Friday, February 29, 2008

Blackboard and facebook Integrator

"CourseFeed phishes for information - CourseFeed is a security breach." Do students want to connect academic and personal social networks? Do Institutions want to connect with a proprietary system that "owns" the data and mines the data? Security breaches, confidentiality ocncerns, data ownership, access to licensed resource material - headaches galore.

Why not create your own centrally maintained social network using a tool like Elgg?

Still, here is what CourseFeed sells...

I'm a little late to the game here - and missed this one. Coursefeed (facebook app site) connects "you with your classmates and connects you to your school's online course content system. Browse your courses, post messages to the class, share notes – all without ever leaving Facebook. CourseFeed (product site) also alerts you when your professor posts announcements, tests, or content to your course. And you’ll get alerts when classmates post to the course wall and share notes."

Without an online content system:
* Course Wall
* File storage for Course Notes, etc.
* Course feed display of what's new posted by others.
* Connect with others in the course.
* Profile display to let friends know when you're in class.

With an online content system:
* See everyone in your course – guaranteed accurate course roster.
* View all online course materials without leaving Facebook
* Course feed shows when professor posts announcements, files, etc. to your course.
* View all announcements, new or old, in the announcements area.
* One-click access into your school's online content system and auto-navigation that takes you right to the item.

Here's who owns CourseFeed...

Coursefeed is a free product from ClassTop, a proprietary content management and communication tool that synchronizes with major learning management systems. ClassTop is “a quick and easy way for instructors who are teaching multiple sections of one course to upload data into those courses all at one time.” With Blackboard, adding items to multiple courses involves logging on repeatedly to add items to each course. With ClassTop, only one login is required; instructors drag and drop files to place them. The files are synchronized with the LMS all at once at the end of the session. teachers can also make changes offline and have them uploaded when they connect online.

Here's one sad story...

"In order for CourseFeed to work with Wesleyan's network to access Blackboard and send notifications over Facebook, it needed user's usernames and passwords. When students added the application to their Facebook profiles, they had to give out this information, which put them in direct violation with Nebraska Wesleyan University policy and compromised their NWU accounts.Not only did CourseFeed use account information to send out Blackboard notifications, but it also accessed Blackboard accounts to send messages in students' names to their classmates, inviting them to add the application as well. It was these email messages and submitted complaints about them that first alerted Computer Services to the dilemma.Students also sent CourseFeed complaints to Facebook who then contacted ClassTop who, in turn, dutifully contacted Computer Services to work with them in finding a solution to the infringement of student accounts. Computer Services first blocked ClassTop's access to Blackboard and ClassTop also blocked students from accessing the CourseFeed application via Facebook. Next, Computer Services collected information on which accounts had been compromised and proceeded to change their passwords. Students were notified of this change through duplicate hard-copy letters sent to their mailboxes and home addresses; they were also informed through a notice that was posted on the NWU website. It is important to note that ClassTop's intent was not to create a malicious program that would infiltrate NWU's network. " But, it did.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CorpWatch : Stop the Walled Garden!

Not my text - but my intent - worthy of reposting.

Many of today's new dot-com corporations,like Facebook and LinkedIn, make money by building "walled gardens" and programs that cond­uct "data mining" to take advantage of casual users surfing the web who are signing up in their millions for the numerou­s popular "free" social network sites. ­(Facebook refuses to reveal its profits but is rumored to be worth $15 billion.)
(A walled garden refers to a media strategy that compels users to one stay on their service. Data mining is the practice of collecting large amounts of personal information on website users by the site itself.)
­While Apple's iPhone unabashedly locks users into using AT&T cell phone service, sometimes the strategies are more subtle. FaceBook, the popular social network site, restricts the functionality of their site so that it is easy to remain on, while making external linking and emailing difficult. LinkedIn, another social network site, doesn't allow users to delete their profile without contacting customer service.
All of these tactics seek to make it easier for companies to collect information on individuals, with the sole purpose of creating consumer profiles for targeted advertising. The reason is simple: they make their money from the advertisers who will pay to get a captive audience (the kind they were once guaranteed on newspapers and TV) who might buy their products.
It is possible that these companies will soon sell their inventions for vast profits in the same way that YouTube and MySpace did, by taking advantage of ordinary people who would probably not pay for their services unless they were completely free. But activists say that the the Web has enormous potential to be a digital commons, if we assert our rights to use it for purposes other than buying and selling.
An activist group named has put together a video that they are using to promote their "It's Our Web" campaign. The video, which spoofs the Transformers, is pretty entertaining, and manages to fit some complicated ideas about Internet user freedom into an accessible format. The underlying message of the video is a good one: the Internet is a medium that is best if it remains free. Restricting access to information is a taboo among Wikipedians, Slashdotters, bloggers and Gnubies alike because the free flow of information is what has driven the collective production responsible for the Web as we know it. ­­

