Tag: Twitter (page 2 of 11)

An Anarcho-Syndicalist critique of Web browsers

It’s good to have outliers in your Twitter stream and other social networks. The following conversation between @leashless and @mmaaikeu really made me think today, especially about literacies for the Web being predicated upon viewing it through a browser with built-in affordances, etc.

If the Storify embed doesn’t appear below, the full conversation (including tangents) can be found in my Flickr photostream or on the Internet Archive.

[View the story “Anarcho-syndicalist critique of browsers” on Storify]

I welcome the pushback to the work I’m doing that’s implicit in the conversation above. It’s always good to keep stuff like this in mind!

Two online gatherings you should be part of (today/tomorrow)

Earlier this week I led an #etmooc session on Digital Literacies. The slides for that are here and the video, audio, chat and etherpad archive can be found here. I’m involved in another couple of online gathering-type things in the new literacies arena this week that may also be of interest.

1. Twitter chat for #etmooc

I’m following up the above Digital Literacies #etmooc session with a Twitter chat at 10am PST / 3pm EST / 8pm GMT tomorrow night (Wednesday 20th February 2013). You don’t really need to do anything apart from follow the #etmooc hashtag and tweet accordingly.

2. Web Literacy standard online gathering

A couple of weeks ago we had a great kick-off online gathering for Mozilla’s upcoming work around a new, open learning standard for Web Literacy. There were many who couldn’t attend so we’re running the session again this Thursday (21st February 2013) at  9am PST / 12pm EST / 5pm GMT.

Further details are at http://weblitstd2.eventbrite.com. The recording of the previous session, along with some of my thoughts around the subject can be found here.

I’d love to see your name pop up at either or both of these events. Do take part if you can! 🙂

Image CC BY paul_clarke

On ‘rigour’ in definitions of digital and web literacy.

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd

TL;DR version: If we define rigour as something that’s ‘unchanging’ and ‘objective’ then it’s almost impossible to be ‘rigorous’ about digital and web literacy. Instead, I propose that instead of being rigorous that we’re relevant, even if that’s at the expense of some objectivity.

Here’s an interesting one. I occasionally get corralled into Twitter conversations as someone who knows about something or other. Today, it was Miles Berry after being asked why the new draft National Curriculum should include ‘digital literacy’. The assumption by his interlocutor (Bruce Nightingale) was that in order for a subject to be included in a programme of study it should be ‘rigorously defined’ with a ‘body of knowledge’ behind it.

When I asked whether rigour means ‘has a definition everyone agrees on’ Bruce pointed me towards this blog post by Jenny Mackness on ‘academic rigour’. The conversation quickly became too nuanced to do justice in 140-character bursts, hence this follow-up blog post. I hope Bruce has time to reply.

In Jenny’s post she talks about finding definitions of ‘academic rigour’ unsatisfactory. I’d suggest that’s because it’s a kind of Zeugma, an ambiguous term. But let’s just focus upon ‘rigour’. The Oxford English Dictionary (probably the best place to resort when faced with knotty problems of definition) gives the etymology of ‘rigour’ as:

Etymology:  < Anglo-Norman and Middle French rigour, Middle French rigeur, rigueur (French rigueur ) inflexible severity, severity, harshness (12th cent. in Old French), strict application (of laws) (13th cent.), feeling of tingling or prickling (a1365 in medical context), (in plural) repressive measures (15th cent.), cruelty (15th cent.), harshness that is difficult to bear (end of the 15th cent., of cold, etc.), exactitude, precision (1580) and its etymon classical Latin rigor unbending quality, stiffness, rigidity, numbness, numbness of the body in fever, unyielding hardness, frozen condition, quality of being stiffly erect, tautness, inflexibility, sternness, severity, uncouthness < rig?re to be stiff (see rigent adj.) + -or -or suffix. Compare Old Occitan rigor (1461), Catalan rigor (14th cent.), Spanish rigor (13th cent.), Portuguese rigor (14th cent.), Italian rigore (a1320).

I can’t help but think when I see words like ‘harshness’, ‘cruelty’, ‘exactitude’, ‘precision’, ‘rigidity’ and ‘inflexibility’ that we’re using the wrong word here. Applying such stringent measures to an ambiguous term like ‘digital literacy’ is problematic as ‘digital’ pertains to many different referents. To talk of rigour (as defined above), then, is verging on the ridiculous.

