Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community


This page:

Social Networking 2.0, Ben Thompson, Stratechery, Dec 21, 2020

I think Ben Thompson gets the broad strokes right. In traditional social media, you broadcast to the whole world. That's old-media thinking. It constrains what you might want to say, and it makes achieving any sort of consensus difficult. Social Networking 2.0, by contrast, is about having different identities where messages are constrained to smaller groups or communities. That's what I get with Mastodon and blogs and Imgur and Flickr - but would never get with Facebook, where as ... [Direct Link]

Designing Branch: Sustainable Interaction Design Principles, Tom Jarrett, Branch, Dec 13, 2020

Branch is a magazine that focuses on environmentally responsible technology. This article, recommended by Adrian Cochrane on Mastodon, describes its approach to scaling back demand on the power grid when demand for an article increases. "We need to cut the noise and provide users with a calmer and more considered experience that allows them to choose what they look at rather than an algorithm deciding and auto-loading what might keep a user’s attention the longest. [Direct Link]

Domo Arigato EdTech Roboto, Clint Lalonde, Ed Tech Factotum, Sept 27, 2020

The Ed Tech Bot on Mastodon has been around for a few months and has proven to be useful to me because it captures some posts I might miss in my feed. It helps that it's pretty selective; it focuses on blogs that are updated once in a while rather than feeds (like this one) that will pump out five or so items a day. In this post Clint Lalonde describes the creation of Ed Tech Bot, from the installation of a private Mastodon server to the setting of of the Inoreader RSS reader, to the use ... [Direct Link]

Pleroma and Mastodon on the Raspberry Pi 3, Wim Vanderbauwhede, GitHub, Sept 03, 2020

The Raspberry Pi is a small cheap computer system that almost everyone can afford for their computer projects (it's the crystal radio of the internet age). Mastodon, as we've discussed previously, is a decentralized version of Twitter - so decentralized you can build one on your Raspberry Pi. Pleroma is a lighter version of Mastodon and recommended for the Raspberry Pi. This website has complete instructions and has the tips you'll really need - for example, how to have an ... [Direct Link]

The State of Social Media in Canada 2020, Anatoliy Gruzd, Philip Mai, Ryerson University Social Media Lab, Jul 13, 2020

This report (21 page PDF) is a basic presentation of usage patterns in comparison with a similar report from 2017. It should really be titled 'Social Media Platforms' because it is focused exclusively on single-url hosted services (the sole exception being 'blockchain platforms', coming in at three percent, and including sites like Gab). I would like to have seen a broader interpretation of 'social media', including minimally things like blogs, podcasts and email, and ... [Direct Link]

Web Browsers Are Silencing Annoying Notification Popups, Chris Hoffman, How-To Geek, Feb 12, 2020

To this I can only say: finally! The idea that websites could send notifications was a good one - if we opted into them. That's how I keep tabs on what's up at Mastodon. But "the problem isn’t the notification option itself. It’s how pushy the notification request is. Web browsers should have cracked down on these popups years ago." In the future, these popups asking you to give permission will be relegated to much lower prominance, and can be turned off entirely ... [Direct Link]

A Pedagogy of ‘Small’: Principles and Values in Small, Open, Online Communities, Tanya Elias, Laura Ritchie, Geoffrey Gevalt, Kate Bowles, University of Calgary, Feb 05, 2020

This article looks at how the 'pedagogy of small', that is, pedagogy that "is not big and not commercial. It is not optimized or standardized; it is not derived, averaged, or calculated. Instead, it is personal, crafted and artisanal. Small is also often entails a delay in responses; it can be slow and inefficient." This concept is examined in the light of a couple of examples, first, the generation of #smallstories in Mastodon, a federated social networking application, and ... [Direct Link]

Google Classroom rubrics and originality reports exit beta, Abner Li, 9to5 Google, Jan 24, 2020

According to this report, "After entering beta last year, Google is launching new rubric and originality report tools for all G Suite for Education customers." The display shows up automatically at the side of the page while you're marking the paper. It makes me think - why can't I have a tool that just reads what I type, and lets me know who has said the same (or similar thing) before, automatically finds and inserts references, and alerts me of any reports or studies that ... [Direct Link]

LMS – VLE and/or Productivity Tools, Michael Sankey, Jan 22, 2020

The basis for the post is the disconnect between learning amanagement systems, which are used by students, and productivity tools, which are used in the workplace. "Surly we should be transitioning them to the use of these tools while still studying with us, and getting them to work together in this collaborative way, along with the other tools they will use professionally," writes Michael Sankey as he offers a model that describes the transition. Or, the hammer could simplay fall ... [Direct Link]

