UOC Tech Talks. Eduardo Manchón: Social Networks and Innovation

Notes from the third Tech Talks series of lectures held at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Barcelona (Spain), on October 4, 2010.

Social Networks and Innovation
Eduardo Manchón, co-founder of Askaro and Panoramio; Dolors Reig, Instructional Technologist; Chris Csikszentmihályi, MIT Media Lab; Llorenç Valverde, Vice-President of Learning Technologies, UOC.

If you cannot see the video please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3547">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3547</a>

Eduardo Manchón

There is a difference between networks where content is generated and is what binds the network together, and networks where the social component is what provides sense to that network. Wikipedia is an example of the first one; Linkedin is arguably an example of the second one. Probably the former ones are more engaging.

To create valuable content, a goal is needed, and thus comes a need for focusing. This goal, notwithstanding, may not be included in the original design, but come with the use that the users do of the social networking site.

Chris Csikszentmihályi points to the decreasing (and almost non-existent) transaction and coordination costs of bringing people togheter and build things collaborativelly that Yochai Blenkler explains in The Wealth of Networks: ICTs have made collaboration so cheap that centralization may not make a lot of sense or, in other words, decentralization of production is now feasible in many more ways than it was before.

Indeed, most people need specific cases or even direct commands so to start up using an online service. I f you’re told you can do “anything” on a web site, that’s what you’ll do: nothing. A good example to kick-start a service was Twitter: “what are you doing?”. With time, it evolved to much more than what one was doing. But for starters, the idea worked.


Llorenç Valverde: so, translated to the education arena, problem based communities, addressed to specific topics and with clear rules is what would work. That would contribute in building a community. But, why don’t online students usually gather around virtual communities and/or specific “social learning networking sites”?

Chris C.: And how do you make people engage if 2% will be creators and 98% will be lurkers?

Eduardo Manchón: there actually are two really separate communities (creators and lurkers) and the one that really matters is creators. You have to develop your site for the creators, for the content generators, for the active ones.

Lev Gonick: We have situational communities and we have intentional communities. Sustainable communities are more on the intentional side of communities, strongly motivated and are normally well moderated/led. And we should try and find, in the educational field, what is the difference we are making, what is the advantage we are providing our students.

Eduardo Manchón: (some) noise and (some) trouble helps the community to raise, and to mature. Online communities are small societies and so they need some controversies to grow in all senses. Of course a minimum amount of moderation is needed, especially to avoid the destruction of the community as a whole, but tension is generally good, is a sign of health.

Eduardo Manchón: we may know what does not work in a virtual community, we most probably do not know what does work, but we can only find out by creating the online community and bring it to live. So, the best advice when designing and building an online community is to build it and see whether people “comes”.

NOTE: As usual, this kind of events are much richer than what these humble notes may suggest :)


UOC Tech Talks. Kul Wadhwa: Online strategies and New Business Models: the Wikimedia phenomenon

Notes from the second Tech Talks series of lectures held at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Barcelona (Spain), on February 22ndth, 2009.

Online strategies and New Business Models: the Wikimedia phenomenon
Kul Wadhwa, Managing Director, Wikimedia Foundation


Wikimedia is about the community, about volunteering. Since the project kicked off in 2001, there have been created 13 million articles in 271 languagesw, 17 million pages, 325 million edits, 330 million visits monthly, 100,000 active contributors (edit 5 times a month at least), over 50 books published on the Wikimedia phenomena, etc. All coordinated by the 27 world chapters of the Wikimedia Foundation, though with only 35 employees.

If we look not at what’s in there, but what people is looking for (visits to the website), some Wikipedias may already be shifting from encyclopedic core to more topical and current events content. On the contrary, though, 1/3 of the hits of the Spanish Wikipedia deals with science and technology content.

Besides current events or news, local content is increasingly searched for. There is also an increase of geotagged content on Wikipedia, thus the interest in local content. As anecdote, it can be said that the second Wikipedia ever created was the Catalan Viquipèdia.

Management model

  • Provide physical home (servers)
  • Basic rules
  • Leave the community work and grow on its own

Power shift to the citizen

  • Technology: insfrastructure, tools, open source
  • Cultural Movement: free culture (Linux, Apache), free knowledge
  • License structure: GNU FDL, Creative Commons (CC-BY-SA)

All in all, the question was that anyone could contribute and the result would be open to everyone.

How do we take care of the community: transparency, trust, thankfulness, respect, responsiveness.

Business Model

Servant-leaders achieve results for their organizations by giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve. Collaboration, communication, culture.

Create a platform, let other people build (i.e. Mediawiki). It happens everywhere: Google, Apple, Amazon, FaceBook, etc. This also applies to Education, as everyone has something to bring on the table. You have to figure out how to make people that know be involved in the process.

Small “workforce” that can adapt to market changes very quickly, plus a virtual larger “workforce”, using the community as research and development.

You have to figure out what you’re good at, and forget about controlling the whole value change. Do not try and do everything. Networks form to address needs: you have to figure out where you fill into that.


Ismael Peña-López: would your model be different were the Wikimedia Foundation be Wikimedia “for profit” Corporation? It depends on your project, as everyone is different and there is not a unique model, but leveraging the community might still apply. You definitely have to focus in your goal and where you can contribute best to achieve it. If you’re running a talent based project, you definitely have to share some of the wealth in it. Talent goes where it is appreciated most.

