Archive for the ‘Information Technology’ Category

A funny thing happened on the way to the (web) forum…

Noticed anything new today about signing into some of your favorite sites? Actually – we are hoping you didn’t.

Last November, we transitioned our internal sites to using a new protocol for signing in to sites on the web, called “OpenID”. Every person that has an eXtensionID also has an OpenID (you can find information about your OpenID in your Profile. Don’t have an eXtensionID? If you’re eligible for one – please signup!)

An OpenID lets you use the same “ID” at sites across the web, without having to signup for yet another account for each website. It’s a great way for Extension personnel to establish identity at various sites, without having to use the same username (and potentially the same password) at different sites.

OpenID is an important emerging standard that Extension will be hearing more and more about (every Google account, every Yahoo! account, every AOL account and more have an OpenID) – and it’s important to have that educational opportunity to know that Extension staff with eXtensionID’s have an OpenID, and can use it across the web.

But you know, sometimes in the moment – you just need to get work done. I mean – I now have to remember a crazy string like ‘[extensionid]’ when logging in? I just want to author some articles! Answer questions! Create events!

I hear you. It’s at worst confusing, maybe at best bemusing.

But now, for many of our sites, you don’t even have to know you’re using – your OpenID.

Our November transition gave us a stepping stone to make our login process even easier. For our About Wiki, our Collaborate Wiki, and our Ask Extension Widget site – which have “open read” access, but are limited to eXtensionID’s for editing and commenting – choosing “Log in” or “Sign in” will no longer prompt you for your OpenID – you’ll only be presented with a eXtensionID (or email) and password login at

If you have already logged into People previously – you’ll just automatically sign in!

For our content tools that are closed for both “read” and “write” to those with an eXtensionID – just accessing Events, Faq / Ask an Expert or the Community of Practice Wiki will prompt you to log in with your eXtensionID (or email address) and password (or automatically log you in if you have already signed into People recently).

The best part about this? We don’t think you’ll notice. Hopefully this continued transition – made possible by our use of OpenID – will help a portion of the technology “get out of the way” to let you focus on collaboration with your Extension colleagues!


Become an eXtension Question Wrangler

Want to help people find answers to their questions? Work with your Extension colleagues from across the country? Help to serve Extension clientele in a new and exciting way? Then maybe you’d like to become an eXtension Question Wrangler. We have new opportunities for our public to ask questions through our new “Ask an Expert” system, but in order to ramp-up this effort we’re needing a few good people to volunteer to help make this a reality.

What does an Ask an Expert Question Wrangler do?

  • Keep an eye on incoming questions. Monitor and keep your pulse on the system.
  • Remove obviously spammy (or otherwise inappropriate) messages.
  • Communicate with people (experts?) who haven’t responded to questions in a timely manner.
  • Reassign questions to different people when necessary, for example if it’s not answered in 48 hours.
  • Answer questions on occasion where there is an already published answer.
  • Find and recruit experts to answer questions.

If this sounds like something you’d like to be involved with we need you to:

Your eXtension team plans to ramp-up the Ask an Expert system to cover all subject matter areas and involve all 15,000 Extension professionals in responding to citizens’ questions. Question Wranglers are the first and a very important component of this effort. It won’t take much of your time, and it’s kind of fun. We hope you will consider joining us!


A New People Application

Today we released a new version of our identity and directory application (People – ). This version, the first to have earned the honor of the “version 1.0” designation, has a number of new community-oriented features and a revamped look-and-feel throughout the application.

A Focus On Community

Our new communities page is the central feature of the upgraded People. There are lists of user-created communities and eXtension Communities of Practice and each individual community now has a “dashboard” where you can find out more information about the community, browse the members and leaders list, see a snapshot of the activity of the community’s members and join or indicate that you want to join the community (depending on the community’s membership settings).

You can also create your own communities and invite colleagues to join, providing a useful organizational tool for creating team and group lists among colleagues in Cooperative Extension.

User and Community Tags

The new version of People also introduces “Tags” for both users and communities. By tagging yourself with your interests and areas of expertise, you can begin to find others with similar interests and specialties throughout Cooperative Extension. As others begin make connections and join communities – those communities begin to develop a set of shared interests and expertise within community – and those community tags are used to make recommendations to you about communities that you might find of interest.

A Hub of Activity

Another major new feature of the upgraded People are the views of activity within both People and our content creation tools. You can get a feel for the recent activity throughout the application, by institution, location and more. This activity system lets us grow in the future, pulling in the content creation activities within our FAQ, CoP Wiki and other applications.

The activity information is also available within Feeds for those that want to keep up with new signups, logins, and other activities from colleagues within their communities, institutions, or locations.

By the Numbers

People also includes a new Numbers view – allowing ad-hoc browsing through various numbers about Extension institutions, locations, communities, and more.

Want to know how many of your colleagues from your institution are members of a eXtension Community of Practice? Just start with your institution and click down through each of the links. “Numbers” is meant for exploration, so explore away!

Behind the Scenes

Even bigger changes to people occurred behind the scenes, as the application was reworked and refactored to be more efficient, and to upgrade to the latest versions of the software tools used to develop it. There are a number of core changes that will let us build upon the communities, tags, activity, and numbers to integrate our suite of content creation tools together in the coming months.

Join Our People Launch!

The power of People is, well, our people – so if you don’t already have an eXtensionID – please signup today! and if do already have an eXtensionID, please do sign in, update your profile, tell your colleagues about your interests and expertise, join and create new communities or just browse through the activity and the numbers.

If you like what you see, have questions or comments, or things that you would like to see us do in the future with People, don’t hesitate to let us know!


