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Updated Flash Player 13 and AIR 13 betas now available

Adobe Labs - Tue, 2014-03-11 16:09

Updated Flash Player 13 and AIR 13 betas, code named King, are now available on Adobe Labs.

The Adobe® AIR® 13 provides developers with a consistent and flexible development environment for the delivery of out-of-browser applications across devices and platforms.

Learn more about Adobe AIR 13 beta
Download Adobe AIR 13 beta

Adobe® Flash® Player 13 drives innovation for rich, engaging digital experiences with new features for cross-platform browser-based viewing of expressive rich internet applications, content, and videos across devices. This beta release provides access to the Flash Player 13 runtime for Mac OS and Windows desktop environments.

Learn more about Flash Player 13
Download Flash Player 13 beta 

NEWS & UPDATES: CCNMTL Joins Silicon Alley at NYEdTech Startup Showcase 2014

Mediathread, the open source multimedia annotation platform developed at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), will be featured at the NYEdTech Startup Showcase 2014 on March 18. The event is organized by the NYEdTech Meetup...
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Lessons Learned with Check-in

Adobe Featured Blogs - Mon, 2014-03-10 15:46

We have received many inquiries and some great recognition since we abolished the traditional performance review and introduced what we call “Check- in” at Adobe.  The elimination of the former “annual review process” was not a difficult decision but the navigation of a new approach has required significant change management and ongoing reinforcement.  Given the interest in our adoption of Adobe’s Check-in we thought it would be beneficial to share our views on the top considerations to driving change in performance management, with a focus on enabling people globally for success.  Like most change initiatives this is a journey and not a destination.  As our journey continues, we are focusing on our key learnings to continue to enrich the Check-in approach and use it as a foundation for fostering employee growth, leadership, and talent development.

Starting at the end of 2011 the Adobe business was transforming to provide cutting-edge, real-time products, but the changes in our business model were not reflected in how we evaluated performance, supported employee growth, and cultivated a team environment.  As a result, we made a bold and necessary change to abolish the annual performance review, ratings, rankings and forms that went along with the process.  Looking back we could not be happier about this decision as I outlined in July.  Managers are now having on-going, genuine conversations with their team members; employees are engaged in feedback; we are saving approximately 80,000 hours of our manager’s time in the annual review process; and our voluntary attrition continues to trend downward.

Along our journey, I realize there were a number of key strategic decisions that enabled the success of the Check-in approach.

1.     On-Going Awareness

In establishing the program, we made the conscious decision to develop with our employees, not for them.  We took an iterative approach by providing frequent updates on how the program was being designed and solicited constant feedback.  We invested in employee communications and marketed the new approach across the organizational globally.  We leveraged internal blogs early on to raise awareness and start the dialogue.  We held training sessions with managers to help guide them on how to set expectations, give feedback, and be prepared to make compensation decisions.  And we launched an easy-to-navigate Check-in website that serves as a central place for tools and information.  As we continue to reinforce Check-in internally, we are focused on providing managers and employees with simple resources such as one page reference guides, short video vignettes, and simple action steps to be successful with Check-in.  We continue to reiterate the benefits of Check-in throughout various internal channels and keep it front and center on our internal websites as well as in senior leader communications.

 2.     Employee Resource Center

In conjunction with our move to abolish the annual review process, we were evolving the Human Resources function into the People Resources organization and implementing the Employee Resource Center (ERC) for fielding questions on a range of issues including performance management, career coaching, and building managerial capabilities.   The ERC provides our team leaders and employees the tools, resources, and proactive and reactive support needed to help make Check-in effective.  And as Adobe’s footprint continues to grow, the ERC provides a scalable solution for long-term success.

3.     Leadership Capabilities

Over the last year, we have made strides in driving awareness and adoption for Check-in globally and building this into our expectations of leaders and managers.  We recently refreshed the leadership capabilities needed for the continued success with the growth of the company.  A key leadership capability that we have identified is the focus on role modelling Check-in.  Adobe leaders are held accountable for establishing challenging, yet attainable performance expectations; role-modeling Check-in; providing clear and timely feedback and coaching to others on their performance.  We have provided a very simple framework for leaders to use and tailor to fit their personalities and the culture of their teams.

As mentioned, there have been many lessons-learned along the way.  We shared our journey with Bersin by Deloitte and collaborated on this informative webinar with Ellie Gates, our Director Global Management Effectiveness at Adobe:  How Adobe Reengineered for Performance Agility.  Additionally, Bersin by Deloitte created a case study, Reengineering for Agility, that encapsulates the strategies and tactics we used to implement Check-in at Adobe.

Moving to a Check-in approach was the right decision for Adobe.  We hope to serve as a model for other global organizations looking to take new approaches and innovate with respect to people practices that can contribute to company performance, growth and success.

Donna Morris, SVP People & Places


Community College Entrepreneurship Courses go Hybrid with HP LIFE

There are many models of online learning, with new approaches in the news every time you turn around. One of the most fascinating trends are hybrid models that combine open, self-paced, online experiences (MOOC’s or otherwise) with on-ground cohorts of students enrolled in a bricks-and-mortar institution for credit. One example is the adoption of the HP Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs (HP LIFE)…


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News: Published in a Book. Disclaimer: A Book About MOOCs.

CogDogBlog - Mon, 2014-03-10 13:47

Oh MOOCs, how I mock thee. It has been a while.

But now I am associated with this

Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses has just been published by Parlor Press (and is available for free as a downloadable PDF).

