Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Research Seminar

Today we had a research seminar at the University of Brighton about CloudBank. As always when talking about the project, we had very positive feedback, offers for collaborations, and interesting new application ideas. It's a shame the project is nearly over with no follow-up funding agreed to develop it further. The project receives local, national and international attention, and a well-researched public version would be just a few months away.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Mobile Alert Alert

One of the planned distribution channels for CloudBank content was mobile alerts, which would be pushed out to users signing up to the service and could be used with any mobile phone. This looked feasible at the start of the project based on 3rd party services available at that time, but now it seems we cannot provide this service without additional development.

Just 6 months ago the hugely popular WidSets was up an running. The service allowed users to create and customise their own RSS alert widget. It minimised network traffic by providing server-side polling of RSS feeds, and notified subscribers when new content was posted. Oficially, WidSets has since been rolled into Nokia's OVI app store, however, WidSets or an equivalent application is not available there. Looks like it just has been killed off. Why?

Plusmo offers a similar service, but unfortunately SMS alert functionality is currently only available in the US. Their standard RSS reader, without alert functionality, had an Out-Of-Memory error on out test phones (Nokia SuperNova). Another alternative, Google SMS Channels, is currently only available in India.

Faced with these facts we have to adjust our project plans. We won't offer a mobile alert service in the current beta, but we'll develop our own mobile alert service for the release version. While this will be limited in v.1 to Android phones, it can be extended in future versions to cover other platforms as well.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

CloudBank at mLearn 2009

Last week I attended the mLearn 2009 conference to present CloudBank to an international crowd of mobile learning researchers. The event took place in Orlando, Florida, where streets have no sidewalks, windows no handles, and all food is served with mayonnaise. As the only system based on user-generated content, CloudBank attracted much attention from delegates and there were many requests for the source code of the Android app. Apparently a research group at Tokushima University now wants to develop a similar system.

Website online

While we are still waiting for our designer to come up with a Cloudbank logo and style sheet for the website, we have set up a holding page with content for the CloudBank website. If you are able to ignore the current design and instead focus on the content, you might want to have a look at the website and view the latest language items, subscribe to the RSS feed, inspect the REST API specification, or simply download the CloudBank app to your Android phone.

REST API specification

We now have published the CloudBank REST API to enable public access to our online repository of language and culture related user generated content. To protect the system from vandalism you need to apply for a developer key first, but beyond that everything is up to your imagination. The API enables anyone to develop CloudBank clients on any platform, be it mobile clients for the iPhone, Symbian and the like, desktop clients for Mac, PC and Linux, web-based clients, or even your fridge as long as it has an IP address and network connection. The API specification 0.1 is available here.

RSS Feed now available

Syndication of user generated content is one of the most important aspects of the CloudBank system, as it helps to keep international students up to date on the language and culture related discoveries of their peers. Spotting new entries through RSS widgets on their home or profile page prompts students to look up, engage with, and possibly edit the content, leading to knowledge acquisition and consolidation. Well, that's what we hope for anyway. The CloudBank RSS feed is available here.