Beginning with the Known

I just returned from DML2015 and plan to pen a few blog posts from ideas that spawned there. But I’ll go ahead and jump right in and say that my friend Tim Owens is one smart man and spending time with him only gets me more excited about the opportunities of where we can take the Domain’s of One’s Own initiative, both at OU and more broadly.

One idea that Tim (along with Mikhail Gershovich) had was about how to engage students more with an application called Known by making it automatically available when you sign up for your domian. For those who aren’t aware of Known, it is a Tumblr-like application developed by Ben Werdmuller and Erin Richey, which allows users to have their own hub in which they can push content to several different platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Flickr). Known also captures the activity around the post. Here is an example of a Known status update that Ben recently syndicated to Twitter:


Further, Known is relatively easy to develop on and bring in even more applications. For those in education, Ben and Erin recently launched Known for Education which makes it easier for instructors to manage class cohorts of Known users and brings in LMS integration (Canvas, Moodle, Sakai, etc).

Known for Education
Known for Education

For those of us who have been advocating for student ownership of learning and student-centered design, this really speaks to the idea that students retain ownership of their online collective thoughts ideas and gives the student agency on where it ends up. Rather than a student’s work being locked in the LMS box, they could theoretically post it to Known, retain a local copy, then syndicate the assignment to the LMS, whether its a blog post, podcast, image, etc. And in a world where the lifespan of a social network appears finite, don’t we all wish we had full ownership of your tweets / your data (much less our school work)?

One idea that I brought to Tim was how Known could not just be an application that you have access to, but essentially be the mother application. Tim and I have spoken previously about the unintuitiveness of the process before. Currently, we use CPanel, which for me looks and acts a little bit like Windows 98:


Even moreso, the structure for how you get started with web hosting doesn’t seem to be as fluid as most modern applications. For instance, let’s say I want to blog. First, I’m required to pick a domain name (already a bad start to the experience because this is a really hard decision). Then I have to locate a one-click installer app like Installatron and choose my application which I hope has blogging capabilities. WordPress is easy, but I may have heard of Drupal from a friend (loosely calling somebody who recommends Drupal a “friend” :wink:) so then I’ll figure out this requires installing a Drupal blog module. But let’s just say I actually did land on WordPress first. Now I come to the install page and I have to come up with a username and password, a website name (didn’t I just pick a domain name?), go through a series of questions that may or may not be relevant or understandable to me, etc.)


The barrier to entry can be high and all I want to do is write! I know this example sounds far fetched but I’ve done enough classroom onboards of domains to know this can seem like organic chemistry lab to some.Sometimes the process feels like you’re going through the motions until you run of directions in your lab manual and stop with a puzzled look on your face. Note: This is an example someone told me once about this process. I don’t claim to have ever taken organic chemistry…

Alright, now let’s imagine a whole new world. Built with Known and ran by Gene Wilder:


Rather than installing an application to blog, you are simply prompted with the option to blog. And, along with the option to share it publicly or privately or to your class, if you want it to go to, say, a WordPress blog, you have the option to install it right within the post.



This seems to lineup well with the new UX/UI designs which desire to only prompt the user about the action when the use case seems fit. The fact is, a lot of people jump into wanting to understand domains without having content ready to go. I know, personally, that it tooks me three months to write my first blog post on Maybe raising the level of options (its much easier to write a tweet-length post or post an image) can help ease folks into the world of owning one’s digital identity and we can make it easier.

So can Known become a users new Control Panel? On the premise of Known being an engine for anything, one can hope the idea might actually be plausible!

Cover photo credit:Jake Melara