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Archive for the ‘Social Interaction’ Category

Efficient and Effective Everyday

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In my post Keeping People Involved I made a point about sweating the small things, because that's what people do day-to-day. "When figuring out things to do for a community, think about the daily activities and supplying things to do to keep people involved and having fun." That also goes for teams, groups and individuals. Make the day-to-day a priority in designing how you work, it'll pay off in the long run.

Could I go on for a while about this? Yes, but I won't. The whole idea of the "Getting Things Done" theme is that you learn about ways to make yourself and your group more likely to get things done. It's not about me telling you how to do it. Take a look at these different ways and think about how they could be applied to how you work.

Virtuous Circle:

Open Space:


Sorry about the delay, but the next couple post are already partially done. So, here they come.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

June 2nd, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Misery By Choice

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I like to look into the interesting connection and results of how people think about and approach life. Something that just occurred to me is a cycle that goes from choice to misery. It's understood by many that bad news gets better ratings. The choice to look for bad news means good news is ignored. After a while the bad news is primarily what is seen rather than the good news. Mostly bad news leads to a lack of hope and misery as all around people see the bad and not the good.

There are many little choices we make without thinking about the long range effects. Usually this is due to the immediate situation and sensations. This is but one example. Perhaps if this gets a decent response I'll post about others I notice.

Stimulation Addiction

This is the reason people prefer bad news, it gives them some sort of pleasent stimulation. The reasons vary, but the point is that the motivation is getting stimulation. In some way it makes the person feel better.

Reward Reaction

Like an animal being trained, the person who keeps coming back to the bad news keeps getting their reward. They look for the bad news because it gives them the reward they may not even know they are seeking. This behavior culminates in surrounding one's self with nothing but bad news.

Bad News Blues

The bad news is seen, heard and reiterated till the good is forgotten and ignored. With little to no good in a person's view of reality, hopelessness, despair and misery ensue.

Metaphor Meaning

In a way this is like a drug. Some people dabble with minor effects while others drown in their addiction(s). If the person doesn't want to get out of their lifestyle, there isn't a lot of hope. They have to see and understand the benefit and choose another way of life.

Parallel Application

A student who doesn't want to learn will not learn, and a player who doesn't want to live the experience won't. Truth is that these things are optional growth and the person must in some way "opt in". Games work by the principle of opting in, one of the keys to opening the doors of the mind, that can lead to motivation.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

May 17th, 2009 at 2:09 am

This is Serious Game Design!

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Take it how you like; high quality game design or designing what's known as serious games. The truth is that it's both. I'll admit to being blinded by the math and science game designs that have come far more easily to mind than this kind of game design, but I know when I find quality work. It makes me want to design. Take a look for yourself at this blog post about Brenda's deep game design. That's something that doesn't just educate, it helps you learn and understand.

These are the kinds of things I look for as an artist. Yes, this is being written as an artist, not an educator, designer or anything else. Just reading about her designs and their results brings back the itch to create. I listen to the group Celtic Woman and I want to play music, sing songs and write poetry. It brings back the desire to learn, grow, push myself and most of all to create something worth the effort of creating and consuming repeatedly.

There is an art to game design and teaching that is easily lost even to the masters if they're not careful. Facts are not enough. Even video isn't enough. Let people live the history, the wonder. Yes there are topics like math and science that seem fairly cut and dry, but why not link that knowledge and those skills into the social and historical situations?

The inspiration for Brenda's design direction was teacher her daughter about the slave trade. The numbers from the school lessons distanced the tragedy from the here and now. "So she did what any game designer worth her salt would do: She made a game out of it." - http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/conferences/tgc_2009/6021-TGC-2009-How-a-Board-Game-Can-Make-You-Cry

'Brathwaite assembled a collection of tiny wooden figures, then had her daughter group them into "families." After her daughter was finished, she picked them up by the handful and placed them on a makeshift boat. Her daughter was confused: Why would she take the parents but leave the baby? Why wouldn't brothers stay with their sisters? "No one wants to go," Brathwaite explained. That's when it started to click.

Then Brathwaite devised a primitive resource management mechanic. It took 10 turns for the boat to cross the Atlantic. The boat had 30 units of food. Each turn, the player had to roll a d6, and reduce their food stores by that number. By the trip's halfway point, it was clear to her daughter that her "cargo" wouldn't make it. It wasn't a "fun" game by any means, but it served a different purpose: It helped her daughter intuitively understand the emotional experience of the slave trade, a lesson that numbers on a chalkboard couldn't provide.

At that point, Brathwaite was hooked.' - http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/conferences/tgc_2009/6021-TGC-2009-How-a-Board-Game-Can-Make-You-Cry

For years I've heard people saying why video games are so bad for society. I'll grant that constantly repeating violent behaviors in a way that encourages mindless slaughter is going to desensitize people. After all, look at the news and television. Their content keeps getting worse and worse, like the video games that are following suit, but that's not all video games.

Sometimes we need to be shown atrocities. We need to know they exist. When good becomes commonplace without bad, good looses its meaning. If you don't know its bad, you aren't likely to fix it. If we aren't shown the humanity of those around us, their needs, desires, faults and contributions, it becomes easy to dehumanize them in our minds. Just because somebody is different doesn't mean you are better than they are or that they are a lower form of life.

We also need to be shown hope. How about a follow-up game for the slave trade that covers the Underground Railroad? National Geographic has tried their hands at an Underground Railroad interactive experience. There is a path that leads out of such pits of despair, but usually you have to dig it yourself. That's the truth we need to share, and the fact that it can be done by those with little or nothing to start with except dedication. How about a Sims game that deals with raising public awareness of problems and community organizing?

With a couple simple mechanics Brenda brought the history to life for her daughter, and it's possible to duplicate it. One of the most repeated questions about school topics is when that knowledge will be useful in life, so why not use interactive models to shown them. In military campaigns there are a lot of logistics to be dealt with. I've seriously heard of people having trouble counting change while running a cash register. Make the problem real and interactive. Don't just tell students how it might be useful, show them.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Blogging Carnival

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Looking into the phrase that is the title of this post I learned something. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog_carnival ) It comes pretty close to what I want to do in concept. Yet, there is more to my concept that I'd like to share beyond just what it is. Here's some of the reasons to do it.

Small Projects

This is small project, a concept test and prototype of things to come. Jim Groom and I have been discussing some ideas and this is the first attempt towards those ideas. So, involvement and feedback are important to this event for the sake of improving the concepts, but that's not all.

As a small project, this has several advantages. It is low cost and has high potential ROI (return on investment). Getting involved isn't a big commitment and could result in gaining contacts through doing. (Okay, it's talking, but for this event talking IS doing.) Those kinds of contacts are worth more than most, because they are based on you, not word of mouth, a resume or mere impressions.

Personal Participation

Being a part of this event is about you. There are advantages to participating in activities like this and reasons for helping out. Personally, I wanted to participate so much that when I couldn't find a way to be a part of things to my satisfaction, I decided to create such a way.

Blogging on my own with little feedback seemed like talking to myself. That's not why I blog. Conversations, discussions, ideas, projects and making a difference are the kinds of goals I have when blogging. It's to do my part. Lots of people are trying to find and implement solutions, so it makes sense to try to help more than just myself. That's what this event will hopefully accomplish.

