I’m sorry there are no gifs, I understand if you leave now but it will hurt my ‘time on page’ ratings. Please stay a while and pretend to be interested.

Writing what I truly think about a subject on a blog is a difficult process. The first hurdle is the title of the post, which will find itself in the title and heading tags on this page and consequently be used by Google to decide what this page is about and where it should appear in rankings. I get 75% of my traffic from Google so I better make sure I get some juicy up and coming keywords in the title. I also need to make people want to click my link on social media, and the $850 valuation of Buzzfeed tells me lists and reaction gifs is the way to go. After the title I have to think about images for pinterest, keywords for Google, hyperlinks for HITS style algorithms and how this will affect my chances of landing a new job…

I may be taking this to extremes but the technology behind the communication really does have a grip on me, primarily I write for this blog and there are many things at the back of my mind before I press the post button, some of these are ‘what effect will this have on my Google ranking’, ‘What will PRISM make of this?’, ‘is there a pretty graph on here that pinterest will pick up?’. I know I’m not alone, the gifs, lists and keywords clearly worked for Buzzfeed and many sites are cutting up posts up in to slideshows where users have to click multiple pages simply to improve bounce rates.

This week I’ve found myself not writing on my blog so much but on various online communities, I’m saving my story of these communities for another post, but the gist is this; I wanted to reach out to people who knew something about a particular subject so I dusted off an old unused account and posted some questions and got some amazing answers. I spent a lot of time interacting with these communities and found myself in unfamiliar territory. Normally a lurker, I found posting in these communities that my communication was in different constraints than when I post on my blog. The technology that hosted the community is ran by a group of people who want to make money and to do so they need me to act a certain way during my time on the site. Be kind and share what you know is the primary message, doing so will lead to your comments to being rewarded with ‘upvotes’ not being kind or helpful is met with ‘downvotes’. This ‘gamification’ of giving comments a score is the backdrop to a more serious system, you are encouraged to ‘gild’ really helpful posts. Gilding somebody gives them a star next to their comments and shows it was super helpful, it also gives them extra privileges on the site, it costs real money to gild of which the site take a small cut. I don’t mind an incredible useful community site having a method of making money, but did reinforce the fact that there are stakeholders involved in the ways we communicate. Looking at technology news I’ve spotted many articles where the backdrop is users feeling trapped, misled and having no control over their data. Thinking about these news articles and thinking about a common connection I think there is a common lever that communication technologies have over us,  that they can see our networks and having the power to manipulating our position in these networks.

Working in edtech and having a degree in the area of computer science the nodes and edges network diagrams of learning networks are reassuring to look at. They show people and their connections and it is tempting to look at all those lovely nodes and assume that since those nodes are connected then knowledge must be able to travel around them. It is a useful way to think about things and start a conversation but does not convey the interests of the technologies that are creating the edges. It gets worrying when we start to build upon educational theories around these graphs that don’t take these interests in to consideration. Is the University unwillingly walking in to the position where it controls these levers or handing these levers over to the unknown?

On another note bounce rate effects my Google Ranking, so…


1 Comment

Are we too naive in education? | David Sherlock · August 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm

[…] In my last post I had been thinking about technologies that online communities use and how the technology pushes people to communicate in a certain way. I pushed this out to my Google+ feed, perhaps because Google use plus metrics to an rank article but I would like to think more so because I have friends on there whose feedback I value. When my Google notification button told me I had a comment from Sheila MacNeill I was pleased, not solely because comments will get me some points in Google magic ranking algorithm but more importantly Sheila has a knack for reading through a wall of text, pulling out the important stuff and translating it in to concrete questions. This was Sheila’s comment after reading my post: […]

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