To make people change is a hard matter. It requires a motivation, reward, and sometimes punishment. As we learn from Sociology 101, a habit is something that we would have from constant repetitive jobs. A tradition even takes further by pressing habits into roots on many people. 1965 to 2010 is not short. We have at least two generations that uses email as medium to communicate. Can you imagine how would our world be if all the SMTP on earth getting blocked?

Yes, actually it doesn’t sound bad at all.  We do evolve!

Remember that we used to have nettiquette on how to talk in forums/mailing lists? Lead by the great flame wars of 1999 and the MMORPG booming, the way people communicating is changing, radically. GMail, Yahoo, Blackberry, and other public systems also responsible to change how people write emails. We can see people now top-posting instead of bottom-posting. It is a common practice that we also see conformance and many adapted to these change — purists and old schools may not, but, hey, you could just unsubscribe.

We also seeing transforming ways of how to attach email. Many security vendors would offer you to use their custom solution of sending secure email. Basically, they offer to put the attachments/secret parts of the message on a server and the receiver would be receing a URL to the given location. By using some corporate crap cough terms, they would actually make their clients use linked URL instead of telling them to embedding it straightly into the message. With a custom plugin for Outlook/Thunderbird, the tedious task is done automatically.

Can we actually do that?

Yes, technically we can. All we need is a storage that accessible via Internet. Does Universitas Indonesia provide that? Yes, we actually have that. I often use this blog to attach some things (nothing illegal as the blog can only have about 100MB of attachment). I have to change the file extension so that it don’t get filtered. I notify the user of my blog to change the attachment’s extension. Can it be protected? Some blog content are protected and I see some of the teachers here use the blog to put their teaching material with passwords. We could also can zip them all and put password on the zip file.

We also have Komunitas UI (http://komunitas.ui.ac.id/), the social media experiment. It was designed in terms of how we could evolving our evolution and I found it very interesting. In Komunitas UI, I could attach a file and then put a password on it. I then PM-ing (sending private message to) my friends about the file. I can also use third party like 4Shared and the likes, bookmarked it into my bookmark, and share it with my friends. Of course, the use of 3rd party is all about trust and I will never put any important files into 3rd party.

What if I want to have a group discussion?

This is somewhat problematic. I don’t think creating a bogus group and put it for discussion that not take long is a good thing. Or does it? Well, it’s an experiment, you decide. 🙂 But, yes, technically we can use the group to create a special place where we can talk and discuss about something. We can set the group to be exclusive (set to closed group) and invite only few of our friends.

A good use case for this is to use it into learning experience. The lecturer can set a group and then the students join the group. They can set a picture, starts a discussion, and make a flow (tweet) about current things. Some interesting links can then be bookmarked in that group. People can discuss it in the forum, blog it in the group’s blog, and put some videos or attachments on the group.

Here’s an example show case of how we can use Komunitas UI:

  1. Students and lecturer get enrolled in a closed group. The lecturer is the manager/founder of the group.
  2. Lecturer post a file describing assignments.
  3. Lecturer put events such as paperdue, class meetings, exams, etc. on Events.
  4. On each topic lecturer would open a group discussion.
  5. Students can also be assigned or voluntarily write their thought on the blog.
  6. Or, lecturer put his/her resume about the topic and the students actively put comments in the blog.
  7. On a day, lecturer can set their own channel to have interactive discussion in the Chat Room.

As the Komunitas@UI is an experiment, the system is lacking some aspects. Fortunately, UI do have stable systems for e-Learning. For lecturer, you could use SCeLE (http://scele.ui.ac.id/) to put many discussions there. Unfortunately, I have no access to that place. But as far as I experienced it with Fasilkom’s version of SCeLE, which is basically the same SCeLE (using Moodle with heavy customizations), I can say that it is a great system.

It does have a forum, a special page for assignments and a place for uploading the assignments. It really neat. It has calender, a front page, a list of enrollment, a list of my own enrollment. It even have the ability to upload files (PDFs, videos, slides, etc.). All of those topics, notes, attachments, etc. can be arranged and grouped for weeks of learning. This way, I can see what are the thing that the lecturer get into on a particular week.

Well, there are other gem systems on Universitas Indonesia. But, the problem still lies like Google Wave, who would want to try it out?

These systems requires learning curves. Some part is obvious, some part needs to be set, and some set of features used strangely to do the quirks. All of them is a way to go and they are some fun experiment to discuss with people. Some part needs retraining, some part are not so obvious, and some part are mysteriously undocumented. Like the Chat system in Komunitas@UI which uses PHP Chat engine. We don’t have the documentation but as we search google, we can find some commands that made the PHP Chat actually a hot thing.

An open problem would arise: how these systems integrated? Well, using the systems actually an interesting topic of research. Anyone? 😉

PS: Next part three I want to talk about further evolution.