Change Thyself

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Over the past few years I’ve written quite a few posts around the topic of change, specifically those institutions and organizations (like our overly-large school district) need to make. But I’ve also been thinking that I need to make a few changes as well, starting with this site.
1

I’m pretty sure that most of you who read this blog do so through an RSS feed and never visit the actual page. Which is fine but it means you haven’t seen the new minimalistic theme, which makes things easier to read as well as manage. I wish the process of finding it was simpler.

In addition to simplifying the appearance, I also needed a more streamlined approach to writing, starting with the understanding that I don’t need to post fully formed essays every single time (or maybe at all). I realize that tossing out some ideas and questions, and then working through them over time is probably a better approach to the writing process,2 even if the ideas are sometimes off base and the questions stupid.

Along with working through changes to my blogging process, I’ve also been looking for a simpler tool for making it happen, which is a recently released Mac app called Desk. The interface is pretty much as simple as you can get, with a small, basic set of tools that appear when you need them.

I had been using Mars Edit (for almost seven years), and it’s still a very capable classic Mac program, although with possibly too many features. Plus the developer hasn’t updated it in many years, other than bug fixes.

Finally, I am way over due with cleaning out my RSS feed, which I think is approaching 300 pages. Apologies to anyone I’ve cut.


  1. Image: Sunrise Over School Busses.

  2. Remember, I majored in math and am continuing to learn how to do this writing stuff.

Still Blogging, And Everything Else

Dave recently returned from a year-long blog hiatus, the natural consequence of completing a doctoral program, to ask Does Anyone Still Blog?. My first response was to say, of course. There are plenty of us still working in this structure called blogging, even if the term has been largely drained of it’s original meaning.

However, after more thought and a wonderfully thought provoking talk by Jim Groom, Dave’s question becomes more complex and undeserving of a simple yes or no answer.

Jim discussed A Domain of One’s Own and DS106, two projects out of the University of Mary Washington with the goal of empowering students, faculty, and pretty much anyone else in their community, to be a web publisher and, more importantly, to control their digital identity.

It’s not about writing personal posts that are displayed in reverse chronological order. At least not ONLY about that. People Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Tube, pin, and publish their content in a variety of formats, including text-based blogs, using an ever expanding collection of tools.

Jim, and his colleagues, caution that when we add our work to those other sites, we are contributing to their content and thus ceding control of our work to those companies. Instead of, or maybe in addition to, everyone needs their own place on the web to present their digital presence in exactly the way they want the world to see them. And it needs to start before students arrive at college.

Here in the overly-large school district we’ve talked for years about the idea of student portfolios, a place for kids to keep their work from year to year, built as they progress from the elementary years to graduation. The discussion always comes back to the how: what storage system could we use that is both flexible enough to handle any format and is not dependent on location? And never forget security!

Maybe we need to start A Domain of One’s Own far earlier than freshman year of college. What if every child got their own domain when they entered Kindergarten?1 What if we started in elementary school to help kids build their digital presence in responsible ways that reflected their personalities. To learn what it means to publish to a larger audience?

As soon as I typed that last paragraph I could already hear some of my colleagues reciting the usual COPPA this and FERPA that lines. I know there are problems to be worked out but it’s a concept that needs to be addressed. Many, if not most, of our kids are already publishing in the real world, while we still live under the illusion that we can “protect” them without actually teaching them anything meaningful about the process of working in that world.

Anyway, getting back to the original question, yes Dave, people still blog. But blogging is just one part of the larger mosaic of tools for expressing yourself on the web.

Oh, Dave also asks if anyone still uses RSS. Again the answer is yes (I wouldn’t have found his post without the feed being in my aggregator), but just as many people are publishing their thoughts, creative works, and opinions to the web without calling it “blogging”, they are also using RSS without that specific acronym.

All part of the wonderfully flexible and malleable structure that goes into publishing on the web.


  1. pre-school? birth?

The Blog is (Not) Dead

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Jason Kotte, who has been blogging almost since the day the term was created, ended the year by declaring that the blog died in 2013. I can’t argue with his reasoning.

Tombstone

Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.

I’m not sure the tools that large numbers of teens are using on the web should necessarily be the determining factor of what’s important. But Kotte is right that the functionality of what has been thought of as blogging, “is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs”.

He also admits to being somewhat provocative in his thesis, written as part of a collection of predictions for journalism in 2014. Blogs are not going away (Kotte plans to quit in 2073 when he turns 100). Personal publishing has simply evolved to offer a wide variety of options for sharing images, audio, video, and yes, even text.

However, in the end I have closer agreement with the thoughts of Om Malik: “Blogging was and still is, an act of sharing; it is about having a point of view and most importantly, having a connection”.

For better or worse, my connections beyond this blog can be found on my AssortedStuff | Tech site (soon-to-be-rennovated), on Twitter, and on Flickr. With more channels coming soon.

Choose Your Own Spam

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Despite the fact that this is hardly a high traffic site (and probably doesn’t rise to the level of low traffic), I still get my share of comment spam. While almost all of it is caught by Akismet, the wonderful WordPress anti-spam plugin, a few pieces a week arrive in my mailbox for moderation.Trackback spam

With very few exceptions, the messages are very transparent attempts at flattering an administrator into clicking the Approve link and look very similar. Almost as if the comment was created from a template.

Today one spammer didn’t even bother with rudimentary edits and sent the templates for me to choose my own crap.

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. {It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.| I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.

I feel much better about my writing now.

They included about thirty other examples. If you’re interesting in going into the comment spam business, let me know. I’d be glad to forward the whole DIY package.

Jumping Back in the Stream

I'm writing this from somewhere over the Atlantic as we return from a week or so on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.1 Mostly pleasure for me, partially work for the musical wife.

More about that later, after I've recovered from the jet lag and eight hectic days, along with a few pictures. Or maybe a whole lot of pictures, depending on what's on the memory cards.

Between the trip and a somewhat chaotic month of July prior to getting out of town, this space has been rather silent for quite a while. It's not often I go this long without ranting about something in public, here or on Twitter, not to mention that I've also been ignoring the stream of information and ideas that comes from my learning network.2

But one fact of traveling with a group as we've been doing, is that it often takes a little longer to get forty people heading in the right direction, not to mention arriving at a destination3. But the process does allow for time to catch up on both reading (thanks in large part to Instapaper) and thinking.

So consider this a toe in the water as I prepare dive head first into the stream that is my normal life. Fair warning however. I may not be totally coherent tomorrow, at work or anywhere else.


1 It will be posed after we get home since United doesn't offer wifi, free or otherwise.

2 While I was gone, did Mitt Romney really dis the entire British Government during his visit to the UK? And I tried so very hard not to be the ugly American on our trip. :-)

3 Especially considering the narrow twisty roads we've been traveling on in a 48 passenger bus.