Public Speaking:  Desire vs. Fear

One element of the Global Citizen Diploma (which all our NIST Year 10 and Year 11 students are working towards) is “Public Communication” — defined as “the ability to communicate effectively, ethically, and publicly on issues of personal interest or passion.”

I don’t like speaking or performing in front of an audience.  I learned this when I was in 7th grade, back in Maine in the States.  I naively answered a call for auditions for some one-act plays — and landed a main role.  The panic didn’t appear until opening night.  I survived, but promised myself I would never have to endure that level of anxiety — voluntarily — again.

Skip to high school graduation.  I was expected to make a speech.  I could only think about how this would ruin my whole graduation day experience.  So I went to the head of school and made some excuse about letting other people have the opportunity to be in the limelight.  It worked.  I got to sit in the audience and listen to my friends up on stage — which I enjoyed.

What was my problem?  Was it self-consciousness?  Was it feeling I didn’t have anything I felt was important enough to say? Or just plain fear?

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how much my stage fright is related to my commitment to the content of my message and how much time and attention I have given to preparing the form of my presentation.

For example, when I was 32, my father died after a long illness.  As it was an expected death, my siblings and I had plenty of time to ponder his influence and importance in our lives.  When it came to planning the funeral, I was the last person they thought who would want to speak publicly, especially at an emotional event.  But I did want to.  Because I knew exactly what I wanted to say about my father.  I worked hard on my speech, spent time memorising it (so I wouldn’t be afraid of losing my words in the moment), and when the time came, I actually enjoyed sharing my memories of him in front of a crowd.  Which was such a revelation to me.  I wasn’t “cured” of my phobia, just more meta-cognitively aware of all the elements at play when speaking in public.

You might think, how could a teacher be afraid of public speaking?  They do it every day!  But audience matters.  Peers are more intimidating, especially professional peers who arrive with their own knowledge of the content.

In the teaching and school librarianship world, there are endless opportunities to present to peers, at conferences of various sizes and styles  And I have volunteered many times over the years.  But it’s never an easy decision.  If either my content or my chosen format isn’t solid on the day, I’ll feel that old fear.  Preparation is key.

I keep a list of my public presentations on my website:  see http://www.thelibrarianedge.com/presentations/.  The first one listed was in 2006 at an EARCOS Teachers conference in Manila.  The most recent one was last November here at NIST.

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A year ago I had to prepare two major presentations for an annual EARCOS conference here in Bangkok, with hundreds of educators from all over Asia in attendance.  The workshop content was up to me and the audience would include anyone interested, so it could have been 5 people or 50 or more.  I began dreading it months in advance.  Doing the preparation work was the only solution.  I put in hours thinking about my approach, researching the best examples, and deciding on the order and format of my slides.  Maybe too many hours.  For sure, I need to work on not letting upcoming speaking events take over my life.  I need to recognise what is “good enough” — as I think my fear of failure makes me overcompensate by providing more content than is necessary.

How were my presentations received?  For one of the workshops — on Critical Concepts & Teaching Information Literacy — I asked people to give quick video feedback as they exited the room.  This link will let you watch a few of the responses from the 30+ people attending.  All were complimentary.  In retrospect, perhaps I need to find a way to get quick critical feedback from participants, e.g., “How could I improve this presentation?”

There’s another EARCOS librarian event coming up at the end of March — at the Taipei American School in Taiwan — with about 100 librarians in attendance.  I will be giving the opening remarks to the gathering — which will be a different kind of speech for me — as well as a presentation on information literacy skills.  Am I looking forward to it?  Let’s just say, I’m already preparing….

Power & Privilege: Global Understanding through Children’s Books

Books are powerful in so many ways.  They contain the power to allow people to speak across time and space — and cultures.  The voices and images that come out of books have the power to create “mirrors, windows, and doors” (as Rudine Bishop Sims, a giant in the field of children’s librarianship, once said).  Mirrors to reflect identities, windows into other worlds, and sometimes sliding glass doors allowing readers to step into other realities.  

But what worlds are contained in the books on offer at a school like ours?  Is our collection balanced in terms mirrors, reflecting the range of our community, vs. windows, providing enough views of other worlds?  What is enough?  And what worlds aren’t being represented?

