Web 2.0


11
Jan 14

Twitter and the Reputation Economy in 2014

Back in 2009 when Twitter Lists first came out, I had a little epiphany about the reputation economy.  It isn’t just what you say about yourself online, but what others say and post about you in the aggregate, and all the associated metadata of your online life, that can define “who you are” in the Metaverse.  That only seems to be more true as time has gone on, and despite the over-hype of the “reputation economy” buzzword, I still find it interesting and potentially meaningful, but only if the measures of reputation are accurate.  We’re definitely not there yet, and I’m not sure we’re really any further than we were in 2009, either.

It’s hard to do an analysis of accuracy for anyone but myself, but if I had to say which system seems to currently have the best measure of “who I am” based on what others say about me, I’d have to say it’s not Klout, or LinkedIn Endorsements or any of those obvious attempts to measure reputation.  The best measure as far as I can tell is actually Twitter.  What Twitter Lists people have placed me in, which isn’t obvious at all, and isn’t even something Twitter seems to explicitly leverage as a measure of reputation, is actually a pretty good measure!

[A brief aside, I’m sad that Twitter seems to have buried Lists and made them almost non-obvious, since as far as I’m concerned, Lists are a crucial component of making Twitter useful at all.  Many folks who joined Twitter after Lists came out don’t even seem to know they exist!  If you happen to be one of those unfortunate souls, get thee to your Twitter page > Me > Lists > Create List and start categorizing people.  Or click “Member of” to see what lists others have added to you to.  I bet you’ll find some of them very surprising, hopefully in a good way.  And after you’ve made some lists, tools like TweetDeck will suddenly make a LOT more sense to you, and your Twitter stream will become much more meaningful, relevant and less.. ephemeral.]

But back to the topic.  So what does my Twitter network say about me?  Some pretty good stuff, actually:

Twitter Lists Word Cloud for Fleep

When I boiled the List Names down, I got 191 unique terms and, though I modified the frequency to make the word cloud readable (if I hadn’t, all you would see is: Second Life, Virtual Worlds, Education, Immersive, Cincinnati, which were the top 5 list names), I’d say that’s a really accurate representation of my online life.  It accurately reflects my professional and geeky interests, and if you dig in there a bit, it tells you my gender, where I live, what I do for a living, some of the books I’ve read, games I’ve played, conferences I’ve attended, that I’m old enough to be on someone’s BBS list, and if I can say it humbly, that overall people have a pretty positive opinion of me.   

I am of course quite biased, but I think I have a pretty awesome network of super intelligent people who love digging into the future of technology and education, and who like to think about what all this emerging tech will mean for the future of society, so it’s all the more interesting to see what kinds of categories they create for themselves and where they place me within that context.  (I confess to having some warm fuzzies after seeing how the word cloud came out, so thanks Twitter peeps!)

LinkedIn’s Endorsements are another interesting measure, though of a slightly different sort.  I’d say it’s also fairly accurate, but it pretty much captures only my professional interests and misses all the personal, quirky, or other interests I have.

LinkedIn Endorsements for Fleep 2014

Some folks I know have also complained that they get endorsements for skills from people who aren’t even in a position to know whether or not they have any expertise in that topic, and that happens to me, too.  But in general, I’d say LinkedIn Endorsements are less a measure of what you are actually skilled at doing and more a measure of what people think you are skilled at doing.  They aren’t the same thing, but both are interesting and useful measures.

By comparison, I would say Klout is the least representative of the various “reputation economy” or influence measures about me.  I don’t know how they weight stuff, but it looks like the Klout list was probably fairly accurate about 5 years ago, but as my focus, interests, and activities have changed, Klout hasn’t seemed to have kept up.  It captures the same top 5 categories as Twitter Lists, but that’s about it.  None of the nuance, history, and none of the topics I’ve become interested in since.. what, their initial calculations?  I’m not sure.

I should also admit some bias here, I became very aggravated with Klout when they sent me what seemed like an email every few days to tell me my Klout score was going down, when at the time I was helping take care of my grandpa who was dying of cancer.  The insensitivity of it really struck a nerve, like I should really give a hoot about my Klout score at a time like that?  And how meaningful a measure could it possibly be if I’m less influential because I’m offline doing something important?

No matter what Klout says, I know my network values human life and knows what is and isn’t truly important.  In fact, my guess is that my network would probably rank my reputation higher for having been a dedicated caregiver, not lower.

And of course that’s the big problem with all of these reputation or influence measures – the algorithms can’t yet measure what’s REALLY important: trustworthiness, competence, honesty, reliability, compassion, dedication, clarity, ability to synthesize and make meaning from complexity.  These are the measures I really want to know about someone, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing out there like that yet.

The Twitter List names that people create for themselves, some of which touch on values not just buzzwords, are the closest I’ve seen to anything like those kinds of measures, which for me makes Twitter a potentially overlooked but pretty important tool in the reputation and influence measure toolkit in 2014.


4
Sep 11

Re-Thinking Blogging Part 2: It’s MY Website, After All

Picking up from my last post when the Google+ pseudonymity debacle hit me with an account suspension and made me re-think the value of my personal blog, I’ve been wondering about this weird place I’ve found myself in, where I ended up posting the sanitized, socially approved kind of posts about my professional interests on my personal website, and posting sometimes controversial and personal posts on third-party websites like Twitter and Google+.

How did that happen exactly?  Shouldn’t it really be the other way around?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it happened slowly and not entirely unconsciously, and it has an awful lot to do with all this online identity business.  I was able to trace it back to at least 2006, when I wrote about the confusion I was feeling as a result of my personal online handle getting tied up with my professional work life:

For many years, the “Fleep” name has been a personal identity. It was only when my involvement in the virtual world of Second Life changed from personal to professional that I realized how separately I had kept my work and personal “net life”. Not that I made any particular effort to keep my real identity secret, I’ve always assumed that anonymity is mostly impossible in this day and age, but that the people who knew me as Fleep and the people who knew me as Chris often weren’t the same people. And after 13+ years of involvement with net communities, goodness knows what I might have written in my early 20s under the Fleep moniker that I’d perhaps not want my boss to see.

