Month: October 2007

Total 32 Posts

The Challenge of Writing in a Digital Age

Screenwriter John August’s just saying what you’re all thinking.

I’m not talking about just academic writing. I’m talking about all writing. I’m talking about email. Memos. Your blog. I’m talking about what you wrote on your friend’s Facebook wall. All that writing you don’t think you’re getting graded on—well, you are.

Whether you want to or not, you’re being judged on it. And you’re being judged differently because of the era you’re living in.

I’m curious how School 2.0 finds his distinction between authority and expertise:

But in order to become an authority, you have to participate. You have to offer your thoughtful opinion when appropriate, and you have to invite others’ responses. Remember: an expert is someone who knows something. An authority is someone with the reputation to back it up. You get that reputation from your peers. That’s why your professors publish articles in journals with peer-review.

Alpine Jacuzzi Party

or: Welcome to the Good Life

Last month, more than seventy people climbed Mount Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, hoisting up a deconstructed Jacuzzi along with them. The pictures define ebullience better than the definition of ebullience does. If you’ve got a digital projector in your classroom, how are you not showing your kids stuff like this? Take a break from diagramming sentences, fire up all the pictures one after the other, and tell the story.

Here’s an English translation of the page, courtesy of the Google.

For us, the idea of a whirlpool is to hold a festive event, in places or situations unusual and exceptional. It is a leisure, conceived and organized by our own means and with the help of our friends. Indeed, to organize such an activity in the most insane, it is not enough to spend evenings calculations and construction, the most important thing is to have lots of friends.


So hot right now.

So Joey Lawrence has been burning up my photography feeds lately. He’s fresh off a photojournalism trip to India. He’s shooting album and magazine covers from coast to coast, often with some slickly improvised light setups. He has agents in New York and London. He’s seventeen years old.

In an interview with Strobist, he gives the School 2.0 crowd a quote to hang their hats on:

Strobist: All over the world, digital cameras and cheap computers are opening up the process to millions of young, hyper-creative photogs. If you could talk to a roomful of a thousand 14-year-old shooters who want to reach a high level of shooting, what would you tell them?

JoeyL: I get e-mails from a lot of people even younger than me and it’s always nice to see that because I used to do the same thing to cool photographers I found. My best advice would be to use the internet as a tool and post as much stuff as possible for feedback. But don’t become discouraged — try to develop something fresh and new. I have tons of really really old horrible pictures that are still around the internet but it’s important to start somewhere, it doesn’t bother me.

[emphasis added]

Seventeen years old. Christian Long usually brings you these wunderkinds, but he’s out of the office right now so you’ve got me.

The Red Dot

Burying the Lede

Behind the scenes here at dy/dan we’ve been preparing a lesson-by-lesson recap (plus templates plus student samples plus an enormous collection of ‘net resources) of what has been my best unit since the last one.

It’s called Information Design and I’m pretty sure it is the mathematical skill most lacking in our high school graduates.

Not algebra. Not arithmetic. Not trig identities.

They don’t know how to take data and design them. They don’t know which designs (bars, pies, stacks, columns, bubbles, scatters, Sparklines, whatever) work best for a given set of data. They don’t know how to take a chart and form conclusions, evaluate it for bias, or interpret it for others.

They don’t know because no one teaches them outside of Advanced Placement Statistics, a class which is to modern information design what the harpsichord is to the West Coast rap scene.

Exhuming, Dusting Off The Lede

Let me get to it. The following is one of the most scary-awesome information designs I’ve seen in a month. Gives me chills on a glance. Once contextualized, it is a damning indicator of international scandal, of greed, of cybercrime.

[Updated to add: created by Michael Josem of]

It concerns poker, a game which I only pretend to understand, a game which I only play under extreme coercion or intoxication. But as best as I understand the graph:

Each dot represents a poker player at the online poker supersite Absolute Poker, based out of Costa Rica, specifically the 5000 players who play the most hands.

The vertical axis represents the percentage of hands a player puts money into. A dot at the very top means you play every hand and fold none of them. A dot towards the bottom classifies you as “tight.” You don’t play a hand unless the two hole cards you’re dealt pre-flop are amazing.

The horizontal axis indicates how often you win. To the right you’ve cumulatively won more hands than lost. To the left you’ve lost more hands than won.

Chills again. My ID students and I are gonna burn through class minutes talking about this graph.

For example, where is the worst place to be on the graph? Where is the best? Circle a successful poker player. Circle a losing poker player. How do you know?

And then after all that, we talk about the red dot.

The Red Dot

Do you see it? Top right, playing something like 92% of his hands and winning most of them? That there is Potripper, a poker player who’s been on a tear lately, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars playing tournaments, playing heads up, playing anyone who’ll give him a game.

He’s also a cheater.

There are other, better places to get the full story on this one. (See the references below.) The important details to my math class are these. Absolute Poker keeps superuser accounts which can see every hole card at the table. Someone within Absolute Poker accessed that account and sat in on every game played by another user, informing that user’s every call, bluff, and raise perfectly, resulting in some extremely wild gambles, gambles like taking a weak hand like king high to the river on a table with plenty of other action, gambles which a sane person would make only if he knew what every person at the table held.

