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Week 3 #dalmooc assignment – Twitter vs Blogs in CCK11 SNA in Gephi

Interpreting SNA feels like telling "just so" stories about how leopard got its spots. Or is it just me:)
Interpreting SNA feels like telling “just so” stories about how leopard got its spots. Or is it just me:)

Time to bring the week 3 exercises (Gephi SNA part 1 and part 2) together for week 3 assessment, asking us to “compare the two networks (Twitter vs. blogs) for week 12 of CCK11” (for description of the data set see part 1).

Health warning – this is a rather an amateurish effort and felt more like telling stories than drawing hard conclusions. But – hey – from what I have seen so far much SNA stuff is very much about “just so stories” and rather overimaginative interpretation of patterns and associations. If you were to believe the rumours, such approach should be a familiar territory for an evolutionary biologist like me…and so the process made me feel almost at home;)

Density and centrality measures

Twitter network had slightly lower density but slightly higher average degree than the blog network (0.001 vs 0.03; 2.7 vs 2.01).

Density was quite low in both networks, pointing to low level of overall community integration and low potential for spread of information. However, it seems that blog network would have a marginal advantage over Twitter here.

Low density indicates that using either system for important announcements would be inefficient. Participants or subgroups may feel isolated from the others and may find it difficult to find relevant information or connections. The slight differences in density and centrality may be a result of the inherent properties of the two tools. Twitter is inherently easier to use for quick communication and making connections due to the low level of effort required to post in comparison to blogs. The latter allows for more in depth exchanges.

But I immediately want to ask – what were the course team strategies for use of the two communication tools? Did these strategies have an impact on the network characteristics? Did they override or aide the influence of the tool affordances?

Broker and central node overlap

Identify any any overlap in the main brokers and central nodes across the two networks?

What does it mean to have brokers and central nodes in common for both networks?

If you haven’t identified central nodes in common for the both networks, what does it mean in terms of integration of different social media used in a single course?

Now – I had fun with this one (and of course spent disproportionately too much time on wrangling the data and the software into semi-submission). As formal analysis for this type of question was not covered in the lectures, I assumed that identification of “any overlap in the main brokers and central nodes across the two networks” was to be done by eyeballing alone.

OK – so I discovered that the unique id for each participant was coded in the label column within Data Lab.

I could display Labels on nodes with highest betweeness scores (the brokers) and highest centrality scores in visualisation of each network and simply check if they are the same.

But anonimisation meant that the identifiers were long strings of alphanumerics. Not so easy to eyeball and compare for multiple brokers and central nodes then. Especially, that Gephi does not support side-by side display of the network plots! Wouldn’t it be nice if on highlighting a node with a particular ID (or in this case Label) in one network it would get highlighted it in the second one?

OK – another idea was to dump both datasets in Excel and then use simple sort by value of betweenness and centrality and check if there are any nodes in common among the highest values. Notwithstanding the issue of comparison of long strings by eye, this would definitely loose the power of visualisation in presentation of my conclusions.

Ideally, I would want to display the nodes shared between the two networks within each diagram. Even more ideally, I would like to heatmap betweeness of the second network on the first one where nodes were sized according to the same measure. I would simply have to import the values for the second network into the Data Lab spreadsheet of the first one and use them for node colours!

This did not turn out to be as easy as it sounded….mostly because of idiosyncrasies of Gephi  (oh the joys of hands on problem-based discovery of new software!). This is what I did to produce a heatmap of blogger betweenness onto the Twitter network (and it does sounds soo basic when you put it down like this):

1.  I exported spreadheet of Twitter and blog network from Gephi Data Lab.

2. I joined the two in Tableau with left hand join (i.e. all Twitter nodes were preserved and data added only for the blog nodes which occurred in BOTH networks).  Making sure that the join was on Label (unique ID for each participant).

3. Selected the whole joined data table in Tableau and copied into Excel.

4. In Excel I deleted all the columns corresponding to the Twitter data (except from the Label in order to cross check IDs after import to Gephi). I also replaced all the nulls in the missing blog data with -40. Replacement was necessary as Gephi does not recognise columns with empty cells as valid for visualisation, and you cannot use letters as it misclassifies the data. I chose value of -40 as this was not a real value and was low enough to be able to select a cut off when colouring the nodes. Horrible hack I know! Saved as csv.

5. Imported spreadsheet into Gephi’s existing Data Lab spreadsheet for Twitter. Surprise, surprise, had to change data types for the imported columns (during the import!). It turns out that Degree, Component ID and Modularity Class are integers, but Eccentricity, Closeness and Betweenness are double. Don’t ask how I figured it out!

6. Now I sized the nodes of the Twitter network on Twitter network betweenness, and used betweenness values for blog network to colour the nodes (placing cut off point above -40 and as close as I could get it to +1ish). Here is the pretty picture:

Twitter network in CCK11 MOOC with nodes sized for betweenness centrality within Twitter network. Node colour corresponds to betweenness centrality of the node in the blog network. Dark blue=highest, light blue=lowest, yellow=nodes not shared between the two networks.


Now – all this fiddling did not leave much time for interpretation. (I also did not have time to do the same for blogs or centrality)

But here goes.

62/194 (32%) of participants who either blogged or commented on blogs also tweeted using the course hashtag. This indicates that at least some participants actively communicating via online social networks, tended to use more than one network. The bloggers were more likely to use both (32% of bloggers overlapping vs 7% of Twitter users). This is not surprising, since Twitter is often used to advertise new blog posts by bloggers and many Twitter participants would visit and comment on those blogs. Tweeting is much less demanding in terms of time and effort, hence majority of participants chose to only Tweet.

Now to the brokers. It appears that the participants with the highest betweenness centrality within Twitter did not have the highest betwenness in the blog network. There were 2 or 3 exceptions for slightly lower values – shown in mid-green within the figure.

Without knowing more about the nodes it is difficult to draw any meaningful conclusions. One conclusion may be that nodes with high centrality and betweenness on Twitter are in fact course coordinators who try to engage in exchanges with wide range of participants and retweet their contributions to spread their ideas to their own networks. It is not common for course leaders to also blog extensively, hence they would not have a similar position in the blog network.

A couple of participants with relatively high centrality in two networks may be course leaders who engaged in extensive commentary on multiple blogs. Or course participants whose communication strategy was similar within both networks.

Not really possible to confirm this without knowing more about the nodes here…

Either way – I like the idea of having different “dominant” nodes in different social spaces. It allows for greater diversity of conversation across them. For example, if Twitter was in fact course leader-centric, blogs would be providing a more student-led environment. It would really be interesting to see what the course organisers envisaged for these spaces!

And can we really make any conclusions without seeing the lurkers – followers who do not comment or retweet. Excluding them from the analysis instantly devalues the act of witnessing or reading as an invalid form of interaction and learning. And yet the lurking rule of thumb seems pretty invariable across various media. I wonder how lurkers with high betweenness centrality measure up to active communicators on the creativity and innovation scales;)


Compare the number of the communities across the two networks and check if there are some potential similarities;

Try to provide interpretation for the findings

What implications can you draw based on the modularity analysis and the communities identified in the two networks?

OK – I think I run out of steam here. Twitter has many more communities as measured by modularity analysis as described here (12 for Twitter and 6 for blogs on default settings). I suspect this has to do more with the relative size of the two networks but I may be wrong. It is also possible that the blog community network is a reflection of a few bloggers receiving many comments on their posts this week. In this case each blog post would form a mini-community hub. Again – hard to check this without having more insight into the data.

In terms of overlap in communities for Twitter and blogs – I would say there is very little evidence of this. I used the combined dataset as per description above to get this pretty picture.

Overlap between Twitter and blog communities in CCK11. Colours=Twitter communities, size + numbers = blog communities of shared members.
Overlap between Twitter and blog communities in CCK11. Colours=Twitter communities, size + numbers = blog communities of shared members.

It looks like many of the blog “communities” are represented within the largest “community” on Twitter. Some of the Twitter communities are not represented within blogs at all. As per above – no time for the equivalent analysis within blogs.

As per centrality measure discussion earlier this indicates that Twitter and blogs networks are different. As for underlying reasons and effects of this difference – hard to say…

Application of the analysis to other educational contexts

Reflect on the possible educational contexts in which you would apply similar analysis types. Of special importance would be to identify the learning contexts that are of direct relevance to you such as work (e.g., teaching), study (e.g., courses you are taking), or research (e.g., projects). Discuss possible questions that you would be able to address in those contexts by applying the analyses used in this assignment.

Some defend evolutionary “just so stories” as valid hypothesis making – the trick is to get at the ones which can actually be falsified, and then get some hard data behind them. So for me to be believable I would like any SNA married up with multiple sources of data from the same experimental/observational set up – and across some contrasting ones.  So for example, in addition to the communication pattern data available here I would like to have access to the media use strategy in the course, characteristics of the course cohort as well as some additional data from surveys/interviews as well as participation/survival logs. Oh – and wouldn’t it be nice to have data from multiple instances of the cMOOC, perhaps with some careful variation in the baseline conditions:)

Most importantly, there should be a clear question – why are we looking for patterns here, what patterns would we expect to see? Perhaps the question could be related to aspects of social presence (as per the Community of Inquiry model) and impact of the use of Twitter vs blogs as a communication medium in a cMOOC course. Apparently, there is already an existing and validated questionnaire relating to this framework which could come in quite handy for collection of data additional to logs of social interactions:)

Oh – and I would definitely be interested in exploring any formal comparison measures/methods/statistics which facilitate multi-network comparisons and their visual presentation within SNA graphs… Just sayin’


Top image: By Tambako The Jaguar


Apologies for the look and feel

It appears that WordPress does not like me. As of couple of weeks back it started having issues with displaying side bar widgets in my chosen theme and refused to display all my posts.

I have played around with a couple of other themes and there seem to be similar issues with widget display. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to play around with it more at the moment so stuck with the most well behaved free theme for now.

So – apologies for the mess peeps. I hope to find more time soon to fix it all up…

Building PLN defintion in the ambiguity sandbox

Stylin' in his Sandcastle by timsackton
Stylin’ in his Sandcastle, a photo by timsackton on Flickr.

This week’s readings have had us explore a wonderful melee of PLN definitions. Add all of the ideas emerging in our discussions and the confusion is now reaching a delightfully productive level.

Our task this week is to come up with a generic definition of PLN and recast this definition in language relevant to our own professional/organisational context. This is of course the first natural step towards completing our summative task for this seminar – an artifact to convince our CEO (or equivalent) who has become enamored with the idea of implementing PLNs that this is in fact either a great or a foolish idea for our organisation.

As Jeff Merrell pointed out during the live session this week – unless we have a general definition we will not be able to tell if the PLNs and organisations are in “structural conflict with each other”. Nor will we be able to determine the kind of changes required in the organisation to effectively incorporate the PLNs to create a business advantage.

So do I believe that PLNs definitions are absolutely “personal” or do I find some commonalities which form “clear defining attributes”? And can I think of disadvantages or barriers to introduction of PLN thinking into organisations?

