Cultivating Knowledge Capital to Create a Resource for Interactional Expertise

I’ve been interested in computers since I was a toddler. The mornings of my childhood were filled with the sounds of the clickity clacking of keyboard keys as my mom used the family computer to write emails. Before I could even read, I would power on the big machine and press my fingers all over the keyboard, trying to be just like mom. I unintentionally caused some serious damage during the computer’s startup on several occasions, but I was enraptured by the visual feedback of computing; I would press a key, and something would change on the screen.

I played on the computer throughout my childhood, but it was in middle school that the real excitement of computers was revealed. Myspace marked my introduction to HTML. I could change the code of my profile and immediately see the effects of my actions. The unlimited creative potential of this newly discovered language excited me, and I spent hours tweaking code, eventually writing my own, and creating a Myspace site dedicated entirely to sharing code I’d written for others to use on their profiles.

I later learned of an entire field of study centered around creating code: Computer Science. From the moment I arrived on Stanford’s campus for admit weekend, I learned from other students and professors about the field. I learned of the skills and knowledge involved, resources to learn about the latest developments in technology, and tools to learn through trial and error and hands-on testing. I learned these things from courses, speaking with friends, and seeing the wonderful creations of my peers and asking them how they made them. When I saw the personal website a friend had made, I was inspired to create my own, and I found that the hardest part of the process was figuring out where to start. There are so many resources that exist and finding the appropriate guidance and identifying the knowledge one needs in the first place can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

As a result of this experience, I decided with a professor in Symbolic Systems to launch a project for which I would begin to curate resources that can help people navigate resources and learn how to apply their passion for understanding and using technology.

The project begins with the knowledge I have gained, but the real value of the project depends on the cultivation of knowledge capital of software engineers, project managers, and people of all different backgrounds who work on interdisciplinary teams. By speaking with my peers and people who work in interdisciplinary teams, I hope to identify the knowledge and skills they find most practical and essential in order to work on a team, and to identify the tools that they find most useful to build this knowledge. I am currently working with another student and our advising professor to create a timeline for the project and to set milestone goals. Our initial tasks are to conduct interviews and organize and present resources.

The project is underway at

Audience Engagement & Presence in Online Media

For this blog post, I emailed a couple bloggers, and I hoped that I’d get a response from them (which is why this post is delayed), but it didn’t happen. So, I chose the next best thing–to interview my roommate–Helena Scutt. She was captain of her sailing team at Stanford and is currently fundraising, building a social media presence, and training to qualify for the 2016 Olympics!! So far, she has been quite successful, and she was kind enough to share with me her strategies. 

Helena says that the there are multiple factors which lead to establishing, engaging, and maintaining an online audience/fan base. The information below is an accumulation of Helena’s ideas and mine.

  1. The timing of a post is crucial. To establish the right time, look at your audience engagement metrics. If most people are in the US, depending on the time zone, post during prime hours (during work hours or in the evening). Don’t post too late, or no one will see it.
  2. Also, post at least twice a week. If you let your page go for too long, you’re audience might feel like it’s not a good idea to keep following. They liked your page, so give them something to look forward to. 
  3. If you most more than 3- 4 times a week, then your audience will get annoyed that they’re seeing so many posts. Unless you’re Beyonce or another celebrity, no one wants to see too much from you. You risk getting “unliked” and not followed anymore.
  4. Also, a text-only status gets lost in the shuffle. Make sure to have a photo attached to most or all posts. It increases views and it gives your audience another reason to like your post.
  5. Finally, in Helena’s words “never underestimate the power of humor or something inspirational.” You don’t need to post only things related to your work. Inspirational or humorous posts also go a long way and increases engagement.

How do you gauge people’s reactions to your online activity?

FB page has insight pages! On our page, we can see the types of people — male, female — popular cities, and engagement metrics — overall likes, etc. It’s a very useful tool.

How do you develop your online persona?

