Alex Little on MSG messenger

October 31, 2007

Alex Little on MSG messenger
Originally uploaded by openlearn2007

Alex Little talking about MSG

He starts with a quick description of what MSG is and how it enables people to find and contact other people with similar interests. OpenLearn is used by self-motivated learners so they hope that MSG will offer peer-to-peer support.

That is interesting because some of the other presentations I have been to, particularly Cameron Esslemont’s seem to be using OpenLearn in a more formal way. Indeed, Cameron was downloading the content to deliver to learners on a USB stick or even in print. This presumably loses any peer-support potential from the OpenLearn forums or MSG.

Alex is now showing how MSG is integrated with google maps – a green blob shows location where people are online and a grey blob shows location of people in your groups who are not currently online. You can tick and untick groups to hide and show users on the map. The blobs come out in different sizes depending on how many people are online at that location. Depending on how much you zoom in, you get more detail of individual members – they get aggregrated into a single blob as you zoom out of the map.

They’ve integrated it as an MSG widget which will be useful.

But what are the difference between this and the other IM clients. Well, firstly, you don’t have to download or install a client. The presence maps described above offer what users whant – google map interface, clustering, click-to-chat.

What have they found. Most people are just trying the tool out, not talking about OpenLearn content. They think that this may be because many of the courses in OpenLearn do not contain any collaborative activities to encourage learners to engage in object-level chat. The other reason is probably critical mass. Although they have many users, not enough of them are online on MSG at any one time. This is one of the issues they’re hoping to address –how to encourage people to make use of the tool in conjunction with the OpenLearn materials. To this end, they’re going to try to integrate MSG with other KMi tools like FlashMeeting and Cohere. Maybe turn it into a Facebook application. Address the motivation and critical mass issues.

Questions: Is chat secure?
Answer: They do record the chat history and keep it for about a month for analysis. It is anonymised so they can’t identify people unless there is info in the chat itself.

Question: Can you do group chats?
Answer: often asked about this but have shied away from it as there are other systems that do this quite nicely. Predecessor to MSG was buddyspace and they found that although that offered group chat and many people wanted it but very few people used it. Gets hard to follow a conversation with more than 3 people.

Questionner: Could envisage a group chat linked to a course.
Answer: If people wanted to do tutorial like activities, they’d probably encourage them to use Flashmeeting which is going to be discussed later.

Alan J. Cann: talking about critical mass issue. Have they considered integrating an existing chat client? Understands about licensing issues etc. People might be resistant to yet another signup id etc.
Alex: no they didn’t investigate doing that. Not something Alex has seen done very much.
Alan: Most of his students in the lab have an MSN window open while working. Why do they need another chat client when they already have MSN.
Mark Eisenstat: You could level this at many new apps “Oh no another knowledge mapping tool, Oh no another messeging tool” if you follow this logic, you’ll never develop any new tools. By developing something you may discover a niche that the other tools haven’t explored. Cites Jabber. Students often quite like the idea of having a ring fenced chat invironment that is not MSN
Alan, but Open learn is different
Mark – another point they found is like netmeeting. MSN messenger is terrible and doesn’t do everything they want, in the same way as Netmeeting didn’t do what they wanted (hence Flashmeeting?)

Floor started discussing issues of privacy and why MSG not used. Doug Clow suggests that it is because they are not integrated into the content not just because they are optional and says that this has helped clarify things for him.

That was really interesting. Alex finished his talk quite quickly and there was more time for discussion at the end. I probably haven’t captured it all, but it really enhanced the presentation.


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