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Location based social networking had been heralded by many as the new frontier of online interaction. Letting people know where you are and what your doing adds an entirely new dimension to the standard social equation.

Sites like Foursquare and Gowalla have been leading the pack, with Facebook adding a location based layer called “Places” to its interface. You can let your friends know where you are, and easily meet up or share tips.

It’s the location based tip sharing that many find so interesting. At SPS, we’ve recently created a Foursquare account so that our community can share and swap knowledge about all that New York City has to offer.

Our first location based initiative will be tied into our upcoming 2011 Commencement at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. If you visit our Foursquare profile, you can see that we’ve begun to put up some tips for great meals around our commencement venue. We’ll be adding many more “Graduation Grub” tips in the coming weeks as we gear up to an exciting, memorable, and delicious ceremony.

For those unfamiliar with Foursquare, here is a short video that will help familiarize you with the concept.

Even if you don’t want to share your location and every move with your friends, Foursquare is still a powerful tool for finding great locations in your immediate vicinity.

If you’re inclined to start exploring with Foursquare, or are already using the application, be sure to connect with us as we continue to explore all the amazing food options for graduation.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school. He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies. These two things rarely intersect.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the term, crowdsourcing is a marketing concept that sees establishments reach out to their audience to perform tasks normally reserved for staff and employees. Despite what it may sound like, this isn’t a mark of laziness, but rather an ingenious way to engage a community and get everyone involved in a creative process.

With the rise of social networking, crowdsourcing has become easier and more prevalent than ever. And we here at SPS, are excited to announce our first ever crowdsourcing campaign. We are opening up the design of the School of Professional Studies’ first ever mascot to all students and alumni. And we can’t wait to see what creative ideas you all come up with.

To participate in the first round of this campaign, you can visit the mascot page and send an email to submissions@sps.cuny.edu. The deadline for submissions is April 15th. After that, we will be continuing to croudsource the mascot by opening voting to the SPS community at large.

We look forward to the results of this particular campaign, as well as further croudsourcing endeavors.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school. He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies. These two things rarely intersect.

Love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying the prevalence of group assignments in higher education. As someone who always enjoyed the collaborative nature of group assignments back when I was in school, I actually find myself a little envious of all the free and web based tools that are available to students today.

Google documents is an online software suite similar to that old standby, Microsoft Office. There’s a document editor similar to Word, you can create and manipulate spreadsheets much like Excel, design and play slide shows like Powerpoint, and much more.

Google Docs is available for free to anyone with a Google account, and is compatible with any files from Microsoft Office. But the best thing about these applications, is that you can share these documents with classmates and colleagues allowing them to view and edit the work you’ve done. This allows for a more seamless collaborative experience and saves a lot of time and frustration. If someone in your group isn’t pulling their weight, you will know before your group gets together and meets, and you can address issues like that earlier.

This video provides a brief and fun look at all that Google Docs has to offer:

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of cloud computing, it’s simply a term used to describe documents that don’t live on your hard drive. This frees you from concerns of losing them do to system crashes, and makes it that much easier to share and collaborate.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.

As we continue to discuss ways to strengthen your personal brand online, proper attention needs to be given to the importance of blogging.  If the idea of starting a blog, or contributing to an existing one, sounds like an attractive idea it can become the centerpiece of your online presence.

Content is Key

More important than a fancy design is the text, photos, or other content you’ll be delivering.  You can dress it up any way you like, but the most important thing is engaging your audience.  Find a topic that you’re interested in presenting and can hopefully provide new insights.  The last thing anyone wants to see is a lazily produced product that is never updated.  So if you’re excited about your content, it will become that much more appealing to prospective readers.

Pick a Platform

If you’re starting a blog from scratch, your second big decision after deciding on your theme, is to pick a blogging platform.  There are a variety of popular and free sites that will host your blog for you and offer a variety of benefits.

WordPress – When we were deciding on a platform for the SPS Community Blog, WordPress emerged as the clear frontrunner.  It is the most fully featured free blogging platform, and offers the most options in terms of customization, content control, and reporting.  The drawback is that it isn’t the easiest site to familiarize yourself.  Especially when compared to some of its competators.  Still, it’s far from rocket science, and once you get the hang of all the WordPress dashboard has to offer you’ll find a wealth or resources to improve your blogging.

