In particular, some asked about alternate projects for basing education projects around which aren’t WordPress. Some suggested using WithKnown which is spectacular for its interaction model and flexibility. I suspect that many in the conversation haven’t heard of or added webmentions (for cross-site/cross-platform conversations or notifications) or micropub to their WordPress (or other) sites to add those pieces of functionality that Known comes with out of the box.
Another section of the conversation mentioned looking for ways to take disparate comments from students on their web presences and aggregating them in a more unified manner for easier consumption by the teacher and other students (as opposed to subscribing to each and every student’s RSS feed, a task which can be onerous in classrooms larger than 20 people). To me this sounded like the general concept of a planet, and there are a few simple ways of accomplishing this already, specifically using RSS.
I was also thrilled to hear the ideas of POSSE and PESOS mentioned in such a setting!
An Invitation to Attendees
I’d invite those in attendance at the Domains 17 conference to visit not only the Indieweb wiki, but to feel free to actively participate in the on-going daily discussions (via IRC/Slack/Matrix/Web). I suspect that if there’s enough need/desire that the community would create a dedicated #education channel to help spur the effort to continue to push the idea of owning one’s own domain and using it for educational purposes out into the mainstream. The wiki pages and the always-on chat could be useful tools to help keep many of the educators and technologists who attended Domains17 not only connected after the event, but allow them to continue to push the envelope and document their progress for the benefit of others.
I’ll admit that one of my favorite parts of the Indieweb wiki is that it aggregates the work of hundreds of others in an intuitive way so that if I’m interested in a particular subject I can usually see the attempts that others have made (or at least links to them), determine what worked and didn’t for them, and potentially find the best solution for my particular use case. (I suspect that this is some of what’s missing in the “Domains” community at the moment based on several conversations I heard over the past several days.)
In Our Computers, Ourselves, a look at the ways technology affects us, and the main question is : Are computers changing human character? You'll hear from cyborgs, bullies, neuroscientists and police chiefs about whether our closeness with computers is changing us as a species.
Possibly not as interesting to me because I’ve watched this space more closely over the past 20 years or so. Still it’s an interesting episode asking some great questions.
I can’t believe I flew through season one so quickly.
In September, the first reports of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries
exploding hit social media. At first, Samsung identified the issue as one
relating to the lithium polymer battery manufacturing process by Samsung
SDI, where too much tension was used in manufacturing, and offered to
repair affected phones. But several weeks later, some of the batteries in
those replacement units also exploded once they were in the hands of
customers -- causing Samsung to make the bold decision to not only recall
everything, but to cancel the entire product line.
This is every battery engineer’s nightmare. As hardware engineers
ourselves, Sam and I followed the story closely. If it was only a battery
part issue and could have been salvaged by a re-spin of the battery, why
cancel the product line and cede several quarters of revenue to
competitors? We believe that there was more in play: that there was a
fundamental problem with the design of the phone itself.
Fletch and the Man Who
Fletch #6 (in the stories' chronological order: #9)
Fiction; Mystery and Suspense
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
August 1, 1983; re-released September 1, 2004
“A girl jumped off the motel’s roof. Five minutes ago.” "Give it to me straight. Does the girl have anything to do with us? I mean, with the campaign? The presidential candidate?" "It's your job, Fletch, to make damned sure she didn't." FLETCH and the Man Who When Fletch arrives as the new press representative for Governor Caxton Wheeler’s presidential campaign, he isn’t sure which mystery to solve first: what his new job actually is or why the campaign has been leaving dead women in its tracks. FLETCH and the Man Who He finds himself on the other side of the press, a human shield deflecting the questions he is asking himself. Are the murders just coincidence, or is a cold-hearted killer looking for a job in the White House? FLETCH and the Man Who When the campaign shifts into high gear, Fletch’s skills are working overtime in a desperate bid of his own to find the killer and to make sure the governor doesn’t lose any more votes.
I’m slowly nearing the end of the entire Fletch series, but they still manage to stay relevant and interesting. Fletch and the Man Who is certainly no exception. In fact, I might argue that it is not only still very relevant to modern culture, but that it has actually ripened with age.
Caxton’s Technology Platform
The most interesting portions of the book were the prescience of the role of technology in modern life that were described within it. Mcdonald wrote this in 1983 long before the advent or ubiquitization of satellite communications, cellular phones, desktop computers, and even the internet. Yet somehow the discussion being pushed by the lead presidential candidate in the story feels very forward thinking and is highly relevant even today. Given the rise of Twitter and Facebook, it may actually be more interesting and relevant today than when the book was written in the early 1980s. Interestingly it feels like we have yet to figure out where technology is taking us. This book brings up a lot of philosophical ideas that we’re still heavily grappling with and on even deeper levels. Some of the mentions of religion and politics are all still alive and well in the modern political scene (though Communism/Marxism have died and disappeared after this book was written) and are just as touchy in their relation to technology. The recent presidential campaign certainly highlighted some of these technology issues, particularly with relation to the effect on political communication via fake news and Facebook. Mcdonald takes aim at the idea of “truth” within a political campaign and having a well informed electorate.
There is some really great satire on politics in the book. Oddly, not much of it originates with Fletch or his views on life. While there are a handful of good zingers that Fletch delivers in his wry signature fashion, this book seemed like a major departure in that the supporting characters take on the typical Fletch role of smartasses. This felt interesting and almost natural from a storytelling point of view as Fletch himself actually throws off his typical rebel character mantle to “join the establishment” and run interference for the presidential candidate’s press corps. Most interesting to me a lot of the mentions about politics still play as well today as they did 30+ years ago.
We meet one of Fletch’s old war buddies and learn a few new pieces of backstory that flesh out his character a bit more, which is something I didn’t expect as much of at this point in the series.
There isn’t as much sexual tension in this as in some of the past works, but Freddie Arbuthnot makes a reappearance and really forces Fletch to work overtime for her approval. This seemed more interesting to me than some of Fletch’s past sexual exploits which seemed to come too easily for him. It’s more interesting to see him have to work at creating a relationship, particularly with a woman who had previously thrown herself at him.
Of interest to me with regard to the plotting and the reveal at the end was that there were a nice number of potential suspects. Better, despite my decade+ affair with Law & Order and similar procedurals on television, there was just enough psychological subtlety and distance that the reveal of the killer was not only well motivated but also hidden enough to be entertaining right up to the end. (No spoilers here…)
One thing I did miss was the complete lack of phony characters invented by Fletch as cover stories. To my recollection there were none in this installment. I did however notice that a despicable character in the plot had the name Hanrahan which was (probably not coincidentally) one of the fictional names that popped up in a cover story Fletch spun in the film version of the first book:
Well now, you know that and I know that, but… somebody’s bucking for a promotion. Probably that pederast Hanrahan. I don’t know. All I know is if I don’t go back with something, you and your son-in-law are going to be the scapegoats of the week.
This book would have been out and available well in advance of the May 31, 1985 release of the film.
There were a few tidbits that could have been better resolved at the end (what was Caxton really doing during those disappearances?), but overall, this was a very satisfying and interesting read. It’s certainly made me think about politics and the philosophy of technology in a different way than I have been recently, and for that this may have been to me the most interesting book in the series so far. Some of the philosophy in particular deserves additional thought and study, and may motivate me to actually re-read this one.
08/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
11/21/16 21.0% done; “Fletch has a new job, and like usual, the first few minutes of the book throw us right into a riveting high concept. Where we’re ultimately headed is anyone’s guess…”
11/22/16 22.0% done
11/23/16 35.0% done; “Usually Fletch is the one with all the sharp, ascerbic statements, but in this installment I’m noticing that he’s the tame one and everyone else is somehow playing the part he usually does.”
11/24/16 56.0% done
11/25/16 Finished book; “There’s some great stuff in the last half of the book about Wheeler’s platform that is eerily prescient of the situation we now find ourselves in with regard to a heavily internet connected world and who owns it. It’s also an odd feeling reading this after experiencing what’s recently happened in the 2016 presidential election and it’s ensuing results.”
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
On a presidential campaign, all the crises are biggies. You’ve only got a few minutes to learn that.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 26-27
Added on Thursday, November 3, 2016 11:39:44 PM
Highlight (orange) – Location 41-41
This is a great word that’s usually only used in horse racing settings. I suspect that it’s second most-oft used setting is politics, so it’s certainly at home here.
Added on Thursday, November 3, 2016 11:41:19 PM
“I knew you had something other than pretzels between the ears.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 75-76
Added on Thursday, November 3, 2016 11:44:42 PM
“Going my way?” he asked.
“No,” she answered. “I’m on my way up.”
“You don’t read the Newsworld Syndicate?”
“Not on crime. Gross stuff, crime. Reports on what the coroner found in the victim’s lower intestine. I don’t even want to know what’s in my own lower intestine.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 106-108
Added on Saturday, November 5, 2016 11:06:02 PM
“You couldn’t have gotten here that fast from New York or Los Angeles or—or from wherever you hang your suspicions.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 132-133
Added on Saturday, November 5, 2016 11:07:46 PM
“The Press is The People, sir.”
“Funny,” said The Man Who. “I thought the government is.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 163-164
Added on Saturday, November 5, 2016 11:10:36 PM
The living room was decorated in Super Motel. There was a bad painting on the wall, oil on canvas, of a schooner under full sail.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 166-167
Fletch always does enjoy commenting on art, and this bit of satire about the sameness of motel rooms is no different in allowing him some commentary.
Added on Tuesday, November 8, 2016 2:16:39 AM
“Motels and gas stations expect even presidential candidates to pay their bills. It’s the American way.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 186-187
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:36:20 PM
they’d desert us faster than kittens leave a gully in the January thaw.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 190-191
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:37:00 PM
“Working on a book,” Fletch said.
