I woke up the other morning morning to a bit of serendipity in my RSS reader that cheered me up.
First I read Alan’s great post Don’t Be a Platform Pawn. Next up was Marco Arment Linking and quoting Waffle on Social Media which quoted in turn Community Services which pointed to What’s a Twitter Timeline?. On the back of these posts and more Doug Belshaw posted Twitter, algorithms, and digital dystopias (I got the last link via twitter, but it arrived in my rss reader too).

At the heart of all this the current worries about what you see and who curates your reading. It is also linked in my mind at least, to worries about who owns the space you publish in and the idea around being the product if you are not the customer. It cheers me to see so much pushback against the commercial monoliths.

I’ve read and even posted about this before, as have many others, but it bears rethink or more mulling, it is pertinent again with the redefinition of the twitter timeline and various facebook problems that are popping up.

Doug points out:

they need to provide shareholder value which, given the web’s current dominant revenue model, is predicated on raising advertising dollars. Raising the kind of money they need depends upon user growth, not necessarily upon serving existing users. After all, if they’ve provided the space where all your friends and contacts hang out, you’re kind of locked in.

And we are ‘kind of’, we can also use a mix of tools and spaces and give them up when the discomfort is to great or the utility is poor. Doug has given up RSS in favour of twitter, G+ and facebook. I’ve stuck with it along with scanning twitter (and harvesting links to my RSS reader) and a smidgen of G+. I lack Doug’s guilt at a pile of unread links in my feedreader and I am more than happy to mark all as read now and then.

I think both Alan and Doug would agree that it is ok to use and be used by the silos as long as you are aware and the positives outweigh the negatives?

What is great about Alan’s post is he gives you recipes for how he gains the benefit of flickr, twitter and the like by having control over them, there are a lot of different recipes and links to follow. This presumes that you will use the tools with care, though and a willingness to learn. I’d argue that it is also good fun. here are a few tips of my own.

Know RSS from your elbow

RSS is still useful, an old trailing edge technology I still find my RSS reader better that twitter for finding interesting things to read. Perhaps because things pile up rather than steam by, perhaps because I follow around 2000 folk but have only a couple of hundred feeds or so in my reader.

One of the things I look forward to each week is Doug’s newsletter, Things I We Learned This Week. It is an email list, but I subscribe in my RSS reader, I’ll leave any readers to work out how this is done:-) I’ve also got siftlinks hooked up to my twitter account, this give me a feed of tweets with links from my timeline, it also gives me a feed for my favourites with links. This is great, I use the favourite button in twitter to give feedback to folk (I liked this) and to ‘save’ interesting things. IFTT has several recipies that will convert stuff to RSS so you may find something useful there.

The nice thing about RSS is you can move from laptop to desktop to mobile and keep reading the content. The other major factor for me is how inoreader (web) and FeeddlerPro (iOS) allow me to post links to twitter, tumblr and more importantly to pinboard.

Email is still interesting

I go out of my way to get Doug’s mail in my feed reader because it is content I want to hold onto for a while, but there are an increasing number of email services that provide reading, link or a mix, katexic clippings being a favourite example at the moment. Email lists are also a great way to get information pushed to you from a group.

Play with new things

Along with the old trailing edge technology.

As twitter and facebook and flickr evolve watch out for the new things that are popping up all over the place, I am currently kicking the tyres of Fargo, known and keeping half a eye on Little Facebook Editor. Both known and Little Facebook Editor can post to silos and other spaces, WordPress for LFE and known published to itself and optionally twitter, flickr and Facebook. I am pretty sure that I’ll not adopt these tools for major stuff anytime soon, but it is good to keep up with some different ways of doing thing.

Update, I didn’t post this yesterday because I got distracted by MDwiki, and ended up building a quick test wiki in my dropbox.

I’ve just made my first post on Glow Connect.

Glow Connect is the information portal for Glow – a space for providing updates on the development and enhancement of the service and for sharing how teachers are using Glow. 

This Glow Connect will be a central area for keeping up with glow development.

