Thing 5 2014: Consider your personal brand

Thing 6 2013: Consider your online presence

Your ‘personal brand’ is affected by online information and your online presence, whether you’re active online or not. The first thing many people (including potential and current employers!) will do when they hear your name is Google you, and it’s important to learn how to ‘curate’ that brand, which should be considered part of your professional identity. A good way to think about it is as an extension of the professional you. A strong online presence can be a powerful tool in achieving your professional goals, particularly in promoting your work and reaching a wider audience.

For Thing 5, we’ll be exploring a number of ways to manage and keep tabs on your digital footprint. You’ve already made a crucial step in setting up your blog! Some of these represent some basic tools that you may already be familiar with. If you’re pretty comfortable with the basics, we’ll provide some additional options you may wish to explore.

We’ll begin by taking a look at what content is associated with your name online. Start by Googling yourself. Type your name into Google (and/or any other search engine) and see what comes up (you may also want to try nicknames – Liz vs Elizabeth, for example). Do the same thing over at socialmention, which gathers data from social media. Next try running your name through MIT’s Personas project, which is a fun way to visualise the types of content associated with your name and clue you in to other people with the same name.

You may want to try combining your name with certain key words (e.g. ‘libraries’ or ‘neuroscience’), or even seeing if what comes up when you search for keywords only (e.g. ‘neuroscience researchers oxford’). Do you or your work appear on the first page or two? If so, is it content with which you’d like to see yourself associated?

Once you’ve analysed how you appear online, start to think about how you’d like to appear and what you might be able to do to make that happen. Quite a few of the tools we’ll explore in upcoming Things can improve and augment your online presence (having a LinkedIn profile, for example, is a great way to make sure you’re visible), but there are things you can do now:

First of all, think about online accounts and profiles you already have. Do they come up when you search? Do you want them to? Make sure accounts you already manage are up to date and reflect the persona you want to share – including your name and photograph, if relevant. If you haven’t already, fill out the ‘About’ page on your new or existing blog, and consider adding a photograph. Try to be consistent across all platforms.

Professional vs Personal
Do you want to keep your professional and personal identities separate online? Many choose a middle ground and let their personality shine through their professional presence. Keep in mind that if content is accessible to colleagues and professional contacts, you may not want your latest holiday snaps or student party photos showing (although this may be fine for some people/accounts). You may also want to consider whether anonymity does or does not fit in with your professional goals.

Blog post:

  • How easy were you to find online? Were you happy with what you found? What sort of ‘person’ emerged, and what might other people think about him or her? What did you, or might you, do to address this?
  • How important do you think it is to maintain a professional presence online?
  • Tag your blog post ‘Thing 5’.

Exploring further
If you feel you already have a handle on your online presence, or if you’d like to take what you’ve just done a little bit further, there’s always more you can do to ‘curate’ your online brand.

  • Consider linking. If you have multiple online accounts, find ways to connect them. If you have accounts on social media tools like Twitter or LinkedIn, you may want to provide links to them on your blog (see this WordPress help article if you want info on creating links). Google likes to see pages on domains, so include a link to your University profile or page (if applicable) from your other accounts.
  • Try setting up a Google alert for your name, or perhaps your name with a keyword or two. Go to and choose your search terms, how often you’d like to receive alerts, and where you’d like to receive them.

You may also wish to investigate our ‘bonus thing’ for the week: building a personal website.

Further reading

Thing 8 2013: RSS Feeds

What are RSS feeds?
RSS (Rich Site Summary – often called Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed format that provides the full text of web content together with links to the original source.

Why use them?
Although RSS feeds are losing favour with some people, who prefer to use Twitter, Facebook, etc. to stay up to date, RSS feeds save you time and energy by bringing together articles and information and allowing you to read them in one place – the information comes to you! Many websites and blogs allow you to set up RSS feeds for their content. RSS feeds are also commonly available from databases which allow you to subscribe to feeds for journal articles on a specific topic. In this way you can be alerted whenever new content is added to your favourite websites or when a new issue of an e-journal is published.

