Bookmarked don’t get firewood from the fruit-bearing trees by Alex Hern (The World Is Yours*)

What are the practices which will leave the world better than it is now? What are the aspects of our environment that we wish to encourage, compared to those we want to avoid? How can we ensure that the things we like become the norm by the time our grandchildren arrive?

Don’t get firewood from the fruit-bearing trees. Strip the bark from the poisonous ones.

Alex Hern discusses Charles C. Mann’s book on Americas before Columbus. He reflects on the impact of smallpox, as well as the misunderstanding of how the Amazonians learnt to live with nature, rather than strip it back.

Mann suggests, the Europeans were wrong. They had quite literally failed to see the forest for the trees. The environment laden with fruit, vegetables and calories wasn’t something that happened to people: it was the result of people. The lush, dense rainforest, so alien to Europeans hacking through it with machetes, was not actually a tabula rasa, any more than the American northwest. It was, instead, the result of an independent invention of agriculture – and an agriculture quite unlike any other in the world.

Interesting to consider alongside Beau Miles’ work and his appeal to radical change.

Bookmarked COVID coaches: tutoring only works when backed by quality teaching directed at the students who really missed out (aare.edu.au)

The success of the tutoring programs being used by schools to help students recover post-Covid-19 will depend heavily on the quality of the tutoring they provide. Tutors need to be really clear about what they’re trying to achieve and how best to help. For the current programs to succeed, the quality of the teaching of these tutors will be paramount.

Jenny Gore explains that if the tutoring program being implemented by the Victorian and NSW governments is to work then it needs to involve quality teaching. I imagine that this is an interesting challenge for schools in both regards to the metrics used for ascertaining which students require that further support and what that support actually looks like in different contexts. The issue I had in the past with intervention was that support always happens in a context.

Coming at the problem from an American perspective, Ron Berger suggests that recognising student strengths and resilience is more important than remedial classes:

Schools should also recognize their students’ resilience over this past year, support their healing and emotional growth, and honor them with meaningful and challenging academic work, not with remedial classes. That’s how we’ll get our children back on track.

Districts face a hard reality, though: Many children lost a great deal of academic growth last year; some kids didn’t attend school at all. Districts need to know which students need extra support, including tutoring in and outside the classroom. But educators need to assess students’ abilities in a way that motivates them to grow.

Bookmarked You Don’t Need Substack To Build an Email Newsletter (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Put work you care about less—work for hire, short-form editorial, dumb jokes, random experiments—on platforms you don’t control, where the risk of failure is a distinct possibility. Leverage the resources of what else is out there. But when you’re working on the stuff that does really matter to you, put it in a place you have ownership of. Put it on your website. Send the newsletter using tools you run or manage—and be willing to pay for that right.

Ernie Smith goes beyond Substack and Mailchimp to discuss a number of options associated with managing newsletters. Whether it be using Mailgun, Amazon SES or EmailOctopus to send and Craft CMS, Ghost, Sendy or WordPress to host. Personally, I host my newsletter on my own WordPress site and send out a link via Buttondown.Email. However, Smith has me reassessing this, especially in regards to how I email.
Bookmarked
In response to being asked to give a lecture about adventuring, Beau Miles decided to walk the 90 km to work as a point of stimulus. By slowing down, he captures aspects of the environment that often get overlooked. This is interesting watching alongside Austin Kleon’s collection of books on walking and Will Self’s discussion of psychogeography.

“Jason Kottke “ in Walking 56 Miles to Work ()

Bookmarked Beau Miles (YouTube)

Beau spent his childhood looking for golf balls, secretly hoping to find a body part in the swamps and marshes. He still looks in odd places for much the same thing (and feeling). Being redhead means that sunscreen, big hats and old business shirts cloak him during outdoor life. He likes baths more than showers, homemade wine and licorice. By god he likes licorice.

Beau Miles explores nature and provides a different perspective on the world around.

Beau spent his childhood looking for golf balls, secretly hoping to find a body part in the swamps and marshes. He still looks in odd places for much the same thing (and feeling). Being redhead means that sunscreen, big hats and old business shirts cloak him during outdoor life. He likes baths more than showers, homemade wine and licorice. By god he likes licorice.

Beau is what happens when you cross Bear Grylls with Bush Tucker Man.

