The re-invention of news curation

Checking on what’s happening around the Liquid News project on the #liquidnews Twitter feed, it seems the project is advancing: Toni Hopponen from Sparkbox posted on his blog that Liquid News will likely use his service to publish articles, opinions etc. of experts involved in this project.

Sparkbox is a live reporting widget, enabling citizen journalists and experts to publish directly on websites. It has admin tools which make it possible to define user-specific rights. The look and feel of the widget is customizable, and of course sharing on networks, liking and commenting are features of this widget. Example of its use: is a newspaper in Finland having 15 soccer experts comment on the recent World Cup, they also organize citizens to report on local news.

The important thing is here that the content is curated. Maybe there once was a time that the internet was only used by gentle, civilized and smart people, but as every community manager will tell you these days what matters is to curate and moderate. While a community manager often only has one site or forum to moderate, curation of real time news is even more challenging as conflicting reports in various languages on many different platforms have somehow to be filtered and selected. It also is more challenging than what traditional journalists used to do: curating information coming via news wires and sources they often knew face to face. Journalists still do that, but they also have to handle the social media streams giving unique but not necessarily reliable information.

Robert Scoble has a fascinating collection of videos and news about “the real-time curation wars” and also Robin Good posted extensively about real-time curation.

Here you see ‘media futurist’ Gerd Leonhard in this video shot by Robin Good talking about curation:

Robert Scoble interviewing Patrick Meier about Ushahidi about crisis news curation systems:

Yes, we all have time to blog

People often complain they don’t have  time to blog. This week I’ll have two seminar opportunities to try to convince people that even very busy people can blog – provided they are ready to change some daily work and life routines.

Journalists and students amaze me when they appear at meetings and jolt down notes on paper. There are so many tools for digital note taking these days – and for online and public note taking. There are still so many people keeping their bookmarks on their own browsers, instead of using social bookmarks, not to mention the limited use of tools such as Google Reader.

In March I posted on PBS MediaShift about the tools helping to “live-stream your newsroom”, but in fact one could use those same tools for a personal learning environment — and blogging is part of that environment. I now tried to use Prezi as a concept map and presentation tool in order to express these ideas. In contrast to the more linear slideshow I made about the subject, the Prezi-version shows better the cycle of the social media.

It starts from digital notes and concept map wikis, to evolve via Twitter and Tumblr to RSS feeds, social bookmarks, long form and live blogging to immersive discussions and participatory presentations. If everything goes well, the comments and interactions help the blogger to restart the whole cycle.

The emergence of simple tools such as Tumblr and Posterous, combined with smartphones and tablets, make it much easier to keep up with blogging and social media. This may sound self-evident to many of you, but in broader circles the discussion about the possibilities of these tools is just beginning. Just look around, how many entrepreneurs, managers and experts are actively blogging? Many of course, but many more don’t use these tools or ask their communication departments to do it in their place.

So here is the Prezi, I’ll update the thing this week, so don’t hesitate to comment!

Liquid (Virtual) Newsroom Project Developed with Radical Openness

diagram illustrating liquid newsLiquidnews, or the Liquid Newsroom, is an emerging news project that’s all about the above strategy, radical openness. I found out about the project on Twitter via the #liquidnewshashtag. It’s where a group of people, many of whom are journalists, discuss a project for a “liquid” or a “virtual” newsroom.

They talk about what a Liquid Newsroom could be, about the business model, and the technological platform necessary make it happen. They exchange tweets such as this one from Steffen Konrath: “Currently exploring ways to add Sparkbox (@tonihopponen) & Clp.ly (@Kinanda) to the Liquid Newsroom project #liquidnews.”

On September 1, Konrath published a Liquid Newsroom Manifesto on his blog, which reads like a proposal for a kind of postmodern virtual enterprise. In his model, the relationship between the “outside” and the “inside” of a company changes fundamentally. For instance, he writes, that in this newsroom “the content is triggered by events and interest of the people, and not by the purpose of keeping a company alive.”

I had an interview with Steffen, which you can read on my blog at PBS MediaShift. Stay tuned for more about how virtual enterprises can help develop enterpreneurial journalism in the broadest sense of these words!

How concept maps can be immersive

In this post I’ll talk about some rather simple immersive tools. They have to do with what knowledge is about, with visualization and non-linear thinking and presenting. Do not fear: there’s no need for high-end graphics. The elements on which this simple immersiveness is based are non-linearity, interactivity and visualization.

