Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘experiment

This time last year I shared details of my 2014 social media experiment.

Back then I stopped cross-posting to Facebook and started doing so on Google+. I am continuing that this year.

I amplified my blog’s reach by auto-tweeting with Twitter Feed. I am continuing that too.

But the feed system breaks down every now and then. Twitter Feed goes bonkers a few times a year. Late last year the link to the WordPress feed system also broke. This has had a huge impact on my reach.

Through much of 2014, I had a few tweeps who would auto-retweet all my blog-related auto-tweets. They were in different parts of the world and had their own PLNs. When the link between WordPress and other feeds broke, the auto-retweets broke.

I opted not to ask those kind folk to reset the auto-retweets. I reasoned that it was their prerogative to keep retweeting or not. This was also an opportunity for me to carry my own weight. Or to throw it around as it were.

I reflect in my blog every day (this will be the eighth year I am doing this) and I limit myself to just one auto-tweet pointing back to each blog entry. I also compose other tweets between five to ten times a day and I have a reach of about 30,000 views each day. Assuming I tweet ten times a day, each tweet has 3,000 views a day on average.

But tweet views are notoriously volatile. Tweets have been described as fast-flowing streams; they are more like mist droplets made out of rapidly evaporating alcohol. This leads to a low click-through rate of 1 to 10%.

Social media marketers advise tweeting and publishing on peak days (Tue to Thu) and at optimum times (commutes, lunch time, after dinner). This means auto-retweeting several times a day to reach local and international audiences. This could also look like Twitter spam. I am going to try resisting that.

I have found that it is very difficult to predict what people enjoy reading. There are some obvious spikes (like my recent story of the grammar nazi vs the loan shark), but these are the low-hanging fruit.

I will focus on writing what I think is important or what strikes my fancy. Why? This blog is my reflective space. But I leave it open to others who might relate to or learn from what I am saying.

I have also found that writing daily keeps me and my ideas high up in Google searches. When I ask people how they found me or why they want to engage me in some work, most point to my online presence. That is reason enough for me to keep doing my social media experiment.

It been almost a year since I decided not to cross post my blog reflections by providing teasers in Facebook.

At first readership took a hit. Views fell to half or even a quarter of what my blog used to get. But I do not regret my move.

Facebook started to reduce viewership unless you paid for posts to get more attention (watch the video below from Veritasium to learn more). It also did not help that Facebook readers would get an ominous warning message that they were about to leave Facebook every time they clicked on an external link.

Video source

I stuck with posting teasers with TwitterFeed to Twitter. I have only just started cross posting to Google+.

Now the views have exceeded what I used to get when I included teasers in Facebook. One of the more logical reasons for this is the growth of curated followers I have on Twitter.

Twitter is more important to me because it helps me form my PLN. The educators who tweet and retweet share a mindset of “share because you care”. There is practically none of the gossipy, texty navel-gazing, celebrity-oriented tweeting because I can select who to follow and who follows me.

Whoever choses to follow me on Twitter reads what I am openly thinking about and might retweet my teaser tweet. I have found that such retweets matter. The more a blog URL gets (re)tweeted, the higher the blog views.

I have also discovered the networked power some individuals or networks have. Sorry most #edsg folks, if you are reading this, your reach and ability to influence others to read what you recommend pales in comparison to individuals and networks elsewhere.

For example, I might find that a particular blog entry pulls in the same number of readers here in Singapore and the USA. By virtue of our population size, proportionately more Singapore educators are reading these thoughts than in the USA. But when readers from both countries tweet or retweet my blog entry, there is less reach by Singaporeans and greater reach by folks elsewhere like the USA. I suspect that this has less to do with population size and more to do with the power to influence.

I have found that the local educator tweets also lack endurance. On retweeting, I see small spikes of readership that last a day or two. A tweet or retweet originating from beyond our shores creates a plateau that can last a week or more.

I might attribute this to the different time zones. If local readers find something here, they read it and are done with it. If they share it, it gets read at most a day later.

Readers elsewhere may consume 12 or 24 hours later, share and influence other readers later, hence the protracted readership. This combined with their greater reach creates a ripple effect of readership.

So what now?

I do not think that my findings on the ripple effect are unusual. But I think there should be cause for our local educators on Twitter to be concerned if they agree with my analysis. What is our reach and impact on educators elsewhere?

We should be concerned with that question because it is not enough to just focus locally. The point of a PLN is to have wide and varied perspectives. If we do not think and act that way, we will suffer from an “echo chamber” effect. We will become insular in our thinking, surrounding ourselves only with people who are like-minded or nodding their heads in agreement.

We cannot afford to operate like that. Viewed competitively, that is how we lose our edge. Viewed collaboratively, that is how we lose our reach and reputation.

I have decided to conduct an experiment with my blog feeds. The simple research question is: What happens to the readership of this blog when I stop the feed to my Facebook profile?

The experiment is not entirely my design because the automatic feed stopped on its own some weeks ago. I cannot say whether this was due to a technical change in Facebook or whether the feed tool stopped working.

I suspect that it is the former since the same feed tool that updates my Twitter stream keeps sending automated tweets whenever I blog.

I have already noticed a drop in readership by almost half when the Facebook feed was inactive. This is surprising considering how I carefully cultivate my Twitter followers and am practically anti-social on Facebook.

Perhaps the Twitter stream of consciousness flows by too swiftly for folks to catch. Maybe I am taken more seriously on Facebook. Horrors!

I do not know any academic or well-informed individual who can read the claims of most experimental (or quasi-experimental) studies and agree wholeheartedly with them. Typically in these studies, one factor is withheld from one group but applied in another.

I am a proponent of game-based learning approaches, but I cannot help but process this study with some skepticism.

Here is a study in a nutshell:

The study examined student attention and engagement during 8 lesson cycles. CES is a K-5 public school with self-contained classrooms. The experimental group participated in a technology lesson that used digital games as its method of delivery or practice for the students. The control group participated in a technology lesson that utilized an alternative learning strategy. The alternative learning strategies selected for comparison with Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) included: a) carousel brainstorming, b) team webbing, c) concept attainment, d) jigsaw, e) learning stations, and f) roundtable. These alternative learning strategies were interactive, stimulating, and engaging for students. Research data was captured in the form of student observations and post-trial student surveys. Both groups were taught the same technology and content objectives utilizing varying instructional strategies.

The study concluded that:

Digital Game-Based Learning… groups showed more student engagement and time on task behavior than the alternative strategies. However, several trials did demonstrate that the alternative strategies produced more lesson engagement and a higher time-on-task group average than DGBL.

In terms of research design, the researcher did not indicate if intact classes were used. One is left to assume this was the case. The researcher also did not mention if the same teacher conducted both classes. If this factor was not controlled, then it could have impacted the results.

In most experimental studies where humans are subjects, there are confounding variables or other variables you cannot control like learner preferences, prior exposure to gaming, learner expectations, etc.

Classroom observations provide snapshot at best. Gaming is a lifestyle. Students learn with games even when they are out of class. So while the study opted to focus on what happened in class, the reality is that one cannot control for this factor.

The researcher might argue that it was what happened only in class that mattered and sought to determine if DGBL was a viable strategy. Staying on task and being engaged certainly contribute to learning, but he did not report if learning actually took place.

Instead, the focus seemed to be DGBL as an instructional strategy. But teachers teaching does not guarantee that learners are learning.

I would predict that if the results were analyzed statistically, there would be no or little difference between treatments. In other words, GBL is no less effective than other strategies, or better but not statistically so.

The question then is not whether to use GBL, but when to employ it.

Video source

No, MP3 does not refer to Singapore’s ICT Masterplan 3 but to the MP3 audio file format and the social experiments conducted around them.


So when is Singapore going to copy this idea for something like National Day and not acknowledge its source?

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