Q: Is it a must to have a professional core? A: It really depends on what you want to achieve. There is definitely not “a” model.

Silvia Bravo: where do we start from? A: Figure out what your goals are and find who’s your champion. Once the project is started, things become easier, but the difficult thing is to start up the project, and the role of the champion is crucial here. Then, you need to create something that people can build things on top of. Make sure you have a clear goal, find out what tools will you be needing and get a champion to promote the project.

Q: how do you deal with security hazards/attacks? A: It is very important to have a clear and shared framework (linked to your goals) that everybody can relate to. And the system works the same way.

Q: what’s the physical structure like? A: only 20 servers [guess I got that right], as most information is only text. But the challenge is how to keep up with changes and still being able to bring the relevant information, which increasingly comes in rich media (photo, sound, video, etc.). That’s why Wikimedia Foundation engages in partnerships with the corporate sector to be ahead of the future.

Llorenç Valverde: how do we engage the community, and invite everyone to add value? A: Culture is the biggest problem. The way collaboration and sharing ideas happens varies a lot depending on the culture, understanding culture not only at the country level, but also at the company level. E.g. if you’re a newcomer to a firm, you might have brilliant ideas but you might not be (self)legitimate to share them openly. Culture is doubtless the toughest part of all.

Llorenç Valverde: so the starting point is to share information within the organization? A: Certainly. Add everybody in the process.

More information

People are always going to want to share their knowledge on the web, an interview with Kul Wadhwa.


UOC Tech Talks. Jessica Colaço: Mobile technology and social change

Notes from the first Tech Talks series of lectures held at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), Barcelona (Spain), on October 19th, 2009.

Mobile Technology and Social Change in Africa
Jessica Colaço, researcher at the Strathmore Research and Consultancy Centre

Colaço works on Wireless Map Services for Smart Phones (WMS) in Africa.

Mobile Africa’s profile:

  • 370,000,000 mobile users
  • High demand for Health, Agriculture and Education
  • Huge market for SMS apps
  • Community of local software developers
  • Innovative mobile apps and services, that convert opportunities into solutions
  • For most Africans, the mobile phone is the only computing device, portable, networked


  • Communication
  • Access to information by subscription to short code services
  • Mobile payments (e.g. M-PESA)
  • Other applications such as Fish Detector (Kenya), developed by Pascal Katana, and which detects fishes accoustically
  • Creation of jobs through crowd-sourcing (e.g. txtEagle, which allows people to complete simple tasks via mobile via SMS and get compensated for it, that is, people get paid to work by SMS)
  • Tangaza (“broadcast” in Kiswahlili) that allows users to send voice to several receivers
  • M-Kulima (“farmer” in Kiswahili) allows buyers to store and retrieve information about the milk market via SMS. Of course, its application is not bound to milk, but can be applied to many other markets.
  • Waññigame allows children to recognize numbers and learn to count
  • M-guide for toursm, by Strathmore University: the user takes a photo of an animal, the photo is sent to a server that recognizes the animal and sends the information back
  • M-Word for learning

How to create innovative culture? Transferring skills and knowledge through mobile boot camps, sharing ideas and encouraging students to brain-storm in groups, mentoring students and liaising them with experts in this field, creating of a research and open-learning atmosphere.

Please visit http://ictlogy.net/?p=2812 to see the video

Please visit http://ictlogy.net/?p=2812 to see the video

Please visit http://ictlogy.net/?p=2812 to see the video

Discussion w. Luis Ángel Fernández Hermana and Eva Domínguez

Eva Domínguez: mobile phones are a revolution in fields as Education (m-learning) and Journalism, especially citizen journalism.

Jessica Colaço stresses the experience of Ushahidi regarding journalism and citizen journalism, how it is used for transparency and accountability, etc.

Luis Ángel Fernández Hermana points to the distinction between people that use technology on a compulsory basis or as a personal option. In higher income countries, technology is compulsory: you “have” to use the last gadget. This is not the case of lower income countries, where people seek benefit (or profit) in technology.

Luis Ángel Fernández Hermana: In what languages are mobile applications and services? Jessica Colaço: Normally in English, most of the times also in local languages.

Lev Gonick: the mobile platform is a much more crowdsourcing fitting platform to create educational content.

Carlos Miranda: it’s good that mobile phones are kept simple (no video, no cam, no anything). The “intel” is outside, it’s the people. [how strongly I disagree…]

Paul G. West: how to deliver mass-education via mobile phones? [unanswered question; what a pity, I would have loved to get that answer].

Marc Alier: if applications have to be developed, how are they distributed to a larger amount of users and other developers? Jessica Colaço: normally, SMSs are broadcasted with the instructions to find and/or install the application, as providing a URL is not usually a good solution (though still a possibility).

Susan Metros: what is the power of mobile operators? do they listen to their customers? Jessica Colaço: increasingly, customers “come in” the design of applications and services.

Sílvia Bravo: are mobile phones helping Africa to “emancipate” and “be Africa”, or just leading the path towards a copycat of richer countries? Jessica Colaço: the good thing of mobile phones is that they have been adopted at a so-grassroots level that there is no aim to copy, but to be.

See Also