Ning Alternatives, Collaboration, & Self Hosting

Ning announced today that it plans to “phase out its free service“. What this means for the educators who use Ning for free (or even pay for some services) is uncertain at the moment although it was stated that a detailed plan of the new services will be released within two weeks.

Right after the announcement, Twitter was buzzing with people wondering about viable build-your-own-network alternatives. A few services were mentioned and retweeted, but I felt that something more proactive should be done. Seeing that Google Docs has gone real-time, I thought it would be great to collaboratively build a document with Ning alternatives, including examples and comments on services other have tried. I created a new Google Document and tweeted a call for collaboration.

Twitter / Alec Couros: OK, with all of this talk ...
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Within minutes, we had several pages of options for both hosted and self-hosted social networking services. Six hours later (the time at which I write this), there have already been hundreds of collaborators/viewers and hundreds of edits. There is now a good list of alternatives for those that would like to migrate to or use another service. As well, those involved were able to see first-hand the power of real-time collaboration. From my perspective, this process was truly awesome!

I have noticed that Ning’s announcement has made some people angry which has caused others to temper concerns until more is known. No matter what the outcome, or the options within Ning’s new pricing plan, there is a more important issue here. I do not see a future where there are more free (of charge) services available. It is more likely, at least for the short term, that more Web 2.0 companies will focus on premium services. For the many teachers who have benefited from the wealth of free services available over the last few years, this ‘less free’ reality becomes difficult, especially when schools are increasingly budget-conscious.

This is why the F/OSS movement becomes important (again). With all of the free services that have been available, fewer educators have likely felt that the time and expertise needed to install, maintain and host open source software is worth the trouble. However, with this impending shift, I do believe that this is the time for schools & educators to (re)consider and (re)discover the importance of F/OSS and self-hosted software.

Update: Sylvia Curry made a screencast of the “Ning Alternatives” document being edited in the first few minutes. This process really was quite incredible.

Tweet & A Poke: Camosun Keynote

I was fortunate and honoured to have given the keynote address at Camosun College’s 2009 Walls Optional conference in Victoria, BC. The presentation provided a brief overview of the changing nature of knowledge, the rise of social networks, and the impact of emerging technologies/media on teaching & learning. Below, i have included the recorded video feed, the slide deck via Slideshare, and a link to the original Keynote file. Note that the Keynote file is very large (over 300MB) as it includes video files. Also, this file includes my speaker notes which were written as personal prompts and not as the actual, given dialogue.

Full video of the presentation is available here.

Slide deck (via SlideShare).

Full presentation available here in Keynote.app format.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the presentation, or any of the content discussed. And thanks to the good people at Camosun College, the individuals I met at the #VictoriaTweetup the night before, and those that drove in from outside of Victoria for the event. It was a pleasure to meet you all!

Update: A Blip.tv version of the video is now available.

Open/Networked Teaching Keynote at MoodleMoot

I gave a keynote today at Canada’s MoodleMoot ’09 in Edmonton, Alberta. Below are the slides and a list of some key links. The talk was given to about 300 in-house delegates and about 80 online (via Elluminate). I will share the recording once/if I get access.

Relevant links in order of appearance:
- Wordle: Make “beautiful” word clouds.
- Networked Teacher: Diagram via Flickr.
- Twitter: Dominant microblogging tool.
- EC&I 831: My open graduate course.
- Open Doctrine: Alec’s own attack ad.
- Network Sherpa: Diagram via Flickr.
- Cathedral and the Bazaar: by Eric S. Raymond.
- The Fifty Tools: by Alan Levine.
- Ustream.tv: Free web streaming.
- Omegle: Talk to strangers.
- Twitter Search via Google: Firefox/GreaseMonkey script to get live Twitter results via Google search.
- Amherst College IT Index: Tracks technologies brought in by students.
- “RiP: A Remix Manifesto“: Excellent open source film on remix/mashup culture.
- An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube: Excellent presentation by Dr. Michael Wesch.
- David After the Dentist: My blog post on this viral video.
- The Show: Ze Frank’s one-year long series feat. “if the earth was a sandwich project“.
- Postsecret: Collaborative art project, people sharing their deepest secrets.
- Amateur: Creative video by Lasse Gjertzen.
- Thru-you: An amazing set of tracks that were created by mashing up youtube videos.
- Grad course trailer: Trailer for EC&I 831.
- Thinning the walls: Visualization of networked teaching.