There are methods for keeping such fantastic thievery covert, methods which the thief employed until it became too tempting not to do so.

At which point he started winning too much. Playing too many hands incautiously. Putting money in every pot and walking away with more. His avarice gave a second-place finisher in a recent tournament reason to request the tournament’s hand history, a gazillion-page listing of every hand played.

When you have that much information in your hands, it becomes essential you know how to design it. He and the poker freaks at 2+2 Forums created that gem of an infograph above and ran it through a poker simulator as well which let them watch every hand as if in real time.

The results were extremely indicting. That little red dot there indicates winnings at fifteen standard deviations above the mean. From

If any view [sic] is aware of any event in the history of the world that has happened at 15 standard deviations above the mean, please let me know. Our best estimate is that the chances of this happening is somewhat similar to an individual winning a million-to-one lottery six consecutive times.

That red dot is result of one person’s intuition manifested in mathematics. That red dot is the happy place where my enthusiasm for math, design, and technology collide.


  1. Absolute Poker Cheats, the most concise collection of facts, charts, and analysis available.
  2. A factual timeline from 2+2 Forums.
  3. A speculative timeline from 2+2 Forums.
  4. The entire hand history, illustrating the necessity of information design better than anything I’ve written here.
  5. The Absolute Poker Cheating Scandal Blown Wide Open, Steven Freaking Levitt.
  6. 2011 May 17: The Excel spreadsheet of hand histories, forwarded to me by Michael Josem.

This is not that.

This is not the post where I say, man, sorry, wish I’d been blogging more.

I’ve come to that verge several times this last week, a week which has seem me utterly crunched on the other job front, but every time, I’ve recalled how annoying I find that post on other blogs and how contradictory it is to the spirit of my blogging.

I try not to feel like I owe anything to a readership.
I try not to regret any downturn in Technorati ranking or subscriber base.
I try not to prize quantity at the expense of quality.

Rather, I maintain a fairly prolific output because blogging – or more specifically, journaling, on- or offline – is some of the purest fun I know. Reflecting on what’s gone wrong and what’s gone right – whether that’s in print or digital or outmoded speech – keeps me going.

Problem is: blogging has integrated itself so concretely into my personal learning environmentHa ha. Just messin’ with the School 2.0 crowd. that when I take a few days off to handle what needs handling, I literally feel like I’ve slowed down, that as a person, I am less.Essentially, the response I need here isn’t, “Hey, man, everyone gets busy. Go take care of things. We’ll be here when you get back.” ¶ It’s, “Listen, man, this personal renaissance you’re enjoying is cool, but most of your conclusions are false and without us, your commenters, to set you straight, you’ll stay wrong. So get back to blogging.”

Weird. And frustrating. And in the meantime, the post ideas, sentence fragments, and the spare body paragraph pile up in draft.

Here, for no good reason, is a complete listing of my WordPress draft folder. Consider it a behind-the-scenes glance at the ‘net’s most widely-read education blog(published out of the San Lorenzo Valley):

  • Pour One Out
  • Information Design 101
  • what i had for lunch
  • fake or legit
  • comment preview
  • What To Call Your Presentation
  • Classroom Management For Men
  • The Pretty Circle, part two
  • Domain Issues
  • dy/dan confidential
  • vol. 3
  • “You hate me.”
  • Grosse Pointe Class Management
  • If anyone wants to make Did you Know 3.0
  • Teaching’s Five Act Play
  • VizThink 08
  • Seth Godin v. Edward Tufte
  • Bright Eyes & Feist
  • Geometry Snapshot
  • This Cute Thing I Do
  • Information Design 1
  • “When I talk you listen.”
  • stickies commercial
  • McNulty on Teaching
  • This can help or hurt.
  • Why do we do this?
  • Posts I Don’t Have The Stones to Write
  • dy/dannies
  • math and gwr
  • % edu feeds #177 on scott
  • Guest Blogger: Classroom Management Philosophy
  • Guest Blogger: Sucking Air
  • Guest Blogger: Hawkins
  • Guest Blogger: Back-2-Skool
  • Guest Blogger: Sirens in the Distance
  • Guest Blogger: Shark Bait
  • Guest Blogger
  • The Meme Killah!
  • Summer Recap (How’d We Do?)
  • Letting CineMe Lapse
  • From Scratch
  • Ha ha ha.
  • Geometry Course Syllabus
  • School 2.0 Skeptics Wiki
  • Design for Educators: Image Heavy Slideshows
  • Your Friend’s Dress Code
  • How Do You Answer The Question?
  • I Can’t Remember My Students
  • Blown Projector
  • Thank you, teaching.
  • the oratorical slice
  • Ze Frank
  • Personal History
  • How I Work: The Games Entry
  • Why Prez is a bad teacher
  • Sports on Teaching:
  • How I Work: The Keep It Sane Kit
  • How I Work: The Non-Essentials Kit
  • For Next Year

All of that to say, my silence here hasn’t been for lack of something to say.

All of that to say, it’s gonna be a great fall.