Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sustainable Efforts by the Division of Housing and Food Service at UT

*Energy Star* Appliances

* All campus laundry machines have been upgraded to Energy Star, front loading, water conserving models. The washing machines use less water and also spin out more water so the dryers use less energy to dry clothes, saving an estimated 42% total energy use over older models. DHFS received a $45,000 rebate from the City of Austin for installing these energy and water efficient appliances and an ICI Water Efficiency Achievement (WEA) Award.
* All residence hall MicroFridges are now Energy Star rated models, saving an estimated $5,000 per month in electricity use.
* Energy Star rated central heat/ac units have been installed at the Gateway and Colorado Apartments.

Energy and Lighting

* Students are required to use compact fluorescent bulbs for lighting in their rooms.
* Replaced an estimated 3,200 incandescent light bulbs in DHFS buildings with compact florescent bulbs. The life expectancy of the compact florescent bulb is eight times that of an incandescent bulb. We save an estimated $50,000 annually in electricity.
* Replaced 1,355 old fluorescent fixtures with T8 models. The T8 models use less electricity, saving an estimated $15,000 in total electrical use over the life of the fixtures.
* Disconnected 902 fluorescent fixtures in select residence hall hallways, for an annual estimated savings of $40,000 in electricity.
* Replaced hot water storage tanks with hot water generators that supply instant hot water in Moore Hill, Blanton, Prather, and Kinsolving residence halls. Energy is saved by not having to keep the water in the storage tanks hot.
* Kitchen exhaust hoods are on timers to automatically shut down when not in use.
* Upgraded vending machines to use 50% less electricity by changing the type of compressor and turning off the lights in the machine.
* Purchased new natural gas ranges in Colorado apartments with electric pilots, saving the burning of gas for pilot lights.
* Currently installing energy conserving occupancy sensor light switches in residence hall common areas.
* In the summer of 2005, DHFS began a phased replacement of air handlers in Jester Center Residence Hall. Air handlers are the backbone of a building's Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system and require significant amounts of chilled water and electrical energy to operate. Through the summer of 2008, we have replaced 8 of the 22 air handlers in Jester. We have also replaced the air handler in Blanton Hall. These replacement air handlers are expected to use 25% less energy than the original air handlers, as well as providing a more reliable and comfortable environment for our residents. Each air handler project has an expected eight year payback.

Water Conservation

* All resident showerheads and sink faucets have low water use aerators.
* New toilets are low water use models, which require only 1.6 gallons of water compared to 3.5 gallons.
* Dish machines use low-flow rinse nozzles to reduce water usage.
* Utilize Rain Sensors on irrigation controllers to turn off the watering programs after a rain.
* Renovated landscapes at many residence halls utilize low water use plant materials and also control erosion and water runoff.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

* Cardboard, paper, aluminum, steel and plastic is recycled in all DHFS offices and kitchens.
* Students in residence halls and university apartment have recycle bins in their rooms to recycle paper, aluminum and plastic.
* The DHFS Administrative office has significantly reduced paper usage by changing housing reservations, billing, newsletters and report generation to electronic forms. All together, these changes save an estimated 300,000 sheets of paper per year.
* Jester 2nd Floor and Kinsolving Dining Halls will be tray free beginning in Fall 2009.
* DHFS has passed the Bottled and Canned Beverage Policy, also known as BYOV or Bring Your Own Vessel, which saves approximately 70,000-75,000 bottles and cans per year. The policy reads: In support of the University commitment to sustainability, beverages purchased from Division of Housing and Food Service (DHFS) funds for DHFS sponsored meetings, programs and events are served from bulk containers such as 1 to 5 gallon air voids. Residence hall meeting and event participants are expected to provide their own drinking vessels. Beverages in individual containers such as bottled water, bottled juices, and cans of soda are not provided from DHFS funds. Individuals are permitted to bring their own beverages. We estimate to save 70,000-75,000 bottles and cans per year.
* Jester Center Residence Hall has purchased 3,500 reusable cups for their residents to use at hall programs and URHA also purchased and gave away 1,000 reusable cups at Moove-In.
* All register tape used in our retail locations is made of 100% recycled paper.
* Reduced packaging waste by obtaining concentrated dish room chemicals, reducing product waste from a 55-gallon drum to a 2 lb. container.
* Reusable coffee, soda, and water containers are sold and promoted with discounts at retail outlets.
* All tree limbs at the University apartments are diverted from the landfill by chipping them into mulch that is used in landscape areas.
* Currently selling and promoting reusable, recycled shopping bags at retail outlets.
* Resident assistants and residence hall coordinators receive a reusable, stainless steel water bottle for their use.
* Dining facilities use 100% recycled napkins and paper towels. Napkin dispensers are designed to create minimal usage of paper products.
* Staff purchase recycled paper products whenever possible when ordering paper products.
* When able, office printers are set for double-sided printing.
* Printed key cards were eliminated in lieu of an on-line system. Saves printing approximately 8000 key cards on heavy stock paper annually.
* If plastic bags are needed, DHFS provides biodegradable plastic bags for customers at retail locations.
* Carpet is recycled as it is replaced. From 2006 through 2008, we have purchased 8,616 square yards of climate neutral Cool Carpet from InterfaceFLOR, saving the equivalent of 147 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
* When replaced, old computer equipment is recycled, sold or donated to schools.
* The Salvation Army and Campus Environmental Center (CEC) collect used, unwanted items from students during move out and at the end of the semester. They are then donated or sold in a garage sale that supports the CEC.

