This is the P2PU Archive. If you want the current site, go to!

Mashing Up The Open Web - Mar 2010

My recent threads

You haven't posted any discussions yet.

Recently updated threads


Go back to: General discussion

I have typed out the notes I took from our first class. They are incomplete and capture only a part of what we discussed. Since the video would be publicly shared too, I have used our original names in these notes. Please let me know if you'd like me to do otherwise!

Course: Mashing up the Open Web
First class, 3/21/2010

It was a multi-user video session using Tokbox. We were around 10 people including John. The class started at 11 a.m. EST.
I joined the session at around 11:05 am. When I joined the video session, around 7-8 people were already online and the conversation was underway. I gave a short introduction of myself, after which John talked about himself.

He mentioned about his background, how he was building websites in ___ and got involved with Open Source. In 2008-2009 he was engaged with the Open Education Movement and soon got involved with P2PU.

Course Layout

He then detailed the course layout for the next 6 weeks. The course revolves around building a would involve Readings, Discovery of Data, Learning of Visualization and other technologies, and then glue them together.

John suggested that we take up a discussion on the reading for the class. The Cathedral and the Bazaar.
Q: How many people were able to go through the reading?
People raise their hands. Almost everyone did.
Q: John asked if anyone would want to volunteer to summarize the reading?
Dennis volunteered and spoke about it. (Mentioned Raymond Yee’s work with Fetchmail, Unix and other thoughts)
Q: Do you not agree with anything?
Q: How many of you use and contribute to Open Source? (Few show of hands)
Mention that if you use Firefox, you are using Firefox. More hands show up. (I put my hand up as I use Firefox, Wikipedia etc but had not before as I thought that I do not contribute to any Open Source/ Peer to Peer production systems in a significant way.)
Q: Something John found interesting, “More eyeballs tame complexity” – Do you agree with it?
People expressed their views..
An interesting discussion on the paper followed where most people contributed to it. John mentioned about the introductory assignment.
this was the first class - we then had a round of introductions. John asked us to specifically answer the questions:

Why are you here/ What do you want to do here? How did you hear about P2PU?
Response 1:
Read about P2PU from a Fast Company post. At that time, P2PU was closed re-doing the website. Said something on the lines that degree is not important, it is what you can do with the knowledge. He is also taking a Java course. Mashing up appealed to him as after an understanding of broad technology, he wants in-depth skills, and the work in the course will help him supplement his skills.

Response 2 (Nick)
Met people from the P2PU community personally in Singapore and that is how he learnt about it. Mashups is related to what he works on and he is starting to get into the open source community. Works for a company in Japan – it’s a next generation system in Drupal to install their version on it (incomplete)

Response 3 (John)
Read a blog post … Applied a few weeks after that. Background in traditional marketing. Interested in open web mashups.  Says that he is at the lower end of the skillset and wishes to learn from the rest of the team.

Response 4 (Tanushree)
Probably heard about it from a classmate Heather who was involved with Creative Commons. Interested in education and technology, and as mentioned before in qualitative research aspects. Has a dual purpose for joining this course.

Response 5(Dennis)
Self learning. Applied last year for poker and strategic thinking. Is a computer scientist and consultant:

  • Can help with technology
  • Peer to peer?

Response 5 (Doug)
Main draw was just to see what P2PU was about. Was in web development – wanted to keep skills fresh – has always been system admin – used PHP, bash, perl, python. Big proponent of using status net instead of twitter.

Response 6 and 7 on IM (Perhaps Lucian and Hemanth)

Response from John: Best way to teach is to learn. Also want to prove to myself that P2PU will work.
John mentioned about a project that he wanted to work on. There was an interesting project on English -> Chinese using Wikipedia. Six months ago, he had written javascipt for such translation for all languages. Now wishes to give it the shape of a project with good interface etc.

John talked about the assignment. Around 500 words on the reading. Talked about next week. Would be taking up JQuery, SIMILE, OpenStreetMap – Look around for visualization tools.
John: In the meantime, be around on IRC, idle in the room – and talk/ help each other when required. Doug mentioned he had opened an account for the class on Identica. Hope you guys stick with P2PU.

John: Did you like having video?
Most did, no negative responses. People compared with courses last year and other courses that they are taking this semester – One said they were using Chatterons last year which was difficult to moderate. Here, one can give signs and it is more engaging.
Another person mentioned that his other course is not as engaging as this one. 
Class over. Continued into Office Hours. People in the room: John, Dennis, Doug, Tanushree, John, Mary
Topics mentioned in the conversations:
Lecture Series at KMDI
Stamen Design
Technical Issues:
There were a few technical issues but it did not interrupt the class in general:

  • Two people were not been able to integrate voice input with Tokbox – and could only be seen on video. They interacted with textual chat only. However, the instant messages sent to the session were not visible if you were on a full screen mode. And hence the text messages often tended to be ignored/ lost in the conversations.

