The Genius of Being a “Marketing Specialist”


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by publicenergy

They will let anyone on the internet.

From the idiot email box today, here we go again… the tell tale subject line “I would like to collaborate with your site cogdogblog.com” — here is how you collaborate on someone else’s blog:

  • You leave a human, genuine constructive comment.
  • You write a post on your own blog and link to mine.
  • You actually (****tard) read what is on someone’s blog, like the part of mine that says

    Send those e-cards and e-letters to cogdogblog at gmail dot com except requests for request to post links, guest blogs articles, or product reviews. I don’t do that stuff. If you bug me, you get the treatment.

Alas, this is too much for a MARKETING SPECIALIST to understand. Here we go, let’s see what the GENIUS Offers

Dear Sir/Madam,

I can feel the caress of your individualized attention. Or maybe you think I am gender challenged? You pretty much lost me right there, doofus.

How are you? I hope you don’t mind that I contact you today. I am emailing to ask if you would be interested in accepting articles for your site.

How am I? F****ing annoyed at crap people like you waste TCP/IP packets on. I am responding to you, again to say DID YOU EVEN LOOK AT MY SITE? HOW MUCH MORE BLATANT DOES THIS NEED TO BE– oh ye of Marketing Expertise?

roach turds

I have a campaign I am currently running for which I feel that your website would be a great fit. My client is a respected provider of online casino. I am looking to provide you with an informative, entertaining, and well worded article which contains only one text link to the page of my client and does not look like advertising.

Ahhh, you have carefully done your research to know my blog’s topic include casinos. I also apparently write about Michael Kors handbags, nike shoes, growth hormones, Kansas City Pawn shops, How to Get10,000 Instagram Followers…

No, Screw you, and screw your client, you scum sucking roach.

We are keen to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with you. Could you please let me know if you would be interested?

I am keen to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between you and an intestinal parasite. Sir/Madam, can you measure my interest now? Can you? Do you feel what I’m sayin’?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Please hold your breath while you wait. In fact, why not jump into a Port-o-Potty and keep your head submerged while I compose my reply. It will take me a while to spell check my message.

Kind Regards,

Juliette Duprès
Marketing Specialist – Omnibuzzmedia
[email protected]

I wish you continued success Juliette in your Marketing Expertise and hopefully bankruptcy for Omnibuzzmedia which I understand has the “brightest consultants in the field”. OMG, I love this line on your slick web site (omg I smell drupal there) — “Sharing is Caring”

Yup, you used my email without regard to me, so here is yours published on my blog, the only link you will get from me. I hope your email is added to some poop licking email spammer list. I wonder if you spam yourself?

And here you go, you are top of the dung heap of The CogDog Treatment.

Have a crappy day.

On The Blanket at Cascade Lake

mom-dad-together-lake-cascade

Look at those kids (sometime in the late 1940s (?)), are they thinking about one day having kids? of seeing their kids have kids? of not being around?

Of course not, that’s not what you do on a blanket at Cascade Lake.

Today, a tough double calendar reminder

mom and dad calendar

Three years ago, my mom fell to her floor, her heart apparently stopped, 2 months before I planned to drive up to her home for a visit. That was also 10 years to the day my Dad’s cancer finally took him in a hospice.

My parents did not have prolonged exits; Dad’s cancer came in March and he was gone in August, though I should say that any dance with cancer is prolonged. But there was no huddling around their deathbeds, seeing the serenity fall on them, or that movie like last gasp of clarity.

For my Dad, I had visited last 3 weeks before he died, sat together in their living room, troubled by his fading awareness, but still present like I always knew him.

For my Mom, 3 years ago, I called her in the morning on the phone, leaving on my way to Montreal, and we joked and teased and laughed like always. It was just another day.

Fifteen hours later that day was gone. Forever.

So I found the photo of them together, scanned from a scrapbook Mom made. She labeled it “Lake Cascade”, and I got a bit curious about where that was– on internet searches I only came up with ones in Idaho and North Carolina, places I knew they would not have gone together before they got married.

