Tag Clouds Spotted Over Flagstaff

The sky over Flagstaff Arizona today was actually crystal clear, but if you had appropriate x-ray glasses on you may have spotted some tag clouds, sprinkled with some Canadian flair. Is that too vague an opening blog post?

Okay, today I had the sheer pleasure and honor to co-present, and that verb is used loosely, because it was really more of a free form “jam” with my colleague Brian Lamb at the Northern Arizona University E-Learning Institute. We were asked to brig on the “social software firehose”. Brian and I invariably have much fun in this process, mostly because we generally cook up something novel and new (and partially risky).

Brian landed in Phoenix yesterday, and after a critical planing meeting at my favorite New Mexican style lunch spot in Scottsdale, we chugged up the I-17 hill (well I did show the back road around New River) to Flagstaff, idly catching up, dodging lane changing 18-wheelers. In the evening we were treated to a discussive dinner at the Beaver Street Brewery with our host Don Carter and colleague Shelley Henson form Utah State and the local Irish Red AND seeing the Suns win Game 1…. and there was a little bit of late night wiki-del.icio.us bashing for today’s sessions.

And the morning prep was enhanced by a trip to the greatest coffee shop in the region (there are lots of referential photos, but uploading them to flickr via the 24 kbs dial-up connection from our cabin would take way too long).

Okay, that was 4 paragraphs of stalling without any links to the work we supposedly did today. Our first morning session was a hands on session on Rip, Mix, Feed – Reloaded: Social Software and Learning which has several remixes of past work. But this was our plan to have participants get some quick and direct experience in the realm of social bookmarking and photosharing using 1 and 2 of our long standing social software apps.

The wiki link above was not the “show” at all; it was more as the link repository for folks to come back to… our “cunning plan” was a bit different and revealed as a tag cloud now seen after the fact at http://cogdogblog.com/stuff/nau06/workshop.html — the cloud here was produced by participants tag activity using a shared account we created at http://del.icio.us/naukeynote/. The activity was really a quick launch into del.icio.us and asking the crowd to lock and load tag any sites they could find or remember related to their interests in social software. The exercise was more the have them do some tagging and using the rendered tag view (thanks to the cool template from Brian’s team at UBC, some time ago I had mis-commented on Brians’s blog wondering why it was different from delicious’s own tool, but once I clicked on a tag it hit me in the face.)

The tags and sites tagged were accumulated by the activity of the 25-25 participants- they caught on quickly. We riffed a bit more on how this can be sued in in an academic realm. Gears were shifted quickly, and we had to move more quickly through the flickr activity. Here we had them log on to another demo flickr account (5 bonus points to anyone who can find the presentation used first for this account). It was a breeze through of flickr tags, comments, pools, annotations, and the golden virtue of the Creative Commons flickr pool. Then we had them use the uber cool flikcrlilli search to find an interesting photo (note to world- this site does not work in Internet Explorer and is case example number 1543 in “Why Would Anyone Actually Use Such an INferior, Bug Holed POS?” But I digress).

The wild thing was as a demo we had them do a search on Creative Commons images tagged with “Flagstaff” and in the first 10 images topped as flicker interestingness were 3 by Dawn… who was sitting in the audience! Too cool. And she has great photos, check ’em out. The net world is too big and too small. Anyhow, we had them use the flickr Post to blog (using toss away Blogger sites http://cogdoghouse.blogspot.com and http://flickrparty.blogspot.com) so they could make the leap on how flickr is a Small Piece Loosely Joined to Blogger–if you look at the sidebars of those sites, they use the del.icio.us JavaScript tools to syndicate the links form the earlier activity, yet another Join.

Whew! But wait, there was more– as the final crushing blow, we tossed it all into SuprGlu http://haukeynote.suprglu.com

And that was the morning. After a break we moved into our plenary session on this mouthful… “Connected Learners – Leveraging the Power of Social Software Used Outside of Formal Learning (Wikis, Blogs, and Other Online Collaboration Tools)”… this presentation was another one we tried to steer via a tag cloud generated in less than 24 hours– http://cogdogblog.com/stuff/nau06/keynote.html. I am blog-tired to do a recap, but we did cover a lot of goovy ground. Our plan for this one was to open wot a blank wiki page, and say, “how do you like our presentation?” The plan was to have one of us steer and talk from the set of resources under the tag cloud, while the other fill out the wiki with notes, but it was a bit much to stay up on the latter, so what was filled was about 1/3 of the show.

