Live-Tweeting a Commencement

Show of hands: who participated in some form of live-tweeting during your commencement ceremonies this spring? Here’s a quick informal sample:

With no real planning (and even less thought) I decided to live-tweet the University of Rochester’s commencement ceremonies this year. We have been webcasting the ceremony for the past nine years, but tweeting was a first.

I didn’t promote this effort in any real way at all: didn’t establish a hash tag or include any mention in our student and parent newsletters or make note of it on the commencement website. I just figured that since I had to be on campus all day anyway I might as well give it a whirl. I twittered under the University’s institutional Twitter account (@UofR) and here’s how it went:

Will be “live Tweeting” the College Commencement ceremony, which gets underway in about 10 minutes. 7:50 AM May 17th from twhirl

The procession and “Pomp and Circumstance” have begun! Man, it’s lovely outside. Chilly, but sunny. 7:54 AM May 17th from twhirl

The last of the graduates take their seats as the platform party arrives, led by the Grand Marshall carrying the University mace. 8:09 AM May 17th from twhirl

Ceremony is about to get underway, and the bubbles are already flying 8:12 AM May 17th from twhirl

Trustees chair Ed Hajim ends his speech. “May the force be with you!” to much applause. What, no “live long and prosper?” 🙂 8:23 AM May 17th from twhirl

President Joel Seligman calls out many student-run community projects. We’re biased here, but our kids really do kick butt. 8:28 AM May 17th from twhirl

Faculty awards are being presented for excellence in undergraduate teaching. 8:31 AM May 17th from twhirl

Kodak CEO Antonio Perez receives an honorary doctorate from President Seligman. 8:42 AM May 17th from twhirl

Commencement speaker Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is about to receive the Eastman medal. 8:47 AM May 17th from twhirl

Louise Slaughter’s speech is about to blow off the podium, but she presses on. 8:52 AM May 17th from twhirl

The best advice from Congresswoman Slaughter: Sometimes in life, procrastination pays off! Huge applause. 9:00 AM May 17th from twhirl

This is it! The conferring of degrees for the bachelor’s candidates in the School of Arts and Sciences. 9:01 AM May 17th from twhirl

“I welcome you to the fellowship of learned citizens!” Cue the beach balls. 9:03 AM May 17th from twhirl

Now it’s the School of Engineering’s turn. And those engineers know how to party. 9:04 AM May 17th from twhirl

It’s a silly string explosion in the Engineering section! 9:05 AM May 17th from twhirl

Woohoo! It’s John Phillip Sousa time! It’s what’s become a UofR tradition, the graduates go absolutely nuts to Stars and Stripes Forever. 9:08 AM May 17th from twhirl

The Yellowjackets lead the singing of the alma mater. 9:11 AM May 17th from twhirl

Seligman punches the air. “Congrats Class of 2009!” That’s a wrap everyone. Remember, it’s called Commencement because it’s a beginning. 9:18 AM May 17th from twhirl

We had a grand total of two replies during the course of the event, which was fine I suppose given that I definitely considered this a toe-dipping exercise. Some lessons learned for next year:

  • Get the word out to students and parents (I think parents in particular may be key) that you plan to do this.
  • Establish a hash tag for the event and start using it in advance of the big day to establish that tag amongst your followers.
  • Don’t just post! Search for what others are saying before, during, and after the event so that you can respond, congratulate, converse, etc. Search on your hash tag but also other relevant search terms (e.g. the name/nickname of your university, the name of your speaker)

Commencement is a party, and your university is the host. Like any good host, you want your guests to have a good time meeting and talking with each other. Twitter is an especially fun way to do this on an especially fun day. I’m already looking forward to next year!

#hewebcornell: Best of the Backchannel

If you — like me — were not able to attend the recent regional HighEdWeb conference in Ithaca, NY, then you — like me — may have been tethered to the Twitterverse, checking in with the action from Cornell from the comfort of your desk. In case you missed it, here is some of the best from the backchannel. And all the presentations are available at

TimNekritz: #hewebcornell is under way!

gabrielmcgovern: #hewebcornell is streaming live. Now how am I going to get any work done today?

rachelreuben: Session 1 on usability is up! #hewebcornell

markgr: Every complicated good idea started off as a simple good idea #hewebcornell

mouselink: #hewebcornell progressive disclosure: showing overviews but hiding details until the user requests them.

