Saturday, August 9, 2008

A Quick Start Guide for Brainify

We’ve tried our best to make Brainify very easy to use – even without the need for documentation. However, we don’t always fully succeed at the things we try, so here are some pretty quick tips on what Brainify is about and how to use it. If you want more details, please check out the other Brainify blog postings .

What is Brainify?

(If you already know what Brainify is, skip right down to "The Basics" for how to get started).

Brainify is a site for university and college students. We all know there are a huge number of websites that exist which have information on them that will really help you in the courses you are taking. The problem is finding exactly the right site when you need it. Just as you are unlikely to look for videos using Google (YouTube does a better job because it is tailored specifically to videos), Google is less than perfect when looking for good academic content. Unlike Google, the features of Brainify are tailored specifically to bookmarking and finding academic websites, and to helping students ask questions of, and connect with one another.

To provide you with fast and easy access to exactly the right academic website Brainify uses some pretty common (and some not so common) web 2.0 techniques. Each site that is collected in Brainify is rated, tagged, categorized, described and commented on by other students. You can use those bits of “metadata”, along with Brainify’s search and browse features to find the website that the community says is of high quality and targeted to what you are looking for. You can also create and join groups, and ask questions when you cannot find the answer you need in the websites.

Finally, we intend to make Brainify community members pseudo-owners of Brainify. If Brainify ever changes hands (for example, in the same way that YouTube was sold to Google), then we intend to distribute a portion of the proceeds among the Brainify community members according to their reputation on the site. You reputation is recorded and is affected every time a website you were first to collect is rated, comments you make are rated, questions you answer are rated, users you have brought to the site (recommended) increase their own reputation, people join groups you create, etc.

We want Brainify to become a vibrant academic site where university and college students can find exactly what they are looking for.

The Basics:

Joining Brainify: Brainify is intended for university and college students and their instructors. As such, you need an e-mail address issued to you by a university or college in order to join Brainify.

Bookmark academic websites: Brainify is a place for you to collect (bookmark) web sites that you have found useful in your college or university courses. If you bookmark a website in Brainify, the site is listed in your collection so you can easily return to it, and is also now available to the Brainify community using Brainify’s search and browse features. Any number of people can bookmark the same website in Brainify, but the first one to do so receives special acknowledgement.

Web site metadata: When you bookmark a site, you’ll be asked to tag that site, rate that site, indicate the academic level, create a description for the site, and place the site into the topic hierarchy (see below). These things make it much easier for you and other users to search for the most appropriate sites easily.

Topic hierarchy: Brainify also has the notion of an academic topic (or discipline) hierarchy. This hierarchy is, for the most part, defined by you, the users (often referred to as the community). When you collect a web site, you will be asked to place it into its appropriate location in the hierarchy. Likewise, when you join, you will be asked to indicate what you are studying using that same hierarchy. Finally, when you ask a question, you will be asked to indicate the topic it concerns in order to help others find it. You can browse websites, groups, questions and people (other Brainify users) by academic topic.

Watching things: Brainify has the notion of being able to “watch” things such as collected websites, academic topics, questions, groups and people. If you are watching something, then your events tab will show you anything new that happens to that item so that you are saved from constantly going back and checking items of interest.

Ask questions: If you are stumped, you can ask questions in Brainify. These questions can be answered by other Brainify members. You can browse questions by topic, and events will show you when a new question has been asked in a topic you are watching.

Discuss: Most “things” (collected websites, people, groups, topics, etc) have comment areas associated with them in order to facilitate discussions.

Groups: Any Brainify member can create a group of academic interest. Like individual users, groups can have their own collections of web sites.

Icons: On the top right of most items you will see an icon that lets you watch that item. If the item is a group, the icon let’s you join the group. If the item is a collected website, the icon allows you to add it to your own collection.

Mouse-overs: In many cases, you will find that if you place your mouse over a field on the Brainify site, a little description will appear that tells you a little bit about what that icon or link does.

Reputation: As indicated above, whenever other Brainify members indicate that you have done something meaningful for the community (collected some good website, made a useful comment, answered a question, etc), your reputation number goes up. Your reputation in Brainify is critical because if Brainify ever changes hands, we intend to distribute a portion of the sale proceeds among community members according to their reputation.

Invitations: If you find Brainify useful, please invite other good students to join. The more contributing members Brainify has, the more useful it is. In addition, if they establish a good (high) reputation, your reputation will increase as their inviter.

Brainify blog: It is incredibly important to me that the community of Brainify users has a high level of involvement in terms of the development of Brainify. As such, there is a Brainify blog which describes a lot of the decisions we made and asks for comments to help guide us in future decisions. I invite all of you to join the blog and comment on any topic.

Thanks and best regards - Murray

1 comment:

Brian James said...

Very cool stuff. I have worked in higher education (Stony Brook University) since 1992. I am currently writing my doctoral thesis on Nazi Germany via Stony Brook and The University of Heidelburg. My true love is academic advising, Golden Key International Honour Society and of course teaching Spanish, Eurpean History, Journalism, Marketing, Advertising, Graphic Design, Theater,and Film Studies.
Hook 'em Horns. The University of Texas at Austin. Bachelor of Journalism, Class of 1985 and the University of Texas at Austin, Graduate Film Film Studies, Master of Arts, Class of 1990.