Food Service

* Plate Waste Studies
o Yearly studies to determine the amount of edible, post-consumer food waste in our dining halls.
o Food waste reduction campaign to educate students on food waste and the benefits of going trayless.
o Results from the October 2008 plate waste study show that post-consumer food waste has decreased by 30% since February 2008.
* Food waste is pulped to reduce waste volume by 85%.
* Currently testing a Somat eCorect waste reduction machine which agitates and dries the food waste, further reducing the waste and making it into a soil amendment. This amendment will be given to our local farmers to compost.
* Soon, we will be partnering with the Landscape Department to compost our 150 pounds of coffee grounds per week.
* Biodegradable serviceware is replacing a large majority of previously used plastic and wax-coated paper products in all retail locations.
* DHFS has signed up for the Real Food Challenge and will be working on meeting sustainable foodservice goals.
* Sell organic, fair-trade, and shade-grown coffee.
* All fish and seafood is purchased from a sustainable fishery.
* Used cooking oil is recycled.
* Bi-annual Harvest Dinners feature foods grown and produced within 150 miles of UT.
* Purchase produce from a local farmer every week through the Farm Direct program.
* Jesta Health Store sells many organic, vegetarian and vegan food items.
* DHFS C-stores now also provide many organic, vegetarian and vegan food items.
* Food leftovers are donated to a food bank.
* Texas food items are featured for a full week each month during the Texas Fresh Focus weeks.

Specifications for Renovation

* Jester Center Residence Hall lobby remodel will include a water bottle refill station to encourage the use of reusable bottles.
* Natural lighting and adjustable light levels are used to minimize the need for artificial lighting.
* Existing building materials and construction are reused when possible.
* When new building materials are required, items containing recycled content such as wall sheathing and flooring are utilized.
* Regionally manufactured materials such as wall sheathing and laminate products are used when available.
* Rapidly renewable materials such as wood and rubber are used when possible.
* Low VOC products are utilized to support good indoor air quality.
* Mechanical systems are used to increase energy performance.
* Water is conserved through water efficient plumbing products.
* Salvaging and recycling of construction material waste is encouraged.

Specifications for New Construction

* Construction site impact is minimized by controlling erosion, sedimentation and storm water runoff.
* Sites are selected with regard to environmental sensitivity.
* Existing trees are preserved when possible.
* Bus lines, future light rail locations and shared parking structures are considered when selecting a site.
* Building envelopes and systems are built to maximize energy performance, meeting ASHRAE 90.1 and the State Energy Code.
* Energy efficiency is improved by utilizing the existing campus central plant, using Total Energy Heat Recovery Wheels to recover energy from exhaust air, low pressure loss duct systems, high efficiency motors and variable speed control pumps.
* HVAC equipment uses no CFC refrigerants, water condensate is reused and carbon dioxide monitoring sensors are installed.
* Energy efficient fluorescent and compact-fluorescent bulbs are used for 100% of the total lighting.
* Occupancy sensors are added to many common rooms to decrease light usage when it is unnecessary.
* Trash collection areas are designed for recyclable collection.
* Natural lighting is utilized as much as possible and high light reflecting ceiling panels are used to decrease lighting needs.
* The majority of interior wall structures, existing millwork, doors, light fixtures and furnishings are reused when possible.
* Building materials containing recycled content are sourced when available.
* Rapidly renewable and/or regional building materials are utilized when possible.
* Low-VOC and low-odor paints are used to provide better indoor air quality.
* Lighting and air temperature controls are added in offices to encourage reduced energy consumption when not needed, and to provide increased user control.
* New and existing mechanical units are tested & balanced to optimize performance.
* Contractors are directed to salvage all removed carpet and recycle it in the best manner possible.
* Compliance with ASHRAE 62 code for acceptable indoor air quality requirements, and ASHRAE 55 code, providing thermally comfortable environments that support the productivity and well-being of building occupants.
* LEED Accredited Professionals are integrated into the project team when possible.
* Water efficient toilets, shower heads and faucets are installed in all restrooms.
* Tile carpeting is used to reduce the amount of construction waste.

