Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for Em duas línguas

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Only weirdos choose to move to Portugal

Miguel Vale d'Almeida spells out something that I recognise in the eyes of every Portuguese that meets me:
Ninguém vem para Portugal porque quer. A não ser que seja um certo tipo de reformado inglês em busca de campos de golfe e cerveja barata.
No-one comes to Portugal because they want to. Not unless it's a certain type of retired English person looking for golf courses and cheap beer.

That's why I'm such an oddball in Portugal. I chose to live here - not because I'm retired, nor for the golf or the cheap beer (although I do appreciate the price of good wine). And it's not because I was looking for low-salaried work that no-one else wants to do. And no, I didn't come because I fell in love with a Portuguese guy.

I'm just a peculiar person!

Maybe it's because of the scuba diving I was crazy about ... on the Portuguese wreck in front of Fort Jesus, Santo Antonio de Tanna. The stories of battles between the Portuguese and Arabs, reflected in the mix of Portuguese-Arab architecture and people in Mombasa fascinated me.

Maybe it was my excitement about the lost Swahili town of Gedi, north of Watamu. Gedi was a once great civilization (in the thirteenth century) that still puzzles historians because it was isolated and unknown. It was suddenly and inexplicably deserted, with no trace of its residents and my young heart trembled when we walked through the ruins, knowing that here lay the banquet tables, the sewing, and the signs of life that had been so quickly abandoned. The story that thrilled me was that maybe the people heard that the "the fierce men from the sea" (the Portuguese) were invading.

Also I was stung badly - and survived - by a Portuguese Man o' War while swimming, another addition to my mental map of the Portuguese.

Then when I lived in England I was an anti-apartheid activist and campaigned tirelessly for SWAPO (Namibia) and with FRELIMO (Mozambique). The stories of the Portuguese from our comrades in Southern Africa were not the same as the ones I hear now in Portugal.

None of that explains why I live here in Setúbal, but maybe it helps show that my canvas - and my childhood imagination which I have never shaken off - is different to the golfing, beer lovers from England. And it might help people in Portugal to pardon me for being a little peculiar!.

Fort Jesus, Mombasa:

Castelo São Filipe, Setúbal:

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Strong opinions, weakly held

"Strong opinions, weakly held" is a post that jumps out at Shawn Callahan (Anecdote) which he reads in "Bob Sutton's blog. It is Bob Johansen's advice about the wisdom for moving forward in times when the future is uncertain. It's about having and testing your opinions, while leaving yourself open to listening to other people.

It jumps out at me too. And it comes as I contemplate wisdom and the name of my next blog. My current favourite blogname is Phronesis, a word I readily identify with. The easy translation of Phronesis (from Greek) is "practical wisdom", ecompassing reflection, ahieving ends, particular contexts, and experience and measure.

It also happens to relate to a small, but significant, personal story about "raining men!"

The Prato Dialogue

I have set up a blog, The Prato Dialogue, in Wordpress for the conversations we are organising in Florence about memories and forgetting in communities of practice, and which I have posted about before.

The reason it's The Prato Dialogue and not the Florence Dialogue is because it is timed to coincide with a conference about constructing and sharing memory in communities organised by the Community Informatics Research Network at Monash University in Prato. Some of us will stay on for the conference and present a workshop at that conference that lead from the Dialogue.

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Transmitting information

Teaching ...
Today I bought a MacBook Pro. And within 90 minutes I had copied everything from one computer to the other, using FireWire. And when I say I copied everything I mean that everything was copied - not just my files, but all my applications, my browsers, my favorites, my passwords ... everything. My desktop, files and folders all looked exactly the same in my new computer. It was wonderful. Every piece of information transferred perfectly.

Hmm ... Could I say that with this perfect transmission of information - today was a sign of good teaching?


