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Friday, December 17, 2004

Open Content and the Open Domain

So here I am thinking about Open Content and Educational issues not because of my course work, not because of reading some modern academic’s writings, but for the strangest of reasons. I found myself reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan (yes, the famed late Physicist better known by some for his later book Contact which was made into a movie by Bob Zemeckis). He weaves an ongoing theme in Cosmos that if it weren’t for the stifling of thought years ago in many civilizations, we humans could well have progressed by now to have created technologies allowing us to travel to the stars of other galaxies.

This argument climaxes with a quasi-case study involving the Ionians and the Pythagoreans. The Ionians created the great library of Alexandria, a center of modern thought in its day. They focused on the practical, what could be examined through the senses, what we would consider today to be the beginnings of true scientific inquiry. Then along came Pythagoras (yes, the self-same mathematician known for his trigonometric theorem). He taught that the world could be understood not through experimentation and observation, but through thought and thought alone. By thinking through a problem, a solution would present itself. This solution needn’t require experimentation to support its veracity. So believed the followers of Pythagoras. Though to us this way of understanding the world may seem naïve perhaps even unbelievable, many were drawn in by the persuasiveness of Pythagoras. So many, in fact, that the Ionians soon became a memory. Their writings, many returned to the dust from which they sprang. Human advancement, estimates Sagan, was delayed about one thousand years. And this is but one example of the stifling of thought throughout history.

So now, I apply this to our day. I fully believe we, as a human race, have reached another moment in time where the stifling of thought can cause a major turn of events for the future. With the dawn of the digital age, we now have an opportunity to embrace new understandings and policies regarding Intellectual Property protection, or we can hover under an out-dated copyright seal. Great entities, powerful, persuasive, and prodded not in the pursuit of progress, but in the push for profits, lobby to protect their precious property. Original constitutional copyright law was meant to help human progress. Incentives were only a mean to achieve this end. Unfortunately many view copyright protection as a way to capitalize upon these incentives.

But there is a light, there is hope shining forth from this darkness. We call it Open Content. This is content that is protected not by copyright alone, which stamps its seal of “No Trespassing” upon all fixed content, but by other supplementary agreements which allow others to use the content. Permission does not need to be sought because it is already given.

Sadly, the public is largely unaware of such agreements. To them, there is only the Copyright Domain and the Public Domain. There is nothing in the middle. For this reason, I propose the Open Domain. This would be a clear area where content could reside and with which the public would become well acquainted. “All Rights Reserved,” well that’s obviously for the Copyright Domain. “Free for the world to use with no conditions,” that would be for the Public Domain. But anything in between, governed under a supplementary copyright agreement (Creative Commons, General Public Licenses, etc.), these would be placed in the Open Domain.

Of course, congress would need to enact some piece of legislation, call it the Digital Open Content Copyright Act (DOCCA), to create such a domain. Certain other loose ends of Intellectual Property would be fairly easily incorporated into this Act. But imagine the possibilities.

For example, several leading lawyers, such as Larry Lessig, in this movement are pushing for is a newer way of handling Orphan Works. These are content that might have copyright ownership but that are too difficult to track down who that owner is. Currently, (tying into education) if an instructor uses an Orphan Work, even after making a good faith effort of locating the owner, they do so risking copyright infringement. Many do so anyway, hoping they can claim Fair Use should a copyright holder make a claim. But the DOCCA could alleviate the difficulty. In fact, it could serve as a conduit for locating copyright holders. Just think, an instructor could find an Orphan Work, make a good faith effort to locate the copyright holder, and then use the work without worry. If a copyright holder comes forward, wonderful, then an agreement can be made as to the use of the content. If not, then human progress can move forward, because an instructor has been allowed to improve instruction even more by being unencumbered in the use of content.

And that’s what it’s all about, human progression and advancement. Here’s to hoping that we are not delayed another thousand years in reaching the stars.

Monday, December 06, 2004


Okay, well this is an extensive enough topic. I was hoping for a starting point to have some screen shots up of my interactions with Netlogo, but it wasn't meant to be. But what an interesting modeling system. I tried out the flocking birds, the slime creatures, the ants, the termites, and others. It was interesting also to adjust the parameters within each.

