The JISC10 Social Network

A recent press release from the JISC announced Networking opportunities at JISC10 virtual conference. There was an invitation to “Join the JISC10 social network to meet other delegates before the event, join discussion groups around the sessions or start up your own group – regardless of whether you’ll be following the event online or in person on 12-13 April 2010“.

The JISC10 social network is now available. The service, which is provided by the Ning social networking environment, is illustrated below.

JISC10 Conference Social Network

I have joined the JISC10 social network and added some content to my page, including an RSS feed for this blog. I’ve also befriended people I know who have also joined the network.

Why Provide a Social Network at Events?

Is the provision of a social networking environment essential for events, such as the JISC10 conference, which have a technical focus or is it jumping on the social media bandwagon? And what are the best practices which should be implemented in order to ensure that the environment is successful, and what are the possible limitations which might be improved on in future years?

UKOLN also made use of Ning to provide a social network for its IWMW 2008 event. However although 84 (of around 180 participants at the event) joined the IWMW 2008 Ning environment there wasn’t a great deal of activity. Nine discussion topics were created before, during and after the event, but the most active, the For Those Arriving On Monday 21 July group only attracted 7 posts. Ning groups were created prior to the event for each of the eighteen workshop sessions, but with the exception of the session
B2: Web CMS and University Web Teams Part II – the Never Ending Story? again there was little active participation.

A small amount of content was added after the event – the Ning environment provided speakers and workshop facilitators a space for sharing links and other resources. However we felt that this experiment (the social network had been set up as an experiment) failed to provide evidence of the benefits in providing a social networking environment for an event. For the IWMW 2009 event we decided to set up the IWMW 2009 WordPress blog. We felt that this was more successful, with 68 posts published and 97 comments made.

Best Practices For Use of Social Network At Events?

It may be that 2008 was too soon to provide a social network at an event, with participants at that stage perhaps being concerned with organisational use of what may have been perceived as a ‘social’ environment. And although we felt that the IWMW 2009 blog was a success, it was not as open as the Ning social network as, unlike the blog, any registered user could create a topic in Ning.

The approaches taken to user registration will need to be considered by those setting up such environments. In order to minimise the effort needed to subscribe to the IWMW 2008 social network and to enable users to contribute as soon as they had joined, there was no moderation provided for user registrations.This was fine before and during the event. However, as I described in a post entitled “Wanna chat with me on cam?“, almost a year after the event was over there were a number of spam posts sent to all members. As I described in that post “The lesson I’ve learnt – there’s a need to change the settings for social networks set up to support events after the event is over. I still prefer to make it easy to subscribe to such services, however, in order to avoid any delays caused by the need to accept new subscriptions manually“.

What of the JISC10 Social Network?

As of 11 April 2010 there are 210 members of the JISC10 social network. Will we see the JISC10 Social Network providing to be a great success, with large numbers joined and many of them taking part in the discussions? Or will the discussion be centred around the #jisc10 hashtag on Twitter?

I think we need to monitor such usage levels and share the experiences within the community. But in a way I don’t think it really matters if we don’t see a significant amount of discussion on the site. Since well over hundred people have joined the group and many have added a photograph and summarised their interests this enables participants to see who is attending and put a face to a name – something that we don’t get from a simple list of participants.

It was also interesting to note how I had to upload my photo and recreate my personal details and then re-establish links with my contacts. Many of these contacts are people I am already connected with on other social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and, indeed, other Ning networks (such as the Bathcamp, Eduserv Foundation Symposium 2008, Mashed Library, Libraries of the Future and IWMW 2008 Ning networks. A few years ago there was a view that social networks should be based on open standards which enable one’s social network to be migrated to other environments. I wonder whether interest in this has diminished due to a realisation that it will be hard to do, or perhaps we feel that there are benefits in having differing profiles and networks in different social networks?