edu Social Software

Early social software adopters eager for extra homework

I never thought assigning homework would be so easy but, this is social software in elementary schools.

… a simple process: find leaders (the heretics who are doing things differently and making change), and then amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers-and things get better. They always get better.

Tribes, Seth Godin

Who wants more homework?
Who wants more homework?

Previously in There are no screw-ups, just Versions, I primed Sara’s elementary school classmates on how to give their own Lunch & Learn. Since then, I prepared the initial wiki page content for their project assignments.

Wow, is this what it’s like to teach?

While I have provided face-to-face training in the past and even hundreds of techies via e-learning (onilne realtime education), I have never experienced so much energy in a classroom. And what’s even more amazing to witness is, it’s not not bound to the 40 minute lunch-time session we share. Sara’s classmates are contributing to their Cynapse site. While they help with homework and contribute fave songs, movies, books, etc., their blogs, wikis & threaded comments are the best. They’re just playing around and naturally having fun!

Seth Godin was right – duhhh

It was that easy: “… amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers-and things get better. They always get better.” So I never handed out their project assignments. They volunteered and even complained that some had more features to cover than they did. Life is good – so far.

Make it fun

I’ve offered my help for any questions they have – provided the questions are posted on the site for others to benefit. I’ve also offered to help them – as best as I can, in creating video blogs (vlogs), recorded how-to interviews, presentations and recorded demos. These would all be “nice-to-haves”. The only “need-to-have” is the updated wiki page deliverables – Cynapse’s Best Practices Guide for Elementary School Students.

Beatles – i get by with a little help from my friends

Help your friends out by posting questions/comments on their assigned wiki pages – before their Lunch & Learn date and I’m sure they’ll help you out with yours!

— my $0.02 (CAD)

The first update after school was this Beatles song. Check back next week to see how they start delivering.

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There are no screw-ups, just Versions

Cynapse’s Version control alleviates collaboration and adoption fear factor – at least among 11 and 12 year-olds.


My last post – Kicking off social software in Sara’s elementary school illustrated how Six Graders – 11 & 12 year-olds, were quick to adopt social software in their elementary school. Now that they had some fun over the holidays, the real work needs to start.

The Project

In order to make myself perfectly clear, I created an internal wiki page for them called The Project’s 5 Ws. Basically, the students had already agreed to:

The Deliverable is the modified version of Cynapse’s Best Practices Guide, entitled Cynapse’s Best Practices Guide for Elementary School Students. The Students will work in teams and collaborate on modifying the existing content to suit their own scenarios / use cases / user stories, so that other students can benefit from their experiences and ease their adoption of social software.

Defining success

Deliver The Deliverable within 3 months & their elementary school will continue offering the social software service.

Perhap my last Lunch & Learn

While I’ve only presented 3 Lunch & Learns so far, I fully intend to retire in the very near future. While I do love presenting, demoing & fielding their questions, or, concerns, I think it’s time for them to step-up & take over. There are 13 features – like blogs, wikis, calendar events, status logs, etc. for the students to document. I explained the concept & values of Agile self-organized teams & gave them until next week to decide which features they want to adopt ownership for. So next week should be my last official Lunch & Learn. From then on, the students will take turns presenting, demoing & fielding their own questions, or, concerns.

Use or it loose it

In addition, I asked them to start blogging about their everyday experiences, including those using/adopting Cynapse‘s social software. The more content they contribute, the easier it will be for everyone to succeed.

Leading by example

In conclusion, I gave them a very quick introduction into Cynapse’s content management – wiki editing & version control. I meant to record my demo but unfortunately, didn’t have the connector for my laptop, so I used the teacher’s laptop instead – which didn’t have Jing – screen recording software, installed. I suggested it would be a nice surprise if we were able to deliver less-than-5-minutes How-To videos – like the one above & offered to help them out.


What do think? Will this small group of 11 and 12-year-olds succeed?

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Social Software

Monittering Twitter – The Obama Inauguration Experiment

Obama Inauguration Monittered Tweets
Obama Inauguration Monittered Tweets

In my prior My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included) post – How to follow section, I listed as an amazing tool. Now, I’d like to show you a recording I made on Inauguration Day to illustrate that point.


How I monitored

  1. I went to and looked for the hash tags (#) that folks were using to mark their tweets; “inauguration”, “inaug09” and “obama”.
  2. Opened in my Chrome browser (simply because my blog theme matches it)
  3. Replaced my previous keywords in each column heading for the hash tagged terms I found in step 1
  4. Just for fun, I played around with the “Tweets within …” setting and entered “10 km” of “Washington, DC”
  5. Preferring a more global perspective, I cleared the “Washington, DC”

The tweets were coming through so fast, it was sometimes just a blur.

How I captured

  1. I quickly opened up my Camtasia 6.0 Recorder and choose a custom area setting of 1024×768. I knew this would be too large for my blog and too large for youtube, but there was so much content flying by that I figured I’d deal with that issue later.
  2. I started recording on 2009-01-20 at 11:46 ET
  3. I could see a few tweets coming in remarking how impressed some where that Twitter was handling the load and didn’t crash yet.
  4. Things slowed down around 12:12 ET for me and then nothing was coming in.
  5. I stopped recording and saved the file – which takes awhile for a recording that long.
  6. I then removed two columns from by clicking the minus sign “-” at the bottom right hoping to improve things
  7. I started recording again changing my capture area setting to a more youtube friendly size (640×480) even though I couldn’t get things lined up nicely with my Monitter columns
  8. The second recording went from 12:33 ET to 13:13 ET.

How I tried to post to YouTube
This didn’t go well. I tried playing back my recordings and recapturing them in smaller area and uploading them. At first I got tripped up by the note on the upload page that tells me I can upload up to 1 GB. But there was no warning about not being able to upload videos more than 10 minutes. It took a few nasty error messages & trips to the Help to find that one out.

Then I thought I had it all figured out. I had played back, re-captured in 640×480 screen size, split into 10 minute files, uploaded a few files. And the playback was awful. I Googled, Helped, tried viewing in high definition, tried embedding here with various “width” and “height” values. All for not.

See for yourself. Here’s my inadequate 3-column version and a fruitless skinnied down attempt. All you can tell is the speed of tweets. And going to full screen is illegible.

How I finally published with the original quality

Camtasia Screencast Option
Camtasia Screencast Option

Sometimes the best solution is just too obvious. Techsmith, the makers of Camtasia are also the providers of Screencast. Nothing says “phew” like a good integration.


I quickly and easily uploaded my two large originally produced MP4 files with a click of a button. If I only realized that two days ago! In any case, life is good again. And even better if I just saved you a few days of headaches, or, enabled you to get that video published that you may’ve given up on. One more thing, Screencast has an free account option – which is what I went for. There’s a few limitations but I figure I can always upgrade later if need be.

This is it
Since its a large video, another browser tab, or, window will be opened: Obama Inauguration Tweets

While I would’ve preferred the potential traffic generated from YouTube, Screencast is my choice when quality large resolution is required.

I hope you enjoy watching the tweets go by. Please let me know if you can see yours. My two attempts were not captured.

Social Software

IBM Lotus Greenhouse Connections, Stickmen and Communities

How a social networking stickman can use IBM’s Lotus Connections to better server a community, or, enterprise – for free

Social Networking Stickman
Social Networking Stickman

In my previous post – My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes, I introduced you to Greenhouse and hopefully, got you underway in the registration process. So now, for all you would-be social networking stickmen out there, let’s see what free tools we can exploit.

Getting Into Connections


For starters, once you log into Greenhouse, click on the IBM Lotus Connections link and you’ll brought to a typical portal looking page. The page should resemble familiar sites like Yahoo! with the added usability of customizing your page like iGoogle.

Here’s what you should be seeing:

  1. Profiles: The Facebook of Connections where you maintain your own profile, network with others and link with colleagues and their content. Take a few extra minutes and check out Chris Brogan‘s advice in Write Your LinkedIn Profile for Your Future. My personal favorites are about describing more about what you want to do most and your choice of photos.
  2. Blogs: Personal journals sequenced by most current entries that potentially allow readers to leave comments.
  3. Communities: Your own collection of member profiles sharing discussion forums, bookmarks and feeds, as described in My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)
  4. Activities: A novel alternative to email where you can share content, documents and comments around a specific activity, including To-Do’s with dates.
  5. Dogear: You can share, or, not, your choice bookmarks – just like Delicious, or, Digg, but integrated with your community.

Now keep in mind where you are at this point. You logged into Greenhouse and as a result anything you do inside Greenhouse will not show up when you Google for it. Perhaps more importantly, all the Greenhouse feeds available to you are pretty much restricted to internal Greenhouse use. The problem is typical news readers – like Google Reader do not account for credentials – no pun intended. Go ahead and try adding one of your Greenhouse feeds to Google

Google Reader and a Greenhouse Feed
Google Reader and a Greenhouse Feed

and please let me know if you have better results than I do.


Don’t get me wrong. This is not a showstopper and should not prevent you from moving forward now. As a matter of fact, anyone wanting to adopt social software in the workplace will have the same issue. This is a good thing. Enterprises and Information Technology (IT) folks call this Security and once you’re logged into Greenhouse your entries are encrypted with something called Secure Sockets Layers (SSL), which means, among other things, unintended eyes cannot see what you post. Notice the “s” in

Why / How

Perhaps the most compelling reason for me to use Greenhouse Connections is the concept of community which I hope is communicated in my following video.

Now in order to have a Community, you need to have Members. You can only select Members from existing Greenhouse Profiles. Once you have your list of folks who can access your content, you can then determine what privileges they have. privileges depend on the Memberships Roles you assign and vary among Owners, Authors and Readers.

So how do we work around the problem of getting the most out of feeds if we can’t add those from Greenhouse to our readers? Here’ one I’m experimenting with a start-up project. Since all the members are into, or, are getting into Twitter, I set up a FriendFeed account and created a private Room for the members to communicate. We keep all our community-related content inside our members-only Greenhouse Connections Community and only use FriendFeed for notification purposes. It’s going OK, but I thinking of switching over to GroupTweet because its simpler. Sometime less features is just better.

Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, hit a snafu along the way, or, simply have any of your own suggestions / alternatives. Especially if you have alternatives 🙂

Social Software

My Five Ws of IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse in less than 10 minutes

Use IBM’s Lotus Collaboration Products for free, including Lotus Connections for social networking.

Inside Registered Greenhouse


I’ve been blogging, or, talking about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse for a while now, but have yet to deliver a scenario that folks can relate to. So for all of you out there that have a desire to know more about social software and maybe even start testing the waters, this series of posts is for you.


Most of my friends and colleagues think social software is limited to blogging. Some consider video sharing like youtube. Some know about bookmark sharing like delicious. Some may consider podcasts in there. Perhaps even fewer know about slideshare. I don’t know of any them that consider leaving comments on retailers’ site as being “social”. And again, none of them would consider some form of project management as a social activity.

Now, what’s nice about IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse is that it offers all of these capabilities and more, for free. Why? I can think of two good reasons why IBM let’s you use their production, backed-up software for free:

  1. Outside-in software development: There’s a big push within Big Blue to get more feedback from stakeholders outside the lab into the lab. Greenhouse has a whack of forums for members to provide feedback, or, get help. This goes hand-in-hand with another big push in Big Blue: Agile, or, scrum software development. In very brief terms, this means developing high value chunks of executable software in short iterations cycles – like two weeks, demonstrating it to stakeholders, getting feedback, reflecting on the experience & then moving forward. The objective is to mitigate the risk in developing software no one except the developers think is necessary. (Perhaps now’s a good time to point you to the Disclaimer on my sidebar.)
  2. As the site says:

    Bluehouse is the code name for a first-of-its-kind, IBM® software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. “Bluehouse” is an innovative and powerfully intuitive set of business services integrated with robust social networking capabilities, which enable users to collaborate quickly and efficiently work with others outside or inside the firewall.

    So my guess is, if you get hooked on Greenhouse & are reaping the benefits from it, then you would consider going for the full-meal deal with the Bluehouse hosted solution. Makes sense to me!


Glancing at the Inside Greenhouse image above, you can tell there’s a lot going on here. But I did say in my last The Funny Thing About Leaving Comments post that I was going to use Chris Brogan‘s Question for You While Preparing for 2009 getting started scenario. So that’s what we’re going to focus on moving forward – for now.


Join Now In order to move forward, you do need to register by clicking Join and filling out the Self Nomination page. Now there’s a few things you should be aware of when registering:

  1. You cannot change the following after you register:
    1. E-mail address
    2. First Name
    3. Last Name
  2. I honestly don’t know if it helps any of us, but I can’t imagine it could hurt, so, feel free to use my name as Your IBM Contact

The first point really tripped me up. As a result, I now have an account with my IBM email address, first & last name and another one with my email address with first name “S” and last name “StevenMilstein”. I’m trying to get this resolved since I have more control over the fate of my email address, as opposed to, my IBM one.


Registration is not automatic. I think there’s a human intervening on the other end. So the sooner you register the sooner you can get started.

Please let me know if you have any trouble following my instructions, or, hit a snafu along the way.

Social Software

My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included)

Twitter – not your father’s Oldsmobile of news sources

Who’s this for

Are you one of those folks whose heard of Twitter & wondered what’s it all about? Or perhaps you once were adventurous enough to visit the site but, for the life of you, just couldn’t get it? I know that’s exactly how I felt. Even their own “What”, “Why”, “How” and slick video just didn’t do it for me. Did I really need to announce to the world that I’m eating soup? Did anyone out there really care? Even my own mother?

So if you are the way I was, then this post’s for you. On the other hand, if you wear your Twitter badge with pride – like I do, then maybe you can read on anyway & share your thoughts on how to help others benefit from this technology.

Why I like Twitter

When I was just a little guy growing up – not that I’m such a giant now, I remember my father leaving for the office before we went off to school and somehow always managing to pull his big brown Oldsmobile 98 into the driveway at exactly 6 PM. He would then sit in his car & listen to the news. Afterwards, he’d join us at the kitchen table and once supper was over, he’d then move onto his special reading corner. He’d sit back in his big comfy black leather chair and ottoman – like the one on Fasier and read the newspaper from cover to cover. (In those days, we received the newspaper in the late afternoon.) He read every square inch of that paper. That & his 6 o’clock news were his sources of information. (He usually fell asleep in front of the TV long before the 11 o’lock news.)

Cartype : Oldsmobile
As he got older, had more time on his hands and more choices, he got into other news sources like CNN, FOX, CBC, or, The Weather Channel. But somethings always remained the same. Regardless of the content, he always had to select a news source first, filter out the content that interested him and sometimes filter out the opinions, views and biases of those sources before he was able to get what he wanted.

Today, Twitter is not my father’s Oldsmobile of news sources. With Twitter, I select my content first and then look to the source. The next time something major is going on – like an election, a natural disaster, or both, just try to keep up with the tweets. All of a sudden, everyone is an Eye Witness news reporter. That means anyone with a connection to the Net, or, capable of text messaging (I’m guessing any mobile phone purchased within the last five years) is a Twittereporter. That’s got to out number any news agency’s sources – unless of course they follow Twitter too. But even if they did. Their coverage still can’t compare, simply because of their value add – read bias. So, saying Twitter is a premium news source may in fact be an understatement.

What‘s Twitter, tweets and micro-blogging

So now’s a good time to check out that slick video I mentioned earlier on Twitter’s home page. But, remember, its not really about soup, or, mowing the lawn.

In addition, Alex Iskold‘s Evolution of Communication: From Email to Twitter and Beyond – ReadWriteWeb gives a great comparison of mail/email, phone/instant messaging, newspapers/blogs and of course Twitter.

