CRAAP: waste or fertilizer?

Susi cc2012 by Hagens_world

CRAAP has been taking a lot of crap lately. This came through my Twitter feed today:

It refers to the latest among a number of claims that so-called fake news can be validated by using the CRAAP test. I suppose it’s correct to say one can validate such things, but that require a rather tortuous misapplication of the test. The case in point here refers to one of the president’s tweets about being wiretapped. We can consider the information current, but that’s about it. Whether or not it is relevant depends entirely on what one needs the information for and what one intends to do with it, which is not determined in the example. Accuracy cannot be determined from the tweet at all, and as the article says, the claim has been refuted by many who have knowledge of and familiarity with the situation. The president is well-known for having an inverse relationship with truth, so the accuracy can be considered suspect from the start. And since the president is well-known for making statements that have little relationship with truth or reality, his authority approaches zero. His purpose is purely political, to misinform and to attack, to put his predecessor in a negative light. We know this because it is something he has been working at for years. The only way the tweet in question could be considered reliable information would be to take the position that you can believe everything you read.

That last point is the problem I have with most criticisms of the CRAAP test. They remove any kind of thought from the process. But why would anyone do that? Why would anyone assert that “authority is a binary,” as the article claims? Certainly one can oversimplify the test, and some organizations do turn it into a bizarre scorecard, but there is no reason why anyone has to do it that way, nor is there any reason that they should.

If we look at CSU Chico’s version (PDF) of it, we can see that it is not as simple as people pretend. Their version lists the five criteria and several example questions for each. There is no implication that the list of questions is exhaustive. Many of them take the form of yes/no questions, but many of them require some critical thinking to reach a good answer. “Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?” This can only be answered in the context of how the information will be used, and what the user is trying to accomplish. “Is the author qualified to write on the topic?” To answer this, one has to considered what makes an author qualified, and what kinds of qualifications there are. “Is the information supported by evidence?” This requires evaluating evidence and logic, and perhaps methodology. “Where does the information come from” This requires some investigation, which can open up many new complexities. “What is the purpose of the information?” There is nothing simple or binary about this. I wouldn’t even consider purpose to be singular.

I find CRAAP test is good for an entry into a discussion of how and why we evaluate information. We all do it, we just don’t all think about it reflectively and intentionally. And even those of us who are expert and reflective are subject to confirmation bias. So the test provides a model, a list of questions we can ask. All of those supposedly binary questions come with an unspoken corollary: How do we know? All of those questions require us to think about context, both the context of what we are reading and the context of what we are writing or otherwise doing with the information.

I know people misuse CRAAP. Perhaps they misunderstand it. In surveying students, informally, about a third of them tell me that .orgs are better than .coms. When I asked a group of librarians where this misconception comes from, about a quarter of them told me that it was true. Some people make the test into a scoresheet. Some people apparently just toss the test at students with minimal to no explanation. I don’t know if librarians actually say “anything that ends in .gov is reliable,” but I do know that this does not come from the CRAAP test. It asks, “Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?” That does not mean .gov is good. It does mean that we need to talk about how to dissect and decipher URLs, and think about what they tell us, if anything. Perhaps the problem is that people treat CRAAP as an end product, and people latch onto it as a simple solution. But that’s wasteful. Using it as fertilizer is productive.

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Week 9: Broadcast and Web Storytelling

3/17/17 – 3/24/17

Everyone worked through major projects these past weeks, so we’re going to reflect on what the class has accomplished.

Radio Shows Broadcasting Schedule
Monday – Miami Spy Convention, Cloak and Dagger, and Group 5
Tuesday – Sexspionage, Agents on Air, and Group 6

The radio shows that were created last week will be broadcast live on ds106radio (you can listen here) this Monday and Tuesday nights from 8:30 PM – 10:00 PM. Members of the groups should be on hand to talk about the behind-the-scenes work for their shows. If technology wants to cooperate, I will offer people the opportunity to discuss their shows on air via Google Hangouts.

Everyone should be on twitter during the shows to share feedback real time using the #ds106 hashtag.

Everyone should reflect on at least one radio show they listened to and were not a part of creating. Describe the experience of listening, the various sound elements employed, what parts worked, what parts didn’t, etc. Be thoughtful, critical, and most importantly respectful. Tag this radiolisten.

I am going to try to fit all the shows in two days because I will be on a secret mission to Charm City Wednesday to Sunday. Communications may be intermittent during that time.  

Best of ds106 showcase

One of the things we do in this course is celebrate each other’s work. This week you should look through the assignments and Daily Creates the class has done, and pick out the three best and highlight them in a post. You may pick things that you remember stood out to you, or you can go back through the class blog feed to find three outstanding works of art. You get to define what “best” means. You must embed the media in your post. You have to say something about why it’s outstanding. You CANNOT pick anything you did yourself. Tag this post ds106showcase.

