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August 26, 2008

Cool Toys Conversations - 2008 Aug 26 (UM)

Many thanks to Betty Sheldon who hosted this month's Cool Toys Conversation at the NCAC on North Campus, especially for her last minute troubleshooting to get a data projector for the room. As is expected in late August, it was a small but active group. (And I really mean active!)


BOOKS & READING

Hurst, Mark. Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload. [Not available in campus libraries]

Krug, Steve. Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition. http://mirlyn.lib.umich.edu:80/F/?func=direct&doc_number=005068288&local_base=AA_PUB

Housewright, Ross; Schonfeld, Roger. Ithaka's 2006 Studies of Key Stakeholders in the Digital Transformation in Higher Education (August 18, 2008). [PDF] http://www.ithaka.org/research/Ithakas%202006%20Studies%20of%20Key%20Stakeholders%20in%20the%20Digital%20Transformation%20in%20Higher%20Education.pdf


CITIZEN JOURNALISM

* Discussion: Should small local newspapers survive as daily papers? What is lost when depending on general public for news? What is gained? What are challenges of building citizen journalism resources?

* Examples:
NowPublic: http://www.nowpublic.com/

* Pros & Cons:
The Idea Factory: Propane depot explosions expose shortcomings in breaking news coverage by newspapers living in a Web 2.0 world: http://ideas.typepad.com/webu/2008/08/propane-depot-e.html

COMMUNITY DISASTER PLANNING & INFORMATION TOOLS

ETechLib: Maps, Mashups, and Mirrors, Oh, My! - Innovative Disaster Response & Tracking Tools: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/maps_mashups_an.html

UM Health Sciences Libraries: Avian Flu Guide: http://www.lib.umich.edu/hsl/guides/avianflu.html (fed by our Delicious account)

PERSONAL HEALTH & WELLNESS TOOLS

* Discussion: Use these for personal health management, teaching classes, promote a healthy student or employee lifestyle.

Gyminee: http://www.gyminee.com/

Sprigley: https://www.sprigley.com/

SparkPeople: http://www.sparkpeople.com/


ETechLib: Welcome to Virtual Abilities: Assistive Tech Meets 3d Virtual Worlds: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/welcome_to_virt.html


PERSONAL TOOLS

ETechLib: My Top Ten Tools Today: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/my_top_ten_tool.html

Map A List: http://mapalist.com/
NOTE: Take an address list and create a private or shareable or embeddable Google maps display.
NOTE: Map where your students come from for your department.

iGoogle: http://igoogle.com/ OR http://www.google.com/ig
iGoogle Tab sharing with University of Michigan Health Sciences Library: http://digicmb.blogspot.com/2008/08/igoogle-map-sharing-with-university-of.html
NOTE: Personal efficiency -- aggregating tools such as calendars, to do lists, table of contents for frequently used journals, personalized search tools, etc.
NOTE 2: Institutional branding and sharing of tools and widgets.

PixelPipe: http://pixelpipe.com/
NOTE: Promote your media widely - send your videos to most all the video sharing sites, send your images to all the photo sharing sites, etc.

ETechLib: A.viary.com - A Sweet Suite of Online Graphic Tools: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/aviarycom_-_a_s.html

SOCIAL & PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING TOOLS

* Discussion: Ethics & politics of falsified information on these tools, of people who give recommendations to get them.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/

Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/

Konnects: http://www.konnects.com/index.jsp

AcademiaConnect: http://academiaconnect.org/


TOOLS FOR RESEARCH

Zotero: http://www.zotero.org/

Mendeley: http://www.mendeley.com/
Mendeley Announcement: http://www.mendeley.com/blog/2008/08/press-release-research-sharing-start-up-mendeley-launches-with-support-of-lastfm-chairman-and-skypes-former-founding-engineers/

Delicious: http://delicious.com/

TOOLS FOR TEACHING/LEARNING

* Discussion:

Problem: students sometimes try to use these to cheat.
Solution: Assign project work for teams rather than individual task assignments.

MathWay: http://www.mathway.com/
NOTE: For students struggling with mat concepts, more than just a calculator, this tool illustrates the steps and solution process for math problems entered (from basic math and algebra to calculus).

RentACoder: http://www.rentacoder.com/RentACoder/DotNet/default.aspx?
NOTE: Match software projects to people with skills.

Schaum's Outlines: http://www.mhprofessional.com/category/?cat=145


WEBMASTER TOOLS

ETechLib: Widgets for Webmasters: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/etechlib/archives/2008/08/via_slideshare.html

Feng-GUI: http://feng-gui.com/

BrowserShots: http://browsershots.org/

Posted by pfa at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2008

A.viary.com - A Sweet Suite of Online Graphic Tools

Do you wish you had some nice high end graphics editing package on your work computer? But it really isn't a big enough part of your job to justify that expense, is it? So here is a very nice option for the occasional graphics editing job -- A.viary.com.

This content was provided as part of the Bootcamp series as a large overview, however the content is also available in smaller files focused on the specific tools. Links for that are at the end of this post.

* Aviary - Overview: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/aviarycom-an-overview-presentation/

* Aviary - Phoenix, the Image Editor: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/aviarycom-phoenix-the-image-editor-presentation/

* Aviary - Peacock, the Pattern Generator: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/aviarycom-peacock-the-pattern-generator-presentation/

* Aviary - Toucan, the Palette Tool: http://www.slideshare.net/umhealthscienceslibraries/aviarycom-toucan-the-palette-tool-presentation/

Posted by pfa at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2008

Welcome to Virtual Abilities: Assistive Tech Meets 3d Virtual Worlds

This past weekend, I was able to attend the grand opening of Virtual Abilities, Inc. (VAI).

Virtual Abilities Grand Opening:

Virtual Abilities Inc. is an organization that is currently based in Second Life, offering information, assistance and community information, community and assistance to and about special needs and abilities. This includes information about assistive technologies and their use in accessing virtual worlds in general and Second Life in particular, as well as best practices in designing spaces and activities in Virtual Worlds to maximize universal access, accessible design, and inclusive welcoming attitude and environment.

That is my understanding, but let me quote a few lines from Gentle Heron's speech during the opening.

[13:34] Gentle Heron:
"Yesterday a reporter asked me a question I had not been asked yet about this island. “Why are you doing this?� After explaining that it wasn’t me personally, but instead a whole community of people working together toward a common goal, I had to think on my feet, because that was not a question I had prepared an answer for. I thought first of the research that underlies the big picture here. A recent survey of 2,700 people with disabilities who play casual games online (meaning Second Life, not WoW) shows that about 20% of these gamers have a physical, mental or developmental disability, compared to about 15% of the American population, according to our latest census. Playing was stress relief for 81%, 69% cited mood lifting as a benefit, and 66% said gaming distracted them from disability-related issues such as pain. Compared to all casual gamers worldwide, those with disabilities play more frequently, for more hours per week, and for longer times per session. SL really isn’t a game for our target population. The data backs this up."

My understanding is that the full chatlog will be posted later at Healthinfo Island blog, one of the VAI partners.

http://healthinfoisland.blogspot.com/2008/08/virtual-ability-island-grand-opening.html

Here are more images of the Grand Opening event.

Flickr: SL Virtual Abilities Inc.: http://www.flickr.com/groups/virtualabilities

Here is a video of highlights from the event.


Posted by pfa at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2008

Via Slideshare: Widgets for Webmasters

An interesting selection of online tools from Darlene Fichter & Frank Cervone. Check them out!

Posted by pfa at 12:54 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2008

My Top Ten Tools Today

My Top 10 Today

I am often asked what are my favorite "web 2.0" tools. Well, for now ignoring the whole discussion about the phrase "web 2.0", here are my favorite personal productivity tools right now. These float around in different priorities depending on the day, so I am alphabetizing the list below, with brief notes about why I like them.

Aviary
http://a.viary.com

A.viary is a lovely suite of online image editing and generation tools (reminiscent of (but very different from) the Creative Studios suite that includes Photoshop and Illustrator) wrapped up in a lovely social networking framework.

Delicious
http://delicious.com

My number one productivity tool, Delicious allows you to archive and manage bookmarks in an online account, with access from anywhere you have network access. I use it to save items for personal use, article bibliographies, grant projects, teaching projects, rss streams to web sites, reference questions, saving web search strategies, Pubmed search strategies, and much more. It also facilitates discovery of useful tools through your network and the general community, as well as searching a well filtered collection.

Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/

Like Delicious, Flickr is great for supporting web development and blogging. It is wonderful for image sharing and hosting, and Flickr automatically takes the one image I put in, and spits out a variety of sizes of the same image, saving me a lot of time and work. Because of the Flickr Application Programming Interface (API), many other folk have created useful tools based out of Flickr. These add-on tools allow you to create online presentations, slideshows, animations and more, embeddable within your website. Of course, there are also the groups for sharing, collecting, discovering both images of beauty and utility as well as conversations and friendships.

Friendfeed
http://friendfeed.com/

A lot of people encouraged me to try FriendFeed for a long time. Leaders in the online social talked about the conversation had moved to FriendFeed. I felt tired just thinking about it, but when I couldn't use Twitter for several days I made the switch. Wow, oh, wow. FriendFeed is so efficient about bringing to my attention the best of what's new, important, being discussed, and letting me see what my friends are doing in ALL their online spaces.

Google Plus
http://www.google.com/

This doesn't mean just searching in Google. It means that PLUS GMail, Google Images, Google News, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Earth, Reader, Blogs, Scholar, Books, Finance, Code, Labs ...