And from that point forward, as my various follower/friend counts went up on Twitter and Facebook and Second Life and the zillions of other social networks, as I noticed people like my boss or my boss’ boss “following” me or using the same social networks that I used, the internet felt suddenly very much smaller than it did in the days of BBSs when my online circles in no way shape or form overlapped with my offline circles.  The kind of freedom I used to feel when writing online, for instance to randomly say the “f-word” whenever I felt like it, suddenly didn’t feel quite as appropriate when I knew my mother or people from the university might be reading.

I also got caught up in reading the advice of all kinds of people that I started connecting to on Twitter and elsewhere, the Chris Brogans of the world, who opine frequently and loudly about what I “should” be writing for “my audience” to create my “personal brand”.  (Not to knock Chris, he’s a great guy and a lot of his advice IS good if you’re trying to achieve what he’s achieved..) And following that advice, when I looked at my Twitter followers and subscribers to my blog etc., in terms of sheer numbers, “my audience” seemed to revolve largely around virtual worlds.  So when I had the impulse to write something about, say, local politics or a great recipe I’d found, increasingly the thought would pop up that the people who read this site won’t care about Cincinnati politics or a good recipe and I didn’t want to “dilute my brand”, so I posted less and less about anything other than virtual worlds and education and started taking the other stuff to other sites.

Couple that with the confusion about what’s appropriate to post when “my audience” includes my mother, friends from college, people I’ve met at professional conferences, the guy who used to sit in the cube next to me at work, nevermind my boss and my boss’ boss, and somewhere in there, the fear of what any one of those people might think turned into a self-censor that did a better job of censoring me than Google could ever do.

I bet I’m not the only one who’s found herself in this spot.  I think it’s one of the unfortunate downsides of social media and all of the connectivity that has happened in the last decade, all this overlapping of social circles in ways that defy previous kinds of social organization.  I don’t think we’ve figured out the norms and rules of a society in which our personal lives are so thoroughly ad-mixed and visible to our professional lives and vice versa.  The prudent person realizes that the internet has a long memory and that it’s dangerous to post certain kinds of content where your boss might see it, right? But what happens when the fear of future repercussions that you can’t anticipate becomes so strong that you find yourself unable to write about anything but “safe” topics?

I think that’s what happened.  And I’m kind of tired of feeling afraid to say what I think even on my own website, the only place on the interwebs that’s actually mine.  More than that, I think collectively those of us who’ve helped pioneer these technologies and evangelize about their potential positive effects also have a responsibility to grapple with the negative effects, even if it’s scary sometimes.

So to heck with it.  (I still can’t quite bring myself to type out the “f word”!)  This is notice that I plan to write about all kinds of things and you’re always free to stop reading if you don’t like it.  I’ve also updated the obligatory disclaimer and will say again these are my personal opinions and don’t reflect the views of my employers and etc.

This is MY web site, after all.

Leaders are not what many people think–people with huge crowds following them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see whether anyone is following them. “Leadership qualities” are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. The include, at the very least, courage, endurance, patience, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness, determination, a keen sense of reality, and the ability to keep a cool and clear head even when things are going badly. This is the opposite of the “charisma” that we hear so much about.

Hat tip to Eric Rice for the quote, from Caterina Fake’s recent post Make Things.


18
Sep 09

CCK09 – Connectivism & Connective Knowledge 2009 Begins!

Just catching up on the start of Connectivism & Connective Knowledge 2009 – a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) being offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from the University of Manitoba.  (Search this blog for CCK08 to see posts from last year’s class.)

This year I am making a conscious effort to not feel pressured to participate in the synchronous components of the course.  If I can attend the synchronous meetings on the web or in Second Life, I will, but I want to experiment with taking full advantage of the flexibility of this kind of course format – can I get as much out of the class, and the connections with other course participants, in a mostly asynchronous way?  I think so!

This will be in contrast to the Second Life cohort I facilitated last year, we met weekly in Second Life to discuss the course readings and the mechanics of taking a MOOC, which was a new experience for most of us last year.  This year, Sharon Collingwood (SL: Ellie Brewster) from Ohio State University has taken over the SL Cohort, and she’s posted details on the course Moodle:

SECOND LIFE COHORT for CONNECTIVISM & CONNECTIVE KNOWLEDGE 2009

PRELIMINARY GET-TOGETHER & ORIENTATION SESSION, Sunday Sept 20
at 4pm Eastern U.S. time (1 pm Second Life time, as read at the top right-hand corner of the Second Life screen) This is bound to be inconvenient for some people, we’ll talk about meeting times then.

To get to the meeting, sign up for the Second Life group “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”

– search menu, “groups” tab, find Connectivism & Connective Knowledge
– follow link, find group profile, click “join”
– be sure group is activated (>>edit >>groups)
– read previous messages (>>info >>notices)

IF YOU’RE NEW TO SECOND LIFE:

Check your system: http://secondlife.com/support/system-requirements/

sign up for Second Life: http://secondlife.com/

Become my friend big grin
>>>search menu >>people >>Ellie Brewster >>add friend

(Feel free to friend me in Second Life, too, my name there is Fleep Tuque of course.)  🙂

The introductory videos by George and Stephen are good starting points if you’re not sure what the course is, how it works, or what Connectivism is, and I’d highly encourage you to participate if you have any interest in education, learning theories, how technology is changing how we learn, or how large open distributed courses can be delivered on the web – it’s free after all and fun too!

George’s introduction video:

Stephen’s introduction video:


14
Jul 09

Discussing Social Media on Impact Cincinnati WVXU

The folks at WVXU posted the audio archive of the Impact Cincinnati show last week, but I forgot to post about it here!