“On an American western artist. You know: Edgar Arthur Tharp, Junior.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 219-221
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:39:22 PM
“Isn’t American politics a crusade of amateurs?”
“Who said that?”
“I did. I think.”
“You’re wrong. But it has a nice ring to it.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 229-232
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:40:09 PM
“I understand the job of press secretary is to keep paintin’ the picket fence around the main house. Just keep paintin’ it. Whatever’s goin’ on inside, the outside is to look pretty.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 281-282
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:46:35 PM
“Where’d you get the money?”
“You can save a lot of money by not smoking.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 296-297
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:48:09 PM
“And do you have any good ideas?”
“Just one, for now.”
“And what would that be?”
“To be loyal to you.” Fletch grinned. “Until I get a better offer. Isn’t that what you just said politics is all about?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 304-307
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:48:48 PM
“Don’t know how the press will accept him,” the governor said. “Fletch looks like breakfast to someone with a hangover.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 332-333
Added on Friday, November 11, 2016 9:51:55 PM
Highlight (gray) – Location 519-519
Should have been “lips”.
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 9:38:17 AM
“You know how to make the best of a bad situation, Fletch. And a presidential campaign is one bad situation after another.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 535-536
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 9:52:16 AM
“Walsh, you’ve been drinking.” She stood up only partway.
“Had to spend some time in the bar, Mother. Something happened. This girl—”
Doris Wheeler slapped her son, hard.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 563-566
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 9:58:41 AM
“Well,” Walsh finally said, “I’m glad I gave you my lecture on loyalty, before you saw that.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 574-574
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 9:58:55 AM
“Dearly beloved,” said the governor.
“Now you’re leaving out Arbuthnot!” said Joe Hall.
“All creatures great and small?” asked the governor.
“Why’s that man up there calling us a bunch of animals?” Stella Kirchner asked Bill Dieckmann loudly. “Trying to get elected game warden or something?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 585-590
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:00:49 AM
“Good morning,” Fletch said. “As the governor’s press representative, I make you the solemn promise that I will never lie to you. Today, on this bus, we will be passing through Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, New York, and Keokuk, Iowa. Per usual, at midday you will be flown to San Francisco for lunch. Today’s menu is clam chowder, pheasant under glass, roast Chilean lamb, and a strawberry mousse from Maine. Everything the governor says today will be significant, relevant, wise, to the point, and as fresh as the lilies in the field.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 610-614
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:05:24 AM
“Is it true you saved Walsh Wheeler’s life overseas?” Fenella Baker asked.
“That’s another thing,” Fletch said. “I will never evade any of your questions.” He turned the microphone off and hung it up.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 624-627
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:06:40 AM
“How does it feel to be an adversary of the press?” From her seat on the bus, Freddie Arbuthnot grinned up at Fletch.
“Some people,” announced Fletch, “think I always have been.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 628-630
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:07:28 AM
“You’re a help.”
“You’ll never make it.”
“I know it.”
“That’s all right.” She patted him on the arm. “I’ll destroy you as painlessly as possible.”
“Great. I’d appreciate that. Are you sure you’re up to it?”
“Up to what?”
“It will be easy,” she said. “Because of all those conflicts in yourself. You’ve never tried to be a member of the establishment before, Fletch. I mean, let’s face it: you’re a born-and-bred rebel.”
“I bought a necktie for this job.”
She studied his solid red tie. “Nice one, too. Looks like you’re already bleeding from the neck.”
“Got it in the airport in Little Rock.”
“No. They had five or six to choose from.”
“That was the best?”
“I thought so.”
“You only bought one, though, right?”
“Didn’t know how long this job would last.”
“Glad you didn’t make too big an investment in your future as a member of the establishment.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 655-671
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:12:26 AM
“The definition of a press representative. You are game as fair as any, seasoned, roasted, carved, and chewed.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 686-687
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:13:54 AM
“We’re being overcome by machines.” Freddie sat up again. “They’ll have their day. Or so they predict. And they’re always right. Right?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 748-750
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 10:19:14 AM
Your Bookmark on Location 811
Added on Sunday, November 20, 2016 11:50:32 PM
“Vic Robbins! Upton’s advance man?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 839-840
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:01:09 AM
speechwriters Phil Nolting and Paul Dobson
Highlight (yellow) – Location 831-831
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:01:26 AM
Lee Allen Parke
Highlight (yellow) – Location 827-827
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:01:49 AM
Barry Hines, the campaign’s communication chief
Highlight (yellow) – Location 833-833
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:01:59 AM
Highlight (yellow) – Location 869-869
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:02:51 AM
Michael J. Hanrahan
Highlight (yellow) – Location 906-906
His last name is the same as the pederast’s name in the film Fletch during the Poon scene; it also would have been written in time to have been read and included into the movie.
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:06:32 AM
Highlight (orange) – Location 919-919
Added on Monday, November 21, 2016 12:07:43 AM
He put his chin up at Fletch, who was still on the stairs of the campaign bus, and tried to give Fletch a penetrating look with bloodshot eyes, each in its own pool of poison.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 925-926
great bit of language for a vile character
Added on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 4:20:14 AM
Even Hanrahan’s neck was turning red. “You know how many readers I got?” he shouted.
“Yeah,” Freddie said. “Everyone in the country who can’t read, reads Newsbill. Big deal.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 948-950
Added on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 4:22:00 AM
Dr. Thom spoke with extraordinary slowness. “Anyone trying to handle the press can have anything he wants from me: poisoned gas, flamethrowers, machine guns, hand grenades. If I don’t have such medical and surgical tools on hand, I shall secure them for you at greatly reduced rates.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 968-971
Added on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 4:24:11 AM
“Do you really think so? Neither the substance of America’s favorite sport, politics, nor the substance of America’s favorite food, the hot dog, can bear too much analysis. If the innards of either American politics or the American hot dog were too fully revealed, the American would have to disavow and disgorge himself.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 976-979
similar to Bismark on laws and sausage
Added on Tuesday, November 22, 2016 4:25:06 AM
Fenella Baker and Betsy Ginsberg. I had been talking with Bill Dieckmann
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1006-1007
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:07:07 AM
Of course, if I ever come across a lawyer lying on the sidewalk, I’ll tread on his face.”
“You don’t like lawyers either?”
“Even lawyers’ mothers don’t like lawyers. If you do a survey, I think you’ll find that lawyers’ mothers are the strongest advocates of legal abortions in the land.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1013-1017
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:08:02 AM
“Ask me some questions.”
“Anything your heart desires. You know a man more from his questions than from his answers. Who said that?”
“You just did.”
“Let’s not make a note of it.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1081-1084
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:13:37 AM
The governor was smiling. “The American people don’t want anyone with deep convictions as President of the United States. People with deep convictions are dangerous. They’re incapable of the art of governing a democracy because they’re incapable of compromise. People with deep convictions put everyone who disagrees with them in prison. Then they blow the world up. You don’t want that, do you?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1098-1101
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:15:01 AM
“Didactic but not dogmatic is the rule for a good politician. Who said that?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1110-1110
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:15:43 AM
Highlight (orange) – Location 1128-1128
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:16:59 AM
Then Fletch said in a rush, “Ideology will never equalize the world. Technology is doing so.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1136-1136
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:17:41 AM
“Yeah, but Newsbill’s readers are too ashamed to identify themselves to each other.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1166-1167
This sounds a lot like many Trump supporters before the election. They wouldn’t identify until after-the-fact.
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:19:22 AM
“Arbuthnot and Hanrahan.” The governor was smoothing his jacket. “Sounds like a manufacturer of pneumatic drills.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1262-1263
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:25:09 AM
“Are we at the right school?”
“Oh, yes,” the governor said. “They couldn’t have played ‘America’ that badly without practicing it.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1322-1324
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:34:41 AM
“What kind of a story did some of you find to phone in? I saw you at the phone.”
“You don’t know?”
“Some press rep. you are. You ever been on a campaign before?”
“You’re cute, Fletcher. But I don’t think you should be on this one, either.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1336-1341
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:36:05 AM
“I used to pray in school,” Roy Filby said from the seat behind Betsy. “Before every exam. Swear like hell afterward.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1356-1357
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:37:18 AM
To Betsy, Fletch said, “I have a question for you, okay?”
“The answer is yes,” she said. “Anytime. You don’t even have to bring a bottle of wine.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1382-1384
What a way to proposition someone…
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:39:17 AM
Fletch too wondered why Fenella Baker’s face didn’t itch. Surely some of that powder had been on it since the days of Jimmy Carter.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1401-1402
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:40:26 AM
Freddie said. She continued reading Jay Daly’s Walls.
Highlight (green) – Location 1442-1442
Walls is a work of fiction from 1981 in which “Frankie O’Day, an incurable graffiti writer, has to deal with pranksterish friends, an alcoholic father, and a new romance.”
“Somebody in a presidential family ought to marry a Ginsberg. We do nice table settings.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1525-1526
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:53:21 AM
“Irwin!” Roy Filby echoed. “I’d rather see one than be one!”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1532-1532
I read this little snipe at Fletch (and the ubiquitous mention of his disliked first name) as a blatant reference to the Gelett Burgess nonsense poem Purple Cow first published in 1895. One will note the reference comes via verbal transmission rather than direct as the line is slightly modified.
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one. 
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:53:41 AM
“How did you know my name is Irwin?” Fletch asked.
The bus driver said: “Just guessed.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1551-1552
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 12:54:59 AM
“Guess they don’t think too badly of bribing schoolchildren.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1569-1569
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:04:32 PM
“Sweet Wheat, the breakfast cereal that makes kiddies yell for more.”
“Yell with the toothache,” Paul Dobson said. “They’re yelling because it makes their teeth hurt!”
“Make ’em hypertensive with sugar at breakfast,” Phil Nolting intoned, as if quoting, “then slap ’em down at school.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1572-1576
Could these two have been the inspiration for Larry and Ed on the television show The West Wing?
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:05:14 PM
“I don’t think the American people are apt to consider an older man handing out coins to little kids as Beelzebub.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1623-1623
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:08:55 PM
“Who was the first one to say ‘If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’?”
“Who was he?”
“Cooked for Henry the Eighth.” The governor gave him a weird look. “Buried under the chapel at the Tower of London. Forgot to take the poultry lacers out of roast falcons.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1638-1642
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:10:20 PM
“… It used to be that what happened in New York and Washington was important in Paramaribo, in Durban, in Kampuchea. Nothing was more important. Well, things have changed. Now we know that what happens in Santiago, in Tehran, in Peking is terribly important in New York and Washington. Nothing is more important.”
Fletch said: “Wow.”
“… The Third World, as it’s called, is no longer something out there—separate from us, inconsequential to us. Whether we like it or not, the world is becoming more sensitive. The world is becoming covered with a network of fine nerves—an electronic nervous system not unlike that which integrates our own bodies. Our finger hurts, our toe hurts and we feel it as much as if our head aches or our heart aches. Instantly now do we feel the pain in Montevideo, in Juddah, in Bandung. And yes, my friends in Winslow, we feel the pains from our own, internal third world—from Harlem, from Watts, from our reservations of Native Americans …”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1705-1713
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:19:01 PM
“… You and I know there is no theology, no ideology causing this new, sudden, total integration of the world. Christianity has had two thousand years to tie this world together … and it has not done so. Islam has had six hundred years to tie this world together … and it has not done so. American democracy has had two hundred years to tie this world together … and it has not done so. Communism has had nearly one hundred years to tie this world together… and it has not done so.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1718-1722
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:20:04 PM
“… You and I, my friends, know that technology is tying this world together, is integrating this world in a way no theology, no ideology ever could. Technology is forming a nervous system beneath the skin of Mother Earth. And you and I know that to avoid the pain, the body politic had better start responding to this nervous system immediately! If we ignore that which hurts in any part of this body earth, we shall suffer years more, generations more of the pain and misery of spreading disease. If we knowingly allow wounds to fester in any particular place, the strength, the energies of the whole world will be sapped!”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1742-1746
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:23:02 PM
At the edge of the platform, The Man Who shook hands with the congressperson as if he had never seen her before, keeping his arm long, making it seem, for the public, for the photographers, he was greeting just another well-wisher.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1755-1757
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:31:09 PM
Your Bookmark on Location 1766
Added on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:32:14 PM
“What did the governor say?” Kirchner asked.
“Well,” Fletch said, “roughly he said the world is getting it together despite man’s best ideas.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1831-1833
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 12:34:30 AM
“Part of the process of a political campaign is to go around the country listening to people. At least, a good politician listens. You said something this morning that struck me as eminently sensible. Something probably everybody knows is true, but no one has yet said. Probably only the young have grown up with this new reality in their guts, really knowing it to be true.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 1862-1864
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 12:36:52 AM
“There’s a difference between ideas and facts,” the governor said. “The people of the world will be better served with a few facts.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2003-2005
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 4:15:48 PM
Your Bookmark on Location 1991
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:01:08 PM
The governor narrowed his eyes. “Is it crap?”
Doris Wheeler’s voice became that of a reasonable lecturer. “Caxton, you know damned well the farmers and merchants of Winslow, of the U.S.A., do not want to hear about the Third World. They want to hear about their taxes, their health programs, their Social Security, their defense, their crop subsidies. The voter is a totally selfish animal! Every time the voter hears the name of a foreign country, he thinks it’s going to cost him money.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2023-2027
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:08:02 PM
“Used to hear you through the wall in Virginia. Key of C in the morning, F at night.”
“I take a cold shower in the morning.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2100-2102
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:19:55 PM
“Get the space, baby. Get the network time and the newspaper space. Builds familiarity. Recognition of the candidate, you know? What the candidate is actually saying or doing is of secondary importance, you know?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2146-2148
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:23:45 PM
statesmanship has no place on a political campaign. A campaign is punch and duck, punch and duck. Fast footwork, you know? Always smiling. The voters want to see fast action. Their attention won’t hold for anything more.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2159-2161
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:27:10 PM
“Longer than that, I. M., longer than that. Something ol’ Vic taught me, and it’s always proved to be true: statesmanship has no place on a political campaign. A campaign is punch and duck, punch and duck. Fast footwork, you know? Always smiling. The voters want to see fast action. Their attention won’t hold for anything more. From day to day, give ’em happy film, and short, reassuring statements. If you really try to say anything, really ask them to stop and think, they’ll hate you for it. They can’t think, you know? Being asked makes us feel inferior. We don’t like to feel inferior to our candidates. Against the democratic ideal, you know? The candidate’s just got to keep giving the impression he’s a man of the people—no better than they are, just doin’ a different job. No one is ever elected in this country on the basis of what he really thinks. The candidate is elected on the basis of thousands of different, comfortable small impressions, not one of which really asks the voters to think.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2158-2166
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:28:31 PM
Eulogies to a relationship never need encouragement from the listener.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2186-2186
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:30:11 PM
“Wow, a presidential campaign. What’s it like, Fletch?”
“Unreal, man. Totally unreal.”
“I believe you. On television you were wearing a coat and tie.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2264-2267
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:36:02 PM
“I’m doin’ my best, Mr. Persecutor. It’s like trying to put out a fire in a circus tent, you know? I can’t get anybody to admit there is a fire.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2302-2303
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:38:44 PM
“Sent any woe-begones to jail lately?”
“Two yesterday. No outstanding warrants on you, though. I check first thing every morning.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2326-2328
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:41:16 PM
“California can always use a few more people who wear suits.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2330-2330
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:41:30 PM
“Simple enough deal,” Fletch said. “Tit for tat.”
“Tits for that,” Judy said.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2410-2411
Added on Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:49:38 PM
There are some old books in the cabin—Ellery Queen, S.S. van Dyne. He reads them sometimes, in bed.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2517-2517
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:43:29 AM
“Why shouldn’t I help them out?” Flash Grasselli asked reasonably. “I’m bigger than they are.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2556-2557
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:46:51 AM
Abruptly Walsh sat up in his chair. “You’re always making jokes. Is that how you escape?”
Slowly, carefully, Fletch said, “No. That’s why the chicken crossed the road.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2703-2704
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:58:20 AM
“As sure as God made anchovies.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2711-2711
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:59:21 AM
“I take from the unhealthiest doctor I could find. He’s a wreck. Fat as the federal budget. He smokes like a public utility; drinks as if he has as many different mouths as a White House source. When he breathes, you’d think someone is running a caucus in his chest. Thought he’d be easy on me. Tolerant. Relaxed. Not a bit of it. Still he gives me that old saw, ‘Don’t do as I do; do as I say.’ I guess I should. Already he’s invested in a burial plot, he tells me. And he’s only thirty-two.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2868-2872
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:10:08 AM
Campaigns at first need idealism and youth. Once the primaries are won, cynicism takes over and idealism gets a bus ticket home. You don’t mind being used?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2909-2910
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:14:29 AM
“You look like your heart just sat down and took off its shoes.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2947-2947
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:17:32 AM
Your Bookmark on Location 2998
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:22:48 AM
“I’m talking about the gathering and dissemination of information,” the governor said, “instead of weapons.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3004-3005
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 12:57:58 PM
Fletch had been in funeral processions that went faster.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2989-2989
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 1:00:02 PM
“Through this technology, the people of this earth are beginning to recognize each other, know each other, and realize their commonality of interest.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 2993-2994
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 1:03:51 PM
Lansing Sayer wasn’t getting much into his notebook.
“Am I wrong to think that most of the bad things that happen on this earth happen because people don’t have the right facts at the right time? It’s all very well to believe something. You can go cheering to war over what you believe. You can starve to death happily over what you believe. But would wars ever happen if everybody had the same facts? There is no factual basis for starvation on this earth,” Governor Caxton Wheeler said softly. “Not yet, there isn’t.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3012-3016
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 1:12:03 PM
“Facts are facts,” said The Man Who. “I’m not talking about faith, belief, opinions. I’m talking about facts. How come most children in this world know Pele’s every move playing soccer, know every line of Muhammad Ali’s face, and yet this same technology has not been used to teach them the history of their own people, or how to read and write their own language? How come a bank in London can know, up to the minute, how much money a bank in New York has, to the penny, but a kid in Liverpool who just had his teeth bashed out doesn’t know three thousand years ago a Greek analyzed gang warfare accurately? How come the governments of this world know where every thermonuclear missile is, on land, under land, on sea, under sea, and yet this technology has never been used for the proper allocation of food? Is that a dumb question?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3018-3024
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 1:14:56 PM
Anyone who thinks he’s absolutely right is capable of anything, including murder.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3097-3098
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 1:55:45 PM
“So this is how you live.” Freddie looked around his hotel room. “Your suitcase is dark brown. Mine is light blue.”
“Yeah,” Fletch said. “That’s the difference between boys and girls.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3161-3163
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:03:34 PM
“Got to make clothes last on a trip like this.”
“I never wear that jacket.”
“Then why do you carry it?”
“That’s the jacket I carry.” He pointed to one on the unmade bed. “That’s the jacket I wear.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3190-3193
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:06:12 PM
“Relationships between men and women can be nice. I guess.” He watched her from the chair where he was sitting. “Can’t say you never had one, Freddie.”
