Category Archives: higher_ed

A Fun Toy, Courtesy of YouTube

You may remember this cute, creative commercial for Google from the Super Bowl:

What you may not know is that Google created an entire project around the concept of that ad. Search Stories allows YouTube users to create their own commercial, using various Google searches to drive the plot. That last word is the most important. In the instructions, they emphasize the fact that your video should tell a story. I appreciate that emphasis a great deal.

All you need to do is think up various search terms that would advance a narrative. You can search the web, maps, products, books, images, news or blogs — mix it up for visual variety. They have a variety of music clips (good ones, too) you can set your video to, and YouTube will upload the finished product directly to your account.

If you’re doing this for fun, you probably don’t care too much what the searches turn up. If you’re doing it for a brand or organization, however, you certainly don’t want a rogue, unflattering link or image to show up in your otherwise innocuous search for “ice cream flavors” or some such. It’s worth tweaking the wording of your search to fine-tune the results (e.g. “flavors of ice cream,” “ice cream varieties,” “tasty ice cream”) and weed out any unsavory search results. You may also regenerate your video a couple times to alter whichever way YouTube randomly decides to pan and scan across your search results “screen” (e.g. if you want it to zoom in on the top result rather than scan from top right to bottom left).

So, while it’s not perfect and there are some factors you can’t control, if you’re willing to play with it for a half hour or so, you could come up with a fun, clever 30 second video – for free. Steve Garfield just blogged about this, but I’m hopeful that I actually discovered this before him 😉

I created this one for my school, timed to the May 1 admission deadline. Check it out:

If you create one, please leave the link in the comments!

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My Own Top 100 Albums of the Decade

As I mentioned the other day, I’ve been working on this collaborative ranking of the top 100 albums of the decade with some of my friends in the higher ed web world. Holly, one of our partners-in-crime, just posted a few words about this project that I felt were spot on:

When you learn that you share musical tastes with others you are networking with on Twitter in a more professional sense, something cool happens – signals take on a higher level of relevance. You develop more associations to that person. If you’re Andrew [Careaga], you’ve identified a tribe of those folks – and you pull them together to collaborate.

That’s more or less how I felt. One of the great things I’ve gotten out of Twitter is finding these communities of affiliation, and communities within communities. While I have a great network of contacts in higher ed via Twitter, within that network, I have people who I consider more as friends than just contacts. Then there’s a circle of musically-inclined folks, most of whom are involved in this project. Then there are the people based in Boston with whom I connect locally and in person more often. If I tried to map it out, the marker board would look like a lesson in Venn diagrams — as it should.

When you can tap your network or subnetwork on a project such as this, you’ve really done something special. It’s not easy, what with logistics and coordination, but it’s one of the truest testaments to what this new age of media and communication is all about.

That said, we couldn’t have accomplished our group effort without doing our own homework, so I have my own list of the top 100 albums of the decade. True confession: I agonized about compiling this list, and even considered not joining the project because of that agony. Why? Well, one of my least favorite questions is “What’s your favorite song/band/album?” It’s always hell for me to pin that stuff down and rank it. I get overwhelmed as images of every album I’ve even so much as given a sidelong glance in my life flashes before my eyes. For that reason, the thought of sitting down with a decade’s worth of music scared the living daylights out of me. But the sheer awesomeness and collaborative spirit of the project swayed me to agree to participate, and I’m glad I did. It ended up being fun to stare down and sift through the decade, coming out of the process with my own estimation of it.

So, here are my top 100. Caveat: I only hold these rankings to be true at the moment they were completed. If I started this list over from scratch right now, I’m sure things would change. It’s just how I am. That said, I’m very curious to hear your agreements/disagreements/additions/removals. What did I miss? Where was I spot on? Which inclusion completely baffles you?  Please weigh in with comments!

Without further ado…

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Some Special Guest Appearances

Things have been a little quiet over here, but fear not — good works have been afoot. Just, well, not here. Where have I been?

– I’ve been working on a collaborative Top 100 Albums of the Decade project with some of my colleagues across the world of higher ed web communications. The first installment launches today, and updates will be posted each day until we’ve tallied our collective top 100. I have my own top 100 list, which I will share in a little bit. Thanks to Andrew Careaga for organizing this awesome experience, and thanks also to my partners-in-crime: Stephen Biernacki, Ron Bronson, Mason Dyer, Tim Nekritz and Holly Rae. I hope you enjoy the product of our collective dorky brain.

– I also contributed a short video clip to a blog post by Seth Odell, a new blogger on the higher ed scene who is making a splash with his big yet doable ideas. The blog post shows off the power of the YouTube annotations functionality. You have to watch — and participate — to see for yourself.

