Could you tell us about your background (where you’re from, what you’ve done)?
I’m originally from Galway City. I grew up here but spent some time in London and Dublin. I’ve worked in the technology sector for fifteen years, and I have worked in the Social Web space this past seven.
What was your route into social media?
A degree in chemistry started it all off. I was twenty-two and had just bought .net magazine. I had to select a final year project as part of my course that summer. Always interested in new things, I applied to design the chemistry department’s website as my final year project. The more time I spent on the Web during that year, the more I realised the huge impact the Web was going to have on society, and the more and more I got into it. I abandoned my chemistry skills and ended up working in tech. After a number of years working I went back to retrain, and I completed a Master’s degree at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) in NUI Galway.
While I was at DERI, I began researching online social networking. This was B4FB (before Facebook) during the days of Orkut – before the Brazilians took it over! This exposure to new emerging online media at DERI led into a foray of research into social media, online communities and Semantic Web technologies.
Tell us a little bit (if you can) about what you’re interested in or working on right now.
I’m working on business strategies for growing community and measuring that growth in community online. Not the fluffy stuff, but scientifically and organically approaching social media to grow community. It is the more sophisticated side of social media. Anyone can use social media and it takes very little effort to be a status monkey, but to actually make a community grow and measuring your reach and where it goes online is the hard bit.
I also run Open Coffee Galway once a month in Galway City. It is an informal meetup to discuss internet and other technology developments along with having interesting speakers from time to time. I also run Twestival Galway to raise money for various charities using Twitter. I am also bringing FashionCamp Ireland to Galway next April in association with the Fashion Fiesta, which is run by the Galway Technical Institute. I am very excited about the project as they are very forward looking and progressive as an institute.
What social media services do you use regularly and why?
The usual suspects of Facebook and Twitter. They are the easiest to connect with my online social networks. Especially on my mobile. I am starting to use LinkedIn more and more there is a wealth of information and talent there.
If you could only keep one service or tool, what would it be, and why have you chosen it?
Facebook. Well it’s where everyone is isn’t it? I find I use Facebook chat and the Facebook e-mail a lot for connecting with people. It’s also highly addictive. It can make for compulsive viewing.
Including your own area of expertise, what developments in social media do you think are particularly important?
I think the area of collaboration in the future is set to be huge – we can expect video to become easier to use and for people to edit.
What can you do now that you couldn’t do before the arrival of social media?
Connect with my family abroad – call and see them overseas with no cost involved. I remember a time when making long distance calls in Ireland was considered a rarity and expensive. It’s the instantaneous connectivity of it I love.
What issues, either technical or social, do you see with social media?
The bad side of it is always there. The bullying and negativity (trolling is a good example of this). I also see a major issue with younger people uploading photos, videos and comments of things that they are doing in their late teens and not realising that it’s permanent once online – the 15 minutes of privacy is the future I guess.
I also see Facebook as a locked-in one view of the world. I hope they implement some technologies which will allow your data to move around the Web. Facebook crashed earlier this week and my first thought was: “Oh no, all my photos”! I guess we will have to wait and see what happens as it does have 500 million people.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone entering the social media world?
Listen to and engage with your community.
How do you see social media helping and improving things for us in the future?
I think we are about to enter a new collaborative age with people from all over the planet being able to swap ideas and build together in a way that has never been seen before. With all of these tools adding to collaboration, we can expect some interesting projects and societal developments taking shape swiftly. People thinking locally can now work globally with the new age of social media.