This is my last week working for CETIS so this is my final post. The goodbyes have already started so I’ll keep it brief: it’s been an interesting and enjoyable time working with everyone at CETIS over the last two years or so. I wish everyone well and all the best, and hope to see you all at some point in the future.
All the best
The government wants us to submit ideas for mash-ups, as reported on the BBC Technology website. For educational use, I blogged previously about the idea of seeing learning object origin on a map, so when looking in Jorum, for example, a map could show (user specified) content and where it originated from. This sort of approach might give a more immediate visual representation of where educational content is centred on; a map could display markers for geography learning objects depending on their geographical content, for example.
Les Carr covers an interesting angle in his post, ‘Repositories should be more like email (apparently)‘.
Personally, I have always used email as a kind of personal repository, sending myself a copy of any document I’m working on as a backup or ‘work in progress’, while also being useful if I’m ever working at home. Now, I know that really what I’m talking about is just a bunch of messages with documents as attachments, but a Firefox extension called Xoopit changes that somewhat. Xoopit sucks all the multimedia content (including links to YouTube videos, etc) from your Google Mail account and displays each item as a collective sideshow within your mail window. Alternatively, users can login to the Xoopit site and see the items in a list, categorised by type (images, videos and files).
With a recent Australian school’s move to Gmail considered “the largest private deployment of Gmail [known as Google Mail in the UK] in the world” (thanks, Andy), commonplace features like this would enable pupils and students to better locate documents, presentations, PDFs, etc.
Still in a private beta (check this article for an in-depth look and sign-up code), the application’s massive drawback is the need for it to take your password to access your inbox. Hardly security-conscious, I still think it’s worth a look, as you can always contact Xoopit to delete your account (and change your mail password) after having a peek. Will this kind of multimedia idea become a mainstream part of mail in future?
The DCC’s Chris Rusbridge recently speculated on whether we wanted repositories to be more Web 2.0-like. The post was a follow-on to an earlier thought on negative
cost click repositories, where Chris pondered the merits of depositing if the cost of deposit was less than the cost of non-deposit, hence the term ‘negative-cost’ (later changed to negative click) repository. In the latest post, Chris proposes that ‘going Web 2.0′ is not necessarily a good thing, mentioning an irony-strewn attempt made by two Oxford students to minimise the “multitude of different websites” used for groups to remain organised online … by creating another site which does not appear to import or bring in data from any other sites. Indeed, registering for GroupSpaces.com confirms as much – it’s adding another tool to the list and fattening the problem pig that the founders moaned about in the first place. Why on earth should we manually add an event when it could be pulled in dynamically from a specified online calendar?
On a separate note, Chris thought that all his management identity problems might be “solved by OpenID or something like it”. I found this interesting, as I have used my OpenID login details so sparsely, I cannot even remember which provider I initially chose. It took a search-and-trial-and-error approach before I found the correct site and then the correct sign-in details. In fact, after visiting OpenID.net, I found out I could actually have used my Flickr sign-on details without even creating a separate OpenID account in the first place.
And as for Chris wanting to “emerge into the Web 2.0 sunshine” … how can you apply rounded corners to the sun?’
A bit of fun really, but this 2D Driving Simulator shows interesting use of the Google Maps API. Of course, it would be nice if the car wasn’t able to drive through buildings but you get the idea. In fact, the concept works better with an aeroplane.
Mapping still seems to be the most popular category for mashups, judging by ProgrammableWeb’s Mashup Dashboard (click ‘All’ rather than ‘Last 14 days’). Interestingly, ‘social’ has been as popular a new mashup in the last two weeks, although only four per cent overall compared to thirty-nine for mapping. With increasing numbers of mashups for sites such as Delicious, Facebook and LinkedIn, does this suggest a new focus for mashing?
Lorcan wisely highlights concerns that contributors may have, namely getting the files back in the event of site cessation. Of more immediate concern might be the fact that there is no native bulk download, whereas bulk uploads are well served by Flickr’s upload tool. In addition, downloading forfeits the photo’s metadata, so information added within Flickr – such as tags and title – is lost. It is, therefore, a bit of a battle getting back what was contributed and anything added to it. Nevertheless, there are ‘learning images’ out there: Patrick Lynch contributed a set of medical illustrations to Flickr and Wikimedia Commons, and the Flickr tag ‘learningobjects‘ shows some other examples. Indeed, given the absence of a hierarchical category structure for images within Flickr, tags are of vital importance.
I think it’s well worth using community sites such as Flickr and SlideShare to promote existing educational content. At JISC CETIS, we have been using SlideShare for copies of presentations (embedded here) and Flickr would be an ideal place to showcase photographs from events such as our annual conference. Given the aforementioned concerns about material longevity, it would be wise to use sites like Flickr as supplementary showcases and “not to rely on it as the sole means of storage”.
In his ‘Are search engines facing extinction?‘ article, Ian Hendry questions the usefulness of the traditional search engine, arguing:
“If I search for a friend or a specific person, why do I need 714,000 responses with irrelevant content or many multiple entries referring only fleetingly to the person I am trying to find? Why would I not go to Facebook or LinkedIn…instead?”
The point is debated further by Dr Harry Chen who suggests that: “the Web is gradually becoming a collection of independent islands of information (YouTube of videos, Facebook of people, Wikipedia of facts, etc.)”
I think that both have a point, and although Chen attempts to dissect the single entry into more disparate channels, I’d counter that the ‘single entry’ approach can visit each of his suggested ‘islands’. For example, unless specified otherwise, Google will happily return personal entries from social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook; in fact, I would even go so far as to say I’ve had to restrict Bebo from appearing in my search results. In the likes of Google Maps, supplementary information has recently been added to queries, such as geotagged photographs that correspond to the location being searched for. Chen is right in that the use of search plug-ins in Firefox are extremely useful – being able to search within the likes of Wikipedia or Amazon without going there first – but only if you think it’s likely that whatever you are looking for is already there. If you are querying the very existence or availability of something, it has to be a traditional search engine every time.