“I live out of a suitcase, Fletcher. All the time. Anything that doesn’t fit in the suitcase can’t come with me.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3202-3205
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:07:24 PM
“Next to Solov, Maxim Gorky would seem a fun date.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3293-3293
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:14:13 PM
“Guess you got to take that chance, jackass. If I can’t print something that looks like answers, I’m going to print something that looks like questions.”
“Oh, I see,” Fletch said brilliantly. “That’s why people refer to what you write as questionable. ’Bye, Mike.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3328-3331
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:17:07 PM
Your Bookmark on Location 3333
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 2:18:05 PM
“Young people always think it’s clever to disparage our institutions.”
“Politically, it’s suicide. As I said last night. You can knock the institutions on their goddamned asses,” her voice grated, “as long as you always give them lip service. That’s the only reality.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3426-3429
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:23:19 PM
“I wouldn’t vote for your husband for dogcatcher!” the driver shouted. “He doesn’t know a bitch when he sees one!”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3472-3473
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:29:59 PM
The wind, the sound of traffic in the parking lot, the noise of jet airplanes passing overhead made the governor look like a frantic, laryngytic opera singer.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3492-3493
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 3:31:58 PM
to draw up a sort of international constitution guaranteeing that no one—no nation, no political party, no group—gets to control too large a share of the new technology.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3753-3755
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 4:21:02 PM
Highlight (orange) – Location 3808-3808
Mcdonald has used this at least once before in another Fletch book
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 4:28:09 PM
Buy him a one-way ticket to Tashkent.
Highlight (yellow) – Location 3936-3936
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 7:24:10 PM
Highlight (gray) – Location 3957-3957
Was this meant to be Caxton’s?
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 7:25:34 PM
“Yeah,” Fletch said to Freddie Arbuthnot in the airport terminal. “I lost my job again.”
“You’re good at that.”
“I think it’s what I do best.”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 4330-4333
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 8:02:31 PM
“Gee, Freddie.” He took the tickets away from her and shoved them into his own pocket. “Why do you want to make a mystery out of everything?”
Highlight (yellow) – Location 4391-4392
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 8:11:08 PM
Your Bookmark on Location 4448
Finished with book
Added on Friday, November 25, 2016 8:11:22 PM
Guide to highlight colors
Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word Green–Reference to read Blue–Interesting Quote Gray–Typography Problem Red–Example to work through
It may take me a week or so to finish putting some general thoughts and additional resources together based on the two day conference so that I might give a more thorough accounting of my opinions as well as next steps. Until then, I hope that the details and mini-archive of content below may help others who attended, or provide a resource for those who couldn’t make the conference.
Overall, it was an incredibly well programmed and run conference, so kudos to all those involved who kept things moving along. I’m now certainly much more aware at the gaping memory hole the internet is facing despite the heroic efforts of a small handful of people and institutions attempting to improve the situation. I’ll try to go into more detail later about a handful of specific topics and next steps as well as a listing of resources I came across which may provide to be useful tools for both those in the archiving/preserving and IndieWeb communities.
Archive of materials for Day 2
Below are the recorded audio files embedded in .m4a format (using a Livescribe Pulse Pen) for several sessions held throughout the day. To my knowledge, none of the breakout sessions were recorded except for the one which appears below.
Summarizing archival collections using storytelling techniques
Presentation: Summarizing archival collections using storytelling techniques by Michael Nelson, Ph.D., Old Dominion University
Saving the first draft of history
Special guest speaker: Saving the first draft of history: The unlikely rescue of the AP’s Vietnam War files by Peter Arnett, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for journalism
Kiss your app goodbye: the fragility of data journalism
Panel: Kiss your app goodbye: the fragility of data journalism
Featuring Meredith Broussard, New York University; Regina Lee Roberts, Stanford University; Ben Welsh, The Los Angeles Times; moderator Martin Klein, Ph.D., Los Alamos National Laboratory
The future of the past: modernizing The New York Times archive
Panel: The future of the past: modernizing The New York Times archive
Featuring The New York Times Technology Team: Evan Sandhaus, Jane Cotler and Sophia Van Valkenburg; moderated by Edward McCain, RJI and MU Libraries
Lightning Rounds: Six Presenters
Lightning rounds (in two parts)
Six + one presenters: Jefferson Bailey, Terry Britt, Katherine Boss (and team), Cynthia Joyce, Mark Graham, Jennifer Younger and Kalev Leetaru
1: Jefferson Bailey, Internet Archive, “Supporting Data-Driven Research using News-Related Web Archives” 2: Terry Britt, University of Missouri, “News archives as cornerstones of collective memory” 3: Katherine Boss, Meredith Broussard and Eva Revear, New York University: “Challenges facing preservation of born-digital news applications” 4: Cynthia Joyce, University of Mississippi, “Keyword ‘Katrina’: Re-collecting the unsearchable past” 5: Mark Graham, Internet Archive/The Wayback Machine, “Archiving news at the Internet Archive” 6: Jennifer Younger, Catholic Research Resources Alliance: “Digital Preservation, Aggregated, Collaborative, Catholic” 7. Kalev Leetaru, senior fellow, The George Washington University and founder of the GDELT Project: A Look Inside The World’s Largest Initiative To Understand And Archive The World’s News
Technology and Community
Presentation: Technology and community: Why we need partners, collaborators, and friends by Kate Zwaard, Library of Congress
Breakout: Working with CMS
Working with CMS, led by Eric Weig, University of Kentucky
Alignment and reciprocity
Alignment & reciprocity by Katherine Skinner, Ph.D., executive director, the Educopia Institute
Closing remarks by Edward McCain, RJI and MU Libraries and Todd Grappone, associate university librarian, UCLA
Live Tweet Archive
Reminder: In many cases my tweets don’t reflect direct quotes of the attributed speaker, but are often slightly modified for clarity and length for posting to Twitter. I have made a reasonable attempt in all cases to capture the overall sentiment of individual statements while using as many original words of the participant as possible. Typically, for speed, there wasn’t much editing of these notes. Below I’ve changed the attribution of one or two tweets to reflect the proper person(s). Fore convenience, I’ve also added a few hyperlinks to useful resources after the fact that didn’t have time to make the original tweets. I’ve attached .m4a audio files of most of the audio for the day (apologies for shaky quality as it’s unedited) which can be used for more direct attribution if desired. The Reynolds Journalism Institute videotaped the entire day and livestreamed it. Presumably they will release the video on their website for a more immersive experience.
Condoms were required issue in Vietnam–we used them to waterproof film containers in the field.
Do not stay close to the head of a column, medics, or radiomen. #warreportingadvice
I told the AP I would undertake the task of destroying all the reporters’ files from the war.
Instead the AP files moved around with me.
Eventually the 10 trunks of material went back to the AP when they hired a brilliant archivist.
“The negatives can outweigh the positives when you’re in trouble.”
Some quick thoughts and an archive of my Twitter notes during the day
Today I spent most of the majority of the day attending the first of a two day conference at UCLA’s Charles Young Research Library entitled “Dodging the Memory Hole: Saving Online News.” While I knew mostly what I was getting into, it hadn’t really occurred to me how much of what is on the web is not backed up or archived in any meaningful way. As a part of human nature, people neglect to back up any of their data, but huge swaths of really important data with newsworthy and historic value is being heavily neglected. Fortunately it’s an interesting enough problem to draw the 100 or so scholars, researchers, technologists, and journalists who showed up for the start of an interesting group being conglomerated through the Reynolds Journalism Institute and several sponsors of the event.
What particularly strikes me is how many of the philosophies of the IndieWeb movement and tools developed by it are applicable to some of the problems that online news faces. I suspect that if more journalists were practicing members of the IndieWeb and used their sites not only for collecting and storing the underlying data upon which they base their stories, but to publish them as well, then some of the (future) archival process may be easier to accomplish. I’ve got so many disparate thoughts running around my mind after the first day that it’ll take a bit of time to process before I write out some more detailed thoughts.
Twitter List for the Conference
As a reminder to those attending, I’ve accumulated a list of everyone who’s tweeted with the hashtag #DtMH2016, so that attendees can more easily follow each other as well as communicate online following our few days together in Los Angeles. Twitter also allows subscribing to entire lists too if that’s something in which people have interest.
Archiving the day
It seems only fitting that an attendee of a conference about saving and archiving digital news, would make a reasonable attempt to archive some of his experience right?! Toward that end, below is an archive of my tweetstorm during the day marked up with microformats and including hovercards for the speakers with appropriate available metadata. For those interested, I used a fantastic web app called Noter Live to capture, tweet, and more easily archive the stream.
Note that in many cases my tweets don’t reflect direct quotes of the attributed speaker, but are often slightly modified for clarity and length for posting to Twitter. I have made a reasonable attempt in all cases to capture the overall sentiment of individual statements while using as many original words of the participant as possible. Typically, for speed, there wasn’t much editing of these notes. I’m also attaching .m4a audio files of most of the audio for the day (apologies for shaky quality as it’s unedited) which can be used for more direct attribution if desired. The Reynolds Journalism Institute videotaped the entire day and livestreamed it. Presumably they will release the video on their website for a more immersive experience.
If you prefer to read the stream of notes in the original Twitter format, so that you can like/retweet/comment on individual pieces, this link should give you the entire stream. Naturally, comments are also welcome below.
Below are the audio files for several sessions held throughout the day.
