Category Archives: Administrivia

I’m baaaaack! And I’m reviving this blog for the PLENK2010 MOOC

I’m back, and I’ve been inspired to emerge from my (latest!) blogging hiatus by Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge 2010 (#PLENK2010), a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) facilitated by George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier & Rita Kopp.

Well, that’s a surprise!

I am surprised to find myself engaged in a course on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). These were topics that were of a great interest to me back in the days when I was actively involved in the elearning, online learning and ed-tech sector, but I swore off this field in the mid 2008 (see Where in the World Wide Web is Sean?)

No more ed-tech for me, no siree!

I’d had enough. It wasn’t for me. I wasn’t making the impact I had hoped for. I seemed to be hitting my head against a brick wall all the time. (However, on reflection I’ve realised that the brick wall was internal, caused by my own fears, which led me to hold back from saying the things I wanted to say. No wonder I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere, I didn’t feel heard and I end up feeling unsatisfied.)

Since then I’ve been off exploring (the not too inconsequential problems of) the state of the world, how we got to be in the situation we are in, and what we can do about it.

Finishing unfinished business

Now the emergence of the PLENK2010 MOOC has had me reviewing and thinking about that earlier period of my life and made me realise that there are many things I didn’t say back then – mainly because of a block I had about expressing opinions publicly – that I’d like to say now. I believe the MOOC will give me that opportunity.

New applications of old knowledge

I also feel that the principles underpinning PLEs, PLNs, MOOCs, and the pedagogical models and philosophies that accompany them – such as free and open learning, Networked Learning and Connectivism – offer great hope for creating the type of large-scale and rapid social transformations I believe are needed in this time of change, challenge and crisis.

I’d like to use this course to explore ideas about how we can use these tools, strategies and methodologies to create what one of my favourite thinkers, Charles Eisenstein, calls “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.”

Coming out of hibernation

So, after many years of self-imposed sequestration, I’ve decided to “go public” again, so to speak, and reconnect with the world.

The timing is a bit earlier than I had planned – I haven’t quite finished working through my ideas and gathering my resources for my new projects yet – but maybe waiting for things to be “perfect” rather than sharing my unfolding process has been part of my problem with expressing myself all along.

Although it feels weird and a bit scary, getting involved in the MOOC does feel like the right thing to do.

But how long will it last?

I’m not sure how involved I’ll be. And I might lose interest, especially if I’m not learning anything new, or if it gets too overwhelming (staying abreast of the things I’m interested in is hard enough without taking on a crazy, full-on MOOC about topics I thought I’d left behind!) We shall see.

Staying in this part of the blogosphere for now

I had intended to walk away from this blog and leave it behind when I left the ed-tech sector, but it seems like the logical place to continue to share my thoughts, ideas and explorations regarding the topics related to the PLENK2010 course.

So I’ve brushed the dust of this ol’ thang, picked a new blog template and revamped the design a little to reflect the it’s new purpose. All up I haven’t expended much energy on the changes, so if my interest does wane then nothing will be wasted.

I plan to publish my thoughts on other things I’ve been exploring elsewhere in due course.

For now, let the MOOCly adventure begin!

Quick Links for 2008-07-28

Image by sridgway

(Image by sridgwayCC-by)

From time to time I’m going to post a bunch of links to news items that I find interesting, want to draw attention to and make some brief commentary on, but that don’t warrant a post of their own, and that I don’t necessarily want to post to del.icio.us for later reference.

Welcome to my inaugural “Quick Links.”

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TechCrunch – Is This The Future Of Search?

Google is testing a Digg-like interface for search, where users can vote search results up or down and add comments. The human element is added to Google’s magical secret search algorithm.

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TechCrunch – Google Walks Away From Digg Deal

Google had been in negotiations to acquire Digg, but the deal fell through.

As I read about the negotiations I couldn’t help but think about that famous Epic 2015 video in which Google merges with Amazon to become Googlezon, takes over the online world and develops a “social recommendation engine.”

