That’s my new dog Felix, inside my fenced-in yard.

The people at the Humane Society told me his owners left him alone in a backyard, and he had escaped several times by jumping the fence. The last time he jumped, his collar got stuck, and he was found hanging there. Brought to the shelter, and his owners notified… they never showed up to claim him.

I kept looking at my fence. It’s 4 feet high, and would hardly keep a dog contained who could jump. At the Humane Society one of the handlers pointed out a fence at least 6 feet high, with overhand extra fencing, sharp wire at the top, and told me of some dogs that make it over, or tear their way through.

My previous dog, Mickey (the one on the web site), a 90 pound Labrador Retriever, eager to chase another dog, pushed his body through the tiny triangle shaped gap at the bottom of the rail on the stairs.

How is my four foot fence going to keep that dog in?

Felix on the front deck

Felix on the front deck

Even more worrisome is the yard connects to the small deck at my entrance, and it would not take much imagination to see Felix with his front paws on the rail, getting over would be easy. Heck, he has already jumped on top of my dining room table twice.

So if I really really really wanted to be sure Felix could not escape my yard, I might have to wrap my porch in fencing, and hire a fence company to maybe raise my fences to 8 feet high, maybe a solid fence. My home would look like a prison.

I am not doing this, it was a thinking exercise.

Mariana Funes has been sharing dog training advice. She told me to be careful of projecting my worries, that animals can pick up on the negative thoughts… not like mind readers, but I can speculate that if I am constantly worrying about the fence, if I keep looking at it, measuring my concern… that I might be broadcasting that negativeness.

So the fence is real but also somewhat symbolic. A suggestion. The important thing is considering the dog inside the fence, and giving enough love and reasons for him to not want to jump. I can only imagine at his previous home, he got no attention… there was no good reason for him to be inside the fence, so no wonder he jumped over it.

I’m thinking of the protective fences we sometimes aim to build to help people avoid negative consequences on the open web. We want to create safety. We worry about them getting disoriented, distracted, encountering questionable content or people, and keep them from the vile end of the spectrum where there is abuse, threats. In good intentions we want people to have a quasi controlled experience online, where controlled is more of a nurturing thing than a commanding one.

I wanted to add an example, but blanked at the time, this came after Felix and I took a walk, faced rain, mud, and a possibly aggressive dog named Lola (she’s not, but it makes the story better).

One of my favorite creations is pechaflickr a site that allows you to create improv / creative activities from random photos pulled from flickr. I use it often in presentations and workshops, with adults, and I’ve done a few with middle age kids.

It makes me giddy to hear of people using it. Quite often teachers of grade school kids will express worry/caution/concern about “inappropriate images” appearing (because they do not screen them first, that’s the random part).

I do not know if this comes from experience seeing something inappropriate in an image or just the kind of projection of what people fear.

And it’s a small number of tweets, but this comes up as a question when I show it.

if you want a very tall durable protective fence– do not use pechaflickr. Load up your own Powerpoint slidedecks, and do the same idea. Control the experience. But while you are building that fence, take away the ability to search the web; I have seen much more questionable imagery i google searches than flickr.

I am a 5th grade teacher and my kids absolutely love pechaflikr. They have found a whole new way to look at vocabulary words.

Occasionally though, inappropriate pictures come up with our vocab words. Yesterday, our word was “era” and a Victoria Secret model came up in her bra and panties.

Is there a way we can use this wonderful fun game and censor some of the random pictures that may be inappropriate?

I used this in a note as a way to explain the way pechaflickr works:

Pechflickr use the flickr search mechanism that uses only images marked as “safe” according to flickr; however this is completely dependent on the person who posts the photos to follow these guidelines.

You can report a photo that is in appropriate as detailed at but that’s really an after the fact act.

But I do have another idea, it’s a different scale of fence, that will allow you to use pechaflickr…

If you want to make completely sure that you have a safe set of images what I can suggest is to make you own pool…

Can I use pechaflickr to use only my own photos?
Certainly, if you use a tag that is unique to your photos. The way pechaflickr looks for random photos requires four times as many as the desired number for a round; so if you want to show 20 photos in a round of pechaflickr, you will need at least 80 photos that use the tag. You should also open the Advance options and uncheck the option for Unique Photo Owners (More variability) (this allows it to pick more than one photo from the same person).

I cannot guarantee 100% that you will not see an inappropriate image via pechaflickr, it hinges on the filters flickr provides. I’ve done a ton of these, and the closest to a a problem image I have seen was a photo of a young woman in the woods, and the color of her shorts could be seen as if she was wearing no pants.

There is a lot of range in what we mean by “inappropriate” and a whole lot of distance until we get into “obscene”. But I would like hear specifically a description of an inappropriate photo that anyone has seen come through pechaflickr.

We might differ in how we feel about kids seeing “a Victoria Secret model came up in her bra and panties” but if we react in front of children with horror, embarrassment, and a rush to turn off the projector, I think the problem becomes bigger. How will they learn what “inappropriate” means, and how it is situational?

If we worried less about the height and durability of the fence, and more about equipping people with skills to deal with what’s over the fence, AND giving attention to those inside we care about, well heck, when ready, they can jump over and jump back (and here is where my metaphor falters, sigh).

Felix ponder the meaning of existence...

Felix ponder the meaning of existence…

There are no 100% assurable fences of protection. So we show create some of a reasonable amount, but if we make the web a fortress, well… it does not work. Fill in the blanks of the metaphor.

Or tell me mine is full of dog poop.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff 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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Yours is not full of poop except poop as a final word of an excellent extended metaphor essay. I totally get Mariana’s point and agree with you that only love should fence us in.

  2. Well, it is not a poopy one.

    That Felix looks like he will be a nice Friend. I think if there is good dog food on the inside of the fence, and a CogDog, then when you take him outside the fence for walks, he will be happy to stay there when you are inside of it.

    So, Hi Felix!

  3. I love this and it is so full of stuff relevant to what’s going on these days… No full of poop.. Really lovely post

  4. I’m just thinking about the metaphor, because it’s so right. (Dogs, I know less about.)

    The other day I was listening to my teenage daughter explain to her ten year old sister how to navigate on the more open web — when to use your real name, why not to say where you live, how to know when attention is creepy. The advice was cogent, confident, and given in the interests of being able to explore, not just to stay fenced in. What really struck me is that this is peer advice based on experience.

    The best support we give students for navigating risk is the human development of their capacity to notice others and think about how they’re doing. I think we model it in the way we take care of each other as professionals who work openly online. You do this all the time with the way that you knit ideas across the blogs you visit and comment on, and in this you’ve been a great model for me when I was getting my sea legs in the open ocean.

    Felix is the middle name of my godson who came into the world via a difficult birth, and so his parents, correctly recognising that a boy named Lucky might have a tough time in the schoolyard, named him Felix.

    As we all are. Thanks for this.

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