Even Shakespeare Goes Open Source


William Shakespeare is probably the original open source author online. People have been putting up Shakespeare Websites since the beginning of the Web since his work is public domain and always in demand. If Open Source Shakespeare was just another collection of the bard's works, I wouldn't bother to blog about it. OSS is a free site containing Shakespeare's complete works, but it is also trying to be more.

With an intended audience of "scholars, thespians, and Shakespeare lovers of every kind" it is built around openness. OSS does include the 1864 Globe Edition of the complete works (the definitive single-volume Shakespeare edition for over a half-century).

There are some subscription-only sites at libraries or research institutions that offer more features, but OSS allows you to also have an advanced search function, read the plays, and look up words in the concordance.

There are also some classroom-ready features. For example, if you want to have students compare two Shakespeare sonnets, you can select any two of the poems and see them side-by-side.

Tip o' the hat to Mary Zedeck for pointing me the original link.

Help TV



More and more companies are offering video to support their tech products. At one time, that meant a few screen capture clips, but now it can be a full-fledged channel of videos.

Two samples:

If you are a blogger who uses Wordpress, you can find many videos on using the product at http://wordpress.tv

As you might expect from a company that offers a number of online design products including ones for video, Adobe has a very robust tv.adobe.com In fact, they actually have channels for content such as one for education. The content is definitely not just product promotion. There's plenty of instructional material that would be useful to teachers and students, such as one on reviewing teacher comments in an Acrobat pdf document.


What Are Adults Doing On Social Networks?

Question: Are there more adults or teenagers on the popular social networks (like Facebook, MySpace)?

Answer: Adults

Percentage wise, the majority of teenagers join social networks, but adults make up the majority of users on social networks, if only because adults make up a larger proportion of the population.

That information comes from yet another Pew Internet & American Life Project report. 65% of online teens actually represents fewer users than the 35% of adults who participate online. Look closer and you see that the adult 35% group still tends to be younger adults. 75% in the 18-24 bracket use these networks, and at the other end 7% of adults 65 or older do. Overall, adults doing social networking is up more than 400% (to 35%) since their 2005 report when only 8% of adults had a social network profile.

The question then becomes - Why do adults use social networks? Is it for different reasons than teenagers?

We (and I mean adults) might guess that it's to network professionally with others in our field. Turns out that is not really the case. For example, 6% of adults surveyed use LinkedIn, a popular social network dedicated to professional networking. For comparison, 50% use MySpace, 22% use Facebook for both "professional" and personal networking.

From my personal experience, I find that more and more of my professional contacts will send me a message in Facebook (which they seem to check daily like email) rather than in LinkedIn (which they check infrequently or only when they are sent an update/notification email).

So what are adults doing in social networks? Pretty much the same as the teens. 89% report they use the networks to stay in touch with friends. 57% use it to make plans with friends and 49% use them to meet new contacts.

Now, it's possible there's some overlap. Meeting new contacts can be a professional activity, even if it doesn't begin that way, but only 28% of those surveyed specifically said they used the networks to make new professional contacts. Possibly it was the same 28% that said they do self-promotion of their work via the networks.

Does this also mean that adults use professional sites like LinkedIn, for social purposes? I suspect most of us would say that we do not. Still, if you use that site, you probably have noticed that they have begun to add new applications, an events section

Last fall, LinkedIn launched an "applications platform" (like Facebook) which seems to expand their original intent which was helping you find new work (jobs, collaborators, clients).

Defining "adults" probably has a lot to do with all these results. So, I was interested in some of the other demographics the PEW report offers. For example, MySpace users are tend to be women, Hispanic, black, and have a high school education or some college experience with a median age of 27. Facebook users are more likely to be male and have a college degree with a median age of 26.

Of course, all that is also very interesting to advertisers. So, if LinkedIn users are more older, white men with a college degree and a median age of 40, you can sell different products - or begin to add applications to pull in those younger men and more women.

Don't Feed the Trolls


A troll, in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room. Why? Their intent is to provoke other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion. Wikipedia has information on trolls and Wikipedia itself has problems with trolls who "edit" information just to gain attention.

If you're a teacher, you know that classrooms often have trolls too - students who "contribute" only to get attention or disrupt the lesson or discussion. If you teach online or use online discussions, you have also encountered these trolls.

Etymology: earliest known example of the term's use is from 1991. Thought to be a truncation of the phrase "trolling for suckers" from the pre-existing term for the fishing technique (trolling) of slowly dragging a bait through water. Of course, many of us will also think of the trolls of folklore and children's stories who are also creatures with a penchant for mischief.

What do you do when a live or online discussion goes awry because of a troll?

I recently joined yet another online community. This one is at NPR (National Public Radio) which launched last September. They hit the 50,000 users mark early this month.

They also introduced a new community rule: Do not "feed" the trolls.

Not only do they encourage community members to report abuse by trolls, but also also ask that you not engage with trolls in the comment threads.

It's something teachers quickly learn - reacting to their provocations is exactly what they want. At NPR, if you feed a troll by responding, they remove both the troll's comments and your responses.

They also have had user questions about how they define a troll. One community member said:

"I think of it," he wrote in an e-mail, "as someone who doesn't engage others in a discussion, who posts irrelevant comments, or who goes off on the same rant no matter the topic."