Blogger – It’s impossible to talk about something tech related and not expect Google to be a key part of the conversation.  Blogger is Google’s blogging platform and it boasts an easy to use interface that only affords a minimal amount of customization.

Tumblr – The new kid on the block, Tumblr is known as a “microblogging” site.  It focuses on shorter updates, with an emphasis on photographs and creative layouts.  This is a funky and fun platform that’s ideal for artists.

No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

Another great way to get your name and content out is by joining a preexisting blog.  Find something in your area of interest, and reach out to them about becoming a contributor.  There’s strength in numbers, and it also adds a certain sense of legitimacy to your content that you would otherwise have to work to gain on your own.

I’m happy to answer any and all questions on getting started as a blogger, and invite all SPS students and alumni to try it out by contributing to this very blog.  Feel free to contact me at shawn.abraham@mail.cuny.edu with any questions.  I look forward to reading your future posts!

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.

When you want information on something, it’s likely that one of the first ways you go about seeking it out is through a quick Google search.  It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s comprehensive.  But have you ever googled yourself?  Because if you’re not, and consequently you’re not doing whatever you can to manage those search results, you’re putting yourself at a severe disadvantage.

Taking control of your search results is a key part of managing your personal brand online.  It allows you to control (to a certain extent) what people see when they search for you.  This is something that can be very important if you’re looking for a new job.  And even if you’re happy with your current employment situation, it’s never a bad idea to try and manage what people see when your name comes up.

The first time I googled myself, I found out I was  on the FBI’s most wanted list, that I thought my University was doing a great job of bring events to campus thanks to a quote in the student news paper, and that I was a hip hop artist.  Only one of those actually pertained to me (my ranking FBI most wanted list, naturally), so I went to work figuring out how to make the search results actually reflect me and my online presence.  It’s not an overnight process, and you’re competing with a lot of other people with the same name, but it’s an important process nonetheless.

Now there’s my website, my social networking profiles, a blog I wrote when I was living in China, and then, below all of that, some results for other Shawn Abrahams.  I did my best to make sure that my content was the first thing you’d see when you search my name, and people seeking information about me can see the information that I want them to see right at the top.

Naturally, the more common name you have, the more difficult it is to guarantee that you show up on top.  Here are three quick tips to keep in mind if you want to take control of your digital destiny.

1. In case you haven’t heard it from me enough, social networking is kind of a big deal.  Google and other major search engines have a tendency of floating Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to the top.  So make sure you register a vanity address for your account wherever possible.

2. If you haven’t done it yet, if someone ELSE hasn’t done it yet, register http://www.yourname.com.  Even if you don’t know what to do with it, you’ll find a use for it eventually.

3. Time to start that blog about cross stitching vintage 80’s pop art that you’ve always been talking about.  Blogs are a great way to up your relevance in searches.  Your name comes up a lot, and it helps define you as an expert in something.  This can be a key component of your personal brand, especially if that brand is 80’s Pop Art Cross Stitching Expert.

The idea of developing your brand online will be central to this column moving forward.  Now that the semester is in full swing, we’ll be going bi-weekly, but the next installment will pay closer attention to the idea and importance of starting your own blog.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.

Aside from the expected non-stop wave of stops and applause, there was one line from the State of the Union address delivered last night by President Obama that stuck with me.

“None of us can predict with certainty what the next big industry will be, or where the new jobs will come from. Thirty years ago, we couldn’t know that something called the Internet would lead to an economic revolution. What we can do – what America does better than anyone – is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn’t just change our lives. It’s how we make a living.”

– President Barack Obama, The State of the Union, 1/25/11

The technological revolution we are going through is being spoken of in the same context as Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers.  It is just further proof that the advances in online interactivity are something profoundly significant.  That the President choose to highlight these corporate powerhouses, both still in their relative infancy, as the new vanguards of the American economy and American ingenuity is worthy of a moment of discussion.

If our chief export is to be defined as innovation and ingenuity, it is impossible to avoid certain concerns.  We’re not talking about easily quantifiable products that will boost company revenues because we’re shipping more units and earning more money.  But the success stories of Facebook and Google are to be lauded because they are highlighting a new sort of social export that proves that America still has a lot to offer to the world, and will remain relevant and powerful on a global level thanks to sites that quite frankly, many people cannot live without.

