Testing Webmention to EdTechFactotum site

I am playing around with some Indieweb plugins, so this is just a test post to see if, by adding a link to a post on my EdTechFacotum site appears in the comments as a webmention. How much of this post gets pulled back? Or maybe I am thinking of webmention too much like a trackback/pingback. Maybe it works a bit differently? Well, let’s hit the publish button and see what happens.

If you are playing along at home and this works like I think it is supposed to work, you should see this blog post appear as a comment on this post at the EdTechFactotum site.


Of Bikes and Books

At the start of 2016, for the first time in a long time, I made resolutions. 2 specific.

  1. Cycle 3000 km.
  2. Read 10 fiction books.

These resolutions were inspired by 2 things.

In 2015, my love of beer caught up on me and I tipped the scales at 225 on a 5’10” frame. Turning 50 this year, I needed to make some changes. I know that the standard resolution of “lose weight” was too general. I needed something specific. So, in addition to renting a rowing machine (which actually happened towards the end of 2015), in 2016 I got back into cycling on a regular basis.

I’ve always biked, but in recent years working at home more and my mountain biking taking a back seat to small kids, my mileage had taken a real hit. So I started 2016 with a goal of riding 3000 km. I thought it was an achievable goal. A tad under 60k a week. My plan was to ride into the office 2 days a week on 10 k routes, and then a longer ride on the weekend.

I used Strava to track most of my rides and, while I didn’t hit 3000, I am pretty happy with my Strava total.

There were times I didn’t use Strava, like weekends where I took on some singletrack trails with my son (who got into mountain biking in a big way this year which was fantastic as it re-ignited my passion for MTB, something I have not done since before I had kids).

All in, I figure the best I did was around 2300 km. Short, but I am still happy with that. And, despite a recent uptick in the weight, cycling this year has helped me stay under 200 lbs for most of the year.

Some of my Kindle library. Many samples waiting to dig into in 2017.

The second goal was inspired by David Wiley and Martin Weller. At the end of 2015, both wrote blog posts about the books they read in the previous year (and I see that, today, Martin has written one for 2016). As I read their posts, I realized that, while I read – non-fiction, reports, papers, research, blog posts, etc – I had really fallen off the fiction wagon. So I made a modest goal of 10 fiction books this year, far short of the impressive output that Martin managed. 48. Enough to make some lovely charts and do some analysis on.

This goal I met, again with help from my son who, at 10 and like his sister, seems to be developing a voracious appetite for fiction.

Here (in rough chronological order) is the fiction I read in 2016.

  1. Neuromancer William Gibson
  2. No Relation Terry Fallis
  3. Fool Christopher Moore
  4. Good Omens Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  5. High Fidelity Nick Hornby
  6. Little Brother Cory Doctorow
  7. Armada Ernest Cline
  8. Holes Louis Sachar (my sons favorite book of the year)
  9. The Dragonet Prophecy Wings of Fire book 1 Tui T. Sutherland
  10. The Lightening Thief Rick Riordan
  11.  The Hunger Games (book 1) Suzanne Collins

So, a couple notes about this list. There are some decidedly YA titles on this list. The last 4 are books that my son and I read together. I still read to him every night before bed and the final four books on the list (Holes, Dragonet, Lightening Thief and Hunger Games) were his choices. I almost thought I should not include them, except for the fact that I really enjoyed all 4. Holes was much richer and complex than I expected, and The Lightening Thief felt like a great way to introduce classic Greek mythology to a contemporary audience.

Despite having watched the movies and reading books 2 and 3 in the series, I had not read the first Hunger Games book. Reading it with my son at the same time I was reading the non-fiction Hillbilly Elegy and while the US election debacle was unfolding added an extra resonance to the plight of Katniss Everdean. District 12 as Appalachia in a pre-Panem America. So much about the novel has been topical this fall – the role of the media and manipulation, who controls the media, reality television, the plight of the working class, the excessive indulgence of the elite oblivious to the plight of working class until it is too late. The novel has been a source of rich political discussion with both my kids, who are both fans.

While Little Brother was also a topical read this year, by far my favorite book on the list was Good Omens. Smart and funny, it reminded me of the best absurdist satire of Vonnegut. I had never read either author and Good Omens proved to be an excellent way to whet my appetite for more from both Gaiman and Pratchett.

Disappointments were Armada and No Relation. While both Fallis and Cline had debut novels that I really enjoyed (in The Best Laid Plans and Ready Player One respectively), both of these newer efforts were weak and I struggled to finish them.

In addition to the Hillbilly Elegy, the other non-fiction title that made an impact on me this year was Quiet by Susan Cain. While I had it on my list for awhile, attending Educause in Anaheim this year where she keynoted was the impetus that spurred me to dig in, and I was happy I did.

A penny dropped for me while reading Queit in that, as I ws reading it, I realized that I have not been a good advocate for my introverted daughter with her teachers. Consistently year after year in the 7 years she has been in the public school system, her teacher assessments have always included the wish that she speak and participate up more in class. I have taken those assessments to heart and (high irony alert here for someone who considers himsefl quite introverted) tried to push her to be more participatory.

After reading Quiet, I realized that I have been so wrong and it isn’t my daughter who I should be coaxing to change It’s not often that I have read a book where I can see such a clear connection between the book and my life, but Quiet was one of those books that has made me change my attitude.

Oddly, no books about cycling. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read a book where cycling is the main theme or subject. Hmmmm. #2107Resolution. That and this.

Photo: Cyclists Manifesto by Richard Masoner CC-BY-SA


12 apps of Christmas

Yeah yeah, I know. It’s the middle of November, what the heck are you talking about Christmas for?

Well, a couple of my ETUG colleagues Leva Lee and Sylvia Riessner pitched an idea a few weeks back for a special Christmas theme ETUG event called the 12 Apps of Christmas that I have been working on.

Drawing inspiration from similar 12 Apps of Christmas events from across the pond, (and how fantastic that Chris Rowell thought to CC license everything and create a build your own 12 apps of Christmas tutorial website!) the basic idea is to put together some bite sized microlearning activities that gets our local edtech community suggesting, testing, collaborating and reflecting on the usefulness of different apps.

No surprise, but there are thousands of apps targeted at EdTech that are varying utility and quality, and the EdTech’s task of being able to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff is becoming increasingly important. Institutions, like UC Irvine, have developed processes around testing and assessing the usefulness of cloud based educational technologies, and rapid EdTech evaluation models are being considered and developed. We’re also seeing collaborative efforts to assess educational technologies, like the Common Sense Media educators portal which collects & aggregates information from teachers about the usefulness and pedagogical value of different learning apps.