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Name of new blog - looking for inspiration

Since getting more organised I've had time to start planning my new blog and mulling over what to call it. I was wondering if I could incorporate a Latin expression from a Roman poet that I have on a post-it note above my desk:
Est modus in rebus. (There is measure - a middle way - in all things).
I wonder sometimes why this quote fascinates me. I think it's partly because the story of my life has been someone who didn't measure things, I only ever fully immersed myself. But with age I'm learning the importance of measure.

And I think it talks to me in another way. While I often hear people framing ideas, concepts and solutions as if they had to be either one thing or another, wisdom actually lies in engaging in that grey area in the middle.

This quote is also on a really cool painting called "The Measurers" in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. There are two things I love about this painting, which is a Flemish image of mathematics in the sixteenth century. First, it shows maths as an everyday activity. There is maths in a kid beating out the rhythm, in a woman working with cloth. There's an amorous couple in the background, and I guess there is some maths in what they are doing. But anyway, it's maths as situated cognition, (and the basis for theories of learning in communities of practice).

The other thing I like about the painting is that the central character is a designer of mathematical instruments. This was, apparently, unusual. The instruments (and their maker) were normally taken for granted. I like the focus on the tool maker as a central part of the activities, in amongst - and probably in conversation with - the people about him.

Anyway, the long and the short of my meanderings is that I'm not going to call my blog "Est modus in rebus", much as I like the expression, the poet Horace (65 BC to 8 BC) and this painting! But I do find myself coming back to the Renaissance for inspiration, so perhaps my next blog's name lies somewhere there...

Monday, August 21, 2006

More anti-procrastination strategies

I've been reading Suw Charman's Desk diary update, in her fight against procrastination, with interest.

I am Queen of writing to-do lists, which only ever get longer. I've got (real) post-it notes all around my workspace, I've got a flip-chart prominently placed in my sitting room. I have two or three small notebooks. And that's before I even start talking about the post-it notes on my computer desk top and my iCal to-do list that sends me reminders.

And still, my lists get longer. And still I spend a lot of time turning over in my mind all the things I have to do. And all the things I'm not doing. It makes it difficult to take time out because I'm haunted by all those things to do. But in not having sufficient breaks I can see that my continuous partial attention disorder worsens.

Also like Suw, I've tried keeping track of my hours in Excel. Perhaps I made it too complicated because I created lots of columns where I had to categorise what I was doing. But the act of categorising makes me anxious and I gave up after a month.

Now she has an A5 desk diary, where she notes how much time she spends on things, including time spent on having a shower and faffing about. And she discovered that she faffs about less time than she thinks.

As I set myself up for a very busy September and October, I have to get my systems set up right. I want to know how much time I'm spending on what. And I need to be sure that I'm building in enough time for myself.

So I'm off to buy an A5 diary. And I'll cut back to one small notebook and my iCalendar. Post-it notes, flip-chart, pieces of paper and extra notebooks are all going to bed. Hmmm ... now is this is yet another procrastination strategy or am I really about to transform my life?

Suw is a speaker at the SHiFT conference on 28, 29th September and I'm looking forward to meeting someone who understands my condition.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

SHiFT - early bird registration

SHiFT - Social and Human Ideas For Technology
Today is the last day for early bird registration to ShiFT (Social and Human Ideas for Technology).

They have got a really great lineup of speakers for the conference, including some friends I look forward to seeing and other I hope to meet.

There's a lot happening in September/October!

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting ready: next phase

So I haven't been blogging much because:

1. I've had lots of reports to write and work to finish.

2. I'm starting some new projects and have to take care of them.

3. I'm working at less than half speed because I am tired and I dream of going to the beach and doing holiday like things.

4. I feel the time has come to start a new blog.

5. I've been wondering about the question: who am I?

But ... reports have mostly been written, new projects are on the schedule and I think I've got a bit of headspace to go to the beach. Who am I will change as I've decided to work only part-time in Ensino Superior and continue doing more of my own projects - related to designing for learning in distributed communities.