Education, Outreach and Policy

* DHFS has hired a full-time Environmental Specialist to advise and coordinate environmental projects and initiatives.
* An 80-100 year old windmill and educational display entitled, Harnessing the Wind, has been installed in Jester Center Residence Hall to educate students about the history of windmills in Texas and our alternative energy/wind power capabilities.
* The DHFS Green Team consists of staff and students who meet monthly to develop and promote environmental initiatives. This team is an expansion of the previous, Environmental Action Team (EAT) that began in summer 2008.
* DHFS Student Focus Groups discuss topics ranging from vegetarian dining options, to food waste, to recycling.
* The Green Scene newsletter is published each semester and includes news on DHFS' environmental initiatives and "Eco-tips" on topics ranging from alternative transportation to green computing.
* Multiple interns work with the DHFS Environmental Specialist each semester to learn about sustainable business practices in housing and food service operations.
* Foodservice staff wear green Texas t-shirts every Tuesday to promote awareness of DHFS' commitment to sustainability.
* In Fall 2008, as Eco-Jeopardy game was played in the residence halls on both sides of campus.
* The University Residence Hall Association co-sponsors annual residence hall energy competitions.
* Holiday Break: Energy saving tips are included in the closing newsletter to staff. Staff inspect resident rooms to make sure students have turned off and/or unplugged computers and appliances.
* Participation in Earth Day, Campus Sustainability Day and Earth Summit. Samples of local foods are given to students as well as informational flyers.
* Table tents and cafeteria signs educate students about sustainability issues.
* Partner with Student Government, the University Residence Hall Association, and the Campus Environmental Center to raise student awareness and involvement.
* Materials are distributed to Resident Assistants to make informational posters on environmental initiatives.

Current Guidelines and Future Goals

* Seek out and review products that are energy saving and/or made of recycled materials before making purchasing decisions.
* Purchase Energy Star rated appliances when able.
* Develop an Energy Star model residence hall room to show savings from energy efficient appliances.
* "Green" cleaning chemicals for use in residence halls.
* Development of a reusable to-go container program.
* Composting of all food waste and biodegradable serviceware to be used on our campus grounds.
* Long-term tracking of natural resource usage and waste diversion percentages.

SOURCE: DHFS at University of Texas at Austin

Monday, September 14, 2009

Social Gaming and Social Networking

Before Social Gaming

Gaming is a natural social activity. They encourage users to play among each other and use social skills as their characters and as their actual selves. Many people become gamers to "escape" and to have fun. There are many MORPG's (Massive Online Role Playing Games) out there in which complete strangers learn to interact with each other through play. There are immensely popular games such as World of Warcraft, Halo, Half-Life, MapleStory, and so on.

One example of an early game that involved social aspects was LamdaMOO, a game that existed since the 1980's. It relies on users and simple generated commands. Multi-player games that are online don't have to rely on high forms of technology and scripting like World of Warcraft.

Gamers could role-play through e-mail by writing their characters' actions and sending it to the other players to receive their companions' replies. With the coming of online journals and blogging, players could also write posts through that medium. Message board role-playing is also another way for players to interact.

(, run by Ellen Wind and Chrissie Oelsner)

These different mediums obviously allow players to communicate with each other easily and also build relationships with each other outside gaming. As a result of their shared interest in gaming, they bond and network.

(Example of a member profile from

The forums and blogs serve as a place to play and for for members to congregate. With the ability to code and structure forums and blogs, to customize them, players can have profiles to allow other players to gain information about them.

Social Gaming and Social Networking

Social Gaming is a new industry that ties in strongly to Social Networking. As an industry, it is a young one, only a few years old. It is, however, gaming's strongest and fastest growing sector because it can reach a wide audience.

(Screencap of personal Twitter showcasing the game "SpyMaster")

Social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook are these games' platforms. These networks are open to anybody to join and are meant for people to use to manage and maintain their friendships and relationships with other people. Social gaming stems from this, making use of an existing social network instead of the other way around; MORPG's previously was about gaming in which means of social networking were a result of the gamers' interaction.

(Screencapture of personal Facebook Requests page)

Social Gaming is just another facet of friends on social networking sites to keep in touch with one another. Through games like Farmville and Mafia Wars, friends can join groups with one another and send each other gifts and help each other with gameplay.

(Mafia Wars on Facebook developed by Zygna)

Studies show that social gamers are different from typical hardcore, console gaming demographics. People of all ages play social games because of the attachment to social networking - social networking is open to a diverse group of people with various interests. What all these people have in common is the desire to stay connected to their friends, and social gaming provides for that need.

People who play social games also tend to play twice as long as people who just play normal console games. Social games are inviting because people don't think of the games as an escape from reality or a "waste of time." These players think of it as keeping in touch and as a way to maintain their relationships with others. Playing social games is like hanging out with your friends, but without having to trade on small talk or conversations.

(Restaurant City by Playfish on Facebook)

Social games are also "asynchronous" which means that players don't have to be playing at the same time to interact with one another. This is useful for people who live in different times, and it also means that people can choose to play games for five minutes or an hour.

Many games available on social networking sites are also becoming games on the iPhone. However, the number of people on sites is dramatically higher than the number of people who have iPhones. The popularity of games on iPhones is not as high as the tens of millions of daily active users for games such as Mafia Wars and Restaurant City on Facebook. Developers are looking at ways to cross-promote their games across the different platforms to gain player interests.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Businesses on Facebook

  • Businesses use Facebook to get more exposure and promote themselves
  • People follow businesses on Facebook to learn more about the business, get coupons, and learn about sales

Walmart Page

Why Businesses Use Facebook

1. To establish long lost contacts
2. To find business partners
3. To post and find jobs
4. For marketing
5. It is easy to approach potential consumers
6. To get repeat exposure with the people in the same network
7. To promote events, sales, special offers and more

Sources: How to Use Facebook for Business: Social Networking 101 for Entrepreneurs, Authors and Speakers by Stephanie Chandler
Reasons to Use Facebook For Business

iTunes Page

How Businesses Use Facebook
1. Pages- Facebook created Pages to give businesses and brands an identity on Facebook. You can “become a fan” of the business.
2. Groups- a group of people create the Group Page. No “become a fan” option. You can “join the group.”
3. Applications- enables small business owners to integrate other social networking tools
4. Polls- use to survey people
5. Facebook Connect- enables a website to easily integrate with Facebook

Source: Facebook for Business: Opportunities and Limitations by Jesse Stay

Brita Page

Free vs. “Partner” Brand Fan pages
Free brand pages can only add a limited number of applications
--Basic photos, videos, events, RSS feed
--Not all applications that work on your personal profile page will work on your business fan page

Businesses can “partner” with Facebook to create highly impactful brand pages
--Typically around $25k-35k to do a paid partnership
--Buys you heavy specialized branding/skinning, a custom URL
--Also includes ability to do sponsored stories

Source: Comcast Social Media Conference - Facebook for Business Breakout by Eric Weaver and Mike Buchman

Dove Page

List of Some Social Network
s from Wikipedia

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Abridged History of Online User-Generated Content

As information and content proliferates over the internet, users seek more engaging and personalized content and user interfaces.

In everybodys first social network - information is tyrannically filtered and controlled by parents, relatives, and teachers. But as kids age, some of their parents judgements and rules like curfew time become seemingly arbitrary, and the information filter begins to appear biased and fallible. Much of adolescence is spent looking for alternative sources of information - friends, school, t.v. and formulating ones own social network.

In the early 1990s, a new network established itself as a new source of content. In the beginning, the internet was primarily embraced as a medium for people to disseminate their passions. Content, before businesses and corporations got into the game, was mostly user-generated and anarchic.

The World Wide Web circa 1995

Speculators quickly saw the potential and riches involved with this new medium and rushed to become the ultimate authority on every topic. Sites like and popped up. Google's algorithms became the ultimate arbiter for web searches. We called this the Boom.

Similar to the unilateral direction of information emanating from parental figures, these authority sites appeared too stubborn, bureaucratic, and slow to adapt to the deluge of user-generated content pouring from home computers. A new phrase, Web 2.0, was coined to describe a movement that ran contrary to top down approaches. Not a technical development, Web 2.0 was conscientious web design that facilitated interactive information sharing, content derived from its users, and collaboration that included social networking sites, video sharing, blogs, and wikis. If someone wanted to find a good plumber, rather than trusting search engine results, they could send out a query for recommendations amongst their own trusted network. Sites like Facebook and Pandora thrived as users were allowed to set the parameters of their tastes and tendencies, then further refine their experience according to their own tastes.

Some critics like Andrew Keen weren't as enamored with the movement, arguing that Web 2.0 had "created a cult of digital narcissism and amateurism, which undermines the notion of expertise by allowing anybody, anywhere to share (and place undue value upon) their own opinions about any subject and post any kind of content regardless of their particular talents, knowledgeability, credentials, biases or possible hidden agendas." He added that "the core assumption of Web 2.0, that all opinions and user-generated content are equally valuable and relevant is misguided, and is instead "creating an endless digital forest of mediocrity: uninformed political commentary, unseemly home videos, embarrassingly amateurish music, unreadable poems, essays and novels," also stating that Wikipedia is full of "mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings".

While there are elements of truth to Keen's musings, the denizens of Web 2.0 didn't seem to care. They didn't mind that their content was idiosyncratic, highly opinionated, and ultra personal. Their desires in the virtual world were simply reflections of their real world desires. All of this was legitimized in 2006 when Time Magazine named You as their person of the year for building "a new kind of international understanding, not politician to politician, great man to great man, but citizen to citizen, person to person."

Time Magazine, December 2006

Naturally, Web 2.0 spread to mobile devices. Along with Facebook and YouTube, programmers designed other user-generated content applications like Trapster, which permitted drivers to post speed traps in real time for everyone to see.

Trapster application

Newer technology like augmented reality generators allows contributors to visually tag their surroundings, while others let users on their mobile device answer the age old question, "Hot or not?"

