There's a conversation going on here, that was started by nlowell and picked up on by several other Ning members. Cary Harrod's comments got me to thinking more about social networks.

I am fairly new to the world of web 2.0 and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the whole idea of transparency. I still haven't figured out how I could possibly contribute anything new to the conversations taking place right now, particularly in the company of such people as Will Richardson, Terry Friedman, David Jakes and yes, nlowell. What WILL encourage me to enter the web 2.0 conversations are people like Steve, Barbara and Alja who obviously understand the complexities of adult learning.
I've written about "not getting" this SN thing. But reading you ideas made me realize that what I do is entirely about social networks. I'm coming to suspect, however, that there are many kinds of networks, and that they are, in a sense, part of one network, tied together (attracted to each other) through the conductivity of conversations and the gravitational pull of logic.

Attention is one of those words that is talked about a lot in conversations about Web 2.0 -- the BIG deuce. In a sense it is a commodity. To get things done, we need other people, and to get them interested, we need their attention. One thing that's concerned me is that as we talk about limitless bandwidth, limitless channels on the TV, limitless this and that in the world of information, what is not limitless is attention. There are only so many people and so many hours in the day. And each of us are only willing to give up so much of our day's attention to others' ideas.

I think that the reason that I don't get things like Ning is that I started blogging in a time when there was an abundance of attention out there, looking for something to pay attention to, and they would latch on to almost anything. As more people started becoming interested in blogs, and there were only a handful of educator bloggers out there, they came to Will Richardson, Terry Freedman, David Jakes, and some even came to read my blog. It was like physics -- attention gathering around Will's voice built up mass, and the more mass gathering around a particular voice the greater the gravitational pull -- and the more attention that was attracted to it.

There isn't so much attention left, so newer bloggers have more difficulty attracting attention and building up mass. This may be where social networking services like Ning come to play. Within this Classroom 2.0 network, there can be a concentration of attention, such that what a newer blogger (participant/contributor in the conversational web) has to say can be heard and can spark conversation. The network builds up mass where it has become more difficult for individuals. Will doesn't need a Ning, because he is huge. He is a planet Jupiter. I have a goodly amount of mass, though I'm a mercury, or perhaps more appropriately, one of the moons of Saturn (I love that planet).

Yet Will, and Jakes, and Freedman are also a part of Ning, because their ideas can be latched to from Ning, and spread, and Will can aggregate the conversations that spring up here and talk about them.

So I suspect that Steve Hargadon got it all along. It is a place for beginners, but for reasons far more esoteric and potent than just having an easier tool. It's a place of more concentrated attention and more potency of ideas.

Or I could be entirely off my rocker!

Views: 41

Comment by Carolyn Foote on April 7, 2007 at 7:24am

One of the things I am interested in about Ning, is that it allows for more informality. You can have chatter going on with someone you haven't met before, vent a little more than you might on your own blog(especially if it is associated with your school's website), and also network with people you may not have run across before (or who may not have a blog of their own!).

I like the "joint" blogging ability of the front page--where you can see various people's blog posts. It's somewhat like LeaderTalk's use of multiple bloggers. There's a nice diversity of posts.

My two cents worth ;)
Comment by nlowell on April 7, 2007 at 7:49am
Another Ning-thing that *I* didn't get right away is the aggregation of networks within the larger Ning-space. If I look at one of my "friends" up in the profile bar at the top of the screen, I can see what other networks they belong to and potentially find new places where I can apply my attention.

It's not just here in this Classroom 2.0 space, but within the entire Ning-space.
Comment by Sylvia Martinez on April 7, 2007 at 9:31am
I think you've hit the nail on the head about the ability of earlier bloggers to build up mass more easily than now.

There is also a distinction between finding, joining, and staying. Those all have different aspects for each person, and it affects the group as a whole.

I'm here because I met Steve at CoSN and he said smart things and gave me his card. His card happened to be on the top of the stack when I got home. I stared at it for 4 days before actually typing in the URL.

So my getting here wasn't a "2.0" path, but a very traditional one, with a big chunk of random chance like the order of business cards stacked on my pile o' stuff.

Like Carolyn said, it seems to be a place that you can vent a little more, because you know people are here who might actually talk back. Venting on a blog where you are just speaking to a potentially empty room seems meaningless.

Just one more random thought - I think blog readers have changed the ability of new bloggers to reach out to similar audiences and at the same time has reinforced the "I write/you read" nature of the blog-o-sphere. I know feeds are great, but the way I used to find most new voices was through comments. I find I don't read comments as much as I used to, because I don't actually go to people's blogs, I just read them in my reader. Have people been talking about this?

Do social networks reverse this trend?


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