Here is the contents of the post:

Glow Blogs Update August 2014

I’ve made a few posts over the summer about the Glow Blog migration, which give a bit more detail about what is happening:
Glow Blogs Summer 2014
Blog Migration Notes: Users
Glow Blog Migration Notes: e-Portfolios

This is a further update.

The blog migration project is well underway. There are three or four main chunks of work that need to be completed. The first development, by Code for the People, has been making exceptional progress. The hosting procurement has been completed, removing a bit of worry. Plans for migration of the data from the old servers to the new environment are well under way and some exploratory work is being carried out. Test plans are coming together nicely, and it is great to watch the whole project coming to life.

My role as product owner is making a bit more sense, and it is delightful to work back and forward with the folk building the requirements, developing and getting ready for testing. The attention to detail by the members of the blog team gives me confidence that we are creating a great ‘product’.

There is still a planned content freeze. This will cover the time the data leaves the RM servers and is installed and set running on the new servers. It is expected that this will be around a week. Given that the data being transported is sensitive it will need to be handled with care, encrypted and unencrypted. We are hoping to be able to give plenty of warning around the time of the content freeze. We also hope to have a plugin in place in the existing blogs that will add a message about this to the dashboard of every blog.

The continues to be a risk that the migration will not be complete before the old servers are turned off on the 3rd of October which could result in some downtime, however we are managing this risk very closely.

In summary, we’re making good progress and I will keep you updated on Glow Connect.

I’ve been posting some glow blogs information here, so in the future I’ll probably cross post in the two places.

I am not sure where I saw this technique mentioned first, it might have been: Build cheap panning camera mounts for time lapse photography, but there are plenty of other links: stop motion pano ikea timer – Google Search

Pretty simple idea, you use a cheap ikea kitchen timer with some stop motion app, I used iMotion HD.

The above is not a very long one, the midges made it pretty short. Here is the setup:


As part of the week 1 of P2PU Why Open? course participants were invited to join David Wiley on a google hangout (Why Open session with David Wiley). I could not make the live stream so have just finished watching the archive.

I’ve also posted the audio ripped from the session, with permission, over at EDUtalk.cc (As usual I find audio easier to access than video).

These are a few of the things that I found interesting in the hangout, not in any order and very much my own interpretation.

David is the founder of OpenContent.org, among many other things and a expert on open content and open educational resources.

Throughout the talk David focused on the pragmatic rather than the idealistic, on what would make an impact over what was right or righteous.

He started talking about the difference between the Free Software movement and the Open source movement, and how Richard Stallmam’s Four Freedoms inspired all the openness that followed. David’s view is that Open is less do do with correctness & morality and more practical.

David say Free involves a bit of moral grandstanding, giving no place for proprietary software. Open says open is practical and we can choose not to be open which is not morally bad.

The other side of the argument is laid out here: Why Open Source Misses the Point of Free Software – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation and The Four Freedoms from Matt Mullenweg are worth considering from the pov of the practicality of Free Software.

David talked of the Berne Convention that in 1886 changed the face of copyright:

Under the Convention, copyrights for are automatically in force upon their creation without being asserted or declared. An author need not “register” or “apply for” a copyright in countries adhering to the Convention. As soon as a work is “fixed”, that is, written or recorded on some physical medium, its author is automatically entitled to all copyrights in the work and to any derivative works, unless and until the author explicitly disclaims them or until the copyright expires.

from: Berne Convention – Wikipedia.

This switch the default from you are ok to copy to you are not. If you publish something you need to legally state wish to share. This leads to existing material with unknown copyright is not being published.

David works with the Open Content Definition which uses the 5 Rs the rights to Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute. The Retain right has been added to address, and highlight, the problem of business models that control access, eg, stream media.

David gave a few examples of the practicality of open, obviously OERs are cheaper than textbooks, but a major gain in moving towards open might be in higher where the movement to competency based course is slowly gaining ground. The argument is that these competencies are slow to develop and the process could be speeded up by opening the competencies. Open assessments would be another area to explore.

