~tilde

 _________  ________  _________  ________  ___       ___           ___    ___ 
|\___   ___\\   __  \|\___   ___\\   __  \|\  \     |\  \         |\  \  /  /|
\|___ \  \_\ \  \|\  \|___ \  \_\ \  \|\  \ \  \    \ \  \        \ \  \/  / /
     \ \  \ \ \  \\\  \   \ \  \ \ \   __  \ \  \    \ \  \        \ \    / / 
      \ \  \ \ \  \\\  \   \ \  \ \ \  \ \  \ \  \____\ \  \____    \/  /  /  
       \ \__\ \ \_______\   \ \__\ \ \__\ \__\ \_______\ \_______\__/  / /    
        \|__|  \|_______|    \|__|  \|__|\|__|\|_______|\|_______|\___/ /     
                                                                 \|___|/      
                                                                              
 ________   ___  ___  ________  ___       _______   ________  ________        
|\   ___  \|\  \|\  \|\   ____\|\  \     |\  ___ \ |\   __  \|\   __  \       
\ \  \\ \  \ \  \\\  \ \  \___|\ \  \    \ \   __/|\ \  \|\  \ \  \|\  \      
 \ \  \\ \  \ \  \\\  \ \  \    \ \  \    \ \  \_|/_\ \   __  \ \   _  _\     
  \ \  \\ \  \ \  \\\  \ \  \____\ \  \____\ \  \_|\ \ \  \ \  \ \  \\  \|    
   \ \__\\ \__\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\ \__\ \__\ \__\\ _\    
    \|__| \|__|\|_______|\|_______|\|_______|\|_______|\|__|\|__|\|__|\|__|   
                                                                              
                                                                              
  ________  ___       ___  ___  ________                                      
 |\   ____\|\  \     |\  \|\  \|\   __  \                                     
 \ \  \___|\ \  \    \ \  \\\  \ \  \|\ /_                                    
  \ \  \    \ \  \    \ \  \\\  \ \   __  \                                   
 __\ \  \____\ \  \____\ \  \\\  \ \  \|\  \                                  
|\__\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\ \_______\                                 
\|__|\|_______|\|_______|\|_______|\|_______|

For the last couple of commutes I’ve been hooked by a ~.

(I am cross posting this at my mainly educational blog and my ds106 one because I think this is so interesting.)

It started when I read I had a couple drinks and woke up with 1,000 nerds which touches on some many interesting things, online identity, ownership, internet history and made me think about about community, teaching about the web and some of the posts Jim Groom has be posting recently (/~space for example).

The ~tilde.club set up by Paul Ford while drinking is

not a social network it is one tiny totally standard unix computer that people respectfully use together in their shared quest to build awesome web pages

It mirrors what was the standard way to give university folk accounts and allows users to work on a remote computer through the terminal, communication and creating web pages. You will get a much better idea by reading the post and going to ~tilde.club and clicking some links.

It looked interesting enough to have a shot, but I had arrived at the party a little late. Fortunately there are other tilde clubs springing up and I got in to totallynuclear.club as ~troutcolor.

All I’ve done so far is created a webpage, set up a blog and visited other members pages. I had a quick chat on the commandline with ~maze who answered some questions.

Hopefully I’ll use the blog to document what I am learning as I go. I am certainly learning. I’ve use a terminal now and then locally on my mac and even very occasionally to play with my Raspberry Pi, but this is quite different. I find myself strangely drawn to the process. For some of the users on the tilde clubs nostalgia is a reason for being their, I missed that whole section of computer history as I started late. Any webpage creation I’ve done has been by uploading files via FTP or by using blogging software or social media. The ~tilde clubs work in both a older and modern modern way. I’ve noticed similarities in the way the developers for glow blogs work, not ftp for them, they talk of git, and are often logged into some cloud server via a terminal.

There are other interesting features emerging on totallynuclear and other tilde clubs I hope to get the courage up to try the IRC chat soon.

What could it be good for

Apart from fun which is a good enough reason.