We try to come off as professional, hardworking, fun, dedicated, and successful sailors. Our purpose for this page is to get more supporters and to fundraise so that we can Olympics. We try not to post anything that’s not related to sailing.

What is your relationship with your fans?

I like to post about what my sailing partner and I are doing, and my fans enjoy that. We travel a lot and see many cool things…it gives our fans the chance to vicariously through them— they get encouragement

What is one special event that you really appreciated?

There is this paralympic athlete whom I’ve never met. He responded to a post of mine where I talked about my boating accident, and left an inspirational comment. It was great. 

What have you seen in audience engagement trends?

The faster people like a post and add comments, the more engagement it gets over a period of time. Also, it’s very beneficial for my traffic when bigger FB pages share my posts. I get more likes and comments.

I learned a lot about social media engagement from my roommate, and I hope you did to! :)

Developing Mentorship

I’m glad we discussed some practices related to connecting with very influential/accomplished individuals in the context of personal learning networks. Approaching these individuals can be very difficult and intimidating, but forming these connections are incredibly important, especially for young professionals who will likely be looking for employment and career advice in this fast paced job market.

As I mentioned, I quite liked Sheryl Sandberg’s perspective on mentorship, which she expressed in her book, Lean In. The take away for me was that it’s important to think about how to find a natural mentorship and not ask someone for a formal time commitment or ask before forming an initial relationship with the individual. In my opinion this means that a mentee is able to articulate or demonstrate relevant accomplishments and provide information or skills that are helpful for the mentor in conjunction with the mentor providing value. It’s likely not possible that a mentee can provide as much help for a mentor but being able to reciprocate in some way and also just having a sense of warmness is important for sustaining the relationship and for mitigating a power imbalance that leaves the mentor feeling like he/she isn’t using time wisely and the mentee feeling guilty. And like someone mentioned in class, there were probably a lot of people who helped the mentor as he/she navigated a professional trajectory, so there is usually a willingness to help. However, mentorship and the extent to which someone asks for help is clearly a personal decision that can differ from person to person and situation to situation. For instance, it sounds like this blogger differs in how she interpreted Sandberg’s chapter about mentorship in that she thinks young professionals should be outspoken about finding mentors, especially young women.

If those who have become successful choose, like Sandberg, to ignore the requests of others to be their mentors, we do ourselves a great disservice. We aren’t holding on to power by denying them our collective wisdom—we are allowing an inequitable status quo to be perpetuated (with a few “token” women and others at the top)—and we are denying ourselves the opportunity to grow in different ways by learning from those we teach.

In my experience, this is a delicate balance, and both Sandberg and the blogger are right – you aren’t likely to receive help if you don’t ask for it but asking for help without being able to reciprocate is not conducive to building an effective mentorship. If anyone has thoughts about the most effective way to build these types of relationships or would like to share how this has worked in the past, would be interested in discussing.

Network Communication

Coincidentally Facebook announced some news regarding Groups this week, which are essentially Facebook’s answer to creating a space for strong ties within its core ecosystem created mostly for weak ties.

Facebook announced a new mobile app dedicated exclusively to Groups, and they announced that 700 million people are using Groups. This effort is going to be extremely important for the long-term success of the business as the public and the company knows that people are going to grow tired of shouting into a huge room of hundreds of other people who are shouting as most people have FAR greater number of friends vying for attention for whom Dunbar would estimate we have capacity.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 7.34.29 PM

While they certainly have limitations, which our class experienced, the new stat indicates that people are using them. It’s unclear if this is the primary way people are interacting with their close ties online and how satisfied they are with the experience.

Regardless, as the Atlantic points out, Facebook is going to have to evolve to remain afloat and this may mean focusing on more private interactions with Groups and likely even more so with the WhatsApp acquisition.

