A Plausible Promise of Abundant Educational Resources

John Graves jg07024 at gmail.com
Tue Mar 13 05:06:39 CET 2012


The warning from Google should be fixed by now. A server outside my control
had been infected with malware, so I shifted servers, but the warning
message remained attached to the domain name. The address
http://slidespeech.org leads to http://code.google.com/p/slidespeech/ the
source code repository.

On Sat, Mar 10, 2012 at 3:11 AM, John Graves <jg07024 at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Python-List:
>
> If you find Wikipedia useful and can see the value of collaborating on a
> project which could make learning material as freely and spectacularly
> available as Wikipedia does reference material[1], please read on.
>
> Background:
>
> In November 2009, I began learning Python with the objective of trying to
> understand the following research question in my PhD research study of open
> source software development: "We have built Wikipedia and other big,
> successful open source projects. How can we do it again (and again)?" The
> critical issue for me was how to start a project which would grow to
> self-sustainability. So for over two years now, my research method has been
> to try to actually start such a project. I failed. Over and over. The data
> collection period for my study ended.
>
> Before I could start writing up my PhD, however, I saw an answer provided
> in February 2012 by the founder of Craigslist, on Quora. When asked, "How
> did Craigslist gain its initial traction?"[2], Craig Newmark, Customer
> Service Rep & Founder wrote:
>
> - from beginning, did something simple and useful
> - from beginning, began cycle:
>   -- asked for community feedback
>   -- did something about it
>   -- repeat, forever
> -- got lucky with simple site design
>
> So I have now tried to take what started as a horribly over ambitious
> desktop application[3], combined with an equally inept Android mobile
> application (done in Java)[4] and boiled down the core text-to-speech
> functionality into something "simple and useful" which runs on the web. The
> project is now called SlideSpeech[5] and it does a couple of pretty
> interesting things. Interesting enough to attract venture capital.
>
> The Future:
>
> As of 23 February 2012, SlideSpeech Limited is a company. But it is still
> an open source software development research project with a Pythonic heart.
> I can now pay for development of some professional quality software by
> people who know much more Java and Python than I do. Perhaps this will help
> the project reach self-sustainability, although, as Derek Sivers points out
> in a memorable TED talk[6], just initiating or leading a project like this
> is not what makes it a success: there must be joiners and followers for a
> project with a plausible promise to grow to realise its potential. The
> followers are the real heroes.
>
> Now Peter Diamandis just gave a TED talk entitled, "Abundance is our
> future"[7] which everyone should watch. He talks of 3 billion people coming
> on-line this decade. I want SlideSpeech to be useful and helpful to those
> people. Not to make money from them but to help foster a global
> conversation and global distribution of knowledge. We should all share in
> Educational Abundance. Diamandis says, "we're going to hit 70 percent
> penetration of cellphones in the developing world by the end of 2013."
> SlideSpeech can plausibly promise to deliver free, interactive learning
> material to smart phones anywhere on the planet this year. The current
> working prototype does this today.
>
> In its simplest form, the system works like this:
> 1) you start in your presentation software, adding a voice over script in
> the speaker notes of each slide
> 2) you upload your presentation to SlideSpeech
> 3) on the SlideSpeech server (which can be your own PC, running Python,
> made viewable to the world using PageKite[8]), the presentation is
> "decomposed" into slide images and text scripts. The scripts are fed into a
> text-to-speech engine. The resulting audio files are wrapped in HTML with
> their corresponding slide image files. Finally, a link to access the HTML
> is e-mailed back to you
> 4) you open the link on your mobile phone's web browser and the
> presentation you were writing just moments before "delivers itself" on your
> phone ... or on any smart phone, tablet or web browser, anywhere. No need
> to organise a venue, send invitations or get people to actually physically
> show up to see and hear your talk. You can just forward the e-mail.
>
> Cooler still,
> 5) if you have a native application play the script using the phone's
> text-to-speech engine, you don't have to download audio (or video), so you
> save 75% of the bandwidth. Multiplied by billions of people, multiplied by
> the number of downloads[9], that is a huge savings.
>
> The compression of content into the simple combination of images and
> text-to-speech scripts allows SlideSpeech to realise part of the One Laptop
> Per Child vision using "talking" smart phones and tablets. Students can
> learn on their own. Current prices on the cheapest Android 2.2 gear which
> can deliver SlideSpeech content here in Auckland, New Zealand are under
> NZ$150.
>
> A Revolution in Learning:
>
> Think of SlideSpeech as a platform like Khan Academy[10] with the
> exercises integrated into the presentation. The scripts can be created and
> improved collaboratively, like Wikipedia articles, or cloned and customised
> for particular audiences. Unlike Khan Academy videos, the text of
> SlideSpeech presentations is search-able and machine-translatable.
>
> With presentation feedback built into the system[11], a newly created
> presentation can be distributed and then dynamically critiqued and revised,
> so later viewers see the corrected and improved version. It is remarkable
> how quickly changes can be made, especially in contrast to the feedback
> cycle a typical instructor goes through to improve their teaching.
>
> These ideas and technologies are not new. Text-to-speech, in particular,
> has been around for a long time. Lately, however, the voices have become
> "Avatar-quality"[12].
>
> These ideas are disruptive. The current working prototypes of SlideSpeech
> may appear to work poorly, underperforming relative to established
> products, but as Clayton Christensen explains[13], having the ability to
> meet an underlying need in a radically different way transforms industries.
> I like to make an analogy with trains and cars. Current educational systems
> are like trains: everyone has to go between the same fixed destinations at
> the same fixed times, like it or not. SlideSpeech-based learning is like
> having a car: you get to go learn whatever you want, whenever you want,
> wherever you are, at your own pace (which is sometimes very, very fast!).
>
> Content is King:
>
> Having lots of content available will accelerate the adoption of
> SlideSpeech above all else. Over the coming weeks, as the system matures,
> you can start preparing by authoring presentations with speaker notes. Once
> the system is fully available on-line, or downloadable to your PC, you can
> drop your presentations in and get out "self-delivering" talks in HTML or
> even video format, voiced by a wide selection of computer voices in English
> and in many other languages.
>
> Please feel free to jump in with suggestions, contributions or forks of
> the code repositories listed below.
>
> Let's make Educational Abundance happen with Python this year.
>
> Exponentially yours,
>
> John Graves
> PhD Student
> AUT University
> Auckland, New Zealand
>
> Founder and CEO
> SlideSpeech
>
> [1] The English language version of Wikipedia has 50 times as many words
> as *Encyclopædia Britannica<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica>
> * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Size_comparisons
>
> [2] http://www.quora.com/How-did-Craigslist-gain-its-initial-traction
>
> [3] http://code.google.com/p/open-allure-ds/
>
> [4] http://code.google.com/p/wiki-to-speech/
>
> [5] http://code.google.com/p/slidespeech/
>
> [6] http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement.html
>
> [7] http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html
>
> [8] http://pagekite.net
>
> [9] average for Wikipedia is about one article per person per day (18.1
> billion pages / 482 million unique visitors in January 2012)
> http://stats.wikimedia.org/reportcard/
>
> [10] http://khanacademy.org
>
> [11] http://code.google.com/p/slidespeech/wiki/WorkflowDiagrams
>
> [12] I particularly like Loquendo's Veena, Indian English voice
> http://www.loquendo.com/en/demo-center/tts-demo/english/
>
> [13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology
>
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