Life With Alacrity

A blog on social software, collaboration, trust, security, privacy, and internet tools by Christopher Allen.

Introduction to the Social Web (Reading List #SW4SX)


These are the initial required readings for the first two weeks of my Using the Social Web for Social Change class (hashtag #SW4SX) that I teach in the MBA in Sustainable Systems program at Bainbridge Graduate Institute.

The goal of this portion of the class is to cover an introduction and overview of the landscape of the Social Web, establish among the students the beginning of a shared language about the medium, and introduce a process toward a collaborative culture that we will use for the rest of the course. Students are also kicking off their Beat blogs on sustainability topics, with the goal of helping them move toward having an authentic online voice.

TOPIC: New Ways of Learning

When I designed this class four years ago, I was inspired by Michael Wesch's class at Kansas State University. This is a shared artifact created by his class that I use to set the stage for my own students.

TOPIC: Shared Language

Every time a new group of people meet together — whether in a team, in a marketplace, or in a community — one of the first activities they must do together is create a shared language. They do this in order to communicate more effectively together, to put a context on the words that they have in common, to construct a shared understanding in their minds based both on available information and their individual diversity of experience.

  • Allen, Christopher. “Creating Shared Language and Shared Artifacts”, Life With Alacrity. 2009-09-17
    • BLOGPOST: /2009/09/creating-shared-language-and-shared-artiifacts.html
    • KEYQUOTE: “Without a shared language there will be no clarity on mutual goals — whether it involves working together, transacting a trade, or creating something…However, some facilitators have learned that one of the best ways to help a group form a shared language is by having the group create together a shared artifact…It allows the individuals participating to ask the questions: "Is this what you mean when…"
  • Pinker, Steven "Book Excerpt: Steven Pinker: Words Don't Mean What They Mean" Time Magazine, 2007-09-06
    • ARTICLE:,9171,1659772,00.html
    • KEYQUOTE: "Why don't people just say what they mean? The reason is that conversational partners are not modems downloading information into each other's brains. People are very, very touchy about their relationships. Whenever you speak to someone, you are presuming the two of you have a certain degree of familiarity--which your words might alter. So every sentence has to do two things at once: convey a message and continue to negotiate that relationship."
  • Kim, Eugene Eric "Developing Shared Language", 2006-06-09
    • BLOG:
    • KEYQUOTE: "Shared Language is a prerequisite to collaboration. Without Shared Language, we can’t collaborate. It’s as simple as that. When a group tries to collaborate without having Shared Language, the group will try to create it, whether it’s aware of it or not. This creation process is often frustrating and painful, and as a result, people sometimes try to skip this step or belittle the process. This is a problem. You can’t skip this step."

TOPIC: Introduction to the Social Web

So what is the Social Web? It is Social Networks of people having conversations; Who are sharing Social Media; It functions using Social Software applications; And takes advantage of the toolchest of open technologies called Web 2.0.

SUB-TOPIC: Social Web - Social Networking

So what are Social Networks? A web of interconnected people who directly or indirectly interact with or influence each other.

  • Lefever, Lee “Social Networking in Plain English”, CommonCraft, 2007-06-27
    • VIDEO:
    • (ABSTRACT: )
    • KEYQUOTE: “Social Networking in Plain English introduces the basic ideas behind Social Networking. The video focuses on the role of social networking in solving real-world problems. The video includes: The role of people networks in business and personal life; The hidden nature of real-world people networks; How social networking sites reveal hidden connections; The basic features of social networking websites.”

SUB-TOPIC: Social Web - Social Media

What is Social Media: The online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other.

  • Qualman, Erik “Social Media Revolution 2 (refresh)”, YouTube, 2010-05-27
    • VIDEO:
    • ABSTRACT: “Social Media Revolution 2 is a refresh of the original video with new and updated social media & mobile statistics that are hard to ignore. Based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.”
  • Shirky, Clay "How Social Media can Make History", TEDed 2009-06

SUB-TOPIC: Social Web - Social Software

What is Social Software? Software that supports, extends, or derives value from human social behavior.

  • Allen, Christopher "Tracing the Evolution of Social Software." Life With Alacrity. 13 Oct 2004
    • BLOGPOST: /2004/10/tracing_the_evo.html
    • KEYQUOTE: "The term 'social software', which is now used to define software that supports group interaction, has only become relatively popular within the last two or more years. However, the core ideas of social software itself enjoy a much longer history, running back to Vannevar Bush's ideas about 'memex' in 1945, and traveling through terms such as Augmentation, Groupware, and CSCW in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. By examining the many terms used to describe today's 'social software' we can also explore the origins of social software itself, and see how there exists a very real life cycle concerning the use of technical terminology."

SUB-TOPIC: Social Web - Web 2.0

So what is Web 2.0? The technology and web design to enhance creativity, information sharing, and collaboration among users

  • Strickland, Jonathan "How Web 2.0 Works" How Stuff Works, 2010-01
    • ARTICLE:
    • KEYQUOTE "In September 2005, Tim O'Reilly posted a blogentry that defined Web 2.0. The explanation spanned five pages of text and graphics illustrating O'Reilly's take on what the term meant. O'Reilly's philosophy of Web 2.0 included these ideas:
      • Using the Web as an applications platform
      • Democratizing the Web
      • Employing new methods to distribute information"

SUB-TOPIC: History of the Social Web

  • Chapman, Cameron "The History and Evolution of Social Media" Web Designer Depot, 2009-10-07
    • QUOTE: "Social media has become an integral part of modern society. There are general social networks with user bases larger than the population of most countries. There are niche sites for virtually every special interest out there. There are sites to share photos, videos, status updates, sites for meeting new people and sites to connect with old friends. It seems there are social solutions to just about every need. In this article, we’ll review the history and evolution of social media from its humble beginnings to the present day."

