Differential Topology—Two quarter sequence at UCLA Extension for Fall/Winter 2021

It hasn’t been announced officially in the UCLA Extension catalog, but Dr. Mike Miller’s anticipated course topic for Fall 2021 is differential topology. The anticipated recommended text is Differential Topology: An Introduction by David B. Gauld (M. Dekker, 1982 or Dover, 1996 (reprint)).

The offering is naturally dependent on potential public health measures in September, which may also create a class limit on the number of attendees, so be sure to register as soon as it’s announced. For those who are interested in mathematics, but have never attended any of Dr. Miller’s lectures, I’ve previously written some details about his stye of presentation, prerequisites (usually very minimal despite the advanced level of the topics), and other details.

A few of us have already planned weekly Thursday night topology study sessions through the end of Spring and into Summer for those interested in attending. Just leave a comment with your contact information and I’ll be in touch with details.

I hope to see everyone in the fall.

An Euclidean Declaration

So far, my favorite part of Jordan Ellenberg‘s new book Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else is this footnoted observation:

“we hold these truths to be self-evident” wasn’t Jefferson’s line; his first draft of the Declaration has “we hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable.” It was Ben Franklin who scratched out those words and wrote “self-evident” instead, making the document a little less biblical, a little more Euclidean.

Creating Internal Backlinks for MediaWiki for Digital Gardeners

I’d spit-balled the general idea of showing backlinks or bidirectional links on a MediaWiki instance last year when thinking about and adding Webmention to one. Tonight I tinkered around and actually set it up on an instance. Within a MediaWiki, one can transclude all the backlinks from other pages to a particular page by adding a line for transcluding content like the following when editing a page:

{{Special:WhatLinksHere/PageName|limit=1000}}

You can see a live example of the practice on my user page on the IndieWeb wiki at https://indieweb.org/User:Boffosocko.com#Backlinks along with the code I used by clicking on the edit tab. The effect is rather nice, particularly when put into columns when there are lots of entries. I’ll have to look into automatically coding something like this into every page now, but being able to do it manually is most of the battle, right?

Doing this along with adding display for external webmentions quickly vaults MediaWiki to a solidly first class web-enabled digital commonplace book/digital garden/Memex/zettelkasten tool that can communicate with other similarly enabled tools. (Now if only Webmention were supported natively on MediaWiki… but there are definitely ways around this in the meanwhile.)

To go the extra mile, I know there’s the ability to interlink wikis with some custom syntax or even to show hovercards within a wiki. Both MediaWiki and Wikipedia already allow this after enabling page previews using hovercards in 2018. (I’ll have to check out if one could do hovercards across wikis as well!?!)

I’ve slowed down some of my experiments with my personal MediaWiki in preference to using Obsidian lately. Perhaps, for working in public, I’m going to have to resume some of my experiments and/or figure out a way to mirror the content?

Sister Heather Kristine in knowledge-management discord for Obsidian () for re-sparking idea.

Thoughts on Jeet Heer’s Can We Bring Back Blogging?

Jeet Heer recently wrote a piece (on Substack) entitled Can We Bring Back Blogging? where he waxed a bit nostalgic for the old blogosphere.

This makes me wonder: did blogging die off because the tools changed?

Everyone had their own space on the internet and the internet itself was the medium which opened up the conversation. I could use WordPress while someone else might have been on Blogger, Moveable Type, Live Journal, TypePad, or something they made in HTML themselves.

Now it’s all siloed off into tinier spaces where content is trapped for eyeballs and engagement and there’s not nearly as much space for expression. Some of the conversation is broken up into 280 character expressions on Twitter, some on Instagram, and now people are aggregating content inside Substack. Substack at least has a feed I can subscribe to and a free form box to add a reply.

I appreciate Jeff’s comment about the “flywheel of social media”. We’re definitely going to need something like that to help power any resurgence of the blogosphere. I also like to think of it in the framing of “thought spaces” where the idea of a blog is to give yourself enough space to form a coherent idea and make an actual argument. Doing that is much harder to do on a microblog where the responses are also similarly limited. It just feels so rude to post 250 words in reply to a sentence or two that probably needed more space to express itself too.

I suspect that if we want a real resurgence of thought and discourse online, we’re going to need some new tools to do it. As Friedrich Nietzsche famously conceded to his friend Heinrich Köselitz “You are right — our writing tools take part in the forming of our thoughts.”

It would help if we could get back to the bare metal of the internet in which to freely operate again. Substack at least feels close to that, though it could be much better.

Can we have a conversational medium that isn’t constrained by a handful of corporate silos that don’t allow conversation across boundaries? Can we improve the problems of context collapse we’re seeing in social media?

I’d like to think that some of the building blocks the IndieWeb movement has built might help guide the way. I love their idea of Webmention notifications that allow one site to mention another regardless of the platforms on which they’re built. Their Micropub posting tools abstract away the writing and posting experience to allow you to pick and choose your favorite editor. They’ve got multiple social reader tools to let you follow the people and content you’re interested in and reply to things directly in the reader. I presented a small proof of concept at a recent education conference, for those who’d like to see what that experience looks like today.

Perhaps if more platforms opened up to these ideas and tools, we might be able to return, but with a lot more freedom and flexibility than we had in the nostalgic blogosphere?

Yet, we’ll still be facing the human work of interacting and working together. There are now several magnitudes of order more people online than there were in the privileged days of the blogosphere. We’re still going to need to solve for that. Perhaps if everyone reads and writes from their own home on the web, they’re less likely to desecrate their neighbor’s blog because it sticks to their own identity?

There’s lots of work to be done certainly, but perhaps we’ll get there by expanding things, opening them up, and giving ourselves some more space to communicate?

Domains at Domains

I mentioned it as an anecdotal observation in my talk, so I went back and counted the appearances of online identifiers on the 159 re-mixable badges for the OERxDomains 21 Conference. I counted 91 twitter handles, 15 domain names, and 1 Instagram handle.

There were a couple people who used email addresses. A few people listed multiple twitter handles, and one enterprising person (not me!) listed three domain names.

Because the badges were customizable, people (or their animals and a few organizations) had the individual choice of what text to put on their personal badges.

Hopefully we’ll do better on using domain names at the next domains-related conference. 😜

A Twitter of Our Own at OERxDomains 2021 Conference

The Association of Learning Technology and Reclaim Hosting hosted the OERxDomains 2021 Conference last week.

They’ve just opened up the entire conference program with links to all of the sessions and videos for those who’d like to watch them.

You’ll see my presentation video embedded above. If you’d like you can also watch it in the custom player made for the conference, though I notice that it doesn’t replay the live chat.

Due to scheduling issues beyond my control just before the conference, I had to shorten my hour-long workshop down to a 20 minute talk. I intend to do a couple of separate hands-on workshops at upcoming Domain of Our Own meetups so that people can implement the moving pieces I demonstrate into their own websites. Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll let you know when they’re scheduled.

I’m hoping that when the next conference rolls around at least some of us can participate using our own domains and not need to rely on Twitter’s infrastructure.

I posted a link to the slides last week if you’d like to follow along that way and have links to some of the resources. (You should also have access to some of my notes/rough transcript as well as alt-text for some of the images included.) The slides still have some context and links to portions of the original version that got cut out.

For those unaware of the conference or topics, it was two days of great presentations about the topics of Open Education Resources (OER) and A Domain of One’s Own which is focused on giving teachers and students to websites and underlying technology of their own for daily personal and professional use. Those interested in the IndieWeb may particularly find the Domains track enlightening. Others interested in teaching, pedagogy, and publishing will get a lot out of the OER tracks.

Slides for A Twitter of Our Own from OERxDomains 2021

As promised at the conference, you can find the slides with convenient links and other resources for my talk A Twitter of Our Own at OERxDomains21 on Google Slides.

They are also embedded below:

Glenadale Unified allowing students back on campus in a limited schedule

About a year ago Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) returned from a long two week Spring break. The second, unplanned week of vacation was extra preparation time for teachers to get ready to do remote learning in response to the pandemic.

Today, nearly a year later to the day, GUSD is starting to welcome students back to campus. They’ve given the parents the choice to send their children back to campus through the end of the year, presuming there are no flare ups of the coronavirus.

Today they’re dramatically changing their schedule and welcoming back portions of kindergarten through third grade students. Fourth through sixth grades will be invited back in a few weeks. 

Students returning to campus are broken up into two groups. One will be on campus on Monday/Tuesday and the other on Thursday/Friday. Everyone will be remote on Wednesdays (presumably with room cleanings between the groups). Synchronous instruction will be from 8:20 AM to about noon and remote, asynchronous instruction will go until about 2:30 PM. About 55-60% of students have apparently opted to be back on campus and that number broken in half will leave about 30% of a grade class in physical attendance for their two days a week.