Steve Krause and Charlie Lowe emailed me sometime Spring 2013 about their plan for the book, asking if I would contribute a chapter about ds106. I tried to resist, say no, but I was also looking for some more venues to pad the ole CV with some publications. But wait a minute, most of the authors are writing instructors, people who drop words like “rhetorical abstraction”, etc.

That and fix my elbow patches.

Where is my smoking jacket?

I was intrigued by their plan to rapid publish and also go with a publisher who would release the book under Creative Commons. But also I liked the process they set up, where the authors of chapters would give each other peer review.

My chapter, of course, what else, is about ds106. A MOOC or Not a MOOC: ds106 Questions the Form. And while I might have written it from blog posts (it is largely informed by what I blog here), I did write it as new, though the ideas have been bounced around before. Mainly how ds106 deviates or not from the parts of the acronym.

The opening I chose to give a nod to one of my favorite teachers, trying to get at a bit of the futility of trying to lump MOOCs into one pile to describe as a while:

My undergraduate and graduate studies were in Geology, a field rampant with classification schemes. The words of my petrology professor at the University of Delaware have always come to mind when we talk about categories of almost anything. “Doc” Allan Thompson said, “In the world of classifications, there are those who are lumpers and then those that are splitters.”

With a new classification term like “MOOC” we encounter conveniences and shortcomings by characterizing all examples that fall under that term. Even splitting them into cMOOC and xMOOC varieties produces generalizations that lose significance of what lies within, or between.

This paper includes my experiences at all levels with an open course that defies classification with the ongoing MOOC discussions.

I appreciate the excellent feedback from co-authors Laura Gibbs, writing a great critical feature review in “Coursera: Fifty Ways to Fix the Software (with apologies to Paul Simon)”, and Jeffrey Grabill who described the development process and ideas in “Why We Are Thinking About MOOC”.

Steven and Charlie did a ton of work to organize the effort, and ran it smoothly. Thanks for inviting me along. I do like the cover art; theirs and my hope was to use the one created by David Kernohan

Quick mock-up for a "Day of the #MOOC" movie poster, now properly posterised and shaded. #ds106

— David Kernohan (@dkernohan) September 26, 2012

which of course was a no go in publishing due to copyright of the original movie poster. Again, that tug of a 19th century past set of practices on a 21st century mode of creativity. Freaky Creaky.

So they did what makes sense; rather than be able to freely use a creative remix, go and license an existing drawing. I find it hard to see the creative differences, but there you go, some kind of bloop.

And you know, there is an aspect of invaders and a problem with the metaphor. The come in unexpectedly, cause havoc and change, and then move on. That’s what they do, right? That’s again what is different about ds106- it never ends, it is always reshaping, morphing, spinning off into new mutant varieties.

If MOOCs invade, they eventually go away.

Which brings me to an email from Cathy Davidson, the Future of Education blah blah blah mumbo jumbo chilly whack long wordy title full of colons, commas, and semi colons … ‘is now over’.

Again, I started a MOOC 6 weeks ago, and managed to make it through a week. That is my problem, my fault, not theirs.

And Cathy’s message does offer the invitation and ways one can continue on, mainly by becoming a member/needle of HASTAC. But the MOOC is over. Period.

But you know, the MOOC is Over.

The MOOC is Over.

Immediately I heard the lead organ riff of the Doors

It took only a few search and replaces to re-write the lyrics:

When The MOOC Is Over
by Cathy Morrison

When the MOOC’s over
When the MOOC’s over, yeah
When the MOOC’s over
Turn off the site
Turn off the site
Turn off the site, yeah

When the MOOC’s over
When the MOOC’s over
When the MOOC’s over
Turn off the site
Turn off the site
Turn off the site

For the MOOC is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
MOOC is your only friend
Until the end
Until the end
Until the end

Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection
Send my credentials to the House of Detention
I got facebook friends inside

The face in the mirror won’t stop
The girl in the window won’t drop
A feast of friends
“Revolution!” she cried
Waitin’ for me

Before I sink
Into the big sleep
I want to hear
I want to hear
The scream of the butterfly

Come back, baby
Back into my course
We’re gettin’ tired of hangin’ around
Waitin’ around with our heads to the ground

I hear a very gentle tweet
Very near yet very far
Very soft, yeah, very clear
Come today, come today

What have they done to education?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down

I hear a very gentle sound
With your ear down to the ground
We want the world and we want it…
We want the world and we want it…

ds106 night, babe
See the light, babe
Save us!
Jim Groom!
Save us!

So when the MOOC’s over
When the MOOC’s over, yeah
When the MOOC’s over
Turn off the site
Turn off the site
Turn off the site

Well the MOOC is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
MOOC is your only friend
Until the end
Until the end
Until the end!

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Bug, Feature, Healthcare

CogDogBlog - Mon, 2014-03-10 12:06

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Felix Morgner

My experience went very smooth signing up for healthcare via the Affordable Care Act (which is the legal name of the law; any thimblebrains who keep haranguing about ObamaCare are flame throwing herrings).

Too smooth.

I enrolled online early February, selected a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona plan, and sent off my payment by mid February, so my new plan would start March 1. I got a lot of paperwork in the mail, and my new card.

All set.

Well, until Saturday when I opened my mail. There was a refund check from Blue Cross Blue Shield and all it said on the attached receipt was NOT EFFECTIVE.

Getting a check in the mail is nice, but not what I wanted. When I logged onto my account at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona it said my policy was canceled.


