If You Can’t Tell What The Service Is Selling, It’s You

EdSurge nails the lede, but sort of misses the point. The overall tone of the piece is vague surprise that free services apparently can’t be trusted with user data.

Like the post title says, if the service is free, and you can’t tell what they’re selling to monetize it…the product is you. Your eyeballs. Your attention. Your data. This isn’t news, and it shouldn’t be surprising any more.

“We need to stop talking about services that are free and start talking about services that bury the cost in different ways.” – Bill Fitzgerald

EdModo’s protestations don’t cut much ice, either. I can’t help but be reminded of unroll.me CEO Jojo Hedaya’s response when the service was outed for selling user data to Uber: “It was heartbreaking to see that some of our users were upset to learn about how we monetize our free service”. Not “we’re sorry and shouldn’t have done that”, but “we’re sorry you didn’t read our TOS closely enough to know this was going on”.

Free services that require ongoing commitment of resources are not free, and the point that EdSurge sort of glosses over is that we should start from that assumption. It doesn’t matter if the back end is a black box, really. No service operates in a vacuum, and if a service can’t adequately explain how they’re funded, you should default to the conclusion that they’re relying on user data to fund themselves.

You have an extensive shadow identity online, and it is for sale.

Three Rules To Spark Learning

“Flipping a boring lecture from the classroom to the screen of a mobile device might save instructional time, but if it is the focus of our students’ experience, it’s the same dehumanizing chatter, just wrapped up in fancy clothing.” – Ramsey Musallam

  1. Curiosity comes first.
  2. Embrace the mess.
  3. Practice reflection.

If you teach making or operate a makerspace, these three rules should be at the core of everything you do.

Ramsey’s brief, heartfelt 2013 TED Talk

Northern Spark – Algorithmic Art from Roman Verostko

For my Minneapolitan friends…

Project Showcase

Check out this array of projects from Professor Maria Fackler’s English 415 class this semester! Professor Fackler’s students worked independently in Studio M to produce a tremendous assortment of printed, engraved and cut goods.

VR Mapping

For the last few days, I’ve been reading about and tinkering with White and Le Cornu’s ideas of VR mapping. This is the idea that Internet users can be differentiated along continuum between those who are essentially quick-hit, one-and-done task-based users of the Internet and those who are actively socially engaged. As a contrast to Prensky’s dubious theory of digital natives vs. digital immigrants, VR mapping is a good start toward a more accurate picture of technological engagement, though I honestly find the focus on social interaction a bit limiting.

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Union Station Baltimore

The glass ceiling.

My Student Makers

Just super proud of this team!

Headphone Rest

Printed at max size on my Rep5 in MakerBot translucent green. Original design by MakerBot. My make.

iPad Mounts

A recent collaboration between Theater and the makerspace for a production of Cabaret. Full details to come.


A cold, sunny March afternoon.