TL;DR version: Register your own domain name, find some server space and install Open Source software. It’s harder than using someone else’s shiny service, but you’re in control. It’s worth it.
I found out today (via Drew Buddie) that Posterous is shutting down at the end of April. While this is a sad state of affairs – I used it with students in the classroom and found it a great email-based blogging platform – it was hardly unexpected. The co-founders moved to Twitter last year and the assumption was that they would close Posterous at some point.
John Johnston, who used Posterous extensively (not least for podcasting) has written about why it was such a great platform. In an update to that post he points towards Posthaven, effectively a subscription-based clone of Posterous started by a couple of other co-founders. It promises to be the ‘safe place for all your posts forever’. Yeah, right.
The only way you can ensure that the stuff you produce online stays online is by owning your own data. It’s as simple as that. So when you’re looking for a blogging platform, by all means have a look at the sexy options like Tumblr and the like, but the most important thing is how easy it is to get your data in and out of the platform. That’s why I like WordPress (both the hosted and self-hosted versions) so much.
Knowing how to own your own data and keep it available online fits right onto the Web Literacies framework I’ve been developing at Mozilla. But it’s not rocket science. It takes effectively three steps:
Install an Open Source platform (I use WordPress via a one-click CPanel installation process)
The reason the last of these is important is that it’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to completely shut down an Open Source project. Once the code is out there, it’s out there and anyone can contribute or ‘fork’ the project.
Thankfully, like many people, I could see the writing on the wall with Posterous and moved the blogs I had there (a now-defunct ‘Ideas Garden’, my conference blog, and my FAQ) to WordPress blogs hosted on subfolders of dougbelshaw.com.
This stuff isn’t hard. Trust me. And you’re always better off in control of your own data.
So, be in control of your own domain. Find out how to control the blogging platform you use. And use Open Source software. You’ll thank me for it in the long term! 🙂
I’m ill at the moment: I can’t seem to shake ‘flu-like symptoms that struck last Wednesday. On the plus side, not being able to do ‘productive’ work means I’ve got done some stuff I haven’t been in a position to prioritise for a while.
Posterous, a blogging solution I’ve really enjoyed using and have advocated widely, was bought by Twitter recently. It was a talent acquisition, meaning that the future of the service is in doubt. Yesterday, I spent some time moving my Conference and FAQ blogs (previously hosted on Posterous) to subfolders of dougbelshaw.com.
The next step is to find a way to transfer Thought Shrapnel, my Tumblr-powered blog, in a satisfactory way. Truth is, Tumblr is an excellent (although painfully proprietary) platform with some really nice features. I like the defined post types and the way you can queue-up blog posts to go live.
Another thing I’d like to do is move both this blog and my e-books space from separate installations to my new WordPress ‘multisite’ installation running on the site root.
Finally, I’ve discontinued blogging at literaci.es (transferring the posts here) and moved my Ideas Garden to a public Evernote workbook.
You can find all of these spaces linked to from my profile at dougbelshaw.com.
First of all we had a bit of a scare with Hannah’s pregnancy. The risk of the baby being born with Downs Syndrome was elevated from 1/1000 to 1/28. She had an amniocentisis (which means she needs to take it easy for a couple of weeks) but everything’s fine. Oh, and it’s a girl! (due late December) 🙂
And then, whilst at nursery on Thursday, Ben decided it would be a great idea to stick a chickpea up his left nostril. Cue my coming home from work early. Two hospitals, three doctors, some pinning down from Daddy and a bloody nose later, it was out! I don’t think he’ll do that again…
Whilst I’m no longer committed to blogging every day, it would seem that being free to post every day (and not necessarily with images) means I might as well be!
I’ve also been experimenting with Posterous, importing this blog to http://dajbelshaw.posterous.com. It was mainly an experiment (took 5 days, worked flawlessly) but it actually looks great and works really well. Hmmm….
