Moose Fever

It sounds like the dreaded Moose Fever has afflicted nearly everyone who attended Northern Voice 2007. Some nasty flu bug got circulated through the cavernous halls of the Forestry building at UBC, infecting everyone there, then being carried across the continent as the attendees returned home. I had my flu shot before Christmas, so I wasn't completely laid out (as many folks apparently were), but it still sucks pretty badly.

I'm feeling MUCH better than I was on Monday and Tuesday. I may even risk heading into the office on Thursday, since I've got a fair number of deadlines that got summarily blown away this week. Thank the gods for Tylenol Cold & Flu liquid medicine. 

Maybe next year, instead of T-Shirts, we should have SARS masks or something. And forego the field trip to the live bird market, so we don't all catch H5N1 (or whatever the hell this bug is) again. 

Infected Moose:

I'm sure there are many, many more.

Comment troubles (maybe spam-related?)

I've been off-blog for a few days, and haven't had a chance to deal with this yet. I received a couple of email from folks saying they were having difficulty commenting on my blog. I thought maybe Akismet might be blocking them, so I've just switched back to a Drupal 5 development snapshot of Spam.module. Yes, it's a continuing ongoing saga of switching back and forth between Akismet and Spam.module. Hopefully this solves the comment problem without subjecting this blog to a torrential spamstorm.

Akismet is nice, with its distributed spam blocking algorithm (hey! I sound like the schlub on Numb3rs!) but it's essentially a black box – if something goes south, there's no way to fix it from my side of the fence. Spam.module lets me tweak as needed.

Update: It took 7 hours for the first spam to sneak through. Frakking spammers. Time to re-tweak the Spam.module custom rules…

MooseCamp “More than just a Blog” session

I just finished presenting a session with Jim Groom called "More than just a blog" where we where showing some things we've done with WordPress and Drupal that might be a little outside the box for a pure blogging platform. Jim's done some really amazing and cool things with WPMU at MWU.

The session was a total blast for me. It evolved into a pretty lively discussion that wandered around a very wide range of topics – I hope it wasn't too scattered.

I definitely want to work with Jim again. Now, to finish checking in on things, and prepare for the Ceviche Eating Festival.

Jim Groom - More than just a blog

Dynamic Relationship Mapping for a Defined Set of Websites

I'm sitting in the kitchen here at Casa del Lamb, and we're bashing around some ideas for mashups and cool ways to display data for MooseCamp and Northern Voice. We just had (what I think is) a really cool idea. What if we could take the OPML file from the planet.northernvoice.ca aggregator (which contains a reference to many/most of the blogs representing the people attending the conference), and run some analysis on that to figure out what the relationships and subgroups are within the larger group of Northern Voice Attendees.

Ideally, it would be some kind of self-running and/or interactive application, capable of being left running on a projected screen in the foyer during the conference, updating (either live or periodically) to show how relationships change as people post items to their blogs, and possible add (or remove) links to each other's blogs.

This would become a form of social zeitgeist – possibly showing how the group dynamics change over the the course of the conference (and afterward).

I've done some preliminary poking around in the internets to find possible prior art, and am surprised that I haven't found anything. I'll keep looking, and then might try to hack something together. Unfortunately, I think this is primarily a graphic data representation problem, an area where I have essentially zero skill at cobbling code together for.

OK. Now to think about it some more, and finish up with the lasagna prep… 

SCoPE Seminar: Blogging to enhance learning experiences

Sylvia mentioned this in an email discussion putting some ideas together for the Northern Voice Social Software for Learning Environments session we're wrangling, and I promptly forgot to check it out. Oops.

Anyway, she's coordinating an online seminar through SCoPE titled "Blogging to enhance learning experiences" – it's a moodle community with a fair amount of activity (and many familiar faces). It runs from February 12-25, so it's already under way.

Definitely worth checking out. I'll be mostly lurking, but will try to participate in the buildup to Northern Voice (our session is on the 24th)

To contribute to the discussion on SCoPE, you have to register in that instance of Moodle. After doing that, be sure to tweak your account's email subscription settings (to Digest mode) to prevent getting reams of email duplicating every forum post… 

Trying Pipes as a proto-Eduglu platform

Naturally, the first thing I'd try to do with Pipes is to mock up something like Eduglu – taking feeds associated with a group of individuals and merging them into one place. The concept, from an educational standpoint, would theoretically make it feasible for students and/or teachers to monitor relevant online activities for an entire class, without having to hunt out each person's various feeds.

It's not quite there yet, though. Currently, the concept of Filters is rather borked in Pipes. If you're dealing with a homogeneous set of feeds in a Fetch, it works fine, but as you add different kinds of feeds, the parameters for filtering go all wonky (is it filtering based on Category? dc:topic? Title? Description? Something else?)

I've mocked up a too-simple version of what Pipes can do with a set of 5 individuals' various feeds (blogs, Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter). It's essentially unusable as an Eduglu, since there is no way to properly (and effectively) filter and/or prioritize items that are aggregated. And the display seems to be rather simple (title + one line of teaser).

Here's what the Pipe looks like from the inside:

And the output looks like this:

I'm going to be putting some more thought into what an interface might look like for defining groups, pulling in an individual's feeds, and displaying the aggregation. This is starting to feel like it's going to need some pretty high-end UI work on top of some pretty flexible plumbing to be able to do this effectively.