Books are products emerging from political, economic, and cultural systems, and this is especially true for children’s books, because societies tend to control what their children are told and taught.   So it’s interesting to consider what messages manage to be written by whom, privileged by whom, published by whom,  and distributed/promoted by whom.  What messages aren’t being conveyed?  Why or why not?

I think about these questions every day in some way, whether in choosing what book I should read next, or choosing books to order for our library, or trying to figure out how students absorb and interpret the books they read, while wondering what texts they really are reading — and why or why not?

My master’s degree in children’s literature (20 years ago) looked at the works of “A.L.O.E.” (A Lady of England) — a very privileged British woman who wrote books for children in both England and India — and even moved to India as a missionary, “to civilise the natives.”  Christianity, not surprisingly, was a dominant ideology of her books, as it was of the British imperialist project.  (You can read the whole thing here: “A.L.O.E.: Writing Home”. Good material for insomniacs.)  

Not surprisingly, since that time I have maintained a particular interest in children’s literature emerging from India.  I get to read a lot of it these days, as I’m part of a judging panel for the Neev Book Awards — for outstanding children’s literature which “leads to a fuller understanding of India, Indian lives, and Indian stories.”

London Jungle Book - 1

My favourite book (for children and adults) that exemplifies global understanding is “The London Jungle Book” by Bhajju Shyam, which narrates the experience of a man from one world traveling to another for the first time (including first time on a plane), expressing his perception of the other’s world using his own culture’s art. The book is a diary of an artist from the Gond tribe in central India who moves to London, England, to work for two months.  He just nails British culture in a visual and insightful way that I, as an American who lived in London for many years, could never have done.   I am so grateful for his voice — and as a librarian, it is a privilege for me to share voices like his, ones that don’t always get heard. (I also wonder what A.L.O.E. (whose real name was Charlotte Maria Tucker) would think as she read it….)

That book was published by my favourite Indian publisher, Tara Books.  A year ago I attended an international school librarian conference in Chennai, India, where Tara Books is located — and got to visit both their production workshop and main storefront.  See photos here.  Notice how the artwork in the books is being silk-screened. The books are handmade, which is something that begs a question.  In how many countries would this be possible?  How much do we pay for these books?  How much are the workers remunerated?  What are the economics behind the international flow of books around the world?  Tara Books is unusual, but this kind of an exception makes you think hard about the rules.

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Looking ahead, I’m so excited that a Tara author — who also happens to have attended NIST for several years as a student! — is coming in June to be the graduation speaker for the class of 2019.  Amazingly, Samhita Arni became an author when she was in her teens, having written a re-telling of the great Mahabharatha when she was 12.  More recently, Tara Books has published Samhita Arni’s version of the Ramayana from Sita’s point of view — a female perspective on power, privilege, and male politics.  Last November Arni published an article in an Indian newspaper, highlighting the resilience of Sita in making her own choices and the importance of “small acts of rebellion.”

It is because of stories like these that I long ago became hooked on books and then began to use my own power and privilege as a librarian, with the economic and political means to spread textual products (read: books), to encourage multiple voices and other worlds to be explored.

The legality of Extended Essays in library catalogs -- as exemplars

Someone just contacted me via Facebook to ask about the legality of the Extended Essays available in the UWCSEA library catalogs — meaning, is it violating copyright law?

I started this microblog in part as a way to not have some of my small contributions to semi-public conversations be hidden. So let me repeat here what I said in the (closed) Facebook group: Int’l School Library Connection back in May 2017.

Do you make any student work publicly available via your library catalog? We do and the issue of copyright was raised over on the ECIS iSkoodle teacher-librarian forum. Below is a reprint of what I just posted there......

Okay, everyone, I have an update on this issue -- of us making some of our students' Extended Essays and TOK Essays publicly available in our library catalog.

The IB said this in response to our query:

"Your students retain copyright ownership in their essays (note that contractual arrangements may alter this rule) and the IB is granted a non-exclusive license as per our rules and regulations. Therefore, the IB does not control distribution rights, only the copyright holder does."

My TL colleague Barb Reid has attended copyright for educator workshops here in Singapore and she contacted an expert on copyright issues, and he said:

"The creator of the work (student) is the owner of the copyright in the absence of an agreement to the contrary. It is the "cultural norm" in Singapore Government institutions for students to sign over copyright of work created while they were a student to the institution. This is an area of contract law."

