Mozilla Webmaker

Webmaker moz

Mozilla Webmaker seems to have improved a lot since I last looked. In Doug Belshaw’s Things I Learned This Week newsletter, recently, he pointed out that thimble now supported JavaScript, I went over to lok and found that the site now lists your productions:
Search – for johnjohnston. I knocked up a couple of quick JavaScript examples: 5Dogs & flipcard, the later being an old one.


OpenShift by Red Hat, this is pretty amazing:

OpenShift Online is Red Hat’s public cloud application development and hosting platform that automates the provisioning, management and scaling of applications so that you can focus on writing the code for your business, startup, or next big idea.

What that means is you can easily and cheaply (first 3 free), set up websites with applications. It is pretty geeky for a teacher but there are plenty of instructions, and they work.

I gave it a quick test last week and managed to get a ‘server’ up and running with etherpad is short order: Etherpad Lite. Not sure what I’ll use that for, but I can delete it and start something else if I get to the max of 3 apps.

Openshif wp map

Slightly more useful, on an email list I am on someone asked how, using iPads, could a set of pupils construct a resource with a map and pins with images, text and video. I though this could be done with
WordPress a plugin and google maps. OpenShift allowed me to test this very quickly:

  1. Set Up a new app
  2. Installed WordPress
  3. Added the MyGeoposition plugin
  4. Added some posts and used the plugin interface to add positions to these posts.
  5. Knocked up a quick google maps page to display the blogs RSS, which now had geo info.
  6. Added that to the blog

Here is the blog and the map.

OpenShift made it practical to turn a bit of simple blue-sky thinking into reality.

I am not suggesting that everyone should dive over to openshift and start playing. You need a slight friendship with the terminal, at least have heard of ssh and git (I’ve used ssh a we bit setting up the piratebox and a raspberryPi, heard of git). If you do, the possibilities for trying things out are wide open.

I’ve come across a couple of new, simple to use, almost throw away blogging tools recently:


Throwww – The Simplest Blog. An example post: Minimal Blogging engines –

Throwww is the easiest way to write something and share it. Just start writing, post it, and share the url.

Posts on Throww can be tied to your twitter account, as my examples, or anonymous.


Authpad my example
Minimal Blogging engines – johnjohnston’s Pad.

Authpad (beta) is a frictionless approach to blogging. Our goal is to take away any distraction that keeps you from focusing on what’s important — producing quality content.

Authpad has more of a traditional username/password setup, comments via disqus and themes.

Both support markdown for writing and work on iOS (I tested with an iPad).

Both also get away from the relative complexity of most blogging platform’s ‘dashboards’ and editors. Authpad has a slightly less minimal editor, as it has a toolbar:

Authpad Toolbar

Whereas with throwww you just type on the home page. Once you type a bit the Save button and a Formatting Help link show up, the latter will give you markdown help.

Authpad also gives you an option to publish as website or a blog style.



Both, in my limited testing, are straightforward and easy to use. I an not sure that they are tools for the classroom, markdown and hosting images elsewhere might be a wee bit complex for pupils. They might fit with some teachers for their own publishing, certainly they are quick to use.

I am also not sure where they fit with the current trend to reclaim ones data from web 2, or a Domain of One’s Own or Un-Web 2.0 which I am finding interesting at the moment.

A couple of other similar things, Calepin which I’ve not tried and which I tested a while back: John Johnston |

I’ve been a big posterous fan since June 29, 2008 since then I’ve blog with and about posterous a lot.

More importantly it is at the heart of EDUtalk where there are over 600 posts of educational podcast episodes of course Radio Edutalk.

Six weeks ago posterous was aquired by twitter and I had some Posterous Worries. I am now more worried as a few things have happened.

