Bring Us Your Fear!

Some people who work with me are probably sick of me talking about how much I love del.icio.us, but I don’t care. I really love del.icio.us. If I was on some weird desert island where I was forced to only choose one Web 2.0 tool (maybe the desert island is run by some tribe of people with strange network policies?), I would choose del.icio.us.

I know what you’re thinking:

Woman! Are you crazy?! Wouldn’t you choose WordPress, the single best blogging platform in the world? After all, isn’t the blog at the heart of Web 2.0 goodness?!?

Nope. I’d choose del.icio.us, because — guess what!? — if I was really desperate, I could use del.icio.us like a blog! Ingenious! Granted, the character limit would mean my posts would have to be uncharacteristically brief, but that’s okay. It would help focus me, right?

Okay, I’m digressing from my point a little. But the digression is really just an attempt to make it really clear how much I love del.icio.us. It’s also an attempt to make the point that in it’s deceptive simplicity, del.icio.us is actually an incredibly complex, adaptable, powerful tool. We should all seek to better understand that power — and use it for good.

(BTW, did I mention. . .I love del.icio.us?)

Recently, Alan blogged about how hard it can be to get a group of people to tag Web Sites of Interest around a particular topic. I have no doubt that fostering this kind of activity is really hard, and as much as I love del.icio.us, I feel his pain. And, so it is with some trepidation that I’m about to announce a project to get a group of people to tag Web Sites of Interest around a particular topic. (But I’m coming back to Alan’s dilemma, so stick with me.)

The topic is “Fear,” and the project it’s for is the upcoming session at ELI 2008 that Laura Blankenship, Barbara Ganley, Barbara Sawhill, Leslie Madsen-Brooks, and I will be presenting. The title is “Who’s Afraid of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and the Big Bad CMS? A Digi-Drama About Fear 2.0 “. Here’s the abstract:

Web 2.0 tools have the power to transform education. Such a transformation requires that faculty, students, and institutions take risks. With those risks comes fear, which is often unarticulated. How do you tackle this fear and make real change? Join us to face this fear together in a multimedia, interactive miniplay.

We know exactly what we want to do for this presentation, of course. I mean, we’re completely ready. Honestly. But, since we have all this networked Web 2.0 goodness available to us, we thought it might be nice to give those people who are part of our various Web 2.0 networks a chance to contribute their own views, impressions, and even interpretations of the fear that this technology is creating at their institutions. We’re all about the giving, really.

Of course, the tool we’ve chosen to aggregate whatever is contributed is del.icio.us. The tag we’ve chosen is eli08fear. And, while we could just monitor the tag page in del.icio.us and even point to it during the presentation, I thought it would be interesting to see if we could foster some other kind of context for the bookmarks that might emerge.

So, to that end, I’ve set up a blog at fear.umwdtlt.org and used a nifty little script called WordPrecious
to pull the tagged bookmarks into the blog. What’s cool about this script is that it doesn’t just create a daily aggregate post of the latest bookmarks — it creates an individual post for each bookmark. Posts that can then be commented upon within the blog environment. Isn’t that cool?

It actually may present a partial answer to Alan’s question that I mentioned above. I would suggest that part of the answer to getting a community of users to participate in a group bookmarking project might be to create some kind of community conversation/context around that activity. Del.icio.us is a great tool for capturing, tagging, and annotating. But it’s not designed to foster the subsequent conversation that could be generated by the bookmarking activities.

WordPrecious is just a small step in this direction. There are a lot of ways in which I think it could be further improved. For example, it would be cool if the name/id of the bookmarker could be included in the post that’s produced. It would also be cool if the tags associated with the bookmark could be turned into blog categories/tags — and then used to slice and dice the blog posts in interesting ways.

Right now, anyone with an account on the blog can go in and edit the blog posts that are produced, so today I manually edited one of the posts that was pointing to a YouTube video so that the video played through the Anarchy player in the post. It’s not a huge deal to check the blog and do this periodically, but it would be cool if links to YouTube or Google Video could automatically be made to play in the blog post. That’s probalby tricker. But, hey, I’m not in the mood to reflect on what’s tricky! I just want to think about what would be neat.

chocolate cashewSo, PLEASE contribute to our project by using the tag eli08fear (and the more annotation you can provide in del.icio.us the better), and then PLEASE subscribe to the blog feed, and then PLEASE consider commenting on anything that appears in the feed that you think is interesting. I will personally give a chocolate-covered cashew to anyone who participates whom I run into at ELI. Is that enough incentive?

Update: For those interested, the feed for comments is available at http://fear.umwdtlt.org/?feed=comments-rss2.

Photo: by artnoose at Flickr