moving

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I've stopped posting here. To retain some control of content, reflective and experimental posts will go in my non-aggregated blog space, the most recent is also pulled into my personal page. Business specific posts continue in company space.

more words

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When I scroll down through the posts I've made and see so many words and so few pictures it makes me very, very sad. If I could take all of the recent words—here, in comments, in other blogs, in pointers to other posts—and reduce them to an essence, I think the keynote ingredient is noting the division in ETS.

At one point I thought it was a bad thing involving bad people, but that isn't necessarily the case. Chris Brady made a statement yesterday: he worked on the cutting edge of technology, but as an administrator, he was more concerned with what will work and be around for the long haul. Brady shares the division. We have people that are driven to explore the limits of what technology can do for education, and we have people who are driven to secure meaningful education for everyone, using stable technology.

Both are needed; both ultimately serve the same goal. I really don't think the two work well together, though. Each distracts and constrains the other in ways that are damaging, not helpful. What would happen if we split?

From the hip: Exploration group with Cole Camplese commanding and Allan Gyorke as first officer. They are ETS, but work with the Classroom & Labs and the Emerging Tech groups. Service group, maybe Brett Bixler commanding and Barb Smith as first officer, would also be ETS but would do work with the Training group.

I heard someone once say they wished they could get the "Services" part removed from our group name. I wish we could get the "Technology" part removed. That would make us the Education Services arm of Information Technology Services.

secret handshake

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I just had a chat about TinyUrl. Lots of us use it, usually for very specific things. I wondered if it would be smart, based on online discussions of other options, to come up with a general recommendation. The reality is that if someone knows to ask about it—naming it, finding it, and finding a use for it—they probably can find an answer without us. There's lots of painful truth there.

What if, though, what if out there in academe there's a faculty member who wants to "get wired"—join the club, take full advantage of club membership, dive into the 21rst century digital world—but they're completely immersed in the seventeenth century's poetry on a completely involving professional level. Can we help? Can we give them a few short steps, some recommendations, a cheatsheet for membership?

What I'm picturing is some basic recommendations- like, come up with a login and password that you can use to represent you professionally in any and every online community. Always use that. Use this RSS aggregator and import these feeds. (No choices, just our best recommendation with a sidelink to the "whys".) Join de.lic.ious and create a network. Do this to add colleagues to your networks. Read your aggregator everyday and do this if pointers in those posts lead to potentially useful information.

Real basic. Real simple. Very short and limited. No lengthy explanations so we feel smart. Side links to more information if ever desired. Like an iPod, only it's a procedure not a device. Make it a pdf download, a web page, an email. Link to it so anybody can find it anywhere.

marketing ideas

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I generally work alone. I've never found creative work to be a social process and have what I consider to be my best or most creative, insightful thoughts when I'm alone in quiet world. Most of the folks that I've grown to respect for their creative insights—writers, artists, programmers, musicians, managers—are similar. Any large project can benefit from flashes of creative genius, but waiting for inspiration can rarely sit on the calendar. Brainstorming sessions can help; conceptualizing as a team.

Ideas can come from anywhere. A stray comment, a combination of shapes or colors, a song on the radio, a facial expression- anything can trigger a creative solution in someone's mind. It can happen to anyone, but some people are more open to the experience and are willing to consciously see the connections that make the stimulus valuable. When a team is put together to brainstorm or come up with a concept, there are (or should be) several skill sets represented and all of those different voices are capable of both generating ideas and catalyzing ideas.

Those ideas can appear fully crystalized or evolve from comments or side conversations, but generally, there's a pitch. Someone throws out an idea for comment. Hopefully, there are lots of concepts, lots of ideas being pitched and discussed. If you have a good team, this can be pretty exciting.

I've noticed, in sessions that I've attended now that I'm digital, that software can have a strong effect on how we view ideas. Since I've lived in Photoshop probably 8 hours a day for the past ten years there's a good chance that I'm faster at creating a professional looking visual than most people I collaborate with. If I have a chance to get my hands on Photoshop, the odds are pretty good that I can create a full-blown professional looking visual that represents any idea that I pitch. What that means is that everyone will hear ideas during a brainstorming session but when I pitch my idea, it's backed by ten years of Photoshop experience. People are subconsciously moved by seeing my idea in a professional setting. Many like it, many stop even thinking of other ideas. I've sold it. I've won.

I hope you see what a big problem that is. Anyone in the room without Photoshop skills is left out. The concept behind my work is judged solely on the wow factor added by my Adobe chops. The brilliant programmer's idea may never even be stated. The creative writer has an idea, partially formulated, but doesn't bother shaping it because of the power in the fully formed Photoshop doc.

