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June 28, 2005

Plans and Portfolios

A big thanks to Stephen Powell this week for pointing out in my article on ePortfolios and Atom that I'd omitted a planning feed.

I'm not the first to make the omission - the authors of the IMS LIP specification don't seem to have thought learners might have any plans, either, although they may have goals. (This crossed into the IMS ePortfolio specification, which also ignores plans).

Sometimes people get the two concepts - plan and goal - and treat them as if they were the same thing. However, a goal is a state you want to achieve; a plan is a strategy for achieving it.

Plans have quite a history in IT - back in the day a lot of people had their .plan file lurking in their home directory in Unix. Usually something fairly witty rather than a "real" plan. I think mine was something like "(1) Become Emperor of Mongo, (2) Kill Flash Gordon".

FOAF has continued this tradition:

"The foaf:plan property provides a space for a foaf:Person to hold some arbitrary content that would appear in a traditional '.plan' file. The plan file was stored in a user's home directory on a UNIX machine, and displayed to people when the user was queried with the finger utility."

But can we rehabilitate "plan" to be a bit more meaningful? Might we want to share and discuss plans?

Well, there are plans and plans. There is the personal development plan, for example, which is all about helping you achieve personal and career goals. Or there are plans to build things, plans to start enterprises, plans for world domination, plans for world peace.

There are also the artifacts of plans; technical drawings, models, Five Year Plan documents, logframes, schedules, maps, specifications, blueprints, manifestos, proposals, risk analyses, logos, to-do lists.

I don't think we'd get very far with an attempt at one-size-fits-all structure for plans.

On the other hand, an entry in a blog or journal can capture the essence of a plan, point to the artifacts and so on, so perhaps the same model I described for Goal feeds would work fine for feeds of plans, if creating and sharing your plans is a thing you like to do.

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