Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wikis in plain English

Common Crafts does it again: this time they've made an interesting and entertaining presentation of wikis (in the style of the video RSS in plain English). Again, a useful video when you've only have a few minutes to present the concept of wikis to colleagues or friends. Keep them coming Common Craft! :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

"Surface computing has arrived"

I've been completely busy in the past few days, but today I've really got to share something with you. You know I'm a huge fan of Apple, but today I came across (via Mac Rumors) a video presentation of a brand new Microsoft product - Microsoft Surface - that just took my breath away. It's a multi-user multi-touch 30in-ch display on which your fingers do the magic. No mouse, just playing around with your hands or other objects. I suggest checking out the first look article with video at, which explains the capabilities of this new product in more detail, and the official Microsoft Surface site.

Finally, the technology we've been waiting for years is a step closer to the consumers! Of course, it will be a quite expensive, but it's a step in the right direction. I know I will have to wait to get my hand on one of these surface computers for quite a while, but I can already see many great things one could use such a computer for, can't you? :) This time it's definitely thumbs up for Microsoft!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Back from an offline week

Hello world! Today I finally returned online after an offline week in Egypt (how was it? Well, let me just say that the words "hot weather" now have an entirely new meaning for me :) ). And I already spent most of the morning answering e-mails, sending out Joost invites (if you need one for yourself or your friends you can still mail me - ialja(at)mac(dot)com), updating Second Life, and getting through messages from various Web 2.0 sites. While I was gone my Sloodle presentation even became featured on Slideshare! I guess it shows that the Web 2.0 never sleeps :)

For me the past week has been quite odd. Time passed slowly, and differently. I spent an entire week without using a computer, and even with limited use of my cell phone. It was strange, but in a way it was good to take a short break. The only problem is that I've got so much to catch up on :( This week will be also very busy for me, so I don't think I'll manage to post to my blog in the next days. I know I still have some blog homework to do, but I'm afraid it will have to wait for at least another week... Until then you can take a look at some photos from my vacation on Flickr.
Camel riding
Yeah, I know, I am quite hopeless: one of the first things I did upon my return was to upload some photos to Flickr. Yup, it's good to be back! :) So... stay tuned ;)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Out of office" notice

Tonight I'm leaving for a short vacation in Egypt, so I'll probably be offline for the next week (from May 20th until May 27th). That means there will be no new posts on my blogs, and that I will be unable to send you Joost invites in the next week (but if you don't mind the wait feel free to send me a request by email and I'll respond when I get back). If you mail me (ialja(at)mac(dot)com) or IM me in Second Life I'll get back to you after my return. I'll try to bring some nice pictures with me :)

Unfortunately I'll miss the Second Life Best Practices Conference, so I tried to contributed my part in advance by making the conference logo. I hope many of you will attend the event in my place, and I'm looking forward to read some great blog posts about the event and seeing some nice pictures on Flickr :)

I will certainly be back online and in-world in one week. Upon my return I will also write my goals (I've just been tagged for the first time :) ), so stay tuned!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Report: First Slovenian Moodle Moot

The first Slovenian Moodle Moot took place yesterday in Koper (my hometown :) ). The Moot was hosted at my faculty, and we had over 60 delegates from all over our country (and also abroad). We were able to listen to over 30 interesting presentations, during which we learned about how Moodle is being used in different schools, at different levels, and for different course subjects. It was also a great opportunity to meet new people, exchange ideas, and also have a great time on the Slovenian coast (we managed to arrange a nice, warm and sunny day ;) ).

Most of the conference was in Slovenian, but we also had an international section, in which our Austrian and Italian friends presented their work. I was especially excited about having our Austrian friends over, whom we actually met through! Thank you so much Peter and Sabrina for coming and presenting some of your work! :)

Here is a photo from the beginning of the international section, with me as the section moderator, and Peter and Sabrina preparing for their presentation, which was supported by Persony, a really great web conferencing tool:

Photo by Alen Ježovnik

At the conference I also presented my own paper on the subject of Sloodle. My presentation was the last of the day, and I think I did a decent job - judging from the feedback from the audience and their questions :) After the conference I also had a brief presentation of Second Life for those that were interested, and I hope I managed to present the existing potential of virtual worlds well enough.

So, the event was delivered without any major problems, and I think that all of our delegates were able to find something useful at our first Moodle Moot. I definitely hope we'll have another event like this again in the next year.