  1. The stuff that makes the domain work with our edutalk posterous site broke. A bit of reading and guess work got it fixed. The real worry was that both a tweet and email to posterous got no response. In the past I have been amazed at the quick reaction by the posterous team to both problems and suggestions, to help with SLFtalk, the precursor to EDUtalk they added a feature to their API overnight.
  2. Over the last couple of weeks the posterous API 1 for posting seems to have broken. AudioBoos tagged edutalk are normally posted to edutalk via the api by a script. This has stopped working, admittedly I am still using the depreciated API 1 rather than the new one, but as far as I know, the old one was just meant to keep working.
  3. When posting audioboos and phlogs to edutalk we relied on the fact that a url to an mp3 file would result in the posterous player being used to allow the audio to be played. This seems to have stopped working.

I know that we have been lucky to have a wonderful tool like posterous for free. I expected it to go pro at some point and would have been more than happy to pay for the service. I pay for hosting for this and other sites, I pay for flickr…

I am not sure where to go for this, in the last Posterous Worries post I listed the features that we need. I’ve asked the question on Quora: Is there another service like posterous which allows anyone to email content and has an API? – Quora. I’ve still not got an idea.

Some of this I guess we could sort with wordpress and some plugins. The disk space for large files will be a problem. The submit audio via email will be a problem. I am open to ideas?

I have found Posterous Backup Tool for Mac and spent the £2.49 in the mac app store. This worked a treat and I now have 600 odd posts and the audio that was posted to edutalk (not audioboo or ipadio files) in a >1GB backup, I just need to figure out what to do with it.

Birds of a Feather by EJP Photo
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Recently I’ve played with 3 ways of collating tweets:


Storify allows you to search lots of social media and pull content together, I noticed Doug Belshaw using it and gave it a whirl for some twitter activity around and episode of Radio Edutalk: Radio Edutalk 20111124 · johnjohnston · Storify. Storify is pretty simple to use there is a side bar search where you can search across different social networks:


Once you have found something you just drag it into the story.

List Of Tweets

List Of Tweets lets you search for tweets and gives you an HTML or plain text list:

  • Has anyone worked out an Acceptable Use Policy? What if students draw rude cartoons? #pencilchat
    Fri Dec 02 23:17:52 +0000 2011 from simon_elliott
  • So, we invested heavily on pencils, a pencil per student, but test scores are still low! Pencils do not do what they promised! #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 07:23:29 +0000 2011 from amberwalraven
  • RT @KathyPerret: Is the iPencil dangerous to students? Will it poke out their eye? What safety measure need to be taken? #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 07:22:42 +0000 2011 from RavingOstrich
  • Our school doesn’t know how to handle pencils, so we banned them. We will first give each teacher a course on holding a pencil. #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 07:11:59 +0000 2011 from amberwalraven
  • As a teacher I have less knowledge about pencils than my students. I fear students will laugh at me when I try to use them. #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 07:04:04 +0000 2011 from amberwalraven
  • So using pencils, students could write something bad about other student or teacher and post it on a notice board – I’m outraged #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 06:38:28 +0000 2011 from roballen101
  • Many schools forced to use GlowintheDark pencils for their mail. But would prefer ordinary ones – these are to be removed. #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 06:38:19 +0000 2011 from PhysicsNick
  • RT @GeorgeSwain: Does anyone know of a good program that teachers can use to monitor/limit what kids do with pencils in the classroom? #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 05:48:58 +0000 2011 from KarenMahonMimio
  • RT @swpax: What about the students who can’t write due to physical disabilities? could we somehow automate this pencil thing? #pencilchat
    Mon Dec 05 05:45:01 +0000 2011 from KarenMahonMimio
  • RT @mcleod: If kids can write information down on paper, soon they won’t be able to remember anything in their heads anymore #pencilchat
    Sun Dec 04 12:45:39 +0000 2011 from OlsonKirsten

Nice and simple, easy enough to style the list.

Exquisite Tweets

Exquisite Tweets has had a fair bit of linkage, it trys to catch related tweets (replies I guess) but you can paste in links to individual tweets, here is a rather strange conversation I today: Exquisite Tweets from johnjohnston, BTCare. I’ve still not heard from BT officially but tweeting seems to have fixed my line.


