Steve Walker

Some less or more well-organised thoughts

What do we mean by portal, or repository, or online community?

with 3 comments

I’m sat at the back of a staff development session looking at blogs, wikis and other ‘web 2.0’ applications in university education. The speaker, Lawrie Phipps, from JISC gave some interesting thumbnail sketches of the way students have integrated blogs, tagging, social networking etc. sites into their lives and their way of working. The issues raised for design are similar to some that we’ve recently had in the PRADSA project thinking about what designing an environment for our online working might look like. Traditionally we’ve been used to thinking of online communities (or virtual learning environments) as relative closed or discrete spaces to which people come to do whatever. This seems a rather dated way of thinking of things. Already in the PRADSA ‘management group’ we use google docs (project documents), (for relevant references), a mailing list, a wiki (currently at though we will probably replace the wiki with something else) and skype (for conference calls). I’ve started this blog and using to share links with masters students students on a Digital Media and Communication module I’m teaching.

Given Lawrie’s comments about (some) students I doubt we’re ahead of the curve. What, then does designing an environment for PRADSA mean? Leonie Ramondt has used the term ‘thin portal’ as a way of mashing and linking a range of sources together. This might include a network of blogs, some agreed links/groups in citeulike (see the TSA group there), (see the TSA links I’ve just started assembling there) and so on. Interestingly, though, this leads us into a discussion with th AHRC over archiving materials, and the use of Dublin Core metadata.



Written by Steve

February 20, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. interesting issue Steve. i had a conversation with Ultraversity colleague Tim Williams yesterday. UV has been using rss feeds linking researcher/student blogs to a central page for some years now. he confirms my suspicion that blogs are like going to someone’s place to have a conversation. going to a hundred places to have a converation, just isn’t efficient. so, i remain of the opinion that for cohesion, it is best to have a central project space that links to other tools. this space might be a blog although i prefer a funky interface and the threads on one page (I still haven’t seen anything that is a patch on the features and vibrance of Oracle’s software from the early 2000s).

    i agree that it’d be great to not get locked into one environment. in fact, if at all possible, could we explore different platforms, perhaps for each pradsa workshop? (i know – this could be radical ;o). it would be a great opportunity to test out, stretch and compare different platforms tho, what does zope do, elger, sakai, wetpaint, Open eNRICH? how do they compare to plone, drupal, wordpress, php bb and moodle to name a few? and of course the 3D environments are up and coming too. could be a tall order for our developer of course – unless these platforms are really user friendly (not plone then ;o). also raises questions of archiving/ exporting data from these sources. if these platforms were accessible enough we could put together a resource perhaps as “tour”/ vid’s to help people chose the one best suited to their purpose… (it’s a thought…)

    clearly, i agree that we can and should be creative with web 2.0 technologies although i’m still not convinced that all our vids must go via youtube or google. that’s one option. another is, that we post them directly to the page we’re working on, from our mobiles.

    it is Alex Blanc who coined the word thin portal. perhaps we can invite him into this conversation (that is a nice thing about blogosphere) because i’m not sure what type of interface mechanism brings coherence to objects posted in hyperspace. how does the pradsa group keep track of the fact that there’s a relevant conversation going on between a couple of folks in google docs or steve’s blog without notification for example? (ain’t that like f2f! ;o)


    February 21, 2007 at 5:03 pm

  2. I take your point entirely about coming to someone’s space. This blog already feels a little like that to me, which wasn’t quite what I’d intended. A shared space would be better (in which case, we probably need to move on that fairly quickly). An interim measure might be a shared blog? PRADSA blog or something? Have you any experience of working with those? If we have a shared space then at least it brings us to better-known difficulties of critical mass, multiple IDs etc.

    I think there’s a difficulty with looking at the platforms in the different workshops. You don’t find out many of the constraints (and much of the potential) on particular collaborative systems until you try working with them ‘in anger’, which itself means different things in different situations.

    It’s a fair point about youtube – though if we want any vids to reach the widest possible audience, I imagine putting a copy on youtube would be as good as any. There is also an issue about being over-reliant on one outfit (Google) who aren’t even bound by UK/European data protection legislation.

    If this isn’t the right place for this conversation, where should we move it? We want it to be open to the others in the project who’re interested, but not to clutter up email accounts unnecessarily. Which I think is where we came in!


    February 22, 2007 at 10:17 am

  3. steve, the original model that i had in mind when we wrote our bid was a blog of blog where people could work in a private project space/s and publish selected items to the wider internet as in digital teacher network
    it is a course we can still pursue.


    February 22, 2007 at 10:55 am

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