But does a lack of rigour around a subject, topic or idea make it less valuable? I’d suggest not. Instead, I’d suggest it’s the terminology we’re using that’s problematic. Let’s take another example: the idea of academic ‘impact’. What, exactly, does that mean? You may well be able to draw up a framework or points for this or that, rewarding academics for performing certain activities and publishing in various places. But what about obvious areas of ‘impact’ that lie outside of that rigid framework? Rigour does not mean relevancy. Sometimes the problem is with the tools you are using rather than the thing you are trying to describe. It’s OK for things to be nebulous and slightly intangible.

Having spent several years of my adult life delving into the murky world of new literacies I’d suggest that (for example) helping young people learn how to use digital devices, how to think computationally, and how to stay safe online are extremely relevant things to be doing. Can we boil these activities down to things to be learned once for all time? Of course not. It’s hard enough when you’ve got a single referent (e.g. the Web)

So, in conclusion, I’ll see your definition of ‘rigour’ and raise you a ‘relevance’. Not everything that is valuable can be measured objectively. Nor should it be.

Image CC BY-NC-SA Josh Clark

#BelshawBlackOps12 has started – see you in 2013!

I’m composing this sitting cross-legged with my back to the wall in a hotel room in Porto. There’s an occasional gentle breeze that drifts through the open window that slightly chills the back of my neck. I expected Portugal to be warmer for some reason.

The cacophony of seagulls behind outside fades into the background as the sound of church bells fills the air. An earlier glance out of the window showed people getting ready for the day. They take for granted the magnificent, tall buildings with tiled facades; it’s no wonder the centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m going to spend the entire month of December being a lot more analogue. I’m really looking forward to spending that time increasing my mindfulness. I’ll still be performing my normal work functions for Mozilla, but will tend towards paper to get things done. Meanwhile, I’ll not be using technology for personal communications.

This means:

  •  I’m not looking at or responding to personal emails
  •  I won’t be active on social networks like Twitter or Google+
  •  No new blog posts or weekly newsletters in December

I intend to spend time with my family and read books that have been recommended to me. This digital hiatus is something I’ve done for the past couple of years and would highly recommend to anyone. At a time when I’m feeling slightly weary and cynical about the world it’s a period of rejuvenation that allows me to start the New Year with a bang.

See you in 2013! 🙂

Image CC BY NASA Goddard Photo and Video

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps12

For the past couple of years I’ve undertaken Belshaw Black Ops. It’s the name Paul Lewis gave to my personal digital hiatus lasting for the month of December. I live in such a fast-paced online world for the other eleven months of the year that I need some time to take it all in!

You can read about what I got up to last year here.

This post is a heads-up to say that during December I won’t be:

I’d hoped not to be travelling either, but my job at the Mozilla Foundation evangelising Open Badges necessitates me going to a few places. Unless you’re also in those locations, the only way of getting hold of me is via my work email. Ask me for it ASAP if you need it!

Just to confirm that I’ll still be around on Twitter and Google+ for the next couple of weeks as well as blogging and writing my newsletter. But after then, leave me alone for a bit, OK?

I need to recharge. 🙂

Image CC BY-NC tantek

Open Badges, Clay Shirky, and the tipping point.

The great thing about thinkers such as Clay Shirky is that they can put into pithy, concise quotations things that remain latent in our collective thinking. You know, things like:

We’ve reached an age where this stuff is technologically boring enough to be socially interesting.

I first used that quote in a post four years ago when I called for technology to be so commonplace and ubiquitous that it’s not considered a thing distinct from human interaction. Technology should be woven into the fabric of our identities not something set apart, alien and ‘other’.

Four years ago social networks weren’t woven into society the way they are now. Nowadays, of course, hashtags accompany the opening credits to television shows so that they can be discussed in a ‘channel’ on Twitter, it’s entirely normal to whip your mobile device when standing in a queue (instead of talking about the weather to a stranger), and you’d be shocked if brands didn’t encourage you to follow them on Facebook.

