I’ve been careful to ride with the weather so far.  When I could have taken a big risk and crossed Toronto in thunder showers, I didn’t.  I guess this is what comes of being in your forties and starting to ride; twenty year old me would have been off into the lightning with no experience in the rain or four hundred series highways, through Toronto.  There is something to be said about risk taking, but it’s something that happens more in your youth.

I’ve only got a 15 minute ride to work, so I tend to grab the bike whenever the weather is nice.  Last week on my way home I rode into some dark clouds which turned out to be hail.  At sixty kilometers per hour hail feels kind of like paintball strikes.  I got in behind the fairing and windshield and rode through a torrential downpour that left slush on the side of the road and the pavement drenched.  I also discovered that wind proof jackets aren’t waterproof  (I guess to help with breathing).  I got back to my driveway soaked and steaming as the sun came out complete with rainbow.

Taking it easy around a corner, the backend stepped out when I went into second.  It was easily tamed by easing off the gas, but boy do bike backends break free easily in the wet!

Whenever something like this happens I try to grok it as completely as I can.  I was amazed at how efficient my helmet was at keeping my visor clear, even in heavy precipitation.  Vision is much less of a problem than I thought it would be.

As I went back out to pick up my son about ten minutes later, the road had a layer of mist a foot deep as the sun burned the rain off.  I could smell the ozone as the storm hit, the vegetation as it got wet, the steam as it burned off the road.  Smell is one of the great things about riding.

Back home again, I spent ten minutes wiping off the bike and put it away as another storm rolled in.  A good first experience in the wet.


Nothing like a bit of media making on your ride.  This video is courtesy of a GoPro Hero electrical taped to the rear right passenger foot peg looking out over the back wheel.

The route is 60 kms through Elora, Arthur and Fergus.  It ended up being 51 minutes of footage, but I clipped it down to 12 minutes so it would fit on the youtubes.

The vehicle of choice is a 2007 Kawasaki 650R Ninja.

Here’s the video!  That GoPro takes mighty nice footage, even at higher speeds…

Running electrical tape over the camera 4 or 5 times kept it securely in place for the whole ride and came off afterward without leaving any tape marks.  Putting it on the right side passenger foot rest means it was just above the muffler, so you can hear the engine clearly and wind noise wasn’t too bad because it was behind the fairing and my leg.  Having it on the frame rather than the suspension means that it doesn’t bounce around as much as it otherwise would.

If I ever get some time on a race track, I’m totally taping a GoPro on for a few laps.

Influence Without Affluence

After a Social Media gathering a couple of weeks ago and a rewatch of We Are Legion I’ve been pondering what social expectations we’re developing in our new digital society.  Why would I do this?  Since our students are immersed in this radical, unprecedented counter culture it might behoove us as educators to have some idea of what cultural norms are coming out of it.  Recognizing what is normative online behavior goes some distance toward explaining the seemingly bizarre responses teachers are seeing in class.

If you think the buttoned down 1950s era teacher had trouble understanding the hippy counter culture student of the sixties, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  What technology is offering students today is nothing short of an entirely new social medium to inhabit, and what that is doing to early adopters (like teens) is nothing short of a paradigm shift in social behavior.

A number of years ago (2006!) WIRED did a quick piece on GENERATION XBOX, in which they talked about the expectations of gamer culture and how different they are from preceding (non digital) generations.  This short list hit the gaming ethos precisely: arrogant, hacking (competitive, results focused regardless of rules), insubordinate… sound like anyone in your classroom?  That gaming ethos has done a great deal to influence online presence.  The egalitarian nature of the gamer is clearly seen in internet cultures like Anonymous where there is a strong emphasis on your contribution rather than your social standing in the ‘real’ world.  What matters is what you say and how well you say it, not how much money your parents had or who you’re the boss of.

