Social Networking
friend or foe?

Social networking tools - blogs, microblogs, wikis - make it easier than ever to create and share content and enables us to communicate in real time across boundaries and hierarchies.

About the workshop

"The challenge for all councils now is to move social media off their list of challenges and on to their list of opportunities. If they don't, they face moving into a changing world under equipped and under-resourced. If they do though, they may find that the solutions they seek are right under their nose. The choice for councils is stark: get on board, or get left behind" (NESTA, 2010)

Social networking tools - blogs, microblogs, wikis - make it easier than ever to create and share content and enables us to communicate in real time across boundaries and hierarchies. NESTA, LGIU and SOCITIM are among several professional bodies highlighting the potential value of these tools.

Unlike desktop computing skills, such as word processing or spreadsheet manipulation, social networking is experiential in nature. You have to try it to understand it and the understanding required to make good use of social networks is cultural rather than procedural. IRISS is running these workshops to provide that cultural experience.

You will be introduced to and experiment with:

  • Microblogging (Twitter)
  • Social bookmarking (Delicious, Diigo)
  • News Feeds (RSS)
  • Meeting Schedulers
  • Communities of Practice
  • Web browsers

By the end of the day you will have a better understanding of these tools and be able to assess their potential uses. You may not find a use for them all, but you will find at least one tool, service or tip that will save you time!

Shape of the day

09:30 Registration
10:00 Introductions
10:10 Social bookmarking - Delicious
11:10 Coffee break
11:30 RSS - Really Simple Syndication
12:30 Lunch
13:30 Scheduling tool - Doodle
14:00 Microblogging - Twitter
15:00 Coffee break
15:20 Sharing and Collaborating tools
15:50 Review and general questions
16:00 Close


This is a small survey, that shouldn't take very long to complete, but it will help us improve the delivery of this workshop.

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Social bookmarking - Delicious

Most people will be familiar with the notion of bookmarking websites (or adding to favourites) so that they can visit them again. These lists can grow and become unwieldy.

Social bookmarking services such as delicious let you save and store your favourite online resources in a single location that is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. Web links will be organized by assigning keywords (tags) that will help recall the link in the future. Bookmarks on delicious can be shared publicly, for others to see and add to their resource lists, and vice versa. What a great way to filter through the information overload on the Internet!

The idea behind social bookmarking is:

  • Keep your bookmarks available online;
  • Share them with others (that's the social bit) to help create a network

Social bookmarking tools allow you to store your bookmarks on a website so that you can find them from any computer. They also allow you to manage your bookmarks, for example by organising them into subject groups and by adding subject tags to help you find them again.

Lets start social bookmarking using:

Delicious fornt page


Tags are words or phrases you tag on to your bookmark to help you find it again.

The tag might indicate the subject matter (social-work, policy, children) or it might indicate why you want to remember it (holiday destinations, dissertation-reading, to-be-read).


Whenever you bookmark a site you can share it with other users or via Facebook and other social networks.

You can also search other people's bookmarks.


Your network allows you to connect to other users, such as friends, family and colleagues. It brings people's bookmarks together all in the one place.

You can add a person to your network by selecting 'Add a user to Network' at the top right of the home page and then search for their username.

Sign up and install the 'buttons' on your browser. The buttons let you add the website to your list on Delicious or Diigo without navigating to the websites themselves. This saves time.

Social bookmarking In Plain English -

RSS - Really Simple Syndication

What is RSS?

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) - sometimes known as feeds, news feeds, web feeds, or syndicated content - allows websites to send (or feed) the latest news to you rather than you having to visit the website for new information.

Why use RSS?

You can see at a glance the latest information from your favorite blogs, online newspapers and journals - in fact from most web-based services. It saves you time.

To use RSS you need a reader, a tool that will organise and read your feeds.

Recently, web browsers have inbuilt readers which work well. For example Firefox has an add-on called Sage, which is simple but effective. Note that Internet Explorer 6 does not support RSS. If you are using this version in your work place, you should ask the IT department to upgrade to IE 7, or preferably IE8.

Many people find Google Reader simple to use. And it has the benefit that you can access your feeds from any computer. So lets start with Google Reader.

Google Reader

If you already have a Google account, sign in and add Google Reader. Google will give you the help you need to get going.

If you don't have a Google account, set one up free at Note that you don't have to use Google Mail.

