Embedding the Read/Write Web in … Everything, but Especially Education

An interesting article at the SocialText wiki blog got to me to thinking about the post-blog/wiki-web, when these blogs and wikis and tags and RSS feeds are not artifacts in themselves, but are embedded into …. everything else.

The two common themes I find to measure all applications of the read/write web … by which I mean …

  • blogs
  • wikis
  • rss feeds
  • IM
  • email
  • comments
  • tags and taggregators like del.icio.us



Blogs, RSS feeds, comments and some email are highly TIME dependent. They lose their relevance over time. This is not an absolute of course, but you get the drift.

Wikis can either be somewhat independent of time (like Wikipedia which is capturing knowledge for all the future) or highly relevant for a period of time (the life of a project).

Tags can be both transitory and permanent in aggregation.

IM is rightnow and email is less so (though some people feel it is 24-48 hours and then fades fast).


Everything on the list except email and IMs are permanent (IMs and email are only permanent depending on document retention policies and subpeonas), but that’s not my point. I mean permanence in terms of intention. IMs and email are not intended to be permanent, except in the most archived for posterity sort of way.

Blogs posts are intended to be a permanent record of work or thinking and their comments less so.

Wikis are intended to create permanent, though malleable artifacts – captured knowledge.

RSS feeds are as permanent as the blogger is alive – a kind of heartbeat or measure of ‘aliveness’.

I subscribe to a many blogs and RSS feeds, but if it’s dishing up too many posts-per-day, it feels like a noisesome child who won’t shut up and I throttle it back or remove it from my feed reader.

What does this all have to do with education?

Education is a kind of transitory thing that we do to ourselves with the intention of permanent change. We learn something and then we hope we don’t have to learn it again. We add to our permanent experience. We also depend on the permanence of the web (and Google’s good graces) to permanently store things so that we can learn about them (again and again) in the future. Google is the largeest just-in-time educational system out there.

Our lives used to be front-loaded with education – 12 or 16 years of it if you finished college. More for the Masters or PhD. Now it’s life-long learning (but it always was in many ways). I have considered going back to school for my PhD or for another Masters degree many times, but I always decide that I don’t want the degree, I want the knowledge and I can get that from books, blogs and Google. My job practically requires that I be in a constant state of learning and I suspect that is true for many of today’s knowledge workers.

I think the crude tools we use today for collaboration and commentary like blogs and wikis, will become less like end-point artifacts and more like features in every website and the wider worlds. Every store, product, person, concept, candidate and company will have multiple places where transitory (blogs, comments) and permanent (wikis) information can be found and contributed to.

Time is not well represented on the web. Everything almost always looks new. It would be cool if the software made the web page look more grey or well-thumbed so that we could immediately tell if we were reading old information. This is problematic, because ‘old’ is relative to the context. The web page that tells me if my flight is delayed is old to the point of uselessness the next day – unless I am studying yearly trends in flight delays, then the permanence of that information is valuable.

I am not sure of context rules, however.

Time and Permanence seem like good meta-identifiers of information and may help in understanding the larger semiotics of the webs.

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