Coming up soon in this space? My top 10 albums of 2009, plus my own top 100 albums of the decade. Stay tuned!

Thoughts About “Tweckling” and the Great Keynote Meltdown of Aught-Nine

HighEdWeb superstar Shelley Keith retweeted an inquiry today from Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins, asking:

Given recent “tweckling” (twitter heckling) during talks, what do you think the new geek rules of audience etiquette ought to be?

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One incident this question most definitely references it the Great Keynote Meltdown of 2009. In short, the second keynoter (#notjared) at this year’s HighEdWeb conference in Milwaukee, David Galper of Ruckus Networks, took to the stage with an outdated message, an outmoded presentation and an outstandingly poor understanding of his audience. Thus, the conference back-channel (#) took over (read from 11:59PM on), skewering Galpert mercilessly. I wasn’t there this year, but you can read a good recap (which links to other good recaps) over at .eduGuru.

I totally agree with people like Fienen over at .eduGuru, who wrote, “[Higher ed web professionals’] tolerance is high, and our expectations are such that not meeting them really means you’ve failed completely. … It’s refreshing being able to be truthful with people that understand you, because we were all pretty equally disappointed.” I have no qualms with how HighEdWeb attendees felt about David Galper’s keynote. Following along via Twitter, I was sympathetic (and highly amused). If I had been there, I would have been joining right in.

But Shelley’s question made me think about conferences and keynotes and the whole deal. This summer, I attended Podcamp Boston 4, which bills itself as unconference. Of the six main rules for a PodCamp, one is the Law of 2 Feet:

All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet – if you’re not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. It’s not like you have to get your money’s worth!

The Law of 2 Feet was one of the things I really enjoyed about Podcamp Boston. The other was the fact that anyone could propose — and receive — a presentation slot. And that doesn’t even take into account the open slots where several people organized discussions on the fly. The resultant program was diverse, engaging and informative, with few duds. Not to mention a heck of a bargain. (Yes, PodCamps have the advantage of being free or otherwise very, very affordable  — PodCamp Boston was just $50 for two full days — and probably regional, as well.)

Podcamps offer a nice alternative — not a replacement for traditional conferences, but a complement — that allow the attendees to really run the show, both in terms of which sessions are held and which are actually populated. At an organized conference, you probably feel a greater obligation to stick to the script and not rock the boat, which is understandable. You (or your institution) are paying hundreds of dollars to register, send, house and feed you for the duration of the conference.  And while anyone can submit a proposal for a conference session, it is still subject to approval.

Let’s go back to the #heweb09 back-channel. In retrospect, was there any way to turn that into a “front-channel,” to mobilize wide-scale dissatisfaction into something productive? If someone had tweeted, “Hey guys, I’m going to do a presentation about _______ in the lobby for the next half hour, starting in 5 mins. Join me if you want,” would anyone have followed? Or what about interrupting the keynoter, raising a hand in the middle and interjecting with a couple of well-meaning observations? Would that have been construed as rude? And if so, by whom? Where does rudeness begin, really — with a presenter who obviously did no homework about his audience and thus disrespected their intellect, or with the subsequent “tweckling” of the presenter on a forum where he could not defend himself?

Also worth noting: apparently, no one asked questions. No one Kanye’d. There was no mass exodus. No one gave this presenter any cues — aside from fervent attention paid to the iPhone or perhaps some stifled chuckles — that he was missing the mark, or any opportunities to make a desperate U-turn away from the cliff he quickly threw himself over. (Of course, many folks on the scene called the keynote a fantastic social experiment. Maybe that in itself makes it worthwhile. It’s sparking this conversation and others, after all, right?)

Why was this the case? Were people caught up in (or paralyzed by) conference etiquette, safely venting their frustrations on Twitter while the train wreck carried on before them? If HighEdWeb  had an expressed Law of 2 Feet, would things have been different?

I don’t say any of this to judge or criticize HighEdWeb attendees (generally awesome people) or organizers (awesome AND hardworking people) — it’s an amazing conference, and I hope to heck I’ll be there in Cincinnati next year. But this whole episode just made me think about conference etiquette — and I definitely have more questions than answers about it. What are the rules of engagement in that context? Can conferences learn a thing or two from unconferences? Does higher ed need an unconference? We fault the speaker for failing at his responsibility to us, the knowledgeable audience, but what is our responsibility to him? How can we rescue wasted time, or turn something crappy into something marginally useful?

Speaking of the speaker, I can’t help but wonder if David Galper has any idea what havoc he wreaked on the higher ed web community. Probably not, since he’s not on Twitter. Will he learn the error of his ways? Hard to say. It looks like the windows of opportunity for that to happen are few.