So on a whim, I switched the search to Cascade Lake, and found a 1999 vintage web page- Where Memories Are Made

cascade lake

This lake is in Hampstead, Maryland, not far from where my sister lives now. Back in the 1940s, this would have been a long journey to the country from urban Baltimore. There is nothing about it’s history on the About Page. According to a Maryland History page, it was certainly man made.

There are still information gaps on the internet.

I do not know the history of Cascade Lake.

But I know my parents went there on a date before they were my parents. They were there with Doris and Howie Berger, Herbie Moses, Yale Aarons (Mom’s captions in her scrapbook).

And so today, I do not need a history, I can make up my own story of a magical day on Lake Cascade. Where memories were made.

Don’t Be a Platform Pawn


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Long long ago, in a web far far away, everything was like neat little home made bungalows stretched out on the open plain, under a giant expansive sky, where we wandered freely, exploring. Now we crowd among densely ad covered walkways of a shiny giant mall, never seeing the sky, nor the real earth, at whim to the places built for us.

A new web service offers us something for free, a feature we love. We feel micro-content. Same web service takes it away later, or just shutters up its shop, we are irate.

You may be a pawn, but you do not have to act like one.

Via @savasavasava someone I “know” on twitter (and have met in 3D landia), I come across someone I do not know, or have never read. In From the Porch to the Street Frank Chimero, makes a lovely metaphor describing how twitter, a mall owner, has changed the design of the mall to make you walk into stores you do not like being in.

We concede that there is some value to Twitter, but the social musing we did early on no longer fits. My feed (full of people I admire) is mostly just a loud, stupid, sad place. Basically: a mirror to the world we made that I don’t want to look into. The common way to refute my complaint is to say that I’m following the wrong people. I think I’m following the right people, I’m just seeing the worst side of them while they’re stuck in an inhospitable environment. It’s exasperating to be stuck in a stream.

Here’s the frustration: if you’ve been on Twitter a while, it’s changed out from under you. Christopher Alexander made a great diagram, a spectrum of privacy: street to sidewalk to porch to living room to bedroom. I think for many of us Twitter started as the porch—our space, our friends, with the occassional neighborhood passer-by. As the service grew and we gained followers, we slid across the spectrum of privacy into the street.

I get a sense of that, twitter is a different place when it was a shiny new, weird, wondrous, un-monetizable thing in 2007. Frank is saying that he, and others, are more modulated now, off the porch. And I agree with all he says, it just inspired me to jump to the pawn image.

But he does not speak for my experience, which is the experience I happen to know the best. Why am I still on the porch? I don’t spend much time in the street- I almost never look at twitter via http://twitter.com which is the food court of the mall.

I borrow a strategy I lifted from Alec Couros in 2009- it made me say WTF at first when he talked about following 15,000 people. But ti does not mean you read anything.

It’s all filters baby.

My twitter porch is Tweetdeck. Way on the left, is the street. I almost never look at it. Only when mildly curious/bored. I live in a column that’s a list- I call it something goofy like “friendz” but generally it’s people whom, after some watching, I find I’d rather hear what they have to say more often. I just checked, it’s a tad over 100 peeps. I prune and add to it from time to time.

But that’s my porch, with a few porch columns of mentions (cause if you tweet me I will most likely tweet back, I’m a boomeranger), and 2-3 of hash tags I am currently interested.

I won’t be a pawn to the platform they want us to have via the web interface.

When I say “pawn” it means when you limit what you can do with a web tool to what it provides on the surface. Sometimes it’s browser add ons. Take YouTube.

You’ve heard of them? They occupy a weird large space- I still am amazed that no one caught on to YouTube’s own sanctioning of remix of their videos (without providing attribution, but hey, they own the mall). YouTube downloads videos form YouTube, can you?

Easily. Try http://savefrom.net.

Or those stupid ketchup ads when I want to see a video clip of a movie (that i plan to download, ahoy!). Boom, gone with Ad Block.

