I read an interesting post by Carl Haggerty recently called ‘Why do you participate with social media?’ which he’d written after seeing a presentation on the subject.

I have, on occasion, asked myself the same question – why do I participate? Broadly (and a bit lazily) I usually summarise with a) It’s useful and interesting b) It helps me and is essential to my work c) for my studies d) I enjoy it. Those points are always organised in that order.

Carl’s post was interesting though as he described why he was participating in the online spaces he currently occupies. This is, again, something which has been skimming the surface of my mind (Dave Briggs posted a similar sort of list / description on spaces, software and hardware he was currently using).

So, inspired to stop thinking and make a note of this myself, here is what I am currently using and why:

Twitter

Twitter is currently at the top of my attention stack in social media terms. It is the network I look at most, turn to first and get the most value from. I’m not going to be coy – this network has had the biggest impact on me since the thrill of ICQ. Heck, let’s just say it, Twitter has changed my life.

Through this network I have been able to build an amazingly valuable professional network which has helped me, inspired me and really got me thinking about the bigger picture in local gov online as well as the nitty gritty of projects I am directly involved in. But the people who I found and followed on Twitter initially because of the common ground with our work have also become friends in a lot of cases.

The value of the hive mind has shown itself in relation to my work, to my university studies, to my continuing exploration of the internets, to discovery and recovery and manages to be both interesting and fun. I guess it is the people I follow but my stream is anything but this network’s stereotype of banal.

However, it’s also made me have to work harder at keeping my attention span up and I’m careful not to let myself rely on collective knowledge for my answer to everything (after all, where would that leave search?). Recently though, and I’m a little sad at the realisation, my love for Twitter has wibbled – I’m just not sure why.

I’m under no illusion that one day something will take over from Twitter at the top of the stack – after all I have a long list of platforms, networks and toys that were once mighty and now don’t get a look in. For now though – Twitter gets to be Number One.

Blogging

I’ve blogged in various places and under a number of avatars since 1999. This is my main blog at the moment and my reason for beginning one related to my work and studies (initially over at Blogger in 2008) was to keep track of my thoughts and add my voice to discussion about local government online. Partially vanity publishing and I do like it when people read my blog and find it useful but it’s primary function is to be an offboard memory for me.

I also keep a less formal blog over at Mirror of the Graces. This is used sporadically now for me to review things – mainly music and gigs. Again, there is a big scoop of vanity in that blog with a side order of self-indulgence. I like giving myself the space to keep in touch with my first love – music journalism. I guess, if I wanted to try and justify it further I could say it gives me an outlet to write in a more creative style and therefore improves my writing overall.

Facebook

I think of this as the network for my personal stuff – I mainly linked to family and real-life friends. It is only recently that I have ‘friended’ colleagues and contacts from the sector. I tend to post random updates and lots of pictures. I don’t do quizzes, throw sheep or indulge in poking of any kind. I run a few groups / pages on there and am members of many more – most of which I have read the name of, laughed, joined and never gone back to.

About a year ago Facebook was top of my online chart for attention but it has been ousted by Twitter and a return to blogging. I think my presence on the network will diminish over the next few months as I move photographs off somewhere else (possibly Flickr). However, I’ll still be checking in as it is the main online space for many of my non-geeky friends and family.

email

Yeah, I still use email although the length of time between checks is getting longer. I have realised that sometimes I forget about it completely for periods and then think ‘ooh, email, better have a look’.

With messaging built in to the other networks having a separate account that doesn’t really do anything else and isn’t always synchronous seems a bit, well, old-fashioned and chunky. I use a couple of accounts as spam / marketing catchers but email is still getting a big proportion of my time, probably more than I think it deserves.

LinkedIn

I use LinkedIn for professional networking and may at some point want it to start really working for me in opening up opportunities. Basically LinkedIn promotes the professional part of my identity where Facebook supports the ‘at play’ part.

I’m not sure I’m using it to its full potential and I have a suspicion towards it as the functionality seems to move around a fair bit. In my mind I see it becoming an index for my online portfolio more than just an online version of my CV so I keep chibbling away at it and finding more features as I go.

Nurphy

I’ve been trying out Nurphy for two or three weeks now. It’s sort of like email or email groups with the real-time and conversational aspect of Twitter. Although there aren’t huge numbers of people over there I’ve found it useful to continue conversations which begin on Twitter but need more space (no character limit on Nurphy). I’m still getting my head round some of the possibilities and usefullness over here and I’ve yet to really find the serendipity element of discovering people / conversations (perhaps there isn’t one?) but I’m having enough conversations for it to make this list. Not tried it yet? Come and join me in a conversation.

What are you using? Anything new or fun (do not mention Google Wave as my invite still hasn’t processed)? Anything really useful that you think might be game-changing? Anything you think I am missing from my list?

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