A final year round-up and some delegation

December 30, 2005 | Leave a comment

This is a repost of an email I sent to the development mailing list.

It’s really good to see some activity in the development community – conversation about developments and different people with different ideas contributing code is, for me, what open source is all about. When we created Elgg, we always wanted it to be open and receptive to the needs of people running the software.

We’re going to release 0.4 in mid-January, which contains some remixing of the RSS feed system exhibited on Elgg.net, as well as a restructured (and simplified) templating engine, some improvements to internationalisation, friendship and community membership moderation, and a number of bug fixes / feature improvements. This will not contain any of the improvements that Martin and his team in New Zealand are proposing; we will look at those for 0.5, as they are serious structural changes and will require more time than we have to think over and test. However, if anyone has any modifications to the existing SVN code they would like added, now is the time to submit a patch or bug to the project space on Eduforge.

We’ve agreed that from now on source code will be formatted to 80
columns and 4-space tabs. Jim, if you’re still willing to do this, would it be possible to send through a code patch? We’ll worry about the global variables for 0.5, as while I think renaming them is a good idea, the five or so data structures that we’ve talked about in another thread are really for the next version. It would be unwise to make more major changes than we’ve planned for this release – I don’t want to send something that doesn’t work out into the world. (I do, however, want to progress quickly on that topic in the thread here.)

This has been an amazing year – to start with a small system in January, which was open sourced in March, and ending here with numerous installations has been a very exciting ride. Thank you very much for sticking with us, and for contributing to Elgg’s development. With your help, next year we should reach version 1.0, and a system that I believe will genuinely be useful to a lot of people.

When assignments go too far

AP: U.S. Teen Runs Off to Iraq by Himself – Yahoo! News

A crazy, irresponsible stunt – but I have to confess, I’d love him to stick his interviews up on the web.

Internet addiction and online learning environments

Small town AmericaIt’s nice to get away for a while; a difference of perspective does a world of good for your clarity of thought, and often even your basic happiness. You don’t get a much bigger difference of perspective as between Oxford and the San Joaquin Valley (pictured right), or between sitting in front of a screen all day and spending time in the outside world.

The danger with creating a community online is that people will spend too much time in that community. It seems like a funny thing to be worried about when we’re largely involved with promoting engagement and creating systems that people will want to use. But it seems to me that if someone is too involved in a learning environment, they’re liable to not spend enough time actually learning.

Of course, this is true of all educational facilities – the danger of creating a really cool student bar is that students will spend all their time in it drinking beer. It’s important to promote a balanced learner lifestyle containing all kinds of helpful elements, rather than the use of one tool or other. I don’t buy the idea that we should just let people get on with it, and students don’t want any kind of involvement from the institutions in their lives – they come to an institution, and often pay tens of thousands of dollars, so that they will come out at the other side with a good degree and a great deal more knowledge and skills than they came in with. Sure, these things perhaps shouldn’t be mandatory, but this kind of lifestyle help should be out there and very visible. I would hate to think that someone might be spending twelve hours a day on Elgg when they could be out there taking advantage of everything on offer to them.

You might scoff – nobody would spend hours in front of a website! – but this is, I’m afraid, na├»ve. Hang around community sites like Myspace if you don’t believe me, or check out the frequency of posts in some LiveJournal communities. A growing number of people are beginning to recognise the seriousness of Internet addiction. Of course, as the programmer and vendor of an online learning system, I’m not about to say that learners should avoid such systems – the bottom line is that an institution’s role includes both gentle guidance towards the knowedge and skills that a learner seeks, as well as how to use them in a rich and balanced way.

Happy holidays

December 25, 2005 | Leave a comment

Best wishes to everyone this holiday season. We’re going to have a great new year – we hope you do too. :)

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