Someone in the hangout expressed the worry that publishing in the open would be less useful from an employability angle than publishing to well established (and paywalled) publication. David discussed the idea of the impact of publishing on the open demonstrating with Google Scholar the number of times open publications are cited as compared to paywalled ones. Publishing in open will maximise the number of people reading so giving a better chance of making an impact. Again the outcome was more important than the philosophy.

Exploring another tension, that of Open vs Connected, David proposed that connected is a vice when taken to extremes. For example there are now so many resources in google it is hard to identify the best resources. More nodes and connections becomes noise at some point. Curation and structure needed on top of connected. Curation is biggest value that faculty brings to learning. Neither open or connected should not be their own end.

My own practise of working/blogging/learning in the open is based on a fairly fluffy feel good factor. I’ve found over the years that this has had a positive effect on myself and learners I work with. I covered this in a previous post. I now feel that it will be important to start to try and bring openness more formally into my day to day work and made small steps in that direction today. Instead of looking for good vibes I’ll be trying to introduce open where it can make an impact.

A lot of educational research, and I am going to choose my words carefully here, was utterly guff, was utterly, utterly guff, by that I mean, was complete speculation, rhetoric or opinion dressed up as science.

Tom Bennett talking on Radio #EDUtalk.

Radio Edutalk got off to a flying start last night with a great show. I am sure if the fact I was not near a mic had anything to do with this;-)

David talked to Tom Bennett about research in education. Stirring stuff, I nodded along to the trashing of Brain Gym and the like and the podcast gave lots of food for thoughts. A couple of places I really wished I had been near a mic:
One round Tom’s idea that teachers should not be researchers. We have talked to a fair number of folk doing action research on Edutalk and I think their experience is valuable?

The other was picked up from a couple of different sections of the podcast, in one Tom talked about the conferences he is organising being a place teacher could work things out from themselves away from the influence of councils (I am paraphrasing here). Later he suggested that chains of Academies, were big enough to carry out scientific research. My Local Authority hat wanted to asks if he would consider LAs suitable bodies to organise research perhaps in conjunction with nearby Universities. I guess I am knee jerking against Academy chains and there is possibly Tom is not as aware as the Scottish system of Local Authorities.

Lost Puppy

Lost Puppy flickr image by Tim Shields Creative Commons – CC BY-NC 2.0

Here are some notes around the effect that the glow blog migration will have on e-portfolios hosted on the WordPress instances. There are two main things to consider, users/members of blogs and links to access blogs.

User Management Issues

We are currently migrating the blogs, including e-portfolio blogs, to a new WordPress Server initially running the same version of WordPress 2.9.2

The set up will mirror the existing set up, an instance for each Local Authority. The URLs will stay the same.
The permission on the blogs and their private/glow only/ public setting will stay the same.
Only users who have previously visited the blogs while logged onto glow will have the same access.

Going forward the settings for blogs will be handled in the blog rather than Sharepoint. This is partially because the new Sharepoint is cloud based and cannot be customised in the same way as the old glow portal and partially because of the advantages of having blogs stand on their own two feet (see below for details).

Users who were granted roles on a blog though the old glow group in which the blog was created, but have never visited the blog will have to be added again. (There is no trace of these users in WordPress and therefore no way of migrating them). You can mitigate against this providing problems by asking those users to visit the blogs before the switchover. After migration Admin Users will be able to add these (or any other) users in in the blog admin dashboard.

I’ve covered more about User Management in a previous post: Blog Migration Notes: Users.

Finding your e-Portfolio

If users followed the advice on setting up glow blogs as e-Portfolios they would have created a group in the old glow portal to hold links to groups of e-portfolios. After the switch over to the new authentication in early October (3rd) the old portal will not be there.

There will be a need for teacher and pupils to be able to access blogs there are a few possibilities in the short term.

