Blackboard tries and fails to get a clue

Blackboard, the horrendous courseware behemoth, has heard about this Web 2.0 stuff and decided the right response is to clone — as a closed system inside Blackboard!

Survey about BlackBoard Scholar

I love the bit about how "limiting access to Blackboard users" is supposed to contribute to the goal of "a new way to find educationally valuable resources".

If only they’d put a little effort into opening Blackboard up, for starters by supporting e-mail and RSS subscriptions so students wouldn’t have to log into Bb’s nasty multi-click frames interface to keep up with their classes.

Ah — Googling a bit I see that Blackboard Scholar permits non-users to search its collected bookmarks, but only lets registered users create bookmarks.

It’s part of the Blackboard Beyond Initiative, which is at work on "e-Learning 2.0". Trying to read through the marketing murk, it sounds like the BbBI people themselves may actually have found that elusive clue; let us wish them success at revolution from within.

Second Life OS

So the prof has us brainstorm in class about a "new and different" OS metaphor. I take the bait and throw out Second Life OS. Then he tells us we have to prototype it by Tuesday! Why oh why didn’t I stick with Google OS, which would just be a search box?

SecondLife OS

The fellow in the middle is Caspar David Friedrich, patron saint of POV. I have to say I do like the “reminder flies” buzzing around his head. I wanted to create a really annoying Twitter avatar but being short on time I used a flaming Adium bird instead. (Click through for more notes and larger images.)

Some features: Objects/files are placed in the virtual landscape, in clusters which may be the analogue of “folders”. Other users’ interactions with shared objects are visualized spatially, like the angel reading a PDF in the lower right. The level of animation detail for objects can range from traditional static icons through vanilla widgets (upper left) to biomorphic widgets like the reminder flies and full-blown avatarbots like the Adium bird.

P.S. I know that a Second Life OS is far too obvious to be an original idea. Not only is there plenty of prior art from the earliest days of VR, but it turns out that Scoble says Second Life already is an OS.

Social software du jour: Twitter and Virb

Recently I’ve been toying with Twitter, a viciously addictive little social networking/microblogging application intended to work on mobile devices. Twitter lets you post 143-character bursts of self-expression (where you’re going for lunch, what the cat ate for breakfast, what social networking app you’re moving to next) and broadcasts them to all your friends foolish enough to subscribe to your feed. You can both post and read through text messaging, IM, or a web interface. Twitter seems to have the attention of the early adopters — all the usual social networking cool kids are on it.

me at twitter

Oddly enough, Twitter isn’t location-sensitive, unlike its competitor Dodgeball. It seems to me that being able to filter by location would be a natural for both senders and subscribers. If I’m out for the evening or attending a conference I might want to be able to connect with only those of my friends currently in the area. Perhaps Twitter’s decision to be both mobile- and IM-friendly is a limiting factor: it has a minimalist set of controls suitable for texting from a keypad, and it can’t use location info from the mobile service provider because that would be unavailable from an IM client.

Another social app I was recently invited to is Virb, a wannabe MySpace killer. So far it seems pretty much like a feature-for-feature MySpace clone without the totally disgusting design. I’ve heard that Virb does a better job with music features but I haven’t investigated that yet.

If anybody would like a Twitter or Virb invitation, let me know. Virb is presently in stealth beta and I only have a few invitations left, so act fast.

Update: ValleyWag has reported (or manufactured?) a flap about Michael Harrington being embarrassed on a panel recently when he brought Twitter up on the screen and somebody in the audience twittered something flip. Surely that has happened whenever a brave presenter has tuned into the livebloggers and IRC. Of more interest to me is Twitter founder Evan Williams’ remark (mistakenly attributed to Stewart Butterfield) that “Every time I hear ‘UGC’, a little part of me — and everything I’ve ever believed in — dies.” What’s the gripe with user-generated content? Is it a question of marketing-centric terminology or really something he doesn’t like about the idea?