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Week 4

21 Feb

25 Thingers Blogs

Don’t forget to check out the other Thingers blogs this week. You can find them on the right of this page under ‘Blogroll’. Take a look at what everyone is saying and don’t forget to leave a comment.

The 25 Research Things Team

Social Networks

This week, we’re focusing on social networks. These are websites which allow you to keep track of and interact with people. Some are very simple indeed; others are more complicated. Facebook is the most famous, but we’re going to look at some that are perhaps less widely-known, but very useful for researchers.


11th Thing – Twitter

Twitter (n) ‘a short burst of inconsequential information’. The site founders read this dictionary definition, and decided that it pretty much summed up what their microblogging service offered to users. However, as of April 2010, 100 million people worldwide were using Twitter to share their thoughts about current affairs, celebrities and – inevitably – cats. So there must be something in it. Take a look at this short video to learn more.

Twitter really took off thanks to a film festival and conference in 2007, where it allowed delegates to communicate with each other via a completely open ‘back channel’. It’s no surprise, then, that Twitter is starting to appear regularly at academic conferences. Funding councils also use Twitter as a way to communicate news and opportunities, and you can even find collaborators via the service (this 25 Things programme began following a Twitter exchange at a conference in July!). So there are many reasons to explore Twitter a little further…

This week, if you’re not already on Twitter, we’d like you to sign up and start using the service. If you are on Twitter, we’d like you to blog about your experiences to date.

For Twitter newbies:

Step 1:
Go to the Twitter home page and create an account for yourself.

Step 2:
Search for someone or something to “follow”. If you have any friends that you know are already using Twitter, search for them and click on the “Follow” button. Otherwise, search for “bbc” and follow one or more of their Twitter feeds. Or why not try to find your research council – most of them now have official Twitter feeds as well.

Step 3:
Over the next few days, try to remember to occasionally update your Twitter status.

If you’re interested in following them, here’s our selection of Twitter feeds:

You might also be interested in the recent Digital Researcher conference, which encouraged delegates to talk to each other via Twitter – this included virtual delegates from as far away as Canada and Brazil. You can view the archive of these Tweets at an archiving service called TwapperKeeper!

12th Thing – Lanyrd

We are not the only ones to have spotted the link between conferences and Twitter. Some clever developers have created a Twitter application which allows you to share the conferences you’re attending, and see where the people you follow are going to be as well.

It’s still in its early stages, but Lanyrd is an interesting model and we think it’s worth your while to take a look around.

Step 1:
Go the Lanyrd home page and sign in using your Twitter ID.

Step 2:
Take a look around and see what conferences are happening, and maybe think about adding one that you’re attending.


13th Thing – LinkedIn

One of the big challenges when using social networks is keeping a distinction between your personal and professional lives. While it’s great to have another way of keeping in touch with your work contacts, you don’t necessarily want those people to have access to your holiday photos!

LinkedIn draws a very clear line between the two. It’s a social network that’s designed specifically for professionals, and most of its members are there for work-related reasons.

The basic premise is that you, the member, are at the centre of an ever-expanding social network. There are people that you know (your direct connections). Then, there are people that your direct connections know (your second-degree connections). And there are the people that your second-degree connections know (your third-degree connections).

LinkedIn thinks that, when it comes to solving work-related problems, staying up-to-date in your sector or finding a job, the people that are a degree or two removed from you are just as helpful as the people you already know. So it provides a way for you to see and connect with those people. Watch this short video for a bit more detail.

So the final Thing we’d like you to do this week is to experiment with LinkedIn.

Step 1:
Go to the LinkedIn home page and sign up to create an account.

Step 2:
Search for people you know. Add them as contacts. See if they know anyone else who could be useful to you, and consider asking for an introduction. Also, look and see if there are any groups you could join – starter for ten; if you search for Huddersfield you’ll find the university alumni group.

Don’t forget to blog about your experiences with social networks this week. Have you made any new connections? Learned anything new? Will you stay a member of these networks after 25 Things finishes?


Week 2

7 Feb

Blogs & RSS Feeds

4th Thing – Technorati

So, now you have a blog. So do all the other 25-Thing-ers at Huddersfield. But how many other people are using the internet to share their thoughts, experiences and stories about cats? How big, in short, is the blogosphere?

