Dead Drop no.1

Dead drop is a term that describes a way for two espionage agents to signal an exchange, or some event. This collection of sites with a bit of text is similar to that. It’s funny how I’ve done these things in waves – this time the infrequency will continue but I’ll try to use this titling to link it all together.


Both these articles are deep-ish dives into the related fields of gamification, digital badges and extrinsic motivation. One from a design perspective, which is part of the story I’ll be talking about this summer – how well designed badging experiences can help with adoption – and really understanding your audience and who you’ll be badging. The other is part of the HASTAC research project on K-12 students and looks at the effectiveness of badges on that group.

Data Visualization/Storytelling with Data

I’ve really rediscovered how much I love A List Apart. I haven’t built a full on website for a couple years, and wouldn’t consider it part of my daily job, but I really do love designing things. With that said, there’s a narrative story that most sites have, whether you recognize it or not. Big data visualizations are really telling you a story as a website tells/sells you a story.

Web Design

A really great framework for sites courtesy of Cogdogblog. I’ve been thinking about creating a website for myself, which would link here, and to the photo gallery I’m planning on doing up and trying to build something that touches the intersecting parts of my life. I’m not sure why, after 20 years on the Internet I think this is the time to build a vanity site, but maybe it is? I think back to all the things I’ve done that should be documented somewhere (but aren’t) and all the work I’ve done on ePortfolios, and it seems like I should be doing this more seriously. And age is a factor I’m sure. It’s funny that I’ve tried to keep my social life, my family life and my “professional” life separate, and done quite well at segmenting the three areas. I have no problem sharing parts of those lives within each context, but I’m 99% sure that people that know me from educational technology circles don’t necessarily care about my band.

Deep Learning/Surveillance Society

Yeah, creepy. I’ve had three conversations about leaving Facebook with three different people this week. Reminder, in 2014 Facebook did the exact same thing:

Digital Marginalia 2 – Electric Boogaloo

Digital Marginalia is an infrequent blog post series that captures some links I’ve retweeted or looked at, grouped into a theme, and commented on.

Disrupting Education/Learning – Whatever that Means

There’s two related bunch of links that are tied here; the first being the onslaught of Richard Branson, Disrupting Education:

And the response:

It’s strange because I understand what Branson’s saying, and yes, education needs more flexible education. But to criticize something he doesn’t really know, because he didn’t go into it forty years ago, and isn’t part of it now, and clearly doesn’t get that in fact, higher education does do a lot of the things he says it doesn’t. Business schools basically train their graduates to be startups. Many, many MBA programs have that as their overarching theme. Our Master’s level Engineering program is based on a business project model with real clients. We aren’t unique in this. Our Geography department have several trips to real world places to do the work that they will do post-graduation. When I went to community college a decade ago, we took several entrepreneurship classes, because they knew that software designers would likely be their own bosses. Should things be more flexible? Yes. Often the reason things aren’t flexible is because someone, somewhere along the line bought a student information system that can’t schedule things in less than three hour blocks, or doesn’t understand that a course isn’t 14 weeks. That’s the sort of flexibility that the private sector brings you. Get real, Branson. Martin Weller said it better (first link under responses) so go read his post and give it some love because it’s so terribly spot on.

“LRNG redesigns learning for the 21st century so that all youth have an opportunity to succeed.”

Really, I don’t have any non-vulgar words… OK here’s a fact you may want to consider, YOU CANNOT REDESIGN HOW I LEARN. I control how I learn. YOU control how you communicate information to me; I control how I receive that information. If you do not agree, then you are working on a paradigm that reinforces that students are empty vessels that need to be filled with knowledge. Again, I agree with connecting someone’s passion with learning, doing it through an online medium, sure that’s awesome. I love the Cities of Learning program, I really do. Just “redesigning learning” is like saying you’re “redesigning eating”.

Closing of the Open Web–with-no-comments-allowed

Commenting, whether you think it valuable or not, is one of the best features of the world wide web. The amount of time I’ve found something in the comments of an article that links to another great thing is staggering to think about. The Vice thing is kind of delicious, in that after years of cultivating this vacuous audience (looks directly at Dos & Don’ts) they now want a civilized discussion. I guess people can grow up, but instead of turning off comments, why don’t you do like many other places and cultivate the commentary by moderating it. That way, you approve the good stuff and your audience doesn’t have to change the way they interact with the site.


Google and privacy? Uhhh, the jokes write themselves.

Undoubtedly, not all of what Facebook tells itself about you.

Manditory watching. Glenn Greenwald is one of the most important journalists of our time. Seriously undervalued/rated.






Twitter and Facebook drop RSS (Sort of)

Just finished reading that Twitter and Facebook drop their public pronouncements of RSS feeds for status updates, sort of. Twitter has hidden the old link that one needed to copy/paste to gather an RSS feed in Google Reader or Netvibes. Facebook has also hidden your status Feed. Is that a big deal, these sites are revenue driven now that they’re past the social networking infant stage – they both need to make money and they see the only way as making money is driving traffic to their site for their paid ads. What both Twitter and Facebook are doing are using API’s, essentially a separate standard for connecting to their web application (or website) rather than providing an open RSS feed. If you’ve grabbed the old Twitter feed, it should still work. For how long is anyone’s guess, but at least it’s something. As the web becomes more fractioned, with extremely large sites like Facebook and Twitter demanding innovation through their channels, and smaller sites using the power of the more open and transparent standards that have existed for many years, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Twitter Stats

So despite Twitter’s hubris, only 8% of Americans use it (that’s approximately 17 million users). What’s interesting is that somewhat diverse groups are using it. What needs to be looked at next is that are these different groups using Twitter for different purposes. I wonder if the initial influence of hip hop and basketball stars using the service were race predictors of who would use the service later? As if the initial celebrities who spent time on Twitter created a space where minority groups felt safe, and would then follow and accept the service as something race neutral. I’ve heard and often thought that Facebook was white, which is a big detractor for me – the blandness of the design and lowest common denominator mentality. Twitter seems like nuggets of ideas, some interesting and worthwhile, some not so much.

I’d also like to know how “use” is defined – is one tweet a week using Twitter? Or is it more often? Does posting a tweet determine use, or is logging in enough (the equivalent of a Twitter lurker – twilurker)? Does frequency determine more use? There’s lots of interesting avenues of research to follow up with Twitter users.

Retweets, Likes and the Like

Here’s my comment from CogDogBlog‘s post about the decline of content creation:
I think there’s a couple of things at work here – one being the idea that one has to produce content all the time, a constant stream pushing out content for people to consume. As most bloggers have experienced, after the initial wave of writing it’s hard to maintain that push. Most don’t. Twitter has the same thing only sped up. It takes less than a second to consume 140 characters, maybe stopping the receiver for ten seconds if the post required decoding or some sort of thought. So Like and RT’s become easy to maintain an audience’s interest – a reminder so to speak. It’s a cheap way to maintain attention. Much like the way television shows are cut before the commercial breaks – mini cliffhangers to maintain interest while the commercial runs.
The other thing that’s going on is that Likes are different beasts than retweets – I think there’s a metric tonne of difference between liking something, which is a pretty vacant statement, and a retweet – which usually is some sort of statement that one supports. I can like something without a real investment, a retweet takes a bit more. I look at retweets the same way I look at links on a web page, it’s annotation. It’s telling me about the author of the retweet. A like does that as well, but it seems that a retweet is more nuanced.
Maybe I’m over analyzing it.

Now, I think it’s important to recognize the shift away from web publishing (websites and blogs) into more immediate forms of communication. The next big thing will come from the people who figure out how to catalog retweets and likes into some cohesive idea of mass consciousness – much like Google did with links on the web. Facebook may already be doing this – although I suspect that it’ll be someone from out of the blue. I think retweets act just like links do, as retweets are rarely just links – they usually have some form of annotation accompanying them. This annotation serves two purposes – information about the link and information about author of the retweet. Links on the web do this as well, although websites have a distance from an author in many cases. Does a bad link on say Boing Boing or Wired reflect poorly on the author or the entity?

It’s Like, No Big Deal

“Facebook is a charnel house of features that appeal to advertisers and businesses without actually being used, supported by tools that don’t work, for people who don’t care.” Jeffery Zeldman, on why Facebook’s Like doesn’t work.

Zeldman is a visionary when it comes to the Web. He’s a guy who’s influenced many of the top designers, and is one of the top designers of webdom himself, so what he says about web design bears some weight.