Monthly Archives: March 2012

Opening up your options…

In these days of strain budgets, restricted investment and and tough decisions we have a bit of a bidding war to get the attention of schools. With Google Apps for Education being heavily pushed through grass roots and national projects we now see some of the counter-blow from Microsoft.

It was interesting to see today the report on the Microsoft UK Schools Blog, about the announcement from Kirk Koenigsbauer – Microsoft Office Division, which looks at changes to the price plan and offerings with Office365. In the UK we tend to still view it as Live@Edu  as the changes to Office365 had not really hit us here. The price plans have been a concern to some schools in various countries, especially when they start comparing them to other offerings out there which come out as no licence / subscription cost. It appears that Microsoft have listened to this.

The previous price plan meant there a was some cost for staff and if you wanted the extra tools then there was a cost for staff and students. Now, the A2 plan is free. This gives you the email and calendars, online storage, online share point, online web apps, IM and presence … and with it you now get Lync for video conferencing. Yes, there are still other add-ons which will have a cost, such as integration with your PBX, voicemail and so on.

This now puts it back into real contention with schools and I can even see a variety of specialists now offering to help deliver this into schools in a similar manner you get certified teachers / trainers with Google. Add branding, integration with your school Directory Services, pre-designed SharePoint templates … all of which you can do yourself, of course … and it becomes an interesting prospect.

So, what could be the downside. There are still questions about integration with your AD, as there is a cost for FIM I believe, and from a DM I had on twitter I am not sure about where it fits with EES. For many schools these will be moot points, but it could be a swing factor for a small number.

Overall … a good thing, but be prepared for fans of both Office365 and Google Apps to swing into action with why their preferred solution is the best thing. The key is to look at the differences and see which is most important to you.

The Dark Arts of Twitter

There is a strange means of communication which has arisen over time, drawing from the days of yore where the cackle and banter of the gossip competed with the holler of the Town Crier, when word of mouth was the key to the support or demise of whatever plan happened in the village … except we are now a global village and word of mouth is as fast as you can type. Within education circles it has meant people have been able to connect, discuss and share with a wider range of contacts than ever before. In political movement we see the support for uprisings in the Middle East, within modern culture we see new artists and musicians hitting a wider audience and for the news agencies … they rarely beat twitter to the story, even if they do usually get more of the facts right (back to gossip again, I’m afraid). Most of this is with the aid of other aspects of Web 2.0 and social media … whether it is blogs or youtube, uStream or Instagram.

But where does this leave me and twitter? Well, I have said it is a dark art … and whilst for many they would read that as the art of making an impact, for me it is simply the art of managing followers, conversations and ideas.

I am lucky enough to be following over 2900 people. I am, in turn, followed back by 2635 followers. And this is where we hit the first problem. Twitter, for very valid reasons, limit the amount of people you can follow. If they didn’t you could hog their lines and follow unlimited numbers … and so you have to earn the right to follow a lot of people. Twitter set a limit of 2000 followers and explain why in detail and to follow more you have to be followed in return. There also seems to be some formula (it used to be mentioned in the twitter help) which also looks at the number of replies you get, times you are RTed, RTs you make and so on … which leaves me in the position that whilst I have a significant following (I am no @stephenfry admittedly) I also follow a heck of a lot of people … and I frequently hit the limit when trying to follow back others.

I was asked why I would follow someone one who doesn’t follow me back, because surely that would solve the problem. That is fine, except I also follow a number of ‘broadcast’ tweeters. automated tweets from blogs in schools (I would not expect them to follow back as they do not need to), big name tweeters (@stephenfry and @mrsstephenfry are a fantastic partnership), company twitter accounts, noted folk from within education (I’m just grateful they allow me to see what is sometimes protected accounts) and also some people who, whilst I might like to see their tweets, have no real interest in my tweets … which can be a tad varied as to what they cover and I do tend to RT a fair bit … which some view as spam.

So, I am always going to follow more people that I have followers … and I will always hit a limit as to how many I can follow as a result. The simple answer has been to have a 2nd account, a ‘read-only’ account, where I can follow those broadcast tweeters and generally just keep up to date on what they are doing or search the stuff they have been tweeting. I have moved more over today and if these accounts do follow me I have sent a DM to explain why the swap … and have asked them to keep following my main twitter account too. I still can’t follow all the people I want to, even from those who follow me, but I am getting there. When I do hit my limit I then suffer from the problem that should one of my followers decide to drop me then I do not fit into the formula … and twitter seems to drop one of the people I am following … but it is a random person … I have no control and it most appear that I am bizarrely snubbing them (in fact I have had a few people who it has happened to use those exact words) and something which is a surprise to them as it is not in what they think is my nature … and they are right.

I will continue to plough through those I am following over the next week and cull or move a few. I don’t like to remove them completely as you never know when one of them might have an idea or spark one in me … I realised a long time ago that I can’t follow *every* twitter conversation but I hate to remove the chance I will come across a good one.

So if you suddenly see me unfollow you then it is unlikely it is intentional, check to see if I am following you on @grumbledookfeed instead and feel free to give me a nudge and I will follow back as soon as I can … limits permitting.