Bogus website reviews


Star vector created by starline – www.freepik.comI was sitting watching Click, the BBC’s flagship technology programme, the other morning where they reported on bogus reviews on some websites It was saying that although customer reviews on websites can be valuable to us when deciding on using a business or service, there has been a spate of spam reviews potentially damaging firms’ reputations.  I have certainly found reviews very useful when booking hotels, buying a new Bluetooth headset or deciding which car to get next.  It is easy to focus too hard on a bad review and let that cloud our thinking even when there are a great many great reviews for the same business.

There was a good piece of advice at the end of the article on the TV programme which isn’t reflected in the web article here that advised to ignore all the excellent reviews and the extreme bad reviews and concentrate on the middle ground.  Something that I am careful to do.   It doesn’t take away the upset for the businesses or person targeted however.

The article brought back thoughts of what it is like when you put your all into delivering an engaging training course and everyone has enjoyed themselves and accomplished what they set out to do with no indication of anything being wrong and then when everything has been packed away and you receive feedback –one person appeared to have been on a totally different course.  It may be one in a thousand that may call your reputation into question and it is human nature to dwell on that one in a thousand rather than the other 999 satisfied learners.  We forget that external fears, problems at home, work politics etc can influence a person’s experience not forgetting how our own moods can affect us when reading reviews.

Not that we should totally ignore poor reviews – there may be something that needs to change – but we do need to put them in perspective or suffer sleepless nights and questioning of our own abilities. Remember the majority not the minority and to take criticism as an opportunity.

Does this ring a bell with you?  What are your experiences?

Can Milo be the future for Virtual Learning?

Milo, Mirosoft's virtual child is sitting on a home made swing on a tree branch. This is a still from the TED video shown at the end of the post.
Screenshot from video shown at the bottom of this post

Meet Milo

 

Milo is the brainchild of Peter Molyneux, a UK games designer and Milo was introduced to the world at the recent TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference held in Oxford. He is Microsoft’s virtual child . He appears so realistic that player’s react to him as if he were human as he reacts to their movements and voice commands all done through an infrared sensor. This brings artificial intelligence to the gaming world as Milo has been designed for the hands-free 360 motion controller Kinect.

The story behind the invention was Peter Molyneux’s disappointment with the blandness of films, TV and books in that they were all a ‘one-way’ experience. After 45 minutes or so, Milo starts to recognise the player’s voice and will react to questions and movements and respond with his own facial expressions and emotions – even to the point of blushing with embarrassment.

Although in its early stages, this is a very exciting time for the gaming world.

As with the world of gaming and fun – the world of learning may see a use for this in the future. As with Second Life that is already being used for effective learning and collaborative activities – how interesting could this new technology be used learning. I can already imagine it being useful in child protections scenarios where a learner has to develop special interviewing skills. Once this technology has grown into a community of artificial intelligences there will be plethora of opportunities.

I acknowledge that we need to be mindful not to use technology for the sake of it but I do believe that we can no longer be stuck in the past – the future of our workforce may be switched off by those old fashioned tools we are still using. We need to think about how we can immerse our learners totally in a truly engaging learning experience. Gaming already does that for our youths – let us reach out and harness that power for learning (and our inner child).

Here’s the TED talk:

What is Social Networking and can it really be used in business?

To put it simply, social networking is all about having conversations. We love having conversations – after all we are social animals. On the whole, we like to share, feel part of a community and be connected to others. We have opinions and expertise. There are some of us who like a gossip. There are some who like to tell stories. There are some who just like to listen and absorb.

Once upon a time (now that sounds like a good line to start a story), we would gather round a fire and learn from our elders. Children copied others and learned by making their own mistakes. They constantly asked questions (we still do).

There were town criers and professional storytellers who travelled the land spreading news by word of mouth. Then came the penny post; the telegraph; the telephone. For a long time, that was it….. then came ….. the internet and with it e-mail. Conversations were now quicker than ever and spread wider than before.

In 1985, the first online community was born. The WELL ‘Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link’ http://www.well.com/ emerged as a place for conversations and discussions. It was here that Howard Rheingold first coined the phrase “virtual community” . The following year, The Grateful Dead’s lyricist, John Perry Barlow joined this online community, which already had a large ‘Deadhead’ following. He served on the board of directors for many years and once described The WELL as a ‘parkplace for e-mail addresses’.

Early online communities were discussion boards or, now more commonly known as forums which are still popular.

