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I Love Lucy and (Various) Shades of Grey

1 min read

A description on how the set of I Love Lucy was optimized for black and white television.

This knowledge of the contrast secret is further revealed in the décor of the sets. These are painted in various shades of grey. props likewise follow the ethical demands of correct contrast, as do the wardrobes of the players. Even newspapers, when they are to appear in a scene, have to be tinted grey. Such overall uniformity of colors or tones in the scenes make rigid demands on the lighting and has resulted in the careful illumination formula which Freund and his gaffers now regular employ in lighting the sets. (Source)

I'm Rivers Cuomo.

3 min read

This was originally written as an introduction post for the KQED Teach platform. The assignment was:

  • Create your first post on the KQED Teach community with your type(s) to introduce yourself!
  • Choose an image, animated gif, video, or other form of media found online that represents your motivation.
  • Briefly explain how the things that motivate you impact your teaching.

Hello! I teach Strategic Communications in higher ed and while it appears the Teacher Motivation quiz has been taken offline (I'm sure others have figured this out and solved it themselves, but I found a Slideshare). My courses focus on designing for publics and market segments with a focus on research, copy, and layout. My classes are fairly traditional digital literacy courses in the fact that they aim to give students a broad understanding of what a creative department within an agency specifically does and how they do it. A part of my job is to give students a basic understanding of industry tools (such as Adobe Creative Suite) though I like to also show some more online based tools (such as Canva). We also spend a fair amount of time blogging and coming to understand who we are both as creators and creatives. So I'd say this matches a lot of what is categorized as Demystifier (40%) + Alt (40%) + Spirit Guide (10%) + Professional (10%).

Demystifier:  As a teacher, you “pull back the curtain” to help students see how various forms of information and knowledge are constructed. You emphasize the practice of critical thinking, helping students ask good “how” and “why” questions.

Spirit Guide: You are a listener of your students, and want to make sure that everything you do in the classroom connects to their immediate needs to understand themselves and their lives. Students likely find you trustworthy, and may even confide in you in ways that they do not for other teachers. You know media is just one facet of student life, and you want to engage with it to help them through the highs and lows of life in all of its challenges and opportunities.

ALT: You are an inventive, perhaps “DIY,” teacher. You’re always ready to challenge students with alternative ways of finding, using, thinking about, and making media in the classroom. Whether you use open source programs on school computers, encourage students to start alternative clubs or magazines, or introduce students to media that’s “off the beaten path” of mainstream and mass media, you are likely a key proponent of broadening students’ understanding of the many different ways that people can communicate in the world.

Professional: You have high standards for your students’ work, and you may be seen as the go-to media professional in your school. You know how to push your students to understand and emulate the professional conventions that is important to being taken seriously in the world of media creation. To help students enter the real world of media creation, you bring other authors, professionals, and media-makers into your classroom to enrich the learning experience.

I also introduce my class via Kermit the Frog. All of this is to say, I'm probably Rivers Cuomo from Weezer. Part indie, dressed a little stiffer than I'd like, and I give you what you get: a dose of hits and a couple of really bad experiments.

Caption: Video created via from the Keep Fishin' video.

Media Literacy

1 min read

Basic Definition

Media literacy is the ability to ACCESSANALYZEEVALUATECREATE, and ACT using all forms of communication. 

In its simplest terms, media literacy builds upon the foundation of traditional literacy and offers new forms of reading and writing.

Media literacy empowers people to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.


Customizing the Wordpress Installation in Installatron

3 min read

I got a question on how to customize the Wordpress packages inside of a Domain of One's Own instance so I thought I'd share how we do it. I recently wrote about how OU Create was "shipping with" so I understand why some folks are interested in curating themes and plugins for their specific community. We don't auto-install themes (mostly to keep Wordpress installations light and quick) but we do have a handful of different plugins, most of which are security recommendations such as Cookies for Comments. Anyways, to customize Installatron, you need to login to WHM, navigate to Installatron, and then head over to Customize:

Here is the custom code we have in that box:

What you can see is that there are three specific functions that one call call in order to activate plugins/themes (there's also some specific code for MediaWiki, which is basically a useless applications at its core, and requires several different plugins to even be worth your time--I'm ranting because I sort of despise of MediaWiki!)