In the WVXU studios with Chris Brewer of Northern Kentucky University

I’m a huge fan of WVXU, the local public radio and NPR station, so it was a real treat to go downtown, see the studio, and meet the people behind the voices I’ve listened to every day for years.  The producer and the host were both terrific and helped put me at ease – I was nervous!

Here’s the blurb from their website describing the show:

Impact Cincinnati Archive
Thursday, July 09, 2009

Topic: The advantages, and dangers, of social networking sites

If you have a Facebook, Twitter or MySpace account you’re not alone, millions of people now use these and other social networking sites, often revealing a surprising amount of personal information online.

Guests include:
University of Cincinnati Instructional & Research Computing department IT Analyst Chris Collins
Director of Online Technology for Northern Kentucky University’s College of Informatics, Chris Brewer

The toughest question came at the end – what impact do you think social media is going to have and sum it up in 2 minutes!  That’s pretty hard to answer even in 2 hours, so that’s the answer I was least happy with, but overall it was a great experience.   Thanks to Twitter friends @barbarakb, @CRA1G, @corcosman, @wjjessen, and others for giving feedback before and during the show – it looks like we broke their record for number of tweets during the program!

Listen to the audio archive of the program


7
Jul 09

Reconnecting with Connectivism (CCK09)

Sign Up for Connectivism & Connective Knowledge 2009!

Faithful readers may remember a series of posts last year about a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) I took called Connectivism & Connective Knowledge, taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes through the University of Manitoba’s Extended Education program.

George and Stephen are offering the course again this year, and just like last year, it is completely free and open access to any and all who want to participate.   Here’s a brief course description blurb:

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future.  The course will begin on September 14, 2009.

I highly recommend the experience to anyone involved in education in any capacity.   George and Stephen utilize the web, RSS, blogs, wikis, podcasts, tagging, and crowd sourced teaching and learning in a way I’ve never experienced in any other course I’ve ever taken, and the experience last year had a tremendous impact on my understanding of what a “course” is, is not, and what it CAN be in the future.  Sign up here to receive course information in preparation for this year’s course!

Connectivism Cohort in Second Life

Last year I facilitated the Connectivism Cohort in Second Life, an experience that also taught me quite a lot about using virtual worlds as a site for meeting, discussing, sharing, and building in the context of a MOOC like Connectivism & Connective Knowledge.  You can read more about my conclusions and experience as a facilitator (in addition to some stats about participation) in this post from last year CCK08 – Off the Wagon, But Not Off My Mind.

While I won’t have the time to be a main facilitator for a Second Life Cohort of the class this year, if someone is interested in taking this on, the Chilbo Community in Second Life can host the cohort’s meetings and work in the re-purposed Education Village.   The Connectivism Reading Room is still available for holding discussions, and the sandbox and houses/offices can be used again this year for anyone who wants to participate.

Interested in facilitating or using Second Life as part of the CCK09 class?  Let me know at fleep.tuque@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to help!


10
Jan 09

2008: The Year of Limits

I started writing this post in 2008 but didn’t get it finished before the year ended, even with the extra second. In light of the subject, perhaps that is quite apropos.

Like most of you, I’ve been reading all of the end-of-year retrospectives and predictions posts, and scrolling through the “year in photos” or video clips or whatever, caught up in refreshing my memory about just how many things happened in 2008. Wars, elections, economic meltdowns, media shifts, massive natural and man-made disasters, and that’s not even including all my personal stuff. It was a crazy year no matter how you slice it!

And though it is.. overwhelming to absorb this barrage of our collective memories on the net, I do think there’s value to the tradition of reflecting on the year just past and the year ahead. If it’s honest reflection, and you or someone else learns from it, then there can never be too much of it so I refuse to apologize for the length of this post. =)

2008: The Year of Limits

In reflecting on 2008, my experience was one of recognizing “limits”. Some of them are absolute limits, but some of them are just current limitations that I know will change in the future. Some of them are artificial limits, too, and those seem to deserve special attention since it’s easy to make bad choices if you’re working with falsehoods.

The list below describes some of the limits I ran into in 2008…

1. The limits of American-style “free-market” capitalism

Wall Street I won’t belabor the point, we’ve all heard plenty of analysis and finger-pointing, but I will repeat the headline from my initial blog post at the beginning of the end of the beginning of the crisis:

Privatizing Gains, Socializing Losses

On the days when I feel most pessimistic, I think the TARP bailout is nothing more than a wholesale absconsion of our national treasury with perhaps more on the way. So far at least, the US government seems to be much more concerned about the troubles of our corporate citizens than the troubles of our human citizens. On my optimistic days.. I have the teensiest bit of hope that _someone_ _somewhere_ will have the will and the power to do what’s best for the people, not just what’s best for the corporations.

The economic problems have limited the options for many people I know – friends and relatives laid off, retirement nest eggs shrunk to nothing, people unable to sell or buy houses and get on with life. On a personal level, I haven’t felt this economically pinched in a long time. My modest university salary isn’t keeping up with the rate of change very well and in 2008 I began to really hit the limit of my budget in ways that cause me to question what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, and how much I can scale back.

Of course, many people are in tight situations right now, that’s why they call it a recession! But it’s what choices you make when you start to hit those limits that define who you are as a person and as a people.  The government (of the people, by the people, for the people) has choices, too. I guess we’ll see in 2009 what choices we all make in light of these new limits and I hope for all of our sakes that they turn out to be good choices.

2. The limits of American racism

Change

Of all the limits on my list, this one felt really good to bump up against. I can’t say how immensely proud I am of my country for the results of the 2008 presidential election. I am relieved to know that the president-elect’s middle name is Hussein and his last name sounds like Osama, and he’s black, and spent some time living in a Muslim country, and grew up in a non “2 parent/2.1 kids” houseshold, and that none of these things kept him from being elected. Not that racism has ended by any means, but this was an example of its limits and it really does give me hope.