Web Storytelling

For this week’s other adventure, we’re going to play with web storytelling. This should be fun. I am going to quote extensively from the Open ds106 Course:

In this unit we move to a different kind of storytelling, one that uses the space of existing web sites as a place for you to assert your own stories. They are not just stories on the web, they are of the web. They use the affordances of the web as its own genre.

This might be a subtle distinction, but so far you have been using media (images, design, and audio) to create stories in the web spaces you publish to- this is writing stories ON the web. In this week, we play with this idea in a new way, in that you will be asked to use the affordances of other web sites to change their intent, meaning, or purpose to tell a story in those spaces.

Inspiration: Not Your Grandfather’s Resume

Rather than doing a standard textbook resume like the teach you in school, Philippe Dubost created a site to feature his skills and experience formed and functioning as an Amazon product page where he himself is the product:

If you examine the page, every bit has been re-crafted to fit the story of Philippe as well as both the style and features familiar to Amazon shoppers.

A resume not ON the web, but OF the web. Get it?

This week we’ll be playing with storytelling within the web. What does this mean? Well, you will be intervening in the code and design of a website of your choice to tell a story. You are not to photoshop the design of the site, but rather intervene in the actual html and CSS of the site—though you can photoshop particular images on the site.

Perhaps the most well known examples take place on Amazon pages such as The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee where people have intervened just in the product comments to make this ordinary t-shirt have magical powers. It becomes a way of making a political statement as read in the comments of a children’s aircraft toy (hat tip to @bellekid). These are ways in which an ordinary web page is fictionalized in a creative way simply through comments.

You are not being asked to code web pages; but use tools that you can use in a web browser to modify the content of an existing web page, change the text, images, and links, so that it has different content and meaning. You do not have to worry about defacing another web page, you are just recrafting a copy of it (remember the old saying about imitation as a form of flattery?)

The creative part requires that you find an existing web page to work with as raw material. Good candidates are newspaper stories, product entries in sites like Amazon or eBay, movie/book reviews — in fact, simpler pages like a search result or Craigslist are easy to work with.

The tools you can use allow you to, in a web browser, actually modify the content. The end goal is to have both a screen shot image and a real working web page you created that you can link to in your unit summary blog post (and heck why not tweet what you did?)

We recommend the Mozilla X-Ray Goggles tool is is meant to help you see (like an x-ray) how web content is structured:

X-Ray Goggles allow you to see the building blocks that make up websites on the internet. Activate the goggles to inspect the code behind any webpage, then remix elements with a single click, swapping in your own text, images and more.

Here is an example of one modified in Goggles from a past ds106 page!

What you should do is review the X-Ray Goggles instructions and install the tool in your browser bar. (this will work in any modern web browser). This can be invoked directly on any web page you want to explore and change Goggles provides an overlay interface to change text, formatting, even images — essentially to rewrite any web page.

When you are done, you’ll need to save your changed code – click “P” in the bottom right when the X-Ray Goggles are activated. The easy way is to publish it on the Hackasaurus site, from which you will get a URL.

Your work then is to do a Storytelling Within the Web assignment – write a blog post with the usual writeup components, and include both a screen shot of your reworked page and a link to a live web version of your retold web story page. Tag this webstorytelling.

Alternatively, you can create a Stepworks story. There is a how-to video and description on the Create page, and our friend and fellow agent @dogtrax has also written a detailed explanation of the Stepworks process. I’ve only started playing with it myself, so I’m curious to see what people can come up with. Share what you make on Twitter with the #ds106 hashtag, and write a blog post about how you made your story. Tag this stepworksstory.

Connected Daily Creates

We’ve had a lot of great work on the Daily Create assignments, so we are going to try something a little different. Do at least three Daily Creates this week. After you’ve done them, look at them and find a way to tie them together in a story. You could put them together in one blog post, but if you can hyperlink them together, even better! That would mean constructing a story that jumps across media sites in a way that works as a single story. If you really can’t make it work with the Daily Creates that come up, you can reach back to this past week, but no further.

Web Assignments

Do 8 stars of Web Assignments. There aren’t many here, so you are all encouraged to make some up and add them to the assignment bank.

And of course, the usual commenting!

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Snapshots of Turin

I’ve been reading the new translation of Giorgio De Maria’s The Twenty Days of Turin, and since I feel I know almost nothing of Italy, I’ve been looking things up. So here is a collection of things I’ve found, with minimal explanation.
The cover of the Italian edition
Turin is home to the Museo Egizio, the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Egypt
Sculptor Vincenzo Vela is brought up. More on him here
The book refers to Edmondo de Amicis and his book Cuore, or The Heart of a Boy
The bas-relief behind the monument

The concept of The Library and what the mayor had to say about it makes me think of Claudius

The Albertine Statute was Italy’s first constitution

I hadn’t thought about the time setting of the story until it talked about the hippie era as being “thirty years ago.” That puts it in the 90s, the end of the century, as the subtitle puts it. I guess I took it for granted the story was in the end of the 70s, when the book was published.

The Monument to Niccolò Tommaseo is apparently known as “the book-shitter.”


Sister Clotilde gets her name from an early saint “venerated as guarding … those who suffered violent death and ill-tempered husbands.”

That leaves me about halfway through. I should have more to come.

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Player gonna play

I liked #tdc1880 as a design assignment, so I’m going to treat it as one. I did it as a TDC already, but my effort was pretty lame. I originally wanted to do something with the picture of the mandrill (#7) because the shape and symmetry of the image looked like an album cover. I didn’t have a good idea for it though. I thought about playing off of 70s funk band Mandrill, but that seemed too obvious. I liked the red nose though, so I figured I’d highlight it, kinda like the Splash the Color assignment. I used the Select->Color Range function in Photoshop to select the red and copy it to a new layer. I adjusted the Fuzziness so that it was getting mostly just the nose and brow.

Then I went to the background layer and used the Image->Adjustments->Hue/Saturation function to desaturate (make grayscale) the rest of the image. I liked the way that came out. Manually selecting around the red of the nose would have been tedious, and the result would have been less smooth. I never would have been able to isolate the red in the brow otherwise.

Manipulating the image like that and highlighting the red nose gave me an idea – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Mandrill. I felt like it should have a techno vibe, although I’m not sure why. I looked for a typeface to reflect this and found OmegaForce by Iconian Fonts. I liked that it had upper and lower case, sort of, and thought I could make use of the various decorative variations.

I haven’t seen the Rudolph Christmas show since I don’t remember when, but I occasionally watch Raging Rudolph (YT) and The Reinfather (YT) around Christmastime, so I get them mixed up. I titled it Player Gonna Play to take the reindeer game aspect into gangster territory. I centered all the type to go with the symmetry in the image. I put the type in white to go with the grayscale image, and added a drop shadow that picks up the red from the nose. I reversed that formula for the title of the album.

Back when LPs and CDs were a thing, they would sometimes have stickers on them promoting the hit song. So I added one, playing off the Reinfather theme. It weakens the design, yet at the same time feels a little more authentic to me, reflecting the way commerce tends to ruin art.

I like the way it came out. The colors and the layout give it a sense of unity, and the italic type gives a slight sense of motion. And as I was working on it, I found a five hour and seventeen minute Best of Mandrill video on Youtube. There goes the rest of my day.

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Weeks 7 & 8: Radio royale

2/24/17 – 3/17/17

For weeks 7 and 8 we will be working on producing radio shows. The shows will be broadcast on ds106radio the week after they are due.

Group Radio Show Guidelines
The radio show will be a group project. You will have two weeks to complete the project, with Spring Break in between. These are the specifications:

  • All group members must contribute to the final radio show. I recommend you create a Google Doc for planning and collaboration. If you invite me to be part of it, I can offer advice and input. It’s up to you. But I recommend it.
  • The total show should around 20 – 30 minutes, equal at least 5-7 minutes times the number of members in your group (for example, a three person group would produce a show of about 20 minutes; five people would go about half an hour.)
  • The show must include at least 3 ds106 radio bumpers (they can be specific to the show or general bumpers for ds106radio) that are produced by group members.
  • The show must include at least 3 commercials that the group creates.
  • The show must relate in some way to the theme of the class. How you go about that is up to you. Creativity is encouraged.
  • Blog about your process and progress. Every member is expected to blog at least once during the first week about progress; every member is expected to blog at least once during the second week about the completion of the project. These should be substantive blog posts in which you explain what progress/decisions the group had made, what individual work you’ve been doing, what tools/tech you’re using, what’s going well, what’s not working, etc. tag: radioshowweek1 & radioshoweek2
  • Each group member needs to do at least one promo poster/bumper sticker/logo etc. for their show during the first week — a little splash of design work.
  • Keep the instructor apprised of your progress. You can email me, send me messages on Twitter, etc.
  • Consider what a show should sound like. There needs to be an opening and a closing. You may need transitional elements. You will need to do audio production. This will include editing sections together, layering in background sounds, incorporating music, etc. It should not be just a recording of a conversation.
  • On the subject of music – some people had their work blocked by Soundcloud due to copyright violation. You can use CC Search to find openly licensed music and other media. You could also google open source music. You won’t find hits, but you will find things you can use.

As you found out during Intro to Audio week, audio editing is time consuming. Plan to be done early and you will probably be done on time.

Some advice on group formation:

Get into groups:

  • Membership: You will have the chance to self-organize into your groups for this project..
  • Theme Ideas: There are a lot of great ideas out there, so this should not be a problem. You can see everyone’s ideas at— at least everyone who tagged their posts correctly! For your convenience, I have these posts linked below. If you see an idea you like, contact the originator about working together. Stick to the ones from February 2017 though – older ones are from previous semesters. If you have an idea you like, put a call out on your blog and Twitter for collaborators.
  • Use Twitter: If you need to find a group, put the word out on Twitter that you’re looking for a group to join.
  • Let Us Know Your Group: We have created a spreadsheet to facilitate group formation. You should have received the link to it in an email. Give your group a name, put down a brief description of your show idea, and list the group members. There is also a section for people who are looking for a group.

Adapted from

Group sizes:
Groups should have 3 or more members. If a group grows to 8 or more people, I may decide to split it in two, unless the group can make the case that all members will be actively involved in the show’s production.

Group deadline:
Everybody should be in a group by Monday, February 27, by midnight. If you have not joined a group by that time, you will be putting your fate in my hands. I will assign you to a group, but it will be entirely your responsibility to make the situation work.

Summary of Deadlines and Assignments for the Next 2 Weeks

Due by Midnight 3/3 (Summarized, as usual, in a weekly post):

  1. Radio Show Progress: A blog post on your radio show process and progress. Tag this radioshowweek1
  2. Radio Show Design Project: A blog post for your radio show poster/bumper sticker/logo etc. Write this post just like you would an assignment post — with the same amount of detail we usually expect! Tag this radioshowpromo
  3. Commenting: Everyone needs to be reading/commenting on other students’ work.
  4. Audio Assignments:  Complete 10 stars. Most of the assignments should relate to the course theme in some way. You should use your audio assignments to develop content for your radio show (bumpers, commercials, etc.). We are assigning these stars this week so that you make progress on developing content for your shows! Feel free to bend the assignments to your needs.
  5. Daily Creates: Complete 3 TDCs this week.

Due by Midnight 3/17 (Summarized, as usual, in a weekly post):

  1. Completed radio show. Upload it to Soundcloud.
  2. Radio Show Progress: Second blog post summarizing your radio show process and progress. Tag: radioshowweek2
  3. Commenting: Commenting, commenting and more commenting. The more, the better.
  4. Daily Creates: Complete 2 TDCs this week.

Audio resources:

In addition to the Audio Resource page, here are a few additional items worth reviewing:

  • The Convergence Center has recording equipment and facilities available for you to use. Take advantage of them!
  • The UMW New Media site is a resource for producing, editing, and generally working with media, including audio.
  • The UMW Digital Knowledge Center is available for individual and group tutorials for audio editing. You can schedule a tutorials for assignments and the radio show here:

You can find additional audio resources in the Open Ds106 syllabus (

Radio show ideas from

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Bond goes GQ

I decided to take another shot at the Animated Magazine Cover assignment. Former ds106 master Jim Groom did a GQ Dude cover, and I thought GQ would be tailor-made for Bond. As it turns out, it was, since I found a GQ France cover with Daniel Craig on it. The Bond GIF I picked to work with was Sean Connery, which makes for a nice mismatch.

I did this with Photoshop. I used the Select Color Range function to pick up the red, the Magic Wand to get the white background and the type on top of Craig, and the rectangular select tool to get the black type. I copied all that to a new layer, and used the Magic Wand to select the white background to delete it. That gave me a layer with just the text and logo, and no background, which I could paste on top of a GIF. I checked the size of the cover, 1346 pixels high, and resized the Bond GIF to the same size, and I added a new layer on top of the stack. The I copied my GQ cover layer and pasted it on top. There was a problem though, because the black type on the left side was over a black part of the image. So I used my trusty Control-Z to undo the paste, and went back to my GQ file, selected the black text on the left, and used Image->Adjust->Invert to make the text white. Then I pasted it back on the GIF and used the Crop tool to trim it to magazine proportions. I also added a new GQ logo since part of it was cut off.

It’s a little fuzzy, but that’s okay because the GIF is a little grainy. The logo seems a little out of place because it’s cleaner that the rest, but not too much. I think it helps that most of the GIF image is pretty static. It makes it more magazine-like.

