Since 2004, I have been musing about the “theory and practice on evolving virtual communities” on my GrowingPains blog. Having moved out of academia I started my own company, CommunitySense in 2007. There were many reasons for this small step for mankind, giant step for me. I have now been in business for a while, and feel the need for a new blog, in which I will share the more detailed, technical, some might say boring bits and pieces of the blood, sweat and tears of making online communities really work. Whereas with GrowingPains I try to paint the bigger “what” picture, through this Making CommunitySense blog I hope to share more of the “how to-s” of making people collaborate through the Internet successfully. Besides these blogs, you may also want to have a look at the CommunitySense website and the Making CommunitySense site, which contains background documents and related information. I hope this “mini-web” will help you understand more about the fascinating world of living, breathing online communities!
The Pragmatic Web is still in its infancy, as are the explanations about what it is or could become. Here is one of my recent takes on the matter trying to answer some questions by Paola di Maio on the Pragmatic Web mailing list.
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: [PragmaticWeb] following on
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 10:31:54 +0100
From: Aldo de Moor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
email@example.com wrote, on 14-2-2008 9:33:
> – to fill such a gap, a new paradigm shift is now emerging called
> ‘pragmatic web’ designed primarily to support and automate the
> human-human web based knowlege exchange, particular emphasis is being
> place on – rule based reasoning and intelligent applications based on
To me, the PW is basically about context and purpose: making web applications more context-aware and serving purposes of (their communities of) use. In a nutshell, one could say the PW is about how to make (semantic) web technologies serve collaborating people in their messy, real-world, evolving domains of interaction. Rule-based reasoning and intelligent applications are but one of several possible “enlightened web technology” applications. Another stream that I and
several other current members of the budding PW community are particularly interested in is the marriage of web technologies and large scale, distributed argumentation support systems.
> – pragmatic web technologies are designed to function on http/ip
> protocol, and are likely to adopt owl/rdf representation if thats the
> way knowledge is going to be represented on the web, therefore cannot
> be distinguished from SW on this account.
Owl/RDF etc are the main focus of SW R&D. PW can use these representations, but is definitely not limited to them. In fact, PW research may lead to completely new forms of representation and
reasoning, much better suited to deal with the context and purpose issues mentioned above.
> – However PW research and possibly future technologies is aimed to
> study and capture the human interaction with web based technologies
Yes, it’s about putting people first. Whereas current systems development often just distinguishes “The User”, PW tries to open this box, and discover innovative ways to model human goals, communication and collaboration patterns, norms, preferences, etc. These much better understood characteristics then could and should inform the design of much more useful knowledge bases and web systems. “Intelligence” is thus not something to be captured, but an intricate interplay between human interpretation and context-aware, _augmenting_ formal knowledge systems.
Second Life is hot. Just having attended the Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop at the University of Twente, on June 21 another workshop on this themewas organized at Tilburg University by TILT (Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society), together with ECP.NL, a national platform which tries to improve the Dutch international competitive position with respect to the information society and economy. Although many of the issues were related, the focus was slightly different. The symposion was in Dutch, but the (sometimes translated) titles of the presentations should give a good idea what this was all about:
- Barend Raaff (DNB Media): Guided Tour through Second Life
- Arno Lodder (Free University Amsterdam): Best of Both Worlds: Physical Characteristics in an Electronic Environment – About Education and Conflict Resolution in Virtual Three-Dimensional Worlds
- Jacob van Kokswijk (University of Twente): Virtuality and Interreality
- Kees Stuurman (TILT): Rules of the Game or Rules of Law?
- Ronald Leenes (TILT): Privacy in Second Life: Who Needs it?
Together with Brian Whitworth from Massey University, New Zealand, I am editing a Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems, to be published by IGI Group in 2008. See the call for chapters. It is a massive project, requiring at least 50 quality articles. Our goal is to get researchers and practitioners talking to each other, not only by the publication itself, but also by building an author community. To be continued…
On June 14, I was at the University of Twente in Enschede to attend the Interdisciplinary Second Life Workshop. It was organized by the new inter-facultary Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS), part of the Centre for Telematics and Information Technology.
The workshop was very well-attended and lively. The speakers gave a good overview of the main promises and problems surrounding Second Life. The workshop was preceded by an inspiring keynote address by Peter Ludlow, well-known as editor of High Noon on the Electronic Frontier and founder of the Second Life Herald newspaper.
The titles of the presentations give some idea of the kind of issues addressed:
- Peter Ludlow (Uni Michigan): Emergent Gameplay, Deviant Ageplay, and the Elusive Payday of Business in Second Life
- Dan Seamans (Open Uni, UK): The Vital SPark: Managing a Dynamic Learning Space in Teen Second Life
- Patrick Ozer and Albert van Breemen (Philips Research, the Netherlands): Interreality Communication: iCat Meets Second Life
- Robert Slagter and Wil Jansen (Telematica Instituut, the Netherlands): Real Business in Virtual Worlds
- David Nieborg (Uni Amsterdam): ‘Don’t Sponsor a Game that is a Playground for Criminals!’ – The Many Media Frames of Second Life
From a research point of view, everything still is wide-open. Tools, but especially governance, workflows, and business processes still are only in their infancy. However, the general consensus seemed to be that Second Life, at least as a stepping stone on the way to a whole class of virtual worlds, holds great potential, waiting to be mined.
Efficient task management is an essential component of community workflow management, all the more as standardized organizational structures and procedures for coordinating activities are often lacking in collaborative communities. Before starting with group task management, first the task management for individuals (“to do lists”) needs to be taken care of. Countless task management tools, planner web sites, Personal Information Managers etc. are available. However, task management tool support is not enough. Efficient task management requires some form of task management methodology.
Having tried many approaches, I finally chose David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. It offers the right mix of comprehensive, yet flexible procedures for collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and using to do-items.
MonkeyGTD is a tool specifically tailored to the GTD methodology. The second version (MonkeyGTD2.1 alpha) is much more powerful than version 1, yet robust enough to be actually used in daily practice. MonkeyGTD itself is built on top of TiddlyWiki, which is characterized as a “reusable non-linear personal web notebook”. One powerful feature of MonkeyGTD (TiddlyWiki) is that it is just a simple html-file which can be read with a Firefox browser. No other software is needed. Another, very useful characteristic is that it is based on the principle of “tiddlers” which can be very easily cross-referenced and searched. Some disadvantages are that it can only be read by Firefox, the file can become very big over time and does not allow for easy separation of data and code (cumbersome with upgrades or reorganization of data), and that it is not a server-based solution, so that file management and synchronization can become tricky.
Below the gallery that contains the pictures taken by Al Mohr (Second Life) / Aldo de Moor (Real Life) of Schomer Simpson ‘s (Second Life) / Peter Twining’s (Real Life) presentation at the Second Life Best Practices in Education International Conference 2007. The topic was “Using Teen Second Life to Explore Visions of Schome (Not School-Not Home-Schome, the Education System for the Information Age)”. As you can see from the pictures, Schomer/Peter’s talk was very well attended. The issues raised were most interesting and he got lots of questions. The Era of Immersive Online Conferences has begun…