Oh well, at least Google have their own social search engine experiment from the previous item to fall back on.

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MySpace support bolsters OpenID, but the logins won’t be portable

Popular social networking site MySpace said Tuesday it will join the open source authentication platform OpenID, further bolstering the idea of a unified system to carry online identities between Web sites. But for now, MySpace’s OpenID accounts cannot be used elsewhere.

So the good news is… one of the largest web services is supporting OpenID, joining Google, Yahoo!, AOL and other big players, but the bad news is…

However, the implementation of OpenID on MySpace is still incomplete.

The social networking site is what is called a “provider,” which means the site can create new OpenIDs. But to actually use that OpenID login created on MySpace on another OpenID-supported site, MySpace needs to become a “relying party.”

Apparently Yahoo! is only a provider too, at this stage.

I didn’t know that about OpenID… you learn something everyday. Hopefully MySpace and Yahoo! will come on board and become relying party and make OpenID really useful.

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New Foundation Wants to Bridge the Gaps Between Open Web Tools

Speaking at the OSCON Open Source Convention, Six Apart’s David Recordon recently announced the Open Web Foundation, a meta-standards organization dedicated to smoothing the way for large businesses to embrace open web standards like OAuth, OpenID and more.

While there is already the Data Portability Workgroup, which acts as an open standards evangelist, the new Open Web Foundation aims to do the behind-the-scenes dirty work. The goal is to ensure that the various standards, like OAuth and OpenID have consistency, a legal framework and communication between them.

Sounds like a great idea… I wonder if they will be covering open standards for the metaverse.

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IBM says traditional e-mail, phones and desktops will go away

I agree with IBM that 3D immersive environments are going to play a big role in work place communication.

IBM foresees the demise of e-mail, phones and desktops as unified communications makes it possible to replace them with laptops and other mobile devices.

Instant messaging will step up as the preferred means of written communication around which other communications modes – voice, video, conferencing – will revolve, he predicts.

Rhodin demonstrated a virtual conference using technology similar to Second Life that creates a conference space that becomes familiar and in which participants feel comfortable. In combination with other unified communications features, this can make for more productive conferences, he says.

Toward that end, IBM announced at VoiceCon that it is teaming with Forterra Systems to integrate Lotus Sametime with Forterra’s graphical collaboration software. The goal is to create a virtual environment in which groups can meet to run through simulations of physical events and draw on relevant experts as needed.

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ABC launches free net TV service

THE ABC’s voracious and highly successful push into the digital domain has taken another mighty leap with the launch of ABC iView.

The free internet TV service, which went live last night and is available at abc.net.au/iview, is the first real attempt by an Australian network to deliver comprehensive content online.

So our very own Aunty (as the ABC is affectionately called here in Australia) is making as many of its TV shows available for online streaming as possible.

Surely this is the future of television.

Unlike the BBC’s iPlayer, the ABC’s iView does not consolidate the public broadcaster’s television content with its radio content; but like iPlayer, the in-built video player is geo-blocked, or unable to be accessed internationally.

Disappointing, but I guess they have their reasons.

ISP provider iiNet also announced last night it would include the ABC’s new iView service quota-free for all customers.

Woot! Guess who’s with iiNet?

I don’t see Bananas with Pyjamas up there yet. 🙂

Where in the World Wide Web is Sean?


Crikees! It’s almost halfway through 2008 and I haven’t posted a thing since January!

Have you noticed I’ve been quiet? Have you been wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to? (Maybe not! 🙂 )

Taking time off

Well, I’ve taken some time off to explore my interests, and sort out what I want to do next with my life.

In other words, I’m still trying to work out what I want to be when I grow up. 🙂

I’ve also needed to take some time out to deal with some personal issues that I haven’t been giving enough attention to in recent years.

Bye-bye ed-tech sector

I’ve decided to leave the educational technology and online learning sector. There are many reasons for this decision, but the main one is that it really wasn’t what I wanted to do.