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Open and info lit

Today I woke up to find Digital literacy and democracy

I wish my hastily-made blog posts could be this good. Democracy and civilization need an informed citizenry. Efforts at mis- and disinformation then, are uncivilized and antidemocratic. And immoral in their casual disregard for honesty, ethics and truth. It’s not enough to call these things out though. That may not even be productive. What matters is that people be empowered to ask questions and to access and use information. It’s also important to challenge our assumptions, or to have our assumptions challenged, to self-reflect and self-evaluate. This is basic information literacy as I see it, as well as basic learning and growth.

This week in OpenLearning17 we’re looking at digital literacy in general, and the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in particular. Some see information literacy as an element of digital literacy, like JISC. I take a more expansive view. Information comes in many forms and flows through many channels. Information literacy then is an umbrella term, and things like media literacy, visual literacy and digital literacy delve into the forms and channels. A problem with that view is that information literacy becomes too big to know, as Belshaw pointed out.

I find it interesting that very little of the discussion around the Framework seems to tie to open education. I see a deep and long term connection between the two, and have been harping on it for a while.

It makes me wonder if this is just so obvious that it’s not worth talking about, or if I’m seeing a mirage. But I think it’s a matter of two movements on parallel tracks, not really connecting with each other. I’m sure the terminological issues play no small part in that disconnect. The Framework is ambitious and aspirational though, and as a framework, offers opportunity for connections. It won’t solve the problems of the world, but we can use it to find a path forward.

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Callin’ from the fun house

photo from

I’m sure a lot of books have had an impact on me. But the first one I though of when I saw the Daily Digital Alchemy today was The Rolling Stone Record Guide. I got this when I was in my mid-teens, very interested in music and very not interested in most of what was on the radio. This book introduced me to the history and evolution of rock music, the classics and obscurities. There was much in their ratings and reviews that I disagreed with, but there was so much that was new to me that it proved invaluable over time. I remember once I was in the Record Archive and found a used copy of the then out-of-print Funhouse album. I didn’t know anything about it, but felt the need to pick it up, and it ended up being the best 99 cents I ever spent. Sometime later I looked up Iggy Pop in the Guide. The was a line that said Funhouse was for people who thought The Sex Pistols were mellow. I realized then that that was what subconsciously moved me to get the record.

Does it make sense that a librarian’s life was transformed by a reference book? Probably.


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A bit about ds106radio

One of our listeners expressed some interest in ds106radio:

I would always turn it on earlier than the start time (because I was nervous about missing anything) and the kinds of music and stories it played at other moments was an interesting selection. I am pretty curious to understand where and why those stories and songs were curated for the radio. Especially the stories that I heard pieces of felt really old school style so I am curious about their source. The existence of an online radio for an online class though is a great concept. I knew DS 106 had a lot of layers to it before I started this course but I do not think I understood just how much it had until I started.

What we have running on ds106radio currently are mainly things that have been used or produced in the course in past semesters.  Some of it is content that students have produced, like bumpers and radio shows. Some of it is old-time radio shows from the Internet Archive that were used during the live tweeting sessions. And there are other things, like discussions of ds106, audio produced by the ds106 community, and some occasional random but related music.  You can actually broadcast on ds106radio yourself. Timmmmyboy wrote up some detailed directions, with screenshots, which I think are still good. They’re Mac-specific though. CogDog also has a take on it. I also wrote up something about doing it without the SoundFlower program. So if you want to play with broadcasting, you can. If you tweet out what you’re up to with the #ds106radio hashtag, you might even get some listeners.


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Design in action

Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (@HassanOE) has been doing some brilliant analyses of comic book illustration and design in his series Strip Panel Naked. He takes us through the details of how comic book pages work, looking at the impact of the various elements, explaining the visual and psychological effects, and doing it with an infectious level of enthusiasm.

While he talks about various elements in his series, I see it all as design. It’s all planned, deliberate decision making to achieve a desired goal, whether in the layout, coloring, dialogue or whatever. I think Hassan’s work first came to my attention when I stumbled across his analysis of a James Bond page. It’s a simple page, but a great opening, and we can see how the lines of writing, lines of sight and lines of architecture all work in concert to lead us through the action. One thing that fascinates me about this write up is the inclusion of the original script. We can see how the author was designing the scene in his head. I find the use of all caps in the script interesting. It’s as if the author thinks in comic book dialogue, so he has to provide melodramatic emphasis even in his description of the scene.

In the video below, he gives a detailed analysis of several pages of a Black Widow book, showing how the action moves through the pages and also from one page to the next. He also goes into the mechanics of the design, showing how the different elements move the action and control our eyes and sense of time.

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