Involving Others

While it is to help others, I want to involve others for a few more reasons too. One is that I can't do this on my own right now. With all the good resources, tools and blogs that can be used, there is little chance I know of more than a tiny fraction. Another is that by working together we can come up with more creative ideas than all of us working separately are likely to come up with in the same time. Plus all those wonderful ideas wouldn't get shared near as much. Openness and co-operation are also key reasons to do this together. It's not about any one person, but rather about all of us working together.

Together we give each other support. Maybe it's technical, maybe it's emotional, but there are times when we all could use the support. Perhaps it's just talking with open minded people. Yet this is not something to keep to those who already have read and learned about these ideas. By posting about good resources, our views and our ideas in this event we will be creating something that others can use.

Generating Resources

This is a central part of an open event like this. Not only is there the discussions and links to other resources, there's also the end result of the whole thing that's available to everybody. From there things like a PDF or e-book can be created that summarizes the discussions, resources, contributors and anything else related that seems like a good idea.

It's a part of helping the whole. Each person does their part to make the event beneficial for other participants and readers. Together we create something that would be a lot harder to create on our own, and has more functionality and lasting usefulness because of the combined effort. That results in the resources that can be shared and reused later. Not only is it helpful and responsible, it's also the same thing we want to see others doing.

Starting Something

So, let's start something interesting. A blog carnival is just the beginning of the plans waiting to be implemented, and they include, nay require, contributions from many people. What's on the way? Well, I'll leave the description at a sharing and discussion mash-up.

A little success and some iteration can create the opportunity for more success. Sometimes that means growing in audience, number of tools and sometimes it means helping smaller versions get going. How far this goes isn't near as important as getting open discussion and co-operation to become more widespread.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

May 1st, 2009 at 1:19 am

Birth Of The EB Blogging Event

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I find it interesting to hear how things came to be. The history gives insight into minds and intentions. So, I'm going to share bits and pieces of how this event came to be, as there is a lot that culminated into this and I don't think you want to read pages when a summary should work.

It starts with my frustration in school as a bright student. Along the way there are stops at projects, discussions and other events. I'll try to keep it relatively short. After all, you can always ask questions if you're interested.

School Day Blues

In school I was usually one of the brightest in any given class. That's not to brag. Teachers told me this in different ways all through school and still do. Sometimes it was telling me not to raise my hand, because they knew I knew the answers. Sometimes it was odd special treatment in other ways. The point is that I was known to be highly talented. That's about as far as it went.

Only a couple of times did that talent actually count for much. With one math teacher I could do the last two or three problems of the homework that require being able to do all the rest, because the rest was so easy to me that I pretty much stopped thinking while doing it. It becomes rather difficult to do calculus when you aren't thinking. I wasn't a problem, so I didn't get the teacher's time.

More than that, there were times when high intellect got me in trouble. What do you do when you disprove a teacher and they get irritated? What do you do when the test questions could be taken three different ways and all three corelating answers are options? What do you do when almost every teacher says they love your work, if only you'd do more, and there isn't enough time to do a lot more? What happens when that high intellect gets derailed by the bad design of the system you're in?

Going It Alone

It didn't take long for me to start having problems in school. One of the earliest was my ability to focus, to which I was allowed to use a walkman and natural sound tapes. That was one of the simplest problems I've had. So, I was motivated to look for solutions, and did.

Unfortunately it was only a few years ago that the solutions started coming together in my mind. For more on those ideas you should read some more of my posts, as this blog was made with the sole goal of moving forward towards getting those ideas made into reality.

As I've said before, I started designing without any help. It was a good start, but the progress wouldn't have gone as well if it weren't for the ideas of others in text, audio and video formats.

I've been making progress on my own, but going solo has it's limitations. For one thing, I don't have a lot of resources. For another, I don't have a lot of experience or technical expertise. Contacts are something I'm collecting, but I want to talk with people about interesting ideas and find people who want to do similar projects so we can help each other.

Open Distributed Conference

So a couple months ago the Open Distributed Conference idea popped up and I have been pushing for it since. I've blogged about it, but here's Jim Groom's post in reaction to the idea, http://bavatuesdays.com/bavacon-or-how-blog-branding-ate-my-soul/ . I'll publicly admit to using the Bava to get this to move forward, and that's fine with Jim. As he put it, "But when we get rid of the idea of Bava from this equation, what Steven is talking about really fascinates me". While I added the Bava to get people involved, he wanted to drop the Bava part and keep going. We are both happy with just moving the idea forward and leaving the Bava out of it.

What it actually is might be a question wandering around your mind, so I'll quote my original description. "Might it be possible to arrange a digital conference thing with no physical location? A mash-up of sorts using different digital communication tools? AV chats, chat room discussions, feeds and more through a portalesque webpage to the individual locations?" Yes, those are questions to answer a question, but that digital mash-up of communication technologies and techniques is the idea. With it people can come together, get food for thought and sit around with each other discussing their thoughts.

Back Channel Discussions

Jim and I have been chatting now and then since about possibilities and musing, but the ideas really didn't seem like they would just start out effective. Without a core group of people I didn't think it would go very well, which is why I was into the idea of an event. Draw people for a small event, start some good discussions and maybe people would come back to see what all we brought in for discussion later.

So while the ideas we had fit together seamlessly, content and audience issues kept nagging at me. I wanted to do an event to draw people and start discussions, but I wasn't sure how to do it. Then I came across the Product Launch Formula ( http://www.productlaunchformula.com/2/blog/?p=57 ) and started putting the pieces together for an event. After a little discussion, Jim said he was in.

Admission of Guilt

Yes, I'm using the PLF on you right now. This is the story element in the suggested line up of communications. Whether or not I did it well doesn't really bother me. Mostly I'm using the "sideways sales letter" idea as a way to better share my thoughts on this event and motivate others to participate. I like how Eliane Alhadeff and Frank Hecker referred to this event through e-mails.

"the whole idea is about generating massive weekly blogging around specific - and innovative - educational themes" - Eliane Alhadeff

"a blog carnival approach" - Frank Hecker

I like playing, especially with interesting ideas. It's even more fun to engage in discussion about interesting ideas and topics with creative, intelligent people. While there are serious parts of this event, I want it to be a lot of fun.

Basically, this whole event is designed to fit a list of goals I have. Benefits, questions and more will come later, as per the "formula", but I'm making several alterations. One big one is the offer. Here it is. You pay me nothing. As in, I'm not selling anything. I put on the event and run it. You participate as much as you want. However, I also warn you now that I like the idea of free bonuses and intend on trying to figure out ways of rewarding significant contribution. One of those ways is the link love (Frank and Eliane just responded quickly and positively to e-mails about this.), but another is the potential for an e-book in some format for the masses. The more your contribution to the discussions, the more people are likely to take an interest in you. (Psst. That's part of why I'm putting this thing on. Hosting a cool event is a BIG credit.)

Seriously, Please Participate

As a student of the system, I'm asking people from different backgrouds to come together and help create proof of interest and helpful resources. Since this is a blogging event, the posts and comments will be online. With enough links back and forth, this could catch people looking for resources on open, engaging education and help them get closer to their goals.

Don't blog, not a problem. Text, audio, video, images, slides and anything that I can include I'm willing to include. If nothing else, I'm willing to post it for you, giving you full credits for it. Commenting is just as important to this event as posting, so a bunch of people who read and comment on posts is fine. Want to talk about it on a forum, go for it, but please share a link to the discussion. I for one plan to do this to try to get more people involved.

I'm doing this because I can't participate in normal physical events like conferences. I've posted about opening up conferences and the reasoning to new kind of conference before. Please join me to make this event more meaningful.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

April 25th, 2009 at 12:38 am

Blog Event Idea

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Jim Groom and I have been discussing a project for a while that is in some ways similar to OLDaily, but at the same time very different. Rather than cover blog posts and other internet occurrences related to learning and education, it's to open up the lines of communication and inspire more creative thought through bringing ideas and points of view together. There's a small problem to the idea, it requires people and content.

So, I was thinking about this and heard about something called the Product Launch Formula. The basic idea is to talk about the need and solution over time rather than cram it into one sitting. This is the difference between a single five page document and five one page documents shared with you over a week. You have time to think about it and it's repeatedly shown to you in new ways. From there I jumped to the idea of a blogging/online discussion event about open engaging learning and education.

Some of the people I've come in contact with immediately come to mind for this; such as a Brenda Brathwaite (Game Designer and Instructor), Ignatia (Mobile Learning), James Gee (Professor who has written a few books about games and learning), Jim Groom (Edupunk, UMW Blogs and Syndication orriented design), Gardner Campbell (Worked with Jim Groom and I find him interesting to follow) and several more. I have no idea who would have the time and interest to participate, so I'm asking them all..

Hopefully it will start some interesting conversations. With different technologies, design styles and points of view there should be plenty to consider from games to platforms to approaches.

This isn't about starting people on new projects, just quality discussions. There are a lot of ideas floating around the internet, and a few people attached to them. Bring them together and there is a good chance the ideas will be mixed in different and interesting ways. This increases the odds of really creative thinking.

To give an idea of what I mean, let's consider some of my ideas. In the vein of resources I thought that open collaboration with a few ways of varying every bit of explanation would be a good idea. In the vein of practice, I saw video games as interactive problem sets. In the vein of communication I saw syndication and multiple ways of displaying the same content. Each of these things is from a different perspective and valid. This came of thinking about the potential of syndication and talking with Jim Groom, who has more than the normal fascination with it.

There are three TED talks that jump to mind for this; Spaghetti Sauce ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIiAAhUeR6Y ), Paradox of Choice ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM ) and School Killing creativity ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY ), in that order. The sauce tells us that we need to test things out, gather practical data and make choices available to the people. The Paradox of Choice says tells us that too many choices is a bad thing on the whole. School Killing Creativity tells us that the current system will not meet the needs of tomorrow. So, what do we do?

I'd say that the answer is pretty simple, iterate. Iterative design is like a wash, rinse repeat cycle for designing anything. Create a prototype, test it, analyze the data and create another version. To experiment we need interested people with ideas to be tested. That's the point of having such a blog event boiled down to it's core, discussing the ideas that can be used in this process. It's even a bit of iteration to me on how we discuss these things.

You might wonder, "What's the point?" Well, experimentation and learning is the point. Even just a summary post with links to other content related to the week's topic would be helpful. Collecting different points of view in perceived time and space increases the likelihood of creative thought. Discussions including those creative thoughts is the goal, but having the resource created would be amazing. Maybe an e-book could be made of a lot of the posts and discussions.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

April 22nd, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Why Should We?

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Why should we put together something that may not amount to anything? Why should we do it when others could do it better? Why should we put effort into this when there are other directions we'd be better at?

Because we can!

This is the explanation form of, "Do what you can." If all you think you can do is talk and share, than do so. Start a blog and see what you can do. You'll probably be surprised what you can do once you start experimenting.

As a child I went to the zoo a couple times and enjoyed it quite a lot. However there was this one time I'm not likely to forget. A little over a hundred feet from the lion's enclosure. My mother was about a hundred feet ahead of me around a corner, when an idea came to mind. Could I get a lion to roar back?

Normally roaring, yelling, would get a kid in trouble. This would be no exception, but maybe my mom wouldn't hear that time went through my head. If the lion roared back it would be worth it.

Normally we wouldn't think a child of five or six years could get a lion to respond to a roar. It's just a little kid. Yet, if I didn't try I'd never know if I could.

Normally a child would get in trouble for disrupting others in a public place. With nobody closer than my mother, it seemed like that wouldn't be a problem.

It seems like a once in a lifetime set-up when I really think about it. How often does the opportunity, awareness, idea, boldness and ability come together? ow often does that lead to something lasting?

When I think about that, it makes sense how few efforts are actually started. Getting people together to talk about delicate information is hard. Finding possible partners is about as hard. Finding quality partners is even harder. Everybody is asking "Why should we?"

Paying attention to possible risk is good, but that shouldn't make you shackled by fear. If only the best are to do something, we'd be way understaffed and experience would be near impossible to obtain.

If you don't do it, who will?

Does it need to be done? Do it, or do your part to make it happen. Just because your efforts might not do much directly doesn't make it not worth doing. Just because others could do it better doesn't mean they will be enough, or even try. Just because you might do better at something else doesn't mean the task before you is any less needed.

Yet there is more to this than just doing what is needed, because there will always be those things and people standing in your way. There is no end to the obstacles that will stand in front of you; defying your goals and dreams. They will say it's impossible.

It would be a few years before people started saying that to my face. I don't boast about the victory I'm about to have. I don't insult them, or tell them about what they are doing. Instead I tell them, "Just watch." If I fail, I fail. If I succeed, I succeed. Had I been confronted before letting rip with a roar, that phrase might have entered my life earlier.

Experiment to learn, and learn you shall.

Just because you aren't good at something isn't a reason not to do it. The fact that you can do it okay is more of a reason to do it than not. When you're not good at something there is usually plenty of room to learn. It can motivate others who are more skilled/talented/whatever than you to help out. If you haven't done it before, there is a ton to learn about the activity and your reaction to it.

The point of the phrase "just watch" is that they don't know for sure what will happen, same as me. Even 1% chance of victory is enough if you're that 1%. Somebody has to be it. It could be me. I won't know till I try. You won't know till you try. They won't know till we try.

Standing there alone I roared with all I had to get a response from those lions. No real reason to believe I could, except that I believed. In response to a little child's effort, a lion roared back a challenge. If something needs doing, do your part, because you might be that person nobody has reason to expect something from, but still gets a reaction.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

April 21st, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Social Interaction

Designing Systems For Sharing

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Recently I came across somebody voicing a view I've held for a while; systems and features help shape community behavior. Normally that is called emergent behavior (indirect results) and social engineering (direct act to get results). I find it interesting as a topic of game design. Thus, I find it interesting as a topic for designing learning environments and communities.

So, sharing is a behavior that can be designed into systems and features. Attribution, citation and quotation all go hand-in-hand for this. All three are preferred behaviors in a sharing culture and correspond to rewards, open connections and actions. Put them together with some technology and you might get what I'll refer to as an ODSCS ( Open Distributed Social Content System ). Please note the lack of management in that acronym. Applied to learning it could be called a Social LCMS.

I've been working on a similar post and decided this should be it's own post after reading Jim Groom's response to a comment of mine. Those are in the comment's of Articulating the Bus post at Bavatuesdays, related to the Mozilla Open Education Course.


Attribution works as a built-in, self-balancing reward system. You did it, so you should get credit for it, be it good or bad. Being an open system, I do expect people to lie, cheat and steal, but some call me cynical. Fortunately there are ways to counteract those less desirable behaviors.

Basicly, it's a matter of digital identity and branding. While you should be on the look out, you can make it obvious which things are official via an official website. If it links back to a copy on the official website it's official.


Citation is how the attribution actually counts. By linking back to the official version and giving the correct information about the authors, the readers have plenty of information to work with. They can find out how authentic and new the resource is. They can find out who writes materials they like and don't like.

You can become known for creating resources, finding resources and/or sharing resources. All these need citation to really take off. After all, somebody needs to tell others about your greatness. That's verbal citation.


Quotation is how your resources are shared. Attribution is the rewards and citation the connections, but neither is worth much if nobody talks about the resources. That's where quotation comes in. Even paraphrasing with links is a form of quotation with citation. Another name would be sharing, the act of sharing.

If you can make quotation with accurate citation easy, you've accomplished something great. That's how you get people into sharing. Better than that it's sharing and creating connections with a built-in, self regulating reward system. There are rewards for sharing and creating resources, and the tools to share them, but not much in the line of compatibility and ease.


Yes, I just said that those tools out there are not easy to use. Why? Most don't give growth paths. Tutorials are talk that will be forgotten. Videos aren't much good either. You need action. For instance, it would be cool to have a quotation add-on or plug-in for browsers and programs. Highlight, quote and have all the citation information, meta-data, there for easy use. Unknown works as an answer.

What kind of growth path was that? It's a sharing growth path. A button at the bottom of a blog post or wiki page that reads, "Quote Me!" or something would be a good start. It's done in BBforums to get people to make quoting within the system easier, but what about a web-quote button?


Standardized Open Distributed Technologies could be the answer. It's possible to use things like YAML and XML for quotes and cross-platform compatibility. That's the kind of thing that would make a syndication based design possible and easy to use. That's an option for creating systems and programs that are designed to help people share.

Syndication is a beautiful tool for these efforts, because it is a way for different technologies, programs and platforms to communicate in an automated fashion. The same discussion becomes visible in multiple locations on the web for multiple communities. It could also be possible to create a program, browser expansion, service and/or webpage that is just for the conversations on the web that you're interested in and those that you're a part of. Hopefully you're interested in the conversations you're a part of. More on this later.


This is the type of technology an ODSCS would have to be to really work the way I'd like it to. Personally, I have three details to the concept I'd like to have in the design; an open distributed wiki behavior, a file and file system organization scheme and a small & open back-end implementation. Here's why.

I want an open distributed wiki behavior. First this is for collaboration, cooperation and sharing. Each source of resources in the system then can point to each other and pull from each other. Second, this allows for branding and quality assurance. Identity and integrity can be maintained while still giving access to a greater collection of resources. Third, there isn't a dependence on a single, central repository of knowledge. If Wikipedia went down, it'd be bad. This idea is naturally redundant and creates back-ups of itself through emergent social behaviors, kinda like Lenix.

I want to use files and file system organization rather than a "program". First, this doesn't require downloading a program, because the tools can be online. Second, all your data is easily navigable in it's natural format. Third, if YAML, or something similarly easy to read is used, the content could just be saved and used as is without a special viewing software. Fourth, people could create an organized set of notes, lists, resources etc for themselves using the same tools. Fifth, a file system design is compatible with the internet, because the internet uses the files systems of servers. I know this because of my studies and helping set up sites.

I want it to be a small, open back-end thing. This is the KISS ( Keep It Stupid Simple ) version of the things that will come of it. ( Just to reiterate, it's "Stupid Simple", not "simple, Stupid". The first is very simple, while the other is simple and insulting. ) Many people have made variants on Lenix from the basic version years ago that came from Unix. That's the kind of community development I would like to see.

The point of the Open Distributed Social Content System is to make the resource collections interoperable and able to cooperate with each other for the benefit of all. Companies want to share how their products can be used. Consumers want to find solutions to their needs and wants. Others try to bring those people together. That's in the business world. Then there are things like education, communities and other directions such a content system could be helpful in.

The why is pretty obvious to me, but that's because I've been looking at this stuff for a while.


Here are some interesting and related things I've found:



At the moment it seems like mixing OnePress with WordPress Wiki functionality would give the best of the Blog/Wiki/Forum capabilities at the least effort. I used to think it would be a forum base that would be the easiest, but I haven't seen the progression towwards the merger in forum design that I've seen in Blog design. I've posted about this idea a few times ( Forum Wiki Concept and Open Communication Platform ) and still think it is the big direction to go when it comes to this stuff. Only now I've got another thing to add to the picture, distributed. I'll get to why this is so cool after going over the blog/wiki/forum concept.

If you think about it, the blog and forum match almost perfectly. Starting a thread is the same as posting a blog post. In the comments, discussions happen in response to the initial post. Tags and subforums are very similar, though tags are more flexible. Well, what if you could have a blog post and it's comment feed in an organized forum structure for you're own access to the discussions going on? Maybe create a redirection and syndication based interaction format?

Then there is the wiki to mix into the idea. Each "comment" and "thread post" could be compared to a version of a wiki page. Then there is the category way of organizing wiki pages, which is very similar to what I would consider a combination of subfuroms and tags.

So, what does the distributed concept add to this? First is the multiple views of communication being realized in functional design. The individual only looks at certain parts of the whole set of communication. Some of it they just look at, while other parts are continually watched. The group view is the combination of the actions and views of the many individuals, which you normally see on the social sites. Simply put, that's a built-in personalized interface that works the same as subscribing to forum threads and being e-mailed when new comments are made on a blog post.

Second, distributed structures are not dependent on the central structure, but work together like a community, or team, of structures. So, if any particular structure goes down the rest are still stable and functional.

Third, distributed structures encourage smaller groups to participate. Creating your own version of resources and resources for your own use are ways that the individual and small group might use a structure that allows such behavior. Now think about sites like W3Schools.com. They have a lot of materials that could be useful for walkthroughs and tutorials, but how do you access the information right now? The answer is links. That's nice for a blog post with quotes, but it could be easier to use. As one of many resources with it's pieces nicely quotable, and repurposible, those making the guides and tutorials can quote W3Schools and create a public resource with their name(s) on it. It then isn't just a webpage, but also usable in a webpage or service.

Fourth, this might be easily done using syndication-based architecture. Here are some posts on that interesting direction.


Here are a few links that might be interesting to those who have read this far.


Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

April 13th, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Feedback Please

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So, I have probably twenty or more posts in different states of completion on different topics. While this blog is in part for myself, it's also for others. That's why I'm asking my readers to tell me what they think. If you have topics you'd like to see posts dealing with, you should just ask. I've made a post or two in response to comments that were just asking simple questions. If asked for a post on a topic, it's very likely I'll post about that topic within the week.

The other thing is I'm curious about who is reading this blog. I know a few of my readers, and that's it. With 30 - 35 people following this blog and 20 people following me on Twitter, I'm curious about the audience I've attracted. Who are you, and why do you find me so interesting?

I'm serious. While I may be fairly introverted, I do like to socialize. Knowing that people find my writing interesting is a motivating factor for me. Getting mentioned on OLDaily got me stoked. It's become a goal of mine to create posts that get mentioned in Stephen Downes' newsletter.

Better than just talking, I love intelligent discussions. When introduced to new topics I'll do hours of research on the topic just to learn more about it. Have an interesting design challenge, question or just like to discuss as much as I do? Be great to hear from you.

In my post Keeping People Involved I covered a few points. In conflict resolution I said to ask before you explode and to be nice to everybody. Well, I'm asking for your feedback on this blog and have tried to be nice to everybody I've come across. In things to do I said to sweat the small stuff, not the big stuff. This blog was created in the hopes of sharing my thoughts and showing that I know something on the topics I claim to know about. That's the big picture stuff, not the small scale stuff that leads to those grand goals. My readers and the responses to my efforts are the small matters that are vitally important to achieving the big goals. The show and tell points cover the fact that I share these thoughts on a blog that is not likely to have much down time and doesn't require any subscriptions or registration to gain access.

Suggestions, questions, critiques and any other form of feedback would be nice. Sharing is something I work at for ideas like I blog about. With about fifty people who are following me in some way, I'd like to hear back from those I haven't heard from before.

If I'm the only voice here, this quickly becomes a lonely and boring task for me. I'm not a journal writer or a research paper writer. Poems and fiction are what I like to write and draw. Of those, only a few do I really put effort into recording on paper. Fewer yet do I share publicly. That's why I'd like to hear from those who have decided to follow me. I like the idea of socializing and discussing what comes up in the posts, or seems relevant to this blog. So, like I said, "Who are you, and why do you find me so interesting?"

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

April 12th, 2009 at 1:05 am

Posted in Social Interaction

Mozilla Open Education Course is GO!

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The course will be starting up this Thursday, April 2nd. Hopefully I'll be on time for the I was one of several people to sign up for Mozilla's Open Education Course. Well, they announced their selection of participants, and I'm one of the chosen few. (Always fun to say. :P ) More specific, I am one of six participants that are classified as having "Web 2.0 Mash-up" projects.

To keep up to date with my participation in the course, I'll share the feed for the posts. Hopefully it works.
Feed URL: http://blog.igenoukan.com/feeds/posts/default/-/MozOpenEdCourse
Hashtag: #MozOpenEdCourse

So this is perhaps not as open as it could be, but it is very open and accommodating. The limited number of official participants seems like the students who are getting credit for an open course. Since the seminars, wiki and blogs posts are open to the public in different ways, it makes sense. I think live attendance to the seminars and some other benefits are limited to the official participants. That's fine to me, because they are limiting their promises. Everything else is extra.

I'm looking forward to this as a way to learn and make contacts. As I said, I'm one of six who's projects are classified as "Web 2.0 mash-ups", so there are five others doing similar stuff. Then there are the others who are participating in this course. If things go really well, I might get some people interested in working with me. A few old servers, some knowledgeable help and connections would make accomplishing my ideas a whole lot easier.

For more information on this course you can head over to the Mozilla wiki. The participants, outline and description are all there.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

March 30th, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Opening Up Conferences

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I was participating in the end of a forum discussion event, Serious Games Jam, when somebody said, "If you are at GDC this month I would buy you at least a coffee!". The Game Developers Conference is one conference out of many that I would like to attend and am unable to do so. It has nothing to do with who I know, or what people think of me. As that one person shows, there are some who would like to sit and chat with me. No, the entirety is that I cannot pay the attendance fee, pay for travel or pay for staying someplace. Maybe there aren't many others like myself, but I'm surely not alone. How could I attend a conference in a meaningful way? That's what I would like to cover in this post so others can see what is possible.

I'm thinking that I'd first have to be able to find out which conferences are available to people such as myself. This is because I don't have a reason to look for conferences. I currently can't attend them. So having a single place to look to find out which conferences are open to digitally attending, and to what extent, would be really useful. More than one and we'd have a way to reach many demographics for many kinds of conferences.

Second, I'm thinking it would be good to have lessons learned from such conferences and their interactions shared for the benefit of other efforts in this direction. This way the continued efforts become part of a distributed iterative design effort. We learn from each other to progress farther, faster.

Third, any conference that is open to digital attendees should link to the sites and sources that tell about their openness. This is not just being nice, but a way to help each other.

As Danial Livingstone put it in a comment, "A large part of any conference is the coffee break chat and random mixing." I not only agree whole-heartedly, but want to find a way to facilitate this. Honestly, I'm not sure yet how to do this. It's a high priority to me. Maybe it's a little absurd to dream of something like a speaker phone at every table at a physical conference, but it would be nice to have the atmosphere and conversations between events happening. I'd love to hear some ideas on achieving this in a digital scenario that doesn't require 3D virtual worlds. Better yet would be a way to have people in totally different environments chatting with each other, but like I said, I'm not sure how to do that right now.

These are normal for a physical conference and important to even a fully distributed conference. This is what makes it an event. This is what makes it special. The schedule holds the key to it all, and is the first step towards understanding the true potential of the idea. I'm going on at length about how important the schedule is to get your attention. Here's where we get to the meat, after the appetizer and salad of course.

When you have to rearrange your schedule to attend an event you are dedicating time for it. You become more receptive, because you are investing time into the event. Things that you can access at anytime become normal, and can be put off. Other things are pushed aside, pushed out of your mind to focus on the event at hand.

Then there is the effect of grouping the pieces of the event, like gathering coals in a fire. While they may continue on their own, the heat they put off is not the same. This is why having a scheduled event is so important.

So you dedicated your time, and can chat with people during breaks, but it's still not the same. Well, there is a possibility that opens up through remote viewing, remote venues. Who's ever heard of a conference that is being held in multiple locations at the same time? That's what I'm talking about. Local venues allow people to have the conference with those of similar interest locally.

How about chatting with people at three different locations at once? Text, voice, video it's all possible. By using the communication tools available we can facilitate discussions between different locations while they still are participating in their local conference. Wait, there's more.

There are social sites where one might organize discussions and viewings, plus other options. While these people are not in the same location, they can still participate in something similar. What could I mean? Forums, Teamspeak, networking sites, Ning, Moodle, blogs, Second Life and the list goes on for a while. Each have their advantages and disadvantages. All can be used by people far away from each other to have conversations during an event.

Taking the schedules and remote venues we can see how the numbers might increase and how discussions might be multiplied many times in the matter of seconds. So, when the discussions start popping up in real life and on the internet, more people are up-to-date. Those who want to get up-to-date or join in have the ability at their fingertips. With more who can participate, the number who will is likely to increase, or at least more will be informed about the interesting things going on.