One way to explain this is through Clay Shirky’s lens: these things are now socially boring enough to be socially interesting. You can assume that almost the man or woman on the street knows what Facebook, Twitter and mobile devices are for without having to explain them first. That means we can talk about the next layer up- i.e. what we do with those tools.

Open Badges are still quite technologically interesting. There’s several aspects of them that the average person wouldn’t understand without having it explained. For example:

  • What metadata is
  • How an Open Badges consists of ‘baking’ metadata into an image
  • That anyone can host a badge backpack because it’s Open Source software
  • What is means that the various badge backpacks will be ‘federated’

Now, we could go about a mass education program and (relatively speaking) spend a lot of money helping people to learn about these things. But that’s not how things reach a tipping point. The way people become proficient with tools like social networks or Open Badges is because they scratch an itch (solve a problem) or because there’s a ‘hook’ interesting enough for them to be dragged, Alice in Wonderland-like into a deep rabbit-hole where they can find out more.

So in a UK context, Stephen Fry’s 2009 video interview where he explained his love of Twitter in layman’s terms meant that many people were provided a hook. In fact, this is how advertising and celebrity endorsement works: “I like Person X, and Person X likes Thing Y, so therefore I should find out more about Thing Y.” With Facebook, it was an itch to be scratched: when you’re excluded from a conversation because you’re not using a particular social network, then there’s a powerful incentive to join the tribe. Especially as the nominal cost of entry is ‘free’ and the difficulty level is ‘super easy’.

What we need with Open Badges, and which we’ll certainly have by early 2013, are compelling examples of how they can be used in education and other contexts. At the same time we’re working on ways to make ‘onboarding’ easier for issuers, displayers and endorsers. We’re also working on the UX and UI for badge earners. In other words, we’re ready for badges to be huge next year.

Watch this space. 🙂

Image CC BY Joi

Why a ‘mixed economy’ of digital devices is best for your educational institution.

lisa's scissors

Earlier today, on Twitter, I mentioned that the 64GB version of the BlackBerry Playbook is now at the scandalously low price of £129. They’re practically giving it away.

I mentioned that for some educational institutions that would be a really good fit, especially given that you can side-load Android apps. Eventually, I should imagine, you’ll be able to dispose of the BlackBerry OS altogether and juse go with Android for the entire system.

Bill Lord, a Primary school headteacher, replied that he was looking at a ‘mixed economy’ of devices for his educational institution, adding that he had three main reasons for this approach:

  1. Pupil needs
  2. Staff needs (confidence/competence)
  3. Vagaries of the market

I’m with Bill. To my mind, being an ‘iPad-only’ school makes no sense. It’s replicating the Microsoft vendor lock-in all over again. Since when was school about teaching young people how to use particular types of devices?

Instead, it’s better to look at the affordances of each device. That doesn’t mean how much it costs, but rather what it allows you to do. The BlackBerry Playbook at £129, for example, has front and rear-facing cameras and a high-definition screen. Sounds like an opportunity.

It’s OK to build learning activities around specific devices some of the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it all of the time. Why not focus on building and using things that are device-agnostic? Surely that’s a more sustainable option? Use the Web, for goodness’ sake!

Finally, if you’re reading this in the UK you should really stop by HotUKDeals every now and again. I’m on there at least three times a day – and not just to find cheaper stuff than usual. I also find it really enlightening in terms of what people are interested in but, more importantly, the comments people leave and the context they give. There’s some serious expertise there.

Image CC BY-NC reebob

Wordle-like Twitter screens for conference keynote presenters?

I’ve been at the PELeCON conference this week. After her keynote, Keri Facer mentioned in a couple of tweets that the Twitter wall being visible to the audience but not the speaker can be problematic. Everything was positive in Keri’s session, but this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone (see danah boyd example).

So it got me thinking about what I’d like, as a presenter, when doing a keynote. There’s lots of different reasons tweet about a session using the conference hashtag. For example:

  • To let those who aren’t there know what’s being said
  • To give a voice to the livestream audience (if applicable)
  • To provide links to what’s being discussed
  • For banter/puns/general merrymaking
  • For agreement, disagreement and questions

…and many more.

Whilst you’re presenting there’s no way you can keep up with the stream in the same way that you (potentially) can when in the audience. But it would be nice to know the gist of what people are saying in the backchannel.