How to follow
  1. Content
    1. Go to http://search.twitter.com (No registration required!)
    2. Note the “Trending topics”. The ones prefixed with the hash (#) are tags authors use to shortcut their topic – like keywors.
    3. Aside from current events that would make national, or, international headlines, try searching for something less news worthy. Try a brand like JetBlue, or, product like iPhone. This is all word of mouth and most likely not an official support mechanism. Watch what people are saying about great/poor service, awesome/lemon products…
    4. Did you notice the ? Add that feed to your news reader and you now have you’re very own staff of twitterreporters. If you’re not sure what that means, take a look at my previous post My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)
  2. People
    1. Take a look at other people’s profiles and follow their lead. Things like using a real picture, and your actual name go a long way when it comes to building relationships
    2. Go ahead and register a free account at
    3. Based on your search results, you may have come across folks you’d like to follow more specifically. Click on their picture and then the Twitter Follow Me button
    4. Just for fun, check out Dr. Mark Drapeau‘s, Guest Post- The Post-Geekdominant Twitterverse where among other things, he refers to Who has the most Followers on Twitter? (Top 100) |
  3. Tools, tools and more tools
Where‘s to start

If nothing else, I really hope you’re at least intrigued by it all. So here again is where to start:

  1. Search Twitter
  2. Twitter
  3. I’d be honored if you’d like to follow me

When to subscribe
Even if you don’t Tweet – for now, the very least you should be doing is listening for others. So follow your interests, passions – personal & professional. If you’re lucky, they’ll all the same.

Up next

I think there’s a tremendous target audience out there just waiting for us to onboard them into the world of social software and I’ll explain further in my next post. In the meantime, I’ll be searching and tweeting trying to validate my theory. So if you have anything you’d like to share along these lines, please comment, or, Tweet me @stevenmistein.

How about searching for something of interest right now and comment below how it went. Was it as easy as described? Did I oversimplify things? Would you like me to find some other helpful pointers out there? You’ll never know unless you ask.

By the way, I really did love that Olds 98. And that big comfy black leather chair & ottoman, is just a few feet away from me.

Social Software

My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included)

Here’s a great little video explaining news feeds / RSS and how to get started.

Feedburner 101
Who’s this for
Are you one of those folks whose seen these things on web sites & wondered what they’re for? Or perhaps you know what they stand. Perhaps you once were adventurous enough to click one but, then decided to leave it for another time. If so, then this post’s for you. If not, then maybe you can read on anyway & share your thoughts on how to help others benefit from this technology.

Why I like news feeds
Before we get started on our mission, the first thing I need to due is assume nothing. So if I want you to start following, and hopefully contributing, to this social experiment, I need to help make it easier for me to communicate with you. Of course, email is one way. Personally, for things like this, I really prefer news feeds.

A news feed, by it’s own naming, sounds so fresh and up-to-date. But we all know that today’s news is tomorrow’s history. Now, let’s think how that relates to our email’s inbox. I know folks that receive 150 to 200 emails a day. Maybe you’re just like them. Have you ever fallen behind? Even for a day, or, two. How about when you travel, or, go on vacation? Do the math.

200 emails /day x 5 days disconnected vacation = 1,000 emails

When’s the last time you caught up on those emails? In my own case, and I don’t receive anywhere near that volume, I pretty much read the subject and then decide if I need to use the scroll bar.

The beauty of news feeds, is that no matter when you read the content, it always feels like news. At least it does for me. (Feel free comment.) I think its because its there in front of me when I want it. So if I’m reading a post about a particular subject matter, then I know I can I can follow that feed’s timeline, news history, previous postings, etc., to see how that content evolved. I find it a lot easier to get my head around things when in my Google News Reader, than my Inbox.

What‘s a news feed and how to get started
So, if you’re wondering what’s a news feed, or, RSS (, or even ATOM), then take a look at Common Craft’s Lee LeFever’s perfect little video from his “In Plain English” series.

Where‘s my RSS icons
So if you’re convinced, here’s my RSS icons. If not, I’ll be just as happy if you subscribe via email.