On the network effect and PLN’s, Clint Lalonde, Ed Tech Factotum, Jan 15, 2020

Clint Lalonde describes his thinking and efforts to convince people to use Mastodon, noting that it's hard to get a social network off the ground because of the network effect, that is, the idea that networks become much more useful as the number of people using them grow, but which means they can appear less desirable at the early stages. I don't see Mastodon as an alternative to Twitter (which I continue to use as a broadcasting tool) but as an alternative to Facebook (in other words... [Direct Link]

How Tiktok oversees its users, Matthias Eberl, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Dec 05, 2019

Tiktok is spying on and manipulating its users, but not in the way you may think. "The analysis of the data streams shows that Tiktok in his logic is not a surveillance network from the Communist Politburo, but follows a very Western, capitalist concept. Critics call the business model 'People Farming': people are held with psychological tricks as long as possible on a platform and look content that they have ideally created themselves. Then they will be shown advertisements, the ... [Direct Link]

Examining the New Phenomenon of Teachers as Brand Ambassadors, Christopher M. Saldaña, Kevin G. Welner, Susan Malcolm, Eleanore Tisch, National Education Policy Center, Nov 24, 2019

This is a report (23 page PDF) from last January from the NEPC that casts a light on the relatively recent phenomenon of teachers acting as influencers to promote brand awareness for things like software companies and even fast food joints ("McTeacher’s Nights are a school fundraiser whereby teachers serve McDonald’s meals to parents and students in exchange for a percentage of the profits raised"). This shouldn't be necessary, argue the report authors. "Schools&... [Direct Link]

Learning to see, hear, respect, and empower every student, Remake Learning, Nov 21, 2019

Related to this post: I saw an exchange on Mastodon, which went something like this: "I see feature x was dropped; was this the result of user feedback or testing?"; "Yes it was." So why is that significant? It's typical of software design, which aims for the common middle, treating the wide range of users as a single entity. But a feature most people don't need might be the One Big Thing in a person's life. That's why you have to empower every student, not ... [Direct Link]

FraidyCat, Kicks Condor, Nov 14, 2019

FraidyCat is content syndication without the syndication. It's a Firefox and Chrome plugin that allows you to follow individuals across multiple social media accounts (at present: blogs, Tumblr, Medium, Mastodon,, Wikipedia, Kickstarter, Stack Overflow, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, Pinboard, YouTube and Reddit, and even TiddlyWiki). Even better, "Fraidycat doesn't communicate with a central server, so it's not capturing all this user data for some company. It'... [Direct Link]

This chart from Mastodon’s creator shows just how angry some Indian Twitter users are, Manavi Kapur, Mastodon, Nov 12, 2019

This is a good post describing an impending migration from Twitter into Mastodon by Indian users, and some of the factors motivating the move. It's the usual story for the centralized social network sites: offensive content is not blocked, or blocked only selectively. As Mastodon itself tweeted, "To claim impartiality and non-bias, especially in 2019, is to take the side of the status quo." The article ends with the caution about echo chambers and the warning that "freedom ... [Direct Link]

Oristano, Sardinia, Stephen Downes, Flickr, Nov 11, 2019

[Direct Link]

MoodleNet and ‘free speech’, Doug Belshaw, MoodleNet, Sept 12, 2019

This post addresses the problem of hate speech in the fediverse. Because the software is open source, and because each instance is independently managed, there's always the possibility that racists and fascists will create their own instance and try to spread their content to every other node in the network. This has already happened in the Mastodon network, with the creation of an instance called 'Gab', and the response by most administrators has been to block it and for Mastodon ... [Direct Link]

What’s new with Mobilizon?, Framasoft, Sept 09, 2019

Mobilizon is an effort to create a decentralized events and groups tool designed to free these fiunctionalities from Facebook and enable people to manage their own events without being monetized by the Facebook machine. In the September newsletter they report that go-fund-me fundraising has been successful, and they released wireframes of the proposed product, which is slated for testing this fall. Via Doug Belshaw on Mastodon. [Direct Link]

How the biggest decentralized social network is dealing with its Nazi problem, Adi Robertson, The Verge, Jul 13, 2019

If a Nazi wants to use my software - or to use HTML, or to use RSS, or to use ActivityPub, or to use English - there's no real way to stop them. That's the core of the dilemma faced by the developers of Mastodon, the open source social networking application. But what they can do - and what they have done - is to block Nazis using the application from communicating with their own instances, including, which is the instance I use. Beyond that, it's up to internet ... [Direct Link]

MoodleNet non-technical overview (June 2019), Doug Belshaw, MoodleNet, Jun 11, 2019

Quick slide deck overviewing the latest developments in MoodleNet. They're at an interesting juncture right now - setting up communication between instances of MoodleNet (which will work as a federated social network, with no central hub) using protocols like ActivityPub (which is used in services like Mastodon). You can contribute ideas via the Changemap, an issues board at GitLab and source code also at GitLab. [Direct Link]

[Next 20 results]

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

Creative Commons License.

Copyright 2021
Last Updated: Jan 10, 2021 8:16 p.m.