If I recall correctly, about two weeks ago the CDC changed their guidance for children and decreased the social distance recommendation from 6 feet to 3 feet. I’m not sure if GUSD is following this new recommendation.

Evie’s fourth grade Japanese dual immersion class was broken up between her tortoise (カメ ) group and the cranes (鶴(つる)). They’ve now been reshuffled and renamed the “roomies” and the “zoomies” depending on whether their groups will be attending in person or remotely, respectively. Evie will be a zoomie for the remainder of the school year.

While it might be nice for more socialization and a change in routine, it seems far easier and less stress with our routine to simply stay remote for the balance of the school year. There were likely to be only 15 or so days that she would attend in person given their structure and schedule. Erring on the side of caution, and a bit on convenience, remote seems a better option until the fall when a higher proportion of people are vaccinated.

Hypothes.is as a comment system: Receiving @​mentions and notifications for your website

I’ve wanted @mention/Webmention support on Hypothes.is for a long time. I had URL hacked my way into a solution a while back but never wrote about it.

I was reminded today that one can subscribe to an RSS/ATOM feed of annotations on their site (or any site for that matter) using the feed format https://hypothes.is/stream.rss?wildcard_uri=https://www.example.org/* and replacing the example.org URL with the desired one. Nota bene: the /* at the end makes the query a wildcard to find anything on your site. If you leave it off you’ll only get the annotations on your homepage.

If you’re using Hypothes.is in an off-label use case as a commenting system on your website, this can be invaluable. I recall Tom Critchlow and CJ Eller trying this out in the past.

To go a step further, one can also use this scheme to get a feed of @mentions of their Hypothes.is username too. If I’m not mistaken, based on some preliminary tests, this method should work for finding username both with and without the @ being included.

These are a few interesting tidbits for those who are using Hypothes.is not only for the social annotation functionality, but as a social media site or dovetailing it with their own websites and related workflows.

A reflection on annotations and context at OLC Innovate & Liquid Margins

It’s fascinating to look back on the Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B” that a group of us annotated this morning in the context of exploring Hypothes.is as part of OLC Innovate and Liquid Margins.

Reviewing over some notes, I’m glad I took a moment to annotate the context in which I made my annotations, which are very meta with respect to that context. Others’ annotations were obviously from the context of educators looking at Hughes’ work from the perspective of teachers looking back at an earlier time.

I’ve just gone back and not only re-read the poem, but read through and responded to some of the other annotations asynchronously. The majority of today’s annotations were made synchronously during the session. Others reading and interpreting them may be helped to know which were synchronous or asynchronous and from which contexts people were meeting the text. There were many annotations from prior dates that weren’t in the cohort of those found today. It would be interesting if the Hypothes.is UI had some better means of indicating time periods of annotation.

Is anyone studying these contextual aspects of digital annotation? I’ve come across some scholarship of commonplace books that attempt to contextualize notes within their historic time periods, but most of those attempts don’t have the fidelity of date and timestamps that Hypothes.is does. In fact, many of those attempts have no dates at all other than that they may have been made +/- a decade or two, which tends to cause some context collapse.

Crowdlaaers may provide some structure for studying these sorts of phenomenon: https://crowdlaaers.org?url=https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47880/theme-for-english-b. It provides some time-based tools for viewing annotations to help provide context. Looking at it’s data, I’m particularly struck by how few people today took advantage of the ability to use taxonomies.

As always, it was fun to see and hear about some uses of annotation using Hypothes.is in the wild. Thanks again to Nate Angell, Remi Kalir, Jeremy Dean, and all of the other panelists and participants who spoke so well about how they’re using this tool.

Altadena Library zines and “Books I’ve Loved in 2020”

I just put a handful of copies of Altadena Library‘s new zine Books I’ve Loved in 2020 into our Little Free Library for the neighborhood to enjoy. I’d gotten a preview copy a week ago and loved it.

In addition to our neighborhood LFL, you can find it at the local branches of the Altadena Library (they just re-opened for curbside pick up today) and at select Little Free Libraries around Altadena.

If you love zines, they’ve got a collection of others to check out. They’ve also been hosting a regular zine workshop on the third Saturday of the month. You should be able to pick up a zine kit for the next meeting, which I’m hoping to attend. Maybe I’ll put together a zine featuring some of our local neighborhood Little Free Libraries?