cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by Andrew Morrell

Depending on intonation, emphasis, and perhaps insertion of a TF, that question can go down a number of paths…

I still get questions about The Horizon Report- I’ve not worked for NMC since March 2011, and it’s been so long I may not know what they stand for. And given my incessant blogging, tweeting about ds106, some might think I am affiliated with University of Mary Washington. So if you have not found the ABout Me blurb at, here’s a bit of self serving WTF is Alan doing.

It’s been almost a full year since my last paycheck, when I decided to leave the position I held for 6 months at UMW. There was no problem with that job, and given all the continued ground breaking crushing innovation at DTLT, I still maintain it is the best place to be in instructional technology. My reasons for going were more personal, restless, and accepting that I wanted to both travel some but also get back to my home in Arizona.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Marco Bellucci

So you might say I am (still) on a self-funded sabbatical. Given that I can live pretty cheap, and have no one to be responsible for, I can go maybe another year living off my savings. Maybe not the smartest economic decision. In the last year, I’ve taught part time (ds106 for UMW as an adjunct). did a few web site projects, and picked up a few speaking gigs, all to at least stem the bleeding of the savings account.

There are some things going that I will rattle off below. And I have more than enough time to think of what I’d like to be doing for the next stage. Between my years at Maricopa and NMC I have almost 20 years doing more or less similar things at an organizational level promoting educational technology… and I am really looking for something different.

I so enjoyed my time at UMW getting to teach ds106, in person, and online, and I have some dreams/illusions/dementia about seeking a full time teaching gig. I applied for one (no response) knowing that my sum total formal teaching credentials are thin, and I lack the typical degree requirements (terminal degree) (sounds deadly) (in field). And of course, there are gazillions of people looking for teaching slots.

I’d most like to find online work I can do from my perch here in Strawberry, AZ.

Actually, when I meet people and they ask what I do, I usually reply with some variant of “as little as possible”. Or I will say, truthfully, how much I enjoy not working. It’s not that I do not want to, but for now, why not, not work? I have this great opportunity to not be stuck to someone else’s schedules, demands, needs.

I will say, if/when I do work for some organization, institution, I’ll be looking for one that will not wipe out any trace of my contributions or sweep me under the carpet should I leave at some point.

But alas, there is the looming signpost of HEALTHCARE given my COBRA coverage I have been paying for since leaving UMW gives out in February.

For now, I am sporting the Alfred E. Neuman stance of concern.


So for what is happening around thew dog haus…

I’ve had a domain and maybe a web site template set up for a long while to act as a home for my [SCAREQUOTES]business[/SCAREQUOTES] at CogDog It – the idea of offering to provide things people, organizations might like on CogDoggy style. But alas working on that site lags every month. Maybe it will be August. I am finding not a lot of energy to making a business site for myself, and when it does, there will be no phony phrasing of “We” to refer to “Me”.

There is but one post making reference to the metaphor of the cobblers children lacking shoes.

etmooc hub

I’ve been most busy on projects that follow in the steps of what I learned with ds106 in creating wordpress-based aggregation hubs via the Feedwordpress plugin. Working with Alec Couros on his ETMOOC site earlier this year, building the blog hub and twitter hubs both taught me more about building these sites and also made more people aware of its capabilities.

In fact I did two of these this month almost in parallel, which means I was able to leverage stuff back and forth. The first is for the Harvard Graduate School’s Future of Learning Institute, which runs this week:


Justin Reich approached me about building the site, which if you are WP savvy, can see I am reusing the Twenty-Eleven WordPress theme we used for ETMOOC. We have syndicating content from participant’s blogs, tweets, photos (both flickr and instagram), and diigo.

The new wrinkle added here is what I call a Quick Post, using the Jetpack Plugin for post by email. This gives people a flexible easy way to add content or posts to the site without having to make accounts or give access to the WP interface, plus it makes it easy to post images or text from a mobile device.

We are also using it for their Learning Groups, where group members can post ideas, summaries and add a tag in their email to associate it with their group (see group 9 for examples, all posts sent to the site via email).

There has been new stuff to figure out, how to get an RSS feed for Twitter to use in since Twitter killed RSS; how to get larger sized images from flickr RSS feeds since Yahoo seems to feel all we need are 320pixel wide images (hello yahoo, this is 2013, not 1993), and a better Feedwordpress strategy for getting blog feeds.

I also had to figure out using a wordpress forum plug to create a place for workshop leaders to share planning and discussion ideas.

Have no fears, this will be blogged in more detail soon.

I pretty much leveraged a lot of this again to build a site for a project Brian Lamb connected me up with, the RMOOC, (Art + Reconciliation) “that addresses how artistic practices can engage in questions of reconciliation, most particularly in the Canadian context of residential schools and the associated and ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”


I got over my aversion of the “M” word; this is really not a class/course person, but a community.

