy data

Social capital expanded when at university, changed dynamics within existing relationships

Technology is “not important” at home, because people lack the skills to use it i.e. access is linked to ability

The computer is a valuable artifact: important to have own, didn’t ruin the device through gaming, essential for academic work, but also uses for entertainment. “My laptop, it has to do its job, it must assist me academically and entertain me”

Cellphone is indispensable, about status and friends, concerned about the effects on his studies

Student was able to use multiple devices in multiple contexts, but usually for communicating with others. He still didn’t know how to use Powerpoint and Excel (communicating with others is more important than Powerpoint and Excel)

When he goes home he may not (be able to) use technology because it doesn’t fit within that context. Music however, is one continuity

Coming from a rural background “reminds me that I have to work harder to stay competitive”

Question: Did the research process have a transformative impact on this students’ thinking and reflection? Yes. But, no way to change this.

Social network = Social capital: First-year students’ use of Facebook for cognitive and affective learning (Dr Cheryl Brown)

Digital ethnographies do count as participating in people’s lives i.e. looking at how people use social media is a legitimate form of research

Looking at the role of ICTs in students’ transition into university

For some students, Facebook is an embodied part of their daily experience (3/4 of students used it primarily on their phones). For other students, Facebook was an addictive experience and some students found it exhausting.

Social capital: about group identify and what being part of the group affords you, networks and a shared sense of solidarity, shared experiences

There is pressure on students to have as many “friends” as possible, yet they don’t stop to consider what it means to have that many “friends”, or even what it means to be a “friend”

For some students, Facebook is critical for maintaining relationships

“Facebook is a way of showing people my mindspace”

Students see Facebook as an extension of themselves

Some students spend a lot of time working on status updates in terms of content and timing, in order to maximise responses and engagement with their friends. What to say, when to say it?

Students are aware of the potential for distraction when using social networks, and disable certain features during exams

Students tie an enormous part of their emotional and affective selves to engagement and affirmation on Facebook e.g. one student had a birthday and no-one commented on his wall, which was really hurtful for him. He couldn’t understand why he didn’t get any comments.

Students didn’t want to “friend” teachers, but still wanted to make themselves available for certain types of academic activity. This is going to require us to think out the box when it comes to using public online social spaces for learning.

Epistemological access should work both ways. Is there room for us to be “friends” with students on Facebook? Would it be useful for teachers to see the personal lives of students, and for students to be aware that their teachers can see what they’re talking about / sharing?

PhD research social media technology

Social media and professional identity: Part 3 (Mendeley)

Academic social networks: Mendeley
Everyone is familiar with Facebook and many people have heard of Google+ so I’m not going to spend much time reviewing them, other than to say that for me, neither of them is currently a big part of my own professional presence. I use Google+ a lot but in a personal capacity not a professional one. Having said that, I’m exploring the potential of Google+ as a tool for professional development, and will probably post something about my experiences at some point in the future.

In this section I’m going to briefly discuss a few social networks that are geared towards the academic professional, although not necessarily the clinician. If you are a clinician, you may still find these social services useful, but in my experience I’ve found that clinicians are more likely to share content on the more mainstream networks like Facebook and increasingly, on Twitter.

First up is Mendeley, which is primarily a desktop (and iPad and smartphone) client that you can use to manage the research papers that you have in PDF format. It automatically extracts all of the metadata from the paper (i.e. author, title, journal, date of publication) and has some excellent search and sort features. However, one of the best features of Mendeley is its integration with the web, allowing you to sync all of your documents from any of your devices, to all of your other devices. If I highlight and add annotations to a PDF I’m working on at the office, when I get home and sync Mendeley on my home computer, all of those highlights and PDFs are updated to mirror that changes I made at work. If I add a PDF on my home computer, that PDF is then copied to all of my other devices as well. If you’ve ever been working at home and been irritated that the document you need is at work, or lost the flash drive you use to keep all your research papers, then Mendeley is definitely worth having a look at.