The idea of 12 Apps of Christmas is that each day starting December 1st, we’ll release a new app via the (currently under development) 12AppsofChristmas.ca website. The app will include a description, some possible ways it could be used in a teaching & learning context, and a very short (15 minute) activity that gets people trying out the app.

The apps are being picked by various members of the BC ETUG community. Criteria for what apps to include are pretty basic; free, available on multiple platforms, easy to use, and lightweight in the sense that it shouldn’t take people a lot of time to figure out how to use them.

Once the activity is completed, we hope that you’ll spend a bit of time evaluating the app & leaving some review comments on the app post (I’m building the site in WordPress & will use the commenting feature). We’ll include a few question prompts to help frame the evaluation, but the idea is that the whole process should not be too onerous and should be flexible enough to allow people to hop in and out and take part with whatever time they have.

While the 12 Apps of Christmas is by no means an extensive review process, it will hopefully be a fun activity with a minimal time commitment will get those interested in educational technology collaboratively playing, testing and evaluating different apps and technologies.

Photo: Blue Christmas by Jamie McCaffrey  CC-BY-NC


My #ETUG Tale of Fail

ETUG is coming up in a few weeks; the twice yearly gathering of BC post-secondary educators, learning technologists & instructional designers.

I’m more than a bit bummed that the timing of ETUG this year coincides with the annual EDUCAUSE conference which I am going to be at. So, despite being on the steering committee for ETUG, I’ll actually be missing this one.

And it will be a good one. The steering committee (co-led this year by the excellent Janine Hirtz and wonderfully creative Jason Toal aka Dr. Jones) has taken full advantage of the fact that ETUG happens just a few days before Halloween and are calling the workshop the Little (work)Shop of Horrors.

Completely en pointe  will be Audrey Watters keynote riffing off her recent book the Monsters of Educational Technology.

Also keeping with the frightening theme is the call for proposals, looking for stories about things that went wrong. Tales of the fail. I am a big fan of failure, having failed at many things in my life. And I do believe that, while success gives us confidence, it is in failure that we do some of our deepest learning. And as educators, we need to be mindful that there are valuable lessons within failure.

Leading up to ETUG, a few of us are creating some videos with our own tales of failure. Here is my contribution – my tale of fail is my academic career, partial inspired by Johannes Haushofer’s CV of Failures. The running narrative throughout my academic life going back to high school is that I never finish. Even high school, although I did manage to get that last course and technically finish high school a few years after I was supposed to graduate. My first distance learning experience was taking a Biology 12 correspondence course that finally gave me enough credits to finish high school.

Watch the #etug hashtag on Twitter over the coming days for more Tales of Fail.

And if you are reading this and I have applied to be in your PhD program…I will complete it.



My first pull request

Crazy to think that, even though I have had a GitHub account for 5 years and have poked, played and forked things, I have never made a pull request and contributed something to another project until today.

I attribute that mostly to the fact that I stopped actually developing and writing code right around the same time as I signed up for a GitHub account, and the fact that it took me a long time to grok how GitHub works. Honestly, I am still not totally sure I understand how GitHub works, but after a great session with Paul Hibbitts at the Festival of Learning last week where I had a chance to dig into both Grav and GitHub, I finally feel like I can work around GitHub with some level of confidence. Enough that when I saw an opportunity to contribute to a project earlier today I thought, “I can help!”

The trigger was a tweet from the web annotation project Hypothes.is. I’ve been playing with Hypothes.is since hearing about the project from David Wiley a few years ago. It is maturing into a really great annotation system that has found some use among educators, including Robin DeRosa who is using Hypothes.is as an annotation tool she has published in PressBooks.

The tweet from Hypothes.is pointed me to a small project that Kris Shaffer is working on – a WordPress plugin that will allow you to aggregate your Hypothes.is annotations on a page or post on your WordPress site.

As Kris points out on his blog post about the plugin, there are some compelling use cases

I envision a number of possible uses for Hypothes.is Aggregator. As I write in my post on hypothes.is as a public research notebook, you can use this plugin to make a public research notebook on your WordPress site. Read something interesting, annotate it, and aggregate those annotations ? perhaps organized by topic ? on your domain. They will automatically update. Just set it and leave it alone.

I also see this as a tool for a class. Many instructors already use hypothes.is by assigning a reading that students will annotate together. Hyopthes.is Aggregator makes it easy to assign a topic, rather than a reading, and ask students to find their own readings on the web, annotate them, and tag them with the course tag. Then Hypothes.is Aggregator can collect all the annotations with the class tag in one place, so students and instructors can see and follow-up on each other’s annotations. Similar activities can be done by a collaborative research group or in an unconference session.

I went to his GitHub site, downloaded the plugin and fired it up. It worked (although the Cover theme I am using has done some funky formatting to it, which i need to adjust). But when I took a look at the GitHub site, I noticed that Kris had no README file on the Github site and the actual instructions on how to install and use the plugin were only on his blog post. Aha! A chance for me to actually contribute something to a project! So, I fired up my Atom editor, forked his repo and added a README.md file with instructions that i copied and pasted from his blog post on how to install and use the plugin.

So far so good. Now to figure out how to actually do a pull request. i thought that, before I do this (and not knowing exactly what might happen when I hit the Pull Request button) I should check with Kris. So I fire him off a tweet.

Ok, all good. I used these instructions from GitHub on how to launch a pull request and a few minutes late, my README file was sitting in Kris’s GitHub repo.

I am still not totally sure what I am doing, but having that first pull request under my belt has given me a boost of GitHub confidence.

Image: GitHub (cropped from original) by Ben Nuttall CC-BY-SA GitHub (crop) used here released under same CC-BY-SA license.


Week 22 in review: the #otsummit edition

Keynote speaker with slide that sayse don't just adopt an open textbook, foster a textbook

Rajiv encouraging faculty to not only adopt an open textbook, but foster an open textbook.

Last week was all about the 3rd annual open textbook summit in Vancouver.

The summit was bigger than ever this year and marked a number of firsts for us; the first time we have done a more traditional conference format, soliciting presentation proposals from the wider community for concurrent breakout sessions. For the first time, we hosted a pre-conference event celebrating our authors, adapters, reviewers and project partners, and it was also the first time we charged a modest conference fee ($150) to help offset costs. This last bit had me especially worried as I have always seen a free event as a way to attract the interest of those on the periphery of open textbooks. I wasn’t sure we had hit a kind of critical mas in interest to justify charging just yet for a conference. I didn’t want to put up any barriers, and cost to attend a conference can often be a barrier.

Boy, was I wrong.  Over 170 participants (40+ more than last year) joined us in Vancouver to talk open textbooks. In the end, we had 31 sessions and 2 exceptional keynotes from KPU’s Rajiv Jhiangiani on day one, and students Chardaye Buekert (SFU) and Erik Queenan (Mount Royal University) on day two. And the BC Minister of Advanced Education came by to share a few words with the attendees.

We’re just in the process of gathering all the slides and keynote videos and will post them on the OT Summit website in the coming weeks (we’ve started posting some photos on our Flickr site and here is the hashtag archive).  My own takeaways in scattered, bullet form…

  • The keynotes. I could not have been happier with both. I have glowed many times about Rajiv, and he bowled me over with his keynote that was equal parts gracious, thought provoking, challenging and funny.  The man is truly an all-rounder, clearly and passionately engaged with the scholarship of teaching and learning and his discipline, plus a formidable researcher. His framing of open textbooks as a social justice issue resonated with many in the crowd.
  • It is not an easy task keynoting a conference, let alone being a student asked to speak in front of a room full of faculty (and the Minister of Advanced Education),  but our student keynote went even better than I hoped for, thanks to our extremely eloquent, passionate, informed and charming student keynotes. They both did a superb job in presenting a student perspective on how OER and open textbooks can address inequalities in education.
  • We had a strong student turnout. In addition to the keynotes, there were 18 other students from various post-sec’s in attendance.
  • Both Jessie Key and Christina Hendricks (who, along with Rajiv, make up our trio of Faculty Fellows) were busy presenting, meeting and connecting with others at the conference. Along with Beck Pitt from the OER Research Hub, we set aside some time to talk about writing a report with recommendations based on some of the findings from our faculty OER survey from last fall and this spring. We’ll be co-writing and releasing a report looking specifically at institutional barriers faculty face when using OER and open textbooks, and try to make some recommendations on what institutions can do to help remove those barriers.
  • My colleagues Amanda Coolidge, Lauri Aesoph, Christy Foote and Barb Murphy did most of the heavy lifting to make this thing happen. Thank you. I work with exceptional people.
  • Met with Janet Welch (eCampus Alberta) and Trisha Donovan (the Alberta OER project) to talk about the OER initiative in Alberta and how we may collaborate on some specific initiatives under the tri-provincial Memorandum of Understanding around OER’s that was signed by BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan 2 years ago.
  • Gill, Barb (who got up at the ungodly hour of 3am to co-present live via Skype from Tokyo) and I did a presentation on the BC Geography Textbook Sprint. We’ll be doing this again at OpenEd in the fall. This caught the attention of some BC institutions who are intrigued by the model and have asked me to follow up with them. Adam Hyde from BookSprints was  at the summit and I finally had a chance to meet him f2f and hang out. The way he thinks and talks  about information, knowledge production, ownership, authorship, books and communities resonates strongly with me, and I am happy to have made the connection.
  • Speaking of progressive thinkers about the future of books, Hugh McGuire from Pressbooks attended and made an announcement about a new Pressbooks EDU hosting service he has set up specifically for educational institutions who are interested in using Pressbooks, but may not have the internal IT resources to set up an instance themselves. Hugh has been a terrific partner with the open textbook project, and I am really happy to see him launch this initiative as it provides another way for faculty and institutions to engage with open textbook creation and hosting.
  • Met with our print on demand service providers, SFU Document Solutions, on some new initiatives around print books that we have in the works. SFU is big on Bitcoin, and we are exploring the possibility of making Bitcoins a payment method for students who order the low cost, print on demand open textbooks. As well, we are exploring alternative ways of shipping physical books using the existing inter-library transfer system. KPU and SFU have been testing this out as a way to reduce the sizable shipping costs of open textbooks, especially around the lower mainland where there is a concentration of institutions and students sometimes pay up to $15 to have a physical textbook shipped just a few blocks away.
  • Post-conference, I met with the BC Earth Sciences articulation committee. We have funded the development of a Geology textbook (being created by Steve Earle from VIU/TRU-OL), and the articulation committee has been involved with the development of the book by acting as the peer reviewers on the book. As a result, the interest is high among this group in adopting the book once it is released. I think including the provincial articulation committee in the development of the resource is a fantastic move as this is the community that will make the book stronger and be the group who ultimately has a lot of influence in the adoption of the textbook throughout the province.

Finally, I had some fun last week getting ready for the conference riffing off some of the themes in Rajiv’s keynote. A few weeks ago when I was at TRU-OL for their faculty event, Rajiv and I had lunch together and had this fun idea of making an infomercial around the current textbook sales model. We had a laugh and I thought nothing of it until later on in the afternoon, Rajiv emailed me a script he wrote. I put my old hardsell radio voice on, went digging around Flickr and had some wicked fun making this to close the conference.



Learning about digital learning through photography

I wrote a post a few weeks ago about purchasing my first DSLR camera. In February, I took an insane amount of photos with it. 1176 to be precise as I learn how to use and understand a piece of new (to me) technology.

The thing I love best about the new camera? It allows me to shoot 1176 photos in a month.

I used to shoot with film. I was by no means a good photographer, but I had fun fiddling with film, although I often found shooting with film a stressful experience to get the shot just right.

And this is the thing that has struck me most as the biggest difference between film vs digital photography: the scale. It has nothing to do with the actual quality or types of photos I can take, but instead it is how cheap it is to experiment with digital. In my film days, I would have never shot 1100+ photos in a month. Heck, I probably never shot 1100 photos in the entire time I shot with film. There was the cost of film and the cost of developing film that was a real barrier to experimenting freely with my film camera.

But with digital, that cost to experiment has been greatly reduced to the point where it costs me no more to take 1100 pictures than it does to take 1. Digital has allowed me to scale up the number of photos I take with little regard for monetary cost (the mental cost of sifting thru 1100 photos is another story). Digital has given me the ability to more freely experiment and, more importantly, the freedom to fail since the dollar cost of failure is very low.

I never felt that type of freedom to experiment when I was shooting film. When shooting film, there was always that nagging bit of pressure to get the shot right because every shot cost, not to mention the disappointment of  getting a developed roll of film back and discovering too late that you don’t have a single decent picture because you decided to use an ISO 100 film instead of 800. Money wasted. A barrier to experimenting with film.

Whoops. Didn't get that lighting right

Whoops. Didn’t get that lighting right

But that freedom to experiment afforded by digital photography alone doesn’t make the learning happen. Taking tons of pictures and having the freedom to fail is just the start. In order to learn, you also have to take the time to examine why you failed; why did that photo turn out so dark when the lighting in one 3 dial tweaks later turn out fine?

Le there be light!

Let there be light!

In order to learn, I need to be able to examine why one setting worked and another didn’t. And, in the world of digital photography, that means looking at the metadata. Digital photos give me so much more information(feedback) than film did about what was happening when the photo was taken. What was my aperture setting when I took that photo? Shutter speed? ISO setting? What lens was I using? All this metadata is automatically captured when I snap a picture and called up later by my software when reviewing my photos, allowing me to see exactly what settings worked and didn’t work in certain situations. From this information, I can make better decisions in the future.