We all love their products and can clearly point to a point in our lives before and after we began using them.  I’d wager that most folks would say that their lives have been improved (either subtly or significantly) thanks to either Facebook or Google.  But the truth is that one of the key selling points to both Google and Facebook is that they are both free.  Would you use either if they started charging?  Before you answer, seriously think about it.  Of course it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction of mock disgust and dismay.  Pay?  For Facebook?  For Google?  Absurd.

But is it, really?  Think of the ease of information afforded to you by Google, and the convenience of contact that Facebook cultivates.  How much is that worth to you?  Something tells me it’s more than the whopping zero dollars we’re all paying right now.

I’m going to shift gears away from these hypotheticals, because luckily for us all, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing either site behind a pay wall in our lifetime.  If ever.  In fact, there have been so many nonsensical “news” stories claiming that Facebook will start charging, that the site recently changed their login page to reflect them:

Notice the pledge on the right hand side above the sign up fields that the site will always be free.  They needed to put that out there right in front to supersede all the bogus claims of turning into a paysite.  But those claims are based in the reality that, Facebook is probably indispensable to a large enough percentage of their user base that people would find themselves willing to pay.

But we won’t have to, and that’s a good thing.  The American economy is on its way to righting itself, and the future is looking bright.  We have companies innovating on a scale so massive that it is changing the way the world interacts and learns more than anything since the telephone.  State of the Unions are always a time for Presidents to put a positive spin on things, even if the situation is particularly dire.  But for once, I’m inclined to agree.  Things are changing for the better, and thanks to innovations by Facebook, Google, Apple, and companies we haven’t even heard of yet, they’re changing at a rapid rate that all but guarantees an exciting and unpredictable future.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.

We’ve all felt it at one point or another.  We’re scrolling through our Facebook news feed, wondering why we’re not doing something else a bit more productive, but unable to look away.  And then it sets in.  How many posts about sheep and virtual farming do I need to let run past my eyes before I need to throw up my arms and close the browser.  Or better yet, step away from the computer.

Social Networking is undeniably a valuable communication and networking tool, but sometimes Facebook makes it hard to see how.  The trick answer is that Facebook is far from the be all and end all of Social Networking, and if that’s where your experience begins and ends, you may be missing out on some extremely valuable tools for professional outreach and development.

Exhibit A: LinkedIn.  Billed as the “professional” social network, this site has established itself as a true networking powerhouse.  The crudest way to describe it is imagining it as your online resume.  Your profile should mimic a lot of what your “analog” resume looks like.  But as with most web based platforms, it offers many more robust features.  From publicly posted recommendations from colleagues, supervisors, and clients, to status updates that allow you to discuss projects you’re working on and articles you find professionally stimulating.

LinkedIn provides many other robust tools for managing your professional network.  They have dynamic group pages where you can connect with others in similar fields, people with common interests or hobbies, or classmates and fellow alumni.  (You’d better believe we have an SPS Group waiting for you!)  LinkedIn has proven itself as the ideal way to stay in touch with old colleagues, and find potential new leads as you move along in your professional development.

But don’t just listen to me.  This pitch video hits on many of the key features of LinkedIn and why it is a truly indispensable tool for all professionals.

That doesn’t mean LinkedIn is the end all for all your professional networking.  Just because Facebook is dominated by Farmville and other games doesn’t mean it isn’t a remarkably useful tool.  Just because Twitter uses a bunch of strange words doesn’t mean it can’t help to solidify your personal brand and get you a job.  We will touch on all of this and more as the column progresses.

But as we move forward, I urge all of you to explore LinkedIn, set up a profile, and join the SPS Group.  I am happy to work with all of you on this, and if anyone has questions, please post them in the comments.  Chances are you’re not alone in wondering about all the oddities that go hand in hand with joining a new social network.  As students in a school of PROFESSIONAL studies, you are at a severe disadvantage these days if you don’t take advantage of all the tools available to you.  And LinkedIn is a very powerful tool.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.

Yesterday, news broke that MySpace, the one time crowned king of social networking, will be laying of 47% of its staff.  That means upwards of 500 employees may find themselves without a job.  Casualties of a battle that MySpace lost years ago.  Sure, the NewsCorp powered spin machine is in full effect saying that thanks to the site’s recent refocus and redesign they have streamlined their operations and are doing just fine, but no one is really buying that.  Mainly because nothing says “I’m doing just fine” quite like firing half of your staff.