If you feel the need to capture a bit of twitterage yes. I’ve not clicked the link to tell me how much of my life I’ve spent on twitter yet, but for other folks results if we spend so much time on there some of that life must be worth keeping.

Update Aaron’s Twitter Viewer

7 DEC: Just noticed Aaron’s Twitter Viewer on Daring Fireball Linked List: Aaron’s Twitter Viewer

Unfortunately site has been overwhelmed by Fireball readers so I couldn’t try it out. Here is the DF example: Twitter conversation with aaronsw. Iy looks neater than exquisite tweets.

Last week at work (North Lanarkshire Educational ICT & Technical Services) we were being supported by Oggy East of Semantise, who is helping update the setup of our school websites. Oggy is an expert in FirstClass which NLC uses for emails, collaboration & school websites.

My colleague Ian suggested that Oggy entertain me with his interesting career path. This passed through doctoral study, pub management and educational technology.

At one point Oggy started telling me about an educational project he had worked on. This involved collaboration between pupils in the UK and France. They used text based chat to talk (alternating languages), translated each others horoscopes, passed audio and video files back and forth helped each other produce CVs and more. As I was becoming more and more excited about the project Ian suggested that Oggy tell me when this happened: 1998.


I got Oggy to record a quick podcast about this project for EDUtalk which you can listen to: Dialogue 2000 Electronic Village

Oggy is also involved in the wonderful Not School 1. I got a podcast out of Oggy about this too: Not School – EDUtalk.


The fact that Oggy was successfully involved in the kind of project that is still seen as innovative 14 years later is telling. I remember in 2005 feeling very proud of jumping of the blog wagon with my class the previous year and meeting Peter Ford who had pupils blogging several years before that. We had a flowering of blogging in Scotland in 2006 and this year pupil blogging has been hitting the headlines again.

What is interesting is that quite often these bit of innovation don’t seem to be connected, wheels are reinvented.

I wonder when ideas of audience, purpose, collaboration and connection using technology will really become part of the mainstream. Perhaps Glow, with all is faults, is driving this in Scotland. I certainly hope so.

1.I became aware of not school when I went to Be Very Afraid and was very impressed by the Flash skills of the a Not School ‘student’.

A couple of weeks ago I watched Doug‘s video How I Use a MacBook Pro on of the ways he discussed was a very new (beta) service ifttt.

ifttt stand for If This Then That and I requested a beta invite that arrived a day of three later. I’ve now had a look over the site and set up my first task.

1st Ifttt

This is a simple one, if I tag a link on delicious with @comment it will be tweeted (Hopefully with commenting at: ). I post @comment tagged links to delicious with a keyboard short cut so the whole thing should be painless.

This is a really trivial use of ifttt, and I can see a lot of more powerful uses for the service. I like this sort of thing, the way posterous post stuff on to flickr, twitter and this blog for example.

We also do a little of the same sort of thing with, auto posting audioboos tagged edutalk to the moderation queue.

In fact my first thoughs were that ifttt could replace my rather clunky system for doing this. Unfortunately, at the moment ifttt only supports posting text to your main posterous blog and as far as I could see will not post to the moderation queue. I was also looking at posting my shared google reader to a new posterous blog but as it is not my mail one this will not work yet.

I am saying yet as the service seems to be developing quickly. I did manage to create a task to post my google reader shared items onto my tumblr blog (I’d almost forgotten that one). I usually star/like stuff in google reader to check later but will now try to share ’em too to see how ifttt works out.

Finally I really love the interface of ifttt, very clean with huge text and icons. The process to create a new task is very simple with a fair bit of possible customisation:

ifttt action field

I am looking forward to seeing how ittt develops.

