OpenFiction [Blog]

The vagaries and whims of Google

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 28, 2006

For better or worse, we all live in an e-universe controlled by the all-powerful and inscrutable Google. In the eyes of the great Google, tOFP has regained favor as a resource for understanding the narrative arc. The OFP illustration that was first the top ranking “narrative arc” picture in that search, then gone from the search entirely, has now re-emerged as the top illustration. No clue why. The site is also now the number two text return on a Google search for “narrative arc.” The site’s had a pretty steady page rank of five for the last few months, which I think is good. MIT OCW is an eight. Not surprisingly, Google finds itself to be a perfect ten. My new favorite toy for finding out such things, by the way, is iWebTool.

Milestone reached

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 27, 2006

I have finally reached the previously discussed milestone of redrafting the entire thesis draft of the novel (about the first third of the novel really). From here, I’m going to catch my breath while I do the GSBI program and try to clean up some of the concordance issues, and start moving forward in late August. Exciting to be moving into uncharted waters, so to speak.

It’s brandtastic

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 25, 2006

One of the challenges facing both the OCW movement and the larger OER movement is establishing a recognized brand, so that educators and learners will know at a glance what a particular piece of educational material is and how it may be used. Right now, at least in my view, there’s still a very small number of educators and learners who really understand the concepts behind OER and OCW, and the success of both movements will require reaching a broader audience. The OCW Consortium portal and the mutually reinforcing publishing models of the members are tools for building this brand recognition for OCW.

OER has more challenges in this regard because of the variey of really interesting but often confusing models at play. Hewlett has taken an important step in building this brand, though, with the development of the logo below. I’m not sure yet what the rules for using the logo might be (whether, for instance, it’s for use by Hewlett grantees only, or institutions only, etc.) but it’s a great way to begin tying these projects together.


Timeline troubles

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 17, 2006

Here’s where working through the timeline is going to help me out. Having gone through timeline once, I can already see that at least as I have it set up here, Gina and Foster have been married too long before the divorce. I think I might be able to do six years, but without a child, ten is too long. The tension is that the prologue is from a particular era, so I can’t just shorten up the timeline and make him a little younger without really having to make some adjustments, I think. I’m not sure I can sell the timeline as being 1974, which is where it would have to be. I’m going to have to think about this…

Concordance on the wiki

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 13, 2006

So I have started putting some of the concordance notes up on the wiki, starting with the novel’s chronology.  I’m a few days away from actually completing the redraft of the thesis chapters, at which point I do want to spend a little time tightening up some of the concordance-related issues before moving forward.  It’s a good exercise, to the extent that it cleans up the novel without sapping momentum from the drafting.

Gearing up for GSBI

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 12, 2006

I’m really fortunate to be able to participate in this year’s Global Social Benefit Incubator at Santa Clara University. It’s a two-week program that seeks to help socially beneficial projects develop sustainable business models, which is exactly where we are with both the MIT OCW project and the OCW movement. We can see that there are benefits to making all of this material available, but it’s not clear if there is sustainable revenue to be generated from doing it.

The preparation work is extensive, and already I’m facing two dilemmas that I don’t expect will go away very quickly. The first is project-specific, in that I would like to find sustainability models that don’t trade on MIT’s reputation. Schools of equal stature will enjoy similar opportunities, and there are probably sustainable revenues to be had in this area, but I’d rather come up with sustainability models that work for a wide range of well-known as well as regionally and locally influential schools.

The second dilemma is that I am seeing as I get into this that sustainable revenue will probably come from audiences other than our target ones, which is kind of an odd situation. MIT OCW’s mission is explicitly to provide free access to educational materials from all of MIT’s classes to learners and educators around the world for non-commercial purposes. Given this commitment to keeping all materials freely accessible, there are very limited opportunities to develop revenue streams from these audiences, nor, I think, is there much interest in doing so.

This means looking to secondary beneficiaries of the project’s existence, such as booksellers and publishers whose wares are in effect promoted by the site. We’re already running a pilot of the Amazon affiliates program to determine what revenuers might be generated. This split between providing free content to our main audiences and developing revenue from secondary ones is going to be an ongoing tension, though, I can see.

Anyway, as I said before, I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work through these issues in such a well-structured and demanding program, and am really excited to be working with the representatives of the other fine projects involved. I hope to come back to the goals of some of them here soon, as they are all really amazing.

A tOFP format note

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 7, 2006

While the interaction with search engines has some impact on this, it interesting to note that with the tOFP [ Print ] version now available, there was little or no interest in the zip file of the site. In June, no downloads of the zip file were recorded (it’s possible that a single one was initiated, as a single zip download would not have placed among top URLs by kbs), while the tOFP [ Print ] 1st edition was downloaded 40 times.

The pdf print version is being crawled by search engines (and the zip is not), so some of the difference represents indexing traffic, but still, the best month for zip downloads registered 6 downloads. If few zip downloads continue to be initiated and I continue to record high numbers of pdf downloads, this would seem to indicate a clear preference for pdf over zip as an OER format choice, at least in the tOFP context.

tOFP by the numbers [ June 06 ]

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 6, 2006

The apples to oranges caveats still apply, but nonetheless a best-ever for tOFP, with 3,944 visits. Interestingly, the volume was turned up after I reposted the site with the Google search box added. Kinda makes you wonder if Google gives extra weight to pages that contain the word “Google.” Conspiracy theory? Perhaps.

I also continue to rank very highly on writing-related search phrases (and tickle torture-related phrases–thanks again Tom). Last I checked, I was number two out of over two million returns for “narrative arc.” I’m also really loving the new cluster map in the left margin. Good fun.

The numbers:

More details: June 2006 (PDF)

Here’s collaborative textbook model I think can work

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 5, 2006

Some time ago (note the reference to “Mosaic” in the introduction) MIT Biology students developed an MIT Biology Hypertextbook, which provides the basic molecular biology information needed for 7.102, 7.013 or 7.014 (MIT’s intro bio courses). Because the resource is institution-specific, it can be tailored for a specific body of students in a specific program, rather than having to be a one-size-fits-all general text (although it appears to be fairly general).

I could imagine–especially with the wider use of wiki technology–that major programs in foundational fields around the world might each reasonably be able to support such hypertexts designed specifically for their own needs, and that smaller schools that don’t have the resources can select hypertexts from other programs that most closely meet their needs and alter them (assuming they are published under open licenses).

I realize there is an immediate opening here for an “elitist” critique–that these texts wouldn’t be open for anyone to contribute to, so here’s the big elite schools handing out content again, but it’s not about limiting contribution. It’s about schools creating custom texts for their students and the programs they run, controlling which approaches to their fields they choose to teach to their own students. But if a number of schools did this, each could present the strongest case for their approach to a particular subject, without having to contend with the problem (as Wikipedia does) of representing all views in one publication.

Goals make all the difference

Posted in Uncategorized by scarsonmsm on July 4, 2006

In a discussion last week of another project in the works, one in which the course materials would be created in-house rather than collected from faculty as in an OCW model, I found myself having not the least bit of hesitation recommending XML as the best format. Even I was surprised at how easy a call it was. It just serves to highlight how the goals of a project, and the resulting processes, can lead to radically different choices. I’m not anti-XML, I just think it’s probably not the best choice for a sustainable OCW.