When we began our blog series on Social Medial Tools two months ago, we had no idea how successful it would be. Feedback from readers has been positive and encouraging, so much so that Meena Arivananthan (who has written the series with input from Antonella Pastore and Simone Staiger-Rivas) finished the tenth post on these tools a few days ago. And there’s no stopping her.

For easy reference, we have assembled the various links to these mini tutorials below, so you can now tell at a glance where to get help on newsfeeds, wikis, microblogging, and much, much more:

1. Microblogging
Looks at microblogging tools like Twitter and Yammer

2. Blogging for impact
Blogging and agricultural research

3. Social Media: how do you know it’s working?
Incorporating social media into your communications strategy

4. Social Networks: friend or foe?
Using social networking sites to your advantage

5. Social Media: Are You Listening?
Practicing social media listening

6. Social Bookmarking: storm-a-brewing
Social bookmarking and the CGIAR

7. Wikis, sites, docs and pads: the many flavours of collaborative writing
Tools for collaborative writing

8. Are newsletters a dying breed?
How effective are e-newsletters today?

9. Newsfeeds: delivering the latest news to your virtual doorstep; and ways to share it!

Taking advantage of newsfeeds

10. Put it out there! Tools for photo, video and slideshow sharing

How to share photos, videos and slideshows

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Sometimes I face bouts of uncertainty and wonder if the work we do in the CGIAR really reaches the people for whom it was intended. I know others feel the same way, as I’ve had conversations with people on this very topic. Since I started working with the ICT-KM Program, I’ve had the opportunity to examine this concern through a benchmarking exercise that the Program is spearheading.

Simply put, this activity allows us to measure our (the CGIAR Centers) research outputs in terms of availability, accessibility and applicability. My colleague Peter Ballantyne and I have been collecting, collating and analyzing data from various Centers to find out exactly how available and accessible their research outputs really are. But that’s a different story.

While your Center may advocate potatoes, maize, rice or tilapia to tackle the food crisis, in the longer term we all share a common goal: to reduce poverty in underprivileged communities. The science we do is practical – it has application. While classical research is also important, we do not have the luxury of time in the CGIAR. Our research has to show impact where it’s needed, and this can only be achieved if it reaches the right people in the fastest, easiest way possible.

“Now where do social media tools come in?” you may ask.

Besides our final products (journal articles, reports and other Center publications), we should consider making our research by-products, such as slideshow presentations, photograph collections and video clips, just as accessible. When we make our work available to a wider network; when our work is accessible in a way that it may be used, re-used and adapted for application; and when we make our PIGs fly; only then can we say we are truly “nourishing the future through scientific excellence”.

Last week, when I wrote about using newsfeeds to establish a scientist’s or professional’s credibility as an expert, the underlying idea was that when we share our research outputs with colleagues, peers, national partners and the scientific community at large, we create a credible resource into which others can tap. In the same vein, we can be the first place scientists or potential science partners go to when they need photos, videos, presentations, etc.

So if you wonder why you, the CGIAR scientist, should consider using social media tools to share your photos, videos, presentations, etc., here are two reasons:

  • Internal: social media tools minimize email clutter. Large files that would normally clog up your inbox, can now sit comfortably on the Internet, ready for you or your colleagues to access as and when required.
  • External: establish your presence as an expert. Social media tools allow you to reach many different network groups. You no longer need to stay within a tight circle of the usual suspects. You have greater outreach.

When we share our information via social media tools, we make it available and accessible in a location where everyone else is hanging out these days: the Internet. Photo, video and slideshow sharing sites often have their own search and tagging facilities that allow anyone interested to discover your information.

I’d like to stress that sharing information with social media tools does NOT mean you should give up publishing the same information on your own Website, and it most certainly does NOT replace the good practices of storing and cataloging your files in Center databases/repositories that maintain institutional memory. Imagine these tools as a variety of fishing nets that can be used to capture as many fish as possible in that huge virtual sea commonly known as the Internet.

Or as Simone Staiger-Rivas put it in her presentation on making the most out of social media, it’s about reaching out to as many users as possible. After sharing her presentation on Slideshare for just one day, five times the number of people who had seen Simone’s live presentation had seen it online – four months later, a whopping 1,839 people have viewed the presentation online.

Where to share photos, videos and slideshows

There is an overwhelming array of social media tools that can help you share photos, videos and presentations easily. Without needing any IT-related knowledge, it’s all a clichéd click away!

