The Web is a Creativity Generator generating a Culture of Creativity

Photo by Tabea Dibou, from Flickr

We can see more people creating more works than ever before in history. And it’s because of the web and because the web is social. On the web, much is possible. Whether you are finding the right beautiful photo (with the right Creative Commons license) to illustrate metaphorically the connectivity and the beauty of the internet for a blog post, or whether you are playing with a web app (Skitch –  http://skitch.com/) to draw

or to explain something

The web is a space where people want to make, to create. I’m creating this blog post, because it’s FUN! And easy. The phrase “user-friendly” developed with the personal computer. Web apps are aimed at being user-friendly to entice and encourage people to use them, to be creative.The social aspect of the web, the possibility of being seen/heard/recognized, even if only by a very few others, encourages people’s creativity. I might not have composed this blog post if the one I created yesterday hadn’t been re-tweeted, and got  a comment. That thrill of recognition is energizing. So people are playing on computers and posting their creativity on the web. As we get responses ourselves, and even if we just see others get responses, we are encouraged to join in the play. And playfulness spreads.

So serious people who sell cars and race cars become part of the crowd playing:

Two typographers ( Pierre & Damien / plmd.me ) and a pro race pilot (Stef van Campenhoudt) collaborated to design a font with a car.
The car movements were tracked using a custom software, designed by interactive artist Zachary Lieberman. ( openframeworks.cc )
Which I downloaded – nl.toyota.be/iqfont and played with.

Art, play, creativity – that’s how we humans learn and that’s what makes us happy and healthy. And the web is our creativity playground.

Always Beta, Never Done

The most fascinating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.

The most frustrating thing about the web is that there is no end; there is always more and new.

Everything is always changeable. My website – jnthweb.ca – is not the same now as it was a half-hour ago. I just added my most recent brilliant idea,

Currently, I look at Twitter using the third or fourth application I’ve tried. It’s Nambu now; it was TweetDeck, and who knows what I’ll try next. And Twitter is the poster child for constant change, as Tweet after Tweet flips by.

My friend showed me her new laptop today, and I drooled enviously, although mine does everything I want and need and is only a little more than a year old.

I’m behind in my Bloglines again, no, make that still. I never did fully catch up.

Trying to catch up! - via Creative Commons/Flickr
Trying to catch up! - via Creative Commons/Flickr

So I love the web, and I learn so much from what often feels like frittering my time away, but there is no end to  what you can learn to do and learn and do on it. Clay Shirky, in Here Comes Everybody, says in the first 100 years after the invention of the printing press, it broke more than it fixed. I know that the printing press brought endless developments with it from dictionaries to science, from the Enlightenment to romance novels, and more. And here we are in the same early stage with the web, where everything is alway beta, never done!

Personalizing Web Access

Sometimes a bunch of experiences mash together and inspiration results. A couple of day ago I received a comment on one of my posts – #2 by Virginia Yonkers where she said “Try working on another’s computer! Just as we have idiosyncrasies in the speech, how we do math, writing (think of handwriting), we develop different patterns for tools and how we use them. If we can see how to modify a tool or how it is used to achieve our goals, we are more motivated to ask for help, persist through problems”. That has been my experience in my own learning.

Later in the day I was working with some people who were not that efficient at using the web and wanted to show them what I regard as an essential web tool, del.icio.us, the social bookmarking application. I reached out to the laptop, not my own, to try to open up my del.icio.us account so I could show them why it was so useful. Two problems:

  1. Although this was the same model as my laptop, the owner doesn’t use a mouse, and I do. I have to think to use the trackpad and that slows me down and klutzes me up;
  2. The owner’s desktop looks different and so do the applications because she has them set larger than I do mine, also disorientating.

Both of these reminded me of Virginia’s comment, and an often overlooked factor in encouraging people to expand their web efficiency. I think knowing how to set up and manipulate our tools is essential to any skilled artisan, knowledge workers included. Which computer we use is important, but knowing how to set up our PLE (Personal Learning Environment) or, the term I prefer, our PLWE (Personal Learning and Working Environment) is foundational. To work efficiently and effectively, you need to streamline your access to the different software and applications you are going to use. You need to fit your tool to your use.

Because I have a laptop, I can travel with it and use it for presentations. Because I am on it for several hours almost every day, and because I am impatient, I have researched and developed my own idiosyncratic setup.

