Creating a SNS profile for an internship?

A part of  some work we are doing we have presented this scenario to a number of students in the original English and a Japanese translation:

Maisy is a hard working student, who is involved in campus volunteering initiatives such as mentoring local school children. She has been very involved with her sports club, and does shifts at Nightline, the student run telephone support service. As a second year, she is looking to do a year in industry to top up the funds and add extra weight to her CV.

Maisy has never had time to get involved with social networks on the Internet, preferring the immediacy and dynamic nature of face-to-face conversations. She uses email and, occasionally, gets distracted by her instant messenger program when she is trying to study, but apart from that, the Internet is chiefly a resource for researching things – whether they are academic or about fashion.

One of the companies Maisy would like to work for, though, has a strong presence in one of the social networks, and has been contacting people though this medium about their plans for a year in industry. Maisy is not sure whether she wants to get involved in this – on the one hand, she could sit down and write a profile to provide an online presence, but on the other hand, she has plenty to do, with a busy second year at university.

What is worse is that she cannot work out whether a plain and straightforward profile would actually help her in this case. It may be that it would look just a bit too ‘engineered’ and put a potential employer off. Some people expect to see a ‘back story’ behind an online persona, and it may just be too late to create one now.

The students were then asked to consider that Maisy had asked them for advice as to what she should do.

Ultimately we will write up this work but since I have mentioned it is several places this is meant to clarify what the students were saying.

Lots of the students responding to the English version were pragmatic about what Maisy should do, they advised that since the recruiters were using Facebook etc, if she wanted to work for them she should create a presence, probably with the help of a friend. They went on to talk about the dangers of “drunken photos” on Facebook and the importance of cleaning sites if these may be detrimental to employment opportunities. Not all the students had the same views and there were definitely a group who wouldn’t work for a company that would be put off by a typical site.

The scenario above comes from Parslow P, Williams S, Fleming S, Hussey R: This is Me: Learning about your digital identity: Lulu; 2009, freely downloadable at

Reflection on rush hour travel

Today was the first day I had to use the tube in the rush hour since I came back from Tokyo and as I stood on the crowded platform I remembered the one thing that was lots better in Tokyo. There they have lines painted on the platform where the train doors will be, two queues form at each of these, when the train arrives the queues part to allow people get off and the people from the queues get on. The rest of the experience is much the same, people packed in, having to fight your way to the door when you arrive at your station.

The other difference is they have signs in Japanese and English at all stations, and on most trains.



Since I started my study leave I have twice visited Japan, to work with colleagues at Meiji University in Tokyo, and with other colleagues of theirs from around Japan and beyond. They have also visited Reading.

In many ways Tokyo is like other big noisy cities. The skyline show how much more crowded it is than most.

Linguistically things are very challenging as I don’t understand the character set or the words. Fortunately most of the train signs are also in English, and my trusty phrase book helps.

Study Leave continues

I realise that I am neglecting my blog, so much is happening and I really should occasionally recode it beyond the briefest of tweets. I am on Study Leave, I sold the idea to my boss as a time in which “I could concentrate on reflecting and writing, along with making plans for the future.”

The good news is that I am doing this but not doing a good job of sharing it.

So let me see if I can make a few more posts.

Presenting virtually

We have a paper accepted in the Global TIME: Global Conference on Technology, Innovation, Media & Education ( and we have chosen to present virtually. The conference organisers wanted presentation submitted in advance and a recording needed to be made to go with it using their system and with a facilitator. This post is describing the experience of making the recording.

We were given a number of times slots to choose from on the web site, all the times were in Eastern Standard Time and during their working day. We selected one at 10.30 am their time, which would be 3.30 pm in London where I and a co-author would be. We didn’t receive any confirmation email, but that didn’t worry us. We logged in an hour early to check the audio and any other technicalities, and left a message in the chat that we would be back in an hour. When we came back we discovered the facilitator and another presenter there about to start recording. After a brief exchange the facilitator claimed we were late and should have been there at 10.00 as that was what was on her schedule! Anyway we arranged to come back later and did our recording.

Doing the recording was quite nerve wracking in that we were told if we made a mistake the whole thing would need to be done again, it wasn’t possible to splice back to the last slide. We had decided that my colleague would do the first half of the presentation; we would then mute the microphone; swap over; unmute and then I would continue. It was definitely better doing this recording with someone else in the room, my colleague was able to watch the chat box from the facilitator while I concentrated on what to say. However we both felt we had each said a few too many umms.

After it had finished I asked the facilitator how many of these she had done and what problems she had experienced. She had done about 10 (her colleague was also doing some) and that most of her problems were technical, for instance people who had animations in their PowerPoint’s lost them when they were uploaded.

Lessons learned from this experience:

  1. Always issue confirmations of times;
  2. If you are working across time zones, be very clear of the time (and day) in your time one, and provide an easy way for them to translate it.
  3. Provide a sandbox area for people to try in advance of the real recording.

If you are interested in our work the reference for the paper will be:

Williams, S., Spiret, C., Dimitriadi, Y., & McCrindle, R. (2012). Auditing Technology Uses within a Global Voluntary Organisation. In  Global TIME: Global Conference on Technology, Innovation, Media & Education. Online: AAEC.

