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“As The Web Does: An Innovation Toolkit” …. feedback please!

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Margaret Almon

UPDATE: Nov 2, 2013: See the final application and goofy Alan at Stonehenge video

I’m scrambling somewhat to prepare by the end of the month a proposal for a Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship; below are bits or bypass by waffling and go to the drafty draft.

I first heard of the Foundation via Philipp Schmidt who’s work there led to P2PU. That’s a huge project. And then last year, I read David Wiley’s project that was funded. Ginormous.

Borrowing terminology and the insight of Jin Udell, I am aiming to extend the work we have done up to now as ds106 to be something that would enable people to build, foster their own distributed network communities. Rather than creating software solutions as an answer, this will rest on the existing (trailing edge?) open source tools of the web, primarily but not exclusively WordPress.

========- D-R-A-F-T -========

Describe the world as it is. (A description of the status quo and context in which you will be working)

At a mature age of 23, the World Wide Web has achieved much of the vision of its creator Tim Berners-Lee:

The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information. Its universality is essential: the fact that a hypertext link can point to anything, be it personal, local or global, be it draft or highly polished. There was a second part of the dream, too, dependent on the Web being so generally used that it became a realistic mirror (or in fact the primary embodiment) of the ways in which we work and play and socialize. That was that once the state of our interactions was on line, we could then use computers to help us analyse it, make sense of what we are doing, where we individually fit in, and how we can better work together.
““ The World Wide Web: A very short personal history by Tim Berners-Lee May 7, 1998

In the world of education, we have bountiful resources and content on the web, but in practice, many educators lean towards a more familiar a print publishing/broadcast mindset– not taking advantage of the affordances of being of the web. The meteoric rise of interest in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) focuses on achieving its first letter via approaches of replication, e.g. one super professors lecturing to learners, automated assessment, etc. and not using the affordances of it’s massive participant group. What scales is the teaching (to many) not necessarily the experience of those aiming to learn.

There is a better model out there for scaling open learning, it is right under our browsers… the web itself.

What change do you want to make? (A description of what you want to change about the status quo, in the world, your personal vision for this area)

I would like to see educators gain a better conceptual understanding and practice of web thinking, using the affordances of a distributed network, and an abilities to create, manage, and operate in a de-centralized space. This can be achieved without the need for corporate investor funding, but within the structures and open source tools of the web.

It’s what Jon Udell describes as innovation toolkits “products or services that, while being used for their intended purposes, enables their users to express unanticipated intents and find ways to realize them.” And it is one that does not call for new technologies; in fact will work is re-conceptualization of what we currently have in new ways.

I propose to build a suite of tool kits as extensions of the ones I have used or built for the ds106 open digital storytelling class but making them extensible for other subjects and organizations who would like to operate in a more “web-like” manner, using a distributed model where participants may create, publish in many places, ideally some are ones they manage.

the full draft…

I’m craving feedback so trying to wave my openness flag by posting this draft. What I seek includes but is not limited to:

  • Would it make sense to a general reader?
  • Is it a mistake to hitch it it closely to WordPress?
  • Can you think of ways you might want to build/use something not as a copy of ds106 but has the attributed of its parts (or something we have not thought of)?
  • Do you have any idea for a project we could collaborate on (I am hoping to list potential ones, it is not a commitment, as I understand it, the fellowship provides needed funds and travel costs.
  • Where are my typos?

In my gut this feels like a super long shot, but the foundation really seems to take a unique approach to supporting people first, then projects. I would be super ecstatic to have the support to be able to focus full time energy to this.

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Ikhlasul Amal

Thanks in advance…

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at 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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. I can’t make heads or tails out of it, so I assume that you are assuming a more knowledgeable reader. I am guessing that you are drafting chunks in response to the prompts?
    Grant writing is not my area of expertise, so my academic scholarly inclination to create an interesting paper for publication is probably not germane.

    However, the topic IS interesting to me, and I’d like to understand what you are talking about, but that is probably not an objective with this proposal.

    Yes, a variety of typos.
    Best of luck!

  2. Hi. I’m interested in this area. Especially with respect to building & developing health knowledge in the general population – and social media knowledge amongst health workers. Aiming to reduce information asymmetry.

  3. Looking at the guidelines for applying I think you need to make a vision statement early in your proposal that gives the reviewer a clear idea of the kind of social change you propose to bring about and how the world of education will be made better as a result. Don’t assume that your reader is familiar with anything you do so make it easy for them understand your vision. You need to get the idea nailed down in the first paragraph. I would avoid using the quote from Berners-Lee and paraphrase in your own words. Emphasize how your work will result in social change and more openness.
    I can help you with grammar/punctuation if you send me an editable document.
    I don’t have any experience writing proposals but I used to justify multi-million dollar projects!
    This is an exciting opportunity and I think you deserve to get it!

  4. After quick skim, this is a good idea with two quick thoughts:
    1) Digital Tinkertoys / Erector Set — wouldn’t it be amazing to tweak API’s or develop a common “connector” that simplifies creation of a personal toolkit? Writer’s with editors, references, citation tools, etc. Artists with OS imaging, image editing, clip art collections, etc.

    2) Or if that would take 1,000 monkeys with various religious Operating Systems. A start might be a Matrix of Function | Resource | Online Home Site | User Fora sites | Documentation Sites | Link to potential connected tools / software. (In other words either a curated data base that suggests a class of tools with examples)

    Two cents quickly drawn from pocket.
    — Thanks for Morning Brain Jolt. – George

  5. Oh, re: Sir Tim’s quote. I always like Mark McCahill’s rationale for Gopher. He was part of the Computer Support Team at Unv of Minnesota. The team wanted a simpler Help Desk data base to deal with re-occuring questions. Gopher was hierarchical and extendable, as well as somewhat searchable, so they were happy. Mark always said they wrote it to make their jobs easier — end of story.

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