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Anything social, mostly the location component of social

Solving the social media puzzle for students

solvingA simple yet not so simple topic: I was asked to discuss the ‘useful use’ of social media by students during a Geoplaza event, in other words: how can students benefit from what social media has to offer? My talk was divided into three steps: first understand (digital) social systems, then understand how to position yourself in such a system and (third) how to actively participate.


Understand social systems

One does not need to study social sciences to understand what social systems are about: a group of people who are somehow connected and behave according to written and unwritten rules. Social media can be part of such a system. Understanding how communication works in such a group (e.g what is 1:M vs M:M communication; how does written and verbal communication compare) and what unwritten rules are  (e.g. don’t get coffee just for yourself ) are a good first step towards active participation.

Social skills help us to behave in social systems. Although in our core we are the same person in various social systems, hopping from one social system to another requires us to behave different. In case you doubt this, just compare your behavior in class to your behavior at home: you talk about different topics, even use different words. And no job appraisal system has worked in a family social system (although is a great fun to give it a try).

It is important to understand how to shift gear from one communication method to another. Although the medium may be the message, some messages are not best replied to by using that same medium. In other words: some tweets deserve an email reply. And some emails do not deserve an email reply, but rather a phone call.


Technisch weer!

It’s all about positioning…


Without even any effort, even when we are completely inactive, when we enter a social system, we take position. A simple model of such a system is the communication ladder (e.g. as used by Lee/Bernoff), which classifies our position based on our contribution to the system.

Comparing that to the occasion of the day: when I give a presentation, I am the creator in such a system. The active listeners can been seen as spectators. Those who ask critical questions are very important to the system. It takes a lot more energy to create compared to the inactive and spectator roles (there tend to be many more of those as well). Although all roles are necessary to create a well-balanced social system, the pieces of the social media puzzle are not of the same size.

A way to position yourself: describe a few characteristics of YOU (e.g like Ukrainian folk dancing, admires great architecture, is into marketing). Plot these characteristics on to the social media matrix, with a privat vs public and an online vs offline axis. Then position the various social media platforms in the graph. And stick to chosen positions. One example: describes my upper right quadrant (notice: no Facebook !).



In order for social media to be useful for you (student), it is key that you actively participate in them. There is no need to be a creator in all the social systems you participate in, but you should not be a spectator in all of them either. So for example: contribute ‘a thought per day’ on twitter, comment on the presentations you like on Slideshare or a discussion on LinkedIn, or write a blogpost that takes more effort than your daily tweet  (or combine all the above).

On request I ended the short presentation with an explanation of how I participate in LinkedIn and how that compares to the model. My ground rule is that I connect with people I have met or will meet shortly, exceptions accepted (e.g. faraway students). I start a discussion (create), comment on discussions, like updates (almost like a spectator). My updates are related to work and professional interest only. Hardly ever will I: write about my favorite cats on LinkedIn, publish about maps on Facebook, send tweets about Ukrainian folk dancing. I do not mix these channels of communication, since they are different social systems.

Good question from the audience: should I put the name of my favorite soccer team on my LinkedIn profile? My first reply was that this very much depends on the name and reputation of the team. My second reply: this depends on how you have structured your social media matrix and the private/public and on/off line balance. To me this makes only sense when you work at that soccer club.


Half a globe

Connect the world with social media

Final thoughts

The gold in social media can be found in sharing knowledge, connecting to the world, supporting a community, be seen as a -soon to be- professional, for a small effort only (do not factor out fun). And participating in a professional network does not need to be a real puzzle: understand social systems, position yourself in those systems and actively participate by contributing.

I encourage student to give that a conscious try and learn the (digital) social skills. Anonymity may be great to comment on YouTube videos, but it will not get you anywhere when you want to professionally network in a digital world. At the same time, I urge students not to surrender their lives to a ‘siren server’: those that claim that all must be open and openly served (on their platform). Be in charge of your own odyssey in life and be mute to the siren server companies.

Do solve your own social media puzzle. I hope the presentation (and this a-bit-too-long-blogpost) may give you some direction towards a solving that puzzle.


Jw : October 27, 2013 11:13 pm : Social media
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The GeoSpatial Foursquare obligation

Explore what is around you

Foursquare is an app which helps you explore what is around you, share your location with friends and/or contribute to better points-of-interest. By checking in at locations, Foursquare lets you collect points. You can become the mayor of a venue if you check-in often enough, that is when you check-in more than others do. Off course there is no real obligation to use Foursquare, but I am making an exception for geographers, or those working in the GeoSpatial world. They should at least have an opinion about the hyperlocal world and apps like Foursquare, and a good way to gain understanding is to give it a try yourself. This blogpost is just a short résumé of my personal Foursquare experience and it may be of help as well.

