Monday, July 25, 2011

Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab – week #2

Another week has passed, which means it's time to blog again. Today I'll discuss the two mandatory lectures from Monday and Wednesday, but before I do that, let me thank Stijn and Mark for leaving helpful comments on my previous post. Thanks guys! :)

So, the first lecture was given by Chris Heilmann and was full of interesting points. Too many to cover them all (read: go watch the lecture yourself), but one of them was his view on web apps. They are great. You don't have to install them and there is no need to update them. "The web upgrades itself". This view intrigues me as it reminds me of self-organizing systems (and indirectly of P2P systems, but I won't go there as I fear I'll drift off-topic). In a sense, LikeLines is what I think would allow for self-organized videos. Anyone can upload raw and unedited videos and the viewer community adds structure to it by consuming the video. Through interaction with the LikeLines video player, interesting bits of the video will emerge naturally.

During the Q&A session of the lecture, Chris mentioned that skills from journalism are important for the web as well. You should be able to write a short text first, since people have a short attention span. They want to get the gist first and details later. Now, the upcoming task of this learning lab of describing one's final project in at most 256 characters will definitely test my writing skills.

The second lecture of the week was given by John Resig (author of jQuery). John discussed what's important in an open source project. For example, it is important to understand how to retain your users during the several phases they go through. Like during the "getting started" phase, you cannot assume any background knowledge and you'd have to be rather explicit. This reminded me of a poster paper I wrote with my TU Delft colleagues that got rejected at SIGIR, in which we assumed some P2P background knowledge. This lecture's advice came a little too late, oh well. ;)

Another thing that's important for open source projects is to open up your process by, for example, having the community vote on which bugs to fix first. This view gave rise to tweets like the following,

but it seems the community might be already doing this.
(Thanks go to Martha for sending me a print copy of The Economist)

Anyway, I wish I could cover more of the lectures, but it seems I'm running out of space again. I'll conclude this post how John's lecture made me realize that LikeLines is similar to jQuery. It's a building block and like Lego, you can use it to build many other things on top. It also made me consider making LikeLines more like an API. In the coming days, I'm going to try and put these thoughts into the "show and sell" video for the final assignment.

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