A Short Story About How a Network Corrects Itself

I’m working on Waterfeed, one of the activities of the Spring 2014 experiment we’ll be running, where we run a cMOOC/ds106 experience over multiple classes as an integrative layer. And something happened this morning when I was looking at the feed that seemed like a good opportunity to talk about how errors in a network get corrected. It’s also a chance for me to go on a mini-rant about the “We want a culture of Producers, not Consumers!” silliness that infects EdTech. Do you want “a culture of Writers, not Readers!”? of “Musicians, not Dancers!”? of “Typewriter Makers, not Typists!”?

No, of course not. At the very least, you want a culture of *better* producers, and *better* consumers. And frankly, I’m not sure you want to divide the world into those categories at all. It’s kind of elitist, capitalist bullcrap based on the idea that producers “give” and consumers “take”. That producers bring new stuff into the world which consumers deplete. Nothing could be further from the truth, which is why I prefer to use the terms reading and authoring when talking about digital and literary products, as these terms emphasize the important, active role of the reader in the process of creation and dissemination of art and science.

So, in any case, this five minute screencast shows what good digital reading looks like, why we need it, and why “production” without reading is a bad, bad thing.

4 thoughts on “A Short Story About How a Network Corrects Itself

  1. A valuable lesson here for the simplicity of how we can make the web better– Another subtlety illustrated is the problem of sourcing information. I have remembered cases where something cited took 5 links back to even get to the source.

    Maybe its less about consuming versus producing and simply actively participating in the web.

    Now the comment wanders toward something more like a blog post. I’ve been thinking about the wonderful concept you have brought to life here. In just seeing the walk through I forsee some possible limitations in using the wordpress admin interface as the place for students to find the stories. Once below the fold of the first page, how will people find previous stories easily? Picking the article is also a matter of guesswork based on the title only. It seems from the outside as a bit of a clumsy way to find stories to work with, but then again, maybe that is part of the learning process.

    But also, you are syndicating in a ton of resources, but because they are all drafts, you are losing potential of having this big library of news stories that may never get reviewed.

    If it were me, I would create a custom content type for the raw news feeds so they can be public, kind of like a water news reader. Site readers perhaps could up vote stories, add tags, search, re-share.. make the feed aggregation a public library. You can add code to the template so that your logged in participants with rights to edit, can then click a link on the reader page to move it to the review interface, and when published as a review, ends up as the curated stuff as you are doing now.

    • Well, we could make the OPML public as a stopgap. I think a lot of the stories should frankly die, so I like the filtering aspect of this, but I think you’re right that it needs a sort of fail-safe. As a partial solution, I have set it up so that we pull in pinboard bookmarking too, so if you register your pinboard account with us and tag a story with ‘waterfeed’ it will flow into the queue, and get special attention as something tagged by a human as significant.

      The 1,000 articles overstates the flow, since it pulls a lot of posts over the past year into the queue. My guess is the daily flow is more likely to be around 50 articles a day which would be more manageable. What I think may actually happen is that on some days we will run out of articles, which will push people to dig into the archives to see what we may have missed. But maybe I’m overly optimistic?

      • Makes sense. Still seems a challenge to browse stories by titles in the WordPress editor, but I think if you opml it people could review the stories in a tool if their choice. That would be less work!

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