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Facebook is a closed platform

July 16th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been enjoying the the IWMW 2007 Innovation
Competition
, run by the ever tireless Brian Kelly (I’ll post my entry tomorrow!). And I’ve been watching the Facebook phenomenon with some interest.

Given how I keep banging on about breaking out of institutional walled gardens and using social software for learning there is much to be welcomed in “MyNewport – MyLearning Essentials for
Facebook
” – Michael Webb’s submission to the competition

Brian Kelly says “MyNewport is the VLE/portal used by staff and students at Newport
College, which includes access to course material, news, blogs, forums,
library access etc. MyNewport is a Facebook application that allows
students to access to MyLearning Essentials resources from Facebook. In
effect this allows students to start creating their own personal
learning environment in a platform other than the one provided by the
University. Newport College have targeted Facebook at the moment as
it’s the fastest growing community, but if the users like the idea but
want to work in another environment then that is fine –
as applications can be created applications for them as well.”

Apparently it took about a day and half from conception of the idea and joining the Facebook developer community on 10th July to launching it as a viable application for our students to use (or comment on) on the 11th
July. It was straight forward as the college’s VLE is built from
components that can easily be repurposed and uses open standards such
as RSS to allow information to be passed to the Facebook application.

And this is where I start worrying. Yes the college VLE uses open standards. But Facebook does not. It is one thing providing access ot a developers kit to write applications to get data in to Facebook. But what about the other way round. How can learners get their data from Facebook into their Portfolio. As far as I can see they can’t. And that is what distinguishes social software applications like Facebook, privately owned with closed standards, from applications like Elgg – with open standards and the functionality and support for moving data both in and out of Elgg and to using whatever tools the users choose for their interface.

Or am I wrong – if so please write and tell me because I think this is a critical debate.

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