Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ My Take on the Top 25

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Aug 27, 2008

Originally posted on Half an Hour, August 27, 2008.

Copying Emma Duke-Williams's idea - here's Jane Hart's Slideshow of the Day list of the top 25 technologies - and where they fit (or not) in my own world:
  • Firefox - It's my major workhorse. Don't use Flock.

  • Delicious - I think I added a bookmark there once. I use my own system for bookmarks (which I then send out as a newsletter). And other people's unannotated links leave me cold.

  • Google Reader - It's also a major workhorse, though I am slowly improving my own aggregator so it can take over from Google.

  • Gmail - only as a backup. GMail resolutely won't let me use my own emai laddress , which is a deal-breaker for me. My own identity is - most importantly - mine. (I still remember having my email address unceremoniously dumped when AOL bought Netscape, and I swore I'd never allow that to happen again).

  • Skype - I use it once in a while. It's certainly more reliable than other voice and video communication tools I've used.

  • Google calendar - I use this quite a bit, which is a new thing for me. Not so much Google Calendar, but the idea of using any calendaring tool at all (I used to simply remember all my appointments, but I'm getting old...)

  • Google Docs - I use it a little, but not a lot.

  • iGoogle - I never use it. I have no use for it.

  • Slideshare - I upload all my slideshows to Slideshare and find it really hand when I encounter a slide show embedded in a blog post (I will almost always view at least some of theslides).

  • Flickr - I have a pro account and have uploaded, I don't know, around 10,000 photos.

  • Voicethread - I have no use for it.

  • WordPress - I don't use it, because I have my own blogging software that I wrote myself (that nobody else uses, but I'm OK with that).

  • Audacity - I record all of my talks with Audacity. I'm also using it to digitize my vinyl albums.

  • YouTube - I use Google Video to upload videos, because I started there, and I prefer the presentation there. I watch a lot of YouTube, though.

  • Jing - I don't use it because I can't have screen captures recorded in Flash. I convinced NRC to purchase Camtasia for me. I also use Adobe Premiere Elements quite a bit.

  • PBWiki - I have my own wiki installed on my website, and don't need to use PBWiki. It's an instance of UseMod Wiki, which I've customized to work with my own login system.

  • PollDaddy - I have just installed Limesurvey on my website, and though I haven't used it yet, expect to employ it for some work this fall. For various reasons I am not willing to use a hosted polling solution.

  • Nvu - Again, since I have my own system I have no need for this one.

  • Yugama - haven't used this at all. Looks promising, though.

  • Ustream - I've done a few trial broadcasts, but haven't had an occasion to use it,

  • Ning -I agree with Emma: "I really don’t like Ning." The whole idea of a network on a single website is wrong.

  • Freemind - I'm not a mind-mapping person, because I have found that mind-maps are (mostly) logically analagous to indented lists (which I can create just fine with a tab key). A nice free-hand drawing tool that straightened my lines and rounded my circles would be nice, but I haven't found anything yet.

  • eXe - I will be testing this for a project, but I am not really a learning design person.

  • Moodle - Not really. Sometimes I have an installation running (not at the moment, though). I'm not really an LMS person.

  • Twitter - I send status updates from my facebook account, but I don't use it otherwise. If you want to tweet me, send an email.
I do find it interesting that the email clients have dropped off the list (except for GMail, which I won't even use for forwarding because of the volume of spam).

But more to the point, I find that I use my own system in place of many of the things in the list. Having my own website, and even more so, my own software, gives me tremendous flexibility, but at the cost of being a bit out of the mainstream.

That said, I don't trust the online services. I've had too many bad experiences - they all end up behaving like the phone company or the power company when they get large enough. Case in point. I would like to think that we will develop a more distributed network of personally managed online services.

That may be like tilting for windmills, I know. But I think the future will be different from the past...

Update... responding to Britt

I meant "I don't use Flock." I certainly didn't intend to tell people not to use it, simple to convey that I don't. My apologies for the confusion.

Many people find value in the tools I don't use. That's why Jane Hart surveys 115 people, and not just me.

This is what allows me to describe what *I* use, rather than to get caught in the game of recommending what other people should use.

In my own case - which, remember, is unique to me - I extend my capacities by writing my own software. This is a skill I worked very hard to acquire (it's not simply 'inherent') and the reason why I did was that I wanted to be able to do what people will be doing with *tomorrow's* tools, not just today's.

Don't confuse my own choices with NIH. In every instance, there's a cost to using my own tools. I use mainstream tools whenever I can. That's why, for example, I use MySQL, instead of the database system I wrote for myself. Or the Mod Wiki or the Lime survey tool. Or, for that matter, Firefox.

Where I use my own tools, there is a specific purpose for using the tool. Sometimes the mainstream tools don't work as well as advertised (eg., Ruby on Rails, Sunbird). Sometimes they are not flexible enough or don't manage data they way I want (eg. WordPress, Drupal).

What this means is that you can't simply take my choices as recommendations as to what tools to use. Just as well: my recommendations probably wouldn't serve you very well. Because you aren't trying to do the things I'm trying to do.

But - assuming that you believe I have some sort of handle on where the future will go - you should be able to use my report to judge what sort of changes to expect in the future.

Again, you should rely on other people as well, and not just me. Other people are better at writing software, better at predicting the future, better at understanding people.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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