A simple but rich messaging platform—perhaps with specialized hardware—could replace the omnibus social network for most purposes. “I think we’re shifting in a weird way to one-on-one conversations on social networks and in messaging apps,” says Shani Hilton, the executive editor for news at BuzzFeed, the viral-media site. “People don’t want to perform their lives publicly in the same way that they wanted to five years ago.

Facebook and the rest of us will have to see if engagement and reach of the new Groups app takes off as people use the service to maintain close ties a niche networks or goes the way of the Poke app.

Work in Progress: Interview with a Professional Gamer

For this week, we were supposed to go out and try and interview a online content producer to see how they approach tackling social media presence. I may have gotten too ambitious and decided that based on my interest, I wanted to interview a professional Call of Duty gamer.

It just so happens that earlier this quarter while watching a CoD tournament, I noticed that one of the gamers was from San Jose, CA (my hometown) and he played exceptionally well over the two days. I decided to branch out from the main team I fan-girl over and watch his progression through the sport. And again, I’m not an active social media contributor and have literally wrote my first tweets this past week.

With a large amount of courage, I decided to actually use Twitter for the purpose of connecting to a stranger. I tweeted this gamer (I won’t release his name yet) and begged him in 140 characters to answer a few questions for my class project at Stanford. Incredibly, he didn’t just respond to my tweet – he followed me back a few minutes later and responded to my Direct Message.

I’m currently waiting for him to respond to my proposed questions, but even if he doesn’t – I’ve taken so much away from this experience. I would never have messaged a stranger on any platform, let alone Twitter which is public if not for this class. So this is positive, but again if he does respond, he’s a pretty big deal with 26,000 Twitter followers and a 2nd place finish at the last major tournament.

Fingers crossed.

Gaby’s Food Blog

As a foodie I follow probably too many food blogs and Instagram accounts. I love having new ideas for recipes and restaurants to try out. One of the Instagrams I interact with the most is wwfoodblog because Gaby only posts healthy recipes as part of the Weight Watchers points system. She is quite creative in adjusting typical recipes such that they are healthier while still being delicious. Moreover, most of the images are well photographed and therefore visually appealing. Even though she started blogging in February of this year, she now has 11K followers and a website with her recipes. Interestingly, in most of her posts more than 1/3 of her followers interact with her via likes or comments, which is impressive for someone starting out.


I chose to reach out to her to hear about her experience not only because of the quick growth of her blog but also because it is quite innovative that she is only using Instagram as the platform. The choices are geared to learning about her experience as manager of a community and about her followers. She was kind enough to answer my questions. Below are her answers:

  • What was your motivation in starting your blog?
    When I first started doing the Weight Watchers program in February, I found myself searching for healthy meal inspiration on Instagram pretty regularly. I would search through relevant hashtags but I didn’t follow any food-related accounts. I decided to start my own Instagram food diary for a few reasons. First, to be able to follow other foodie accounts without flooding my newsfeed on my personal account. Secondly, for accountability reasons. And lastly, I’ve always loved to cook so I wanted to be able to post my own healthy meal ideas. A few months after having my Instagram, I launched my website/blog in order to have a centralized location for my recipes. My dad was actually the one who inspired me to build the site – he gave me the idea early on and I said I would do it when I hit 5,000 followers so that’s what I did. 
  •  What have you done to build your community? / how did you decide what strategies to use?

    The first thing I did was follow other food-related/food-diary type accounts. I also started posting photos right away. Some of the people I followed, followed me back immediately and others followed me back after I interacted with their account (i.e. consistently liked their photos or left comments). My first goal was to get reposted by the official Weight Watchers Instagram – they repost meal ideas that they like and they had about 40k followers at the time so I knew that would be great exposure. I made sure to use their hashtag (and various other hashtags so people could find my account from various angles) and I tagged the Weight Watchers account in pictures that I thought they would like. Soon enough, I got featured and I went from 500 followers to 1,500 followers basically overnight. I continued using a wide variety of hashtags and I targeted other accounts that would feature me. One of the accounts that consistently features my recipes is @fithealthyrecipes and with over 300k followers, it’s great exposure every time my photo gets reposted. The goal was never to “get followers” but those are just some of the ways that I made sure people were exposed to my page – after that, it was their choice whether they wanted to follow me or not. I think at the end of the day, building a community really comes down to posting good content on your page. That’s what people stick around for.