  • Lists created before the portal was migrated to O365 will still be there in your O365 group.They will be buried in the migrated content but can be resurrected.
  • You could copy and paste the list from old glow and paste into a new glow group.
  • You could recreate the lists. This would be my favoured option as I would distribute the work to pupils.

For the third approach you would need to create a space when pupils could add their e-portfolio URLs. This could be a links list in O365 or a share word document in OneDrive. Pupils would need to have permissions set so that they could add to the links or have edit permission on the document.

As a teacher I would not use links like this, too much work. I would bookmark them in my browser and put all the bookmarks in a folder. I could then log on to glow and open the folder of links in tabs. This would after a wee wait give me a set of tabs that I could quickly go through to visit each portfolio without clicks.

Post Migration Development

After migration it intended to move into phase 2 which will be an upgrade of the blog software from 2.9.2 to 3.9

Phase 3 will include improvements to the service, adding plugins and themes to increase functionality.

In Phase 3 it is the intention to improve the setup of e-portfolio blogs by improving the setup, improving how posts are organised and how the profiles are produced from those posts.
It hoped that this work should be completed by March 2015

WordPress only

The main advantages with moving the set up of blogs and e-portfolios away from Sharepoint to the WordPress server itself will be:

  • We will be able to keep the WordPress install a lot more up to date. This will allow users to benefit from new features as these are added to WordPress. With the old glow blogs it seems that it was to hard to upgrade WordPress.
  • The setup of e-portfolios will be shortened. currently I find it takes around an hour to go through the setup with a class of pupils assuming each pupil has access to a computer/device. Removing the Sharepoint element of the blogs will speed things up in the short term.
  • In the medium term the new blogs should let us develop new functionality which will speed things up even more and reduce the opportunities for making mistakes.
  • We should also be able to develop the portfolio functionality of the blogs though plugins. This could make the organisation of posts and production of the profile snapshot simpler.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the glow blog migration.

flickr photo by krystian_o Attribution License

43/365 by krystian_o Attribution License

TL:DR I’ve just migrated my blog, please let me know if you find broken things and I’ll try and fix them.

In the midst of the glowblogs migration project I am involved in professional I’ve been working on a wee migration of my own. For the past nine years I’ve been blogging using pivot (later pivotx) this weekend I’ve moved to WordPress.


I started using pivot back in 2004 as my class blog mainy because it did not need a database on the website and then that cost a bit more. I stuck to it as I found it easy to theme, and adapt for various classroom projects. It seemed fairly natural to use the same system myself.

Pivotx seems to be changing but quite slowly, the promise of pivot 4 was from 2012.

I’ve been attracted to several interesting WordPress technologies and plugins and now use it for edutalk, ScotEduBlogs and my ds106 blog. The feedwordpress plugin is of especial interest.

A wish to eat my own dog food given I am promoting WordPress for glow.


Originally I though of turning the whole site/domain to WordPress, to include my ds106 blog: 106 drop in, but that looked a wee bit to tricky at the moment. I also have a bunch of straightforward html pages and experiments which I want to leave in place. Also there are a few challenges to moving the pivot posts to WordPress that seemed enough for now.

There is not a simple pivotx imported for wordpress, I found Migrating your blog from PivotX to WordPress | filmvanalledag which looked as if it was a near fit, but missed out tags and comments. I’ve also been using disqus comments for my blog but wanted to move to standard ones without losing disqus.

That filmvanalledag post gave me a great start with example.org/?feed=rss&c=*&n=10000 I used this to download the rss feed for all of my posts (>800).

I decided that the RSS import would lose all my tags and comments so went for another approach. I have a bit of experience with kludging together a standard WordPress import from other things. This is probably of little interest to anyone but myself, but briefly I use SuperCard to creat a simple pseudo database of the rss add in the missing keywords by downloading them directly from the database and then manipulate it into a wordpress friendly format, for example getting the tag list like this:


Directly from the database and turning it into:

<category domain="post_tag" nicename="glowscotland"><![CDATA[glowscotland]]></category>
<category domain="post_tag" nicename="glowscot"><![CDATA[glowscot]]></category>
<category domain="post_tag" nicename="blogging"><![CDATA[blogging]]></category>
<category domain="post_tag" nicename="wordpress"><![CDATA[wordpress]]></category>
<category domain="category" nicename="wwwd"><![CDATA[wwwd]]></category>
<category domain="category" nicename="jj"><![CDATA[jj]]></category>

For each post.