RSS feeds are also useful if you run your own website. We’ve provided a link on this blog, for example, to an RSS feed that lets you subscribe to our content.

To set up RSS feeds, you need to sign up to a feed reader or aggregator – software that checks RSS feeds and displays updated content. There are many available. Free web-based readers, e.g. Feedly, let you check RSS feeds from any computer whereas downloadable desktop clients, e.g. FeedDemon, let you store them on your own computer. Many tools have apps and sync to the cloud, so your feeds are up to date wherever you are. You are free to choose your own; we used to focus on Google Reader, but it shut down earlier this year, allowing numerous ‘new’ contenders to pop up. Some options:

  • Feedly: A really simple and easy to use tool that has lots of sharing capabilities (send to email, save to Evernote or Pocket, tweet or send to Facebook, etc.)
  • Digg: A ‘social’ news aggregator that also provides RSS capabilities
  • Tiny Tiny RSS: Good for DIY types – requires a bit more work and you have to set it up on your own server, but allows lots of customisation and doesn’t depend on other services
  • Pulse: A very visual, magazine-like RSS reader
  • Newsvibe: A simple, pared down reader without all the extras

Here at 23 Things, we’re most familiar with Feedly, and it’s certainly one of the popular choices – but feel free to try any others (and please report back on what you think if you do).

Most blogs and many websites will allow you to subscribe via RSS, even if they don’t have a specific button or link for it. Many web browsers will offer a subscribe button up in the address bar or the bookmarks menu. If you don’t see a subscription link, copy and paste the feed’s URL into the ‘Add Content’ box or ‘Subscribe’ box in your reader.

You should aim to subscribe to at least five other feeds. You may want to add some of the other 23 Things bloggers, or perhaps your favourite news blog or site.

Exploring further

  • Explore tools that allow you manage subscriptions. In Feedly, there are options at the top and bottom of each item that allow you to save, share or tag the item. You can also use the ‘Personalize’ option (in the left-hand column) to categorize your feeds. Managing your categories can be particularly helpful if you subscribe to a large number of feeds.
  • Add an extension to your browser to make subscribing to feeds even easier. Try this one for Chrome, this one for Firefox, and this one for Internet Explorer.

Blog post
Do you view RSS feeds as a useful tool in keeping up to date? Do you think you will use them in future? Tag your post ‘Thing 8’.

Thing 4 2013: Register your blog with the 23 Things team

Now that you have your new blog, you can officially register for the 23 Things programme. You can do this by filling out our online registration form with your name, blog URL and department. We will add your blog to the list in the sidebar of this blog, and you will then officially be registered. If you already signed up but didn’t have a blog, you can either sign up again (we’ll cross check!) or leave your name and blog address in the comments on the Sign Up page.

Participants who register their blogs and complete all the Things will receive a completion certificate when they finish the 23 Things programme.

Dabbling in Social Media: Starting small

38904ca7-attr-1600x1342A guest post from Abigail G Scheg, Assistant Professor of English at Elizabeth City State University

Although there are already a number of instructors across disciplines and institutions using social media in their classrooms, there are also a number who shy away from these technologies. Some instructors are hesitant because they do not have social media accounts and do not feel that they have the time to commit to it now. Others are wary of student interest and engagement and worry that if students are permitted to use social media accounts, they will lose focus on their coursework.

Generally, the term social media is linked to individual use of certain websites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Pinterest. Social media actually refers to any type of writing that has large social engagement, and this includes blogs and wikis. Along with targeted use of Facebook etc., blogs and wikis afford the opportunity for many people to engage, interact and respond.

