Archive for February, 2006

Fighting Wal-Mart is satisfying

February 28, 2006

Letter to Editor, Daily News. Appearing Feb 27, 2006

Thank you, Steve McClure, for gracing Omie Drawhorn’s story about the Feb. 22 Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission hearing with the “Yes Moscow/No SuperWal-Mart” button.

Thanks to Jerry Schutz for pointing out that the hearing was not about one retailer; it was about the direction for Moscow. When I got home from that meeting, I found a letter sent to my wife from her Camp Fire leader of 35 years ago. She reported having a Yes/No bumper sticker and enclosed $50 to help the cause. Thank you. And to other anonymous donors who have walked up and handed me money because we’ll need it. Thank you.

Raising cruck bent for writers studio, Oct 2005I should have known fighting Wal-Mart would be satisfying. It’s the “Yes Moscow” part that reframes the challenge into building our community. I’m a timber framer. I do barn raisings for the joy when a community comes out and works together, doing something none could do alone. The morning after the P&Z meeting, I realized I’d witnessed a raising of another form. Thanks to the 100-plus people Drawhorn describes, and quotes, who came out and built an argument against the rezone.

Thank you to the former council and to Mayor Comstock who set in motion the NewCities process that gives data to support the argument that we want another approach to planning and zoning. And to all who worked on the “big-box” ordinance, thanks. (May it soon be amended with a size cap.) Thank you to the 1,000 people who have signed the petition asking the City Council to change the comprehensive plan map back from motor business. The No Super Wal-Mart campaign is moving from defense to the offense. Now it is our turn to advocate a positive vision for Moscow’s future. March 22 is your date to come before the P&Z and say, “Yes, Moscow.”

Nils Peterson, Moscow

Chronicle: Facing the Facebook

February 24, 2006

Chronicle Careers: 1/23/2006: Facing the Facebook

(subscription required or WSU on campus or VPN)

On many levels, Facebook is fascinating — an interactive, image-laden directory featuring groups that share lifestyles or attitudes. Many students find it addictive, as evidenced by discussion groups with names like “Addicted to the Facebook,” which boasts 330 members at Iowa State. Nationwide, Facebook tallies 250 million hits every day and ranks ninth in overall traffic on the Internet.

I agreed with this paragraph, it is fascinating, but not with the general drift or conclusions of the article. For me the quesion is more about how are Facebook and MySpace used as collaborative tools, and what can we learn from these voluntary online collaborations for other kinds of learning. (I assume some form of learning is happening in the use of these tools, but do not assume that such learning is necessarily going to be recognized by the University.)

The other question is Helen Barrett’s, what can we learn from these ePortfolios that will better inform how we think about ePortfolio work within universities?

Barn Raising of a Different Sort

February 23, 2006

Last night I attended the Moscow Planning and Zoning Commission’s hearing on a proposal to rezone 77 acres to Motor Business. (Follow this thread at a blog called NoSuperWalMart ).

What struck me this morning was how similar that meeting was to barn raisings I’ve led. Last night, an assorted group people came together and built an argument against the rezone. They built something richer, and bigger, than any of them. They found roles to fit their own abilities, from orator to child care. As the evening went on, I think we all had a growing satisfaction in both the collective effort and what it was creating.

Unlike a barn raising, now we have to wait to learn if our argument will stand up.

Facebook | Nils Peterson

February 21, 2006

Continuing with my setup to support the Facebook/ MySpace research, this is my Facebook profile: Facebook | Nils Peterson

Researching MySpace and Facebook

February 21, 2006

I am working with a student interested in researching how MySpace and Facebook are used. My own interest is to learn more about these two tools and how we might apply that knowledge to university supported teaching and learning resources and activities.

My URL in MySpace is

and my blog there is here

More to follow

MyStickies, Sticky Notes for the Web

February 17, 2006

Brian Immel turned me on to this (a Firefox extension, of course)

MyStickies, Sticky Notes for the Web
To put it simply, MyStickies allows you to place little yellow squares of digital paper anywhere and everywhere you feel like in the whole wide web. Along with the ability to put sticky notes on webpages mystickies offers a powerful interface to browse, search, sort, edit and generally have a wonderfull time with your sticky notes from any computer that has internet access.

This looks like a re-invention of I can tag a URL and add notes about the page. But in addition to having notes, I can place the notes spatially on the page — the sticky note metaphor.

Having played with it for all of 5 minutes, I’m missing a couple features; its not social:

  • I can’t read what other people are bookmarking
  • I can’t edit book marks of others (wiki notes)

So, my hope is MyStickies continues to improve. Stay tuned

What do you do if you own a wiki?