Now, so far my digital photo learning has been pretty technical and fairly autodidactic. Other than a few tweets and reading some websites, I haven’t really begun to explore the social side of learning photography where I actively solicit feedback from others on the photos I take, and vice versa. At some point, I’ll need the input of some MKO’s about the things that the data can’t tell me. Things like composition that you can’t learn from just looking at data and taking lots of pictures. And I’d like to share what I have learned with others. Thinking my long underutilized Flickr account is about to become my learning network of choice for the next little while.

All in all, so far my new camera has been a wonderful edtech meta learning opportunity for me. It’s an example to me about how digital affordances give us the ability to freely experiment, fail, and try again at a scale that wasn’t possible in the analog days, all while providing both a rich set of data and access to a network of peers to help us improve. But above all, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, which makes for the best kind of learning.


New camera

Just after Christmas I got my first DSLR camera. Nothing fancy. An entry level Nikon D3200 that I picked up at a Boxing Week sale.

I’ve wanted a DSLR for a long time. I used to shoot film with a Yashica 35mm, but when that bit the dust a decade ago, I switched to digital point and shoot as DSLR’s were crazy expensive at that time. But in the back of my mind, I always planned on getting a DSLR.

The proverbial straw came this past Christmas when I ordered our family printed calendar from Shutterfly. Each year for the past 8, I sift through the family photos for the year, pick the best, and print a calendar for the next year.

Well, this year when I got the calendar, I was extremely disappointed by the number of blurry, low light, fuzzy and generally craptacular photos from the past year…

A good photo made bad by a camera phone

Good photo op gone bad.

The phone camera just wasn’t cutting it, especially since the vast majority of photos we take are in the low light of our house.

A second reason I decided this was the year was the subject in the photo above – my daughter. This past year, she has taken a real interest in photography, claiming the ancient Canon Sureshot – that first digital camera I bought close to a decade ago – as her own. She didn’t mind the age. She was too busy enjoying taking pictures and making videos with the limited capacity of the camera. So, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity for both of us to kindle a common interest together, and this Christmas, she got a new camera as well. Not a DSLR, but a decent quality point and shoot number with a few manual overrides.

This month, we have been learning our new cameras together. I’ve been trying to take D’arcy Normans  advice to shoot a lot of photos, and my daughter and I have been going out on the town for photo walks together, taking pictures of whatever strikes our fancy. And we’re having a blast.

DSC_0154 Morning light photo shootDSC_0163These cameras have already proven to be one of the best purchases I’ve made in a long time.


What's on your laptop lid?

I love laptop lids and how they have become a space to reflect the personality of the owners; a place where you can tell a story about yourself, your beliefs and the things that are important to you. I find laptop covers fascinating, and when I got to a conference & meet people for the first time, the stickers I see on their laptop cover often becomes a good starting point for conversations to find out more about the people behind the screen.

A short Twitter exchange between George Veletsianos and Martin Weller caught my eye.

Here is my laptop cover. It’s still a work in progress as I have only had it for a couple months.

My current puter

First thing you probably notice about my laptop is that it is not an Apple. Judging from the lids I see at the conferences I attend, I think I am among the minority of the EdTech community in that I am a PC. I love that Martin’s got the Clash smashing guitar sticker overtop the Apple logo giving the impression that Joe Strummer is about to make apple sauce. Nice bit of visual subversion there.

A couple of the stickers on mine are probably pretty familiar – Firefox, Wikipedia, WordPress, MediaWiki, Creative Commons. There is also one from a project that Martin is involved in – the OER Research Hub project. When I was at the Connexions conference in Houston a few months back I met one of Martin’s colleagues working on the project, Dr. Beck Pitt & slipped me the sticker.

The stickers you might not recognize are the Village 900 sticker, which was the campus community radio station I managed for a few years (& sadly, recently went dark), Extreme 107.3 was the last commercial radio station I worked for in 1999/2000 and is, um, also off the air (I sense a theme here). The One Less Car is from the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition. I am an avid cyclists and, at one time, was active as a volunteer with the GVCC. There is one of these on my bike as well. The last (for the time being) sticker is the Open for Learning sticker is from the 2011 ETUG spring workshop held in Nelson, BC which, in retrospect, I wish I made a better effort to attend.

So, what is on your laptop lid? What stories does it tell about you? I’d love to see a photo of it & hear some of your stories.


What my bike is teaching me about learning

For the past 15 years, I’ve been a bike commuter, and I try to ride to work at least a couple days a week.

I love riding my bike. I also like to tinker, but for whatever reason I haven’t spent a lot of time over the years tinkering with my bike. The city I live in is cycle crazy, and there are just as many bike repair places in town as there are coffee shops, so it has been quicker and more convenient to just let the experts deal with it. But in the past year with a longer commute, I have found that I spend more money each year on bike maintenance. So, a few weeks ago when I noticed that my rear cassette and chain were starting to slip and grind, I thought I would try to save a few bucks, teach myself a new skill, and learn how to replace the drive train.

I started doing a bit of research on the web last weekend. I found a few decent videos and websites that explained the process and tools I would need. Late Saturday, I went down to the local bike shop, bought a couple of new tools, a new rear cassette and chain.

Sunday morning, I got down to work.

It started off well, and I had the old chain broke and old cassette off in about 20 minutes. It was then I noticed I had a broken spoke. I’ve never replaced a spoke (but have many times paid $15 bucks at the bike shop to have it done – owch), and figured that since things were going well, I might as well give that a go. So, after watching a few more videos and figuring out how to true a wheel without getting into expensive gear, I went back to the bike store to buy some spokes and a spoke wrench.

“What size do you need?” asked the bike store mechanic. Uh, they come in different sizes?

Back home to get the wheel, and back down to the bike shop.

With spokes in hand, I decided to tackle the spokes first and get the wheel built before getting to the new drivetrain. Turns out, I had 3 spokes that needed replacing, and spent the better part of that Sunday getting the tire trued up.

Last Sunday night, I tackled the drive train. The new cassette went on and I threaded the new chain through the gears. I thought it went well, but when I started rotating the pedals, I heard a chunk-chunk-chunk clicking sound coming from the rear derailleur. I had threaded the chain incorrectly. So I had to break the chain, rethread it and try again.

Second time through it seemed to work. No clicking. Until I geared down to the lowest gear possible and saw that the chain was sagging. There was no tension.

Huh? I did everything that the videos told me to?

It was then that I compared the old cassette with the new and saw that the gears on the new cassette were half the size of the old one. Turns out there is more than one kind of 8 speed gear-set with different gear ratios.

So, off comes the new cassette, back into the box it goes. I spent last week without my bike.