On the personal side, my 74 year old grandpa who still refers to people as “colored” from time to time, and who has been a staunch Republican voter all of his life, actually voted for a black Democrat. Yes Virginia, hell really did freeze over! I can’t take 100% credit for this change of course, but we had a lot of downright difficult and uncomfortable conversations about race, so this year’s election felt like a personal victory as much as a national milestone.

3. The limits of the American educational system and limits to learning online

It’s possible I am living in a concrete-reinforced, super-duper-thick, no-sound-enters-or-escapes echo chamber, but it seems that everywhere I turn, everyone from _everyone_ is convinced that the American educational system is in desperate need of a massive, major overhaul. In my own neck of the woods, Ohio is in the process of implementing a state-wide university system, several education related organizations that are funded by the state are being abolished or merged, and a couple of universities including my own are switching from quarter systems to semesters (not as simple as it may sound and more expensive than you might think).

So change is happening already in a pretty big way, but I’m not sure how much these changes will address some of the underlying problems. One of which, I am convinced, is a staggering lack of understanding about the power of current IT/web/net based technologies. There is increasing curiosity at all levels – thank goodness or I wouldn’t have a job! But from administrators to faculty to staff, I’m perpetually shocked by how little others use the web even for basic things,like as a reference system. Everyone now uses email, of course, and LMS adoption has increased tremendously in both breadth and depth of use, and the core university business and billing systems are state of the art, but the social media/personal empowerment side of the web doesn’t seem to have penetrated academia very much yet at all. You might be surprised how many faculty don’t know about using quotes in google searching, for example, or who don’t read the blogs of their peers from other institutions.

I find that pretty distressing for a lot of different reasons, not least of which because this lack of understanding really limits my choices as a student (or potential customer, if you prefer).

The first problem is that the thing I want to study not only doesn’t have its own discipline or recognized curriculum, most people aren’t even aware it exists! My area of study is the metaverse and I spend far more time trying to demonstrate that it is “real” (ie has real impact) and justifying why we should be studying it than anything else. What time I do get to spend on actual research doesn’t count towards tenure, and unfortunately, most of my output is in blog posts and wikis and PDFs and Second Life builds, and none of these things will get me a degree either. They aren’t “accredited” kinds of output.

The second problem is that even if I could find a good fit in a program, then what? Will I be able to bear sitting in a classroom with a bad teacher who regurgitates the text book and wants me to regurgitate it too? Will I be able to keep my trap shut when we all hand in our papers to the prof and learn nothing from each other instead of sharing them so we all learn more?

When I think of it, I tend to tell myself and others that I can’t find the time or money to go back to grad school right now (artifical limit, I’m sure I COULD if I were willing to radically alter my life), but the truth is something different: I can’t bear the thought of fitting my learning style back into that crummy old model when I’ve found something 1000000 times better – the entire web is my school, my laboratory, and my teacher. I would guess that in 2008 I read more reports, white papers, and peer-reviewed journal articles (and thousands of blog posts and news articles), attended more lectures by more world-class thinkers and teachers (and talked to them, individually!), and had more hands-on, active and engaging learning experiences than I have ever had in any other year of my entire life – in school or out. I also spent a heck of a lot of time reflecting on what I learned, sharing it with others, collaborating on shared learning experiences, and had a few pretty nice milestone publications of my own.

Everywhere I look, I’m butting up against limits. Limits of the existing system, limits to people’s understanding about what it is I want to study, limits in program and curriculum choices, personal limitations (financial, practical, selfishly wanting to learn MY way instead of THEIR way)..

Furthermore, despite the free and wonderful education I received from the intarnets this year, I also learned that there are limits here too. There are limits to how much information I can process, how many connections I can form, and how many channels of communication I can keep up with. There are absolutely, most definitely limits to how many emails I can process in a day. There are limits to how much I can learn on my own unaided by others. I often have questions, need help, need guidance, need mentoring, need direction. I know without a doubt my work and output would improve if I had a better foundational understanding of both the technology that makes the metaverse possible and the research that already exists about human behavior in online environments. I don’t for a second believe I can “master” this material all on my own, even with the tremendous resources the web offers.

And of all my learning experiences online this year, I’m perhaps most grateful for my experience with the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), because it _broke_ some (artificial) limits in my understanding about what a “class” is and could be, reinforced some limits I was aware of (how much info/connections/channels I could keep up with), and gave an example of how universities might overcome limits in how many students they reach.

Without a doubt, these limits are frustrating, but not altogether discouraging. It just means there’s much work to be done, and I sincerely hope decision makers at the institutional level are paying attention to technology, but at the same time, I also hope that those of us using and evangelizing technology are being honest about its limits even as we explore its promises.

And speaking of technology evangelism…

4. The limits of personal evangelism

My suitcases are tattered from so many cross-country flights here there and everywhere talking about Second Life, Web 2.0, and the emerging metaverse. I gave talks at conferences and workshops and lunches, to teachers, professors, administrators, instructional designers, businesses, entrepreneurs, laywers, government employees.. so many different sectors of society. What I’ve taken from all my days on the road is that there’s a real lack of perceived value and ROI. 1) People need to see more evidence that this technology is useful for accomplishing their goals before they will be willing to invest the time and resources it takes to get to successful implementation. 2) The technology itself must become cheaper and easier to use.

This is not revolutionary news, I know. But I’m reminding myself because as I mentioned above, I genuinely hope to do more research into those areas so that the next time I spend all day flying across the country just to give a two hour talk, I feel like it was really and truly worth the trip for me and the audience and the university that paid for me to do it.

I guess this means my “zealot phase” (and hopefully “self-righteous jerk phase”) is over for the moment. That isn’t to say that I’ve given up, but rather that I’ve learned the limits of what I, Fleep can do alone. I need to start leveraging my networks better and work in collaboration with more people instead of running myself ragged trying to do too much alone.