Update:I seem to have flooded ScotEduBlogs with my tumblr posts. I’d forgotten that it was listed there. Apologies. I’ve now removed the blog from SEB.

iPad stand by tim_d
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

I was pretty impressed with the iPad 2 which was launched this week. Some nice new features and the speed bumps especially in JavaScript sound good.

I’ve continued to test an iPad and this week I spent a wee bit of time using it to access glow. I’ve talked to a few pupils who access glow at home using an ipod touch, and have occasionally used my iPhone, but find it a bit of a strain on the eyes (The pupils I’ve talked to don’t seem to have the same problem).

On an iPad Glow works pretty well. The iPads limitation on now allowing file (picture) uploads in the browser is a bit of a draw back but a lot of the other feature are fine. Editing webparts works as well as it does on Safari on a mac. The text editor continues to frustrate me but I am resigned to avoiding it use by now.

I successfully posted to my glow blog: iPad Glow blogging without trouble. Again I could not upload photos, but it is easy to workaround using flickr, I used my flickr CC search toy which did the job and sorted the attribution.

The WYSIWYG editor did not work, but I was please to see that the html editor respected line breaks, adding paragraphs. typing <p> with an iPad is a bit slow.

I also tried using the iPad to edit a wiki page. Again WYSIWYG was turned off and this time there was no auto paragraphing. Again I could paste in the embed code for a flickr photo. The font size was a wee bit small for me, but would be fine for most youngsters.

What it would be nice to see would be support for the MetaWeblog API in glow blogs, this would allow the use of various apps to post to a glow blog. I guess it is hard to enable this due to the way glow accounts are matched to wordpress ones through shibboleth, if RM can manage this it would be make glow blogs a powerful tool for mobile learning.


On Thursday there was a fair bit of tweeting about delicious shutting down. TechCrunch blogged Is Yahoo Shutting Down (this post is now updated).

The first thing I did was backup my delicious links.

I’ve got several years worth of delicious links so was a wee bit worried. I also prefer delicious to any other system for saving links I’d seen. It is simple, the interface is clean, the network is useful without turning into another social thing and the API and scripts are useful. I have also used the delicious tools to display sets of links on various webpages (quite a lot in glow) which I don’t want to hunt down and change.

There have been a lot of suggestions for delicious replacements Diigo seems to be a favourite. I looked at this a while ago and, for reasons I can quite recall (probably lack of simplicity), I didn’t stick with it, although a lot of education folk use it. I downloaded Scuttle again and though about setting this opensource delicious like site up but I’ve not done so yet.

Delicious Pinboard

Yesterday I signed up for pinboard this cost about £5 to signup which I hope will mean the service will not go away. I imported my exported delicious link.

I choose pinboard mainly for its delicious like simplicity and the fact it supports the delicious API.

Today things look a little brighter for delicious: delicious blog » What’s Next for Delicious? but I am quite happy to have paid my fiver. I’ve set pinboard to add any new links I post to delicious and set up an email address to post links from my phone. There looks like there are a few more useful features to explore later. I’ll keep using delicious at the moment and see how things go. It is, I feel, a good thing to get occasional reminders about our reliance on free services and to get the opportunity to pay for ones we really need.

I guess this will be blogged and tweeted a fair bit, 3 years ago I hopeful posted:

Unfortunately I have found navigating the discussions very clunky. lots of scrolling and clicking, neither of the two views let you read and respond with out a lot of clicking.
It is hard to follow discussions that you have started and taken part in, as there is not ‘my discussions’ or even a search. There is no recent discussions list either so to see if a discussion has be updated you need to dig down into the various threads. The date on the threads is not the date that the last addition to the tread or sub thread was made.
I really hope that this can be improved on by the time the portal goes live.

Today I woke to a barrage of tweets about glow forums. Glow forums are are forum setup on glow using the popular phpBB Open Source forum solution. Like many other internet users I am already familiar with phpBB which is a vast improvement over Glow discussions.