Greetings and Keynote
Greetings: Edward McCain, digital curator of journalism, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and University of Missouri Libraries and Ginny Steel, university librarian, UCLA
Keynote: Digital salvage operations — what’s worth saving? given by Hjalmar Gislason, vice president of data, Qlik
Why save online news? and NewsScape
Panel: “Why save online news?” featuring Chris Freeland, Washington University; Matt Weber, Ph.D., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; Laura Wrubel, The George Washington University; moderator Ana Krahmer, Ph.D., University of North Texas
Presentation: “NewsScape: preserving TV news” given by Tim Groeling, Ph.D., UCLA Communication Studies Department
Born-digital news preservation in perspective
Speaker: Clifford Lynch, Ph.D., executive director, Coalition for Networked Information on “Born-digital news preservation in perspective”
The second in an occasional look at the technology I use regularly
riends, family and colleagues are frequently asking my advice on what kind of devices and software I find most useful. So following in the tradition of Bernard Pivot and subsequently the Actor’s Studio, and sites like LifeHacker, Supersite for Windows, and many others, I’ve borrowed a handful of standard “get-to-know-you” type of questions that others might find helpful.
Keep in mind that given an infinite budget, I’d have quite a bit more or possibly be using something slightly different or more recent, but the following are things I actually use on an almost daily basis. I also have a large handful of occasional devices and tricks that are not included in the list for brevity.
Fifty years from now, this list should also be fairly entertaining to reread. The first installment of the series can be found here: What I Use: April 2014. It includes some additional sections and material that hasn’t changed since then.
Samsung Galaxy S6 on Sprint – I’ve had this for a couple of months now and like it a lot, but I honestly feel like there hasn’t been anything really new or exciting in the phone space for a while. Phones are becoming commodity items.
Lenovo Flex3 – I’ve had it for a couple of months and love its size, weight, and the fact that I can flip it over into a tablet. I’m still occasionally using my Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E431, but planning on decommissioning it shortly.
I am using the final, shipping professional version of Windows 8.1 with Update 1 on my primary laptop PC. Windows 10 is starting to roll out, and I’m about to make the jump…
I still have a multi-boot set up on a 10″ Asus EeePC with XP, Windows 7, JoliOS (flavor of Linux), and a multi-boot set up on an HP desktop with XP, Vista, Windows 7, and the latest Ubuntu Linux, but I’ve rarely used them in the last year.
I made the jump to Office 365 Home Premium about a year ago and generally love it, particularly being able to dump almost everything I have into the cloud via OneDrive with a 1+TB storage option. For the bulk of my writing though, I still eschew Word and use WinEdt as a text editor/user interface in combination with a MiKTeX installation and Adobe Acrobat to typeset in LaTeX – the output is simply glorious. I’ve actually been doing the typesetting and layout for a client’s novel with this set up over the past few months, and it is truly great despite having do dig under the hood a bit more than I’d prefer to get the exact results I want.
Since my last “What I’m Using” I’ve moved away from Dropbox as my primary cloud service and prefer OneDrive for syncing across multiple platforms. I still have a huge amount in Dropbox and still use it for some collaboration. For email, contacts, and calendar management, I primarily use Outlook, though for some collaborative work, I have been using Google’s Calendar a lot more in the last year particularly for its simple integration into my phone. I also have a well-exercised Gmail account for sifting most of my social media accounts, as well as a lot of bacon and spam. I have gone through lately and cut the number of notifications I get by email in half. For reading Gmail, I primarily use Googles Inbox app on my cell phone when I’m waiting in lines.
Internet and communications
For web browsing, I use the latest version of Google Chrome typically to the exclusion of all others. For instant messaging and video chat I use either Skype or Google Hangouts depending on the others involved, though I generally prefer Hangouts.
I obviously use WordPress, but also have a few sites running Drupal as well. Over the past year, I’ve become a big proponent of the IndieWeb movement which fits in line with my long held beliefs about personal data. Toward this end, I’ve added a lot of IndieWeb plugins to my WordPress workflow, and I also love WithKnown which I use as my primary social stream tool. It dovetails with most major social networks incredibly well.
I do not use any third party security software as Windows Defender in Windows 8.1 includes anti-virus functionality and this seems to be more than enough. I tried a free trial of McAfee with my Flex3, but it was awfully bulky and annoying and the UI was just dreadful. Generally just not clicking on any links you aren’t 100% certain are secure will cover most problems with viruses and malware.
Music: I rarely, if ever, purchase music online or otherwise; I’m also not currently subscribing to any online delivery systems. For the last year, I’ve been using Spotify to the exclusion of almost all others, though I still visit Pandora, Google Music, and Amazon Music depending on my location and needs. Most of my owned music, audiobooks, and video content is managed through iTunes. I use DoubleTwist to sync my iTunes playlists and music to my Android devices. I sporadically use XM/Sirius in the car, but can’t bear to spend more than about $4 a month on such service when there are so many alternatives. I’m currently on an XM/Sirius hiatus, but I do miss the clarity and the dedicated bluegrass station.
Video: Netflix is the primary video service I use on an almost daily basis, though Amazon Prime’s streaming services is a fairly close second. Given the general availability of the content I want to watch, I find it rare to need to purchase any video content on any other platforms. I don’t often rip DVD’s, but when I do, I love Handbrake, which seems to be the sine qua non in the area. I spend a lot more time using my Lenovo Flex3 for Netflix with my Chromecast a close second.
Books: I have such a complicated set up with regard to ebooks, it will take an entire post to cover it all. In simplest terms, I manage everything through a well-integrated combination of Calibre, Goodreads.com, Amazon’s Kindle, Adobe Digital Editions, Adobe Acrobat Reader, DJView, and OneDrive. Most books I get are either purchased through Amazon or are borrowed from a litany of local public libraries. I’ve spent the last several years converting almost all the reading I do to electronic reading. I still prefer to read on paper, but the overall process is much simpler in digital. Most technical books I read within some version of Adobe Acrobat for its ability to highlight, comment, and create notes. For most of the last year, a lot of my pleasure/fiction reading has been done via the BaltoReader app on my Amazon Kindle 7″ which allows me to read at greatly increased speeds. (I covered it and some other options here: Speed Reading on the Web and Mobile.
Audiobooks: I’ve loved Audible.com for a long time, but I’m still on a hiatus from it playing catch up on some of the content I’ve accumulated over the past couple of years. It’s an awesome service. I also often use the Overdrive service through several local libraries for downloading and listening to audiobooks. While Overdrive is clunky and smothered in DRM, it works and is just good enough, and I’ve yet to find anything better that is free. When necessary, I’ll also borrow CD’s from the local library for listening as well.
Photos: I still do a horrible job of managing my thousands of photos. In line with a general switch to OneDrive, I autoback up my photos from my phone there, but still also prefer to use Google+ photos. I will admit that some recent changes to Flickr make me want to reconsider it for broader use, but I’m not all in just yet.
My favorites and most often used include: DoubleTwist, Waze, WithKnown, Google Hangouts, Google Voice, Amazon Kindle, BaltoReader, Facebook, Google Inbox, Pocket, Netflix, Instagram, Starbucks, Key Ring, Shazam, S Health, Periscope, Flipboard and less frequently Audible and OverDrive Media. The notable new entries in the last year are the “Do Suite” from IFTTT.com including Do Camera, Do Note, and somewhat less frequently Do Button. I use these several times a day and they’re front and center on my phone now. I also love IFTTT for a variety of back-end integrations for various other web technologies.
There are certainly others, but I rarely use many of them and didn’t reinstall many when I upgraded phone in June.
In the last year, I’ve moved away from Evernote in favor of OneNote which provides better integration to my Outlook workflow, but I will admit I do miss the UI of Evernote.
I’m still using a Samsung Series 5, 40″ LCD flatscreen. Though there are certainly much newer models out there, this really has everything I could want and supplies a fantastic picture as well as even native sound. Until the mansion arrives, or California housing prices drop precipitously, this is probably more television than I even need. For service I only use DirecTV which, though I desperately love, I have a feeling I’ll eventually dump it to live a complete cord-cutter life.
In addition to a DirectTV HD DVR which I upgraded last fall to a newer model with 1TB storage , I also have a Roku XD|S and Google Chomecast. The Chromecast gets far more regular use, particularly for Netflix integration (via either a tablet or cell phone) and in my mind is the clear winner for being drop-dead easy-to-use. I particularly love the fact that the Chromecast automatically turns on the television and changes the internal television tuner, so I don’t need to pick up other devices to control the television. The Roku is ancient and clunky and now doesn’t support a lot of the newer apps/channels. I get regular emails from Roku about discounts for upgrading, but I’m not sure I use it enough or that the upgrades are worth replacing it. I rarely use the mini-HDMI to HDMI adapter to connect my Kindle Fire HD to the television for streaming Amazon Prime video to the television these days.
Cambro Containers: Over the last year, I’ve gotten a dozen large Cambro containers ranging from 2qt-8qt for more easily storing bulk goods like flour, sugar, rice, beans, etc. They store much more easily and functionally in the kitchen and the fridgerator. I don’t know how I lived without them before.
Scraper: Almost a year ago, I got an OXO Good Grips Jar Spatula, White and it has been my single-most used kitchen item after my knife since. For size, shape, and sheer versatility it’s one of my favorite tools. I’m tempted to get rid of all of my other scrapers and buy 4 more of these.
Coffee: I’m not a total fiend in this department and usually prefer soda or tea, but when necessary, a simple Bodum French press in combination with a Kitchen Aide coffee grinder are just great. I’m still very tempted to get the relatively inexpensive Aerobie AeroPress…
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
In a year, nothing here has changed. I simply love these:
Calibre – For my 2000+ ebooks, this is an indispensable e-book and document program that is to books as iTunes is to music. I also use it to download dozens of magazines and newspapers on a daily basis for reading on my Kindle. I love that it’s under constant development with weekly updates for improved functionality.
Waze – When living in Los Angeles, this real-time traffic application often saves me anywhere from 30-90 minutes of time in traffic a day; it also has the side benefit of helping you explore parts of the city you might not find otherwise.