5. Limits of the Second Life platform and our current Metaverse

Of course, the job of evangelizing would be a lot easier if the thing itself were easier. Alas, we face some tough issues. The metaverse as a concept is mind-boggling for many, the best iteration of it at the moment (Second Life) is hard to use and has serious limitations, and everything else out on the horizon is still in alpha/beta phase.

I really can’t stress enough what an obstacle our current lack of.. vocabulary is. What is a virtual world? What is the metaverse? What the heck is Castranova talking about with all this synthetic stuff?

Earlier this year when I was struggling with the Looking to the Future: Higher Education in the Metaverse piece, the hardest part was explaining what the metaverse currently IS, nevermind what it might be in the future. Here’s what I wrote:

In its current context, the metaverse is a complex concept. For the purposes of this article, the definition in the Metaverse Roadmap will suffice: “In recent years, the term has grown beyond Stephenson’s 1992 vision of an immersive 3D virtual world, to include aspects of the physical world objects, actors, interfaces, and networks that construct and interact with virtual environments. . . . The Metaverse is the convergence of 1) virtually-enhanced physical reality and 2) physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either.”

In short, we can imagine multiple and myriad digital mirrors of the real world existing alongside multiple and myriad digital worlds that do not represent the real world, all used for a variety of purposes, tied into a variety of communication methods, and populated by any user with Internet access, as well as a steady stream of data originating from objects and devices in the real world.

That’s awful! A mouthful of confusing stuff and I feel very disappointed in myself that I couldn’t find a better way to communicate it. That’s a limitation I (we) must break through in the coming years.

Beyond the limits of our terminology, there are serious limits with existing platform(s) that can’t be ignored either. I still believe that anyone interested in the metaverse must be in or at least paying attention to Second Life – Linden Lab’s platform and the OpenSim derivatives are the most promising metaverse project on the horizon, and perhaps more importantly, the people using, working, and playing in Second Life simply _are_ the vanguard.

But Linden Lab’s Second Life, and the alpha-stage OpenSim grids, are still extremely limited in their enterprise use. Whether the intention is to use it as a social or collaboration space, or as a modeling and prototyping space, or to explore the new frontiers of music and art made possible in these worlds – the platforms need a LOT of work across the board, from the GUI to reliability to providing access to other digital content. Sadly, after 5 years of being out of beta, Second Life’s group IMs still don’t work reliably.  I can’t show a flash or .wmv movie in Second Life, can’t collaboratively access webpages and documents with others easily, and it takes forever and 50 steps to do something as simple as making a prim clickable to launch a webpage.

And those are the simplest technical limitations that need to be overcome. That’s not even getting into the wet, squishy world of legal, philosophical, and social questions: content creator rights, intellectual properly, who has jurisdiction, who governs these spaces, code as law, what’s happening with all of the data we generate from “living” in these spaces and how can we protect ourselves from its misuse, what are the social implications for communities moving to the metaverse, and on and on and on..

In other words, we have a LOT of work to do.

6. The limits of Will Wright

Yes, I’m sorry, this one gets a whole bullet point of its own. Do you have ANY IDEA how long I waited, and with how much _anticipation_ I waited for the release of Spore? (Many many years, and a lot, respectively.)

Others have done a much better job than I in analyzing just why it was such a rotten egg, but I think that might be my biggest (most trivial) disappointment of the year.   I don’t know where it all went so wrong, Will, but dude, you really let us down.

(Sorry, needed a little levity before tackling #7..)

7. The limits of life itself

In late 2007, we learned that my Dad (grandpa, actually, but my dad in all other ways)  had stage-4 metastatic lung cancer that had already spread to his adrenal glands. By mid-2008, it had spread to his spine.  Helping to take care of him through this battle with cancer has been excruciating and it affected every single day of the year for me.

I know that death is a part of life. I know that death is inevitable. I know that I am neither the first nor the last person to lose a parent or to lose a loved one to cancer. I know that some day I will die. I know all of these things, but I’ve never _felt_ them until now.  In my heart, I know it’s a minor miracle that he’s survived more than a year past the initial diagnosis, and it’s a gift that we’ve had all this time to say goodbye, share memories, and adjust to the hard reality. But it has also irrevocably changed my sense of time. I see the limits it imposes on us all in the starkest of terms now.

This experience has also made me wonder how on earth people without families or support networks manage in the face of serious illness (something we’re all bound to face) because without a doubt, I have finally seen the limits of the American health-care system up close and personal.

Wow, what a wreck. I don’t even know where to begin. The absurdities of insurance claims and Medicare, Part-D and doughnut holes, hospital staff that don’t even put on clean gloves unless you ask them too, different doctors with different charts and lab results and patient information systems that don’t talk to each other, medication regimens that require a PhD and 50 gazillion bottles, refills, and dosages to keep up with, doctors prescribing medications that conflict with pre-existing orders… the list goes on and on and on and on. It’s insane. INSANE.

Our family care-team is made up of four intelligent, literate, capable people and we can’t really keep track of it all. The hoops are simply ridiculous, the cracks in the system are more like black holes, and for all the mistakes or near-mistakes we’ve caught, I fear to think of all the ones we didn’t. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my deep bitterness that the _only_ part of the American health-care system that appears to be using IT efficiently is the damned billing systems. Sharing information about the patient to improve care? That’s a spaghetti mess, but they can sure share information about how much it all costs!

Perhaps my viewing the year 2008 from this prism of limitations is all the result of Dad’s cancer; maybe it’s colored my view so much that limits are all I see at the moment. But I don’t really think so. When I look at what’s happening in a broader context, I see that the American economic, education, and health care systems aren’t the only large-scale systems and institutions that appear to be feeling the strain.

For one, the financial/economic crisis is definitely a global one. It’s not an indivual experience, or a national experience, it’s a global one. Even those who haven’t felt the pinch yet have certainly felt the fear.

For another, I believe wars and violence result when political systems fail. Mumbai. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Palestine, Georgia, and many more places besides, deaths caused by people killing other people, caused by the limits of our existing political institutions.

Human activity in combination with completely “natural” weather and geological phenomena are rapidly, and I mean RAPIDLY changing our environment. The very finite resources of the planet and the real consequences of natural disasters are absolute limits that we simply can’t afford to ignore. The earthquake in Sichuan, China killed almost 70,000 people. The Nargis cyclone in Myanmar killed almost 135,000 people. Predictions seem to indicate that more trouble is on the way, and for the most part, our individual, national, and global responses to these challenges have seem limited by disorganization, misinformation, and a terrible refusal to plan for the reality we all know is coming. It’s absurd. And frightening.

I should probably stop there, this post already turned into something of a monster and I could go on in this vein for quite a while. But the lingering question I have at the end of all this reflection is this:

Have we reached the limits of our patience with behaviors and systems that just plain don’t work anymore?

I sure hope so, because the upside, the real benefit to recognizing these limits, is the ability to leap into the paradigm-shift – and leap we must.

The parameters aren’t what you thought they were.

The rules of the game are changing.

The world of the 21st century is different than the world of the 20th.

The sooner we come to terms with it, the sooner we can start dealing with it. These limits – even the artificial ones – really need to, can, and must be addressed.

I don’t know if I’m up for all the challenges I see looming in the days ahead, with my work, my personal circumstances, with Dad’s cancer. I don’t know how to best prepare, either, but if I’m sure of anything after 2008, it’s that I don’t have a choice about it anymore. The changes are already coming too thick and too fast to ignore, best get with it, buckle down, and get ready.

(And 10 days after the new year, I finally get this posted.  Hooray.)

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15
Dec 08

Public Twitter Station in Second Life: The “Presence” Problem

Concepts like “place” and “presence” can get really mushed up when you’re working in the metaverse. I’ve been puzzling about these concepts so intently over the last couple of weeks that I was actually motivated to do some (*gasp*) scripting to see if I could mediate that “sense of presence” in Second Life. Let me explain.

The Presence Problem

Right now I am sitting at my desk in my office at home physically, and at least nominally I’m also sitting at my desk in the Chilbo Town Hall virtually (which is where I park my avatar to let people know I’m probably off in another window instead of paying attention at that moment), AND I’m also “on” Twitter and IM. So, if you wanted to get in touch with me for a synchronous conversation or “visit” with me, you could come to my house in Cincinnati and ring the doorbell, but a) that would probably freak me out unless you’re a really good friend and b) being an internet peep, you’re more likely to send me an @fleep or DM on Twitter, or if we’re good friends you’ll poke me on Gtalk or AIM or send me an SMS on my cell, or if you’re a Second Life resident, you’ll log in and look for me in the Town Hall.

So many places I’m in at once, and that’s just trying to keep things simple – we’re not even including all the asynchronous options. But if you asked me “Where are you right now?” the answer I’m likely to give depends on context – if you called me on the telephone or sent me an SMS I’d say I was at home, but if you IMd me the same question in Second Life, I’d say I was in Chilbo, and if you asked me on Gtalk or AIM or Twitter, I don’t even know which way I’d answer. BUT, the truth is, I’m am in all those places and locations and “mental spaces” simultaneously – and yet it’s not REALLY simultaneous because my attention can only be focused on one “space” at a time.. Or is that really true?

And forget about me for a moment, “where” are all my friends right now? What are they up to and if I have a question or want to visit with them, “where” do I go to find them? With so many options and each relationship/friend connected to me in different ways through different media (some are on Twitter, some aren’t; some are in Second Life, some aren’t, etc.) it gets to be quite complicated not only figuring out where _I_ “am” but also where my friends “are” too.

This is probably a round-about way of approaching this issue, but that’s how the question/problem presented itself to me a few weeks ago when I was crunching numbers from the Chilbo Community census data and saw many comments that Chilbo often felt “empty” and that the residents of Chilbo didn’t know as many other residents as they’d like. I was a bit surprised by that finding, since the traffic reports show Chilbo gets pretty steady traffic, between 700-900 visitors per week, and because I am connected to so many Chilbo folks on so many different platforms, Chilbo rarely feels “empty” to me because even if a Chilbo resident’s avatar isn’t in the sim at that particular moment – I still “hear” what they are up to on Twitter and can still contact them any time through Second Life IM or Gtalk or wherever. I have a sense of where people are from all these other tools and that tenuous connection is enough to convey their “presence” to me that it doesn’t matter that they are not physically in the room with me or virtually in the sim with me. But are others having that experience?

If you’re not on Twitter or other web places, does Chilbo seem even more “empty” or disconnected than if you are? And could that be mediated with some way to “blend” these spaces?

Shopping at Ordinal Enterprises

That was my question. And so I embarked on trying to modify Ordinal Malaprop‘s fantastic TwitterBox script to see if I could attempt to blend two different “spaces” together – the virtual location of the Chilbo sim and the .. “mental space” of Twitter (and if you use Twitter and SMS on cell phones, you know Twitter can be used on the go just about anywhere you are physically).

Now I should note, despite taking a programming class (I got a B+ and was thrilled), I remain stubbornly obtuse when it comes to understanding all of the logic involved in scripting. The lines of code, the variables, the repetition, the test-fail-test-fail all to no avail.. I find it incredibly frustrating. And, it turns out that in my ignorance, I attempted to modify the wrong script – instead of working on the basic one Ordinal gave me, I began with the more complicated one, so this probably took me many many many hours longer than it should have, and I was determined to try to figure it out myself and not bug one of my coder friends to help me, so it was an even longer time before I realized I’d taken the hard path. Doh. However, I am very pleased to report that THIS “Fleep Tries to Program” story has a happy ending! I eventually had to ask for help, but I learned much more about the Linden Scripting Language than I probably have in ages, and I have a working prototype going in-world, so I think all the torture and 3AM nights was worth it.

