Earlier in the week I thought I might have 6 for this post as part of the Write 6×6 thing I signed up for. I was thinking of experiences I had this week that affirm or support what (I think) I know.

These were triggered by interactions this week as the organization I work for, Open Education Global was hosting Open Education Week.

Note: as a blogger I hardly ever keep blog posts around as drafts, once started I like to finish. But I do often drafting in my head, letting ideas percolate (or evaporate) until something coalesces or I just decide to start writing and see what happens (this is the latter).

First of all, my ideas are far from universally adaptable, nor are they profoundly original, nor worth glossing the title of a published book. I find these ideas more like long term wood sculptures, I just keep chipping away at, wondering if it is done. They are never done.

Thing 1 & Thing 2
Thing 1 & Thing 2 flickr photo by WBUR shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Thing 1. Asking For Help (in public)

One of the activities I created this year (it does not matter much what it was, but you can ask) was a public space to ask questions about a technology. This sometimes is what I think the internet was built for. Many of you know that feeling when you type into a search box a “how to ____” search.

Google search with completions for how to fix including how to fix a a zipper, how to fix ingrown toenail, how to fix a clogged sink, and more
Google you complete me? What does google know about my toenails?

I was and was not surprised when someone chose not to post a question in public, but sought out my email address to ask a question. I may not have to explain why people do not want to ask questions in public, it has to do with our own “ingrown” fear of not wanting to look … hey this could almost be wordle? S T _ _ _ D. Everybody else know how to do this but me?

A class, be it online or not is always a community, that is not a cliche. But if everything is just between one student and a teacher, maybe I could just be a vending machine. If one student has a question, more likely do. And if you design courses with public spaces, can there be anything better than an environment where other students answer each others questions?

Long ago I saw this in media classes I was teaching. Students had a forum to ask, twitter, and they had their own blogs to document their projects. I saw over and over that students would include in their weekly reflection things like “I spent an hour trying to figure out how to manipulate an alpha mask in GIMP.”

So I invoked what I call the Fifteen Minute Rule– if you are stuck on a task, a concept, trying to find a resource, if you have not found an answer on your own in fifteen minutes, stop, and ask your classmates. Not that this was a rule to enforce, but just a suggestion that it’s always better to ask, regardless of what you think it means to not know.

I have come to believe that this is a key (I don’t think skill is the right word) practices to have especially in networked public spaces. Ask for help. Often. And there is so much to be said for a class environment where other students can offer answers. The best was when it happened before I could even notice the question. I do not need to assert my expertise and Pretend I Know Everything.

This seems obvious, and here I am thinking anyone reading his will reach for a Homer Simpson DOH! meme. Here I will save you the trouble

Season 3 Wall GIF by The Simpsons - Find & Share on GIPHY
From giphy

Do you feel okay to not be an expert in public? I sure am. I prefer playing the know it none.

Thing 2. No Best _______ on the Internet

The internet is pretty big, right? Can I insert another Homer Simpson GIF?

So I do get questions (see Number 1) where people want to know the Best Tool for ______ or the Best Resources for _______. Anyone who confidently answers those questions like they have seen everything is… suspect.

I find the best part of the internet is that there is always more to unturn, dig up, stumble upon.

For a number of years I have had an interest in a group of technologies that are able to provide the kinds of activities, experiences we have connected to the internet… when we are not. This has such importance for parts of the world where connectivity is slim. Or none. And there are a host of clever solutions, Internet in a Box style.

I’d like to think I have come across a lot of these. But O am always reminder that there is a giant tsk-tsk finger waving from the Orb of the Internet. Just a year ago during Open Education Week, I randomly attended a session where I heard about the use in the Northwest Territories of a platform developed in South Africa called Nimble. And people replied with other examples, like Wikifundi … then World Possible then Kolibri.

Woah. Well, after heating of these I felt rather informed.

That’s dangerous.

I am sure know I know much less about this topic than exists.

In another discussion I was introduced to another platform that, as mom used to say, “blew me away” called Kiwix, one open source tool that lets you download vast amounts (or very specific parts) of resources like Wikipedia, to run stand alone from off devices or even on a phone without connectivity.

When people offer their informed opinions, keep in mind it’s largely centered on things they know about. If you ask me about what to use to make web sites, chances are I am going to recommend WordPress. Need a computer? Well, I am likely to recommend an Apple device. My experience is heavily centered on what I know and work with.

If ever you apply Thing 1 to ask a question in public, always keep in mind Thing 2— understand that there is often more.

This again is really my experience, I cannot prescribe them for you. But that’s what this blog is for, my outloud, likely to be easily proven wrong, ideas.

Okay, that is week 1 for my Write 6×6. Gotta start the brain percolating for something new next week.

Featured Image:

Two Paws
Two Paws flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

If this kind of stuff has value, please support me by tossing a one time PayPal kibble or monthly on Patreon
Become a patron at Patreon!
Profile Picture for cogdog
An early 90s builder of the web 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.


  1. I always find asking questions online intriguing. There is often so much ambiguity in responses. I find there is as much learning to be had in making sense of suggestions as there is of the suggestions themselves.

    1. I agree completely. Finding answers to questions becomes something done actively, not just delivered to you by some authoritative oracle or a magic 8 ball. What you describe is so true when I am researching a technical issue in an environment like StackExchange. You have to read much into the replies, sort them, look through multiple threads.

      And the same for product / software reviews. I sometimes save screenshots of adjacent ones like “This is the best thing ever! 5 stars” sitting right above “This ____ is broken, stay away from it”

  2. I’m stealing the 15-minute rule the next time I teach Photoshop. I will be adding to it that several answers you get may work, and maybe none of them will be perfectly “right” or absolutely “wrong” – just poke them and find the thing that works for you. Loved this post and especially the Felix feets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *