my network (via Facebook)

I found a link to Nexus in my reader this morning thanks to a post from Information Aesthetics, and decided to check it out. It’s an app for Facebook that graphs out a member’s network, indicating connections and clusters. Here’s my network:

Facebook Nexus Detail

Moving the mouse over any dot within the Nexus app highlights that person, and their connections. It’s pretty easy to see things like the University of Calgary folks (the lines of dots in the middle), the Northern Voice folks (on the left side, mostly), family members and old high school friends (the unconnected mini-networks outside the main circle).

It’s an interesting application, but is restricted to just the “friends” you’ve made in Facebook. I’d love to see something that takes this and adds the Google connections from TouchGraph, my network in del.icio.us, contacts on Flickr, subscriptions in Google Reader, etc… Tie that in with some kind of meaningful online identity system like OpenID, and we’ll start to see some pretty meaningful ways to organize and navigate our online networks.

Eduglu and the aggregate social tag cloud

I’ve been monkeying with a Drupal site that looks like it could fulfill most (even all?) of the mythical Eduglu concept – a website that aggregates all feeds published by students in a class/department/institution, and helps contextualize them in the various groups/cohorts/courses each student participates in. It’s getting really close – it can currently suck in all kinds of feeds, auto-tagging items, and even lets students create their own groups and associate feeds with them. There are issues, to be sure, mostly with respect to honouring the original tags in the aggregated items, and with taking advantage of the social rating system added to the website, but it’s so close I can taste it.

At the moment, there are almost 1200 items aggregated from feeds published by 19 users. It’s only been running for a week, so that’s not a bad start…

One added bonus of using Drupal for this, is that I can drop the Tagadelic module into place to generate a tag cloud representing all aggregated items’ tags. Here’s the tag cloud from the current prototype site:

Eduglu Tag Cloud

Just seeing that aggregate cloud makes me smile. I’ll have to work on things like adding a group-only tag cloud, and maybe a tag with date parameters (which could be REALLY useful to build a movie displaying the shifts in tag weights over the course of a semester or year…)

As an aside, I’m pretty sure that this is the first post that I’ve added to all of the main categories of my blog: General, Work, and Fun. I’m pretty sure there’s something to that…

Blogs and the Twitter Effect

While chatting with Scott at ETUG, he commented that he was frustrated with Twitter. Both because of the constant flakiness, and the negative effect it’s having on many people’s blog posting activity. I’m definitely posting less frequently since getting bitten by the Twitter bug.

At first, I didn’t see the problem, but then he explained it. If people are pumping their content and energy into Twitter, something that is by nature largely ephemeral and transient (both in server uptime and lifespan of content) then the blogosphere is effectively losing out. Yes, there are benefits – the conversations and serendipitous connections that happen via the always-on and always-shifting nature of Twitter streams are compelling because they are some of the most highly social public interactions on the internets. And that has helped me feel more closely connected with the 40-odd people in the strange, distributed, cosmopolitan set of folks I consider friends.

During ETUG, we tried to shift to Jaiku. The UI of Jaiku sucks, compared with Twitter. It’s too busy. It’s got ads. But it stays up and never eats content. And it’s got almost nobody on the network. The people are on Twitter. I gave up on tilting at that windmill in less than a day. It’s not worth fighting with cranky software, but it’s also not worth abandoning the community in the relentless pursuit of uptime…

Where Jaiku was like a cold, lonely walk, Twitter’s like a family gathering (with all that entails).

Cold walk on campus vs. DSCF1928.JPG

iUofC.com – student online campus community

iUofC.com is a community forum site created by students at UCalgary, offering a central off-campus student-managed place for students to share information about classes. It's currently a rather empty shell, with forums created for every class. As students find out about it, it's starting to slowly grow.

iUfoC.com ScreenshotiUfoC.com Screenshot

The thing that blows me away about this "web *.0" stuff is that students are willing to take on large scale efforts completely on their own. Set up an open wiki, and students create tons of pages about what's important to them. Open up a forum system, and they fill it with topics important to them. If these tools had been provided by The University, would students be interested? It's awesome that the students don't need to wait for The University – they can come up with solutions as effective (or moreso) on their own. Power to the people. Right on.

iUofC.com is a community forum site created by students at UCalgary, offering a central off-campus student-managed place for students to share information about classes. It's currently a rather empty shell, with forums created for every class. As students find out about it, it's starting to slowly grow.

iUfoC.com ScreenshotiUfoC.com Screenshot

The thing that blows me away about this "web *.0" stuff is that students are willing to take on large scale efforts completely on their own. Set up an open wiki, and students create tons of pages about what's important to them. Open up a forum system, and they fill it with topics important to them. If these tools had been provided by The University, would students be interested? It's awesome that the students don't need to wait for The University – they can come up with solutions as effective (or moreso) on their own. Power to the people. Right on.