My initial thoughts were, "Well, if the system works well (that is, self-organization occurs and patterns emerge) under the default settings, I wonder what happens when I go to the extremes." So I adjusted the number of participants. I found that when there were too few, self-organization could not occur because there was not enough interaction between characters; and when there were too many, there was not enough time for self-organization to occur because the resources would be exhausted too soon. Both were intersting phenomena. So, an assumption is that in the real-world with learning hoping to occur among these interactions, there must also be this happy medium between too many and too few participants within a given community.

The rules also jumped out at me as being vitally important. This seems intuitive, yet it is not as easy as it may seem. See, the self-organization of the group cannot occur (and less so, cannot occur predictibly) without some simple rules. It is by following these rules that the individuals self-organize. So, my guess is that, again, there is a happy medium with rules. Too few rules and no organization occurs; too many rules and the organization would be smothered.

Monday, November 29, 2004

MMOs Part 2

This time I played Lineage, not just to have fun, but also with an eye of an instructional technologist, specifically looking at points David Merrill and Kurt Squire have made.

First, some background. Last time, I played mostly with a group of people who seemed to know what they were doing. “Seemed” is the focus of that statement. I gave them such credit and reputation because they had higher levels than me, had better artifacts, had played longer (pretty easy to assume that since I had not played at all), and generally had some goals in mind. But, I realized after a while that they had no clue what to do either. This was blatantly apparent when their main questions became, “So, it looks like to get through the dungeon, we need a red key. Does anyone have a red key?” Indeed, it was, to borrow two phrases, the blind leading the blind and pooled ignorance. But, truthfully, I had no better option, so I just followed them around, hoping to gain what I needed to out of the experience.

That was last time (an aggregate of my experiences last week), on to this time (an aggregate of my experiences this week). I made the decision to not travel with a group this time, prepared to accept whatever dire consequences that might ensue. For some reason, I found the experience much more enjoyable. Perhaps it is my personality of individuality, wanting to figure things out on my own, and leadership—who knows.

I learned something really important right off. I could not figure out why I was only at level two and everyone else I had played with was at least at level seven. I knew that fighting enemies made my levels go up, but for some reason fighting in a group gleaned me few rewards. I still have not figured out why group fighting did not level me up faster. So, this time, alone, I threw out the question to the first unoccupied co-player I found, “How do I level up faster? I am on level two.” Surprisingly, he responded, “You can get to level five on the dummies.” Since I had no clue what he was talking about a little conversation continued until I knew where to go to fight the dummies. I followed his advice and sure enough, in a matter of minutes, I found myself at level five. It was almost too easy. This taught me that sometimes what is good for the group may not be what is good for the individual…especially since I never figured this out while fighting in a group. I had to be alone.

So, once leveled up, I figured I would try what the group was trying last week: to go through the dungeon. Then I remembered that they were always asking about a red ring. So, I thought I would just explore the terrain a bit more, since I hadn’t up to this point. I talked with people and I attacked anything that I could (I killed a frog, how morbid). Inside of one of the buildings, a girl said something like, “Hi, I make things, mostly jewelry, if people bring me stuff so I can make them.” I thought that was nice, but not that interesting….and then, wait, did she say jewelry?....like maybe a red ring? My interest was piqued, so I continued talking. Sure enough, she made rings, but I didn’t have the necessary materials….so, bam, just like that, I had a purpose, I had a goal, hurray, I needed to get money and metal. This I knew how to do from playing with the group last time. And off I went.
So what does Merrill say about this? Well, it was certainly problem centered (I needed to level up but did not know how). It definitely activated my previous experience. I did want to demonstrate my new-found knowledge (fighting enemies at level two is much more embarrassing than at level five). I knew it would be easier to pursue a goal at a higher level (hence, application of my new knowledge). But, I’m not sure about integrating my knowledge into everyday life. I guess one could look at it two ways: one, if everyday life is the character in the game, then integrating would be using leveling up to do other things, which certainly happens; or two, if everyday life was my life, outside of the game, then integration might be me incorporating ways of knowing I learn from the game (like asking others, just-in-time instruction, learning by doing, etc.) into my real life. Either way, Merrill’s five first principles are covered.