I could not call them because it was on the weekend, so I tried the number for I had almost no wait time; the first representative I spoke to apologized because her computer crashed; she forwarded me to a supervisor. This person was very helpful, and keep apologizing for waiting for her system to load. She confirmed that everything was correct according tot heir records, and advised me to call Blue Cross Blue Shield to ask why they cancelled my plan.

Today I called Blue Cross Blue Shield. Well I did wait a bit.

That thing while stuck on hold where they repeatedly tell you how you can find information online? #PhoneTreeWaterTorture

— Alan Levine (@cogdog) March 10, 2014

Cynthia answered my call, and when she checked the records for Blue Cross Blue Shield, she told me that had cancelled my plan, and I would need to talk to them.

Fun. Insurance carrier says cancelled my policy; says carrier cancelled it. #recursion

— Alan Levine (@cogdog) March 10, 2014

But here was service. Rather then Cynthia just telling me to call someone else, she opened up the line and conferenced in (BTW, I learned if you say “representative” you can shortcut the phone tree). We went from James to ?? someone else before they figured out what happened.

And here is where the software comes into it.

When I originally signed up in early February, I selected a medical plan, but also chose an additional Dental plan, Best Dental. A week later, I found out my dentists does not accept that plan, so went back to, and canceled the plan for Best Dental, and selected a new dental plan from Gigna. I made th epayment, and assumed everything was in place.

Except for this bug feature wtf.

Apparently, when I canceled the Best Dental plan, the site automatically canceled my medical plan. There was likely a message, but I missed it.

There was no other notification, electronic, postal, that the medical plan I signed up for was canceled.

We had to escalate up two more levels of support, each time me conforming my name, phone number, etc for ID. Every representative was attentive and patient. Dominique ultimately re-entered all my info to re-establish my medical plan, Cynthia from Blue Cross Blue Shield stayed through the call (over an hour) to fill in info where necessary.

My plan is set to start April 1. They could not rescind the cancellation, and filing an appeal would have taken a lot more work and time. Since I have sufficient medicine for the rest of March, and no claims to file, I will roll the dice and go without insurance til APril (pocketing a month’s fees helps).

It may not be the safest approach, but that’s how I am rolling.

The design of this system can frankly use help in this small area which affected me. I was rather upset at first, but have to commend all the people who worked to straighten this situation out.

If I can avoid boulders falling on me til April, I should be ok.

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Washington Crossing the Delaware

© 2000–2014 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
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Open as Usual

CogDogBlog - Mon, 2014-03-10 09:34

Open Education Week….

It’s so hard to be open?

Not around this dog house.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

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Nelson Rockefeller's 1969 Audio Guide Introduction

© 2000–2014 The Metropolitan Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
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On being a woman in technology

Flowers for International Women's DayYesterday was International Women's Day and there was a plethora of blog posts and twitter messages identifying various inspirational women. Twenty five years ago I would have found this unnecessary, demeaning even. But now, with a pre-teenage daughter about to enter secondary school, with her whole life ahead of her, I'm increasingly concerned about the world that she is about to encounter.

I grew up with just one sister, no brothers. We were never told that there were career paths not open to us. We both ended up taking Computer Science degrees and both continue to work in technology. I went to an all-girls convent school. I took Honours Maths and Physics, because I liked them. Originally I wanted to be an accountant (like my dad) or an actuary. But then I got the CS bug, and decided that's what I wanted to do. I graduated in 1990, one of 8 girls in a class of 34 computer scientists - that's almost 25% female. I took a joint honours degree in Maths and Computer Science; of four of us to graduate with this degree, 2 were female.

When I started lecturing computer science, the first group to graduate (in 1999) had five women out of 13 (almost 40%). For the first few years, as class sizes increased, the ratio of female students remained around 35%. But then something happened. Jump forward to the final year class of 2009, the last undergraduate CS class I taught, when there was not one female in the group.

Twenty five years ago, I thought Women in Technology was an unnecessary movement and wanted nothing to do with it. Today, it's a recognised problem. Catherine Cronin has written a much more informed article about the issue. There are various articles about why we need more women in technology. We also hear that women entering the field are likely to face a difficult culture. I think it's also true to say that many women who work in technology, like myself, are bewildered by the situation. Mounia Lalmas, who did her Phd at the same time as me, in the early 1990s, and who is a brilliant computer scientist, wrote about this recently. Perhaps Mounia's post, more than any other, has inspired me to write this today.

One suggestion that keeps coming up is that young women need more (female) role models. Like Catherine Cronin (in the article mentioned above), I don't subscribe to this as the solution.

I note that many recommendations focus on role models and mentoring for girls. I believe such initiatives are powerful and necessary, but by no means sufficient in effecting the level of change that is required. - Catherine Cronin

I had no female role models. I adored and feared (in equal measure) my Maths teacher at school (Mrs Kelly), but I never wanted to be her. As an undergraduate, I had no female lecturers in either Maths or Computing. The first time I encountered a female academic in CS was after I had started my PhD. And, as Mounia writes "why do I want to be like somebody else?"

I was certainly inspired and influenced by various people, male and female, and I was lucky as an undergraduate and postgraduate student to have people who encouraged and supported me. I never noticed a gender imbalance; although clearly it did exist, it just wasn't an issue. I'd like to subscribe to Mounia's conclusions:

 listen to advices and recommendations, and decide what is RIGHT for you. Change what YOU think should change while remaining you. Take responsibility. And enjoy being you. - Mounia Lalmas

But ultimately, I do believe that there is a culture problem. I find it hard to accept that this exists in 2014, but evidence suggests that the situation is getting worse, and I fear for my daughter's future. And here is my problem with role models: no woman should have to be a role model for her gender. I don't want to push my daughter, who is clever, sociable, sassy and very much her own person, into a STEM career, just to make up the numbers.

