Category Archives: digital storytelling

Teaching Without WordPress: Exploring the Known World

During our trip to Norman, Oklahoma to visit a bunch of tuned in and turned on Sooners (more on that trip soon) Tim and I were excitedly talking about our time in LA at the Reclaim Your Domain hackathon. One of the things the many things that came out of the hackathon for me was experimenting with the open source application Known. It’s being developed by Ben Werdmuller and Erin Jo Richey, and they were at the hackathon exploring how they might use this tool in education. Turns out much of the ethos around Reclaim Your Domain (own our content, take control of your online self, interrogate the web) gels neatly with the tenets undergirding IndieWebCamp.

A couple of things I like about Known:

POSSE: It instantiates many of the principals at the heart of Domain of One’s Own, particularly the IndieWeb Camp acronym POSSE –Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. What’s push, it’s push rather than pull so it can begin to get at the idea of accessing the APIs of various social media silos like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, SoundCloud, etc. and pushing out to them while controlling the original.

nowordpressIt’s Not WordPress: I mean this with the utmost affection. I love WordPress, and it could even be argued UMW has pushed harder than any other institution out there on its promise and possibilities for teaching and learning. In fact, we still do. But one of the things we realized when starting up Domain of One’s Own is that WordPress has become too central to our thinking—risking myopia. We owe it to ourselves to experiment with other tools and technologies.

A Distributed, Open Source Tumblr: One of the things that appealed to me immediately about Known is the simple, Tumblresque interface. Various content types, lightweight admin bar, frontend publishing, and a minimalist aesthetic. It’s everything I have learned to love about Tumblr, with the bonus of being open source and designed to capture a distributed network.

link-building-101-finding-web-mentionsDistributed Comments: Thanks to the developers in and around the IndieWeb movement, a nut we’ve been trying to crack with WordPress aggregation—syndicating comments—has been elegantly dealt with thanks to the Web Mentions protocol. A crucial element for connecting distributed communities is baked into applications like Known, which represent a whole new wave of web application.

15_1910In on the Groundfloor: Known is both clean and robust, and for a new application it’s extremely usable. This means we (Tim, myself, 60+ UMW students, and anyone else out there who wants to experiment) have the unique opportunity to team up with Ben and Erin to see if we can design the next generation edtech syndication hub.

We’re going live with Known for ds106 and tic104 this Fall, and I couldn’t be more excited to return to experimental mode. We needed it, and thanks to Tim, ben and Erin, we got it in spades. Jazzercise, bitches!

Network Randoms

EmreI’m just about finished with Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon’s 1998 1996 history of the creation of the internet Where Wizards Stay Up Late. I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly, and while I was familiar with much of the general history presented, it’s the details and anecdotes that I find truly compelling. For example, in the first week or two of The Internet Course the term hacking came up as one of those protean terms that has various meanings depending on the context.

What’s more, in early tech culture hacking was associated with innovative approachs to a programming challenge rather than nefarious behaviour attributed to cyber criminals. Hafner and Lyons talk a bit about this when discussing how email, the application which would help popularize the internet, was a hack.

Using the ARPANET as a sophistiacted mail system was simply a good hack. In those days [the early 70s] hacking had nothing to do with malicious or destructive behavior; a good hack was a creative or inspired bit of programming. The best hackers were professionals. Meddlesome and malicious network users, which were virtually none at the outset, were first referred to as “network randoms” or “net randoms” or just plain “randoms.” It would be another decade before hacking would be given a bad name.

I love the early terminology of hackers as “randoms,” it seems much more gentle in its criticism. Whereas hacker paints a much starker image reminiscent of Jason Vorhees with a butcher knife machete :) I’m hoping a few students from The Internet Course investigate the cultural history of the term Hacker over the past fifty years or so. The term has recently been regaining its original connotation of inspired re-thinking of traditional problems. At the same time it’s also a term which is liberally employed when suggesting technology can fix any and all of our social ills.

There are a quite a few gems like this in this book, and I’m gonna try and blog them before they slip away.