I'd like to finish this report by posting my own Sloodle presentation, and the two videos I've used during my presentation (I only had 10 minutes to present everything, so I had to keep the videos short). Here are the slides I used (translated in English):

A short video about Second Life (it was played on slide 3):

And a short demonstration of how the Sloodle Toolbar works (played on slide 7):

(By the way: we also had my Moodle presentation video playing in the coffee room and before the start of the conference.)

If you'd like to know more about our conference or my presentation, please leave a comment here or email me (ialja(at)mac(dot)com).

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Eduserv Symposium 2007: Virtual worlds, real learning?

This Thursday I attended the Eduserv Foundation Symposium: Virtual worlds, real learning? through Second Life. I registered early enough to get a sit at the Eduserv Island, and I must say I had a great time listening to all the presentations. It was quite a long event, so I've got quite some notes to share :)

First I'd like to say a few words about how the event was delivered and organized. The quality of the video and audio stream was in my opinion very good. Both the video and audio worked perfectly through the event. We had a few problems with video at the beginning, but a quick log out and log in fixed it for most of us. I especially liked the fact that there was a live streaming of the presenters' desktop - all the presentations in SL that I've attended so far had slides preloaded as images in SL, and although the quality of the slides was excellent when loaded, it does take a while to load the image, you also have avatars touching the screen all the time, and often the slides aren't in sync with the presenter's talk. So from my personal view streaming the presenters' desktop was definitely a great idea despite the fact that the image wasn't crystal clear. But I liked the fact that we were able to see the same image the audience in RL saw (including websites and computer alerts ;) ), and the fact that the slides were completely in sync with the presenter. During the presentations we also had a smaller frame on screen with the presenter's face, which was a nice feature. If we also had the RL audience on another screen I'd give the technical part of the streaming an A+, so without that they deserve "just" a good A :)

A great feature of the SL event was the participant registration. Those that registered early were put on the Eduserv Island attendance list, so there was no need to worry about losing your sit in case you had to log out and log in back to solve technical issues. Definitely a great idea!

Also, I really liked the fact that they prepared free delegate bags in SL, which included a free T-shirt, the event schedule, and speaker details. That definitely made me feel welcome, although the lunch and tea breaks were quite boring for us (the SL attendees) as there was no virtual tea party or lunch organized ;) But anyway, overall I really enjoyed the event, and I must say the organizers did a great job, especially considering that this was their first SL event of this kind. (Oh and by the way! It was great to be finally able to attend a SL event during the day - finally an Europe centered schedule ;) )

Of course the reason for attending the virtual symposium wasn't just the quality of the streaming, but the presentations. Here are some notes of mine for each of the presentation:

  • Learning in Second Life (Jim Purbrick, Linden Lab)
We started the symposium with a pretty elementary presentation of Second Life: what Second Life is and what it can be used for (no mention of casinos though ;) ). Although Jim isn't an educator, I think he made a good point when presenting the skills needed to create content in Second Life. He pointed out that the skills that people need to create virtual goods aren't useful just in Second Life, but are much broader digital skills. Still, this presentation was quite business centric, and "branding" was a word we heard quite a few times during this presentation.

The symposium continued with another business-related presentation by IBM. IBM would like to take part in building the 3D internet in which different virtual worlds and formats could connect through standards, and at this moment they are experimenting with different virtual worlds. First, Roo presented how IBM uses Second Life. They have some interesting projects in SL (Australian Open project, Greater IBM Connection etc.), and they also use SL to host virtual meetings (also informal) a couple of times a week, during which people can meet and talk, and create a better digital social and spatial presence. They also see great possibilities for organizing training, medical simulations, rehearsals, conference streaming, doing research and many other areas. However, they don't want to use SL to talk about confidential informations, so they've decided to experiment with their own metaverse project, which can be hosted on own their own servers, behind their firewall and can present some sort of 3D intranet and a safe business environment, in which they can also host confidential meetings. I think that might be the future of many enterprises - building a presence in a public virtual world and at the same time having a private virtual world for internal uses. I think schools could do the same - have private and safe classrooms on their own servers, but at the same time present their achievements to the world in public spaces. For more info about Roo's presentation see his post at eightbar.