DoubleTwist – Since I’m an avid Android fan, I use this simple app to dovetail my music and video collections in iTunes to sync with my other digital devices.
What’s your workspace setup like?
For the past couple of years I’ve been using a 1962 McDowell & Craig executive tanker desk that I refinished in 2008 and I use a matching chair which I painstakingly reupholstered by hand in late 2013. I often use the custom made glass top with dry-erase markers to sketch out ideas or write disposable notes and also place photos and incunabula of various sorts underneath it. I’ve been tempted to do a standing desk but as yet haven’t. I’m half tempted to follow the lead of film editor Walter Murch and set my desk up on cinder blocks to jack it up to waist level.
What’s your best time-saving/shortcut/life hack?
A combination of Feedly, Pocket, and the Spritz Bookmarklet on my computer allows me to plow through way more reading material that I used to be able to before.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I primarily use a very customized version of Outlook and its task functionality to track my to do list items. I use OneNote as my commonplace book particularly as it has a bookmarklet that makes it dead easy to transfer data into it.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget(s) can’t you live without and why?
For a while now, I’ve been catching up on the mid-70’s music I missed in my early youth. I’m still exploring 60’s Jazz and classic bluegrass.
What are you currently reading?
Generally I’m actively reading 4-5 books at a time and less-actively up to 15 or so. I use Goodreads.com to manage my reading lists, to find recommendations from others, and in part to catalog my library (though I’m far from having everything I own there). I usually tend toward non-fiction, science, math, history and biography when reading for pleasure, though the occasional fiction piece will work its way into the stack.
Lately I’m regularly watching Hannibal, Mr. Robot, Murder in the First, Charlie Rose, Suits, Royal Pains, The Closer (early season reruns), PBS News Hour, Major Crimes, and The Profit. Guilty pleasure watching includes Shark Tank, Last Comic Standing, America’s Got Talent, UnREAL, and solely because there’s a “Chris Aldrich” on the show, I’ve seen a few episodes of season 2 of VH1’s Dating Naked. When they return I’ll still be watching Modern Family, The Big Bang, Person of Interest, and Grimm. Relatively recent binge watches include Mad Men (final 3 seasons) and House of Cards (season 3).
Bernard Pivo-esque section
What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I have a generally better memory than most. Though it was naturally good when I was younger, I ran across the concepts of the major system and the method of loci (aka the memory palace) at an early age and they have helped significantly.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I never seem to sleep as much as most, but lately I’ve been getting 7-8 hours of sleep at night usually from 12-7am. I’m far from a morning person and most of my best thinking hours are from 11pm to 2am.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I grew up definitely as an introvert, but during college I managed to force myself to be an extrovert. These days I move between the two as my mood and social circumstances dictate.
Revision (or version) control is used in tracking changes in computer programs, but it can easily be used for tracking changes in almost any type of writing from novels, short stories, screenplays, legal contracts, or any type of textual documentation.
Marginalia and Revision Control
At the end of April, I read an article entitled “In the Margins” in the Johns Hopkins University Arts & Sciences magazine. I was particularly struck by the comments of eminent scholar Jacques Neefs on page thirteen (or paragraph 20) about computers making marginalia a thing of the past:
I actually think that he may be completely wrong and that current technology actually allows us to keep far more marginalia! (Has anyone heard of digital exhaust?) The bigger issue may be that many writers just don’t know how to keep a better running log of their work to maintain all the relevant marginalia they’re actually producing. (Of course there’s also the subsequent broader librarian’s “digital dilemma” of maintaining formats for the future. As an example, thing about how easy or hard it might be for you to read that ubiquitous 3.5 inch floppy disk you used in 1995.)
A a technologist who has spent many years in the entertainment industry, I feel compelled to point everyone towards the concept of revision control (or version control) within the realm of computer science. Though it’s primarily used in tracking changes in computer programs and is often a tool used by large teams of programmers, it can very easily be used for tracking changes in almost any type of writing from novels, short stories, screenplays, legal contracts, or any type of textual documentation of nearly any sort.
Example Use Cases for Revision Control
As a direct example, I’m using what is known as a Git repository to track every change I make in a textbook I’m currently writing. I can literally go back and view every change I’ve made since beginning the project, so though I’m directly revising one (or more) text files, all of my “marginalia” and revisions are saved and available. Currently I’m only doing it for my own reference and for additional backup not supposing that anyone other than myself or an editor possibly may want to ever peruse it. If I was working in conjunction with otheres, there are ways for me to track the changes, edits, or notes that others (perhaps an editor or collaborator) might make.
In addition to the general back-up of the project (in case of catastrophic computer failure), I also have the ability to go back and find that paragraph (or multiple pages) I deleted last week in haste, but realize that I desperately want them back now instead of having to recreate them de n0vo.
Because it’s all digital, future scholars also won’t have problems parsing my handwriting issues as has occasionally come up in differentiating Mary Shelley’s writing from that of her husband in digital projects like the Shelley Godwin Archive. The fact that all changes are tracked and placed in a tree-like structure will indicate who wrote what and when and will indicate which changes were ultimately accepted and merged into the final version.
Screenplays in Hollywood
One particular use case I can easily see for such technology is tracking changes in screenplays over time. I’m honestly shocked that every production company or even more likely studios don’t use such technology to follow changes in drafts over time. In the end, doing such tracking will certainly make Writers Guild of America (WGA) arbitrations much easier as literally every contribution to a script can be tracked to give screenwriters appropriate credit. The end results with the easy ability to time-machine one’s way back into older drafts is truly lovely, and the outputs give so much more information about changes in the script compared to the traditional and all-too-simple (*) which screenwriters use to indicate that something/anything changed on a specific line or the different colored pages which are used on scripts during production.
I can also picture future screenwriters using services like GitHub as platforms for storing and distributing their screenplays to potential agents, managers, and producers.
Redlining Legal Documents
Having seen thousands of legal agreements go back and forth over the years, revision control is a natural tool for tracking the redlining and changes of legal documents as they change over time before they are finally (or even never) executed. I have to imagine that being able to abstract out the appropriate metadata in the long run may actually help attorneys, agents, etc. to become better negotiators, but something like this is a project for another day.
In addition to direct research for projects being undertaken by academics like Neefs, academics should look into using revision control in their own daily work and writings. While writing a book, paper, journal article, essay, monograph, etc. (or graduate students writing theses) one could use their own Git repository to not only save but to back up all of their own work not only for themselves primarily, but also future scholars who come later who would not otherwise have access to the “marginalia” one creates while manufacturing their written thoughts in digital form.
I can easily picture Git as a very simple “next step” in furthering the concept of the digital humanities as well as in helping to bridge the gap between C.P. Snow’s “two cultures.” (I’d also suggest that revision control is a relatively simple step one could take before learning a particular programming language, which I think should be a mandatory tool in everyone’s daily toolbox regardless of their field(s) of interest.)
Start Using Revision Control
“But how do I get started?” you ask.
Know going in that it may take parts of a day to get things set up and running, but once you’ve started with the basics, things are actually pretty easy and you can continue to learn the more advanced subtleties as you progress. Once things are working smoothly, the additional overhead you’ll be expending won’t be too much more than the old method of hitting Alt-S to save one of your old Word documents in the time before auto-save became ubiquitous.
First one should start by choosing one of the myriad revision control systems that exist. For the sake of brevity in this short introductory post, I’ll simply suggest that users take a very close look at Git because of its ubiquity and popularity in the computer science world and the fact that it includes a tremendously large amount of free information and support from a variety of sites on the internet. Git also has the benefit of having versions for all major operating systems (Windows, MacOS, and Linux). Git also has the benefit of a relatively long and robust life within the computer science community meaning that it’s very stable and has many more resources for the uninitiated to draw upon.
Once one has Git installed on their computer and has begun using it, I’d then recommending linking one’s local copy of the repository to a cloud storage solution like either GitHub or BitBucket. While GitHub is certainly one of the most popular Git-related services out there (because it acts, in part, as the hub for a large portion of the open internet and thus promotes sharing), I often recommend using BitBucket as it allows free unlimited private but still share-able repositories while GitHub requires a small subscription fee for keeping one’s work private. Having a repository in the cloud will help tremendously in that your work will be available and downloadable from almost anywhere and because it also serves as a de-facto back-up solution for your work.
I’ve recently been playing around with version control to help streamline the writing/editing process for a book I’ve been writing. Though Git and it’s variants probably seem more daunting than they should to the everyday user, they really represent a very powerful tool. I’ve spent less than two days learning the basics of both Git and hosted repositories (GitHub and Bitbucket), and it has been more than well worth the minor effort.
There is a huge wealth of information on revision control in general and on installing and using Git available on the internet, including full textbooks. For the complete beginners, I’d recommend starting with The Chronicle’s “A Gentle Introduction to Version Control.” Keep in mind that though some of these resources look highly technical, it’s because many are trying to enumerate every function one could potentially desire, when even just the basic core functionality is more than enough to begin with. (I could analogize it to learning to drive a car versus actually reading the full manual so that you know how to take the engine apart and put it back together from scratch. To start with revision control, you only need to learn to “drive.”) Professors might also avail themselves of the use of their local institutional libraries which may host small sessions on learning such tools, or they might avail themselves of the help of their colleagues or students in the computer science department. For others, I’d recommend taking a look at Git’s primary website. BitBucket has an excellent step-by-step tutorial (and troubleshooting) for setting up the requisite software and using it.
What do you use for revision control?
I’ll welcome any thoughts, experiences, or additional resources one might want to share with others in the comments.
I recently ran across this TED talk and felt compelled to share it. It really highlights some of my own personal thoughts on how science should be taught and done in the modern world. It also overlaps much of the reading I’ve been doing lately on innovation and creativity. If these don’t get you to watch, then perhaps mentioning that Alon manages to apply comedy and improvisation techniques to science will.
