Monday, December 03, 2007

From darkness, light.

The social network of the future will be populated by the RSS feeds of the activities of your friends and your friends will be determined by e-mail. The big players won't put a major push into building a new social network. Your e-mail account isn't valuable because it's got the e-mail addresses of other people who could be solicited commercially -- it's valuable because it articulates who in the world is able to command your attention. It contains analyzable, direct communication between you and the people most important to you.

Marshall Kirkpatrick
Read/Write Web

I realise for many of you, the above paragraph contained a few words you have heard but are unclear of their precise relevance to this message at the seasonal time of mid-winter greetings and festivities. Mr. Kirkpatrick is discussing the phenomenon of social networking and the explosion of sites like Facebook, Meebo and Twitter, to name just a few. On these sites you make contact with your friends, “add” them to your list of friends and are then added to their list of friends. Whatever you celebrate, be it Diwali, St. Nicholas, Hannukah, Christmas or the winter solstice you will probably be spending time with loved ones. In our interconnected world, we often share thoughts and often cards with the aforemntioned groups. In this twenty-first-century-web-2-point-oh world, we can share more than cards and E-mails.To share your holiday greetings, you could post a video with your holiday wishes on YouTube and link it into your social networking site. As you add friends to your site you also also grant your friends access to your thoughts, plans, pictures and…

Yes, the ellipsis is intentional. The list of what you can share with your online friends is limited only by the developers’ imagination. Music, movies, what music is playing on your computer at the moment are only the beginning of what can be shared. All of the developers want to have your social network account share their application with your friends, so they too will sign up to that service. Then all of their friends, ad infinitum. If I sign up for an application the E-mail that my friends receive in their profile will say, “Richard Hein would like to share this application with you. Sign up today and share with Richard!” By consenting to join the service, I have granted them the right to use my name in their marketing appeals. It’s there in the fine print, the bit that no one ever reads.

As in all things in life, it is the fine print where the devil hides. Many of you have used YouTube videos in your classroom and your students have probably posted videos there. What you and your students need to know is that the once a video is posted on YouTube, to paraphrase the fine print: until you remove the video from YouTube, and then for a commercially reasonable time, you grant YouTube permission to do whatever they wish to do with your video, in whatever format they wish and on any medium that exists or may exist. Yes, they may even sell your creation and not pay you a cent. I hope you noticed the “a commercially reasonable time.” What is the current length of copyright? That could be a commercially reasonable time, couldn’t it? Just a thought. Probably no need to worry, though. It also continues to say that just because you filmed something for your personal use that you must ensure that you have the permissions from the appropriate copyright holders to distribute those filmed images. Oh! Wait a minute, don’t forget the sound recordings as well. Oh.

So that probably leaves YouTube out of the running for assisting with your seasonal communications opus. Why not make a podcast? Plenty of tools to create with, especially on the Apple platform. Pop the photos of you and the family and friends into iPhoto, and create a slideshow there or use them to create an iMovie. Open GarageBand and choose appropriate instrumentation for your favourite public domain holiday song and arrange away: drum parts, synthesised sounds, special effects - whatever! You can even sing or play along with your backing track or sing or play the parts on different tracks and ignore the synthesised sounds completely. You can then use your arrangement as the sound track to your slideshow or movie, and publish it - you can pop one on any web space you own or very easily via Apple’s .mac services. There you go - a unique, personalised holiday greeting that will help to make the season bright for those whom you love both near and far.

For us in the northern hemisphere it is a time of endings and beginnings, darkness giving way to light, death and rebirth. In the darkness we remember those who are near and those who are with us only in memory. As we light candles or fires to ward away the darkness, we pause to remember all of the love that brought us to the place we are today, and look forward to all the love that we will share in the future as we move on to places now unknown to us.

Bright, glad tidings of the festive season to you all.