Shiny Happy Internet

This morning I noticed an emotional thread on Reddit, a popular, user-generated, social news site. The thread began as an IamA/AMA (“I Am a [blank], ask me anything…”) where a pseudonymous poster (‘lucidendings’) described having only 51 hours to live due to a long battle with cancer and having chosen to die under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. While reading through the comments, it was difficult not to get caught up in the emotion around this post and the outpouring of (mostly) kindness toward this person. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories, the #ShinyHappyInternet as my friend Jen often jests, and I regularly use such examples in my presentations (e.g., Help Me Fix My Last Picture of Mom, Kathleen Gets a Toy Shopping Spree).

If you follow the story through the thread, you will see remarkable things. For instance, the thread itself (at the time of writing) has over 6500 comments, the majority being kind & generous. There’s the user-generated map featuring warm, heart-felt messages from across the globe. There’s the touching but short-video from a Youtuber featuring a star-balloon as it rises to the sky (wait for the smile at the end). Then there’s the flurry of people attempting to stream the sun rising in Key West as it was identified by lucidending’s as a favorite moment in life.

Yet, the entire time I read through these threads and viewed the kindness of strangers, I thought to myself, what if this person is lying? It happens (thanks Chris). In this case, we may never know for sure. But how demoralizing could this be for a community (online or not)?

But maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe the humanity that emerges here in times like this is enough for us to be optimistic. Jen notes,”That whole thing is a good example of an occasion where it doesn’t matter if the original post is authentic.”


In digging deeper into the original thread, I find this gem. One Redditer, in critiquing the outpouring writes:

…another bandwagon to jump on. Just like the TSA and Wikileaks, reddits short attention span settles on the death of a complete stranger.

Countless people around the world are going to die today. Almost none of them are going to make that choice, almost none of them are going to choose to die today.

Lucid got to choose when to die. He gets to prepare. Not one tear for all the other deaths, but a thread of people bitching about onions for this guy.

He deserves the attention he’s getting. What he’s gone though, and what he will do through in the next few days… well, none of us could ever comprehend it.

And this is countered with the following …

I think you fundamentally misunderstand the outpouring of emotion for Lucidending. The outpouring of emotion is for all those faceless and nameless deaths, for our own deaths, and all the ones before and since. The outpouring of emotion is a small window into our own mortality and humanity, and with it the pain, love, joy, and despair of them all.

Lucidendings, if your destiny is as you describe, I feel nothing but warm thoughts for you and I wish you all the best on your journey. In any case, your post has inspired others to be generous, caring, and inspiring to others. I can still believe that the Internet, and of course the world that it reflects, is a (mostly) shiny, happy place.

So what are your thoughts on all of this?

Update: As was somewhat suspected, lucidending’s story may have been a hoax. Gawker’s Adrian Chen has taken responsibility for the hoax, although that story is also being disputed.

Edtech Posse Podcast 5.1 – Icky Flickr People & Balancing Openness

The latest Edtech Posse podcast is up (thanks Rob). This was a conversation recorded last night with Dean Shareski, Richard Schwier, Rob Wall and myself (and a special, mystery presenter!) regarding my latest Flickr Perversion post, balancing openness, Wikipedia, milli-Dunbars, 2009/365, and building social networks. It was a fun conversation (as usual) and we hope you’ll have a listen.

The Making Of …

I wrote a brief post on the possibilities for Flowgram a few days ago. Jen Jones just posted her use of the Flowgram tool, a reflection of how she used her network to prepare for a presentation. Click on Jen’s Flowgram below:

Jen has provided us with a good example of how one would use Flowgram. More importantly, Jen highlights the processes she uses for learning from and being creative with her social network.

Get Unplugged

There has been some important discussion as of late about renegotiating relationships and our ties with social network tools and online spaces. For those of you still finding your way, here’s a cute video that may help.

This is part of a viral advertising campaign from The company’s strategy tagline is “use the Internet to get off the Internet.” Check out the “get your friends unplugged” page, where you can send your friends a reminder to get offline. Yes, it’s viral marketing so as always, carefully critique the sender and the message.

Go outside!

Edtech Posse Podcast 4.3

The latest Edtech Posse podcast has been released. The conversation provides thoughts on the recent TLT conference and edupunk. Dean Shareski, Rob Wall, and Rick Schwier were present. Heather and I were unable to make it.