Those that are working on solutions can be aware of others working on the same problems. Partnerships could be born out of those common goals. When one effort goes down, the remnants could be picked up by another effort, even if it is just people. A lot is possible with better communication.

Presentations, conversations, comments, reactions and revisions all distributed to those interested enough to pay attention. If we want people to know about what we are doing and talking about, then we need to give away the information, not hoard it or discuss it in places where few know to look. More than that, taking those things and putting them together where potentially interested parties will look increases the chance of being picked up.

There are many people who have no clue these discussions are going on. How many students? How many teachers? How many parents? If we don't get the information to them, who will?

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

March 9th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Improving the User to Improve the System

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Okay, so those who have been keeping tabs on me recently would know I'm working on getting an open, digitally distributed convention thing going. Why then am I talking about improving the user?

Another recent post talked about using video games for meditation. Perhaps a little odd to most, but here's the basic idea. What works for a person depends on them. Profound, isn't it? So, how do we help users become better users without improving what we give them? For the answer, continue reading.

An idea that popped into my head, after looking into the MBTI and Enneagram, was that true meditation is reaching a mental state where ones thoughts, emotions and instincts are under control. In other words, reaching a state of high self-control.

When I consider the problems in society, classrooms and such, I find that self-control to be lacking. People refuse to do what would help them because of fear. People placing more importance on pleasure and sensation than ethics. To me it sounds like the kinds of problems found in education, or one side of it.

Please note, I'm not saying the systems should not improve, they should. It's just that they can handle only so much. If people refuse to use them, they are not effective, no matter how well they were designed. So, the user has to take some responsibility for their actions. How horrible?

NOTE: That question was sarcastic.

Now, if you take in the full possibilities for meditation, you could fill a school up with different varieties. Even video games can be used for meditation, if done right. What type is up to you, but if you cannot control yourself enough to study, you'll be in trouble.

Speaking of filling a school up with meditation, let's think about that. Most approaches to life have something that can be considered meditation. There are different kinds of religious meditation from prayer to studying one's holy book, if one has such a book. Sitting in place using breathing patterns is just one way to do it. So, what would happen if before school, all students and faculty took 5 - 10 minutes to gain composure and control? Would they do better?

While I don't expect an entire school to do that, for numerous reasons, individuals can try it. Groups of like-minded people could try a form that works for the group. I know I use it when I'm having trouble maintaining focus or getting too exited. Then I can do better.

So perhaps, while the systems are trying to improve themselves the users should give some though to their own improvement. Take some responsibility for yourself and stop giving so many excuses.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

March 2nd, 2009 at 9:23 pm

ODD-CON Reasoning

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This post is in response to questions about in the comments of This Post, and from Jim Groom. Before going further I will warn you all that I may get more emotional than usual, being that I'm having trouble getting this idea's reasoning into linear writing.

There are many reasons I see for having a digitally distributed conference format, especially on learning in the way people have been trying to promote at several of the conferences I know of. So, let's got on with this, after you read, or reread, this post. I don't intend to pull any punches either.

First off, I'm surprised at the resistance to the idea. Economic pressures are hitting those who would normally go to these conferences, so having a lower cost to attend makes sense just as a means of keeping those conferences alive and well. Most conferences are walled gardens as securely locked as the LMSes being condemned for the same behavior. Seemed to me this would have been obvious, and enough, to pursue the idea.

I'm one of those students that would like to be a part of the discussions. Right now I'm yelling with all my might to be allowed to participate, and being asked, "Why? What's the point?" Well, you asked for it, so here it is. I've read about many conferences like E3, the GDCs, Virtual World Conferences, Mobile learning conferences, Northern Voice, GLS and many others that I have no way to possibly participate in. I'm stuck as a passive content consumer, when I even have that option, and it's ticking me off. After hearing people want to hear from people like me, I'm shut out of the real events. I'm just too determined to make my ideas reality to care if you are standing in my way.

Blogging just DOESN'T cut it as participation. I'm a student, a game designer, a full time employee, potentially the User Interface & Experience designer for a start-up, an educational entrepreneur and that leaves little time for me or blogging, let alone the social blogging needed to participate in the discussions. Each of those things I listed are completely seperate endeavors. People like me CAN break into circles and get mentioned in OLDaily, but most of the people who need to be hearing about this stuff aren't going to push themselves into your conversations for long enough to really count. The proof is in the history of these efforts. I've read such sentiments from several edubloggers.

How many people in the educational institutions are actually participating in a way comparable to Jim Groom? I know there are some out there, but most of these people are not connected. It would cost a fair amount for an institution to be fully participating in the blogsphere, and most of them would ask, "Why? What's the point?" Hmmm, sounds familiar.

If you want people outside your circles to participate, you have to take it to them. You have to give them a chance to see what's really going on, without all the press and other noise. I want to participate in the conventions and other events and am locked out by the restrictions. How many others like me do you think there are who don't even consider going to a convention, let alone several, due to the costs involved from time to money? How many more are just curious or don't know these events go on? These people are the ones who need to know this is going on for this to serious catch on and happen like a grassroots effort. Many of the serious don't have the time to put into the blogsphere to be a part of your conversations.

So, why would I say an Open Digitally Distributed Convention is the answer? That is because of the nature of a convention. People come intending to think about the topics. They choose to devote an acceptable amount of time to the event. So, they are intentionally receptive.

Those receptive people then participate in ways beyond passive content consumption in the present. Spontaneous talks in the hallway can be done through chats and in local venues. Meeting people who you might actually be able to work with locally doesn't happen at a normal convention, but could in the kind I am suggesting. That means it facilitates small local projects, networking and the generation of new ideas.

Then there are those who can't attend in a traditional way. You don't know how many people don't attend who would blow your mind with potential solutions they don't do anything with. Digital distribution and multiple viewing venues means that these people have options. Maybe they will participate in your local chats while watching the same interactive presentations. Maybe they will arrange, or participate in, viewing and venues with no physical location.

Institutions can become actively active in these kinds of events just by allowing those interested to use their facilities. Students and teachers, along with other faculty and maybe even some policy makers will watch or participate. I for one intend to approach the college I attend about local open venues for this if, no WHEN, it comes to pass.

I realize most of those who have criticized and questioned are not being aggressive or accusatory, but this is a serious sore spot for me. When I want to participate, I get told one thing or another about why I can't do it. Normally I'm nice, quiet and just keep at it. My usual verbal response is, "Just watch." Then I proceed to do what was said to be impossible. This isn't like those times because to go forward I have to get others to understand why I am so determined. I suspect and hope that somebody less connected to this will do a nicer toned recap. I'm not that person, and these feelings are just as much of the reason for my determination as the logic. Others who want to help are likely just as foamy at the mouth.

Even if the normal conference venue is only changed in doing live feeds for the event, open chats and other such things, it would be great. By using the ideas and techniques that are talked about we do many things. We gives examples, proof, guidance, ideas, inspiration, permission and much more regarding social motivation for people to emulate the model. The more the model is emulated, the more it is likely to be considered acceptable, eventually leading to a paradigm shift. That's how they usually happen.