Or Flickr. Oh, yes, they are going down again, and Yahoo ruined the mall. Yeah, I’ve heard it. I use all kinds of end arounds that work for me. An Aperture uploader that allows me to keep all my photo data on my computer first. I can use their API to make new sites that do what I want to do with photos, not what they want. They do a lousy job of helping attribute creative commons photos? Big deal, I make it work for me.

“But I am not a coder”. Pfffft.

These examples may not mean much to you. That’s not the point.

It’s the attitude.

If a platform does not do what you want, what is your course of action? Gripe on twitter? give up?

Not me, I start seeking end arounds.

And maybe give up after that.

Maybe that was at the core of my ejection of the ultimate shopping mall experience. It is so fiendishly designed, there are barely any end arounds. Not my kind of place.

I am not a pawn of the mall.

Because this is still my kind of internet.


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by tommaync

There’s seats for you on the porch.

Looking for a StoryBox Light Hack

I’m pretty excited to work out my newest Storybox, a PirateBox device hidden inside an old Brownie camera

I’ve seen some hacks on the PirateBox forums where people have set up enclosures with lights the activate when the thing is on. I was looking yesterday at the shutter mechanism in the front of the camera, and was wondering if there was someway to have the PirateBox trigger the shutter

brownie-box-control

The shutter on the side, simply opens the hole to the inside of the camera for a short time, and closes. But I noticed, if you pull up the lever on the top, it becomes a “bulb” exposure, meaning the aperture stays open when the shutter is clicked. So if I could rig a light source on the inside of the box, I could open the shutter

story-camera-box-open

A dream would be to have the light somehow triggered by activity on the PirateBox (the MR-3020 router does have lights that flash, maybe I could just position those behind the hole.

Anyhow, I am not much of an electronic hacker, so am open to suggestions. I am hoping for help from my friend Ken in Paonia I will visit. When I was there in 2011 carting my first PirateBox, he had read about it on my blog, and had built one by the time I got there.

He did have the coolest business card I’ve ever seen, it plugs into your USB!


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Back on the Road for a Spin


creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by 43studio

Red Dog truck is loaded with camping gear and mountain bike, and ready to hit the road for a ~2 week road excursion. It’s time to get out of Strawberry a bit, and visit some friends. Plus, this is the warm up for a mid October commute to Kamloops, BC (never mind my Arizona friends puzzling over the idea of wintering in Canada).

This trip has some planned visits, but not tightly planned so I have room to improvise. Roughly, the route is:

road-tripping

Today I drive down to the very southeast edge corner of Arizona to visit Karen Fasimpaur and Brad; I had a lovely time visiting them a year ago, and am eager to see the adobe house they were working n last year.

Mid week, I am exploring the western side if New Mexico, possible visiting Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, or maybe a return to Chaco Canyon, camping a few nights. By the weekend I plan to visit my friend Mike Kelly in Durango (the dude lives on the river!). Then I am going back to visit friends Oogie and Ken (and their black welsh sheep) in Paonia, CO. I plan to take a swing home through Moab, and get the mountain bike out on the slick rock.

All subject to whim. But Red Dog is ready to roll, so I better get going soon


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Blogging about Blogging Like a Connected Courses Champion

modified from creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Lotus Carroll

with the sign just modified from creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Lotus Carroll

Just a quick post here to reference what I posted on the Connected Courses site as part of the “pre-course” unit September 2 to 14 I am co-doing with Jim Groom and Howard Rheingold. This is the equivalent of what we used to do in ds106 as “Boot Camp” (probably a metaphor not useful worldwide) as a chance for people to get settled in the blog they will use, experiment with some customizations, and hone their blog style.

What I posted on Connected Courses is rooted in the ds106 How to Write Up Your Assignments Like a Blog Champ (in which I remix myself)– and is now live on the site at
http://connectedcourses.net/blogging-like-a-champion/.

It covers what I find is important– and is open to additions, rejections, rotten tomatoes– the importance of a good title, using hyperlinks (you know, what makes this thing a web), writing blog posts that stand on their own, using/embedding media especially photos (the one above I found not by searching on “Champion” but “child jump” in flickr creative commons images), and the flip side to writing in your own space- commenting on other blogs.

Another piece written for that week is Setting Up Your Digital Space and Connecting it Here to frame some of the options for choosing a blog space, and what we ask on the web form that allows you to connect your blog to the hub on Connected Courses, which for now seems to be the stuff that flows into the nice tiled display on the bottom of the front page, I am not running the site and have no idea what they are doing with the syndicated content archives.

The gravity forms to Feed WordPress signup is working well, with 29 blogs in the mix now. I still see maybe 30% not getting the correct URLs for using tags/categories/labels as an organizer (sigh).

Lastly, because I cannot seem to do these without a shtick, for our pre-course unit Jim, Howard, and I brainstormed a knock off of NPR’s Car Talk- we have a Blog Talk theme, with us playing the Connected Brothers– Click, Link, and Embed.

blog-talk-garage

We have our lawyers too– Dooey, Blogum, and Howe.

The idea was (I think) as part of our live call in shows (Google Hangouts, which seems to give Jim allergic fits), we will ask people to drive their blog into our Garage, and we will give it some suggestions for a tuneup.

It ought to be fun.

Oh – and one more thing – Don’t blog like my brother!

Wired for Character


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Johnson Cameraface

What happens when ds106 takes on a theme and subject of the TV series The Wire? That unfolds next week when the class starts at UMW. Do you feel me? (that’s a line from the show, ok?)

Jim and Paul have been ripping through reviews of the first six episodes. I’m expect to float in and out, as one does as an open participant, and have watched the first two again.

There’s a bit of affinity since I am from Baltimore, though not the areas where the show takes place. My first interest in the show was piqued at the 2008 South by Southwest conference in a keynote session where Henry Jenkins and Steven L Johnson discussed the increasing complexity of TV narratives, comparing old school simple sitcoms that I grew up on with newer (then) shows such as Lost and The Wire.

What’s always interested me are the complexities and nuances of the characters in the show. I thought about this when I watched about 1.5 seasons of House of Cards — what struck me about that show was how none of the characters were likable, or you would root for… likely the message about Washington is that everyone is flawed. That seems to violate one of those rules of writing that people wnat a hero to identify with.

The Wire is more complex– and never as simple as cops as all Good Guys and the people they pursue as all Bad Guys. As a leader of the drug gang, Avon Barksdale also displays a strong sense of loyalty and commitment to family. His partner Stringer Bell wants to run the operation efficiently, like a business. But they also sell drugs and have people killed.

The cops show poor judgment, drink heavily, exceed their authority, ignore their family.

And, as Jim noted well, both of their organizations deal with issues of power, control, and bureaucratic hindrances.

I thought it might be interesting to go back to the first episode, and just take a gauge of how these characters are first presented to us, maybe what it reveals or not about what will play out.

mcnulty

We meet Jimmy McNulty in the opening scene, and if not for the show being about police, how do we know he is a cop? There is a bit of a suggestion right there; he does not follow rules, protocol, he’s arrogant, conceited, and it causes trouble with his coworkers. But he uses a street sense, here in the opening discussion about the crime victim named “Snot Booger” and a story McNulty unravels about the name (there is a funny bit in some commentary about how British actor Dominic West could not pronounce “Booger” they way the director wanted).

stringer bell
Our first image of the serious and influential Stringer Bell in court, at first glance, he might be a lawyer or a District Attorney? His power exerts in how the opening scene plays out, he is actually gaming the court process. When the case falls apart, and Bell’s man D’Angelo Barksdale is freed, Bell is taunted, even threatened by the angry prosecutor. How does Bel respond? “Have a nice day” and walks out.

kima
Kima Greggs, typewriter/paperwork challenged, but here completely at home and in charge of a street bust. She’s more than savvy, she’s got an understanding of the street scene. Later in the show we see much more to the layers of who she is; but she might be among the most virtuous of the police.

herc
carver

Detectives Herc Hauk (with a strong Baltimore accent) and Ellis Carver are in this first action sequence that turns out to be no action. But that represents these two detectives, they would rather be “busting on the street” then paperwork; they often react from emotion rather then reason; they also end up providing some comic relief in their banter.