It was a great gig, and ended up taken some spontaneous turns, which was the intension. There were good questions we likely partially answered at best, but this audience was engaged and motivated (or had plenty of coffee for the last day of a conference).

But now that Brian and I are done, and relaxing at Strawberry (and late for headed out to the local pub), I must say what a powerful and humbling thing it is to have an opportunity to work with great colleagues and to get asked to come up with these crazy ideas (I think that is what you asked for Don, right? eh?).

So a fitting close was this flickr image blogged from the morning session:


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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com 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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. I was in the audience this morning in Flag and I thought you did a wonderful job and the coverage was outstanding. I lost some of the website addresses so coming here has helped me keep afloat of your presentation. Bloggingfutureisbuiltonthestrongheartsandmindsthatyoubothr. Thanks a million for sharing so much with us/me. May your trip home be fun packed and safe. I was in Vancover last summer and I love it….compliments to Don for inviting you to come to Flag. Walk in Beauty or may I say “Blog in Beauty”-this is a slogan from the the Dine nation (former one is anyway). Charlotte (ABC-ArtbyChar)

  2. Alan…you hit it just as I hoped and expected you would…thanks! Have had many very positive comments about the entire Institute and your session(s) too….though the food seems to have won the blue ribbon!

    Cheers ….Don

  3. Alan,

    First, thanks for blogging this so comprehensively. I’m pea-green with envy, but a little less frantic that I missed it–just mournful. The blog helps me feel/suss/grok the “what” and the “how” and the “vibe,” and that helps a lot.

    You guys really need to capture the audio at these sessions, somehow. I had real good luck at the Faculty Academy with a Sound Projects C3 mic on figure-8 setting. Levels are all over the place as presenters walk around, but the audio is very quiet and clean. We fed the mic into a Mackie mixer and the output then went into an Edirol R-1. Soon I’ll have some podcasts up from FA and you can judge for yourself.

    That’s a long winded way of selfishly begging for more. Y’all rock.

  4. Gardner,

    I did toss my little iAudio on a chair and have some audio, though it will not be as cleans as yours, I am sute. Just need some time to edit, and some days until I am home on a faster connection to upload.

    I would like t pick your brains soon on portable audio equipment as I am very much an audio nOOb. Is the Edirol really great? A collegue has also raved about the M-Audio MicroTrack…. both look portable but would do a bit more quality wise (and record as MP3 files) than the little toy iAudio. And I need to go to microphone school.

    PS- Of all irony, we presented yesterday in the “Gardner Auditorium”, so in a way, you were there 😉

  5. Irony? Or synchronicity? Reader, you be the judge. 🙂

    I’d love to have me brains picked, as there’s little I enjoy more than talking about audio. In fact, I’ve found that the best way for me to while away the time crammed into a jet on the way somewhere is to be editing and otherwise post-producing audio on my laptop. Keeps me focused and the time speeds by, though I am often wrung out by the time I deplane.

    I haven’t used the MicroTrack myself, but I have read here and there that the Edirol just noses it out on audio quality, while the MicroTrack is truly pocket-sized and wins on that count. Either would have probably been fine for my purposes at the Faculty Academy, as I was using the line-in and not the microphone preamp.

    By the way, do check out Giant Squid microphones. They run on “plug-in power” (which the Edirol external mic jack supplies when it’s on the “condenser” setting) and they sound amazing. Best of all, they cost about 50.00 apiece are are just a little bigger than the eraser on the head of a pencil. Lots of testimonials and examples on the website. They’re perfect for clipping to someone’s shirt or blouse, after which you can slip the recorder into a pocket or whatever. That’s how I captured my audio at the UCEA conference. Piece of cake, and the Edirol limiter does a good job of avoiding distortion.

    Now for advanced microphone training, just step right this way…. After all I’ve learned from you, I owe you, oh, about fifty free lessons of your choice. For starters.

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