This Saturday, I bring the cassette back to the store. I also bring the old cassette with me so I get the correct size this time. I speak directly to the in store mechanic, feeling sheepish I didn’t speak to him in the first place. He hands me a new cassette (which actually cost $15 less then the original one I bought), and gives me one of those Mike Holmes-ish smiles that says (in a very kind and empathetic way), “I’ll see you next week when you bring me your bike to clean up your mess.”

I get home, put the new cassette on and…

As my chain sags I am reminded...

As I sit here looking at my sagging chain once again, I am reminded that learning new stuff is not easy. It means making mistakes and enduring moments of frustration as you struggle to figure out what went wrong. It means recognizing that you are blind to what you do not know.

It also highlights the siren song of the availability of abundant resources. Right now, I am crashing on the rocks. Nowhere in the resources I looked at did anyone speak about correct gear ratios, or the fact that cassettes can come with different gear configurations.

I am learning this the hard way. But I am learning. I am not beaten yet. I still have some tricks up my sleeve, including going to the network, which I haven’t done yet, but will soon because I know at least 4 people in my network who are avid commuters and can help me figure out what I am doing wrong.

My drive train is my bow drill. And I will figure this out.


A #Mozilla #HackJam #yyj style

It was hacktacular.

2012-06-23 10.17.13

On Saturday, 26 30 kids and half dozen volunteers converged on UVic for HackJam, and we had some fun remixing and mashing the web.

2012-06-23 10.51.18

In a nuthsell, a HackJam is a Hackasaurus event for youth where they learn webmaking skills using some of the excellent “hacking” tools developed by Mozilla, like X-Ray Goggles and Thimble. HackJams are hands on, participatory events designed to not only introduce kids to the basics of webmaking (by examining and “hacking” the underlying HTML and CSS code), but also introduce some basic digital literacy skills and emphasize the idea that the web is a space that anyone can contribute to, and create on.

2012-06-23 11.33.50

As you can see, we had a great HackJam space, thanks to Valarie Irvine at UVic. The rest of this posts is a bit more bullet point impressions of the event.

Lots of Volunteers

Not only did we have a full house of kids, but we also managed to surpass the ratio of 4-1 volunteers to kids. And I am glad we did. Once we did an initial icebreaker and Emma did the initial How to Hack presentation, the kids were off. There would have been no way to keep up with all the requests for help and guidance if we didn’t have a bunch of excellent, knowledgeable volunteers willing to work with the kids and answer their questions.

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It was a beautiful thing to see, really. Kids and adults working together as peers and mentors.

While we did have some activities planned, it was pretty well left up to the kids to decide where they wanted to go next. Self-directed learning. You need people to make that happen, and the volunteers really held it all together.

Thanks @heli_tomato (who came over from Vancouver for the event, 2 weeks for her wedding and 3 weeks away from moving to a new city and taking on a new job!), @erikvold, @sleslie, @carloschiarrella and the parents who stuck around to help.

A wide range of skills and abilities

We advertised the HackJam as ages 9-14, which is pretty wide in terms of prior knowledge. Some kids came in knowing a bit about HTML, while others struggled to spell. Again, if it wasn’t for the volunteers who were able to respond to the different skills and prior knowledge of each participant, it might have been a struggle to make it a meaningful learning experience for all the participants.

I am so glad Emma had Thimble in her back pocket for those who were more advanced. X-Ray Goggles worked for all at the beginning, but it was pretty evident that some kids came in ready to code.

The puzzle icebreaker

HackJam Icebreaker

I had this idea of doing a collaborative puzzle as an icebreaker activity, with each kid getting a few pieces of the puzzle then working together to make the bigger picture. I like the idea of using a puzzle as a metaphor for the web as it is pretty easy to grasp. A puzzle is made of pieces, so is a webpage. Some of those pieces you can see (images, text, videos) and some you can’t (the code) and then use that to bridge into the code and hacking.

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It served the purpose of getting people up and interacting and moving around, but the puzzle I made was too difficult. I thought it would be a 10 minute icebreaker, but we had to abandon it after 10 minutes. But I think it did the job, and was something that was fun for the kids.

The hacking conversation

It was clear that when Emma started talking to the kids about what hacking was, everyone went to the dark side: breaking into computers. It was early in the session and I happened to be standing in the hall with a few of the parents who were hanging back waiting to make sure their kids got settled. And I could see from the looks on their faces that they were a bit unsettled by the conversation. They eased up a bit when Emma started talking about good hacking and bad hacking, and the word hack really means tinker and try things. A word of advice: if you are organizing a HackJam, be prepared to have the hack conversation.

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Saving the hacks

This was a bit of a bummer. Up until a week or so ago, X-Ray Goggles had a great feature that allowed you to save and publish your hacks to a central server. This has been disabled by Mozilla. From what I have heard (and I might be wrong about this, but the reasoning makes sense to me) is that it is a copyright and liability thing. When we hack a site, we don’t actually hack the site, but rather the cached copy that resides on our computers. But when we publish it back and make it public, we have now altered an original site, which is most likely a copyright violation of the original site owner.

After seeing what the kids put together, I totally get why Mozilla has disabled this feature. One of our kids had hacked a famous restaurant chains website and changed the menu to read “Snot Dogs” and ‘Booger Burgers” (hey, they are 10 years old after all). But to have that posted on a public site would not fly so well with this company.

Still, we were left scrambling a bit trying to figure out how to capture the work the kids had done by the end of the session, and ended up relying on emailing code and snipping screenshots, which Emma has said she will put up on a server to share back to the kids.

So, if you are planning a HackJam, plan how you will share the results back to the kids and their parents.


2012-06-23 11.33.25

I could go on, but this is getting crazy long. But I do want to end by saying how happy I was to see so many girls hacking away at the HackJam, and a big shout out to my colleague at Royal Roads, Emma Irwin, who put this whole show together. Emma is a programmer/analyst at RRU, and a fantastic role model for girls everywhere. She believes passionately that girls need mentors in the technology field, and was the one who stood at the front of the class for most of the day, showing the girls that this isn’t just a boys club. As the dad of a daughter who is showing a budding interest in technology, I am happy that there are women like Emma out there willing to show my daughter that she can do this, too.

We're part of the summer of code


Just reading Scott and Emma’s reflections on the Hackjam. I love Scott’s point about FUN:

Indeed, there is some really great thinking going on at the Mozilla team about how to introduce some potentially complicated stuff in a way that kids can engage with it – there was very little “instruction” going on during the couple of hours we ran the jam, and very much CONSTRUCTION (of knowledge, of web pages) and most of all FUN. This tapped into one of the pieces I too often forget myself about why making and the open web are so important – yes, it’s about preserving democracy and free speech, yes it’s about freeing culture from capital; but it’s also FUN, it’s about the sheer joy of making things

And Emma’s point is one that, I am sure, many of us can relate to all to well.