Microblogging
Identi.ca: http://identi.ca/
Jaiku: http://jaiku.com/
Plurk: http://plurk.com/
Pownce: http://pownce.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/

A couple weeks ago I would have said "Twitter" instead of "microblogging", but life changes. There are a lot of microblogging tools, and each has a different personality and attracts a different community. I am in several. These are the ones I watch, but the ones I check daily or more are Identi.ca, Plurk, and Twitter (in alphabetical order). OK, so that's what I do, but why? Because for a lot of the work I am doing, people with similar interests are there, engaging in rich provocative conversations and sharing useful resources. These, with FriendFeed have largely replaced feed readers for me, and to a large extent have also replaced much email.

Second Life
http://www.secondlife.com/

Second Life has dramatically increased my professional and intellectual engagement. When I became a single parent of a special needs child my ability and willingness to travel tot conferences was drastically reduced. In Second Life I am able to weekly attend multiple seminars, professional presentations, and training sessions, dramatically increasing my connection with people and ideas in my professional work. In addition, the number of professional presentations I have been able to generate myself has also skyrocketed. Even if I scale back by 50%, that would still be double or triple what I have done in any recent year.

Slideshare
http://www.slideshare.net/

I never really used Powerpoint or slide presentations much. At least, I didn't until Slideshare and MP4 podcasts. For the Bootcamp podcasts I had to use slides and could not do live demos. If I had to use slides, well, then I wanted to put them online. To my surprise, once the slides were in Slideshare, they developed an entirely new audience, reaching a much broader range of people than ever before. It was also useful being able to use the slides in new ways - to embed them in blogs and web pages, combine them with audio for embeddable "podcasts". It is very convenient having them backed up and archived, ready to hand during reference consultations, chats on the phone, just accessible in so many ways. I can't count how many times having a presentation in Slideshare has saved me when a computer at the site would not play the Powerpoint file I had brought with me. I would give my talk, and present using the Flash version made available through Slideshare. Very handy.

Tumblr
http://www.tumblr.com/

Tumblr is blogging made easy, mindlessly easy. Again, convenience and access is a big part of why I like this tool. I also like it for teaching other people how to blog when they are new to the idea. There doesn't seem to be any one blogging tool that has all the neat bells and whistles, and Tumblr doesn't pretend to even try. What is does do is make it so easy that anyone can do it, so easy that you might decide to have several blogs for different purposes. Best of all, it does this with a sweet set of built-in ready-to-use attractive layouts, while preserving the option for those geeks who want to customize to implement some sophisticated options via CSS.

Wetpaint
http://www.wetpaint.com/

When you say "wiki", I think Wetpaint. Sure, there are a lot of other wiki platforms, but none easier to use. The drawback with Wetpaint is that it doesn't work well in all browsers, and shows a significant loss of functionality with any browser other than Firefox. It's worth it. It's worth installing Firefox if you don't already have it. The editing interface is so similar to what is standard for word processors that the learning curve is dramatically reduced. It's easy to create, easy to use, easy to edit. Wetpaint allows you to add images, videos, calendars, embeddable media and widgets from other sites. It includes social networking features and allows you to add a discussion forum either separately or on any page. Conceptually, it is a new kind of wiki, showing the direction I believe we are headed in our blended information environment.

Posted by pfa at 08:35 PM | Comments (7)

August 14, 2008

Maps, Mashups, and Mirrors, Oh, My! - Innovative Disaster Response & Tracking Tools

Since Hurricane Katrina I've been talking to many people about ideas for crisis and disaster planning, information needs and how to anticipate them, innovative technologies to support communication, collaboration, response, management, and much more. But I haven't been blogging about it.

This will be a bare beginning, just a peek at a few tools using social media and mashups in innovative and urgently helpful ways. To explain the concept in simple terms, a technological mashup is a new tool that is created as the end result of combining data or information with data or functions from two or more existing tools or sources. For more information, here is the Wikipedia article on mashups. Social media or social technologies are terms I prefer to use instead of the popular but imprecise "Web 2.0".

Returning to Hurricane Katrina, here is an example of Hurricane Information Maps -- a mashup combined with crowdsourcing, using Google Maps with markers placed by the general public with information and resources.

Hurricane Maps Mashups

Hurricane Information Maps: http://www.scipionus.com/

Seattle city government has another mashup that combines mapping with real-time data on reported events and crises (fires, ambulance calls, car accidents, etc.), including a community reporting system.

Community Safety Mashup from Seattle City Govt Community Safety Mashup from Seattle City Govt

SeaStat (Seattle Statistics) Impacts: My Neighborhood Map: http://web1.seattle.gov/seastats/doimpacts.aspx

Sahana is an open source, free, downloadable software package for disaster management, including a focus on facilitating collaboration among volunteers and people in the field. In their own words, "Sahana is a Free and Open Source Disaster Management system. It is a web based collaboration tool that addresses the common coordination problems during a disaster from finding missing people, managing aid, managing volunteers, tracking camps effectively between Government groups, the civil society (NGOs) and the victims themselves."

Sahana Open Source Disaster Management Software

Sahana: http://www.sahana.lk/

RISEPAK (Research and Information System for Earthquakes - Pakistan) was developed by a team lead by Dr. Sarah Zaidi of Harvard in response to earthquakes in Pakistan, and is an open source, online tool incorporating many social technologies to facilitate community collaboration and response.

Risepak Earthquake Disaster Management Online Communication System

RISEPAK: http://risepak.com/

More information:

AIDG Blog [Appropriate Technology, Development, Environment]: Video: RISEPAK, a Web 2.0 tool for disaster response [Harvard Social Enterprise Conference] by Catherine Laine, March 24, 2008: http://www.aidg.org/component/option,com_jd-wp/Itemid,34/p,1030/

Another good example of crowdsourcing is the "Did You Feel It?" maps from the USGS Earthquake Center, allowing significant data contributions to earthquake tracking and prediction from the general population in affected areas of the United States. The images below show the data input screen and a map of earthquakes for today and this week.

Earthquake Maps & Crowdsourcing Earthquake Maps & Crowdsourcing

USGS: Earthquake Hazards Program: Did You Feel It?: Community Internet Intensity Maps: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/dyfi/

Probably my favorite mashup of disaster information is the interactive map housed at the Havair Information Service in Budapest, from the National Association of Radio-Distress Signalling and Infocommunications, Emergency and Disaster Information Services (EDIS).

Disaster Map

This amazing tool combines Google Earth with the WorldKit mapping tool with several real-time data sources collecting and merging information on weather, health, avian flu, politics, wars, tech disasters, and much more, all combined into a single display rich in information. The map tracks and displays hundreds of different types of emergencies or crises. The following image shows just a very small sampling of the icons used on the map (click on the image to enlarge it).

Disaster Map

You can scroll down the page for more data, and click for a report on the event.

Disaster Map Event Display

Or you can simply hover over icons on the map for a pop-up with a brief description of the event.

Disaster Map, 2

Havaria Information Service (Budapest, Hungary): RSOE EDIS: Emergency and Disaster Information Service: http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/?area=&lang=eng

What about mirrors? What are the most important and useful of these tools? Think for a minute. Most of these, if not all, appear on a single server somewhere. What if there was a disaster or crisis that made one of these tools unavailable right at the moment we need them? Any of these that is truly necessary in disaster or crisis planning and response should be mirrored -- copied and made available in many different locations. Think about it? Is there an organization that has oversight of this type of issue? I don't know of one - if there is, please comment on this post and share the information.

More reading about social media and mashups in crises and disasters.

CrisisBlogger: http://crisisblogger.wordpress.com/

Slideshare: Dave Fleet: Social Media in a Disaster: http://www.slideshare.net/davefleet/talk-is-cheap-crisis-presentation

Posted by pfa at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2008

Learning Machinima - Public Health in Second Life, the Video

I have for some months been observing Anne Perorazio explore and develop skills as a machinima artist and videographer. Initially Anne thought this was going to be easier than it ended up being. A year ago I had partnered with the School of Dentistry to make a machinima video about science in Second Life. I had taken all the machinima clips, recorded the voiceover (without a script), delivered these to the producer and videographer for final editing, and we had a final product in just about exactly three days from when we agreed to do it. That made it look easy, but it isn't really as easy any more.

A huge part of what made it easier for me was working with the team, with Sharon Grayden as producer making all the hard decisions, and especially having access to Dan Bruell, a very experienced video editor. It also made it easier that, at that time, that the Second Life browser on the Macintosh supported recording video without needing an external application. That is no longer true, and while the command remains available in the browser it does nothing but cause a crash.

Anne was faced with a very different set of technological challenges and had available very different resources. She negotiated for Camtasia, and a new computer; took classes on video capture and video editing; explored locations in Second Life as possibilities for the shoots; worked with Gillian as a producer to come up with a specific plan for the purpose and message of the video. When the script was agreed upon, Anne also did the voiceover and edited that into the video edit. Much of this required doing things over, and over, and over as part of the learning curve. Gillian provided oversight, coherence, vision, and functioned as a producer for the project.

Personally, I am enormously impressed with the production quality of the final effort as well as the elegance with which the content was selected and quilted together into a coherent whole with a very worthwhile message. Bravo to both Anne and Gillian!

MBlog: UM HSL: Second Life and Public Health Video: http://mblog.lib.umich.edu/hsl/archives/2008/08/second_life_and.html

Click here to view the high quality Quicktime video version in a browser window.

Alternatively, you can watch the low resolution version from YouTube below.


Posted by pfa at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2008

After the Twitter Blackout, part 1: Lessons Learned

A week ago today I was still reeling from having been banned on Twitter three days earlier (part 1, part 2). My account had been returned, in part, but still wasn't entirely functional. It would be Wednesday before everything worked again.