While Twitter is my favorite social media tool to use in my classrooms, Twitter is a big step for a hesitant instructor. My suggestion is to take small steps with a blog:

  1. Start by investigating the social tools that your LMS (learning management system) offers. In Oxford, that means WebLearn, but for other universities that could be Blackboard or a variety of other tools. Many of these tools have blog, forum and wiki capabilities.
  2. Investigate any WebLearn training (or training for your LMS if you’re outside Oxford) and ask for help (virtual or face-to-face).banner_inst
  3. Begin with one blog assignment such as an introductory forum. Have students introduce themselves at the beginning of the semester and share some information about their lives or interest in the course. Require that the students respond to one another.
  4. Try to engage as well. Comment on a few students’ posts to see if they respond or how they react.
  5. Evaluate the workflow and outcomes of this small implementation. Did it go well? Did you feel unprepared? Did you (dis)like the concept of blogs or wikis, but (dis)like the setup of this particular one?

Once you make a small step, you will feel more comfortable taking additional steps. If this initial blog is successful, then you could require blog posts as a weekly assignment. Or you could move outside WebLearn or your LMS to a blog website like Blogger or WordPress (see Thing 2: Setting up a blog, for help).

Eventually, you could venture into more experimental social media websites such as Twitter. Always take time to familiarise yourself with a new technology before implementing it in the classroom. Allow yourself a time to learn the etiquette and capabilities of a social media website in case your students have questions. You will find a tool that works for you, the students, and your specific discipline. Before you know it, you’ll will be a social media expert!

Dr Abigail G Scheg is an Assistant Professor of English at Elizabeth City State University in the department of Language, Literature, and Communication (LLC). She researches and publishes in the areas of online pedagogy, social media, first-year composition, and popular culture. On the off chance she is not working, Dr. Scheg can be found enjoying time with her husband, family, friends, or traveling.

Thing 3 2013: Write a blog post about social media

Before we talk about what to write on your blog, let’s talk about why to write. If you already have your own blog and are a confident blogger, feel free to jump down to the the ‘what to write for Thing 3’ section of this post.

Why blog?
People blog because they want to share something. For some people, that ‘something’ is cats or holiday pictures, but blogging can be a great development tool for sharing research and professional insights. It’s a great way to incorporate reflective practice into your work, and it also helps you share your work with others, making professional contacts and extending your online network and presence.

Before you start, it may be helpful to think about what kind of things you want to share and what kind of blogger you want to be. Do you want to share research? Connect with those in your field? Increase your online presence? Develop an online presence for a project? Simply reflect upon your 23 Things experience? The answer to these questions will help determine the tone you take and what kinds of things you want to share on your blog.

What to write for Thing 3
For your first 23 Things blog post, we’d like you to write a short piece about your experiences with social media and what you hope to get out of the 23 Things for Research and the Engage: Social Media Michaelmas programme. If you’re new to social media, do you have any ideas about how it might help or affect your work? If you’re using it already, what do you use? What are you hoping to explore?

Note: Please ‘tag’ or ‘label’ this post ‘Thing 3’ so that others can easily follow your progress and find specific posts. For each post you make in the 23 Things programme, please make sure to label or tag it ‘Thing [?]’ for the number of the Thing it relates to. You’re welcome to add other tags if you would like to. If you’d like guidance on tags and labels, there are instructions online for Blogger or WordPress. If you are using another service, have a quick Google or feel free to ask the 23 Things team.

Thing 2 2013: Set up a blog

Throughout the programme, we’ll be exploring issues of publishing online; blogs are key to 23 Things participation as you’ll be using them for your regular reflective posts on the tools you explore. Thing 2 asks you to get one up and running. At the end of the programme, we’ll think about what you want to do with your blog next: keep it, change it or delete it.

We’ll be asking you to write a blog post in Thing 3, but first you’ll need to decide on a blogging platform and set up the basics. If you already have a blog, you can skip right to Thing 3.

