In this week’s group discussion topic on our Distance Education course’s learning system, eClass (aka Blackboard or Vista), we were asked to consider web 2.0 add-ons and we were provided with the following commentary and directions:
Customizing your ‘little’ places on the web. Using add-ons to really personalize your electronic spaces. How have you created a visual presence in your own personal spaces on the web? How might you do this in the future?”
For me, I am a firm believer that add-ons and web site accessories can really help to make your website or blog “you,” and from a very relevant article on About.com, http://personalweb.about.com/od/morefunsiteaccessories/a/512addons.htm, “Adding add ons to Web pages is usually a very simple thing to do. The service or Web site offering the add on usually makes it pretty easy for you to add their add on to your Web pages. Sometimes you need to sign up with the service that’s offering the add on but many times you just need to copy and paste the code they give you for the add on right to your HTML code.” So, because add-ons are so simple to find and generally easy to use and because they can move a person towards creating an online identity or persona, (see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_identity), it is essential to learn about and use web add-ons wherever we can on the web.
How do I consider my audience and when might I use add-ons?
In my former role as the Promotions Administrator/Volunteer Coordinator and Asia Study Abroad Advisor, for the University of Alberta International’s Education Abroad Office, I learned about “branding” and my investigation included me considering my audience and honing the message I wanted and needed to share. In collaboration with several members of the university community, I developed a proposal to create signage that was put up in every classroom on campus. The proposal went to the Vice-Provost and was approved. The signs alert students to their opportunity to go abroad. I enlisted the help of many colleagues and we created an easy website URL and the signs to go with my http://www.goabroad.ualberta.ca campaign. We did develop and have the signs professionally printed and the signs are now posted in almost every class on campus. We ensured that our website fit our campaign and we added on fitting features that promoted our mission to get students engaged in international experiences. Our website incorporated several add-ons which included, quick links, news, and events.
Considering my audience and the add-ons I might use, is a very context driven process and ultimately, depends upon my audience. If my audiences are students who might go abroad then I ensure I have add-ons which can highlight international news stories from our university presses and I include a calendar add-on to highlight upcoming information sessions and events where they can learn about the details and steps to go abroad.
When my audience is made up of prospective co-op students, then I need to ensure they have the information and promotional materials at hand to aid their decision to apply to our program and to get them through the training to become ready for job placement. In this context, I might ensure I use add-on links in a sidebar to share relevant links for the various current topics.
When my audience is primarily personal friends and family, who are friends with me on sites such as Facebook I have a very different online identity then when I post a blog for all of the public in cyber world to access. See the wiki definition of Online identity, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_identity and consider what your online persona looks like and who might access or seek out your identity in the future.
For my personal sites on the web that I use for sharing life online with family and friends, such as Facebook, my add-ons are considered and accepted in order to keep up the fun and ensure my site is primarily playful (versus professional). I use add-ons for sharing events or for engaging in games or fun with friends and family. For example, I have a puppy on Facebook, together with friends we are working to save a rainforest, and although my main goal is fun, I have found that social sites are one of the easiest ways to keep up on political issues which are close to my heart, for example I am an active member of the group Make Poverty History and I share important campaign information on my wall and in the group blog, and I actively petition political groups that can make a difference. There are many considerations necessary though if you want to become an online activist and you can start considering your role by reading blogs such as Ethan Zukerman’s blog on musings on Africa, where in February of 2008 he wrote about the Pros and Cons of Facebook activism, http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/02/08/pros-and-cons-of-facebook-activism/.
The ability to join groups, add a calendar that captures contacts birthdays, save a rainforest and grow a garden on my virtual farm are all available due to add-ons included in Facebook. More often than not, these add-ons come to my attention when a friend or family member sends me a request and I then have to take some action.
For my blog, I am putting my identity forward to a different audience and am attempting to have a visually pleasing and very professional appearance or “brand.” My blog is going to be viewed by my colleagues, students, and other school peers and I hope to keep it clean, concise and in a professional voice, so that I can use it as a professional resource for years to come. My approach has been to use the widgets provided in widget but I have also “added-on” items, such as embedding a video and pictures, using HTML code, into my posts. As well, today I added the AddThis sidebar too today, due to my share envy which I will speak about in this next paragraph.
I have been having “share” envy seeing as; I have been noticing that “share” seems to be an add-on on many of the sites I have been researching, since I began this course. I had not really paid much attention to sharing features in the past other than when in library or journal sites and then email was the usual share method I chose. Since the discussion this week is about add-ons I took it upon myself to find out how I can have a “share” add-on for my blog. I found a great site, AddThis http://www.addthis.com/features, were they boast the ability to share your website with “Over 50 social networks and bookmark destinations” and they are “contstantly adding more services to AddThis, so you don’t have to.”
Enjoy exploring add-ons!