A drawing of a small terrier dog jumping through a hoop held by a monkey.

Code as Poetry, Time as a Variable – Options in the Ether

Backstory Driving into work I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing Nikki Giovani a poet from Virginia Tech. In high school I was one of those people who really suffered reading the The Red Wheelbarrow and other non-rhyming poems. They irritated me in the same way people seem to be annoyed by White Paintings or 4’33”. In any case, in college I took lots of English classes. One of those classes was on poetry with Donna Hickey. The class selection was driven more by fitting my schedule and a vague notion that I might minor in English rather than any real interest in poetry. The first day of class she had everyone list their favorite poets. I don’t recall what people chose but I remember feeling like my choices of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess was not of the same category. In any case, I had a great deal of fun with the course and using poems as games and puzzles to think around and through. I later took a graduate course with Dr. Hickey1 in poetry and made my first digital liberal arts website around 2001 or 2002. It focused on breaking down various Richard Hugo poems and creating attempts at multimedia experiences.2 That stuff is all long gone from the UR website. I might have backup […]

06

Considering Making Digital Sociology Tools

First off, I believe that websites that help you think are tools. Websites that help you author media are also tools. So when I say “tools” that’s what I mean. I will also likely call them sites. That’s also what I mean. I like to start off posts like these establishing the fact that I’m not going to try very hard to make sense to you but at least I’m explicit about it. I’ve had a couple of conversations recently that have me close to building these with or without a faculty/course attached. #metoo Movies This started when I was watching one of the original Star Wars movies with my kids. I’d never really watched them closely as an adult. It really seemed like Han Solo was a textbook example of a person acting out some pretty specific examples of sexual harassment. Repeatedly Leia tells him to stop touching her and he ignores her etc. I ended up talking to some friends at a school function about it and the conversation expanded into the idea of a database of clips like this that both act as a lens on that time/space/movie and as examples of particular patterns that might be of interest more broadly. For example here’s Han being creepy . . . In order to write this post, I’ve […]

29

Census Reporter API Exploration

We’re trying out a new site idea for the online digital sociology program. Once again, Matt came up with an idea that really got me excited and I started wandering around trying to figure out how to make it work. At some point I found CensusReporter.org. This is a pretty amazing site that is a Knight1 News Challenge-funded project. What we want to do is figure out roughly where the viewer/visitor is geographically and give them a glimpse of that area through some data. Nothing too deep, just a taste of the interesting ways technology, data, and visualization can blend together to do interesting things. We don’t want the exact address for a few reasons. One, we don’t want to be too creepy. Two, getting a rough location through the IP address doesn’t trigger the browser approval request that more exact location data requires. My goal is not to subvert the approving/denying of location data but I worry too many people will miss that approval prompt and we’re not keeping this data. Get Location To get local data I have to figure out where the person is. To do that, I’m just grabbing the IP address and getting a location bounced back. There are a few ways to do this. I went with freegeoip.net and the following function would give […]

Full size view of the timeline .

Timeline Sketch #2

I am still kicking around ideas for a timeline of my work history. You can see some of the other stuff in this post. This version is a Bootstrap version that I think can end up working pretty well even in a mobile view with a bit more work. You can see it full size here. It’s set up so that there are two col-sm-6 containers that hold ten columns each making for a total of 20 covered years. I didn’t realize Bootstrap would let you just do col-1 and make it more than 12 columns. So I have two rows of 10 columns within the 6 column ‘halves’ of the page. That lets them break nicely on mobile views into two rows that stack. I set up some JSON to represent the jobs. I only did three so far but there are enough to see it’s functional. If you click on one of the first three job titles, you’ll see the data below the timeline changes. I haven’t really worked through the colors. I’m letting it marinate to see if I want to take it to fruition. See the Pen bootstrap timeline test by Tom (@twwoodward) on CodePen.

26

Portfolio // Data Visualization

This is meant to be a general survey of a fairly large swathe of concepts and examples with lots of links for additional specificity. I encourage you to follow links.1 I’ve tried to also mix it with quotes from a variety of designers.2 Those people are also worth exploring and most links will lead you to something that will lead you down an associative trail3 of links/searches.. Portfolio design considerations are grounded in many of the same design decisions that are foundational to good data visualizations. Many portfolios also include, maybe should include, elements that meet the typical definition of data visualizations although usually of small data sets.4 Both portfolios and data visualizations can be thought of as heuristics. You’re helping people think. You’re helping them understand you, a concept, a relationship, etc. Rich content brings meaning to a graphic. Inviting visualization interprets the content and highlights the essence of the information for the reader. Sophisticated execution brings the content and the graphics to life. Dona Wong Have an Audience in Mind5 The audience sets the initial frame for your consideration. Who are you trying to talk to? What are their likely experiences with websites and what do they care about? It’s also worth thinking about what might keep you from being attractive to people that you wouldn’t like. Assuming […]

03

WordPress Plugin Health Dashboard (Early POC)

