November 2008 Archives

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.

community

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I'm thinking about community, what it is and what fosters it. I'm unable to separate my thoughts from earlier ones about travel and information sharing. I think a sense of community comes from shared experiences. I don't think we do much to foster shared experiences.

A welcoming community would make it easy to know the rules, the expectations, the participants. I don't think we do that, and I feel that way because I know I'm not an idiot and there's tons of stuff going on here that I don't know about. I talk with colleagues who don't know where or how to get information. I have intelligent insightful colleagues who never know where or how to participate. Let's fix it.

From the hip, I suggest a set of RSS links for any community. Decide what an initial set of regular subscriptions would look like and make the list downloadable. Agree on communication channels and make the channels obvious to new comers. Can we export a set of twitter names to follow and an easy way for a new person to follow and be followed? If you try a new communication technology, can you still maintain inclusive channels? Maybe using online names that are recognizable would help, too.

Once a community is easy to join, participate in and is welcoming to new participants we have a different way to address the community and a different way to share. All of a sudden, flying off to Wisconsin to discuss the marketing value of twitter becomes somewhat silly. I'd almost go so far as to say that if we can't do it, say it, learn it, teach it, in an online community we shouldn't travel, we should bring it here. Bring in speakers, educators, theorists. Like the Symposium- let's have non-online events here and brand them with the Symposium brand. After all, if it isn't about Teaching and Learning with Technology, who gives a darn about it?

hometown

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I remember when I first noticed my hometown was dying. I was young and it was an industrial town. Summers were spent playing along the Schuylkill river, and to get there I had to cross an old wooden bridge over the Reading railroad tracks. My side was blue collar residential, the other side was blue collar industrial. When I crossed the old bridge I could feel the planks rattle when a car went by and if I hoisted myself up on a girder, I could spit on the Reading's rails.

The industrial side of the bridge was flanked by two factories. On the right was a gate to the Bethlehem steel plant. They made steel girders and had them stacked in the yard between the bridge and the factory doors. I had a friend whose father worked there. He had thirteen paid vacation weeks a year. On the left was Nucrete. The building was out of sight, but the yard by the road was filled with pre-stressed concrete road beds and bridge abutments.

That summer, the town decided to replace the old bridge with a new concrete and steel span that didn't rattle and shake. The steel beams and pre-stressed concrete abutments were shipped down from Canada. They were cheaper than Bethlehem Steel and Nucrete products

Those plants went out of business. Firestone was sold. The factory that made steel shells for power tools closed when power tools were given high impact plastic shells. Stores began to close downtown. Some would re-open as another business; each re-opening featured cheaper and more homespun looking signs. Then they'd close and not re-open, facing the main drag with black dusty windows and their peeling, hand painted signs.


I heard on the radio that one of the big three American auto plants may close. Meanwhile, Toyota and Nissan plants in this country have as much work as they need. I heard someone suggest that one of those foreign owned plants could hire the workers from the struggling American plants. Trouble is, the big three only employ union workers and the foreign owned plants operate without needing unions.

travel

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Seems like everybody has to do it, even with an economic downturn. Fly across the country to make a job contact or listen to a commercial. I'm sure the old hands will be able to justify it; justifying expenditures seems a pre-requisite for positions of power. But even so, is it really worth it? The posts to blogs are glowing, but get somebody alone in the hall and they tell you how much the event sucked.

My suggestion? Make staff pay a percentage of the entire cost, just like we pay part of tuition. If I go to Photoshop World in Atlanta, I'll take those skills with me if I leave this job; I should pay part of the ticket price. And I have to eat and sleep anyway- why shouldn't I pay part of that cost, too?

If we can't figure out how to use this stuff to improve business, learning, and community while modeling higher ed connectedness for a new millenium- we certainly aren't worth a jet flight and stay at Motel 6. Isn't that our job?

digital insert

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Turn any camera into a digital camera.

Maybe if I had a machine shop instead of Photoshop…

book covers

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Pausch Last Lecture book cover.A colleague asked me my thoughts on using book covers on university web pages. It's not an extremely complex issue, but there are some caveats. The main one, in my mind, being where the image of the book cover came from.

Legal writings on the issue seem to agree that using an image of a book cover for review or commentary falls under Fair Use. Even regular-old Copyright law seems clear when it discusses the scope of exclusive rights and flat out states:

§113 (c) In the case of a work lawfully reproduced in useful articles that have been offered for sale or other distribution to the public, copyright does not include any right to prevent the making, distribution, or display of pictures or photographs of such articles in connection with advertisements or commentaries related to the distribution or display of such articles, or in connection with news reports.

Does that mean you can go to the Amazon site and grab an image for your web page? I'm not so sure. It's okay to use the cover, but the image of the cover is a separate work. Libraries use different sources for their cover images. Syndetic Solutions is one, as is a more folksy LibraryThing. I would strongly recommend shooting a photo of the book or scanning the cover to obtain an image that you could claim fair use of.

