The most important blog post It is on the most important blog. Yours. Seth Godin ‘The most important blog post’

Supporting our daughter at home with her learning this year was interesting. One of the challenges related to knowing where you stand and what is your roll. Early on, our daughter cared a lot, putting effort and detail into everything she did. However, as time has passed, this interest  turned to apathy. Although she looked forward to the daily online session, the rest was something of a chore.

One of the ideas the school introduced was the idea of a ‘passion project’. I found our daughter frustrated with the task of identifying deep interests and following through with them. Initially, she said she was focusing on ‘slime’. She discussed a whole range of tests she wanted to do, but it did not go anywhere with them (other than create a whole lot of slim). She then turned her attention to Minecraft. In part, I think that this was a justification for spending more time on her tablet doing things that she wanted to do.

Although I have no issue with Minecraft and have always encouraged her with this, my concern was with what she was actually doing and whether it fit the brief of her ‘passion project’. I therefore suggested that instead of having a clear outcome, she at least document her learning. She was still unconvinced. I then proposed that I would create her a blog where she could record a log of her thoughts. After explaining that she was the only one who could access the space, she was convinced.

Although she did not have a clear plan for the project, recording thoughts in a blog led to a number questions, such as how can I add video and images. This all reminded me of the power of blogging and the importance of letting people find answers for themselves, even if this means being frustrated and failing forwards along the way. As Clive Thompson posits in regards to blogging:

Children who didn’t explain their thinking performed worst. The ones who recorded their explanations did better

On a side note, it is sad to see the end of an era in regards to blogging in Victoria.


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What if you stopped thinking about your ideas as things you need to let out of you, but things you need to let in to you? Things you need to be ready to receive? Austin Kleon ‘It’s not inside you trying to get out, it’s outside you trying to get in’

Things have been a little quiet here of late. I have started jotting down a few thoughts, but never quite finished anything. This feels a bit strange having written nearly 400+ pieces since starting this blog in 2013. I have been wondering if this is simply about time and energy, as work and home have been a little hectic lately. Although, this has never stopped me before. I have been wondering if maybe this is a part of the development of the blog, with a move to collecting and curating, rather than longer pieces of reflection. However, a recent post from Austin Kleon had me rethinking my reason for blogging.

Discussing the work of Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Austin Kleon argues that songs are best understood as coming from the outside, rather than from within. The challenge we have is being open to receive the inspiration when it comes. Thinking about ideas in general, this had me wondering about blogging as an exercise of being open to the outside. For example, Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think, he talks about the way the same ideas have occurred to different people at the same time:

The things we think about are deeply influenced by the state of the art around us: the conversations taking place among educated folk, the shared information, tools, and technologies at hand.

These opportunities are there if we are willing to accept them.

Activities, such as #28daysofwriting, #Blimage, DS106 Daily Create, Ontario Daily Extend, Microcasts and #LookDown can be helpful in providing structured opportunities to let ideas in. However, it is also about being a flaneur. As Ian Guest explains:

The flâneur is more of a serendipitous explorer, receptive to whatever comes along. They are a combination of curious explorer (having no goal other than to experience city life), critical spectator (balanced analyst, seeing beauty, but aware of social inequities), and creative mind (an interpreter who renders the urban landscape legible).

Rather than worrying about letting blog posts out, I wonder if my issue lately has been a confusion about what to actually let in. As Kin Lane touches upon,

[Blogging] is an essential part of making sense of the world as it moves by me so fast, putting it somewhere that I can continue to reference and learn from in the future.

Moving forward, I think my challenge is not reading, viewing, listening and walking, but being open to ideas on offer. As I write this, I am reminded of Bjork’s song All is Full of Love:

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at
Twist your head around
It’s all around you
All is full of love
All around you

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Comments are the power of the village

What does it mean to be caring in online spaces and how is this related to sharing?


I recently came across a message on a blog that stated ‘sharing is caring’. This was placed next to buttons for the various social media silos. This had me stop and think. Is this this in fact a lie we have been sold? I have spoken before about paying ideas forward and feeding back into the stream, but I wonder, are there means of caring that do not involve sharing into somebody else’s backyard? This then involves stopping to reflect on two questions: what does it mean to share and care?

Sharing

I love to share. It was one of the things that really drew me to Twitter and then blogging. It offered the ability to post short snippets, telling a story over time. This though touches on the first consideration, what should we share?

I often share quotes, visual creations and links. In the past, this was straight to Twitter. However, over time this seems to have become about something else. Although I was backing up my Tweets, my contributions seemed conflicted.