You might think this is socialist, but it really isn’t, it can be crushingly cruel and direct and has no patience for bullshit or spin.  Everyone isn’t equal, though everyone does have equal access and ability to contribute.  This ties organizations, especially politically powerful ones, in knots, especially when they expect the same kind of submission they can force in traditional media in an open digitized space.  I suspect it’s hitting a lot of people who are used to the benefits of their social circumstances hard.

If suddenly all of the benefits you had (race, socio-economic status, education, family) are ignored, how do you establish yourself as an alpha?  Especially when you’re used to having it handed to you.  In the last post I tried to push privacy and ownership of information as far as I logically could considering the near friction-less information we find online.

If you can’t own information because trying to hold it is impossible when it can be copied and spread with no real effort, and privacy is irrelevant because anyone can copy and paste your information, and almost everyone has a media recording device unimaginable 20 years ago and can capture you at any time regardless of whether you want to be seen or not, regardless of whether you yourself are online or not; how do we understand what is ours?  Ownership is at the foundation of how we relate to other people in society.  With no ability to own material and with information being so slippery we can’t regulate who sees it online, how do we establish social dominance?  If we can’t flash the car, the house, our jobs, or even our educations at people and expect benefits, what value do these things have?

The tendency would be to fall back on existing power structures, to try and exercise the same protections that advantage us in society in an online milieu, but this has been shown to fail again and again.  Digital information does not work in a personal context the way that social status does.  The only thing that makes you special is what you’re doing right now.  Your interaction is your credibility online.  If you try to game the system and people can find that data, they can make you look the fool.  If you are able to maintain an honest and insightful digital footprint, you come as close as you’re ever going to get to being untouchable in the Wild West of the internet.

Someone who puts Ph.D. after their name online is as likely to be made fun of as they are to be respected.  If that same person does not advertise their traditional social standing, but produces excellent ideas clearly   and accessibly through an understanding of the tools available, then they will gain online currency.  If the approach is one of indirect, politically motivated self interest, then the proliferation of digital information makes it very difficult to game the truth, or play people.  That email or DM where you instruct other people to do something that you wouldn’t want everyone to know?  It’ll end up buried in your back.  You can’t stop the signal.  If you’ve done it online, it’s obtainable.

I still maintain that radical transparency is what will evolve out of this startling social evolution.  Say what you mean and do what you say, be consistent and don’t be afraid.  If you make a mistake own it, and if you can’t handle what’s happening don’t advertise it by leaving a permanent record.  Lurking is a perfectly reasonable place to back away to online.

I suspect that many of our students lurk online because they are trying to parse the wild west that they see out there.  They don’t want to make fools of themselves, but they are also wrestling with what they know happens in the real world (you can get away with lying, deceit and social/political games quite easily in a world where information is ownable – especially if you’re the beneficiary of racial, social or cultural advantage).  Online the powers aren’t powers and the socially weak can suddenly become something else if they have the voice and the will to do it.

Being hacked may not be a bad thing if it keeps everyone honest.  The threat of hacking is what prevents many of the ‘real’ world powers from abusing the internet (that and it has insinuated itself into business and society to such a degree that pulling the plug would be a disaster).  Marx may not have taken down capitalism, but online society offers the kind of radical egalitarianism that wraps monopolistic capitalists in knots.

The other thing about this radically flat mediascape is that hierarchies that force group think tend to fail.  Rather than being threatened into following the crowd, you are free to disappear online.  You aren’t beholden to social context in the same way you are in the real world.  This means you can do things online you’d never do in ‘real’ life.  Like the guy who screams obscenities and gives the finger to others while driving who would never do the same thing while walking down the sidewalk; the person online is removed and empowered in an interesting way by the machines that isolate them from their social context.

I’ve enjoyed watching the dismantling of these assumptions in a number of large organizations.  I’ve been frustrated by others that claim democracy while really wanting to enforce an existing hierarchy.  Online society is the most radically democratic ideal we’ve ever created.  Access is cheaper and more available than citizenship in the first world (arguably the previous means of access to political control).  As we miniaturize and mobilize computing and billions more people come online and realize that they are not powerless in their societies (and that they belong to a larger, more pervasive and more powerful online society), the world will change, and the ones who will suffer are those that have benefited from history the most.

