150 Friends

How many friends do I have?

The question caused me to stop and think following a recent Facebook comment from Col Hawksworth as the answer appears to be 150!

150? Really, so many?

Well so Robin Dunbar has been suggesting since 1992. It’s a flexible number where Dunbar has set the more likely norm at 148, having extrapolated research into primates onto humans. Dunbar argued that …

…150 would be the mean group size only for communities with a very high incentive to remain together. For a group of this size to remain cohesive, Dunbar speculated that as much as 42% of the group’s time would have to be devoted to social grooming. From: http://bit.ly/vVKEqe

MMmmm. Now that I’ve read some of Dunbar’s work, maybe I do have 150 friends, especially online and in my wider field of work. Dunbar insists that his theories hold good even with burgeoning social networks like Facebook and Twitter – because 150 is the maximum number we can have some personal history with:

…there is a general relationship between the size of the brain and the size of the social group. We fit in a pattern. There are social circles beyond it and layers within – but there is a natural grouping of 150.

This is the number of people you can have a relationship with involving trust and obligation – there’s some personal history, not just names and faces. From: http://bit.ly/rrbyO4

To celebrate my birthday earlier this month, I invited some friends around to my home for pie and peas and as much to drink as they liked. I had to limit the numbers because the house would have been too full, but over twenty people attended and I could easily have invited another twenty – if there had been room. So that’s a third of all the people Dunbar suggests I could happily call friends. Around another thirty or so sent their best wishes via Facebook or Twitter and many others sent cards and/or texts. So I can go with the 150 (ish) number, now I’ve thought about it.

But the key is ‘personal history’. Only those with whom we have had personal history can be called friends. One friend (a true friend, even by his own statement) once said to me “you can never have more than a couple of friends Sugg! Everyone else is an acquaintance” and I ‘sort of’ went with that. His idea of a friend was someone who would drop everything to help if needed, someone you could/would confide in and someone you could rely on totally. I am lucky enough to have several friends like that and most of them came to my birthday party.

On the wider periphery of friendship, social network friendship especially, we have similar interactions don’t we?

When someone needs the answer to a question, or help with a cause we try to help in some way and if we can’t we re-tweet or ask other friends if they can help. Don’t we? Each of those social interactions deepens the trust and adds to the personal history Dunbar refers to.

Online, I have a number of ‘friends’ I’ve never met and in those cases, ‘friend’ is perhaps an ill chosen term – ‘acquaintance’ might be better. Nevertheless, some of those non-met friends have helped me online and I have helped them (not necessarily the same person tit-for-tat you understand) and they thus begin to form the outer edges of Dunbar’s Number.

Thanks Col 😉

Also see:




Reviewing 2011

Last year, I waited until 31st December to review my blogging year.

This year, I intend to review #SugSnips at that time, so I’ll make a critical review of my 2011 EduVel blog posts here and now, pre-Christmas.

First of all, I am 600+ views down on this time last year.

However, I suppose that’s not too bad because statistics show that this is the year’s 50th post, whereas last year I posted 78. I guess that another reason for the lower number of posts is that I’ve branched out and started writing two other fairly regular blogs:

Saturday Walks – http://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com/
I started this blog last December to separate the more personal aspects of my life from other areas. It was something I’d planned to do for many years and began with the idea of continuing the events John and I have shared since 1999 (cycle ride).

Nutritious, economical foodhttp://shoestringfoods.wordpress.com/
I started this in September following my increasing (renewed) interest in all things epicurean. It started as a blog to help folks become more confident in cooking cheap but nutritional food – instead of cheap, tasteless rubbish from supermarkets.

One main theme I’ve stuck with this year has been the #SugSnip challenge, which involved daily posts to Twitter, but as I will write about that next week, I’ll look at the eclectic range of other subjects I’ve written about this year.

I waited until last week  http://bit.ly/uevmxz to write about the work I’ve been doing for the last six months. It seemed unfair to do so earlier as I was working with so many other people on that prestigious piece of work.

In October http://bit.ly/tGyyz1 I reflected on the differing digital needs of individuals. I think that this will be a reoccurring theme throughout 2012, as social media websites continue to chop and change their provision, presumably to survive in an economic world that seems to have flat-lined.

Over summer https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/08/ I discussed screen-capture software and why Flickr didn’t have (still doesn’t have) a really good smart-phone App. Even now, I have to go to Photobox to print my Flickr pictures and to Picnik to edit them. Come on Yahoo! Flickr is brilliant, but it could be so much better.

