Monthly Archive for May, 2004

No Parking Here to Corner Pt 3

Talked to Sgt. Hamilton of the Belmont Police today. He has worked through the considerable red tape to get permission from Watertown for Belmont to put up a sign on Watertown property. It should be there soon.

Weblogs and Threaded Discussion Forums Together

Lee Lefever of Common Craft is looking for a hosted combination of weblog and threaded discussion group. This would indeed make it easier for a learning director to monitor discussions that may be springing up in various places as a weblog for a course grows.
For example, the course I'm running now has multiple discussions going simultaneously. With one weblog front end that shows the most recent comments users can see which threads are active and who is contributing. We started by listing the five most recent comments just to try to limit the length of the list in the sidebar. But as discussions get active comments get pushed off the list very rapidly, and it's possible that a comment could get pushed off the list before anyone sees it. We've extended the list but clearly there has to be a better way to alert people that a discussion is active.

No Parking Here to Corner Pt 2

Haven't received a return Call from Sgt. Hamilton of the Belmont Police in two weeks so I tried calling him again today. He's been out for training this week. Lt. Lane took a message and told me Sgt. Hamilton would call on Monday.

Let's just get them all using RSS

In the course I am running for the fourth year for a large financial services firm, we have always had difficulty getting the participants to visit the course web site. This led us initially to use only asynchronous discussion boards that had the capability of functioning entirely through email. Participants didn't have to visit the web site ever – they received one anothers comments by email and could reply that way with all communication automatically posted to the discussion board.
Now that we are using a weblog instead of a discussion board we are experiencing multiple threads of very rich discussion.
We face a paradox in this course. Some participants like to write long winded comments but most participants don't have time to read anything longer than a paragraph. If they start to recieve lengthy emails from the course on a regular basis they will start to tune out the entire discussion.
So the learning director has the job of filtering and excerpting and re-posting comments to make sure the most interesting information gets in front of the participants. The ones that are interested enough can go to the blog to read more and ideally comment.
To ensure participants see the discussion we have three choices:
1. Use the notification feature built into Movable Type.
2. Manually send out an email version of the post with links back to the blog
3. Provide all the participants with a newsreader, subscribe them to the blog, and teach them to use it.
We've opted for option 2 in this course because we wanted to use an nicely designed Outlook template instead of the bare bones MT notification email. We didn't want to add the hurdle of newsreader software to what is already a very demanding course for people with very little time.
But this leads to a dilemma: When a participant has commented and then some time goes by before anyone responds, how can I, as the Learning Director, be sure that the first participant is going to remember to check back to the post that he commented on to see if anyone has followed up?
In the ACS discussion board we used to use (and in many others), you can subscribe to a particular thread so that you get an email notification when anyone responds.
Maybe we need the same feature on the blog. Once you comment on a post, you would be automatically subscribed to receive a notfication when anyone else comments on that post.
Better yet, we should just get all the participants using the RSS feed which would include both posts and comments.

Is the Prius Navigation System Worth $3000?

Two different dealers in Virginia have a red Toyota Prius on hold waiting for me to pick it up. One has option package #7 which includes, among other things, the side airbags that we definitely want. The other has package #9 which costs $3000 more and includes everything in package #7 plus a premium sound system, a security alarm, an autodimming rearview mirror and the voice activated GPS system and bluetooth hands-free phone. Basically the issue is the navigation system. I know if I don't get it I'll be kicking myself everytime I need directions. But $3000 is a lot and I'm not sure we'll really use it enough to make it worth that.

Here's a site that describes the navigation system.

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