The participation puzzle
As social media networks can be quite puzzling, I have channeled my participation and contributions into separate channels (this may require a separate blogpost). My Foursquare “friends” (connections would be more appropriate) are -real- people I have met and share a similar work environment with: the GeoSpatial world or the world of modern maps if you will. This does e.g. exclude friends in the Dutch sense, I keep them in my Facebook world. Every now and then I go through my list of connections and disconnect the inactive ones. Although I never insist on reciprocity, maintaining a lurking connection does not make sense to me.

I do not care much about the mayorships or the points I gather, but the awards are sometimes surprisingly rewarding. And a remark like ‘you have not been in a harbour since San Diego’, ‘welcome back to Italy’ or ‘You were here just five months ago’ is good for a digital smile. When you receive a “Nerd Alert”, after checking in at 25 different book stores, you know Foursquare clearly gets your spatial profile.

Occasionally I will share my Foursquare check-in with my Facebook friends, just to let them know where I am at. At times I will do the same with Twitter, just to show my appreciation to Foursquare and to all my weak social ties, and beyond.

you know Foursquare clearly gets your spatial profile

If actions must have benefits and -just fun- does not suffice, checking in -and seeing others do the same- has the benefit of a higher spatial consciousness: you feel spatially connected to friends at places, where you actually are not yourself. At times we happen to be physically close to one another, which has led to an occasional extra cup of coffee at a railway station. Feeling spatially connected is a big payoff for spatial thinkers.

Foursquare surves as a personal spatial diary (where was that restaurant we went to last year) and one you can easily share with your friends. Checking in at locations can have pecuniary benefits as well. I have enjoyed free drinks and discounts on dinners (I am very Dutch) by checking into venues. Sometimes I just forget to claim the discount, but at least I had an interesting dinner conversation.

Since my Foursquare connections have solved the social media puzzle in a different way, I see people check in at their grandmothers house, their own home (it should not be too difficult to become the mayor of that), the birthday party of their children, a mix of all of the above. It is the ‘double fun’ aspect of foursquare.

A big benefit to geographers is contributing to a better map of the world. That means also reporting when venues have moved or when they are in the wrong position. I do that occasionally, should do that more often. In case you wonder: the wisdom of the crowd is not at work within Foursquare, since users influence each other when they check-in. Independent check-ins (e.g. not seeing popular venues or venues with existing users) would be needed for that (see James Surowiecki).

It seems any discussion on the use of social media brings the privacy topic to the table and rightfully so. Citizens have different levels of trust towards firms and governments and this trust varies from country to country as well. That trust will be nullified in case of a security breach. One of the reasons for me to use different social media channels is that the thought of entrusting all my data to one corporation is not very comforting to me, however benign that corporation presents itself.

Foursquare cares about the privacy of its users and the policy seems solid. Tips you give on Foursquare are publicly accessible, when you upload photos you are offered on open to the world / only for your network option. Foursquare has a ‘private’ option, meaning your check-in will not be disclosed to your connections, just to you and Foursquare. There are also settings available related to your visibility in your network or to the owners of a venue.

My check-ins are mostly geographically correct, meaning I am actually at that location. But I do think twice before checking in at a location, selectively revealing where I am at. If the real location is possibly problematic (e.g. the office of a prospect), I will just check-in at a nearby station. The real privacy option in Foursquare is off course not checking in at all, ever (paraphrasing Eric Schmidt..).


Nice cartography courtesy of MapBox with a litte help from the great OpenStreetMap community

So what about the Foursquare obligation*?

My main point: the vast amount of spatial data collected, whether voluntary with Fourquare or similar apps, or involuntary, by a trace on your phone, has a huge impact on geographic data at large. This will change the way we make maps in the very near future. If you want to stay abreast of these developments, there is no escape but to experiment and experience it yourself.

Geographers should have some idea about how this kind of data may affect the perfect map. My advice is to try Foursquare out for a fix period of time (e.g. 10 weeks) and consider if the benefit subtracted by the effort is positive. Just contributing to a better map and a better point-of-interest should be worth the Foursquare endeavor. Apart from that, the visualisations based on check-ins are really amazing and it is great to contribute to those as well.

And what I got out of it now: a chance to gather and publish a few thoughts beyond the length of the average tweet (taking Jason Lanier and his “Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection” very serious). Without any obligation and regardless of how many people check into my blog.