And how does this relate to Squire’s Replaying History article. First, it was odd reading an article based off of his dissertation. I’ve actually read his entire dissertation (a qualitative case study) and I attended his dissertation defense. So this marks the first time I’ve read an article based off a study with which I was already very familiar. Okay, back to the point. I certainly felt confused wondering around the game not knowing what to do or what the purpose was. This felt like a very constructivist way of doing things and was certainly how the students in Squire’s study, play Civ III felt. But eventually, through playing knowledge emerged. I also exemplified learning through failures. I died and restarted so many times I can’t count. My favorite way was when I decided to quit playing so I wanted to go out in glory by taking on a huge creature, one that I had never fought before. We both ended up delivering the final blow at the exact same time and we both died together. It was a classic ending. And, I think I had some powerful learning experience that occurred outside the game, mostly as I pondered what I had learned while crafting this blog entry.

Monday, November 22, 2004

MMOs Part 1

It was frustrating at first playing Lineage online. I had no clue what the point was. The number one question I kept typing in at beginning was, “Where am I supposed to go?” Nobody was responding. Luckily, I had played some real-time strategy games, like Warcraft and Age of Empires, so I at least was familiar with how to walk around the terrain.

Then, since around ten class members had arranged to be playing the game at the same time, I eventually found some friends. They answered my questions about how to put on armor, how to buy potions, and how to weld my sword. But the best guidance I received was given me by a person who began playing the game on the computer right next to me. He was a little more experienced than me. I don’t think I would have learned as quickly had he not pointed to parts of the game and said, “To do [whatever] you must do this.” It is just too cumbersome to try and describe certain things virtually.

I did find it interesting that those who could answer the questions the best, tended to not want to help. The expert-looking players, when I asked them a question, tended to write, “LOL” and then they would disappear with some magic spell, leaving me to fend for myself. My most frequent question once I got into the game a bit was, “What goal are we trying to achieve?” Nobody would answer this. They would say things like, “We are powering up to get stronger.” To this I would reply, “Yeah, but why….what are we supposed to be doing?” I came to the conclusion that they either did not know, did not want to tell me, or there was no real goal. Maybe this next week of playing will yield some better results.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Online Identity

I got thinking about if cooperation (however defined) can succeed without accountability and trust. I’ve come to the conclusion that it can. Just think of all the Usenet newsgroups. People can ask questions and get responses from people who have no reputation and/or very little identity. The questioning person can then use the information from the responder to act in a certain way. Thus, cooperation can result.

Now, yes, I agree that a receiving person will act differently depending on the perceived reputation or identity of the sender. Think about asking for medical advice in a newsgroup. Let’s get even more specific. Think about asking for advice about how to deal with cancer. Anybody could respond and the actions could actually be highly effective or highly detrimental.

So say the cancer patient asks for advice and two online identities (presumably two different people) respond. If one of the responses appears to have come from someone with a medical background—someone who a lot of others have given positive feedback, thus having a good reputation—then the receiver might actually do what the responder says with little hesitation. Now, if the other response comes from an anonymous person or someone with no track record, then the receiver might do some more research before doing what this responder says to do. Does one interaction imply more or less cooperation? I don’t think so. It’s just a different kind of cooperation. And, I do not perceive one type of cooperation to be more valuable than another. In one instance the information could be more valuable, but the cooperation value is the same.

So, what about accountability? What about, using this same example, a person who is deliberately sending out deceptive signals? Yes, that would be hard to imagine that someone would intentionally deceive a cancer patient, but it could happen. In such a case, the costs of finding the deceiver and proving the trail of deception is very difficult, as Judith S. Donath mentions in her article http://smg.media.mit.edu/people/Judith/Identity/IdentityDeception.html . My opinion is, why try to catch such a person? What’s the point? I would rather have a system where the bad signals are filtered out by all the good. For example, what if our cancer patient asked his question and instead of only two responders, there were 100, and, perhaps they could build upon each other’s responses. Then, the bad would likely be filtered out and the good would kind of become the average of the responses of those that remained. That would be a better system for our cancer patient.

But then, I’m caused to question something else. What is the trust, reputation, and identity of large groups in the virtual world? How is this determined? And, how can there be a group track record establishing trust, reputation, and identity? Is it based on the individual users’? That could be time-consuming to determine. And does every single group have a different identity? Or could there be an average identity that can be expected for any given question? Would there be an expected value of the signals that could be received based upon the question and the number of responders in the group? I wonder?