TOPIC: Best Practices

SUB-TOPIC: Best Practices — Passwords

  • Allen, Christopher "Password Best Practices" Life With Alacrity, 2009-09-25
    • BLOGPOST: /2009/09/password-best-practices.html
    • KEYQUOTE: "Be Safe: None of these approaches is perfect, but they significantly raise the bar against any but the most determined cracker from breaking into one of your accounts. The domain letter technique will also make it very difficult for a cracker to break into your more important financial accounts if he gets access to your password from a poorly secured website or masquerades as a legitimate website or email by using a phishing attack."

SUB-TOPIC: Best Practices — Information  and Time Management

  • Allen, Christopher “Scan, Focus, Act” Slideshare 2010-20111

SUB-TOPIC: Best-Practices — Backchannels

  • Guernsy, Lisa "In the Lecture Hall, a Geek Chorus" New York Times: Circuits, 2003-07-24
    • ARTICLE:
    • KEYQUOTE: "But others are genuinely interested in a lecturer's topic and want to talk concurrently about what is being said. They may also like to pass around links to Web sites that relate to, and may refute, a speaker's point. For them, wireless technology allows a back channel of communication, a second track that reveals their thoughts and feedback and records it all for future reference."
  • Mitchell, Olivia "How to Present While People are Twittering" Pistachio, 2009-02-23

TOPIC: The Social Era

TOPIC: The Dark Side

SUB-TOPIC: The Dark Side: Information Overload, Attention, Multitasking

  • Shirky, Clay "It's Not Information Overload. It's Filter Failure" Web 2.0 Expo
  • Richtel, Matt "Attached to Technology and Paying a Price: Your Brain on Computers" New York Times, 2010-06-10

SUB-TOPIC: The Dark Side: Privacy

  • Shirky, Clay "Facebook Killed the Private Life" Switched, 2007-11-06
    • VIDEO:
    • KEYQUOTE: "You live your life online -- and anyone can read it. Should employers be able to troll your Facebook or MySpace page? Or should everything that you put online be accessible to anyone, anywhere?"

  • Allen, Christopher "Four Kinds of Privacy" Life With Alacrity, 2004-04-22
    • BLOGPOST:/2004/04/four_kinds_of_p.html
    • KEYQUOTE: "My thoughts have now gelled sufficiently to make some observations about privacy. When people speak about privacy, they may actually be talking about very different forms of privacy: defensive privacy, human-rights privacy, personal privacy, and contextual privacy."
  • Madden, Mary "Privacy management on social media sites: Summary of Findings" Pew Internet 2012-02-24
  • Consumer Reports "Facebook & your privacy — Who sees the data you share on the biggest social network?" Consumer Reports Magazone, 2012-06
    • ARTICLE:
    • ABSTRACT: "How much information is really being collected about you? How is it being used? And could it fall into the wrong hands? To find out, we queried Facebook and interviewed some two dozen others, including security experts, privacy lawyers, app developers, and victims of security and privacy abuse. We dug into private, academic, and government research, as well as Facebook’s labyrinthian policies and controls. And we surveyed 2,002 online households, including 1,340 that are active on Facebook, for our annual State of the Net report. We then projected those data to estimate national totals."
  • Thompson, Clive "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy" New York Times, 2008-09-07
    • ARTICLE:
    • (SINGLEPAGE: )
    • KEYQUOTE: "It is easy to become unsettled by privacy-eroding aspects of awareness tools. But there is another — quite different — result of all this incessant updating: a culture of people who know much more about themselves. Many of the avid Twitterers, Flickrers and Facebook users I interviewed described an unexpected side-effect of constant self-disclosure. The act of stopping several times a day to observe what you’re feeling or thinking can become, after weeks and weeks, a sort of philosophical act. It’s like the Greek dictum to “know thyself,” or the therapeutic concept of mindfulness. (Indeed, the question that floats eternally at the top of Twitter’s Web site — “What are you doing?” — can come to seem existentially freighted. What are you doing?) Having an audience can make the self-reflection even more acute, since, as my interviewees noted, they’re trying to describe their activities in a way that is not only accurate but also interesting to others: the status update as a literary form."

SUB-TOPIC: The Dark Side: Power & Class

TOPIC: Authentic Voice:

SUB-TOPIC: Authentic Voice — Introduction to Blogging

  • Lefever, Lee “Blogging in Plain English”, CommonCraft 2008-03-05
  • Lefever, Lee "RSS in Plain English", CommonCraft 2007-04-23
    • VIDEO:
    • ABSTRACT: "A short explanation of RSS and how it helps you save time reading the web. This video comes in an unbranded "presentation quality" version that can be licensed for use in the workplace."
  • Rowse, Darren "Declaring War on Blogger Apathy" ProBlogger, 2005-08-08
    • QUOTE: "So I’ve decided it’s time to declare war on Blog Apathy and want to share a number of the things that have helped me keep my motivation up in blogging. Feel free to add your own experience and tips in comments."

SUB-TOPIC: Authentic Voice — Writing for Your Audience

  • VanFossen, Lorelle "Are You Really Writing For Your Blog Audience?" The Blog Herald, 2007-05-04
  • Finney, Hal "Writing for the Future" extropy-chat 2004-11-19
    • KEYQUOTE: "One thing we should keep in mind when writing here or in any online forum is that we are writing not only for the present, but for the future. Our words may well be read many times, even far into the future. They are recorded in public and private archives and will be available indefinitely. Given the likely increase in future levels of intelligence and attention, it may even turn out that more eyes see our writings in the far future than in the near present."

I welcome your thoughts for additional or replacement Social Web introductory readings that we can use in the next class in the Spring of 2013.

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