This is in partial answer to Karyn’s question. My first foray into using the Web for more than just gathering information was in asking questions to those who were publishing. Kieren Egan, author of The Educated Mind, posted e-mail comments on his web site, and my post from 1997 is the earliest I can find online. For the next several years, I read a lot online and made some comments. Jay Cross‘ earlier websites were a common spot for me to make comments. During this time, I used online discussion boards and many closed platforms, but not much on the open Web, as there weren’t many options.
My first step toward almost blogging was with QuickTopic in 2003, discussing topics like elearning R&D and Open Source for learning. I still find QT an excellent discussion board. I later moved to Blogger, which I found to be a more flexible platform for the expression of my opinions, such as this from October 2003:
I believe the next great business model for an elearning entrepreneur is to provide high quality installation and support services for a select group of open source learning systems. Your customers will soon realize that you are not trying to sell them the next upgrade to get more cash, because the software is free. You will be selling your knowledge, experience, and customer service. Many IT departments would be more apt to use open source if they knew that it was strongly supported. Also, there is a lot less conflict of interest when you remove the vendor from the ongoing support.
Maybe I should have invested in Blackboard stock instead 😉
For me, social media have been closely linked with my becoming a free-agent (June 2003). Blogs were becoming easier to use, and by early 2004 I had this one up and running on Drupal. Since then, it has been a fast trip testing out so many different platforms and applications that I cannot remember them any more. Thankfully my blog has become a knowledge-base so that I can find out what I was doing and writing about four years ago.
Social media – first blogs, then wikis, bookmarks, SNS, micro-blogging, etc – have provided a richer way to engage people whom I would not have met other than online. It has allowed me to engage many communities, such as edubloggers and open source advocates. To say that social media have made a difference to my professional practice would be an understatement. Much of my current practice has become focused around social media. Five years ago I would have said that I was a training and performance improvement consultant. Today, I would say that I specialize in social media for learning and working.