Rethinking EduGlu

This morning, while riding toward campus on a nicely packed bus, with Arcade Fire cranked up and my notebook open in front of me, I had a thought about EduGlu. I was thinking about something completely unrelated, when it just popped into my head, crystal clear.

The solution to the problem of distributed, decentralized, heterogeneous online publishing tools used by students is not to build a monolithic berapp to aggregate them all. There is no One Ring to bind them all. If the problem is "how do faculty and students keep track of content published by people (students, each other, etc…) that they care about?", the answer is "We already do that. With RSS and feedreeders."

So, what if the concept of EduGlu is unnecessary, and instead of building a new centralized app, a set of tools to manage OPML (or XO, or whatever) lists of feeds published by individuals is refined.

A person just creates a list of their feeds, and adds it to a master list. Other people pay attention either to the entire list, or to subsets or cross-sections of it, subscribing to the OPML and/or RSS feeds listed within.

There are already several very powerful ways to do that, most notably the BlogBridge Feed Library tool, which does almost exactly what I was seeing – nested sets of feeds organized by whatever criteria (course? person? etc…) and available as OPML so people could consume the feeds however they like.

The solution to every problem doesn't have to involve "Hey! Let's design and build some cool new software!" – more often than not, especially in the last year or two, it should be more of "Hey! Let's use these existing apps in new ways!"

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