Spamming all Edublogs

Update: James Farmer has commented below noting that this marketing email was actually spam masquerading as Edublogs, so it looks like my direct marketing theory is off. Sorry if I misrepresented you here, James, my bad.

Looks like the latest venture by Edublogs is to spam the email boxes of its users, I guess content ad links and banners within posts just isn’t making them enough money anymore. Now the Edublogs crew has decided to send out straight up direct marketing spam emails to all its users pushing new services that are framing themselves as the new Facebook for the next generation.

In short, this is the logic of creating a free service for the educational community and doing everything you can to squeeze a buck out of them after the fact. I guess the logic is to take money from a service like the one advertised in the email (see the name below, no link love or Google indexing for this spammer here) in order to help them push their product like crack. Edublogs agrees to this because obviously hundreds of people have been interested, and they just happened to have a stock of emails amassed from educators and students at edublogs. How’s this for a business model? Seems like everything on the internet ultimately leads back to spamming to make a buck. Maybe Edublogs should be renamed Eduspams!

Straight up Eduspam

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The Art of Roy Rogers

When I am with Tom Woodward, I make art.

This piece documents those special spaces in the US cultural landscape—like Check Cashing joints and 1970s strip malls—the highway food stops along the I-95 have a special place in my heart. Particularly, I like my fried chicken from Roy Rogers—it’s the culinary b-ness of the bava blog.

Jim vs Roy Rogers Chicken from Tom Woodward on Vimeo.

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A WordPress Plugin App Store: Commodify and die!

Well, James Farmer and company are at it again, and the latest business venture is a WordPress Plugin App store a la iPhone apps. Another pay to play solution that is asserts that “the future of WordPress is premium plugins.” This development, like most of Farmer’s moves over the last year or so with wp.mu, blogs.mu, etc. have been rather depressing for me to watch.  What we are witnessing in the WordPress community is both a crisis and a crossroads, a fork in the logic of what this open source community stands for, and in many ways the reality that the GPL license was originally imagined for (operating systems like Linux) is not cutting it for an open source, web-based application like WordPress (thank you, Martha).

The logic of a paid service for re-worked WordPress plugins that are still under GPL is not outside the GPL license, people can still charge for re-coding plugins that others have offered up freely. And, by extension, I could get a paid membership to that service and download all those plugins and distribute them freely to anyone under the conditions of that same license. Fact is, both solutions create real issues. Those people who develop plugins with the idea of making them freely available can have their work appropriated, modified and sold at a profit, and for those who do try and profit from their work can have their own plugins or themes taken and given away freely, at least after someone pays the entry fee.

So given that, why don’t a whole bunch of us pool a dollar or two and gain access to the premium plugins site, and then redistribute everything freely? It’s within the letter of the GPL law, and it would make for a far more affordable and equitable re-distribution of wealth in the community.  Well, we don’t and won’t do it because it’s an abrogation of a bigger contract, a community contract of WordPress users that I believe has formed around the idea of openness and sharing back. What we are seeing now is the attempt to commodify that logic so that themes and plugins begin to represent some form of wealth within the open source community that needs to be traded on the open market.  But in my mind it is exactly this emerging logic of open source entrepreneurs that understand applications and code as commodities that will bring down a community of users, and represent a challenge to any movement towards sharing and openness.

We can not live by the letter of a license, we must think through the implications of our actions for a community that has moved further and further away from the prevailing political logic of the open source movement, which is namely to freely share software, which in turn provides zero cost of entry and public collaboration. Additionally, it allows individuals to re-imagine the software and build on that independently. And it’s with that last point where we see the attempt to commodify a community that can only be as strong as its diversity and openness.  The more a few people try and dominate this space and control “the market” so to speak, the less open the application and the more impoverished the community becomes over time.

I’m a fan of WordPress, and I’ve been in the game for a while now. That said, I’m not a developer, I am a member of a community and a movement that sees the possibility of people openly sharing their ideas and work apart from some kind of monetary compensation of the fruits of their labor as a possibility for something different.  A new model for sharing openly out of a passion and belief in the possibilities rather than professionalizing this development as a career or job. Look what professionalization did for politics in the US, it is the wrong direction, and I think it is time for the WordPress community to take a stand on what they believe and how they will deal with this challenge. Drupal has figured out this model, and the community is tight, despite the letter of the GPL law, and that has everything to do with the people, so we need to stop hiding behind licenses and establish who we are and where we are going before the community implodes. The logic of capital and commodification will tear us apart unless we are vigilant, making money must be subordinated to sharing openly. The more we commodify, the sooner we die!