In trying to get a better handle on how we’re going to manage our plugins in the future, I found the API for the WordPress.org plugins data. Not like they were hiding it but I’d not seen it before.Consider me Columbus– absent the genocide, slavery, and other terrible things. Replacing *slug* in the following URL gives you a pretty robust javascript With that option, I could build a little Google Sheet/Scripts viewer that would look up information based on a list of plugin slugs. I could set conditional formatting to do various things for visual cues . . . I could even build a little mini-algorithm to evaluate different aspects and weight them towards a total plugin score. I’m debating whether it’s worth working into a more sophisticated plugin that will tell me how many sites the plugin is installed on, display that data etc. There are plugins like that out there but they die on large multisite installations.1 I’d also like some way to tie into the vulnerable plugin announcements. Here are the two little functions that look up and write the plugin’s health based on the slugs being written in column A and a header in row 1. 1 I have a functional, if crude, option that paginates through them in a way that doesn’t crash/die.

Event Calendar & Participation

One pretty common need I’m starting to see around community-engaged learning is a way for students/faculty to submit events to a central calendar and then indicate their participation in various events. That comes with various program requirements. People want specific reflection patterns per event and have different ideas around what an event counts for in their program. That comes with additional metadata requirements, dashboard views etc. We did something like this with cultural events when we made the RVArts.org site.1 I’ve got at least three programs interested in this process and some are pursuing products like Give Pulse. So I took advantage of the request from the da Vinci Center to look at how quickly we could make a functional prototype that would – create a calendar of upcoming approved events for students allow students to submit reflections on those events with a particular structure allow students to submit additional events for approval generate data visualization and reporting for student reflection and for program analysis purposes I took the more difficult route and assumed we’d have no user accounts just to see what that felt like. With user accounts this become easier. Even with this restriction I was able to build out a functional custom theme in around three hours. Next time, it’d be considerably faster. We could easily bring […]

handwriting in the 21st century an educational summit

Can’t Trust It: Typing vs Handwriting

I read a portion of this article on keyboarding being overrated. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’m not really aggressive either way. I do think it makes little sense to make two different ways to make the same letters. Montessori leads with cursive and I tend to think she’s done a better job thinking this through. Anyway, I took at look at the first paragraph with apparent proof. Brain scans during the two activities also show that forming words by hand as opposed to on a keyboard leads to increased brain activity(pdf). Scientific studies of children and adults show that wielding a pen when taking notes, rather than typing, is associated with improved long-term information retention, better thought organization, and increased ability to generate ideas. Link one leads you the Zane Blosner sponsored Handwriting in the 21st Century? Educational Summit. Zane Blosner also sponsors the national handwriting contest where I’m very sad to say you cannot see the winners’ handwriting. Let’s pretend this summit1 isn’t run by a company that sells handwriting solutions. The majority of brain related references here are cited as James, K.H. “How Printing Practice Affects Letter Perception: An Educational Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.” Presented at Handwriting in the 21st Century?: An Educational Summit, Washington, D.C., January 23, 2012. I believe that’s Dr. James. Seems legit but I […]

I’m not dead yet . . . Google Scripts to Check on a Bunch of WP Sites

John Stewart is going to write up something more systematic and structured as he’s taken these rough ideas up a notch but I figured I’d throw this functional Google Script code in here before I lost it. I believe I got up to five positive statements on blogging more in-process stuff so I’m taking that as an overwhelming mandate. These Google Script functions are meant to loop through a set of URLs in a Google Sheet pulled as an array to see if the site’s still in use. The first two take a look at the WP REST API endpoints for posts and pages. That way if the person only writes pages you won’t be tricked. I’d probably write them all to the sheet because I’m paranoid. The third (aka the hassle as I hadn’t ever messed with XML using javascript) looks at the RSS/XML feed in case the site is not updated enough to have a functional API endpoint or if it’s broken for some reason. This won’t help you out if they’re just writing pages but there’s only so much a person can do. John made a more robust structure with error checking, the piece where it writes to the spreadsheet etc. and I’ll loop in his post once it’s up.

Rethinking Our Project Page (and other stuff)

Image from page 211 of “Bulletin” (1961-1962) flickr photo by Internet Archive Book Images shared with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons) I’ve been lucky enough to hire two awesome people who have started over the last month or so.1 We’re also going to get a new supervisor on July 3rd. That’s led me to have a bit of breathing room and a reason to start re-thinking some things. One of those things is how we combine documenting our work. Can we document what we do in a way that will create more people interested in doing these things? Can we do a much better job bringing active faculty to the forefront? Can we serve the end of the year report needs regarding various data elements? Can we gather data we might reflect on regarding our own processes? How do we knit all this stuff together from various services without a lot of extra work? The Old I’ve done this more than a few times. The latest incarnation at VCU was the examples page (pictured above). It is semi-decent but was done in haste. It tries to affiliate tools and instructional concepts with examples. Conceptually, it’s pretty close to TPACK in that way. It has done a marginal job thus far. It houses examples and people can browse them. It doesn’t […]