cedric
Cedric Daniels enters very proper in dress and clipboard, stepping right between the verbal sparring of the two detectives. He’s serious, principled, wants to do things to the letter. Later in the series his humanity, shows through more. But here, it’s all business, cop business.

bunk
Bunk Moreland, chomping the big cigar, and arguing with McNulty about why he picked up the phone for a call where they banter over a dead body. Bunk is just so charismatic, so not by the book, yet in a less challenging to the system way as McNulty. One of my favorite characters.

sgt
Sergeant Jay Landsman, almost a cussing and vile look alike for actor John Goodman, does not seem to really care at all about police work, just about flexing authority and serving the pecking order of the police department. He’s kind of like the naysayer and the greek chorus against the ideas and street sense of McNulty and Moreland

rawls
Major Rawls actually is the least complex- he hates McNulty and is part of the command and control focus of the Police Department. His presence enters before we seem him, when Daniels and Greggs are talking about a meeting with the “Deputy” that resulted from NcNulty blabbing information to a judge. He serves here as a force that keeps McNUlty a bad boy in the PD, with the famous two fingers “these are for you, McNulty”

dangelo
While we saw him first in court, it’s in this car scene where we sense right away that D’Angelo Barksdale is not cut out for being a crew chief in the drug business. He’s soft, conflicted, and makes bad choices. He’s trapped into his role be being a nephew of the kingpin. Can you tell he is doomed? (oops)

avon
Avon Barksdale, the leader of the West Side drug trade that McNulty et al face off against in season one of this series. His power is interesting in not being by physical size, but force of energy and language, and his “office” being in the top level of the strip club. When his nephew comes after getting out of jail, Avon’s response is “I don’t know shit about jail, I don’t plan on knowing shit about jail, you feel me?” — he is so smart and powerful, he expects to never see a jail. Hah.

bodie
Bodie Broadus, the chief of the drug crew at the “low rises”, working his perch by side ways mean stares from the perch of his orange couch. He shows no smile, joy. He knows his place, but knows it well. He plays prominent in the series.

bubbles
We meet Bubbles in his creative mode, always coming up with a clever scheme or idea to survive on the street, but victim to his drug addiction. In this scene he is showing his partner how to make fake money look real by rubbing coffee in it. We want to root for this guy so bad…

wallace
Wallace shows the complexity of the younger drug crew; I cheat a little because we have seen him already, but I love this scene where he has just been called out for taking a fake $20 and when his colleagues mention something about “dead presidents” being on all money, he tries to correct them by informing them that Alexander Hamilton was not a president. He has intelligence he keeps closely guarded, and later we see how his conscious both frees him and… well I leave it. He’s a classic case of the character complexity we are introduced to.

I missed a few minor characters, and am not planning to continue. I find it interesting how much of these characters are set in place from the first time we meet them, though there is a lot more to reveal as the series unfolds.

But it’s this mixture of character flaw and virtue that underpin how the show brings a reality of both sides of the legal/criminal world. It’s just not as simple as those old cop shows.

Smile, You Are on a PirateBox!

smile-camera

As a photographer and lover of old devices, I do not think I could have found a better container for my new PirateBox.

I found this old Brownie Camera at Granny’s Antiques in Payson; I was looking for a small interesting container for this small router and power supply (it was almost in a wooden card holder or a rusted recipe box). Ironically, when I got home I realized I already had one up on my old camera shelf.

When I first tries to slip the router in, it did not fit! I then figured out (a bit of prying with a screw driver), I could pop out the film holder, leaving a perfect sized space for the router. The little power supply (a re-chargable cell phone power supply) fit in okay, but with the USB plug on the end, the camera door will not close. I ordered a new smaller square unit (it almost matches the router) that should fit in. I left the battery on and it was still powered up after 6 hours (probably less when it is active). I might pop out the window of the film counter, so I could slip the cable out to connect to AC if necessary. But I like it closed up with no indication of what is inside.

WhatsaPirateBox? From the source

PirateBox creates offline wireless networks designed for anonymous file sharing, chatting, message boarding, and media streaming. You can think of it as your very own portable offline Internet in a box!

Originally developed by David Darts at NYU as a means to get around sharing large media on school networks, he later discovered the anonymity created interesting effects when set up in public places (an “artistic provocation”). I came across it in 2011 when prepping for my round the North America tour- Zack Dowell asked me if I would travel with one if he built it for me.

Thus, mine became a StoryBox

(a photo inside the storybox shows the parts)

I later managed to build a few myself, one for Nancy white to travel with to African, and another one for the Open Education 2012 conference as a “TreasureBox”


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I’m still intrigued by the idea of what Jim Groom aptly described as a “digital time capsule”. It acts like the internet, but is not on the internet, so it is something of a collector of ephemeral digital media, rather than the kind that lasts forever online.

There has been a lot of progress with the software, led by the relentless developer Matthias Strubel and the evolution of the forked version in Jason Griffey’s LibraryBox. The installation process is much easier (no fiddling with routers), and new features include a media server, a capability of running PHP, and more I need to discover. There are versions that run on USB sticks, laptops, android devices, and the Raspberry Pi.

I’m working on creating this new StoryBox for an upcoming (late September – early October) visit to New Zealand. I will be doing workshops at several places around the North Island, and I see some opportunity to set up some activities to have people experience the sharing of media with no context. That was some of the more interesting experiences when traveling with it, sitting down with people (usually in their homes) and having them explore photos, audio, video, and documents which have no context beyond a file name. It leads to discussions and interpretations, making connections… all story stuff.

The thing I found it really needs are good prompts for a visitor to spark ideas what to share; that is what I am working on now (as well as trying to get in an edit some of the interface, still a bit of a dance to figure out).

Look for some updates at http://cogdogblog.com/storybox.

In a way, it somewhat parallels, but maybe in a distorted fashioned, the notions of surveillance Jim and Paul are working with in the ds106 version based on The Wire.

And, I still have the lovely PirateBox song written and performed by @onepercentyello

All The Pirates Get in the Box

Ahlan wa sa’halan: Blogging in 1996

ahlan wa

Through more twitter conversations with Maha Bali, my memory cells rekindled an early web project I did while working at the Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (Maricopa Community Colleges). I might boast that I built something to help a faculty member blog (there ought to be some scare quotes). I’d really forgotten this, but thinking of Egypt re-rigged some unused neurons.

In 1996, Jon Lea Fimbres, a counselor at Paradise Valley Community College, took a leave of absence when her husband accepted a position as superintendent of Cairo American College (I got confused, and thought it was American University in Cairo where Maha works now).

The Director of MCLI at that time, Naomi Story, thought it would be interesting for Jon Lea to write some articles about her experience in Egypt for our faculty newsletter. Somewhere, in my early web publishing attempts, I got the idea to publish notes from Jon Lea on a web site.

As a sidelight, I note the rather cliche graphic. Blame me, but that was actually generated from scratch by Tony, a student who did graphics work for our office, who is still working professionally in the computer graphics field. He used that Apple painting software that actually came in a package shaped like a paint bucket (does anyone remember what that was called?”

This was how the early blog software worked– Jon Lea sent me an email, and I copy/pasted it to an HTML document that I added to the site. We did not have any media embed features, and links were manually added. But pretty much it was sort of like blogging, with 12 entries from 1996-199.

It’s interesting to compare Egypt of the 1990s to now, some of which we have through her visitor eyes and words

“Living” in Egypt has many advantages. We have been able to discover parts of Egypt that aren’t on most tourist stops. People are generous, kind and patient with foreigners. Egyptians seem to get a lot of entertainment out of watching and helping all of us adjust. They have dealt with intruders for thousands of years. I want to share this side of Egypt with you. The landscape, people, culture inspire photos and description.
September 23, 1996

As I read these posts again, I realized they wer actually sent to me, and so it is also a conversation, as she overcomes her own aversions/fears of using computers, compounded by the challenges of connectivity.