Blogpost number one about the Twitter blackout was mostly to show there was a mistake of some sort and more than a couple people were effected. The second post was to make an attempt at accurately describing what happened. The plan was that the third blogpost would describe the process of how the account got fixed, but to do that I really needed to wait for it to BE fixed! By the time it was working, it was the middle of a new work week and I had other things to do. During this time a lot of other folk had their say about the process of things getting fixed, and they did a very nice job of covering that angle well. You can find a collection of posts and more on this event here:

http://delicious.com/rosefirerising/twitter+banned

In particular, I'd like to highlight a five part series by Dave Delaney that culminated with "Why I Hate Twitter" (and included why he loves Twitter), a piece by Connie Crosby, and two thoughtful pieces about what Twitter could have done differently by Dave Fleet and EagleDawg (neither of whom were victims of the blockout!).

Dave Made That: Why I Hate Twitter: http://blog.davemadethat.com/2008/08/03/5-reasons-why-i-hate-twitter/

Connie Crosby's Day Off, or, How Twitter Decided We Needed a Break: http://conniecrosby.blogspot.com/2008/08/connie-crosbys-day-off-or-how-twitter.html

Dave Fleet: Four Lessons from Twitter’s Spam/Customer-Busting Episode: http://davefleet.com/2008/08/four-lessons-from-twitters-spamcustomer-busting-episode/

Eagle Dawg Blog: Blogger vs. Twitter account bans: Observations in communication clarity and confusion: http://eagledawg.blogspot.com/2008/08/blogger-vs-twitter-account-bans.html

There were also several voices making cogent recommendations at the original problem report page for this issue.

Get Satistifaction: Twitter: Account Deleted/banned with no reasoning: http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/topics/account_deleted_banned_with_no_reasoning

So, since everyone else has done such a wonderful job, what I would like to do instead is to look at what I learned from the event, and suggest a few best practices for microblogging for consideration. You will notice, I said "microblogging" rather than "Twitter" although, last Friday morning, in my mind, they were virtually synonymous.

First, for lessons learned, this part could easily be modeled from today's post by Luis Suarez who was banned for a couple weeks from Google Search.

Suarez, Luis. 6 Things I Learned While Being Banned From Google Search: http://www.searchnewz.com/blog/talk/sn-6-200808116ThingsILearnedWhileBeingBannedfromGoogleSearch.html

To paraphrase Luis's list of six things:
1. I need a new provider
2. I need a new "look" (facelift)
3. It's all about the community
4. I have amazing friends
5. Don't procrastinate on adopting new tech
6. Twitter is still my friend.

I need a new provider

The real message here is don't put all your eggs in one basket. What was so devastating to me with the Twitter fiasco was that I depended on it so utterly. Twitter had, for me, replaced many of the functions of email and I had entirely quit using feed readers in favor of Twitter. I also used it to date-time stamp certain work functions for statistics and tracking. When my account was deleted I lost access to both the new information coming in and my archived data, as well as my primary communication device.
Take Home: Diversify where you stream

I need a new "look" (facelift)

Luis decided he needed to do some housekeeping on his site to make it credible to the 'oversight committee.' For me, it is second guessing what Twitter was looking for that made a human review my Twitter stream as spam. My best guess so far is that following so many news feeds instead of using my RSS feed reader contributed to my following/follower balance looking skewed. I was also following people who didn't post because once upon a time they said something of interest to me. I am now doing housekeeping, going back looking for people I can unfollow to bring the ratio toward a more equal balance.
Take Home: Who do you REALLY need to follow?

It's all about the community

The community is really what made me so dependent on Twitter in the first place. In the Twitter world, there are just too many amazing, brilliant, aware, creative, insightful, funny, human, compassionate, generous people. I wish I could follow them all. I wish I could meet them all. Meanwhile, they share so much that is valuable to me, both of practical utility for my job as well as bits of sparkle, humor and compassion that make day shine a little more. I try to reciprocate and do the same for them.
Take Home: It's all about the community. :)

I have amazing friends

No explanation needed here. Wow. I cried for help, and people answered. People I know, people I knew slightly, people I didn't know existed. And they helped. They tried, and they did. Wow.
Take Home: Take care of your friends, you don't know when you'll need them.

Don't procrastinate on adopting new tech

During the time my Twitter account was blocked, I found myself scrambling to learn and use a number of alternate tools that had been recommended widely on Twitter. I had already created accounts in many, but hadn't taken the time to figure them out and learn how to use them. I hadn't needed them, and was happy the way things were. Well, that changed, in a hurry. If I had already been actively using FriendFeed, Ping, Jaiku, Pownce, Identi.ca I might not have been so stressed. What initially actually got me help were the alternate tools I had taken the time to learn and use - Plurk, Summize, Delicious, etcetera.
Take Home: Don't wait until there is a crisis to learn the new tools.

