Disclaimer: I work in Google's Policy Team, developing multistakeholder cooperations for internet governance & policy themes, hence I want to point out that all the opinions and ruminations on this blog are mine, not Google's.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Xmax mail 2006

I have the tradition of sending out a xmas mail to everybody i like to stay in touch with. It contains info about projects and brainfood i believe are really good. Here are the recommendations:

Open Educational Resources (OER)

I guess most of us agree that knowledge is the key to development. Open Educational Resources (OER) is a movement (supported e.g. by the UNESCO) that attempts to cooperate in a global alliance to provide teaching materials of all levels on an open source (no copyright) basis. Not only can everybody freely access e.g. video lectures but the idea is also to collaboratively continually improve e-learning materials. Amazingly even eminent universities especially the MIT (Open Courseware Project) but also e.g. Harvard have already bought in and have opened big chuncks of their content. If this really takes off it will be a good weapon against the global knowledge divide. My supervisor is the head of the UNESCO chair for e-learning at my university and we are actively trying to spread awareness and support these efforts, I’d be happy to get you involved.

It’s hype – but I like my Second life

When Second Life (SL) started it was a virtual world (a green floor, gravity and lighting) where you could walk around with a little avatar but there was nothing to see or do. But that changed. The clue is that the responsible Californian company allows you to create (/program) more or less everything you can think of. And people have created a fantastic world with flying islands, hip hop clubs, the US Congress (including virtual clones of some ‘I-was-there-first’ politicians who really show up to take their vote catching to the next level). I tell you I hardly ever touch any computer games but that is not a game, that is a virtual REALITY. Being the radical constructivist that I am, the real creative possibilities seem truly amazing. If you are not curious, no pasa nada! It is quite slow, the graphics are still very basic, and many (including me) are very cautious regarding the importance of commercialisation (the Reuters and the German Telecom just produced the first commercial Tabloid) and consumption present in this Second Life. But hey – does anybody still remember Mosaic or Netscape these were the first platforms that allowed for a completely new experience of the web and that is what I believe SL is. Hyped or not I had some fun hours in there and I will happily meet up with you and go on some excursions. User accounts are free and I recommend this Wired Travel Guide: Second Life

MakeZine & SocialEdge, AfriGadget and Kiva

Here come a number of InfoSpaces: MakeZine makes me dream of a better world in which people use their creativity and the other three show me that this world does actually already exist:

MakeZine’s slogan is IF YOU CAN’T OPEN IT YOU DON’T OWN IT. It is a great tinker & hacker magazine, complete with construction plans and sometimes with ‘do it your self’ packages and even beginner sets. I got a couple of the easy treats for xmas and it was great fun soldering and put to unintended use ;-) As nicely put on the SocialEdge blog: MakeZine is a blog full of things that I will probably never make, but that being said, it's nice to know that if I ever did need a personal submarine, I could make one out of a pig trough (no, I'm not joking).

@iPod owners: You have to check the iPod hacks page – there are do it yourself solarpanel chargers, software replacements that make you independent from Apple’s awful digital rights management… and the list goes on and on.

SocialEdge & AfriGadget are two blogs that implement the creative MakeZine spirit to sustainability and development. Both sites collect instances of social entrepreneurship & innovative technology application at its best. Here is one I liked best: One project that particularly caught my eye on the site was the "Playground Pump" ... a water pump that's generated from a children's playground merry-go-round

Last but not least there is Kiva (Loans that change lives) – an NGO started by some techies, who droped out of yahoo and the like, in order to setup an online service that allows you to choose one individual person in Africa, Asia or Latin-America who’s entrepreneurial project you want to support by lending him or her some dollars. (I’d call that personalised micro-finance.) I have become a lender to
Marie Bikope in Togo who wants to open a cosmetics shop and to grandpa Nadjaf MardanovI in Azerbaijan, who wants to expand his little ale house, and I can only tell you it feels pretty good to know what is happening with the money and has it – not to speak of how happy I will be when I (most likely) get all of it back in 12 months ;-) (Here I wrote a more rational analysis of Kiva)

Lastly I’d like to recommend you some movies that I saw and really liked:

The Fountain

Big Fish



Sin City


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