Visualization: The UReddit Community

As can be seen from the UReddit source code, everything in UReddit is internally represented as an “object” – users, classes, lectures, class categories, and so on. Associations between objects are interpreted based on context, e.g. a certain type of association between a class and a user denotes that the user in question has registered for that class.

Since everything is an object and all relationships are modeled by associations between objects (even messages between users), there is a very clear and quantifiable record of the degree of interconnectedness of our community. This means that we can visualize the data!

Without further ado, here is a graph of all relationships between all objects in our database, including PMs:

A visualization of the entire UReddit community

A visualization of the entire UReddit community

This visualization was made using LaNet-vi and those interested in the full details of the graph should refer to this paper. In brief, the objects that have more connections are represented closer to the center, and the size of a dot is logarithmically proportional to the total number of relationships the corresponding object has.

More formally, each ring corresponds to the smallest k such that the subgraph induced by the collection of vertices in that ring has internal degree at least k: for example, each red dot in the center ring is directly related to at least 22 other objects in the same ring. The inner rings therefore correspond mainly to the most active users and the largest classes, while the outermost ring corresponds mainly to objects with very narrow scope (such as lectures) and with low interconnectivity (such as inactive users and empty/canceled classes.)

As we can see, the UReddit community is so interconnected (even if this perhaps isn’t obvious on our website) that the edges in the graph are thick enough to obscure the white background.

So here’s another visualization, this time showing only classes, categories, and users, and where edges represent the categorization of classes and enrollment of users in classes:

A visualization of UReddit enrollment

A visualization of UReddit enrollment

As we can see, there is quite a bit of enrollment. The fact that we can now actually see the white background behind the graph shows how much of the first graph represented social interactions such as direct PMs, mass PMs, and voting.

It isn’t publicly obvious because UReddit is rather decentralized, allowing teachers to host their classes wherever they like, but it seems that user engagement is quite high. That’s what we like to see!

Follow @uofreddit on Twitter for timely updates and subscribe to/r/UniversityofReddit for discussion. (A big announcement is coming soon, keep an eye out!)

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University of Reddit breaches real-world teaching at the University of South Florida

UReddit has, up until this point, existed solely online. Material would be distributed via video stream, YouTube, PDF, voice chat, or any of several other services. As of this week, we are proud to announce that UReddit has breached the world of in-person teaching via Dr. Philip Bishop at the University of South Florida.

Dr. Bishop is teaching a freshman level honors philosophy course at USF this Fall and will be including an online section via UReddit. Approximately 75 USF honors students will be interacting with the nearly 1,000 users enrolled in Dr. Bishop’s Arts and Humanities: what does it mean to live well? UReddit class. Discussion will be held via a subreddit using a textbook that Dr. Bishop is writing and making freely available online.

Real-life lectures conducted at USF for this course will be recorded and put online – the first video is already up, in fact. This USF/UReddit hybridization was written about in the Chronicle for Higher Education, where Dr. Bishop is quoted as saying that the Dean of the USF honors college is behind this project, viewing it as a “test run” of the feasibility of online teaching.

This truly marks the beginning of a new epoch for UReddit. We expect great things to keep happening, and we sincerely thank Dr. Bishop for sharing his knowledge and experience with the rest of the world.

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New policies regarding [interest check]s, [update]s, and [request]s subreddit posts and new classes, effective immediately

Ever since the subreddit doubled in size on Monday as a result of Reddit’s blog post about UReddit, the number of [interest check] and [request] threads began to significantly drown out the rest of the posts. In other words, the signal to noise ratio (considering the aforementioned posts to be “noise” and class announcements/updates as “signal”) has significantly deteriorated.

For that reason, several new policies are being implemented:

  1. No more [interest check] posts. The website has nearly 60,000 users; it is very unlikely that nobody will be interested in what you have to offer, as long as you take your commitment seriously. Therefore, if you are considering posting a class, please prepare your first lecture / PDF / video / &c, add it to the catalog, and announce it as a [class] post in the main subreddit. Please also take note of the policy change number 2 below.
  2. No empty classes. If you want to conduct a class, please prepare *at least* one lecture before adding it to the catalog. Any new classes not abiding by this principle will be removed from the catalog. This policy change also has the added benefit of forcing new teachers to experience how much effort goes into a single lecture and should decrease the number of abandoned classes.
  3. [Update] posts are strongly encouraged. Several teachers have been submitting [update] posts to notify UReddit’s general userbase of new content added to their class. There seem to be no downsides to this; it is not spam, /r/UniversityofReddit has a larger userbase and is more likely to appear on Redditor frontpages, and recently subscribed users that perhaps had not heard about the class in question hear about it. Since there seem to be benefits without detriments, we have decided to encourage this type of post.
  4. All class requests are to be submitted to /r/URedditRequests. There are so many [request] posts that [class] and [update] posts are being drowned out. /r/URedditRequests has been created as a single place to post class requests and it will be heavily promoted throughout UReddit’s various information outlets, including the public catalog. Once a request in this new subreddit reaches a certain threshold, it will be allowed to be crossposted to /r/UniversityofReddit for increased attention if it has not been fulfilled.

These policy changes will be strictly enforced. I fully expect that some users will disagree with them, but we feel that they will significantly benefit the quality of the main subreddit and the class creation process.

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UReddit is now accepting donations via PayPal

As the site continues to grow, more hard drive space is needed to provide email space for every user, more space is needed to guarantee that teachers that opt into our filehosting service will have room for their files, and, perhaps more importantly, more servers will be necessary to be able to handle more traffic. For these reasons, UReddit will begin accepting donations via PayPal.

Please note that UReddit will continue to remain free to use and that donations are entirely voluntary.

If you would like to donate via PayPal, click here.

Thank you in advance for any donations.

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UReddit API

UReddit had an API in its version 2 days, but the complete backend rewrite broke it entirely. A new API has been created to work with version 3, the current version; its usage is described here.

The API is read-only for now, but will soon be expanded to be fully integrated into the UReddit platform, i.e. to allow account registration, class creation/modification, and so on.

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A new lectures system has been added for classes

Teachers now have the ability to manage individual lectures for their classes. Each lecture has a title and a description. Additionally, teachers can create and manage a list of links for each lecture.

For example, the first lecture for a class may be a general introductory lecture; the teacher can add a lecture to his class called “Introduction” that briefly introduces the material that will be talked about, and then add a series of three links to supplementary material (perhaps YouTube videos or a PDF).

The Introduction to HTML/CSS has been set up to use the new lectures system and is an example of how it looks.

Of course, more work needs to be done, but it seemed best to deploy it in its current form so that it can start being useful.

Follow @uofreddit on Twitter for timely updates and subscribe to /r/UniversityofReddit for discussion.

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Classes can now have multiple teachers!

A feature that has been missing for a while has finally been added: the ability to have multiple teachers for a single class.

So how does it work? If you are teaching a class, you will notice a new “teachers” link alongside the other class management links. Click it and you will see a list of current teachers you’ve added in the past (and an option to remove any of them) and the option to add a new teacher. Any teacher you add will be able to edit the class, send a mass message, and view class statistics.

Note that only a class’ creator has access to the Teachers page, so teachers you’ve added cannot remove each other and none of them can remove you. Hopefully this new feature will be useful!

Follow @uofreddit on Twitter for timely updates and subscribe to /r/UniversityofReddit for discussion.

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There’s a new, prettier traffic stats page for teachers!

We’ve just deployed a new stats page that plugs into Google Analytics for data and uses Google Charts to make pretty graphs rather than trying to do custom logging and graphing in-house. The end result is a faster, cleaner, more maintainable, less strenuous (for us), and more useful stats page.

Here‘s what the stats page for the Intro to HTML/CSS class looks like and here‘s the GitHub commit (just noticed that there’s some leftover code on the stats page, but that can be fixed later).

Hope it’s useful!

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Friday Update (30 March 2012): Twelve new classes, several new website features, and more

There haven’t been any Friday Update blog posts recently, so a lot is new since the last one.

First, new classes:

  1. ryugi created Creative Writing, which begins April 2: “A fresh look at creative writing, accompanied with powerpoint presentations and prompts.”
  2. Sine_Ira_Et_Studio created Roman Republic – Rise and Fall, which “examines the political, economic, institutional, social, and cultural history of Rome from its foundation until the end of the Roman Republic.”
  3. teach2622, who has a BA in Anthropology from UMich, created An Introduction to Teaching in the Inner-City Public High School, which “is designed to instruct a new teacher in how to effectively teach in a very specific environment, the inner-city public middle/high school.”
  4. aptfoto, who owns a photography studio, created Photography and Photoshop, which “will teach the basics on how to use your DSLR or Point and Shoot camera as well as the basics of Photoshop to create stunning images” and is to last eight weeks.
  5. creepfeeteatmeat, published poet and current MFA candidate, started Narrative Poetry & Fiction Workshop, a “workshop setting course that will focus not only on getting feedback on your poetry and prose, but help the student develop their own critiquing skills.”
  6. autotom is drawing on his CCNA certification to offer CCNA – Cisco Netowrking and Subnetting, which “is designed to assist people in completing their CCNA, either before or during study.”
  7. nottoobadguy, who heads the /r/dailyprogrammer subreddit, created Programming for Non-programmers: an Introduction to Python and will conduct it in a subreddit.
  8. Kaiko, a former DotA semi-pro, is teaching DotA 2 for Beginners and “will cover the very basics of DotA”.
  9. Mikhaillost created Basic Logic and Reasoning For Busy People, a weekend-based class that will “[teach] you fallacies, whole thinking, induction and deduction, how to read scientific studies, choosing your sources and a couple other things that will come up in relation to these.”
  10. pizzaguy, a Life Coach in Japan, will be teaching Hiragana in Beginning Japanese Writing.
  11. EpicNoiseGuy - who is in his final year of a music production degree, has performed in major UK festivals, and produces and DJs Electro/Dubstep under the name of Epic Noise Guy – is offering An Introduction to Electronic Music Production.
  12. chakrakhan, who is graduating in Spring 2012 with a bachelor’s in Philosophy and Mathematics, is offering Mind and Matter: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mind, which “will survey philosophical ideas about the mind and knowledge, with special attention paid to the relationship between the mind and the natural world…. [and] will study philosophical ideas about the mind from Descartes to Dennett in an accessible manner.”

Quite an interesting and varied selection, isn’t it?

One might wonder what caused the sudden expansion of the UReddit catalog. The answer (aside from a lack of updates for a couple weeks) is that UReddit frontpaged on Reddit for a while, garnering about 200,000 pageviews over about 24 hours. The server was able to handle the strain, for the most part (though a few 502/504 errors did happen), and the UReddit community has expanded significantly. (A side effect of the large amount of traffic is that teacher’s class statistics are now cached and updated daily.)

In order to create more of a community feel and to make the site more accessible, UReddit is now optimized for mobile devices and has a discussion section on each class page (using the Disqus platform). There are no comments at the time of the writing of this blog post as the system was just implemented, but I encourage all of you to start using it to discuss the many new, current, and completed classes.

Follow @uofreddit on Twitter for timely updates and subscribe to/r/UniversityofReddit for discussion.

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Friday Update (9 March 2012)

Some of the main class updates this week: Sebatinsky completed his Intro to Swordplay: 17th Century Italian Fencing class, which has been moved to the UReddit Archive;  tool86 created German for advanced beginners (CEFR A1)Intro to Group Theory continues with Week 5; the second lesson for Introduction to Autodesk Inventor was posted; and the first lesson for From Page to Stage was posted. The other classes have been proceeding as well, take a look!

As for UReddit itself, this week brought a change in server software (from Apache to nginx) that greatly increases the load that our server can handle. Furthermore, we’ve upgraded our server to make room for the email inboxes of all the new users that have been registering. This week also brought the implementation of class statistics, which will be upgraded as more data is collected.

Follow @uofreddit on Twitter for timely updates and subscribe to /r/UniversityofReddit for discussion.

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