Wednesday, April 30, 2008

OER week 8 - late!

I been on the road for a few days and time and a lack of fast connections has slowed me down a little, not to mention the disgusting cold I have! However I finally got my film loaded up to dot.sub, transcribed and then translated into English.

I learned several things from this process...
I learned that if you are going to have written text accompanying the pictures then the pictures and the text need to be coordinated. Having pictures change and the text stay the same, and then suddenly the text changes but the picture doesn't.... all too confusing, and now I've seen it fairly obvious, but then that is how we learn things when we learn by doing. Strangely that wasn't a problem (was it?) when I was listening to the text and looking at the pictures
I need fewer pictures on for a longer time.
I need to choose the pictures more carefully. One of my blurred pictures was followed by a sharp image to give contrast. Unfortunately the compression process rendered them BOTH fairly blurred - better examples next time!
That's it for now, I'll be back later!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

OER week 8 - film

Creating a film - this turned into a very tricky task as I fumbled around between a Mac, a PC and several programs. I've done this before but this time the technical gods were not with me! This took me back to the earlier days of computing when you expected things not to work; it seems like it can be still be like that today!
Anyway, here is a short film on using the macro function in your camera. I made it because I am involved with a study circle in digital photography and it seemed logical to create something I could use. Unfortunately this means it is in Swedish but there will be an English language version available soon, and hopefully a dot.sub English translation available late tomorrow (Monday).

This creation showed me just how frustrating the combination of creation and technique could be. This is always a useful reminder of how it often is for our less technically interested colleagues and students as we try to persuade them of the joys of Internet materials!

But in the end it was satisfying to get this (definitely less than perfect) material out there on Youtube.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Weinberger, Leonardo and TED - oer week 8 (a)

There is a lot of interesting material around on Internet. Amongst the material are many conference presentations and lectures which are interesting to listen to but which really gain very little by being filmed because the camera (usually only one) and the speaker never actually move! This makes for boring viewing, especially if the lecture is long.

When we are physically present at a lecture we (like the single camera I mentioned) are usually stationary but we can let our attention move around the room. We can at least switch between the lecturer and the slides and if things get boring we can check out all the other things in the hall!

So a good presentation switches our attention back and forth. Of course it really does help if the speaker speaks in an interesting way too! Here is an example from and in this presentation you get to see the speaker, the slides, and even both at once.

Everything is Miscellaneous

David Weinberger

This is a Google lecture (copyright Google!) so we can be fairly sure there were plenty of resources available. In a similar way the embedded TED talk below also uses a lot of resources to make sure the talk is interesting.


This talk has the added advantage that it is only 4 minutes long, and it's CC licenced!

Having written about a well filmed resource I am afraid my offering is not going to be of wonderfully high quality - but with practice I will improve, and my film is omly going to be around 4 minutes long, about the only thing it will share with the TED film!

Friday, April 18, 2008

OER - week 7

Let's start with Bötsle.
If you want to know exactly where Bötsle is then click on the photo on the right to link to the original in Flickr. From there you can fly to Bötsle if you have Google Earth installed, via the first comment. Once you've seen Bötsle's general location (from a hight of 21 km!) you can zoom in. If I'd lived 200 meters south of where I do you could have seen my house on Google Earth but the high definition area around Härnösand stops just short of Bötsle!

I already had audacity and LAME installed because I've used sound in my work sometimes so there was no complication there. Figuring out how to load up a podcast to Switchpod was not the easiest task in the world so I went looking for another site and found the site that now hosts part two of my description - PodOmatic. This service seems to provide you with an audio blog. You can take a look at my page if you want to see how it looks. Naturally they would love you to sign up for a paid subscription but they do give you 500 MB of storage and 15 GB of download per month in the free version. My only criticism of PodOmatic is that there player is nowhere near as nice as the Switchpod one. (You can see them both further down this posting.)

The question of mp3 versus Vorbis Ogg is interesting. Mp3 has become a world standard and for normal users is both free and convenient, which makes it problematic to persuade people to use an alternative open source program. Using Vorbis Ogg requires the user to take extra steps, for example downloading an extra plug-in to enable Windows media player to play Ogg files. It isn't much extra effort or technical knowledge that is required but people are lazy! Why take the extra effort when you don't need to? Anyway, having written that I took the extra effort mentioned and went looking for Ogg music. I found some music I really liked and a recording studio with an interesting idea - sponsored music - but all the music I found was also offered as mp3! Can Ogg survive in an mp3 world? I guess time will tell.

