Always Read the Comments

You maybe already know this but I needed to be reminded.

The good stuff is often in the comments.

I admit that I’m largely a reactionary blogger. Many of my posts are done in a spur-of-the-moment-I-think-this-is-interesting-or-I’m-ticked kind of way. I do have the odd reflective post that has been mulled over for a few days.  My recent pointing to Clay’s post was the former.  Sometimes that’s okay but other times it bites you in the you-know-where.

I went back to Clay’s post and moved past the regular, “great post”, “I agree” stuff (not that’s all bad but just less interesting) to some challenging thought provoking writing. Jennifer Jones, who is easily the most prolific commenter I know,  writes a wonderful, challenging comment that made me both hang my head in shame (for I was as guilty as Clay for not reading the study) but also shed light on a bigger issue. Brilliance. D’Arcy Norman, less prolific, more of a “cut to the chase” commenter, adds the pertinent information. Clay then respectfully admits errors, pushes back slightly but appears to be learning right in front of us and adds an Update at the top of his post alerted new readers to be sure and read the comments. Clay is great at engaging commenters. The whole conversation following the post is a great read.

I’m pretty sure this is what blogs are for. Good work people.

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PS. This post is categorized under “I was wrong”. I’m sure this won’t be the last in this category.

Aside: I’m still struggling for a decent comment tracker. Cocomment really stinks, I just discovered backtype but I’m not sure it’s what I want and being notified by email is just plain ugly. Would love to resolve this.

366 Days of Photos

If there’s anyway to summarize a year, this might be the best way. Thanks to D’Arcy Norman for encouraging this, I joined several others in attempting to shoot a photo a day for the entire year.

This was a fascinating endeavor.  I learned a number of things, some which I can articulate and some I’m sure are impossible to assess, quantify or measure. For the record, here are a few things about the project:

  • I uploaded 2164 photos to flickr this year.
  • I shot the most in June (395) and the fewest in November (65)
  • I was able to shoot a photo and upload almost everyday. I did miss a few this fall and winter but used a photo from a previous day about 10 times.
  • I shot most with my Canon SD 750 but also used my wife’s, daughter’s, father-in-law’s, my cellphone, a few screenshots, movie captures and scans. In particular I began using my iphone quite a bit since I got it in September. I usually carry my camera with me at all times.
  • This was my most viewed photo.
  • I look at my photos a lot.
  • This photo received the most comments.
  • This and this were my favourite from a composition standpoint.
  • This graph shows how my photos were composed.


I’m not sure I’m going to do the same next year but I’m glad I did this in 2008. I know I shoot way better photos, look for great lighting, interesting angles and simply appreciate the world around me.  Many of my friends and family were aware of my project and began offering ideas for a great photo. Having a year of our lives captured so well is something really valuable.

If you’ve got a spare 27 minutes have a watch and listen. I used my daughter’s music as a soundtrack. At present I have the original so it may take a while to load.  Press, play, then pause and let it load. Go visit another site and comeback in a few minutes.

A Year in Photos from shareski on Vimeo.
Update: After watching the DVD of my photos with friends and family, they’ve encouraged me to do it again this year. In fact, my wife and daughter want to try it for themselves.

I don’t like their tone

“When I was your age, I didn’t spend hours on the internet or have social networks, we watched a lot of crappy TV and memorized the periodic table and we loved it!”

It seems a bit early but we already have a plethora naysayers of new media. It’s always good to have critical voices in our lives to question thought and behaviour. (those of you who are married should be quite familiar with this concept) It’s good, it really is. But I can’t help but wonder if some of what I’ve read lately about the demise of our culture because of the participatory and social nature of the digital world is not only a bit on the cantankerous side but almost self-righteous.

Within my network there seems to be a  “whac-a-mole” reaction to anyone who gets the least bit excited about a new tool or device.  I’m getting a sense that some are jumping the gun a bit early.

Today I read this article thanks to Mr. Jakes and his delicious feed. The article quotes a number of folks who worry about the decline of our culture to focus and be diligent. As I read the article I could hear my son who for 3 hours was playing WOW with his friends online (real, friends who live in the same city). Not exactly a high level academic pursuit I know but one of the arguments of late is that kids can’t focus.  When I look back at my childhood, I certainly wasn’t sitting around reading Tolstoy. I’m not sure there’s solid research to back these claims.