*Maybe the title of a movie-to-be, in which case I will not claim the rights to the title once the movie has been released.


[note: wrote this before PRISM was revealed..]

Jw : June 8, 2013 10:15 pm : Maps and Apps, Social media
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About time I updated my page

Jan Willem van Eck

Fairly open & geo-minded explorer. You may find me where people meet geography and technology (and vice versa). A bibliophile and fan of good design. Grey has always been my favorite colour.

Maybe you should too? It’s a nice aggregator to become a complete ‘social you’.

Jw : March 5, 2013 9:57 pm : Social media
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2000th #tweet in the #Twitter universe

A tweet a day keeps the doctor away

Says my twitter account and I’ve lined up a few thoughts for the occasion, my two cents on Twitter. Just like at the 1000-mark, it is not much of an accomplishment, but it is a moment for reflection anyhow. How has my use of Twitter evolved? Twitter is still mostly a way to share, reshare, point out, a daily thought. A tool for personal expression and free thoughts (or thoughts for free if you will).

And some days I have none to share.


  • I follow only a few connections. I do not to understand the reciprocity (I follow you, so you follow me) on Twitter. Klout scores aside,  how can you follow even 100 “connections”? (my guess is you don’t).
  • At times I react to strangers, or they react to me, without much effect. The stronger the social tie, the more likely a real response seems to be. But that response usually comes to me via a different medium (e.g. email or a real conversation).
  • I don’t tweet with colleagues (as a mention).  Just believe meeting up irl is so much more handy & appropriate.
  • Spelling and grammer: I do not correct my spelling errurs. It comes with the medium and “Imperfections lead to interesting stuff” (by @Tom_Peters).
  • The tweets I really like, get retweeted. ”. Sometimes I actually do add “Like” or “Toll” (meaning great in German).
  • I do use Twitter to monitor (lurk if you will) other tweets, I follow a few hashtags (e.g. #geonl #openinnovation #opendata #esri) and use those to send out messages at times as well.
  • Sometimes I do plan ahead for a certain tweet, just for the heck of it. I might just send out a tweet while on an airplane.


Free thoughts for sale. Thanks, I’ll buy that!

Who am I, on Twitter? My original bio has not changed much (just changed ESRI to Esri, what’s in a capital?). I tweet mostly about “professional” related topics. And of course it is a balance between benevolent self-promotion and sharing what easily can be shared (whether reading that is useful to others or not.).

I am still working on my master formula for using Twitter and it will likely involve variables like share, reshare, fun, real conversation, invested effort (close to none). For the occasion, I made a twitter map of the world (in five minutes). Who in the world would ever use the word twitter, tweet or tweep in a tweet? BTW my first tweet, dated at 2009-05-25 15:35:52: “on my way home from work and thinking about what to do with twitter”.



Keep on tweeting…



Jw : February 22, 2013 9:59 pm : Social media
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Een g-e-o-w-e-b-i-n-a-r, wat is dat?

Aanstaande donderdag (10 mei) is het zover: het eerste webinar in de Nederlandse Geo wereld. Wat is het? Een webinar is net als een normale bijeenkomst, maar dan “op het internet”: je belt in – beter: je connect – via je computer en je kan zo meeluisteren en -kijken naar wat een spreker te vertellen heeft. Het onderwerp van dit eerste webinar: hoe kan je met ArcGIS Online kaarten en applicaties maken en bewerken, en weer met anderen delen. Maar webinars zijn voor meerdere doeleinden te gebruiken.

Zelf ik heb ik al aan een reeks webinars deelgenomen: soms zijn het auteurs van boeken, die een interview ‘met de hele wereld’ opzetten; soms kan je zomaar aan een college van een universiteit ver weg deelnemen; en soms ben je online met deelnemers van Hawaï tot Hengelo, om te luisteren naar het verhaal achter een mobiele app ontwikkeling op een Android telefoon.

Gaat geominnend Nederland nu aan de webinar? Volgens mij vormen webinars een goede aanvulling op “elkaar echt ontmoeten”. Je kan een webinar (net als tv) vaak terugkijken – of terugspoelen- en actief meedoen is mogelijk door vragen af te vuren. Je doet gewoon vanaf achter je buro mee en inschrijven kan tot kort voor het webinar begint. Een webinar is helemaal van ‘het nieuwe werken’ en ik zie nog wel meerdere webinars om ons af komen. Voor we het weten is de ledenvergadering van GIN (donderdag 31 mei) via een webinar te volgen!