My own preference, when I don't have a copy, is to create an illustration of the book, and use that in instances where I can claim Fair Use. For Pausch's book, I looked at a scan on the Schlow site, then re-created a rough cover layout and tipped it into perspective. I've done the same for multimedia objects that refer to books and in presentations for the vice-provost. It seems easy and feels legal.

…of course, I'm not a lawyer. …and I wouldn't use such an image to in anyway compete with Amazon or Mr. Pausch.

on this day

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In 1970, my draft status was 1-0. I objected to war. In the thirty some years since, veterans day has always been a day of sadness; though I object to war, I support veterans. In my mind, those two just go together.

When I was much younger, ten or eleven, I sat in a theater watching a new epic war film called "The Longest Day". More powerful emotions than any I'd ever felt swept over me when I heard the pipers piping the Scottish troops ashore. At that moment I would have gone, too. To the sounds of bagpipes I would have gladly taken arms against any threat. My heart still races today. When I see the uniforms, when I hear the pipes and the snap of flags in a breeze, a lone bugler playing a solemn Taps, I'd take up arms. What is it in the spirit of men?

Veteran's Day seems engineered to do just that. When the overwhelming sadness should be making us all say "never again", something stirs deep in my heart, anxious for a call to arms.

learning style

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I recently had the opportunity to read a local author's work pre-publication. I'm not a writer, and not one for critical analysis, but the opportunity was (and still is) thrilling. It opened up fields of character analysis that I probably never would have experienced otherwise. Further discussion of characters in other media led to my being exposed to other writers, styles of development, analysis of my own life, and my relationship with my daughter. I often have similar cascades of interest and information.

This particular cascade happened primarily on paper and face-to-face. There's been some online follow-up, but with the ease of that sort of lightening research online follow-up is hard to avoid. Interesting to me is the fact that it could have happened entirely online. Even more interesting to me is the fact that it happened without university intervention.

Weighing the experiences of my institutionalized academic learning against my experiences learning through self plotted courses of inquiry, I'm seeing the scales tipping strongly in favor of self directed inquiry, especially now that the internet serves as lyceum and library. I wonder what Emerson and Thoreau would say about it?

old thinking

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C. Vann Woodward is now dead. He was a noted Southern historian, and his book The Strange Career of Jim Crow was referenced frequently by Martin Luther King. King even referred to the volume as, "the historical bible of the civil rights movement." Much of this interests me, but what just captured my thoughts is a Woodward quote about his book on page 216 in Csikszentmihalyi's Creativity :

Well, I have learned more and I have changed my mind and the reasons and conclusions about what I have written. For example, that book on Jim Crow. I have done four editions of it and I am thinking about doing a fifth, and each time it changes. And they come largely from criticisms that I have received and those criticisms come largely from a younger generation… You learn that there is nothing permanent in history. It is always changing.

What if Woodward had had a blog? What if you could pay money to subscribe to his posts about Jim Crow and participate in a dialog?

At this point, Csikszentmihalyi is discussing changes in creativity and learning that come about with age. He goes on to mention survey responses mentioning changes in the relationship with colleagues, students, and other institutions. The survey returned positives and negatives, with all negatives being from men who missed formal institutional membership and the decrease in prestige and power. Positives included acquiring greater centrality in the field and developing new forms of association, especially with students. Again, what if people with experience had the time to engage in ongoing dialog with students interested in the field?

It's difficult speculating on who or what would benefit most.

repose

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Grayscale birches in morning sun.Though I posted my last word on HDR, this is generated from an HDR image as a test. I switched the handler of my camera downloads to Adobe Bridge. As the images come in, I can choose a metadata set to append to the standard metadata that cameras generate. Usually, I just tack on copyright information—©David R. Stong for Penn State. I try to add keywords if I drop the image into a common folder of any sort, but sometimes forget. Adobe Bridge makes it easy to add IPTC Core metadata to images, but it does require human intervention.

After I've manipulated the images and saved them, the metadata is gone—understandably—and I need to add new text. The new text stays in place though, even after uploading to the server, placing it in my blog, pulling it back down and looking at it again. I can even see the code if I open the image in TextEdit (most other text editors actually render the image). Go ahead- grab it and look for your self.

I think that's just so cool. I imagine content distributed on servers connected by public networks that then make the content open and findable. The word "repository" though, feels completely different. Content isn't really tagged with metadata- the metadata exists in a controlling system that uses the metadata to point to the item. It just seems wrong to me. Repositories are sold with the idea that they make content available, but in my mind, I see them making content available to a select few. That, of course, will sell it in an academic market place where we want content to be available to all members. I guess I'm hoping for a way to have open membership.

I needed an innocuous post.

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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