Hyperlinks and Education in the Disinformation Age

One of the things I like best about my microblogging experiment is words linking to sources like in the “good ole days” of internet one and small b blogging.

I appreciate this piece on Education in the (Dis)Information Age for many reasons, but especially for its ode to hyperlinks. The hyperlink is a fundamental building block of the web. “Social-media platforms have worked hard to kill the hyperlink”, and it shows.

My posts on education, neurodiversity, the social model, and tech ethics are full of links. That’s what we should model to students. Link to your sources. Link to your biases and influences. Share research and process. Show your work. All of that can be done with a hyperlink. Hyperlinks add nuance during a disinformation age, a time when we should be “foregrounding complexity as the baseline“. They are a kindness to the reader and rabbit holes of learning and perspective for those who want to go deeper.

How does the ability to add hyperlinks to text enrich the meaning of what we write? How does restricting that ability (like social-media platforms do) restrict the thinking of writers?

Source: Tech, Agency, Voice (On Not Teaching) | Hybrid Pedagogy

Do the platforms and interfaces you use to share online support hyperlinks? Try one that does. Do some small b blogging.

What’s going on here? I call it small b blogging. It’s a virtuous cycle of making interesting connections while also being a way to clarify and strengthen my own ideas. I’m not reaching a big audience by any measure but the direct impact and benefit is material.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.

Think clearly about the many disparate networks you’re part of and think about the ideas you might want to offer those networks that you don’t want to get lost in the feed. Ideas you might want to return to. Think about how writing with and for the network might enable you to start blogging.

Come join the network. Bring a blog.

Source: Small b blogging

struggle with the conflict between writing something new and building on existing ideas but shouldn’t; a blog is just as much a process, an evolution of thought, as an act of creation.

Source: Required – Colin Walker

Build a digital pedagogy around collaboration, blogging, and hyperlinking with indie ed-tech and backchannels. Begin the practice. Command+k on MacOS and iOS and Control+k on Windows brings up a link dialog in many editing apps and publishing interfaces, including web-based ones like WordPress.

“In fact, I’d argue that the hyperlink is our most potent weapon in the fight against disinformation.”

The oldest and simplest of internet technologies, the hyperlink and the “new” kind of text it affords — hypertext — is the foundational language of the internet, HyperText Markup Language (HTML). Hypertext connects all the disparate pieces of the web together. And it’s Sci-Fi name isn’t an accident. It’s hyperdrive for the internet, bending information space so that any user can travel galaxy-scale information distances with a small movement of a finger. The hyperlink still remains one of the most powerful elements of the web. In fact, I’d argue that the hyperlink is our most potent weapon in the fight against disinformation.

With experience in evaluating and distinguishing various kinds of sources, the critically minded student can parse these links and filter bias to pull nuanced meaning from these various texts. More importantly in our current information landscape, the student/professor/researcher-as-public-scholar/educated-graduate-as-mindful-citizen can curate the best primary and secondary sources as links, and use the opportunity not simply to prove their credentials and bolster their argument, but to educate the public, bringing more light than heat to whatever issue they are unpacking.

First, academic work — both for students and faculty — still tends to be centered around traditional, pre-web conventions of writing. The printed book/article/essay, with footnotes and a bibliography, does not speak the language of the web, and footnotes/endnotes on a website do not encourage an audience to engage with more material more deeply. Putting an academic paper on the web is nothing like writing for the web. Until more faculty help their students learn to do the latter (and until faculty promotion and retention policies encourage faculty themselves to be fluent in writing for a public audience on the web), we’ll continue to raise up future generations of graduates (including the next generation of professors) who aren’t ready for their role in the fight against disinformation.

Second, social-media platforms have worked hard to kill the hyperlink.

As propagandists and perpetrators of (dis)information operations find those social-media limitations amenable to their aims, we need to resist. And we resist not only with better information, and better interpretation, but in recovering the language of the internet — the language of (digital) scholarship.

It’s time we brought back the hyperlink and learned how to really use it. It’s time we used information abundance to our advantage. And it’s time we disentangled our communications from platforms tuned for the spread of disinformation. The health of our democracies just might depend on it.

Source: Education in the (Dis)Information Age – Hybrid Pedagogy

Often when I say that I think that the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative is one of the most important education technologies, I always hear pushback from the Twitter riffraff. “What’s so special about a website?” folks will sneer.

Well, quite a lot, I’d contend. The Web itself is pretty special – Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a global hyperlinked information system. A system that was – ideally at least – openly available and accessible to everyone, designed for the purpose of sharing information and collaborating on knowledge-building endeavors. That purpose was not, at the outset, commercial. The technologies were not, at the outset, proprietary.

I’m pretty resistant to framing “domains” as simply a matter of “skills.” Because I think its potential is far more radical than that. This isn’t about making sure literature students “learn to code” or history students “learn to code” or medical faculty “learn to code” or chemistry faculty “learn to code.”

Rather it’s about recognizing that the World Wide Web is site for scholarly activity. It’s about recognizing that students are scholars.

And that’s the Web. That’s your domain. You cultivate ideas there – quite carefully, no doubt, because others might pop by for a think. But also because it’s your space for a think.

Source: Why ‘A Domain of One’s Own’ Matters (For the Future of Knowledge)

As a Twitter thread:

 

POSSE: WordPress.com -> Micro.blog -> Twitter

Many of my tweets start on my microblog. My microblog is hosted on WordPress.com and hooked into the Micro.blog community via its RSS syndication feed. I usually post with the Micro.blog iOS and macOS apps, though sometimes I use the WP.com apps or web interfaces. I like having options.

