Markdown syntax is fairly ubiquitous and there are a variety of libraries to support it but a WYSIWYG editor in addition lowers the learning curve and there are open source libraries for that as well. That said, I don't think that addresses the key pieces of support and availability for ubiquitous use. Those are a codebase HUIT/ATG is comfortable maintaining as a hosted service in the Canvas App Store.
Add "temporary / persistent" in case people want everything to autodelete in a day/week
Clean up rooms: one named directory per group, one room per thread
Simple auto-color like Etherpad (to distinguish different participants in a long thread)
It would be good to have sub-threads within a thread like you can have within Slack. A single thread like this ends up with multiple simultaneous topics and is hard to follow. But there isn't a good way to branch.
There were notifications and admin roles in the HarvardX implementation but I think the question isn't which implementation, or a new one, you pick but rather some way, as Earth alluded to, the solution is a commitment (funding) to support for ubiquitous use.
In re Dakara's comment, it seems like a chicken and egg question to me. Commitment to support will be based on a broader-based desire to use the tool. I think people can get the importance of the pseudonymity idea but don't want it enough if the tool doesn't have the other features they want in a chat tool.
I would argue the formatting and feature comparisons to traditional discussion tools are a distraction. To me, the value and point of threads is to distill a conversation to the core of the arguments and enable users to take a position they may or may not agree with and debate the merits. The more Threads tries to become a general purpose chat tool, the harder it will become for faculty/ta's to moderate the discussion for content/issue focus and not emotional (emoji, text styling) personal engagement.
And, if you use a third party service like Slack or Discord, you change the 'sense of safety' involved. While Harvard will always be able to de-anonymize a user in an emergency (hate speech, threats of harm to self or others), Threads needs to feel (and be) safe from the data mining interests of those third party service.
That said, one could use a Threads codebase to enable general purpose chat without the constraints the pedagogy behind the design of Threads supports. A case that, you start with Threads for the Threads specific use case and then investment in that code then becomes a major leg up on more general purpose chat tools.
+1 to this point of Alderaan: Why not instead build it as a Slack or Discord app so it could do nymity--the real comparative advantage--without having to recreate all of the functions of a good chat environment?
Students often took to Threads to present ideas/ask questions that may have otherwise gone unacknowledged without the ability to engage pseudonymously. Thus, it is easy to see one way in which semi-anonymous spaces can enhance the overall educational experience – by increasing the likelihood that a diverse array of thoughts and opinions will be introduced to the classroom. In hindsight, I believe I would have certainly benefited from the availability of a tool like Threads in many of my first-year courses. Thinking back to my criminal law course where I was one of four Black students, I would have undoubtedly been more willing to introduce new perspectives to certain discussions if doing so did not increase the likelihood that I would be tasked with the burden of speaking for my entire race. Consistently, as class discussions delved into heavily racialized topics like police brutality and mass incarceration, I was repeatedly disappointed by the ways in which such issues were approached with a complete disregard for the socio-political context within which these issues manifested. Time and time again, it was left to students of color to point out structural racism within the law, and before long, it became utterly exhausting to engage in said conversations. Many of us also dealt with the reality that our peers would label us, because of our contributions, as combative, overly emotional, etc. In this case, a pseudonymous platform would have afforded me the opportunity to maintain some level of control over my self-presentation within the classroom, while remaining authentic to my experience as a Black woman in the US. Without needing to publicly “out” myself each time, I could have added my views to these discussions and in so doing, offered a perspective that was often absent.
our threads discussion opens with the question, Why create yet another tool?
We are building not just a new tool: We are building a new classroom, everyone equal, everyone free, built with pseudonymity.
Fear of anonymity on the net holds people back.
Why is this tool the one for Harvard faculty, students and staff to use to add the dimension of pseudonymity to classroom and meeting environments? Because Threads is ours, open code. It allows us to reify concepts of liberty, privacy, free thought, free expression, self governance, and sovereignty in a classroom. It. offers agency, intimacy, and environment to develop..
I'm persuaded about the importance of pseudonymous spaces for discussion as part of course communities. Also able to see that Threads, when used live, can work to do this. I think it would be better for students and faculty to be able to use fewer tools when they can, so many faculty won't use it unless it fulfills their other chat/discussion needs, which does mean other features.
@OP - 1) who is ours? i'm not a part of your center. don't want to be.
2) if google is present, google can match, map, and sell/disclose - no *nymity
3) running with a no longer supported version of a language means not maintained, not secure, no attempt at *nymity
@OP and all. How critical is security for nymity in this context? I truly don't know. Do you find that students won't speak freely in the space without assurances that their identity could never be revealed (by hacking or otherwise)? If they don't express that worry, is it naive of them not to? Or is this a shade of nymity where it is important for them to be temporarily shielded from identity but it isn't necessary for it to be permanently shielded?
@OP: I believe anonymity may not hold as many people back as one might think. Reddit involves anonymity to an extent, and it is one of the most popular sites out there. Reddit users engage in meaningful thread-like conversations in each "sub-reddit"
@Alderaan: In my experience, students are not particularly worried about whether Harvard might breach the confidentiality of Threads at some later date. In fact, this has not happened in any of my classes to date and, if an issue of misuse or abuse does occur on Threads, the teacher can shut down discussions long before it becomes a problem grave enough to warrant central administration interference. It could happen but is unlikely.
My students, Glory James and Lu Wang, typify my classroom experience with pseudonymity. They both express the importance of being able to speak out contemporaneously with classmates; neither has concern that at some later date Harvard will breach her pseudonymity.
My hypothesis is that nymity can in fact increase security both in the classroom and on Zoom-recordable classes. The protection provided by pseudonymity increases the potential for students to feel safer about expressing themselves to their classmates.
Overall, this project stems from a terrific educational priority to create safe and horizontal learning spaces. As an end user and current grad student, I would definitely be compelled to use this platform, as long as 1. it is easy to access (for example an extension/plugin for Zoom meetings) 2. the etiquette is explained by my instructors, and monitored each class (there have been complaints this year within Zoom classrooms when students submit offensive chat comments -- whether racially/ethnically insensitive or sexually targeted -- with their real names, and the TAs do not know how to respond). I believe this project's purpose, and look forward to more pseudonymous discourse.
One issue that I feel is important is that we need to solve the problem of notifications. It is not as much against the anonymity principle as one may thing, as (a) these can be done within browser and (b) even if email for notifications is given, we can take precautions to explain to everyone that they should only give an address they feel comfortable to share (possibly, anonymous), and also (c) make notifications about threads, not particular posts (this way one could subscribe to a thread, but not be identified as a particular author).
Without notifications I personally very quickly fall out of the conversational forget about it.
I totally agree with @Uranus. Threads can work in a live class w/out notifications but really doesn't work for an asynchronous conversation without them. It's taken commitment for me to keep checking periodically. But if I was getting notifications I'd be happy to engage more frequently.
@Alderaan: @Uranus: yes, we are on the same page with this. OP can see as i&i had not seen before that part of the responsibility of an OP should be to manage the ensuing discourse, at least to the extent of bringing it to a conclusion so as not to punish those who have bothered to keep checking back.
you are right, Alderaan: when used in conjunction with a class that has a regular tempo of meetings, this notification problem does not appear. in my workshop in january term with daily classes i used threads for feedback each day and before the next could create a gdoc with the day's thread, noting my responsive comments in red, and start the new class day with distribution of it before class.
i'll next be using threads with my incoming classes, 'fair trial' and 'advanced evidence.' as soon as i have email addresses of enrollees i will invite them to gather as a class in pseudonymous text-only discourse space to say hello and meet and exchange in advance of their first gathering in recordable zoom space.
thanks to all who have participated in this thread so far, especially to those who check back.