Monday, November 08, 2004


I used MIRC and went to channels: #Beginner, #Family_Chat, and #FunnyWorld

Compared to LmabdaMOO, using IRC felt much more formal. Maybe it was the constant feeling of knowing there was a channel op that was always looking over my shoulder (or at least the possibility existed). I didn’t feel as free to write whatever I wanted because there was that potential of being kicked out or even permanently blocked. Of course I knew that if that happened that it may or may not have been anything I did, but psychologically, getting kicked out—especially as a newbie—kind of does something to your spirits.

It felt less free, more onstrained. I didn’t feel I could write about anything I wanted. There seemed to be boundaries. I felt more required to stay on topic, whatever the channel was focused on. And it wasn’t for a lack of anonymity. It just seemed that the feeling and reason for using IRC, instead of something like LambdaMOO, was to stay on topic, a specific topic.

There was not a metaphorical feeling of going from one room to another. Even when going from one channel to another, it just felt like I was entering a different chat session, nothing more. For some reason I went into this thinking it would be more game-like and it wasn’t at all. No “playing,” just “chatting.”

The whole new world of commands and emoticons was tough to get used to…I still don’t think I am, even though I was familiar with some of the emoticons. It’s just different with non-CMC. Nothing can really replace being in person with somebody, communicating.

Monday, November 01, 2004

MUDs ‘n’ MOOs

It’s amazing to me how much social interactive environments I’ve never even heard of. MUDs and MOOs, for example, I never knew existed. I do admit, however, to catching some co-workers of mine in years past typing away at Telnet-like interfaces. When I would ask what they were doing, they’d simply say something like, “Oh, just playing a game, an older one that just uses text; you probably wouldn’t be interested.” And that was it. I’d move on with my life. But now, I realize that the game was probably a MUD or a MOO of some kind. So, I related when the Cherny (1995, p. 2) article stated, “users are well-practiced at MUD conversation, spending several hours every day online, often while working. The community views the MUD as an extension of real life, rather than an escape from it.”

This medium is different than other social environments, like blogs, threaded discussions, and fanfictions. In my mind, the main difference is that people in the community can interact with each other through artifacts. In the previous environments, the members of the community interacted one with another directly, either synchronously or asynchronously. In MOOs, users can interact, create, and affect artifacts which can then be discovered later by a different user. That artifact can be changed or moved in such a way that it communicates a message to another user who encounters.

Unlike my co-workers, I do not view these environments as games. But, thanks to the Bartle (1996) article, I understand how I view them. I am more of an explorer/socializer, to use his terminology, instead of an achiever or killer. I tend to like just roaming about MUDs and MOOs sort of as a pastime or as passive entertainment. I do not really have a goal in mind (maybe, in part, due to my lack of experience in the environments), so it cannot really be considered a game for me, and I certainly do not view the experience as a sport, like hunting or fishing. Maybe there is a hierarchy of levels in a MUD or MOO: as a user gains more experience, they move from being a passive explorer to an aggressive killer. Just a thought.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Online Reputation and Trust

Reputation and Trust

In the online world, this is such a fascinating topic. Where so much anonymity can exist, how can a people trust one another and build reputations? What are you trusting…a person, a username, the community, the safety net around the community, etc.?


As these articles include, my experience with online trust and reputation can be summed up using ebay as an example. Risk, trust, reputation, negative feedback, positive feedback, and formal enforcement policies all come into play with ebay. So, what makes me trust enough to make an ebay purchase? My thoughts and actions usually follow a pattern as follows.

First, I locate an item I wish to purchase. I scan over the pictures and descriptions for any obvious signs of reasons to not trust the item or seller. This test of face validity is important to me. Are there spelling mistakes, is the picture good quality, and does the layout of the description (color scheme, animations, repetition in details, external links, general readability) look as if it is attempting to detract from the actual item? Things like this. If I’m uncomfortable with the description, I may move on to the next item, I may contact the seller with some question, hoping to confirm or refute my assumptions. I’ve learned that there is a strong correlation between good face validity in an item description and the reputation of the seller. But I don’t know why. Is it because a certain type of person is trustworthy and able to produce a quality presentation? I doubt it, else why would con artist be so successful. Is it because these flaws in item description really are a representation of the product (and service that accompanies that product); that is, the flaws are little clues that something is wrong with the item and/or seller? I tend to agree with this hypothesis.