Uri Alon was already one of my scientific heroes, but this adds a lovely garnish.
My response to his post with some thoughts of my own follows:
This is an interesting, but very germane, review. As someone who’s both worked in the entertainment industry and followed the MOOC (massively open online courseware) revolution over the past decade, I very often consider the physical production value of TGCs offerings and have been generally pleased at their steady improvement over time. Not only do they offer some generally excellent content, but they’re entertaining and pleasing to watch. From a multimedia perspective, I’m always amazed at what they offer and that generally the difference between the video versus the audio only versions isn’t as drastic as one might otherwise expect. Though there are times that I think that TGC might include some additional graphics, maps, etc. either in the course itself or in the booklets, I’m impressed that they still function exceptionally well without them.
Within the MOOC revolution, Sue Alcott’s Coursera course Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets is still by far the best produced multi-media course I’ve come across. It’s going to take a lot of serious effort for other courses to come up to this level of production however. It’s one of the few courses which I think rivals that of The Teaching Company’s offerings thus far. Unfortunately, the increased competition in the MOOC space is going to eventually encroach on the business model of TGC, and I’m curious to see how that will evolve and how it will benefit students. Will TGC be forced to offer online fora for students to interact with each other the way most MOOCs do? Will MOOCs be forced to drastically increase their production quality to the level of TGC? Will certificates or diplomas be offered for courseware? Will the subsequent models be free (like most MOOCs now), paid like TGC, or some mixture of the two?
One area which neither platform seems to be doing very well at present is offering more advanced coursework. Naturally the primary difficulty is in having enough audience to justify the production effort. The audience for a graduate level topology class is simply far smaller than introductory courses in history or music appreciation, but those types of courses will eventually have to exist to make the enterprises sustainable – in addition to the fact that they add real value to society. Another difficulty is that advanced coursework usually requires some significant work outside of the lecture environment – readings, homework, etc. MOOCs seem to have a slight upper hand here while TGC has generally relied on all of the significant material being offered in a lecture with the suggestion of reading their accompanying booklets and possibly offering supplementary bibliographies. When are we going to start seeing course work at the upper-level undergraduate or graduate level?
The nice part is that with evolving technology and capabilities, there are potentially new pedagogic methods that will allow easier teaching of some material that may not have been possible previously. (For some brief examples, see this post I wrote last week on Latin and the digital humanities.) In particular, I’m sure many of us have been astounded and pleased at how Dr. Greenberg managed the supreme gymnastics of offering of “Understanding the Fundamentals of Music” without delving into traditional music theory and written notation, but will he be able to actually offer that in new and exciting ways to increase our levels of understanding of music and then spawn off another 618 lectures that take us all further and deeper into his exciting world? Perhaps it comes in the form of a multimedia mobile app? We’re all waiting with bated breath, because regardless of how he pulls it off, we know it’s going to be educational, entertaining and truly awe inspiring.
Following my commentary, Scott Ableman, the Chief Marketing Officer for TGC, responded with the following, which I find very interesting:
Not long ago, my alma mater Johns Hopkins University announced the creation of a task force on Academic Freedom. Since then, I’ve corresponded with the group on a few occasions and in the spirit of my notes to them, I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with others in the academy, science writers/communicators, and even the general public who may also find them useful. Toward that end, below is a slightly modified version of my two main emails to the task force. [They’ve been revised marginally for their appearance and readability in this format and now also include section headings.] While I’m generally writing about Johns Hopkins as an example, I’m sure that the majority of it also applies to the rest of the academy.
On a personal note, the first email has some interesting thoughts and background, while the second email has some stronger broader recommendations.
My First Thoughts to the Task Force
Matthew Green’s Blog and Questions of National Security
Early in September 2013, there was a rather large PR nightmare created for the university (especially as it regards poor representation within the blogosphere and social media) when interim Dean of the Whiting School of Engineering Andrew Douglas requested to have professor Matthew Green’s web presence modified in relation to an alleged anti-NSA post on it. Given the increasing level of NSA related privacy news at the time (and since as relates to the ongoing Edward Snowden case), the case was certainly blown out of proportion. But the Green/NSA story is also one of the most highlighted cases relating to academic freedom in higher education in the last several years, and I’m sure it may be the motivating force behind why the task force was created in the first place. (If you or the task force is unaware of the issues in that case you can certainly do a quick web search, though one of the foremost followers of the controversy was ArsTechnica which provided this post with most of the pertinent information; alternately take a look at what journalism professor Jay Rosen had to say on the issue in the Guardian.) I’m sure you can find a wealth of additional reportage from the Hopkins Office of News and Information which maintains its daily digests of “Today’s News” from around that time period.
In my mind, much of the issue and the outpouring of poor publicity, which redounded to the university, resulted from the media getting information about the situation via social media before the internal mechanisms of the university had the chance to look at the issue in detail and provide a more timely resolution. [Rumors via social media will certainly confirm Mark Twain’s aphorism that “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”]
While you’re mulling over the issue of academic freedom, I would highly suggest you all closely consider the increased impact of the internet and particularly social media with regard to any policies which are proposed going forward. As the volunteer creator and initial maintainer of much of Hopkins’ social media presence on both Facebook and Twitter as well as many others for their first five years of existence (JHU was the first university in these areas of social media and most other major institutions followed our early lead), I have a keen insight to how these tools impact higher education. With easy-to-use blogging platforms and social media (Matthew Green had both a personal blog that was hosted outside the University as well as one that was mirrored through the University as well as a Twitter account), professors now have a much larger megaphone and constituency than they’ve had any time in the preceding 450 years of the academy. This fact creates unique problems as it relates to the university, its image, how it functions, and how its professoriate interact with relation to academic freedom, which is a far different animal than it had been even 17 years ago at the dawn of the internet age. Things can obviously become sticky and quickly as evinced in the Green/APL situation which was exacerbated by the APL’s single source of income at a time when the NSA and privacy were foremost in the public eye.
What are Some of the Issues for Academic Freedom in the Digital Age?
Consider the following:
How should/shouldn’t the university regulate the border of social media and internet presence at the line between personal/private lives and professional lives?
How can the university help to promote/facilitate the use of the internet/social media to increase the academic freedom of its professoriate and simultaneously lower the technological hurdles as well as the generational hurdles faced by the academy? (I suspect that few on the task force have personal blogs or twitter accounts, much less professional blogs hosted by the university beyond their simple “business card” information pages through their respective departments.)
How should the university handle issues like the Matthew Green/APL case so that comments via social media don’t gain steam and blow up in the media before the university has a chance to handle them internally? (As I recall, there were about two news cycles of JHU saying “no comment” and resulting bad press which reached the level of national attention prior to a resolution.)
How can the university help to diffuse the issues which led up to the Green/APL incident before they happen?
I hope that the task force is able to spend some time with Dr. Green discussing his case and how it was handled.
Personal Reputation on the Internet in a Connected Age
I also suggest that the students on the task force take a peek into the case file of JHU’s Justin Park from 2007, which has become a textbook-case for expression on the internet/in social media and its consequences (while keeping in mind that it was a social/cultural issue which was the root cause of the incident rather than malice or base racism – this aspect of the case wasn’t/isn’t highlighted in extant internet reportage – Susan Boswell [Long-time Dean of Sudent Life] and Student Activities head Robert Turner can shed more light on the situation). Consider what would the university have done if Justin Park had been a professor instead of a student? What role did communication technology and the internet play in how these situations played out now compared to how they would have been handled when Dr. Grossman was a first year professor just starting out? [Editor’s note: Dr. Grossman is an incredible thought leader, but most of his life and academic work occurred prior to the internet age. Though unconfirmed, I suspect that his internet experience or even experience with email is exceedingly limited.]
In a related issue on academic freedom and internet, I also hope you’re addressing or at least touching on the topic of academic samizdat, so that the university can put forward a clear (and thought-leading) policy on where we stand there as well. I could certainly make a case that the university come out strongly in favor of professors maintaining the ability to more easily self-publish without detriment to their subsequent publication chances in major journals (and resultant potential detriment to the arc of their careers), but the political ramifications in this changing landscape are certainly subtle given that the university deals with both major sides as the employer of the faculty while simultaneously being one of the major customers of the institutionalized research publishing industry. As I currently view the situation, self-publishing and the internet will likely win the day over the major publishers which puts the university in the position of pressing the issue in a positive light to its own ends and that of increasing knowledge for the world. I’m sure Dean Winston Tabb [Dean of the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins] and his excellent staff could provide the task force with some useful insight on this topic. Simultaneously, how can the increased areas of academic expression/publication (for example the rapidly growing but still relatively obscure area known as the “Digital Humanities”) be institutionalized such that publication in what have previously been non-traditional areas be included more formally in promotion decisions? If professors can be incentivized to use some of their academic freedom and expanded opportunities to both their and the university’s benefit, then certainly everyone wins. Shouldn’t academic freedom also include the freedom of where/when to publish without detriment to one’s future career – particularly in an increasingly more rapidly shifting landscape of publication choices and outlets?