The first is that you need to register the zip file, usually located in the Wordpress plugin/theme library, though it's not mandatory:

$this->registerArchive("hypothesis","", "zip");

Next, you'll want to install the plugin/theme into the correct directory:

$o->extract("hypothesis", "wp-content/plugins");

You'll want to change /plugins to /themes if it's a theme

Last, you'll want to decide whether you activate it or not. We have chosen to install but not activate it, allowing the user to make that decision. But in the event you want to activate it, you'll want to tack it on to this array:

>$o->db_query("UPDATE `{$o->db_prefix}options` SET `option_value`=? WHERE `option_name`='active_plugins' LIMIT 1",array( serialize(array("cookies-for-comments/cookies-for-comments.php","wordpress-importer/wordpress-importer.php","subscribe-to-comments/subscribe-to-comments.php")) ));

As I said earlier, I'm a fan of customized approaches for different community needs. My recommendation is to pick a few specific tools or looks for your community (I always recommend Anders Noren themes) but only pick a few. Otherwise you'll installation file size will jump and really bog down the server and make users unhappy.

It's also worth mentioning that at OU we are standing on the shoulders of giants as this code as been adapted from the University of Mary Washington's Domain of One's Own installation, which was coded by Tim Owens and Martha Burtis. We aren't anything without that team.

Fresh Graffiti on the Wisdom Wall

3 min read

I've previously written about my love of the "wisdom wall," a technique I picked up from the good folks at CSU Channel Islands. Basically, you have students write advice to the next semester of students. I have them do this via Google Form and then add all of these to the class wiki. Well it turns out I forgot to check it in May and just now remembered it. This was a nice pick-me-up in the summer because students sometimes write funny stuff like this:

Go to class because it makes Professor Croom sad, plus he plays music so it's nice to work in class.

It's true. I do get sad in the Spring when students magically disappear towards the end of the semester. By the way, this person would never call me "professor" to my face. Why do students want to sound so formally when they submit assignments?! 

Ironically, the last entry is this:

Don't procrastinate. Start working on your project the day that it's assigned and build it continuously until the due date. You'll get your best product from working on the design at different points throughout the creative process (time wise).

Hey, some of us are just who we are! 

But then occasionally someone also writes something that's thoughtful and rather brilliant. Like this student:

I've thought about these 3 things since I started thinking about the summary of learning. I think students should hear it from someone who already went through the class:1.Make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to mess up and start over. Change your mind as many times as you have to because you’ll only learn if you’re not afraid to try everything. It’s okay if the right idea takes ten tries.

2.Don’t settle for good, don’t strive for perfect. I can’t remember which lesson mentioned this but at some point I remember hearing that you only know you’re improving if you realize how good your work actually is. Maybe you don’t know how to do better but at least you know that you can, that you’re not putting forth your best work. At the same time, this is still a beginner course, it’s okay if your work is not as professional as you would like it to be. Try your best and practice will eventually result in improvement.

3.Make time. I learned this the hard way and I would change it if I could. Make time to work on your designs outside of class time, make time to post on the blog, make time for the quizzes. Just make time. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Man oh man! Students got me all feeling the feels!

Human Scale Technology

1 min read

To me, the idea of human scale is critical. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that every idea must scale. That thinking is distracting, closes us off from great opportunities, and invites unnecessary complexity.

Turn down the amplifier a little bit. Stay small. Allow for human correction and adjustment. Build for your community, not the whole world.
At this scale, everybody counts. (source)

Don't Call This Gamification

1 min read

Reality Ends Here was an environmental game at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) where students would secretly enter a hidden, optional, and unofficial game designed to serendipitous spark collaborative media-making. Don't call this gamification.

Gamification is the application of points and badges and other representations onto real-world behaviors under the assumption that such application will motivate or “incentivize” said behaviors. We believe that gamification is a crude behavioral control system masquerading as innocent marketing. That is not what games are, or have been, or ever will be. We define a game as a set of rules and procedures that generates problems and situations that demand inventive solutions. A game is about play and creativity and surprise. Real play isn’t about motivating people to do things; it’s about channeling and challenging motivations that are already there in order to create new meanings and possibilities. Gamification is about “checking in” and ticking off boxes. Never confuse the two. At the very least, you will piss off any game designers within earshot (source).

A longer, more formal explanation exists in dissertation form. (Article)

Assignment Bank "Builds"

3 min read

I'm working on a new course for the fall called Ad Copy and Layout. It will be very similar to PR Publications but, of course, focused towards advertising. So, in a sense, it's sort of like I'm getting the chance to redesign PR Publications. I'm going to play the hits and utilize two of Alan Levine's tools he created for DS106 including the Daily Create (I'll be having students write a daily headline) and the Assignment Bank for weekly "challenges."

I'm currently working on the bank right now and it's coming along quite well. I plan to write a much more comprehesive post on the course once the Fall rolls around but just going to be jotting a few notes down in the meantime.

So, as I mentioned, the bank will be used for challenges related to each unit. Some units are more fundamental (design theory, copywriting) while other are more comprehesive (build a campaign, design a brandmark). Here's a preview of some of the copywriting challenges:

If you read the titles, you'll notice that some of them are very self-contained exercises like "Hire a Celebrity Spokesperson" while others are more bite-size chunks of lengthier processes. For instance, "create a product description document" would being a portion of the research process that leads into informing your copywriting.

One thing I was thinking about is for larger bank projects (design a billboard campaign), I could potentially want students to first go through the process of creating a product description document (another challenge). Further, students could want to rework a research and discovery chalenge that they would be valuable before getting started.

So here's my question: How could one build on top of the assignment bank the ability for instructors OR students to parlay different challenges together to make a challenge made up of several challenges?

An example: I could also create a bank of challenges that had a social component (work with a partner, utilize a collaborative document, etc.) and a student could do a "build" (thanks Keegan for suggesting this as the term for the concept) that equals product description doc + work with a partner + design a billboard campaign.

It would give a real modular plug-and-play aspect to the challenge bank and allow students to come up with ways of putting together assignments that I would have never imagined before.

I'm trying to figure out how this could technically work. Each assignment bank option has its own specific tag ("Challenge45," "Challenge56" etc.). I wonder if I could create a custom page type that showed how these are strung together (45 + 56) that could act as a way for people to see different Builds that have been completed.

As always, this is a very nascent idea, one where comments and suggestions would be highly appreciated!

Clinton and the Valley (Testing Known Syndication)

1 min read

This was originally posted at on my Known installation. If all works, this should end up at Let's try some WIkity formatting:

The idea that Mrs. Clinton is less likely than Mr. Sanders to let government get in the way of the Valley’s creativity and enterprise is one of her strongest selling points. Another is her pedigree as a Washington insider.

Al Gore, Bill Clinton’s vice president, was the White House’s ambassador to the tech community and helped connect public schools to the internet. In the years since, battles over net neutrality, intellectual property and privacy have shown companies here the value of friends in Washington. This has helped raise millions for Mrs. Clinton, with more on the way. (source)


Cloning from a Jekyll Github Repo to Reclaim Hosting

4 min read

The tl;dr : My course site is now being hosted on OU Create via Reclaim Hosting as well as Github. This means I own it, first and foremost, but also have Github as a means of sharing the resource and as a backup hosting solution. To learn more, check out an earlier blog post, find my course site here, and the Github repo here.


Tim Owens wrote a very clear tutorial on how to now host Jekyll blogs on Reclaim Hosting. This was super news as I've been wanting to do this for two main reasons:

1. Add SSL which is not currently supported on Github pages. This is important to me as I drop the course site into our LMS which will not show the site if it hasn't been secured.

2. Not be solely reliant on Github for hosting. Would much prefer to have the site self-hosted with Github Pages available for both broader sharing and redundancy.

Below I'm going to walk through how I did it, mostly for my own memory, as this is arguably a very niche need. But happy to share for those who are also interested.

First, I followed Tim's blog post on how to enable Jekyll on CPanel. This is fairly straight forward. I'm iving the cliff notes here as Tim explains it better, but go to "Setup the Ruby app."

Then SSH into your server (I did this via terminal), enter your virtual environment (mine is source /home/anyhennk/rubyvenv/jekyll/2.2/bin/activate and then run gem install jekyll.

I then navigated into my my public_html via cd public_html and then made my way into the directory (

Next, I created the folder "ghsummer16" with the mkdir ghsummer16 command.

Now we get into the Github part. Tim was kind enough to enable git across the OU Create servers for me. This led me to then run through a handful of git commands:

First, git init to initial an empty Git repo.

Then, git remote add origin

Followed by git fetch --all (which fetched what I had identified as the origin). This led to the following code.

Fetching origin

remote: Counting objects: 372, done.

remote: Compressing objects: 100% (158/158), done.

remote: Total 372 (delta 88), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 209

Receiving objects: 100% (372/372), 22.83 MiB | 966 KiB/s, done.

Resolving deltas: 100% (168/168), done.


 * [new branch]      gh-pages   -> origin/gh-pages

 * [new branch]      master     -> origin/master

 * [new branch]      pr/1       -> origin/pr/1

Here, I screwed up and pulled the origin/master with git pull origin master instead of gh-pages (more on that later).

Now I needed to do the Jekyll build. First, as Tim mentions, run gem install bigdecimal to ward off errors message. Then run jekyll build.

Next (because I screwed up earlier) I switched to the gh-pages branch with git checkout gh-pages and another jekyll build command.

Next, I need to have a URL point to the _site folder within the directory. So I setup the subdomain to point to

And finally I added SSL via Let's Encrypt which is built into the CPanel (free SSL cert!)

And I'm good to go!

Yes, this explanation is quick and dirty and doesn't give a lot of context. Sorry about that (that's why it's over on the notebook instead of the better blog :-). AGAIN, I highly suggest you first read Tim's post and use only as needed!