I know there are a bunch of logistics to be worked out. I've already figured out some of the answers. First is that we need ways, plural, to guide people to find these events and resources. Links to and from convention sites and blogs should work with the mechanics of internet searches to make those sites easy to find. Second, we need to supply the help for individuals, groups and institutions to participate like was done in the Obama campaign. I want to use a URL I have in providing such a place, but I don't have the hosting or anything else needed to do this. That's part of why I posted something on Jim Groom's blog. People who know the things I don't could be reached through it. Third we need somebody dedicated, capable and crazy enough to pull this off, even if they are nothing more than a figure head. Fourth, each place takes care of itself, each presentation takes care of itself, with outside help when needed. This both gives people experience in organizing and distributes the demands of such an endeavor to the point that it can be free at the higher levels and possibly free at every venue.

This is no delusional dream. I'm not fooled into thinking this is going to go off without a hitch or have all campuses participate. However, as I said to Jim, "If we intrigue those who influence the circles, and those who want to participate without knowing how, I'll call it a success regardless of numbers." This is a catalyst event. You may look around and wonder how it is any different for your circles, but I look at this as the ability to be a part of those circles. I want in, and I want others to be able to get in.

If you want to know just how persistent, determined and factually backed I am, read up on my MBTI personality type, INTJ. If need be, I'll captain this ship, go down with it and resurface just because I'm that way. While I don't like taking charge, if I see no other way, I will.


There's some really funny stuff in those, but I may be a little biased.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

February 28th, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Strangled by Apathy

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Simply put it is not the opposition that kills and stops wonderful possibilities, it's a lack of help. A person held back by the fear of failure is just as hindering as the person who watches the opposition with approval.

While working on a programming project by my self I once again felt the itch of poetry in the back of my mind. This is what happened.

One Less Hero
By Steven Egan

Blood marks the spot where
his head meets the wall

He does it again
in front of them all

Pain doesn't stop him
his will pushes through

doubters and scorners
not sure what he'll do

there's blood at his feet
more drops hit the ground

three people step out
from those gathered round

they come to his side
as if to support

three blades pierce his back
three grin at their sport

he throws back his head
yells with all his might

slams his head once more
with his will to fight

it shudders and cracks
the wall might not hold

if only again
he could be so bold

his head hits the ground
they all walk away

"See, it can't be done"
is all they will say

It's not for lack of effort or will that the person falls, but rather the lack of support. If another came to help him get up, what would happen? If somebody continued his fight, what would happen? Just because one person can't do something doesn't mean it can't be done. It means it takes more than that one person.

I don't care whether it's group mechanics, teamwork, game projects or in education, this still holds. There will be opposition, but will there be support? If you think something is worthwhile, give at least some positive feedback. If a colleague is having trouble, lend a hand. Sometimes all it takes is a passing smile and positive comment for the key person to continue the fight. So once again I ask, how are you working towards the future?

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

February 23rd, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Social Interaction


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Over at Jim Groom's Bavatuesdays blog he posted that he wouldn't be attending Northern Voice, however the comment discussion is the interesting part. Comments of not being able to attend due to finances occurred several times, and got me thinking. Since I can't attend any such conferences, be they learning or game oriented, I'd like to see a conference made where people can attend digitally. The next comment, by Bryan Alexander, asked, "Is it time for ... Bavacon?"

That's how it started, a monster I may have helped create. Well, I intend to do so again. Jim responded to the discussion with, "You’re all maniacs! And if you all are serious about bavacon, I’ll have my people call your people and we’ll sort out a figure for my appearance. It’s gonna be big, and I ant a personal assistant and a driver, and I have a special menu as well. Additionally, you’ll each have to write a post for me, 500 words or more, explaining why the bavacon is the best idea you have ever read on the internets." So, I'm writing a post, at least 500 words, explaining why Bavacon is the best idea I've ever read about on the internet. Strangely enough, at the moment, I think it might be true.

First I shall share my comment which might have triggered this string of events.

"Might it be possible to arrange a digital conference thing with no physical location? A mash-up of sorts using different digital communication tools? AV chats, chat room discussions, feeds and more through a portalesque webpage to the individual locations? If needed I have a domain that would work well for this, and this goes right along with my plans for it. Unfortunately I don’t have the hosting or know-how to do that, or I would.

Kinda makes me think of the live twitter feed Downes had displayed during a presentations you told me about, and other such presentations I’ve come across. If some of us could pull that off, it might be just what we need to give more people access to the great events that go on.

As a person who doesn’t have the option to go to any of those events, this is a dream of mine. If I can’t go to the event, I’d like the event to come to me."

So why might Bavacon be the greatest idea I've read about on the internet?

First is the timing. With the economy problems, travel budgets are shrinking. The technologies to be used are easily accessible and widely varied. People are taking a serious interest in education and distance education. That interest is starting to wane due to other pressures. So, having a digital conference, possibly with a physical location, could start a wave of accessibility to learning conferences. With some interest in pushing the conference model into the Web 2.0 and other interests in improving conferences, now could very well be the best time for such an experiment

Second is the draw. The Bava is a collection of creations by Jim Groom, who has plenty of contacts and could likely draw a crowd. That means the first event could be a big success. That would increase the chances of other conferences following suit. It also means that the word would spread, where if I were to try to do this there wouldn't be the draw to make it work.

Third is the accessibility. Jim is a serious advocate of accessibility in learning, be it in tools, materials, opportunities or software. So I don't doubt he would try to make the Bavacon accessible to the masses. This also came out of a discussion on not being able to attend conferences and events, so it isn't just Jim's ideals. It's also the direction this thing started in.

Fourth is the potential. This is where it becomes important. The timing of this could make this a big event in the learning circles. The draw of him and his contacts could add to the bigness of the event. An accessible learning conference would mean that teachers, educators, students and the masses could attend. Together that makes for a potentially huge event where students, teachers and policy makers can attend and possibly participate. Yet that is just the tip of the ice burg.

Local viewings and discussions are a possibility. In a single chat room it is hard to deal with 50 or more people. Yet if you have up to around 20 people in a discussion it is entirely possible.

Live and archived videos, twitter, RSS feeds, live and archived audio, chat rooms and live physical viewings or the video with discussion sessions afterward are all possibilities. That's all interaction and starting conversations.

Lastly, it's possible to do and get real results in a matter of months. Maybe it doesn't have all the brilliance of some things I've read about. Yet it also doesn't require the massive incubation period of other concepts. It's a step in what I consider the right direction.

Maybe this isn't the best post for me to resume blogging with, and maybe it doesn't get across the potential greatness I see in this idea. However, I'm happy with it and the idea. Truly I hope this, or something like it, happens soon so I can attend and be a part of moving things forward.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

February 18th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Commercial Resource Repurposing

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There have been several places I've read concern for the learning market being commercialized to death. Fears and concerns that have a history of coming true. So, I'm wondering if we can suggest ideas that would work for the commercial interests and help guide them in the right direction.

At the moment there are many franchises and resources that could be used to create games of a more educational nature. There are a few I see that I'll discus here.

Repurposing Resources

With all those resources at their disposal, it makes sense to me to allow indies to experiment with potentially commercial projects. What do I mean by that? Simply put, there are a lot of people who want to learn and a lot of people who want to do. Those people could be offered non-paid positions with access to resources, to make prototypes, work samples and gain experience. These people would also be easy to screen for potential employees. So, it is beneficial for everybody and would likely cost very little for the potential gains to the company.

The important thing to realize here is that there are tons of old resources that pretty much aren't useful to the current commercial products. It's likely there are organizations willing to run some of thee programs. Some of these resources are available on the internet, so why not take that and make it official? It's been done before and has resulted in popular Mods. Some are simpler, but others have been rather impressive stand alone games.

Then there is the potential for educational use of those resources. Done properly, it could be both a plug for the franchises and useful in education. (If anybody reading this has an opening I would be happy to be a part of such a project. Okay, my plug is done. Back to the scheduled blog post.)

Concerned Combat

Star Wars, Halo and other similar franchises can be used for a more realistic resource management game. The idea is to take the FPS (first person shooter) gameplay, RTS (real time strategy) and resource management game mechanics and combine them. Truth is that many franchises could use this idea to do really cool things.

So let's get to the details of the idea. The player is in charge of a military force with a standing order requiring several missions. These missions are not separated like usual. Instead you maintain your resources through till you've achieved your goal, or failed. So if there is a native village, you can help them to gain more support and resources. This isn't a battle game. This isn't a simple combat game. It's a complicated game forcing the player to deal with the aftermath of battle to win the next.

I think it would be a great challenge to those who are masters of the RTS and FPS games. Can you command your troops, make snap decisions and maintain your resources in such a way that you can win the next battle? What do your superiors think of your performance? In the Star Wars franchise I envision the Jedi frowning on harming the villagers and the Sith frowning on wasting opportunities. Whether you are selfish or unselfish, it makes sense to build up your resources and use them responsibly. Considering the times, I think this would not only get gamers excited about the depth of gameplay and challenge, but get accolades from society about games encouraging the player to think about the realities of combat and have such a focus on community organizing.

Hidden Help

Harvest Moon is a game franchise that I've both played and watched people play. In it you maintain a farm and help the village to prosper. To me it would make for a great economy game. By playing as a person sent in to help some small towns become prosperous again, you have the potential to practice business and economy lessons, without the risk to your bank account. Three towns make up my envisioned game, a ranch town, a farm town and a crafting/artisan town.

The potential learning for this game goes far beyond that mentioned above. If you stick to the usual elements of a Harvest Moon game, and add some more, you can give a lot of information in small pieces. However the key to this is NOT taking care of your own farm. Instead you do odd jobs and help out the people in the different towns. With a little business sense you can turn a profit by supplying people with what they need. However, sometimes you should be willing to sacrifice immediate profits for potential future profits. Donating to businesses in trouble, or selling to them at a discount could be what keeps them operating. If it was an animal you owned and it got sick, you'd take care of it. Why, because it's beneficial. There's also the moral views on this, but I'm talking business and economy here.

You might be wondering what's so great about that particular game franchise for this. Well, here are some of the reasons I see. Animal products are obtained through purchasing or ranching. Produce is obtained through purchasing or farming. There is crafting and cooking in the game franchise. Shipping certain kinds of products brings related people into town, like any place known for a certain kind of industry or trade. Befriending people earns you benefits. All in all, it has most of what I see as needed for this idea. Though there is a lot of adjusting to make it work.

While there are more possibilities, I think this is a good place to stop for now. For something a little different, but similar, take a look at "Public Pedagogy through Video Games". It's a good article that was mentioned in OLDaily.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

January 24th, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Designing a Classroom Game Support System

without comments

There are several challenges to be faced when supporting players as learners. From the game industry side this is really the same set of challenges normally faced, but their approaches make sense as a support for students.

In this I will also be explaining some of my reasoning and direction for things like the content module and the bigger initiative I have in mind. Hopefully this will clear some things up.

Basic Idea

If we take a moment to think about the references used by gamers we will see a rather redundant and scattered set of materials made by different sources. FAQs, guides and other gamers are the a good place to start. Then there are the booklets, box text and in-game help that come with games, depending on the medium and condition of the game.

Besides all the great learning and teaching principles involved, the resources are easily expanded to contain relevant education references. Easy and effective sounds good to me for educational resources. Scattered, semi-redundant and user generated sounds a lot like Web 2.0 to me.

More Depth

There are sites with discussion boards, wikis and other similar resources to those available to the gamers, only for learners. These are all natural efforts that live and die by Darwinian rules. The strong resources survive, but the measure of strength is not just the quality of the materials. It also includes the community of people who support the site from webmasters to repeat viewers and those who guide others to the resource.

The reason is that those resources are social educational resources. This is in stark contrast to the standard view of techs, designers, artists and many other creative views of what should and should not survive. The success by which these resources are measured is partially social, such as acceptance and effective use.

That view is also very different from normal resources that students are to use. Textbooks are NOT social, thought they can be used in a social way. This natural growth of the resource and support designs shows us a good view of what to optimize our designs for.

Applying Concepts

I'm not going to say I know the best way to do this, but I can share my thoughts and processes. Reverse engineering of the optimal idea (to me) was my start. Many, low cost, high quality educational games is what seemed like the optimal idea. That requires many things.

To accomplish that first requires somebody equally comfortable with teaching as game design, and near unstoppable in both, if not brilliant. This person, or people, would be the catalyst required to keep the general populace following nicely. That's needed to give people direction and a social glue to keep people together. (Yes I am trying to be one of these people, if not THE person. Somebody has to do it.)

Several communities, interconnected by individuals multiple memberships. These communities are a singal way to organize and view the social networks, based on skills and interests such as programming, teaching and game design. These are not to be the only or biggest communities, but rather give the overall network quality and quantity of contacts into related fields. Games, learning, technology and education are just some general ideas of related fields.

Many teams of people from different skill fields are needed to create the content that gives value to the network to the participants. This is a big deal. It gives cross field contacts, hands-on experience and accomplishments, content for other teams to use and even more.

Then there are all the resources; references, art, audio, tools, code and more needed by developers to implement the many great ideas out there for interactive,engaging education.

Content Module

To me this is the first step, a completely open content module that is compatible with most computers and platforms. That's because the bits of content made by many need to be easily, legally usable by others. References for designers, developers and different kinds of users is also needed in a remixable way.

The idea came from the resources used in, and outside, a game. For a learning game to be effective, players need to have access to really good references. For efficiency, these shouldn't have to be redone each and every time a game includes curricular content.

So a library of open educational resources formatted in a single standard XML schema would be logical for this effort. Using AJAX the content module would be able to pull XML from a plethora of resource libraries. That gives everybody the potential to contribute. Even a single really cool piece of content or remix of content would be a help. Personal collections of resources, with proper citations, would then be a simple matter. Well, if my plans stay generally intact.


This is just the start of the concept I started designing spring/summer 2007. To go into the full scope would take me a long time, being that it is a design made to grow and adapt as needed. Designed with the game industry, educational institutions and individuals in mind, I'm hoping this is good enough to succeed in social, intellectual and financial ways.

So Chris, does my idea make more sense now?

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan

Written by Steven Egan

December 27th, 2008 at 5:38 pm