June 27, 2008

Events 2.0 roundup..

I’ve read a few interesting bits and pieces the last week or two about events again so I thought I’d just put together a quick post covering them.

Tony at Crowdvine has written an interesting post on the Crowdvine blog about adding an unconference element to an existing event which is something I think is a good idea and will be seen more often in events as it allows the sponteniety of the unconference also allows a more tranditional route for conference goers who prefer that format (or those like myself who prefer the abiity to pick ‘n’ mix!).  Its useful advice from a guy with alot of experience of events in general and someone who has recently done exactly what he is talking about so its worth reading.  Not surprisingly it ends with a plug for Crowdvine - but can’t say I have a problem with that as I think Crowdvine is a useful tool for events and certainly the most event-centric of the diy social networks out there.

David Wilcox has been talking about what he is trying to capture from events as he continues to document events with his phone, video camera and alot of hard work.  I think its interesting but I think personally that some kind of media capture of the ’stuff’ (read the post to understand the context) is important as well - too often the presentations lack coherence without the addition of at least an audio track and the post (or pre) event papers often miss out on those eureka moments that happen in front of a live audience - especially during Q and As.

I also came across the O’Reilly Ignite events concept this week and like the idea of adding something like this to an existing more formal event - I imagine it creates a very different energy and could help allieviate the dips that often seemto happen at big events.  I love the idea of Ignite in a Box as well - a really useful resource that I hope I get the chance to use some day!

Finally its been really interesting watching the 2gether08 conference come together online - not only does it have an innovative bunch of speakers, sessions and ideas on the days it also has been wonderfully innovative in the manner its been organised and after a brief upturn in my financial situation I am hoping to be able to attend for at least part of the conference now.

June 26, 2008

Creative Commons in the UK..

The ReadWriteWeb blog had a post yesterday (?) about the new Creative Commons Case Studies database which I immediately headed off to have a nose at!  It has to be said I don’t think usability was high on the priority list of whoever built this app but as mentioned in the RWW post they have launched something that is full of content rather than just a shell that is often the case.

After struggling through the navigation I was disapointed to see the lack of UK based examples but one quick tweet later and Laura Dewis from the OUs OpenLearn service had jumped in and added an OpenLearn study to the database.  I still think its a bit light on UK examples but then again while I know alot of research has been done on using CC in UK education etc I don’t know how much use of it there is in reality.

On the subject of Creative Commons Andy Powell over on the eFoundations was venting some frustrations about CC in a recent post but I think its people mis-using the system that is the core of the problem and thats just the nature of the web for good or for ill!  Owen Stephens adds a well thought out comment as well.

June 23, 2008

Wordle fun..

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

This is a word cloud of the text currently on the first page of my blog - not very enlightening but kind of fun..

June 23, 2008

Beanbag for Bristol..

A spate of almost aimless Googling and browsing yesterday (it started with a purpose but sometimes I just get swept away with the journey and forget about the destination!) brought me eventually to a new education based, web 2.0ish, start-up based in Bristol - Beanbag Learning. Now this alone was enough to pique my curiousity but the discovery that one of the guys (Jon Ellis) running things is a fellow Monks Park escapee focussed my attention (for the record Monks Park holds a special place in my heart - as well as me, my brother, mum, two aunts, two uncles and four cousins all attended the school and my grandfather even worked there for a while!).

The site aims to match parents up with qualified tutors for their children - in many ways it would be easy to compare it with School of Everything but I think it has much more of a focus on enhancing compulsory education rather than giving a shop window to more adult and community learning opportunities which seems to be the goal of School of Everything (it has to be said I think SoE is flippin’ brilliant and just the kind of start-up I approve of so any comparisons should be seen as a compliment!).

The site was built by Jiva Technology and seems to be built on Ruby on Rails - just like my favourite service Twitter - though it has to be said Twitter isn’t exactly the most stable of services so maybe thats an issue with using this technology? Anyway it certainly gives it a big tick in the web 2.0 box! As does using Getsatisfaction for customer feedback and helpdesk. This is a great idea - Getsatisfaction is a wonderful service that helps build a community around an application and offers a much more user friendly resource than small companies could manage on their own.

Beanbag also has elements of social networking about it - actually a bit more than I think is useful. The ability to recommend people is a real benefit - but I can’t see why adding friends is appropriate here? Just seems to be a feature for the sake of it. The use of profiles is obviously appropriate for tutors but maybe there should be more (mandatory) information relevant to a parent deciding if they are an appropriate tutor - as I’m neither a parent nor a teacher I’m not sure what this would be but I’m sure in these days of (over) protective parents the more info the better?

I’m also not quite sure if the site is supposed to be live really - there is a pretty obvious issue with a link on the homepage (Looking for help?) which I’m sure should go to some kind of form to create a Want Ad but instead goes to a list of current Want Ads. Also the current profiles and members seem to be mainly people involved in the company and the ‘tour’ is still coming soon so perhaps I’m a bit early to the party!

The search and browse of tutors works well though perhaps an additional filter by level (GCSE, A, BTEC) might be helpful? However I find the Learning Resources section a bit muddled - its hard to see how its sorted even after a subject filter is applied - of course that might just be me! Also the handful of videos on the site at the moment (produced by the Jiva team I guess?) are great but maybe a bit too slick! I wonder if something a bit more DIY in nature would encourage people to add their own video/audio resources in the future. The videos are hosted on Blip.tv which is another big win for me as I have long admired them ahead of the other providers in the online video arena - however I would guess that most videos would still be hosted on YouTube (or slides on Slideshare or Authorstream) so the ability to embed stuff in from other sites might be cool (it might also already be available and I just missed it)

All in all I think it has the makings of a really useful service and its current focus on Bristol seems sensible. I mean with the education system in the city in such a shambles despite a high percentage of people working in education (almost 9% of the working population of the city in 2001) there must be a market for this kind of offering - and Bristol is hardly alone in the UK as far as struggling with education. Any given week there is a story in the media about the failure of schools and the Governments latest plan to save things. While there are other web services doing this kind of thing already - a quick look around shows that most of them are quite old fashioned (in web terms) and Beanbag seems to be the main one learning lessons from the social web and implementing them in this environment.

It has to be said though it does have a pretty small Google footprint at the moment. I would have expected to see more blogging about it, maybe some action on Twitter, contributions to other blogs and networks but there isn’t really anything I could find beyond the Jiva blog. There is a big community of edubloggers out there and it seems that tapping into this community could only be good news?

So all in all I’d declare beanbag learning ship shape and Bristol fashion and wish them luck!

June 19, 2008

Promoting events using the social web..

Stephanie Booth recently ran the Going Solo conference for freelancers in the wacky world of the social web and she has documented her experiences of using social web tools and more traditional methods (not least hard work and one-on-one contacts) to promote the event and identifies things she would do differently in the future and where it worked well.

I think its a great post and makes perfect sense.  I firmly believe that there is still a role for more traditional communications tools in promoting events (and other activities) and while I am personally most comfortable with the digital aspects of the work that makes the other channels no less important.

The need to make use of your own contacts to reach out to a wider community makes perfect sense but is something I find difficult - its just something that sits easily with me but I think I should get over it!

Anyway its worth reading and I for one will refer to it next time I’m involved in supporting an event so thanks Stephanie!