I largely agree with the list of attributes presented by Jeff in the live session:

  • It is all about relationships/connections. For me this does set PLN apart from the related concepts of Personal Learning Environment (PLE) which is a toolset and Jarche’s Personal Knowledge management (PKM) which is a set of processes. Jeff asks which relationships – how do we differentiate social from professional for example? Others asked about requirement for reciprocity and even mutual awareness (I for one follow many on Twitter or blogs that would not know I even exist – although they can find out if they wanted to!). Perhaps we should not think of PLN as a uniform creature. I like Jarche’s conceptualisation of it as a continuum of relationships – ranging from strong social ties required for collaboration typical for work teams in organisations (needed to get things done), to weak and diverse ties of informal social networks focused on cooperation (needed for innovation/getting fresh ideas). He also neatly sneaks in Communities of Practice (CoP) – another professional network-related concept. The importance and differentiation between strong and weak ties is echoed in Rajagopal et. al. who attribute the concept to Grabher and Ibert (2008). In real life the model can become more messily dynamic – in a productive PLN the weak ties have a tendency to turn into collaborative projects, in defiance of institutional or even CoP boundaries – a wonderful example of this arising from #etmooc participation was shared by Janet Webster in her #xplrpln blog post today.

Both collaborative behaviours (working together for a common goal) and cooperative behaviours (sharing freely without any quid pro quo) are needed in the network era

Jarshe’s model of social links in PKM
  • PLNs require networking AND toolset skills. Rajagopal et al. define networking skills as “an ability to identify and understand other people’s work in relation to one’s own, and to assess the value of the connection with these others for potential future work” . To fully capitalise on the potential of online connections – Alison Seaman points out that “both technical skills and an understanding of the social elements of the Web […] are required for productive social networks—and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)”. These are often referred to as digital literacies. I think that Alison mentions another important skill – “capacity for self-direction, which requires higher level of learning maturity“. Indeed, Rajagopal et al ‘s study confirmed that it is the mature learners who “reflect on their work and learning in a broader perspective than their day–to–day practice” who develop the proactive attitude required for effective PLN-building.
  • PLNs are driven by attitude and intention. This is well illustrated in the Rajagopal et al. networking model. They think that attitude to learning and working that sees “each contact as a person to learn from or collaborate with”. I think in this sense this is close to what Alison refers to as “understanding the social elements of the web” – as it is this open attitude to learning and creating WITH others which is a key to success in use of online social media for this purpose. The attitude leads to “a professional who intentionally builds, maintains and activates her strong, weak and very weak ties with contacts within her personal network for the purpose of improving her learning”. To the proactive attitude and intention of leading to behaviours “activating” your network for help – I would add here the willingness to “share” – a key component of Harold Jarsch’s PKM. One important point here is that the workplace culture must support such self-direction and the openness to asking for advice/admission of need for help. An oppeness to sharing not just between departments within an institution and especially outside of the institution may be a real – and very legitimate – issue for many organisations.

I would like to add one key point to this – which for me embodies the essence of “personal” aspect of PLN:

  • Control and ownership. For PLN approach to be fruitful “learners need to have a high level of control on tools they use and the way they use them” according to  Rajagopal et al. I would think this also goes for choice of the relationships to develop. Harold Jarsch aregues in Knowledge Sharing Paradox that “people will freely share their knowledge if they remain in control of it.” Ownership of the network and its artifacts allows the learner to make it truly personal – but more often than not large chunks of PLNs remain locked up in the institutional enterprise systems to be left behind as soon as the links with the institution are severed (is it surprising that students make no more than a token effort on their institutional portfolios? Gardner Campbell speaks of this more than eloquently in his piece on personal cyberinfrustructure within HE context). The choice of the audience for sharing by going beyond institutional walls can also motivate an extra effort – just look at the heartwarming story of incredible improvement in children’s literacy at a deprived-area school in Point England, New Zealand, when they increased their audience from one teacher for in-class assignments to the whole world for their blogs! In agreement with Harold Jarsch I see the issue of control and ownership as a point of highest structural tension between institutional and PLNs.

