cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Thomas Hawk

Jim, Zack, Tim, and I have had some loose brainstorms on the idea of free form rapid creation we have seen happen in ds106 that is akin to jamming between musicians.

This is the kind of thing the Noiseprofessor in particular excels, to pick up something like fat cats and cat breading in the ds106 stream of tweets/blog posts and making new things, FAST, be building on the same kind of work as others, going crazy dances by Giulia and beyond.

Like meme-ish things, from afar, and from outside, this looks silly. But like the tradeoff off improv ideas between musicians, there is something electric in this rapid creativity (“and it seems mostly to happen late at night” observes Zack). It reminds me of Stefon Harris’ TEDTalk video on no mistakes in music performance.

So follow with me as I try to carry this idea over to coding or scripting or programming and what happens in a networked space where we jam / riff off of each other.

This began in one of Jim’s ds106 classes live streamed, on audio. His students were working with freesound to create a sound story, and one created on the spot by Michael Branson Smith did something different, he had made a mix of sounds all from the same search on the freesound site. He thought that might make for a different kind of assignment if something could be done to generate a search on a random set of words.

This was happening in the chat of the live stream, a seed of an idea was passed, like someone playing a new note. Noting that the freesound search results were easy to construct (based on the URLs that contain the search term). I picked up that note, and said, I think I can whip up a prototype in Javascript, making the simple sound slots site which ran a random search on freesound based on a pre-built list of words.

Sound Slots

I blogged that experience, and in the comments, Scott Leslie tossed in a suggested beat with a link to a code library that allowed embedding of the freesound player. Right after, John Johnston grabbed the lead guitar and whipped up a demo of a proof in concept that searched the same terms opn flickr and freesound.

I yelled into the mic

This is brilliant, John! I like how you mashup my ideas to a new level. So the assignment might be to do this five times and make a combo story of the images and sounds served?

Whereby he built out the full app, which now makes it so you can run these searches in strings, and put together some embed code to put the results in your own site:

As John noted:

This kind of proves your point about the monkey see, monkey do stuff. I’ve been a lot happier riffing off your idea than working through example code.

Really enjoying this ds106 marginal activity. Some of us perhaps find it easier to work from an example than think up stuff ourselves.

To me this kind of riffing on ideas and quick scripting/coding has a huge amount of potential- I am conjuring up loose ideas haw to meld this idea with something like the structures we have built for ds106 (an open course, aggregated activity, a daily challenge, and banks of assignments) with ways we can learn to build, script, code the web, not in the mechanical step by step way of Music School, but more like jamming in the basement.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by eyeliam

I am not interesting in something like teaching how to code; I’d think with some basics, there is more of an opportunity space with learning how to leverage/build off if existing bits, like what you find in github (“social coding”) or getting versatile with using jquery (I have been doing more dabbling there lately).

This is just a bubbling idea.

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 this is so cool, seeing you take this little idea and run with it. I’ve got to learn me some javascript! I’ve played with the codeacademy tutorials which I’ve actually enjoyed, but finding the time is the real trouble. A colleague of mine at York is going to build a syllabus based on this idea of ‘code riffing’ as an introduction to ‘digital tool building.’ It will be an intro course, so the students will mostly be modifying code, but I hope there are some cool results, such as the kind you presented here.

        1. Jim and I are considering running one here next year. That’s one reason to drop this post in the waters…

          Thanks Mike for reminding me of the NYU course, there are some fabulous resources in there (but yuck PDFs??? blechhhh)

          1. Hi Mike,
            Thanks for the link, looks like a great course, I’d be excited about taking it if it is open.

            Alan, a ds106 stylee code/mashup course wold be great. As ds106 already has hosting there own stuff not too much of a stretch to have them use same space to do css/js/php assignments. Again I’d love to take bit of that course.

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