Setting up your blog
You can use whichever blogging platform you like, though the most popular ones may prove easier to use and find support for. WordPress and Blogger are two of the most common (nearly 20% of the world’s websites run on WordPress); Tumblr is often used for primarily visual posts, but it can also work for text and is growing exponentially in popularity. If you wish to explore further, others such as Medium (invite only at this time), SquareSpace (paid) or Typepad (paid) can give you an idea of the full range of on offer. Here are some rules of thumb about what service might be right for you:

  • If you just want an online scrapbook to post thoughts, ideas, quotes and multimedia then consider Tumblr. It also suits if your blog is going to be more personal than professional – though it’s worth pointing out that the two categories can sometimes get blurred.
  • If you want to disseminate your research, connect with researchers internationally or raise your profile then consider WordPress or Blogger.
  • If you want to set up a collaborative writing project then consider WordPress. Though the amount of functionality can be confusing at first, it has very powerful tools to facilitate multi-author projects and extend the functionality by moving it to a private hosting service.

There are pros and cons to each, and we’ve provided a short summary for some of the well known services as well as step-by-step guides to using them.

WordPress Blogger Tumblr
Pros • Easy to register a domain name for your blog
• Extremely powerful and flexible
• Supported by large and active community
• Easy to setup with multiple users
Owned by Google and convenient if you already use other Google products
• It can be easier to use than WordPress
• It’s possible to build your own templates
• Visually attractive
• Easy to use
• Social networking functionality built into the platform
• Great smart phone functionality
• Excellent for multimedia
Cons • Degree of flexibility can be confusing for first time users • Many people think Blogger sites look less professional than other services
• Sites hosted by Blogger are sometimes slow to load
• Limited customization
• Designed for ‘micro-blogging’ and less suited to larger pieces of writing
• Generally more effective for multimedia then writing
Step-by-step instructions • WordPress for Beginners • Getting started with Blogger • Getting started with Tumblr
• Beginners guide to Tumblr (video)

Once you’ve decided on a service, follow the instructions to set up your account and move on to Thing 3! If you have any trouble with the directions, please do get in touch for help.

Content credit: Parts of this posts have been adapted from text by Mark Carrigan on the 23 Things for the Digital Professional blog.

Blogging to engage

As a follow up to Elizabeth Eva Leach’s talk yesterday, we thought we’d share the LTG Oxford case study on the blogging that Politics In Spires did to engage their audiences. Politics in Spires is an openly accessible collaborative blog between the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford and the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge. The project aims to disseminate research and provide open educational resources, and the blog plays a key role in its work.


Blogging and Twitter for Academia – Presentation slides

Today’s lunchtime Engage seminar was given by Elizabeth Eva Leach, Tutorial Fellow in Music at Oxford, on ‘Blogging and Twitter for Academia’. Elizabeth uses her blog to disseminate research and interact with researchers and students, and she’s a great believer in using Twitter to encourage scholarly exchange (and talk to students!).

Elizabeth focused on the benefits and advantages of using social media – particularly blogging and Twitter – for bringing together teaching and research. Those of you looking at Twitter this week (or just interested in general) might be interested in her slides – though short, they have a lot of great links and ideas!

Thing 5: Explore other blogs and get to know some of the other participants

One of the best parts about a 23 Things programme is the ability to interact with and draw on the expertise and learning of a community of participants. Over the course of the week, we’ll be adding to the participants’ blog list in the sidebar. Take some time to look at other blogs and read about what other community members hope to get from 23 Things. Feel free to comment on others’ posts.

We encourage you to keep checking other blogs as the programme continues. Seeing what others are doing can often help answer your own questions and can offer inspiration for your own work!

Thing 4: Register your blog with the 23 Things team

Note: Registration for the programme is now closed, although you are welcome to participate on your own. Consider this Thing a freebie! Although the official programme is over, feel free to get in touch or comment if you have any questions or feedback.

Now that you have your new blog, you can officially register for the 23 Things programme. You can do this by filling out our online registration form with your name, blog URL and department. We will add your blog to the list in the sidebar of this blog, and you will then officially be registered.

Participants who register their blogs and complete all the Things will receive a completion certificate and will be invited to a closing reception.