Chilbo Public Twitter Station - Instructions Poster

So what does this thing do? Considering all the effort it took, it sadly does not do your dishes or laundry. What it does do is a) imports tweets from the Chilbo Twitter account and all the people that account “follows” and reports them back out into the Chilbo sim in Second Life by printing the line in local chat and b) allows anyone in the Chilbo sim and within local chat range to send a tweet OUT of Second Life to the web world (through the Chilbo account).

So, if you’re walking down the street in Chilbo and happen to be near a Twitter station, you might hear a little birdie tweeting sound and see text appear on your screen that says “fleep: I’m waiting in line at the grocery store” and a few steps further down the road one that says “malburns: I’m visiting this cool sim in Second Life” or whatever our tweets might say. If you know Fleep and you know Malburns, even if they are not there in Chilbo with you, might you feel that Chilbo is less empty if you have some sense of what Chilbo people are up to at any given moment? Does it change your sense of presence if in some ways Second Life and Twitter are blended together so that your attention does not have to be focused on one OR the other, but can engage with people in both spaces at the same time?

Chilbo Public Twitter Stations disguised as birdbaths..

Will it change the sense of “community” and “connectedness” the residents of Chilbo feel with each other if they can send and see communications to and from Second Life even without being logged into Second Life, or for that matter, even if they don’t have personal Twitter accounts?

I don’t know, but that’s what I’ve been working on lately. I guess we’ll see how it works out. I’m still tinkering with the script, but if you’d like a copy in progress just let me know..


12
Nov 08

Superstruct: Inventing the Future – 2019

Screaming 3D Bootstrapper Csven Concord had been pinging me for weeks about the Superstruct game organized by the Institute for the Future. I finally got a few hours to take a look at it and was stopped cold at the very first mission of the game: describe yourself in the year 2019. Not a fantasy you, but you you, where you think you might actually be. It took me three days just to accomplish mission #1 to make my profile.

My efforts to get into the Superstruct mindset were somewhat hampered by the technology being used. Not sure if it’s just my PC or that I’m using the FF3 browser, but I continually have to relog into the site over and over just to navigate around (is it not tracking cookies properly or what?) and the framing they use makes it hard to grab direct links to specific content. With some trial and error, I finally got to Cven’s Screaming 3D Bootstrappers Superstruct page, and managed to add myself to the S3DBers wiki page, and saw a call for help under the heading “Young Farmer’s Outreach”:

Request: “we need 3d VR environments that mimic the reality of a farm/ranch so that our young farmers can share their skills”

So the idea is that it is the year 2019, and five major superthreats are having devastating effects on human populations. To play the game, you create or join Superstructs (groups) to address one or any of these threats by using your unique talents, resources, and perspective to generate ideas, stories, videos, websites, pictures, or anything else that helps us imagine how life would really be in that situation and what solutions might really work to address the problems we face in this fictional reality of 2019.

In my imaginary 2019, the Chilbo Community has grown tremendously into a large, global community in the metaverse. To deal with the Ravenous superthreat – where major disruptions in the global food supply chain threatens the world with starvation and lack of healthy, nutritious food – the Chilbo Community has established a virtual garden to allow farmers and scientists from anywhere in the world to help people learn to grow their own gardens. In this fictional world of 2019, Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ReDS) has also forced many cities and populations into Quarantine, so the Chilbo Community Garden might be especially useful for those stuck in quarantine zones where access to food supplies may be dwindling. By using virtual world technologies to connect people who cannot visit one another in real life, we can spread information about sustainable farming to a larger audience, use the 3D modeling capabilities of virtual worlds to create roleplay scenarios, display equipment and demonstrate techniques, and reach populations who are isolated because of possible contagion.

To flesh out this idea, I worked with some Chilbo residents to actually build out this garden in the Chilbo Nature Preserve in Second Life, and recorded a machinima clip to “report” on our progress in the year 2019. This is only the second machinima I’ve ever made, so pardon the amateur execution.

When I think about the future of education, I wonder why we don’t spend more time doing THIS kind of work. I wonder if we’re teaching students the skills they need to really evaluate information on the web in context. For example, in the process of “playing” this game, I came across the ReDSNet Project website. Now, this website is so well done, so realistic, it would be easy to think ReDSNet was real. How many students would have the skills to read for content AND context and eventually discover that this is a fictional website? How many students would have the creativity or skillset to create a fictional website that was so convincing? How can we use these types of .. roleplay scenarios to build digital literacy skills that really WILL be useful in the year 2019?

I wish I’d had more time to spend on the Superstruct game/concept. It was really a fascinating, thought provoking exercise. And even if the machinima still doesn’t make any sense to anyone but me, I enjoyed the experience, I spent some time seriously thinking about my own future and where I _want_ to be in 11 years, I got an excuse to practice my machinima skills, and I strengthened some bonds in my network, personal and professional. Quite an accomplishment for some crazy collaborative game on the intarnets that I only had a few hours to play.


19
Sep 08

CCK08 – Suggested Reading & Collage About Education in Second Life

(This post is about the Massively Online Open Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 2000 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)

Suggested Reading for CCK08 & CCK08SL

Not that those of us in the CCK08 course don’t have plenty to read and keep up with already, but I’ve received quite a number of questions about the Second Life cohort of the Connectivism class. If you aren’t sure what Second Life is, what virtual worlds are, or why they might be applicable in a connectivist context, I think Sarah Robbins-Bell‘s article Higher Education as Virtual Conversation might be a good text to read.

She writes:

We know that the demographics of Facebook, Digg, Fark, and World of Warcraft are the same as the general demographics of college/university students. So, why don’t we see the same levels of participation in the social media that are used in the classroom (typically, learning management systems) as are evident in the social media that students engage in voluntarily? I think the problem is that our pedagogy often isn’t ready for an increase in conversation.

