At the University of Manchester we are prototyping a social software system / PLE aimed at a user population of 1,000,000 users. We also want it to become Emerge's base social software system, capable of being used by anyone in the Emerge community who wants to build specialist social software. That is really a matter of individual choice, but the possibility is there, and we are more than happy to work towards that end with any interested parties.
Besides the 'usual' social software features, we have some specific targets for the PLE:
- Supporting learning in communities that form around a specific learning goal or set of related goals, e.g. "I want to learn about PLEs and how to use them". For now we adopt a more popular term for learning goal, namely, wish
- The ability to create, adopt, adapt, and reuse learning plans
- The ability to structure ideas and depictions of knowledge around wishes as individuals and communities construct knowledge
- A light touch with existing Web 2.0 facilities, e.g. incorporation of your blog into the PLE if you wish to keep on using an existing blog
- Collaborative editing of various kinds of artifacts, including learning plans
- The ability to deal with some generally less well supported aspects of learning activities, automatic discovery of boundary objects, merging and splitting of communities, automatic suggestion of learning partners
- Real time communication accessible via user profiles and other user representations in the system
The list goes on, and in the available time we have we are not going to realise all of our list, but we are going full tilt and aiming at achieving at least the first five of these.
One reason for fast work is the skill of the implementation team, for example, two of the team are part of the team behind an innovative PHP MVC framework that we are employing. Another reason is the development method that we are using. This is Scrum, which certainly should be added to the UIDM (the UIMD is a bit light on agile management techniques). We are using Scrum to deliver successive iterative prototypes every two weeks, and we hope, with plenty of scope for egg (or is that elgg) on our faces, to have a first demo featuring user profiles, community membership and administration, basic search facilities, and basic editing for learning plans and wish-idea structuring running live at the Manchester Emerge event.
For the techies here, the technologies being used are MySQL, PHP, the highly efficient PHP MVC framework oolime, (also used in the gorgeous beocia, a MMORPG, unfortunately still in beta) and Flex 2, together with, for enhanced performance, various LAMP caching technologies in the background. The use of Flex makes the system a Rich Internet Application.
The prototype is being built by five MSc students (Ian Bell, Greg Bouteiller, Mathieu Perrin, Eric Raffin and Ashish Ughade) with myself (Mark van Harmelen) doing a bit of hands-off building.
Ian, Greg, Mathieu, Eric, Ashish, Mark
Keep an eye out for us in Manc! We'll be only too pleased to chat with you!