And two minor points (my last gasp – promise;):

  • It takes time, effort and trust (not just between people in the network but also from the employer to workers and vice versa!). The time and effort often invested in building of trust and reputation, trimming the reshaping the network but also sharing with others. Again – institutions tend to be project focused and may not see the value of real long term investment in PLNs.
  • PLNs span the ‘down the hallway’ AND online worlds. Most of our readings specify PLNs to be purely online creatures. But the concept itself arose in the late 1990s, before the internet world domination (one possible source is Dori Digenti’s work). To me the offline PLNs are equally important – a feeling shared by at least one other PLN Explorer, Mitra Emad. We should not repeat the mistake that educational institutions made by separating elearning from face-to-face learning. They are now trying to frantically fix the damage by applying a blended learning idea. Well – for me it all is just learning, using a different toolkits, each with its own set of advantages and problems. Just like it is all just plain PLN. Surely, internet has made it easier to connect and share at a distance. And perhaps social media promoted more open, contributory and networked approach. But because learning or networks are more visible online it does not mean they are more valuable than those in the analogue world. Perhaps we should add ability to blend the online with offline to the skillset of an efficient PLN-er?

Gosh – I think this is rather enough. It has turned into a monster of a post – and rather theoretical. But rather useful in digesting the ideas…

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Introducing ETMOOC trust exercises – falling in the right direction?

As in any ‘class’ ETMOOC has asked us to introduce ourselves to our peers in the orientation week.

In his welcome chat, our ‘chief conspirator’, Alec Couros, has emphasized that connected/networked learning, typical of cMOOCs such as these, simply does not work without TRUST. We need to trust each other for the peeragogy to work its magic! And the best way to start building the TRUST is to REVEAL something of yourself to others.

The difference is – when we do so in this, open, online classroom, we also introduce ourselves to the whole online world!

This is a BIG step. Some might even say a leap;) Alec Couros encourages us all to overcome our fear of putting ourselves out there (or here;) – and promises an exhilaration and a sense of achievement – using the analogy of this girl taking her first ski-jump.

I am inspired by this imagery, and do recognize in it my own “yipeee! moment” when I got a first like and a comment on my own blog a month or so ago. This online audience attention does wonders to motivate me to continue to ‘reflect’ in more depth and more publicly than I would normally do!


I have also seen the video doing the rounds on twitter about how trust exercises can go wrong – you would have seen it at the start of this post.

So you will understand if I tell you that this enthusiastic call to simply jump and see what happens also feels a little bit like being cheered on to streak down a busy the street with a megaphone! (to clarify – *the video does NOT contain nudity* – it’s just my head’s nightmare scenarios;).

This in turn makes me feel that the calls to try on the radical openness at the start of both cMOOC I have experienced so far (Hybrid Pedagogy’s MOOC MOOC in early January and now the etmooc) appear fairly uncritical. Perhaps not enough caution about the consequences of the radical cMOOC openness during the ‘orientation’? Perhaps not enough pointers to strategies for preserving at least some aspects of privacy? Even though we are all professionals used to presenting a ‘face’ to a lecture theater or our future employers/colleagues – online seems an entirely different setting with its multitude of audiences, permanence and permeability between private and professional.

So far in etmooc’s week 0 there was a passing mention of anonymity as a shady practice in relation to digital citizenship by the participants in Alec’s introductory session. Does it mean that if I don’t reveal it all I am a bad citizen?! Do I mind being a bad citizen and whose definition of a good citizen is it anyway? I was more reassured when in a blogging intro session somebody described how she keeps several separate blog identities for different audiences to ensure some privacy and separation of personal from professional. There was also a very commonsense warning from the session leader – edublogger‘s own Sue Waters (@suewaters): do not say anything online which you would not say to an f2f audience of a 1000 people.

No doubt, these issues will surface in more depth as we go over the etmooc topics and I am looking forward to examining them in more detail (especially Openness movement and Digital Citizenship in March). But as they are at the forefront of my mind right now (and no doubt of many other beginners), I would have probably wanted to be making a more informed and strategic decision before putting my dignity at risk with that blog megaphone;) So before I get too far out the door – any quick tips?