When to subscribe
How about trying to subscribe right now and comment below how it went. Was it as easy as described? Did I oversimplify things? Would you like me to find some other helpful pointers out there regarding news feeds, or, readers? You’ll never know unless you ask.

Up next
I’ll post my Five Ws of Twitter next time. So if you have anything you’d like to share along these terms, please comment, or, Tweet me @stevenmistein.

Do you have any of your own preferences, or, RSS links you’d like to share?

Startup Life

Starting My Own, Thanks to …

Social Networking Stickman

Starting my own, thanks to Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki.

Why I got started
I only started taking social software seriously after reading Seven Blogs You Must Read And Other Useful Know-How – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image in the Montreal Gazette. For the most part, I’ve been following Mitch Joel‘s advice and listening to him, Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World and try to keep up with ReadWriteWeb, MobileCrunch and TechCrunch every now & then.

To be quite honest, I never felt a burning desire to spend much time with Facebook and just couldn’t relate to telling the wold that I’m going to have a coffee with Twitter. Now I know that sounds rather anti-social but I really felt there had to be more to it. But then among all of the feeds above, I came across ESME: Is This What an Enterprise Twitter Could Look Like? – ReadWriteWeb and things started to gel for me.

But enterprises come in many forms and I’d like to focus more on enterprising communities – those that are looking for new ways to tackle age-old problems. Those that are anxious to learn as they go along and maybe even contribute to the learning process.

One more Why
Here’s a comment I posted to Start A Blog Today | Six Pixels of Separation – Marketing and Communications Blog and Podcast – By Mitch Joel at Twist Image that explains why I finally got off the sidelines:

Actually, I only “got” social media after reading your post. Just recently, I started blogging myself, also, mainly due to you,, and I most definitely agree with you & the others, that – given the challenges of today’s realities, now is absolutely the best time to show your snowflake. With so many people being batched together in layoffs, people need a way to distinguish themselves.

The light bulb went off for me when I was about to offer the father of my daughter’s best friend an afternoon How-To do it. Fortunately, I realized the arrogance of my offer & held back. I was about to waste 4 hours of his time, my time, completely frustrate both of us and in the end set us both further back from where we started.

That’s why I started blogging. I realized that so many people I know – personally & professionally, have no idea of the social software tools not only available to them, but more importantly, just how beneficial they can be. So instead of inefficiently offering my help one person at at time, I hope to learn & refine the experience in my blog, grow my own social network and help others seed their own.

Here’s my lightning rod
According to Rubicons’ October 2008 report entitled “Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril”, there’s pretty much two kinds of community members: the most frequent contributors (MFCs) and the ones that read their contributions. By the way, the MFCs represent only 10% of the members but they contribute 80% of the content. If this is true then this is what I’m aiming for:

  1. If we can get just a handful of members, then I’m hoping that 90% of our new community will follow the adventures.
  2. Hopefully a percentage of that 90% will even try to implement their own community
  3. 10% will either let me know of:
    1. mistakes I’ve made, and/or
    2. problems encountered using my choice of software, and/or
    3. let me know how the competition deals with a scenario – whether it be better, or not

So bring it on. Let’s all learn together. Let’s share our experiences with not just this community here, but with any children communities born here, as well as, the developers who write our social software.

Up Next
Over the next few postings, I’m going to explain my niche market, a simple scenario for us to implement and a high-level outline of to-do’s which will ultimately become our How-To’s. You may agree, or, disagree with what I think is niche & whether my scenario has any practical use. But that’s the beauty of this social networking thing – provided you post your comments back.

My Process
There’s nothing truly original here. I’ve seen others do it. So unless anyone has any other suggestions this is how I’ll proceed:

  1. Send a tweet through Twitter letting anyone who’ll listen know what I’m planning on posting next & ask for any insights.
  2. Post my entry, with the first line being the entry’s tweet. If I can’t net out my posting in 140 characters and you can’t “Get it”, then I failed & you shouldn’t bother reading any further.
  3. Tweet that first line and see if anyone “gets it”.

All thoughts are welcome