Tag Archives: sharing

social coverage of commencement: an evolving process.

Higher-ed web types everywhere have been discussing who’s doing what to cover commencement. Streaming it live? Making it social? Turning it into a real-time multimedia production?

At SUNY Oswego, we similarly discussed options, and chose to keep moving forward and evolving. Thanks to some outstanding work by our web developer, Rick Buck, and some folks in Campus Technology Services, we greatly upgraded our Commencement webcast. Not every user would have noticed a change in quality, but many viewers — especially those on Macs and most mobile devices — may have had their first chance to actually watch. We moved to a transcoder that exported H264 … a fancy way of saying we broadcast in a format used widely in those devices.

Was that important? Consider the following: 22% of our Commencement viewers did so on mobile devices. This is a huge figure, compared to 11% of hits last year (many of those visitors unable to fully view the broadcast). This continued to underscore our current priority of thinking more and more about mobile in all web projects.

The Facebook plugin collected some nice tales of congratulations, and the interns we had monitoring the feed reported no issues. While we did not assemble a post-graduation Storify or comprehensive multimedia wrapup as some other schools did, we saw a huge amount of activity when we posted a Commencement photo gallery to our Facebook page.

A whole HigherEdLive program last week explored what institutions are doing, and other colleges had their tales of success and woe. The latter includes one university that had an f-bomb show up in its Commencement Twitter feed that caused some stress. But almost anyone who made their ceremonies widely accessible and social had few regrets.

Graduation is a happy culmination of an arduous process and — for the grads and their families — one of the happiest days of their lives. Sharing the joy, in any way possible, ultimately is a good thing.

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app review: color = better concept than execution

Say you’re getting ready to host an alumni reunion or open house event, and you’d like your visitors to create a community-driven photo album. This is, in theory, possible with the Color geosocial photo application. But good luck making it work easily.

Ed Tatton of Westchester Community College and Greg Kie of SUNY Canton talked a few of us attending the SUNYCUAD Conference earlier this month into trying to create just such a photo album. You’d think people who work in web communication and/or social media for a living could figure this out with little difficulty. Ah, not so much.

The resulting community album (see active view. above right) took a lot of work. Taking the picture is easy enough: Just open the app and click on the color wheel (center button, colored when you’re in camera mode). But for a social application, the real difficulty comes when you try to get, you know, social.

For what seemed like an hour, about a half-dozen people who work on the web for a living had great difficulty creating a community album. I created any number of albums no one could join and that I couldn’t delete. Finally, after seemingly doing the same thing over and over, something worked and suddenly we had a shared album. You can see the results of a couple of days of fiddling at right. As for the buttons along the bottom: The map icon stands for “take photos together” (if you can figure out how to do it), the globe means “see all your albums” (for a globe?), the color wheel means take the picture, the calendar means “view your albums by day” and the envelope means “messages you’ve received” (i.e. likes and comments).

Note that you cannot friend anyone for a permanent relationship, which — given the appeal of enriched connections in social media — seems an oversight. After you take a photo, you can press a paper-airplane icon to share it by Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or SMS. Yes, that’s OR, not and.

Looking at Instragram, which I consider a great geosocial photo app, the competition isn’t even close. Instagram encourages you to find and friend contacts, and offers easy ways to do so. When you take a picture, you can share it simultaneously via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare AND Posterous (if you want). While the geolocation feature with Instagram is still buggy for me, you can create an album via hashtag — as the #pancaketweetup album at right shows. Instragram’s menu includes helpful words that break things down very simply: Feed, Popular, Share, News and Profile, and submenus are intuitive as well. Interaction via comments and likes are very easy.

All apps have to start somewhere, and Color does bring a good concept to the table. That it is difficult to come together at that table with others is unfortunate — since connections and content are the currency of social media — but maybe the app’s developers will figure a way for its execution to improve.

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instagram: a picture-perfect social media tool?

The women's hockey team prepping for a big game, as told via Instagram filter.

Many folks — including me — have developed a new social media obsession with Instagram, an app based on photos and connectivity. The free app captures the appeals of people looking to tell stories via taking, editing and posting pictures … while commenting on and connecting with others doing the same.

I could share how close I was sitting to the stage for our student honors production.

I could share how close I was sitting to the stage for our student honors production.

At the most basic level, Instagram is photographing and filtering software. When taking iPhone pics via Instagram, I appear to gain greater iris control and focusing flexibility. When you take the photo, you can apply one of a number of filtering tools — which make it look like anything from an old Polaroid to washed-out contact sheet to monochrome. The filters may not quite as cool as paid app Hipstamatic, but quite a few add more flair and visual appeal to photos. It could be better integrated — clicking on a photo posted to Facebook whisks you to the nothing-special Instagram site — but I wouldn’t be surprised if more improvements appear on the horizon.

I like the washed-out old-photo filter a lot.

I like the washed-out old-photo filter a lot.

But the really neat part is the ability to share it within — and outside of — the Instagram community. After you take a photo and apply (or don’t) a filter, you can post it Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr and/or Foursquare in one fell swoop. It even offers its own location-based option. And by default, pictures are shared with the Instagarm community. Looking through my Instagram feed on a recent night, I felt like part of a greater narrative of what people were doing. Even though my Instagram community is small for now, members were out watching two college hockey games, enjoying a romantic night in, reveling through a night out, spending quality time with the kids and exploring artistic endeavors. As a body of work, it’s a compelling snapshot (sorry) of a few hours of 21st century life.