So we asked our administration what our students sign if anything -- and discovered that our students do sign terms and conditions upon admission and this clause relates to copyright:

"10.11 Intellectual property: The College reserves all rights and interests in any intellectual property rights arising as a result of the actions of a student in conjunction with any member of staff of the College and/or other pupils at the College for a purpose associated with the College. Any use of any such intellectual property rights by a student is subject to the consent of the College upon terms and conditions acceptable by the College. The College may, at its discretion, allow the student's role in creation/development of intellectual property rights to be acknowledged."

So we believe this covers us in terms of making students' work public.

Do your schools have students sign something similar upon admission?

So the issue concerns both the copyright laws in the country where your school is located AND the “contract” between your school and its students regarding intellectual property rights.

Here at NIST I have done the same thing — made the A & B grade Extended Essays available as free, publicly-available PDFs via the library catalog. Read this library blog entry for details.


Genre = Reality Level + Time Focus + Emotion + Format

Speed-dating with books is a great way to expose people to new works or genres. I’ve used variations on the exercise — ever since I heard about “The Reading Game” produced by Carel Press in the UK and bought a copy years ago. Their paper “map” asks students to record their preferences at any one GENRE station, based on best COVER, BLURB, or OPENING LINES.

Since then I’ve done a lot more thinking about the basic elements of genre.

Isn’t it true to say that all content falls on a “reality” continuum?? And what if you then add in a TIME element? And then an emoji?? Last but not least, there’s FORMAT.

Genre will always be a human categorization exercise, but I like to think I’ve nailed its components.

Philip Williams, my colleague down in Elementary @ NIST, calls these kinds of rapid-exposure sessions “book tastings” — and I love his wolf graphic (inspired by Molly Bang’s “Picture This”) — so I now use that in my slides.

Young Readers’ Editions, or, increasing access to ideas....

Do you have a favorite “young readers’ edition” of an adult book you just love — and want to share with teenagers? Aren’t you glad there’s a teen version of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”? “Quiet”? “How to Read Literature Like a Professor”? Malala’s story?

I’m still waiting for someone to pull that magic on “Guns, Germs, & Steel” (though I am impressed Jared Diamond allowed for a young readers’ edition of “The Third Chimpanzee”).

We’re used to this when it comes to “classics” (read: texts out of copyright — and varying degrees of abridgement and adaptation) — because anything goes when oral storytellers of mythology & fairy tales, Shakespeare, and Dickens are long dead.

I’m more interested in the examples being produced for texts still under the control of copyright by some creator — who cares. Non-fiction and auto/biography are the dominant genres, perhaps because they are “idea-based” — and so the re-working of the language isn’t as great a loss.

Here is a LibraryThing collection of over 60 titles available in editions, originally published for an adult audience, but re-formatted in some fashion to appeal to younger readers (and giving you ISBNs). A few examples are down to the picture book level, but most are at the middle/high school one.


Large Print as a new Middle School trend....

Someone recently let me in on a secret: large print isn’t just for old people (or considered a mistake when doing school library orders). It’s a growing market for teen readers.

The phenomenon isn’t mentioned in a Sept 2018 article on trends in middle-school publishing, but it was featured at a couple of sessions at ALA last June, with public and school librarians testifying to its popularity and advantages, and Thorndike Press has videos of those ALA sessions up on their YouTube channel. For some readers, it helps them read faster, for others (e.g., fast readers?), it perhaps slows them down, so they absorb more.

I got my hands on a pile of them and the big surprise is their size.

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Don’t you usually think of large print books as being like door-stops compared to the original?

Of course, inside there still is a size difference - in font. So how do they do it? Well, the paper definitely feels thinner -and perhaps the margins are a bit smaller.

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The larger text is an affordance I usually associate with ebooks, where I can control the size of the font.

Having read a few of these YA large-print titles recently, I am also aware of how much the larger text (or the fact that there is less text on a page?) helps me orient myself in the physical book — my eyes can more quickly scan and find where I left off (which is one of the things the Thorndike videos demonstrate, with middle schoolers reading aloud, being interrupted, and then watching how long it takes them to find their place again). Maryanne Wolf, in her latest book, “Reader, Come Home,” talks about this “technology of recurrence” as an advantage of physical books, where we can maintain a better space of time/space orientation within a text.