Of course this will have training implications for glow users who have spent time getting their heads round Glow discussions but I for one will be a lot happier showing folk how to use the new forums than I ever have been waffling round the previous tools shortcomings.

With blogs and wikis due to be added this session I will not have much room to moan about glow anymore.


A while back I posted a quote from the guardian The long tail of blogging is dying which put forward the idea that a lot of blogs were going away as twitter and other easy stuff took over. Commenting was on the way out as tweeting a link or quick comment requires little work.

I think that is what is happening to me, it has been 4 weeks since I posted here, in that time I’ve made half a dozen or so posts to John’s posterous (very easily done) and at least 100 tweets.
In that time I’ve had ideas for about half a dozen blog posts, this being one. While it is easy to blog in my head, getting it into a fashion other will be able to read it take time, other things are easier.

Twitter seems to me to be affecting two aspects of blogging, commenting and reading.


Twitter certainly seems to be cutting down on the comments generally, I’ve notice a wee drop here (from few to fewer;-), and this quote from Jeff Utecht via Graham Wegner:

Because of Twitters live constant scrolling feed, we also talked about how the “life span” of a blog post is shrinking. I use to get comments on a blog post lasting weeks. Now I post a blog, it gets a comment or maybe two in a the first 10 minutes, gets retweeted for about 20 minutes and then it’s old news.

is a little worrying blog posts have always been in danger of being forgotten due to there date stamp, but 20 minutes is quite a short life span.

Graham Wegner’s Post explains how he is not too worried about this, happy in his own place (and quotes a nice cartoon), much struck a chord with me and started me thinking about my own blog/tweet mix.

I’ve noted over the last year or so, posts that attract a fair number of tweets and no comments. These tweets, like comments can add value to a post, but are now lost or at least disconnected from the original post. I’ve not seen a good tool to aggregate tweets and add them to a blog post.
Posterous has quite a nice facility in its comment system, you can tweet the comment, but it would be nice to see the opposite, the creating of comments by tweets.

My own commenting has shrunk and I am now making a more of an effort to comment rather that just think/tweet about it.


I do much of my blog reading via NetNewsWire which helps me keep up with quite a few blogs and store various posts (like the one quoted above) for later though and re-reading. I when I changed jobs I had even more time on the train to keep up with my feeds, but I am now driving most of the time and starting to rely more on twitter for posts to read. This can lead to missing many valuable things, if something is tweeted and not blogged it can disappear very quickly indeed, especially as we seem to be following more and more folk.

Today I read a blog post Catch Up Post – Part 2 – #weather_me « The H-Blog pointing to weather tweets in UK. which looks like a fantastic resource for discussing weather in the classroom. Following links to the developers blog I found a thank you to many twitter users for feedback and suggestions. I estimate I know about half of these but had missed all the tweeting that must have gone on a month ago. I also had not added the blog to NetNewsWire, I’ve done so now. The blog is also one of the Scottish EduBlogs not listed, as far as I see, on ScotEduBlogs.
I’ve had the same experience many times, finding a link from tweet by someone who is not usually awake at the same time as me and following the trail. This makes me wonder how much more I miss.

Of course twitter is in a lot of ways useful easy and fun, from the now 14 posts here tagged twitter I’ve had a lot of value from twitter and its API, but I am wondering how to make the best of both worlds.

A Plan

  • Check my feed reader more often.
  • Add blogs to my reader when I find them from twitter.
  • Comment more, if appropriate invite bloggers to add their blogs to ScotEduBlogs.
  • Add my delicious Network‘s RSS feed to newsnetwire.
  • Use TweetDeck‘s filter feature to filter out links from various columns especially favourite tweets which I use for bookmarking.
  • Work out a better system for following the comments of posts I am interested on.

I suppose there are now teachers whose first contact with Web 2 is twitter rather than blogging, this gives me a strange sensation, and makes me wonder what is next?

Twitter image Mirjami Manninen from smashingmagazine.