Try it by setting up an RSS feed from your new Delicious or Diigo account.


A podcast is special kind of RSS feed, one that has audio, rather than text, attached. Itunes is therefore a specialist type of RSS reader for audio.

RSS in Plain English -

Getting Started with Google Reader -

Scheduling tool - Doodle

Doodle is a free tool for painless scheduling of events or meetings. It can help you easily organise a suitable date and time for a group of people, rather than having to email them all separately. Doodle can also be synchronized with your own calendar such as Google Calendar, Outlook or others.

When you schedule an event, if you have provided an email address you will be sent two emails, which include a web link. One link is forwarded to potential participants, so that they can vote for the day that suits them, and the other link is for you to view and manage the responses.

Doodle's fornt page

Doodle is much easier to use than explain, so lets create an account and get scheduling.

Microblogging - Twitter

Microblogging is a form of blogging. Microblogs are used for short posts or for the 'what am I doing right now' type of information. Twitter is a good example of a microblogging tool - it allows you to post messages up to 140 characters long. Microblogs are often used to quickly and simply promote an event, product or resource, or to express an opinion. Posts can incorporate web links and even images.

As a social network, Twitter is based on the principle of followers. Twitter is a microblogging service, based around two simple concepts:

  • Short text messages of 140 characters or fewer, known by 'tweets';
  • If a user chooses to 'follow' you, he/ she will be able to see your 'tweets', and vice versa;

Twitter is ideal for sharing information with others, whether it is personal or professional. It helps to build networks and is also lots of fun to make connections and find useful and interesting information.

What is Microblogging for?

Microblogging is a form of blogging. Microblogs are used for short posts or for the 'what am I doing right now' type of information. Twitter is the most well known example of a microblogging tool, but there are others like Yammer or Jaiku. Microblogs are often used to quickly and simply promote an event, product or resource, or to express an opinion, emotion. Posts can incorporate web links and even images. Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, everyone to read.

If someone likes what you have to say they can follow you, and then they will be able see your tweets on their home page. And the same will happen when you start following other users, their tweets will be displayed in your home page. Thus, you start creating a network of followers (people following you) and people you are following. If you no longer wish to follow you can simply stop it. Twitter can therefore foster the creation of dynamic networks that can adapt your current and changing interests.

Note that when someone starts following you, you don't have to follow them.

Let's get started!

Twitter fornt page

1 - Setting up an account

Click on the 'Sign up' link to register or if you already have an account just sign in. To create an account will only take a couple of minutes. Once you are finished, you will be given the opportunity to find friends that already use Twitter and then decide if you would like to 'follow' them.

2 - Tweeting

At the top of the Twitter home page features a 'What's happening?' box where you can type in your 'tweet'. Try it!

Tweets from the people you follow are displayed underneath. If you like any of the tweets and would like other people to know about them, you can easily forward them to your followers using the 'Retweet' button. This adds an 'RT' before the tweet to signify that you're forwarding it.

If you notice that someone is posting news that you like then you can follow them. In this way, social networks can be form as people with mutual interests start sharing and exchanging information.

3 - Using the hash tag

A hash tag is a word or phrase prefixed with a hash symbol (#), which you add to your tweet to indicate its subject matter. This allows you search for tweets on a particular topic and follow the discussion as it happens.

Conferences and events often advertise the hash tag for the event. Attendees will provide real-time commentary on what's happening. However, others not attending may join in the discussion as well. It's also use to submit questions from the floor. The effect is to enrich the event by stimulating the creation of a social network.

For today's event the hash tag is #IRISSNET. Add this to your tweets throughout the day. Try searching for the hashtag: #socialwork.

Following and being followed

When you start following people, you see a mix of tweets scrolling down the page. If these people find your tweets interesting they might start following you.

The idea is to start following people in order to get followed in return and to build up your network.

Scroll through the results and follow anyone that looks interesting. You will notice that corporate bodies also use twitter, e.g. Get Social Work Jobs

You can also search for people through the 'Find people' link at the top of the homepage or by using the search box.


When you start following a large number of people you might find you have a ragbag of tweets on all kinds of subject from what your friend thought of a movie to a comment on a proposed government policy. Lists allows you to organize your followers into groups. For example organise your followers by work, friends, music, film, politics etc.

