Thinking about web-based technologies

We had a project meeting with a group of the Education COmmons programmers this week to discuss next steps in developing a version of the GRAIL environment. I was struck by the underlying commonalities among the different technologies on the web at the moment. The functionality of environments such as content management systems, portals, weblogs, wikis, and so on really reside more on a continuum, with overlapping common characterstics rather than being different kinds of things as their names imply. They blend a number of characteristics; the tension between public and private kinds of communications which they enable; the capacity to contain dynamic components like RSS feeds and their modifiability and customizability. Trying to answer the question “what is this” requires a detailed specification of “what do you want it to be” and then finding open source modules that may approximate some of what you need and building in the other aspects.

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