I tested the import of my export on a local version of wordpress and also worked out some htaccess stuff.
My old blog links were like this: http://johnjohnston.info/blog/?e=2462 and wordpress expects this http://johnjohnston.info/blog/?p=2462.

It took me a fair bit of googling and testing to get something that worked, although not quite correctly, http://johnjohnston.info/?e=2464 once I turned on pretty links goes to http://johnjohnston.info/blag/what-is-openness/?e=2464, not removing the ?e=2464, ?p=2464 works properly. Once tested I created a new WordPress on the site, at /blag, set it up, did a little more testing and have just moved it to /blog after changing the urls in the General Settings Screen.

The other main problem was that I was using disqus for my comments on the old blog and being a packrat I did not want to leave them behind. So I’ve added a bit of logic to this new blog where older posts will display the disqus form and any comments but going forward I’ll use the standard WordPress ones. I can’t see any way to import the old disqus comments into WordPress at this point.

There are more things to fix, and I’ll try to pick these up as I go along. After that I’ll be looking to play around with some wordpress plugins and the like.

Rescued  from Fargo or littleoutliner? 1 Apr 2019 original 15 Aug 2014

First Munro for a while. Cloudy but warm, clouds mostly above munro height. An Caisteal Cairn
In the Belach Bundie 4 ravens kept me entertained with a few acrobatics, croaking and making a popping sound I’d not heard before.

Hills without end.

Down to the bealach

Trying a slowshutter iphone app shot.
Falloch, slow cam

An Caisteal & Beinn a Chroin – an album on Flickr and 16-08-2014-An Caisteal and Beinn a Chroin. A couple of other ways to tell a walk.

View Larger Map

Over on week 1 of P2PU Why Open? course the question is:

What do you think “openness” is? Focusing on your own field or context (if you wish), describe what it means to do work openly, or to make one’s activity or artifacts open. Alternatively, you could talk about what you think “openness” means generally, what sort of definition might fit all open activities or works.

What follows are some rather scrappy notes on my first reactions to the question. I’ve blogged a bit about openness before too.

Blogging in the Open

My own field is education, I am a primary teacher now involved in staff development and ict support. To work openly means to me several things:

  • To be able to publish my thoughts and idea without permission (limited by social norms, employment and the law).
  • To put things in my own space not to be tied down to a silo or format.
  • To be able to sink or swim in the internet ocean, the majority of my posts here sink, a few tweets and then down to the Davy Jones locker of archived posts. But that allows me to write what I like, no one is paying for it.
  • For pupils as well as teachers and everyone else there can be amazing connections made by being out in the open online. Here is a video I made for Alan Levine’s True Stories of Open Sharing to give examples of the benefits of working in the open, where I describe one example of goodness that came to my class of 10 year olds by working in the open.

Apologies for the quality of the video, made in too much of a hurry.

Playing in the Open

To play openly is just as important to me, I learn about my field of interest in education, the digital, by playing. Playing in the open give me the same gains as listed above but emphasises:

  • The ability to play freely with others, sharing ideas, copying, riffing and remixing.
  • Talking across domains, I am learning/playing with psychologists, artists, teachers without worrying too much about labels. Being in the open leads to serendipitous connections that would not be made if we kept our activity or artefacts in walled gardens, or our own hard drives.

I’ve a rather long post lurking in my mind about the learning I’ve being doing around GIF FIGHT!!. On the surface a rather silly game of creating gifs played among people who should know better. It turns out I’ve learned more about manipulating graphics than in numerous unfinished tutorials. In addition I’ve learned a lot about learning through play, interacting online and how I learn myself.
Emblem 1.4

More Seriously

Open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.  In addition, open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens.

from: Scottish Open Education Declaration seems about right to me.

