Reporting = Aggregation

The funniest monkey and driving force behind DrupalEd, Bill Fitzgerald, just posted about a new feed aggregation demo via Drupal:

Bill’s post got me thinking about a problem I’ve been ruminating on from a related arena: the world of academic eportfolios. The issue: How to enable a high degree of independence for individuals in the stewardship of their eportfolios, but at the same time facilitate the use of material from those eportfolios for collective (aggregated) goals, such as academic course, career, program and/or institutional assessment?

Most systems that provide approaches to this issue err on the side of centralization. But one problem they face is scalability: How do you provide a good user interface to a centralized tool that reports on (aggregates) say, 25,000 user eportfolios? Another problem they face is standardization: The collectivity likes information in trees and boxes while the individual (and their learning pathways) often produce a much looser collection of stuff.

Bill’s demo started me thinking that the more elegant (only workable?) solution to this issue is a far looser coupling of the individual eportfolio and the central reporting (aggregating) function. Let the individual create willy-nilly, but when it matters, tag with care. Let the collectivity build more sophisticated aggregators of tagged user creations rather than trying to box and prune them from the outset.

The six hours Bill spent building his demo were enough to let me envision not so many hours more spent to extend his work to model a better solution to this eportfolio conundrum. A solution where the individual has their cake and the collectivity eats (aggregates) it too.