If the item description passes the face validity test, then I glance at the feedback record of the seller. If the feedback rating is 100% then I don’t even bother to read the details of the feedback, regardless of how many feedback responses there are. How new a person is to the ebay community has very little bearing on my willingness to purchase an item. If the feedback is less than 100% then I scan through the details, and the number of feedbacks is important. Generally, I look for trends. If a person has many feedback responses and made mistakes early in their ebay experience, but have fixed the problems—say, bad packaging, charging too much on shipping, slow response, or bad communication—then I am very likely to dismiss all of the negative feedbacks. However, if a person has only a few total feedback and/or the negative feedbacks are fairly recent, then I will likely make a judgment call on how severe the negative comments are and if they are things that would bother me (for example, charging too much for shipping does not bother me as long as it’s clearly stated in the product description).

If the feedback is deemed acceptable, then I look to see how many others are bidding on the item. This seems like a strange thing to do, yet it isn’t. By looking at how many others are bidding, I am really looking at how many others trust the current item being sold and the reputation of the seller. It’s a small validation that my impressions are supported by others. An item with fifteen people bidding gives me more encouragement than an item with one person bidding. There have been a few occasions where had other people been bidding on an item, I would have bid also, but since there weren’t I did not bid.

Once all of these items are acceptable, I email the seller with any questions. If the seller does not respond to my questions, I will not bid, regardless of how all the previous trust issues played out. The seller not responding to a question is more powerful than anything else. It speaks to their likelihood of responding should any problem arise. If they do not respond beforehand, why would they respond afterwards?

If my questions are answered or if I did not have any questions, then I go ahead and bid (realize that if there are no questions, this whole trust-building process usually takes less than two minutes). There is one more item that plays into trust in the online/ebay world: internal protections.

The articles are incorrect, perhaps because they are out-dated (in technology terms). There are warranties, guarantees, and a formal enforcement of rules with ebay and other online locations requiring trust and reputation. If it weren’t for these guarantees, I would be much less trusting to carry out any transaction online, regardless of the reputation and my perception of trust of a person. In fact there are several layers of protection for the buyer on ebay. I refer to these as ebay’s safety net. If a buyer purchases an item using a credit card through PayPal, s/he is protected the most. Ebay’s policy is to refund up to $200 if an item does not arrive to the purchaser at all. Paypal’s policy is to refund up to $500 if an item arrives but is not as it was described. And, most credit cards will refund a disputed claim if there is a legitimate reason and if it is within thirty days. I admit that these three protections are in the back of my mind, when I am purchasing an ebay item, just in case something goes wrong with the sale. I have, on a couple occasions, had to take advantage of these protections and they work very well. Frequently the amount I am willing to spend for an item is mandated by the limits on the refund policies of ebay and PayPal.

I’m an inherently trusting person. At the same time, I cannot understand how people like Mark Cuban could spend over $30 million buying a private jet online from a stranger. I am caused to ask: is he more trusting than I, does he have other safety nets in place I do not know about, or is money that available to him that he could risk losing so much of it? I am only willing to spend online what I can afford to lose completely, sort of likely gambling.

So, how does this compare with transactions in the real world, you know the one where interactions occur with real people, usually without computers and the Internet? In the real world, to me, an archived record of trust and reputation is much less important. This is because, as one of the articles stated, capturing and distributing quality feedback is costly. So costly, in fact, that I’m willing to bet that customers never really get accurate feedback records from people and companies with whom they do business. I would also add that gathering and distributing accurate feedback is not as cost beneficial in the real world as it is online. As far as reputation goes, I rely on word of mouth and my own personal experience when purchasing any good or service ahead of relying on a feedback record or archived reputation. This means that a real-world seller must be more preoccupied with current happenings than with long term trends of improvement. In establishing trust, I rely on body language, gut feeling, and speech usage (sarcasm, joking, hesitations, stuttering, etc.) much more in real-world transactions than I could ever possibly do with online transactions. I would also say things like, “Hey, how have your dealings with so and so been recently?”

Fan Fiction

I had never heard of fan fiction until this week. What an amazing phenomenon. I enjoyed reading the following authors mostly because they wrote about TV shows that I enjoyed as a teenager. I posted reviews on three of their stories.