Thinking about it, I casually remarked that some kind of Twitter screen in front of presenters would be useful. And if those tweets that had been retweeted (RT’d) several times could appear bigger, so much the better.

Chris Atherton mentioned this sounded a lot like Wordle and Pat Parslow riffed on the idea talking about the potential for sentiment analysis.

That idea look something like this with traffic light colours for sentiment:

Twitter-Wordle idea

The trouble is, that’s still too much to take in whilst you’re presenting. So, thinking some more, I reckon all that’s needed is the top three most RT’d tweets. Which would look something like this:

Twitter wall for presenters

What do you think? Would this be useful?

How hard would it be to make it a reality?

3 principles for a more Open approach.

This exchange on Google+ with Rob Poulter (referencing my previous post on platforms and standards) got me thinking. The highlights are below.


Ultimately I don’t think the problem is between native vs web, the problem is one of closed vs open, and not in a Google PR way. The things we tend to care about in the online world are services, not apps. Services see us passing responsibility for our data on to a third party, and usually based on features rather than interoperability or longevity. At the end of the day, if there’s something which we would mind losing, it’s our responsibility to keep it, not some third party.


My issue, I suppose is platforms becoming de facto standards because ‘everyone uses them’. Kind of like Dropbox and Twitter and so on…

There’s definitely an elision which I need to resolve in my thinking between ‘HTML5 webapps’ and ‘openness’. Thanks for the pointers!


The standards thing is tough I guess. Who wants to be the business that boasts of how easy it is to jump ship? Especially for social applications like Twitter, Facebook, G+ etc (Dropbox and other personal services not so much since they tend to compete on features and can’t rely on “hey, all your friends are here, you’re not going anywhere”).

I pointed out that Google Takeout actually does allow you to export your data from Google to other platforms. But, as Rob responded, not the comments on other people’s posts.

All of this made me think about my principles for using software and web services. It reminded me of Baltasar Gracian’s constant reminders in The Art of Worldly Wisdom (which I read on constant repeat) that it’s easy to begin well, but it’s the ending well that counts.

So, I’ve come up three principles to guide me:

  1. I will use free and Open Source software wherever possible. (I’m after the sustainable part of OSS, not the ‘free’ part)
  2. If this is not possible then I will look for services which have a paid-for ‘full-fat’ offering.
  3. I will only use proprietary services and platforms without a paid-for option if not doing so would have a significant effect on my ability to connect with other people.

What’s in and what’s out? I’ll stick with Twitter and Google+ (but will try to connect with people I follow in additional ways). Evernote, Spotify, Skype and Dropbox are fine for the time being (I pay for them). I’ll try and move away from GMail and Google Calendar.

Any suggestions for replacements?


Twitter, TweetBot and Custom API endpoints

As David Weinberger famously argued, the internet is great because it’s made up of small pieces loosely joined. That’s why I get kind of unreasonable when those connections I’ve made aren’t possible any more. It interrupts my workflows.

Many things can be automated these days using sites such as ifttt. If you haven’t discovered this website yet, click on the link and say goodbye to the rest of your morning/afternoon/evening. You’re welcome. 😀

For the past year or so I’ve been used to using something called gdzl.la to connect Twitter with Flickr. Instead of using TwitPic or, now, Twitter’s built-in service, I pointed my ‘Image API endpoint’ to gdz.la and my photos would show up in my Flickr stream. The flic.kr link to the image would then be appended to my tweet. Awesome.


In their infinite wisdom, Twitter took this functionality out of the latest version of their official iOS client:

Twitter - lack of custom Image API endpoint

(click to enlarge)

Disappointed Doug was disappointed.

All was not lost, however. I asked (via TweetDeck – the Adobe Air version, as Twitter’s HTML5 version sucks) my Twitter network which iOS client they used. The response was many and varied, but a significant number of people recommended TweetBot. Enough for me to pay £1.99 for an app that provides similar functionality I can get for free.

To cut a long story short, TweetBot allows you to define a custom Image API endpoint:

TweetBot - custom Image API endpoint TweetBot - gdz.la

(click to enlarge)

Happy Doug is now happy. 🙂