Recently, I have taken to posting everything on my second blog – Read Write Collect – and syndicating from there. This often involves capturing a quote or a short reflection. The question I have is, when I share out, whose link do I share? If I share a link to a bookmark or like then it will bring back all the responses using webmentions. However, then the question is about whether I am sharing for the original author or myself? Should I instead by retweeting a tweet from the author or share out the original link? This then leads to the second point of caring.

Caring

I imagine caring can come in many shapes and sizes. When sharing out on social media, I have long made the effort to mention the original author in the post to indicate to them that I care. Sometimes this also involves attaching a graphic or a quote that caught my attention. Although this is good, I wonder if there are better ways to show care?

A step beyond sharing a tweet is posting a comment. I am not sure if it is the effort involved or the process behind it, but I have always valued a comment more than a tweet. In recent times, this has included posting comments from my own site (where applicable) or pasting in.

Another part to this is linking to ideas when I know that they have come from elsewhere. I think this is often overlooked and I really like the latest change to the webmentions plugins that allows you to turn mentions into comments.


Maybe it is just me. Maybe sharing online just works? However, I agree with The Luddbrarian that where we need to start in regards to Facebook and social media in general is ‘expand our imagination’ in this area. I think that this starts by asking questions. What does it mean to be digital? How are we really caring in online space? Does it have to involve sharing? As always, comments welcome.


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Quote on tools from Austin Kleon

I started writing this post a few months ago but did not get around to finishing it, subsequently my initial notes have lay waiting. I was reminded of it by recent posts from Jim Groom and Alan Levine reflecting on the purpose of blogging. Here then is my contribution to the conversation.


In the March edition of the Loose Learners podcast, Mariana Funes and John Johnson discussed the difference between small b and big B blogging. In part, this was a response to a post by Tom Critchlow on ideas and the power of the network.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale.

Although big B blogging maybe associated with link blogging and ‘interesting ideas’, the focus is on broadcasting, rather than connecting and commenting. The notion of big B blogging is usually associated with those like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and Richard Byrne.

In a recent interview, Kottke shared how his blogging has developed over time. He explains in particular how advertising and making money from his site has changed. What is interesting is the connection between big B blogging and making money. Although he shares his workflow and intent, what comes through is that it is still a job. I wonder if there is another possible definition of ‘Big B’ blogging that goes beyond advertising?

When I think about blogging, there is a cross-over between technology and the way it is used. Big B bloggers are those who take each to their extremes. Content is important. But so is process and product. It is something personal, stemming from our changing circumstances and intent.

For me, blogging is about utilising the various features and affordances available, but also trying to push the boundaries in understanding how they work. In Martha Burtis’ keynote for Domains17, she argued that Domain of One’s Own is more than just learning WordPress, rather it is about learning how to “publish online in an open-source Web application”. As she explains,

Every moment in which we walk a student through a fix is a deeply teachable moment — a moment not just to provide step by step instructions but to narrate for them what each step means. When we bring meaning to the breaking and the fixing we are pushing beyond the boundaries of the merely practical.

For some this experience is distributed across several spaces, such as a space to collect ‘breadcrumbs’ and a main space for longer forms. For others, it is about creating spaces specific purposes and then syndicating back to one place.

I think that this is what interests me about the IndieWeb. The focus is not just about content, but how content is presented. This focus on what and how stems from a why of developing a ‘demonstrably better web’.

So big B blogging to me is about allowing growth and development both personally and collectively. Although some spaces may have subscription accounts, this is not necessarily what keeps the lights on.

So what about you? What does blogging mean to you? How do you find balance between creation and construction? As always, comments welcome.


Also posted on IndieNews


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The power of emojis is in helping us think differently

A reflection on using emojis as a way to provide visual information about blog posts.


I have dived into my latest #IndieWeb venture of saving links on my own site. I thought that I would simply use the Bookmark post kind to save my links, but I soon realised not every link needed some form of commentary and/or extended quotations. For those where the link and quote/summary was enough, I started labelling as a Like. There were also some links where I would write a Reply to the author. With all these additions, the different kinds of writing were lost in my stream. I was beginning to understand why Chris Aldrich’s site starts with a static page, which guides readers to the different kinds of writing. I was not yet interested in going down the static path, I therefore had to think of some other solution to differentiate between the different content I was adding to the site. After some initial exploration of beginning each title with the kind, I turned to the emoji.

I came upon the use of emojis in the work of John Johnston, who added them to some of his posts to provide additional information. I think this may be something built into the Micro.Blogs platform. In addition, I like the way that Audrey Watters uses icons to break up information in her Weekly News posts. There has also been a lot written about the use of emojis to define Google Drive folders. Although most of the emojis I use correspond with the post kinds, there are times when I use them to add more nuance for particular tags and categories. Here is a list of my emojis so far:

As this is a new iteration, I still have a bit of work going back through my posts adding emojis to other kinds and categories, such as events and mentions.

Beyond the visual, the addition of emojis has had a few interesting side-effects. When I POSSE to Diigo, I have discovered that the title is left blank. My workaround has been to manually create the title for Diigo using the Social Network Auto-Poster (SNAP) plugin. There is no issue with other spaces, such as Twitter, where the emoji is happily embedded.

Another issue is the permalink. Most options involve adding the name of the post to the end of the URL, this includes emojis. For some reasons, this creates issues with sending webmentions. The answer seems to be to manually ping the site using the post ID or manually edit the permalink before posting to remove the emoji.

I remember Eric Curts mentioning problems with some emojis:

Emojis appear differently on different operating systems. Because of this, the images may not look the same on every device. If you are using any modern computer or device (Chromebook, Android, iOS, Mac OS, Windows), the emojis should display well. However if you are using an older version of Windows earlier than Windows 8.1, the emojis do not appear in color and many may be missing.

Maybe the issues are associated with this?

So what about you? Do you use any methods for breaking up content within your spaces? Or maybe you use emojis in some other way? As always, comments welcome and webmentions too.



Also posted on IndieNews


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An explanation of why maintaining your own space is so important

This is a reflection on my recent challenges associated with maintaining a blog and an explanation of why I persist in doing it.


I got talking with some of technical designers in my workplace recently. I was inquiring about the plausibility of a few ideas I was thinking about. I did not want to commit myself to something that was doomed from the outset. The question was then asked, “But you’re not a coder, right?” Technically, I guess I am not. I have developed a few solutions, in part based on code appropriated from others, but could I develop something from scratch. I guess not. This for me raises the question, in a world which coding is bandied around as the 21st Century literacy, what does it mean to code and be a coder? Is it about a broad understanding of the mechanics and meaning or is it the ability to make and do? Can these even be separated?

This problem raised its head again this week as I tried to fix a problem occurring with two of my sites. I was not receiving linkbacks from other sites. Although webmentions were coming through, there were mentions within blogs that were not even going through to my spam folder. Of course, this is not going to ‘break the web’, but it means that I am missing some of the conversations from those sending from their site.

I came upon the issue after receiving a few messages from people saying that their messages were being rejected or not flowing through. This was occurring in both directions, with my pings seemingly sending emails, but not properly flowing through to posts and comments. Here then are some of the steps I took to investigate. I share these with the hope that I can learn more about these problems, but also to record the steps for future reflection. They are in no way sequential and have been separated for the sack of representing them in a meaningful manner:


In the end, I decided to turn the Semantic Linkbacks plugin back on and see how it went. To my surprise, things seemed to work. I will continue to tinker and investigate. It is a reminder why I have a Domain of One’s Own. As Martha Burtis points out,

Learning WordPress should not just be about learning WordPress — it should also be about all the tacit lessons that go along with learning how to publish online in an open-source Web application.

I know that at anytime that the Facebooks and Wixs are waiting to greet me with open arms and every day I resist. So what about you? What have been your experiences? As always comments welcome, even more so from your own blog.


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Dan Gillmor on Indieweb as an alternative

I have been meaning to elaborate on my thoughts on #IndieWeb for a while. Chris Aldrich’s recent post outlining a proposal for a book spurred me to finish jotting down my notes and reflections.


I find #indieweb hard to explain. In part I would describe it as an alternative way of working on the web, a collaborative community and a technical solution. I can’t remember exactly when I first came upon it. I know thought it was associated with the concept of POSSE. It was probably a part of Connected Courses and my move to Reclaim Hosting. Twitter tells me that my initial investigations were associated with Known.

What interested me was the potential to extend and own my presence on the web. Initially, I posted to Flickr from a Known instance and pulled in comments from Twitter and Google+ with the #IndieWeb WordPress Plugin(s).

More recently I have become interested in exploring ‘post kinds’ as I continue to investigate ways that I can better manage my presence on the web. In particular, I like the idea of sending comments from my site, but have yet to either master some of the technical aspects or develop a suitable workflow.

I must admit, I still get lost with some of the mechanics. I wonder sometimes if this is because I am balancing multiple spaces. I would like to better understand how the various platforms and plugins work. For example, what is the difference between Known, Micro.Blogs and WordPress? What does Bridgy do? Are there any limitations to it? For example, can I connect it with more than one space, particularly in regards to Twitter. I also find more solace in reading various reflections, listening to weekly updates and think that the main site has come along way, especially in outlining the different entry points. I think that the addition of a book would be a valuable resource. As always, I am still investigating.

So what about you? Have you had any experiences with the IndieWeb? Do you have any thoughts and comments that you would share with Chris Aldrich?


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RSS Standard and the Foundations of Blogging

With the potential demise of social media, does this offer a possible rebirth of blogging communities and the standards they are built upon?


There is something wrong with social media. Responding to John Lancester’s article in the London Review of Books, Alan Levine suggests that the only response is to exit Facebook. For Duckduckgo, the issue is the 75% of the top sites incorporate Google trackers. Nicholas Carr heralds a new era where we will depend on third-party security support, an era where even thinking is automated. Writing about the disempowering nature of Twitter, Kris Shaffer argues that the answer is not simply moving to Mastadon.

For some the answer is about going ‘old school’, a blogging Renaissance. Oddly, there seems to be a push in some communities for subscribers and email newsletters. This is done by adding sign ups that pop out of posts (even if you have already signed up). If we are to truly have a rebirth though then the technology that I think we need to reinvest in is RSS.

Short for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, RSS is a standard that allows users to receive updates to content without the need to manually check or be in fear of missing something due to an inconspicuous algorithm working in the background. As David Nield explains,

One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes — not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything.

Usually this feed is built from the web address. If not shown on the site, tools like the Connected Courses Magic Box can be used to capture it. Some platforms, such as WordPress, also allow you to create a custom feed based on a particular tag or category. You do this by selecting the particular tag or category and adding ‘/feed’ to the end of the URL. Useful if wanting to follow just a particular topic. Although feeds themeselves can be adjusted, this is done in the backend.

To sort through ‘everything’, you use a news aggregator, such as Feedly, Digg Reader or Tiny Tiny RSS. These applications allow you to collect a number of feeds in the one place. These feeds are stored as an OPML file, a format designed to exchange outline-structured information.

As a side note, these applications each have their own features and affordances. For example, Feedly now restricts new users to 50 feeds before asking for payment.

There are a number of ways to develop and edit an OPML file. You can use an OPML generator to build an outline or use an editor to refine a pre-existing list shared by somebody else. Something useful when downloading the public links from a WordPress site. You do this by adding ‘/wp-links-opml.php’ to the end of the URL.


I am not sure whether social media will go away, but with the questions being asked of it at the moment, maybe it is time for a second coming of blogs, a possible rewilding of edtech. The reality is that technology is always changing and blogging is no different. Whatever the future is, standards such as RSS and OPML will surely play there part. So what about you? Do you have any other alternatives to social media and the challenges of our time? As always, comments welcome.


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Ben Williamson on Digital Technologies

Digital Technologies is more than just learning to code. This post re-imagines the curriculum around blogging and explores how it maybe better integrated.


There has been a lot of discussion around the changes to the curriculum brought on by Digital Technologies. This is a part of a global movement to increase knowledge and understanding of the way the digital world works. It is a move away from the treatment of digital technology as solely being associated with ‘information and communication’. Some have maintained the two, while others seem to have made a clear break. The concern has been that for some digital technologies has come to equal coding in the classroom. (Listen to the Kin Lane and Audrey Watters discuss this on the Contrafabulists Podcast.) This problem though is only one part of a bigger story.

Digital Technologies is made up of a number of parts which combine into three strands: working with data, systems thinking and creating solutions. DLTV break this down into a focus on decomposing a problem and algorithmic thinking. Although there is a focus on ‘technology’, this change is as much about mindset as it is about skillset. This is something Doug Belshaw touches upon in his work on digital literacies. A focus on thinking means that many of the steps accounted for in the curriculum can be completed offline. See for example the work of Tim Bell. The real challenge therefore lays in how to integrate within the wider curriculum.

The biggest complaint I hear is how to incorporate Digital Technologies into an already crowded curriculum. To me, this misses an opportunity. I remember when the Victorian government brought in AUSVels, which called out a lot of new areas of learning, I attended a session that demonstrated the intent to focus on learning and inquiry. Instead, too many interpreted these new additions as silos to be further compartmentalised. I think that the Digital Technologies curriculum offers the same potentials and problems.

To model a possible integration, I took a look at the curriculum from the perspective of blogging. Many schools integrate blogging into their day-to-day practice. (See Adrian Camm’s work.) Here then is a breakdown as to how the Digital Technologies could be incorporated into the wider curriculum:

I am not saying that everyone should blog, even if I think that blogs offer a lot of potential. My intent here is instead to encourage others to think more divergently when approaching the Digital Technologies curriculum. Every context is different. I hope then that this example helps address that. So rather than jumping to the assumption that Digital Technologies simply means that every student needs to code, what ideas can you think of moving forward? As always, comments welcome and encouraged.


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Clay Shirkey on the need to continually rethinking our workflows

I have been following Doug Belshaw’s posts associated the art and science of blogging. In a recent one he spoke about the tools associated with crafting a post. This led me to reflect upon my own processes. I have touched on this [before](secret blog), actually a few times, however what I feel I have not necessarily discussed are the changes that have occurred over time. As my blog turns four, it is interesting to look back at the journey.

My blog was born on Blogger. Coupled with that my early preference was to craft drafts in Evernote. Not only was it mobile, but it provided the ability to work across devices. I soon moved on from Evernote though after I lost a post because I had gone offline and when it synced with an older version. I lost hours of work (maybe you haven’t really blogged if this hasn’t happened to you). I am sure that it was my fault, however I decided to move anyway.

My next solution was the native Blogger app. I liked this as it was all in one place. If I needed to I could move to the desktop. I wrote many a post on my phone, punching out a line here and there. However, two problems arose. My discovery of Flickr and Alan Levine’s Attribution Tool, as well as my move from Blogger to a space of my own. That all meant a different solution.

In my move to WordPress, I lost control of my workflow for a while. One of the differences between the two platforms was the options I had when posting (WordPress has heaps). I also started tinkering a lot more with embedding content, such as YouTube, which were baked into the Google ecosystem. When I think about those challenges, many are now none existent, with solutions seemingly added into subsequent undates. However, it felt different back then.

The first challenge was that the native WordPress app was not as robust as the Blogger one. I subsequently resorted to finishing posts on the laptop, while developing them in a different space. The search for the ideal ‘other’ space ensued. Around this time, the ability to work offline in Google Docs on mobile became available, so I turned there. For the most part, this was my dominant solution. However, this did not work across all my devices due to my inability to update the latest operating system to accommodate these changes. I therefore tinkered with other options, such as Google Keep and Notes on iOS, as they linked with my Google account, therefore making them available in a number of places.

No matter what choice I made, it just never took. For example, Keep was quick but did not allow for links and I did not like how it presented things. Notes worked, especially on iOS. However, they too were basic. Even Docs started bringing across this weird code when I cut and paste it into WordPress. Another problem that arose was the lack of organisation within any of the applications. Fine I could use tags or folders to sort files, however this did not necessarily help in identifying my current posts and projects.

This all led me to revisiting Trello and wondering if I could better utilise it to fit my current workflow. I use it in my workplace to manage projects. However, my attempts to implement a Kanban model for myself failed. It just did not click with the way I work. (After watching Ian O’Byrne’s video, I feel I am not the only one.) I therefore took to it with fresh eyes and created a list for everything ongoing: posts, presentations, projects, resources and items requiring following-up. Rather than saving everything to Keep and getting lost in the ensuing chaos, in Trello I organise items into particular lists.

In regards to blogging, using Trello has allowed me to build out ideas. So rather than have a bunch of text, I can progressively add comments, lists, links and resources to a card. What’s more, Trello allows me to write in Markdown, therefore alleviating any issues associated with hidden code. (I have started writing my newsletter in Markdown in Google Docs.) Having everything coordinated in one place also allows me to easily review what I have done (even if I have archived cards) and survey where to next.

My process of writing will continue to develop. It always has. Technology comes and goes, whether it be devices or applications. What is important is that I will continue to reflect. Taking in new habits and offloading others. There are platforms like Scripting and Jekyll that I still wish to explore, while Naomi Barnes’ post on how she organises her day has me wondering about how I might better integrate my the personal and organisational aspects of my life. Something David White and Alison Le Cornu started unpacking in a recent paper. So what about you? What is your writing workflow? How has it changed over time? As always, feel free to comment. Always interested.


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