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2106027/1/ da90schic Saved By the Bell
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/1931444/1/ sammac MacGyver
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2104404/1/ nitscali1 Star Trek: The Next Generation

I then wrote a piece in the Star Trek category:


If only I had more time, I could really get into this type of writing. It makes me wonder what type of people write fan fictions. Is it children, is it college undergrads without enough to do, or is it adults who have plenty to do but find a reason to write these stories. I don’t know.

So why do people write fan fictions? I believe it is because there is a certain amount of anonymity involved. People can write without having to worry about being critiqued personally. They also can count on getting anonymous feedback from others who have no other reason to give feedback except to genuinely improve the writing. It seems a lot of people wish to write but feel they haven’t got an avenue to do so….or at least one they are comfortable with. There is something intrinsically motivating about taking a creation (in this case a piece of writing) and showing it to the world. One can expect praise and adulations and one can expect critique and arguments. Both serve to improve the quality of the creation. Yet, by doing so anonymously, there is a risk factor that is removed. One is not putting their reputation out in public to be scorned.

So how would this affect learning? Well, I find it fascinating that there is data supporting the claim that many who contribute most productively on fan fictions are not that productive in the classroom. I believe it is because for the reasons listed in the previous paragraph: anonymity, opportunity to demonstrate work, low risk, and desire for feedback. So, how would we harness these attributes in the classroom? Perhaps activities should be incorporated that offer these aspects. In a larger classroom, say of thirty or more students, this would be possible. Anonymity could be reasonably achieved (lots of students) as well as quality feedback (enough students to offer varying opinions).

This almost seems strange, though, as I think back to grade school days. How would I have felt having my creations open for praise and critique. I guess in a way, we did that. I remember doing work that we then stamped our name on and posted in the hallways for the school to see. The only way, really, to get feedback was to overhear what people said as they looked over the creations. It would have been a much better learning experience to have these works left anonymous and formally provided for a means of feedback. It would have been the best of both worlds…learning by doing and improving learning through feedback.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Blog Hopping Part 2

The five edublogs I followed and made thoughtful comments:






Topics that interested me:

I guess it’s not really a topic, per se, but something that interested me and stood out was the rampant use of metaphors trying to explain everything. I liked them, but I couldn’t help wonder why there were so many. Perhaps one motivation of blogs, especially edublogs is to try and explain things, and metaphors seems a good way to do it.

Some that stood out to me were…The use of metaphors to explain to others what blogs are like. “They’re like a 3D game.” Says one writer, “One space connects to another and you poke around from place to place looking and finding those little important nuggets along the way.” Another was on learning objects, stating, “I conceive of learning objects as being analogous to molecular compounds. They are composed of atomic units (assets, or elements), and can be used to perform a highly specific role in the compound state (learning object), or broken down into the atomic/elemental state to be used as raw materials for a new compound (learning object).”

Most of the real topics I followed seemed to be centered around open source/open content/open education/open learning issues…and some around learning objects, digital libraries, and metadata.

One topic that I found interesting was a posting by a guy who has been keeping a blog since July of 2000. He says he wants to shut down his blog entirely, but he’s worried about the etiquette of doing so…broken links, track back issues, etc. I found myself pondering this as it relates to educational use of technology. What happens when we go through all this effort to build an instructional system that employs such technology as social software. We are inevitably relying on others four our instructional system to work effectively. How wise is this? If a piece of the system (the proverbial link in the chain) breaks, or does not do their intended task, how does this affect the instruction? Could it be a good thing as well? Maybe having learners go through an instructional system that has broken pieces would force them to confront problems and to find solutions. But this can also be very frustrating, for the user and instructional designer alike.

I liked finding postings that were about people and projects I was familiar with. Like one post about Open Learning Support and the Open Courseware initiative. I got to thinking that blogs are really an extension of conversation, which can serve as a form of education and advertising. How many people may never have heard of OLS had it not been for blogs, or perhaps they might not have heard of it as quickly.

I found myself concerned about making comments on other people’s blogs. I almost felt like what I had to say should have some weight to it otherwise why write it, and more especially why attach my name to it. It almost forces blog users and comment posters to really think about what they write because a piece of their reputation is on the line depending on the type of comments posted. Maybe this is strange, but I felt this way. I feel it’s an important note because if there weren’t this feeling the edublogs would have less meat to them and become quite pointless.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Blog Hopping Part 1

Five Blogs I looked at:






I went into this thinking most blogs would have a professional feel to them and weren't just a place for "journal entry" type logs. I found otherwise. Most blogs, apparently, are not an organized forum of information; a place where a person can become updated on someone else's thoughts and trains of thinking; and be connected to a myriad of resources in addition. Some blogs seemed so dull and disorgainzed, I couldn't figure out what the point was (like the first URL I have listed above...maybe my first clue was the title it had:"The dullest blog in the world.") It was just one random post after another.