Note: de hoogste tijd om mijn artikel over social media eens te updaten… (naast webinar & tweetups, dan ook aandacht voor Pinterest en Trover).

Jw : May 6, 2012 7:12 pm : Esri, Geo, Geo-Informatie Nederland, Social media
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On social media sincerity

As I presented twitter mood maps (source NewScientist) during recent presentations, questions about the sincerity and truthfulness of social media messages were triggered by several in the audience. Just by the sheer number of tweets analysed in these twitter mood maps, I believe there must be some truth in the rumour. But are we who we say we are, on social media?

Broadcasting where you are and what you are doing now may not be smart. Checking in at the local Hooters might not be a  big deal in Holland (I don’t, it would damage my personal brand), it is a big deal elsewhere. Even worse, pronouncing what you read can get you in trouble in some parts of the world. Apart from that, I suspect there are cultural and generation dependencies at work here.

It is easy to lie with social media, but hard to keep that up (this couch potato just checked at a local health club, but doing that every day would be beyond suspicion). Painting too perfect a picture of oneself is not too smart either. I do believe that in time, hiding the truth will be very, very difficult. You might as well bring the real you out, to preempt that to-be-expected social media blooper, or worse: disaster. I don’t think that means being fully open and transparent, but if you add up your, it should paint a honest picture.

One day, we will have become who we really are, also in social media land. Come to think of it, aren’t most firms really presenting a perfect picture of themselves? Interesting topic for research!

Actually, I had a rather nice day today :).

Jw : March 20, 2012 10:00 pm : Me, myself and I, Social media
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Verhalen vertellen, met kaarten

Wat een g e w e l d i g e dag, bij de Infographics 2012, vorige week vrijdag in het Figi te Zeist. Ik was helemaal vereerd dat ik ook een bijdrage mocht leveren, dit keer op een podium. En wat een andere sprekers! Die heb ik veel te kort gesproken, dan maar elektronisch opvolgen…

Mijn verhaal, Scrape to Map, in hoofdlijnen:

Data explosion: doordat er steeds meer digitale data en open (geo)data, en steeds meer data door ons eigen toedoen (dank social media) beschikbaar komt, kunnen we ook meer kaarten maken. We moeten de data alleen nog maar even bij elkaar schrapen….

Get projections: kartografen hadden het maar wat gemakkelijk toen de aarde plat was. Nu dat niet zo blijkt te zijn (…) moeten we fouten in vb richting, lengte of oppervlak accepteren als we van bol naar plat vlak gaan. Op een webmap van Nederland komt dat niet zo precies, maar voor grotere gebieden wel. En op een Mercator kaart moet je geen gebieden vergelijken.

Mind the rulez: kartografische spelregels zorgen voor een optimale overdracht van variabelen. Afwijken mag, maar mijn advies: test een thematische kaart (of Infographic) gewoon 2 seconden, werkt de kaart wel? Warm aanbevolen: Semiology of graphics, Jacques Bertin.

Stories to tell (verhalen vertellen, met kaarten): voor mij was Steve Doig het grote voorbeeld, en op basis van zijn ideeën hebben we Nederland Kiest opgezet. Vervolgens heb ik in mijn presentatie een paar halve kaarten/verhalen voorgesteld, waar mogelijk nog een echt verhaal inzit. Voorbeeld: Arm en rijk (wonen) in 1919 en Bomen in Nijmegen. Maar ik sta open voor echte uitdagingen!

Nogmaals: een geweldige dag. Ben er graag weer bij, op 15 maart 2013.

Jw : March 12, 2012 9:20 pm : Esri, Open, Open data, Social media
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Social media, lies and statistics

Every now and then I am reminded of the social media chasm: those completely into it, opposed to those that will tell you to get real. What is the benefit? I can only guess the introduction of email was less hefty, since I do not recall any business case discussion about that at all (maybe because I got introduced to it the first day on the first job; note: we are talking 1987 here…).

Moving to a new domain name recently did make me look at some of the statistics around the

  • Number of views on my blog: 19,645 (in 2012)
  • Most favorite posts: MapMyconnections (2240)
  • Most comments: The end of Open Source in the Netherlands (42)
  • Number of views of my presentations on Slideshare: some 16,000
  • Most favorite presentation: What journalists need to know about making maps (2129)
  • Number of views on Issuu: 4822
  • Most views are on the English summery of my thesis on open innovation!
  • Number of pages I have read in 2011: 7387 (says Anobii, this cannot be right)
  • When I egosearch my name, I get 227,000 results in the Netherlands (my name is not unique…)
  • … etc etc (ignoring LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, etc for now)

If I would have named this post “On Sex, lies and statistics” the number of hits would increase tremendously. Or I could have rephrased a popular expression (e.g. Crossing the social media chasm), piggyback on its fame and glory, and get more hits that way. What is the value of all of this?