Too bad. Really. Few have participated, few take ownership, some feel alienated and useless. Some are just glad to have the process over.

What I'd suggest, for any collaborative, creative, conceptual meeting of different minds, is that we leave software out of it. Start with paper, pencils, file cards, whiteboards. Otherwise, you may never see the idea that could've been world class or hear the comment that would have made good great.

modbook '09 update

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Axiotron has
made the software available to owners of older modbooks as a free download.
Axiotron has implemented some changes in the new version of their ModBook. A few of the changes address minor problems with features I don't use, like GPS and Bluetooth. A few do address some problems that I had, and it would be interesting (though far from necessary) to see the new hardware. Axiotron has increased screen contrast for outdoor sketching; I thought outdoor contrast was a real problem—sketching in anything other than deep shade is next to impossible. Also in the new modbooks, the cursor isn't so far below the surface, sitting up closer to the pen tip so parallax is decreased.

Since I have a modbook, I won't be trying the new hardware. The new modbooks come with a new pre-installed software package from Autodesk called Sketchbook Express and Axiotron has made the software available to owners of older modbooks as a free download; and that, I am trying.

View a larger version.Sketchbook Express boldly says that it's "for drawing, period" and "It's not a photo editor". They're obviously letting you know that it isn't Photoshop. You shouldn't expect Photoshop's complexity or, they say, difficulty; although for me, Photoshop feels a lot more like home. The Autodesk group is right-Sketchbook Express seems at first to be a slightly enhanced whiteboard with some clever interface advances. I opened it and tried a quick 'thinking thumbnail' for the BiSci illustrations I need to finish. Starting was pretty straight forward, but I needed to check the directions to figure out if I could change the brush size or if I had more than the eight colors on the tiny wheel. You can change brush sizes, and you do it in a way that's pretty useful- click on a small palette then drag anywhere on the screen and see your brush head expand or contract. It fits right in to a "direct, on screen" work flow.

There are other features too, but everything at this point seems pretty well hidden. It wasn't till I was trying to save the chromatids that I realized the dimensions of the document were finite. It was then that I saw I had layers, too. Darn. Guess I'll have to drive it farther than just around the parking lot.

blink

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Malcolm Gladwell's Blink is one of those books that Emerson warns us about reading. Ralph clearly says in Self Reliance: "A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.… …Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another." I love the line and actually thought the same way before I read Emerson; but I'm doomed to attribute it to him. I'm now doomed to attribute any insight into rapid analysis and decision making to Malcolm Gladwell's thin-slicing. Read Blink , you'll love it, but blog about it first, or you, too, will be doomed.

Thin-slicing is simply listening to what your brain tells you about data that it's collected outside of your conscious awareness. It can be good, and it can be bad- the biggest negative I see is for the strong influence personal prejudice can have on this style of thought. Gladwell mentions the fact that most CEOs are above average in height. There's no rational reason for that- it just happens to be a quality we admire. Some one applies for a position, height is noted subconsciously, then preferences are slanted without our conscious knowledge. Our sub-conscious goes on to help us rationalize the decision. Racial and gender prejudices in interviews are often the results of the same sort of unconscious preferences being rationalized.

The good, though, is very worthwhile. It keeps chimpanzees from being eaten by cheetahs. Trust your gut. The idea has little place in academe, where careers are made over minutiae and final decisions may represent the end of funding. But if we were actually responsible for looking at something to assess its value in, say, a security or safety issue, wouldn't rapid assessment and decision making by experienced minds rather than long term investigation let us deliver the most usable results?

just wonderin'

class

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When a UC Berkeley news release at the beginning of the week made my blood run a bit cold, I had a lot going on, so I figured I'd let the folks paying off their BMWs with opinion papers run with it. I posted to twitter and moved on. I haven't seen anything though. I've been busy. Or maybe I'm over reacting. The news piece, EEGs show brain differences between poor and rich kids. seems to say that the upper classes are smarter than the lower classes because of class status.

Okay, lest I be accused of putting spin on the scientific statements, the news release says, "…normal 9- and 10-year-olds differing only in socioeconomic status have detectable differences in the response of their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is critical for problem solving and creativity." That to me clearly says class causes differences in specific brain function. Later in the article the reporters back off a bit, saying, "The researchers suspect that stressful environments and cognitive impoverishment are to blame" and "environmental conditions have such a strong impact on brain development" but I think the initial statements are irresponsible at best.

Isn't this the same sort of misguided reporting that had us learning people born in the 1950's distrust authority and people born in the 1920's are hard working and patriotic? Isn't it the same as the logic behind a statement like, "homosexuality causes aids?"