Privacy Never Existed & Ownership of Information Is Dead

What you do when you try to privatize,
own or control digital content in the C21st

When #ontsm considered how to introduce social media to students there was a lot of talk about walled gardens and safe places.  By creating private digital spaces students could become used to the nuances of online life in a tidal pool before they wandered out into the ocean.  It’s a nice idea.  It’s predicated on a myth.

The flaw in this thinking is that privacy exists, that it ever existed.  Anonymity is very difficult to maintain, it always has been.  This isn’t a digital issue.  A hundred years ago, people weren’t able to move about as easily as they do now.  You tended to exist in a much more colloquial and static social group.  Your town or village knew who you were because you were contextualized in it by your family, job, religion, culture and friends.  Modern cities barely existed at that point.  Industrialization and the machinery it produced gave us the  ability to migrate individually in the 20th Century, but even that came with a lot of social baggage.  If you were out alone on a motorcycle, you were socially classified, even if people didn’t know you personally. We do this all the time with race, socio-economic status, even accent; every time we stereotype we do it.  Privacy has always been a myth.  If anyone lays eyes on you who doesn’t know you, their impression of you is what you are socially.  Digital information makes a greater mockery of that myth by spreading us across the web, ignoring our geography.

Digital information is so fluid, so easy to create and share, that it is frictionless.  You don’t have to physically share a book to share text any more, you don’t have to physically share a DVD to share a video any more.  When information is a stream of data constantly flowing, ownership and privacy become impossible to manage in any traditional sense.

If you put student data into a digital format, your ‘privacy settings’ (an ode to the myth to make you feel better) are set to whomever is the viewer of your content with the least goodwill toward you and the least respect for your privacy.  This goes beyond the people you shared it with to anyone at all who can view your information.  Any attempts to ‘lock down’ (another backward looking term designed to make you feel better) digital information is easily bypassed by a screen capture or a cut and paste.

The digital is leaking into the physical world too.  If anyone sees or hears you doing anything, anywhere, at any time, and they have a smart phone on them, you are the push of a button away from being published.  Stupidity has never been so readily documented; see youtube for a billion examples.  If you think you’re ‘safe’  because you’re not doing something digitally, the ability to record and publish digitally makes your point moot.  Want to go back to report cards on paper?  It’s one photo away from being on Facebook.  Think you’re in private because you’ve closed the door to your classroom?  The kid videoing you without your knowing will have you on youtube in thirty seconds, and then copies of copies of copies spread across the web.

The idea of privacy might be a byproduct of industrialization – that machines can insulate us from our social context and offer us a kind of freedom people have never really had before.  We leapt into digital machines thinking they would further isolate us from each other and preserve the myth of privacy, but the slippery nature of digital information makes a mockery of the myths of privacy and ownership of information.

Revolutions and Dataspheres

When you can propagate information this easily and quickly, and exponentially like a virus, who owns it?  When we stumbleupon material intentionally author intent quickly becomes a secondary influence in media.  The viral nature of social media sharing pushes information in a way that used to be the job of publication.  It’s hard to even introduce traditional publishing into this environment.  This is such a chaotic, crowdsourced, place, the idea of a professional publisher (itself based on an industrialized limitation around the costs of printing to paper) becomes almost impossible to justify.  Editors give way to crowd wisdom and the results are often indistinguishable.  An argument might be made for professional publishing, but if crowd sourced material finds ways to approach the quality of traditional media, and ends up forcing it out of the market, what is left for the professional publisher?

Does the author’s intended audience matter?  That information takes on a life of its own.  Its audience is dictated by its accessibility and how effectively it hooks a viewer’s attention.  In a medium where people are buried in information, caprice replaces intent, information that captures curiosity is gold.

The shear volume of data in this wild-west is so overwhelming that it couldn’t possibly be managed by traditional (industrially designed, limited paper media driven) editorial systems.  Machines can try to self organize the data they present, and they are getting better and better at it, but crowd sourcing offers a way to keep a human touch in information flow.  It lacks the clarity of purpose of professional editorial work, but given enough time it often produces surprisingly similar results.  In fact, it often bypasses the political spin and self interest that traditional hierarchies have always put on the limited industrially defined information they claimed ownership over.  Democratization of information means it becomes free from manipulation by the former gatekeepers of it.

If you’re making content in this brave new world, don’t expect to own or even direct it, once it’s out, it may end up in unexpected places.  If you’re not making content, don’t worry, everyone one around you is, and it will end up where you don’t want it as well.  How do companies and individuals survive in this madness?  No one is really sure (I have a guess), but one thing is sure, it won’t be boring.

I was listening to CBC’s The Current today as they had Jared Cohen, the head of Google Ideas on talking about what is about to happen to the world.  Two billion people are online, another five billion are about to join them.  We’ve already seen the internet bypass governments and ferment revolution in the Middle East, and we’ve seen Western governments struggling with trying to keep control of information with wikileaks and other hactivism.  If you have a few minutes, listen to Cohen on The Current.  His ideas about where the world is going are radically transformative.  The only part I’d question is his assertion that Google is a force of nature in this process, rather than just the most successful parasite.

Corporate Shills

I keep saying that

This is one hot potato on a Sunday morning.  #ontsm trended nationally yesterday and attracted a lot of attention, which I suspect was the point.  The fact that the attention has a life of its own is probably a concern to people who are used to controlling the message.  Ironically, it’s trending again today, driven in large part by people who objected to it for various reasons.

I heard the term shill a couple of times this weekend.  It’s not a commonly used piece of language.  My favorite moment was when another one of the attendees (and one of the smartest guys I know) said, “yeah Tim, you gotta be careful we don’t turn into corporate shills.” He said it with a glint in his eye, knowing that we were all at a paid for event the week after I’d been criticizing another corporate event; nothing like some tasty irony.

If you want an idea of the conversation around what some are calling a controversy, me writing at you won’t present it well.  Go over to the twitter feed and enjoy the diversity of opinion.  Some are worried that this is dividing the PLN.  The PLN isn’t a single group with a single approach.  What you’ll see on the twitter feed (and in other blog posts) are what complex discussion and disagreement could look like online.  It doesn’t have to be modeled on a fifteen year old’s idea of flaming.  I’ve disagreed with a number of colleagues on there, and that is fine.  I still respect them as professionals, and even if we end up agreeing to disagree, I’m still OK with that.  Online communication can be deep, nuanced and even contrary without becoming personally inflammatory   It’s all good, and I’d much rather the disagreements get aired in public than kept in, or hidden.

This will be resolved, as it was started, transparently and publicly online; the best kind of modelling for a new communication medium I can think of.

Gitchigoomie Go-Around

another tour, this one a bit more plausible…

Circumnavigating Lake Superior (and Huron)

Google Map

Stage 1: Southern Ontario to Michigan: 135 Miles / 217kms

Stage 2: Southern Michigan: 288 Miles / 463 kms
Stage 3: Northern Michigan: 603 Miles / 907 kms
Stage 4: Ontario North: 502 Miles / 808 kms
Stage 5: Bruce Peninsula: 140 Miles / 225 kms
Total Mileage: 1668 Miles / 2685 kms

At 400 kms/day, about a week (just under 7 days) of riding.  If we pushed one day, we could have a light day the next.  The green pins indicate population areas at around 400 kilometre intervals where a stop would be possible.

Ideal travel time would be late summer, as the nights are getting cooler and the bugs are dying down.  One of the last two weeks of August would be good.  September would be spectacular, though cooler, especially if the colours were starting to turn.

Superior Foliage Report
Lake Superior Motorbike Touring