My ‘evidence’ (if needed) is still very anecdotal. I recently presented to some 50 people on open innovation. That presentation is now nearing the 1000 mark on Slideshare. The return from a real-life presentation is 3-4 reactions; about the same I get from posting my presentation on Slideshare. With hardly any extra (time) investment, I double my ‘return’.

My goal is unchanged: one (real) conversation a week. Share what I know, or think I know, without any extra effort at all. Respond here and there to others that do the same. Hoping for good feedback on my thoughts and scriblings. Doing fine so far.

Jw : January 8, 2012 6:59 pm : Me, myself and I, Social media
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What is where and why is it there?

Actually, I was quite honored to be asked to present on this topic at Connecting the Offices, which just happened to take place during GIS Day! This event was put together by Esri Nederland’s office managers, for office managers of our users and partners. Participants were not so much geo aware, that is why I came up with the presentation below. Felt my contribution to the day was the least I could do, but here are the main points anyhow.

What is where
This relates to topography, describing places. How ‘we’ do that has changed quite a bit through time. Cartographers have always given their best estimates of what the world looks like, sometimes representing only half of a countries (e.g. New Zealand on the map of the world in the Royal Palace in Amsterdam).

So maps are just images of reality and some maps, which describe a possible future, will never become reality.

And why there?
This is where it may become interesting: geographic analysis. What happens where when etc. When the sea level rises, what does Southern Florida look like? Where do people with the same last name live (and why is that so?)? Of course I added a bit on hyperlocal media and how that influences geographic questions.

It is a good sign when you need to stare at a map a bit. Some data is just hard to visualize, which it makes it a rather more interesting challenge.

Geographic thinking
Asking geographic questions, but in a structured framework. Brought my own example of last year’s Mapping My LinkedIn Connections project. We did ask all participants a question as well: where were you born, where do you live and which places do you go to, to get inspired? It leads to interesting conversations.

I ended my presentation with a sneak preview of Nederland van Boven, which is becoming a topic hard to avoid in the small world of geographic information in the Netherlands….

Again, it was great to present to this audience. Made me realize how much I need such fine colleagues to make order out of chaos (at times, of course, only at times…)


Jw : November 17, 2011 8:51 pm : Esri, Maps and Apps, Social media

Connecting the hyperlocal world to professional GIS

It was only last year that I decided to actively pursue hyperlocal media, while at the Esri User Conference and discussing the topic with a colleague there. Can you seriously be a great fan of geographic information in all its aspects, and ignore hyperlocal?*

So I got on the bandwagon with Foursquare and invited many others to do so as well. Clearly there is a network effect at play: why freely reveal where you are and what you are up to, when no-one at all is listening in? But just doing that can be of great value to a group of friends, who do care.

Foursquare is aha-technology (got that one from Larry Lessig): you just have to try it out yourself for a while, before you can say “aha, I got it”. In case you are benefits seeker (your effort is extremely low), these are the clear benefits I received so far:
- I got first just offered discounts at restaurants and later used them as well (15% and 10% of the bill).
- I get a chance to stay in touch with people, who also work professionally with geographic information. Actually, at our recent users conference I met some of them for the first time ever.
- Spatial conversations: why you are where and what you are doing there can be the start of interesting spatial conversations. It is an early start so far, but a few interesting ones have started up.

When I think a check-in is relevant for my friends & family, I will check through into Facebook. And when I think it might have some relevance to the world (…), I will use Twitter and might even include the LinkedIn and/or Yammer hashtag as well. The response on revealing my location differs per network, really interesting to monitor!

As with many new technologies, I set myself a goal to test it out for a while. I thought 1000 check-ins would be reasonable and so far I am beyond half way in this experiment (almost 700) and still going strong. At 1000, I will determine if the benefits outweigh the costs. This is my small contribution to push hyperlocal media beyond the hype curve, but I honestly think it does not require any help. So far, the fun outweighs any of the efforts involved!

I am still working on connecting the hyperlocal world to professional GIS, but connecting the GIS world to hyperlocal is off to a great start.

*no problem, off course you can. But as Foursquare is approaching 1 billion check-ins, it unlikely this phenomena will just disappear.

Jw : October 27, 2011 1:46 pm : Esri User Conference, GIS Conferentie, Maps and Apps, Social media
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