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A Short History of Expert Voices ... so far (6/06)

by Elly

The blogging project was first documented by Susan Jesuroga in June 2005 The idea blossomed and a planning meeting was held in August 2005 at Cornell with a subset of people from UCAR, Cornell, and Syracuse to discuss the best ways to use blogging technology as a means for the community to provide context around resources found in the NSDL (blog_notes.doc). It was then coined "Expert Voices" (EV). In addition to the STEM topics, the intent was to offer the blogging software as a means of communication for the NSDL builders, including the Pathways projects.

The plan was for Blythe Bennet from SU to seed topics from AskNSDL into a blog format and coordinate a trio of blog moderators (librarians, teachers, and subject-matter experts) on questions of interest. I would lead the technical development with the assistance of the Syracuse folks and with input from other vested persons from NSDL. The team also included three HCI students who were completing independent projects at Cornell.

A list of features/scope was derived from the August 2005 meeting and one-on-one interviews with the team members (Scope_Phases.xls). After reviewing the open-source options, the decision was made to go with WordPress as a code base and subsequently WordPress Multiuser even though it was still unreleased. The work at Cornell focused on UI and functional requirements ( while Syracuse worked on the open source AskNSDL, also known as StoryStarter. To prepare for use and testing of the blogs and gateways at the Annual Meeting, the WordPress login was modified to use the Shibboleth authentication at Columbia and a Crit Lab was offered in conjunction with OnRamp, the content management system. Annual Meeting EV Crit Lab introduction presentation: ExpertVoices.ppt. A questionnaire written by the students was distributed to the participants of the Crit Lab and the results prepared for their project paper (survey0.pdf).

After the Annual Meeting in November 2005, Syracuse presented their work on StoryStarters/OpenQA ( It included a WordPress plugin which integrated with a php/mysql interface and AskNSDL. A decision was made to take the StoryStarter functionality and apply the EV gateway pages look and feel. This was going to coordinated by me, and written by Cathy at SU and the spring semester Cornell students. As it turned out, this integration did not happen. The OpenQA code is available for us to use (, but I believe this work is on hold until the next round of requirements are solidified. Blythe has since left SU, but has kindly provided us with a nice summary of EV topic life cycles and scenarios (

The next top priority for the blogging work was to write a WordPress plugin that would use the API to the NSDL Data Repository (NDR) that would allow adding and annotating resources being discussed in the blogs. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue working on the project due to medical reasons and our students did not pan out for the spring semester. Our new team member, Jim Blake, took responsibility for the NDR plugin and the dysfunctional WordPress Multiuser package. He was able to have a pre-alpha version available for testing this April and has been looking at setting up EV to use Omniture. Also, the gateways, which lacked functionality were fixed up by Sharon Clarke at UCAR, further functionality will be dependent on the beta requirements and resources to do them. Jim presented the work he did at a code review at Cornell and setup a blog for Carol Minton Morris and others to comment on about using the software ( There are also minutes from an EV April 22 meeting posted on this blog.

Dean Krafft presented the concept of Expert Voices at a brown bag at NSF this spring (NSF_Brown_Bag_Final.ppt, slides 18-29). The powerpoint includes EV assumptions that should be reviewed at the upcoming requirements meeting that Carol has organized for Monday, June 5th at 3pm EST.

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