I’ve actually been trying to pull away from the sector for about two years now, but it took until this year to fully let it go. My explorations into the educational uses of Second Life and virtual worlds last year was a last hurrah to that field.

I will explain more about the reasons behind my decision to leave the ed-tech sector in a later post.

New/old interests

In the meantime I’ve been doing a lot of reading, exploring new websites and blogs, culling blogs from my RSS reader and replacing them with new ones that reflect my current interests, changing my RSS reading habits, and watching lots of videos (great for me as I’m an auditory/verbal learner/communicator/thinker, but didn’t have the time to watch videos in the past).

What I’ve discovered is that I’m returning to many of the interests that I had before being in the educational technology sector started to consume my life.

Will I have my say?

There is one thing about my time in the educational technology sector that remains unresolved.

Over that time I read a lot, followed a lot of the conversations in the edublogosphere, but didn’t participate in those conversations as much as I would have liked to. There were many things I wanted to say about education and technology but never did. For the main part I sat on the sidelines of the conversation, getting frustrated with things I disagreed with, but never really adding my bit.

There were many reasons for me not speaking up, for not participating. Most of them are related to fear of one type or another. I’m thinking of talking more about these fears – and the related issue of why I have so much trouble blogging – in later posts.

I’m considering if I should leave what wasn’t said in the past and move on or whether I owe it to myself to go back and address some of the issues I felt strongly about but was too scared to express my thoughts on at the time. We shall see.

So… don’t keep us in suspenders!

So anyway… what have I been exploring this year? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned.. I will reveal all in a later post!

Watch this space. 🙂

(Image by mobilestreetlifecc-by)

Rethinking the purpose of this blog


Readers (both of you 🙂 ) may have noticed that my blogging has stalled… again.

My linkblog is still chugging along (although I’m a bit behind), but my actual blog-writing has come to a bit of a standstill.

My ongoing battle with blogging

I struggle with blogging. There are many reasons for this.

For one I struggle with writing… it’s just not my medium. Despite being a confident and articulate speaker it takes me forever to write things down to my satisfaction. It always has.

Writing a decent-length blog post takes me so long I get overwhelmed at the thought of it and often give up before I even begin.

Secondly, I’ve painted myself into a corner as a result of some earlier decisions I made about the purpose and focus of this blog.

Thirdly, I’m in the process of having a rethink about what I want to do with my life and myself professionally, and this obviously has an impact on what I want to blog about.

Let me elaborate on the latter two points…

Professional or personal blog?

In a previous post I wondered whether this blog should be a one-stop-shop, combining both personal and professional interests, or whether I should focus on professional interests only.

I decided to go with making this my professional blog, and focus on producing content that would support my role as a consultant in emerging technologies (with a current focus on virtual worlds).

The reasoning was that by being focussed those interested in the area of virtual worlds would be more willing to subscribe to my RSS feed.

In turn I had hoped this would raise my profile as someone with knowledge and expertise in this area, hopefully leading to more work and ultimately providing me with more income.

There are a few problems with this:

  1. Because I struggle with blogging I don’t have the energy to sustain two blogs.
  2. I have a range of other interests I’d like to blog about.
  3. My professional interests are evolving anyway. While virtual worlds still remains an area of strong interest for me, I feel like I have mastered that area to my satisfaction and now seek to explore new horizons.

What are my interests? What do I really want to do?

Realising I want to blog about more than just emerging technologies has led me to realise that I don’t want to restrict myself to just being a consultant in this field.

My interests range far wider than emerging technology – they include personal growth, spirituality, cyberculture, cultural studies, media and communications, education, music and the arts.

And I realise I’ve been hiding behind a “professional front” for some time now, reluctant to express my more personal thoughts and opinions on a whole range of topics that interest me. This has to change.

The solution – reflected in the nature this blog

As I redefine what I want to do those changes will be reflected in this blog, so from now on this will just be “my blog”… making no distinction between the personal and the professional.

(And my recent blogHUD post entitled “Jokay and I knocking back a few tequilas” would have put pay to any pretensions that this is a serious, professional blog anyway! 🙂 )

From now on you will see me post on a wider range of topics – not just virtual worlds and Second Life – and I will share more of my personal opinion, particularly on topics they may be a bit controversial and that I may have been reluctant to talk about in the past.

And I will bookmark websites covering other areas of interest and this will be reflected in my daily links/linkblog.

Oh… and I’ll be changing the description of who I am and what I do… that little bio under my sidebar pic – as soon as I sort of work it out and find a better way of expressing what that is!

The journey continues…

I don’t know where all this will lead me, but I’m discovering that blogging is a real process… one that’s both scary and exciting.

And this blog is turning out to be a bit of a personal journal, isn’t it? It’s becoming a tool to assist in my journey to discover who I really am and what I want to do.

But then again… this blog is called “Sean’s Emerging…” after all! 😉

(Image by edouard escougnou)

Should my blog be a one-stop shop?

Busted!

Well, it didn’t take long for Alex Hayes (and others) to cotton-on to the fact that I’d started a new blog.

I’d hoped to have a bit of time to find my blogging feet before I entered into the fray of the blogosphere, but it was obviously not to be!

I was keen to keep up my blogging momentum, hoping to blog at least every couple of days and I was getting anxious wondering what I would blog about next. It now appears the blogosphere has already handed the topic to me!

My blogging endeavours have been mentioned on not one, but two posts by Alex.

These posts raise some issues about how I’ve set up my blog. These are issues I’ve been thinking about myself. So it looks like, for a while at least, I’ll be blogging about blogging, which is not unusual for someone new to blogging, although a bit ironic for someone who has taught others about blogging in the past!

Hopefully I’ll get to blogging about the work I’m doing with virtual worlds and Second Life soon too.

Linkblog and Google Reader issues

In Alex’s first post – Blogging Paradigms or e-Ciphering in LagtimeGraham Wegner asks: “So is Sean’s linkblog a collection of everything he contributes to on the web?”

Just to clarify… I set up the linkblog at a time when I was still looking for a blogging solution. I come across a lot of links that are relevant to the research I am doing into virtual worlds that I’d like to share with others, and instead of trying to blog about each of them I would just add some brief commentary in the item’s notes field, tag them with ‘mylinkblog’ and make the RSS feed for that tag available.

Also, I added the RSS feed from mylinkblog to a folder in my Google Reader called ‘seansthoughts’ along with RSS feeds for posts on other people’s blogs I had left significant comments on, links to things I had written and posted to my wiki and my blogHUD (blogging from within Second Life).

I then used the Google Reader’s sharing feature to create a reblog of all my publishing output at that time called ‘SeansThoughts‘.

But it turns out that entries in Google Reader aren’t shared until I’ve marked them as read, which means I have to regularly go in and do this manually before they will publish – obviously not a sustainable position!

Now that I have this new blog, I’ve been using del.icio.us’ daily blog posting tool to post daily links anyway, so the value of maintaining a separate linkblog is in doubt.

The other issue is that there are things that I post to my del.icio.us purely for my own interest, and aren’t relevant for other people or suitable for sharing, but the problem is that the del.icio.us tools publish everything, which means I have to either add notes for everything or even not post those links which I think may not be of interest to others.

I believe with a self-hosted WordPress blog it’s possible to have plugins that post daily del.icio.us blog posts that can be restricted to individual tags, in which case I just post items tagged with ‘mylinkblog’ to my blog. But that’s not an option at the moment, so I’m not sure what I will do.

[Update – 27/02/07: I’ve sort of ‘re-discovered’ that the standard del.icio.us linkroll tool lets you include notes and select individual categories, which means it it possible to add a linkroll to the sidebar which only displays posts with the ‘mylinkblog’ tag . That would be a good alternative to the daily link posting, however I can’t use that here as WordPress.com doesn’t allow javascript (boo! hiss!), so I will have to wait until I set up a blog on my own host if I want to choose that option.]

Will I continue to blend my Bloghudding?

In Alex’s post he also mentions that he likes the way I’m drawing all of my output into this one blog: “I’m liking his new blog mainly for it’s ‘core’ value – one-stop.” To be honest though, I’m already wondering if this is such a great idea.

I’ve been blogging from within Second Life with blogHUD for some time now. I get my avatar to wear the blogHUD (a ‘HUD’ is a heads up display) and this allows me to post text and pictures out to the web.

I can also cross-post from blogHUD to my flickr account, and to one external blog. In this case… here.

I’ve had a lot of fun bloghudding. In fact my blogHUD was the first time I’ve been motivated to blog consistently. It’s also the first time I’ve really used my flickr account. I’m not much of a photographer and prior to bloghudding I only used my flickr account for demo purposes and for the occasional moblogged snap (cue sound of chirping crickets!)

Some of my blogHUD posts like – Checking out Ohio Uni’s Learning Kiosk – are ‘serious’ and relevant to the work I’m doing, whereas others like – Waiting for a burger at Big A’s – are just a bit of fun.

There is a strange disjoint between my more confident, established bloghudding and my confident del.icio.us posts with comments on one hand, and the occasional nervous new blogger posts like this one on the other.

An even greater concern is that between my daily del.icio.us links posting, my bloghudding, and my regular blogging I could be pumping out several posts a day and I’m wondering if people will choose not to subscribe to such a busy blog, or whether they will subscribe but not be able to tell which are the longer, more ‘considered’ blog posts – the ones that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into – as they browse headings in their RSS readers.

So there is another argument for not cross-posting my bloghudding here and instead let people choose to subscribe to only that feed if they want, leaving only my daily links and ‘serious’ posts. After all, I do include the RSS feed to my blogHUD in the sidebar of the blog, and the images are also coming in through the flickr widget.

What do you think?

One blog or two? What should I do?

This brings me to Alex’s other post – Blogging : For The Greater Good – in which the issue is raised whether it’s a good idea to combine professional and personal blogging into one space, or whether we should have separate professional and personal blogs.

I am still divided on this one. There is much to be said for a blog that is focused on professional material only. Do people interested in my work in emerging technologies want to hear about my more personal musings (or indeed my lengthy ruminations about blogging)? Are people more likely to subscribe if the blog is focused?

Or should I chuck it all in the one blog and rely on people to filter, either by skimming my RSS feed (if they are subscribed), or by subscribing to only those categories they are interested in?

This is a vexed question, and raises all sorts of issues about the breakdown of the walls between the professional and the personal as a result of online personal publishing (but that’s for another blog post).

I just want to be sure my ‘one-stop shop’ doesn’t become a ‘one-stop flop’! 🙂

Thoughts?

(Image by Exquisitely Bored in Nacogdoches)

Sean’s latest attempt at entering the blogosphere…

It pretty much goes without saying that if you want to be successful as a consultant in the field of emerging technology these days it’s important to create a public profile for yourself, and arguably the best way of doing this is by maintaining a blog.

Of course this isn’t necessarily always the case, as there are other arenas, such as academia for example, where being part of the blogosphere doesn’t appear to be a necessity. There seems to be other criteria for being successful in that arena, such as having tenure, being published in academic journals, and having “Dr” in front of your name seems to help too!

But I digress…

For many reasons, which I may elaborate on in a later post, it has been somewhat of a struggle for me to develop a blogging practice.

I’ve made several attempts at starting a blog in the last year or so, but for one reason or another I haven’t been able to persist with them.

Of late, as I explore my new-found interest in virtual worlds, I have a renewed vigour and motivation in sharing my thoughts with the world, hence a renewed interest in blogging. This is partly due to engaging in a topic I feel passionate enough about to be willing to engage in the public arena, partly due to a willingness to put in the time and effort required to blog, and partly due to a new found confidence in my opinions and viewpoints.

I’ve been commenting on a lot of other people’s blogs of late and as I’ve found myself wanting to participate more and more in the conversation my need for my own blog has grown more urgent. I’ve also had several experiences lately that have brought home to me how frustrating it can be when you are at the mercy of other people’s commenting systems, as opposed to the control you have when publishing to your own space.

So I recently made the decision to do some searching for a blogging solution.

In the interim I’ve been posting my thoughts to my online portfolio at Wikispaces, and I’ve started a linkblog.

In the past Wikispaces has served well as my online portfolio. I loved the simplicity. But what I write there isn’t getting picked up automatically by those tools such as Google’s blog search and Technorati – tools that would push me into the blogosphere. The Wikispaces RSS feeds only announce changes to pages, so they don’t work as feeds people can subscribe to in order to keep abreast of my publishings.

I thought of using Blogger, as I already have an account there, and have used it in the past for project blogs. Because of its popularity and relative ease of use I’ve recommended it to teachers I’ve introduced to blogging. The ability to tweak the template with Blogger is a big plus, as I ultimately want to be able to turn my blog into a Personal Learning Environment (PLE), complete with integrated Web 2.0 goodies.

But Blogger has let me down… the mail-to-blogger feature just stopped working one day, and I have no idea why. And my attempts at seeking support have only resulted in automated responses of no value.

I’m a bit over Blogger anyway. As much as a fan I am of many of Google’s services (I’m in love with Google Reader and Google Notebook) Blogger has turned into a bit of an impersonal behemoth. It’s time to move on.

So I had a bit of a think and a look around, and I decided that ideally I wanted a self-hosted blog solution using the highly customisable blog software that is the choice of geeks everywhere – WordPress.

I have a web host (that I have never really used) but I’ve had trouble coming up with a domain name, blog title and theme that I feel comfortable with.

I bought seanfitzgerald.info and seanfitzgerald.org years ago, but I’ve never used them as someone else owns seanfitzgerald.com, which means he dominates the brand, and trying to use one of these would only cause confusion.

I do own a domain name I like – I’ve actually owned it since 2001 – but I don’t think in my current state of personal and professional development that I am ready to use it yet, for personal reasons I won’t go into here.

So anyway… after a bit more investigating I took a look at WordPress.com.

There are several things I like about WordPress.com:

  • A hosted solution… there is something to be said for letting someone else look after the back end so I can focus on the content.
  • It uses WordPress. As mentioned before I like the idea of using this very popular, highly customisable open source solution which is supported by a huge developer community. And there are heaps of templates, plugins and hacks for it. As a control freak geek I love that level of control!
  • It will give me the opportunity to become familiar with the WordPress interface.
  • When I do decide to move over to my own host, exporting posts to my new WordPress blog will be a cinch!

Of course since WordPress.com uses WordPress MultiUser they don’t allow hacking the templates or even the CSS (without a premium upgrade), so you are stuck with their widgets, which aren’t bad, but don’t give me the flexibility I would ideally like.

The worst though… is that for security reasons they don’t allow javascript anywhere on your blog. This is a real killer, as it means I am limited in adding all that Web 2.0 goodness that is necessary for a true Web 2.0 PLE.

They do have deals with several services, such as YouTube and Google Video, which means I can add these to posts with special code, but there is no BlipTV, no SlideShare etc.

Then there is the irony that WordPress.com doesn’t offer posting to the blog from email at all… ironic because this is one of the main reasons I decided to move from Blogger!

I’m a perfectionist, so I could faff around forever looking for the perfect blogging solution, but being dissatisfied with every offering is a great excuse for avoiding writing and taking the risk of ‘putting myself out there’.

So as frustrating as these limitations with WordPress.com are, I’m not going to let them stop me from starting to blog.

The important thing is that I just start blogging. I can work out the other issues as I go along.

So, for now at least, this is where I’ll blog. I hope you subscribe and join me for the ride and I hope you get some value from this blog as we go.

And yes… I’ll tweak the header into something a bit funkier and less ‘off-the-shelf’ when I get a chance. We can’t have an emerging technologies consultant’s blog looking like it’s ‘straight out of the box’ now, can we? 🙂

(Image by Roland Tanglao)