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.

Flickr Perversion

Yesterday, I received an email notice saying that a few of my Flickr photos had been favorited. These particular photos were of my children, mostly of my daughter. Every time this happens, I go to see who the Flickr user is, and most of the time, it is a family member, a close friend, or someone I know through Twitter (or other social network). I did not recognize the user in this particular case, and when I went to see their photos, the Flickr message alerted me that none of the user’s photos were available. Seeing as my photos had been favorited, I went to see what other photos had been marked as favorites by this user.

My jaw dropped to the floor.

What I saw was three pages of favorited photos of preteen girls, most shots in bathing suits or with little clothing. Had I viewed any of these photos individually, isolated from the others, I am sure that this same feeling of disgust would not have come over me. But these photos, viewed together, favorited by some anonymous user, told a very different story. These photos of these girls were without a doubt being sexualized, and my four-year-old daughter was amongst these images.

Note: The images I include below are the actual screenshots. My daughter does not appear in these images, and she was the only girl in these photos that was well clothed. I have included these screenshots because I think it is important to get a sense of what happened here. However, I have significantly reduced the size of this image for (hopefully) obvious reasons.

girls 3photo on Flickr

These photos are legal. The actions of the user who favorited these is also legal (although incredibly disgusting). I did not want photos of my child to appear here. So, this is what I did:

1) Blocked the user. This means my photos would no longer appear in the list. However, if your photos are viewable to the public, this means they can still be viewed, just not favorited.
2) Contacted Flickr: I reported this user, and within a couple of hours, the user was taken down.

End of story? Nope.

I get another email, telling me that more of my daughter’s photos had been favorited. Same story. I check out the user, no photos, but many favorites. It gets worse.

Small Screenshot of Photos Favourited by Flickr Pervert

This time, there were four pages of girls favorited by this user. The girls were a bit older, but in the majority of the photos, the subjects were handcuffed, often in sexually provocative poses. Again, my daughter’s photos appeared. I blocked the user, contacted Flickr. Same deal. But obviously, that’s not enough.

I admit, I live my life (in the) Open. I have been lucky that I have never had to block a person from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc., before this time. Sure, there has been the odd griefer here and there, but usually, these problems resolve themselves if you deal with them appropriately, or in some cases, ignore them. My belief is that in all aspects of life, we should not have to live our lives in fear. I’m an idealist. I believe in the power of good people, and I have been lucky enough to have been surrounded by good people in both my temporal and virtual realities.

But these types of incidents shake up everything one believes. So now, rather than provide answers, I want to provide some questions for anyone willing to respond. Here are some of my questions.

1) What must parents know about the realities of the Internet in regards to how we deal with the photos (and identities) of our children?
2) What are the benefits of an open vs. a closed reality? Are the benefits of openness (e.g., in regards to our families) worth the risks? And, what are the credible risks?
3) What precautions should we take, or perhaps, what precautions do you take in the presentation/development of your family’s digital identity?
4) What rights and responsibilities do we have as parents to protect the digital identities of our children?
5) How do we proceed from here? How do we help other parents to understand these important issues?

I’d love to hear from you. While openness will be a continued theme in my educational life, I continue to rethink these philosophies on the most personal of levels. It is also my belief in openness that guides me in telling this story. I believe that we need to face these issues head on, inform others, raise awareness, and work to solve these problems together.

366/2008 Project Complete

While mainstream media sites like the New York Times and Boston.com have already released their photos of 2008, they seem transfixed by the BIGGER picture. I say to you MSM, what about the photos that are most important to ME? Luckily, D’Arcy Norman inspired me (and many others) late last year with his 365/2007 photo project. I am quite proud and happy that I fully participated in the 2008/366 photo project. I took a photo each and every day of 2008, and managed to upload those photos daily as well. Here is the result of my work.

And here’s a direct link to the set if you want to see the description behind each photograph.

I have learned a lot through this project. I have learned tips and techniques that I think have made me a better photographer. I have learned a bit about myself in terms of my dedication and discipline to a project. I wanted to quit many times, especially on the days where I lacked motivation or inspiration. I learned to view the world differently and realized how many beautiful moments exist all around us. D’Arcy does a much better describing this through his discussion of “mindful seeing.” And, most of all, I learned what is most important to me. While we all take different meaning from the photographs we view, I am sure that from these photographs you can guess the things that are most important to me.