The first thing I learned was that no matter how much you know about the subject you are teaching, no matter how confident you are in the words you choose… teaching is not easy, it’s not straight forward and what works for one group of kids, may not work for the other.  (I’m sure my teacher friends are laughing at me by now).

As we come to the end of a school year, that is a point we parents need to remember and take to heart. Teaching is not easy. But if there is one thing HackJam showed me is that while teaching is hard, learning is fun. And, judging from the engaged kids I saw at HackJam, there was a lot of learning going on.


Tinkering, Hacking & Jamming

I love telling the story of my Dad and his satellite dish.

In the early 80’s, my Dad inherited a used satellite dish. In those days, a satellite dish wasn’t the size that could neatly tuck under the eaves of a house like they are today. These things were stick-in-an-Arizona-desert-and-search-for-signs-of-intelligent-life-SETI size monsters.

The deal with the dish (and why my Dad got it for free I imagine) was that it didn’t have a tuner, so whenever you wanted to find a new satellite signal, you had to manually move the dish and try to fine tune the puppy. This led to a lot of  “Got a clear picture yet?” yelling from our backyard to the house.

Well, being the resourceful guy my Dad is, he hit upon an idea. To rotate the dish, all you need to do is move the dish back and forth – forward and reverse – and it will track across the horizon.  So, he grabbed an old reversible drill and started hacking.

Fast forward a week and he had constructed a “tuner”; half of the reversible drill sat beside his LazyBoy in the basement while the other half of the drill was attached (via a 50 foot cable) to the satellite dish in the backyard. Whenever he wanted to move the dish, he simple reached down from the comfort of his chair, flipped the drill switch forward or reverse, and hit the trigger. Outside in the backyard, the dish tracked across the southern sky, moving from signal to signal.

It was a brilliant hack that worked beautifully (until the satellite companies began locking the free signals, but that’s another story).

Tinker Town

My Dad was able to build this because he tinkers. Still does. And I don’t know why I am always surprised when I notice one of his traits in myself. After all, he’s my Dad. But I tinker, too. He builds canoes our of fiberglass, I play with JavaScript libraries. He tunes a Skidoo, I tweak a WordPress theme.

I tinker with the web. Which is one of the reasons why I find myself  following the work of Mozilla more closely these days. Mozilla is like Popular Mechanics for web tinkers, and (with the launch of their Webmaker site) is spreading the joy of tinkering with the web with tools like Popcorn, X-Ray goggles, and Thimble – tools that make creating, remixing and tinkering with the web fun for adults and kids.

Tomorrow, thanks to the initiative of one of my co-workers Emma Irwin, I’ll be helping out at the first of (hopefully) many kids Hack Jams in Victoria. We’ve got a full house of 24 kids joining us at the UVic lab (thanks to Valarie Irvine at the TIE lab at UVic for getting us space), and will be spending a Saturday morning hacking and remixing the web.

If you are interested in organizing an event like this, Mozilla makes it easy with some excellent event guides. Hack away!


Satellite © Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Tinkertown used under Creative Commons license


So long and thanks for all the global beats Village 900

This is a long post. The kind of post that I write more for myself because it is fairly personal and not something that is directly related to what I usually write about here. Or maybe it is. If you decide to slog through my memories and recollections, you can decide.

I heard a few days ago that Village 900 radio at Camosun College is going off the air on March 4th.

Village 900 is/was licensed as an instructional radio station, one of a handful of stations across Canada that had this instructional designation. Meaning it’s primary purpose was to train broadcasters. It was  experiential education at is finest, and, for the past 20 years, students in the Applied Communication Program at Camosun have been using the station as a launching pad for media and communication careers.

But, as we all know, times are a-changing for traditional media, and for the educators who teach in that field. I won’t get into the details of why the station is going off the air. Suffice to say, this day has been inevitable.

Why do I care?

I have wonderful memories of managing that station from 1995 (when it was then CKMO radio, a small 50 watt FM radio station) to 2001. During that time, I had the opportunity to work with so many people who, if you live in Victoria and pay attention to any media outlet in the city – mainstream, public or alternative – are probably part of your everyday life. I turn on almost any radio station in town, open a newspaper, scan a local website, hear a soundbite delivered by a spokesperson of the government/non-profit/corporation/event, hear an announcement on a ferry, voiceover in a tourist attraction and I see and hear the voices of the graduates of the Applied Communication Program. So, my first memory is of the students and faculty I have worked with over the years associated with both the station and ACP.

I was there for the birth of Village 900. Early on, the idea of Village 900 was unique. Moving away from the traditional block formatting you usually find on alternative or campus radio stations, we focused on ways in which we could continually provide an aural reflection of the cultural diversity in our community. We created a melting pot of sound, blending world, worldbeat, traditional folk and roots music continuously throughout the day. One minute you might hear the Algerian club rai of Cheb Mami, the next the lipstick, lies and gasoline of Fred Eaglesmith. We dubbed the music format Global Roots, and tagged the station with the identity of Village 900 – A World of Music, A Community of Ideas.

We imported programming from around the world, airing shows from Radio Netherlands, the BBC, Channel Africa, the United Nations. We took this idea of global culture seriously, and tried hard to reflect it on the air by making connections with public broadcasters from around the world to air their programming . This was really early days of the Internet when this stuff wasn’t available with a click like it is now. Radio programs arrived weekly in the mail on cassettes, reel to reel tape, and CD’s. If we were lucky, we might get a satellite feed.

There was also a real commitment to local artists from Victoria, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver. Chances are, if you were a world or folk/roots act based in Victoria, you passed through the doors of Village 900, often with guitar in hand, pulling up a mic and tossing out a few tunes live on the air.

Village 900 and its predecessor CKMO are intensely personal for me in a couple of ways.

First, as part of the development team, it was a station that embodied and reflected my own deeply held beliefs in the power of universality, multiculturalism, education and culture.

It also introduced to me the entire world of alternative media through the works of people like Noam Chomsky and Neil Postman. By virtue of being a “campus” radio station, I had the opportunity to see both radio and the media in a whole different way than when I worked at a commercial radio station. In fact, it validated for me that community radio is what radio is supposed to be, and that commercial radio (and, by extension television as well) is, for the most part, a tragic waste of a publicly owned bandwidth.

I used to be passionate about that (and God love ya VIU for keeping this students writing from 1997 alive and available on the web 15 years after the fact. It’s a credit to you and your IT people that you have not trashed this stuff and sent me scrambling to the Internet Archives to dig it up). But today, in a world where anyone can be the media, I don’t care that much any more. The media has been democratized, and there are other, more important battles these days.