Recently I’ve been challenged a bit about the idea of open being the preferred mode of working online, I am hoping that if I stick to the Why Open? course I’ll be able t ogive less anecdotal answers.

The Whole Gang, 50 Days old by Dean Searle Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

There is some background to this project in a previous post: Glow Blogs Summer 2014.

Before the migration of the glow portal Education Scotland suggested that schools did some pruning and tidying of their glow groups to make migration easier (less data) and so that users had less to sort through and sort out on the other end.

As the date for migration of blog gets nearer a few folk have been asking me about what is going happen to their blogs, if there is anything that they should be doing and what will change. This post will try and address some of the questions.

You should not need to do any pruning and tidying of your blogs. The intention is to migrate everything as is to the new system. I was always surprised to be asked about tidying up and deleting old posts from school and class blogs. for me a blog is for life, it is a positive that I could dive back into the archive and see some of what I was doing years ago.

The blog only knows about users that have visited already

One of the biggest changes will be the decoupling of the blogs from the old glow groups. In the current, old, system the users and permissions of those users are set inside the glow group that the blog was created in. Those groups will go away. After migration you blog will not be able to refer to the old sharepoint group to find out who has permission do do things (view, post, carry out admin tasks) the only users it will know about are ones who have already visited the blog when logged into glow.

For example:

  • Teacher A has set up a blog in the old glow for herself and 2 colleagues, Teacher B and Teacher C (not their real names) to share links about their subject with pupils.
  • Teacher A is the blog admin and The other two are contributors.
  • The blog is a public blog so anyone in the world can view it.
  • Teacher B has already added a couple of links by creating posts on the blog.
  • Teacher C has yet to log on to the blog.
  • After the switch over to the new authentication system and the blog migration Teacher A and B can log on, Teacher A is still an admin and Teacher B can log on and create posts.
  • When Teacher C tries to log on there is no entry in the WordPress database for him as having a role in this blog. If he has never used any glow blog he will not be in the database at all. Teacher C will not be able to log on or create posts.
  • At that point Teacher A will be able to log on to the dashboard, go to the users screen and add Teacher C as a contributor.

To avoid this scenario Teacher C would need to log on to the blog before the migration.

Japenese Spaniel by Muzik Hounds Attribution-NonCommercial License

New User Management

Going forward on the blog service the user management will be in the WordPress dashboard not in glow groups. This will develop over time. We are trying to have a system that is not dependent on other parts of the system, In the old glow the blogs were very much hooked into sharepoint in a way that made it difficult to upgrade. We ended up using a very out of date version of WordPress. In the future we should be able to keep the blog system up to date.

Unfortunately the standard WordPress user management is not really suitable for use in glow. This is based round email messages to add users to a particular blog. If for example 200 second years add their teachers to their e-portfolio blogs to allow them to see them each teacher added would get an email from each blog and have to click the link in the email to finish the process. It also requires you to add one user at a time. This is not sutiable and will not happen.

For the first stage of the new blog service the developers will add functionality so that if I add a user to my blog with a particular role they will be added but the email message will not be sent and the user will not need to confirm the addition. The interface will be changes so that I can add a list of glow usernames rather than just one at a time.

The main problem in this scenario will be finding out usernames. This is being dealt with by another team in the glow program. It may not be ready in time for the switchover. In that case it may be necessary to gather usernames is a manual way (get them sent in an email, find them in O365 or even get them written down on a bit of paper. Then make a list in a document to paste into the blog admin screen, save the doc).

It is planned that the class set functionality that was present in the old glow groups will be redeveloped. The second stage for the blogs will be that the class sets service will be an area where teachers can search for a class and them copy a list of usernames to paste into the user management screen in the dashboard of their blog.

The third development will be to bring the class set functionality into the user management screen directly. This will happen in the third phase of the blog migration and upgrade.

As the functionality is developed we will be able to make user guides for this process.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about the glow blog migration.