Mendeley is also great for connecting you to other researchers in your field, via a web interface. You have to create a profile to use the software, and by completing the profile, you make yourself more visible to other people in your network of practice. There’s a Newsfeed that tells you when people you follow have made changes (e.g. uploaded and shared a new paper, made a comment, or joined a group). At the moment, a search on Mendeley for “clinical education” identifies about 80 people who are involved in clinical education research in some way, and almost 37 000 academic papers that include clinical education as keywords. There is an Advanced search feature that allows you to refine it your search to minute detail, including the specific domain of knowledge you’re looking for. Mendeley is one of the fastest-growing research databases, and with the social features that are built in, it’s also very engaging.


In the screenshot below, you can see how it’s possible to access the metadata from all of your PDFs via the web interface.

Mendeley is an excellent application and service that I use for organising the research content I already have, as well as for finding new content but in a narrow research field. It works really well for putting you in touch with other researchers who work in similar areas to you, and the Dashboard / Newsfeed view on the web makes it easy to keep up with those you’re following. In addition to desktop and web versions, Mendeley is available in a “Lite” version for the iPad (see below), and the open API makes it easy for developers to create 3rd party apps for Android, for example, Droideley.

Mendeley running on the iPad, showing the “Favourites” view.

Note: Zotero is another free alternative for gathering and curating your research content. I don’t use it much, mainly because it used to be solely integrated into Firefox, which is a good thing – if you use Firefox. Zotero has recently released a standalone client which is independent of the browser.

In Part 4 of this series on the use of social media for professional development I’ll be presenting some of the features of ResearchGate, another social network geared towards academics.

social media technology

Social media and professional identity: Part 2 (blogs & microblogs)

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on using social media to create and develop an online professional identity. Here is the full list of topics that I’m going to cover:

  • Part 1: Introduction to the internet and social media
  • Part 2: Social media, online identity and engagement (blogs and microblogs)
  • Part 3: Academic social networks (Mendeley)
  • Part 4: Academic social networks (ResearchGate)
  • Part 5: Academic social networks (
  • Part 6: Getting started with social media
  • Part 7: Privacy and sharing: social media policies in healthcare

Social media, online identity and engagement

You probably have a Facebook page that you use to share family pictures and catch up with old friends. You may even use it to connect with a group of like-minded professionals, sharing experiences, resources and challenges in your work. This section will hopefully introduce you to a range of other online, social services that you may find useful. The idea is that you explore these options and play around with establishing a profile in one area or another. In each of the following sections, I’ve tried to explain in general what the service or technology is, and then give a few examples of ways in which I’ve used them in a professional context.

While the main theme of this article is to share ideas for creating and maintaining an online professional presence, bear in mind that it’s not enough to simply “be” online. The main advantage of having an online professional presence is that it allows you to interact and engage with others in your professional field. Twenty years ago, academics could only rely on the (very slow) process of publication and subsequent citation to establish an academic reputation. Now, with the affordances that the web provides, crafting a professional online identity can happen relatively quickly. However, it’s the interaction and engagement through conversation and discussion that builds credibility, rather than just “being there”. This section will discuss two of the main ways that people are engaging with each other; blogs and microblogs.


A blog is a personal online space in which entries (called “posts”) are published in reverse chronological order (i.e. newest posts appear first) and is a combination of the words “web” and “log”. WordPress is probably the biggest blogging platform at the moment, although Blogger is another commonly used service. Prior to blogging platforms, it was challenging for individuals to post content online, as it required a knowledge of HTML and basic coding skills. With the advent of blogging tools and free content hosting, it became possible for anyone with an internet connection to post information to the web, essentially allowing anyone to be a publisher. Most modern blogging platforms allow for integration with other online services. For example, sidebar widgets can be used to display your latest tweets (see Microblogging below), your shared images on Flickr or Picasa, your LinkedIn profile, or your most recent conference presentations via Slideshare or Prezi.

I started blogging a few years ago and after a few false starts (a normal part of trying to find your own voice) I created /usr/space, where I continue to blog today. My blog is where I share my experiences of and research into clinical education. In the past, it might have taken many years – sometimes decades – to build up a reputation through publication in international journals. Now, while that aspect of developing an academic reputation is still important, you can begin a conversation with others in your field almost immediately.

A blog is often the place that professionals use to establish a first online presence, which you can think of as a space to develop a digital representation of who you are (or who you would like to be). But, some people seem to think that they should share everything they are, or everything they want the world to think they are. When you first begin blogging try to do the following:

  • Write regularly. Google gives greater relevance to blogs that are updated more frequently.
  • Be yourself and write about what is important to you.
  • Include images or embed videos. Blogs are visual mediums and good use of images help grab readers’ attention.
  • Use links to external content so that your post could be a resource for someone else.
  • Respond to comments left on your blog.
  • Write comments on the blogs of others. Blogging is about engaging in a conversation with others.
  • Use an RSS reader, like Google Reader, to keep up to date with other bloggers in your field.

One of the things that might take some getting used to is the idea of being public. Sharing with the world can be intimidating (“What if I’m not funny / smart / clever / [whatever] enough?”). My advice is to keep your posts authentic. Be honest with yourself and your audience and you’ll find that there are others out there who are experiencing the same challenges that you are, and will respond to your writing. Write for yourself, but be mindful of the fact that others will be reading it.

Here are some of the blogs that I subscribe to. Most of these are about teaching and learning, but there are some by clinical educators as well. Have a look at the last few posts from each of these bloggers, and if it looks like they’re sharing ideas that you might enjoy reading about, subscribe to them. Even better, comment on what they’ve written and share your own ideas. Remember that the whole point of blogging is to engage in a conversation with colleagues who have similar interests, and that the list below is a tiny fraction of the full conversation that is happening.


Microblogging is about sharing content in a very limited format. The most famous example of a microblog is probably Twitter, although Tumblr is another good example. For the purposes of this article, I’ll stick to Twitter, just because it’s what I’m most comfortable with. Twitter allows users to post “tweets” of 140 characters, and was originally designed to be used as an alternative to SMS, hence the 140 character limit. When you first start tweeting you might find yourself trying to decide what to say. It’s OK to begin by watching to see what others are talking about, but know that if you’re not actively sharing, people will be hesitant to follow you.

Some of the things that you may want to share include your own experiences of “being” whatever it is that you are. Share the challenges you face in your professional context, or the things you see in the people around you. Tell your followers about a particular insight that just came to you, or a link to a really useful / interesting / engaging / thoughtful / inspiring online resource. Take a photo of something beautiful and share it with everyone. The whole point of being on Twitter is to engage in a public space, so be careful with what you tweet. A future employer might end up reading it.

There are several desktop and mobile Twitter clients that extend the functionality of the standard web-based experience (e.g. being able to send and receive tweets from multiple accounts), and you should play around with a few until you find one that you like. Some of the more popular clients include Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Echofon and the default Twitter client for most smartphones.

Conventions that you should be familiar with when using Twitter:

  • Stream – The feed of tweets that come from the people you follow.
  • Follow – When you “follow” someone, it means that their tweets show up in your stream. You should follow people who are interesting to you, otherwise your stream very quickly becomes polluted with content that has little value for you.
  • RT – “Retweeting” is when you see a post from someone you follow and share it with everyone who follows you.
  • DM – “Direct messages” are a bit like email. They’re private and can only be sent between people who follow each other.
  • @replies – When someone addresses you or mentions you in public. Everyone can see what’s been said and you get a notification that you’ve been mentioned. The message usually begins with “@yourusername”
  • # (hashtags) – Adding a hashtag allows others to perform a search on that word or phrase, which can be really useful during conferences. In addition, you can follow ongoing conversations like #phdchat, a collection of PhD researchers who share their experiences, stories, resources and tips for staying sane.