[ “Britain Going Blog Crazy” by Annie Mole on Flickr ]

Well according to Technorati, the leading search tool and authority for blogs, by June 2008, there were over 112 million blogs currently being tracked by the site. Yes, big numbers. But, as you’ve already seen for yourselves, blogging is so easy that almost every industry has been trying to find ways to make blogging work for them.

That’s why, this week, we’re going to look more closely at Technorati.

Do you want to make sure your blog is being tracked? Register your blog with Technorati. Do you want to tag your posts to make them easier to find through a Technorati search? If you owned a business and were trying to attract attention you’d register it with Technorati. If you want other people to be able to find you and your blog, this is a great way to start.

Step 1:
Take a look at Technorati and try doing a keyword search for “Huddersfield” in Blog posts, in tags and in the Blog Directory. Are the results different?

Step 2:
Explore popular blogs and tags. Is anything interesting or surprising in your results?

You can also use Google Blog Search to find interesting blog posts — for example, you might want to track down all the latest “Strictly Come Dancing” gossip 😀

In the same way that spam emails are a big problem, the same is happening with blogs — when you use Technorati or Google Blog Search, chances are that some of the results will be spam blogs (also known as “splogs”!). They’re not too difficult to spot, as the blog post text is usually gibberish along with lots of links to buy Viagra.

Optional extra:
If you’re up for another challenge, learn how to tag your posts with tags so they can join tag searches. The WordPress FAQ pages also have a section on how to add tags to your blog posts. We’ll be looking at tagging in more detail next week, so you might want to come back to this one.


5th Thing – RSS feeds and newsreaders

So now you’ve explored Technorati, you know that the blogosphere is pretty big, and probably contains quite a bit that you might find interesting. And on top of that there are all the other websites that you currently visit every day for news and views. And they’re all being updated, all the time. How on earth do you keep on top of the information overload?

Well, fear not, because this little orange button is about to make life a whole lot easier for you. It’s called an RSS feed, and it’s changing the way that web content creators share information, and web content users consume it.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and is a file format for delivering regularly updated information over the web. Alongside a good newsreader, this tool will bring all your favourite information sources and web pages together in just one place and all at the same time…without being bombarded with advertising… without having to search for new information on the page you’d already seen or read before… and without having to consume a lot of time visiting each site individually.

A newsreader is basically a tool which allows you to display content from lots of websites in one place. It can be a piece of software which you download to your desktop, or it can be web-based tool, which you can use on any computer you choose.

In terms of the web-based tools, Google seems to be dominating the market with its Google Reader. There are some useful tutorials online, including the Google Reader Tour, Google Reader in Plain English and these two videos.

Step 1:
Set up your own, personalized RSS feed reader. Learn about the difference between RSS feed readers and Google Reader.

Step 2:
Create a free account with Google Reader and subscribe to at least 5 newsfeeds to your reader. If you’re struggling to find some newsfeeds, you can try the ones listed below…

…don’t forget that this blog also has a RSS feed, so you could subscribe to that too! And why not check out your Research Council – many of them now have news feeds that can keep you updated on funding and jobs, among other things.


6th Thing – Finding RSS Feeds

Now that you have a newsreader (your Google Reader account), you can begin adding other newsfeeds that interest you.

There are several ways you can locate newsfeeds:

  • When visiting your favorite websites, look for RSS icons that indicate the website provides it. Often a feed icon will be displayed somewhere in the navigation bar of the site.
  • There are also search tools that can help you find feeds:
    1. — This search tool allows you to locate recent newsfeed items based upon keyword or phrase searching. The tool focuses specifically on news and media outlet RSS feeds for information, not weblogs.
    2. — Syndic8 is an open directory of RSS feeds that contains thousands of RSS feeds that users have submitted.

Step 1:
Explore some of the search tools noted above that can help you locate some news feeds.

Step 2:
Create a post in your blog about this exercise. Don’t know what to blog about? Think about these questions:

  • What do you like about RSS and newsreaders?
  • How do you think you might be able to use this technology in your work or personal life?
  • Which method of finding feeds did you find easiest to use?
  • Which Search tool was the easiest for you?
  • Which was more confusing?
  • What kind of useful feeds did you find in your travels?
  • Or what kind of unusual ones did you find?
  • What other tools or ways did you find to locate newsfeeds?