I spent half of last week at the Thinking Digital conference. If you ever get the chance to go I really would take it, being such a concentrated dose of all things awesome. There really was a staggering depth and breadth do it. I fully intend to go through my notes and write up my highlights, but I want to focus in this post on an almost throw-away comment made by David Siegel in his (otherwise fantastic) presentation.
The comment was something along the lines of predicting that in the future we will have ‘dumbphones’ instead of ‘smartphones’. The scenario presented was that if you lose your phone you’ll be able to borrow someone else’s, or pick one up cheaply, connect it to your ‘personal data locker’ and carry on as normal.
Behind this scenario I felt there was a fatalistic view of the future, one in which humankind attempts to design and engineer a world seen only in science-fiction films. I’m no psychology or sociology expert, but I’ve 29 years’ experience and observation of human nature under my belt. And it strikes me that the one, highly personal and customised thing that people carry around with them everywhere is their mobile phone. So to say that they will become commodity items (in the way that, for example, batteries are) doesn’t ring true for me.
A related point, not made or even insinuated by Siegel, is the assumption held by many that the internet was created for businesses to make a profit. I’d just like to make the fairly obvious point that this is not the case. I’m beginning to see what Chris Messina was getting at last year when he pointed out the dangers surrounding the death of the URL and the ‘appification’ of the web. I’m experimenting by ditching my iPhone for a more open platform.
I guess I could sum it up in one single sentence: “The more heavily involved I’m with the various social networking sites available out there, the more I heart my own… blogs“.
It all has got to do with something as important as protecting your identity, your brand… your personal image, your own self in various social software spaces that more and more we seem to keep losing control over, and with no remedy.
I’ve decided to start the Curmudgeon’s Manifesto, which may serve as a call to arms to start dumping platforms that don’t understand how to play nice on the Internet. It’s our playground, and through our actions we get to set the rules of conduct.
Here’s my start (additions welcome):
I will not use web services that hijack my data or that of my network.
I will share openly on the Web and not constrain those with whom I share.
I will not lead others into the temptation of using web services that do not respect privacy, re-use, open formats or exportable data.
Friends are fun, but they’re only on some websites. OpenSocial helps these sites share their social data with the web. Applications that use the OpenSocial APIs can be embedded within a social network itself, or access a site’s social data from anywhere on the web.
OpenID is a decentralized standard, meaning it is not controlled by any one website or service provider. You control how much personal information you choose to share with websites that accept OpenIDs, and multiple OpenIDs can be used for different websites or purposes. If your email (Google, Yahoo, AOL), photo stream (Flickr) or blog (Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal) serves as your primary online presence, OpenID allows you to use that portable identity across the web.
Change the name of the Curmudgeon’s Manifesto to the Open Educators’ Manifesto (or similar). Back OpenID and OpenSocial. People like to sign up to positive-sounding things that cite big players or existing traction. I’m sure Chris Messina and other open (source/web) advocates have a take on this! 😀
Thus we get tweets similar to the following that recommends people to follow:
I’d like to propose a new hashtag to help new and existing teachers share and pick up tips. It’s based on the title of a section of the Historical Association’s Teaching Historymagazine that aims to move student and newly qualified teachers forward. Thus we’d get something like:
I think this would be manageable. After all, how long does it take to reflect on a lesson, realise something and fire off a 140-character message? :-p
Whilst I haven’t tinkered with the theme for this blog (yet!) I’ve changed the landing page when you visit dougbelshaw.com. There’s a bit of a saga behind it. :-p
A tweet from Kathy Sierra directed me to Brynn Evans’ (@brynn) blog where she had a great post about an idea called ‘betacup’. What struck me about Brynn’s blog, however, was the clear and straightforward layout. Summising that she was running WordPress (most blogs, including this one, do!) I looked in the footer for an indication of the theme she was using.
Hmm… no dice. Another way to find out a blog’s theme is to use the ‘view source’ option in your web browser (View/Page Source in Firefox). Sure enough, this revealed the following:
In other words, the theme being used was in a folder with the title love_work. Again, summising that this was probably short for Love & Work, I searched Google for it. No joy.
Refusing to be beaten and now intrigued, I looked at the CSS by following the link above. CSS stands for ‘Cascading Style Sheets’ and it is the method used to ‘style’ the blog. Authors often put their details at the top of such documents:
Although a little downhearted that it would seem that the author – a ‘Chris Messina’ (@chrismessina)- created a custom theme (meaning it was probably generally available for me to tweak) I decided to visit his website – factoryjoe.com. I was impressed with what I saw:
I thought this was wonderful. Not only does it link to everywhere Chris is online (and deems important) but it tells a story. Unthinkingly (and to my shame) I set about copying him. I ended up with this (CC-NC-SA factoryjoe):
I did mention on Twitter what I’d done (in fact my network were very helpful in my tweaking it) leading to this tweet the following morning from Chris:
Whilst Chris was a gentleman and agreeable about it, others were a bit more to the point. The outcome was that I realised I needed to do my own thing rather than copy someone else’s design. After all, as someone who makes his living through web technologies, it’s only fair that Chris’ design is unique. 🙂
I spent a while thinking about what I wanted and, to cut an already-too-long story short, with the help of my Twitter network, I’ve ended up with this: