The Digital Scholar by Martin Weller

Martin Weller is an OU professor who we first met through our Trydan cafe events. I’m currently reading his new book The Digital Scholar for his insights on the use of digital media in education and research. As with Martin’s excellent blog there will doubtless be things applicable outside of education. What I expect I’ll do is carry on reading it online for free at the Bloomsbury Academic site until my eyes hurt and then invest in a paper version of the book. Join me.

Incidentally now and again people ask me what’s happening with Trydan. I’d say it was on indefinite hiatus at the moment, unless anyone wants to start them again. Although they only lasted for around a year, the open gatherings were an invaluable way to meet people and swap ideas across different fields. And of course many of those people are still in contact.

Trydan social media cafe this Friday

We are co-organising Trydan social media cafe this Friday in Juno Lounge, Wellfield Road, Cardiff from 11AM till 2PM.

If you’re interested in social media, there’s more info on the Trydan event wiki. If you’re planning to attend, please add your details to the list.

If you’re from elsewhere, we’re also maintaining a list of social media cafes around the UK.

Introducing Trydan – a Cardiff meet-up for people into social media – and our reasoning behind it

We’ve started a series of social media cafe events in Cardiff called Trydan but first, some background…

Tom and I thought it would be interesting and profitable to get together with other people in Cardiff who are interested in similar things.

“Social media” is the closest generic term for what excites us, it’s our area of expertise.

Some examples of social media tools are blogs, wikis, Twitter, social networking platforms like Facebook, search engines (to an extent), collaboration systems like Google Docs and many other examples – including things currently being developed.

Often the term “social media” is conflated with the term “web 2.0” which itself has a related meaning along the lines of “systems which get better when more people join”. (We have Dale Dougherty and Tim O’Reilly to thank for that particular term! Although, to be fair, it was more akin to a remark to be understood in the context of the dot-com collapse of the late 1990s. Web 2.0 covered all the platforms and services that were able to provide enough usefulness to survive.)

We also want to avoid the hot air and wishful thinking that goes along with any new technology. Real benefit is the key. Enthusiasm for shiny tools and gadgets isn’t intrinsically wrong necessarily. But it can easily become a needless distraction from whatever you’re trying to achieve, which is why it’s important to measure the outcomes.

This stuff is real. We get excited about using these new tools and platforms for measurable benefit to the individual, company or organisation.

Our emphasis would tend to be on outward-facing stuff, which includes your blog, your website and your web presence. This intersects with what’s traditionally known as marketing and public relations.

That said, social media can have a great effect on your collaboration and interaction with colleagues as well.

Anyway, social media have somewhat disrupted the strict boundary between the external and the internal – but only for those brave enough to seek the benefits.

In other words, the philosophy of having a strict wall around your company, or your company as “black box”, is often not the only way or even the best way.

We’re not journalists but crowdsourced video for news is one good example of this. However much the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman may dislike it, people are not content merely to be passive viewers anymore. They now expect some element of interactivity with media.

This movement towards interactivity started with so-called new media and is trickling into established media. Of course, people hardly ever use the term “new media” any more. Especially not the young.

The chef Gordon Ramsay is another example from TV, inviting viewers to contribute recipes via YouTube. He’s supposed to be the expert, right? But now he’s become even more expert by opening up and responding to his fans.

The other Gordon in authority, Mr Brown, who has a blog and has also chosen YouTube to communicate with voters in both directions. And of course Barack Obama used a combination of Twitter and his blog to reach out to voters, in tandem with his supporters on the ground to secure his place at the White House.

Those examples hint at some of the well known stories and there are many more. There are many more abject failures as well. But you can expect to fail when you try these things. Fortunately, social media is cheap and pretty comfortable with an iterative process. Just adjust things as you go or replace them with something better.

But still, we like to get good results as quickly as possible. We had a sense that other people were thinking along similar lines – and thought there could be demand in the Cardiff area for a place to swap ideas and practices. Social media is about sharing after all. So we’re starting a series of regular coffee events in Cardiff where we can discuss this stuff – what works and what doesn’t and why.

The event is called Trydan and we’re co-founding it with two of our friends: journalism tutor Glyn Mottershead and journalism researcher Andy Williams, both of whom are based at Cardiff University.

The four of us are also co-founding it with everyone who turns up for the first meeting.

For inspiration, we’re giving more than a passing nod to other social media meet-ups we know about or have attended – Tuttle in London, Social Media Cafe in Birmingham and Social Media Cafe Manchester (#smc_mcr)

So that’s some of the thinking. You are invited to join us if any of this interests you. The event is set up as a separate entity – just head to the Trydan wiki on which you can read more, add your name to RSVP and also edit.