Use the Net

Søren and I are getting ready for the EA-T8 class, which starts tomorrow. Teaching material, term schedule, lecture plan, reading list, and more. We have been looking at various e-learning/groupware systems. The university offers us a SiteScape platform, but we are not very impressed with it (it’s overkill) and are considering alternatives. Everyone who knows me shouldn’t be surprised when I say that I have suggested we use blogs. Søren is more fond of Usenet/NNTP. So, we now look at ways to use blogs and usenet together. Therein also lies some good architectural issues, which we can use in the learning process with the students.

Blogs and UseNet together then? Rather than being two overlapping channels of communication, they should be seen together as enabling one, integrated user experience. Ideally. But how?

1. Replacing blog comments with a link to the UseNet group.
2. Exposing UseNet postings in the blogs.
3. Posting blog postings in a UseNet group??
4. ??

Maybe step one and two are “good enough”? But how do you reference a UseNet posting? Does it have an URL? Or can it be referenced in other ways? Well, it can be made available in other ways than a UseNet-reader, which will be essential for step 2. On this Mihai Parparita, a CS student at Princeton, comes to the rescue:

I’m not a big Usenet person, and checking said newsgroups would involve me having to remember to go out of my way and fire up Pine. However, since (timely) announcements are often posted in newsgroups, reading them regularly is necessary. One thing that I check often (perhaps too often) is my RSS newsreader, so the obvious thing to do would be to bring newsgroups to it.

So, Mihai created a bridge between NNTP and RSS (NNTP2RSS). A simple Perl script is all that is needed. I installed it, and it works great. Thanks Mihai!

RSS2NNTP (step 3) would mainly be an offer to those who want everything in a UseNet newsreader. Open sourced nntp//rss does exactly that, by making RSS-feeds available in dedicated NNTP groups. I haven’t tried installing it (it’s some java-stuff, urgh, help!).

Challenge: Threading vs linerity! NNTP uses/allows infinite threading. Blogs/RSS don’t. Does Atom??

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