I became familiar with Posterous by accident. I was reading a series of complaints identifying security concerns in Facebook and came across a Wired article by Ryan Singel. The article addressed the issue of controlling your content and I interpreted the author to indicate that the flexible and simple blogging platform Posterous would serve as an alternative to Facebook allowing control of which users could see what. For some reason, I understood Posterous to be a way to aggregate content from multiple sites and then control who could see what. At present I appear to be wrong about the aggregation part, but in the process of discovering this I became a Posterous fan.
Posterous may be one of the first online services I have encountered that requires very little explanation. The simple version in this case is actually very simple.
Email stuff to email@example.com and it will add the “stuff” to a blog. Really, that is it. The heading for the email becomes the “subject” of the blog post and the stuff contained in the email (plus attachments) becomes the content of the post. The attachments can be images, video, sound files, etc.
The first time you do this Posterous will respond to your email and ask you to provide a few details (e.g., password, blog title, ) and if you want you can enter this information and proceed as a blogger.
Explore a little more and you will learn that you can customize the blog in ways that may make it a useful educational tool. The settings below establish my blog name and the address for the site (grabe.posterous.com). You note I can also select a theme for the site and control who can post. Near the bottom of this captured image, you will note the possibility of assigning a password to the site. Control/privacy are important considerations in any online educational site.
I have my Posterous site set up so that only “contributors” can post and I have control over who qualifies as a contributors. I generate a list of email addresses the site will accept input from and these individuals become contributors.
I am coming to believe that SIMPLE is an important key to effective online educational tools. Efficiency is important. Tools that are difficult to learn reduce the time available to learn “content”. Tools that are cumbersome to use once learned reduce the time available to learn other things. So much about learning in a group setting comes down to time and efficiency. Successful learning on an individual level also depends on the availability of sufficient cognitive resources to think and reflect. Tools and tasks that are too complex simply overpower the cognitive resources of many students.
BTW – it turns out Posterous works in pretty much the opposite way than I had originally hoped. It is a great tool for saving content and then passing that content on to designated social sites. It is an efficient way to add content to another blog or Facebook or to tweet. Once one or more outlets have been identified, you can even control what goes where – firstname.lastname@example.org – adds the comment to Posterous and forwards to Twitter.