HighEdWeb: “web behavior is always rushed” #hewebcornell

TimNekritz: Pattern library for Web designers. #hewebcornell

KarlynM: words count…its what they’re coming to your website to see…they’re the steak and not the sizzle #hewebcornell

kprentiss: if people are engaged, they’re perfectly willing to scroll down #hewebcornell

HighEdWeb: “Civilization advances by extending the number of operations we can perform without thinking about them.” A. Whitehead #hewebcornell

KarlynM: Time for Social Media Storytelling with the @eduGuru writers…Watch it live! #hewebcornell

ICchris: MC Hammer: “Social media is just an extension of what we do naturally” – couldn’t be more right. #hewebcornell

TimNekritz: Hey, maybe we can get MC Hammer at the next conference? He sounds like a social media guru! #hewebcornell

jrodgers: It’s easier to beg forgiveness #socialmedia #hewebcornell

mouselink: Social Media is “Accidental Authenticity” #hewebcornell

kprentiss: don’t be afraid to let current students interact with incoming students – @karlynm #hewebcornell

markgr: “Millennials – at their core – want to be good kids” @KarlynM This is the ONE thing to remember about millennials #hewebcornell

TimNekritz: Great SM analogy by @fienen: Kids want to go out and play football, not have you come in and tell them football rules. #hewebcornell

ICchris: Takeaways, day 1: Usability hard, authenticity good, WE LIKE COOKIE #hewebcornell

jallgire: Nice idea of using Social Media to connect staff at diff. campuses (or diff. depts on same campus) #hewebcornell I’ve noticed this at SNHU

ellenkanner: RT TimNekritz@nikkimk: Tweeters at other campuses become her new co-workers. During meetings, they self-gravitate. #hewebcornell agreed

rachelreuben: Can I just say…ooVoo kicks butt!! What a super cool experience! Thank you @eduguru crew & #hewebcornell! Yay technology!!!

UsefulTheory: Great first day at #hewebcornell. Good sessions, and nice to finally meet the people behind the Twitter avatars.

HighEdWeb: first to arrive for day2 of #hewebcornell. Other than the lights going off and on, we look good to go for LaunchPad

mhaithaca: No oatmeal raisin cookies this morning. Today’s winner? Cheese raisin mini danishes! #hewebcornell

mouselink: RT @johnhwhite: Brilliant: #hewebcornell great examples of good one-page web designs.

ICchris: Next up: Jesse Rodgers on “Managing Web Project Chaos” at 10:15. #hewebcornell

TimNekritz: Chaos = Different work patterns, departments wanting to see the word ‘pedagogy’ prominently featured, eternal change requests. #hewebcornell

HighEdWeb: “scope, time, cost” the triple-constraint of a projcet — all ignored in HE? #hewebcornell

jakedaniel: Glad to know the hassle of project mgmt is miserable for Canadians as well. Maybe the Swedes have it sorted. Or the Mongols. #hewebcornell

rachelreuben: Last session has begun: @markgr’s up with Higher Education Web Development Gets Flattened #hewebcornell

TimNekritz: Will universities outsource student-service functions? May be considered ‘good business’ but poor branding/customer service. #hewebcornell

ICchris: @markgr biz plan: “we will have sufficient resources to meet every reasonable request in a reasonable amount of time.” #hewebcornell

mouselink: “the days of a webmaster (one person w/ all the expertise) are long gone.” ~ except for those of us who are still doing it. 😉 #hewebcornell

AndreaJarrell: RT @HighEdWeb: “MFA is the new MBA” quoth @markgr #hewebcornell Couldn’t agree more. My MFA has proved to be gold in my professional life

jallgire: From @markgr: “The work that we do is completely undervalued” but we need to demonstrate that value. #hewebcornell Lots to think about!

kodiak324: #hewebcornell was great. Big thanks to @jdwcornell, the presenters, and everyone else.


What’s on the horizon?

The 2008 Horizons Report was published last month, with lots of interesting information and speculation about “What’s Next?” for technology and higher education. The report is published by the New Media Consortium and Educause as “a research-oriented effort that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have considerable impact on teaching, learning, and creative expression within higher education.”

The annual report points to six emerging technologies that are likely to have an impact on higher education in the next five years. For 2008, the report predicts that grassroots video (think: your students and professors + cell phone cameras X YouTube) and collaboration Webs (think: Google Docs, do-it-yourself social networks like Ning, and good old Wikipedia, plus any number of other sites and tools that allow *everyone* to create and organize content and the relationships between themselves and that content). Other technologies singled out this year are mobile broadband, data mashups, collective intelligence (HighEdWeb conference theme, 2006!) and social operating systems.

