Friday, April 20, 2007

DrupalEd Released! Get it, and get rid of BlackBoard!

Great news for anyone interested in free alternatives to BlackBoard!

DrupalEd is a powerful open source content management system with the power to support the e-learning needs of large educational institutions. It is also easy enough to install and use for individual teachers/professors to implement in their own classes (for teachers who would like to abandon BlackBoard, sans IT Department backing).

Here's an in-depth look at what DrupalEd offers.

As of yesterday, April 19th, DrupalEd is ready to go! You can download DrupalEd here. You can also join the free online support community.

(The best part of using Drupal is that there is extensive support available for users and program administrators--and it's free!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Best Wishes

Best wishes and thoughts to anyone affected by yesterday's madness at Virginia Tech.

Ah.... MySpace

Fool Me Once...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Conflicts of Interest - Blogging Comes of Age?

Interesting situation over at the TechCrunch blog today, which is reflective of a growing number of similar ethical conflicts of interest catching headlines since the credential meltdown at Wikipedia.

Of course, conflicts of interest in higher education are gaining a high degree of press right now as well. It would seem that as students have been forced to carry ever more burdensome loads of debt, the college loan industry has been providing "kickbacks" to financial aid officers -- at at least three major universities.



Coincidentally, there was "A Modest Proposal on Blogger Ethics" over at Business 2.0 today, dealing with conflicts of interest.

Such simple logic:

I have a wild and crazy idea for new-media types who are trying to win the trust of their audience and make a buck: Don't just disclose your conflicts of interest. Try to actively avoid them. Transparency is good. But actually having nothing to hide is even better.

Excellent. Obvious.

Shouldn't it be easy?

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Cult of the Amateur

Interesting followup to my previous post regarding the shaky foundations of Digg:

Charles Cooper, over at Cnet.com, has written a book review, of sorts:

"Andrew Keen doesn't fit the profile of your garden-variety bomb thrower.

But make no mistake about this erudite British-born entrepreneur: He is out to rattle Silicon Valley and the geekerati by detonating many of the comfortable myths attending the Web 2.0 era.

In a deliciously subversive new book, The Cult of the Amateur, which debuts in June, Keen recounts the many ways in which technology is remaking our culture and society. Anyone familiar with Keen's previous work from his blog will recognize the terrain here. Keen is a gloomy elitist--in the best sense of that term--wistful about a politer, more thoughtful era, but one that's destined to get trampled underneath by the amoral onslaught of the Internet.

Keen may cost himself a few dinner party invitations. Then again, he's not interested in currying favor with bloggers or would-be new media moguls. In fact, I assume he would just as soon welcome their scorn for his book as a searing indictment, a latter day "J'accuse" lamenting the harm he believes they have inflicted upon society.

The subtitle of his book states his thesis bluntly: "How the democratization of the digital world is assaulting our economy, our culture, and our values."

...

"If we keep up this pace, there will be over five hundred million blogs by 2010, collectively corrupting and confusing popular opinion about everything from politics, to commerce, to arts and culture. Blogs have become so dizzyingly infinite, that they've undermined our sense of what is true and what is false, what is real and what is imaginary. These days, kids can't tell the difference between credible news by objective professional journalists and what they read on joeshmoe.blogspot.com.'"


Read the rest of the article here.

Certainly, there will be claims of "elitist" hurled at Andrew Keen and his book.

I'm reminded of Nietzsche's fear of the masses. And yes, many terrible things have been done in the name of that fear.

However, he may have a point...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Digg is Broken?

Some very interesting issues on Digg have been exposed recently. And they're worth examining in the broader context of what this means for "Web 2.0" as such.

First--it was revealed that the top 100 Digg users control 56% of Digg's frontpage content. Yikes...


Then this, from the smalls blogger blog, and TechCrunch:

Have a look at subvertandprofit.com. Quite a simple idea really - Advertisers, pay $1 per digg. If you are a Digg user - well they will pay you 50 cents if you digg an article which they ask you to digg. The company makes a 50 cent profit.

Subvert and Profit says “…We allow advertisers to purchase actions on social networks… they are 50 to 100 times more cost effective than conventional Internet advertising.”

Its not just Subvert and Profit, here is a listing of sites that will actually pay YOU to digg articles:
http://subvertandprofit.com/
http://www.usersubmitter.com/
http://payperpost.com/

I’m sure there are many more, I just couldn’t be bothered to keep looking…

Quite simple really - and it sounds stupid doesn’t it?

So does it really work? Can you pay money and get digged? I did some research, and you know what? The sad thing is - it's actually working!

There was this guy who wanted to conduct an experiment. He submitted a really stupid article to digg and then paid for it to get digged. He even posted about it on Digg confessing he paid $1 per Digg to see what would happen:

“Two hours went by, and I got another digg. Then, suddenly, diggs began to accumulate like bugs on a windshield — smack, smack, a couple every 10 minutes. After four and a half hours, I had 19 diggs. My web logs showed I had no new hits on my site through Digg, however, offering evidence that the diggs had come from people who hadn’t bothered to investigate my blog.”

“When I woke up in the morning, my story had been awarded the “became popular” tag and had 121 diggs. U/S had done what it promised: The company had helped me buy my way into Digg popularity, and my site traffic had gone way up — overnight, I’d been hammered with so many hits that the diggers had to set up a mirror.”

Want to see the result? Check out the article.

It would seem that the "wisdom of crowds" is also a simple perpetuation of the hierarchies of popularity and greed that we see in Life 1.0 (the "real" world). A very small crowd controls the general opinion of what is "news" worthy.

I believe that the original aim of Digg--that of a democratization of what is considered and reported as "news"--is a worthy ideal. It's a shame to see it all go awry.

I suppose that when you see 1000's of people on a service like Digg who are using the site as though it were a full time job (something we'll see much more of with the proliferation of sites like "Subvert & Profit")...then maybe it is a full time job.

As the saying goes, "If it looks like a duck. And it quacks like a duck..."