February 17, 2006

Not only did I get WordPress for my blog, in the same package from DreamHost, I got MediaWiki 1.5.6. I’m still configuring it, but what on earth does a person do with such a powerful tool?

I have MoscowWiki  for experimentation with a community wiki, so I don’t need my wiki for that. And mine is branded with the domain. So, I’m still puzzling. Perhaps I should write a hypertextual novel.

Recognizing & Respecting Truth: New Technologies, New Boundaries, New Connections

February 10, 2006

When I first got this, and a string of related posts from Steve Gilbert in an email, my  reaction was, “Either he is brilliant and I don’t understand any of this, or he’s totally confused.” My finger waivered over the delete key, because I know enough of Steve to know there might be an idea in here:

Recognizing & Respecting Truth – In the Classroom & on the Web: Pls Comment: New Technologies, New Boundaries, New Connections
New Technologies, New Boundaries, New Connections
What are the new challenges and opportunities provided by the rapidly emerging computer technology options for “blogging,” “podcasting,” and other new forms of telecommunications, information exchange, and social networking?

Where are the lines between personal blogging, political blogging, and course-related blogging?

Having just moved my blogging from a university hosted resource to my own domain because my personal and research interests were leading me onto ground where I might be seen as using state resources inappropriately, this last question got my attention.

Here is a bit of a story. In the 90’s I was Director of Educational Technology for the College of Education at WSU. I was thinking about questions like, should faculty be rewarded for use of technology (eg tenure and promotion). Initially, I thought yes, but later moved to think not. I concluded, faculty should be expected to be doing leading edge work in their fields. To do so they must necessarily use the appropriate tools and methods. Traditional focus on professional work would bring along authentic uses of technology, focus on technology per se would advance a variety of artificial and perhaps ill-concieved behaviors.

In that job I also watched faculty who found that the computer the university could afford to provide them was inadequate to the work they needed to do. Some had purchased computers at home that suited their needs. The result was, when the faculty came to work, they were impaired in actually doing their work by the  environment provided by the institution. I became further radicalized, concluding that the university was doing faculty a disservice by leading them to believe it should/would provide their computing. Computing was becoming too personal, too personally important, to leave it to the institution to provide. I went out, bought a laptop and ceased using university computers as my primary work platforms.

This choice also solved some of the appropriate use issues that using state computers posed. What email is it approipriate to read/ send on a state machine?

In 2004, I helped launch a blogging resource for WSU, and was active there. But recently, my interests in collaborative online group work led me into a role with a campaign against a Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Moscow, Idaho.

Our opponents began to question if my use of a university-based identity (an email address) or a university-based blog was ethical. The easiest solution, following on the line of my previous reasoning, was to step out of the university. This is a very “Web 2.0” solution. I may, when I finish moving, bring some RSS from my identity into my university web page, but that will be just a place to share parts of me. I am not going to divide my mind between that which my employer sanctions and that which interests me, but I may divide what I present on my employer’s premesis (much like I dress a certain way to come to work, or use certain language).

So, back to Steve’s question. There may be a line between personal, political, and course-realted blogging if the blogger is using resources where others have power-over the result. Students routinely do this already, what they do/think/say in school differs from what they do/think/say in the rest of life. Course blogging, because of the power relationship will probably be inauthentic and only done under compulsion. The other two will probably be most authentically done in resources that are out of the univesity’s control. (By which I think I am arguing that University should not run a blogging resource, its too personal, the user’s identity needs to be created separate from the instituion, and that to provide a university resource is to do a disservice to students, much as providing inferior computing was a disservice to faculty in the notes above.)

Obligatory first post

February 7, 2006

I remember the thrill of my first post on my first blog:

Woo Hoo — an enterprise blog at WSU

WSU enters the enterprise blog era.

posted on Friday, August 06, 2004 3:53 PM

What was important about that post was it ushered in the beginning of Washington State University having an enterprise blog resource. Now, WSU is exploring moving off that platform (.Text, an open source effort that died) and onto a new platform (ELGG or WordPress are front runners right now).

But even as that is happening, conversations within CTLT are leading me to understand that students (and staff) can’t build their own reputations within an enterprise system. This week I bought the NilsPeterson domain, and started the process of stepping out of my university home.

So now, when asked, what is your home page, I’ll say rather than

Watch for more of this saga as I “move” my “reputation” in Google and Technorati from the university to here.