I had a conversation last week with a bright young postgrad student. She started out, in college in the US, as a Maths student, the only female in her class. After some time, she realised that she would prefer to major in English Literature. She felt guilty in making that change, because she felt she was letting down her whole gender. It took a strong woman to choose Maths in the first place, and an even stronger woman to give it up.

So, here's to all the strong women out there - you know who you are.

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Grandfather I Never Knew

CogDogBlog - Sat, 2014-03-08 09:09

My family calendar, now on Google, reminds me that tomorrow is the day my mother’s father passed away, in 1957, years before I was even born. I guess you can say he would have been something like 112 years old.

I hardly know much about Harry. He emigrated from Poland in the early part of the 1990s. If I understand right, he might my mother Ida, herself a Lithuanian immigrant, through some local Baltimore matchmaker. That’s how things were done then.

He was a shoemaker, and my mother, her mother, her three sisters and one brother grew up in a house above the shop on Aisquith Street in Baltimore. Harry must have been scrappy to support his family through the Depression, an era my Mom (born in 1929) does not remember except through the normal playful eyes of a child. Harry, and his son Harvey (my uncle) apparently lost their hair before they were 20. Some genes I am happy passed me by.

Harry was also apparently fond of practical jokes, and played cards in the back of his shop. He did run numbers at one time, and apparently got in trouble with the law, and stopped. He would bring home a live carp from the market that stayed in the bathtub, until it was prepped for eating.

That’s not much to go on- I have some audio I recorded with my Mom in 2008:

Mom describes her father

I’ve got some scans of photos from Mom’s scrapbook- there are very few photos of the parents, most are of the kids in my Mom’s family. It does say something that they saw the value of photos in the late 1920s…

That’s Harry (dandy hat!- holding my Mom as a baby, 1929. Might that be Patterson Park, near where they lived?

Aisquith Stree6 (1935) – my mom and her sisters with a neighbor. There are very few photos that show the neighborhood (her house now is an empty lot according to Google Streetview). The sign behind has an address for a street that ends in “nklin” — the nearest I could find was “Conkling St, a mile east

A note from Mom about her Dad rigging up a hose from the second floor of their house so the kids could play in the water. That;s Mom (right, age 5), her sisters Dorothy (left) and Ruth (behind)

It isn’t much, and I feel the family stories get more faded as the voices who can tell them are gone. What is it about my Grandpa Harry that is in me? And even with this, it feels like peering through a very thick distorted piece of glass to understand what it was like to live in the 1930s, a world we see as sepia, but would have been full color, rich audio fidelity.

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Part 1: Troll Wars: Costing American Businesses $29B and Counting

Adobe Featured Blogs - Fri, 2014-03-07 16:58

Note: This post is cross-posted from Mike Dillon’s personal blog. 

Early in my career, when I was a law firm associate, one of my clients, a small networking company received a curious letter. It was from an unknown company accusing my client of patent infringement and “inviting” them to pay a very large license fee.

What made the letter so strange was that the referenced patent appeared to have nothing to do with the products made by my client.  Stranger still, after we did some investigation, we discovered that the other company was little more than a thinly capitalized shell that appeared to have a single employee – an attorney who had purchased the patent from someone else.

Because it was rather novel, I discussed the letter with other attorneys in the firm and we concluded that it must be a mistake, so I decided to call the other company to clarify things. It didn’t work out as I expected. Instead, our discussion became increasingly heated (at least on my end) until I said: “There’s no way my client will pay a dime – they aren’t infringing.” To which I heard a calm voice reply: “Yes, they will because the license fee I’m offering is less than what it will cost them to fight a patent lawsuit. It’s basic economics.”

It turns out, I was wrong.

My client was angry as hell and wanted to respond with a countersuit asserting his company’s patents; that is, until I explained that the other company didn’t have products. They didn’t actually make anything that could be infringing. A few weeks later he decided to pay the license fee (in the six digit range) to avoid the cost of fighting a patent infringement case in court.

That was my first introduction to a patent troll. At the time,  my fellow attorneys at the firm and I thought that this type of claim was an aberration in the U.S. legal system, something that our clients would rarely have to deal with in the future.

It turns out, we were wrong.

Since that telephone call some twenty-five years ago, patent trolls have overrun the U.S. patent system spawning an entire industry of attorneys, technical and damages experts, and causing a significant drain on judicial resources. (Here’s a patent litigation fun fact: In 2012 alone, more than 60% of all patent cases were filed by patent trolls. That’s over 2,900 cases in that year alone that required the attention of a frequently overworked judiciary.)

More importantly, it’s been an enormous diversion of money and resources from innovation and job creation to funding of lobbyists and lawyers. According to one recent study, the cost to American businesses in 2011 was a staggering $29b.  In an era of increasing global competition, this doesn’t bode well for America.

Let me give you a couple of real life examples this from earlier in my career.

- A small start-up I supported was focused on quickly increasing revenue growth and market share. Like many companies at this stage, it was dependent on private investors and operating on a very lean budget. An important factor in the company’s future success was the ability to develop and release a new set of features in its products. But, there was a competing demand for funding  – for the company’s defense of a lawsuit filed against it by a patent troll. The result?  The company was forced to delay some of its product development efforts in order to finance the litigation, and in-turn risked losing its competitive-edge.

- I was once asked to meet with the VP of the software development organization (at another company) to discuss a number of patent troll cases that had been filed against us. I thought the purpose of the meeting was to cover legal strategy, but what we discussed was far different.  When I arrived, the VP had on his desk invoices from the law firms that were defending us in the lawsuits.   I still remember him handing me a list of engineering and development roles and saying: “Mike, in order to pay these invoices and still achieve my financial targets I’m going to need to eliminate these positions. Before I do this, I wanted to check with you to see if you have any other ideas.” As it turns out, I did, but the meeting brought home the true cost of patent trolls to American business.

These examples are not unique. I’m sure if you ask the general counsel of most companies they would have similar stories.

The question is what do we do about it?


Down in the Mine Looking For Vectors

CogDogBlog - Fri, 2014-03-07 15:57

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Jack Zalium

I’m slinging the axe, and going deep into the mine, building a new syndication site for my colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University. It’s a bit under wraps, or so I guess, so I can be deliberately vague.

But the idea is to document what we are doing, even if vague, as we do it. Syndicate it in. Mix it up. Spin it back out.

The key word is… thought vectors

So far all you find for that is comic bubbles.

By the way, that image aboce? a google image search? Saved to an image easy with Image Quilts (go with Tufte).

Is this some sort of lorem ipso mumbo jumbo?

You betchya.

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Inside and Outside the ds106 Assignment Bank Theme

CogDogBlog - Fri, 2014-03-07 12:47

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Scott Maxworthy

It’s almost ready to share. I’ve been working on and off since August (a project I thought I could do in a month) on turning the ds106 Assignment Bank into a customizable WordPress theme that could be used for any kind of collection of “Things to Do”.

But I’ve done all I can, and just squashed a few nagging details and formatting. A big one over the last 2 days was updating from using as a parent theme the previous WP-Bootstrap theme (based on Bootstrap 2) to the most current one based on Boostrap 3. If that sounds like gobbledy goop, do not worry.

The parent theme provides the base functionality of the site, and I am using one based on Twitter Bootstrap “the most popular front-end framework for developing responsive, mobile first projects on the web.” The previous WP-Bootstrap had all kinds of crazy option panels, and the new version is much leaner, makes better use of LESS. The downside was having to do a lot of manual changes to my templates, because the many of the spans, divs, etc have changed.

Enough blah, let’s first look at the exterior and interior, the former you can see as well at (the content is of course silly filler).

This is the menu of the “things” in the bank (they can be “assignments”, in the demo I call them “challenges”). It is a WordPress page, and you can have it either as the main entry to the site (Settings for static front page) or an interior page– this way you can use it in say a course site, or have a blog portion on the front. The title and content a the top are what you edit in the page

I’ve made two shortcodes available anywhere in the site [thingcount] displays the number of “things” or assignments or challenges, and [examplecount] displays how many total examples have been collected at the site.

The theme’s 3 footer widgets are configurable, and come blank. In the demo, I use two widgets: Flexible Posts Widget allows me to do the middle and right widgets, which are custom post types, and the widget can list the most recent, or in my use, it randomly displays assignments (middle), and examples (right). The List Custom Taxonomy Widget is used on the left to display the types of “challenges” with a list count within (more or less like the standard WordPress Category widget).

The “Challenges” are the equivalent of Assignments at ds106; so within each one, like “Design Assignments”, are individual assignments, like the Cooking Challenges:

As an index page this lists the name, star rating, number of views, number of examples, and number of tutorials created for each. The format is the same as the main menu, it displays two per line– I will have to see if this is viable as a responsive design (each is its own row). There was a fair bit of trickery on the icon- because it can be the uploaded thumbnail (that size is controlled by the WordPress media settings), but other times it comes from media embeds from flickr, YouTube, and the sizing there gets to be fun. I think I have it fairly uniform.

The index can be resorted via the drop down menu to list alphabetically, by star rating, number of examples done, date added.

Now we get to an individual “thing” which has the same features as DS106

The icon/embedded media size is configurable in the theme, and the instructions for how to add an example, depend on the theme options (explained below)- it provides tags if syndication via Feed WordPress is enabled (it needs only a single tag if you use Feed WordPress on the site itself, two tags are needed if the syndication is from an external source (like we do in ds106).

You can also configure it to allow (or not) submissions of examples or tutorials via a web form

The form can be set to make all submissions published directly, or to enter as drafts. I’ve also made it an option to use Google recaptcha, because it you put up a web form, you will get spam. I was able to add this functionality completely in the theme, so no plugins are needed (see below).

In making this form, you just need to create a WordPress page and choose the “Submit Example/Tutorial Form” as a template. You don’t have to write any content, but if you do, it goes on the top like instructions. And you can title it whatever you want.

If you want to allow people to add assignments, there is a form for that!

If you do not want ratings, then these options (and elsewhere you see star ratings on the site) are hidden. This has a caption too, and a nifty jQuery thing to toggle fields for URLs, thumbnail uploads. I’m damn proud of coding all the stuff you can get done (probably better) in Gravity Forms. But I wanted this site to work with no premium plugins.

This too, is created by making a WordPress page, and selecting the “Submit Assignment Page” as template. If you do not want people adding assignments, I would still make the page, but add a password protection- it will make your assignments be entered properly as opposed to using the WordPress admin.