Needing your news feeds

eXtension late last year launched a site to provide a one-stop-shop to aggregate news stories created by our partner institutions across the country: The idea behind the site was to create a value-added service where media and others could get ready access to the news of the system both geographically as well as topically. We knew that the popularity of feed aggregation sites was only going to grow, and we were hoping to get out in front of the curve with an aggregation site for Cooperative Extension.

Heather Hopkins at Hitwise Intelligence has written a thoughtful post on the growing demand for these services: Content Aggregation is King?

Visits to these 8 news aggregators grew 11% year on year last week. So yes, content aggregation is increasing in popularity, using website visits as the gauge of popularity. But, the News and Media category as a whole also grew last year – up 10% year on year last week. Looking back two years, visits to the 8 News Aggregators is up 23% and visits to the News and Media category are up 11%.

The following graph depicts how the demand for feed aggregation services continues to grow:

Growth in Popularity of News Feed Aggregators

The site represents an opportunity for the entire system to work together to provide a Web-based product that consumers are showing they want. We need your help in satisfying that need. In order to make it work we need your news syndication feeds today. It takes no longer than a couple of hours to create a feed, and after that it all happens automatically. More details on what is involved can be found under the About Us tab at, and of course, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me at


In-MoodleMeet: Repurposing Content

Typically held the first and third Mondays of every month from 2-3:30pm ET, in the chat of the Moodle 101 course, which you can enter as a guest. During the chat you may get together in Moodle text chat to share stories, ideas and provide support for Moodle.

On Monday March 17th the topic will be Repurposing Content.

To join go to the chat of the Moodle 101 course.


eXtension Caledon Steam Hover Bus Tour in Second Life

A tour of the Caledon group of SIMs in Second Life. Caledon is a SteamPunk (Think Juels Vern and Wild Wild West the movie) Victorian English community of 55 SIMs. It is the largest themed area in Second Life and one of the best kept.We will meet in Morrill Island at 11:30 am SLT (11:30am PT, 12:30 pm MT, 1:30pm CT, 2:30pm ET…). Some of the tour will be on Steam Hover Bus ( a creation made by Thadicus Caligari for a parade) and some on foot.

On the 2nd and 4th Fridays of every month the CES Second Life educators meet in-world to learn new skills and visit interesting educational builds. The learning parts of the meet-ups are led by fellow participants, and are designed to be lightweight and appropriate for all skill levels. If you are interested in what’s being planned, join the Cooperative Extension Second Life Educators group in Facebook

Join us on eXtension’s Morrill Island on March 14 and/or 29 at 11:30 AM SLT (2:30 ET). Go to this location using your Second Life client:


Planning for Extension in SL — Cooperative Extension in Second Life Round Table

Join the next meeting of planning for Extension in Second Life, using Web conferencing, on March 13th at at 11 AM SLT (2:00 PM ET). If you are interested in what’s being planned, join the Cooperative Extension Second Life Educators group in Facebook ( and the discussion in the eXtension Collaborate Wiki. These planning meetings are typically held the second Thursday of each month.

This session will be held at our Web Conferencing Center at and your telephone. Plan to join the session 5 minutes before the starting time.


30 Minute Session: Google Presentation

Google Presentation is a new tool introduced in September for the collaborative development of slide shows. It is cut from the same cloth as Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets and shows great promise as a new collaboration technology. Participants will be given an introduction to the tool’s use, discuss its advantages and disadvantages, and see how this tool can be used to facilitate online learning. The session will include a demonstration of several recent enhancements to the Google Presentation system. (For all Extension)

Plan to join us on February 26, 2008 for this online professional development opportunity presented by Kevin Gamble, associate director of eXtension.

Give us 30 minutes and we’ll teach you something useful! This session will be held at our Web Conferencing Center at and your telephone. Plan to join the session 5 minutes before the starting time. Each session will be held at 3:00p Eastern Time (2:00p CT, 1:00p MT, 12:00n PT, 11:00a AT; 9:00a HT) unless otherwise noted. Get more information about participating…


Special Topic: eXtension Launch

Celebrate the launch of the eXtension with colleagues from across the country…and people from all over the world… at the eXtension Virtual State Fair in the 3-D online community Second Life! Come to Morrill Island in Second LIfe at to join in the festive atmosphere and watch the ceremony.Watch real life video of the eXtension ribbon cutting ceremony streamed into Second Life from the USDA Ag Outlook Forum in Washington DC. Visit the Expo Tent spotlighting 16 Communities of Practice. Take a virtual horseback ride, tour the animal barns, try out the bumper cars…and the virtual cotton candy is calorie-free! Fireworks, games and live music performances will be scheduled throughout the three day celebration, on February 21, 22 and 23, 2008

For more information and a schedule of events, go to: eXtension Launch Celebration Announcement.


30 Minute Session: OpenID

Are you tired of creating a new account on every web site you visit? Do you not sign-up for new sites because they require you to create yet another account? Do you go to sites and can’t remember your login, password, or both? OpenID is a new technology that aims to solve these problems. Everyone with an Extension ID already has an OpenID. Come to this session to learn how it works, and about the growing list of Web sites where it can be used. Once you go OpenID you’ll never want to go back… (for all Extension)

Plan to join us on February 12, 2008 for this online professional development opportunity presented by Kevin Gamble, associate director for eXtension.

Give us 30 minutes and we’ll teach you something useful! This session will be held at our Web Conferencing Center at and your telephone. Plan to join the session 5 minutes before the starting time. Each session will be held at 3:00p Eastern Time (2:00p CT, 1:00p MT, 12:00n PT, 11:00a AT; 9:00a HT) unless otherwise noted. Get more information about participating…