Rebuilding my Eco-System

Newsblur Care Package
Newsblur Care Package (Photo credit: Zack Fernandes)

The last few days, I’ve been reading and collecting a lot of information.  Once upon a time, as I mentioned a while back, I had a system that allowed me to very easily share items I’d collected to a web site.  I used Reader plus Delicious and then Javascript to embed.  Delicious had a tool for that, but that went away when Yahoo sold it.  Ever since, I’ve been trying to replace my system with something new. So far, I haven’t found the perfect thing.  I’ve signed up for Newsblur. So far I like it, and there are lots of sharing options. I think I’m going back to Diigo, which allows me to post items on my blog automatically.

However, I have a slight problem, which I think can be fixed with iftt.  For the newsblur iPad app, where I read a lot of my feeds (I like the size and convenience), Diigo isn’t available.    But I think I can go to an intermediary and then post to Diigo, which will then post to the blog.

Here’s the thing.  I like reading things on my iPad.  It is really built to be a very nice consumption machine.  But taking those things that I consume and remixing them is really hard on the iPad.  There’s no having multiple tabs option.  Most of the stuff that’s built in for sharing isn’t for sharing to a blog and then adding commentary.  Heck, it’s even hard to post to Google plus where you have more than 140 characters.  I guess Facebook does too, but *shiver*.  Maybe the iPad needs to get better at this, but I think the rise of the iPad explains, in part the decline in blogging and creating.  I blame Facebook and Twitter, too.  The world has moved to a consume and tweet it world.  God, I sound old.  I’m actually okay with some quick sound bytes.  I use Twitter and Google + a lot.  But I don’t always want to limit myself to reading and writing 140 characters, and that’s what I feel like some of the apps on iPads encourage.  Read this article, then post it to FB or Twitter, sometimes without allowing even a comment.

If you’re wondering if software matters, it does.  The way interfaces are designed can determine how we interact with information, whether we’re going to be consumers or producers. No one should just accept what comes with your machine.  Hack it to be the way you want it.  When I get some more time, I might create a better system from scratch, but that’s a summer project.  For now, as they used to say, “small pieces, loosely joined.”

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Links to my brain

I’ve been linking to articles of interest to me of late, as part of my desire and need to use this blog in a more intellectually engaging way. There are some interesting developments in the technology world that I’d like to link to and write about–but those will have to wait. I’m going to link to my brain right now and boy, I wish I could provide the urls because I’m sure my thoughts won’t be complete.

I’m giving a talk today, as I mentioned earlier this week, teasing out the differences between course management systems and social software. In preparing for the talk, I’ve started thinking about many different things, many of which won’t make it into the talk, of course. I’ve been thinking about why I like this web 2.0 stuff so much and why I, and many others, subscribe to a “small pieces, loosely joined” philosophy when it comes to educational technology. On the flip side of that, I’ve been trying to figure out why others subscribe to the enterprise software philosophy of something like a course management system. I like autonomy. I don’t like being told what to do, and I think many educators don’t much like being told what to do. Web 2.0 tools allow you to pick and choose what you want to use. Many of them are built to be interoperable, so that you can piece them together in one space if you want. For example, I connected Twitter and Remember the Milk, and get reminders about my to-do list via my Twitter account. I also tied RTM to my Google home page, where I have a summary of my email and my RSS feeds and what’s on TV tonight. If I were a student, I think I’d do the same thing. I’d love RSS feeds of my class schedule and assignments and those would be right next to my Facebook widget. Or conversely, I could fee my class schedule and assignments into Facebook. That’s the beauty of Web 2.0. You get to choose how to mix it up.

With most enterprise software, you can’t. (Here’s a great post about how clunky most enterprise software is.) You have to use their tools and if they suck, you can’t bring in your own. There’s no way I could make Blackboard my home page. I could include RSS feeds, but I can’t include email or other widgets. Maybe I’ll try to create what I have in iGoogle with Blackboard. I might accomplish it, but it will probably be difficult. And I can’t change the look of it. In something like iGoogle or with a blog or most other Web 2.0 software, I can make it look however I want. I can change the colors, rearrange the display, choose a different profile icon. None of that is really available in a CMS or most other enterprise software. I’m stuck with a small selection of colors and certain aspects are unable to be changed. In our CMS, it’s the header.

Basically, I not only want to personalize the look and feel of the software I use, but I want to use the set of tools that makes me most efficient. If it takes a million clicks to add an RSS feed, then I’m not going to use that tool for RSS feeds. I’m going to use something that takes one click. It may seem silly, but each click is wasted time. When you’re trying collect and read and digest lots of information, saving that little bit of time–over a million times a day–becomes very important. And, as I’ve always said, if I have to look at a computer screen all day, I want it to look nice. I don’t want it to suck the life force out of me with its industrial look.