Posted in WordPress, wordpress multi-user, wpmu | Tagged , , , | 29 Comments

Raiders of the Lost Ark “Premake”

While checking out YouTube user Whoiseyevan’s YouTube channel for my last post, I noticed he has put together an awesome mashup that is premised on the idea of using footage from old films all over YouTube to create a trailer for a film that never was. In this case, the premake of Raiders of the Lost Ark, in other words in fictional 1951 version of the film that never existed.  The what actors would play which role, and I particularly love his choices of Charlton Heston as Indiana Jones and Peter Lorre as Major Toht. Now this would be a fun exercise in a film class, or even a digital storytelling class….hmmm.

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Zombie Marvels, or is it Marvel’s Zombies?

Image of Marvel Zombies comic coverThis post over at Cartoon Brew features some fun fan art by YouTube user Whoiseyevan, who has re-cut the trailers for the 1960s super hero animated series of Captain America, Thor, and The Fantastic Four into Marvel Zombie versions. And if you didnt know already, Marvel Zombies was a five issue series that came out back in 2005 and 2006, and is just further evidence that zombies have been taking over just about every sector of our entertainment industry throughout this decade. And rumor has it that Disney bought Marvel because they knew it was high time to invest in zombies.  really do see zombies as some kind of weird, prescient metaphor that popular culture is using to warn us all of what’s to come, it’s like a strange self-reflective vision we refuse to come to terms with. It’s only on the YouTube where the truth is being taken seriously. Although, I must admit, this wikipedia article on Philosophical Zombies that Scott Leslie pointed me to kin da makes me want to get my Doctorate in this emerging field of study 🙂

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The Endless Night: A Film Noir Valentine

Here’s an amazing mashup/tribute by RubyTuesday717 to the greatest of all film genres, the Noir.

Thanks to Leo Parascandola for the link.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Twitter on Campus

North Carolina State University has really made an impressive case for using Twitter more extensively on campus.  A wide range of departments, organizations, and clubs at NCSU are using Twitter to get announcements, events, and relevant links out to the campus community, and they created a slick aggregation space that brings all of this together cleanly.  They’ve even made the source code for the application they developed freely available to anyone who wants to use it—-major kudos to the NCSU development team.

Now we have been playing around with this idea for a while now, and it seems like we are starting to see a wide range of departments, groups, and affiliated organizations here at UMW are interested in using Twitter for announcements and the like, so—if I can convince Martha—-we are going to hack around in UMW Blogs to try and get our own aggregation point for UMW Tweets that feature news and announcements that are relevant to campus.  The site will be http://twitter.umwblogs.org, and as I see it now, we will be using the Add Link widget to have people drop off their Twitter info, and then pull it all into FeedWordPress so that we can both aggregate and publish the various Twitter streams into one site on UMW Blogs.

You may be thinking to yourself at this point, why not just use the code NCSU so graciously made available? That actually a good question, and my only response is I know nothing about PHP libraries, and rather than setting up a new instance, I’d rather see if we can’t quickly hack together a similar model using the tools we have, a space a large part of our community already is familiar with and regularly visits. If it doesn’t work out, we can always play with the code and PHP libraries I’ve been trying to avoid.

The only issue with the Add Link/FeedWordPress setting is getting the Twitter avatar to appear. I think we can hack the P2 theme to get us most of the way there, but the avatar will be looking for a Gravatar associated with an email, or an Avatar created when a user starts their UMW Blogs account. So what we need to do is make sure anyone who adds their Twitter account to http://twitter.umwblogs.org has a UMW Blogs account. I think we can do this by putting a hacked version of the Add Users/Add Link widget that requires both their UMW email (they will need to be a member of UMW Blogs to add this) as well as their Twitter URL. This will allow us to map the RSS feed in FeedWordPress from their Twitter account onto their UMW Blogs user account. Once this happens, the avatar associated with their account on UMW Blogs (either through Gravatar or the built-in avatar function in BuddyPress) will be associated with their tweets on http://twitter.umwblogs.org, and their tweets will actually link back to their Twitter account.

The more I think through this the more I see it may be better to just figure out NCSU’s setup using their source code and go from there, but I guess I’m a glutton for bad hacks.  We’ll see, but in the mean time is their anyone out their at UMW interested in experimenting on this with us? If so, add your twitter URL here, and let’s get this party started right.

Posted in twitter, UMW Blogs, WordPress, wordpress multi-user | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Create your own LibGuides with WordPress

The librarians here at UMW’s Stafford Campus have been experimenting with UMW Blogs to create their own version of LibGuides. Jami Bryan and Paul Boger came to me almost a year ago and showed me LibGuides (a subscription CMS for libraries using Web2.0 features) and its various features—you can see it in action at DePauw University.