Given that I an a teacher I wonder if this could be a good way to teach pupils/students about the web. I don’t think that there is anything Perhaps cover some technology history and web literacy. Although the technology is not very shiny and new it does feel quite exciting. It also, to some extent, remove a veil from the technology and perhaps could loosen the ties to silos.

What does it look like?

This is a very short screencast just touching on the basics, which is all I know at the present.

Starters for 10

Some links to interesting totallynuclear things:

Walk into some free CPD

At the end of this month the EduWiki Conference 2014 (Wikimedia UK ) comes to Edinburgh. I posted a couple of weeks ago about the TeachMeet we are trying to organise in the evening TeachMeet EduWiki, but there is another opportunity for some CPD.

On Friday Afternoon (31st OCT) at 2pm there is a workshop: Wiki*edia Projects in Schools (for students under 18) the organisers have kindly offered teacher the chance to attend this session without signing up and paying for the conference.

The Conference is at Edinburgh First’s St Leonard Hall (University of Edinburgh). Teachers who show up at the reception will be directed to the appropriate workshop.

I know that some East Coast & other Local Authorities have timetables where pupils are off on Friday afternoon this might be an opportunity to find out more about Wikipedia and how it can be used in school.

Most of the conference, and wikipedia educational direction, has, up to now, been directed at HE. I think there is a lot we can gain in primary and secondary education from a deeper understanding of wikipedia. It would be great to see folk come along to either the afternoon or to the TeachMeet and start a dialog between school and wikipedia.

As a taster tomorrow evening (Wed 15/10/14) on Radio Edutalk 8:00pm Ally Crockford Wikimedian in Residence at the National Museum of Scotland.

Web Literacy Map 2.0

Like many education folk I follow Doug Belshaw for lots of good reasons. This week I bumped into Doug at Opening Educational Practices in Scotland Forum and launch (a lot to digest from that). Doug reminded attendees about the Survey: 5 proposals for Web Literacy Map 2.0 he is organising.

After a quick review of the Web Literacy Map and other resources Doug listed I filled in the survey.

This leads, backsides forward, to looking at the Map again. It is a great resource1 well organised and deep. It seems to add content every time I look at it. A couple of the questions were around the organisation and complexity of the map. I had a few thoughts. Given the complexity and depth of the resource I wonder if it would be interesting exposing it in different formats for folk to remix. Initially I though of JSON as I’ve made a couple of experiments with this in webmaker. I am now wondering if OPML might be an interesting approach too? This would export to most mind-mapping softwares. I’ve been playing with fargo occasionally and it might allow manipulation of the OPML too.

A Job for RSS

The other thing that I was reminded of was the series of chats Doug has been recording with interesting and interested parties. For the most part I’d seen these stream by on Tumblr and only listened to fragments. Doug has put the audio on the internet archive with a nice CC0 license, so I’ve done a little remixing of my own. I’ve uploaded an RSS feed to my google drive: http://tinyurl.com/dougweblit2chats so that I can pull the audio onto my phone. I can then subscribe to this feed in the podcast app on my phone and listen on the go. (I use overcast as my usually podcast app but thought it might be nice to have this as a temporary separate thing).

doug-chats-podcast-app

I’ve listened to the Stephen Downes episode on my commute this morning and if the rest are as interesting it will be a delight getting through them. Feel free to subscribe to the feed if you want to do the same thing, be aware I’ve made little effort to make the feed validate, the enclosures don’t have a length etc.


Footnotes:

1. Caveat, I am not working with learners and have never taught Web literacy in any depth. I did teach some of ‘this stuff’ as part of teaching ict, blogging, podcasting and the like.

Glow Blogs What Just Happened, What is Next?

Last Friday at the same time as the glow authentication changed, the new glow blogs service went live. I posted about this over on Glow Connect.

It was pretty exciting stuff, the developers were really working right up to the last minute and beyond to deliver the service. Even so we have gone live with a few know issues and have already discovered a few more.

