When I signed up for a Twitter account in the summer of 2009 I spent some time thinking about whether or not I should protect my tweets. As a novice Twitter user, I had to decide whether the benefits of protecting my tweets outweighed the drawbacks. Looking back, I do not regret my decision to protect my tweets, and I'll tell you why.
When a person's tweets are protected, all followers of that person need to be approved by that person. This works in some ways the same as approving friends and colleagues on Facebook or LinkedIn. By protecting my tweets, I would be able to fend off spammers and bots on Twitter. As I understand it, bots on Twitter are computer programs that automatically send you an @message if your tweets include certain keywords.
If spammers and bots see any advantage to being able to follow me, I want no part of that. The downside to protecting my tweets is that they are not findable by people who are searching Twitter. My tweets also cannot be easily retweeted using the retweet button on Twitter. However, my tweets can be retweeted via standard copy and paste, which is fine by me. Just because I protect my tweets does not mean I don't want my tweets to be retweeted.
One of the fun parts of blogging for PCWorld.com is getting reader response e-mails from all over the world. You never know who is going to read what you write. Sometimes they'll spot the blog post on the PCWorld Web page, or as a link in a tweet or even as a Google search result several months after the blog post was published.
I've blogged previously about Inkscape, the free vector drawing program for Linux, Macintosh, and Windows, so I was thrilled to receive an e-mail from Sheena Vaidyanathan, who teaches Inkscape to elementary school students in Los Altos, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. Here is how Sheena explained her teaching to me: “I started adding Inkscape as an art unit, then as an after school program and it was so popular, that the school district asked me to start a program called Digital Design for all 7 elementary schools. I teach 20 classes each week to 4th-6th graders, and each class is an average of 25 students. After one trimester, I get a new set of students, so in one year I teach all 4-6th graders, about 1500 students! It is a lot of work, but I love teaching and sharing my enthusiasm for art and technology with kids. I love using Inkscape and other free open source software (I also teach SketchUp, and Scratch) because the kids can actually install it at home and use it outside the classroom. I am not sure if there are any other public schools that have a program like this, but it is a fantastic way to get kids excited about technology, and learn to use computers to express their creativity.”
Sheena's e-mail described a scenario that is the dream of every educator: unleashing all kinds of learning via creativity and the arts. I asked Sheena if she might write up a more detailed explanation of what she does, and she kindly obliged in assembling this blog post– which includes links to her students' Inkscape drawings.
Public libraries are undergoing huge changes in the shift from analog to digital media. Some large city libraries have hired digital strategists to help them take appropriate steps in this transition. Smaller or poorer libraries don't have the benefit of having a full-time staff person working on the transition. To keep those libraries from falling behind, it makes sense to devise a national plan for this transition – a plan that will unfold in increments over the next ten years. With such a plan in place, libraries – and the communities they serve – will have a good idea of where their own libraries are in the transition.
Truth is, nobody really knows what public libraries will look like in 2020. That doesn't stop us from imagining how they could best serve the community in the digital age. And the time for having conversations about that topic is now. We can't wait until 2015 to discuss these kinds of things.
At the heart of a National Library Transition Plan is a broad understanding of the core purposes of public libraries. Yes, public libraries are about books, but they are also about so much more than books.
The battle lines for the mobile marketplace have been drawn, and the battle of the titans - Google, Apple, Microsoft -- has begun. While the generals amass their troops, what have we here in the corner? A bunch of doodlers, cartoonists, storytellers, and other amateurs. Surely, this ragtag group won't have any effect on the outcome of the battle--or will they?
Suppose a handful of these creative types released their best collaboratively created work for enjoyment on open platforms. And then over time the public comes to connect the best creativity with open platforms. Subtle or not, consumers would come to associate a richer creative experience with open platforms. That social force is outside the control of the generals.
Such a revolution can start out small. For example, someone from Lexington, Massachusetts, could post a short tweet or upload a short YouTube video. And before you know it, the ragtags are starting to organize themselves. Their only uniform is that they're not uniform. And that's their strength. Diversity is their strength.
At the public library where I work, a community member from Haiti recently asked me for help recovering his password from his Hotmail account. Apparently his account had been compromised by someone, and he is no longer able to log in to use it. He tells me he has been using this Hotmail account for about eight years. His primary use of the account is to do relief work in Haiti via his church. All of his contact information and his communications with hundreds of people in Haiti is contained in this Hotmail account He is desperate to get back into the account to continue helping the people of Haiti.
Well, together we spent about two to three hours trying to get the password reset. We went through all of the procedures that Microsoft has set up for people to reset their Hotmail password. No luck. Our greatest hope came when Microsoft asked him to describe the contents of his e-mail account.
Long ago, our ancestors lived in caves and devised crude, rough tools to help them get through the day. One of those crude, rough tools was human language. Sure, language gave us such things as civilization (which at times comes in handy), but language is woefully inadequate for many of our modern needs. I can't be the only one repeatedly thinking: “Words fail me. They're not precise enough.”
Here is why. A few months ago I was trying to buy inexpensive USB flash drives that I could make available to low-income youth and adults who use the public library where I work. I was looking for 256MB USB drives that would sell for about $2 each. I'm pretty good at finding merchandise on the Web, but I spent more than an hour fruitlessly looking.