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What might a linking-game look like?

An interesting conversation in the comments to Cole Camplese‘s post about the importance of having access to data in a university system. Brett Bixler brought up the idea of bringing some game aspects to using the data, and Cole pushed toward the ‘how many clicks’ game:

students are given a random starting topic and a random ending topic and they have to see how many clicks through articles it takes to get from A to B … an example might be, “get from the topic iPod to Kennedy Space Center.” I wonder if we could design something like that uses tag aggregation as a pass through

I’d love to see something like that, might even scrape up the time to work on something like that, but need help figuring out what, exactly, that might look like. Tags might be a great way to start something like this off. Links might be a way, too. How does the game work, though? I don’t really know where to begin with this.

One additional thought. Theoretically, with both tags and links we could come at it from two different directions. One is to have something that focuses on the existing tags/categories and links to make the game go. The other is for players to create their own links and tags/categories on posts they encounter. Since the data in SemanticUMW is in a completely separate database from the UMWBlogs database, this could fairly easily be done, and might even provide an additional set of interesting and useful data.

Anyone with ideas/models for sharpening up this fuzzy idea?

Whose Link Is It, Anyway?

Continuing my fascination with links, I’ve got a new Exhibit in the spirit of the Link Friends Exhibit. That one is an overall list of common links between posts. So it gives you a list of URLs and the posts that link to them, ordered by the number of posts that link to it.

This one gets blog-specific. For any given blog URI, it digs up all the things it links to, if some other post anywhere in UMWBlogs also links to it. Like so:

You can start here, and just type or copy-paste in the URI of a blog in UMWBlogs, and it’ll dig up the common links. Or, start with the exhibit for this blog. (For blogs with many links, it takes a little while to process the data. bavatuesdays.com, for example, pretty much stalls) There are facets for tags on all the resources, though it’s unlikely right now that the common link will have been tagged. In the happiest circumstance, the common link will be to another post within UMWBlogs, in which case it just might have been tagged or categorized.

The pop-up for the common link also gives you an option to go to a page of all the posts and blogs that link to it.

The idea is that if you find a blog that you like, chances are that it will link to other things that you like. And if indeed it links to other things that you like, other, unfamiliar, blogs will also link to it. And so you can traverse through (1) blog you like (possibly your own!) -> (2) what it links to -> (3) new blogs that you might like, based on common linking.

“Where’s the Links?”: Pedagogy and the Blue Underline


Yesterday I posted about how some students have retitled their blogs to reflect the course they are in this semester rather than last. That got me thinking about continuity of intellectual life and development from semester to semester — or lack thereof — and the blogging practices that could reflect and/or facilitate it.

Here’s a place where, perhaps, we should think about student blogging and the practices for it as something a little different from general blogging practices. Or maybe not different, but with some particular focus and emphasis. The particular thing I have in mind is linking, something I’ve also written about in “Links–They’re Not Just For Breakfast and Google Anymore!”. (Like how I went meta on that one?)

Experienced bloggers do a lot of linking to other bloggers and sites. But often enough we also link back to ourselves. That’s not a vanity thing, it reflects the fact that our blogs are a part of our own intellectual development. We work through ideas there, and so in the blogs history you can see the development of our thoughts. It’s quite natural, then, for us to link back to older posts. That linking is just the manifestation of our reflection on previous ideas.

That, I think, is the practice and philosophy that should be emphasized as good student blogging practices. This struck me particularly with the example of a blog that contains material from last semester’s Historical Methods class and this semester’s The Politics and Culture of the 1960s. Perhaps it’s only because there are few posts so far, but that is a place where I would hope for many many many back-links. It seems like the intellectual connections between the two classes should be there — that that is part of the organization of the entire curriculum — and so that should be manifested in the actual links. Pedagogically, pushing students to back-link to previous posts is just a way of saying, “Hey…let’s make the connections between different elements of the curriculum. That’s what it’s designed for.”

About year ago, I did a poster session at ELI along with Steve Greenlaw about a similar idea he and Gardner Campbell cooked up to encourage their advisees to talk about the connections they see between their different courses during a semester. Instead of this taking place in a separate web app during one semester, I’m talking about the connections being manifested within a space they are already using, UMWBlogs, and across many semesters.

This is a real place where encouraging a good blogging practice is also encouraging a good pedagogy and a goal of higher education.

Looks like the next Exhibit I build for Semantic UMW should be something like a “Links History” timeline for each blog.

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