Sasan Salari's blog

Elgg 0.6 Integration with WebCT

The integration between Elgg 0.6 and WebCT is now available on our seo company las vegas. The WebCT Powerlink is identical, so anyone migrating from Elgg 0.4 does not need to update anything on the WebCT side.

The integration itself remains the same functionally - the Elgg-portion of the code has just been updated to take advantage of the database abstraction layer that was added for Elgg 0.6.

queens lawyer

A few users of the Elgg PowerLink have suggested that it would be nice for their students to be able to log into Elgg directly, without first having to pass through WebCT.

We have just completed an Elgg authentication plug-in which addresses this request. When users access Elgg's login page and enter their username and password, Elgg's internal authentication is bypassed, and a web-services connection is made to the WebCT server instead.

If the username and password match those stored in the WebCT database, the user is logged into Elgg and is presented with their Elgg homepage.

For more information and download instructions, please see seo marketing.

As with the Elgg PowerLink, this authentication plug-in is provided free of charge. If you have suggestions on how it could be improved, please let us know.

ElggSpaces Hosted Solution now available

Curverider, the company founded by the creators of Elgg, have just launched a turn-key hosted solution for Elgg at http://elggspaces.com.

This is a much-needed option for those institutions who don't have the technical expertise or the staffing resources to host Elgg for themselves.

Since the service is being run by Elgg's developers, users can expect all of the latest bug-fixes and features to be available as they become available.

MediaWiki-Elgg Integration updated for Elgg 0.6

We made some small changes for the MediaWiki-Elgg integration to support Elgg version 0.6. The original version was coded against Elgg 0.4.

Specifically, Elgg 0.6 supports a database table prefix for the Elgg tables, which is now a configuration option for the integration.

MediaWiki-Elgg Integration Posted

I have just posted the MediaWiki-Elgg integration for download off the Aperto download site. More information about the integration can be found here.

Comments and feedback welcome.

WebCT Impact 2006 Wrap-up

I am back in Vancouver after an eventful week at the Annual WebCT Users Conference, held in Chicago this year. It was a bittersweet event for me, since it was the last official WebCT-only conference -- all future ones will be joint Blackboard/WebCT events. I was able to reminisce with a few old-timers about the past 8 annual conferences, and the great energy and enthusiasm the attendees and the staff have brought to these events.

Ok - enough of that. Let's get to some the major take-aways for me:

Blackboard's Beyond Initiative

This initiative was announced in March at BbWorld, and originally focused on 4 areas: Global Learning Objects Respository, Social Networking, ePortfolios for Life, and Outcomes Management.

In the opening keynote by Matt Pittinsky and Michael Chasen, a fifth element was added, which was Student Centered Learning. This was of particular interest to me, since it happens to be the exact title of the handout that I created for the WebCT-Elgg integration, and which was an insert for the conference bags. It is good to see that everyone is thinking along the same lines.

Blackboard is just starting on these initiatives, and clearly stated that they would be multi-year projects. While real details were not yet available, I hope that these central sites will have a trickle-down effect to the product lines, so that web 2.0-type functionality can be taken advantage of directly within the course environment right across the institution.

Blogs, Wikis, RSS and Podcasts are everywhere

There was a huge buzz on these topics at the conference, with many sessions and pre-conference workshops touching on one or more of these. Most of the users take advantage of centrally-hosted commercial sites, such as blogger, blogspot, del.icio.us, so I took the opportunity to mention Elgg as a locally-hosted option in many of my conversations.

Dr. Helen Barrett's Closing Keynote on ePortfolios
Very good presentation touching on a number of key points (Download slides here).

The take-aways for me were:

  • Concept of Working Portfolios vs. Presentation Portfolios
  • Is Portfolio to be used as an Assessment of learning (summative), or as an Assessment for learning?

The Closing Video
It would not have been a WebCT conference without some comic relief from Utah State's Kevin Reeve and Marc Hugentobler. This time, they wandered around the conference with a camera crew and captured some great moments. The sailor suits for the conference party at the Navy Pier were a nice touch.

At the WebCT User Conference in Chicago

Hello WebCT-clients - I am currently attending the WebCT User Conference in Chicago. If you are interested in having a chat about Elgg and the WebCT PowerLink integration in person, please feel free to send an email, with potential times that work for you.

I will also be demonstrating the integration as part of the following conference activities:

  • my talk on Thursday morning, July 13th, at 9:00 am in Room Michigan A
  • a demonstration in the Vista Developers Network booth in the exhibit hall on Thursday July 13th, from 10:45 to 11:15 am.

I am looking forward to catching up with you all in Chicago.

Sasan

Elgg Outside of Higher Education

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in a project using Elgg in a non-academic environment.

Vancouver is currently hosting the World Urban Forum, an international event on global urban sustainability. Working with teams from UBC and Opn Design, Aperto helped set up two sites to support activities related to the event:

Earthblog.ca is a site to promote dialogue around social, environmental, cultural and economic issues facing the Greater Vancouver region.

Elgg's main homepage was branded with logos, and the entry page of Elgg pulls in the most recent postings of four key bloggers, as well as a 'hot comment' (as designated by one of the site admins periodically), and the most recent comment to the site.