Update: The Elluminate recording is now available here.

Social Learning & Sharing

The learning continues in EC&I 831, and since I haven’t had much time to blog, I though I’d offer a 2-for-1 post with links to the most recent presentations for the course.

On January 27, I offered a session on the Age of Social Learning. The full Elluminate session is found here, and my slide deck is available below.

And, last night, we were very lucky to have had Dean Shareski join us as he presented “How to Be Lazy and Still Get Paid” aka “The Value of Sharing”. The recorded Elluminate session for Dean’s presentation is available here, and his slides are available below.

I really want to thank Dean for his excellent presentation last night. The participants (registered students & everyone else) have expressed gratitude for Dean’s time and wisdom on the topic.

The above presentations work well together, as do the concepts of social learning and sharing. These are ideas, when implemented, that have enormous potential for changing the shape of (online) learning. And, I’m happy to say that these are ideas that continue to shape the courses I teach and that support my ongoing belief in the power of open education.

Not Free At Any Price

I have been a soft-spoken critic of the OLPC project; it is hard to critique something that gets technologies into the hands of children. Yet, I’ve had two main issues. First, I have my own XO and I have complained from the day I received it that I felt the machine to be a piece of junk. I never got the machine running well, although I know others have reported much more positive experiences. But, I thought, what should I expect for $100 $200. Second, I voiced the opinion that the project is a type of techno-colonialism, and although well-intended, it instills particular values and tools on cultures we patronizingly regard as “developing”. Yet, on this second point, there was something that made me feel a bit better when I knew that these machines would be loaded with free and open source software. At least then, we could avoid exporting even more of our corporatism. But that OLPC goal began to fall apart earlier this year when Negroponte confirmed that Windows XP was to be available on the XOs. For myself and others, this move marked the end of the OLPC as an educational project and it simply became just another laptop project.

I just came across this article by Richard Stallman in Boston Review. Stallman, once a proponent of the project, rejected it once “the project backed away from its commitment to freedom and allowed the machine to become a platform for running Windows, a non-free operating system.” For those of you who do not know Stallman’s work, this article is a good backgrounder that includes Stallman’s four essential freedoms that should be available to all users of software, as well as the distinction between “free as in beer” and “freedom of knowledge and action”. And my favourite quote from the article has to be, “Teaching children to use Windows is like teaching them to smoke tobacco—in a world where only one company sells tobacco. Like any addictive drug, it inculcates a harmful dependency.

These are important issues to think about. Learn more about free software at the Free Software Project.

Behind Every Tweet: K12Online Presentation Teaser #2

My K12 Online Conference Presentation 2008 will be released one week from today. The conference has already started with Stephen Heppel’s Preconference Keynote and there are so many great presenters scheduled. To keep you interested, I thought I would release my second teaser. This one looks at the mystery behind every Tweet.

If you missed teaser #1, here it is. You may also be interested in the original teaser for my online graduate course.

I’ll link to my K12 Online Conference presentation when it goes up. Thanks for watching!

Open Doctrine? K-12 Online Conference Teaser

Here is the teaser and introduction to my K12 Online Conference presentation, in the form of a personal attack ad. As mentioned earlier on this blog, my presentation will be titled “Open, Social, Connected: Reflections of an Open Graduate Course Experience.” A portion of the presentation will be devoted to the idea of openness in education, and how the actualization of this concept helped to create a transparent culture of sharing among students and other course participants.

I hope you enjoy the teaser and I invite you to participate in the rest of the coming presentation at the K12 Online Conference.

Thanks to Dan Carr for his narration and for helping bring this concept to life.

Oh … and there’s an edupunk version. :-)

Status of OpenMoko

I will likely pick up an iPhone 3G this week. While I have been wanting to pick up one for some time now, I would be happier if there were an open alternative. I have been watching the OpenMoko project for some time now, but it appears the device still has some major technical issues. See the video below:


OpenMoko Train Wreck from Dave Fayram on Vimeo.

Perhaps by the time my (ugggh) 3 year contract with Rogers runs out, there will be a mature, open alternative. I really hope OpenMoko gets there.