Recently in tools Category

Course Update #4: LF Tools

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Bradley asked me to say a little more about my comment from the other day about my ambivalence regarding the tools we're using in my class, so here we go.

I should say a few words first about what I tried to accomplish this semester. I've been thinking a lot in recent months about the relationship between narrative and database, and how it plays out across graduate education. Without numbing anyone's mind with too much detail, what I would say is that both "forms" are crucial. It's important to be able to build narratives about the field's development, for example, or to generate particular field-narratives (seminar papers, journal articles, etc.) as a result of one's work. At the same time, though, we hold ourselves responsible for what Paul Matsuda called his "mental intertextual map," (see last post) what I would describe as our disciplinary network. And that latter responsibility is more database than narrative. I think of the two as complementary--each "narrative" feeds into the database, helps us fill it out, and then we draw future narratives from the database/map that we've generated.

I've had great success in recent years urging students to take up database management tools and techniques as a means of managing the later stages of their graduate programs, which seem to me to require more database kinds of thinking than does coursework. Coursework, as I mentioned the other day, tends to be organized around what I called "directed reading," some sort of (narrative) arc that helps to structure a semester and give it some coherence. So the question that I asked myself last fall (and talked about a little at Watson 08) was: what would a course look like that attempted something more databasic, that didn't worry so much about narrative coherence?

And as I've said all along, the course has gone much better than I could have hoped for. I really think that the students have found it valuable, and I've been really happy with how enthusiastically they've taken it up. I've talked before about the set up for the course: over 10 weeks, we took the past 10 years of the field, 1 year per week. Each student chose a particular area of focus, and was responsible for (a) finding 4 essays in that area published during each of those 10 years; (b) posting notes to our class blog and tagging those entries in Delicious; and (c) sharing what s/he found during class. And, for the first time in my graduate teaching, I'm asking students to complete a "real" final exam. Next Saturday, the students will take a 3-hour exam, a simulation of one of our comprehensive exams.

In other words, I've asked them to focus for the past 10 weeks on building personal databases, and now (just as they'll do during exams), I'll ask them to construct a narrative of the development of their area over those 10 years, based on what they've found/noticed. We spent a fair amount of class time on Wednesday talking about how they might approach this task, what sorts of evidence they might find and use, etc.

So to my mind, there are two main things that we've been doing this semester. The first is aggregation, and I think that this is something we'll see more of in graduate education over the next several years. The most recent Teaching Carnival had a link to Mark Sample's annotated bibliography project, using Zotero and Citeline to create an aggregated class bibliography. And just as I was setting up my class, Michael Wesch was doing something similar in his Digital Ethnography class, using Zoho Creator to generate a 94-work bib on anonymity in a week. Both are cool projects, and they both speak to the usefulness of web2 tools for doing the kind of aggregation that I'm thinking about.

Me? I used Wordpress and Delicious. Part of my reliance on blogging tools is that I've spent the last 5 years thinking about how to use them in other ways. My work on CCC Online involved a number of significant tweaks. Thinking about it now, I might have tried Zoho, but ah well. I think that there are a number of ways to aggregate successfully nowadays.

The problem comes, however, from the other main point of my course, and I don't have as easy a term for it. If the point of aggregation is search and retrieval, then any of these tools are as good as any other, I think. And I don't mean to suggest that this isn't a worthy goal. But what are our options if we want to be able to take the next step with respect to an aggregated database? How do we take that accumulated body of information, and perform meaningful work with it?

In my mind, that's what I'm asking of my students next week. And it's what we ask of them on their comprehensive exams. And ultimately, it's what we do ourselves as scholars and writers--we construct our large maps of the field and eventually contribute to it ourselves, by clearing our research spaces, tracing out lines of thought that are "missing," etc.

I'm a big believer in the tag cloud as a heuristic, and so that's what I had in mind in asking my class to tag in delicious on top of WP. I have an article in the works that talks about this, but I believe that, especially for the humanities, tag clouds are a fairly easy way to generate some testable hypotheses about a body of textual data. The problem is that most of our tagcloud tools are partial. The tagclouding available to us in blogging platforms is rudimentary at best. TagCrowd and Wordle work best from actual text. If I'd been more careful, I might have been able to do a little more with Delicious, but honestly, their development has been pretty minimal, post-Yahoo.