What's more, getting less fuzzy about my identity helps me conceptualise the transition to my new blog. And although it might not be obvious, getting clearer about my identity will also help me finish writing my doctorate.

As for my new blog I've been toying with converting to Wordpress. But yesterday I got distracted with the new Blogger in beta. What I have always liked about Blogger (unlike Wordpress, Typepad etc.) is that you can manipulate the html stuff much easier - but what has bugged me (not to mention the boring templates) is that you can't categorise your posts. Now with Blogger in beta you can categorize your posts. Another small but welcome change is that you can preview your post before sending it.

So ... here's to the small and big things that signal a next phase creeping up!

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Bar Camp Portugal

I would like to go to Bar Camp Portugal which is taking place in Coimbra Portugal 2 - 3 September.

The idea behind Bar Camp, held in different places all over the world is cool. It's about Web2.0 and related things:
BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees.

Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.

When you come, be prepared to share with barcampers.
When you leave, be prepared to share it with the world.

But I have to say that I am staggered to notice that of the thirty-four people who have signed up to participate, only one is a woman. Rita Duarte of Marciana, you've got a cool blog and I'd love to meet you at BarCampPortugal, but unfortunately I won't be able to make it.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Today I was distracted

burning ....

View from my appartment ...

The fire's have started

9th August - fire's have startedCalmly working on the varandah, but it got cut short. A reminder of things over which I have no control.

We have a fire in Viso. The sky looks eery. The sirens are ringing and the helicpoters are overhead. I hope everyone is OK.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Does this count as spam?

Last year I went to the demonstration of an e-learning system being developed by Universidade Piaget. To get into the system a temporary account was set up with my name and email address.

Since early yesterday morning I have been receieving an email from the system every three and a half minutes, day and night. It tells me that the system is out of service until the 7th August and the new version will be ready on the 8th August. The email ends with this friendly instruction:
"Grato pelo vosso cuidado na leitura desta mensagem." (Thank you for your care in reading this message).

When I woke up yesterday to find the first 40 messages I set the filter for it to go into trash. But lots of people are on holiday now. I wonder how many thousands of emails they will return to when they get back!

Still thinking of feed mixers

Still on the conversation of feed mixers I got a suggestion from Monica of B2B who points me to
"although it does not respond by itself to the tags options you would like (you could import the resulting blended feed and use a tag cloud software ;-)"

She also says: "i think the most important part is not blending the feeds but thinking how they will be displayed in the community". Joitske (in a private discussion) extends the question to "how can CPsquare leverage its members blogs for learning and linking within CPsquare?"

... which is exactly the thought that I'm chewing on.

John Smith has used feedburner to create an aggregated feed for CPsquare member blogs, suggesting that he found feedjumbler and kickrss the most viable aggregators.

But who, I ask myself, would look at feedburner to see community members' blogs? It looks like a linear set of opening blog entries from people whose shared interests aren't so obvious. Too uninteresting for words...

Another thing I did - and which doesn't feel much use - was to create a combined feed of all the blogs, put this feed in my feed reader and ... hey presto ... a bit of a disappointment. All I see is the blog headline and date (and first paragraph if I click into the headline). Visually this blurs everyone into one blob of a community - I find it much more friendly and helpful in my current individual feed system where I can see the name of each blog whose familiar shapes and logo help create a sense of the identity of the person who keeps the blog.

So now I'm coming round full circle to thinking that you might be better off having a page with a tagged list of the blogs of community members, with their feeds. And you would have a tag cloud. People could choose for themselves which blogs they subscribe to. Ideally people would list their own blog and tags and perhaps there could also be a space for individual comments to those blogs on this joint blog page.

But this starts looking like a bigger project that I had in mind. For the time being I would be quite happy to find a mixer that you could subscribe to and which would separate out the feeds in your feed-reader. When you joined the community you could subscribe to the feed mix which would give you separate feeds for the individual blogs. You could then go through at your leisure, trimming out the ones that you didn't want to follow.