Looking through the lens (sorry again) of the 5+1 Keys to Social Media Platform Adoption, Instagram posts some high scores:

  • Usefulness: Allows you to take, edit and share photos in a novel way; lets you enjoy pics from others.
  • Usability: Very simple. Its basic menu is five buttons: Feed, Popular, Share (where you take photos), News and Profile — pretty intuitive.
  • User Interactivity: You can comment on or like photos friends post. Not sure if other friends are using it? You can easily look through your Facebook and Twitter contacts. Want to make new friends? Browse the popular pics and follow those whose styles or activities you enjoy.
  • Sharability: Great sharing options to five popular platforms as well as within the Instagram community.
  • Sustainability: As long as you have things you want to document and/or you are interested in your friends’ photos, this can sustain your interest.
  • +1: Critical Mass: OK, Instagram isn’t there yet. But the ball is rolling, and I seem to pick up at least a follower a day among my friends adopting it. And I think it’s such a great app that I expect the social sharing and positive word of mouth to keep building the community.

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content + context = compelling: in defense of raw video.

At the risk of stirring up a hornet’s nest, I’d like to advance the theory that not all web video need be extravagantly produced, meticulously edited and mini-Hollywood productions. Raw video, with the right content in the correct context, can be every bit as compelling.

Last week, for instance, a colleague used a Flip to take raw video of a new experimental wind turbine’s mounting on the roof of SUNY Oswego’s Lee Hall. In the abstract, 47 seconds of video, occasionally shaky, showing a couple of people affixing a turbine and starting its first revolutions doesn’t seem the most marketable footage. But when reviewing it, I saw a neat little narrative (content) on the ever-hot topic of alternative energy (context) and (not having to edit) quickly posted it to our YouTube account, then linked it from a homepage story which I fed through Twitter and Facebook.

And a funny thing happened: People started watching, retweeting, liking and commenting. Then our regional paper, The Syracuse Post-Standard, decided to add the raw video to its event coverage (several P-Sers follow us on Twitter) and the number of plays continued to climb. (Which also caused more hits on our related college videos.) All for a 47-second video that, to the Spielberg wannabes in the world, would appear unremarkable.

But this isn’t our first success with raw video. This spring when our men’s hockey team beat our fierce rivals Plattsburgh to win our first conference tournament in many years, and clinch an NCAA bid, among the celebration, I saw something cool. The team took the trophy around the ice in front of the student section and the remaining fans cheered loudly, pounded the glass and shared the joy. I caught some quick raw video, posted it on our Facebook page, and it quickly scored hundreds of hits and a couple dozen Likes. It’s shaky and hardly slick. But it had content (deliriously happy fans) plus context (a long-awaited conference tourney championship) and thus proved compelling.

Longform video is a tough match for the web and busy people. Some highered folks fell all over themselves praising the 16+ minute Yale admissions video, but I was beyond bored within 30 seconds and shut it off. Yet I repeatedly watched UQAM’s one-take lipdub video — which scored 10 times the YouTube hits of the Ivy League piece and, unlike the Yale yawner, the lipdub generated actual student buzz. Sure, it involved a lot of planning, but the UQAM students knew the right pace, made it fun and were more concerned with content than something slick. (Or consider the authentic awesomeness of the Guy Starts Dance Party raw video that preceded the flash mob craze.)

So don’t underestimate the power of raw video, and the opportunities available if you carry a camera or smartphone with at least some video capability (or ask students to do the same). The ability to capture short compelling raw video that needs no edits and almost instantly disseminating it via the many possible web/social media channels can offer nearly limitless potential.

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live-tweeting a wedding: risky business?

Long before people curiously decided Twitter was the next killer business app, it was a social-media site for sharing experiences. In that vein, when my Facebook status Saturday pondered live-tweeting that day’s wedding of my friends Fred and Michele, other friends unable to make it asked me to keep them updated on the festivities.

I’ll say this much: Live-tweeting a wedding is more difficult than doing Commencement or any number of other activities. The wedding of Fred and Michele (or @fredvigeant and @mjoyner, if you prefer) unfolded in St. Mary’s in Oswego, a beautiful church with soaring architecture and large stained-glass windows. What it doesn’t have is the kind of light you’d like for iPhone pictures. Thus attempts to photograph the bride may look like this:

Fig. A: Here comes the blur.

Fig. A: Here comes the blur.

Or, if you’re lucky and steady, this way:

This is better, despite the back light and low ambient. Those who saw it live-tweeted at least appreciated it.

Fig. B: This is better, despite the back light and low ambient. Those who saw it live-tweeted at least appreciated it.

Pictures aren’t the only challenge (and I did collect enough for a Facebook photo album). When typing the info to provide context on the live-tweet (preferred to just throwing a link on Twitter), I sensed others looking at me funny. Texting or typing in a church isn’t broadly embraced … and I don’t want to become that guy who obliviously and rudely focuses on his personal electronic device when he shouldn’t.

Other miscellaneous notes: In case you’ve ever wondered, it’s not easy to catch the Electric Slide on an iPhone:

Fig. C: It's electric!

Fig. C: It's electric!

Or here’s a curious one: Someone else’s flash impacts the ability of the iPhone to properly process the image. Or I could say the reception lighting was just very odd:

Fig. D: Turn around, bright eyes.

Fig. D: Turn around, bright eyes.

But sometimes, if you have the right light, the right subject and the right moment, everything does come together:

Fig. E: The happy couple.

Fig. E: The happy couple.

Being able to send this picture, showing Fred and Michele veritably glowing in the aftermath of the wedding ceremony, pleased a lot of people following my updates. And, in the end, sharing such meaningful experiences is really what social media can do best.

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