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November 21st, 2006


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02:03 pm - Thinking about where to go from here, web-wise
I've been looking over Chronarchy.Com's backend specs. The site sits at about 275 MB in size, out of a possible 400 MB. My virtual "rent" is fairly cheap (which is good: I could never afford more), but I'm thinking about what I'd like to do with the site, and it *does* just keep growing.

So as I look at it, I start to size it up. There's ever the option of adding wiki. . . A fun tool that ADF members will know well (as will users of that silly depository of "knowledge," Wikipedia), but it doesn't seem to serve my needs. There are mailing lists and polls and things like that which could really enhance the "experience" of Chronarchy.Com, but they're not so much useful as "cool."

I could create a "members only" section, but that bothers me on a lot of levels: I'm one of those rare people who really likes the transparency that the Internet provides, the openness it promotes and the weird quirks of oh-shit-I-shouldn't-have-posted-that moments that we all have. They make life interesting, at the very least. Only one directory on my pages is password protected, and all it's got are four images.

I can create a nifty chat function (I did this on the Three Cranes site, but more as a fun thing to play with than an actual tool), but I don't have the time to staff it or really participate in it to any extent.

I could add a blog, but between MySpace, Facebook, and LiveJournal, I am totally blogged out. Enough that my webpage, which I always wanted to keep primary, is wasting away for lack of new content (don't tell me you haven't noticed. . .)

I could sell stuff, but given the lackluster response my CafePress site gets (even with ADF-related material available on it being published at cost), I have a feeling that's a losing proposition. Besides, the CafePress site is linked off every page of the site, and in a year and a half, it's earned all of $6.02.

But what actually interested me was a little program called "Moodle". Moodle is a course management system that allows people to take courses on your website. It allows for virtual workshops, assignments, chat sessions, creation of resources, etc.

I look at it and I think that, hell, I could put the WotY up on that. I could set it up to assign things on a regular basis, create due dates, quiz people over the material, and seriously upgrade and reorganize the resources available. And I could also create something like that for the various GSP courses, or clergy training. And honestly, I'm a little excited.

The central problem with it is the installation size. It's nearly 50 MB, and that'll put me dangerously close to the edge, given my current usage and the rate the site has grown at: about 68 MB/year on average.

With additional size, there's additional cost. So now I'm thinking: is it worth the upgrade cost? How can I make the additional virtual "rent?" Would anyone use it? How much backend work is needed: can it run itself? Is it fair to offer the course for cash (the idea makes me somewhat uncomfortable), or should I just check ADF membership and make it a free-for-all romp if I decide to do it?

Yes, these are things I wonder about during sunny lunch hours in winter.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: "If the Phone Doesn't Ring, It's Me", -JB

(39 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 21st, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
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I don't like the idea of an online course on your webpage. For starters, we should be emphasizing the mentorship and help available from real-life real-time ADF members, not introducing yet another impersonal medium. People should talk to the clergy, fellow DPers, people who've finished their DP already. This encourages fellowship and shared perspectives a lot more than some cheesy web course would. And don't tell me you're going to police and mentor everybody who uses it, either -- you do not have the time.

I could see where quizzes and due dates would be fun, but due dates do not really work that well. We've seen that already through everyone that's done. Moreover, the WOTY already suggests you should do one assignment per week, meaning that anyone who starts it ALREADY has a calendar of duedates they can customize much more efficiently. As for quizzes, quizzes yield grades and then you open a whole nother can of worms, and I don't mean cool worms like the kind I save, I mean big nasty tentacle worms with names like Ego and Discouragement.

*shrugs* It'd be nice to provide another learning tool, but your website already does. And to be honest, anything to the extent of a course belongs on ADF's website, not your personal page.

[User Picture]
From:dqg_neal
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:28 pm (UTC)
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Is the online course really a bad thing? It would just provide one more variety of possible ways to learn.

There is enough variety amongst those that want to learn. Just look at the DP through the Wheel of the Year. Same (well similar) content as the basic instruction, but in its implementation many people think it astounding, while others dread even that level of structure.

But yes, the whole community managing websites is probably not a great road to go down, they suck time, energy, and money if it becomes successful.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:31 pm (UTC)
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I think considering the amount of space it would take up, yeah, it is a bad thing.

I also don't think that the whole community needs to manage it, but rather that it doesn't really belong on a personal website. If it's an ADF course, it should be on ADF's mainpages. Mike can save the Mike Show for his webpage, where it would probably be more appropriate to have his own sort of made-up courses like... derno, ones on whatever he thinks is cool.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)
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*nods* What I'm playing with right now is the ability to offer the WotY in a more interactive form, which was its original intent. When I wrote the WotY, it was designed to be a set of emails sent out to each Dedicant that someone was mentoring. It can still be used for that.

What I can do with this is move the couple of remaining students (or new students who come in at a later time and want the same one-on-one connection I gave singingwren, _crow365__, and wishmaiden) over to a system like this. If it works out well on a small scale, then I can look at asking ADF if they want the course in its entirety, and maybe work on some other versions for things like the GSP as well.

The key, of course, is to keep seeking new ways for people to learn.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
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I sent you a login to what I'm currently messing around with.

Try it.

And remember, the WotY was made for people who want stricter schedules, more structured training, and a deeper content level.

And a quiz is a teaching tool, not a punishment or a judgment.

As for it belonging on ADF's site, well, I'd still end up proctoring the whole thing: Anthony has less time than I do, and it would end up as a timesink for two of us there (as we'd be the only people working on it, I can bet, and I'm not going to make him do it).

I'd also point out that I'm not the only person thinking about running ADF training on a personal site (or actually doing it).