One of them had been able to fix her audio by the time the office hours started.

  • Another person from India was interacting through IM only.
  • One person did not have a mic and hence when his application was un-muted, it added an echo to the virtual classroom and it was difficult to proceed with it.
  • My computer hung for a minute or two – but it was a temporary issue at my end. May or may not have happened to others.

Overall all these issues were reasonable ones on a day one and are likely to be fixed by next session.
Analysis and thoughts:


John Britton's picture
John Britton
Fri, 2010-03-26 23:54

Just wanted to add a note that that English to Chinese wikipedia translator can be found on Stian Haklev's siteI wrote a generalization of his idea and am currently working on a better version.

John Britton's picture
John Britton
Fri, 2010-03-26 23:56


Thanks very much for writing this up, when I go back and read through it makes the experience seem even more amazing and interesting. I'm really looking forward to the next disucssion.

Do you think you'll be able to keep notes like this in the future? I know you won't be in class on Sunday due to travels, so maybe someone else could take on the responsibility while you're away.

Tanushree Jindal's picture
Tanushree Jindal
Sat, 2010-03-27 00:08

Yes, I will be taking notes and writing them up for all the classes. Glad they are helping.

I realized that I will be in transit at an airport, might be able to make it!

Tanushree Jindal's picture
Tanushree Jindal
Sat, 2010-04-10 00:13

Notes from Class 2
3/ 28/ 2010

I was traveling and luckily was in transit, at the time of the class. The airport had free wifi and so I was able to connect to the class.

I joined the class around 5 minutes late. There were 8 participants on Tokbox. There’s Sam, Paul, Glen, Doug, Hemanth, John, Tanushree and a couple of participants logged in as guest users (do not know their names). Nicholas joined later.

John mentioned that next week would be Easter and they could move the class to a more convenient day in the week if the students wanted.
He mentioned about the IRC chatroom that has been created for the course. Encouraged people to be on there to facilitate conversations and discussions and problem solving.
He talked about the assignment from last time – that he would be going over the posts (i.e the assignments that were posted by students)

John: How many of you went over the material?
A few hands
John: Did you find anything interesting/ confusing? Would you want to go through an example?
There was no response from the students.
John started to introduce the topics related to the material class. “The first one was how the internet works, HTML…., what are the basic components …. “
My video is frozen. Possibly due to the low bandwidth of wireless at the airport. It seems to me that everybody is silent(for a minute or so). I am also not able to hear the participants very well now.

John is talking now talking about CSS, how it works and the rationale behind it.

John: So if you have 20 HTMLs, you can create a generalized CSS and apply it to the rest.
Sam asks a question about the difference between id and class in CSS.
John explains: Id is unique to a document and class is for all ….
Guest User 1: I have a question. Asks a question about how is code highlighting and CSS highlighting.
There is discussion on that, links are shared.

After a discussion on topics around CSS/ HTML, John moves the discussion to projects.
John: Is anybody having difficulty in finding data?
Sam mentions that he had difficulty and talks about it.
John: Can anybody help him?
Glen, Guest User 1 contribute the discussion. John: What can we do?
Perhaps Sam: “Its complicated cause there are sub domains. Not sure how I will get the subdomains on top of each other – currently they are separate silos.”
Nicholas joins.

John: Did anyone read about Javascript? Would anyone want to talk about it?
Paulosman (Paul): I went over the script when you posted them. He gives a high level overview of javascript (that it is used to run code in a user’s browser.)
Paul mentions that he was interested in finding from someone who was new to javascript about how did they find the material assigned to read? He thought it was good and was hoping to get feedback from someone who was new to it.
Paul: Glen, did you find that?
Glen: Talked about it, He was not audible (at least to me).

Paul: Did anyone else… ? (Asks other people for opinion)
Sam: I’m just playing with HTML and CSS.
Nicholas mentioned something about that he posted. < Missed conversation between John and Nicholas>
Hemanth shares a link to a visual prototype/ sketch of his idea with the class through the IM window and explains it. He then asked questions around it.
[In response to Hemanth’s question, Paul shared a link to Bespin on IM. Hemanth mentioned that he had seen Bespin.]
John responded to Hemanth’s query. Paul responded with a similar response. They also discuss safety issues that an idea like Hemanth’s involved (editing source code files from the browser window).