SocialLearning.ca is back on the air

After a nearly month-long hiatus due to an unforeseen DNS snafu, SocialLearning.ca is back on the air. There’s still some work I need to do to get the entire site up and running (mostly just porting content from the old Flexinode to the new CCK custom content types).

sociallearning.ca

I should be able to tweak the content types on the fly, so after much ado, SocialLearning.ca is open for business once again.

The SocialLearning.ca site is intended to be a clearingouse for educators to share information and resources relating to the use of social software (you know, that shiny “Web 2.0” stuff) in education. Case studies, software reviews, pedagogical suggestions and discussions, information about people in the field, or just plain experimentation with this blog stuff.

Have at ‘er, and I apologize for the downtime. It shouldn’t happen again. No. Really.

After a nearly month-long hiatus due to an unforeseen DNS snafu, SocialLearning.ca is back on the air. There’s still some work I need to do to get the entire site up and running (mostly just porting content from the old Flexinode to the new CCK custom content types).

sociallearning.ca

I should be able to tweak the content types on the fly, so after much ado, SocialLearning.ca is open for business once again.

The SocialLearning.ca site is intended to be a clearingouse for educators to share information and resources relating to the use of social software (you know, that shiny “Web 2.0” stuff) in education. Case studies, software reviews, pedagogical suggestions and discussions, information about people in the field, or just plain experimentation with this blog stuff.

Have at ‘er, and I apologize for the downtime. It shouldn’t happen again. No. Really.

Dabble is a Drupal site!

Dabble was just pushed into full public mode, after being in a beta (does anything ever really leave beta?).

Looks like a pretty cool site – the main goal appears to be a social network growing around videos published around the internets.

It is a pretty thorough implementation, completely done in Drupal. It looks like it’s pretty heavily depending on a few modules in addition to the core (namely, video, playlist, tagadelic, buddylist(?), and likely a few others). The theme looks like a complete custom job, and the only thing that tipped me off was the use of “node” in some urls. Digging deeper, I found the telltale drupal.css file on the server (but not used in the theme…)

In all, a pretty impressive application of Drupal to launch a large social network site. There are currently over 300,000 video nodes in the database, with an unknown number of users. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one to see how it scales…

Dabble was just pushed into full public mode, after being in a beta (does anything ever really leave beta?).

Looks like a pretty cool site – the main goal appears to be a social network growing around videos published around the internets.

It is a pretty thorough implementation, completely done in Drupal. It looks like it’s pretty heavily depending on a few modules in addition to the core (namely, video, playlist, tagadelic, buddylist(?), and likely a few others). The theme looks like a complete custom job, and the only thing that tipped me off was the use of “node” in some urls. Digging deeper, I found the telltale drupal.css file on the server (but not used in the theme…)

In all, a pretty impressive application of Drupal to launch a large social network site. There are currently over 300,000 video nodes in the database, with an unknown number of users. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one to see how it scales…

ETUG Social Software Workshop Debriefing

Our session this morning went really well. I think we were able to walk the line between force-feeding the participants with the relentless firehose of super-cool social software stuff, and having a fun interactive session that served as a solid starting point for people wanting to play with Web 2.0 toys.

The session was completely full, with Harry quietly jamming to the groovy vibes of Sesame Street. It was pretty cool having Harry in the session, and he was good enough to let Keira participate.

I think that Brian and I got into a pretty decent flow, and wound up demonstrating some cool apps and concepts, with participants doing as much hands-on activity as possible (tagging, blogging, playing with Flickr and Flickrlilli, etc…) SocialLearning.ca was used as a concrete example of social software, a tagging and blogging platform, and as a "client" app for a 3rd party tool (receiving photos from Flickr).

It was a blast, as always, riding on Brian's coat tails. I've got to find a way to invite him to UCalgary, assuming Keira is forgiving enough to let Brian keep travelling…

Our session this morning went really well. I think we were able to walk the line between force-feeding the participants with the relentless firehose of super-cool social software stuff, and having a fun interactive session that served as a solid starting point for people wanting to play with Web 2.0 toys.

The session was completely full, with Harry quietly jamming to the groovy vibes of Sesame Street. It was pretty cool having Harry in the session, and he was good enough to let Keira participate.

