IT dept as experimentation agent: Podcasting at MIT

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/18

Came across this MIT podcasting site via Dave Winer this AM.

What I find interesting is how their “Information Services & Technology” group is actively encouraging the intentional and informal exploration and experimentation of emerging learning technologies like podcasts. From the site —

IS&T encourages members of the MIT community to contribute podcasts and other audio downloads of content of value to the MIT community. We are pleased to collect these contributions and to promote understanding and use of this emerging communications mode. … Submissions from members of the MIT community that are more informal, ad hoc, and open. These submissions can be directly added via the IS&T Podcast Wiki.

Until our IT and Web groups see themselves as agents of exploration, we’re not going to see much of the exciting and promising informal learning technology take of “inside the firewall” of organizations.

It’s only through trying stuff on that we can find things that work.

Until our IT depts are not skittish around words like “blog-podcast-tags-wiki-opensource-wordpress-php-mysql-yada-whatever-amen”, we’re gonna have a hard time trying stuff like this on to see what works.

Kudos to MIT’s IT dept for showing us a different way to go about things.

Research survey on tagging

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/05/04

From the Ma.gnolia newsletter comes a call to participate in a research survey on tagging via —

Tell Baruch College Why You Use Ma.gnolia Tagging is an active topic in academics these days, and the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College in New York city would like your help in their research. The faculty of Statistics and Computer Information Systems are conducting a 10-15 minute survey about your experience with Ma.gnolia. The results will aid developers of all tagging websites create a better experience for you. The survey is anonymous and can be found at Please note that Ma.gnolia is not affiliated with this independent survey, and no individual information will be shared or published.

After a few Mind Camp 2.0 discussions on tagging last weekend, I’m more interested than ever on getting ahold of some good research telling us why users use these services — and where we can find concrete ROI’s with them.

Right now, there seems to be general agreement that tagging and folksonomies are useful (except for Dave anyway, who, at Mind Camp, made some really good points about tagging being an early adopter edge case activity that regular folks will likely never do — consistently anyway).

My thing about all of these discussions that advocate things like tagging or informal learning tools like blogs/wiki’s is that they are very anecdotal. Am looking forward to some research that will help us separate fact from fiction.

Why Tags? Because “people are very bad and inconsistent at organizing things”

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/04/28

Had a great discussion with a colleague today about advantages to tags and folksonomies for navigating corporate intranets.

I know it was a good conversation because her eyes did not glaze over as I went on like a tech fanboy about why we should try re-architecting some of our web projects around these concepts.

(Quick note — since I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the blog yet — I am now working remotely for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford — and yes I still live in Seattle — downtown Renton specifically — you know, the future home of the Sonics)

This was much better than my feeble previous attempts to advocate tags to other folks I’ve worked with on other projects.

(When someone’s eyes glaze over as I begin the third sentence of my explanation, it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ve made things too complicated.)

What happened between the two conversations?

I kept my eye out for concise descriptions that would help me craft a compelling “Why Tags?” nugget.

On that hunt, I came across this —

There were several severe problems with this folder-based approach. First, people are very bad and inconsistent at organizing things. One day will go into the “finance” folder and another day it will go into the “favorite links” folder.

It’s a quote from Ari Paparo’s “Getting It Right” post that I learned about via Scott Berkun back in December.

Ari was writing about Yahoo’s acquisition of tag leading — the cool thing about Ari’s post is that he’s writing from the perspective of an entrepreneur who started and failed with a web based bookmarking company back in the day (circa 1999-2000).

The main difference he points out between the very similar companies is that of tags/folksonomies — had them and has succeeded where did not have them and failed.

In his words —

Congratulations to Josh on the acquisition. Yahoo will make a great partner for the bookmarking service. Now a little part of me is cringing as I write this. Having founded a bookmarking company in 1999 with pretty much the exact same vision as the new crop of services, I’ve got to feel, well, a little stupid. (or angry, or depressed, or whatever). Maybe writing about it will make me feel better and maybe even help me make a point or two about product development.

As those of us in the eLearning space continue to flesh out our training ecosystems, we’re going to need to be able to concisely advocate things like tags that are going to help our users kick ass.