Hot or Not iPhone app

Social Media & Viral Marketing

What is social media?
The main idea centers around conversations. It's still traditional communication in the sense of people sharing and exchanging ideas with other people, but the experience is enhanced and even automated at times, through new technologies. No longer are we required to remember our interactions with others. We can simply copy+paste content, or refer back to perfectly documented logs of history. As everything we do begins to shift towards the digital world, we must keep in mind the well-known quote by Marshall McLuhan, that "Medium is the message." The medium through which we receive a message is the most important factor of how we understand it. Imagine Obama's inaugural address only being sent out by email–the effect would not nearly be as riveting or awe-inspiring as hearing and watching it on tv.

Another point to think about in this new age of social media is the change in ownership and trust. Whereas information used to travel in an authoritative, top–to–bottom fashion, we now see the prominence of a more grassroots, bottom–to–top exchange system. The way we found out about products, services, and news used to be from advertisers and broadcasters. Now, we get information from our friends, peers, and others that participate in the online user–generated content creation. This naturally results in a more trustworthy environment where the people talking to you are more "real". We trust something we see or read more when we know who is speaking to us. User-generated content thus puts the power in the hands of the people; we are responsible for the content, and are entitled to "own" whatever we create and share.

Brain Solis & JESS3's The Conversation Prism gives a good comprehensive map of different types of social media networks. As you can see, there's almost a network for everything you could ever imagine.

If that doesn't impress you, here's some other charts from a report titled The Global Online Media Landscape: Identifying Opportunities in a Challenging Market from Nielson that show how prominent social media has become lately. [source]

So with so many types of social media out there, and with the power of content creation in everyone's hands, how does any one blog, video, or person become "popular"?

Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where, in ambiguous social situations, people behave in an imitative way by assuming others around them are better informed. Dr. Robert Cialdini writes in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persausion that "O]ne means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct...We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it" [source] When we extrapolate the idea of social proof to the digital world, we see evidence of this to explain the popularity of the most well-known blogs, videos, articles, etc.

To become popular, you must rack up a high number of votes (digg), authority (Technorati), favorites (YouTube), or subscriptions (blogs). How else does a single uploaded YouTube video become seen by the masses, when "people are watching hundreds of millions of videos a day on YouTube and uploading hundreds of thousands of videos daily. In fact, every minute, ten hours of video is uploaded to YouTube." [source] Social proof gives legitimacy and authority to the content. Dan Zarella, self-proclaimed social media and viral marketing scientist, says it well: "We notice, trust, and share things more when we notice that others did it before us." [source]

Internet memes are the phenomena of widespread hyperlinks or digital files of cultural content. This is a term that stems from the term Richard Dawkins coined, "cultural meme" in his book The Selfish Gene, in which he describes "Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation." [source] Essentially internet memes are those things that have been passed around and shared so much online that they have become part of our pop culture: videos, websites, blogs, and images that when someone mentions, everyone knows exactly what they're talking about.

Which is what it means to go "viral." An internet meme spreads infectiously. It starts conversations, and is brought up in conversations. In this way, a digital phenomenon can influence and effect the physical world. Below are some examples that come to mind:

In order to go viral and continue spreading infectiously, we should think about some key factors:

Ownership: As an internet meme is passed on, can each person then take the original and make it his or her own?
Ex. "Charlie bit my finger" Though this video came out years ago, you can now search for it in YouTube and find hundreds of other user-generated variations and parodies of the beloved little brothers. [source]

Permanence: If I happen to be a late receiver of the content, will I still be able to refer back to it later? Will it still have an online presence, hyperlink, page, at all?
Ex. Chuck Norris jokes. They started years ago, and they're still there. [source] And in fact, there are even iPhone apps made from them. [source]

Strategic Seeding, Reach, & Audience: Is the content being placed in the right media outlets to be seen and then distributed? Does it have the social proof to legitimize the content? How big and how influential is the audience that is receiving the content?
Ex. JK Wedding Entrance video influenced the sales of Chris Brown's "Forever" to the Top 10 list on iTunes, though the song was first released a year ago. [source]

Of course, there are many more considerations and reasons on how something (particularly "bad" or "useless" content) goes viral, but after all, it is a true phenomenon: who can really explain it?

Takeaway: when thinking back to the earlier discussion of social media, we should realize that social media is a key tool and influence on something going viral. It's the ultimate medium for "trustworthy", real-time, instantaneous content sharing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Social Networking: A Tool for Learning

"Approximately 4 million students are enrolled in online education in 2007."
(Sloan Consortium)

Today in age, receiving an education no longer requires a student to attend a physical institution or university. There are numerous outlets a student can explore to receive assignments, instruction, knowledge, and feedback. These outlets fall under a more general term called e-learning. This is short for electronic learning, which basically means learning any sort of information through some sort of electronic process and electronic medium. Here are a few examples:

Distance Learning

(Bently Institute)

Distance learning has been around for centuries. In fact, it began in 1728, when "an advertisement in the Boston Gazette...[named] 'Caleb Phillips, Teacher of the new method of Short Hand" was seeking students for lessons to be sent weekly." (Distance Education, Wikipedia) Distance learning today is very similar, except we have adapted a new medium: the internet. Above, you see a diagram from the Bently Institute and how it has mapped out the process of distance learning via internet. The various roles include the Bently Moderator, the Bently Instructor, and the Participants. By simply substituting these roles with a dean, professor, and students, this diagram can be applied to any educational institution.