Photo sharing:

flickr

  • You can sign up for a free account, or a “pro” account that entails a charge for unlimited uploads.
  • Upload and share photos.
  • Categorize photos as either public or private, and attach copyright permissions ranging from reserving all rights to sharing the photos freely for others to use.
  • Photos can be organized into sets and tagged, enabling people to find specific photos and allowing publishers to point out their photos of choice.
  • Re-use Flickr images, especially those labeled ‘Creative Commons’, on web pages, slide shows and publications.
    o Consider those photos you’d like to share with others, make them accessible, and assign copyrights, watermarks or Creative Commons as appropriate. Think big! Your photos could well end up on a major website or in important blog piece!
  • Examples on Flickr:

o   IRRI Images and Photo Sets (note the number of views)

o   ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing Projects Photo Sets

o    WorldBank Photo Collection

picasa

  • Similar to Flickr.
  • Integrates well with Gmail and free server space on PicasaWeb to store photos just like Flickr.
  • Share albums via a ‘secret’ URL, so search engines won’t find your photos – only those people to whom you send the link. This is useful, for example, if you need someone to select pictures for a publication or a site.
  • Good photo editing tools.

Video sharing:
youtube

  • The biggest video sharing site at the moment.
  • Huge audience base to tap into when embarking on an event or campaign.
  • Videos need to be compelling as they will have to compete with thousands of others for attention.
  • Keywords or tags should be well thought-out.

blip tv

  • Supports a variety of video formats.
  • Hosting, distribution and advertising platform for creators of Web shows.
  • Provides content creators with free hosting.

vimeo

  • More polished than YouTube.
  • Growing audience base.

Examples:

Slide presentation sharing:

slideshare

  • PowerPoint slides can easily become huge once you’ve added pictures – and a pain to send to colleagues. This option lets you place your slides on a website.
  • Add your comments to each slide so that your audience doesn’t lose the context of your presentation.

google_logo_sm

Google Presentations:

Examples:

I’ve only highlighted a few tools for sharing photographs, videos and presentations. For others, do go to the KS Toolkit . There are more sprouting up even as I write this. There are also social media tools that allow you to share pictures, send and receive emails, and connect with friends, all in one place. Yes, I mean Facebook, which I latched onto when Yahoo! Pictures shut down a while ago.

So as always, keep an open mind and try these tools out! There is no “ONE” perfect tool for sharing your work. We’d love to hear about your experiences using these tools, so please feel free to leave a comment.

Till next time …

My thanks to Antonella Pastore and Tania Jordan for their technical input.

IFAD news

Our work in Knowledge Sharing is featured in this month’s Making a difference edition.

Thanks to IFAD colleagues for making our work known!

The Knowledge Sharing in Research Project Leader Nadia Manning-Thomas recently developed a think-piece for the Science Forum, held in Wageningen, The Netherlands, 16th and 17th June 2009.

The think-piece and presentation based on it given during the  Science Forum, were part of the background material contracted by the conveners of the Science Forum Workshop 3:  ICTs transforming agricultural science, research & technology generation.

The think-piece was found to be very interesting by a number of participants and it was asked whether this piece could be ‘re-published’ in other places.

Therefore, it is now available on the Web2forDev: Web2.0 for development gateway (website). To view the think piece–see the full article

ICT think-piece on WEb2.0fordev websiteTitle and Opening part of the article:

Changing the Emperor: ICT-enabled collaboration transforming agricultural science, research and technology into an effective participatory and innovations system approach

The CGIAR Centres and Programs with their many partners are together creating a wealth of knowledge to help increase agricultural productivity and improve livelihoods of poor communities, primarily in developing countries. The knowledge the CGIAR produces is vital to addressing and finding solutions for food (in)security around the world.  However, despite the creation of this wealth of knowledge, certain obstacles to uptake and impact of agricultural research remain. Many of these obstacles are related to the way in which knowledge and innovation are treated within the research process.

To view the think piece–see the full article

Here is the flow of blog posts that document our recent social media workshop:

  1. Workshop Announcement
  2. Introductions Summary: A Mind Map
  3. Conference Call 1A Summary
  4. Conference Call 1B Summary
  5. The Challenge of introducing new tools: About attitudes and preferences
  6. The web site is not the community: it’s the people
  7. You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!
  8. Workshop Evaluation

For information about social media tools, please go to the KS Toolkit at www.kstoolkit.org.

You Mean Unfinished is Good? Yes!