Note following a user is not a requirement to add someone to a list; if you want to add a user but not necessarily regularly follow them, lists allow you to do that.

Twitter: A Quick Start Guide for People In and Around Government -

Twitter In Plain English video -

Twitter Search in Plain English -

Twitter Lists in a Nutshell -

Sharing and collaborating tools

Communities of Practice (CoPs)

CoPs can exist in physical spaces such as offices or factories. In the online world there is the opportunity to create communities or networks unbounded by such geographical or physical boundaries.

The purpose of a community is to help members share opinions, experiences, resources and knowledge with each other, usually with the objective of improving practice.

Tools for setting up communities

There are many tools available for setting up communities. The most important consideration though is whether the members of the community wish to communicate. The technology is not the difficult bit.

Here are three examples.

1. Communities of practice for local government and the public sector

The Improvement and Development Agency (IdeA) offers a platform for collaboration in local government and the public sector.

It is a freely accessible resource with tools such as forums and blogs to encourage knowledge sharing and learning.

While there are restrictions on who can set up a community, most established communities will welcome new members with something to contribute.

Here are some examples communities, but try searching for others.

  • Scottish Knowledge Management Network
  • Social Media and Online Collaboration

IRISS established a community to provide continuing support to participants in IRISS's series of workshops on social media and information literacy. Membership is open to anyone who would like to share their experience and pass on hints and tips on information literacy and the use of social media. To join 'Practical Social Media' community click here

2. Community Builder Toolkit (CBT)

Social Services Knowledge Scotland (SSKS) offers a community builder toolkit that comprises a blog, discussion forum, wiki and resource library.

To set up a community you need to apply to NHS Education Scotland using this form:

To join existing communities, e.g. Dementia MKN (, you need an Athens ID, which you can apply for at:

3. Ning

Ning is a commercial service that is very easy to use, use and maintain. It has been used by many groups in the voluntary sector. Until July 2010 the basic service was free, but supported by advertising, which could be intrusive. From July 2010 it is fee-based, but a very small entry fee.

Ning communities are sometimes set up for short-term projects, such as conferences.

Discussion forums

Online discussion forums are places to share thoughts, ideas and opinions on a particular topic. In this way, all posts, comments and ideas can be recorded and made easily available by the members of the group involved in the forum.


A blog is an online diary of thoughts and ideas, which is regularly updated, and can be viewed by other members of a community or the general public. Blogs are usually maintained by individuals, but can also be run by groups.

Here is an example of a blog:

For more information on blogs watch the following video -


A wiki is really a type of community that is formed by people with a shared interest in a particular topic.

Wikipedia is a good example of a wiki: a website encyclopedia that can be modified and added to by anybody. Wikis are created for a specific purpose, i.e. to host discussion, comments and resources on a particular project. They are collaborative websites, maintained and updated by those that use them.

Here is an example of a wikipedia entry:

For more information on wikis watch the following video -

Podcasts and videos

Podcasts and videos are becoming very important sources of learning. Podcasts - which are audio files that can be downloaded - are a useful way to hear recordings of events, such as conferences and seminars that you were unable to attend.

Here are some examples:

IRISS podcasts and audio -

IRISS videos -

For more information on podcasting watch the following video -

Web browser - Firefox

To find and do things on the web your PC uses a web browser. At work your browser will almost certainly be Internet Explorer.

But there are others, for example Firefox and Safari. While they all do the same basic job (displaying web pages), each offers different ways of interacting with websites. As the web is now about active participation, rather than passive viewing, it's worth looking at the options.

In fact, you can have more than one browser on your computer and use different ones at different times, as you would with the likes of shoes, bikes and tennis rackets for example.

Although you probably won't be allowed to change the browser at work (but it's worth asking), if you have a computer at home it is worth trying Firefox. Why? Because Firefox has lots of add-ons: optional extras tailored to work with interactive services such as RSS and social bookmarking, plus it's an open source tool.

Firefox fornt page

Install the Firefox browser - it will make life easier!

Quick overview tour of Firefox -

IRISS - Who are we?

Our multidisciplinary team is dedicated to supporting the development a high quality, continually improving social services sector renowned for its effective use of knowledge and research-based innovation.

Our mission is 'to develop a world class knowledge-based social services sector that will positive outcomes for the people who use Scotland's social services.'

An introduction to IRISS.