Pecha Kucha

Glancing at the event calendar, I see that there is no Pecha Kucha for us poor NJ-ers, sigh.

In any case, this seems like a great idea, for both the presenters and the audience. The audience gets to not have to snore through hours-long presentations in which they have no interest, and the presenters are encouraged to ponder the most essential elements of their subject. It’s more challenging, but also more rewarding.



I set up a Bloglines account as instructed, but honestly, I don’t know how often I’ll be checking in. I created an RSS list of all the blogs/journals I followed a couple of years ago through Gregarius, and it kind of fell by the wayside. I think it’s probably because the first blog/journal website I became familiar with after the heyday of mailing lists was Livejournal; the people I followed moved their writing to Livejournal, I created one of my own, and for many years it was where I spent most of my online time. I’m used to the format there, and it’s been a bit difficult to dig myself out of that niche.

In LiveJournal, you have a ‘Friends List’ of all the journals you follow, the look and layout of which you can customize to your heart’s content. Bloglines is — dare I say it — rather ugly? I’m used to following the latest posts in a setting that is aesthetically pleasing to myself, that I can change whenever I grow bored with it.

Beyond that very superficial reason, one of Livejournal’s greatest weaknesses is also its strength. The Livejournal Friends List shows only journals that are on Livejournal; for other blogs, you’re on your own. But because of that, there’s a sense of community to it. There are blogs that feel more like a soapbox than a forum of discussion; comment threads are hard to follow, and discussions are difficult to track. One of my favorite blogs, the one kept by Neil Gaiman, doesn’t even allow comments. Livejournal is set up to be a social website rather than a simple journaling one, and one feels more welcome commenting on a random post from an unfamiliar user than one would while browsing a post from a pure blogging service, I think.

There was a huge brouhaha over certain issues in Livejournal a few years back that caused many friends and myself to consider moving off of Livejournal, which was when I set up my (other) WordPress blog. I did try to move to it, and I set up the Gregarius feed aggregator to simulate my Friends page. It took too long to load, was ugly and never felt right, and eventually most of us returned meekly to Livejournal.


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True story: I was offered the opportunity to translate/localize the Flickr website for Taiwan — friend’s roommate worked for Yahoo and was in charge of the localization project — but passed it up because I didn’t need the money and I just don’t like translating that much; also, although I had a Flickr account, I didn’t use it often, so didn’t feel invested in it at all. Am kind of regretting that now. *g*

My Flickr account is here; sadly, I have no digital camera to call my own, so what you get are cat photos taken by my cousin and random World of Warcraft screenshots. I don’t suppose World of Warcraft counts as ‘something technology-related’? Because I can certainly go on and on for hours about it. I don’t think I’d have much of an audience, though, so let’s talk about Twitter instead.

Yesterday, I was talking to a friend about Twitter and how it’s taking over the world. Everyone uses Twitter, it seems, from celebrities to non-technogeek friends. There are friends of mine who I met through their blogs that rarely blog anymore in non-Twitter form.

I can certainly see the appeal — it’s easier to talk in one-liners and in stream-of-consciousness fashion than constructing paragraphs the old-fashioned way. Sometimes you just want to save a thought, not make a 10,000 word entry. It’s like saving your text messages for posterity. And, as friend pointed out, it’s easier to seem witty/deep/meaningful with a one-liner than with posts that require follow-ups. I’ve posted MSN chatlogs to my journal in the past, simply because I was too lazy or not motivated enough to organize them into coherent entries, and hey, they still seemed hilarious to me. *g*

What Twitter and random chatlog cut-and-pastes also do, though, is strip themselves of context that makes them easy for others to understand. When you cut off context, you cut off much of your audience. Of course, sometimes no context is necessary — ‘Man, I hate rain,’ is fairly self-explanatory. But messages like ‘transparency and trust: Pandora as “smart friend”‘ probably aren’t going to mean much to anyone who doesn’t have a direct plug into your brain. I’ve mostly stopped reading Twitter messages because while there are messages I understand fully and am interested in, I’d have to sift to find them, and the Twitter format doesn’t lend itself to easy browsing. Possibly it’s just that my Twitter-ing friends and myself have parted ways a bit in terms of interests, so what they think of as requiring no explanation seems incomprehensible to me. But I miss long and meaty posts, I miss explanations for the uninitiated, and I miss being able to learn about subjects I’m unfamiliar with and commenting on them, discussing them until I am not quite so ignorant.