Well, not since the BUPA Great North 10k, actually, but I was really pleased that I managed it in 49:30. That’s underneath the 50 minute target I set myself! My main target was to get around the course in under that time and at the end I felt I could have gone faster. I’m aiming for 45 minutes for the next one (although it’s a half-marathon next according to the plan)
Many thanks to those who sponsored me. Overall, including Gift Aid, UNICEF received over double the target amount! 🙂
Update (same day!) – well that didn’t last long: I’ve stripped it back even more with the Minimalist theme. :-p
Earlier this year I changed the theme on this site. I was reasonably pleased with it. It was faster-loading than the previous iteration. However, as I kept adding stuff to it the site became slower to load. As @MoodleDan pointed out, I had lots of images being loaded from external sites.
So I’ve stripped it down to look a bit like the default theme on Posterous. It’s a WordPress theme called Minimous. I like it, although I’ve got a plan to strip it down even further…
Suffer the poor person new to the wonderful world many of us inhabit. I don’t think the phrase ‘Web 2.0’ quite covers it any more, to be honest. Some have clutched at different titles to set those who inhabit this ‘other’ space – some have talked of the ‘networked teacher’, the ‘connected educator’ and so on. I’m not sure sure we need a formal title, but I think most people will know what I mean when I say there’s a difference between being a teacher in a classroom with a textbook, and being a teacher connected to literally hundreds of others worldwide through various communications technologies and conventions. 🙂
The trouble is, how do you get into this cocktail party?
What happens if you don’tknow who to turn to?
What if you haven’t got a Twitter network to support you yet?
What if you’ve just found a tool and you’re wondering if it could be used with students?
What if you can envisage an end product but don’t know the technological means of getting there?
That’s where this idea of heuristical templates comes in.* If people committed to using a common format to review and discuss tools and applications relating to educational technology and e-learning, then this would have a number of advantages:
It would give the newbie a common structure that they could seek out.
If Creative Commons licensed, these could be syndicated in a central place.
It would lead to some cohesion in certain parts of the edublogosphere.
An example of someone who blogs extremely well about new tools and approaches is Tom Barrett. By the end of reading one of Tom’s posts you know what the tool can be used for, why you’d use is, any problems there may be, and other people who have used it before.
To that end, and inspired by Tom, I suggest the following structure taking Posterous as an example.
* Perhaps E-Learning Templates is better? Hmmm…
What is it?
Posterous is a blogging solution. A blog is a website that is easy to maintain and which has the most recent content at the top. Posterous sets itself apart from other blogging solutions as it is almost entirely updated by using email. Sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org serves not only to set up the blog but to update it. Posterous deals ‘intelligently’ with email attachments – for example turning MP3s into an embedded media player and Powerpoint presentations into slideshows.
How much does it cost?
Posterous is free for up to 1GB of space. The FAQ says that in future Premium (paid-for) features will be add-ons to the functionality available for free.
This evening I’ll be attending TeachMeet Midlands 2009 at the National College for School Leadership in Nottingham. If you’ve never heard of a TeachMeet before, they’re based around the idea of an unconference, ‘facilitated, participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose.’ (Wikipedia) I’ve been to a couple before – both of which were additions to the BETT Show – and they’re great events. There’s a fantastic buzz around the place, people passionate about what they do, and it’s a wonderful way to not only meet up with people you’ve only talked to online, but to come across new faces as well! 🙂
I’ve signed up on the TeachMeet wiki to do a 7-minute micropresentation. Initially, I was going to talk about my role this year as E-Learning Staff Tutor and a bit about my Ed.D. on digital literacy. However, TeachMeets should be a lot more focused on classroom practice, so I’ve decided to instead talk about what I’ve been doing with my Year 10 History class.
This year I saw my having a new, fairly able GCSE History class as a good opportunity to try out some new methods and approaches to the course. As students at my school now have four lessons of their option subject per week instead of three, I decided to have one of them timetabled in an ICT suite. The room I was allocated has tiered seating and laptops, which was even better! :-p
After looking at various options, I decided to use Posterous for their homework blogs. Reasons for this include:
Blog posts can be written by email.
It deals with media in an ‘intelligent’ way (e.g. using Scribd to embed documents, making slideshows out of images)
Avatars allow for personalization.
I set almost no homework apart from on their blogs. This means that on a Friday they start an activity using (usually) a Web 2.0 service and then add it to their blog via embedding or linking. The only problem with this has been Posterous not supporting iFrames, meaning that Google Docs, for example have to be exported to PDF and then uploaded. Students are used to this now and it doesn’t really affect their workflow.