At the start of the processes I certainly was not aware of all the complexities involved nor the scale of the job. Turns out it was a big complex job!

Luckily for me I ended up working with an amazing team, not only in the Scottish Government, but in the developers and suppliers. All of them worked long hours with very positive attitudes as I grumbled along. I am tempted to turn this post into a list of these characters and their qualities, but probably enough to say all of the blog team were essential to the process.

What Have We Got

Stray Puppy by p medved
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

At the end of this phase we have a working set of WordPress MU, one for each Local Authority, running the same version of the software as before and we have the known issues linked above.

The main improvement so far is around blog creation. There is no connection to SharePoint/old glow groups. This simplifies the process a great deal. This and other Main Changes are listed in the Glow Blog Help, some of these are not improvements but changes.

One more improvement, not listed, is that you can now upload files of up to 50mb to blogs. This should make it a lot easier to podcast or share small videos without using a third party site or service.

On Wednesday I popped back to North Lanarkshire to watch my colleague Ann McCabe set up a class of e-portfolios, this was much quicker than before, taking away at least half the steps. There is still plenty of room from improvement and I got a great idea to take back to Victoria Quay from the RM help desk who I visited in the afternoon.

Next Up

Given the above, if this was the end point in the process I’d be pretty disappointed. A lot of work for not much in the way of improvement. I am not disappointed due to two things, phase 2 and phase 3.

Phase 2 was looking quite simple, upgrade to a new version of WordPress. This will bring a host of benefits, better user experience especially on mobile being the main gain. More important, in the longer run, is that it gives us a much better base to develop on.
The other aspect of phase 2 will be to backfill in things that were dropped out of phase one or needs that were discovered in phase 1.

It looks like phase 2 will take a bit more work than I expected, but this will start straight off. Already some of the first problems to be discovered has been solved and the developer team are just waiting to decide when to deploy the code. Another potential ongoing problem with server load is now beginning to be understood and the team are working on finding the best solution. The team are keen that the server gets a chance to bed in and are suitably cautious about changing things on the live system, best practises for ongoing change and development are being put in place.

Bright Future

After we get to phase 3 of the project things might speed up a bit. We will be using WordPress 4 which will allow a lot of nice things to happen.

The one I am most excited about is giving a more flexible service. In the old glow blogs it was a constant frustration for myself and many others that our theme and plugin requests were never answered. I am not entirely sure of all the reasons for this, but having peeped behind the curtain I presume some of this was to do with testing.

Watching the new blogs service develop gave me a bit of a shock in the amount of time and effort it needs to deliver a service of this scale. Like many folk who publish stuff on the web I frequently make changes without much of a care and worry. The Technical Architects and developers for glow take a somewhat different view. There first concern is the preservation of users data and stability of the service and given they are taking care of over 100,000 blogs…

The glow blogs system now consists of 4 main servers: integration (where new code is added after code review), explore (for testing), pre-production (more testing) and live. With the older version of WordPress we are using a lot of the development and testing is manual, the testers here and volunteers going through lists of test to test the functionality of the blogs. In addition there is security, load and a many more tests.

Going forward the process should be automated, the newer version of WordPress can have a deal of automatic testing, code going onto the integrate server would be pushed through the different servers being automatically tested on the way, this gives us the possibility of a much more agile service.

On the Way

On Friday last week there was a fair amount of cheering and happy faces around the glow office, since then feedback has been mainly positive. I am not really ready to celebrate yet, there still is a lot to do before we reach the point learners and teachers in Scotland have a world class blogging platform. There so many possibilities out there for doing all sorts of things with WordPress. We would, of course be really interested to hear of any ideas of what you would like from Glow blogs.

Wikispaces for Glow

WIKI

Photo credit: WIKI by Kevin Baird, on Flickr Creative Commons — CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Along side the blog migration for Glow I’ve been working on the wiki procurement. Wikis were part of the services added to Glow in 2010 (AFAIR) along with blogs and forums. When it came to think about the new services and migration wiki migration was not in the plans and wikis were not on the map of new services.

The previous wiki solution was not particularly well used, around 4000 wikis were created over the projects lifetime (compare to >130,000 blogs). The software behind the wikis was mindtouch. This is now discontinued and I believe missed a few features that make wikis useful in the classroom. These included nice themes and a simple workflow for uploading and embedding images.

It was decided to look at the possibilities for continuing to have wikis as part of the glow offering. This might seem counter intuitive as O365 sharepoint sites can be though of as Wikis and certainly have wiki pages as part of sites. I think a separate wiki offers a simpler way of building on the internet and it is also important to have the facility to make a wiki public in some instances.

Personally I’ve had enough success with children publishing publicly on the internet that that would be my default position. Other teachers and educators may prefer closed environments and glow can provide for both.

As part of the process of provisioning wikis we evaluated many different solutions, wikispaces stood out as the best fit for our needs1. Wikispaces was also mentioned frequently by the folk who responded to our wiki survey. No other product was mentioned favourably.

As part of procurement three different vendors were invited to tender and their tenders evaluated against a set of requirements. Wikispaces were the best fit and their tender has been accepted.

It has been a while since I used wikispaces in the classroom but it looks like they have added a lot of classroom specific features to the service without over complicating the process. I am not exactly sure of how the wikis will connect up to glow but look forward to working on that development in the coming weeks.

I had a brief look through my bookmarks for interesting wikis which might give you an idea of how to use one:

As always I’d be interested to see how learners and teachers in Scotland are or would use wikispaces.


Footnotes:

1. Personally I like wikitext and enjoyed using wikis that are not WYSIWYG but I think I am in a minority on that one.

TeachMeet at EduWiki Conference 2014

Tmeduwiki

The EduWiki Conference 2014 (Wikimedia UK ) conference in in Edinburgh this year. I’ve been along to a few wikimedia meetings recently and we are arranging a TeachMeet to run along side the conference.

The Conference and Wikimedia/Wikipedia’s educational focus is very much aimed at higher education. We hope that this might be a way to increase engagement between wikipedians and primary and secondary educators.

I’d hope that both Wikimedians and local teachers will sign up to share at the teachmeet. This would give wikipedians an insight into the activities and needs of classroom practitioners and give those practitioners ideas for using wikipedia in learning.

The venue will be in Edinburgh, probably around the Edinburgh University starting at 7pm.

Round Table, lesson design?

One idea I’ve though of would be to use the round table to flesh out learning experiences for using wikipedia. A mixed group of teachers and wikimendians could probably get quite a bit done in 20 minutes.

Sign up here TeachMeet / TeachMeetEduWiki.

Life in Links 2014-09-16

Some things I’ve added to Pinboard recently.

edutalk_blue_fist_48

EDUtalk at eAssessment Scotland 2014

I am having a day’s holiday from Glow on Friday taking the Radio EDUtalk mic to the  eAssessment Scotland conference in Dundee.

We have broadcast from the conference for the last couple of years and always have had great conversations.

It might be too late to book your free place but you can keep up with the conference by listening to the live broadcasts throughout the day at the Live shows and stream page on EDUtalk.

We will also publish the audio as podcasts after the event.

If things go to plan and follow the patter no preceding years will will broadcast short interviews/conversations with speakers and presenters over the day and announce them on twitter as we go.

If you are listening from afar you can tweet a question using the #edutalk hashtag on twitter.

If your there on the day and want a chat on or off mic give me a tweet or say hello.

Glow Blog Migration Dates

I posted this this afternoon:

The Glow Blogs migration export will start on 19th September 2014

Any new posts or content added to blogs after that date will not be migrated to the new service.

The new service should be up and running by Oct 3rd 2014

The data from the current blog servers will be exported on the 19th of September and migrated to the new service ready for the go live date.

We’re making every effort to achieve the deadline of the new service for 3rd October. If anything changes, we will get in touch immediately.

This is not technically a content freeze as users will be able to add to their blog, rather it should be considered as a procedural content freeze.

