Friday, March 20, 2015

Keywords in Threshold Concepts, #4c15 Poster Presentation

I'm in Tampa this week for the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication--an event I've been attending every year (except one) since 1999. This year I proposed (and was accepted to present) a poster, and after several hours of finessing for more white space, shifting elements around, and tinkering in Illustrator, here's what I'll be standing next to for 75 minutes this afternoon.

Keywords in Threshold Concepts: Time-Binding and Methodologizing Disciplinary Lexicon by DerekMueller

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Scissors

I could use a pair of scissors right about now to remove the last scrap of packaging on another (new) pair of scissors. The problem-solution I'm describing is something like Cut It Forward, shears' equivalent to Pay It Forward. Or, Do unto Fiskars, a gift-economy rule among craft tools and other similar objects.

Then again, what do I even need scissors for?

Extracting book shipments? Rescuing single paragraphs, sentences, or words from printed drafts via old-way cut/paste techniques? Non-symbolic games of Rock, Paper, Scissors (which, if I was lucky, might produce the rare play of double scissors, which, although a draw, would solve the initial problem)?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Restyling 2

Spent a few hours this weekend restyling the blog. I'm almost satisfied with the new front page. The internal pages and archives will have to wait. They're still functional because they pull from the style sheet, but I have to shift attention to the other, more pressing work I'm doing this summer or it will mount into a punishing backlog. More about that soon.

The latest design makes better use of Cron rebuilds. I've installed MT-Twitter (Brandon Fuller, I.O.U. $10), created a blog to archive the activity stream, and then ported that blog's contents to the EWM front page using the multiblogs feature. I'm still on the fence about Twitter. Not sure I will do anything worthwhile with it (I haven't adjusted to the different signal-noise ratio, and I'm not certain I want to). But I have an archiving process in place, just in case.

I also created a new logo, new banner, and new favicon a couple of weeks ago. Is. helped me, which explains the spectrum of yellows. And then I dumped some of the clutter (calendar, Google Reader shared items, etc.) and shortened the horizontal navigation bar by making better use of a thin above-banner menu with various app icons. I customized the graphics for the search form, too, but I might redo those when I have the chance, make them slightly smaller. I'm not satisfied with the banner, but I plan to return to that and the other unchecked tasks later on.

If you have any impressions (wow! or sux!), I'd love to hear them. It's still very much a work-in-progress, but I've tried to make the most of since it's also a way to avoid my other, more pressing work in progress.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Most Polluted?

<snark>Every so often I go looking for examples of astonishingly astonishing web design. With that said, I'm no standards-waving design puritan, and I admit I am attracted to departures from conventionality (unusual CSS tricks, and so on). This morning an email arrived with a link for PTA listserv subscribers to the Syracuse City School District web site, a site so overstocked with informative tidbits that it can only be described as belonging to the "dump it in, anywhere" school of design, a school matching with the old industrial mindset that caused Lake Onondaga to be so choked with mercury and other debris that it for many years won acclaim as the U.S.'s most polluted. I get it that the school district is complex, oh my. Just try to find anything here (e.g., the media release form).</snark>

To be fair, I have done little in this entry other than pot-shot on the site (and remember a link for future returns). And, to be even fairer, I don't even need anything from it today. But this craggy little hike through the cluttered SCSD corner of the web got me thinking that it might be interesting in a class to look around for the most polluted school district web site in the U.S. (or in a given state) and then to work on improving its usability.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


A short two blocks from where we live, the International Fiber Collaborative has covered a vacant fuel station with 3-foot square tiles of knitting, crochet, woven plastic, and quilting. The station sits at a busy three-way intersection where E. Colvin joins with Notthingham Road.

International Fiber Collaborative - Syracuse, N.Y.

I walked by there today to grab a couple of photos and find out more about it. The Collaborative pools the tiles from far and wide, then fuses them into a tapestry which drapes over abandoned properties (I think I read that it will clothe 200 vacant fuel stations total)--a series of curious, public, conversation-stirring installations. Locally, they're hosting an on-site event May 3 (artists' words, concert, barbecue, etc.), but the post card I picked up today urged those interested to RSVP, so, I doubt this is something we'll attend. (Plus, May 3 will have to be my birthday this year, since the birthday of record falls on a Monday).

International Fiber Collaborative - Syracuse, N.Y.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

World as Text

Picked up this clip, "The Child," from infosthetics this morning and found it striking enough--for its geotypography--to justify pasting it on. This is what the world would be like were it purely textual. The premise is simple enough--a couple in New York City rushes to the hospital where their baby will be delivered. Only, is the baby a word? And wouldn't NYC have more words?

Anyway, I say it's worth stowing in your playlist as a conversation troubler the next time culture-as-text, thick description, or an everything's text worldview comes up.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Should I change the coloration of the blog? If I do, I'll start by trimming this collection of fourteen--most of which I lifted from colourlovers--down to three or four.

Honey (i.e., gold, third from the left) and ham gravy (i.e., tan, seventh from the left) are front runners, although only one or the other would be part of the new scheme, not both. I probably should add that I don't officially have time for tinkering with the blog, but there's a certain purging and restorative balance (CSS Zen Garden?) that comes with washing the style sheets every now and then.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

For $477 Million

Did you hear about Pearson's acquisition of online courseware giant eCollege? Yeah, $477 mil.

I've taught a few courses with eCollege for old U. over the past four years. I find their platform to be only mildly (.01 micro-measures, to be exact) better than Blackboard. I did, for what it's worth, decide this semester that I will never ever again involve Blackboard as a platform for an online course unless my employment contract requires it. With eCollege, what's different is that everyone I know (who uses it) seems to be gushing about the features. Within eCollege I know how to change things around, add modules, rearrange parts of the course, and so on, but I continue to find it excruciatingly cumbersome to navigate: two and three extra clicks to complete an operation, HTML pastes commonly (if randomly) introduce extra line breaks with nothing in the code to explain it, the style sheets cascade in highly unpredictable ways, and--this is the one that gets me the most--the discussion threads don't allow for stylistic emphasis. In other words, the threaded discussions don't tolerate italics, boldface, underlining, highlighting, blockquotes, or much of anything. For eCollege's discussion threads, it's plain text with! automatically recognized URLs. Altogether, this feels like trying to fashion a fine set of dishes out of molding clay with a scoop of coarse gravel thrown in. That said, their system for uploading Micro$oft documents is fairly robust. I suppose this works for plenty of people, but to me it feels like an exhausting, high stakes labyrinth of propriety encumberanceware.

$477 mil?

I know this sounds highly critical, even ranty. I continue to cling to a couple of old ties as course developer of three courses whose curricula rely (as contractually stipulated) on the eCollege platform. And so I must continue to work with it and tolerate its shortcomings. When I saw the news of the acquisition, I was just thinking that for $477 million dollars somebody at Pearson might stumble across this entry and consider that even eCollege could be sharply improved. It would be a shame to allow its platform to rest on the sole accolade of being better, even by the thinnest margin, than Blackboard.

Monday, January 15, 2007

CCCCorny "Blog"

The Blogora's Jim Aune writes of joining the CCCC, and in doing so, he refers to a blog "they've" started, aptly titled CCCC. I saw Jim's entry yesterday and hurried across the a-href to see the blog to which he referred.

It is, uh, something to see?

The 14+ subscription buttons are especially peculiar, considering that the blog sports just two entries--one from September and one from October, perfectly timed for the NCTE Convention, I suppose. And in November, it appears to have given out--kaput. I don't know what to make of it. It's the sort of oddity I'm tempted to stare at for a few minutes to see whether it breathes or blinks. This is the CCCC blog?

Now I feel low for taking shots at it, for poking fun. Still, it's striking. Where did it come from? Why the blogspot ethos? The footer, too, is surprising with its official-seeming protect-repel bureaucratic contradiction--a copyright paradox as it both taketh and giveth away (Ours? Not ours? Yes!):

1998-2006 National Council of Teachers of English. All rights reserved.

Opinions in this blog do not represent official policy of the National Council of Teachers of English.

And the most recent entry, the one from October, goes on about membership. Membership. I'm for membership, and I'm a member. But sad as I am to say it, this is the blog of an organization on vacation. A real puzzler, this one. " not represent...NCTE," but the blog itself, pains me to report, does.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Naming the Smarter Surrounds

In what few minutes I've had today to reduce various folders in Bloglines, I picked up on a few strands of the "Web 3.0" fracas initiated by yesterday's NYT article "Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense." In the article, John Markoff anticipates what he refers to almost glibly as "Web 3.0", which proponents contend will usher in "an era when machines will start to do seemingly intelligent things." There is no shortage of responses and reactions, ranging from doubt, charges of idiocy, mild humanism, clarification, dismissal of the name, and damning refutations. While I don't want to rile more ire, I am intrigued by the range of reactions, especially from the standpoint of how we account for transformations of such a complex creature as the web with singular terms. In some niche vocabularies, Web 2.0 refers to a class of applications; in others, Web 2.0 describes web-supported co-presence (interaction and connection). I mean that the label has been highly adaptable, a loose and generous signifier. I tend to think that it is reasonable to wish for (and even to tinker with) a better vocabulary for describing the complex and rapidly evolving nets.

Most of all I wanted to grab the references and compile them (kept!) because they add up to a fine example-set for the stasis of fact (also value, jusrisdiction). Does Web 2.0 exist? For whom (Boyd emphasizes practitioners--have you made a Web 2.0 app?)? Who gets to name what happens next? Does Web 3.0 exist? And what follows follows follows? How are matters of naming settled? What must it mean for them to settle (idleness, adequation, banality, death)? Supposing our media ecologies continue to get smarter (also more capable), and supposing we continue to get (potentially) smarter (also more capable) right along with the hybrid technologies of composition, storage, and so on, shouldn't our vocabularies keep stride? I mean, why shouldn't we create a more conceptually adequate framework for describing these emerging changes (and distinctions--great and small) than the undeniably constraining versioning of the web? Deep quandaries 2.0.

I no longer have any reservations about the "Web 2.0" label. I mention it all the time in the digital writing course I'm teaching this semester, and I think enough sharp work has been done by Kevin Kelly, Steven Johnson, and others, to ground the reference. "Web 3.0", like its predecessors, might likewise gain in popularity in the months ahead, and if it does, I only hope that it serves, eventually, to spread more moments of aha!, to steer our conversations about the vast networks, our uses for them, and their uses for us.

Wednesday, September 6, 2006


I'm up to my chin in other writing tonight, so I want only to share a link to something I've been tinkering with for WRT302: Tabblo. It was released in May, and, well, I'm just now getting to it. Sure, most of what you can do with Tabblo, you can also do with basic HTML or a site like Flickr (actually, it's interoperable with Flickr, so you can easily pull your Flickr images into Tabblo for other arrangements, poster printing, etc.). Basically, I'm thinking of Tabblo's suitability for procedural documents using lots of screenshots. Tabblo utilizes a drag-n-drop process and makes it really easy to incorporate images repeatedly while isolating (through crop and zoom) features in the image. Below the fold I've dropped in the code Tabblo provides for sharing a spread. Nothing fancy in what I've scraped together: it's the basic--i.e., experimental--Tabblo I created to prime 302ers on blogging with MT.

Also, for comparison, I've been keeping an eye on Instructables, although I have yet to set one up.

Heh, just as soon as I set this to publish, "Tabblo is currently offline." I swear, it wasn't me.

Tabblo: MT New Entry Demo

1. This brief tutorial demonstrates how you can create a new entry in your Movable Type weblog.


Begin at our course hub, 


In the right-hand menu, you'll find a collection of links under the heading "WRT302 Weblogs."


Select MT Login.

... See my Tabblo>

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Geek Boots

If I had a pair of kicks like these, I might even try going for a jog tomorrow morning because then I could work on a seminar paper just by clickety-clacking through the neighborhood.

They took first place in the sports category and sixth overall for design at the China International Clothing & Accessories Fair (via). In stores soon, I hope. Maybe even in time for my b-day.

Had to chuckle (okay, more like a nerdy snort), too, at the idea of connecting these up with J.'s "composing on foot" piece from CCCC.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005


TagCloud (beta)

TagCloud (beta) returns keywords and phrases from a collection of RSS feeds.  I have yet to dig very far into their methods for arriving at the set of keywords from the set of feeds, but for a first run, it yielded a tag-set that accords fairly well with the feed.  Just to experiment, I've posted a cloud in the right sidebar; for now, it draws on the atom feed for this weblog alone. A cloud (this one or a second one) might draw on a set of feeds from comp/rhet bloggers, general news feeds, or any other collection worth glancing into periodically.

TagCloud tag-sets are now available in XML, which makes them friendly to some other possibilities (underway, at least conceptually).  But TagCloud also works with OPML imports, which means that it would be simple to export an OPML file with all of your feeds from Bloglines, for example, and import them into a single TagCloud.  Optimally, the feeds would pull from atom feeds to reflect, in the tag-sets, the full texts of each entry.  The cloud is easy to re-size, too; the items (words/phrases) range between 1 and 200 (maybe higher?) simply by altering the URL, and the cloud responds to CSS.

The TagCloud site pitches the tag-set as a folksonomy, and as I was reading around, and finding that there seems to be some disagreement about whether a folksonomy can be automated or whether it must be socially generated.  It raises a difficult question: what puts the folk(s) in folksonomy? My first hunch is that an automated tagging system is not folksonymic but rather lexicanymic (trust me on this coinage, just this once!). Still, I'm not sure whether the difference is significant.  Is a folksonomy indexically superior?  A folksonomy developed by distributed readers might not match perfectly with the auto-generated term-set, but the auto-generated term set, at the very least, corresponds with the words (albeit with a technical intervention, rather than an interpretive one?).  Oh, I don't know.  But I definitely find the automatic tag-set fascinating as an alter-reading on what I write/post here (a whirling, rain-making thunderhead or thin cirrus).  In this sense, it's much less about the memorial/indexical qualities than it is a way of rediscovering my thinking/writing through the loosely convened vapor-text embodied in the cloud.  Inventive possibilities in the TagCloud?

I should probably add that all uses of the TagCloud needn't be so self-centered.  I'm going to watch the side panel for a while and consider adding a cloud more inclusive of the feeds I read. 

Saturday, July 23, 2005 (via): A site for playing with colors. Nice tool for straining color sets associated with an image. Apparently, it's got a tagging feature, too.  Users can key word and phrase associations with a designated color.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Pool Heating

I don't have a pool.  Or a gas grill.  But I am impressed at the display of backyard ingenuity shown by the guy who devised a tight lattice of copper tubing to fit inside his gas grill for pool-heating (via).

According to MAKE, one five-gallon propane tank raises the temp in an 8,000-gallon pool by 7 degrees.  Even though, as the MAKE commenter points out, gas-fueled pool-heating is a waste of precious resources, I like it because it's exactly the kind of project that my brother would undertake.  To think of sweating all those joints!  In fact, there's a good chance that if he sees this entry, he'll have one of these put together for warming my nephews' plastic pool within a week.

And no, this entry wouldn't be complete without acknowledging that there are more conservation-minded, if disgusting and indefensible, ways to heat the pool. I'm just saying.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Adobe Agitation

Without extensive qualification, this is a working-through-hang-ups kind of entry.  Warning: check.

Increasingly, I find myself annoyed by PDFs.  One or two PDFs, I can handle.  When they come in lesser installments, I'm fine. But more than that, and I bristle, fume.  In a graduate seminar, for example, I understand that we might read widely from an assortment of sources.  I think of PDFs as supplements, add-on, and because they're harder to scale to the screen's dimensions, unlike fluid web texts with which I can enlarge the font, I struggle to read them on the screen.  I can read scalable web texts on the screen; even when the font is wonky, it's easy enough to enlarge it or otherwise alter it for readability.  Plus, I've been using Scrapbook for annotations, highlighting, and tabbed browsing in Firefox keeps all of it manageable. 

PDFs, depending on how they're laid out, can be nearly impossible to read on the screen.  And so I print them out.  And I don't mind printing them out, especially when they come in the range of 1-3 per week, let's say.  But let's just say they come in a wave of more than that--say 10 or 15, hypothetically, of course.  If that were to happen, now I become a book-making friggin print-house manager.  I have to print, collate, arrange, run to the store for more printer cartridges, etcetera.  It bumps the needle on my "busy work" dial into "Pain in the Ass" range.  Warning lights start to blink.

I printed out 300 pages of PDFs last evening.  The docs were copied one codex page to one PDF page, so gobs of white space make margin around a 5x7 peninsula of text.  Room for notations, I guess.  But I can only print the PDFs single-sided, rather than double-sided, as I might do with a photocopier.  Late Wednesday night, when I drove over to Kinko's thinking they'd have a way of helping me switch 15 PDF files from my USB drive to a photocopier, through which I could churn them out back-front for under a dime a page, it was another zinger to learn "Um, no, we can't do that.  Print them from the computers for 25 cents per page, but only if you've fewer than three files."  I didn't even try to talk about it, just thanked him and walked on out.

These intermediary forms leave a lot to be desired, and yet I get the feeling that lots of folks see PDFs as the wondrous saving grace of print in a digitized world.  PDF it, that's easy. Easier even than pre-determined course packs. In fact, the department photocopier is set up to PDF with amazing efficiency, even emailing it to you when the conversion of copy is complete. As I think through this, I guess I see it as a convenience to teachers and an inconvenience to students.  It's a kind of relocation of the photocopier burden or paper chase from one to the other.  And I'll be using three PDFed chapters/essays with 205 students this spring.  It's as much a matter of threshold, especially when variforms of text are criss-crossing in all these different spaces, the result of confusion among incommensurable mediations.  This morning when I opened yet another PDF--reading for a Monday meeting--and found it, like to oh so many others to be a 1:1 scan, one page per, and copied with huge smears of black toner-noise filling half of the lower margin, I had an attack of PDF agitation.  Since both print and digital texts are with us--all around us--and both necessary and pertinent, I'll continue to work on my hang-ups about PDFs, roll my neck until it pops, take a deep breath, and carry on reading.