There were some minor tweaks on archive listings, such as all examples added/syndicated to the site

This is an archive template for a custom type, so they are not called “posts”; it also took some custom functions to be able to list the assignment/challenge an example is associated with (they are linked by taxonomy tags).

When you syndicate in examples, a user account is created to match the feed, so the archive for an “author” is not really an author, but a site.

Likewise, the search results needed some tweaking to display the meta information, because it is different for an example, versus an assignments:

I might be missing some conditions here, like if the site owner does normal blog posts.

The site menu is constructed by the site admin via standard WordPress menus. This gives a lot of flexibility as to how you create navigation. So “thing types” are all of the groupings of assignment types, so you get to pick where they go on your menu

All of the functionality in the site is configurable via a Assignment Bank Options admin page; it is under the “Appearance” menu of the dashboard, but also is added to the top of the main admin bar

I’ve blogged before as this was developed, but I am hugely appreciative from the tutorial and code from Aliso the Geek– The WordPress Settings API is a sprawling beast. I have greatly expanded her framework for the special kinds of form elements needed, but the structure enabled me to do this rather cleanly (I hope).

The options have 4 main tabs to organize them , the first are a range of general options:

First you get to customize what you call the “things”- be they Assignments, Challenges, Recipes, Bands, etc. This is used all over the site to label the “things”.

For the form where you create new “things” you can set whether they are published immediately, or set to draft.

Next, you have to identify the page created that houses the “Add an Example/Tutorial” form (this probably needs to move below with the syndication options). You actually just select from all pages created. There’s a function for that.

The excerpt length allows you to have longer or shorter summaries of examples, posts, etc (the default is the WordPress 55).

Then you have a number of options to enable the captcha on forms, and if so you need to enter public/private keys you get from Google recpatcha. You can even select from the 4 visual styles Google gives is.

Next are the media options, you set the width and height for thumnbnails that appear on the main, and the type index pages, as well as the width of images, media on an individual thing page.

And you get to set a default thumbnail to use for an assignment/thing of none is chosen- this was the most challenging thing to develop, to figure out how to use the WordPress media uploaded, where you can drag and drop to the site.

The bottom is an indicator if you have installed the WP-PostRatings plugin; if no, that means you do not want to allow ratings. There are a few edits that you will need to do in the plugin.

Next we have the options that enable the form to be available for visitors to add their examples, and whether they should be published or kept as draft.

The bottom contains the syndication options for bringing in examples (responses to assignments)– I recently blogged those options in more detail. The way it stands now, if you do syndicate from an outside source (like ds106), you will have to manually add one feed to Feed WordPress; if you enable syndication on the bank site itself… well I do not (yet) have a simple way to allow people to add feeds.

My hope is to create this as a general plugin, as it is going to be useful outside. I did not see it as essential to build into the site.

And that’s ONE options tab!

The next tab is where you edit the names, descriptions, and thumbnail images for each type of thing/assignment. Again, the thumbnails are uploaded directly to WordPress. I am seeing a small bug for the first time you do this; the second thumbnail seems to replace the first, but once saved, they seem to behave.

There is also a check box to delete a type.

Ahh, you ask, how to you create these in the first place? At the bottom, you list new types you want to add in a text area

When you save, they then become part of the top set, where you can edit, etc. This again called for some trickery to make a save return the page to the same tab. Win for me.

The third tab represents my remaining major task

Once I write the docs, and make sure there is sufficient comments in the code, this baby can go on github.

Whew! This has been major. Trying to make sites for other people to make sites is much harder than just making sites. I am sure there are use cases I have not counted on, or actions people will take that I’ve not anticipated. And people will ask for features not in the original. All is expected.

I have tested this in multisite on ds106, and as a standalone on me own sandbox. Check.

But if you want to try this out early, let me know. It’s almost prime time (I hope).

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pechaflickr Now Equipped with Super Powers of Photo Credit

CogDogBlog - Thu, 2014-03-06 21:08

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by mylerdude

There’s is nothing like a successful, joyful leap. Mine today was accomplished within the space of my programming editor (still BBEdit, the same text editor I started my first web pages with in 1993).

I have to say one of my most favorite things made is pechaflickr which I usually described as a mashup of pecha kucha, Powerpoint Karaoke, and flickr.

The way it works is you enter a tag to use as a source of flickr images; if you toggle open the advanced options, you can change the default number of images (20) and interval between (20 seconds). You can check the box that forces images to come from different people, so you don’t see a bunch of repeats from the same person.

The player opens in a new window, and after a splash screen as a warning 9with some taunting text), the images pop up one at a time. The idea is for people to practice improvising a talk or story to accompany the images.

One thing I had thought of adding, but never got around to it, was to keep a track of the images, so there would be a credits screen at the end. I was brainstorming today with Darren Kuropatwa about an upcoming workshop, and he had a great idea of a way to use pechaflickr– but it would be much more useful to have away to save the list of images.

Part if the holdup before was my own limited knowledge of jQuery– I use the Cycle plugin to run the slide show. With some more coding experience (not a whole lot more), I thought I could find a way to generate the list of links to images (done in php with the phpflickr library)– that is easy. It took a few iterations to figure out how to hide initially the div where the info was stored (CSS: visibility: hidden;), and when the slides were done, to hide the div that holds the images, and show the hidden credits.