Bookmarked Blokes Will Be Blokes (Meanjin)

The suggestion seems to be that at some level, Grimshaw—and all Australian women—should apologise for their experiences because it puts them at an advantage. How, these men might ask, are they meant to know this has been happening if they are not themselves subject to repeated acts of assault from the time they are children? Very unfair.

This is the evolution of ‘boys will be boys’. Society broadly excuses aggressive behaviour by young men as though it is biological impulse. Cisnormative gender stereotypes reinforce the notion that boys are only hitting girls because they like them. The same little boys who whack a girl with a toy truck become the young men who cat-call women on trams become the parliamentarians who smirk in the face of sexual assault allegations.

How dare women expect better from men? When were they supposed to learn how to treat us, between being on the rugby firsts and drinking middle-shelf whisky with their uni mates? It’s not their fault. They didn’t have time before now. This is the absolute first opportunity they have had in their whole lives to try to learn the absurd language women are speaking. It’s not their fault no-one has ever taught them otherwise. They’re just blokes doing bloke stuff!

Anna Spargo-Ryan discusses the current crisis unfolding in Federal politics. Some of the issues include Queensland MP Andrew Laming online harrassment,
Attorney-General Christian Porter’s historical rape allegation and
Brittany Higgins’ rape in Parliament House. In response, Scott Morrison has provided a swath of mixed messages, on the one hand recognising the place of women in his life and the fear and inequity lived out every day, while also suggesting that sometimes “blokes don’t get it right all the time” and that maybe women protesting need to be grateful that they are not “met with bullets” like other places in the world. Spargo-Ryan suggests that in the end, Morrison’s actions have been akin to “bringing home a bunch of flowers because you worked late again.” Ryan elaborates further, raising particular problems with parliament house being a “training group to learn about women”.

In neglecting to protect the women in his workplace, Morrison acts as though he has forgotten to take out the bins or pick up the kids from sport. The Prime Ministership cannot be a training ground to learn about women. Federal Government is not a postgraduate program for private school boys who never learned to take care of themselves. The men defending these allegations cannot be allowed to hold up their hands and say, ‘It’s my first day!’

Annabel Crabb explains how this current situation represents a change in power:

In this instance, there is opportunity for women to seek justice, to speak out, to demand restitution in this new environment which suddenly gives a damn about what’s happened to them. But there’s opportunity for strategically-minded blokes, too. For some, the emergence of a cool new way to bring down their enemies is exciting, a brand-new update to the first-person shooter game called Political Ratf**kery.

While on The Minefield podcast, Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens explore the difficulties of justice and change. Aly even wonders if Morrison’s failure to adequately respond to the situation is actually what is needed to achieve the change required?

Bookmarked
In lieu of Ever Given’s temporary blocking of the Suez Canal, Matthew Gault talks about the last time it was blocked in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. From 1967 to 1975, in the aftermath of the Six-Day War, fourteen ships were stranded in the Great Bitter Lake. These ships, dubbed the “Yellow Fleet”, collected together to form their own micronation in which they shared resources, created their own postal and ran their own form of the Olympics.

Over the next eight years, a weird system developed. The companies that owned the ships were allowed to cycle crews through the ships, maintaining skeleton crews to keep them afloat, but weren’t allowed to sail the ships out of the canal. As time passed, the ships communicated with each other and grew into a community. They formed the Great Bitter Lake Association to administer to the needs of the crew.

Ironically, it was the Six-Day War that created the situation for the creation of mega-containter ships.

In regards to other links, ABC provide an explainer to the Suez Canal, CNN provide an interactive experience of travelling through the canal, while Garrett Dash Nelson allows you to place the Ever Given everywhere.

Bookmarked 🚨 The mess at Medium by Casey Newton (Platformer)

Like Blogger and Twitter before it, Medium will bet on unpaid labor and algorithms.

All of which might be fine to the dozens of journalists about to lose their jobs, if Williams would publicly claim some responsibility for his part in the chaos — ”this crazy ride,” as he called it yesterday. Instead, he points to changes in the industry and shrugs. The media business — what can you do?

But of the employees who remain, few are buying it.

“He keeps talking like this company founded in 2012 is a brand new startup finding its way,” one told me. “At a certain point you’re not nimble and iterating. You’re just floundering and failing to follow through and execute.”

