This is the PLE project at Bolton University, working towards defining the tools for personal learning. The project is being funded by JISC and carried out by CETIS

The project is part of the e-Learning Reference Models programme for the e-Framework. Read a very short project summary.

the personal learning environments blog

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Scott Wilson, June 16, 2006

Another look at Flock

Prompted by Derek's recent post I downloaded the latest version of Flock to have a play with. Its come a long way since I first looked at it, at the start of the PLE project, and its interesting to see how both the prototype work on Plex has followed a similar approach to Flock - perhaps a validation of our using a pattern-based approach?

In this Flickr photoset (or use this tag instead) I've compared some of the ways Flock and Plex handle the management of web services using a very similar model. (I've written comments on each screenshot)

Not all patterns are implemented in both applications: for example, Plex has no notion of notifications (nor a photo manager), while Flock has no concept of rating resources. However, its easy I think to see how these could operate in both applications.

Flock has done an excellent job in some places of "hiding the plumbing", whereas Plex has been keeping everything more or less exposed (its not, after all, really intended to be a tool for typical users, but a testbed and demonstrator for people interested in this topic). In particular they've done well at implementing service discovery - something we knew was an obstacle to users was locating API endpoints and Flock has made a decent stab at this, whereas Plex's "exposed wiring" approach requires a fair knowledge of where to locate things like REL tags, for example.

I think the separation of "bookmarks" and "blog posts" as distinct types of resource has pragmatic value at the UI level, although within the prototype development work it became very clear very quickly that at a deeper level there is no real distinction. Perhaps under the chrome, Flock does the same?

Of course where Flock is currently lacking is the other kinds of instruments relating to people and activity (community?) - essentially Flock mostly contains the capabilities found in the "resources" perspective of Plex. However, I think it would be interesting to see if and how these other dimensions fit into the application as it progresses.

For more information on Flock, visit


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