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Archive for January, 2009

Top 100 Open Courseware courses

A site called Christian Colleges has posted a list of top 100 open courseware courses in theology and philosophy. Open courseware, of course, are real world courses recorded for distribution over the Net. MIT has blazed this path, and this particular Top 100 list is dominated by courses from that school, with Notre Dame showing heavily as well. The Online Education Database has its own, more generic, Top 100 list.

Open courseware is a fantastic idea. It will only spread further and further, because it wrings significant extra value — value perfectly aligned with most educational institutions’ mission — at relatively little extra cost. And while simply recording a class without paying attention to the needs of those watching afterwards is suboptimal, we’re getting better at it. In any case, I don’t mean to carp. Less-than-perfect open courseware is a zillion times better than no open courseware. And we’re just beginning this. Open courseware will change, and it will also change how courses are taught in the real world. Here comes atomization, the Long Tail, network effects, backchannels, and, OMG, spam and undoubtedly porn and …

The most obvious missing piece has to do with metadata. Right now, there is a relative scarcity of open courseware, so sites like iBerry aggregate the known offerings. But, as recording and posting courses becomes the norm, we will have the problems of abundance. And then we’ll want the usual — and perhaps some unusual — ways of filtering to find exactly the courses we want to invest in. For undertaking to listen to a course is not a trivial task. Listening to the first three minutes may lead you to dismiss a course that would have changed your life if you’d made it to the third lecture. We need tags, ratings, reputation systems, trust mechanisms, social networks, and ways to talk with our fellow auditors. And the sites that do this for us well will take on some of the role, value, authority, and standing of universities themselves.

(And now y’all get to tell me about all the sites I’ve missed that do exactly that already.) [Tags: ]

Here’s something you don’t hear every day

Feeling enabled by magcloud — a you-do-the-content-and-we’ll-do-the-rest service — Shannon Clark is thinking of starting a magazine. An actual magazine, with articles and pages and possibly staples. It’ll be on things he finds interesting and aims at being high-quality stuff with a relatively long shelf life.

This is the sort of thing that shouldn’t work, and then on rare occasions does.

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Open source search result clustering

Remember Northern Light? That was the search engine that did an amazing job of dynamically clustering search results into folders based on their topic or area. That same type of functionality is now open sourced at Carrot2. Jon Lehto, of, who pointed this out to me, notes that Carrot2 ” builds categories from search results (configurable number), and the user doesn’t need to ‘own’ the search data.”

BTW, Northern Light is still around, although not for public Web searching. Instead “Northern Light provides strategic research portals to global organizations.”

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Analysis of a folksonomic protest

Eugenio Tisselli Vélez has posted an analysis of a tag used in Germany to protest a restriction Flickr placed on photos tagged as unsafe. Among its conclusions:

The analysis of the data shows that protestors most likely disseminated the use of strategic tagging among their contacts, rather than within a particular specific-interest group. A list of contacts is much closer to a hand-picked ensemble of friends than one of such groups, and therefore represents a bigger influence for the list’s owner.

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Ask your lawmaker: The Widget

This widget comes via Ask Your Lawmaker. (Thanks to Deborah Elizabeth Finn for the link.)

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Tags made smarter, easier

Sarah Perez at Read Write Web has a good post about a service that “understands” the meaning of of your tags (Zigtag) and another that suggests tags based on its analysis of Wikipedia (faviki). These services — I haven’t tried them — promise to making tagging yet more important by making it easier to apply tags and by letting us get more value from them.

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