If Southeastern Rail’s error messages were like this then maybe I wouldn’t want them to die a slow and painful death

3 12 2008

Error messages: not everyone’s favourite thing, but important, in as much that what a service does when something goes wrong often says as much about it as when things go right. A bad example would be Southeastern Trains’ ageing-debutant-on-valium style platform announcements (“I am sorry for the delay to your service” etc, delivered with all the empathy that a disembodied, pre-recorded computer generated voice can muster), good examples being Mixx:


and Flickr’s downtime colouring in game:


A list of the best (and worst) web 2.0 error messages can be found in Royal Pingdom’s post 24 fun and inspiring web 2.0 error pages, unsurprisngly Google and Microsoft don’t fare particularly well.

Dead 2.0

14 10 2008

I’ve noticed a change in my Google alerts for web 2.0 over the last couple of weeks. Gone are the IT/advertising industry posts along the lines of ‘if you’re not using web 2.0, you’re missing out’ and, in their place, are articles and blog items on the death of web 2.0. Of course this, like everything else, is filtered through the balanced, reasoned credit crunch mind set of the moment (i.e that we’re all doomed. Doomed, I tells ye), but it seems reasonable that if web 2.0 companies (Twitter and Myspace chiefly among them) aren’t making money, then they could well disappear.

In some senses this is a bad thing; notions of technology being shared and free aren’t going to appear particularly attractive to investors at the moment. In other ways, the withdrawal of investment and speculation might provide a more focused, long term approach to the development of the web, where short time buzz and grating novelty are replaced by utility and sustainability. With any luck the ‘folk’ element of web 2.0: communities, social media applications, open source programming and the efficacy of communicating, collaborating and evaluating across boundaries, will things that will survive downturns in investment or the death of a couple of major websites.

Assuming that these things do survive, it will probably be sensible to attempt some sort of re-brand when mentioning ‘web 2.0’ as a sort of catch-all for new technologies, as the current media savaging of it, at least in the entrepreneurial/Silicon Valley sense, will in all likelihood turn it into a negative, embarrassing and eventually out of date term along the lines of the ‘Dot.com bust’. ‘Web 3.0’ has already been bandied about as a term, but I think something as low-key as ‘new and useful technologies’ might be a useful descriptor in avenues like information skills training as it sidesteps buzzy and potentially alienating ‘…2.0’ terms. After all, it seems to me that the internet is an organic, evolutionary, shifting kind of space and as such defies attempts to define it in any one way; diving it into ‘1.0, 2.0. 3.0’ eras is probably something to do in retrospect and not in the moment.

Merry Isthmus

7 10 2008

The Isthmus Project is an undertaking by Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education, supported by JISC, to create a service that integrates the features of the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) used in higher education and the web based applications used by students in their social and academic lives. It’s an interesting and forward thinking step and, importantly, a well-reasoned one. There seems to have been a lot of talk about joining education and library services with web 2.0 and social technologies, but most of what I’ve encountered has been rather knee-jerkily reactive and piecemeal, whereas Isthmus looks to be a considered attempt to bridge the gap between educational applications and what the average student uses day to day on the web. The name’s fiendishly clever as well. The project’s objectives are to:

  • Research the best way to integrate user owned technologies with current institutional practice.
  • Create a prototype solution to facilitate the integration of user-owned technologies with educational technology systems.
  • Pilot a prototype solution and evaluate it
  • Provide guidance and transferable models to support other institutions contemplating the use of similar technologies.
  • Allow learners a more personalised learning experience through the use of user-defined tools.
  • Disseminate knowledge gained to inform concurrent and future JISC initiatives.

‘I named my web 2.0 site after the last five pieces of Alphabetti left on my plate’

15 09 2008

Looks like George Lucas has a rival for nonsensical quasi-mystical gubbins: as this quiz points out, the proliferation of word-mangling web 2.0 names runs Star Wars a close second for ‘bad hand at Scrabble’ type nonsense. I’m not sure if there ever was a time when there were such things as ‘Photo Sharing Website’, ‘Dating Site’ or ‘The Social Network / Spying on your Friends / Acquaintances Website’, but I wouldn’t half like to see this kind of plain speaking used when people name their next net venture. Trying to negotiate the punch-drunk lexicon of the web 2.0 world is like stumbling upon an abandoned trial version of the Esperanto dictionary. Far be it for me to say, but whoever it was that came up with likes of Yubnub, Pheedo and Xuqa needs a sound whack across the temples with a hard-bound copy of the OED. Failing that, this could be a good solution the next time someone decides that ‘WangDangDoodle’ or ‘Grgsta’ is a suitable name for their bookmarking site:

Best Web 2.0 sites for education

12 09 2008

This is quite possibly my laziest post yet, in my defence I am suffering from the early stages of a cold and dementia brought on by a combination of baby induced sleep deprivation and sugar/caffeine overload. Hats off to Larry Ferlazzo for compiling his best web 2.0 applications for education 2008, it’s a great list of web apps and their uses for teaching and is well worth a look.

Web 2.0: good for magpies, not so good for education?

1 09 2008

*Some artistic licence may have been applied to the above photograph.

Are bright, shiny applications detrimental to educators’ attempts to use web 2.0 for teaching? That, in brief, is what Jennifer D. Jones suggests in her video Web 2.0 is not the future of education. It’s a point I’ve considered before; certainly sites like Facebook are rife with garish blaring clutter: ‘how hot are your grandparents’ and ‘monkey soduko’ style applications that an unbelievably large amount of people think are worthwhile additions to their profile pages. So yes, I’m not a big fan of attention grabbing / sapping apps. Such things are distracting and pointless, their purpose being to be shiny rather than substantial. However, I don’t think that’s a reason to dismiss web 2.0 as a platform for promoting learning. Yes, it’s sensible to spot the distractions and pitfalls inherent in using web 2.0 and yes, there are other technologies which will eventually supersede it but, for the time being, web apps are what a lot of people are using so why not utilise them intelligently and reflectively, whilst maintaing an awareness of potential new avenues on the web and in technology in general? After all, if you can’t be a pragmatist on the internet,  where can you be?

They did the mash, they did the monster mash (up)

27 08 2008

Mash ups: not, in fact, anything to do with this, this, or this, but a way of taking two or more web applications and combining them to make a single output that intergrates their features. I first heard the term related to music, where people would take vocals from one track and lay them over the music from another:

It was only after reading Peter Bihr’s blog that I became aware of web-based mash ups. They’re clearly a developing medium, as evidenced by some of the rather odd examples I came across on the Mashup Awards website, but there are plenty of genuinely practical applications that should ensure that mash ups are a phenomenon that sticks around. Some good examples inlcude VCASMO, which integrates Slideshare presentations and Youtube videos, Omnisio which does the same, World News Map, which links breaking news specific to nations on a map and Reelz Review which charts new DVD releases and hosts reviews, synopsises and trailers on the same page. I had a quick go on Yahoo Pipes, which allows you to build your own mash ups and came up with this, which uses a tour alert RSS feed and Yahoo maps to show you where the gig you’re going to is.