I hope the economic down turn doesn't have these researchers losing funding and having to summer in the states.

its com

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We need a staffed news room. Marketing people tasked with planning events and campaigns can not staff a news room.

For quite a while Jamie Oberdick has been reading blog posts, condensing them to a certain extent and collecting important ones in one place for an easy read. He also links out to an interesting outsider story everyday in a way that encourages staff discussion in TLT blog space. He posts weather to twitter. This is useful, well intentioned, and well executed. He does it solo.

Could we hire Jamie a staff? Let a group of student and part time staff read all our blogs, all our newswires, our listservs, our twitters and forums. Let the staff condense and aggregate. Let them translate technical talk. Let them check and verify facts just like a real news room.

Don't use the staff for other hair-brained ideas. A communication group like this needs to communicate, not plan marketing events. They need to send information regularly through multiple channels- so staff can call a phone number to hear a tape; subscribe and get the same condensed information through twitter on phone or laptop; subscribe to a "condensed books" version in a blog; receive a newswire email. If we have staff without internet access, distribute a daily flyer. Multiple channels, consistent information, at regular intervals (I'd hope for twice daily).

If technology isn't solving the problem, use something that will. People can check facts. People can edit and condense (possibly to 140 characters). People can translate technical updates and relay the impact in understandable form. Computers don't do that. And all of our people are not capable of creating clear, concise text.

EDIT: News aggregation is the future. It's obvious. Why pay reporters when everyone is a reporter? Pay people to collect and make sense of the reports. See: Times Extra: The New York Times Opens Web Front Page to Outside Content. This is a no-brainer....

PSD CS4 first shot

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Tabs, docked panels, spring loaded panel sets—yuck. Hate 'em all. And Application Frames? That's why I hate Photoshop on Windows. Who works that way? I don't use browser tabs, I don't use tabs in BBEdit. When I work, I work between open images in different apps. I have all my tools on a separate monitor, all open, all the time. I can grab a crescent wrench with my eyes closed.

When I saw the Deke films on Lynda.com showing the new Adobe interface I was horrified. When Deke actually liked the Application Frame on a Mac, my world just about ended. I've dreaded it; but since the new CS4 suite would cripple the dinosaur I'm on, I haven't experimented. Till now.

I realized that the modbook runs Mac OS10.5 on a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo and could do a credible job of running the app. This weekend I downloaded Photoshop and Flash CS4 trials to the modbook. The Modbook is painfully tiny, and will give me ample reason to learn the new gui. Not that I really want to, but it might be a necessity.

When I first went digital, I preferred using Fractal Design's Painter. Painter and Photoshop we're both in version 3 at the time and I thought Painter was amazing compared to the ugly, brittle Photoshop. Everyone else, however, used Photoshop. My job included troubleshooting software problems for everyone else so I chose to focus on the dominant player.

Still seems like a good plan. I'm sure I'll post more after some exploration.

impressions

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As I age, learn, and change, I think about changes in the way we all respond to images and the way perceptions have changed through history. I've written about it occasionally: in reference to drawing in Flash—which will be more important now that you can draw the same way in Illustrator—and in my perceptions of the impact of gaming.

Recently I was reading through old feeds and found a blog with a flickr stream featuring iconic photos of American history. The slide show is made of images that are probably very familiar to you. If you have a moment, click over to flickr and check it out; you'll see what I mean. In his accompanying blog post, David Erickson claims that the glut of images in our mass media has brought about the death of the iconic image. I know there were those too who claimed television would kill radio and VCRs would kill the movie industry. So even if I don't believe iconic images are dead, I do agree that there is a change taking place.

A difference that I see that Erickson doesn't seem to account for is the passage of time. He mentions the twin towers, how everyone can picture the event, but there's no single image. I think there will be. Maybe not a single shot so much as an evocative view. In the slide show Erickson created he has images that are as clear to me as the twin towers. John-john saluting the flag over his dad's funeral bier, for instance. I remember the image- but actually, I remember one like it. I saw the event in grainy black and white TV and in subsequent news casts. If you check google images, you'll see that there are actually many shots of the event. Different angles, different crops, different moments in time varying by seconds. They are all "iconic".

So I've been using too many words lately. I'll stop here. Are there any images of the past couple of years that you see as "iconic"? Or do you think iconic single images are dead? Help me see the bigger picture.

Penn State
April 18, Symposium 2009; reimagine.
New content. Symposium 2008.Digital Commons at Penn State. Improve the workplace; hire for variety.

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