I collect stories of unexpected things that happen to people when they share what they create in the open. They used to be amazing, but after a copyright slap, they are true.

The only time I usually add is when I get a chance to present the stories; there is (ahem) (cough) (ahem) an easy way to share… but. Well, people are busy, I know.

So I’ll be adding one more of my own soon.

I start with the end- this new cover of an issue of the biology journal Cell features an image remixed from one of my open licensed photos:

That's my Dad's drafting table!
That’s my Dad’s drafting table!

In 2008 I posted a photo of the table to flickr

Finished Stain Project
Finished Stain Project flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

This drafting table was used by my Dad in the 1950s. He had not finished college, and while working as a bricklayer. he enrolled in a correspondence course in Construction Cost Estimation. I wrote before, with a little audio assist from my Mom, how I considered my Dad a successful distance learner. No MOOC dropout was he; after getting his certificate, he went into the field for Baltimore Contractors and then spent the rest of his career doing this kind of work for the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Mom did not seem to remember the drafting table, but I had found it in the basement, took ti when I moved to Arizona, and have taken it everywhere I have lived. In the photo above in 2008, I had sanded and restained it, and put the photo on flickr.

I got a cryptic comment there warning me that my vies were about to go up, and later was told why — that image was used as part of a PhotoShop tutorial on PSDTUTS

The tutorial is pretty amazing, there is a lot before my table appears, but the author shows how to import a 3D model into PhotoShop, and manipulate the model data to generate a realistic looking blueprint image. He than shows how to make it look like a real piece of paper (with subtle shadows, folds, drapes) laid across my drafting table photo.

That would have been enough there.

But then I got a request via email from Khanh Huy Bui who asked to use the table in an image he was preparing for the cover of Cell (he has a research article in there which I am sure I would not understand). The work he did in Photoshop is amazing too, it really captures the detail of paper, shadow, etc.

And there you go, my dad uses this table to get through his studies, I cart of off, post a photo of it in flickr, it gets in a photoshop tutorial (and the commenter was right, it has like 5800 views), and now it’s the cover of a biology research journal.

You cannot expect these things to happen when you share; if you do, it’s the wrong reason to share. And usually it’s the things you share that you least expect to be of interest that for some cosmic reason, are of interest to someone else.

I cannot guarantee at all if you start sharing your photos and stuff that one of these stories will happen to you. All you do is increase the potential energy some infinitesimal amount that it might happen. But what I can guarantee is this- if you never openly, share your creations, you will never experience one of these stories.

And if you do not want something amazing to happen like this, well… Too bad. Sad.

Got a true story? I’m interested. Always.

I know my Dad would just love seeing that journal cover with his old table on it. He might not understand the crazy path, but he would appreciate it.

And that is the best story of them all.

UPDATE February 8, 2014 How did I miss this? In going through my folders (on the computer) of old photos and scans, I found Dad’s certificate from this program! It must have been in the files at my Mom’s house:

Dad's certificate from April, 1955
Dad’s certificate from April, 1955

He graduated from the Chicago Technical College in April 19, 1955 with this diploma in Plan Reading, Estimating and Building Superintendence. Chicago Tech closed in the 1970s but they have been doing this kind of extension course work going back to 1915; I found a few ads in Google Books.

The answer to his education was there all the time.

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Profile Picture for CogDog The Blog
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. That is really neat! You’re right, he would be thrilled. I’m constantly amazed at people I know who are obsessed with taking pictures of everything but never share them. Some people are just so social media phobic. What, somebody might see your photos or (gasp) use them for something cool?!

  2. Oh, BTW, I’m learning how to paint flowers in my watercolor class. Hmmm, where might I find some great flower photos?!

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