A Tale of Two Sites

This is just a quick post to share something I found very interesting and well written — even if it does come from the (fake) Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.  The post, “Why the mainstream media is dying” shares a tale of how the blogosphere can go after a story unencumbered, while someone as powerful as the NY Times can simply move right on by.  Not sure I totally agree that once the newspapers are gone we won’t notice, but I will say that the landscape is moving so quickly under our feet that we may not have time to care.  I don’t know, but I thought it was a terrific illustration of what is happening.

Every once in a while you get to see a mainstream outlet cover a story right alongside a blog, so you can put them up against each other and see why one was so much better than the other. This week TechCrunch and the New York Times photo provided just such a lesson.

via The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs: Why the mainstream media is dying.

Looking for Stories

I’ve noticed that Twitter has been replacing my daily RSS feed reader activities. I’m not at my desk enough to keep Twitter open all day, but do find moments to jump in and review the last couple hours worth of conversations. When I do this I am always prompted to click on things people I care about find interesting. I don’t need to use digg or something like stumble upon as I have what I think is the most powerful (and targeted) recommendation engine available in my Twitter network.

This morning was no different. I jumped into Twitter to find a link to one of my media heros, Ira Glass, discussing storytelling. Hearing Ira talk about storytelling is about as compelling of a professional development opportunity that I can get my hands on. His stories on This American Life are engaging, moving, and just downright amazing to me. I listed every single week and can say it is honestly the only media piece that I work hard not to miss. In the short clip I’ve embedded below, Ira is discussing how hard it is to go out and find good stories to tell … I love this quote because it is so true on so many levels …

Between a half to a third of everything that we try, we’ll go out, we’ll get the tape, and then we kill it.

When he talks about this I not only reflect on the art of storytelling, but also in a lot of ways about the things we do in our work. We do Hot Teams to try things out we think might be interesting only to find that, while marginally useful, they aren’t worth the effort going forward. I think too many times we get bullied or pressed into making something happen when there aren’t compelling reasons to do so. In our work, creativity is just as important as anything else — I firmly believe that there is an art to innovative practice, that it isn’t all science. And with any sort of great creative art, you have to be bold enough to say no a hell of a lot more than you say yes. I think Ira says it best when he mentions,

Not enough gets said about the abandoning of crap.

What he is saying and what I am trying to say is that for things to be really, really good we have to be tough. In storytelling, as in our work, we have to cut to the “so what” moment and focus energy on making things great. I’m always amazed at how much crap gets amplified because someone wasn’t willing to demand more. With where we are in education, that can’t continue to happen. We have to honestly say that if something isn’t worth the time, energy, money, or whatever to move it forward we kill it. We have to be willing to not only abandon the crap, but be willing to push as hard as we can towards superior outcomes. Maybe I’m pulling things together that don’t belong, but the video clip below and the other ones from the series really spoke to me.

New Publishing with the Embed

My friend and colleague, Ken Udas, had asked me earlier in the Summer to contribute to his excellent Terra Incognita blog but I kept blowing deadlines and missing obligations. Ken gave me an extension and has been gracious to allow me to squeeze a guest post in between a few very smart people. I had a good time working up something that was very different than what usually shows up at his site and I hope he isn’t too put off by it. My post addresses the changes in big media and their evolving and emerging interest in embracing the social web. It looks at big media and their amazing move into allowing us to embed their property — legally! It asks what it means for us in higher education and how we should be addressing this move.

I would really appreciate it if you took the time to bounce over to read the post and leave a comment for us to chew on and discuss. Besides, if you are interested in open content and learning then you should be tracking Terra Incognita. Thanks!

Life Streaming

About two years ago I was hooked on the idea of building a social life stream application … I went so far as to email a few of the smart people I know, sharing diagrams, and video chatting with said smart people to see about building something. After I spent hours and hours drawing sketches and driving myself crazy I sort of gave up on the idea. My idea was to not only stream my stuff into one place, but to organize all my friends stuff based on the social network/online spaces they publish in. We’d all have accounts with our own stream in them, but could pull together everyone else in a nicely organized way. FriendFeed was close enough, so I gave up on building something.

That hasn’t stopped my intense interest in powerful aggregation and life streaming options. It is so important for so many things. We are all spreading our identity across several sites and having a place to assemble the meta identity seems as though it is still an emerging and powerful need. When you think about teaching the notion of powerful and well organized aggregation gets even more critical. Think of a class where all 350 students have blogs and are writing on a regular basis … now that we disaggregated the content management by moving outside the LMS/CMS, we need new ways to pull it all back together (sort of ironic). Here is another killer use for a solid life stream style application.

This past spring my colleague, Scott McDonald, and I used Pligg to aggregate all of our students’ posts into one place. It worked well, but Pligg was not ready for non-technical folks to administer. It has to be easy.

This morning I came across my next tool du jour … SweetCron. This life stream application is the first one I’ve come across that I would use to replace the front of my own site. It is a very slick open source solution that looks great and (so far) works really well. It needs work as it is a pre-one dot zero release, but it is still a breeze to use and great to look at. I took 15 minutes this morning to get it installed and to add a few of my feeds. The admin side is easy enough and with a few tweaks to the css, the end user version looks really nice as well. My own SweetCron powered page is sitting over on my colecamplese.com space.

My Life Stream

My Life Stream

I will be working to look at this more so we can understand the affordances, but right out of the gate I am impressed. On a professional level, what I am really looking for are several options that could be used for teaching and learning and for events. This seems so much more powerful than simply showing a Twitter stream at a conference — tags could be subscribed to from all over the web to really a paint a killer picture of what people are saying about an event. As a matter of fact, the TechCrunch 50 conference is using it. So for now, take a look and help me think about how this could be used within a teaching and learning context.

ETS Spaces

Just running through a lunchtime feed reading frenzy and came across a post by my friend and colleague, Bart Pursel. Bart and I have worked together in one capacity or another for the last half dozen years or so; first when he was an Instructional Designer in the IST Solutions Institute and now as a Fellow of sorts in ETS focusing on games for education. Bart spends about a week a month in our offices … sort of a part time residency for him. Today I read a post he wrote at his excellent Virtual Learning Worlds blog titled, Evolving Spaces. It is interesting to read his view on our ever-evolving space here in ETS — another one of the grand experiments we are always talking about. Either way it was interesting to read and I thought I’d share.

Word in the Cloud

With the release of Office 2008 for the Mac and (I think) 2007 on the PC Microsoft introduced the .docx file type. I have no problem with it, but I no longer use Office only Google Docs. The problem is that from what I can tell Google Docs will not import .docx files … when I get one via email I am out of luck. But a couple of links emerged today … the first is the utility that Microsoft itself provides to change the file types. Simple application that is downloadable from the Microsoft site. The second, and I haven’t tried this one yet, is a site called Zamzar. It looks promising, allowing you to convert files into dozens of formats via the web. So the next time you get a .docx and need to work with it, there are option.

Zamzar Online File Conversion

Zamzar Online File Conversion

iPod Touch and iPhone

I just wrote about what I think will be the tipping point for mobile devices on our campus over at Learning and Innovation … already a couple of interesting comments. We shall see how it all shakes down.

This morning I came across a little something from SixApart, the people behind Movable Type — they make the blogging software we are using for the Blogs at Penn State. They’ve released a plugin that provides an iPhone/Touch specific template for authoring your blog. I still think once people on campus (a) get blogs, (b) realize all they can be used for, and (c) embrace these new devices we’ll see a whole lot more mobile blogging.

We should have MT 4 running soon. Just a matter of time until students’ thumbs will be tapping out posts.