I think about the book by Steven Berlin Johnson, Everything Bad is Good for You. Maybe he needs to do some research and write a second edition in order to combat the more recent naysayers. I’m not saying there aren’t any ill effects of new media, instant access and social networks. We need to be aware of how machines and media may be manipulating us and begin to take control. My fear is that these types of perspectives aren’t necessarily research based but observational.

I do admire when folks I trust begin to reflect honestly and openly about their digital life. I pay attention because they’ve proven to be trusted sources. Thinking out loud is good sometimes. They aren’t complaining, but simply trying to sort things out on a personal level. I think ultimately that’s the proper response.  The tone of some of the article is lopsidedly pessimistic and seems to miss a historical and evolutionary perspective.  That’s why I like Shirky. He deals with the printing press and then more recently made an interesting tie to gin and sitcoms as examples of what happens when there is cognitive surplus. This is not to say that all change is for the good or that the internet and social media has not caveats or downsides. But I’m simply bothered by a desire to categorize anything as making us stupid. Does it not always come down to usage? We could make the same arguments against alcohol, video games and television they all have destructive qualities but needn’t necessarily be categorized as bad. Instead we seek balance, and determine how to make the most of these resources.

Still, the early sense of nostalgia for “the good old days” seems a bit contrite. I hear parents talking about the good old days of school when kids sat in straight rows and never questioned their teachers. Is there some things from those days that are appealing? Absolutely but I’d never want to go back.  As much as educational reformists would suggest we need big changes, I still say we’re moving in the right direciton in most cases. Still miles to go but to say we’ve digressed is wrong. Again, there is a great deal of generalizations with these statements and can always point to examples that would dispute any claims but my generalizaiton is that today’s world has the potential for more good than harm.

I’ve been writing this post over about 3 days and just now read George Seimens post on it and he does a nice job of synthesizing in about half the space what I really was thinking:

It is rather obvious that information abundance and multitasking are contributing to our collective anxiety. We start jonesing after only a few minutes of broken contact with email, mobile phone, or internet (ok, you might not, but I do). Weak, often shallow social, connections don’t result in deep understanding. At least not in themselves. I’m not satisfied, however, with the tone of this article. What is the solution? Stop the information flow? No new software? Hardware? Um, ok, that won’t happen. The road we are on does not yet suggest suitable off ramps. The primary options left are about adapting ourselves or our tools. Realistically, do people expect that the solution to the problem is as simple as focusing more and becoming less distracted? It’s a good article of complaint. And it’s easy to complain. Suggesting solutions and future directions is where the hard thinking occurs.

So if George was not satisfied with the article, that makes me feel a lot better.

Flickr image: grizzled_old_man_large by Derrty Mario

The buzz at Tlt 2008

I’ve been looking forward to this conference for a long time. It’s been about learning, celebrating and having a lot of fun. For a province of one million, we’ve put together quite a line up of people. In no particular order, some random thoughts:

  • Twitter is real. Meeting f2f people like D’arcy Norman, Brian Lamb, Jennifer Jones, George Siemens and Cindy Seibel as well as those who live her in Saskatchewan is cool and slightly surreal. I spend more time with these people than the majority of people I’d consider my working colleagues. Some might view that as sad, I don’t.
  • Back channeling provides push back. Whether it’s in twitter, ustream chats or informal discussions, no one gets away with much. Generally I agree with Alan November’s talk and position but am glad I have to think deeply about things.
  • We could use an open space format. Alan November says, “it’s not about the technology” and George Siemens says, “it is about the technology” How about the two of them unwrap that idea in an informal discussion. Add Stephen Downes into the mix and you’ve got something. I’d be there in a minute.
  • I hope I make some people mad. We’ll maybe not mad but if there’s some discourse, some disagreement, there should be some learning. My session with my IT manager on ET call IT might ruffle feathers. I think I’ll ruffle a few more tomorrow, at least I hope anyway. But I’m not a bad person.

Oh and by the way, Brian Lamb is fun to watch.

There’s still more good stuff to come.