The arrows in the diagram depict the flow of information and the connections within all of the members of the distance learning network. The moderator and the instructor can share information privately with each other, both the moderator and the instructor can share information with the participants, the participants can share information with the moderator and the instructor, and the participants can privately share information with the moderator and/or instructor.

Video Conferencing

(Where in Washington Video Conferencing Project)

Video conferencing is another form of electronic learning. Above, you see a group of students participating in a lesson that is being provided by an instructor who is miles and miles away. The difference between distance learning and video conferencing is that students are allowed to participate in instruction through discussion, asking questions, etc in a more face-to-face educational environment. What does this mean? Well in distance learning, a participant would log on to his/her computer from home or work to access an assignment that would more than likely be self led. Interaction would occur between participants through a thread. The participant would then submit his/her assignment before the designated deadline and receive feed back and a grade from his/her instructor.

In video conferencing, however, the students along with the moderator are in a physical educational environment (as normal instruction would occur), but the instructor is not. Video technology has allowed for these students to learn from an instructor who is teaching from a different location. Students may ask questions to one another, face-to-face, and "technically" can too ask the instructor questions "face-to-face." Also, video conferencing is not self led like distance learning is; there is a designated time-slot these students may interact with their instructor and assignments must be turned in in a timely fashion.


(Blackboard,University of Texas at Austin)

Blackboard is mainly used by colleges and universities. It too is a form of e-learning and social networking, but more of an extension from the traditional instruction that occurs on campus at a designated time. Each student is assigned a blackboard account with a user ID. Students are able to review the courses they are enrolled in for the current semester and are able to view information on past courses too.

Professors may upload documents such as assignments, readings, presentations, send mass emails to their students, start a blog for the class, start a discussion thread for the course, and post students' grades. Participants may too send mass emails to their peers, starts blogs, threads, etc. It is basically a way to consolidate information for the instructor and the students in a digital format.

Social networking can be defined as a community created by individuals for individuals who are connected by some common "strand" or purpose. This connection allows for the participants in the community to share information, ideas, and conversation about their common interests. So how does social networking improve online education or education through e-learning? Well it keeps "retention," says Shai Reshef, Founder and President, University of the People.

(University of the People)

University of the People is the "world's first, tuition-free, online academic institution dedicated to the global advancement and democratization of higher education." (UOP) Classes began this past week, September 10 to be exact. The entering class consists of about 180 students from 49 countries. University of the People offers two degrees: Business Administration and Computer Science. The application fees range from $15 to $50 and students will only have to pay for examination and processing fees.

University of the People's "fundamental belief is that all people, worldwide, should have the opportunity to change their lives and contribute to their communities, as well as understanding that the path to societal and individual prosperity through education." Thus, taking inspiration from e-learning methods like the ones mentioned above, University of the People's main teaching method is through social networking. Students will be taught through "peer-to-peer learning" by posted commentary on their course's page. Instruction is furthered by professors on a volunteer basis from established institutions from around the world. Students are required to submit weekly assignments to test retention of the material discussed.

Some advantages of e-learning and online universities:
_accessibility (24/7)
_self-paced (to some extent)
_interaction with people from different geographic regions
_opportunity to individuals who have not other option
- outlet for people who cannot afford attend an institution
- outlet for people who do not have the time to attend an institution

Some disadvantages of e-learning and online universitites:
_do not have face-to-face interaction (separation; connected, but disconnected)
_large room for distraction (not in an educational/school environment)


Distance Learning:
Bently Institute,

Video Conferencing:
Where in Washington Video Conferencing Project, Olympic ESD 114 Ed Tech Blog,

University of Texas at Austin,

University of the People:
University of the Poeple,



Launched in 2003, Skype has broken international communication barriers. Now keeping in contact with people from different parts of the world is a lot easier and a lot more affordable. With 445 million users, it has become the largest long distance phone company.

What you can do on Skype:


Skype to Skype calls are free
Transfer calls to people on skype is free
Video calls
Instant messaging and group IMs
Conference calls
Forward class to people on skype

With skype Credit

Call phones and mobiles ( price depends on country rate)
Receive calls from phones and mobiles with an online number ($18 for 3 months and $60 for 12 months)
Send and receive voicemails while online or offline ($6 for 3 months and $20 for 12 months)
Skype To Go number (call phones and mobiles through your cellphone)
Forward calls to phones
Send SMS messages
Transfer calls to phones and mobiles

Facilitating Design Collaboration

Design companies are now utilizing skype to have video conferences with partners and clients located in a different city or country. Skype facilitates file exchange and is a good collaborative tool in critiquing or discussing work.