Working SetUp

So let me explain, starting at the top left:

  1. I use Apple and Firefox because experts I know talked about how easy and handy they were, and that has been my experience too; I like them.
  2. I have my applications dock on the left side where I am less likely to “bump” into it. What can I say; it works for me.
  3. Most importantly, I have a personal toolbar, right under the address bar, where I keep all the links I regularly use. I use the Bookmarks feature to put these in the order I want them in, and to shorten their names so I can squeeze more on. I add other links I frequently use too, but allow these to be beyond the “>>” at the right end of my personal toolbar. When I click on the “>>” a long list of these medium important links appears and I can choose from them.
  4. Most of my “Saved for possible future use” bookmarks, I don’t put in the Bookmarks feature of my browser (Firefox) because they are then tied to my computer, and when I get a new one (yum!) or have a crash (the pain! the pain!) or use another computer (awk-ward!), I don’t have access to them. Instead I use an online application for social bookmarking, usually del.icio.us, (although I’m also checking out diigo). I can access my del.icio.us (or diigo) accounts from any online computer, provided I can remember my user name and password. (Not always that easy ;->) So I always have access to the links I’ve saved. Saving to del.icio.us is easy using the (circled) icons (which I dragged onto my address bar from the del.icio.us site) to the left of the URL field. The checkerboard, when clicked, opens my del.icio.us account so I can find previously saved links.  The  tag icon that says “TAG” on it, when click opens a small field in front of the site I’m saving, and allows me to add tags so I can easily re-find the site when I want it.
  5. I have a Google toolbar even though it takes up screen space on my small laptop screen because it has an icon, circled, that allows me to open a new tab with one click. I like having lots of tabs open so I can switch from site to site with ease, which brings me to my final PLWE essential >
  6. When I took the screenshot above, I had seven (count ’em!) tabs open in Firefox. Often I have more because it makes my work easier. When I finish this draft, I will add links, and what I usually do is open the site I want to link to in another tab, copy the link address, return to my draft and add the link. Multiple tabs – I love ’em!

So there you have it, some of my secrets for making my work efficient and easy to manage, for setting up my PLWE, my “tool”. All learned, I’ll add, over years of chatting with others and reading about what the possibilities are in this ever changing web world.

How to Be Safe on the Web

The web is a constantly changing space, and many people are afraid to dip their toes in the web stream for fear of being stung by a digital stingray. And rightfully so. In my experience, weaving through through the email flow, are false warnings and ugly offerings, fraudulent phishers, and identity thieves. The web is also increasingly unavoidable. What to do? Learn how to protect yourself without going hiding; learn to navigate through the web rapids.

One place to go to find out if something is real or not is Snopes.com, a site that tracks rumors and scams. If you suspect an email or a site is a virus, a fraud, or an urban legend, http://www.snopes.com/ is a reputable site where you can find answers.

One additional warning; I have seen emails that assure me that Snopes agrees that whatever this email says is true. Don’t just beleive them and don’t just click on the (supposed) Snopes link they give you. Find Snopes using Google and check out the claim there.

My daughter, who swims in a very different web stream than I do, offers this advice, especially relevant for parents and teachers, IMHO. Apparently some questionable sites have managed to get web addresses very similar to highly popular sites, with only a small typo difference. Make the typo, and you can find yourself in a toxic swamp. Being very careful about web addresses, and/or bookmarking (making them a “favorite”) so you just click is the easiest way to deal with that.

Most importantly is educate yourself on what’s happening on the web on a regular basis. Virtual University – http://vu.org/ is offering a free course on Internet Security. To access it, click on http://vu.org/ and find the box on the right, (three pink arrows point to it in the image below.)

VU Internet Security

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch

I’ve taken courses from the Virtual University before and found them to have good information although perhaps a little ordinary in presentation. I’m going to take the course; you might want to update your web dangers knowledge too.

Zonbu – A Green and Cheap Computer

I was sitting in my exercise Second Cup, a 20 minute walk each way, and leafing through one of the magazines – Forbes, I think, when I came across and article on a new make of computer. I could hardly get my head around the price for Zonbu, a computer.


Just $99.00 – (and currently, it doesn’t matter whether that’s Canadian or American!) It’s a gift price. Even though you have to supply a keyboard and pay $12.95 (or more) a month, it’s still remarkably cheap.

I like the set-up, too. I’m a fan of online applications, especially free ones. I already use Firefox and Open Office, and store some of my files online in my G.Space – http://www.getgspace.com/ and in my Box account. I think the plan to use the web is very forward thinking.

This is not an advertisement and I’m not going to give up my Mac for a Zonbu just yet, but this is the future. High storage and high cost applications will be for professionals, and perhaps the first home computer. Second or third computers, and computers for students, will be Zonbu computers, or something like them.