Netvibes + RSS Feeds + Me = HELP!

During Week Three of Comm 183, Howard introduced us to Netvibes, a platform that allows you to aggregate and keep track of RSS Feeds. I had heard of RSS feeds (and seen the little logo/button) before, but I wasn’t 100% sure what they were and I had absolutely no experience working with them, so I was curious to see how playing around with Netvibes was going to go for me. Well, let’s just say it wasn’t too pretty.

I struggled quite a bit when it came to using Netvibes. The interface wasn’t intuitive and, overall, I found the site to be quite confusing. I had to revert back to Howard’s step-by-step PDF multiple times while setting up to try and figure out what exactly I was supposed to do and where I was supposed to click to get certain things to show up.

I decided to put together a dashboard that brought together the various topics that we were studying in Comm 183, but even after I finished putting my dashboard together, I didn’t enjoy using Netvibes. Personally, I felt like there was less effective filtering via the tools available on Netvibes, and that introduced a lot of distracting crap into my dashboard. Considering that I was using my dashboard to collect information on a variety of related topics (as determined by the different class sessions of Comm 183, rearranging the dashboard didn’t really do much for me either. However, I could see how this could be a useful skill for someone who was using their dashboard to put together information on a variety of different topics (that having been said, I don’t think I personally would ever choose to put unrelated topics on the same dashboard – I think that would be too confusing for me and would result in information overload, even if I were to move the tabs around).

Overall, I’m a much bigger fan of Twitter as an aggregator than I am of Netvibes and RSS Feeds, but I’m aware of the fact that that preference may simply be due to the fact that I am familiar with Twitter and have been using it for a while. When I first joined Twitter during my senior year of high school, I thought it was dumb, and I ignored my account for a long time before getting back on in college and becoming the avid user that I am today. Perhaps Netvibes will grow on me, but if I were to go off my first impression, I wouldn’t count on it.

Let’s talk Paper.Li

During Week Three of this course, we were asked by Howard to test out several new tools for aggregating and viewing information. One of those tools was Paper.Li, a site that allows you to create your own personalized newspaper that addresses specific topics. Considering that there is so much taking place on our very own campus that it’s hard to keep track of everything, I decided to create a Stanford-centric paper that would bring information about a variety of different “Stanford Happenings” to one central location, my Paper.Li newspaper. Here’s a look at what it ended up looking like:

Screen Shot 2014-03-21 at 4.48.48 PM

I was a big fan of Paper.Li – its user interface was extremely intuitive and friendly, and the overall site had a wonderfully clean and sophisticated feel to it. The paper that it created for me was clean and simple, with the information sorted and presented in an easily understandable way. In fact, I was really impressed with how it was able to (for the most part) effectively sort the information into the categories displayed underneath the headline! With the exception of a few incorrectly sorted articles or ads that snuck their way in, the categories were spot on!

When creating the paper itself, I greatly appreciated how functional and thorough the search toolbar was. When I was playing around with Netvibes, I had to follow the tutorials and instructions very closely to ensure that I didn’t get lost, but that was never a concern with Paper.Li. I never had to open a tutorial or found myself getting confused. Everything was laid out in a really easy-to-use manner.

Deciding who my experts were going to be was pretty straightforward since I was focusing solely on Stanford-related news. The first thing I did was add the University’s official Twitter account, and then I went on to add the Stanford-related accounts that the official University account retweeted. This method led me to add Stanford Athletics, Stanford Medicine, and the Stanford D.School, among others. Once I was done adding official accounts, I felt the need to add a more impartial journalistic voice into the mix, so I searched for and added the Stanford Daily’s account as well. The Stanford Daily is an entirely student-run publication that actually operates independent of the University, and they’re who I tend to follow for sports updates and opinion pieces, since the official University accounts can be a bit too complimentary and self-congratulatory at times. I then chose to add tweets containing #Stanford to my paper, and I think that’s where I made my big mistake. A lot of people tag Stanford in their tweets for unrelated or personal reasons, and that resulted in a few really random things ending up in my paper. I’m glad I made that mistake though, because now I can learn from it and I know not to include hashtags that are too broad as part of my contributor list in the future.

Overall, I really liked using Paper.Li, and I think this is one of the tools that I’m going to continue using as we move forward. I spend a lot of time getting my news from a variety of different sources everyday, and this site seems like it could really cut down on my attentional drift as I switch from one site/source to another. I look forward to blogging about it again in the future once I’ve started using it consistently – I’ll be sure to let you know if any of my first impressions change!