It describes work we are doing as part of a KTP ( with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (

Translating People: Crossing the Language Barrier in Social Media

Last night the Swedish Twitter University presented a class entitled “Translating People: Crossing the Language Barrier in Social Media” led by An Xiao Mina.

I didn’t follow it live but this morning I was able to catch up by looking at the tweets on @SvTwuni and the hash tag #STU08. There were only a handful of people using the hashtag, so I suspect the class was sparsely attended.

The class started with a question:

“I’ll start w an example. How many of you have heard of Tencent QQ? One of the world’s largest social networks: #STU08”

the class continued with other examples including Mixi and Orkut which English language users could use – but don’t, Twitter having different language worlds , all this leading to the statement:

“It’s a basic reality: we by and large live in language ghettoes online. We only interact with those who speak a common language”

Machine translation could help in these situations but isn’t very effective. There was talk of Chinese homophones which are totally lost in machine translation. Community translation was introduced with an example from the presenter’s work, Meedan a community English-Arabic translation, Xiha Life a community for multi-linguists.

One of the participants asked:

“isn’t a near real time imperfect machine translation better than a late (but better) human translation?”

The conclusion was in some cases machine translation is sufficient, but inaccuracy is a problem. The possibility of human supplemented machine translation was touched on.

Book #30 Your Digital Afterlife

When I saw Evan Carroll and John Romano’s book “Your Digital Afterlife” I thought this was a book I had intended to write.  I had written a couple of posts about Digital Legacy with Facebook‎ and Flickr.  There are items about  Digital Identity and death in some of our This is Me books  and given various presentations on it.

However when I read the book I changed my mind, it has lots of interesting snippets but I’m not at all sure I really think the approach they are promoting to archiving stuff will help in the long run. I am particularly concerned that they have not taken an international perspective as many people have digital content that spans boundaries, and the idea of making a list of accounts and passwords seems to be leaving yourself open to many potential frauds.

However if you haven’t considered what becomes to a person’s digital assets after they die then this book does provide food for thought.

Book #29 The Digital Scholar

Martin Weller’s “The Digital Scholar” presents an interesting perspective on how academic scholarship is changing and of more futures for the future with the affordances that technology offers. I agree with a lot of what is said in the book and may have said some of it myself. As part of my sabbatical leave I am trying to be a digital scholar: building a digital collection, using appropriate tools for accessing managing this information; however I am failing in making good on sharing a lot of what I am doing, and I could perhaps do more to cultivate my network of peers.

One of Weller’s strands is the need to move away from the traditional model of publishing academic journals and towards an open access model, he is particularly troubled by the large sums publishers make for publishing papers that are written as a result of publically funded research, and peer reviewed for free by the academic community. However he is aware that some academics are skeptical about open access. Which is borne out by a senior colleague of mine recently said: “ access pubs are often desperate for papers…”

All in all a great book, I’ve recommended it to a number of people.


What did we do without the Internet?

I’m reading Martin Weller’s “Digital Scholar” and have just read this bit:

“When Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales gave a talk for the Open University conference I said that as a father of an inquisitive eight-year-old, not a week went by when I didn’t give thanks for the existence of Wikipedia. He responded that it was a double-edged sword; when he was young his father could give him an answer and he’d accept it, but he found now that his kids were back-checking his answers on Wikipedia.”

And it reminded me of a story of my own from some 20 years ago.

We almost always had lively discussion over dinner and three inquisitive children where the source of many questions, and there was a point when our daughter said:

“It would be nice to have dinner without having to get a book out.”

Now when they and their partners are over for dinner there are still many questions. But now there are two possible responses:

  1. I re-tell the above story.
  2. Someone says “Where is the Internet when you need it?”

Mostly I try and restrain from the former, and secondly the family usually restrain from actually consulting the Internet during dinner.

To e-book or not to e-book – a year on

A year ago I wrote a post entitled: “To e-book or not to e-book” in which I weighed up the pros and cons of reading with-books. At the time I had read a couple of e-books using the Amazon Kindle app on my Android phone. My big concern is that with e-books it is not easy to share books with friends, and that is something I have always done.

Since last year I have acquired an iPad and I have the Kindle app on it. I find it really convenient for reading, I’m using it to read academic texts and fictions. For academic texts I like it as I can make notes, highlight stuff and search for bits I remember. For fiction the joy of always having a book with me makes travelling more pleasant and waiting rooms less depressing.

Sharing still seems to be a problem. There is the possibility of lending books for a period of 2 weeks, but the lender must be in the US. Alternatively it is possible to have up to 6 Kindle readers registered to one account, but since that requires you also to share bank account access, it isn’t something that really is going to encourage sharing with your friends and colleagues.

A couple of days ago my friend having returned from holiday arrived with a bag of books to lend me, I will miss this when he gets the Kindle he is hoping for (and given today the new £89 Kindle is available I can’t see that will be long).

I have found some free and cheap books on the Amazon Kindle store, and some of those where good reads. However there are still anomalies with the Kindle version much more than the paperback. This is partly due to the government charging VAT (at 20%) on e-books, but the manufacturing and postal costs of a physical cannot be negligible.

I also have the Apple iBooks, but I do not find their store particularly helpful, and often the sort of stuff I want isn’t there. It is quite a useful place for putting pdf documents I want to refer to, but they can’t be annotated so not my favourite place.