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first post!

I chose to use WordPress instead of Blogger because I’ve had some experience with WordPress blogs in the past and am already familiar with a few of the features I’ll be likely to desire, as well as how to install them. The address and tag line are references to a city in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which everyone should read because it is simply awesome. *g* I thought of setting the blog up on my own domain as there are many more customization options available for those that choose to do so, but refrained in the end since this is, after all, a blog for once specific class, and a lot of those options are not needed.

The Learning 2.0 program seems to be focused on tools and websites created to facilitate social networks and connections online, and I am familiar with many of them simply because I am social online. That is not to say that I have nothing to learn from it — many of these tools I’ve never had the occasion to use, or have only used for short periods of time before moving to the next new thing. Many of them I’ve used without understanding the concepts behind them. I’ve used RSS feed aggregators like Gregarius to keep track of blogs I’m interested in, but I can’t say I know how RSS feeds actually work or what RSS even stands for. I’ll enjoy filling in those blanks.

However, I also think that — in a sense! — that ignorance points towards a good thing: the sites are designed so that users don’t have to know much about them specifically; they are intuitively accessible as long as one is familiar with other 2.0 services. The set-up processes are similar. There’s the ‘Sign Up!’ link displayed prominently on the front page, the creation of a username and password, the entry of an e-mail address and possibly sundry other information (with those required marked with a red or black asterisk), often some checkboxes it would be wise to uncheck unless one wishes to be spammed with junk mail, the confirmation e-mail containing the confirmation link, then the Profile or Dashboard or MyWhatever entry page where one can configure the service to one’s own tastes. One can sleepwalk through this part of the process. Then there are the site-specific abilities which might take a while to hunt up, but can usually be found through the SiteMap or, failing all else, the discreet Help link placed at the upper right or lower right of each page. Everything is designed to be similar enough for ease of use, making the learning curve very gentle once you’ve already dipped your toes in. This is, of course, natural and to be desired; these days, online social networks are formed of people from every possible age bracket and background, and the only reasonably safe assumption to make of the technological savvy of the userbase is that it knows how to turn on a computer and connect to the Internet. Technology will probably always be a barrier to some, but that barrier is — through both deliberate design and natural evolution — growing lower and lower.

Of course, this makes self-directed learning much easier, as technology can add a whole ‘nother layer to the Lifelong Learning ‘Toolbox’. Which is good, since a degree in Lifelong Learning is probably the investment one can make — if only because there is much to learn in life, yet formal education costs so much. *g* Knowledge will not be consistently force-fed to anyone throughout their lifetime, and, as the 7 1/2 Habits of Successful Lifelong Learners slideshow noted, you will ALWAYS be the person most invested in making sure you ‘know your stuff’; therefore, you should always be the best overseer of the job. Teachers are given accolades on their ability to tailor a lesson to a student’s level and needs, but there should be no teacher that understands a student’s level and needs better than the student himself/herself.

Once one graduates high school and compulsory education draws to a close, all learning is self-directed, up to and including the decision to enroll in a class. There is nobody else to force you (unless, sometimes, you are unlucky in your parental situation, in which case the first lesson to learn is probably independence), there is nobody else tracking your progress and setting course objectives. And ultimately it isn’t, I think, too hard to learn for oneself. It’s easy with the freely available resources nowadays to look things up and take the first step, whether that be finding a recipe book, an online dictionary, or the homepage for the Rutgers SCILS department. *g* And once that first step is made and the course is plotted out, with due diligence and wise use of assets, there really is very little that cannot be accomplished.


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