Higher Ed: Marry Social & Technology For A Win

Universities are social organizations, but there’s little proof of it in how their technology is thought of, planned or deployed. Sure, everyone now has a set of icons that will whisk people to Facebook, Twitter and beyond, but precious few are really embracing what social really is and how to bake it into their core experience.

College campuses are inherently social environments. Classmates are friends, roommates, drinking buddies, dates, teammates, maybe all of the above. At a minimum, a typical undergraduate’s social world is inextricably interwoven with the college experience- they’re one and the same. And yet, so many edu websites are socially barren landscapes. Publishing a Twitter RSS feed or showing a Facebook widget is not what I’m talking about here. Those are a step in the right direction, but we can do better.

Higher ed could take a cue from a fantastic service put forth by Vail Resorts, a ski industry company. Their EpicMix service marries skiing/snowboarding’s social nature with technology (check out the video for an overview). It embraces, supports and extends what people already do in the social context of a ski resort without trying to take it over or mandate use. Instead, it uses a set of tools and services to evolve and augment what’s already being done and does so in an easy, unobtrusive way. Either use it or don’t, it doesn’t force anything behavior on people who don’t want to participate, but for those who do, they get additional benefits. And if you’re not a participant, you still get some benefits too (scanning your pass makes the lift line experience quicker and easier).

The same concepts from EpicMix can effectively be applied to higher ed to gain the same basic benefits- augmenting what students are already doing on campus like communicating, sharing advice and information, planning meetings on the fly, etc. Students are a captive audience for a university so deploying the service is an easy matter and students have an inherent incentive to join and participate- everyone else would be using it.

This sort of service runs parallel to the creation of a university centric social network, another great idea university’s should pursue (but one that’s best left to its own post to discuss). EpicMix is itself a niche social network that works with the Facebooks and Twitters of the world to extend and leverage those services for a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.

There’s a lot of hard work underlying EpicMix and what it represents to higher ed, but social networks aren’t going away so the time is now to get on board and take the first steps.

What Marco Said…

Marco Arment’s post about the Android/Windows Phone 7/etc. market is spot on. I’m continually at a loss as to why companies in this market make it a priority to pump out new and different products as quickly as possible. Their product mix becomes so fractures it confuses customers. Now, none of these companies owns the entire vertical to the extent that Apple owns theirs which is the core of the problem. Since there isn’t tight integration (companies would likely disagree with me on that point), they can’t create a single (or, at the very least, a small number) of well executed, well marketed, well understood experiences. Without nailing the phones, the accessories, customer service, app stores won’t be great either.

Review of Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications

Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate CommunicationsMy Goodreads.com rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’re at all connected to the social media world within a work setting, much of this book will be basic to you. That said, it’s easy for lots of small opportunities and ideas to fall through the cracks on a day-to-day basis and this book will bring back some of those missed opportunities. I kept a list of ideas to investigate and think about again and for that, I give it three stars.

Video Tips: Cooking Shoots

I’m new to the video world. I don’t own a video camera (well, my phone, but that’s not why I got it), lights, mics, editing software or anything else associated with video production. Naturally, of course, I don’t let that stop me from tackling self imposed video assignments at work. I’m certainly no expert (hardly a novice), but that won’t stop me from using my blog to spit out some tips from what little I do know. My assignment was to shoot a how-to baking segment like you’d see on any cooking show. Here’s what I learned:

  • Have a script or storyboard before you even show up to the shoot: figure out the flow of what you want to capture so you can scope out the right camera angles, get the necessary sequences filmed and ensure you don’t forget anything. For example, I didn’t film an intro sequence where our baker introduced herself to the world. I made up for it during editing with an overlay of her name and title, but it would have been better for her to introduce herself.
  • On the heels of the above example, if you intend to create a series of videos, make an intro and credits sequence to bookend the entire production.
  • Have note cards somewhere out of camera view, but available to the person in the shot to ensure they sticks to the script and don’t forget anything important.
  • Don’t belabor anything for too long. Web video typically needs to be short and sweet. If there’s a ton of information to communicate, do it over a series of videos instead of one overly long one (how often do you sit through a 30 minute video? Hmmm?). Also, YouTube has time limits except under some instances like edu accounts, so time does need to be a concern. You can also include supplemental information as text based video notes that accompanying the piece.
  • Learn from existing cooking shows and have all of the ingredients pre-measured and ready to go to simplify the shoot. This allows you to avoid lots of cuts which can be distracting and problematic when editing.
  • Have enough ingredients on hand to do the shoot several times, just in case.
  • If you have the resources, shoot with multiple cameras so that multiple angles can be captured at once. Efficiency is a good thing.
  • Keep the counter area free of distractions: no stray bottle caps, unnecessary towels, bowls, etc. When you add an ingredient that’s measured out in a dish of some sort, set it out of camera view after you no longer use it. If you keep things clutter free, that’s half the battle.
  • Again, if resources allow, use a mic in order to ensure a consistent audio level. I only used the mic that came with the camera. The camera placement was far enough away in some shots that our host sounded distant. I augmented it during editing, but why not get it right during shooting?
  • And yet again with the resources theme, use good lights. If you’re relying on natural light, you’re at the mercy of clouds rolling by. If you’re relying on indoor lights, you’re at the mercy of odd shadows, odd color casts, and the weird spotlight effect that never looks good. Spotlights can also cause harsh reflections off of metal or plastic that’s no fun to deal with.