Language Education

Websites are partnering with skype to provide whole lists of language exchange partners. Toniks is a company that uses skype for video lessons between people in different parts of the world. Learn a different language from any part of the world. “With skype as their e-learning platform. Toniks can draw the best from all over the world with needing people to relocate, and gives their students the unique opportunity to learn from qualified tutors.”


35 % of Skype users say they use skype in a business setting
20 % use Skype video for business purposes
70 % say they use Skype for business while traveling

Percentage of Users in the World

Americas: 41 %
Europe & Africa: 34%
Asia & Pacific: 25%

10% of iPhone users downloaded the Skype applications

In under 36 hours after it first appeared, Skype for iPhone has hit the number one spot in the following countries, being the most downloaded free app in the App Store.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Creating Social Experiences through Photo Sharing


Flickr is an image and video hosting website, social platform, and photo storage system developed and introduced by Ludicorp in 2004. Later, it partnered up with Yahoo in 2007. It is used by amateur and professional photographers alike. There are more than 3.6 billion photos circulating in just this one photo sharing website as of June this year.

Flickr categorizes its photos through "tags" (a form of metadata meaning data about data). Users can search images related to specific places, what type of camera was used to capture the photo, post processing methods, etc. Photos can also be organized through "sets", a collection of photos that fall under the title of that set. Public or private groups can also be formed to share a "pool" of photos and to discuss topics of interest.

There is a web application used through Flickr accounts called "Organizr", first introduced in 2006 that has geotagging capabilities. Drag and drop photos onto a Yahoo map area and then the photos are tagged with location info and even latitude and longitude.

Flickr's way of organizing images, providing discussion boards, and geotagging functionality has allowed a massive conglomeration of avid photographers to share their similar passions with one another.


Microsoft Live Labs released "Photosynth", a software application inspired by Flickr and based on the research done by Noah Snavely, a University of Washington graduate. Snavely's project "Photo Tourism" shows rendered Flickr images of heavily photographed places into 3 dimensional environments. The website "Building Rome in a Day" displays several initial experiments of places such as Rome and Venice, Italy. Each of the cones represent images from varying vantage points. Everyone's data was linked together to create essentially this virual cross-user social experience. Snavely took the social platfrom of Flickr combied it with 360 panoramic stitching, bringing the social environment of photo sharing to life.

On August 20, 2008 Microsoft officially released Photosynth to the public, which allowed users to upload their own images and generate their own Photosynth models. This subsequent photosharing website was created by another social network (Flickr), adding onto the endless chain of photo sharing social networks.

During Inaugural weekend in January, only several months after the program was released to the public, CNN used crowdsourcing, another type of social media, and asked viewers to send in their photos of Obama's swearing in. From there, they used Photosynth to render the full and interactive experience of his inauguration.

Incentives Gamers Receive

Points- Points were introduced to games as early as the 1970's. Points gave gamers a way to keep track of their input into the game. It was a means of giving the player a goal or a state of accomplishment.

Money- Money was introduced to games to make points more concrete and meaningful. Money gave certain aspects of the game have value therefore the players would have an advantage or a disadvantage depending on their amount of resources. For instance, the more money one has the more he or she can buy and invest back into the game for further improvement.

Real World Value- Some can play games for real cash value. These games can include anything from betting, gambling, trading, and buying/selling goods. Anything can have value to them as long as the players give them a value. For instance, the more popular a game is the more real world value it may have. Similar to the real world, if there is an item or something that is rare or difficult to acheive the more value that item will have.

Growth & Development- These are games that do not have a points, money, or real world value. These games are more based on the amount of time spent playing which is a direct relationship with the gamer's abilitiy to be successful. Or simply put, the more you play the better you get.

Online Gaming- Many players perfer playing against each other because it creates a sense of social interation and unexpeced outcome. Many players find it more challenging and engaging when playing against other players online than playing against an A.I. This is because unlike an A.I. people can also continue to improve and are not limited.

Level Up- The process by which characters reach a new level, gain greater attributes, and learn more abilities. It usually involves earning enough points. Once you gain a level or levels the game may open up more oppertunities such as new items, worlds, stages, quests, etc.

Video Game Sales World Wide, U.S., and Japan.

Interview with gamers as followed Edward Kim, Shihan Lui, and John Sim.

Contextual Advertising & Semantic Targeting

  • Contextual advertising uses location, age, birthday, education, and viral connections as a way to target consumers
  • Semantic targeting relies on concepts and relationships rather than keywords or phrases
  • Semantic advertising systems rely on precise automation, real-time analysis, and monitoring socio-cultural connections
  • Social Networks are becoming portals to not only search the web but to curate it with other people using feedback mechanisms

(, August 21, 2007)
Contextual advertising for an ad for a dog walker, strategically placed in a location that a dog walker may often see.