I should, perhaps, have asked for parental permission to video students’ opinions about this approach. From what they tell me, they greatly enjoy working on their blogs. In fact, a Geography teacher at school has hijacked one of my students’ blogs so she does work for both History and Geography on it! I think they appreciate the following things:
Presentation (a lot easier, especially for boys, to produce good-looking work)
Multimedia (they’re not looking at paper-based stuff all the time)
Collaboration (they get to work with others whilst still having ‘ownership’ of the final product on their blogs)
It’s a system that I’d definitely recommend and I shall be using in future! 😀
Over the next three weeks, staff e-learning sessions will focus on getting started with podcasting. This first session starts off with the basics you will need as a teacher before even pressing that ‘record’ button:
The easiest way to get your head around what RSS is and how it means that audio files can be delivered to interested parties automatically is by watching this excellent explanatory video prepared by CommonCraft:
A podcast differs from simply placing an audio file on the Internet because of RSS. It means that new content can be ‘pushed’ to interested parties rather than them having to manually check for updates. The process of interested parties requesting that podcasts are delivered automatically is known as ‘subscribing’.
Now that you know what RSS is, you need to have a mechanism by which you can generate one. In our case, this is going to be a blog. Anything that you add to a blog post will be automagically turned into a subscribable podcast.
If you want to jump ahead and have a go podcasting before the next session, you should visit the Box of Tricks website where José Picardo has put together an excellent short presentation entitled Podcasting in Five Easy Steps. 😀
Posterous has been mentioned a couple of times before on this blog. First, Phil Rowland set up a blog using the service for his BTEC Sport students (although he’s now extended it to include all his PE groups). Next, our librarian, Angie Dickson, set one up. Both have been impressed by how easy Posterous is to use.
Here’s how to get started (taken directly from Posterous‘ official guide):
Yep, that’s it! It really is very easy. No signups, and pretty much everything can be done via email. You can, of course, create a blog post via logging into the site itself, but most of the people I’ve spoken to about it like the ability to create them by email. 🙂
Anything that you attach to an email to Posterous will be dealt with ‘intelligently’ and added to the blog post. For example, here’s an email I sent to my Posterous blog:
(click to enlarge)
and here’s how it turned out:
(click to enlarge)
It really couldn’t be any easier to set up a blog! The only things I would recommend you take care over are:
Set the name of your blog, it’s address, and decide who can comment: login to your Posterous account and then click on ‘Manage’ at the top right-hand corner of your blog. Clicking on ‘Edit my posterous’ allows you to change the site name, where it is on the Internet (e.g. mrbelshaw.posterous.com and choose who is allowed to comment on your blog posts.
Set an avatar: an avatar is a small icon representing you on the Internet. I always use my little South Park character. There are many sites you can use to create something similar, including faceyourmanga.com, a South Park character generator (unfortunately blocked on our school network), and the Simpsons character generator on the SimpsonsMovie.com site! 🙂
Add some information about yourself: it doesn’t need to be much, but students and interested visitors need to know they’ve found the right blog and not someone else with the same name as you…
Here’s the Posterous-powered blogs so far at our school. I hope to add many more in the near future!
Today, I helped Phil Rowland set up a blog to use primarily with his BTEC Sport class. We’d previously set one up via Edublogs, but it didn’t really get off the ground.
The blog platform I introduced to Phil was Posterous. I chose Posterous because it’s so easy to use. Here’s what you do:
Email email@example.com from any email account of your choosing. The subject of your email is the title of your first post and the body of the email the content of the post.
Posterous emails back asking you to click on a link to validate your blog. You are then logged-in and ready to setup your username (giving you username.posterous.com) and password.
Further emails from the account you used to Posterous add more post to your new blog. Attachments are dealt with in an intelligent way: for example a YouTube video link automatically embeds that video in the blog post. It does similarly great things with Word documents, Powerpoint files, MP3s, etc.
You can configure your profile by logging into Posterous – avatar, details about yourself, and link to other accounts you’ve got online – Flickr, Twitter, and more!
Phil’s still playing about with and getting used to his new blog – you can visit it at: http://mrrowland.posterous.com. I’m sure he’d appreciate a comment or two. 🙂