Twitter is still my friend

Jake Goldman worked heroically in partnership with the Twitter tech team to find and fix the many problems created by the account deletions. It took long enough that I built new skills and habits, but I still find myself spending most of my microblogging time in conversations on Twitter.
Take Home: It's good to be back. :)

Posted by pfa at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2008

The Parable of Keith Burtis (Or, Social Media the Way it Ought to Be)

At the most recent Cool Toys Conversations meeting, I mentioned in passing that I'd just bought a wood bowl from Keith Burtis, and how fascinating I found the process that led me to him and his art. I thought it was in passing, anyway, but it turned into a twenty minute discussion, with a lot of enthusiasm and everyone scribbling down his name and website.

Since then, I've been asked repeatedly to retell this story. I've been asked by coworkers, teachers, people at church, musicians, small business owners. So here it is -- a parable featuring Keith Burtis. This is the story of how I found a bowl, one I'd been wanting for 30 years. Or perhaps it is the story of how I found an artist and a kindred spirit. Or perhaps it is the story of how I found a story.

This story began quite a while ago, but my part began on Valentine's Day, on Twitter. I saw a mention on Twitter (I think from @ConnieCrosby, another librarian) of Keith Burtis needing money to pay for an engagement ring to propose to his beloved, and that he was selling turned wood art objects via Twitter in support of this goal. Well, I was intrigued.

About Keith Burtis

Mostly, what captured my interest was the combination of his being a wood worker and marketing through social media. I love wood. I have several pieces of wood working in my home already, most of which I picked up at second hand stores or from friends. As a single parent, I usually can't afford art work from galleries or commercial venues.

I started to follow Keith's Twitter stream, and found him an interesting and engaging real person, not just someone marketing his stuff. I noticed he had a link in his profile to his blog.

Magic Woodworks: http://magicwoodworks.com/blog/

From his blog I found his Etsy store and Flickr stream. Ah, Flickr! (My gut response was along the lines of "Ooooh, shiny.") I loved looking at the wood pieces. Like Keith's Twitter stream, in his Flickr stream he was still a real person, with photos of himself going fishing, lots of fly fishing lures and the occasional personal photo. I also saw conversations Keith was having with other Twitter friends, liked seeing the occasional piece he contributed to charity and for helping friends out, videos he made for mutual friends of their own artwork, as well as hearing about his fiancée. Between Twitter, Flickr and his blog, I had a sense of knowing Keith, and he seemed like what I call "good folk."

Every now and again I'd go window shopping at the Flickr site, but everytime I found something I loved it would have sold before I found it. Hmmmm. Then one day, months later, I saw a burl bowl that I loved, loved, loved and it was still available! I had wanted a piece made from burl for about thirty years, and could never afford them. This one was only $85, which was doable.

Keith Burtis: Mother Earth6

At least I thought it was available. Contacted Keith via Twitter and Flickr, and found it had already sold. But. He had another piece of burl and would make me a bowl like the first one as a commission. My, my, a commission! I felt so fancy.

Then I found out there were even more layers to Keith's exemplary use of social media. He offered to make the bowl while I watched. Now, Keith and I live in the same timezone, but he is in New York and I am in Michigan. Well, it turns out that Keith has a series on BlogTV where he does woodworking live, over the Internet.

Keith Burtis: Australian Brown Malle Burl Bowl

I was very impressed! So here I was, sitting in my living room watching Keith make the bowl I "commissioned", while I was in a chatroom with 15 other people also watching. We all talked about what he was doing, how he was doing it, Keith answered questions from other woodworkers about technique, asked me questions about what I wanted, talked about how he finishes pieces, resharpened the blade a few times, and we had a grand little party going for about an hour and a half while he worked on the bowl. It turned out that Keith was able to record his BlogTV presentations, and that some of them were archived in YouTube.

About Keith Burtis

Then I found that Keith was a bit of, well, other folks are calling him a microcelebrity. I think maybe that means a microblogging celebrity, since Twitter seems to be his primary route to fame, but I could be thinking so just because that's how I know him.

Anyway, it turns out that Keith doesn't just talk to hear himself, but other folks are talking about him. He is featured in other people's videos ...

About Keith Burtis About Keith Burtis

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfPKF4Xa9vc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocu0WfFb-HU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-94JFq9JuM

... interviewed in podcast shows ...

About Keith Burtis

... and I can't even begin to count how many folk blog about things he's done. Me included, now, I guess. :)

After a week for finishing and a week for shipping, my bowl arrived!!

Keith Burtis: Rare Earth

Isn't it gorgeous? I have closeups of the wood grain in my Flickr account - it looks like flames. Everyone asks me how much it cost. Well, the piece I originally fell in love with was $85. Keith knew I was willing and able to pay $85. Did he charge me $85? Nope. I paid $66. Can you believe that? When I was in grad school I took a course on managing your own small business. One rule of thumb I recall was about how to charge. Think of how much money you want to make for an annual take home salary. If you want to make $50,000/yr, then you charge 3 times 50 for your hourly rate, or $150. The reason given was twofold: (1) for each billable hour, you have unbillable hours where you are doing prep work or skills building or repairs and can't charge a client; (2) when you are an employee your employer covers expenses like health insurance, life insurance, building space, equipment, marketing and such, but when you are self employed you have to pay for these costs (overhead) yourself. The hidden costs that keep you in business need to be included in your billable hours. By any way I count, Keith is not charging anywhere near what he should be. I poked around the net and found bowls of equal or lesser artistic interest ranging in price from double what I paid to several hundred more, even approaching a thousand dollars. I saw none that I liked better.

How can he afford to do this? Well, I don't believe he has given up his day job (that helps a bit), and all the marketing is coming through social media, mostly through free or inexpensive services. The social media bit is really working well for him. Why is that? I have my own thoughts.

Keith is using social media the way it ought to be used -- he is being himself, and he is doing what he loves. A bit of clarification is in order. Just being yourself isn't enough for everyone. In Keith's case who he is is a nice guy who I'd be proud to have as a neighbor, in the online world or the face-to-face world. Keith is making friends who are real friends, and he is there for them. He helps them out ranging from an interview to fill a tight schedule, to making a piece for auction to raise money for cancer or other good purposes. His friends are there for him, and help out when something happens like his car fails and money is needed for the repairs (for example).

Or, perhaps all we need to say is what Keith says in his most recent blogpost.

Magic Woodworks: What Has Social Media of the Internet Inspired You To Do? http://magicwoodworks.com/blog/?p=245

1. Live your life with passion and enthusiasm every day! Even if that means staying up way past your bedtime to write this blog entry :)

2. Help others and be selfless.

About Keith Burtis

Posted by pfa at 08:43 PM | Comments (3)

August 07, 2008

Wetpaint, By Popular Request

During Enriching Scholarship last May, a group of people asked me to do a session on how to use Wetpaint. So I did. Wetpaint offers quite a lot:
* easy to use editing interface,
* integrated social networking,
* discussion tools,
* excellent collaboration environment for teaching, distance learning, research, or just general information sharing.

Best of all, they practice what they preach, with excellent use of their own and other social media for community support and outreach. Bravo, and job well done!

The podcast with audio will be available shortly at the Bootcamp Archive.

Posted by pfa at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2008

Creative Commons in Culture and Coding

This fascinating presentation by Mike Linksvayer, the Vice President of CreativeCommons.org, looks at the history and evolution of free or open source concepts and intellectual property in our modern intellectual climate. Specifically he examines how the intellectual climate differs in quality and implementation between sharing of cultural content and sharing of software. Please take a look at this and consider the implications for your own work and that in your field.

Linksvayer, Mike. Free Software/Free Culture Collaboration. LinuxWorld August 5, 2008.


Posted by pfa at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2008

Twitter "Banning", Day Two Report: Social Media Troubleshooting

Friday August 1st, I had taken a day of vacation to clean house, and was working from home. Late in the day I started to experience funkiness with my account on Twitter. Now, two important points. First point, earlier this week I stated in this blog that Twitter is my #2 productivity tool. In other words, this is REALLY important for me! Second point, Twitter funkiness (like Second Life funkiness) is not unusual, so at first I did not realize this was anything beyond the typical.

After a few hours I started to get worried and was digging a little harder to figure out the problem. That was when I realized my account was gone - I tried to go to my profile page, and oops! no one home. Ahem. Lucky for me, at that shocking moment, I happened to be on the phone with a Twitter friend who was able to make enquiries on my behalf.

Twitter Banned Me! And More!

I tried to report the problem through official channels, discovering that at least one other person had the same problem.

Twitter Banned Me! And More!

Taking a closer look at the official complaint page started by @tibbon, it was very clear that this problem was not being taken seriously. @Tibbon had been told, basically, that it must be his fault. He had been trying rather frantically for several hours to get assistance, and had been told it would probably take a week for them to get to his problem.

Get Satisfaction: Twitter: Account deleted/banned with no reasoning: http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/topics/account_deleted_banned_with_no_reasoning

All kinds of alarms went off. I had just been asked to demo Twitter (among other social techs) at an important upcoming meeting. Wait a week? For them to just look at the problem? Ummm, that could be a REAL problem! I still did the right thing, added my own comments to the page, and waited for a response.

Meanwhile, @ev had replied to my friend and said he was looking into it. We thought, oh, we'll hear more soon.

Twitter Banned Me! And More!

Now, consider that none of the normal paths for Twitter problems were open to me. There was no way to send a Tweet to the right folks for help. Their emails are secret (rightly so), so there was no way to send an email. Going to the help page put me in a loop I had already attempted, and which was not working for @tibbon. There was no information on the Twitter Blog, nor on the status page.

Idea: Use social media to troubleshoot a social media problem. I thought it would be interesting to report out on the social media that was used to try to get the attention of Twitter brought to the problem. My first plurk on the topic was around 9:30PM. I kept describing the problem, and after a few hours, was feeling quite concerned that there had been no further reply.

Plurk, 1:30am, pfanderson:
Twitter "Banned" - Day 2-3

Plurk, 3am, davedelaney:
Twitter Banned Me! And More!