John talked about ways to start helping each other. He mentioned the idea of pairing up and then work on projects together..

I did not clearly follow the purpose of pairing yet.
When the video starts again, John was calling out participants’ names in an order. He was helping facilitate pairing up. A couple people decided on pairs on IM.
Glen discussed his idea.
Students shared their skype IDs. There were 2-3 pairs made in class depending on common interests or perhaps complementary skills.
I was not able to participate due to not-so-great audio and video. I was also not sure about the purpose of pairing up/ and was hesitant in putting my potential partner at a disadvantage.

The class concluded in around 45 minutes. It was a good class. It was perhaps not as smooth and did not have as many conversations as the first class. It is possible that I got the impression due to my internet connection.
There were few people from the last class. This class had students merged from both classes from last week – so there were a few students who I had not “met” last week.

Tanushree Jindal's picture
Tanushree Jindal
Tue, 2010-04-13 20:36

Notes from Class 3
(8am on Sunday in Berkeley, other times at other places in the world!)

8:08am I joined the class, for some reason, my video did not start. Stian was visiting the class today and was talking. He ended his sentence with, “will love to hear from you guys”.

Thereafter, there was 2-3 minutes of extended and awkward silence where nobody spoke. I realized that since I was not on video, I did not feel compelled to talk or feel the awkwardness enough to start a conversation. During this time, I also realized that our course co-ordinator John was not around to intervene.
Doug mentioned that we were to discuss Tim Berner Lee’s video today and suggested that we could do that. He started to speak but his voice faded. Mary referred to a TED Hans Rosling video and began to talk about it.

John got back. He greeted everyone (with enthusiasm! :)). He mentioned that Paul had sent him an email mentioning that he would not be able to make it. He mentioned that Stian had joined us today. He then recapped last week’s topic and asked if anyone had questions on that.

8:16am There were technical issues with Tokbox. The audio went away and nobody was able to hear anyone. This had not happened in our course before. People tried to disconnect and join again.

8:19am We got the audio back. John asked about updates on the project.
Sam (Sbrewer) shared a website and mentioned that he would like to make something like that. He said that he was having difficulty finding data.

8:21am John asked him to talk about his project. Sam was talking, however, the audio was terrible again. People tried a few things, nothing really worked.

8:25am Glen began to talk about his project and mentioned that he jad shared it with John on Google docs.
John: whats your project about?
Glen: I want to make a little calculator that calculates how much people are flying – so that people can see how much they are traveling. Especially for conferences – we can calculate how much time/ money is spent on a particular conference. Just a basic page with javascript – that’s my idea. < I have paraphrased a little here>

8:29am John: Okay Mary, maybe you want to share your status? Okay, maybe someone else, Doug or Dennis?

Dennis began to talk. Nobody could hear him.
John: Ok, We’ll create a new room. We can do this!
(I waited to get the link on my email. Received the email in around 7 minutes.)

8:38am Sam spoke about his idea.
John: I have a suggestion. Abstract the content part to make it modular. Users could add different searches.
Paul/ Sam: On the lines of what Tim (Berners Lee) said, I could make different URLs for different sources. Am I right?
John answered and there seemed to be some kind of agreement between John and Sam.

John: Mary, do you want to share your status?
Mary mentioned that she has been looking at ideas. She was thinking of making an iPhone app to show her kids – this is what you want to wear today. The app would take the weather information and give a response with appropriate images of clothes. Mary outlined the steps that she would need to take to make the project.
John: How would you pick on the location?
Mary mentioned that the location part was challenging as there were format issues with the zip code in Canada. (I may not have the issue correctly here)

John: Oren, would you like to share your status..
Oren mentioned that this would his first mashup. He described two APIs that he would require/ use for his mashup. One of them would be a large repository of recipes. The other,..
John: Are you facing any problems?
Oren talked about a technical issue that he was facing setting up something.
John: What OS are you using?
Oren: Ubuntu
John mentioned that he could help him as he had prior experience with a similar setup.

John asked me if I would like to share my status.
I talked about my idea about aggregating open educational resources from different universities/ initiatives. The data was available as feeds from the Open consortium website. I mentioned about a similar and popular mashup called Academic Earth that brings together OERs from six of the best universities of US – but I wondered if there more, on a larger scale. I also mentioned that I had not had the time to work on it and had not gone very far with it.
John said that Stian would would know all about it and that I should talk to him.
Stian mentioned that there had been similar initiatives apart from Academic Earth but none had taken off in a big way.