Village 900 was also a low risk experiment which afforded me the opportunity to play; to try things unencumbered by a ton of constraints. Sure, I had some parameters, but for the most part as long as the station met the mandate of training communication students while abiding to the broadcasting laws and regualtions we were governed by, I was pretty well left to my own devices. I had autonomy to make decisions and try different things.

The website, for example, was my ongoing personal learning laboratory – a project for me to experiment with. Which meant that, in 1995, I could do things like make a station website even when I had no idea how the web worked.  I did it because I could follow my interest (passion based learning?)  into this new thing called the web. I was an active BBS user in the early 90’s, so was curious as to what this whole web thing was about. After building a website, and then another, and another, I got hooked. My love of the web – both the technologies and the culture – was ignited at that station.

Working at the station also ignited another lifelong passion for me; a love of education. One of the truly unique aspects of the station was the requirement that we air educational radio programs. What that meant was that we had to, as a condition of our broadcast license, work with faculty at the College to create for-credit courses that aired on the radio. In 1995 when I first got to the station, I saw this requirement of our license as a bother – a technicality that needed to be filled.

Oh, how wrong I was.

What started as a requirement soon became one of my favorite activities. I loved working with the faculty and producing their radio programs. We did all kinds of wonderful programs.

I remember working quite closely in those early days (95/96/97) with a Psychology instructor named Gary Anderson. With Gary, we created a handful of Psychology radio courses. Each course consisted of 12, 1 hour radio shows. We went all out. Gary was full of ideas and had tons of energy. He had vision and a passion for radio. He loved the medium. The storytelling, the conversational aspect that great radio presenters have, the theatre of the mind, the ability to connect with experts via telephone. We interviewed psychologists, created radio dramas, had panel discussions, dramatizations, went out of the studio and did streeters. This was not a single instructor talking for an hour at a time. These were full on productions. At our height, we were airing 30 hours a week of educational programming, including English, French, Psychology, Geography and Physics courses.

Little did I realize that during the process of creating these courses, I was being turned into an educational technologist.

Looking back on it now, I realize that this was the pivotal moment in my career when I began to feel more like an “educator” and less like a broadcaster. Which is funny because, even though I worked as an instructional assistant with students carrying out the day to day operations of the radio station, it was working on those radio courses that made me feel like I was doing something “educational”.

It was during the development of these radio courses that I first heard the word pedagogy (wish Wikipedia was around that day), and was lucky enough to work with both a skilled broadcaster and educator in Helen Pearce, who understood more than anyone I have worked with, how to use audio in an educational context.

So, here we are…at a thousand words and I could probably write another thousand about what a profound influence working at CKMO/Village 900 and in the Applied Communication Program at Camosun has had on my career and my life. Transformative experiences in higher education are not limited to students.

In recent years, my involvement in the operations of the station has diminished. After leaving the Applied Communication Program in 2001 to delve deeper into the web side of the edtech world, I did sit on the board of the station for a few more years. But I found that I was too close to it and had taken it as far as I could. It needed new blood to survive. Like a parent who knows that it is time to let their child go, I had to step away.

After hearing the news, I’m feeling both sad and nostalgic. Like an important piece of my life is passing into history. Perhaps this is a eulogy written for an old dear friend who, when we were both younger, would walk along the same path. But upon reaching the fork, chose different directions.

It will be an odd sensation on March 5th when I hit preset #4 on my car radio and hear nothing but dead air.


Pirate radio for the #ds106radio crew

Been meaning to post some of this audio for the #ds106radio community for awhile now, but it was Grant’s post last week on Lorenzo Milam’s Sex and Broadcasting, a how-to guide to radical, community based non-commercial radio from the early 60’s that finally got me off my butt and digging through my old radio collections to find this – a handful of pirate radio airchecks from classic British offshore radio stations of the 60’s and 70’s.

This first clip is from Radio London, dated 1965. In it you can hear some of the most well know pirate radio jingles – the “wonderful Radio London” jingles made famous by The Who on The Who Sells Out.

Radio London (5:56)

Up until I heard these clips in the mid-90’s, I had always thought that the pirate stations in the UK in the 60’s were a response to the reluctance of the BBC to play rock and roll – they were an an outlet for youth culture to have a voice after being shut out by the mainstream BBC. While that might be true to a certain extent, when I listened to these clips, I was surprised to hear advertising. Lots of advertising.  Companies were looking for ways to reach an audience, there was no commercial broadcasting to speak of in Britain, so entrepreneurs set up these floating money factories off shore to pump adverts into the UK, piggybacking on the latest Beatles & Stones cuts.

Yeah, it bummed me out a bit, too, when I made that connection. I had a romantic’s view of the pirate stations; that somehow they were fueling the youth rock and roll subculture of the mid-60’s when, in fact, it was just the man out for a buck.

Anyway, you can hear the hucksterism in full flight in this second clip from 1965, this time from Radio Caroline. In this clip you can hear some of the ad’s that ran on the station, plus an announcer pushing the benefits of advertising on Radio Caroline.

Radio Caroline (4:21)

This last couple of segments are my favorite because there is some serious drama here. These clips are from Radio North Sea and their infamous ship the Mebo II. The clips are from 1970 & 71 when Radio North Sea was undergoing some ownership issues. As you’ll hear in this first clip, things start off bad with the British government jamming their signal from the get go, and the Radio North Sea musical response to then UK Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Radio North Sea getting jammed (2:58)

Then, things get heated when a tug pulls alongside the ship and a partner who has been shut out of the radio operations tries to board the ship.

Radio North Sea being boarded (3:57)

This last clip is one of the most compelling pieces of radio I have ever heard as Radio North Sea International and the Mebo II are attacked. A bomb thrown onto the Mebo II by a passing speedboat prompts these panicked moments. The bizarre juxtaposition of the panic-stricken announcer calling out mayday mayday over the top of an ever-looping bed of optimistically happy 60’s music is nothing short of eerie to hear, and utterly compelling to hear. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to hear this live.

Radio North Sea 1971 bombing (6:06)

Wikipedia has some more info on the Radio North Sea attempted 1970 hijacking and 1971 bombing.


See, this is why I can't do ds106

#ds106. I am sure that is going to be a trending hashtag in the new year as Jim Groom’s MOOC  (Massive Open, Online Course) on Digital Storytelling gets underway in January. And looking at the participants who have signed on so far (or are contributing without actually jumping into the course), it is going to be a heck of a fun ride.

So many people in my network are participating (including one of our Art instructors) that I am feeling quite bummed about not being able to take part. But this winter/spring will see me finishing my Masters thesis, and, after the time I spent putting this together last night, DS 106 would just be too compelling a reason to not transcribe that 90 minute interview.