In some ways, a troll is like the person at the party who's a little too drunk and picks a fight with everyone. He (or she) is the one who makes things so hostile that everyone avoids a gathering as soon as they see him on the guest list.

Our oft-stated principle is that we want the NPR.org community to be home to a civil conversation that avoids insults, vulgarities and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. We ask for first and last names during the registration process because we want users to remember that behind our funny avatars and strong views are real human beings.

Trolls tend to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to make community interactions less human. So, from now on, let's ignore them.   http://www.npr.org/blogs/inside/

How effective is not feeding the trolls that pop up in your classroom face-to-face or virtually?
What techniques do you find effective in keeping them in check, or (not always possible) getting rid of them?
Do effective techniques from the live classroom transfer to the virtual classroom?

A Knol Milestone


iconIt has been a year since I first wrote about Knol. Knol is Google's Web encyclopedia project. (A "knol" is their "unit of knowledge")

Unlike Wikipedia, Knol tells you who wrote the article and their qualifications. Google started with an invited group of people who know a particular subject and asked them to write an authoritative article about it.

One idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. We all know that much of what is written on the web has no apparent "author" and this is a different approach.

I posted an update last summer when Knol officially launched. There wasn't much to review at that point, so I went back this past weekend to update.

If one of your problems with students using Wikipedia is that you don't know who wrote the article or what their "authority" is in the subject, perhaps Knol is something you would recommend. Even Google suggests that the articles be used as you would use an encyclopedia.

"A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing."

How would you feel about a student using a knol information on eclipses written by Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer from Williams College and Chair of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Solar Eclipses?

Knol hit a milestone recently when the 100,000th knol was published earlier this month according to Google. They point to articles from sinus infections and Arctic exploration to long distance motorcycle riding and the Amphilinidea.

The Knol interface is now available in eight languages (Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish) and knols have been written in 59 different languages to date.

For comparison, there are currently 262 language editions of Wikipedia - of these, 24 have over 100,000 articles and 81 have over 1,000 articles.

It's a good language lesson to students. Users are helping them translate Knol into many more languages using the Google in Your Language console.

New features on the Knol site that were requested by their beta authors include usage stats showing reader activity on knols and rich media embedding (videos, spreadsheets, forms, slideshows, etc.). You can see improvements tracked on their announcement and release notes.

Most authors choose to accept moderated edits from their audience (that's not required), so if you want to
suggest an improvement, you click edit as with a wiki. In that case, the author(s) will review the act and decide what to do with your suggested edit.

Our Internet President


Obama using his Blackberry.

I guess you've heard that President Obama is going to get to keep his Blackberry.

His first day in office got a big inauguration Internet start. Just look at the numbers released by only CNN on the day’s traffic. As of 3:30pm ET on that day: more than 136 million pageviews; more than 21.3 million live video streams; at its peak, CNN served 1.3 million concurrent live streams (this occurred immediately before Obama’s speech)

I looked back at a PEW Internet report from last year that asked what voters expected from an Obama administration. Some highlights:

  • Voters expect that the level of public engagement they experienced with Barack Obama during the campaign, much of it occurring online, will continue into the early period of his new administration.
  • A majority of Obama voters expect to carry on efforts to support his policies and try to persuade others to back his initiatives in the coming year;
  • a substantial number expect to hear directly from Obama and his team;
  • a notable cohort say they have followed the transition online.
  • 62% of Obama voters expect that they will ask others to support the policies of the new administration over the next year.
  • Among Obama voters who were engaged online during the campaign, 25% expect to support the administration’s agenda by reaching out to others online.
  • Obama voters expect to hear directly from the administration — 34% expect email communication, 37% of social network site users expect SNS updates, and 11% of phone texters expect to receive text messages
  •  27% of wired Obama voters have gone online to learn about or get involved with the presidential transition process.

Where online can you expect to interact with this Internet President?

The obvious starting place is Whitehouse.gov. The site actually changed at 12:01 PM on Inauguration Day (before Obama had taken the oath, but at the time that he was, by law, the President) to the official website of the new President of the United States. This website has official policy, media releases, position papers, video of speeches, photographs, speeches and data about the operations of The White House. It's already more dynamic than the Bush version - they added a blog, for example - but many of us expect other sites to carry even more opportunities for citizen interaction.

Change.gov was the site to follow to learn what the transition team was doing, but the home page is currently just a link to The White House site. That web team is now working on the Citizen’s Briefing Book,where they are asking citizens to share ideas on what the Obama administration should do around many major issues such as the economy, health care, and national security. There is an introductory video, but the general concept is that ideas that receive the highest “vote” totals will be put into a briefing book for the Obama team.

USAService.org is a site to bring change at the neighborhood level - "a tool that will allow you to organize a service event in your community and recruit others to join you. Or, if you’d prefer to join
an existing event, the site will direct you to what others have organized in your neighborhood.”

Finally, there's MyBarackObama.com that was so big during the campaign with more than two million people registered and 13 million voters signed up for the email list. The site also generated more 50% of the $750 million raised. It's still a live site but I haven't found any new mission statement for the site, but after the election, it also turned towards community. I suppose they can start on the 2012 re-election early...

I suspect that in the next four years you will see much more.