My 2011 in Social Media

This past year, I got blogging and tweeting more seriously. This has had me become more and more interested in the professional use of social media, i.e. for research, publication and advocacy.

Not surprisingly, my social media efforts are focused primarily on supplementary education, Japan, and Mongolia.

My Facebook Author Page

First though, bridging traditional publishing and social media, my book author Facebook page is liked by more than 100 of you (thanks!). If you all were book buyers (of my book, that is) that would represent about 1/4 of sales.


I forget when exactly I set up my Twitter account, but I initially lurked primarily and found Twitter an interesting way to follow some foreign correspondents, primarily in Asia, recognizing that most of them publish a fraction of the stories they come across, but that they’re increasingly tweeting about stories.

Asia Pacific Memo

Some of this realization also led us at the Institute of Asian Research to create the Asia Pacific Memo in July 2010 as an attempt to change the culture of academic publishing, but supplementing important traditional channels like peer-reviewed journals, with forms of communication that are aimed more explicitly at an interested public. With Asia Pacific Memo we do this through very short written pieces (<350 words) or brief video interviews. I’ve been involved in this process from the beginning, have written some Memos and continue to be very interested in how to make Asia Pacific Memo more present in social media (FB, Twitter, YouTube). Interestingly, one of my very early Memos continues to have one of the longest lives of any Memo with more than 50 pageviews per month more than a year after publication. Part of the “success” of this Memo appears to be the use of the term “hypereducation” in this Memo which I have adopted for the Jukupedia blog as well. A lesson about academic branding in social media?

This year, I was involved directly in the following Memos:

Back to twitter…

On March 11, Japan was struck by a massive earthquake that caused a tsunami and triggered a nuclear crisis. At the time, I was teaching at the University of Toulouse as a visiting professor and felt quite cut off from news other than the sensationalist news channels. Fortunately, Japanese news channels were streaming on-line. Largely as a form of therapy for myself to combat the feeling of helplessness in the face of such a disaster in Japan, I started translating little bits of Japanese news announcements on Twitter. Soon enough, a couple of news organizations (Mark Mackinnon of the Globe & Mail may have been first) listed me as tweets to follow and my number of followers shot up from the around 100 where it had hovered for quite a while, to over 500 where it sits now. British journalist Kate Bussmann published “A Year in Twitter” at the end of the year and included a couple of my #JPQuake tweets in that collection.

Interestingly, few people who followed me during the #JPQuake seem to be unfollowing even when my tweets are a mix of observations, news, pointers on Japan and Mongolia.

At year end I have tweeted more than 900 times and have nearly 600 followers.

MAAPPS Twitter

For the entire year, we’ve also been tweeting about the MA Asia Pacific Policy Studies that I direct. It has been mostly me and program assistant, Kerry, who have been tweeting though the students occasionally chirp in as well. We’ve intended this graduate program tweet to give prospective applicants a sense of the daily goings-on in the program and some of the highlights in a more informal way than static web pages provide. At this point nearly 80 people are following the account, though that includes a number of institutional UBC accounts and current/former students.

We’ve also experimented with virtual office hours for prospective applicants this fall, giving interested students a chance to ask questions about the program and get very quick, to-the-point responses. This has been mildly successful, though I’ve certainly enjoyed it.

Jukupedia Blog

Sometime in April, I started blogging about supplementary education ( I started this blog after and during attending large conferences this Spring (AAS and CIES) and recognizing that a) I always have lots to say about juku in Japan and supplementary education more broadly, and b) not all of what I have to say fits into traditional publication outlets.

That desire to ruminate, share information, discuss supplementary education has led to 80 posts and over 1,300 visitors to the Jukupedia.

Spikes in traffic occurred especially when I commented on newspaper pieces and linked my comments to a more extensive blog post.

So far, the existence of the blog has also led some researchers and graduate students to contact me about related topics they’re interested in to conduct research on.

The most widely read blog posts are a group of mixed topics with some where it is clear why they received a lot of traffic (incoming links/referrals from colleagues/contacts), while others have less obvious explanations.

 Mongolia Blog

This year I have been delighted to have Byamba visiting from the Univ of Hokkaido. He used the desk in front of my office and combined with the presence of Mendee who was finishing up the MAAPPS program and now started graduate work in Political Science, this provided many opportunities to talk about current developments in Mongolia. Finally, we decided that we should record/share our discussions and started the Mongolia Today blog.

Since August, we’ve already had over 2,000 visitors to that blog and I very much hope to be able to continue to write even after Byamba has returned to Japan and as we head into the 2012 parliamentary election campaign.

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