Leading Lines

Uncertain days following the Brexit fiasco, but as ever my surroundings soothe me and I am happy to be up here. Selfish worries about the possibility of rising mortgage payments, losses to my future pension and all of that mean that I have not slept well this weekend, so I flicked through my camera to see what photos I’d taken this week to fit with Kim’s weekly challenge

So follow some lines and see where they take you!  I can’t wait to see what you find.

A foxglove ‘weed’ growing in the back garden – with one of the ‘proper’ plants pointing yo it as if to tell it that it should not be there (Brexit is obviously colouring my vision here):


More foxgloves in front of the garage – perhaps gesturing to the door to point out that a recent storm damaged the top (out of view in this pic).


A bee house, also broken by Scottish weather – so many lines here:


A climbing hydrangea on the garage trellis – it’s not obvious from this image, but this brash flower is invading on the space of another. Again, an obvious metaphor arises in my mind:


Streetlights framing a solstice moon like goalposts earlier this week:


The view as we walked to the polling station on Thursday – one of the remaining tower blocks framing the shot:


And finally Cagney last night – these tanks have lids, so the fish were not in any danger:


Thanks, Kim – that’s soothed my mind. 🙂

Posted in Flowers, Garden, Photos | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments


IMG_20160621_140343761[1]I’m scared. Tomorrow we vote to decide whether to leave the EU and let a far right wing band of liars run the country or to stay in the EU and let a not quite so right wing crew keep cutting our welfare state to the bone.

It didn’t feel like this last time. Indyref (the vote for Scottish independence) was exhilarating – young folk were learning about politics and there was an energy that I have never seen or felt before. Sure, we knew we might not win, but – and this is important – much as we hated Westminster rule, nobody was predicting that a vote to remain was going to be a total disaster.

But this time is different. The Leave campaign has disgusted me with the depths it has stooped to in order to gain voters. They’ve made it all about immigration, and whipped up a fear and hatred of some of our fellow humans for others. Not amongst my friends – at least, I don’t think so – but from enough potential voters in England for it to be a very real possibility that the Leave vote wins.

And that has me worried – about the cost of living in a post-leave UK, about my future rights, about the future of my research and even my job. Selfish worries, but natural ones. And I worry about the poor, and the disabled, and all of the other disenfranchised and minority residents of the UK.

But I’m also worried for all of us. Because the Leave campaign have whipped up some nasty xenophobic, racist, bigoted feelings in folk and now they are out of the box it’s not going to be easy to repress them. I have seen families falling out because they are on different sides of this … I can’t call it a debate, it is not that respectable – let’s call it an “issue”.

But there’s more. I have Leave voters telling me that they are going to vote with their guts, their hearts, that they are taking their country back.

I keep trying to explain to them that it was never theirs in the first place. The Tories are playing games with all of us. Whoever wins, it will be little rich boys in charge. But with the (not by any means perfect) EU, we have some hope that their wings will be clipped.

So tomorrow I vote Remain with a heavy heart. I vote to legitimise one right wing bunch of arseholes in order to avoid an even worse outcome.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Clement Attlee

Today’s Daily Create is to:

Find a famous literary quote (idealy by a famous literary person) and create something that shows the first draft versions that did not make the cut. Like the notes the writer might have done on a sketch pad.

Europhobia: a very British problem came up in my FB feed as I was pondering what to choose, and the opening quote seemed appropriate. So here we have it – why Clement Attlee would not have allowed a vote for #Brexit:


Posted in DailyCreate, DS106, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments


Out in the garden this morning I noticed that some of the alpine strawberries are ready to eat and the currants are ripening well. We’re going to have plenty of brambles and potatoes again this year, and I’m hoping that the garlic will be a success. The flowers are equally lovely – my sage bush is a pure delight (and the bees love it), the honesty is making it’s “pennies”, we’ve got foxgloves a plenty and I think my teasel is going to be as tall as me soon. pics of fruit and veg mentioned in the post

And, when I sat down with a book and a cup of tea, little cat plonked herself down on the table, purring like a train and telling me how wonderful the world was today. She’s right.

Close up of Cagney's face

Posted in Flowers, Garden, Photos | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Wear your flag on your hand

I’m not really a fan of flags – to me they symbolise walls that keep some folk out and tie others to false rhetoric about duty to one’s country  – but today’s Daily Create was a fun thing to do to practice my GIMP skilz:

Superimpose your country, state, city’s flag on your hand, and wave it to show how much DS106 is massively spread around the world.

So I went out into the back garden and took a few pics of my hand, selected one and opened up GIMP.

palm of hand against trees

First I used the scissor tool to outline around my hand, then cut that out. Next I found a image of the Cornish flag of St Piran, rescaled it to fit and used “paste into” to paste into the hand shaped hole. After I exported the resulting image I realised that I’d not cut it out perfectly, and there was still a bit of flesh coloured thumb showing (note to self: remember to zoom in and check this next time), so I opened it up again and used the paintbrush to touch it up.

Flag of St Piran superimposed onto a hand

And there it is. Having got the basic shape, it was a matter of a few clicks to transform this to show the place I took the picture – the Scottish flag.