Thinking about incentives to post a blog, I realized that most that I looked at seemed to have a reason behind them....be it for professional development, or for simply having a place that you can express your opinion in hopes to be heard (lik the second URL above, where the guy posting is ranting almost politically about our current national issues).

I personally liked the blogs with a lot of information, yet with a lot of organization. I like the little calendars showing when posts occured. I like the links to other information. I like the list of who the particular blogger deams worthy of following. It's helpful to know what others are doing, reading, and thinking. I do not like blogs that are simply one post after another of seemingly random thoughts. This is like the third URL post which claims it is the "Official Kerry/Edwards blog." It's just a bunch of people chatting...I wouldn't even consider it a blog.

This brings me to a thoguth of where the line is drawn of blog and threaded discussion. What some people call a blog, I would just call a threaded discussion. Again, like the Kerry/Edwards blog. To me a blog is more than just a record of thoughts or discussions; it is an attempt at making connections that might not have been made before, perhaps like a portal of some kind connecting one person's thought to another's. I'm going to have to think about this some more, obviously, and hope to have come to more clarity by next week's post.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Threaded Discussion Mini-Analysis

So, with the Third Mission Impossible flick starring Tom Cruise in production, I was curious what people had to say about the previous two prequels. I had my own opinions, but I've never read through a thread about this topic. So I found one. I spent about five hours doing so. it was actually enjoyable to read and reread threads and following the authors' trains of thought. My analysis was actually fun too.

Here's the link:


There wasn't an explicit question, per se, but all 29 posts were obviously answering the same unstated question, which was: What do you think about the second Mission Impossible? I was amazed at the length of the posts and the detailed information they offered. In this single thread, one could get a summary of the movie and an entire background on the Mission Impossible franchise. There is no way that all of these posts were written from memory. there had to be some research done, just to be able to post the information. So, this made me wonder, what would cause people not to just post stuff quickly that was in their heads, but to take the time to look stuff up and post what appeared to be quality posts.

Can altruism truly be the explanation? Personally, I don't think so. Maybe to some degree, but not entirely. I do subscribe to the mixed-motive belief, yet I think there are two prevailing motives. I might be wrong, but I'll wait until that emperical study comes out showing that I am. I believe that people put so much time and effort into putting up quality posts because, one, they want to establish themselves as a knowledgable person in a particular area, and two, writing helps to organize thoughts and why not post those organize thoughts somewhere.

I think the current blog phenomenom has very comparable motives. Why would people post things about there life, their thoughts, their direction in a blog? Well, to get their thoughts out their so as to appear knowledgable in a certain area, and to organize their thoughts (because, hey, why would you post unorganized thoughts for the world to view?) Again, there is some altruism involved. Some people just post in blogs in hopes to better the world, but I don't think it's the prevailing motive.

But, who am I to say...I'm pushing a grand total of two months being involved in Social Software, so maybe my takes will change with experience.

Monday, September 20, 2004

My Experience with Google Groups

First off, my last minute postings are not a result of procrastination; instead, I have scheduled to work on 7150 for five hours Saturday evening and for five hours Monday morning, and I tend to try and maximize this time.

Figuring out how to post in Google groups has not been easy for me and much of my groups surfing time has been dedicated to learning this. This is my first time exploring groups and Usenets...it is not easy, but I'm starting to understand how they work. I will be posting to alt.showbiz.gossip under Mission Impossible 3 as soon as I can figure out how. I think I have to register to be able to post, but I'll only know once it works. I've spent nearly six hours so far exploring these groups.

I've also checked out Star Trek groups, Punky Brewster groups, and the Blair Witch Project groups...talk about being surprised at how much talk goes on about these topics...I tried to be obscure in my searches, but there was something for everything.