We hope to be able to add a message to explain the situation to every blog dashboard but in case that is not technically possible we need as much help as we can get in spreading the word.

from: Glow Blogs Migration News | Glow Connect, Glow Connect is the information portal for Glow – a space for providing updates on the development and enhancement of the service and for sharing how teachers are using Glow.

Joshi by Juan Coloma Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

I am sorry that the warning time for the content freeze is only just over two weeks, but it is only now we can give an estimate, timing is tight, it might even slip a wee bit, but we though it best to try and give as much notice as we can.

Back in June we proposed a content freeze over a short period over the summer and possibly another in September or October, as it turned out the summer freeze did not happen as it would not have given us any advantage, we could do a text export without a freeze.

We (especially the coders, technical and test members of the team) are very much working flat out to get the blogs migration in on time, the date is the current best estimate of when we will be ready to export the data from the RM servers and import it into the new one.

Earlier we hoped that the freeze would be a bit shorter that we are now estimating, but it has become apparent that it will take a bit longer. Between the 19th and go live several things need to happen:

  • The database and web server files (images and uploads) need to be encrypted and copied to a secure disk. Before encryption a sort of fingerprint of the files is taken, this will let us know if the files we put on the new server are identical. The size of the database and files meant this will take a while.
  • The disk will be taken to the new hosting and copied onto the server.
  • It is then unencrypted and the md5 fingerprint compared to the original.
  • The files will be put in place and hooked up to WordPress, or rather 33 instances of WordPress one for each Local Authority plus a central one.
  • Lots of testing. Testing of other bits of the process, the new servers has already started.
  • There are several rounds of testing, of different types that I am just beginning to get my head round. This will insure we get the best possible service from the new blog. The final rounds of testing will involve users from across Scotland, first on a ‘test’ environment and then on the new server before it goes live.
  • After everything looks good the new server gets the old blogs.glowscotland.org.uk domain and the blogs will be updatable again.

I’ve not numbered the points above because I have missed out many more steps. The project plan has been worked over repeatedly to make sure the quality of the result is as good as can be and, by doing various things in parallel, we cut time down to the minimum. Extra test engineers have been borrowed from other parts of glow and other members of the team are helping with testing.

After the new service goes live the project will not stop, the blogs will then be upgraded to a current version of WordPress and then the third phase of the project, to enhance the blogs for learning and teaching will start.

A Glow Blog Answer

super ruper by nnnnic Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

I’ve been trying to post information about the glow blogs migration here when I can, but still getting a few questions, via email, twitter etc. Here is a series of DMs:

Hi John. Been following the progress of GlowBlogs and reading your own blog. Question: Can I go ahead and set up a class blog using…

‘Old Glow’ and get class using it….then it’ll transfer across to ‘New-Glow’ with the bells and whistles in he coming weeks (months) ?

I (and other member of staff) really want to get cracking on this. How would we ensure the old style blog ‘goes accross’? Need to tell..

someone where it is?

Quite a few folk have asked the same sort of thing, can/should I set up a glow blog/e-portfolio now or wait?

The answer is: Yes if you set up a glow blog now it will be migrated to the new service.

Caveats

There will be a procedural content freeze, and the possibility of downtime if we do not make the 3rd of October deadline (we are working very hard to ensure we will).

Content Freeze

The database and files that make up the blogs are currently on RM servers, this need to be moved to new servers. Given the size of the data this will involve copying onto a portable disk. The copy will be encrypted. The disks need to be moved, the encrypted data securely moved to the new setup, unencrypted and verified. The new system then need to be thoroughly tested.

During this time the old blogs will be up and running, but any content added to them will not be migrated and new blogs setup during the content freeze through the old glow Sharepoint portal will not be migrated.

I am not sure how long the content freeze will be but it looks like being a week or so.

We will publicize the content freeze as much as possible, telling Glow Key Contacts in each Local Authority, publishing on Glow Connect and I’ll post here and tweet.

We also hope to be able to add a warning message on the dashboards of all the current glow blogs, but that solution needs to be created and tested.