Thursday, February 14, 2008

SproutBuilder - Widget is You

SproutBuilder: You've Got to See This Drag and Drop Widget Maker - ReadWriteWeb:
"The product is a drag-and-drop Flash authoring tool built on Adobe's Flex. SproutBuilder lets you build very sophisticated, multi-page widgets with media, analytics and more"

This has great applications in marketing and learning development. This is a simple widget maker with great opportunity - let's say I want to create a learning object, embed an RSS feed to my wbeiste/institution and have it posted throughout the web, and when I make change they flow out to all locations at anytime?

Keep a watch on this service.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Elgg 1.0 Build your own SNS

Elgg won't ship with any features. Why not? Elgg 1.0 won't ship with any end-user features; think of it as a social application engine that can power all kinds of different sites and applications.

Who are "we" to tell you what features you need? The original Elgg codebase came with profiles, a blog, a file repository, communities and an RSS aggregator. The classic Elgg will still be supported.

That's good -serving two audiences (shell for programmers; classic for out of the box non-programmers) and ultimately allowing free form development.

I think Elgg has a lot of potential - I have a number of Elgg sites running now - from a community of practice to research spaces to course and program delivery spaces. It is a many splendoured thing, with multiple applications and a capacity to evolve as your "users" evolve from students to researchers to professionals.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Tip in appreciation of posting

Tipjoy CrunchBase Company Profile

Now this is interesting - Tipjoy is a widget you can put on your blog where folks can "tip" you if they find your posting of particular value. Tipjoy will keep a record of those tips and when and IF the tipper decides to put real value behing their tipping gestures - each click of the “tip this” button sends bloggers a small fixed amount set by the tipper (10 cents is the default). 96% of tip amount goes to the blogger (2% goes toward PayPal fees and Tipjoy takes a 2% service fee).

Bloggers currently have two options for “withdrawing” their tips. They can either donate tips to charity or “buy” an Amazon gift card.

An interesting slice of human psychology - if I click a tip, will I feel obligated to follow through with my gesture? I'm a litle leary of putting this widget on my blog - mainly because I'm not here seeking remuneration for my postings - others linking to and or commenting on is my compensation.

Anti-social networking

Just because you are part of a social network doesn't mean you want to be social. And maybe you do want to socialize but do so without sharing personal information. There are times you might want to engage in a conversation but keep your identity confidential. No, not just when you want to be represented someone you are not (like a dating service) but when anonymity keeps the interaction flowing.

One such request came through a listserve that I am part of where the individual is seeking a 'white brand" social networking software that can ensure anonymity yet promote social interaction.

He wants to develop an invitation only community that allowa participants to enage in discussion under "Chatham House Rules" environment. Under these rules, "When a meeting, or part thereof, is held ... participants are free to use the informationreceived, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s),nor that of any other participant, may be revealed." The idea is to allowfor frank, in-depth discussions without concerns of having such remarks attributed to individuals and/or making their way into the press.(

Now elgg can accomodate this - to a degree - through the user access controls and the ability to create anonymous profiles. I'm interested in how this can happen and have offered to assist this poster. I'll let you know if more comes of this.

List of “White Label” (Applications you can Rebrand) Social Networking Platforms

List of “White Label” (Applications you can Rebrand) Social Networking Platforms

Jeremiah Owyang has an extensive list (continuously updated thanks to a barrage of responses) of scoial networking software that can be use to create your own "white label" network. I note that one respondent advised him to add elgg - so I don't have to - also that Ben Werdmuller responded as well touting elgg.

Also see this techcrunch posting where Mark Hendrickson took Jeremiah's initial research and created a review of 34 of these toolsets (alas elgg was not among them).