My computer is giving me gray hairs…..since the phone lines are so static, I lose the connection every two to three minutes….it feels like living in the dark ages. I guess that is progress when you are complaining about the inconvenience of your computer and NOT about having to use one. God has a sense of humor….NOW I know all of the cool things I can do with my little computer and the national technology isn’t quite ready to support it.

How have things changed? Well in some ways, plus la même chose. Do you get irate when the cable modem flickers out or if NetFlix cannot stream your movie? What about having daily electrical outages… in 2014>

In 1998 Jon Lea wrote of her feelings in the time after the attack on tourists and references threats related to Iraq in a note “Never Felt Safer”

What a seeming contradiction: I live in Egypt (the Middle East) and I have never felt safer. Even with the threat of a bombing attack on Iraq, I feel that I am living in a country of hospitable people whose concerns are the same as mine. Taking care of families, trying to live a spiritual life and wondering about the future are a few of the things we have in common.

When an Egyptian greets you with a friendly, “Welcome to Egypt” it is a very genuine invitation to share in the pride and history of their amazing country. It seems that most Egyptians are naturally hospitable, generous and wanting others to understand their culture and traditions. Within the first month of living in Egypt, we had been invited to two weddings – one a formal, gorgeous occasion at a large hotel and the other a Bedouin family wedding held in the streets of the neighborhood with dancing horses and belly dancing.

Because of this strong sense of family and religious values and a legal system that has very strict, rapid consequences, I feel safer in Cairo living alone while my husband travels than I did in Phoenix.

Again, this was 1998, what is now?

I waited until now to do some googling, and can only come up with some references to Jon Lea in some international conference in 2000. But I know people I can call on the old telephone who probably know what became of her.

Is there a field yet of web archeology? Because I am committed to preserving as many artifacts as I can, to me the idea of what my colleague Nancy White describes as “technology stewardship”.

This old stuff matters…. well at least it does to me.

At The Opposite End of Massive: Individual Connections & Sitting at the Dining Room Table


creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Pensiero

You can fuss about your mentions, follower counts, book sales, klout scores, all of that is bubkahs to me in lieu of what the internet has and does afford me in enabling genuine connectivity with likable people I would never have gotten to know otherwise.

This bubbled up the cranium following a series of wonderful twitter direct messages with Maha Bali, she a thoughtful educator in Cairo, Egypt and me a typo prone blogger in Strawberry, Arizona. Part of our exchange was a bit of wondering how we establish these affinities quickly with colleagues we’ve never met.

Someone (drats I cannot find it) recently tweeted something about not trusting someone or considering them experts solely from their twitter messages. Well, no, but we do not work from single sources of information. The *way* people tweet, who they tweet to (e.g. people I already trust?) to me is a great indicator. I sense these patterns, as well as the transparent ones of others seeming to be looking for ego boosts.

It still rings true what I read from Clive Thompson in my first twitter days, from a 2007 Wired article How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense,. Thompson framed a dynamic in twitter as “social proprioception”

It’s like proprioception, your body’s ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.

I still find this perhaps the most resonant description (to me) of what twitter offers. I crave it’s “weird, fascinating feats”.

If you have ever tried to create a “fake” persona online, especially using twitter, you would know how much work it is to not be you; to shift your language, to not slip and use the wrong account. Unless equipped with a personality disorder, it’s hard to not let the “you-ness” show through, though it may magnify/minify aspects of how you present yourself in person, but the You is nearly always there.

Or maybe better explained by a UMW student when I did a presentation on identity; we have these shifting ways we project ourselves in different contexts- identity is never as simple as a singular entity, its adjusting all the time-

I feel like I have a pretty good gut level sense of people (though not perfect) – I gravitate to people open to new ideas, creative ones, people who are serious about those ideas, but don’t take themselves so seriously, people who can listen, and people who can laugh (especially at themselves). I find I can sense it pretty well in person and online.

The first time I met Brian Lamb at an ELI conference (2003?) I knew I like him as a colleague and eventually a friend, but I also had a context of reading his blog (hey it was pre- pre- twitter). His blog provided the proprioception, and his presence confirmed it.

So I would say Maha, it’s been sort of my internet life time hobby of seeking out those kinds of connections. It’s why twitter appeals to me more than facebook, because there is a greater potential in twitter of proximal associations with people I do not know rather than focusing on the ones I do know.

There was social media before there was Social Media.

Back in the mid 1990s, the places where a similar kind of networking happened on those old fashioned email listservs. I was active on one for people who were creating multimedia with Macromedia Director. You saw a lot of the same social dynamics there as are played out now in current social platforms.

At that time, maybe 2, 3 years into my role of an instructional technologist, I was dismayed by the conference experience, so I had proposed to my director that instead of going to a conference, I’d like to spend the travel funds visiting colleagues at other community colleges. I put the word out on DIRECT-L, and pretty quickly set up some visits in the Northwest, two in Washington state and one in Oregon. The latter was arranged by a guy named Tim Blood at Lane Community College.

It did not dawn on me until we were shaking hands in a parking lot in Eugene, that all of our communication had been via email, not one phone call (that was a big deal then). Tim and I have been friends since; I’ve visited him and his wife in Eugene several times (once with my family), he’s visited here and we’ve done things like a road trip to Zion National Park.

There was a lot of proprioception played out in email, that again, was confirmed in meeting, and staying at his wooded home. Or hiking together in a canyon.

And since then, it’s been more or less my hobby to make ways to visit and spend time with people I’ve met online. On my sabbatical trip in 2000 to New Zealand, I spent 4 days in Rotorua at the farm home of a woman named Laraine, a writer of children’s books who was publishing them on the web in the 1990s after learning HTML from my online tutorial.

And this hobby was the premise for my “odyssey” in 2011, where I traveled 15000 miles over 6 months visiting my online friends and colleagues. From my Big Data- I stayed in the homes of 33 different friends, quite a few of them I had not met before.

The picture that symbolizes most this experience, for the feeling it generates when I see it, was visiting Cindy Jennings at her home in South Carolina


creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

There is something so meaningful for me to remember sitting with her at her dining room table, having met her family, her dogs, having had a meal she prepared. That connection of being with someone in their home, for me, heightens everything about knowing them. In her house, Cindy is surrounded by things and people most valued to her.

So when I think about “meeting” or “friending” people online, I know I can have rich relationships without ever having meeting them. But having that chance to share time on their home? That takes a simple connection to a whole different level. It completely dwarfs meeting someone in a hotel conference hall.

And so I’ve tried to make it part of my travels, to visit who Nancy White laughingly refers to as “imaginary internet friends”, to sit at more tables, in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada, all over the US.

Maybe the best framing of this comes from one of these friends yet met- in the wave of support after my Mom passed away on that 2011 road trip, a most treasured response was from Claudio Ceraso, an educator in Argentina I had only known via blogs, comments, tweets. She shared a bit of a reflection on her dream related to my experience:

Maybe I just dreamt of you, kind of trying to be in your shoes. But hey, technically speaking, I do not know you. I first met you in 2007. We’re strangers. And yet, my dreams hyperlink to your news and I hear a strong wake up call, just as when a close friend of your f2f life loses a loved one. Such is the mysterious story of the social web, I guess.

A Spanish poet, explaining what dreams were to him, said: “I only know I know a lot of people I have never met”.

The Internet is like a dream. A real one.

Read that again- I know a lot of people I have never yet. And we don’t have to wait for these dreams to happen to our subconscious, the internet is where we can experience them all day long.

The internet as a real dream, that’s my kind of internet.

I may never get to be at that dining room table with people like Claudio, like Maha, but I know if it does happen, it will be ever as meaningful, and genuine, as these interactions via packets of TCP/IP generated data.

And more.

And these are the connections I seek the most. When others seek massive teaching, and gigagobs of data, where the introductory message is “you will never have direct contact with your instructor”, I long for the granular personal connections.

You can have your Klout score framed, I have my dining room table experiences.