A thousand points of light

My hometown newspaper, The South China Morning Post (SCMP), recently went live with a reader driven mashup site dedicated to reporting environmental damage. The SCMP calls the site Citizen Map. It looks like it’s gaining traction. The public responded with more than 20 tip-offs in the first few days.

Mashups are nothing new. Typical examples include real estate listing databases married to neighborhood maps and school district information, sites that track epidemic outbreaks around the world and geo-location restaurant guides.

But most mashups are meant to broadcast a single author’s voice, or at least a single group’s message. What the SCMP has done looks a little different. The paper has put together a number of services, some commercial, some open source, that let other people generate the content around a theme. Arguably, user generated content is nothing new either. Think Twitter or Facebook.  But Twitter and Facebook cater to everyone, or at least try to.

I would guess that the SCMP has no idea where this is going to go but the framework is clear: the SCMP has created a point solution (in contrast to an enterprise or utility solution) to aggregate community generated information on environmental damage. Individual postings might lead to follow-up investigations, government responses (one hopes), name and shame reporting or public debate.

A different drum

drumbeat_logoThe good people over at Mozilla set up a spin-off called Drumbeat, essentially a peer to peer, open source, learning and development environment.

Two Drumbeat projects caught my eye.

The first, Universal Subtitles, is both a technology development project and a global learning initiative. To date 772 people have contributed to this project. Subtitles clarify a lot, even song lyrics in one’s native language. Speech-to-text transcriptions and follow-on translations (this is the universal part) cost money and take time. Easy, user generated subtitles mean that videos in one language can be leveraged out to any number of languages easily.

It’s a very cool idea with lots of implications for making video-based learning that gets pushed out globally.

The second project that caught my eye is the P2PU School of Webcraft, which aims to make a “vibrant, peer-led system to help people around the world easily access and build careers on open web technology.” The project bills itself as “the ultimate curriculum for open web developers” with  “a community endorsed certificate to show off your skills” and is an outgrowth of a course held via Peer2Peer University. The first intake starts in September. The proposed syllabus includes:

* Web 200: The Anatomy of a Page Load
* Web Development 101
* HTML5
* Building Social with the Open Web
* Reading Code
* Semantic Markup
* Organic SEO Basics
* What is PHP
* Drupal Basics
* Building Social Web Applications with Drupal
* Beginning Webservices with Python
* Designers Tackling The Web
* Principles of Project Management
* Introduction to System Administration
* Web Accessibility
* Designing for Education: : How to optimize the user experience.
* Extension Development
* Interactive games for the open web
* Scripting 101

This is serious stuff. It bears watching.