Although the term activity stream may sound rather techie and unfamiliar, I am confident that it is something that you probably already know about. Don’t agree? If you’re involved with social media in any form or fashion, then you are familiar with the concept of activity streams and their uses in social communication.
What Are Activity Streams?
The simplest definition is that activity streams are a communication format. This format is used to share activities and actions taken in social web applications and services in a very transparent manner. Typically, this ends up being a listing of activities performed by an individual on a single website. Activities are generally text, but they can also include links to webpages, documents, pictures, audio, or video.
These activities are then broadcast to users or a group who follow the activity, and are made available to others. It all depends on the setup of the site. There are also applications that can aggregate the activities performed by an individual across multiple websites.
Where Would You Find Activity Streams?
Facebook, Myspace, Yammer, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and many others. There are activities streaming software applications created for use with enterprise software systems within organizations. These include tools like Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Connections, Chatter, Jive, Yammer, and Newsgator,
How Does This Apply to the World of Training?
This really falls into three different categories for me:
- social and informal learning
- knowledge management
- needs assessment.
Let’s talk about informal learning and social collaboration. Activity streams show other linked users, activities, and actions that you have taken. This includes files read, files shared, and so forth. The shared files and activity trail can lead to informal learning on the job when linked users come across this activity. Another distribution option includes resources that you have received that you feel are important enough to pass along to your connections and network. Once you share the information, you have provided a new resource for the activity feed—whether it’s a link to a webpage, document, picture, audio, or video—that could trigger a learning event for another member of your network.
Let’s talk about knowledge management at its simplest form. An activity stream is a way to host a conversation that leaves a record for others to reference and use, again, consider it as a blend of knowledge management with a dash of informal learning. Unlike an email string distributed among a limited group of contacts for a specific purpose and then left to take up space in someone’s Inbox, this conversation stays online, in the open, and available to others within your network. This shared information can prevent others from having to reinvent the wheel and could answer a question that they have during a step in process XY Z. Activity steams can also be used to for announcements and news items within an organization instead of a single email creating a timeline or record for others to reference down the road. One of the great aspects of activity streams is their search ability as long as the information is publicly available and not restricted when published.
Let’s talk about needs assessment. If your organization is utilizing activity steams the types of questions posted can help identify learning needs within your organization. I’ve seen an example of this on Linked In, Group members asking the same question or similar question, time and time again, without an answer being provided by the group. This is a way to identify a knowledge gap within the group, address the issue, and provide knowledge for users in the organization. This works just as well for knowledge as it does technical systems. When you see users posting questions about system use or process steps can be a clue that a job aid may be in order to help that user and others. Questions and polls that are repeated are great ways to identify an opportunity knowledge gaps.
Where Can I Find More Information?
Making the most of informal learning: http://www.slideshare.net/janehart/gmuslides
Web 2.0: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0
Web 2.0 Tools: http://web2012.discoveryeducation.com/web20tools.cfm
ASTD Blog: Learning in the Social Workplace: http://www.astd.org/Publications/Blogs/ASTD-Blog/2012/06/From-Learning-Technologies-to-Social-Technologies.aspx