Have I tried these out on students? Asking them to compare? No, not yet. But I am definitely going to be buying more of them, in order to give a large range of students the chance to choose. And not just the “striving” readers (as the Thorndike brochures have renamed “struggling” readers)….

You can search for children’s/YA titles on the Thorndike website, but I have put together a list of about 60 ones I want to order for my library — in this LibraryThing collection — which shows the ISBNs for the large print versions. (P.S. If your school library orders through Follett’s Titlewave, all the Thorndike large print versions are available there….)


Epic is Epic

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Epic Books has rightly been called the Netflix of children’s ebooks & audio books. It’s a fathomless source of both schlock and gold with an interface that insists on being in control of the browsing experience.

Who should be interested in this? Parents are the primary target — whereby Epic will get a standing order for roughly US$7/month and children get 24/7 access to 25,000 “high-quality kids’ books, videos & more!” But teachers get a sweet deal via free educational accounts which allow them to set up student logins for their online “classroom” — which is free and available for children to access during school hours 7 days a week (where “school hours” seems to mean not after 5pm at night). The child will then presumably pressure the parents to pay for the out-of-hours experience…..

This is not a library tool. It’s designed for a teacher and a classroom — with material mainly suitable for primary school children, though there is enough stuff to get a middle-school teacher excited. Heavy on the non-fiction, quite a bit of graphic novels, and lots of picture books.

Teachers can create “collections” — which is the only way to keep track of the good stuff. And new titles are released each week. Some stuff is also probably being removed each week, but it’s hard to know.

Check out some collections below I’ve created to introduce people to Epic. (My profile lists all my public collections — see Ms. Day — and I don’t know why they think I’m based in New York!).

If you want to log in to my trial classroom, use the Student Login - Class Code: pww7754:

I’ve made some other collections with middle school students in mind:


Good-bye, EasyBib -- Hello, ZoteroBib!

School accounts for EasyBib disappeared over the summer. So what am I recommending to students who need a style beyond basic MLA — and are addicted to the ability to let a bibliographic tool try to read as much metadata from a URL as possible?

ZoteroBib — or zbib.org — a new “junior” version of the heavy-lifting Zotero was released in May 2018. Still open source, non-profit (no ads!), originating out of the US university environment, like Zotero. This version is browser-based, meaning, unlike Zotero, you don’t have to download the application and sync between your machine and your browser.

With ZoteroBib, your bibliography is stored in your browser’s local storage, though you can copy/paste to export it, or save a “Link to this version” which will remain available for 6 months.

NB: Students doing the IB Diploma program should know that the IBO requires “Date Accessed” in your bibliography (for online items that could change over time, like webpages). But MLA 8 does not officially require “Date Accessed”. So what referencing style in ZoteroBib should you select, if regular MLA 8 doesn’t do everything you need? Solution: select the modified MLA 8 style called “University of York - Modern Language Association 8th edition” (see slides for an example). This will include “Date Accessed” in your entries.

NB: ZoteroBib does not allow you to import citations that have been exported from databases like JSTOR or EBSCO. But it does let you enter a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) of an article to get citations into your bibliography (see slides for an example).


UPDATE Oct. 25, 2018: If people do use the full Zotero (meaning installed on your machine), then it’s exciting to see the new integration with Google Docs. Read more on their blog: https://www.zotero.org/blog/google-docs-integration/

I started to test it out — and it is very good. But you have to get students to do the whole Zotero installation.

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Using Maryanne Wolf's new book "Reader, Come Home" to try a Twitter book club

When I found out (via her Guardian article, “Skim Reading is the New Normal”) that Maryanne Wolf had a new book out — “Reader, Come Home: the reading brain in a digital world" — I immediately suggested to my colleague Philip Williams that we read it in tandem, to bounce ideas off each other. I consider her 2007 book — “Proust and the Squid” — a seminal text on the history of reading and such an insight into how we (have to) invest time and effort to learn to read.

Philip proposed we set up a Twitter book club (or “slow chat”) to discuss Wolf’s new book with a broader group (as he enjoyed last year’s Twitter book club on the children’s classic, “The Dark is Rising”).