So now, when the slides are done, you get the thumbnails (linked), and a list of URLs (linked) to all images that were in the show:

And for fun, I added a tweet button that includes a link that sets up pechaflickr with the same parameters, e.g. (you won’t get the exact same images– that is the RANDOM part)

I just did #pechaflickr with 20 random flickr images tagged "dog"

— Alan Levine (@cogdog) March 7, 2014

I used pechaflickr often in my storytelling presentations- it is a great way to start with an activity. I find that it is better when you get a group of volunteers, and ask them to take turns– the hand offs from one person to another are always fun to see. I’ve done this in Google Hangouts and for the online talks I do in Collaborate for Dean Shareski’s classes… I even did a talk on improv where I used pechaflickr to talk about pechaflickr.

I know language teachers use it for student practice; see what Amy Burvall shared

If you teach language, try @cogdog 's adlib sppech experiment PechaFlickr Cool #thinkonfeet

— Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) February 19, 2014

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Will Marlow

Like Winston, I feel pretty good right now (he is one of the many flickr images that will come up if you stay with my defaults).

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Updated Flash Player 13 and AIR 13 betas on Adobe Labs

Adobe Labs - Thu, 2014-03-06 15:06

Updated Flash Player 13 and AIR 13 betas, code named King, are now available on Adobe Labs.

The Adobe® AIR® 13 provides developers with a consistent and flexible development environment for the delivery of out-of-browser applications across devices and platforms.

Learn more about Adobe AIR 13 beta
Download Adobe AIR 13 beta

Adobe® Flash® Player 13 drives innovation for rich, engaging digital experiences with new features for cross-platform browser-based viewing of expressive rich internet applications, content, and videos across devices. This beta release provides access to the Flash Player 13 runtime for Mac OS and Windows desktop environments.

Learn more about Flash Player 13
Download Flash Player 13 beta  

Into the Wild

Adobe Featured Blogs - Thu, 2014-03-06 13:33

The shift to the Creative Cloud means we’ve opened up the possibilities for innovation, iteration and imagination when it comes to the development of our flagship products.

The Creative Cloud also affords us the opportunity to publicly explore new avenues for creativity. We’re exposing raw ideas and concepts early on in the process and developing new apps that allow more people than ever before to realize their creative vision.

We’ve got teams that are acting as incubators for these kinds of explorations. We’re openly releasing apps into the wild to test and learn. In fact, our team is now actively researching video on mobile devices – aka The Hammersmith Project. If you’ve got an iPhone or an iPad and you’re looking for a fast, fun and simple way to put together great looking videos, they want to connect with you to potentially be a part of an early-preview program.

Some of you may have already stumbled upon one of our explorations – The Ginger Project. It raised some eyebrows about what we could possibly be up to with an unbranded website and an early-preview program. That project is still under development and began as a simple test to see if we could help address the challenge of story – how do you communicate a message with impact?

The Creative Cloud has enabled more innovation – both inside and outside these walls. We’re enjoying coming up with imaginative ideas and collaboratively developing solutions with people who just want to be creative. You will see many more tests from Adobe. Stay tuned…


Ready to Put Your Ideas into Action? Meet the 99U Conference.

Adobe Featured Blogs - Thu, 2014-03-06 09:00

Are you tired of creative conferences that teach you how to dream big, but not how to DO big? Well, we are, too. That’s why we at Behance created the 99U Conference, where we invite visionaries from across industries to share actionable tips on how to execute great ideas. Our incredible 2014 lineup includes 37Signals founder Jason Fried, entrepreneur & author Seth Godin, former RISD president John Maeda, Facebook product design director Julie Zhuo, graffiti artist-turned-entrepreneur Mark Ecko, and many more.

On May 1-2, 2014 in New York City, each of these remarkable idea executors will take the stage at Lincoln Center to deliver a keynote, packing as much insight as possible into a killer 20-minute talk. But making ideas happen isn’t just about listening, which is why we assemble a rich conference program that complements our talks with tons of interactive programming, great takeaway content, and networking parties.

If you’re not already registered, here’s a sneak peek at what your 99U ticket gets you:

1. Seventeen Keynotes w/ Actionable Advice on Idea Execution
Our roster of leading researchers, top entrepreneurs, and accomplished creative visionaries will share actionable, pragmatic advice on making ideas happen through a series of 20-minute keynotes. See the full lineup here.

2. One Collaborative Studio Session
Our one-of-a-kind studio sessions give you an all-access to pass to some of the most creative workplaces in Manhattan. This year’s choices include Spotify, IDEO, Quirky, Red Antler, Refinery29, SYPartners, Fueled, MoMA, and Undercurrent. See studio session topics here.

3. Admission to a 75-minute Master Class
On day one, you’ll get to participate in a 75-minute masterclass featuring one of the world’s leading creative thinkers. Choices include Adobe VP of Community and head of Behance Scott Belsky, Facebook Product Design Director Julie Zhuo, and more. See the masterclass lineup here.

4.  Our Networking Pre-Party at the Art Directors Club
Before we kick off the official conference, we’ll be hosting a killer conference warmup with a slew of networking and skill-building activities — ranging from one-on-one portfolio reviews to creative quiz games to cutting-edge product demos.

5. Access to the Day 1 Cocktail Reception
Close out Day One of the Conference by joining us for complimentary cocktails at Providence, a former church and recording studio just blocks from Lincoln Center.

6. The World’s Greatest Schwag Bag
Design is not an afterthought at 99U. In fact, it influences everything we do — and the Conference is no different. As part of your event experience, you’ll receive a custom-designed 99U schwag bag, packed with gorgeous (and useful!) creative tools, notebooks, and other goodies.

