If you've been following our facebook page, you'll notice that we've put up a whole lot of notes over the past few months. To check out the new notes we have. Simply click the "Newest" tab on Learn.
It's amazing to think that all of them were user-contributions. Changing attitudes takes time. It seems that we are slowly but certainly moving towards a more collaborative future.
We'd also like to say that as of this year we are also accepting O level notes. If anyone has notes or friends with notes to share, do take note (pun intended). Putting them on owlcove will help your notes reach the ~4000 monthly users that visit.
It's 2016 and nearing our third year in business :)
When we first started out, we were worried about many things: what if no one shares any notes? What if nothing we have turns out to be any good?
We've been very surprised and happy to have received lots of top notch contributions from students past and present. Some of the content we've received are so meticulously designed and well put together - they're far beyond what we expected. They show how much we can really do as students.
We'd like to think that owlcove has helped in some subtle way to inspire more and better sharing within our community. That has been our only aim all this time.
As it turns out, we now have lots of notes to share, and its time we pushed things even further.
We're going to be shifting things around, tinkering with parts of the site, tweaking stuff that didn't quite work out, and making our best features shine - all the while making sure we continue to provide great notes and articles for everyone.
In this period of re-construction, we do apologise for any inconvenience caused.
If anyone has got any suggestions or ideas for us, do tell.
Exactly one year ago we launched owlcove. By “launch”, I mean changing “closed = true” to “closed = false”. It felt good.
I remember we were in a MacDonalds in Ang Mo Kio. We launched the facebook page too. We shared it. The project we had spent almost a year on – learning, building, developing, having fun.
If you asked me where I saw owlcove this time last year, I have no clue. Everywhere, perhaps, or maybe nowhere. But that’s a trick question. The trick is it doesn’t matter where you are now as long as you know where you’re headed. And you have a plan for getting there.
We did have a plan. We didn’t follow it – not to the letter. Because none of us ever did something like this before. We had no idea what to expect.
I’d say more happened than I expected, and also less. More, because we never thought our notes and articles would become so popular. Less, because we always hope for more than we actually get. And we still have a lot left to do to get where we want to be.
It's been exactly seven months since we launched owlcove. Wow.
I have to say the journey has been exhilarating. On centre stage, our notes have exceeded 8000 downloads combined. Last week we registered our 2500th user. Zhicong's econs package has, by itself, gotten 1500 downloads. If ever something purely meant for mugging could go viral, I'd bet on that.
But numbers aren't the star of the show. What matters is helping people, and helping people help other people. We've were very, very happy to receive great contributions from friends, acquaintances and people we've never met before. An ex-teacher of mine has come forward and offered to proofread some of our notes. We've also been very fortunate to have connected with cool people like the ones behind Fiveless and Erpz, who are like us working to improve education. What success we have thus far we owe it to everyone who's helped us and shared about us. 3 people could never make such an impact without more.
And there were all the other amazing things that happen out of spontaneity. Like when our haze meme went slightly viral, or when something I wrote was actually shared far more times than expected. Just last month, we shared owlcove on some forums and the response and kind words we got was hugely encouraging. We've also managed to get interviewed about owlcove, twice! (Second one's not published yet btw)
And believe it or not, we've had hacker issues too (which coincidentally occurred last month). That was pretty exciting, especially for zhicong, as he raced to fight the threat. It turned out that no data was lost and the problem was actually with the main hosting providers. We were still wondering when we became important enough for hackers to target.
So just like that, we've 'weathered' our very first A-levels too. I do hope our efforts did help people own the exams upside down :)
And now that it's over (and my own exams are over too XD), we're gonna be taking everything we've learnt and gained thus far and putting it all into making owlcove way more awesome for the upcoming year. We've got slightly more than a million ideas of things we're gonna build on owlcove, so stay tuned.
Our vision was and has always been to make studying about learning, sharing, discussing and thinking rather than mugging and memorising. I'd say this year has been one small step for us and for owlcove, but its a step towards a collaborative future that we believe is not only possible, but inevitable.
Happy Holidays, and thanks for all the likes :)
(P.S. If there's anything you'd like to see on owlcove, you'd want to tell us immediately :) )
There's always that irritating classmate who keeps hogging the teacher's attention. There's always that burning question we decided wasn't worth the risk. We've all felt that disapproval when someone offers a really irrelevant answer that wastes everyone's time. And, most importantly, we've all asked ourselves: "What did that other guy say?"
Now imagine if, every time your teacher asked a question, everyone could answer at the same time. You wouldn't even have to speak up if you were shy. And every valuable thought shared was recorded so you could remember exactly what happened in class, along with the number of classmates who agreed with that thought.
We designed Boards based on what we felt was really lacking in classrooms today - no, not a chalkboard, but the ability for anyone and everyone to participate, and the recording of thoughts shared for future reference.
We thought it'd be cool to actually have a discussion board (pun totally intended) that could help us not only find answers to questions we have, but seek a whole variety of different views and perspectives from different people.
That's why we built in a character limit - so that you wouldn't always have one really lengthy and sometimes irrelevant answer crowding out everything else. We also built in a plus and minus feature that's totally anonymous, so you wouldn't have to feel bad giving an honest opinion, and you'd be safe in the knowledge that the person you disagreed with wasn't going to hunt you down.
We also wanted to make Boards as fun as possible use, because what's the point of learning if you don't enjoy it? That's why we used chalkboards as the basis of how the Boards look. And if you remember how fun playing with the custom animations one Powerpoints was the first time you needed to do a presentation, you'd know why we made the Boards animate.
And that's why you should come on Board (pun totally intended again).
Note: Boards are currently in beta, and if you want to help us test it out, you could drop us a message on Facebook or Twitter.
Creating owlcove required close to zero of the content knowledge we acquired from school. Some of us had taken short modules on Photoshop and CSS before, but none of it taught us to do anything good enough for our own expectations, not to mention put online.
What we did use, however, were a great deal of the soft skills. Thinking about problems mathematically was one, and so was being able to write in grammatically correct sentences. At the end of the day, though, the most important skill that we used was something that schooling not only taught us, but trained us to do exceptionally well. And that is the secret of how we went from clueless A level grads to self-proclaimed web designers and programmers.
Rather than explain it to you, we decided to show it to you directly.
Every time we came across a problem we couldn’t solve or something we didn’t understand, this was our answer. And when we say you can find anything on Google…we mean anything and everything. Once we got a little bored of programming and decided to dream a little bigger. So we searched, “How to be an astronaut juggler” and found this video tutorial...
At the end of the day, the answers are all somewhere out there, and it’s up to us to find it. Thanks to search, we are the most knowledge enabled generation of all time. So the next time you come across something you can’t solve by yourself, think about how that problem has probably already been solved by Google.
It’s about making a difference because you can. Because when you can do something that not everyone can, then you have the duty to do it. If you can see further, tell others where to go, and if you can run faster, help the rest move along. We’ve always progressed this way.
It’s about helping others because you should. Not for any particular reason because you don’t need a reason to help others. It’s just something you should do. There’s no need to prove it or reason it out. It’s a feeling innate in all of us.
It’s about helping yourself when you help others. Because when the entire community progresses, you do too. You’re part of this community. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t matter because you’ve made the lives of so many others better. And knowledge is not individual but collective. Now, more so than ever, projects, tasks, papers, facts and wisdom is being created on the collective scale by co-operation. Conflict and competition were once the faster ways to individual success, but that is not as obvious now.
It’s about proving yourself and proving to others that it can be done. Because when you have a vision and you build it from scratch by yourself, without the need for any external help, funding, approval or resources, you show others it’s not difficult to reach their goals. You show yourself you can do what you want to do. You show the world what possible means.
Most importantly, it’s about people. The people you work with to create something of value. The people you are trying to help. The people who support you. The people who don’t support you. Those who agree. Those who disagree. The people you inspire. At the heart of all this is the truth that you are trying to drive change, to make a positive dent in the universe and no matter what happens people will come out of this better. People will learn new skills. People will come up with new ideas. People will see it, learn about it, and react to it. People will build their own legacies. A ripple can create a tidal wave.
We made owlcove because we wanted to and we knew we could. Because we believe that it is time for education to change. Because we believe we can change it. Not by ourselves, but by creating and inspiring a community of others to believe it should and can be done. If a few friends with no prior experience and no institutionalised backing could decide to do something good together, and teach themselves the necessary design, programming, and writing skills to achieve their vision, surely someone else can do the same. The tools are all there, and it's up to us to make the most of them.
There is hope, and it lies in the good men who do something.
Do you like your name, or secretly wish you could change it? A name is more than what others call you by – it’s who you are, what you are known as, and how others will remember you. It can even affect your behaviour, your thinking, and define you.
Up to three months after we started discussing owlcove, we still didn’t know what to call it. We’d refer to it mostly as “the site”, and despite many attempts to put a name to our brainchild, we just couldn’t find one that stuck.
Thinking of a name
We knew how important a name was, not because we’ve had to name babies or anything, but because we’ve had much experience in naming things from e-mail accounts to MMO characters to forum avatars.
It’s something you have to get right from the start. We needed it to represent everything we wanted owlcove to be…in one or two words.
We took…a really long time. We’d spend entire days on it. Our method of finding a name was mostly the all-time favourite of ‘trial and error’, shaped slightly by ideas on what images and ideas we wanted the name to portray.
Picture hours on end brainstorming about what to call your character, and when you finally think you’ve got something good, something that’s so pure genius that you must have it, you key it in and click enter only to find that it’s been taken. For us, that was equivalent to web domains being already taken up.
After a while, thinking gets to you. In desperation you start coming up with the weirdest names thinking they’re great. Names like MugClub, NotesCafe and Beenotes. Fortunately, we had the good sense to realise they aren’t capturing what we wanted owlcove to be.
It was a fateful Thursday evening, one of us was on the MRT (the MRT is a really great place to think, it seems) and the image of an owl materialised in his head. We’d been talking about a name which could be made up of the first letters of various words we wanted to include – like how the word TREE can mean “They Regulate Earth’s Environment” – but stopped short when we realised Learn Share Discuss shortens to LSD.
“Owl”, however, arose because MRT dude was thinking about how our site was about Open Web Learning. Yes, this is actually what the owl in owlcove stands for. Owls also happened to be associated with knowledge, wisdom, hard work, and burning midnight oil – the life of a typical student. Most importantly, owls were cute and lovable too.
We took another two weeks to find the word 'cove', but we eventually did because someone suggested owlfresco (as in alfresco) to show fun and vibrancy. We ended up looking through the list of words beginning with ‘al’, and the word ‘alcove’ caught our eyes because an alcove (which Google defines as “A recess, typically in the wall of a room or of a garden”) tied in nicely with what we wanted our site to be.
What was great too was that “cove” also implied that tranquil beachfront haven that we all need. This is exactly what we want our site to be – a cosy getaway space for everyone to do some open web learning in a relaxed and conducive environment.
It’s been close to a year since we started work on owlcove, and frankly we’ve surprised ourselves at how far we’ve come. It’s not that we think the site is the best site of all time and we’ve done an amazing job creating it. In fact there’s still a long way to go, both for us and for owlcove.
What we’re impressed by is the fact that we actually got it up.
If we told you that we were trained web designers and programmers, that we had lots of experience building websites and knowing what’s right, and that we had funds, resources and lots of spare time to put into this project, we’d be lying.
It started with a simple idea. Maybe all things do. But we didn’t start out thinking we’d build owlcove. We started out thinking we wanted to do something. Really, that was it. We wanted to do something. What was that something? No one knew. How would we do that? Uhh...No one had any idea, but we knew we didn’t want to do nothing. We wanted to make something out of our ideas and what we believed we could do to make things better.
And so a simple idea – to do something – began to take root in our minds. And that got us thinking. Normally we’d preoccupy our day thinking what to eat for lunch, what to do for the weekend, what tweets to post next. But with that idea in the picture…well, we still thought of the same things. Except, sometimes, when we couldn’t sleep at night, or when we were standing on the MRT, we began to think, “What can we do? How can we do it?” Thus we began our search for answers.
What can we do? That question was the centre of our initial discussion. We thought about how we lacked any practical experience in most things, about how we felt as students, about the ideas we had about how we could make learning better.
Slowly, the concept for owlcove began to take shape. We all realised that we had similar thoughts on learning, studying, and education. From our own experiences, we knew that discussion, debate and the sharing of knowledge were a big part of what helped us tide through the exams, and we wanted to share this experience.
After months of thought, discussion, and crashing each other’s homes, we agreed that we should build a site with three functions. And these three functions revolved around what we believed were the three most important concepts in effective education:
Learn, share, discuss.
And we built the entire site on the cornerstone of these three ideas.