So this month we have been discussing “Reader, Come Home” on Twitter with other librarians. See our comments by searching the #ReaderComeRead tag.

FOLIO - something to wait for....

In the annual library systems report by Marshall Breeding in the ALA magazine - https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/05/01/library-systems-report-2018/ - there is mention of an interesting open source project called FOLIO, which will be an LSP (library services platform) as opposed to an ILS (integrated library system).

EBSCO has helped launch the FOLIO project to develop an open source LSP, in addition to the content and technology products it offers directly. The company has made major investments to fund the project and has provided direct and indirect support for its design and development.

The FOLIO project offers a fresh idea in library resource management, with a modular approach to functionality implemented through microservices architecture. EBSCO has provided funding and direction to Index Data, an open source development firm, to create its core infrastructure. Index Data championed the project throughout the library community, familiar with its work as a major developer of open source technology components used within a variety of environments.

EBSCO envisions FOLIO as a technology framework that will disrupt the current market of LSPs that are tightly bundled with their own discovery services. These bundled offerings result in a competitive environment that disadvantages EBSCO Discovery Service, despite its efforts to integrate with all the major ILSes. FOLIO’s modular design will accommodate any discovery product and EBSCO will naturally ensure that its own products are integrated.

The most depressing thing in the report was its comment on Destiny.

Library software represents a relatively small portion of Follett’s overall business activities. The broader organization also operates college bookstores, distributes educational materials, and provides training across multiple practical professions. Baker & Taylor, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Follett, contributes around $1 billion to the company annually through global sales to libraries and retail outlets. The company is privately owned by the Follett family, with estimated revenues of more than $3 billion.

The Destiny library management system, though a relatively small portion of the company’s business activities, ranks as the dominant product in pre-K–12 libraries in the United States.

No wonder the product isn't being developed effectively or efficiently.  It's not that important to Follett.

Refugees and Palindrome Poetry.... in a picture book....

Brian Bilston became popular on the internet (especially Twitter) when he published a poem about refugees (which my colleague Philip Williams animated for a display in our libraries (see Philip's video here) and someone else illustrated here).

What’s unusual about it is that it is meant to be read first one way and then in reverse.  These are also known as palindrome poems (for another example, see this well-known video of one called “The Lost Generation”).

Barb Reid just showed me a 2018 Australian picture book which does the same thing - on the same topic of refugees.  Luckily it's available on Book Depository here.  Wish we had known about it earlier as it would be a great choice for our Bangkok Book Awards -- as the Singapore Red Dots have got it on theirs.  (Maybe next year for us...)

Citing images in slideshows - an explanation for Y9 students creating Pecha Kuchas this week

I was asked to give a quick lesson on how to cite images in slides being collected for Y9 Pecha Kuchas on contemporary conflicts.  See embedded slideshow below -- or go to http://bit.lyciteslidesnist

Debated whether to get them to use Noodletools -- or to introduce the new ZoteroBib (zbib.org) -- to help kids get MLA style references, but in the end decided to show them how to create their own simple ones.

NIST Top Reads 2018 - a crowd-sourced summer reading list

UPDATE:  Here's the library blog post on our summer reading and the results of our survey: https://library.nist.ac.th/2018/06/08/summer-reading-and-nist-top-reads-2018/

We're asking our community to recommend a book or two for friends to read -- based on something great they've read over the past year.

See sample Google Form here: https://goo.gl/forms/o9iV6nOQPzKVHS7v1

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The results are being gathered in this LibraryThing collection -- librarynist

"Dynamicland" - trying to be a public-library-type space

Wonder what the chances are of me being able to visit Dynamicland in Oakland, California, next month? https://dynamicland.org/research-notes/social-dynamics-of-programming-together/

I'd love to see a non-profit computational medium, where the entire building is a computer.

Listen to Bret Victor on this "Track Changes" podcast episode... http://trackchanges.libsyn.com/computing-is-everywhere-a-conversation-with-bretvictor

GLLI (Global Lit in Libraries) - Starter Kit Collections?

Idea coming out of IASL 2018 in Turkey (thanks to Karen Van Drie) - every school library should have 2 books from each country.  She suggested over on Facebook that we get Follett to make/host the list.