Jami noted that most of those features could be reproduced in WordPress, so they went about creating their own LibGuides using WPMu. I would like to say I helped with the process, but usually I would get an email from Paul asking me about a particular feature, and by the time I replied—often far too late—he had figured it out.

Picture 1And what Jami and Paul did is pretty amazing. You can see their WordPress hacked LibGuides here, here, here, and here. And they have incorporated just about every feature LibGuides has using widgets and a few hacks, and this without the investment in the LibGuides service which ranges from $1,000-$3,000. I really love the way they themed their LibGuides knock-off with the same header as the Library site, and actually included all the class resources within their sites/blogs. Take a look at how they are using SlideShare to share class presentations, a page to share instructional videos, a Meebo Chat widget, a Twitter widget, and a tag cloud of relevant subjects covered. And that’s just a few of the features. You can also see they have embedded an EBSCO Article quick search, as well as widgets with relevant subject news if you go to the Business LibGuide homepage, for example.

And don’t mistake this post as a slam on LibGuides, because I have to admit I never used this service and from what I can see from the outside it does a fine job of integrating Web 2.0 tools. That said. it’s nice to know we have the possibility to hack our own within our preferred publishing platofrm. So, kudos to Paul and Jami for pulling this off, and now if they would just blog the process we would be that much richer 🙂

Posted in WordPress, wordpress multi-user | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Now where was I?

October was pretty much a lost month for me, between working on the new casa la bava and preparing for my third child, I’ve been out of the loop.  I had to put 110 Days to Xmas on ice (resurrection coming soon), and basically fell off the blogosphere for the last two or three weeks.  I read very little, and posted even less.  I enjoyed focusing on something different for a while, and my home projects are by no means finished.

But when I resurfaced this Monday I wanted a way to find out what was happening, and while I could have let things slide and moved on with some confidence that important discussions would be ongoing or re-surface, when I went to my RSS reader the 200+ posts in the OLDaily were unbelievably helpful in bringing the last month into perspective quickly and rather comprehensively. Downes’ insanely impressive commitment to regular posting about his readings provided me with an amazing resource to fill in some gaps. So, thank you Stephen, and here are some of the gems I culled from the OLDaily just recently:

[cetsEmbedRSS id=’http://www.google.com/reader/public/atom/user%2F11363774702320383440%2Fstate%2Fcom.google%2Fstarred’ itemcount=’9′]

What you begin to see in this list is how I read the OLDaily, I’m actually interested in the politics behind the growing crisis in education right now, and how this is in many ways directly relates to questions of copyright, corporate interests, and a general impulse towards framing the current economic crisis as a way to increasingly privatize the educational industry, and by extension increasingly dis-empower those working within it. Also, the parallel between the Health industry and the education industry that are paralleled by Downes here makes me wish I would have kept up with the OLDaily in preparation for the Uncanny Learning presentation I did with Tom Woodward and Brian Lamb—-“The Three Year Solution” and “College more expensive than ever” would have gone a long way towards making my examples from the future that much more concrete. And I can’t help but agree that there is a crisis brewing, and often times it’s being used to both demoralize and disinvest the educational workforce.

On a related note, Marc Bousquet had this post about how real the omnipresent “fiscal” crisis is at universities. He also highlights a series of protests and occupations happening in the UC system as well as in Europe (Vienna, Austria in  particular) further reinforcing the crisis that you hear so little about through conventional channels.

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The Sordid History of Learning Object Repositories or, a chat with Brian Lamb

Barry Dahl recently blogged the following video he took at the WCET of Brian Lamb chatting about Learning Object Repositories, which provides an excellent overview of the logic of EdTech circa 2001.  The idea of educational repositories for content as a shared resource was, and remains, a powerful idea for sharing resources, yet the means through which it was being approached was insanely labor intensive. His framing of that moment, and the emergence of Google, and the changing nature of the web is amazing, and I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around a table with Brian listening to him riff about a topic like this, and nothing interests me as much as when he talks about the heady days of 2004, when CogDog, D’Arcy, and Brian came into contact with Downes’ EDURSS magic—was it the Merlot presentation in 2004? I love that story, even if I have conflated some dates and details.

I truly enjoy the field of educational technology, and it is an absolute treat to sit around a table with Lamb and get a beautiful constructed narrative of the  emergence of some real alternatives to overly complex learning object repositories.  And here’s your chance, and deep thanks for to Barry for both taking and sharing this videos, it is a gem.

Posted in experimenting | Tagged , | 6 Comments