I’m beginning to get the hang of Radio, I think. I wanted to move my IT blog to Radio from BloggerPro, not because I don’t like Blogger (I do like it, very much, and am still using Blogger for my Digital Medievalist blog), but because Radio has some intriguing features.
The Categories option in Radio in particular appealed to me. It strikes me as useful for readers interested in reading about a particular subject, or find resources they knew they read about at some point.
I’ve found the help written by other users to be invaluable, since there’s no help, or decent documentation from Userland, the Radio developer. I’ve used user help in tandem with the Radio documentation, but I’ve especially appreciated the helpful tutorials written by Jenny, the Shifted Librarian. Her Radio tutorials are here. The UserLand documentation, and invisible (or rather, hostile) user support are pretty awful, so I’ve been grateful for other users’ help.
Thanks to Lawrence Lee, Robert Occhialini and Aaron Cope, there are instructions and a script to download and run that allows you to import xml formatted blog entries from Movable Type and Blogger into Radio. You can read all about it here.
I had to import the xml file three times before the imported entries worked correctly, and even then there were some problems, but I think they are resolvable. It’s very very important that your system data and time, and the time and date setting in Blgger (or BloggerPro) are exactly as described MMDDYYYYHHMMSS. In my case that meant changing my Mac to use leading zeros. When I tried to import the xml file without the leading zeros setting, the dates were bizarre, ranging from 1904, to 2052.
Then, after getting the imported entries dates to display properly, and after telling Radio to republish the entire site, some of the past entries didn’t show from the public Home page; users got an error.
I was able to get most of the past entries to display by hand editing and republishing them—I wanted to use Radio’s Categories anyway, so I didn’t mind. But some entries are still not displaying properly. By now, I know it’s too much to hope for support directly from Userland.
Dave Winer uses analogy to distinguish Frontier, the environment (framework?) Manilla runs on, from Radio. He writes:
Frontier is our mainframe. It’s centralized. It includes Manila, a deep and powerful browser-based content management system. Where Radio is designed for individuals, Frontier is designed for communities and organizations, workgroups—groups of people.
I think that’s key. But it also seems to me that an organization running Frontier/Manilla might still want to license Radio for its end users.
I’m still struggling to grasp Radio. It’s so enormously powerful, with so much potential that I find it slippery.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, “More and more institutions are encouraging—or even requiring—students to create “electronic portfolios” that highlight their academic work and help them reflect on their campus experiences.” The article goes on to say “This month, Indiana University – Perdue University at Indianapolis and the University of California at Los Angeles formed a consortium to develop e-portfolio software”—at 10,000.00 an institution.
As much as I’ve encouraged, even evangelized, the creation of digital portfolios for graduate students, I think the consortium idea, and the price, is a bit daft. Frankly, I’d use some of the excellent blog tools that are already out there. Although BloggerPro doesn’t seem to have a license option, either Manilla or Moveable Type look possible to me as portfolio creation,management and hosting solutions. A school would create a couple of portfolio templates, make them available, add some custom locally written documentation and tutorials, encourage the interested students and faculty to learn the ten basic tags of HTML, and there you are!
Andrew Sullivan, has, I think, hit upon one of the key virtues of the blog as a tool for journalism; he writes in his “Blogger Manifesto” that “Peer-to-peer journalism, I realized, had a huge advantage over old-style journalism. It could marshall the knowledge and resources of thousands, rather than the certitudes of the few.”
Blogging-as-journalism then shares the advantages of open source software—you have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bug finders, fixers, and coders working because they want to. And I think this “open source” effect is one of the potential side effects of using blogs for instruction. You are helping students find a voice, a personal commitment to their words and thoughts, and you are teaching them to think about audience, one of the central requirements of good writing. These are all Good Things.
Since I started really thinking about blogs—and deliberately reading and researching them—I’ve slowly realized that one could argue that my central Celtic Studies Resources site is a blog, a blog with categories, and stories.