Social networking has evolved at breakneck speed with the likes of:

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, DiggSlideshare, YouTubeWordPressLast.FM and LinkedIn (in true BBC fashion: other networks are available – far too many to mention).

Did you know: there are currently 23,449,100 UK users on Facebook. As of 1st January 2010, our entire population was a mere 62,041,708 – that’s more than a third of the UK. In the USA, with a population of 309,352,000 in May of this year, Facebook boasts 111,212,840 users. Over a third of the population again.

And that’s only Facebook. There are many who are members of other social networking sites, either for pleasure, learning or business and who are not on Facebook. Imagine that.

Making connections is nothing new but we can no longer ignore social media – before long, people will expect to make connections through social media tools in all walks of life.

Here are some ways you can benefit from becoming members of a social network:

  • From an individual point of view, you can build connections with experts and hold conversations with people you would never normally dare hope to meet
  • Share best practice, ask questions and get solutions and opinions from a wider perspective
  • Keep up to date as news happens both in general and in your own business area
  • From a business point of view, you can keep abreast of what your customers are saying, and even what their customers are saying
  • Follow insights from prominent business leaders
  • Engage with your audience on a more open and transparent level and be a real person in a virtual environment
  • Watch video nuggets of seminars you were unable to attend
  • Listen to audio interviews with industry experts
  • View presentations and share your own message in the same way

How do you currently benefit from social media?

Collaboration tools – can we include virtual worlds and social networks?

Today I came across a question in one of the LinkedIn groups about whether we could classify virtual worlds and social networks as collaborative communication tools referring specifically to Second Life, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. It was an interesting discussion topic and one which I felt the need to respond. I would like to share my response with you here.

I would say the answer is – yes. Any place where individuals can join and network can be used for collaboration. It is WHAT we use these for and learning HOW they work that will determine their success in what we want to do.
Indeed, at the moment, we see the usual suspects being used by organisations for collaboration as Valerie mentions above; and they are brilliant tools for bringing colleagues together to discuss ideas, situations and projects. However, with the emerging social learning environments such as Elgg that can be hosted within an organisations firewall or others such as Ning where organisations can create their own social platform, these are excellent tools to encourage cross-organisation collaboration to share ideas and working practices.

Areas can be set up to discuss ‘hot’ topics and they can also be restricted to particular members. Facebook, on the other hand, initially seems like a fun place just to hang out, play silly games and ‘throw cows’ at each other. On first glance, it may seem there is little it can be used for seriously. However, if you look a little closer, there are many worthwhile groups already using Facebook to collaborate.

Take a look at Centre for Learning and Performance Technology and, just one more for now – Virtual Learning Community of Practice.

So, for instance, an account could be created whereby different conversations can be started up, ideas collated, awareness heightened and changes happening. Remember that security settings on these tools are there to help and members (or friends) may only join if the account holder approves.

Twitter is another underestimated social media tool that is increasingly being used for learning collaboration. If not in the formal sense, certainly for informal learning and there are plenty of experts out there with whom collaboration proves invaluable in pursuing a goal or interest.

As for LinkedIn – well, are they doing there, if not collaborating. A topic is posted and ideas, opinions and expertise shared.

If this was a collaborative exercise with a specific outcome, then I would expect to see an objective set for the exercise, a time limit, some ground rules / guidelines and a summary giving the findings of the exercise at the end. All of that should be set for any collaborative exercise for any collaborative tool chosen, whether it is in a more controlled situation like WebEx, within an organisations intranet form or a more open platform such as Twitter or Facebook. Therefore, it is the ground rules and activities set that dictate these tools’ use.

Of course, you will have to decide which would be most appropriate for your situation but beware of dismissing them out of hand. Research them, and think creatively. After all, I’m sure there were plenty of skeptics who couldn’t see how this new-fangled gadget could at all be useful in sharing ideas without having to meet in little groups. Now we can’t live without them and even take to carrying them around in our pockets so we’re always connected. What’s that you say ….. the telephone!

Well that was my response to the post in LinkedIn but I would also be interested in what creative ideas others may have in how these social tools have been used by you for learning and collaboration and how you might have overcome the ‘security’ barriers that are often associated with them.

Seeing Double? No – 3DTV

It looks like 3DTV is closer than we think. As soon as this month – according to news reports today. Samsung’s sets maybe a little out of reach to us everyday mortals at £1,300 for a 32” LED and as much as £5000 for a 65”. Now that’s big – and I thought our 42” flat-screen we bought a year ago was BIG.

