Chris Lehmann is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I love reading his education-related tweets because of his many interesting ideas, insights and observations. There's another side to Chris, though. Chris is a rabid sports fan, and he'll unleash a torrent of tweets during certain sporting events. I can appreciate his sports fervor, but to me those sports tweets are more noise rather than signal. I'd love to be able to tell Twitter, “give me all of Chris Lehmann's education-related tweets and none of his sports tweets.” (I also want Chris to continue tweeting his sports tweets, because those are an essential part of who he is.)
What I'm talking about here is metadata--data about data. I'd love for every tweet that's sent out to be categorized in some way by the tweeter. Tweets need metadata in the same way that books need a title. Is this tweet about an interesting new blog post by the sender of the tweet? Or about an interesting blog post by someone other than the sender of the tweet? A tweet about a useful free resource for educators? A new explanatory screencast about open-source software? A tweet about an inspiring video on YouTube? A tweet that'll make me chuckle?
Sure, it takes a bit of extra effort for people to add metadata to their tweets, but the result is well worth it. More people would receive more of the information they're interested in – and less of the information they're not interested in. In a knowledge economy, that's a big deal, for time is more valuable than money. When more people receive more signal and less noise, knowledge is created, more becomes possible – and thoughts dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.
One of the delights of YouTube is coming across music videos where musical artists bring alive a song in a way that surpasses the composer's performance of the song. Twice in the past month I've come across such videos.
Sam Draisey's rendition of Bruce Springsteen's 1970's classic, “Thunder Road,” is one such performance. His resonant singing digs deep into the soul of this song and his guitar playing is both facile and flawless.
Sam explains how he came to perform this song at a friend's wedding. “Dave is the lead singer in the function band I play in, 'The Replicas' and a close friend. The band had tried to learn the song as a surprise for his wife at her wedding, but we hadn't really pulled it off, so I decided to learn it as a surprise for both of them. I sang their first dance (“Make You Feel my Love,”- Bob Dylan) accompanied by the keyboardist from the band, then went and fetched my guitar and played that straight after. It's been a part of my live covers set ever since!”
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for consumers to declare their independence from large telcos, it's reassuring to know that wireless Internet service providers (WISP) are one possible option. Wireless ISP's (WISP) are usually located in rural areas not served by any other Internet service, but some urban WISP's have gained a foothold. One of these is DC Access, LLC (www.dcaccess.net) which serves sections of the Capitol Hill and Adams Morgan neighborhoods in the District of Columbia. DC Access provides a “fixed wireless” Internet service. You'll pay about the same as you would for Internet service from the big telcos (Verizon, Comcast, and so on), but you'll be treated a whole lot better when you call for support. Any small business that doesn't provide outstanding customer service is a small business on its way to being a former small business.
From all reports I've heard, the quality of customer service and tech support from DC Access is very high. Reviews on Yelp start out at the effusive level and go up from there.
My own experience with other wireless internet service providers has been iffy. I tried Clear last year and found that you needed to line up the Clear modem in just the right direction, and even then your Internet signal could be dropped for no reason. I wanted to like the Clear service--as an alternative to the big telephone companies, but I cannot currently recommend it.
Kio Stark designs and distributes blueprints. Not physical ones. Metaphorical blueprints that people can use to build their own lives. I first encountered Kio's blueprints when I read the remarkable Cult of Done Manifesto, co-authored with her partner, talented maker Bre Pettis.
The last statement in this manifesto, “Done is the engine of more,” should be chiseled in a huge font above the main door to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in Washington, D.C.. Can you think of anything more appropriate to write there? To my mind, if Benjamin Franklin and Ralph Waldo Emerson went to a restaurant together today, “done is the engine of more,” is the conclusion they would come to before shaking hands and returning to their respective centuries. Before doing that, though, both would join the Facebook group for The Cult of Done Manifesto. This group currently numbers over 2,800 “doners.”
Now Kio Stark is working on a new book titled Don't Go Back to School: a handbook for learning anything, explaining how you can save the money you spend on graduate school (or just about any other school) by doing it yourself. She has launched a kickstarter campaign to help finish the book. In this way, she is asking doners to be donors. I'm in. All it takes is switching one vowel--and a little money--for you to be in, too. Done.
As the unemployment crisis continues month after month, I'm tempted to climb to the roof of my house and yell at the top of my lungs, “The maker movement creates jobs.”
This so obvious a fact seems lost on national decision-makers. The entire personal computer industry was born when a small group of hobbyists, The Homebrew Computer Club, met at Stanford University in 1975. Other industries are on the verge of being born if only our nation did more to support hobbyists. What more could be done? Provide makers--hobbyists--spaces to gather and tinker.
The hobbyists shouldn't have to put up the full cost of renting such a space. The work that is happening at these hacker spaces is often of a public nature. The scope of public work should not be constrained by the limits of private, personal funding.
I happened upon a YouTube video last week that got me thinking a lot about humility contests. Uploaded by O'Reilly Media, this video is a 5-minute Ignite Great Lakes presentation by a talented Detroit violinist named Dixon. I won't spoil the fun by telling you what you'll encounter in the video. Go watch it and return here when you're done.
What you might notice in this video is a person with great confidence, but also great humility. Those two human qualities don't often occur within one person. Confidence is vital, because nothing can move forward without a belief in one's own powers. Humility is vital because it is the steering wheel to wisdom.
Speaking of which, do you know who else combines confidence with humility? Tim O'Reilly, co-founder of O'Reilly Media. I've never met the guy, but I admire the heck out of him. He asks such interesting and important questions in his tweet stream and in the public talks he gives. He is both daring and doubtful at the same time. You give that a try sometime if you think it's easy. Larry Lessig - the Harvard law professor who is also the founder of the Creative Commons - is another in the category of strong thinkers who subsumes self to public good. If you've never seen or heard one of his presentations, a good place to start is here.
Twitter is a powerful communications tool, but figuring out the best way to use it can be somewhat of a mystery. Twitter mastery can be especially daunting for nonprofits and other cause-based organizations, whose staffs have heard that Twitter can be a tool for changing the world. If that's true, then how does one go about doing so?
This guidebook, Twitter For Good, by Claire Diaz-Ortiz, the manager of social innovation and philanthropy at Twitter, seeks to provide answers. By and large it hits the mark. The book cites many case studies of successful Twitter campaigns and explains why those campaigns were successful. The book also explains the kinds of mistakes nonprofits make on Twitter, helping readers steer clear of those mistakes.
These are some of the takeaways I had from this book: Consider the benefits of using a Twitter client (such as Hootsuite) rather than using the Web interface to Twitter. Twitter clients can make following hashtags much easier. Consider the benefits of adding rich media to your tweets. You can engage your followers more deeply in this way. Develop skill at composing the right hashtag for your tweet. Be very careful to use just one or two hashtags per tweet.