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My design principles for online communities or networks

What are your design principles for designing and fostering online communities or networks based on your experience in this course and your project? Please describe them and a little bit about how you have developed them.

I am sure that if I start thinking deeply about my design principles for designing and fostering online communities or networks, I can end up with a very — very — long list of principles. Because I don’t want to end up doing that, and I simply don’t have the time for that, I decided to highlight the 4 that I think are the most important:

1. Provide less, get more.

In my experience this is what applies to most of the platforms that I have used in my life — and enjoyed the most. It’s usually the networks that offer the least in terms of functionality that users feel the biggest amount of ownership during use. Think of Twitter for example. Its creators didn’t invent the @-reply and neither did they invent the Retweet. They were both inventions by the community, which had to come up with solutions to problems the very minimal system initially provided. The users feel a great sense of ownership (which is very much apparent now that Twitter is slowly killing parts of its ecosystem). Now, what would happen if Twitter already had all those features built-in from the start? Would it be an equal success? It’s guessing, but I think it wouldn’t be such a success.

I think that if you provide less, you are also fuelling creativity in the community of users. That’s a good thing as well, right? Especially if you want to put them in the mood of coming up with creative ideas for innovation.

2. Go mobile.

Slowly we’re moving to a world where mobile comes first. People mostly consume information through mobile devices (phones, tablets, whatever else there is to come in the future). Thinking of the incredible growth mobile phone usage is making in the developing world, this is the only way to go forward if we want to connect everybody and everything with everybody and everything in this world.

When was the last time you joined an online community that doesn’t have a dedicated app or (damn good) mobile interface? I don’t remember. Has to be a long time ago.

3. Don’t replicate functionality.

There is so much stuff online already, that there really is no reason to try to reinvent the wheel. Make use of what’s out there already. A couple of years ago the web was very segregated, but we’re going to a situation where more and more is connected with everything. The most-powerful platforms we’re using right now are the ones with an extensive ecosystem of apps and other ‘things’ that are connected to it through APIs. That’s what’s going to keep increasing. Eventually the password-input when logging in will be (nearly) entirely replaced by a ‘Log in with Facebook’ button. Those services are going to be so ubiquitous there is no reason not to take advantage of them.

And of course: there are too obvious design principles as well, like the need to focus on user interaction, but as I said I decided to leave them out.

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

Personal Blog Reflection Prompt #7

This week’s reflection question is simple. If you had a design challenge, would you join and participate in one of the types of online communities we’ve been researching? Why or why not?

If I had a design challenge I am surely going to use (and have so in the past) at least some of the platforms we’ve been researching. Depending on the kind of activities that I want to undertake I will choose an online community to use.

The easiest thing to do is something that I nearly always do and that is asking for input to my Twitter followers. They’re an amazing group of people from very diverse backgrounds, and usually I end up with useful information. Sometimes that’s a completely new insight, sometimes it’s only something that reassures whether I am on the right or wrong path, but it’s always useful.

More difficult things to do is the usage of real idea networks. This requires a lot more planning and time to put into facilitation and thus is something that I would only do if both of those things are within the projects’ constraints.

Other platforms, like Basecamp (for workteams), are already such a standard in my workflow that I am not even thinking of excluding them in my design processes.

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

Learning so far

So far we’ve all been through kind of a confusing group process. Sometimes we think we’re clear about what to do, often times we’re not entirely. That results in us changing directions or opinions and views on what to do all the time. When we started off I was pretty sure about what we should do, but that feeling of knowing what to do sometimes makes place for the opposite and it goes on like that all the time.

My personal contribution so far to the project has mainly been that I try to come up with things that we can do. Since I so far have — I think — the best general understanding of the platforms we’re researching, I try to keep that clear in the minds of my teammates. That’s my main role I think. In the upcoming weeks my role will shift more to (meticulously) stitching the final product together.

Monitoring the learnings so far is kind of a tricky thing to do. I think if we really wanted to monitor that, we should actually be doing the things we propose in our final presentations. We should try using OpenIDEO once for our own projects. Or if we are in a group working on funding, we should try funding some of our projects. Depending on the results of those acts we can assess the knowledge and skills that we have gained.

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

Personal Blog Reflection Prompt #5

Regarding my own learning

So far, to be honest, I don’t have a very satisfying feeling regarding my own learning. Normally, when I feel like I really learnt something, I can at least sum up some big insights that I had. That’s not really been the case in this project so far.

I do of course know that those big insights are only a small part of the actual learning taking place. An important part of the things I learn usually revolve around the ways of expressing things, certain terminology and other small things. Of course that’s really important. Especially the way of expressing/communicating things is a thing that I’m very interested in. Since I know that that is one of the areas that I know I can have the biggest impact with if I improve it. But then again, regarding that I learnt a lot probably, but I cannot really tell what specifically.

Of course a big part of the learning of those small things is facilitated by my fellow students and the course facilitators. It’s their way of saying and expressing things, that I try to suck up (as a sponge) and make use of at the right time.

Regarding my peers’ learning

I think I can add a lot more to my peers’ learning than to my own learning. I’ve already been doing that in my group, since I am already very familiar with OpenIDEO and Ushahidi, and for a couple of other groups who are working on Basecamp. I find that to be really satisfying, although I have to admit as well that it is a little less satisfying having to do that in my own group. Since I’ve already been working in education for a couple of years now, developing human potential is really one of my passions. I love helping others in their learning and I always hope to ignite a little bit of passion and create wonder about the world around is. That is what I like to do in groups of 13 year old students, but still as relevant and awesome to do in groups of much older people. In the end I always try to inspire people in general, it doesn’t matter how old they are, but I’d prefer to see similar faces like in this picture of my students of last year:

One thing that I am really missing currently in the whole peer-learning process is a way to communicate the group progress. I’d love to be able to jump in on conversations that are really about the project itself. These reflections are good to read, but personally I don’t find them as interesting as diving into the subject matter for real. I do like to find out what the other groups are doing through a Google Hangout, like this week, but I would still prefer to really see what they have set on paper, regarding their topic. That is because I want to add comments to small details and provide bits of inspiration to the other groups, but I don’t want to waste another groups’ time on listening/having to read things they already know.

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

Spidergram of OpenIDEO

Spidergram of OpenIDEO

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

What influences my tool choices.

How much does your personal preference drive your tool choices? What if everyone else in your group had different preferences? How would you proceed as you steward the technology? Does looking at others’ preferences and perspectives change your view as a tech steward? Challenge you?

Again a completely un-edited blogpost. I am writing in this way as an experiment. Just jot down everything that comes to mind and keep it that way.

My tool choices are driven by two things: 1. my personal preference and 2. adoption by the people that I want to connect to. Sometimes the first reason is the strongest one, other times the second is the strongest influencer of my choices.

Actually I need to refine that a little. For the tools that I try out I am only my own influencer. I love to try new tools and see what they offer me. That’s why I have accounts on 100’s of different online platforms that solve an x amount of things. To-do-apps are a good example of that. I love to keep into the loop of what is happening in that world and so I have tried a lot — a lot — of them in the past years. In the end I chose to stick with Basecamp and OmniFocus, but I keep checking out new ones. For trying those things out I am only bound to my own time and I don’t care about other people using it.

But then from the ‘usage’ perspective. I chose very consciously for Twitter and Facebook as my main platforms of choice. That’s because most of the people that I want to reach can be found there. Although I would love to replace Facebook by Google+, which I think is a lot better, I am not going to do that unless G+ starts gaining the critical mass that I feel I need to get my message spread. Another reason why I am ok with Facebook is because it integrates so well with other services. Since I tend to use a lot of different services I would normally have a very fragmented online presence. But it’s Facebook and Twitter that allow me to tie together a lot of the things that I do online. Facebook is my gathering space because of that reason. You can find my Instagram shots on Facebook, the songs that I listen to on Spotify, the articles that I read, the places that I check-in to, the videos I like, the things I pin on my Pinterest boards and all the other things that I share manually. The same can apply to Twitter, although it is much less visually and connected.

Since e.g. most people are on Facebook, it usually doesn’t matter what tools I use, as long as I keep posting things to Facebook. On occasions that that is not possible, I always try to look for the platform/tool that fits the situation best and educate people about using it. If that doesn’t immediately work, usually the case, I just involve people with the tool until they see the value in it. Sometimes that’s unwillingly, but so far most people have found out that I was right about those things in the end. It’s a thing that happens to me a lot, so I am used to that situation and learned that in the end people mostly start seeing the value in things if you just confront them with that often times.

Usually I am not influenced by people who have different opinions and perspectives on how to use certain tools. As a tech steward I have a very strong feeling of how things might work out and I am usually very quick at that. There are, though, people who do have an influence on my tool-usage. People like Robert Scoble do that. Extreme-users in general. I love to try new things and it’s usually the extreme-users that come up with that.

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

Personal Blog Reflection Prompt #3

Now that we are in week three of the group project, I already have had the challenges of working in group. One of the biggest problems is getting everybody on the same level. People all have different habits of working, like at different speeds, different times etc. We had the problem now that we weren’t really communicating on what deadlines we had for the things that needed to be done and that it wasn’t always clear what to do exactly for a part of the team. So, in order to solve that we should next time focus more on getting the message through to all of us and to make sure that we are on the same page together.

What’s challenging me is that I have to work with people who have different habits. I’m kind of used to it already, but I keep being surprised by things. I initially had the impression that all the students doing this course would be incredibly motivated to make the best things happen, but it seems like that isn’t the case. That is what collides with my feeling about getting things done. I want to go to work straight away. This is in this case of course a little more the case, because I already have a lot of experience working on and with the online platforms (or similar ones) that we are researching.

Since I don’t have anything else to add right now, this is about it. 