Fact is, if it doesn't do most of the work for me, then it's a waste of time. So I'm playing with it to figure it out. Though I'm glad you know what my time commitments are better than I do.

Interestingly, I can make other people teachers, and give them access to the courses. Which means that I don't have to be the only person working on it.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:40 pm (UTC)
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Try what? I didn't understand I was supposed to do other than look at the assignments.

I realize that it was meant to be stricter, but it already IS stricter. Can you make the calendar flexible so that due dates for the person change according to when they start it? That'd save people a lot of effort in figuring it out a calendar if they wish to be that selective, maybe.

As for quizzes, yes, you'd think that, but if YOU or others get to see the grades that changes things. Assigning letter grades for performance of this nature seems not only unnecessary but also unwelcome. These things are lot more abstract than math assignments. Again, if you can make quizzes that just let you retake them a lot to review and don't log scores, that would be cooler, but it's new so I don't know what you can do.

Finally, as for your time committments, I apologize for believing your claims of having too much on your plate already and looking for a second job.

[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:48 pm (UTC)
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You are not required to believe a word I say.

Sorry I sought your opinion on this. I'll look elsewhere for someone who is willing to ask questions rather than state conclusions.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 21st, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)
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Yikes, MJD! Calm down! Since when was it a sin to disagree with your ideas? You said you were considering doing the Moodle thing and seemed to want feedback, so I gave it to you. I felt it was not a good idea and sought to explain why, all the while trying to inject thoughts on what MIGHT work better if you could do that.

You have a lot of nerve criticizing me for "stating conclusions" (aka sharing opinions) instead of asking questions when you clearly seem to think you have all the answers already! Yeesh.
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 21st, 2006 10:02 pm (UTC)
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I am calm. What are you?
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 21st, 2006 10:13 pm (UTC)
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Buggered!

...

Okay, I'm actually just sleepy. But I don't see why you are reacting with such attitude to me...? Aren't you always looking for feedback on this type of stuff and trying to hear the voices of the ADF members? Maybe you just weren't expecting disagreement to this idea, but I think I figured out the gyst of what bothered me and sent it to you in email instead. No point in rambling that here.

This idea touched a nerve -- and I don't think I'm the only one who has it.
[User Picture]
From:chirael
Date:November 24th, 2006 08:04 am (UTC)
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I think the idea is good in theory, but in practice I suspect that the extra work involved in using the Moodle site will actually be more of a hindrance than a help to students.

As you say, singingwren, WotY already provides a pretty good structure. Really, all that remains is for students to follow it and do the work. I'm not sure that additional web tools will really help make that happen; either the student makes the time to follow the program, or s/he doesn't. I don't see that having assignments and web calendars will make that more likely.

But, I'm all for testing it out and being proven wrong, too. I'm just (believe it or not) cautious about over-techifying things. But I also have my own styles for learning, so I may be missing a certain subset of students that could benefit from even more DP structure, this time via additional tech tools.

So I'd say go for it, test it out. Though, relevant to the question of whether to pony up the additional cash to test out moodle, is there a simpler, smaller system you could use to test the concept, first - a sort of "poor man's moodle"?

And I certainly hope you guys have patched up any silliness from this exchange by now - you two are both among the most nice and also dedicated to ADF folks I know.

You're really on the "same team" here, both trying to help the Dedicants learn the best they can, it's just there's a little disagreement on the exact approach.

And hey, if all that nice-sounding mumbo-jumbo doesn't work for ya', you can team up and flame me, if that'll get you back in each others' good graces ;)
[User Picture]
From:chirael
Date:November 24th, 2006 08:06 am (UTC)
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Oh, and I should say, if disk space alone is stopping you, you could also set up a test server on archives.adf.org - I think we still have plenty of space there.
[User Picture]
From:singingwren
Date:November 24th, 2006 09:32 pm (UTC)
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Unfortunately I received this comment a little too late; had I known that Mike and I were both on the same team, I wouldn't have gone out and firebombed his house to the ground!

*shakes head* Ah well, you live and learn, right? ;)

On a slight tangent, a lot of my issue with this system is that it runs the risk of making ADf TOO standardized/technical/impersonal, especially if we do 'mass mentoring' or use the quiz and grade features. I'm actually a little (okay, a LOT) skittish about too much centralization; I guess I've got an anarchist streak there.

Oh, and on a WAY bigger tangent, I just found out that I was born at 6:29 am. :)
[User Picture]
From:chirael
Date:November 25th, 2006 02:36 am (UTC)
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it runs the risk of making ADf TOO standardized/technical/impersonal

Hm, I think you may be on to something there. Periodically I have to remind myself (and sometimes others) that "ADF is not the lists" - or LJ, whatever.

I think the one-on-one mentorship connections are really what helps, just like meeting people face to face at festivals is better than 1000 e-mails.

However, I think we still have more mentor requests than students, so while I agree there's definitely a risk of making it too technical and impersonal (which is a better way of what I was saying when I said over-structured, I think), I think it's worth trying out with a focus group.

As I said, I'd love to be proven wrong - but that can only really happen if the focus group actually says it works.

I'm not sure, but I think one of your concerns might be that this would be implemented as an official ADF system when, in fact, I don't think Mike meant to do that unless the test went well.

And even then, I'd think the system would be optional, not an integral part of the DP. (And even the WotY is optional of course).

Oh, and on a WAY bigger tangent, I just found out that I was born at 6:29 am. :)

Great! If you remind me before Wellspring I'll try to do your chart and bring it with me, or if either of us forget, I'll just do it on my Palm Pilot there :)
[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:November 27th, 2006 02:02 pm (UTC)
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And I certainly hope you guys have patched up any silliness from this exchange by now

It's okay: what you see here. . . well, it's how our relationship has always been.

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