Still, I am here. And I would very much like you to know and trust me – at least a little bit. Would also like to keep experimenting with this trusting the world thing;) So here is my introduction for the fellow-etmoocers (and the world) – with some privacy reserved;)

I also putting together a more technical post on how I put the video together and some thoughts on the tool (Disclaimer: more of a aide-mémoire to myself than an expert’s opinion).

P.S. For those who read my first #etmooc post and are wondering how my OU’s course is going – I have met some very nice people via the course social forum and it feels more like a home now. And as far as the prerequisite ‘literacies’ go – I will simply address them as we go along…

Invitation to a participation space

Instead of posting at you folks – I though we could simply have a chat around the readings for this week. And add some more.

So I set up a Diigo group. And shared some initial thoughts which popped into my head when I was working through the list. Should be more fun than doing yet another blog post methinks;)

If you want to join in the convo – go here:

(apologies as in a hurry I seem to have misnamed it – of course it should be peeragogy!)

You will need to set up a Diigo account but it’s a breeze and so worth it.

Go here for some quick tips for collaborative annotation from @boisebarbara.

Pls let me know if any problems with getting into the group – I think I made it public and open but might have messed something up…

The power of HE

It is impossible to learn a new way of thinking about things without unlearning what one has already learnt (…). It is important to realise that because it is often the case how people think of education as the acquisition of new things as if it were an unproblematic and promising process simply of adding to what one already knows or thinks and the truth is it is transformative and that means upending the whole set of assumptions about how to see things, what’s possible, what’s real.
Biddy Martin in

My MOOC experiments – Udemy’s disappointment

Inspired by Daphe Koller‘s talk about the experience of running Coursera – the Stanford’s MOOC initiative – I have decided to more seriously dip my toe in this latest high-ed craze.

I was already a ‘student’ on one of the free Udemy ‘courses’ – quotation marks indicating that it has not been what I would call quite call a satisfying educational experience – or even an educational experience for that matter. Very much like impulse-buying one of these ‘for dummies’ book offerings (“Oh – I always wanted to learn how to crochet a hyperbolic plane”) and leaving it to gather dust on the shelf for the lack of motivation.  Motivation usually provided by human interaction, and yes, the ability to be tested, given feedback as well as getting some kind of a certificate of achievement. The latter preferably with some weight – not a completion certificate equivalent of a well done star we may receive from a pre-school teacher. Even motivation induced by some kind of a looming deadline.

Of course, Udemy makes a gesture towards interaction via discussion boards. But you can hardly call a collection of random comments on a lecture – half of which were unanswered questions about technical issues – a rewarding experience. As some of them were quite dated – there was also very little prospect of a true exchange, connecting with people and discussion. And certainly no real indication of which comments were valid and which erroneous via some kind of input from the instructor – a real issue with crowd sourcing your support!

As so much online learning – it looks very much like an online video textbook throwing content at people.

Video viewing experience was also a bit glitchy within Udemy – and as the same videos were available directly in YouTube I saw even less reason to access them via this educational portal.

OK – perhaps I am a tad negative here – it may be that Udemy and me were just not a good match. After all Udemy is only a platform to be used by others to create their offerings and should not itself be blamed for the failings of the educators using it. Also – Udemy has updated its interface since I looked at it last. It allows you to monitor your progress/completion (saving the last spot you were at), handily shows comments directly next to the relevant material and lets you take notes in parallel to watching the lecture (not sure though who would want to do that if there is no export option – ideally together with the lecture transcript/printout). But all of these are just cosmetic additions to what is basically the same old model of teaching at people.

Serendipitously, just after Daphne’s talk, I heard about Power Searching with Google MOOC experiment. It looked a bit more promising than Udemy – the session was scheduled within a two-week period, with timed material release, to give students a chance to interact more-or-less synchronously. Oh – and there was a certificate. So my toe-tipping commenced in earnest last week…but I will have to save reporting on this for the next time.