Here is the gist of a potential DS 106 assignment (suggested, I believe, by Tom Woodward)

Make an animated gif from your favorite/least favorite movie capturing the essence of a key scene. Make sure the movement is minimal but essential.

So, here is my contribution.

From Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. This captures the moment where Alex, sitting with his droogs in the Korova Milk Bar, hears a woman singing opera. As that sly smile creeps across his face, we are fooled into thinking that he has nothing but scorn and derision for the older group of well dressed people sitting in the bar, and that he is about to call his droogs and go all malarky on their asses. But, what becomes clear a few moments after this, is that smile is not a smile of wicked delight at the thought of going ultra-violent, but a smile that revels his love of music. It is this moment that reveals both a weakness and a humanity that is ultimately both sympathetic and repulsive.  And, if you know the movie, that love of music becomes a key plot device later on when his behaviour gets modified.

I did this using the frame capture feature of the VLC player, and then created the animated gif in Adobe Fireworks.

This is the reason why I can’t do DS 106. As I beavered away on this in the basement last night, 20 more invitations to participate in my thesis research didn’t get sent out. Too…much…temptation.

What I find really interesting about this (besides the subject and the delivery method) is how Jim has taken the Instructional Design of the courses out into the open. Jim is certainly at the helm here, but he has asked his network for ideas. What kinds of assignments should this course include? How does one go about designing a MOOC?

He is crowdsourcing instructional design.

@jimgroom another #ds106 idea, 3 degrees of wikipedia competition see who can come up with most obscure wikiP “triple” (from @sleslie)

I’d like to see someone write a story/poem with a “googlewhack” in each line #ds106 (from @twoodwar)

5 Card Flickr #ds106 Story: Life is Like a Barrel of Pandas Add to pool tag ds106 in flickr Play (from @cogdog)

Maybe a good idea to use in #ds106 “Tim Burton’s new project: Storytelling with Twitter fans” http://ow.ly/3nVzz (from @jtcf)

It’s a conversation that not only are his network of educators contributing to, but also potential students for the course.  This course is being designed, at least in part, by the crowds, led by a trusted network of educators that Jim has invested the time and energy in to developing relationships with.

It is a testament to the benefits of educators being open and engaged in social spaces, and taking a long term approach to developing relationships. If Jim had just started blogging or had just started using Twitter a month ago, this type of collaboration would not be possible. The network effect would not be there.

For me, a learner trying to understand the process of designing engaging learning experiences in a technology mediated environment, this type of transparency of process is invaluable, as it is to Jim, who builds on the successes and challenges of those who came before him. Standing on the shoulders.

Rock on, my droogs. I’ll be lurking along the sides and look forward to seeing what you all come up with.


365Retro: My 2010 Flickr project (and maybe yours)

I have a project for 2010, and I’d love it if you came along. I’ve started a Flickr Group called 365Retro. The idea is to post one photo a day for the entire year. Now, 365 groups on Flickr are not new, but this one is a bit different. Instead of taking a photo with your camera, you have to scan a photo from your pre-digital photo collection.

The idea came to me while I was going through my old photo albums, which I have done periodically over the years. Every time I do I have this little voice inside me that says “I should really scan these”. But then real life took over and I never found the time.

This year, I am finding the time, mostly because my kids are starting to ask me more about my life, pre-kids. So, once a day I’ll be scanning and adding some old photos of my life pre-digital camera. I am really using this as an excuse to do what I have wanted to do for years – scan my old photos. And maybe share a few memories along the way.

One of the other reasons I am doing this is because in the past few months I have seen how a digital artifact, like a photo, can become a touchstone that connects people.

A group of radio announcers from CFGP radio enjoying a night out in Grande Prairie Alberta. From l to r: Peter Hall, Jeff Bolt, Paul Oulette, Clint Lalonde (me), Daryl Olsen.
A group of radio announcers from CFGP radio enjoying a night out in Grande Prairie Alberta. From l to r: Peter Hall, Jeff Bolt, Paul Oulette, me, Daryl Olsen.

Last fall, a friend of mine named Peter Hall passed away. I had not seen Peter for 15 years, but had worked quite closely with him for many years early in my radio career.

I heard about his death via a post on Facebook from a mutual friend. I remembered I had some photos of Peter tucked away in my photo collection. So that night I went through the photos, scanned a few, and posted them on Facebook. Before I knew it, people I had not heard from for years who both Peter and I had worked with began to comment on the photos. I reconnected with numerous old friends I had lost track of (including one who now lives in the same city as I do and we have met f2f for lunch since), and many fun memories were shared, all spurred by these photos.

Over the past few years, thanks to social networks, I have meet a whole new circle of people. Thanks to a continual stream of tweets, status updates, blog posts and Flickr photos, I have a pretty good idea of who these people are today and what they are up to right now. But ask me about these people and their lives prior to around 2005 when I started actively connecting virtually with people, and I know squat. And I want to know. I like history and knowing what happened to people in their lives that brought them to the point they are at now.

So, if you have a scanner,  some old photos, and a Flickr account, come and connect with us in the 365Retro group. Fill in the pre-digital gaps in your life to give your friends and family a more complete picture of your life and history. These photos can be whatever you want to scan and share. If you can add some context or a story that fills in the details about the subject of the photo, all the better. Add some context and share your stories and your history with the group.

If you don’t have a Flickr account, you can set one up for free. Once you have your account, join the 365Retro Flickr group. Scan and post a photo a day to your Flickr account, and send the photo to the 365Retro Group

That’s it! You’ve participated. And don’t worry if 365 sounds daunting. Contribute what you can. Or, if you don’t want to contribute, you can pop by and laugh at the various mullets and facial hair combo’s I have spouted over the years.


So, just how do you work this thing? Student stymied by textbook

There are shades of the viral video Middle Ages Tech Support in this very funny and impromptu classroom video.  Like all good humour, I suspect there there is more than a bit of truth behind the yuk’s.

In this video, student  Joe tries to interact with his textbook. The video was shot by the student’s teacher, Mr. Chase. I can see using this for more than one or two presentations I have coming up.

From Chris Lehmann’s Practical Theory blog.


The Internet, 1969 edition

Setting aside the obvious gender role stereotypes (Mom shopping while Dad pays her bills), this video from 1969 about the role of the computer in our lives is really interesting to watch, mainly because they got most of the high level stuff right. Ecommerce, online banking, email – it’s all here.


Best spam I've ever received

Wow. I am honoured. This may be the single highest mark of achievement in my life.

Clint Lalonde

It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 2008-2009 Princeton Premier Business Leaders and Professionals Honors Edition section of the registry.

The 2008-2009 edition of the registry will include biographies of the world’s most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement.

You may access our application form using the following link:

<yeah right>

On behalf of the Executive Publisher, we wish you continued success.

Jason Harris
Managing Director
Princeton Premier