I am a Reluctant, Invisible Participant in a Wretched Project

I am in pain. This hurts.

There is a telephone conference blabbing on my desk, and I am ignoring it. This is a technology project coming out of a large organization we are members of, and I have been tapped to be our system’s rep. It is aiming to create yet another searchable archive of educational resources, but the development is fixated in a 1980-1990s model of information architecture. It flies with the grace of an iron pigeon.

They are pounding away at creating fixed hierarchies, long flowing submission forms, limp content evaluations, but the prototype interface is making my lunch hard to keep down. It is a clunky wobbly wheeled portal approach straight out of Internet 0.5. No RSS. No comments. No tags.

I am having trouble resolving this with what I see externally in terms of folksonomy, social networks, ontologies being over-rated.

I am keeping a low profile. Make that invisible. I am not here. I am on a beach in Maui. I wish.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. This is EXACTLY how I felt about educational portals out there. A static collection of lessons, stale message boards that are buried in the sites and difficult to find, and commercially driven content.

    I’m on my way to helping a small group of educators form a portal for the new digital age (I refuse to call it a “flat world” because I disagree with Mr. Friedman’s metaphor). So far we have just 13 of us, but with a blog and a VERY easy to find forum going, we’re on our way to creating something new. We’ve got RSS up and running for the Blog and Forums, with tagging and “Fresh Daily Links” on the way via Jots. From there it’s up to the members; since it’s not a commercial site I’m acting as a facilitator and letting the community decide in which direction we should be headed.

    We would be honored if you would check out what we’re doing (we’ve only just started a month ago, so we’re still in our infancy) and share your thoughts as we’re hoping to create an open community of educators.

  2. It’s is strange how you can slave over a blog post and gte no ripples of response, and then toss one vent out quickly and get immediate chimes in. Has a chord been struck?

    Ben, it looks good, pretty much the Small Technologies Loosely Joined approach I was hawking last year where you have cleanly linked WordPress and phpBB. Good consistent color scheme and layouts.

    It’s kind of funny because that is pretty much what the Apple Digital Campus thing is doing, even similar technology platforms, except they keep everything behind a password– so maybe you are a step ahead of Apple.

    Very quick suggestions:
    * It’s not exactly clear from the fron side bar what goes to the forums and what goes to the blog. I think of “Latest Posts” first as blog entries. My bad assumption.
    * What I think missing the most from the front is a sense of person or people. The blog entries are not attributed to anyone. I prefer to know, or think I know who is writing. Unless there is only one blog author.

    Anyhow, those are minor quibbles. Good stuff.

    I do start to wonder, like Dave Weinberger quipped when we get to the point that there are even too many blogs to read, even via RSS” “No, I’m not keeping up with your blog.”

  3. The truth be told, it was one of our Tech Savvy Educators that alerted me to your posting, so thank the network that blogging has formed for at least half of your replies here :)

    That and I have read your blog before, especially about your Jots experiement, but didn’t have much to offer at the time and didn’t want to clutter your site with nonsense.

    Thank you for the kind words about the site. I was adament about not having passwords because I wanted it to ahve that “open source” feel. People freely exchanging ideas for a common good and not gathering data and potential customers. That’s why I’ve left the majority of the forum threads open to the general public so people can leave comments at will without having to worry about what’s going to happen to their e-mail and other information when they register. Not that I have some Machiavellian plan cooked up or anything :)

    As of right now I’m writing all of the blog posts, but when more people come on board and get excited about posting I’ll probably start including names as they have thoughts they want to put on the main page. I also liked your thoughts about “Recent Posts.” I was looking for a way to show recent site activity, but didn’t even consider peolple might confuse it for blog posts. I’ll have to think on that for awhile.

    P.S. I wouldn’t have considered pieceing together smaller open source applications if I couldn’t have done the somewhat seemless color scheme and layout. I’m glad I did it this way though, so the site doesn’t seem too overwhelming for the non-tech savvy. Thanks again.

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