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

How I use online spaces

For this weeks Project Community assignment I am asked to write about how I personally use online spaces. So, here it is.

Generally speaking I cannot easily explain how I use online spaces, simply because there are too many and I all use them in completely different ways. So, I might be better off describing what I use the different spaces for.


The online space that I’ve been involved with for the longest time now, and the one that has proven to be the most valuable to me is Twitter. Twitter to me is a nice mix between a network to gather a lot of interesting information and a network to quickly communicate with whoever I want to. That’s the main reasons that I use it.

At the time of writing this reflective blogpost I have been using Twitter for 1451 days. In that time I have send out a total number of 19,359 tweets, which averages to about 13.3 tweets a day. From my experience I know that I am far from able to only ‘(one-sided-)send’ out all these tweets, so a big part of them is because I interact with users on Twitter. In general it doesn’t really matter who those people are. Twitter makes it really easy to connect with people you don’t know yet, so that’s what I do a lot. The fact that a Twitter-follow doesn’t need to be mutually (like with Facebook), makes that threshold really low.

Now that I am speaking of following people, I basically stopped doing that very actively a while ago. By now I think I pretty much know my online network, and I am sure to get the quality of content that I desire. I don’t therefore feel a need to follow a lot of other new people. Sometimes I do, but that doesn’t happen a lot anymore. Actually I think I am unfollowing more accounts than that I am starting to follow accounts. But, that mainly consists of ‘news-accounts’, that I feel like I care less and less about.

That basically sums up my current state of using Twitter. I have changed my behaviour on Twitter often during the last couple of years, so this might change soon as well. What I do know is that my Twitter usage depends a lot on the amount of time that I have left for explorations. When I have a really busy week, I hardly look @ Twitter, when I have plenty of time, I’m there basically all the time.


I started using Facebook because I saw that Facebook usage was on a rise in the Netherlands and I wanted to step up that train as quickly as possible (as I always do, with social networks).

Now, my Facebook-usage, in contrary to Twitter, is a little hard to describe. Facebook definitely is much more closed than Twitter is, but since I want it to be as open as possible I post nearly everything with a ‘Public’ setting. But that’s mainly out of a principle (more on that later). In fact it doesn’t really help on Facebook, because there is not so much content discovery happening there as I think.

That’s the main reason for me to use Facebook mostly as a way to keep track of what my ‘friends’ are doing. I of course like to peek into people’s profiles, to see what they’re up to right now. But that’s about it. I don’t interact a lot on Facebook. I do interact with people who I work with on a day-to-day basis, but hardly interact with the people who I haven’t really spoken to in a long time.

The main advantage of Facebook over every other network is that basically everyone is on Facebook now. I always look people up on Facebook before I am about to meet them, and most of the time I can find at least a couple of things on them on Facebook. The good thing as well is that I keep getting more and more international friends that I want to keep track of and that just works easily with Facebook as well.


Though I use LinkedIn, I hardly ever interact there. I only use it to look people up and add them to my connections when I’ve met them, so that I instantly have access to their contact details. So, you can basically see LinkedIn as a kind of advanced address book.

Other networks

And then there’s Flickr,, Branch, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest and probably so much more that I forget at this time. These are the kinds of online spaces that have such a defined way of using them that it goes too far to describe that in a post. I do however always keep in mind what kind of online space is best to use for what end result. That’s why I ended up using a lot of them.

Regarding doing everything in public

A long time ago I stopped caring about privacy. Privacy is something that is slowly being eaten away from us, and you know what? You can fight that, but you could as well decide to use the publicness to your advantage. That’s what I did. 

I have a vision of the future that eventually — that’s not the case now at all — computers will have so much knowledge of us that they can help us on a really personal level. It already starts on a small scale, but imagine where that goes in the future.

For example, because I use and I keep track of all the songs that I listen to, the service gets quite a good image of what kinds of music I like. After gathering all that data, they can provide me with recommendations on what artists to listen to that I might like as well. And you know what? Mostly is spot on with the recommendations. I’ve already found so many good artists that I like to listen to in that way, that I would’ve never started to listen to out of my own initiative.

And the same applies to moments that I use StumbleUpon, the things I read on my iPad with Zite or Flipboard, the movies that I get recommended by IMDB. And yes, currently it’s something that happens mainly around ‘recommendation engines’, but I am sure that will change in the future.

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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog

‘What would a course on collaborative online learning look like?’

Project Communities: 

Blog Prompt #1: Developing your/our learning agendas

Because I have a lot of followers on Twitter who are into education, I rephrased the question in such a way that I was guaranteed to get a response. The discussion can be found here on Storify.

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“There is nothing that teaches you more than regrouping after failure and moving on. Yet most people…”

“There is nothing that teaches you more than regrouping after failure and moving on. Yet most people are stricken with fear. They fear failure so much that they fail. They are too conditioned, too used to being told what to do. It begins with the family, runs through school and goes into the business world.”

- Charles Bukowski
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This was originally published at Bart Hoekstra's Tumbleblog