What role does RSS play in podcasting. Well, first it does exactly the same as it does in the blog world and tells you when something new has come along. The additional factor is that the podcast can then be downloaded to your player and becomes portable. If I want to read your blog I have to have to use my computer but I can listen to your podcast as I train in the gym.

Originally I had part 1 of the podcast embedded here but as soon as the page loaded it started playing, which was irritating, especially when it was no longer the latest posting! So now there is a link to the podcast. Click on the link and then return to the picture above while you listen.

and when you've listened to that one you could try part 2...

Click here to get your own player.

By the way, read Barbara's comment - she makes the point that the switchpod player is more useful for the user/listener as you can move around in the podcast, something you can't do with the embedded PodOmatic player, although you can do that from my PodOmatic blog.

Friday, April 11, 2008

OER week 6b- Creating, Sharing and Using Images

This is really part two of the weeks post. Take a look at part one too.
Well, it was a little difficult to take good images this week as the snow kept falling. What I really mean was it was difficult to take educational images; it was no problem getting interesting pictures. Here is a view from my house on the first day of snow, the next day it was even deeper but fortunately I'd moved the car by then!
However, I did what all good students/teachers do; I cheated and checked through the pictures I'd taken a little earlier.
As outlined in my previous posting I was not so impressed with getting pictures out of the Commons and into my blog. Now I tried uploading images to the Commons and again I found it a rather complicated process, if I compare with loading images up to Flickr for example. But in the end my
"Sandö Bridge" image was part of the Commons.
However, the second picture (Härnösand Harbour) went a lot quicker. Of course, it's not just uploading the pictures it's also getting them into categories and adding them to galleries. Immodest as I am I even nominated "Sandö Bridge" image as a "quality image". That added another another hour to my work as I learned how to promote and decline other nominations. I find the whole wikimedia thing very addictive and hard to let go off once I get into it! :-)
I am interested in photography and have had my own Flickr page for a couple of years now. I also use Picasa as my photo album and to carry out certain editing tasks. I tried Adobe's new Photoshop Express and was reasonably impressed but it seemed to take a long time working with 4 and 5 MB images. Perhaps it will become faster as the service develops. However, for most editing tasks I prefer to work within my computer with Photoshop. I see immediate results and can do much more than with the other tools I have tried. I haven't tried Gimp but several of my friends have used it and are very happy with it It is open-source and cost-free so if I had to buy photoshop myself I would definitely give Gimp a trial first.
As always it has been an interesting OER week. I thought I could quickly get through this weeks tasks as I am already used to working with images on Internet but as usual there were new items to learn, new tricks to try out and even more of that addictive Wikipedia coding to learn!

Monday, April 07, 2008

OER week 6a - Sharing and Using Images

Why 6a? Well, when this posting
was almost complete the
week 6 instructions suddenly
expanded. 6b follows shortly.

A Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus).
Originally uploaded to
Wikimedia Commons by Thermos.

Sin título
Originally uploaded by mekatharra.

The two pictures of Griffon Vultures above this text are both licensed as Creative Commons. They can be used freely for non-commercial purposes as long as the photographers are credited. The picture on the left was found on Wikimedia Commons, the one on the right on Flickr. Both sites have a large number of high quality images available to use.

As a comparison I can say that when I searched for "Griffon Vulture" I found 34 images on the Commons and 97 CC images on Flickr. (In total there were 997 images in Flickr of which about 850 actually were Griffon Vultures.) When I decided to load these chosen pictures onto my blog, complete with links to the originals and attribution, it took me about 1 minute to do this from Flickr and about an hour to do the same from the Commons. Most of the hour was spent wrestling with HTML code within my blog and with more expertise I could probably have reduced that time considerably but it is clear to me that Flickr wins on usability.