In the personal learning environments course #PLENK2010 you can find a discussion thread about concept mapping, with George Siemens providing a link to a paper about The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them by Joseph D. Novak and Alberto J. Cañas (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition).

Siemens explains: “Concept mapping assumes relatedness of knowledge – i.e. the information you connect is what produces your knowledge.” The course uses Cmap but personally I love using MindMeister (which allows for open wiki mindmaps), for instance I made this map about real-time web and news media for a seminar in Moscow:

Please note that I only provided a basic structure for the map – others added many nodes, provided Russian translations etc in a pure wiki-style. The reason I like those maps is that they allow for non-linear thinking and discussion. The enhance a more organic, associative way of reflecting on things. Compare having a group discussion with a linear powerpoint presentation versus a more brainstorming type of session, or at least a meeting where people are allowed to really interact and to go back and forth the points discussed – eventually adding or eliminating discussion nodes.

Actually, you can use non-linear presentations derived directly from concept maps for larger audiences. A colleague of mine introduced me to an interesting tool, Prezi, which helps you to do just that.

Here is an example of such a Prezi presentation about teaching mathematics by Guy Murphy:

There are other examples at the Prezi site. The big advantage of a Prezi presentation, when used for an actual living audience, is that it’s very flexible and incites the group to connect ideas in ways which may even surprise the presenter.

Second Life cohort will augment online seminars with virtual spaces at #PLENK2010

plenk2010 hq in chilbo

This is the virtual reading and meeting room for the connectivism courses in the virtual town Chilbo in Second Life. As pointed out in a comment on my previous post, there is a Second Life cohort (group PLENK2010) getting ready to experiment and a wiki has been launched.

One of the problems is that however immersive and engaging synchronous online meetings may be, they do cost time. There are already weekly Elluminate sessions to be followed for the PLENK2010 course, adding meetings in Second Life is not self-evident.

Glen Gatin on Conviviality Corners suggests to organize meetings in Second Life, enabling participants to share the same virtual space while attending the Elluminate sessions. Using UStream it might be possible to intervene (also using voice) from within Second Life.

But is there enough added value in this? People in Elluminate already can use a white-board and audio, maybe even video. The experiment will have to demonstrate that sharing a same space, creating watercooler-moments before and after the meeting, leads to more engagement and immersiveness.

Time for our personal learning environments #PLENK2010

It’s that time of the year again I start asking myself whether to register for the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” again. I did so previous years, and even though I never managed to follow-up on the activities till the end, I always learned stuff and enjoyed the discussion with the other participants.

This year it seems the course is called Personal Learning Environments, Networks and Knowledge 2010. This course is a joint venture between the National Research Council of Canada (Institute for Information Technology, Learning and collaborative Technologies Group, PLE Project), The Technology Enhanced Knowledge Research Institute at Athabasca University and the University of Prince Edward Island. Facilitators: George Siemens, TEKRI, Stephen Downes, NRC, Dave Cormier, UPEI, Rita Kop, NRC.

From the forums I quote this:

The idea behind the personal learning environment is that the management of learning migrates from the institution to the learner. The PLE connects to a number of remote services, some that specialise in learning and some that do not. Access to learning becomes access to the resources and services offered by these remote services. The PLE allows the learner not only to consume learning resources, but to produce them as well. Learning therefore evolves from being a transfer of content and knowledge to the
production of content and knowledge.” (Downes, 2007, 19)

In other words, what does it mean and how do we proceed when we use online networks, social bookmarks, collaborative video sharing and editing platforms, virtual environments, blogs and wikis (forgetting many other services and applications) in order to organize our own learning process?

The question interests me a lot. The previous years however I felt the course was very much a paradise for academics and teachers. Learning of course goes far beyond that, and my own interest is more how to organize self- and group-learning later in life, independently from the educational institutions.

Anyway, even though it is in a very classical classroom setting, I did like this video by Patricio Bustamante about personal learning environments (and of course academics and teachers never use full words but prefer talking about “PLE”):

Even though the course is about to enter the second week, there is still time to register. It is a connectivist type of (free!) course, based on aggregation, remixing, repurposing and feeding forward. It’s a bewildering experience but then again, you’re not supposed to learn and study all the stuff which is presented, it’s about using tools and creating collaboratively (I think).

There are quite a few Second Life residents active in the course, just do a “second life” search in the forums! Telmea Story launched a SL group PLENK2010.