On my main, long-form blog (this site), my “Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere” (POSSE) flow uses wp.com’s Publicize feature to publish to social media.

A screenshot of WordPress.com’s Publicize admin interface showing connections to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Path.
A screenshot of the post sharing interface on WordPress.com showing connected Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts and a history of publication for each

But on my microblog, I use Micro.blog’s cross-posting bot.

A screenshot of Micro.blog’s cross-posting admin interface showing the three feeds I have configured, one of which is setup to cross-post to Twitter and Facebook. Header text reads: “These feeds should contain posts you wrote. When someone follows you, they will see posts from all of these feeds in their timeline. If you have an external blog such as WordPress, you can add that feed below.”

I tested the bot with a post containing a link, an image, and an image description. Here’s how it displayed on Micro.blog, WordPress.com, and Twitter:

Micro.blog macOS app

The POSSE link and image description are intact.

WordPress.com

rnbn.blog is the source. It captures the post in its full.

Screenshot of the blog post as displayed in Chrome on macOS

Aside: @wordpressdotcom, we really need to improve image display when full-size images are inserted (as commonly happens when posting with some interfaces). Images flowing below the fold is not a good experience. Jetpack improves gallery display, but this attention doesn’t extend to individual images.

Twitter

The link url and the image description are extracted and inlined. Nicely done. I really like that image descriptions are included, making defaulting to accessible easier.

Embeds

Embeds are not handled so nicely. The Facebook embed was stripped from this post when syndicated to Micro.blog and Twitter. In WordPress, embeds are inserted by pasting plain links into the editor. My expectation was that the link would be extracted from the embed and passed along to Micro.blog and to Twitter. For posts that are quotes, this can result in the link to the source being stripped.


Before I tweet, I consider directing the thought toward my microblog first. The microblog is becoming my default for less than 280 characters as well as less than a few hundred words. POSSE allows those thoughts to keep flowing to Twitter where folks in the education, tech, publishing, neurodiversity, and disability communities I inhabit hang out and create serendipity.

Feed Readers, Micro.blog, and Digital Pedagogy

Many of us web old-timers are lamenting the centralization that has happened since the rise of The Four (GAFA = Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). We remember how it used to be and want to remind the web of its Small b blogging roots.

https://rnbn.blog/2018/03/07/small-b-blogging/

That site, rnbn.blog, is my microblog. Writing too short or too casual for my long-form blog go here. More and more of the things I might otherwise Tweet go here too.

Micro.blog recently opened to all after a closed beta. It is a community based on open standards like webMentions and syndication feeds that federates blogs together into something with a Twitter-ish timeline.

With micro.blog, I can host my blog anywhere. rnbn.blog runs on WordPress.com, which is my preferred place to POSSE — Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. Incorporating it into the micro.blog community is the work of typing in the location of my blog in a text field and hitting a button. Micro.blog handles federation while letting me own my content. Here’s my presence on micro.blog:

https://micro.blog/ryanboren

Right now, micro.blog is inhabited largely by open web, open source folks. Much of the conversation is about blogging and writing. I’m interested in seeing how this and similar communities grow and fare.

Microblogging is a low friction way to get back into blogging flow and be social in a way focused on reflection and small b blogging rather than likes, retweets, and stats (micro.blog purposefully doesn’t have any of these).

I’m giving GAFAT less of my attention these days. They and their algorithms are still useful and part of my learning and networking, particularly Twitter, but I’m spending more of my time on micro.blog and in my feed reader.

My feed reader is my highest quality and most enjoyable information source. Within my reader, I curate my favorite voices. I suggest Feedly or Inoreader as a feed reading service. I currently use Feedly. These services work with a variety of client apps (yay open tech). I use Unread on iOs and Reeder on macOS as my feed reading apps. They easily connect to Feedly, which keeps all of the clients in sync. Feedly offers its own apps if you don’t want to pay extra for something like Unread or Reeder.

I recommend micro.blog and feed readers to you. Take some time away from social media to setup up a feed reader and a microblog. Instead of relying solely on algorithms that you don’t control deciding what you see, curate the sources you enjoy most. ”An RSS reader is the window into your curated world.”

If you’re an educator looking to feed your new feed reader, here’s who I follow:

http://feedly.com/ryanboren/education

If you see the value of Twitter as a learning network but can no longer make it a formal part of your curriculum due to its problems, consider Small b blogging and microblogging.

That’s the piece that’s been missing, bringing the safety to the serendipity.

Jesse and I have taught with Twitter for ages, often requiring students to create accounts, tweet about their coursework, even crafting assignments where a single tweet was the assignment. But we don’t anymore.

Why not? What do we do instead? How do we help our students navigate the world of public, digital scholarship in a world increasingly dominated by harassment, abuse, disinformation, and polarization? Well, for that, you’ll have to listen. 🙂

Jesse and I mention a number of tools, platforms, and services that we find useful in different contexts. As promised, here are links!

Jesse’s and Kris’s past class Medium publications can be found here: Introduction to Digital Studies and Modeling Music.

Slack is the online community space that we use regularly for our classes, especially (but not exclusively) online classes.

Kris’s (former) guide for public student writing (including Jesse’s Twitter essay prompt reworked for a music class) can be seen here.

Jesse mentioned Mastadon, a distributed social platform based on GNU Social.

A number of the tools Kris mentions for privacy and security can be found here. Kris also mentioned Keybase, a Slack-like, end-to-end encrypted communication platform that functions similar to Slack (though balancing increased security with less bells and whistles).

Source: Closing Tabs, Episode 3: Teaching with(out) Social Media