Via Stephen Downes, I see that Mark Oehlert posted a list of Blackboard’s pending patents, 8 of which were filed for in the last year (6 of which were filed in October and November of last year), and many of which are not covered in Blackboard’s patent pledge. This has prompted me to invest a little time in creating a more–dare I say it?–Web 2.0ish edupatent alert system.
You’ll notice that there is a new tab on the top of this blog labeled “EduPatents.” On that page you will find an RSS feed aggregator that displays any blog posts on the web that have been tagged by their authors with the word “edupatents”, any posts that use the word “edupatents” in the body of their texts, and any web pages that have been tagged “edupatents” on del.icio.us. (I took the liberty of tagging Mark’s post, so it shows up in the aggregator even though he didn’t tag it himself.) You can subscribe to the feed directly or, if you prefer, you can also subscribe by email. Equally importantly, you can contribute to the contents of the feed in a variety of ways. If we all make use of this system, then you won’t have to rely on just a couple of bloggers (e.g., me) to be able to see everything that’s relevant and post about it.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to make the most out of this new system and how I created it, then read on.
Let me start with the important part, i.e., how to get the most out of the system. Obviously, you can just subscribe to the feed or read it on my blog. But this will work best if you help by contributing content and spreading the word. There are a variety of ways that you can do this.
If you are a blogger, then you can use the word “edupatents” or tag your content with it in any relevant posts. I would personally appreciate it if you would also take a few minutes and tag at least those of your previous posts that you think are most important about the topic. (I went back and tagged every single edupatent-related post on my own blog.) Note that, by doing this, you will be taking advantage of this new information distribution system and quite possibly attracting more readers. You can also place links to the RSS and email subscriptions on your own blog or even put up an aggregator, as I have, to display the feed contents to your readers. There are any number of tools that will let you do this; I chose Grazr, but there are a bunch of other good ones out there.
If you are not a blogger, you can still participate in adding content by using del.icio.us. Just tag any good content you see (or have seen in the past) with “edupatents.” It will show up in the feed. If you remember having seen any particularly memorable posts on somebody else’s blog, or valuable documentation or interesting non-blog sites (like NoEduPatents.org), then please go tag them. If you see anything valuable going forward, tag it. If you have time to do some searching on FreshPatents.com or on the USPTO’s web site, then go look up the application numbers for the Blackboard patent applications listed in Mark’s blog post and tag them. (And if you have more time, then go over to the NoEduPatents.org wiki and start translating the claims of the patent applications into plain English.) I hope that Blackboard and D2L will also participate in this by tagging their own EduPatent-related content that they want the community to know about.
If you’re curious about how I did this, it was actually pretty simple. First, I played around with the various blog search engines to see which ones returned the best results for “edupatents.” I found that Google Blog Search, Feedster, and IceRocket all returned pretty good results. Next, I went to MySyndicaat and created a combined feed for the search results on these three sources, also adding in the tag search for del.icio.us. As a side note, MySyndicaat really impresses me. Creating the combined feed was super-easy, and the system does a good job of filtering out the inevitable duplicates.
Once I had my feed, I ran it through FeedBurner, for several reasons. First, it provides a free email subscription for those folks who still aren’t hip to the whole feed reader thing. Second, it allows the community of people using this service to have some sense of itself. I never had much use for the hit counters and subscriber counters that people tend to put on their blogs. They strike me mainly as vanities. But in this case, I think it’s useful for people to know how many others are concerned about EduPatents. I have placed a subscriber counter chicklet on my Edupatents page and will likely post other participation stats as more people get involved.
Finally, to display the feed on my page (as I mentioned above), I used Grazr. While I think the interface can be needlessly complex at times, I found it to be the best compromise between functionality and ease of use (both for you as readers and for me as a non-technical web”master”).