You can sign up for a Twitter account here, and here are a few users who I think are interesting to follow, just to get you started: @thesiswhisperer, @mashable, @courosa, @danariely, @opencontent, @pgsimoes, @presentationzen, @drtonybates, @sapinker, @coolcatteacher, @giustini, @bryanalexander, @amcunningham, @cameronneylon, @francesbell, @nlafferty, @gsiemens, @sebschmoller, @downes, @jamesclay, @ryantracey, @rachaellowe

The next part of the series on using social media to develop an online professional identity will review Mendeley, one of my favourite applications on the desktop, iPad, phone and web.

mobile social media

Social media and professional identity: Part 1 (Introduction)

As I mentioned a few days ago, I’m getting another article ready for the Clinical Teacher mobile app; Social media and Professional Identity. I’ve been working on it sporadically over the past few months and have finally sent it to the designer for laying it out and getting it ready for the app. I’ve been making the content of The Clinical Teacher articles available for free on my blog. This one is quite long so I’m going to break it up into shorter sections and post it here as a series on the use of social media to create and develop an online professional identity. I’ve included the “Abstract” below, which really just serves as the article description in the Clinical Teacher app, and actually isn’t a part of the article.

Here is the lineup for the series on social media and professional identity:

  • Part 1 (the rest of this post): Introduction to the internet and social media
  • Part 2: Social media, online identity and engagement (blogs and microblogs)
  • Part 3: Academic social networks (Mendeley)
  • Part 4: Academic social networks (ResearchGate)
  • Part 5: Academic social networks (
  • Part 6: Getting started with social media
  • Part 7: Privacy and sharing: social media policies in healthcare


In an increasingly connected and digital world, it often seems that too much happening, too quickly. Every week another online service, app or device is competing for your time and it can be overwhelming to decide where to focus your attention. At the same time, there’s social pressure to participate in this connected world. Whether it’s an email telling you that an old highschool friend has Liked a post you made on Facebook, or asking you to respond to an @reply on Twitter, or a nagging feeling of guilt that you still haven’t shared that photo album on Flickr. In addition, there is the constant “fomo” (fear of missing out) when people you know start talking about the next big thing.

Even in our professional lives as clinicians or academics, there is an increasing sense that “being” online is important, even if we don’t know exactly “how” to be, or “where” to be. There is a move towards the sharing of clinical experiences and resources that can add value to your professional life, if the available services and tools are used effectively. You may feel that you have something important to say, even if it is “just” the sharing of your experience. The clinical context is so dynamic, complex and challenging that we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our professions to share what we know.

This guide is an introduction to the online services and tools that I’ve found useful in the development of my own professional online identity. It is not an “academic” text as much as it is a personal perspective on establishing and developing a professional presence in online spaces.

An introduction to “the tubes

Before we begin talking about using the internet and social media, I thought it might be useful to establish some context and background. An absolute date is hard to pin down but the general consensus is that the thing we call the internet dates back to research conducted in the 1960s, and was developed as a decentralised communications network that could withstand a nuclear attack on major American cities. What most people refer to as “the internet” is actually the World Wide Web (WWW), a system of hyperlinked documents (webpages) that “sits on top of” the internet, and was created in 1990. In addition to the web (http), the internet supports a range of other protocols, including email (smtp), file transfer (ftp), and voice over internet protocol (VoIP).

In the early days, the web consisted of pages of content that were connected to each other using hyperlinks, and were generally controlled by companies and media organisations who could afford to host content and hire web developers. Webpages had to be hand-coded in HTML, which made it difficult for ordinary people to create online content. This is what people refer to as the first “version” of the web. Content was static and did not change much over time, and websites looked the same every time you visited them. A series of incremental changes in the languages used to create websites (for example, moving from HTML to XML, Javascript, and PHP) led to the development of dynamic websites, which allowed developers to change how people interacted with the web and with each other. This led to what people began calling Web 2.0. Care should be taken with when talking about Web 2.0 because it implies that there was an upgrade to the system that moved it to a second iteration. Rather, the web evolved (and continues to evolve), adding features as it did so.

Whatever you decide to call it, these changes allowed ordinary people to create web-based content that was dynamic and interactive, without needing an in-depth understanding of how the web works. It became possible for the average person to create online content that they could publish themselves and that their readers could interact with. For the first time in history, ordinary people could publish whatever they wanted directly into a global communication system and compete with massive media companies for the attention of readers. This change in the underlying web platform is what ushered in the rise of user-generated content, which is where we find ourselves today.