Casey Newton reports on Medium’s latest pivot, this time away from having its own editoral team, instead moving to a freelance model. The original vision was that journalism would provide the ‘premium feel’, however this vision has not eventuated:

Medium’s original journalism was meant to give shape and prestige to an essentially random collection of writing, gated behind a soft paywall that costs readers $5 a month or $50 a year. Eleven owned publications covered food, design, business, politics, and other subjects.

The original idea behind Medium going all the way back to 2012 was that professionally written stories would create a “halo” around the much larger body of user-generated content, enough to give the entire site a premium feel — and eventually, one that Williams could charge a subscription fee for. But by the end of 2020, the journalism didn’t feel like a halo — it felt like an albatross. And so the journalists were offered buyouts. (And generous ones, by the standards of American journalism: five months of severance pay, and six months of healthcare.)

Added to this situation is the recent attempt by journalists to unionise.

The move comes less than one month after all Medium employees—including the editorial unit—attempted to unionize and lost by one vote. Employees at the company say that journalists who work at Medium’s nine publications were not the initial driving force behind the union, but were some of the most vocal supporters of it. The news media industry (including VICE) is highly unionized; the tech industry is not. 

Newton explains that a focus on algorithms and unpaid labor leaves opens the platform up to a new sort of problem, as attested by the story of Joe Biden being served pornographic material.

The employee previously found that Medium had somehow added Biden as a writer on 10 “garbage publications,” as well as at least one software development blog. “President Joe Biden is Being Served Erotica on Medium.com,” the staffer complained in an internal post.

I agree with Ian O’Byrne, that this again highlights why having a space of one’s own is so important.

For me, the key lesson is about having a space of your own to write. Lately, I’ve been having thoughts about moving this newsletter to Substack. Lessons learned from Medium are a reminder to keep building our own spaces.

Bookmarked What Happens to a Tree When It Dies? (daily.jstor.org)

Decomposing trees on the forest floor become “dead wood”—a part of ecosystems that researchers are only beginning to understand.

Olivia Box discusses the place of dead wood in fostering new life.

When a tree dies naturally or falls due to extreme weather events, new life springs forward. Fungi communities flourish on dead wood, salamanders create breeding grounds, and saplings grow on the nutrient-rich bark. But this doesn’t happen overnight. According to researchers Harri Mäkinen, Jari Hynynen, Juha Siitonen, and Risto Sievänen, it can take up to 100 years or more for wood to decompose, depending on the species and forest type.

This reminds me about something I wrote in regards to the growth of trees as a metaphor for learning:

I think that in some respect learning is comparable with the growth of a tree. Too often we wonder why students are not straight and elegant, that they don’t learn in the prescribed manner. Too often we only recognise the trunk, when in fact many trees have numerous branches in order to help them prosper, some even without any discernible trunk at all. 

I never thought about the trees that died and what place that might serve in regards to the wider rewilding of education. I wonder what is lost in regards to fungi and nutrients when so much is prescribed? I think that this capture some of what Mike Crowley touches upon in his rethinking of the story of schools.

Bookmarked FROM MY TO ME (INTERFACECRITIQUE)

Don’t see making your own web page as a nostalgia, don’t participate in creating the netstalgia trend. What you make is a statement, an act of emancipation. You make it to continue a 25-year-old tradition of liberation.

To understand the history of the Web and the role of its users, it is important to acknowledge that people who built their homes, houses, cottages, places, realms, crypts, lairs, worlds, dimensions [Fig.1–13] were challenging the architecture and the protocols, protocols in a figurative not technical meaning. Users hijacked the first home page of the browser and developed this concept in another direction.6 A user building, moving in, taking control over a territory was never a plan. It was a subversive practice, even in 1995.

In an extract from “Turing Complete User. Resisting Alienation in Human-Computer-Interaction”, Olia Lialina traces a history of the people who challenged the architecture and protocols in the development of the web. He explains how this has evolved to web focused on graphic design.

There is no web design and web designers any more, there are graphic designers and developers again, front-end and back-end developers this time. For me as a net artist and new media design educator, this splitting of web designer into graphic designer and front-end developer is bitter, because it is the death of a very meaningful profession.

Lialina closes with a call to reclaim the web:

Don’t collaborate! Don’t post your texts where you are not allowed to turn it into hypertext.

Don’t post your pictures where you can’t link them to whatever you like. Don’t use content management systems that turn your GIFs into JPEGs. Don’t use hashtags, don’t accept algorithmic timelines. In short, make a web page and link to others who still have one.

Leaving monopolists and/or using alternatives is easy to suggest. And many of us made the first step – for example, created a page on neocities.org or on tilde.club, or even bought a superglue.it kit and hosted their home page at their actual home, supporting the Reclaim hosting initiative.

This reminds me of other histories of the web, such as Parimal Satyal’s small web, Eevee’s dive into the world of CSSCharlie Owen’s call to return to the beauty and weirdness found in the early web and Kicks Condor’s discussion of what we left in the old web.

“Reverend” in Known Issues with the Web Garden | bavatuesdays ()

Bookmarked Teen Vogue: ​​​​​​​America Has Forgotten How to Forgive by Graeme Wood (theatlantic.com)

If Teen Vogue, even in its current woke incarnation, does not exist to celebrate this period of still-expungeable error, then it may as well be calling for the abolition of the teenage years altogether. Its staff, as well as many of its advertisers, evidently think its readers deserve no bonfire, no sin jubilee, and should be hounded eternally for their dumbest and most bigoted utterances. This suggests an intriguing editorial mix of beauty tips, celebrity news, and vengeance. Who wouldn’t want to read what a modern 20-something Torquemada thinks about Zayn Malik’s Netflix queue or a new brand of facial cleansers? Because I am no longer a teenager, I have no teenage years to lose. Although if Teen Vogue has its way, I suppose I should consider myself hostage to the idiocy of my wayward teenage self until I am safely dead.

Teen Vogue’s decision to not employ Alexi McCammond as editor based on tweets posted when she was 17. This reminds me about Alex Couros and Katia Hildebrandt’s piece about identity in a world that no longer forgets.
Bookmarked Consent app proposed by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller to address growing rate of sexual assaults (ABC News)

An app for partners to register their consent before having sex has been proposed as a way to address the growing sexual assault problem in NSW, but critics say it is “naive” and could easily be manipulated.

In response to concerns around sexual abuse, the NSW ,

Commissioner Fuller acknowledged the app might be “the worst idea I have all year”, but said COVID-19 had shown the importance of adopting technological solutions.

Dee Madigan explains why maybe an app is not the answer for everything.

Bookmarked SPLIT Function in Google Sheets (benlcollins.com)

The SPLIT function in Google Sheets is used to divide a text string (or value) around a given delimiter, and output the separate pieces into their own cells.

I love when you take a formula and dig in further Ben. I have used this three different times in my work this week. For example, I used multiple INDEX formulas to clean uo data where there were multiple points of data in the same cell =INDEX(SPLIT(A1,” “),1,1)&” “&INDEX(SPLIT(A1,” “),1,2). I was hoping that I could select multiple items using the INDEX formula in the same manner as the VLOOKUP formula, but it does not seem to be possible.
Bookmarked Google’s VR dreams are dead: Google Cardboard is no longer for sale (Ars Technica)

Google’s last surviving VR product is dead. Today the company stopped selling the Google Cardboard VR viewer on the Google Store, the last move in a long wind-down of Google’s once-ambitious VR efforts. The message on the Google Store, which was first spotted by Android Police, reads, “We are no longer selling Google Cardboard on the Google Store.”

Google is putting an end to its work with Google Cardboard. I liked the idea of it, but always felt inhibited by how it would work practically in the classroom.
Bookmarked Changes to LastPass Free – The LastPass Blog (The LastPass Blog)

We’re making changes to how Free users access LastPass across device types. LastPass offers access across two device types – computers (including all browsers running on desktops and laptops) or mobile devices (including mobile phones, smart watches, and tablets). Starting March 16th, 2021, LastPass Free will only include access on unlimited devices of one type.

LastPass recently made the decision to limit their free subscription to one device type. As Mark Vandevelde suggests, this basically forces people to pay:

Experts say it is hard to know whether the new limitations on the free version of LastPass will encourage more paying users to sign up.
“Without the ability to sync, there’s very few users who will really be able to use [LastPass],” said Joseph Bonneau, a cryptography researcher and computer security expert at New York University. “They’re making the free version so difficult to use that most people will be forced to pay or use another solution.”

I was also interested in Chris Smith’s discussion of trackers.

The Register points out that LastPass rivals 1Password and KeePass do not have any trackers. Bitwarden has two trackers, and Dashlane has four.

I decided to use this as an opportunity to reassess. If I am going to pay then I feel I would rather pay for 1Password.

Bookmarked Bots, Disruptors, and Frictionless Interactions by Sign in – Google Accounts (W. Ian O'Byrne)

The bot can act as a guide on the side and assist with some resources that may help. The bot can recognize the prior achievement of the learner and adjust the level of support it provides. The bot can provide realtime assurance by walking through the assignment with the learner, and either collecting the assignment, providing feedback and a chance to resubmit, or granting an extension of the deadline if things get too pressing.

Ian O’Byrne talks about the place of bots in making our learning experiences frictionless. As he explains, this potentially frees teachers from the trivial.

Done well, the use of bots in education offers an opportunity to free up the instructor while offering better scaffolding for learners. Educators can be freed up from the traditional frustrations of data collection, report filing, and administrative tasks.

Technology provides the starting point, but we cannot lose high touch when we move to high tech. Culture and professional development for learners, instructors, and support staff are even more important.

This reminds me of Bill Ferriter’s argument that technology makes learning more doable. I guess the question then becomes what sort of learning is supported and made more doable. Maybe sometimes friction actually serves a purpose?

Bookmarked American Idle by Eugene Wei (Remains of the Day)

Some people find my posts too long. I’m sympathetic to the modern plague of shortened attention spans, but I also don’t want lazy readers. At the same time, this piece felt like it was missing a through line that would help pull a reader through.

And then I had a minor epiphany, or perhaps it was a moment of delusion. Either way, it provided an organizing conceit: I decided to write this piece in the style of the TikTok FYP feed. That is, a series of short bits, laid out vertically in a long scrolling feed.

This piece is long, but if you get bored in any one section, you can just scroll on the next one; they’re separated by horizontal rules for easy visual scanning. You can also read them out of order. There are lots of cross-references, though, so if you skip some of the segments, others may not make complete sense. However, it’s ultimately not a big deal.

Eugene Wei takes a deep dive into the world of TikTok. He explores the the various features and the user experience. This includes the way in which creativity feeds creativity, the abstraction of a bunch of steps into an effects or filters (e.g. Duet feature), improvement on productivity, ability to easily remix based on length, the place of the network and comments in regards to context and success, the way in which the message is in the medium, and how TikTok is entertainment Cheetos.

Wei also provides thoughts on what is missing, such as the ability to trace trace multi-part videos, sort by descending popularity and improved search rankings.

One of the things that stood out in this piece is what Wei says about ideas and the origin of innovation:

One day, the conditions are finally right, and an idea that has failed ten times before suddenly breaks out. Sometimes it’s a tweak in execution, maybe it’s an advance in complementary or enabling technology, sometimes it’s a cultural shift.

Most of the best ideas in tech first appeared in science fiction books in the 1960s, and many of those are still waiting for their time to come. This is why rejecting companies that are trying something that’s been tried before is so dangerous. It’s lazy pattern-matching.

“John Naughton” in Tuesday 23 February, 2021 | Memex 1.1 ()

Bookmarked Why Taylor Swift’s Nostalgia Play Works by Shirley Li (theatlantic.com)

The re-recording, which has already topped the U.S. iTunes chart, certainly marks another instance of pop culture’s obsession with nostalgia paying off. Many similar industry efforts—TV reboots, extensions of film franchises, covers of childhood favorites—service fans through cameos and casual references without meaningfully considering the original work’s impact. But Swift, through her stronger vocals, engages with her younger self, scrutinizing her lyrics. She joins in on the act of being a Taylor Swift fan.

Shirley Li reflects upon Taylor Swift’s rerecording of Taylor Swift’s Love Story. She explains that this is more than just a like for like recreation, but instead it is an ode to a past self.
Bookmarked Praxis and the Indieweb (lipu.dgold.eu)

I’ve come to believe that the movement as it is currently structured can never move into widespread acceptance, that it is both target blind and exclusionary, and that, as a consequence, I don’t want to devote any more of my time to it.

Daniel Goldsmith reflects on the IndieWeb and where it is heading. He lays out a number of concerns and criticisms, including that you never really own your own data, that there is a design bias towards a few select individuals, that the technical requirements are too high and that cost is often exclusionary.

This reminds me of Clive Thompson’s piece on the limits to open source development:

Why didn’t the barn-raising model pan out? As Eghbal notes, it’s partly that the random folks who pitch in make only very small contributions, like fixing a bug. Making and remaking code requires a lot of high-level synthesis—which, as it turns out, is hard to break into little pieces. It lives best in the heads of a small number of people.

As well as the discussion about what is really meant by a ‘domain of one’s own‘:

When I created a domain, it didn’t become mine. Basically 

  1. I don’t own the domain name. I pay for it every year. That looks like rent
  2. I don’t own the actual hosting. I pay Reclaim (whom I love and trust) for shared hosting because I assume they will do a better job of the hardware/backup etc

Having a home is more than a matter of shelter, it’s the presentation of a certain kind of survivorship, assessed in cultural competence, the assertion of literacy, the visible privilege of know-how. And like home ownership, domain ownership is the practice of insiders, survivors, using the skills and languages that flex their cultural power by asking to be taken entirely for granted, not just in terms of what appears on the screen but increasingly in terms of the coding that lies beneath it.

It was also Interesting listening to Chapter 17 of Martin Weller’s 25 Years of EdTech and his discussion of Connectivism. One of the points made, taken from a paper written in 2011, was that the cost of connecting people has collapsed. However, what is overlooked is that there is still a cost. Maybe it is a part of the business model to provide a basic level for free (see Edublogs) or maybe it is goodwill to provide such services, such as Granary or Aperture. However, this is also free as the payment comes through our data. Although there are criticisms of the IndieWeb mimicking or being privilaged, I wonder what other business model there is that does not fit the same model.

Bookmarked Beyond Burned Out (Harvard Business Review)

In our always-on world, burnout has long been a threat. But in 2020 burnout became rampant, seemingly overnight. Within weeks millions of people lost their jobs and faced financial and food insecurity. People working on the front lines worried for their physical safety, and those in health care put their lives at risk every day. A third of U.S. employees started “living at work” — with the kitchen table as their new pseudo-office. Over the year acute stress would become chronic stress. And it shows few signs of abating.

Today’s level of burnout is the result of an existing problem made exponentially worse. Yet despite how massive the problem is, it’s never too late to fix it. Combating burnout may feel like an overwhelming and herculean task, especially after months of emotional fatigue, but if you’re armed with the right tools, it can be easier than you might think. And ready or not, we can’t ignore the urgency — we are in the midst of a burnout epidemic.

Jennifer Moss reflects on the results of a global survey on the impact of burnout during COVID-19.

Teaming up together, Leiter, Maslach, and David Whiteside, the director of insights and research at YMCA WorkWell, and I created a survey that analyzes the state of burnout and well-being during Covid-19. We combined several evidence-based scales, including the Maslach Burnout Inventory General Survey (MBI-GS), a psychological assessment of occupational burnout, and the Areas of Worklife Survey (AWS), which assesses employees’ perceptions of work-setting qualities that affect whether they experience engagement or burnout.

Moss discusses how organisational issues are often put on individuals to resolve. In response, she provides a number of ‘upstream interventions’ for moving forward. These include more flexible working conditions associated with working from home, reviewing the need to meetings, being empathetic and checking in on people’s well-being.

  1. Ask, Is this meeting necessary?
  2. If yes, then ask:
    • Does it have to be a video call?
    • Does it have to be longer than 30 minutes?
    • Which attendees are absolutely essential?
    • Can we turn off our cameras and use our photos or avatars instead?
    • Can we do an audio-only conference call for a much-needed screen break?
  3. Start meetings with a check-in: How are people feeling? Does anyone have a back-to-back call? If you’re leading the meeting, set a timer so you can let anyone who does have one jump off five to 10 minutes early.

I wonder if the pandemic, rather than changing everything, has merely amplified what is already in place? As the organisation I work for considers bringing everyone back, it feels like some of the elephants in the office have simply gotten bigger.

“Tom Barrett” in The Dialogic Learning Weekly #203 | Revue ()