Transcribing my Vlog

Hey co-learners, I spent too much time perfecting my vlog and nobody has commented on it :-( So I thought I would produce a transcript. Here are my goals for cultivating and harvesting social capital from my personal learning network:

1) Sharing

This class has encouraged me to see the value of sharing. Before this class, I was very reserved and OCD about everything I posted on my Facebook and the Internet.  But now after understanding more about the value of contributing to the architecture of participation, I’m much more open to taking it in.  Also, the tools from mindfulness and metacognition have helped me become a more adept user of social media. For example, this quarter, I haven’t used the Self-Control app at all and that is really impressive for me. And the fact that I’m posting this video YouTube means that I’ve let down some of my guards about sharing and now I’m much more open to connecting with people in my network.

2) Be open to new Internet tools

Before this class, I was really hesitant about trying out new apps because I didn’t want to be sucked in to another product. But this class has taught me ways to cultivate good Internet habits. Throughout the quarter, I’ve enjoyed trying out new tools like Netvibes and Diigo and I have to say that Diigo is still a very useful tool in my life.  Additionally, when a co-learner shared a new app, I was always eager to try it out, like when Molly Bullock shared Jelly and Alex shared Secret, I downloaded the app and tested it out. I also want to start reviewing useful Internet tools on my, which brings me to my next goal which is curation.

3) Curate

Throughout this quarter, you guys have heard me talk on and on about my senior thesis, which explores the political impact of social media in Vietnam. I hope to continue to curate on these interests for my network, such as continuing to post to my

I also hope to use curation for personal interests. I want to keep using my blog and sync it with the other platforms we have used in class. One interest that I hope to curate on is traveling. I have a lot of photos and stories from my travels but I don’t like putting too many of them up on Facebook, so I plan to use my blog, where I will have more control, to post pictures, stories, and traveling recommendations about where to eat and what to do. I also hope to curate on topics like frugal traveling, such as how to choose a good hostel, or how to make new friends when you’re traveling alone. The deadline I’ve set for myself is that after this class ends, I want to start re-designing my blog.

4) Connect

I hope that by sharing and curating, it will allow me to connect with others. So returning to my thesis again, the process of investigating social media in Vietnam has led me to connect with various experts from NGO practitioners in Vietnam to State Department officials in the US, to scholars studying Vietnam. Through this process of connecting with these professionals using email, Facebook, and LinkedIn, I’ve gotten data for my thesis, as well as explore professional interests about possible paths after graduation. So through this process of sharing, curating, connecting, I will continue to explore professional interests and I hope that will lead to a job. I’m going to start my job search more seriously this summer and I plan to link my blog to my LinkedIn profile so that others can see me beyond the standard profile and they can look at my curation on professional and personal topics of interests. I don’t want to separate those two because I think that’s when I really thrive when my personal and professional interests intertwine and I would appreciate an employer who can see that.

That is my plan for sharing, being open to new internet tools, curating, and connecting. Please let me know if you guys have any comments.  Thanks so much to the co-learning community for a great quarter! And to our esteemed instructor, Howard Rheingold, for introducing us to many wonderful tools!!!

My Personal Learning Environment

One of our final assignments in this course was to create a map of our individual Personal Learning Environments, which was defined by Howard as “a larger network of resources that include the digital tools, online communities, networked services [that] you use.” It took me a while to put mine together, but here’s what I’ve come up with:

Ravali's PLE

It has seven different categories, and for the most part, the PLE map that I created didn’t surprise me. The one thing that did, however, was how often Facebook showed up as one of the “tools” that I use.

In total, it showed up in four out of seven categories, and to be honest, I think it could have been in five (now that I look at my map, I probably should’ve added it to “ENTERTAINMENT” as well). It just goes to prove that Facebook is an important part of our lives nowadays, even if we want to pretend that it isn’t and brush it off as just another website. It’s a big part of how I communicate with others, and now thanks to this class’s Facebook group, I see it as an educational tool as well! It’s multifaceted, and I think it’s in my best interest to continue to find ways to use the site mindfully and meaningfully. If you can think of ways for me to do this, I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section of this post!

Reflecting and Looking Forward

It’s been an interesting six months, and it’s hard to believe that both Comm 182 and 183 have come to an end.

I first heard of Howard and his classes here at Stanford three years ago, when I was a freshman. At the time, I was merely a Communication major using CourseRank to find and schedule classes, and Howard’s courses were nothing more than two listings on the website with exceptionally high rankings. The four- and five-star ratings drew me in, and the extremely positive reviews convinced me that I needed to take at least one of his classes before graduating. Thus began 3 years of communicating with Howard every fall before finally working out my schedule so that I could take Comm 182 during the fall of my senior year. Now that it’s been six months since I first enrolled and I have come out on the other side having taken both Comm 182 and 183, I can confidently state that I am so glad that I managed to work both of these courses into my schedule.

Comm 182 and 183 have taught me a variety of things. I’ve learned how to be more mindful and focused when using social media. I’ve learned how to build and maintain online communities. I’ve learned what it means to curate information or a blog on a specific topic, and most importantly, I’ve learned how to co-learn.

That last part is easily the most significant aspect of this course to me. I’ve learned to treat, not only my peers, but also my professor, as a fellow learner, and I’ve realized that the dynamic of the class doesn’t always need to be built on the assumption that the person standing at the front of the room speaking is the person with the most knowledge. We can, and should, all learn from one another regardless of age or education level because everyone has different interests and innate curiosities. I look forward to carrying this epiphany forward with me as I move forward and away from Stanford.

As I look forward to life beyond the scope of this class, there are a few other goals that I have for myself. First and foremost, I would like to maintain this blog. I’ve always wanted to start a blog, and I feel like this class has finally given me the momentum to do so. I’ve developed my voice, and after a delightful walk about campus with Howard, I think I’ve discovered my topic and niche as well. I’d really like to blog about being a young South Asian. I know that sounds kind of vague, but my ethnic identity is a big part of who I am and this class has made me realize that it really colors the sort of connections I make (e.g. when we discussed online dating in class, I immediately drew a parallel to arranged marriages in the South Asian culture). So, it seems natural for me to write about this – it’s what I’m an expert on because it’s the life I live everyday.

Secondly, I’d really like to keep in touch with co-learners from these classes! I feel like we’ve started to develop a rapport, and it saddens me that the class is over. That having been said, I have added co-learners on Facebook and plan on continuing to read the blogs of those who maintain theirs beyond the scope of the class as well! I’m really excited to watch those blogs develop their voices and hone their niches :)

It’s been a great quarter, and an even greater six months, and I can’t wait to take the social media skills that I’ve developed with me as I move into the professional workforce and beyond. I’m off to conduct research on health policy after graduation, and I’m excited to see how I can apply social media to that field!

So here’s the being mindful, to co-learning, and to my six month crash course in social media – it’s been a wonderful ride :)

Vlogging about my Personal Learning Network

Assignment for Comm 283: Write a blog post of at least 400 words describing the steps you’ve taken and/or plan to take to cultivate and harvest knowledge capital and/or social capital from your personal learning network. Make deadlines for yourself in your plans.

Well, I guess a vlog should be ok…

1) Sharing
2) Being open to new Internet tools
3) Curating
4) Connecting

Mindmapping my Personal Learning Environment

I used VUE to create this mindmap. Reviewing my PLE tells me that I am a curious person and I am open to using different tools to gain new knowledge The abundance of media tools has exponentially expanded my learning environment and I feel very lucky to have so many ways to connect to other people and knowledge.


#100happydays (and the beginning of the end)

This morning, I got to one of my classes early, and decided to kill the few extra minutes by going on Facebook. It was only a matter of seconds before I quickly wished I hadn’t.

The very first post in my newsfeed was a status from a fellow senior here at Stanford, informing me that, as of today, we were officially 100 days out from graduation.

Now, I’m very excited about my post-graduation plans. I have secured a job conducting research in a field that I am very interested in and will be working for a woman that I admire immensely, but that doesn’t meant I’m not dreading graduation. Stanford is my home, and I don’t know what it’s going to be like to leave it. I’m not sure I’m ready to live further than 5 minutes away from all of my best friends, in an environment where I’ll have to cook and clean for myself. I never thought I’d miss dining halls, but the moment I saw that status, I started to think that I might.

As I let my mind wander and wrap around the idea of 100 days, I began to think of something else that I had seen recently on social media – #100happydays.

Now, when I first came across that hashtag on a friend’s Instagram photo, I brushed it off as just something she had come up with. But I quickly began to see the same hashtag in many different places, and posted by many different people, so I wondered what the meaning behind it was and decided to Google it.

The 100 Happy Days Project is a social media project that aims to get people to reflect on their lives by sharing a photo of what made them happy that day, every single day for (you guessed it) 100 days in a row. The posts can be shared via your social media platform of choice, and are tagged with #100happydays (which explained the hashtag that I was seeing pop up everywhere).

It seems simple enough, and if you successfully complete the challenge (you are supposed to register it on then you get a nice little book with all the photos you took in it. Overall, it seems like a nice, thoughtful way to use social media to remind yourself to be grateful each and every single day.

It took me almost all day to come to terms with the fact that I only have 100 days left on this beautiful campus. 100 days until I officially move from student to alumnus, and take my first steps into the real world. Well, I’m determined to make those 100 days as wonderful and memorable as possible, and I think that this challenge is a great way to remind myself to be happy during every single one of these last 100 days. So, starting tomorrow, I’m using my Twitter account to join the #100happydays movement, and I’d love it if any of you were to consider joining me as I tackle this. Let me know if you’re interested! I, for one, am greatly looking forward to hashtagging my happiness. So here’s to #100happydays…#andbeyond.

Geeking Out on My Learner Lecture – Behind the Scenes

Following Rachel’s move to blog about her learner lecture, I thought I would describe the process for myself. In other classes with student presentations, going last doesn’t feel any different than another position on the list (besides first) because most students use powerpoint. But since our class was encouraged to try different interactive media, I felt that presenting last had at least one disadvantage because I felt like I would violate Howard’s instruction to exercise creativity if I were to use the same multimedia as another student. I enjoyed Sarah’s Buzzfeed-style presentation and Ravali’s Jeopardy game, but alas, I struggled to find something different.

I started work on my lecture on Friday. Usually (and sadly) I am in the library working, but after putting two consecutive Friday nights in Green Library, I invited my friend to join me to work at a café. I thought the café atmosphere, where I could be surrounded by everyday (non-Stanford) people, would give me more creative juices to brainstorm for my lecture. I really enjoyed going to Paris Baguette on University Avenue on Friday night! I felt like I was out having fun, enjoying the city lights, checking out interesting people, while also being semi-productive. (An interesting side note is that I checked-in to Paris Baguette on Facebook. I never check in anywhere because I am typically reserved and mildly OCD about everything I post. But I realize that being a part of this course is gradually influencing me to become more laissez-faire about my social media habits).

I originally wanted to lecture on Fischer’s “Inventing the Social Network” but the article didn’t draw me in as much on a second reading. After scanning all of the recommended texts, I gravitated towards Ronald Burt’s book summary on “Neighbor Networks” because it offered interesting research that sheds light on common misperceptions about networking. I decided to weave Burt’s lessons into a comic strip and build on Dylan and Shara’s earlier presentations. They used Toondoo and I had started with this platform, and then explored Pixton (requires paid account) before settling on Bitstrips. I was very satisfied with Bitstrips — it offered more power than Toondoo in regards to articulating my characters’ gestures and offering a greater variety of apparel options.

After settling into the café’s atmosphere and being entertained by the conversations around me, I was inspired to give my comic a plot. I also had a fun time creating avatars for myself, Howard, Molly, and Ken. Creating an avatar for myself was enlightening. Sometimes, I forget that I’m a Vietnamese female — I just think of myself as an American student. But going through Bitstrip’s profile maker in which I had to select skin tone, eye shape, and facial structure made me more cognizant that this is the image the world perceives me by and I should be more aware of these lenses.

Then, I really started to geek out as I got more engrossed into my plot and characters — to an extent that I’ve never felt before with a powerpoint presentation. I returned to another café the following night to finish. (I also checked in again on Facebook). To top off my geekiness, during my presentation, I matched my outfit with my character’s. I am really glad that Molly B. pointed it out because I would have been disappointed if no one noticed ;-)

Here it is for your enjoyment!

Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll…and the Internet?

During Monday’s class, we tried out a new exercise at Ken’s suggestion – we separated into groups of three co-learners, and each group was given a different one of the readings to analyze and present to the class. I worked with Molly and Rachel, and we discussed the Terrell reading that introduced the concept of PLNs.

We approached the reading with the goal of answering the most up-voted Google Moderator question pertaining to it, which happened to be one of my queries. I had asked “How early in formal schooling do you think the concept of PLNs should be introduced? Do you think it’s necessary to integrate this concept in schooling? How could it benefit students? Is there a way it could “harm” students?”

As you can see, the question is really focused on education, so I was really excited to have Molly in our discussion group since she approaches this class with a really interesting background and perspective. As we were speaking about the topic, I began to notice something really interesting. When Molly spoke about Internet and social media usage amongst young kids, she said things like “We shouldn’t just ignore it” and “We know it’s happening and they’re going to be [using Facebook and other social media], so we may as well teach them how to use it in a way that’s safe and responsible.”

It was after that last statement that I laughed and had to interrupt Molly, because I realized that the way that she was talking about social media, reminded me of the way that I, as an RA, heard administrators talk about alcohol during staff training. When I said this, Rachel chimed in and said that she agreed, and that Molly’s statements also reminded her of how people speak about sex education!

It was really interesting to come to this realization and see this parallel. I think it says a lot about how people are still getting used to social media, and how there’s a generational gap that is very prominent right now. I’m curious to see this change as the years go on – my nephew got a tablet for Christmas, and he’s seven years old, so I’m sure that everyone is only going to get more accustomed to new tech and media platforms as we move forward.