However, the only item I got from Flickr was the image, whereas searching within the Wikimedia community I found the image, an article about
Griffon Vultures, an extra link to information about vultures and even a link to some lovely videos of these birds of prey (yet another link!). Another consideration is that Flickr is a commercial site and the Commons is non-commercial although I'm not sure if this makes a practical difference or if it gives one site or the other an advantage.

I haven't yet found a photo-school on Flickr but there were some excellent guidelines to creating quality images on the Commons. and more useful information inside Wikipedia.

The two sites seem to complement each other. For downloading to a blog I think I would always look first on Flickr due to the ease of use, but for other purposes the two sites are more evenly matched. Basically I think it is wonderful that there are so many quality images available and so many talented people who use CC licenses.

A few numbers - Flickr has passed 2,3 billion images whereas
Wikimedia Commons has over 2 million images
If no suitable cc can be found use Flickr to find a suitable but copyrighted image and then ask the photographer for permission to use it. I have done this three times and got permission twice. (The third person never replied.)

OER week 5 – Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation

Children in Birao 18
Originally uploaded by hdptcar
Today's featured image on Wikipedia Commons...

I must start by explaining how much I learned this week through the suggested reading! Like many others I have used Wikipedia without really thinking about how it works or the structure and organisation that lie behind it. I was vaguely aware that there were other wiki-projects but had no idea which were part of the Wikipedia Foundation and which were not. Now I feel much more knowledgeable!

Here is a list of some of the points I found to be most impressive...

  • The sheer audacity of the concept – that given the opportunity Internet users would collectively create an encyclopaedia to rival the classic encyclopaedias such as the Britannica
  • The amounts of time people are willing to give freely to create, maintain and improve these commons projects. The principle described by Benkler(2) of the breaking down of tasks into small units must be helpful here – If a lot of people feel able to give just a few minutes or an hour of their time that adds up to a lot of hours! However, there still seems to be a number of people who donate a considerable quantity of their time, perhaps because the system offers non-financial rewards such as status and promotion within an (unpaid) structure. Various technical tools, such as templates, also help users to utilise their time efficiently.
  • The emergence of “a sophisticated set of processes” (2) that have developed to increase the quality of the material and the fact that these arose through self-organising (collective choice) arrangements. This seems to be a very open and democratic process and even the discussions that lead to these rules and principles are (mostly) also still accessible on the “talk” pages.
  • The ongoing nature of the projects. Development continues and as it does so the quality threshold is raised and what was acceptable earlier is no longer of a sufficiently high standard. Examples of this are the evolution of Featured articles in Wikipedia and Featured Pictures in Wikimedia Commons. Logically this means that if the English Wikipedia was almost comparable to Encyclopaedia Britannica in 2005 (See Nature magazine's blog) then in the future (now?) it will be superior to Britannica, assuming that does not also improve.
  • The local nature of the Wikimedia Foundation’s projects. Each language can have its own version of each project and it was interesting to read in Dirk Riehle’s interview with “three leading practitioners of three different Wikipedias how the practices vary from country to country. This reflects Ostrom’s first organisational principle(2); congruence between rules and local conditions. Different languages and cultures have different needs and perhaps require different structures to fulfil those needs. I was at first surprised for example that the Italian Wikiversity’s front page did not have the same layout as the English Wikiversity. After a little reflection I felt pleased that there was room for diversity within these projects and that the English language/culture was not dictating to the rest of the world! Another surprise for me was that several smaller languages were well represented in some of these projects. For example the third largest Wiktionary language is Vietnamese!

Part of the joy of Wikipedia is that it feels to be part of our common property, something we can contribute to, something we all have a stake in. As the quality of Wikipedia and the other projects improves this increases the benefits to all users. However, at the same time the very increase in quality and the level of expert knowledge among contributors may reduce this feeling of common ownership. When it is no longer possible to contribute, unless you are a real expert in something, will we still feel Wikipedia to be common property? This is perhaps another of the challenges of the future for Wikipedia.

  1. How and Why Wikipedia Works: An Interview with Angela Beesley, Elisabeth Bauer, and Kizu Naoko by Dirk Riehle.
  2. The Hidden Order of Wikipedia by Fernanda B. Viégas, Martin Wattenberg and Matthew M. McKeon.
  3. Wikimedia projects