As I was unsure whether plurking would reach the right people, I also tried to think of who I knew in other social networks that were also in Twitter and might be willing to send a message on my/our behalf. I started bookmarking relevent pages and discussions in Delicious, adding notes begging people to send Ev a message.

Twitter - "Banned"? - Day 2, Late morning

Before I actually went to bed, I saw this picked up by bloggers who were not victims, and both Dave and I had written our own first blogposts on the topic (Dave's / Mine). As the first victim, @Tibbon had blogged this earlier in the day.

Blogs: The Little One (Kristen):
More Twitter Banning Stuff

Someone on Plurk (I think it was LEMills) said she'd Digg this, and someone did.

Twitter "Banned"? - Day 2, Early PM, Making Progress

As the night went on, people discovered more and more folk who had been banned (suspended, deleted, blocked, what have you). I don't know if it was luck or not, but I found myself in really good company for the group of folks who had been banned. @Tibbon was friends with Jeff Pulver and Chris Brogan, which got him reinstated quickly. Chris Brogan posted discussion to FriendFeed about this.

Twitter - "Banned"? - Day 2, Late morning

By 2AM, we were seeing the story starting to make its way through the Plurk and Twitter communities. I went to bed seeing tweets show up in the Twitter Search (Summize) that folks missed us and were hoping our accounts would be back in the morning.

Unfortunately, that wasn't what happened. I awoke int the morning to more discussions, more victims of the problem, and still no response from anyone official at Twitter. We kept working at it, with the awareness of the problem and concerns of lack of communication from Twitter spreading across the social media. At that point, it was letting the community work at the problem, and continuing to keep information up to date - sharing responses, new strategies and tips for verifying the decency of the victims, and identities of new victims as they were discovered.

Late Saturday afternoon, Jason Goldman from Twitter officially came on the case and started actively working for a solution. At this point, things became hopeful, and seemed to move very quickly. Within and hour, they seemed to have figured out what happened. Portions of solutions came into place literally within a matter of a few hours. But that is another story. This was the story of how the story penetrated other social media.

Posted by pfa at 05:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2008

Twitter Banned Who????

I am a not just a Twitter fan, but more like a Twitter fanatic. I liked to say I suffer from Twitterphilia. In fact in my blogpost yesterday I said that Twitter was my #2 productivity tool, with Delicious being #1.

Today I passed the nice round number of my 5,000th Tweet.

Twitter: 5,000 Tweets!

Well, Twitter is having some problems. I don't know if they know why, but they've inexplicably started to ban and delete accounts for some of their best supporters and apparently random other users. I could go into a lot of details, but suffice it to say I am one of the deleted and banned accounts. Me, and @tibbon, @conniecrosby, @davedelaney, and probably other folk who haven't even discovered it yet.

Several of these deleted and banned accounts are for social medial power users. Of course, since we couldn't get into Twitter to get help, and since Twitter support either did not reply (Friday night, after all) or said we'd have to wait a week for a fix, several of us squawked on other social media services asking our friends and followers to try to get us help. What else could we do? @Tibbon had been trying to get help for seven hours without any useful response. Then when more of us joined the problem page, what hope did we see?

Here is a slideshow of screenshots that illustrate part the tale.

If you want more detail, here is the slide set on Flickr.

Tech - Twitter - "Banned"?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosefirerising/sets/72157606495884625/

Now, some folk are scared - many people are worried that they'll be next. You see that in some of the search engine screenshots. You will notice there are no screenshots of the blog or status pages for Twitter, because they hadn't said anything new for a few days. There was no evidence that Twitter knew this was happening, aside from @Ev's one reply to @Inertial_Voom, saying that he'd check into it.

Here is a discussion on Plurk (one of many!).

"davedelaney pfanderson and tibbon have both been suspended without reason from Twitter too.": http://www.plurk.com/p/21npg

Dave asked for help from Mashable and TechCrunch. Not sure if they saw his request. Meanwhile, Dave and Tibbon and I were all asking for help via GetSatisfaction. You can see the discussion and testimonials here:

GetSatisfaction: Twitter: Account Deleted/Banned With no reasoning: http://getsatisfaction.com/twitter/topics/account_deleted_banned_with_no_reasoning

Really, folk, we are not bad people! We are people who love (or loved) Twitter - Twitter evangelists! I teach about Twitter, I present about it at conferences, I have slideshows in Slideshare about it, I blog about. How can I honestly try to persuade administrators to make use of Twitter for marketing and community outreach when stuff like this happens, the response time is poor, and even if they are working on fixing the problem, they don't TELL US WHAT IS GOING ON?

Worst of all, I'd been complaining for weeks that I wanted to back up my twitterstream and archive my data, but they were limiting access and blocking the archive. I need my archive. I need a way to get at it. And now it has been deleted. Without warning, without discussion, without consent.

Posted by pfa at 12:09 AM | Comments (2)