Given a draft of a post is withering/dying where I fail to conjure something meaningful about the Two Letter Acronym That Rhymes With Hey Bye, I’m reaching back to the old stuff that still matters, the magic of what I call unexpected web serendipity that spring from something we shared, did, uttered in an internet place.

A Short-ish Version

I’m feeling my tendency to write a long flowing story before even getting to the point. So here longer than a TLDR is my human written short-ish summary.

In 2009 I went to my first Open Education Conference and presented– as my take on the broad aspect of openness as way of being– Amazing Stories of Openness (the link will reveal the premise and the original 34 stories). Now 14 years later, I am returning to the 2023 Open Education Conference with the same shtick, curious again if others experience what I still do to this day. Or maybe what is different or the same about the simple human act of sharing in open spaces when it generates un-anticipated serendipity.

The new site for collecting stories (cough a SPLOT) hopefully illustrates what these are (try a random spin?). See the 2023 version of the same idea as well as my hopefully emphatic call for contributions. Can I convince you to share- you can add directly to the collection via links to videos and audio (or uploaded), or just an image and a written story.

Extended Cut

More than 14 years ago, I ventured to Vancouver to meet colleagues I had mostly known only online at the 2009 Open Education conference. My work at the time was marginally related to open education (more focus to just the benefits and joy of the open web).

Then, somewhat like now, much of the conference topics where about the “things”- open resources, open courses (some with 4 letter acronyms), open licenses. I can’t remember the lightbulb moment (Oh here is an earlier framing what I called Only On The Web stories), but given a long interest in web-based digital storytelling, for the OpenEd09 conference I put out a call in June 2009 for what I called “_______ Stories of Openness” (I am not supposed to fill in the blank with “Amazing” but will falter).

This was generated frankly by many of my own experiences where I found my flickr photos or blog posts or even messages in the baby bird days of a site known now by the 24th letter of the English alphabet got used in places/ways I would never expect, and people let me know (I lump them here as a webserendipty tag).

My big hope was a collection of stories, beyond my own, might act as an incentive for more people to put their creations, writings, ideas, media into the open internet. The first collection of 34 video stories is still there online at I had this slick presentation tool called CoolIris (dead) that made them all available in a dynamic, interactive wall of media.

This may have been the most fun I have had in a presentation. The wall of stories was one I could go through sequentially or at free will.

Me on stage at OpenEd2009, photo by D’Arcy Norman shared under a CC BY-NC license

Most of the stories I collected by nagging friends, colleagues recording in video Skype calls, or while at conferences, pulling out a now crude Flip video recorder or even a pocket digital camera. Some came via a google form or as a reply to my first call video. Heck those first ones were published as flash video (later changed to mp4).

Apparently from my post presentation post I stayed up later the night before remixing the comic book covers to represent the categories of stories. What I had sought to do was build up that 2009 optimistic Web 2.0 era joy of what might be possible (not really forecasting what the present, then future, came to be):

It seemed as well when I talked to the people who contributed this stories that it does not take much of a response (a comment, and email) to generate the feedback loop. We all crave connection and attention and approval, and filling the world with more of the above towards others cannot but help.

It’s my hope that these stories just inspire a sense of, “I want to be part of this” or “that’s pretty easy” or whatever it is that makes people realize what I have known for long- when you share your stuff in the open, good things come back in return. That is not the reason to be sharing, but it is an outcome.

A key ingredient of the amazing factor is the not expecting it to happen. In re-reading my own human generated text I note the observation of Clay Burrell (who is in the original series), “If you don’t share… then you won’t get any unexpected surprises.” I later framed this as my own message that I could not guarantee that sharing openly would yield a story worthy act/experience, but if you never shared, I could guarantee you’d never have one.

I remixed (aka just recycled) this in several conference presentations, so I have milked it (too?) many times.

And here I am back in 2023 with the same gimmick. The thing is, I keep having these unexpected acts happen that keeps on the magic of the web lamp, be it my graphic being spotted by a colleague in New Zealand as the backdrop to the Buggles concert or Felix’s photo used for a Belgian insect based dog treat (you can’t ChatGPT this stuff up) or how a blog post about numbers stamped on the bottom of a chair turned my blog into some kind of web meeting spot for people interested in Temple-Stuart furniture.

It can’t just be me that these weird coincidences happen to, even on the 2023 version of the world wide web. But maybe even right now as we are being flooded with machine generated artificial no-intelligent slime, what a better time to do what a machine cannot do, retell a human to human story that made your heart quicken and say, “Woah”.

So I am again asking/begging people to share a story on the SPLOT powered True Stories of Openness site. Videos are great (we take YouTube, Vimeo, even Tok-Tok links), but you can also contribute audio via Sonic Boombox, Vocaroo, Soundcloud (or uploaded audio). Or just plain writing along with some kind of image/photo.

Again, see the splash/call/desperate plea for the 2023 Open Education Conference as well as other places out there I will be asking.

I am also keen to see if I can solicit any 2023 reflections from the people who shared the original Amazing Stories so y’all can expect a message from me soon.

Got a story? I am all ears here.

Featured Image: Combination of images by me using Start the Show by D’Arcy Norman (CC BY-NC), screenshot of True Stories of Openness web site built by me (CC BY), logo from the 2009 OpenEd Conference (license ?? hopefully CC BY), and logo from the 2023 Open Education Conference (CC BY).

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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. Don’t take this wrong, but if anybody was interested in my voice and stories I would have thought I might know it my now. There are so many stories available that I can’t really justify telling one more. Face it, folks just ain’t that into me. And I guess I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. OK, I’m over it. Friday is grandparent’s day for my granddaughter in Kindergarten. And that is enough for me.

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