During this presentation we heard the reasons for building a SL presence from a more educational point of view. The Edinburgh University chose to enter Second Life because it is cross-platform, because it is not a game, but still quite playful, and because several educational institutions already had a SL presence. During the presentation Hamish pointed out some important things they considered while building Holyrood Park (their SL space): they wanted to have students talking and meeting outside, and also they wanted to get away from classical spaces and artifacts that are used in traditional classrooms. I think these are very good points, and I really think Holyrood Park is a great educational space that makes visitors feel really comfortable. Also, Hamish presented the benefits of using SL for their university (presence in an important media space, opportunities for learning, teaching, research and development), pointed out some of the educational potential of SL (new learning spaces, active learning, digital identity and presence,...) and also some issues that the unversity has to deal with (legal issues, systems requirements, accessibility,...).

The next presentation was about the Second Nature island, which is owned by Nature Publishing Group and that has a lot of great scientific tools and simulations to offer. NPG sees Second Life as a great tool for science education, scientific research, and as a communication tool (to host scientific meetings, events, and conferences). Joanna presented some of the existing content on Second Nature island, which I first visited after her presentation. Second Nature is definitely an interesting place in SL, and I certainly can't wait to see more content added!

Next, Gilly presented the Leicester University Second Environment Advanced Learning (SEAL) project and their University presence in SL.

And the final presentation of the day saw Stephen Downes playing the techno sceptic and (in my view) presenting Second Life more rationally. Stephen reminded us that SL is a game ("and it's ok!"), and he presented some of the SL current issues: the fact that a company owns Second Life, the problems of scalability, the fact that SL heavily relays on its economy, private propriety etc. Stephen made an excellent point by saying that SL "taps into a latent conservatism" - SL feels very safe and it is very tempting to do the old things in a new space using the old way. SL isn't like Web 2.0, and it should be: in Stephen's words it should be distributed, open source, non commercial, diverse, democratic, and a place to create our own identity for free - more like the web we know and love. I certainly agree with Stephen: SL in its present form is not the future for education (something I've already pointed out in one of my previous posts).

  • Panel session
And at last there was also a panel session (questions from SL were taken through an IM channel), during which many interesting questions were asked and answered. I got the feeling that most of the questions were about the current SL issues. And we got some nice promises from Linden Lab that they will be opening their software even more, and that they are working on optimizing the maintenance process. Can't wait to see that really happen :)

And with the panel session the virtual symposium was over for us avatars. It was interesting to see all these different points of view, and I think the presenters were well chosen. For those of you who missed the event a recording should be available soon enough on the Eduserv's website. If you won't have much time to listen to the presentations, just make sure you listen to Stephen; I assure you it will be 30 minutes well spent :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Joost: TV the way you want it (well, almost)

If you are a heavy Web 2.0 user like me, you probably find ordinary TV extremely boring. Nowadays, whenever I watch TV for more than 5 minutes, I always end up dreaming of right-clicks for more info, the ability to skip, fast forward, and most importantly relevant content. There are few things that bore me more on TV than the evening news - why should I listen to some people reading general interest news I mostly already read on the net? Not to mention the poor coverage of areas that I'm really interested in... Yep, cable TV is still so 20th century, and a real bore for digital natives or immigrants.

Luckily for all of us, things are changing. And one of the most promising new tools seems to be Joost TV: a new peer-to-peer based technology for distributing TV content over the Web in a more interactive way. And at the beginning of this month they finally gave their beta users unlimited invites, so I was also able to get one a few days ago. In this post I'd like to share with you some of my first Joost (pronounced like "juiced") impressions:

Setting Up
First of all you need an invite (although I had some problems with sending invites I can probably get you one if you mail me your name and e-mail at ialja(at)mac(dot)com). Then you have to download the Joost application (good news - it runs both on Macs and PCs - Linux is still not supported though). Downloading the application can take quite some time as their site can get really slow (probably due to high traffic). When you download the application, you install it and run it (it takes same time for it to load the first time), you create an account and are prompted to give them your birthday - and then asked to confirm that you are over 18 (hmm). That's all it takes for the Joost experience to start. You are greeted by a presentation video and can immediately start watching channels on your list, or add new channels through the Channel List.