The Modern Research University is a Content Aggregator and Distributor (and Should Be Thought of as Such)
Taking the topic even further several steps further, given the value of the professoriate and their intellectual creations and content, couldn’t/shouldn’t the university create a customized platform to assist their employees in disseminating and promoting their own work? As an example, consider the volume of work (approximate 16,000-20,000 journal articles/year, as well as thousands of articles written for newspapers (NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.), magazines, and other outlets – academic or otherwise) being generated every year by those within the university. In a time of decreasing cost of content distribution, universities no longer need to rely on major journals, magazines, television stations, cable/satellite television, et al. to distribute their “product”. To put things in perspective, I can build the infrastructure to start a 24/7 streaming video service equivalent to both a television station and a major newspaper in my garage for the capital cost about $10,000.) Why not bring it all in-house with the benefit of academic flexibility as an added draw to better support the university and its mission? (Naturally, this could all be cross-promoted to other outlets after-the-fact for additional publicity.) At a time when MOOC’s (massively open online courseware) are eroding some of the educational mission within higher education and journals are facing increased financial pressures, perhaps there should be a new model of the university as a massive content/information creation engine and distributor for the betterment of humanity? And isn’t that what Johns Hopkins already is at heart? We’re already one of the largest knowledge creators on the planet, why are we not also simultaneously one of the largest knowledge disseminators – particularly at a time when it is inexpensive to do so, and becoming cheaper by the day?
[Email closing formalities removed]
Expanded Thoughts on Proactive Academic Freedom
Reframing What Academic Freedom Means in the Digital Age
[Second email opening removed]
Upon continued thought and reading on the topic of academic freedom as well as the associated areas of technology, I might presuppose (as most probably do) that the committee will be looking more directly at the concept of preventing the university from impeding the freedom of its faculty and what happens in those situations where action ought to be taken for the benefit of the wider community (censure, probation, warnings, etc.). If it hasn’t been brought up as a point yet, I think one of the most positive things the university could do to improve not only academic freedom, but the university’s position in relation to its competitive peers, is to look at the opposite side of the proverbial coin and actually find a way for the university to PROACTIVELY help promote the voices of its faculty and assist them in broadening their reach.
I touched upon the concept tangentially in my first email (see above), but thought it deserved some additional emphasis, examples to consider, and some possible recommendations. Over the coming decades, the aging professoriate will slowly retire to be replaced with younger faculty who grew up completely within the internet age and who are far more savvy about it as well as the concepts of Web 2.0, the social web and social media. More will be literate in how to shoot and edit short videos and how to post them online to garner attention, readership, and acceptance for their ideas and viewpoints.
The recent PBS Frontline documentary “Generation Like” features a handful of pre-teens and teens who are internet sensations and garnering hundreds of thousands to millions of views of their content online. But imagine for a minute: a savvy professoriate that could do something similar with their academic thought and engaging hundreds, thousands, or millions on behalf of Johns Hopkins? Or consider the agency being portrayed in the documentary [about 30 minutes into the documentary] that helps these internet sensations and what would happen if that type of functionality was taken on by the Provost’s office?
I could presuppose that with a cross-collaboration of the Provost’s office, the Sheridan Libraries, the Film & Media Studies Department, the Digital Media Center, and the Communications Office as an institution we should be able to help better train faculty who are not already using these tools to improve their web presences and reach.
What “Reach” Do Academics Really Have?
I’ve always been struck by my conversations with many professors about the reach of their academic work. I can cite the particular experience of Dr. P.M. Forni, in the Department of Romance Languages at Krieger, when he told me that he’s written dozens of academic papers and journal articles, most of which have “at most a [collective] readership of at most 11 people on the planet” – primarily because academic specialties have become so niche. He was completely dumbfounded on the expanded reach he had in not only writing a main-stream book on the topic of civility, which was heavily influenced by his academic research and background, but in the even more drastically expanded reach provided to him by appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show shortly after its release. Certainly his experience is not a common one, but there is a vast area in between that is being lost, not only by individual professors, but by the university by extension. Since you’re likely aware of the general numbers of people reading academic papers, I won’t bore you, but for the benefit of those on the committee I’ll quote a recent article from Pacific Standard Magazine and provide an additional reference from Physics World, 2007:
Some Examples of Increased Reach in the Academy
To provide some examples and simple statistics on where something like this might go, allow me to present the following brief references:
As a first example, written by an academic about academia, I suggest you take a look at a recent blog post “Why academics should blog and an update on readership” by Artem Kaznatcheev, a researcher in computer science and psychology at McGill University, posting on a shared blog named “Theory, Evolution, and Games Group”. He provides a clear and interesting motivation in the first major portion of his essay, and then unwittingly (for my example), he shows some basic statistics indicating a general minimum readership of 2,000 people which occasionally goes as high as 8,000. (Knowing how his platform operates and provides base-line statistics that he’s using, it’s likely that his readership is actually possibly higher.) If one skims through the blog, it’s obvious that he’s not providing infotainment type of material like one would find on TMZ, Buzzfeed, or major media outlets, but genuine academic thought – AND MANAGING TO REACH A SIZEABLE AUDIENCE! I would posit that even better, that his blog enriching not only himself and his fellow academy colleagues, but a reasonable number of people outside of the academy and therefore the world.
Another example of an even more technical academic blog can be found in that of Dr. Terrence Tao, a Fields Medal winner (the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel prize), and mathematics professor at UCLA. You’ll note that it’s far more technical and rigorous than Dr. Kaznatcheev’s, and though I don’t have direct statistics to back it up, I can posit based on the number of comments his blog has that his active readership is even much higher. Dr. Tao uses his blog to not only expound upon his own work, but uses it to post content for classes, to post portions of a book in process, and to promote the general mathematics research community. (I note that the post he made on 3/19, already within a day has 11 comments by people who’ve read it close enough to suggest typography changes as well as sparked some actual conversation on a topic that requires an education to at least the level of a master’s degree in mathematics.
Business Insider recently featured a list of 50 scientists to follow on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, and blogs amongst others). While there are a handful of celebrities and science journalists, many of those featured are professors or academics of one sort or another and quite a few of them are Ph.D. candidates (the beginning of the upcoming generation of tech-savvy future faculty I mentioned). Why aren’t there any JHU professors amongst those on this list?
As another clear example, consider the recent online video produced by NPR’s “Science Friday” show featuring research about Water flowing uphill via the Leidenfrost Effect. It is not only generally interesting research work, but this particular research is not only a great advertisement for the University of Bath, it’s a great teaching tool for students, and it features the research itself as well as the involvement of undergraduates in the research. Though I’ll admit that producing these types of vignettes is not necessarily simple, imagine the potential effect on the awareness of the university’s output if we could do this with even 10% of the academic research paper output? Imagine these types of videos as inspiring tools to assist in gaining research funding from government agencies or as fundraising tools for Alumni and Development relations? And how much better that they could be easily shared and spread organically on the web, not necessarily by the JHU Corporate Umbrella, but by its faculty, students, alumni, and friends.
How Does the Academy Begin Accomplishing All of This?
To begin, I’ll mention that Keswick’s new video lab or the Digital Media Center at Homewood and a few others like them are a great start, but they are just the tip of the iceberg (and somewhat unfortunate that faculty from any division will have to travel to use the Keswick facility, if they’re even notionally aware of it and its capabilities).
I recall Mary Spiro, a communications specialist/writer with the Institute of NanoBioTechnology, doing a test-pilot Intersession program in January about 4 years ago in which she helped teach a small group of researchers how to shoot and edit their own films about their research or even tours through their lab. Something like this program could be improved, amplified, and rolled out on a much larger basis. It could also be integrated or dovetailed, in part, with the Digital Media Center and the Film and Media Studies program at Krieger to assist researchers in their work.
The Sheridan Libraries provide teaching/training on using academic tools like bibliographic programs Mendeley.com, RefWorks, Zotero, but they could extend them to social media, blogging, or tools like FigShare, GitHub, and others.
Individual departments or divisions could adopt and easily maintain free content management platforms like WordPress and Drupal (I might even specifically look at their pre-configured product for academia known as OpenScholar, for example take a look at Harvard’s version.) This would make it much easier for even non-technicalminded faculty to more easily come up to speed by removing the initial trouble of starting a blog. It also has the side benefit of allowing the university to assist in ongoing maintenance, backup, data maintenance, hosting, as well as look/feel, branding as well as web optimization. (As a simple example, and not meant to embarrass them, but despite the fact that the JHU Math Department may have been one of the first departments in the university to be on the web, it’s a travesty that their website looks almost exactly as it did 20 years ago, and has less content on it than Terrence Tao’s personal blog which he maintains as a one man operation. I’m sure that some of the issue is political in the way the web has grown up over time at Hopkins, but the lion’s share is technology and management based.)
The Provost’s office in conjunction with IT and the Sheridan Libraries could invest some time and energy in to compiling resources and vetting them for ease-of-use, best practices, and use cases and then providing summaries of these tools to the faculty so that each faculty member need not re-invent the wheel each time, but to get up and running more quickly. This type of resource needs to be better advertised and made idiot-proof (for lack of better terminology) to ease faculty access and adoption. Online resources like the Chronicle of Education’s ProfHacker blog can be mined for interesting tools and use cases, for example.
I know portions of these types of initiatives are already brewing in small individual pockets around the university, but they need to be brought together and better empowered as a group instead of as individuals working separately in a vacuum. In interacting with people across the institution, this technology area seems to be one of those that has been left behind in the “One Hopkins” initiative. One of the largest hurdles is the teaching old dogs new tricks to put it colloquially, but the hurdles for understanding and comprehending these new digital tools is coming down drastically by the day. As part of the social contract in the university’s granting and promoting academic freedom, the faculty should be better encouraged (thought certainly not forced) to exercise it. I’m sure there are mandatory annual seminars on topics like sexual harassment, should there not be mandatory technology trainings as well?
To briefly recap, it would be phenomenal to see the committee make not only their base recommendations on what most consider academic freedom, but to further make a group of strong recommendations about the University proactively teaching, training, and providing a broader array of tools to encourage the active expression of the academic freedom that is provided within Hopkins’ [or even all of the Academy’s] mighty walls.
[Email closing removed]
I certainly welcome any thoughts or comments others may have on these topics. Please feel free to add them in the comments below.