I’ve also had grumps about things such as software updates (why so many, so often, so demanding of time?) and the vagueness of some social media terms and conditions. I dabbled with situational aware social media like FourSquare and Gowalla http://bit.ly/sPlMrb, became the mayor of eight places – and resigned! http://bit.ly/ozki08.

I re-found Wordle: http://bit.ly/rrSpzz

I learned a lot about Lego WeDo this year too http://bit.ly/sG6syh, helping to deliver sessions early on and then wondering how I could break into the junior school market with my new-found skills from then on. Anyone?

This year I’ve published several ‘guest posts’ too. Each one came from a dry call and each one has done what they said they would do – i.e. write something we both agreed upon for nothing more than a by-line notification. I’ve been happy to help, as it has enriched the diversity of posts from EduVel. http://bit.ly/vl6YBd (ignore first one – it’s by me!)

Work has continued to be erratic but very interesting. I’ve been to a few colleges to deliver training for staff: Blackburn, Newcastle under Lyme and Gloucestershire to name a few and at Kirklees College I was asked to deliver a session for foundation degree students studying childcare. By far the biggest piece of work was at Leeds College of Music, where I helped a great team of chums to develop a new VLE environment (mentioned earlier).

Going forward, I’m working with Jackie, Alison and Sally on a LSIS project, with TechDis and with RSC-SE – if it finally kicks off in 2012.

That was 2011 that was!

Merry Christmas everyone.

Moodle 2 and so on

I’m just coming to the end of a longish period of time, working with a great team of ‘e’ people.

Since June this year we’ve been working on a Super Moodle for a College in Leeds. The team was put together and managed by the wonderful Lilian Soon.

Now that the work is gradually coming to a close and we’ve begun to reflect upon the outcomes, we have realised that all VLEs could be like this – if only colleges and university departments had the vision to set such a thing in motion and if staff (academic and non-academic) could comprehend the benefits.

We’ve used Moodle 2 at the core of this development and integrated lesson capture tools like Adobe Connect and Panopto. Panopto has a plugin called Unison that allows video and audio to be uploaded ready for streaming to the user a’la YouTube. Mahara is integrated to allow easy portfolio building by learners – but which also allows easy sharing and collaboration by all. Xerte too, is incorporated – giving staff the opportunity to easily create interactive, accessible multimedia resources. There have been other more technical developments as well – but far too clever for me to understand.

At the college, they wrap all of this up in a fairly seamless learning environment. Whatever you think of ‘naming’ VLEs (and this college does have a ‘name’ for theirs), it has worked – because all of the various non-Moodle integrations have been skinned to have a similar look and feel – all down to the careful planning by Lilian and her team.

My part in all this has been quite small (on the huge scale of things) – I’ve worked with various staff to prepare them for using the end-result and to help them build both on-line and in-line learning pages.

Furthermore, I’ve been involved in the generic preparation and training of staff for use of ILT/e-Learning and with the preparation of extensive on-line ‘help’ and training materials for all users. I’ve learned a lot about Moodle 2 and those many peripheral tools.

But most of all, I’ve learned a lot more about what a learning environment can be – if we put our minds (and expertise) to it. Well done Lils, Ron and everyone else. (Contact any one of us if you want more details)


I’ve recently updated my iPad Metro App and I’m loving it. I suspect that a lot of thought has gone in to it’s design. Well done Metro.

It’s called Metro Online and once opened, you have the choice of downloading back issues or, more importantly, the current one.  Once downloaded, the publication resides in iOS5’s Newsstand, ready for you to open and read whenever you like – online or not.

screenshot of Metro on iPad

The reporting and story content is no different to that picked up in bus and train stations nationwide, but the way you access it is quite cool. The written word looks sharper on the iPad screen than they do in the paper itself and the images look superb with the ‘Window on the world’ photographs being particularly stunning. Access to each part of the publication is provided in several forms, making navigation really quick and easy.

But the best bit?

Well, the best bit is the way in which advertisements are presented. We all know that adverts are the lifeblood of ‘free’ papers like Metro, but are generally irritated by their all-invasive manner. How often, for example, do you see a YouTube video that hasn’t got an advert to be viewed (or more likely closed) before you watch the clip? With Metro, a full page ad. will appear on a page of its own, in full colour and you can read it or simply flip to the next page. I’ve actually read more adverts in is way than I have ever done elsewhere in the digital world.

Again, well done Metro and well done Metro advertisers.