If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been at least mildly intrigued by the many rather ambiguous signs around campus advertising some new website called Lore. I guess the advertising worked, because it was so mysterious that I decided I needed to find out more. With only the web address and the corny slogan “Learn More” (get it? Learn + More = Lore!) to go on, I really wasn’t altogether sure what to expect. I first consulted Wikipedia, the lazy college student’s best friend, which defined Lore as “an online learning tool that incorporates social networking features.” The Wikipedia article includes a quote from CEO Joseph Cohen, who apparently said of his website, “We want to build what Facebook has done for your personal life, but for your school.” Sounds interesting enough.
With this in mind, I finally went to Lore.com to see what was in store for me, only to find that I had to wait a few days before the site went live for Princeton University. On an interesting side note, the blurred picture that serves as the background for the Lore.com home page looks a whole lot like Nassau Hall, though the founders of the website all went to UPenn. I guess they were jealous of our good looks. Anyway, once the website was live for Princeton, I jumped right in. I guess I was expecting a sort of prettier version of Blackboard with Facebook-like features. And wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what I got.
You access Lore either through your Facebook account or by logging in with a different email address. Once on, you select your school and begin filling out your schedule. Once the website is further on down the road, I assume they’ll have all the courses Princeton has to offer in their database. I, however, only found one of my classes this semester, so I “joined” it or “added it to my schedule” or whatever, not really sure of what happened once I did. My guess is that each class serves like a kind of Google+ hangout or group in which you can discuss (cheat?) the material. Supposedly the professors of certain classes will also have profiles on this website, but I didn’t see any yet.
Each student has his or her own profile with the class schedule and other academic and various interests listed below a profile picture. To be honest, I’m surprised Facebook hasn’t brought the hammer down on Lore.com, because the user profiles look almost exactly the same. You have a little profile picture on the right side with a big cover photo (conveniently called a “masthead”) along the top of the screen. There’s even some kind of chat feature on the right hand side of your profile. Your basic information goes below the profile picture, including your major, previous academic accolades, and even a résumé. Instead of friends, however, you have “Followers” (Twitter, anyone?). I don’t know why they didn’t call them “classmates” instead, but they didn’t ask me my opinion on the matter.
There is one particular facet of Lore which I found to be reasonably useful. There was a very small segment on the home page that allows you to create an “academic group” for any kind of outside-school learning group, but again, this could presumably serve the same purpose as a Google+ or Facebook group. Maybe they should draw more people’s attention to this part of the website and try to better what Google and Facebook haven’t quite perfected.
So, I think that’s pretty much it. Presumably, it appears that once a lot of people have joined a certain class’s “group,” the professor or preceptor or something will post various notes, slides, discussion questions, et al, on the group “timeline” (yes, it’s called a timeline), much the way Blackboard does for Princeton students now. There are still a lot of bugs to be worked out of the website, but in my honest opinion, I think the owners of this personal business should just cut their losses and put this one out to pasture. I don’t see how Lore is in any way objectively better than Blackboard—not to say that Blackboard is perfect, by any means—other than that it might look a little prettier. As far as I can tell, Lore has simply taken bits of Facebook, Blackboard, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and combined them into one more or less totally useless combo. Maybe someday they’ll blow my mind and come out with some app that actually does the learning for you. Or maybe things will get better once it gets further off the ground, but until then, I advise you to use your precious internet browsing time on something a little more useful.