I’m sure we would get used to 65” very quickly. At least, that’s what my husband will say as a persuasion tactic as he did for our 42”!!! The down side is that the expense doesn’t stop there. You will also require a special Blu-ray DVD player and at least one pair of very sophisticated electronic glasses. How easy will these be for those of us who already wear glasses? And how harmful will they be for our already dwindling eyesight due to constant staring at LCD laptops and close proximity to 42” LCD TV screens?

Despite claims of already seeing “a lot of demand” for these new TV sets, I think I would still prefer the all-round experience of 3D at a cinema, munching popcorn and coffee. In fact, I’m looking forward to Alice in Wonderland with the chameleonesque Johnny Depp and donning those 3D specs very soon. (I’m actually going with my husband – Johnny was busy!) We would eventually see 3DTV in our learning environments in the near future? If so, they are likely to be used to become immersed in some serious gaming scenario programmes. Time will tell.

Becoming a Tweeter

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On my ‘travel’s around various blog posting recently there have been a few articles on how people are using Twitter so I thought I would share how I became a Tweeter. I have never been much of a social animal – ever. I feel very comfortable in my own company and my husband often has trouble persuading me to get out of the house and ‘party’. If had to contact anyone, I would always wish they were on e-mail. Growing up as a very shy child right into adulthood, it took a lot for me to interact and I would get very nervous meeting people. Fortunately, with the support of wonderful work colleagues and, in recent years, my husband the shy wall flower is now a trainer who thrives with every new challenge. Who would have thought it? Indeed, early last year I even delivered a presentation to a huge room full of people. While I was nervous, the adrenaline pumped, I took a deep breath, smiled and made sure I was myself. Nerve wracking – yes – but afterward it was exhilarating and I was so proud of myself.

You would think that social networking would be right up my street; but my view of social networking for ‘fun socialising’ wasn’t for me. If I am not the social animal in a face to face social environment, how on earth could I be one virtually? Besides, you need to have someone to be social with and because of my lack of real life socialising, who on earth could I socialise with virtually?

No – it didn’t seem my kind of thing.

What changed my views? Well, curiosity I guess. That and the fact that a few years back I began delivering courses on blended learning and e-learning and began experimenting with social media. Everything I looked at, I tried to think
how this could be used for learning as well as socialising. I was hooked. I had joined Facebook some time before but didn’t get on with it at first. Mainly because most of those I knew socially were technophobes or just not interested in social networking. It was also very ‘open’ and I am very guarded about what I share with people as regards personal information. I really only wanted to share my personal musings with a select few, not everyone who wanted to be my ‘friend'(creepy!).

It is much better now with the security settings. Then, about a year ago, I thought I would try this Twitter thing. At first I sat there in twitter waiting for something interesting to happen. I followed a few celebrities but got bored hearing about their everyday lives and also like an eavesdropper hearing a one-sided conversation as they ‘replied’ openly to their followers. I quickly unfollowed and rarely logged in. The trouble was, I didn’t really know what I wanted to use it for or, indeed, how to use it effectively. I was drowning in this virtual sea of tweets.

It all started to come together for me when I decided what it was going to be my learning vessel. Somewhere I could get bite-sized snippets of information and, perhaps, keep in touch with experts in the area of learning technologies and e-learning. I have gained so much from it already. It is also a brilliant dissemination tool through which I will share great resources I have come across in my blogging travels and, hopefully, enrich others’ lives with widening their professional network or otherwise through my tweets. There is so much more to learn though. I just don’t have the time to be a Twitterholic and I am thoroughly confused about ‘hash tags’ amongst others. I also find the Twitter site itself difficult to use and much prefer a Twitter aggregator such as Tweetdeck on my desktop. I think without something like Tweetdeck, I would have fallen by the wayside long ago. Once you are following a large number of other people, scrolling through Twitter to keep up with their latest tweets is time consuming and frustrating. With Tweetdeck or Twirl you can sort your Tweets. This has made it much easier and quicker for me to scan and home in on those that look interesting.

There are a few things I learned along the way so here are my tips:
• Twitter can be a time vampire – you have to be very self disciplined
• Accept that you may not be able to read every tweet every day
• Use the search facility if you think you might have missed something interesting
• Use something like Tweetdeck or Twirl and either disable the audible alert or only open at specific times and manage your tweets superbly
• It’s ok to unfollow people (some people can be too prolific)
• it’s ok to not return the favour if someone follows you

By the way – if I had an iPhone I’m sure I would become more of a Twitterholic

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