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Swurl… Small Pieces Nicely? Lovely? Easily? Joined

I’m not sure what to call the breed of web tools that enable you to draw in content from other web X.0 sites automatically– some call them lifestream (maybe not, wikipedia lands you somewhere else) more like

Swurl is a new one and I am liking its elegance. I get my requisite custom URL and give it my username at a few web services, then I can toss in some customization like colors, banners… I just plopped the image I use from this blog:

What is less subtle is that there are no links to see more pages…. as you scroll down content keeps coming in, the river of stuff, like it has no end. Also, what I really liked, is that snce I gave it my accounts, some which have been used for a long time like flickr and, it goes way back in my internet life. I am looking at my tabs, and wondering what the heck it might have grabbed from 2001 especially since flickr was around only since 2004.

What subtle amazement, in flickr in found old photos that were taken in 2001 (from camera data in image?), and swurl is smart enough to find and use that date. Like see how hip I was in 2001 (not).

But what is very cool in swurl is the timeline view, which puts your stream on something that looks more like a calendar.

which also takes a long time to reach the end of the scroll.

I am not sure what/how I will use swurl, but that is the beauty of these sites. You really dont need to do anything to them once set up or pay attention to them, because the content is coming from your other web activities. And if swurl goes down in a big swirling whoosh! I dont really lose anything.

So before my swurl, there has been FriendFeed, which does a similar thing though it offers comments and “rooms”. And before FriendFeed there was SecondBrain And before SecondBrain there was tumblr And way before tumblr was SuprGlu And I am quuite sure there are many others (dont say 50, please, DO NOT SAY 50).

To me the lovely thing is that pretty much all of these are enabled by RSS or RSS-like communication, and manifest just what were pie in the sky dreams 5 years ago.

My own paranoia suggests there are eyes rolling out there when I dig back to my internet past, like talking about walking 5 miles barefoot through snow just to edit a font tag. But I marvel, because as excited as I was 5 years ago with the emerging web technologies, what we have now is far beyond what I could imagine.

It was 4 years ago at an NMC Summer Conference when Brian, D’arcy, and I tossed out the Small Technologies Loosely Joined concept — is it proto edupunk?

Collaboration via the net does not necessarily require monolithic, expensive tool suites that aim to do everything under one umbrella. We will share and demonstrate the use of readily available, mostly free, discrete sets of “small” and “loosely joined” technologies – weblogs, wikis, instant messaging, audio/video chat. The loose joining means that how they are connected are not necessarily in the programming of the software, but the ways people can use them in a social context that is an environment of dynamic, changing relationships and connections, rather than the rigid, limited ones defined by computer code.

What we were touting was so simple! Crude! Like stone age web. Web 0.9. It was a few MovableType blogs, UseMod Wikis, and some RSS trying them together. Smoke. Mirrors.

All of this plays out so easily now in these lightweight, easy, free web tools. We even tossed out ideas that all the energy focused on trying to build enterprise big iron ePortfolio applications might be better spent on something more like these aggregators that can automatically draw in content published elsewhere (don’t say PLE. Oops, just said it).

The thing is, in education, we don’t see much, any? utilization of this dynamic approach. There’s tinkering on the edges, but we remain wedded to Big Giant Apps. Expensive ones. Inflexible ones. It makes sense then that there are some noises on the edges.

Something like swurl may not be The Grail of lifestream or whatever you call this stuff, but to me, it offers a refreshing way to view dynamic, growing, changing content… that I pick, I control, and matters to me. Maybe swurl is my PL… no don’t say that.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. alan,

    You, brian, and d’arcy are the original og edupunks, small pieces loosely joined has been the model for just about everything that has happened at umw regarding instructional technologies. you guys have been the inspiration, along with a number of other maniacs like barbara ganley, bryan alexander, downes, wiley, etc. Also, sorry for all the lowercase, my kids ripped off both my shift keys :) ) now that is small children loosely controlled


  2. Swurl does look interesting. I will have to check it out more thoroughly. This may have the functionality that Steve Gillmor is looking for with Twitter track.

    David Weinberger’s Small Pieces and Everything is Misc. are important thoughts for creating informal and self directed learning, as well as, information finding systems.

    I try to implement these principles in my own learning experiences.

    Oh by the way “microblogging software” search on the Google resulted in just 3,670 results.

    Cheers, and happy 4th
    Richard Sheehy
    What are you going to Learn2Day?

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