I think that Brian and I got into a pretty decent flow, and wound up demonstrating some cool apps and concepts, with participants doing as much hands-on activity as possible (tagging, blogging, playing with Flickr and Flickrlilli, etc…) SocialLearning.ca was used as a concrete example of social software, a tagging and blogging platform, and as a "client" app for a 3rd party tool (receiving photos from Flickr).

It was a blast, as always, riding on Brian's coat tails. I've got to find a way to invite him to UCalgary, assuming Keira is forgiving enough to let Brian keep travelling…

Ready for our Social Software workshop for BCCampus

Brian managed to swing me an invite to co-host his Social Software session at the BCCampus Spring Workshop on Educational Technologies 2006, which will be held at North Island College in beautiful downtown Courtenay BC. (actually, I’ve never been to Courtenay/Comox, so am looking forward to seeing the area – I’m flying in on a Beech 1900D, so that leg of the trip should be interesting).

The session should be fun. Brian and I are going to demo a few concepts of social software (Web 2.0 *gack*) and then turn the reigns over to the participants. We’ll be using SocialLearning.ca as the “hub” to bring together activities like tagging, bookmarking, blogging, and commenting. I really like the approach, especially with a concrete piece of the web bringing it together. It should make the freaky concepts of decentralized social aggregate tag clouds a bit easier to grok.

I spent some time this week pimping the SocialLearning.ca instance of Drupal – opening up the tag clouds, tweaking a few bits here and there, so it should work really nicely as a platform for a workshop – as well as supporting the BCCampus community afterwards.

The SocialLearning.ca tag cloud will be on centre stage for the workshop, so the participants can see how their contributions affect it (hopefully in quasi-realtime).

As always, I’m so totally looking forward to working with Brian (and his planted ringers). This should be a great workshop. I’m also really curious to see what the participants come up with…

Brian managed to swing me an invite to co-host his Social Software session at the BCCampus Spring Workshop on Educational Technologies 2006, which will be held at North Island College in beautiful downtown Courtenay BC. (actually, I’ve never been to Courtenay/Comox, so am looking forward to seeing the area – I’m flying in on a Beech 1900D, so that leg of the trip should be interesting).

The session should be fun. Brian and I are going to demo a few concepts of social software (Web 2.0 *gack*) and then turn the reigns over to the participants. We’ll be using SocialLearning.ca as the “hub” to bring together activities like tagging, bookmarking, blogging, and commenting. I really like the approach, especially with a concrete piece of the web bringing it together. It should make the freaky concepts of decentralized social aggregate tag clouds a bit easier to grok.

I spent some time this week pimping the SocialLearning.ca instance of Drupal – opening up the tag clouds, tweaking a few bits here and there, so it should work really nicely as a platform for a workshop – as well as supporting the BCCampus community afterwards.

The SocialLearning.ca tag cloud will be on centre stage for the workshop, so the participants can see how their contributions affect it (hopefully in quasi-realtime).

As always, I’m so totally looking forward to working with Brian (and his planted ringers). This should be a great workshop. I’m also really curious to see what the participants come up with…

Flock is getting closer to Prime Time

I took another look at the current dev. build of Flock, and it’s definitely getting closer to a final release. The quality is noticably better than previous builds – I don’t get the spinning beachball of memory thrashing hell I got before.

There is only one nit I have left to pick with Flock. It’s got the best rich text editor of all of the standalone blog posting apps I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a LOT) – except for the lack of an ability to sort and/or filter categories for application to a post before publishing.

I have a LOT of categories on my blog – I use them more like tags than full-blown taxonomic categories – so reading through an apparently unsorted list of 300 tags can take much longer than writing the post took in the first place.

Once that’s taken care of, I can totally see myself living in Flock. I’m loving the Flickr integration, and the del.icio.us tie-in, and lots of other refinements. Great job, so far!

I took another look at the current dev. build of Flock, and it’s definitely getting closer to a final release. The quality is noticably better than previous builds – I don’t get the spinning beachball of memory thrashing hell I got before.

There is only one nit I have left to pick with Flock. It’s got the best rich text editor of all of the standalone blog posting apps I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a LOT) – except for the lack of an ability to sort and/or filter categories for application to a post before publishing.

I have a LOT of categories on my blog – I use them more like tags than full-blown taxonomic categories – so reading through an apparently unsorted list of 300 tags can take much longer than writing the post took in the first place.

Once that’s taken care of, I can totally see myself living in Flock. I’m loving the Flickr integration, and the del.icio.us tie-in, and lots of other refinements. Great job, so far!

The Vancouver Education Blogging Sessions

Over the last few days, I’ve been privileged to be a part of some extremely interesting and engaging discussions about the nature of “blogging” in education. The Social Software Salon and Edublogger Hootenany sessions were incredible, unstructured, free-flowing, and unbelievably interesting. Essentially, there were no “presenters” and no “moderators” – both were completely open and lively discussions that I was lucky to be present for.

There were several recurring themes that emerged from these sessions, stated from multiple perspectives by several people with different backgrounds. Here’s my Coles™ Notes™ version of these sessions. It’s not unabridged, and if I’m missing (or misrepresenting) anything, I’m going to Trust In Blog that I’ll be corrected. I’m sure I’m forgetting large tracts of the conversations – they were recorded, and will be available as podcasts as soon as Jason and Brian have had time to edit and publish the audio. In the meantime, the wiki pages (linked above) for both sessions provide some background (thanks to Brian for setting those up).

Over the last few days, I’ve been privileged to be a part of some extremely interesting and engaging discussions about the nature of “blogging” in education. The Social Software Salon and Edublogger Hootenany sessions were incredible, unstructured, free-flowing, and unbelievably interesting. Essentially, there were no “presenters” and no “moderators” – both were completely open and lively discussions that I was lucky to be present for.

There were several recurring themes that emerged from these sessions, stated from multiple perspectives by several people with different backgrounds. Here’s my Coles™ Notes™ version of these sessions. It’s not unabridged, and if I’m missing (or misrepresenting) anything, I’m going to Trust In Blog that I’ll be corrected. I’m sure I’m forgetting large tracts of the conversations – they were recorded, and will be available as podcasts as soon as Jason and Brian have had time to edit and publish the audio. In the meantime, the wiki pages (linked above) for both sessions provide some background (thanks to Brian for setting those up).

Blogging is not a classroom/class activity

We talked about the current implementation of blogging in the context of a class. Someone mentioned that a student may have 5 different blogs – one for each class – and must post content to each blog in order to get “credit” for their work. And, at the end of the semester, the blogs are nuked from orbit. So, not only is a student’s work divided across several quasi-related locations, it is so closely tied to the Class that in ceases to exist after the Class is over.

But, what we’re hoping to approach is the mythical “lifelong learning” – if content is tied to a Class, that implies that Learning occurs only in that Class. And that learning starts from scratch in the next Class. And for the following cohort.

Learning can occur outside of the classroom

If we assume that Lifelong Learning is a fact of life, we likely have lives outside of the Classroom – even outside of the School. People learn, teach, share, publish, connect, etc. in all parts of their lives. The real value comes from being able to make the connections between the activities – by valuing “non-classroom” activities as much as Classroom ones. One example was about an individual that was extremely active in their community, but that activity wasn’t valued as part of their Education.

The learner is in control

The current model places the Teacher or the School at the centre. Blogs are provided as part of The Institution, tied to a Class. But – what happens when the semester is over? When a student graduates? Moves to a new school? If they don’t own their own online presence, their incentive to making it a meaningful part of their practice of teaching and learning becomes very small. If the learner is at the centre – and they own their own stuff – they are able to use their own content in all parts of their lives, at all times. Instead of having a “class blog,” why not have a class aggregator – pulling in the relevant feeds from the learners in a cohort? Learners publish to their own space (blog, Flickr, del.icio.us, digg.com, etc…) and tag content as being relevant to a course or topic – and have a “class aggregator” do the work of bringing the content together into one place.

By placing the learner at the centre, and assuring that they are in control of their own online presence – and taking advantage of that presence in various contexts (including within and between Classes) we can reinforce (or at least model) Lifelong Learning.

The Teacher/Professor/Instructor is not the boss

By extension, the current teacher-is-boss model isn’t valid. Everyone in a Class is a learner – including the one(s) being paid to be there. Cluetrain applies as much to education as to business. By taking advantage of the connections between all learners, and using the various pieces and types of content that they all publish, the role of the Teacher can shift from being a disseminator of information to a mentor/coach/guide.

It’s about more than blogging

It’s about the read/write web, not blogging. Take advantage of the stuff that learners are publishing in whatever modality they are using. If they have a blog, use that as part of their learning program. If they post photos to Flickr, use them. If they bookmark in del.icio.us, use those. Stories flagged in Digg? Comments on Slashdot? etc…

This stuff doesn’t need IT support

This was a radical idea – but obvious in hindsight. IT provides services that are difficult or impossible for individuals to access outside of The Institution. Email is the classic example. But, the read/write web is composed of tools that enable individuals to publish their own content. IT isn’t required for this to happen. How can The Institution better enable integration of the various bits of content that is being published by the individuals who are associated with it? What if IT and The Institution shifted its focus to that of aggregation rather than publishing?