She goes on to examine the specific characteristics of virtual worlds and how they are manifested in the Second Life platform, a good primer for those who aren’t familiar with it, and continues with an analysis of how these platforms can facilitate an increase in conversation and dialogue – between and among students, students and instructors, and students and the world. More than just conversation, she demonstrates how they can be used to facilitate active and participatory knowledge making (and some things we SHOULDN’T do in virtual worlds that can shut down that kind of knowledge making).

A persistent world offers persistent learning opportunities. It is up to the instructor and the student to define and explore what kind of activities will be useful for the learning goals of a particular course, but it’s possible that many of those goals can be accomplished in the community at large rather than in a delineated space intended for “learning.”

Second Life Education Multimedia

If it’s still hard to imagine what kinds of educational projects are taking place in Second Life, Claudia L’Amoreaux (SL: Claudia Linden) gave a keynote yesterday at the Holland Open 2008 conference in Amsterdam, accompanied by this beautiful and rich Vuvox collage called “Open Mind”. Take the time to explore it, it contains many types of embedded media.

Hopefully a few minutes with these resources will give some sense of what the Second Life cohort is on about in the Connectivism course.

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14
Sep 08

CCK08 – Connectivism Village in Chilbo

(This post is about the Massively Online Open Course called Connectivism and Connective Knowledge being taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes from September to December 2008. Over 1900 participants have signed up, and I am facilitating the Second Life cohort for the course. Over the following months, I will be posting about the experience, home work assignments, and other materials related to our activities.)

Cross posted from the Chilbo Community Blog:

Following the end of the very successful Chilbo Summer Fair, we said goodbye to the Ferris Wheel and fabulous rides, artworks, and projects and made way for a new three month project in Chilbo.

Connectivism Village in Chilbo

Connectivism Village - Main Gate

The Main Gate of the Connectivism Village down in the south Madhupak area of Chilbo.

This month marks the start of the Connectivism & Connective Knowledge course, a Massively Online Open Course.  From the course info:

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future. George Siemens (SL: Whatever Russel) and Stephen Downes – the two leading figures on connectivism and connective knowledge – will co-facilitate this innovative and timely course. The course will run from September 7, 2008 to November 29, 2008 and will be fully delivered online.

Over 2000 participants from around the world have signed on to take part, and several members of the Chilbo community are fellow students, including Gann McGann,  Olando7 Decosta, Samuel Sputnik, Sine Rennahan, Tara Yeats, and Wainbrave Bernal.  The Chilbo Community is hosting the Second Life cohort of the class, and Cosimo Urbanowicz has also joined some of the early discussions and helped with the construction of the Connectivism Village down in Madhupak.

SL Cohort Wiki: http://chilbo.wikispaces.com/Connectivism+Course+in+Chilbo
SL Cohort Googlegroup: http://groups.google.com/group/connectivismSL
SL Cohort Tag: CCK08SL

Second Life Cohort Weekly Meeting Times:
Tuesdays at 11AM SLT (-7GMT)
Thursdays at 6PM SLT (-7GMT)
Sundays at 5PM SLT (-7GMT)

Purpose of the Connectivism Village

Initially, the impulse was simply to see if other students in the course who also had Second Life accounts were interested in meeting weekly in-world to discuss the Connectivism course.  Though there are many communications tools used as part of the course structure, I’ve begun to feel I haven’t really “met” someone until I’ve “seen” them – even if that meeting and seeing takes place in avatar form.  Psychologically, it seems as if I don’t feel the same level of engagement with another person through their blogs, tweets, or discussion board posts unless I’ve “met” them first, and I was interested in meeting other students in the class.

Connect - Week 1

Thursday is ladies night?  Members of the Connectivism course discuss the first week in Chilbo’s Shrubbery Amphitheatre.

But as I began to read more about Connectivism, I started to think that it might contain concepts that could be better visualized in 3D, and for SL building, the Second Life cohort would need land and prims.  After talking with folks in the community, we cleared up the Fairgrounds area and made room for a temporary Connectivism Village project that would last three months and house members of the course who needed a home base in Second Life.

Connectivism Village - Homes and Offices

Small mini-homes and offices are available for members of the Second Life Cohort of the Connectivism course for the duration of the class time.  Some students are interested in finding roomates!

The Fairgrounds area is also large enough to host some central facilities and resources for the course, to help make sense of the plethora of web based feeds, tools, readings, and course media.  The Connectivism Second Life Cohort Office will simplify the process of folks joining the cohort, and the Connectivism Reading Room contains all of the assigned weekly readings and some introductory materials for the course.

Connectivism Village - Reading Room

The Connectivism Reading Room can help students visualize course readings and discussion archives, as well as provide a place to discuss readings ad hoc through the week.

The Connectivism Course Tools Sundae Shop is a whimsical take on the somewhat overwhelming nature of the course structure.  With several websites, communication mediums, RSS feeds, and course emails, Moodle forums, Facebook, and on and on, it’s a little rough trying to figure out which tools will work for your particular needs.  The Sundae Shop is a metaphor for taking the flavors you like and sampling some of the others, not putting every choice on the sundae!

Connectivism Village - Course Tools Sundae Shop

The “Menu” of various course tools in the Connectivism Sundae Shop.

Beyond the few buildings near the plaza, however, I think it will be the Connectivism Sandbox that will hold the most interesting content of the course.  Here we can play with models, particles, sets, artwork, media.. whatever strikes our fancy as we play with the concepts of the course and learn more about Connectivism.  For those who are new to building in Second Life, visit the Ivory Tower of Primitives for a walk through, self-paced building tutorial.  The Ivory Tower is a cultural institution of Second Life and shouldn’t be missed even if you’ve learned on your own!

Connectivism Village - Overhead Map

An overhead view of the Connectivism Village in the Chilbo Community (Madhupak sim).

I look forward to seeing how the Second Life cohort of the course progresses, and I encourage anyone from Chilbo to participate or check it out!   If you have time to wander down, please say hi to any students you see too!   They are members of the Chilbo Community Building Project group and have the group tag “Chilbo Connect!”   ~  Fleep

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