Scottish flag on hand

Now to start refining my skilz to polish up the rough edges … [Edit – I’ve come back to this again, redone the outline and dropped another flag in, then taken the opacity of the flag layer down to 80% to show the hand through it. Better, apart from the rough edges still.

Outline of palm of hand with Cornish flag on it

Posted in DailyCreate, DS106, GIMP | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Resourceful resources

CybermenOK  – fair warning – I am going to rant. I’m sick of Brexit and I’m not sleeping well so I’m not in the best of moods. But there’s something that’s bugging me, and on reflection I don’t think this is trivial matter of wordplay.

I’ve read a few times recently that “there is not the resource to do X”, or “X is possible, but it would take a significant amount of resource to do it”, when actually this is manager speak for “it will take a lot of somebody’s time” or “it would need a lot of people to do it”. But when did we start referring to people as resources? I’m a human being, goddammit – I’m not a sodding resource. Paperclips are resources. Fossil fuels are resources. People are not resources. or, at least, they should not be. I think it signals a fundamental disregard for employees to refer to them as resources, and not as people. People matter – they can think, they can be hurt, they have human rights. You should care about people and, if you are an employer, you should recognise that your employees are human beings – and, goddammit, you should have a personnel department, and not call it “human resources”.

I blame capitalism for most things, and in this case a quick squiz at Wikipedia suggests I am right to do so:

The term “human resource” was subsequently in use during the 1910s and 1920s as was the notion that workers could be seen as a kind of capital asset… One major concern about considering people as assets or resources is that they will be commoditized, objectified and abused. Some analysis suggests that human beings are not “commodities” or “resources”, but are creative and social beings in a productive enterprise.  Wikipedia

Exactly so. We should be bloody annoyed about this. And, you know, it’s bad enough that Sports Direct treat their workers as they do, but you kind of expect that universities would at least recognise that employees are worthy of being recognised as people.*

Calling workers “resources” denies us our humanity, our individuality, our creativity. It implies that we are all replaceable – that we do not have talents, that we are not important. It underestimates our ingenuity, our “expertise” … I could go on and on. Maybe I’m noticing it because I work in a humble “services” part of my university, and not in an academic unit, but I suspect that even if that is the case then it’s only a matter of time before it happens in all of academia.**

But most of all, turning us into commodities ignores our resourcefulness. And that takes me back to why I was so annoyed about this earlier. My unit frequently gets requests for Moodle customisations or shiny shiny technologies that would break Moodle, or would not work. And, as I remarked earlier today, if instead of asking us for X, they instead said “We need to do Y, can you help us please”, then we could put our resourceful heads together and find some workable solutions.

So, please, let’s stop seeing any other human being as a resource, and instead celebrate our resourcefulness.

* Don’t get me wrong – I think all workers are due respect and not just those in academia – I just think it’s atrocious that Higher Education does not recognise this.

** Not all, obviously. Those at the top will preserve their pomp and salaries.

flickr photo by Rooners Toy Photography shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Posted in Capitalism, University | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

He is not man, he is Devo

Sock knitting book with DS106 logo and Jim Groom and Alan Devine [sic] as authorsIt all started with a typo – for the Daily Create yesterday: “Search the web for an old paperback cover and use that as starting point for a new cover.” Never one to let a joke go, even if I was not in at the beginning of it, I chose a sock knitting book and altered it by adding the DS106 logo and Jim Groom and Alan Levine as authors. Except – whoops – I typed Devine instead of Levine. Just as I hit send on the tweet I noticed my error. Darn. And of course Jim noticed immediately. After a few tweets, Jim quipped:

And I filed away that thought. So today’s Daily Create: We’re Tired of Making Challenges. Do whatever the heck you want to do today. Be free.” Seems an ideal opportunity for this:

He is not man, he is Devo. D. E. V. O.

Image of Alan Levine from his info page In my haste to do this in my lunch break I omitted to note where the hat came from 🙁

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Researcher Journal: Ethical Clearance

Red clouds in an evening sky, seen from some high rocks It took me ages to work out how to write my ethics application for my PhD. It was only when Fiona (my supervisor) said that doing it would help me think through my methodology that something clicked and I started thinking about what I really wanted to focus on. And she was right – for me, at least, my ethical approach and my methodology go hand in hand. So, after some thinking and to-ing and fro-ing we (Fiona and I) agreed that I’d look at some of the interactions in some of the online (cMOOCy) things that I do. But, ho hum, due to the need to go through a formal ethical process without the chance to talk about my design face to face, I’ve had to make compromises.  But I’m skipping ahead to much, Let me backtrack and explain how I eventually got ethical approval.

First, as I am looking at data that is totally public – tweets and blog posts – you might ask whether I needed to seek ethical approval at all – after all, the info is freely published and available, so why can I not use it? That question did go through my head, but as I did not just want to be seen to be ethical – I actually wanted to think through the consequences of my using this data from people I know (albeit with their express permission). So I contacted our chief ethics officer and asked him for his opinion. He responded quickly with some recently published guidelines from Ipsos Mori which I read from cover to cover. They didn’t really help answer my questions, but they did help me to start to frame my proposal.  So I cobbled something together (trying to shoe horn this sort of research into forms not designed for the purpose was HARD), and submitted to see what they’d ask me to revise.