  • If you had to define the culture of the “blog” what would you say it is?

    My main objective is to promote that anyone is capable of finding happiness and balance through a healthy lifestyle. I primarily do so through food but I try to keep my account well rounded by promoting physical fitness and mental wellbeing as well (i.e. a good relationship with food). I occasionally post about my cheat meals so that people see that it’s not about restriction – it’s about balance. I don’t pretend to have it all figured it out – I’m constantly learning new things about food and about what works for me but my blog is a way to document the process and hopefully have others benefit from it. I also tend to target a younger audience since I’m a college student – I’m busy and on a budget and I think people like to see that leading a healthy lifestyle can be done no matter the circumstances.

    Check out her handle and her website:

    Instagram handle – wwfoodblog


Update on Gaming: NaDeSHoT hits the front page

Anyone remember this guy?

Matt 'Nadeshot' Haag - Portrait

As a reminder, pictured above is Matthew “NaDeSHot” Haag, the most popular professional gamer in the United States. I told you all in class how he has over 1 million YouTube subscribers and over 800K Twitter followers, but this weekend, he transcended this audience in a huge way.

His progress and work-style landed him on the front cover of the Sunday edition of The New York Times and he will be in a segment tomorrow of Good Morning America.

Why is this happening?

Largely for the reasons I told you in class:

  • E-Sports is growing so quickly in comparison to other industries, already beating the music industry by $20 billion and quickly catching up to the movie industry
  • 8.5 million viewers tuned into a League of Legends Tournament simultaneously this past year
  • League of Legends has 67 million active players – (population of CA and TX combined)
  • 55 million viewers visited in July

E-Sports is growing at such a rapid pace that the future is completely unmapped and ripe for the picking. I seriously implore you to read this article, it’s eye-opening and I’m sure your future work/life will be impacted in some way by gaming.

How Snapchat Makes Money

We’ve discussed Snapchat more than a few times in class, and during such discussions I’ve repeatedly, fleetingly wondered “how does Snapchat make money?” For this blog post, I decided to do some digging to see how they monetize their service.

The short answer to that is it’s a little bit of a mystery. They’ve been getting investor dollars, and many articles have ben written speculating what their next move would be, and how they would monetize the service. As of one year ago, a few articles  took an especially discouraging tone, wondering why investors and Snapchat itself valued the company at the same dollar amount as companies like Uber or Square. People have pointed to data as Snapchat’s one possible source of monetization (users’ email address, phone numbers, ages, location/time/frequency of Snaps, and any text included with the Snaps) but have said that none of this data is unique to Snapchat–thousands of other web/mobile services have access to the exact same stats. Snapchat is financially limited by the fact that the unique user data they have access to, the Snap itself, is private. One article suggested that Snapchat should develop software that can recognize the subject matter of Snaps, and thus protect privacy yet capitalize on that data. Whether or not Snapchat has a feature along these lines is unclear.

This mystery of the Snapchat business plan, however, has had light shed on it in the past few days with an announcement from Snapchat. The company is launching a feature called Snapcash. Snapcash will be like Venmo, Google Wallet, or any other ePay service that allow users to send other users money. This feature capitalizes on people’s existing Snapchat friend networks, and their existing use of the service. There’s been a lot of internet buzz about this announcement (a great deal of which has focused on the video Snapchat used to share the news, which features people dancing in money).

This is a really interesting development in the future of this major social media platform. Had y’all heard about Snapcash yet? Do you think you’d choose to use it over Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Venmo, Paypal, etc? Articles have pointed to the privacy breaches Snapchat has recently suffered as a deterrent for entering your credit card information into the platform’s database.