Given an expected large amount of media, I suggested using a more graphic oriented them, and spent two days banging my head trying to use a fancy Elegant Themes one (Gleam). The theme looked good, but gave me fits for a funky way it channeled all content through an Ajax call, and its limits on menus. The day of launch I scrapped that one and went with one more reliable, the free F8 Light theme from Graph Paper Press.

It has still taken a moderate amount of theme hacking to make it do what I want. On this site, we have syndication from blogs, twitter, photos (flickr and instagram), and in this site, I called the Quick Posts “Dispatches

The new thing I am getting from this site is learning how to set up and use Mailchimp so the prof running this can send out updates in a modern fashion.

Yes, this site too has an upcoming writeup.

This month I am also working with Nancy White and colleagues again setting up the Project Community site for an engineering design class in the Netherlands:


This was setup as an aggregation hub as well last year, with all students using Tumblr to post reflections. I have to archive the last year’s content and get it ready for a new round, but with a moderate amount of modifications based on the feedback.

I build another site in April for artist Emilio Vavarella, making use of a responsive theme and a gallery grid plugin aiming to keep it in the simple design mindset that Emilio requested.


I have not even looked at it, since he has pretty much got all of the content creation sorted out. I am also about 1/3 done another artist site for a friend here in Strawberry who is a talented artist (I’m working on it, Diane!). This was her birthday present, I hope I can get it done before her next birthday.

Of course, ds106 always looms in my activity stream. I tried to instigate some more activity in the ds106 Daily Create by issuing a July TDC challenge. It seems to help to nag and abuse people. Why am I doing this (for free)? Because it is fun and it matters.

And I have set up the idea and potential for a ds106 “course” that starts August 26 that will have no instructors, the so-called “Headless ds106“. This will happen on its own, simply by matching a schedule to some to be schedule posts based on the assignments I made for my classes in the Spring of 2013.


But also on the ds106 front, and what I am working on for a few pesos in August (thanks to the Shuttleworth Foundation) is making a new version of the ds106 Assignment Bank that could be used for other courses, topics. The plan is to make it into a configurable WordPress Theme, plus a few required plugins. I will be removing al of the hardwired ds106 code, and trying to figure out how I can reduce the number of required plugins to a small number, plus doing a lot of code and design cleanup.

I most likely will be coding this in the open so you can see it progress.

Jim Groom an I are hopeful that this might seed some interest so I could put some focussed effort into making more of ds106 not something of an “______ in the Box” but more of what I call a “Boxed Set” of different tools you could use, including the Assignment Bank, but also something to be able to run your own Daily Creates.

My plan to do this is to change it to harvest the response based on URLs tweeted, rather than the fickle media players we use now. Youtube is broken for search by tags, Soundcloud is restrictive because we can only create one group per account, and it seems less useful to organize TDCs around media sites.

I also would like to change the ds106 flow from an unreadable series of blog posts, to something more like the Course Reader that Martin Hawksey created for the octel course, one that not only acted like the now sadly killed, stabbed, decimated Google Reader, but also could harness the actions of what people read and favorite to bubble up content.

In fact, I am experimenting with testing this out as a self-hosted feed reader built in wordpress:


This is extremely crude, and represents one afternoon of hammering away at Martin’s code. I would never think it replicates all of Google Reader’s interface.

But for an aggregation hub, and for ds106, I think it makes sense to have a separate site that acts as the hub. e.g. (this means we can use a more minimal theme) and make the main site be all about the course/community content.

I am also writing a chapter in some new book coming out about MOOCs (ha ha, I am serious) writing about how ds106 blows the MOOC perceptions up.

Other things I am doing out of interest and no income generation include:

  • I would like to take my 5 Card Flickr Stories and pechaflickr sites and build them out as WordPress themes, so you could run and customize your own more easily. I am intrigued at the idea of using WordPress as sort of an app engine.
  • I have many mane long overdue updates for 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story, plus Darren Kuropatwa and I are dabbling with adding a section that would cover mobile apps.
  • I have a partly baked idea to set up and run online “Photocamps” where I would enroll a small number of people (12 or less) who might want to embark on a month long series of activities to help them improve their photography skills.
  • I am idling on Amazing Stories of Open Sharing — I am stumped as to why it remains hard for people to want to add to this collection. People talk about sharing all the time, but when it comes to sharing a story about sharing a story? Sigh. This is one of my favorite talks to do. I guess I could modify it for weddings and bar mitzvahas.
  • Daily photography is always happening, both on flickr and stuff I post to my Barking Dog Studies site.

Damn, this took too long to do. What I have really enjoyed since mid June is being at home, not traveling, not being in planes, hotels, conference halls.

And its not like I have gobs of time. I am not sure where to fit a job in my schedule.


I do need to make some money, so if there is something CogDog-ish I can do for you, well, you know where to find me.

What the bleep am I doing?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by protographer23

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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.


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