Here's what I would wishlist for such a tool:
1. The stylized output of Wordle
2. The stoplist function of TagCrowd
3. Expanded faceted clowding (the related tags function in Delicious)
4. The ability to do some kind of timelining (like Chirag Mehta's PrezClouds)

Obviously, these are all possible. They're all available right now, only in incompatible tools. Wordle can take cloud delicious tags, but only at the level of an entire account, and without any kind of stoplist. Delicious seems like the best place for implementation, but I have no idea if it's even breathing. The point is to be able to take a decent-sized body of tags, though, and to visualize it in fairly simple ways, in order to discern patterns that might not be otherwise apparent. Sounds simple, but right now, the tools for doing so are mostly one-trick ponies.

My biggest wish would be for a tagclouding tool that was actually attached to something I could use for the data entry, so that I didn't have to ask folks to use two different sites to accomplish one thing. That's where my WP/Delish combo fell short this semester. I myself resented having to do both, and I was the one who made the choice. Heh.

My other wish would be some sort of middle-ground between the fully pre-determined interface of WP or MovableType, and what I assume is the ground-up blank slate of something like Zoho Creator. I don't want to have to do everything myself, in terms of setting something up, but I've spent the last 5 years using the MT interface against itself, because (at least until the recent integration of Custom Fields) I can't make any real changes to it. I'm a little weird that way, I suppose. I loved MT3--the MT command language was a perfect middle ground for me between programming and end use. I'm willing to spend time on a good middle-ground toolkit, but that's a rare category of software, from what I can tell.

Ah well. I feel like I'm rambling now. I don't think that what I'm after here is that difficult to accomplish, but I felt trapped this semester by the fact that I know enough to know where current apps don't meet my needs, but not enough to be able to do anything about it.

That's all.

What's the opposite of meltdown?

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Having finally completed two major projects yesterday, I'm feeling much more chipper today, almost floaty. Not that I don't still have a huge pile of to-do in front of me, but they're all much smaller things, and so I've persuaded myself that I'm much more in control of my schedule than I have been for the past couple of weeks.

One sign of this is that I'm suddenly more able to post random things here, and to check Facebook and Twitter every once in a while. I'm asking the students in my course this semester to make changes to their personal media ecologies (add a tool, change a tool, etc.) for the semester, at the end of which they'll reflect briefly on those changes for me. And so lately, I've been more conscious of my own choices in that regard. If my brain's at the center of a bunch of concentric circles, I can just about place the various platforms I keep track of in each circle. The more circles I can manage successfully, the more control or contentment I'm experiencing at the time. For a while there, I was pretty much down to just email and Google Reader, but I'm slowly starting to divvy my time back out.

This is a good thing.


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Bradley talks about jumping onto the ultraportable train, so I thought I'd add a couple of cents.

For a couple of years now, I've wished I had something more amenable to note-taking at conferences that didn't involve wearing a groove into one of my shoulders. Not that my Powerbook is super-heavy, but add some books in there, and it borders on the inconvenient.

And so, I did a little research, and came up with the Nokia N800. It's got basic internet, a bare bones text program, and pairs up with a Bluetooth keyboard (unlike my iPhone, which has only the first of those three things right now). I was looking mainly for something I can stick in my bag quickly, carries a decent charge, and can use to take notes at a conference, outdoors at Panera, etc. And while they apparently don't make these anymore, Amazon still had some iGo Stowaway Bluetooth keyboards in stock. The driver comes preinstalled on the Nokia, and the two are bundled at Amazon. Made it pretty easy.

The whole thing set me back less than $300, which is a fair chunk of change, but which I'm hoping will be worth it in the medium run. To wit, I'm no longer thinking about getting an Air anytime soon. That I could get 6 or 7 of these Nokias for the price of a low end Air just sealed the deal.

Here's a couple of pics:

Nokia N800 + keyboard

MID to go

So far I'm pretty pleased.

If you're like me, there's a hole in your aggregator where Clay Shirky used to appear regularly. In a lot of ways, he and the rest of the Many2Many crew helped to spark my interests in social software, web2, and network studies. So it's been a little lonelier at Google Reader without him. The hiatus, though, had its consequences: this week, Clay's book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations (Amazon) was released. I was lucky enough to be quick on the draw when Clay posted an offer to bloggers for a free, advance copy in exchange for blogging it, and although I'd hoped to do so before its release (thereby proving my Relevance and insider status), the sad truth is that the crossword tournament and other things got in my way. But here I am now. And here you are. Here we go.

This book will be largely familiar to those of us who have been reading Clay for a few years, and equally familiar in tone and style to those of us who read Gladwell, Johnson, Anderson, etc. There's a genre that's emerged in the past few years that I think of as PopTech (although perhaps sociologists would correct me, since I think these book "intrude" on their territory more than any other)--books that translate both sociological concepts and the technology industries for the more casual reader. I don't think of PopTech as a bad thing--my own attitude is a more open sociology/rhetoric of knowledge kind of thing. So it's interesting to me that these kinds of books are where "my work" is being done most actively. Okay, that's neither here nor there, except to note that the book works hard to be engaging to those who have little stake in the conceptual end of things. Again, not a bad thing.

The about part: HCE is about understanding the changes that are happening as a result of the net, web2, etc. "These changes are profound because they are amplifying or extending our essential social skills, and our characteristic social failings as well" (14). The big change that this book narrates is the move from institutions/organizations as the primary site of social interaction to a more bottom-up activity. In a sense, this is an answer to what Clay calls the "institutional dilemma"--we need institutions to direct our group efforts, to act collectively, but a certain margin of those institutions is devoted to actually directing those efforts (19). "New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action" (31).

One of the profound shifts that this book examines is the move from scarcity to abundance, a theme that you'll find in Anderson's Long Tail as well. But while the original thesis of the Long Tail dealt primarily with commerce and economics, Shirky's focus is on a more interpersonal scale. In an age of media scarcity, where access to publication and broadcast is limited, the "professionals" are those whose job it is to filter our media pre-publication. With social tools, more and more, it's instead "publish, then filter." But Shirky's careful not to suggest that utopia is just around the corner: "The limiting effect of scale on interaction is bad news for people hoping for the dawn of an egalitarian age ushered in by our social tools" (95). And that's one of the nice features of this book, overall, the fact that Shirky doesn't fall victim to the temptation to try and discuss these tools outside of their social context. It recalls for me his discussion of A-lists, power laws, etc., from the good old days. These tools may address technological or media issues, but that doesn't mean that our social or cognitive limitations have somehow vanished along with them.

One of my favorite posts from Shirky's site is "The FCC, Weblogs, and Inequality," which has my favorite subtitle of all time: "Diverse. Free. Equal. Pick two." He goes into a little more detail in the book, of course, but of particular interest to me was his discussion of power laws, motivation, and collaboration in Chapter 5, where he notes that "imbalance drives large social systems rather than damaging them" (125), which I take to be a gentler translation of that original point. The book shifts at this point to talking about collective action, flash mobs, political action, cultural capital, and small worlds. And that's an awfully skate overview of those latter chapters, I fear.

What happened for me as I read through the book was that by the final couple of chapters, it felt like all of the narratives and terms really coalesced into the overriding message of the book. And the final chapter pretty well sums it up: "Promise, Tool, Bargain." Only one of those is technological, you'll notice, and each is as essential as the other two. According to Shirky, "The promise creates the basic desire to participate...After getting the promise right (or right enough), the next hurdle is figuring out which tools will best help people approach the promise together...Then...A successful bargain among users must be a good fit for both the promise and the tools used" (261). Of these, the bargain was the trickiest for me, and it's the trickiest of the three in general, I think. But really, it's everything from explicit contract to implicit, phatic exchange.

I'm not sure that there's a formula, though. In fact, let me change that around: I'm sure there's not a formula, but one of the things that Shirky discusses in the second-to-last chapter is how these new tools make failure "free"--if no one's interested in your obscure Wikipedia page, or your Meetup group, or your Flickr account, or your blog post, then if that's not part of your bargain, you just drop it/them. In traditional organizations (pace James Dyson), there's not a lot of room for failure, which translates into lost resources, or adds to that margin of costs. Online, though, if your group doesn't fly, or your discussion list fades, or enough people don't pay attention to you, then you just go on to do other things. Failure is free.

And this may be the most interesting part of the book to me. "Cheap failure, valuable as it is on its own, is also a key part of a more complex advantage: the exploration of multiple possibilities" (247). In other words, as much as this is a book about organization and about social tools, I left the book thinking of it as a book about social and organizational invention, and I mean that more in the rhetorical sense than in the corporate sense of innovation. It's a nice bridge between the more technical ideas (power laws, e.g.) and the concrete, practical examples thereof. And it's a book that would be accessible to those of my colleagues who don't think of technology as something they "do." The tools are only part of the equation; in many cases, we're part of it ourselves.

As a close, I think this book would/will be valuable for those who are looking to connect up rhetoric of social movement kind of work with technology and/or the language of networks (which is getting full-on buzz in my field right now, I think). Donna mentioned something to this effect last week, and I think she's right to call for this kind of cross-pollination. It's definitely worth reading, and it's a good entry point for folks in my field to some of these issues.

That's all.


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The design doesn't exactly float my boat, but I think that I've reached the point where I don't need to rebuild, at least for a while. It's going to take me a little while to learn the new MT syntax and page styles--it took me way too long to figure out how to swap the positions of recent entries and recent comments on the sidebar, but I did eventually figure it out. MT4 is much widgetastic than MT3: a lot of the templates are basically paragraphs of includes, and little else, which necessitates drilling sometimes 3 or 4 layers deep to find the places I've needed to edit.

First blush, though, is that this is a much sharper version than any that I saw with MT3, so I'm looking forward to messing about with it. That may change once I dip into the style sheets, but we'll see. I can already see, though, how some of the workarounds we developed for CCC Online are going to be supported as features in MT4, so I'm pretty happy about that.

Oh, and commenting. I've enabled anonymous comments, along with a default captcha, so commenting will require clicking on the "comment anonymously" link, and puzzling out a handful of letters. It's a little extra burden, but the tradeoff it represents (no more greenlists, no more junk drawer purges, no more picking through 100s of pending comments to find the few that are legit) should be substantial.

And the auto tag cloud, I'm hoping, will inspire me to be better about tagging my entries as I write them, and to slowly work back through the opening 1000 entries, tagging on the way...

That is all.

We didn't start the fire...

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Okay. The gauntlet has been thrown down. How best to talk about Kindle without falling prey to "snark, ennui, [or] carping about the DRM?"

It's not too bad. I've been interested for almost 10 years in the possibility of a reasonably priced, portable screen reader. When I was at ODU, I remember having conversations with colleagues about the possibility of a Kindle-like machine upon which students could store texts from multiple courses, allowing them to search across course materials, link between them, annotate, et al. And it's genuinely exciting to see that Amazon is putting serious weight behind it--there's been little incentive, I fear, for the book industry to do so (and this despite some warning signs). My gut reaction, when I saw the announcement on the Amazon page, was to figure out whether I could get my hands on one, and how soon.

I've owned 3 or 4 iPods, including the very first model, and I'm happy with my iPhone, and that's not to mention my wireless keyboards, mice, presentation clicker, iTrip, etc.--I'm a fiend when it comes to gadgets. Adding the Kindle to my repertoire seemed like the next logical step.

And yet. One of the problems that I don't see a great deal of discussion about is that the book is an incredibly mature (and thus highly variegated) technology. Think about it. You can talk about the innovations like spaces between words, standardized fonts, apparati like TOC's and indices, etc., but fact is that our books today haven't changed that much from those in circulation centuries ago. And most of the real changes have been of degree rather than kind.

In that time, so many different rituals, habits, and dispositions have emerged with respect to books--the variety of ways that we use them is one of the keys to the success of that medium. And it's why the "death of the book" stuff in the 90s was so overblown. It's not just a matter of happening on "better" technologies, because they already exist right now. The book has had hundreds of years of cultural, social, personal, psychological, and aesthetic embedding--and that's not going to be dislodged overnight.

Contrast that with the emergence of the MP3 player. This could be oversimplifying, but there are 3 basic milieu for music in our lives: home, office, and car. For the vast majority of music consumers, the only thing wrong with the CD is that most collections exceed the bounds of easy portability/storage. The computer solves the storage issue, the MP3 player solves portability. But the experience of listening to music isn't really that varied. I might listen to it in a range of places, but the basic action is the same whether I'm rocking out on a road trip or want some soothing background in my office.

The uses to which I put books vary much more. It could be argued that I'm a power user of the sort that I disallowed above in my music analogy, but I don't think that I'm that unique in that regard. I think a lot of people use books in a range of ways, although perhaps not as often or as intensively as I.

So my trouble with the Kindle is quite simply that it only really targets, in pricing, restrictions, and promotion, one of the kinds of reading that I do. First, at 10 bucks a pop, I'm only really saving money if I'm a big hardcover bestseller reader (which I'm not). The books I buy that are more than $10 are those least likely to be prioritized by Amazon, like academic books. And I'm certainly not going to pay for blogs, but even then, most of the content is A-list, which is not where I hang out anyway.

Second, 200 books, which is what Amazon is claiming it will hold, is nothing. Seriously. If indeed someday academic books are part of this, the Kindle is really only the size of a decent bookcase. Last time I counted, I had 8 or 9 in my apartment, and that's not counting the wall in my office. And that's where the DRM will begin to drive me crazy, I fear. I already avoid the iTunes store when possible because I hate having to figure out which machine stuff is okay on. And given that I upgrade machines every couple of years, even a 5-machine permit is going to run out on me fairly quickly.

Third, "it's like an iPod for books." Well, no. I'm trying not to snark here. It's actually like an iPhone for books--the iPhone is a much more restrictive, expensive gadget, problems offset for me by what it does well. But I don't use the iPod features on the phone--can't sync with multiple machines. The iPod is really just a portable hard drive, running one piece of software, with a minimal interface. And it answered a complex of needs: the obsolence of tapes, the convenience of the Walkman, the fragility of the CD, and the size of the personal computer. The iPhone was a feature-heavy entry into an already crowded market, relying upon flash because the substance is pretty standard.

There are a lot of good posts out there about Kindle, and some of the other models that people have suggested are intriguing. In the absence of competition, though, I don't see Amazon moving too far away from the model they're currently working with. Which is too bad, because I'd still like to take it for a test drive. But I just can't see myself spending four or five hundred dollars for something that meets such a small portion of my reading needs. At the very least, I hope they think about embracing the epub standard.

At the very least, the Kindle is worth watching, and I hope that someday I'll think it's worth owning. That is all.

And only a little bit of carping.

Tonight's entry is prompted by the arrival today of several entries in Google Reader, the most recent entries fed there and published at the Kenneth Burke Journal:

KB Journal feed

The KB Journal is, unfortunately, one of the only journals in our field that is (a) using RSS feeds, and (b) using them correctly. Exhibit A in how not to use them comes from the Project MUSE journals. I was excited to see that their journals had feeds, until the first one arrived. Basically, they feed a link to the table of contents page for new issues. This is okay, I suppose, but differs little from sending announcements to email lists.

What the KB Journal does (and Written Communication and CCC also do) is to create entries for each article, with more information than the fact of its existence. Hell, even the author and title would be an improvement. I use a reader to skim a lot of sites, and to make decisions about whether to follow up. Using them to draw readers to their site, as MUSE does, is to make a bunch of Web 1.0 assumptions about eyeballs, traffic, stickiness, etc. With the MUSE journals:

  • I don't know what I'm getting until I've loaded their page
  • Unless I have an immediate need, I'm likely to forget their content, since there's little point in bookmarking random TOCs
  • I can't bookmark an article to return to it when I have time
  • I can't bookmark one to download to my office machine, where my access to MUSE is automatic
  • I can't look back through recent articles
  • I can't use the journal in any way other than I'd use it if I saw it on a colleague's shelf

But you know what? At least they HAVE. A. FEED. Even if MUSE is doing it wrong, at least they're trying to do it. There are so many journals in our field that haven't even bothered to create feeds that it should be embarrassing to us. And we all know who they are, including some pretty unlikely suspects, journals that should be at the forefront of providing this kind of access.

Here's what it takes to provide a feed of recent articles for a journal:

  • A free account with a blog provider like Blogger or Wordpress

  • The ability, for each article, to:
    • copy and paste relevant information into a textbox

    • Click on "save" or "publish"

That's it. You don't need crazy designs, blogrolls, any modification whatsoever. It doesn't have to be integrated into a larger site or do anything fancy. For pretty much any journal, with readable files for the articles, I could post a new issue in roughly 15 minutes. Four issues a year? Maybe an hour total. One hour. Per year.

You can't tell me that the resulting increase in circulation, were our field to cotton eventually to the notion of RSS readers, wouldn't be worth it. And the benefits to us?

Here's what I see when I go to List View for my Written Communication feed:

Written Communication feed

Not only am I notified when new articles are published, but I have access to the last three or four issues of the journal at all times, from any computer. And I can star them for future reference. Want to follow up on a title? They're expandable:

WC feed, expanded entry

This functionality currently exists for a mere handful of our journals. If the time spent gnashing our teeth about the overwhelming amount of stuff to read were spent instead putting together feeds for all of our journals, you know what? All of a sudden, we'd be able to manage that load much more easily. And I'm not kidding when I suggest that it's really that easy. It is. There's a lot more that could be done, but if our journals would take the tiny step of being responsible for RSS feeds at the point of production/publication, the resulting benefits would be colossal. And that's not me being hyperbolic. Imagine being able to open a browser window and being able to search, read, and bookmark abstracts from the last year or two's worth of journals in our field. Seriously, how much easier would that make our academic lives?

And yes, we have been doing this at the CCC Online Archive for the past 2+ years: But my point isn't to gloat--it's to ask instead why the heck our editors, including many for whom this should be obvious, haven't followed suit.

And that's all. I could get a lot snarkier about this, and I could name names, but let me instead close with an offer. On the off-chance that someone's reading this who wants help setting a feed up, please let me know. Honestly. I'd be happy to show someone just how easy this is.

tools for mapping

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For the last couple of years, I've been pushing CMap to anyone who'll listen. A concept mapping tool, CMap is a fairly easy tool to pick up and use, it's free, and it's available in a rainbow of OS flavors. I've found better tools, but often, they're OS restricted, or they cost money.

In the past couple of days, though, I've seen a couple of different entries over at LifeDev on concept mapping (or mind mapping) tools that have shaken my faith in CMap. Exhibit 1: is quick and easy to use, with minimal cognitive overhead. Really. If I wanted someone to experiment with concept or mind mapping, and didn't want to spend any time on the software itself, it'd be hard to go wrong with this option.

Exhibit 2: Thinkature:


Thinkature is a more complicated app, to be sure, but a couple of points worth making. First, the interface is a lot more flexible, and includes things like being able to upload images and to write directly on the surface, like a whiteboard. Plus, and this is the biggie, it allows for real-time collaboration. I'm not exaggerating when I say this feature opened up all sorts of possibilities in my teaching mind.

Again, there may be tools that are better out there, but free and online? Not that I've seen so far. So if you're a c-mapper, give these a test drive, and see what you think...

(LifeDev on and thinkature)


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As the regular reader will remember, this year's MLA kicked off with a stirring rendition of the second chapter of my book manuscript, with the unusually expository (for me, at least) title "The Rhetorical Canons as an Ecology of (New Media) Practice." Gee, I wonder what the talk was about?

Hee. Today was also the 3rd step in the epic self-transformation that will see me turn from a reader of conference papers to a speaker of conference presentations. I worked from an outline and from the slides, but otherwise, did not script the specifics. I think it went okay, but I do have to confess that the fellow in the 3rd row who used his cameraphone to take snapshots of each of my slides, and whose phone rang not once but twice during our session, was a bit of a distraction.

And yet, it was he who inspired me to go ahead and try out SlideShare, which is basically a YouTube-like service for PP presentations. Keynote exports to pdf, which I can then upload and turn into a shareable Flash doodad.

(Update: The doodad was taking serious download time, so I'm replacing it with a link to the SlideShare page instead. Those readers uninterested in unnarrated PP slides may now breath an appropriately grateful sigh of relief.)

The pdf option, far as I can tell, preserves original layout and font better, and has the virtue of being about 1/10 the size of a PP export. So even though there's no support for a Keynote native presentation, it works out just fine.

The slides themselves are probably a little oblique without commentary, so I'll use ProfCast when I get back to Syracuse and offer a full-service version. In the meantime, suffer in silence. I'm done with my talk, and have a much more leisurely conference ahead of me.

That is all.

All your feed are belong to us

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One of the telecoms is running commercials featuring the myriad conversations that might be ruined by the dreaded "dropped call"--you know, like when you start singing "Jimmy cracked corn and I don't care" to Jim, your future father-in-law. Boy, I can't tell you how many engagements that's ruined for me personally.

Anyhow, I was feeling like my calls had all been dropped this weekend. When I recommend RSS readers to folks, I recommend Bloglines almost exclusively. I've been using it for years now, and never had much call to complain. Until this past weekend, where a day or two's worth of feeds weren't picked up. And in the land of NotADayGoesBy, that puts a serious crimp in my inventional processes. I rely upon the ecology of feeds I've developed to supplement my more immediate life, particularly when it comes to topics for blogging.

And so I'm flirting with Google Reader right now. I'm already seeing ways that it may change my reading habits, based on things like download/upload times, refresh intervals, etc. We'll see how it goes. I can manage two different readers for a spell, switching back and forth and using liberally the "mark all read" feature on each.

It's funny, though, how all it takes is a little hiccup in a service to start me down the path of looking at other options. Bloglines has benefitted from its relative invisibility for me over the past couple of years--as long as it worked just fine, I had no reason to think about changing. I don't really use it to its fullest capacity, so if I'm going to be looking at the full capacity of a reader, it doesn't really cost me much to shop around. And in the meantime, I'll be checking individual sites more often than normal, just to see what I've missed in the past few days.

That is all.



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