Sure enough, after a few weeks (it is meant to be 2 weeks for the committee members to look at it then a further week for a lead member to collate reviews and respond, but it was a bit longer than that), the email to tell me that the review forms were ready arrived. There was a lot of revisions required. Some were minor (I’d ticked the wrong box), some were just a matter of better wording (to explain that I was only using Twitter and blogs, not data from closed groups), but some involved a rethink of my research approach and a need to spend more words explaining my appreciation of the ethical issues underpinning my approach. Still, no point being annoyed, I decided just to get on with it.

One thing that the reviewers asked me was which ethical frameworks I’d consulted.  I’d mentioned the Ipsos Mori stuff, but in my revised form I ensured that I included extra references:

  • AOIR have some good stuff  -from them I included the idea that the ethics of online research is better seen as a deliberative approach than as a code of practice – it makes a lot of sense to me to see my ethical approach as something that I will keep reflecting on and refining.
  • COSMOS talked about the need to interpret any relevant terms of service, and survey results about user attitudes to their data (the Ipsos Mori reports also did both of these).
  • Twitter have terms of service, which I looked at.

The reviewers also asked about whether there was any similar research I could draw on, so I mentioned some, including:

  • Frances Bell had crowdsourced some ways of using social media data during #rhizo14, so I included that.
  • Oleksandra Skrypnyk had an IRRODL article on cMOOCs that argued that ethical clearance was not needed as all data was in the public domain (thanks Aras for this reference).

Then – what a stroke of luck – Anna posted a link to her latest publication:

  • Smith et al asked for ethical approval to look at #CLMooc and was told that it was not needed as data was in the public domain. They use posters’ names with consent, and also talk about the approach to anonymity (if a poster did not respond, they did not assume consent, but used a pseudonym). Anna kindly sent me a couple of the article they referred to including Bruckman.
  • Bruckman addresses the issue of psuedonyms acting as real names – if a person is given  a pseudonym but quoted verbatim, her “real” name can be found. She suggests some approaches to resolving this.

I was still not happy about not giving my participants the option of me using their given name in my research, but I didn’t want to hold up my research any more, so I said in the application that I’d use psuedonyms and resolved to ask folk to pick their own. Amusingly, a couple of days later Ash Shaw had the same issue with her PhD board, and asked us on Facebook which Doctor Who character we’d like to be. That thesis is going to make fun reading! Anyway, second time lucky and I have my ethical approval now, so off I go.

Decision by Philipp Zieger  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Posted in Online learning, Peer interaction, PhD, Writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

What kind of bird are you?

Owl I’ve been writing an application for an award on behalf of my work team this week, and as I was writing one section I found myself jokingly describing us as “wise owls, not magpies after the shiny shiny”. I was talking about ed tech, or course, and the need to ensure that it’s appropriate for the proposed use, and not just being used because it’s the newest thing, or because it’s trendy, or because it’s been hyped up by somebody. Then Niall remarked this morning thMagpieat he thought that a magpie had stolen one of the tent pegs holding our vegetable patch covers down, and as I laughed at the thought of a magpie in a tent-nest, I remembered about owls and magpies again. Then I thought about other attitudes to technology – there’s ostriches who stick their heads in the sand and pretend that they don’t need to engage with these new-fangled things, and of course they might well go the same way as the dodo. And flamingos – White-browed sparrow weaverthat look awfully pretty, but they’re really not practical; and nightingales – who don’t look anything much, but their song is beautiful.  Then of course there are cuckoos – who don’t hold with doing any of the hard work themselves, but are quite happy when somebody else does it for them, and white-browed sparrow weavers, who apparently have unequal workloads so some of them burn themselves out. This list could go on and on! So, I was thinking – it would be fun to find out what type of bird you thought you were, or which attitudes to tech could be represented by particular birds. Here’s  a game we can all play together 🙂

Owl flickr photo by Farid Fleifel shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Magpie flickr photo by pjoh  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

White-browed sparrow weaver flickr photo by berniedup  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Posted in Online learning, Teaching, Technology | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Nature Soundmap

Today’s Daily Create took me a bit of time:

The Nature SoundMap site offers a fantastic way to explore the sounds of nature around the world via a map. Pick 5 sounds from places in the world you have never been, download the audio from SoundCloud, and mix them together.

Sounded easy – I use Audacity and Soundcloud, so off I went. Easy enough to select sounds, so when I had 5 I liked I clicked to download from Soundcloud. Hmmm, only 2 of the 5 had download buttons, back to the drawing board. After lots of clicking and listening I found 5 that I liked that I could download. Next I imported the files into Audacity, sorted the lengths out and exported the results. Finally I uploaded to Soundcloud. So here you have it: A Blakiston’s Fish Owl dues, baby racoons twittering, a grey go-away bird, a guanaco and sunrise by a billabong. I like it 🙂

Posted in DailyCreate, DS106, Music | Tagged , , | 2 Comments