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family, or other interested parties can see the user’s public activities wherever they occur [is key to the social web]..." — Toward a people web
Aggregation is an increasingly important activity in managing information in an era of social media. Increasingly, a wide variety of sites such as Twitter are used to track content; however, RSS readers, learning sites and platforms have historically been designed to accomplish aggregation. Ideally, when social media users maintain a number of accounts and a long list of services and applications, aggregators bring this content together in a central location. Second Life was thought to be working on consolidation of accounts for applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and delicious to work seamlessly from one account and user environment. It never came to pass.
Clearly, the use of mobile devices and iPhones have changed the environment related to aggregated content. One of the more useful aspects of aggregated platforms is they provide one-stop shopping in real (even virtual) time. These applications do not have to be monitored and can be viewed within one website or browser. Even though aggregating digital content is useful (and perhaps even necessary), how do we continue to locate useful, newer content outside of our regular networks and spheres of influence? Rather than surfing for information across the web, what about searching from within social networks themselves? Some Twitter users believe that information there is filtered through a sieve of intelligence, acting as its own aggregator similar to Facebook or FriendFeed. Where does Google fit in here? Perhaps the future of web search will be less about keywords (or, even controlled terms) or how many other pages link to a retrieved file of information. The key to search in the future may be more about how to forage real time content in our personal networks rather than searching across the web using Google and Yahoo.
Integrated, personal learning environments
Integrated personal learning environments (and virtual learning environments) are increasingly needed to manage the flood of information that is produced by using social media. What is needed is a facility to access, aggregate, configure and manipulate digital artifacts of our ongoing social learning experiences. (See Severance C., Hardin, J., Whyte, A. (2008). The coming functionality mash-up in Personal Learning Environments. Interactive Learning Environments, 16, 1, 47-62.
Attwell (blog: http://www.pontydysgu.org ) defines personal learning environments as a place that integrates all information activities like informal and lifelong learning, learning styles, new approaches to participation and creation of content. PLEs are inspired by the success of new technologies such as ubiquitous computing and social software. The most compelling argument for integrating content is to develop ways to respond to how we use technology so we can shape our learning and form communities to create, consume, remix, and share material.
ELGG, an aggregation portal
ELGG <http://elgg.org/about.php> is a powerful open source social networking engine. It was developed using LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and encompasses blogging functions, file storage, RSS aggregation, learning profiles, FOAF functionality and more. Some of its features include: blogging, social networking, file repositories for individuals and communities, podcast support, tagging, RSS aggregation, collaborative community blogging, 'friends' networking, multilingual services and other customizable services.
Other portals are springing up all the time, as integrating social media and web 2.0 services become more popular and necessary.
Social networks can be created using Internet chat, blogs, wikis, podcasts, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, and voice over IP. Applications include GoogleGroups (reference, social networking), Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Facebook (social networking), MouthShut.com (product reviews), Youmeo (social network aggregation), Last.fm (personal music), YouTube (social networking & video sharing), Avatars United (social networking), Second Life (virtual reality & social media aggregation), Twitter (social networking and microblogging), and Yammer. Social media can be integrated using social network aggregation platforms like Mybloglog, Ning, Sloodle and Plaxo.