Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is Anybody Out There? Am I?

I recently discovered the pretty amazing Web 2.0 Twitter tool paper.li This application will pull information from a user's feed, a list or a search for a specific hashtag and put all the links and videos together in the form of a daily newspaper.  You  no longer have to click on every link to see if it's meaningful, instead much like with an RSS feed that material comes to you.  Great concept.

I created the EdTech Early Edition using this resource and am able to keep up on my favorite subject rather easily.  Not to mention, it's getting me a LOT of mentions on Twitter because people who are quoted in the daily feed are thanking me for including them (Interestingly, paper.li is doing all the work - but shhhh, don't tell anyone).  Well, one of the articles in the November 8th, 2010 edition led me to a blog post by Jamie Forest entitled Digital Tiptoeing Along which raises the idea of an online web presence.

In the article she explains she is a student of Dean Shareski's, who had asked them to search for themselves on Google, Spezify (a relatively new visual/semantic search engine) and Persona MIT (I can't really figure out what it is) presumably to raise the issue of whether you have an identity on the web [A.K.A, a web presence].  Interestingly she only found herself once among the 3 searches and I sensed she was a bit disappointed from her statement: "I now know that my employer, my parents, my students and their parents and others cannot find anything about me that puts into question my standing as a positive role model in my community. However, neither can they find anything about me to reinforce this either."

I decided I should take the challenge as well.  Seeing as I am always signing up for new Web 2.0 utilities I figured my name would appear at the top of the list.  Instead, I found that two sites were ahead of my blog.  Why is that?  Well, a lot of it has to do with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which is way too broad a topic to to tap into here. If you're interested in the process you can find some great information in the Seomoz Guide  One of the most important aspects of a web search has to do with backlinks (or how many times your referenced and linked to by other sites).  The two sites that were ahead of my blog when searching for my name had 30,346 and 21,199 other sites linking back to there page respectively.  Zenodotus.net had 275. Ouch! I probably have no hope of ever reaching the top of a search engine with stats like that.  So that raises the question, if a blog falls on he Internet does anyone hear it?

And, I think the answer is yes.  Because, as I explained on the comment I left on Jennifer's blog (note how many backlinks I've given her so far), the websites Dean suggested using, don't truly lend themselves to finding people.  Instead sites like 123people.com, pipl.com and zoominfo.com (and 23 others that can be found here) can be much more effective for finding someone online.  As EdTech specialists, we don't necessarily have the resources to shoot our blogs to the top of the search engine list.  But that doesn't mean our thoughts are any less important than those who do. 

Remember, authority on the web, is a little different than the way we have traditionally looked at it.  It's no longer about how much information you have in your field or even if you are a well respected member of an organization or educational institution.  On the web, it's all about how many people are linking back to you in a global popularity contest!
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