Tweeting My Horn

Purely by accident, I happened to run into Rick Turoczy (@turoczy) of Silicon Florist fame on the day Steve Woodward (@oregoniansteve), the Oregonian reporter, was interviewing Rick about Twitter.

Several of us Portland tweeters ended up helping Rick talk twitter, including the indefatigable Bram Pitoyo (@brampitoyo) and connectrix Katherine Gray (@ThisKat). Not sure we did much more than evangelize twitter, but I tried to spread the meme about twitter being a “prosthetic limb for social networking.”

Read the whole Oregonian article “@everyone :-) twitter is tweeter” and check out the video special right here.

Tagging My Unconscious With Twitter

@xolotl Tweetcloud 2008After my first 1,000 tweets on twitter, I’ve generated this tweetcloud:

Which demonstrates my tweeted theory: tweetclouds are like a tagcloud of one’s unconscious the tags you would really make if you didn’t think about it too hard. Corollaries are that tagclouds represent your conscious, and unsent emails, your id.

Clearly my unconscious has been dominated recently by the revolutionary debate between the valiant Portvangelistas and their nefarious nemeses, Portvangelists like @kveton, @chrisorourke and @metafluence. I have a dream that one day we will all be marshaled to a common purpose, and my unconscious and tweetcloud will move on to brighter, shinier subjects ;)

On the other hand, after my first 1,000 tweets, I can clearly see the value in twitter:

  • Building community: Twitter has let me connect quickly and deeply with both a local community and distributed communities with shared interests.
  • Professional development: While at times it can be distracting, I’ve learned more via twitter in the last month than in any technology learning experience I’ve ever had.
  • Intelligence gathering: Who needs feeds and the NYT when you follow 100 of the right tweeple?
  • Human resources: A fellow twitterer responded to my call for a technical position within 3 minutes of my tweet.
  • Public relations: If you do it right, twitter can help you create “word on the tweet” for your project or company. Oregon twitters, keep an eye out for Sasquatch ;)
  • Customer relations: I see projects like Flock using twitter effectively to gather feedback and provide support.
  • Creative energy: I’ve seen more ideas get hatched, and in many cases, realized, on twitter than anywhere but the best gatherings I’ve attended. It’s like a neverending barcamp with no space limitations.

Twitter may not fulfill these purposes for ever, but there is clearly a niche between asynchronous semi-permanence of email and the gated community of instant messaging. IRC has filled this niche for the geekly, now twitter brings it to the masses.

Portlanteau: PDX, a Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

Not so long ago, someone (Chris O’Rourke? Scott Kveton?) coined the term portvangelist and spawned a not-your-grandpa’s Chamber of Commerce movement to match the term.

The portvangelists in turn provoked the portvangelistas, reactionary reactionaries to not-your-grandpa’s grandpa.

When self-avowed portvangelist Scott Kveton turned up in the official news, characterized as a “job flipper,” when really he is in portvagabondage (n. the state of being willing to accept any job, as long as one can continue to live in Portland, Oregon), it seemed time to remark on the burgeoning spate of Portlandish neologisms.

And so I present a term that describes this wordly phenomenon: portlanteau, n. a portmanteau word that links the name of the city of Portland, Oregon to another word or concept.

Let a thousand portlanteaus bloom in the Rose City!

Me, Me Again

Some joker posted an absurd, spurious and probably apocryphal profile of me on Portland on Fire.

If I find out who it is, I’ll flood their twitterstream ;)

Educational Futures

I just attended the first meeting of a parent/teacher/student group at my daughter’s public, science/math/technology magnet school—Winterhaven. The group was formed to deal with a mandate from Portland Public Schools to grow the school’s student body, and then necessarily move, or renovate, because the school’s current building can only serve about 360 students.

Now that I have school-age kids, the whole question of public education is taking on a new relevance for me. My own educational background included being “home schooled” for grades 1-6 thanks to my parents’ realization that our local Colorado public schools were inadequate, and attending Open Living, a unique public alternative school in grades 7-12. Based on my own “alternative” experience, I’m a big believer in the necessity of quality, public education for all to support democracy and civil society.

A large part of the discussion started by PPS’s mandate to Winterhaven has been focused on that particular school, and/or what building it should be located in.

I find my thoughts moving away from these immediate concerns to what it will take to make public education in Portland (or elsewhere) sufficiently vibrant to continue to attract students like my daughters and at the same time serve the largest possible population.

So far, I find PPS’s focus on standardizing school profiles and sizes to be at odds with my knowledge that it is in fact options and alternatives that attract me to public education in Portland. I just don’t buy the idea that our desire for educational equity will be best served by making all schools the same. I believe that drive will lead all schools to the lowest common denominator, and soon drive the middle class away from public education even more dramatically than it already is.

Once the middle class gives up on public schools, I fear a downward spiral where fewer resources generate increasingly poor educational opportunities. I don’t think such a situation will be good for anyone, least of all the less advantaged in whose name school standardization is adopted.

A better path will be to support and celebrate diversity, not just in our public student body, but in the schools themselves. One school might make its mark as a vibrant neighborhood school; another might be an arts magnet. Each should have it’s own identity.

The job of  PPS Superintendent Phillips and the School Board should be to support school diversity, not standardize. If they don’t think there are enough resources to support school diversity now, wait until the middle class pulls out of public education entirely and see how many resources are left.

Given the worthy people around the table with me in this Winterhaven conversation, I have faith that we can produce good recommendations. And in an ideal world, PPS will have the vision and resources to make some of them happen.