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« The Amazing Web 2.0 Projects Book | Main | Encouraging Digital Access to Culture »
Monday
Mar292010

Web 2.0 For Rookies: Scheduling

Scheduling is the act of writing something, and setting it to 'go live' at  some point in the future. Strictly speaking, it's not Web 2.0, and therefore should have no place in this series. However, it has an important part to play in a Web 2.0 universe, as we'll see.

A wise man once said that there is nothing new under the sun, and scheduling is a case in point. It has been around for a long time. Ever received emails from a member of your team sent around 5 am? If I were a more cynical person I'd suggest they had penned the email before leaving work for the day, and timed it to be sent early the next morning.

Putting such unworthy thoughts aside, can there ever be a legitimate use for a scheduling facility?

Staying with email for the moment, having an awareness of audience (which is one of the higher-order skills in ICT curricula, including the National Curriculum's ICT Programme of Study in England and Wales) should include knowing when one's emails are likely to be read. You could use this knowledge to minimise the chances of your carefully-crafted missives falling on deaf ears.

That, of course, raises another issue: do you or your students have any metrics about when the target audience for their project answers their emails? Why not?

This type of consideration comes into its own when sending out an emailed newsletter. When is the best day to send out your newsletter? When is the best time to send it? Now, if tracking the stats tells you that the best time to send out your newsletter is at 4 am on a Tuesday morning, or 2:30 pm on a Wednesday afternoon, that may well prove challenging because of sleep and work respectively. The solution is clear: prepare the newsletter at a more convenient time, but schedule it to be sent out at the more optimal time.

Let's turn to Twitter. A number of people have said that one way to amass lots of followers is to send out tweets throughout the day – and, presumably, night – in order to catch people in different time zones. The obvious flaw in that plan may be overcome by using a service like SocialOomph. That allows you, amongst other things, to send out tweets automatically at a time of your choosing.

I think the scope for sending out timely and relevant tweets using this approach is limited, but with a bit of thought you could use it to good effect, especially if you wanted to draw people's attention to an upcoming event, or recently-published book or website.

Another use for scheduling is to space out your published activity. For example, sometimes i will publish a blog post, which gets announced in Twitter automatically, and then a few minutes later discover a great-looking resource that I want to share with everybody. Rather than 'bombard people with another thing to read so soon after the first one, I'll often bookmark in Diigo. That will be posted on my blog and tweeted automatically later the next afternoon or morning.

Blogs, too, can be scheduled directly, if you have the right platform. One thing I really like about my new home for the ICT in Education blog is that this feature is provided. It means that if I know I am going to be away, or busy, I can write a few blog posts when I have the time to do so, and schedule them to come on-stream one at a time. How else could the most recent article about Web 2.0 have appeared on Friday afternoon, whilst I was making my way home from a school visit?

The facility is also useful for ensuring that posts which are part of a series can be available at the same time every day. For example, you may have noticed that articles in the'Web 2.0 For Rookies' series are almost always posted at 10 am UTC, whilst those in the 'Why Schools Cannot Ignore Web 2.0' series appear at 16:40.

Scheduling is also a great facility to have when you're 'on a roll'. I don't often suffer from  writer's block, but there are certainly times when I am more creative than others. So, during those times, if I can write half a dozen articles in one go, I'd be silly not to do so, and then set them up to go live on successive days.

So now you're probably wondering whether I wrote this article just now, or 'cheated' by writing it some time ago. In fact, I wrote it two days ago, whilst nursing a latté in a hospital restaurant. I figured the most appropriate time to write an article about scheduling was when I had the time, and to set it to auto-publish later.

Be honest: would you have expected anything else?

Over to you

I've suggested in this article a few ways in which I think the scheduling facility is a real boon. Can you think of any others?

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