7. Admission to Our Legendary After-Party at MoMA
An open bar, a world-class DJ, and one of the premier museums in the world… It doesn’t get much better than the 99U Afterparty at The Museum of Modern Art. What better way to close out the Conference?

Not registered yet? Get your ticket to 99U today.

Kevin in the Making

Adobe Featured Blogs - Wed, 2014-03-05 11:52

Student Author – Kevin Bernardez

Kevin Bernardez is an AYV Scholarship recipient from Boston, Massachusetts. He participated in AYV at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. Kevin is currently attending Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

Hello everyone, my name is Kevin Bernardez, and I am so thrilled to introduce myself as an Adobe Youth Voices Scholarships recipient. I have to say that it has truly been a wonderful journey for me from the first day of high school until my first day in college. But wait, my journey does not end here. I still have fuel in my tank that has driven me to become a phenomenal student.

I graduated from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, located in Roxbury, Massachusetts and I am currently enrolled at Fitchburg State University as a pre-major (undecided). Next semester I would love to major in in Film and Video because that is where my heart is, and that is what I’m most passionate about.

I love everything about film, from the different types of cameras to the way people act in scenes. I am not a very good actor, but with experience, I will be. I am very creative behind the scenes with directing, filming shots, and editing the piece. I have also expanded my horizons by creating animations as well.

I became interested in filmmaking when I was in 7th grade. At the time, my siblings and I created our own dance group called the H Star Crew and for a couple years, we had performed at numerous of places around Boston. In order to gain exposure for ourselves, we decided to produce videos and post them on YouTube. None of my siblings knew how to put clips together so I decided to give it a try, then I gradually learned how to edit videos on my own.

While still in middle school, I also produced music videos with an underground Reggae musician from Boston, which has helped gain exposure for his music. In my spare time, I would learn new aspects of video such as creating special effects. I’ve produced two videos using Adobe After Effects. In one video, I animated bringing the world, lighting, and a Super Mario fireball into my hands as I was sitting at my kitchen table. In another video, I cloned myself dancing, as if I was battling against myself.

As a student at Madison Park, I knew that I was going to experience the cutting edge of television and film production. Being a part of the Adobe Youth Voices program has allowed me to grow potential within myself as an artist. I learned things such as making sure you don’t use copy written music, brand, material and so forth. As an AYV alumni and a recipient of the AYV Scholarship, to have the opportunity to socialize with other Adobe Youth Voices students has opened up doors to network with other artists who has the same interest as me and to build on my craft. The only direction to go from here is forward.  


Super Mario Clouds

CogDogBlog - Tue, 2014-03-04 23:09

Originally published by me at (re) New Media Art (see it there)

Technologies: ART EEPROM burner, DASM 6502 BSD, data projectors, NBASIC BSD, Nintendo Entertainment System, RockNES, Super Mario Brothers Nintendo cartridge, video distributor
Current URL 
Wikibook Chapter:

Not a web-based art form, but yet a compelling example of hacking a console game, Super Mario Clouds presents an example of creation by deletion.

It’s just clouds scrolling by, WTF? But check out what Cory Archangel did to make it

To make Super Mario Clouds, Arcangel hacked Super Mario Brothers, a classic video game that made its debut in 1985. He replaced the program chip from an old Nintendo Entertainment System game cartridge with a new chip that he programmed himself (by borrowing code he found on computer hobby scene Web sites) to erase everything in the original game except the clouds.

Just look at the jagged cuts to get to the chip, and the masking tape labels!

I cannot speak much to the artistic references in the book chapter:

Arcangel’s process of visual subtraction evokes Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953), in which the artist famously erased a composition by Willem de Kooning to create a new work of art. Super Mario Clouds suggests a similar sensibility, simultaneously conveying a stripped-down aesthetic and a rebellious, bad-boy attitude that challenges conventional notions of artistic integrity and authenticity.

but the notion of creation by deletion is intriguing for the way it runs 180 degrees to our assumption of what creativity means- making stuff, right?  But look at Austin Kleon’s Blackout Poetry- its not just haphazard erasing to make a poem from existing works by erasing portions (maybe easier than hacking a NIntendo cartridge).

While many new media artists fetishize emerging technologies, Arcangel eschews the graphic realism of contemporary game titles like Grand Theft Auto, celebrating instead the crude “dirt style” imagery of early video games

The same might be said today about the environment of Minecraft (which spawns  in the world and derivatives elsewhere).

Cory Arcangel provides a detailed illustrated guide to his hack  — like 

The first thing you will need to get is an original Super Mario Brothers cartridge. Not a “Duck Hunt+Mario Brothers” cartridge, but just a plain old Super Mario Brothers cartridge. Next you should unscrew the plastic back on the cartridge, and inside you will see a circuit board like the one you see below. There are two chips on this board. The CHR chip, and the PRG chip. We are interested in the PRG chip for this project. Also please make sure the cartridge says NES-NROM-01 (01-05 in also fine). This let`s us know it is a 32k Nintendo circut board. 

And in a modern spirt, also shares via github the code he used to modify the game.

Even more timely or i time, in reference to the GIF above:

when I originally posted this on the Internet in 02, the web wasn’t actually able to contain video (it sounds funny now, but remember youtube didn’t start making waves till like 05ish??), therefore I made a gif of the video. Of the gazillion bootlegs of this project, most are from this gif.

What’s a video game without the character, action, and scenery? Dreamy?

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