After reading Wade's posting about how online groups can affect a movies success, I got to thinking about how online groups can destoy a movies potential success. I was specifically thinking about The Blair Witch Project, which I've never seen. it was a major success because of people thinking it waqs a real story, which wasn't the truth. After word got out that it was fabricated, I wonder how that affected ticket sales. The Google groups shows a lot of activity right after it's release, and a lot of it was due to people telling others it was a farse.

Overall, I was surprised at the lack of moderation of these groups. A lot of stuff was just garbage, but I guess that's the beauty of it...you can say whatever you want.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Personal Internet History

For me, using the Internet and using computers happened at the same time. I really can’t distinguish when I began using one and began using another. Throughout high school (up until 1993) I toyed around with word processing programs, math programs, and video games, but I never really used computers. I had friends who tapped into their grade records at the school district level via the Internet, so I knew what was possible, but I guess I had an inherent fear (my dad is a farmer and resists computers entirely) and insecurity about them. In fact when my friends got caught for their little grade-changing adventure, my biggest defense was that I didn’t have a clue how to do what they pulled off…so, I didn’t get in trouble for that one. Experiences like this gave me additional security in my ignorance.

Then, during my first year of college (1993/1994) I resisted computers while concurrently being introduced to the Internet. I’d love to say I was attempting to complete some class project or expanding my formal education, but I wasn’t. This is the truth and, in some respects, I’m opening myself up for criticism of some kind for admitting it in an open forum. I learned of the Internet in my search for information about a famous model of the time, Niki Taylor. I wanted to know everything about her and the university librarians were very helpful. They introduced me to CD-ROMs containing info on many people, famous and not-so-famous. Then, one day, some computer geek told me I could look up GIFs (he pronounced them “jifs”) from places all over the world by connecting to various “servers.” I had no idea what he meant but, hey, if it meant I gathered more information, then I was willing to give it a try. I watched him as he typed in information to connect to various places. He would say things like, “Hey, here’s someone in San Diego will a lot of stuff. Wait, this guy in Philadelphia has more.” I was amazed at the possibilities, but still was resisting learning how to do them myself. My best friend even wrote to her mother using Pegasus, a thing she referred to as “email” because she said it was cheaper than long distance phone calls, but I never wanted to learn more than that.

Then from 1994-1996 I was serving a religious mission in Spain and had no contact with computers except on two occasions. One, my mother sent me a letter where she said I could send he a message from one computer and she would receive it. I was fascinated, so I went to a Cyber Café and sent a message. I was astounded a few weeks later to find out, in a letter, she had actually received it. The second occasion was when I was talking with people on the streets and noticed a huge display for something called Windows 95. I knew it must be something important but I had no idea what Windows, or for that matter Microsoft, was.

After returning and restarting college in January 1997, I realized I had some serious computer catching up to do if I wanted to be considered a capable college graduate. I will never forget the day when I was determined to learn computers and entered a computer lab alone. I sat at a computer and had no idea what to do. I fiddled with the keyboard and monitor, but nothing happened. I reluctantly asked the computer lab assistant to help me out. He came over and sat down and said, Okay, what do you want to do?” I said, “I want to learn how to use this thing.” He said, “Alright, let’s get started.” I just sat there. He said, “Well you have to turn it on.” I said, “I don’t know how.” His countenance faded, “You don’t know how to turn it on!?,” he said, not so reassuringly. “No,” I responded. He questioned, “Well, what have you used computers for, so far?” I said, “I have never used a computer for anything serious in my whole life.” Then he became very unbelieving and frustrated. He said, rather harshly, “I can’t help, I won’t help you, I’m not here to help people who cannot even help themselves. Please leave this lab. Take a class where you’ll learn the basics and then come back and I will help you.” He was serious, but then, so was I. I took a class, then another, then several multimedia-type jobs, and now, years later, I am very proficient with computers. And, I’ll never turn back.

The Internet plays a very important role in my professional and personal life. Social software, however, plays a smaller role. I do not even use Instant Messaging yet. This is probably because I view these services as intrusive. This is the same reason I refuse to get a cell phone. I don’t want to be bothered with people wanting to get a hold of me at all hours of the day. I know, it’s silly, similar to my initial reluctance to using computers. I’ll overcome this reluctance, just as I did before, and soon will use social software properly to enhance my life (this is partly the reason for taking this online interactions course at this point in my life).

6 hours (for my current Instructional Technology 7150 Course)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hello World

Hello World