More information and shownotes can be found at

Busy Time Rants

I have been busy with a number of things these days. Here are a few thoughts on the what is happening.

re: TLT08

I just came back from the TLT 2008 conference in Saskatoon. It was an excellent conference, and much better than last year. Highlights for me include the amazing keynotes by Rick Schwier and George Siemens, and excellent presentations by Brian Lamb and Dean Shareski. Unfortunately, I missed the keynote by Stephen Downes, although I heard it was amazing. Luckily, I was able to catch breakfast with Stephen and Dean the first day of the conference.

I was a part of three presentations at TLT. First, I presented with Kyle, Vi, Tiffany, and Ashley regarding our Digital Internship Project. Second, I co-presented with the Edtech Posse (Rick, Dean, Heather, Rob) on “The Posse Round Up 2.0“. Finally, I presented again with Rob regarding the Graduate course we recently co-taught, EC&I 831. I am currently researching the process and outcomes of this course, and Rob and I presented some of our initial observations. It was great to have met, former students of the course, Cindy, Dan, and Shaun at the conference as well.

I was also very lucky to have finally met some terrific people for the first time face-to-face. Jen, Cindy, Brian, D’Arcy, Kirk and Kelly … you are all amazing people. It was great to finally meet you all in person, and I really hope I get the chance again!

I would also like to congratulate those that won awards related to course design at the conference. We have so many terrific instructional designers, multimedia developers, and instructors in Saskatchewan, and it is great to see many of you recognized for your hard work. Also, congratulations to the organizing committee for putting together a truly excellent conference.

On a less congratulatory note, to the people that continuously asked the question “what about the cyberpredators?” at almost every presentation, take some to read this or this or contact me, and I can help you get over this fear.

I would also love to have a conversation with the gentleman who voiced concerns (and then walked out) regarding teachers using decentralized funding to buy non-standardized equipment (as mentioned in Dean’s session) and the implications for sustaining technical support. I believe your point was that the purchasing should follow the institutional/division priorities. Here are my thoughts on this.

Start with division priorities that are focused on student learning and supporting innovation throughout the system. Let us forget the term “technical support” and focus on “innovation support”. Let us make the first term a misnomer. If a school division cannot (for instance) get Macs to play nice with a Windows network, your technicians are not doing their job, or they need to go back to training. Technology implementation decisions that are based on technicians’ lack of knowledge or vendor biases are not likely sound decisions. Divisions are learning organizations, and continual learning should be the expectation for all members. And if economics is the stated excuse, why not partner with other school divisions to increase cost-savings? Locking in to single vendor agreements to save tiny margins on the bottom line is ripping off your students, and IMHO, is inexcusable whether it is with Apple, IBM or CocaCola.

There is where I usually rant about open source software and free tools … but I will leave that argument for today.

re: ECMP 355
I am very happy to be teaching a May/June course to undergraduate students related to the appropriate integration of technology in the classroom. My students have begun blogging, and are starting to get the feel for it. Feedback and comments on their posts would be greatly appreciated, and you can subscribe to the ECMP 355 megafeed here.

For course interactions, we are using Moodle again. And, I do not believe it has been officially announced by the University of Regina is making a full move to Moodle from WebCT by Fall of 2009. I am happy to be currently testing the latest U of R release. If anyone would like to see the course, let me know and I will get you the guest password.

re: St. Louis
I am very excited to have been asked by Elizabeth Helfant to present at MICDS in St. Louis near the end of May. I will be speaking to English and History teachers (my original areas of study) regarding personal learning networks and technology integration. I can’t wait!

re: ICICTE in Corfu
I also have had my paper accepted for ICICTE in Corfu in July. I try to get back to Greece every couple of years to revisit my roots. This conference has been an excellent in the past and the venue is always on a Greek island. I highly recommend the country, the people, and the conference.

re: Life
Life is busy these days. I am currently in North Battleford, and teaching in La Ronge tomorrow (yes, on the long weekend) with our Community Based Masters of Education program. I am happy to have my family along with me for the rest of the trip and I am hoping to take some nice photos (and a few deep breaths) along the way. Northern Saskatchewan has much beauty to see. Here’s a shot I took near Battleford today.

Family @ Battleford Bridge

Yes, I am extremely busy with teaching, research, presentations, and family. However, life is good and as I reflected in my last post, I am a lucky, lucky man.

Viral Professional Development

I don’t have the time to adequately respond to Jennifer Jones’ excellent post on what she calls “viral professional development”. Once I do get time, I would like to talk to Jen more about this because it has really hit some parallel thoughts in my own recent thinking.

So, for now … read this post. There are several important points for anyone involved in professional development programs at their institutions or are concerned with their own professional learning.

Thanks Jen. Great post.