In the very recently released final Institutional KS Project report, one of the lessons I am sharing is the one about Facilitation:

Facilitate: We are not experts, but facilitators for research for development. Hence, the effort to cultivate networks and relationships in accordance with relevant thematic inputs has paid off. The decision to share unfinished content was good: it encouraged dialogue; opportunely delivered useful material; and left time and space for adaptation, improvements, and adoption.

It was not surprising that we had a discussion in the recent social media workshop around the issues of publishing unfinished content. A couple of workshop participants wanted to be convinced about the usefulness of frequent publishing of unfinished content. Some of the worries they raised were:

  • Unfinished can mean factually wrong, and can include spelling and grammatical mistakes. There is a risk of going off subject.
  • Unfinished can also reflect badly on the image of the organization, and can bring legal problems.
  • Social media like blogs contain often too much information with diluted quality which might confuse the public about the messages we’re trying to convey.  We need to make sure that content is focused and has an editorial quality.

Now, those points about control and rigorous editing are all very relevant.  So, why did the workshop facilitators argue in favor of sharing unfinished work? ¨It depends on the context¨, says Nancy White.  ¨Are we representing ourselves to the world, or collaborating with peers? When we seek to work with partners and diverse staff, social media allows us to start a new way of working, of learning in public, of not always knowing, or ‘being right´. If we want to increase participation, we need to get comfortable with typos – especially with people working in languages other than their first language, and with stuff that is “in process” and not polished and complete. Messy? Yes¨, says Nancy.

This is so true for us who work in the development sector.  Participatory approaches have shown how the chances of adoption of technologies increase if the process of their creation is shared and if there is room for improvement and adaptation. Social media allows us to think, improve and adapt online. Together.

Below I summarize some opposite keywords that I found in our workshop discussion:

Unfinished vs. Finished
Conversation vs. Lecture
Community vs. Expert
Learning vs. Teaching or Selling
Collaboration vs. Representation
Diversity vs. Quality
Process vs. Product

Related post: Unfinished is good news (Learning Alliances)

Blueprinting priorities:

An interview with David Raitzer from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) on the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘Shared learning to enhance research priority assessment practices’

Money is hard to come by – especially these days. So when you secure research funding you better be sure you know how to spend it. Can knowledge sharing help with that?

David Raitzer, from the Center for International Forestry Research(CIFOR) thought so, and applied for a grant from the Knowledge Sharing in Research project to try it out.

David has been heading up a project, which reflects on the research priority assessment experiences of twelve CGIAR centres, programmes and partners.  This is all to be shared with broader audiences via a CABI book to be released in July.CIFOR CABI Book flyer

Researchers can choose many things to study, but funds are limited and research for development should have impact for the poor and/or the environment,” says David “So it’s about how research managers consider what they could achieve with different uses of research resources. We are therefore interested in looking at the methods they use to do so and what lessons are offered to improve future attempts.”

Without some sort of analysis of impact potential, scientists tend to choose what they want to do based on curiosity and scientific salience, and they may not fully consider other factors that affect whether their outputs lead to beneficial changes on the ground. But when they have to go through a process of laying out different options and making explicit the assumptions necessary for impacts, impact culture can be strengthened.”

David says the book will serve a number of purposes, not least of all valuable knowledge sharing.

The ultimate goal of the book is to improve methods for evidence based decision-making in the centers about what research is pursued As one means to do so, we hope that this helps to illustrate to donors that the impact potential of research can be systematically assessed, and that these efforts can benefit from appropriate incentives, such as the alignment of funding decisions to assessment results,” he says.

The intended outcome is both to make donors aware of what the centres are doing to better prioritise research that will have an impact as well as to help those in the centers who are trying to assess priorities.”

David believes the book itself fills a knowledge gap. It allows research organisations to see what methods other organisations have used to inform decisions about what their research priorities should be.   But it also goes beyond the technical methods to the processes by which the methods are implemented, such as how assumptions are elicited from scientists and the interface between actual decisions about research priorities and the information offered by analytical exercises.  In so doing, it offers insights that cannot be found in prior texts on the topic.

These priority assessment methods are also knowledge sharing approaches in themselves. Tacit assumptions of scientists are made explicit, communicated to colleagues, refined and blended with external information.  Documented assumptions can then also be followed up with subsequent monitoring and evaluation. As a result, knowledge is not only shared, but is improved.”

Knowledge sharing can help in many ways when designing important and valuable blueprints for research-that will have an impact.