Feb 16, 2007

Why Carmun?

Over the past five years, I've seen an abundance of web-based innovation centered around structuring data and different data-types.

Many interesting applications have been developed to address a similar problem: how to manage data-types in an always-connected, Internet-centric environment. Some of these data types are new and digital (digital music and photography, for example), and some are old and analog but are now being delivered and consumed in a digital world (news and information and search).

Thus, we've seen applications such as Flickr to manipulate the data type digital images. iTunes and Last.fm to manipulate digital sound data. YouTube for more streaming moving images media. Wikipedia for "objective" information. Google for search. Facebook and MySpace for social community. Huffington Post for the news. Delicious for web pages. Etc.

What I find common is that these categories of applications all solve the same problem: how to structure, categorize and manipulate different types of data in a digital presentation and application environment.

Additionally, they all use common techniques to achieve their result and bring utility to users. Namely, collaborative filtering, user generated content for creation and sharing, interoperability.

Carmun is an attempt to bring these phenomena to education. Whereas applications called social networks seem to exist to help improve one's social life, Carmun's mission is to help improve academic experience and outputs. Thus, the "data-type" Carmun attempts to help organize, share and manipulate is research: books, articles and more generally sources. It's goal is to transform the way people share, use and generate knowledge, thereby making academic tasks easier and enabling powerful new communities of learning. It will contain tools and community to achieve that.

It's a large, complicated task that solves a few problems: existing tools are expensive and not connected; the nature of education can inhibit collaboration; existing communities don't improve the academic experience. In essence, we're attempting to build a tools and collaboration "application layer" on top of education. Clarence Fischer explained it as: "Share what you know. Tear down the walls." C. Elizabeth Thomas has mixed feelings but kindly wrote that "I’m wondering why I have mixed feelings and am beginning to think it’s my paradigm shifting…." Other comments are here and here.