(Designer Daily, August 8, 2007)
Another example of contextual advertising

Contextual advertising only focuses on keywords and phrases in the text of a website. While many words have multiple meanings, simply placing an advertisement on a web page that is linked to a certain word can often be a problem. Take for instance the examples below.

(, December 13, 2008)

(, December 13, 2008)

Computer systems chose the placement of these ads based on keywords instead of humans understanding the meaning of the information to make an informed decision about what type of ad should be shown. This is where semantic targeting comes in.

(Semantic Spectrum,

Semantic targeting analyzes every web page in order to understand the intended meaning so the system can place the most appropriate ad on each page. It identifies the senses of those words all together. Semantic advertising using ontologies, which is a representation of a set of concepts and the relationships between them. Google claims that it is "a family of ontologies that describe the semantic web." Semantic advertising also uses taxonomies, which are classifications of organisms, along with natural learning processing and machine learning.

(Stefan Decker on the Semantic Web)

Websites such as Facebook use demographics and psychographics. Facebook's definition of psychographics is "the study and classification of people according to their attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria".

The negative side of contextual, behavioral, and semantic targeting, is that some users feel like it is a breach of their privacy. One must ask where the limits are to tracking online behavior, and how much we do to ourselves by putting information online and surfing the web?

Social Network Participation

Two Network Models

Scientific journals describe two types of social networks:
Random networks have an even distribution of connections between nodes across the network.
Node or Scale-free network connections are distributed on a power scale, where the majority of connections are accounted for by a small percentage of nodes.

The scale-free network most closely resembles networks like the internet or the way epidemics spread. Also worth noting is that the stability of scale-free networks suffers little when random connections are lost.

Power Law of Participation
Ross Mayfield created an infographic that outlines the ways in which users engage web 2.0 social networks. His website does a much better job of explaining the different roles users can play, but the main point is that social networks that most closely resemble the natural scale-free network model are ones that allow users to contribute on a wide scale, from reading a wikipedia entry (consumer) to editing it (creator).

This results in two kinds of intelligence: The collective, or emergent, intelligence that has resulted from algorithms aggregating thousands or millions of user input, like landmarks on google earth, and the collaborative intelligence of small groups of personally connected individuals that exercise a form of leadership over these networks, editing content, moderating, and examining the patterns in the network to predict where it's going.

Why People Participate
Christina Wodtke suggests that individuals contribute to social networks because the feedback they receive is high up on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. People project themselves onto their forum usernames, Facebook profiles and SecondLife avatars and thrive off the sense of friendship, belonging, and self-esteem from the indirect recognition they recieve vicariously through these online identies.

Guidelines for Successfully Building a Brand through Social Networking (spotlight: twitter)

  • Quality not Quantity- it is better to have a tweet that is a valuable contribution to a followers interest rather than making hundreds of tweets a week (

  • Do not attempt to sell/ don’t push brand on readers- Jenny Cisney has 3.833 followers; she is a photographer-loving-party-goer that shares about her travels etc.; When referring to the Academy Awards she tweets: "Heading over to the Slumdog after-party to get some pics of the gift lounge ... " Cisney, 33, made sure to mention that the swag included Kodak Zi6 video cameras. Cisney works for Eastman Kodak. This is a way for her to add dazzle to the 121 year old brand and create a cutting edge image by embracing twitter

  • Create a Personality & Voice- Dunkin Donuts, Dunkin Dave (9,589 followers) posts are laid back, uncensored riffs on weather, songs with coffee lyrics, thought of his own coffee addiction etc. Margery Myers, the senior vice president of communications for Dunkin Donuts explained they “Dave has a very dry sense of humor and he’s comfortable expressing himself while his easygoing tone mirrors the average joe dunkin donuts seekes to attract.

  • Show humane qualities- respond/listen to topics, converse, be responsive and keep promises in order to build humane relationships; Starbucks-3.37 million mentions & 120,868 followers; conversate with people, answer questions, very human (example[]: gabbycat: Dear @Starbucks something went HORRIBLY wrong with my blueberry scone this morning. It tastes like a massive overdose of baking soda!!" starbucks reply "@gabbycat Sorry about that. Let us know next time you're in." gabbycats response "Dear @Starbucks, blueberry scone back to normal awesomeness this AM, thank you!!"

Misuse of Social Networking

  • James Andrews, vp of a public relations firm Ketchum Interactive, traveled to meet with one of his top clients, FedEx in Memphis, Tenn. His tweet: “True confession, but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here!’ ” Someone at fedex saw the tweat. People trashed Andrews on Twitter and Fedex sent him an email expressing dissapointent in him and his “tweet”. The Ketchum firm and Andrews apologized.
  • For one day, skittles replaced their website with a real time uncensored Twitter feed displaying any post that included the word, “skittles” which led to some negative posts about the brand—skittles redirected the site to Facebook and Wikipedia.

Other Sources: