Death of the Desktop Computer?

In an act of reading out loud, Mike Caulfield models how how he challenges ideas and assumptions while reading. To demonstrate this, he uses the lead-crime hypothesis which argues that the crime-wave in USA during the 1990’s was caused by lead poisoning in the 70’s. After finding an article from 1971 discussing lead poisoning in Manchester, he progressively unpacks it, opening up tab after tab, asking questions and testing different hypothesises.

For Caulfield, this is what web literate reading looks like:

You read things, and slide smoothly into multi-tab investigations of issues, pulling in statistical databases, unit converters, old and new magazine articles, published research.

The problem though is that much of this is either unavailable or difficult to do on a mobile device. Being an advocate of online reading, I was challenged by this. It had me thinking about what else I do on the desktop that is not possible on my phone or tablet. One aspect that came to mind was bookmarklets.

Although it would be easy to list all the extensions and applications that I use my laptop for, it is the bookmarklets that I have come to rely upon and that I miss when mobile:

  • CC Attribution Helper: This application built by Alan Levine allows you to both attribute and embed images posted under a Creative Commons license on Flickr. I have used it for a few years when inserting images into my blog posts. Even when I have to add an image through the media library (such as featured images), I still use it to capture the appropriate attribution.
  • Wikity: Earlier this year I spun up my own instance of Wikity, Mike Caulfield’s WordPress theme designed to help the creation of knowledge. One of the features is the bookmarklet that allows you to quickly capture a quote and add some text. Although it is possible to create a post on mobile, the ability to provide additional content and links is limited.
  • Radio3: Recently, I started exploring Dave Winer’s Radio3 Linkblog, which allows you to push links out to various platforms, whilst also maintaining your own RSS. Like Wikity, it involves selecting a post or quote and clicking on the bookmarklet. Although I had started dabbling with the idea of pushing links out via WordPress, the creation of a separate feed means that I can do a number of things with it, such as push links to Diigo via IFTTT.

These are just some of the bookmarklets that I use, with others including Quozio, Responsive Design and Mozilla X-Ray Googles. Although I agree that mobile devices are becoming more and more dominant, I think that they have their limit. There are still many activities which I depend on a laptop for, such as finishing my posts or creating visual quotes. I also feel that there are solutions that will always be beyond the realm of the mobile device, especially as I move further and further into the #Indieweb world. So to answer Caulfield’s question as to how we get more students onto laptops, it starts with addressing why it matters today more than ever.

So what about you? What do you still depend upon the desktop for or is a mobile screen enough? As always, comments welcome.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

Read Write Wikity

This post is intended to document my Wikity journey. I had been meaning to investigate the idea further after reading Michael Caulfield’s reflections on the project at the end of the year. However, it got put on the backburner for a number of reasons, one of which was my concern about the time and effort that it would require. I thought about it again while listening to Martha Burtis talk about Domain of One’s Own. One of the questions Burtis asks is how aware we were about dealing with digital problems. It occurred to me that although I was confident in setting up an instance of WordPress or creating a sub-domain, I was inadvertently avoiding going any further. So I dived back in, created a new sub-domain ( and loaded up a new instance of WordPress.

So what is a Wikity anyway? Caulfield explains,

The idea is other people’s investigations or explanations of things feed into what you are exploring; you add your bit to that and feed it forward for others to use. At the same time, since people work in their own space, everybody gets to keep control of their own process, built to achieve their own ends.

Structurally, it is a theme built upon WordPress and involves writing short ‘posts’ collecting chunks of text and providing elaborations and tags. These may be your own or they could be forked from other Wikity instances. Originally, you could set up an account at, but now need to run your own instance using the code made available via GitHub.

Although it could be construed as a form of social bookmarking, it is different to something like Diigo in that it is designed to fork, revise and link between cards. It is also not designed as a centralised hub, as the focus is on the divergent collection of ideas and sharing them on a peer-to-peer basis.

For example, maybe you are reading an essay on listening and in the process it talks about the difference between talking and listening:

As well as the idea of editing being an act of listening:

Although these posts are similar, they represent different ideas.

In regards to content and workflow, there are many similarities with the way I create my newsletters. Once I have found something interesting, I write a short summary and then add a quote. The differences with a Wikity is the continual development of cards over time and the focus and themes and ideas.

I wonder if Wikity is best conceived as a footnote for the web? With this in mind, I am left thinking about how this might be different to Hypothesis? Maybe there is a potential when converging my thoughts to reference the various cards, rather than the original posts? With all this said, there is one wicked question posed by Jim Groom that lingers in particular, “Is thinking like the web also a suppression of who you are?” I fear that I have actually yet to suppress my writerly identity?

So that is my take on Wikity? What about you? Do you do anything similar? As always, comments welcome.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.