Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Wild Wordle Rumpus

Something I've been meaning to post about, also happened this past Saturday night. While the whole @Biodome10 fiasco was going down there was a simultaneous meltdown occuring within my PLN on Twitter. 

Apparently, for a brief moment in time Wordle disappeared.  If you are unfamiliar with Wordle, you can take any written content and Wordle will create a "pretty tag cloud" of your words.  This is absolutely a fantastic tool and I don't mean to lessen it's importance to visual literacy in any way, shape or form. 
That being said, I am glad that Jonathan Feinberg after having "received an email concerning a perceived trademark infringement on the part of the Wordle web site. In the spirit of 'better safe than sorry', ... took the site down..."  The reason I'm glad this happened (this may upset some people - but hear me out) is simply because it showed us that the wonderful world of Web 2.0 is an ever evolving universe.  Sites can suddenly go supernova and just as quickly vanish.  Too often we in education and technology latch onto a new tool and claim it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.  It is always important to hold onto just a bit of skepticism.  Fortunately, my PLN suddenly rose above the fray and immediately started sharing alternatives to Wordle:
  • Worditout.com 
  • Clusty Cloud Creator
  • ABCya
  • Tagul
  • and my personal favorite Wordsift from Stanford University (That not only builds a cloud but performs searches from the cloud, creates a visual thesaurus and a host of other information based on the cloud)
Bravo, PLN you proved that you are not Lemmings and that you can adjust and adapt after loosing your right arm! After the shock set in -  the feelers went out and in minutes educators were building tag clouds again.  We're they as pretty? Maybe not.  Were they as powerful? Absolutely!

Another example happened to me a few months ago as I was trying to convince someone to move their bookmarks online and start storing them in a delicious account.  Well guess what? Delicious is still free and is still owned by Yahoo, but now you have to have a free Yahoo account to sign up!  A small price to pay in my humble opinion for such a powerful tool, but for some it isn't worth the hassle.  OK, alternatives? Diigo, Clipmarks, Ma.gnolia and Stumbleupon are just a few.

My point is this: We all like free.  But nothing in life is truly free.  So many of these great Web 2.0 and now Web 3.0 apps are in Beta testing. By definition Beta means volatility! The cloud is the new Wild West of the World Wide Web and people will want to make a profit. They may come up with an amazing new application, invite you to Beta test it and suddenly six months later they go Alpha and that great utility is suddenly costing you $50 a year to use.

But if your smart (which I'm sure you are), you will learn the skills needed to use the tools.  This way you can quickly jump ship and immediately begin using the alternative free tools that just went Beta!  So, the price you pay to stay ahead of the curve is a little bit of knowledge.  Not a bad trade off!

This post may be edited later, since I am going on a few hours sleep and do indeed feel I am rambling at the moment.
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