Does anyone know of one of these?

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Looking for the right RSS mixer

This is a bit of a geeky post. And I realise that there are not many people in my universe who know what the hell I'm going on about. But I guess that's the advantage of saying it on a blog ... there is someone out there!

In my learning community, CPsquare, John Smith of Learning Alliances starts thinking about aggregating the blogs of all the members in CPsquare so that there is one container for all the feeds. This ties in with something else I've been thinking about for another community and so I decided to have a play.

First, what's the advantage of having one container for all the feeds? It means that anyone in the community can have just one feed (in their feed-reader) which subscribes them to the feeds of all the members of a community they belong to. It's a great way of getting a feel for who community members are and it's also reassuring to know that people in your community have a greater chance of finding your blog. After all, it's usually them you are at least partially writing for. Of course, if each individual member's feed was also tagged, then it could be a wonderful networking tool.

So I followed up on Marshall Kirkpatrick's links to RSS Mixers on Cogdogblog to get a feel for what some RSS mixers are like. They are all very different, with these being some of the main differences:
  • you only get a link to a feed vs. you generate a feed plus a page with the links (e.g. like Superglu);

  • you have to put the links in one at a time v. you can put the links in in one batch;

  • you just enter the feed URL v. you also enter the name and type of blog etc.

  • the RSS mixer has an inelegant/geeky appearance vs. it has a less than inelegant appearance.

  • For the RSS mix experiment I used the following members' blogs:
    John Smith, Learning Alliances
    Edward Vielmetti, Vacuum
    Andy Roberts, Distributed Action Research
    Nancy White, Full Circle Online Interaction
    Shawn Callahan, Anecdote
    Bev Trayner, Em Duas Línguas

    And these were the notes I took when I tried to set up an RSS aggregator for those blogs:

    + gives a feed and a webpage - see experiment RSS mix webpage;
    - viewing all blog entries (especially when there are many) as a webpage can be overwhelming;
    - can add one feed at a time (or all via OPML, if you know how to);
    - always gives error message first time you enter feed, so you have to go back and do it again

    + very simple - put in all the feeds and get out one feed;
    - asks for information you're not sure about so can be confusing;
    + quick
    This was the experiment feed.

    - ads right in your face
    - can only add five feeds max.
    - can only add one feed at a time
    - annoying set of questions to answer and categories to put yourself in
    - gave up because at the end I forgot to put in my email address and it wanted me to start the whole process again

    RSS mix
    + very simple to use;
    + you can put all the feeds in at once
    - BUT maximum of four feeds only!
    However, you can make a new feed mix from your existing mix. That means you can keep mixing the feed mixers until you get everyone in one feed!
    Here's the experiment feed mix with four. And it also creates a webpage.

    lazytom's FeedJumbler
    puts all the feeds into one feed - here was the link it generated for the experiment.
    + easy to use
    + you can enter all the feeds in one go.
    + easy to subscribe this new feed in your feed reader (i.e. has the usual feed-reader links right there for you)
    - includes lots of info. that most people won't want.
    - needs a good makeover.

    + it has a bookmarklet making it easier to put in feeds;
    + you can tag the feeds;
    - you have to enter each link individually;
    - it got beyond the bounds of my patience to see how to get the link!
    I had the idea that it's more for organising your own feeds and having them tagged (which seems like a great idea). I just couldn't find the generated link (getting tired by now).

    only gave errors

    + neat interface
    + easy to use
    + you can enter feeds in batches
    This was the feed it generated for the experiment.

    Wishlist for an RSS mix:

    By now I was getting the general idea and didn't look at any further. But there must be others. Someone somewhere must be designing an RSS mix:
  • for large communities,

  • where it's easy to enter feeds in one batch,

  • where you can tag the feeds,

  • where members can upload/update/tag their own and others' feed,

  • which is visually agreeable/ not too geeky.

  • Let me know if you know one!

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