Most of the Elgg functionality was disabled for visitors, except for the profile tool. The official bloggers have access to all of the Elgg functionality.

Another key part to this site was the single-sign-on integration between Elgg and MediaWiki. All login is handled by Elgg, and the session is transferred to MediaWiki if a user wants to edit a particular Wiki page.

We will be releasing the Elgg-MediaWiki integration to the community shortly, as a number of other Elgg users are looking for this functionality. More on that in a future post.

The second site Aperto worked on is GUSSE, a social site to collectively discuss, review and apply the best ideas for sustainable cities.

The integration here involved a customization to the Elgg entry page again. Registration and log in is being handled by the social tagging system opntag. Elgg reads the opntag session information and creates users in the Elgg system. GUSSE maintains all Elgg core functionality.

It has been interesting applying Elgg to a non-academic environment, and I hope that these examples help showcase the flexibiliity of Elgg, and the ability to customize the look and feel of the application.

WebCT-Elgg Integration Flash Demo

After getting a number of follow-up requests from the WebCT European Conference in Edinburgh, I decided to create a short Flash-movie which demonstrates the WebCT-Elgg integration.

The file can be found at:

files/elgg_demo.htm

The demo is best viewed on a 1024x768 or larger display, to minimize any scrolling.

For those interested, a PDF version of my presentation slides are also available for download from the conference site at:

http://gromit.webct.com/webct_europe_2006/Tu/Salari.pdf

Del.icio.us Tagging

Thanks to a note on Brian's blog, I attended a session by HP Researcher Scott Golder on his study of tags and social bookmarking on del.icio.us.

The talk was based on a paper which is due to appear in the Journal of Information Science.

Scott first gave background information on issues encountered when tags are defined by a community (ie. folksonomy vs. taxonomy):

  • synonymy: using different tags for the same thing (tv vs. television)
  • polysemy: a tag may have related senses (he gave the example of a window - either the hole in the wall, or the pane of glass)
  • homonymy: a particular tag can mean different things, depending on context (eg. speaker, chair, apple)
  • the 'basic level' problem: describing 'something' is related to the person's level of experience with that particular element. For example, a picture of a dog may be 'dog' to most people, but 'beagle' to a veterinarian.

In the analysis of the tags used to describe the bookmarks on del.icio.us, Scott found that they fell into 7 categories:

  1. Identifying what or who it is about: topics of the bookmarked items. Tags consisted of common or proper nouns.
  2. Identifying what it is: the kind of thing being bookmarked (eg. article, blog, book)
  3. Identifying who owns it
  4. Refining categories: these refine or qualify existing categories
  5. Identifying qualities or characteristics: adjectives used according to the opinion of the bookmarker (eg. funny, scary)
  6. Self Reference: identifying content in relation to the tagger (eg. mystuff, mycomments)
  7. Task Organizing: information related to a task, used to group related information together (eg. jobsearch)

From this list, it can be seen that some tags are general, whereas others are very personal to the tagger and their experience. From an analysis of tag order, it appears to people use generally meaningful tags first (and these have the highest freqency across bookmarks), and more personal tags later. Therefore, analysis of the first few tags of a bookmark should give a good idea of the general topic of that link.

Scott also found that users' tag-lists varied greatly, and were not related to the number of bookmarks a particular user had. In one case, a user's number of tags increased steadily as their number of bookmarks increased, while another user's number of tags stayed level. This points to definite personal styles for tagging.

Another of his points related to usage of new tags. For example, I may have been doing some research on Africa, so I have tagged all of my bookmarks with that tag. However, a few months later, I decide that I need to be more specific, and add a country tag as well. This additional level of classification poses the following problems:

  • I cannot search my old bookmarks for instances of the country tag
  • Adding a country tag to my existing bookmarks (which could be in the hundreds) could be extremely onerous.

Finally, he found that tag proportions over time tend to be stable for a particular bookmark. This means that, after approx. 100 bookmarks for a particular URL, each tag's frequency is nearly a fixed proportion of the total frequency of all tags used. So for example, a particular URL may have the tag 'dog', which will have a frequency of 30% of all tags used for that bookmark, regardless of how many bookmarks are added and tagged for the URL.

The implication from this result is that "after a relatively small number of bookmarks, a nascent consensus seems to form, one that is not affected by the addition of further tags."

Some of the questions I am asking myself after the session are:

  • Do I tag for myself or for others? In the case of bookmarking, it is mostly for myself, but what about tagging my blog entries - is it so I can find them more easily later and selectively filter, or do I tag to make it easier for others to find my information? And if I do tag for others, do I tag with a specific audience in mind, and does that intended audience then define to some degree the tags that I use?
  • My own set of tags is evolving over time, based on my experiences. What is my responsibility for updating the tags of any previous content that I have tagged, should I decide to split a particular tag up into 2 or 3 different tags? On the one hand, the thought of inconsistency makes me uneasy. On the other hand, maybe I just have to accept the evolution of one's tag set, and consider the older tags as a snapshot of my state at that time.
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