Introduction to the social web


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The Internet has always been a pervasive social phenomenon, at least since the early 1990s, supporting networking and communication. However, in more recent times we have seen a burst of activity not usually seen over the Internet, where people - everyday people - have been publishing and producing their own works online (that is, e-publishing) that is easy to share, access and find connections with!

In addition, we seem more able to 'get to know' these people not only through their works, but by the identity that is always 'attached' to their works, such as their personal or professional profiles, photos and other bits of personal information.

It is this type of activity that is collectively called the "social web". The social web is also known as Web 2.0. When we talk about teaching and learning with social web tools, this is often called E-learning 2.0. Here is some further information describing the social web, at FutureLabs.

What is used in this social web? The explosive use of weblogs, wikis and of the process of 'tagging' published work with keywords, are all major tools and practices used to grow this social web.

A simple diagram from Dion Hinchcliffe (at Flickr) visually explains the social web:

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So now let's look at what they are and how they do what they do...

Weblogs

Weblogs or 'web logs' can be described in a number of ways. The most common explanation is the online diary or journal. The primary characteristic of a weblog is its chronology - that is, each entry or post appears on a webpage in reverse chronological order (most recent viewed first). Each post is timestamped and is added to the blog's archives.

Weblogs are commonly called blogs. A 'blogger' is a person who writes and publishes blog entries. The vast network of blogs is known as the Blogosphere.

Blogs are most often text-based. However, there are many ways to 'write' to your blog. You can, for example;
  • moblog - that is, email a short entry from your mobile phone to your blog
  • audioblog - record an audio message (usually from your phone) to your blog
  • photo-blog - where you can post a photo to your blog with commentary attached.

In addition to blogging is edublogging. Although the same process, edublogging is generally understood to be people - educators and learners - who use blogs in their teaching and learning somehow. This might be in the form of professional jounral writing, classroom based blogging, portfolio-style blogs (like process journal for art and design) or research type journals to assist with one's writing process.

Let's consider some examples of weblogs on the Internet...

YOUR examples of weblogs...

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Wikis

A prime example of a wiki is Wikipedia, an online, collabortive and free encyclopedia. Wikis characteristically are editable webpages where contributors can add, edit, refine, move, delete text and discuss this process at the same time (using a discussion forum feature attached to each editable page).

It's strength lies in its collaborative power, and its flexibility to edit entries. In addition, each page includes a 'history' so that users and editors can track changes made over time. This also allows editors to revert back to for previous editions.

What other examples can be found on the Internet? Include them below.

YOUR wiki examples...

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Aggregating and collating information

Aggregation is a key feature of the social web, in that it allows for connections to take place and special interest networks to form.
There are various ways to aggregate:
  1. tagging (use of keywords to connect your interests with the interests of others) - what does this look like?
  2. subscription (subscribe to shareable websites, weblogs and wikis via email for updates and new information) - what does this look like?
  3. newsfeeds (subscribe using atom, xml or RSS language to receive updates and new information) - what does this look like?


If we searched for items, websites, blogs, wikis, discussions, etc about the social web, it might look something like this (that's over 77,000 results!).

What sites and services have YOU found that aggregate and collate information?

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Social web tools and resources

Here are some social web tools and resources to get you started. Add others that YOU find too!