Last week, Terry King & I went to the “International Elgg Conference” at Brighton University. Some of you are, no doubt, sick of me “banging on” about Elgg, (I see it’s recently won the InfoWorld “Best Open Source Social Networking” software recently)
Other Universities (e.g. Brighton, Westminster [theirs is closed, so the link is to Slideshare], Graz Technical University, Leeds University and Nottingham [private, so no links]) already have installations of Elgg; and it’s something I’d like to look at here. There are, however, aspects we should consider – we already have blogs for students via UPSU – though they don’t seem that active. However, some recent Ideas… by Shrey would suggest that there are some technical limitations to their current set up.
I can how hear students pointing out that they don’t want the staff to see their comments. Fair enough – though I’ve just found some of their blog postings! However, the feature of Elgg that I feel particularly powerful is the granularity of permissions. If you could be bothered, every single post could have a different set of viewers. So, friends can see one set of posts, lecturers another, other students on the same units a third and so on. (Oh, and to add to Shrey’s Twitter comment – there’s a “Shoutout” plugin that can either bring in your tweets – or if you don’t want a twitter a/c, you can just do it within Elgg – Edusapces have activated it)
One of the main drawbacks that I see at present in the way that the permissions systems work is that it’s not possible (as far as I know – but the newest version of Elgg has a lot more features I’ve yet to experiment with) to have users that merely have “read/comment” rights, but not posting rights. I can see why Universities don’t want to have anyone registering – due to storage issues, however, people might realistically want friends from home – but not the whole world to see certain comments. If, for whatever reason, they don’t want to use Facebook for that, then a “reader” user in Elgg would allow them to be added to a group, but not to have a blog. So, all are happy.