Pop Goes the Scuttle

When I first saw Scuttle, I wasn’t impressed. It’s essentially a replacement for del.icio.us. It allows you to store and manage bookmarks. You can tag the links, and then sort and filter by those tags. You can grab RSS an feed for any tag or any user. You can share links with other users. You can annotate links, inserting your own notes about the site.

ScuttleScuttle is designed to be run on your own server. I could set one up here in the district, and people in my schools could use it. Actually, it could be configured so anyone could use it by registering for an account. But why would I want to do that? Why wouldn’t we just use del.icio.us, which is free, has very little advertising, and has a much larger community?

Alvin made the point back in January that a closed system limits the number of links. If I search del.icio.us for Shakespeare, I get 6,000 links. All of these are hand picked and tagged by del.icio.us users. This isn’t like Google. Most of these links will be relevent. Even a relatively small number like 6,000 can be overwhelming.

On the other hand, if my high school students were using a closed system, they might have 60 links to choose from, all of which were recommended by their teachers and fellow students.

It gets worse if I search for words that have more than one meaning. And sometimes, taken in a different context, an innocent search can turn up some inappropriate results. Add to this the fact that there are quite a few school-inappropriate links on del.icio.us, and it becomes clear that we need to have a few more conversations about this before we can unblock the site.

In the meantime, one option is to create a walled garden. Make a closed system that’s only available to our school community. Require everyone to log in, so there’s accountability. Then, let them use the tools. That brings us back to Scuttle.

The only problem was that I needed a way to allow my users to use their existing network accounts to log in. I’m a big fan of using single accounts whenever possible, and it seems silly to force people to register for an account when they already have one on another system.

We already do this with Moodle. Any person in our district with a network account can log in to Moodle. The system checks a POP mail server with the username and password. If it authenticates successfully against the POP server, it lets them in. If they don’t already have a Moodle account, it creates one on the fly. I wanted the same thing for Scuttle.

So, I “borrowed” the appropriate code from Moodle and bolted it on to Scuttle. With a few code modifications, I ended up with Scuttle+Pop. I currently have it running on our delta server, and if I have a good response to it, I’ll move it into a production environment for next school year.

If you have a need for this, you can certainly download my modifications and use them. If you have a web server with Apache and Mysql, and a mail server to authenticate against, it may work for you, too.

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Author: John Schinker

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