Good content is of course key. You can check out the list of available channels on the Joost website. So far most of the channels are in English, but we'll probably get more content in other languages soon. As you can see from the channel list, some channels are limited to a certain geographical area, though most are accessible worldwide. On Joost you can get brief info on each channel, and browse the list of available shows for each channel. You can choose to play the whole channel or just individual shows, as one would expect. You have the ability to rate each show, and to use channel chat while watching a certain channel (a feature I haven't tried out yet, because I watched most of the content on TV). A lot of the Joost content is not very well known, so search is definitely a great tool to browse content that is always at hand. The good thing is that it doesn't just search the channel and show titles, but also descriptions, so I found it to be pretty useful.

If you connect your computer to a TV it seems like you're watching real TV. The video plays smoothly most of the time, and the overall quality if quite impressive. Certainly better than I expected. When more content gets added, I think Joost will be a great replacement for my existing cable channels!

User Interface
Joost is quite easy to use - you don't really need a manual. You need to run it full screen to get all the extra features, and it does have the look of a TV application. Navigation is pretty easy, although not perfect. I did have some problems with the My Channels list: I was unable to reorder the channels (one attempt even crashed the application), and when I started Joost on my laptop, the My Channels list was again filled with the default channels. Also, after removing some channels from my list, they mysteriously reappeared as my channels in a few minutes. Well, it proves that the software is still beta for a reason. One interesting feature of the interface are the widgets that you can have on screen if you want. So far the collection of widgets is limited (you do have the clock however ;) and an RSS widget), and users can't write their own widgets; although the developers are promising a future developer kit for widgets.

So, my first impressions of Joost are positive. I already managed to find some interesting content (some music channels are good, and I really enjoyed a documentary about cats :) ), and although I was impressed by the quality, I got the impression that for now Joost developers are mainly focusing on testing the technology, and not so much on the user experience. Here are some features that I'd like to see in future versions of Joost to make it the TV the way I really want it:
  • I'd really like to have a web interface to manage my channels. An easy way to add, remove, and reorder channels at anytime and anywhere. I'd like the ability to add channels to my Joost list with one click from anywhere on the web. Also, the same My Channels list has to be accessible on Joost from any computer.
  • It'd be great to have a Joost social network. I'd like to be able to have Joost friends, see what my friends are watching, and of course an easy way to recommend a show/channel to friends. Also, it'd be great to be able to favorite certain shows and connect with people that like the same shows.
  • I think we also need recommendations. So far there is only limited content on Joost, but soon I think it's be really great if you had an Amazon-like "People that liked this show also liked the following shows..." feature.
  • Another feature that could help you find content would be content tagging and tag clouds. Why should we browse shows only on a certain channel if I'm only interested in content with certain tags?
  • In addition to tagging - is it to much to dream of a RSS feed for certain tags? RSS feeds for new content make a great feature, as a Joost user has already figured out.
  • A YouTube-like playlist feature would also be welcome. Imagine creating a playlist of Joost shows relevant to your course that you could easily share with your students or your group.
  • I'd also think it's be interesting to connect Joost to existing sites and networks. For example: the ability to easily post a video response to a Joost show on YouTube, having a web widget that could display your favorite or recently watched shows/channels on your blog etc.
  • I also hope we'll be able to have subtitles on Joost. Subtitles would improve accessibility, and in my ideal TV application you'd provide the users with an easy way to translate existing subtitles in their own language.
With addition of some of the features that I mentioned above, I think Joost could also become a new exciting learning tool. The TV of the 21st century that can be used to connect, explore and learn new things. However, at this point Joost is still an exciting new tool that is worth giving a try, but still needs some improvements to become the TV 21st century learners need and want. That means that for now I'm keeping an eye on Joost, and I hope that I'll soon be able to report exciting new Joost features that will improve our user experience and make Joost much more than just an internet TV :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Moodle Presentation: feedback needed

The past few weeks have really been busy for me, so I don't get nearly as much time to blog as I'd like to :( But today I'm really excited about the fact that I can finally share a Moodle presentation that I've been working on for some time. The presentation will be used at the first Moodle Moot in Slovenia that my faculty is organizing on May 18th. The plan is to have the video play during the conference (at the beginning or/and during coffee breaks), and also include a copy on the conference CD that our attendees will get after the conference.

So, if you have 2 minutes to spare, please take a look at my Moodle Presentation draft:

I'd really like to get some feedback on this video, so don't hesitate to leave your comments or suggestions here on my blog or on YouTube :)

(Small print: this presentation is actually a translation of the original presentation that I made in Slovenian, so I apologize in advance for any awkward translations :") )

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.