cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Artbandito

Between the impact of long distance travel, getting the customer service enema treatment from US Failways, and falling under the spell of plane induced cough/cold, I am overflowing with excuses not to be blogging. I’ve enjoyed two full days of doing workshops and sessions with students and teachers at Yokohama International School (a big shout out to Kim Cofino for setting this up) plus 4+ intense days of planning and helping be part of the 2013 Flat Classroom conference.

Im whupped. And have a lot of back blogging to do. And I need to stop talking about that and start the process.

Instead of going in order, I may jump around, there’s a lot I want to capture before the next plane leg cause it picks up fast again in Singapore next week (looking at you, Jabiz!).

Today I was on stage for the Flat Classroom Conference for my “FLAT” — “Flat Learning Action Talks” something I was asked to do to inspire the young flat classroomers. My hope was to do some version of “the web is amazing, be in awe of it’s near infinite reach”, like the metaphor I use of being overwhelming feeling of standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

At the same time, i have been harkening back to a story I picked up in Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From, its the chapter on the Show hunch where Johnson writes of a young British kid in the 1960s being fascinated by a Victorian book of knowledge.

This book, Everything Enquire Within Upon Everything describes itself (the entire book is available openly from Project Gutenberg, a bit of metan-ess I can dig.)

Whether You Wish to Model a Flower in Wax;
to Study the Rules of Etiquette;
to Serve a Relish for Breakfast or Supper;
to Plan a Dinner for a Large Party or a Small One;
to Cure a Headache;
to Make a Will;
to Get Married;
to Bury a Relative;
Whatever You May Wish to Do, Make, or to Enjoy,
Provided Your Desire has Relation to the Necessities of Domestic Life,
I Hope You will not Fail to ‘Enquire Within”

A book of knowledge that is open to be “enquired”! That reminds me of something…

Like a house, every paragraph in “Enquire Within” has its number, “”and the Index is the Directory which will explain what Facts, Hints, and Instructions inhabit that number.

For, if it be not a misnomer, we are prompted to say that “Enquire Within” is peopled with hundreds of ladies and gentlemen, who have approved of the plan of the work, and contributed something to its store of useful information. There they are, waiting to be questioned, and ready to reply. Within each page some one lives to answer for the correctness of the information imparted, just as certainly as where, in the window of a dwelling, you see a paper directing you to “Enquire Within,” some one is there to answer you.

What kind of knowledge? It is indexed and linked.

The stuff it links to is tidbits of information, e.g.

22. Interesting Conversation

The two grand modes of making your conversation interesting, are to enliven it by recitals calculated to affect and impress your hearers, and to intersperse it with anecdotes and smart things. Count Antoine Rivarol, who lived from 1757 to 1801, was a master in the latter mode.

Yep, you best follow the lead of Count Antoine.

The kid who read the book carries the idea of its “suggestion of magic… a portal to the world of information” and goes on to be the inventor of the World Wide Web!

Johnson’s use of the story was to show how the idea for the web emerged over a very long period, and had many influences; it was not a eureka discovery (Watson, come here quick! I discovered the hyperlink!) but a “slow hunch”.

But for me, I am, more excited about rediscovering the original idea for the web:

The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information. Its universality is essential: the fact that a hypertext link can point to anything, be it personal, local or global, be it draft or highly polished. There was a second part of the dream, too, dependent on the Web being so generally used that it became a realistic mirror (or in fact the primary embodiment) of the ways in which we work and play and socialize. That was that once the state of our interactions was on line, we could then use computers to help us analyse it, make sense of what we are doing, where we individually fit in, and how we can better work together.
““ The World Wide Web: A very short personal history by Tim Berners-Lee May 7, 1998

The web was a technical wonder, but it was also an idea for improving society, to “make sense of what we are doing”. These are the heavy nuggets in that bag of gold.

Anyhow that was the framework. I did this presentation earlier in the week, for the YIS faculty, and really put way too many examples of “wow” web sites, one of those huge firehoses, so for today, I pared it back to five, coming up with some artificial categories.

What I wanted to get across to these students is that they are going to be in charge of the web, and need to see it as a place that carries on the spirit of that initial idea, and also that taking care of the web is more than using it, they need to be active as not only makers, but defenders of it.

The web- still a Wow place that says to me.. Enquire Within Upon Anything (even things we cannot imagine). I closed with a statement recently blogged by David Wiley I intend to reuse a lot (no paradox there):

I pair that quote with what has been (for me personally) my most profound realization in all the years I’ve worked on open ““ “openness facilitates the unexpected.”

I am in this web stuff for all the stuff that amps up the unexpected, the amazing part of stories I collect — and David’s closing paragraph, more gold from the bag

If we succeed in broadly deploying this open content infrastructure, it will empower and enable people to do things we can’t even imagine today ““ the same way an open communications infrastructure (read: the Internet) allowed people to create things we could never have imagined a few decades ago. Think of the incredible things that have emerged in the past 10 years alone because creative people can now assume the broad deployment and adoption of the open communications infrastructure called the Internet. Imagine what they’ll do when they can make the same assumptions about the open content infrastructure. You really can’t ““ and that’s the beauty of it.

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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. Cannot wait to have you here to preach this gospel my friend,

    “What I wanted to get across to these students is that they are going to be in charge of the web, and need to see it as a place that carries on the spirit of that initial idea, and also that taking care of the web is more than using it, they need to be active as not only makers, but defenders of it.”

    Looking forward to your visit.

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