Five years ago, the first Horizons Report predicted that the technologies to watch for in the next one to two years were scalable vectors graphics (SVG) and learning objects, which they define as “assemblies of audio, graphic, animation and other digital files and materials that are intended to be reusable in a variety of ways, and easily combined into higher-level instructional components such as lessons and modules.” Other technologies to watch for in the next two-to-five years (in other words: now) are: rapid prototyping, multimodal interfaces, context-aware computing, and knowledge webs.

So what do we think? Are the folks at the New Media Consortium on the right track with their predictions, both past and present?

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Speaking of Facebook: Applications Platform is Open

A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced that it is opening its platform to third-party developers, who can create new Applications for Facebook members to add to their profiles.



Basically this means any area of life that you can think of that might have a social, “sharing” aspect to it can find a home on your profile page. For instance, Facebook itself has already launched its Marketplace application, which lets users find out if someone in their local network is selling a futon of a Chemistry 101 textbook. Now other developers are free to get into the act.



A popular application called iLike looks at the music you’ve said you like, and lets you know when groups that match your musical tastes are coming to your town (though why it thinks I’d be interested in a Kelly Clarkson concert, I have no idea). You can also see what songs and artists you’re friends are currently digging. Flickster performs the same function for movies. Your Hottest Friend lets you rank, well, the hotness of your friends (obviously).


One application lets you open “fortune cookies” (whatever they are), another lets you upload and share term papers and even complete textbooks (I’m sure college professors and copyright attorneys everywhere will be thrilled with that one): there are hundreds of choices available already.



So it looks like there’s a lot to still learn about how successful this social networking model can be, and what it means for those of us who work in Web development at institutions of higher education. I did learn one thing as I read users reactions to these new apps: students have very high expectations of their online experience. They don’t just want stuff to work, they want it to work in exactly the way they expect it to work, and now. For most apps I reviewed, a common theme amongst the user comments ran something like, “Whatever. That’s nice. But I want to be able to personalize it in these 18 different ways and why can’t delete this while adding that thing? That’s totally lame, man.”



Or words to that affect.



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Web 2.0 Still a Vision in the Mist?

An interesting short article on Time magazine online today — Who’s Really Participating in Web 2.0 by Bill Tancer. Tancer’s mini-editorial basically says that, though we talk a lot about Web 2.0 and though there are some really visible examples of Web 2.0 applications out there, it’s still not a major piece of the web. As he puts it, those of us currently focusing on community-generated content are “in the awkward and uncomfortable position of being one of the first guests to arrive at what promises to be a very cool party. ”

– col
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Building a Better Wikipedia?

Wikipedia, the hugely popular and incredibly useful open-source encyclopedia and darling of the Web 2.0 evolution, has fallen upon some rocky seas as of late.

A prolific contributor who claimed to have multiple Ph.D.s and a tenured position at a private university was in fact a 24-year-old college dropout. A blogger revealed that Microsoft Corp. offered to pay him to “fix” Wikipedia entries about the company. And according to Wikipedia, at least for a few days earlier this month, the comedian Sinbad was dead of a heart attack. In response to concerns over inaccuracies, professors in Middlebury College’s history department this semester voted to ban students from citing Wikipedia in papers and exams.

Now along comes a rival encyclopedia that hopes to address some of Wikipedia’s shortcomings. Citizendium launched its beta site today. Unlike Wikipedia, contributors must identify themselves by name, and articles will be subjected to what the site calls “gentle expert oversight.”

Will these two changes create a better resource? Will moving away from the “anyone can edit” spirit of Wikipedia increase its reliability or only limit its scope? Will the new Citizendium have articles on the String Cheese Incident or New Zoo Revue, and if not is that a bad thing? And if “information wants to be free,” what role should sites like Wikipedia and Citizendium play in higher education?

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Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us

This very cool video has been YouTubed around quite a bit in the last couple months. (Did I just use “YouTube” as a verb? Yes, I guess I did.)

It was created by a professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, and what he’s calling the final version was just posted last week. Show it to your faculty, your administrators, your boss, if you find yourself needing to explain just what this “Web 2.0 stuff” is all about.