Thanks again D’Arcy.

And a Happy New Year everyone, all the best in 2009!

Boston.com Photos of 2008

Boston.com has put out a three part series highlighting the year in photographs for 2008. There are some amazing photos here, and it’s highly recommended viewing.

Part I, Part II, Part III.

Although there are many images to choose from, I think the one below may be my favourite. The strength of the woman depicted in this photograph is simply beyond words.


An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state policemen who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs, and were evicted from the land. (REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE)

Help Stop XDR-TB

This video is from XDRTB.org, an organization attempting to raise awareness about extremely drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB). The video tells a powerful story. Do visit the website to find out more about how you can spread the word, and support this important cause.

From the website:

XDRTB.org is an extraordinary effort to tell the story of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and TB through powerful photographs taken by James Nachtwey. XDR-TB, or extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis, is a new and deadly mutation of tuberculosis. Similar in creation to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) but more extreme in its manifestation, it arises when common tuberculosis goes untreated or standard TB drugs are misused. James’ photographs represent these varying strains. Learn more about TB, MDR-TB and XDR-TB, and learn how you can take action to stop this deadly disease

D’Arcy Norman’s 2007/365

Wow, just wow. D’Arcy has inspired me once again.

I just completed my “2007/365″ project, where I took at least one photograph per day for the entire year. I didn’t realize going in just how hard it would be, but it forced me to see things differently and I did learn to be a bit more proficient with the technical aspects of photography.

D’Arcy has produced an amazing collection of photos, and it was addicting watching this presentation. It is really time I dusted off my Canon 30D. Thanks D’Arcy.

Check out D’Arcy’s work here.

The Curse of Knowledge

Last October, I spoke to a group of PhD and Masters level students on new and emerging collaborative methods of research (e.g., social software tools) in education. I have done the spiel many times before, and I know that not everyone gets it (or cares to get it for that matter). This time, I approached the session differently. I slowed down, and I limited the many possibilities to just a few, manageable choices. After the session, a colleague, who has seen this same presentation several times, commented to me that it was the best way in which I had ever approached the topic and he had the sense that the majority of students were really excited about the possibilities.

Simple Remote Control

Today’s NYT Article Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike helped consolidate some of the thoughts I’ve had since then.

Andrew S. Grove, the co-founder of Intel, put it well in 2005 when he told an interviewer from Fortune, “When everybody knows that something is so, it means that nobody knows nothin’.” In other words, it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself.

The above concept may sound simple, but I can not assume so. A lot of what I teach sounds simple to me, but I must be deliberate here to say that many of the ideas we find simple are in fact not simple, in both the conceptual understanding and actualization of these concepts. If they were that simple, I would be out of a job. And unless we understand how our ideas sound to others, we may actually be causing more harm than good in creating the changes in schools, pedagogy and practice we seek. Consider the following as it may relate to your educational context.

This so-called curse of knowledge, a phrase used in a 1989 paper in The Journal of Political Economy, means that once you’ve become an expert in a particular subject, it’s hard to imagine not knowing what you do. Your conversations with others in the field are peppered with catch phrases and jargon that are foreign to the uninitiated. When it’s time to accomplish a task — open a store, build a house, buy new cash registers, sell insurance — those in the know get it done the way it has always been done, stifling innovation as they barrel along the well-worn path.

Other related ideas can be found in The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. The book is a few years old, but the ideas are relevant. If you haven’t watched Schwartz’s TED Talk, do so.

The Paradox of Choice is a popularization of components of decision-theory. The underlying thesis reflects the paradox “that more choices may lead to a poorer decision or a failure to make a decision at all.” Schwartz argues that with so many options to choose from, people find it difficult to choose at all. This paradox produces paralysis rather than liberation.

So what does this all mean in our world of Web 2.0 tools, where there are dozens of ways to blog, wiki, podcasts and screencast?. Does this influence how we facilitate our courses or our professional development opportunities? What does this mean for our own personal practice?

I know I have to think about this more. Help me. What are your thoughts?