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I've had this post about a mashup between Idealware, TechSoup, and Social Source Commons in draft and was going over to Deborah Finn's Blog to grab the URL for her excellent post last week about Social Source Commons. I also stumbled across her more recent post about NpTech Mashups. So, let's unleash the NpTech Mashup Meme.
This post was in draft because I was starting to devour all the great content on the NTEN Blog, including Marshall's post called "Ten Cool Tools for Working on the Web" and I strongly resisted the urge take Thinkature out for a test drive. It is a visual collaboration tool that you can use online and it is something that I have been dreaming about for ten years. I resisted the urge because I wasn't collaborating with anyone on this post and I just needed to do some quick solo visual thinking so I used my snagit program. I'm so glad I was able to guide myself to the best tool for my needs, but more often I need help from peers.
Usually, I panic and start brainstorming a list of smarter people and browsing my networks for people I am sure can give me the answers. This happens all the time on listservs where people who work on integrating technology into their work participate -- whether it be teachers, librarians, community of practice, online facilitators, nonprofit techies, etc. The discussion thread goes something like this...
"I need a tool that does xyz for abc purpose. What are you using or what would you recommend?"
The responses come in, ranging from specific tools to directories or resources that have lists and evaluations of tools. Sometimes clarifying questions. In the NpTech space, Idealware, NTEN, and Techsoup are always mentioned, with pointers to specific articles or reports. And occassionally, there might be a post where some good soul has summarized the learning from the last time that particular question was asked on the listserv.
A question was asked recently on the NTEN Consultants affinity group. Someone mentioned Deborah Finn's great post about Social Source Commons. I went to revisit the site having explored in depth a few months ago, but experiencing some Web2.0 or Beth5.0 memory lapses, had forgotten it.
Allen Gunn from Aspiration, the site's developer, called me on the phone (how retro!) to talk about the site (it is in beta) and asked for feedback. He talked about some future visions as well as some shorter-term upgrades to the site. One thing he spoke about was mashups with content from other sources, the ability to make "playlists" of tools, and some collaborative filtering or "digg like" features.
I'd love to see some workflows shared too. For example, recently on the UK Riders list there was a thread about tech support knowledge base software. In it was was pointer to James Davis's Blog post about testing a tool called RTFM (Request Tracker FAQ Manager). (I remember that term!) James shares his reflections on testing the tool:
I’ve installed and successfully used RTFM but what difference has it made to my work? It’s to early to tell but I think the most testing part will be the discipline required to create and use articles rather than respond anew to each request. Thankfully there’s been little to alter in my existing work flow, with much of work done through the e-mail interface. For end users, nothing has changed apart from the e-mail address used to contact us for support.
This is the type of experiential knowledge that is so valuable. It's the wisdom of a Technology Steward. So what I think Allen Gunn was describing was to also pull in various blog posts related to tools via RSS in the social source site.
What I'm saying is and something that I think Allen described - was to not only see peoples' tool boxes and the tools with links to content about the tools, but in some way to flip the lens and look at it from the viewpoint of outcomes or uses. The key in choosing a tool is the right fit to purpose and practices.