But the writing was on the wall long before their hip new redesign.  It seems like no one at MySpace got the memo that no one uses their site anymore.  And that’s all thanks to Time’s Person of the Year: Mark Zuckerberg

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Zuckerberg (and really, after a semi-biographical hit movie and the aforementioned Time Magazine cover, you probably should), you’re definitely familiar with his product.  You’re probably mildly obsessed with it as well.

With more than 500 million active users, Facebook is nothing less than THE most important and socially relevant communication tool of the last decade.  Forget about your iPhone, forget about your email account, and definitely forget about your MySpace account.  Mark Zuckerberg and his team have not only changed the world, they’ve secured their position as the industry leader that will CONTINUE to change the world for the foreseeable future.

If you want to know just how unconcerned Mr. Zuckerberg is about alleged competition, look no further than his financial support of the anti-Facebook social networking site Diaspora.

In a world where every piece of technology you invest in is out of date two days later, it’s safe to say that Facebook is here to stay.  They’ve grown too large to just disappear.  So if you’re looking for the best place to network online, Facebook is the perfect starting point.  Sure there are other niche sites that are well worth your time (they will be discussed in detail as this column continues).  But for better or worse, Facebook is the undisputed king of social networking.  Not even Google has been able to topple them.

Though it’s entirely possible, that someone might turn Facebook into a MySpace-sized dinosaur, it is equally likely (if not more so) that they are here to stay.  They have built a company infrastructure that will be able to grow and adapt to their audience’s needs.  Conversely, their audience has proven that they’re invested enough to stick with them through a series of very public privacy concerns.  If major issues like that aren’t enough to shake Facebook’s base, it seems quite clear that they have filled the needs of their audience so well that no matter what they do, people will stick around.  Of course there will be some vocal complaining – it’s the internet, you should expect no less – but people will all but forget about it after a week when they get sucked back in to all the features the site provides.

An artist's rendition of what a map of the world's online communities would look like based on size. How many have you used?

So how many of you are active Facebook users?  What other sites do you use for networking and staying in touch with friends and contacts?  Do you think there’s anything on the horizon that can put a dent into Facebook’s global empire?

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.

#CUNYSPS is a new weekly column running on the SPS Community blog that will delve into various ways social networking and other advances in online media can be used to foster and grow a dynamic environment that serves the diverse community at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies.

Today, I tagged friends in photos on Facebook after tweeting about a news item I read on a blog.  When I arrived at work, I checked in on Foursquare, pinging all of my friends to let them know where I was.

That was today.  Ten years ago though, that sentence would have made no sense at all.  But welcome one and all to 2011 and the second decade of the 21st century, a time that will be defined by the new levels of social interaction being pioneered through various new online platforms.

I’m a bit obsessive about some of these sites and platforms, but it’s the users that have more casual interactions with Facebook, Twitter and the like that are guaranteeing that this is nothing short of a fundamental shift in how we communicate and interact with each other.  From the sharing of content and ideas, to the ease in which we can stay in touch with one another, we’re living in a golden age of connectivity.

The ecosystem being cultivated through sites like Facebook is ideal for community building in a place as diverse as CUNY’s School of Professional Studies.  From our online only students, to students working full time jobs that make more traditional interaction less manageable because of an already packed schedule.  Through online interaction, our students can engage and interact on a schedule that works for them, and bolster a network that can be just as beneficial professionally as it is socially.

And this is the foundation from which our Virtual Campus will be built.  We will foster communication on platforms you are already invested in.  It’s already well underway.  You just didn’t notice it because it’s natural at this point.  The #CUNYSPS column will highlight ways that this is being done, and spotlight some new technologies you may not yet be aware of.

And if the idea of Facebook, and Twitter, and blogs scares you?  Well then you’ll get a lot out of this column as well.  You’ll see just why these sites aren’t scary, or the waste of time you may be concerned about.  And to get you warmed up, as I sign off, I’d like to share this video with you.  Some food for thought until next time.

Shawn Abraham is SPS’ Virtual Campus Manager, which means he gets to have a lot of fun building an online community for the school.  He also has a lot of fun reading books about zombies.  These two things rarely intersect.