Also Twitter wants to be fast, easy and fun – sounds familiar?

So Twitter should be fast and easy. And fun of course. If not, they won’t ever go mainstream. For someone covering Second Life, it all sounds very familiar.

One of the interesting points I learned watching Robert Scoble’s live video stream during the Twitter press conference this week was that the overwhelming majority of Twitter users just use the website, there where no self-respecting member of the tech-elite ever go. The social media and tech people think it is so self-evident to use clients such as Tweetdeck or Seesmic that they cannot even imagine that everybody else just goes to www.twitter.com.
That silent majority is rather, well, silent. They (okay, many of them) use Twitter as a kind of social RSS-reader without engaging in a conversation or even without retweeting stuff. Twitter itself seems to consider their service as a real time news network rather than as a social network. A news network like CNN let’s say, but more customizable. But many users are there to consume news, just as they consume news watching CNN.
Let’s compare this with Second Life. The most vocal residents are the builders and scripters, the traders, the organizers. They are a minority – even though without them there would be no such thing as Second Life. This is not surprising: on web forums, discussion boards and chat rooms the really active people are a minority, and the bulk of the activity comes from a tiny group of very active people.
The challenge is to keep that minority happy while realizing that the needs and expectations of the overwhelming majority are different. I guess the web version of Twitter will be a success among the majority, while the power users will stick to their sophisticated client where they can manage all their different social media accounts.
The same probably applies for Second Life and similar virtual worlds. One needs viewer versions or settings which cater for the socializers or for users of devices such as the iPad, other versions can focus on the heavy users and content creators.
“Fast, easy and fun” will be crucial criteria for new media wanting to gain traction. “Fun like the iPhone” Philip Rosedale said during the Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) in Boston. “The iPhone is slower (…) but it’s delightful” he said. Just like reading Twitter or Facebook on Flipboard is maybe a bit slower, but more delightful. Don’t look down on that – making things delightful is the way to really change things.
Here is the video Scoble made at the Twitter conference:

(Archive) Connectivism Course in Second Life

(archived post, 8-25-2008)

I signed up for the Second Life Cohort of people attending a course about Connectivism. The social tools used as well as the content of the course seem very interesting.

The content: allow me to quote the course wiki:

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 and Stephen Downes – the two leading figures on connectivism and connective knowledge – will co-facilitate this innovative and timely course.

Okay, I guess this is still rather vague… I found this text by George Siemens, Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, which provides more answers. For instance:

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.

Principles of connectivism:

* Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
* Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
* Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
* Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
* Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
* Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
* Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
* Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Connectivism also addresses the challenges that many corporations face in knowledge management activities. Knowledge that resides in a database needs to be connected with the right people in the right context in order to be classified as learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism do not attempt to address the challenges of organizational knowledge and transference.

Very nice, maybe, but others might say pretty obvious statements. However, attending the course could very well make things more interesting, not only because of better and more explanations by the experts, but because of the learning experience itself.

Social tools: The learning experience will be mediated by all kinds of social media tools. On the blog for this course I read that by the end of July 1,200 persons signed up for the course, which means that the course can be rightly called a MOOC or Massive Online Course, which makes it even more necessary to make clever use of social media technology.

Each week the course will include a series of readings, recorded presentations and podcasts. During the week, a “live session” will be held in elluminate. These sessions will include a combination of presentation and discussion. Asynchronous discussion will be held in Moodle. All events will be open to the public.

How Second Life is involved? Fleep Tuque, co-founder of the Chilbo community in Second Life, proposed to take advantage of the sense of “co-presence” one feels when meeting people in Second Life to hold weekly discussions about the Connectivism course and construct the Connectivism Village where members of the cohort can “live, learn, and play” in Second Life. What else we do is up to the group, but we may:

– Hold group or individual conversations in voice chat.

– Submit builds, objects, models or other projects as assignments for the Connectivism course.

– Invite other members of the Connectivism course to come visit our location in Second Life.

The Chilbo community is hosting the land and space in Second Life where the SL Cohort of the Connectivism course will be held. When the Chilbo Summer Fair wraps up at the end of August, the fairgrounds will be torn down to make way for the construction of the Connectivism Village.

In the SL Cohort there are more than 100 people now from all over the world. That is yet another fascinating aspect of the MOOC: people from all over the planet will gather in this experience.

Will it succeed? I sure do hope so, and will report about the Connectivism course here on MixedRealities.

Roland Legrand