Learning the site. Learning the service. Learning to learn.
Posted by Allie K
What is the difference between a social media “site” and a “service?” At first it might seem that the two words can be used interchangeably to lend a little variety to the wording of a blog post. However, the difference between the two terms is a lot less subtle than that. A “site” is a set of web pages, typically connected by a shared URL. A “service” is an aspect of a site that offers some sort of function (Ferro and Zachry, 2014). For instance, www.twitter.com is a web “site” that offers “services” like microblogging.
In their research published in 2014, Ferro and Zachry take a survey of knowledge workers four years in a row to monitor the frequency of use and the function of publicly available online services (PAOS) in their work. Ferro and Zachry found that the majority of those polled reported using PAOSs during 20% of their workweek (p. 13).
Though the percentage of time spent using PAOSs remained fairly constant each year, the sites and services being used changed from year to year. For instance, the most used site by knowledge workers in 2008 was Wikipedia. In 2009 there was a tie between the use of LinkedIn and Twitter. In 2010, Twitter gained almost 5% in usage over LinkedIn, and then in 2011 Google Calendar took the lead. Not only are the most popular sites different from the previous year, but so are the services provided by the sites. Wikipedia is a wiki, LinkedIn is a network creator, Twitter is a microblogging site and Google Calendar is a knowledge transactor.
What we can learn from this is that, though PAOSs will continue to be important tools in knowledge workers’ professional repertoire, the specific sites and services that are being utilized can rise and fall in popularity in as little as a year’s time.
When reviewing this study I was reminded me of how my undergraduate professors taught my Communications Design cohort how to use the Adobe suite (the industry standard technology in the graphic design profession). To be more specific, they purposefully didn’t teach us a single keystroke. All they did was tell us on our first assignment that we “might want to use PhotoShop” for this assignment, so we should probably go figure it out before coming back to class next week… or at least figure it out well enough to complete the homework. Their philosophy was that the programs that their students use professionally will always be in flux. Whatever software they would have taught us that year would be outdated by the time we graduate. To teach the design students how to use PhotoShop is to make them experts in that specific program only. In forcing them to teach themselves, they are given the resources and confidence to learn to use the next programs after the first ones become out of date.
By the time I graduated I had taught myself the Adobe suite well enough to secure my first job. I have learned a lot since, mostly through continued google searches and discussions with my co-workers, but the knowledge that I can teach myself anything gives me the confidence to jump into the deep end when it’s asked of me.
When a knowledge worker masters the use of a certain social media site, she has no guarantee that that same site will be useful in coming years. If a knowledge worker masters a service, she can apply that knowledge across the range of sites that provide that service. However, we have observed that even the popularity of services seems to fluctuate over the years. Though learning to use a site and a service are both necessary and constructive, the most valuable skill to the knowledge worker looking to stay on top of technology is the ability to learn.
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