8:53am Doug discussed his idea.
John: Did you have any problems?
Doug: If someone has experience with, that’d be great.
Else, he mentioned that he hadn’t spent enough time with the problem himself to seek help yet – and was keen to figure it out himself. He said that he did get the javascript running

9:00am John talked about his status update. Was at a hackathon in NY recently and had the opportunity to play with tons of data/ API for 24 hours. He learnt about a great course at NYU called Mashup remixing the web, recommended it to us, and metioned that he intended to use material from it extensively next time.
John mentioned that it was 9:00 am already. Since there had been difficulties today, he asked if people would like to extend the class by a few minutes. Everyone agreed to this.

John: Lets talk about the Tim Berners Lee video (that we saw for this class.)
Doug mentioned that he found what Tim Berners talked about quite obvious (perhaps in today’s context) and hence almost not worth watching.
John then talked about linked data and how it is manifested (in triples). There was talk about FOAF, how to store contacts of people, how repositories of linked data could be helpful.
I talked about ontologies which are an essential component of semantic data. I mentioned MusicBrainz and Freebase as examples.
Someone asked what was MusicBrainz and John described it.
Had some more discussion on Semantic web, linked and raw data, and the TED video that we watched for the class.

Around 9:25am John mentioned that he would take off for a while (for lunch) and would be back in a while for office hours. Most people disconnected from the chat.

[I connected for a moment later and found that a discussion was underway during John’s office hours between John and around 3 more participants. Could not join the discussion]

Tanushree Jindal's picture
Tanushree Jindal
Mon, 2010-04-26 22:00

Notes from Class 6!
8:02 am
In class: Doug, Hemanth, Mary, Dennis, Sam, Tanushree, John
John: Can everyone see my video?
We cannot – John’s video is frozen. Indicate that to John. John disconnects from Tokbox and reconnects.
This is the last class. John suggests that we go around with everyone updating about their project status. He says that he realizes that none of us have completed our projects.
Sam starts. Sam: I will start coz I don’t have a lot to say. .. Says that he does not have a lot to update about his project but has come to class to learn about others’ projects. Is more observing for today’s class.
John: What stopped you?
Sam: I lost interest in my idea.
We move to the next participant.
Doug begins to talk. (I did not follow him very well :| – I have a few notes and disconnected words for Doug’s updates of his project)
Some of the stuff is really working – New(s?) aggregrator, Open atrium.
Have XHTML validation – need to fix that.
Learnt a lot on the webdomain hosting front. Never maintained a web domain before. Am doing all the backend stuff myself.
8:10 am
We move to Hemanth to share about his project updates.
John: Hemanth can you hear me?
Hemanth: Can you hear me? (Hemanth’s voice comes with a lag and is soft but audible. There are sometimes moments of silence when he is talking)
Hemanth shares the links of the projects that he has worked on and in the last week on IM and mentions about them as he is talking.
Talks about a bug that he has fixed with Ubuntu – (Some disconnected sentences that I managed to note )
- Ubuntu – manual in several languages.
- I am on the development team – got a bug to fix, working on that currently.

Also Launchpad – where they name scripts called community scripts. This is where I have contributed scripts last week.
Reported a bug and got a chance to fix the bug that I reported. They spoke about the project on Podcast in UK.

8:14 am
John: So the bug was with Ubuntu? (We are not able to hear Hemanth). Hard time hearing Hemanth. (Hemanth attends the class using audio only – so we do not get the visual cues from him to understand the issue.)
John asks Mary to share about her project.

Mary talks about her project – She mentions that she had not been able to work in the last couple days on it as she was visiting the city of Vancouver. She says that she had sought John’s help last week to work on the “temperature” part. (Mary has also uploaded her code online.)

John asks is anyone else wanted to share about their project..

Dennis talks about his project. His part on translating a word in English to other languages using Google Translate API is done. His code for fetching flickr images for a given word in English is also working. He says that he is at a point where he is stuck and is not sure how to go ahead from here.
He shares the link for a working version of his project.

John: Its very cool. Are you planning to put the code up online somewhere?

Dennis: Yes. He asks for suggestions on where should he use to put the code online.

John: mentions Gethub.

Doug: I had something that I forgot.
He mentions that he has a lot of space on his domain and that he would be happy to share. He talked about the process for the same and it was easy to use it.

John asks if anyone else had anything to talk about the projects.

I talk abut how I had not been able to keep up with the class – because of my busy schedule at graduate school. Initially I had planned to take a similar class at school and hoped that I would be able to build the project for both. Did not work out.

8:24 am

John now steers the conversation to last week’s assigment. Last week’s assignment was to contribute to an existing open source project in any capacity. He asks us to talk about it if we managed to work on it.

Those who had contributed talk:
1. Dennis:
2. Lucian:
3. Hemanth (not able to hear him very well – he had already talked about this assignment previously)
4. Doug: Filed bugs with Fedora. TS Client. Also gave a presentation to Local Linux User Group. (I hope I have this right?)
5. Filed bugs with P2PU. Mentions the nature of the bugs filed.

John shares about the project that he has been working on, and also shared with the class last week.
He shares the link to the project. Mentions that he has cleaned the code from last time and also fixed any remaining issues. The idea is that you call a specific number, say something in English – the code transcripts to text, translates it to Dutch and says it back to the other on the phone.
Used Dutch because it has no special characters, hence was convenient. Has not made a generic solution – but has made the code open for someone to use / add code for other languages.
Shares the phone no. to which you need to call over IM.
Mentions that he did not file any bugs in the last week.

8:33 am
John says that we would not have a retrospective where he would ask us to answer a few questions.
- What was good?
- What could be done better?
John: To be able to see everyone on video on Tokbox was great – increased commitment and connection.
Sam: Not much .I was exposed to things that I would not know anything about – just showing up was great.
Dennis: Tokbox worked quite well. The course organization was good.
Doug: There were a lot of problems – technical issues with Tokbox.
P2PU site navigation was not great. Found it very hard to find assignments. Always ended up in the Discussion section.
Mary: Tokbox was fantastic. In general, could divide the class into 2-3 parts..

Tanushree: The role of the instructor was great in this course. Helped steer the course.

John: If you could change one thing about the format of the class?
Doug: Not sure if would want to change this necessarily. Suggests having a guest speaker in classes sometimes.
John likes the idea and gave an example of a guest lecture in the Kitchen Science course.
John: I had this idea – Could create a series of videos. Say on how to create an HTML page – and have people discuss them when they meet in class. It is hard to explain in class.
Dennis: Participation should come more from participants. … In our case, John put together all the materials and also lead the lectures – the “students” shared only occasionally.
Tanushree: Perhaps have students have lead lectures / assign specific topics to different students.
Nicholas: Idea of everyone working on the same project.
One central project. So that we could also teach each other.
Dennis: The problems in this class were so separate that we were not able to contribute to help each other.
Tanushree: Might help me (and others) motivate more.. if were all working on the same project.
Doug: Partially disagree with it. I was motivated coz I was working on my own project.
Talked about a website class in his grad school and a suggestion for P2PU.. (missed it)
John: How do you feel about the duration – 6 weeks? Too short, too long? People asked to gesture thumbs up, down.. Some of us indicated that it was just right.
Dennis: Too short.
Mary: Too short.
Did not have enough time to grasp the range of material presented in class.
Doug: Partially disagree. Good time to get in and get out. If its too short, we can have sections – Part 1, Part 2, Part3. There might then be the problem of legacy information between classes.
Says that it would have been hard to stick it out for more than 6 weeks (say 12 weeks).
John: As an organizer, 6 weeks is a good time.
Nicholas: 6 weeks is a good time.
Tanushree: 6 weeks is perhaps a good time to get started on a subject, not necessarily learn it very well.

John: How was the load? Too much, too less?
Sam: I think it was a lot of information. You got what you put into it.

John: What do you guys wanna do now?
Dennis: Meet on a voluntary basis.
Mary: Would like to take the class again, as is.
.. : Would be interested in the CSS/ HTML class.
Tanushree: Would remain associated with P2PU in some way.

There were more discussions on how this class involved a lot of material, how focused classes on how to write HTML/ CSS could be conducted, students in this class teaching more classes in the next round.
John: How many of you would take another P2PU class?
Everyone raised their hand.
John happy.
John: two tasks for all of you:
1. Blog: Blog about your experiences in this classes and let me know about it.
2. Join the P2PU Open Web Google Group (Gave us the context about it)
Offers to hold optional hourly sessions at the same time every week (since Dennis and Mary had expressed interest.)
Class wraps up. People leave.

Something that get missed in every class notes is the IM conversation that goes on simultaneously. Most issues are resolved through IM – when people cannot hear/ see each other, wish to share links/ comments when someone is speaking. Unfortunately, the IM text is not saved and we do not have a copy of it for any of the classes – but it sure is almost an essential tool to have. Also realized that often, the conversation on IM is so much more casual – as compared to how people are on video.
I thought the “retrospective“ discussion was very interesting – and a lot of great ideas came out of it.