What do we mean when we say “social media”?

Social media is an umbrella term for a range of online services that facilitate the creation, curation and sharing of user-generated content. It is increasingly being tied in to mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) that make it easy to share most aspects of our personal lives, especially when it comes to photos and short text-based messages. Some examples of the types of technologies that come under this term are: blogs (e.g. apophenia), microblogs (e.g. Twitter), wikis (e.g. Wikipedia, Physiopedia), podcasts (e.g. IT conversations: Health & Medicine), discussion forums, virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life), gaming worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and social networks (e.g. Google+ and Facebook). As you can see, the term “social media” covers a lot of ground, which is why it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what exactly someone means when they talk mention it.

Social media services can be said to be based on the following broad pillars: identity, conversation, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, and groups. Not all of these services need to include all of these aspects, although they are useful concepts to explore the notion of engagement and interaction, which is what makes social media “social”.

In the following section (Part 2: Social media, online identity and engagement) I will briefly discuss two of the more common forms of social media, and explain how you could use them as part of establishing an online professional identity and presence.

twitter feed

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-01

  • Cities Are Immortal; Companies Die Masie briefly mentioned this Kelly article (I think)  in his great presentation at #cityafrica # (link updated after the fact)
  • Historic medical manuscripts go online #
  • Omniscient Mobile Computing: What if Your Apps Knew Everything About Where You Are? Reminded of Masie at #cityafrica #
  • Is RT a form of legitimate peripheral participation? Attended #tedxstellenbosch yesterday & did a lot of RT, wondering “did I padticipate”? #
  • @Sharoncolback not sure if it’s so simple, see @jeffjarvis who is very public re. personal stuff & who inspires many in similar situations #
  • Am I addicted to the internet? Maybe, but so what? #
  • Before iPhone war, Samsung sells 5M GS2′s in 85 days Got my samsung galaxy S2 last week and loving it so far #
  • Are there some things that shouldn’t be tweeted about? #
  • Feds Will Pay Doctors For Using Medical Records iPad App #
  • Electronic medical records get a boost from iPad, federal funding #
  • The current impact agenda could consider the impact of inspirational teaching, not just research #
  • Mendeley 1.0 is here! #
  • Learning spaces haven’t changed much since structured education emerged centuries ago. #cityafrica providing inspiration for change #
  • @wesleylynch venue is packed, hard to find 5 seats next to each other, realm team always inviting 🙂 #
  • @wesleylynch re-designing cities to be integrated spaces for working, learning and living #
  • @wesleylynch not sitting with #realm team, but chatted a bit #
  • @hotdogcop “quality teaching” isn’t going to happen without policy change that affect salaries and other factors related to job satisfaction #
  • @hotdogcop interest groups aren’t confined to academia though…some academics seek radical change, institutional structure makes it hard #
  • @hotdogcop “academic” doesn’t have to mean “top-down” or “policy maker” #
  • @hotdogcop agreed, but we train the people who will be called on to implement change #
  • @hotdogcop Mokena has some great ideas re. the city & education. would be interesting have him talk to our academics #
  • RT @TEDxStellenbsch: The future city already exists <- no, the technology exists, it’ll take a few years to implement #cityafrica #
  • Mokena Makena the best speaker so far at #tedxstellenbosch #CityAfrica #
  • Classrooms are not inspiring #cityafrica #
  • How could learning spaces change if city / community / nature were more fully integrated? #cityafrica #
  • How would the world look if cities were planned to integrate nature? #cityafrica #
  • Cities and nature don’t have to be mutually exclusive #cityafrica #
  • @vivboz hi vivienne, I’m not sure what writing group you mean? #
  • If the world can’t see or hear you, are u relevant? Do gangs and violence allow young people to be feared, if not seen & heard? #cityafrica #
  • How do our living and working spaces change the way we think and what does that mean for how we live? #cityafrica #
  • At #tedxstellenbosch trying to better understand the relationship between city and community #cityafrica #
  • Using social media: practical and ethical guidance for doctors and medical students – The British Medical Association #
  • Sites for the QR-enabled Tourist #