Instead I suggested using LibraryThing -- e.g., see this public crowd-source List for Children's Lit:
 http://www.librarything.com/.../Global-Lit-in-Libs...

and one for YA Lit:
http://www.librarything.com/.../Global-Lit-in-Libs-YA...

As people add titles to this list, use the "Explain" feature to indicate which COUNTRY or CULTURE the book relates to -- and, if possible, in what way, e.g.,

-- Content of the book, e.g., setting or characters
-- Author's background
-- Location of original publication
-- Translation
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GLLI already has some wonderful collections started:  http://www.librarything.com/catalog/glli

LibraryThing over Goodreads for sharing tagged lists

Recently re-discovered my love for LibraryThing, after valiantly trying to use Goodreads (with its easy Google Apps for Education integration) for different school librarian projects (Red Dots, Bangkok Book Awards, draft class library lists, etc.), but LT has so much more power.  And now there's the TinyCat interface....

For example, there's a new children's book award starting up in India, growing out of the annual Neev Literature Festival - http://neevliteraturefestival.org/.

And with committee members in different countries, each reading one-third of the longlist titles submitted by Indian publishers, we needed a way to share the whole list.  Why not LibraryThing?  E.g.,  https://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?view=neevlit&collection=506635&shelf=list&sort=title&sort=title

Especially as there's that beautiful simple interface (the tinycat option):  https://www.librarycat.org/lib/neevlit 

I foresee this LT catalog as a database of India-related children and YA literature, compiled by the Neev committee.

 

Going independently micro....

Discovered micro.blog (see https://www.appleworld.today/blog/2018/4/26/microblog-providing-control-of-your-online-life) so my short professional Facebook/Twitter posts can be logged in one place.  Why? 

(Forgive this obviously NOT MICRO post to explain.  However, everything is relative, and I am starting this microblog as a storage unit for single thoughts, in contrast to my normal blog mode of compendium style posts, which I tend to feel compelled to produce but take way more time/space)....

Scripting News:  on why the Internet is going the wrong way..... 

  • Evidence #
    • Facebook is taking the place of blogs, but doesn't permit linking, styles. Posts can't have titles or include podcasts. As a result these essential features are falling into disuse. We're returning to AOL. Linking, especially is essential#
    • Click a link in a web browser, it should open a web page, not try to open an app which you may not have installed. This is what Apple does with podcasts and now news.#
    • Google is forcing websites to change to support HTTPS. Sounds innocuous until you realize how many millions of historic domains won't make the switch. It's as if a library decided to burn all books written before 2000, say. The web has been used as an archival medium, it isn't up to a company to decide to change that, after the fact. #
    • Medium, a blogging site, is gradually closing itself off to the world. People used it for years as the place-of-record. I objected when I saw them do this, because it was easy to foresee Medium pivoting, and they will pivot again. The final pivot will be when they go off the air entirely, as commercial blogging systems often do. #

Setting up one's own turf for the small stuff.....
Inspired by Alan Jacobs:

So I am considering two alternatives. One is to post everything directly to my own turf, which has advantages that I have outlined here on several occasions. However, my blog runs on WordPress, and WordPress is not really designed for the kind of quick, frictionless posting that Instagram and Twitter are both designed for – and while I am a committed believer in blogging as an engine of thinking, I also believe that there’s a real place for the quicker stuff, the daily-diary stuff. So I also have acquired a micro.blog site. Manton Reece has done a fantastic job with micro.blog, whose origins he describes here – it’s very much part of the open-web movement that I have also celebrated here.

So far I have enjoyed micro.blog very much: it has some features Twitter lacks (it supports Markdown, for instance) and anything I post there I can also seamlessly cross-post to Twitter or to my own site – most of my recent tweets have originated as micro.blog posts, though you can’t tell that on Twitter. I am also quite interested in the new support for micro-podcasts.

So while I like the simplicity of keeping everything on my own turf, micro.blog offers other kinds of simplicity that are also very attractive. So I think that’s the way I’ll go. Micro.blog isn’t free – Manton won’t run ads, and hosting costs money. But my posts and photos belong to me, and I can export them to WordPress any time I want; and people are unlikely to pay for the privilege of trolling, especially when they can do that for free on Twitter. So I would encourage you thoughtful people to consider signing up for a micro.blog account.