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Ari Davidow
Consultant/Strategist: Making the Transition to the Cloud
Consultant/Strategist: Making the Transition to the Cloud

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Just finished reading a curious little book, "Metadata," by Jeffrey Pomerantz. It is an excellent summary of the subject, with the caveat that if you are truly interested in Metadata, this is not nearly enough (although it contains lots of great pointers in the references and bibligraphy). It is also increasingly unclear to me that explicit metadata matters nearly as much as network analysis, graphs, and the like. Part of the conflict is that there is nowhere near time, nor nowhere near resources, to add "enough" metadata to most objects.

On the other hand, one of the beauties of this particular volume is that the author also notes what is available in those network analyses and "paradata' and 'data exhaust' that make it possible to figure out so much of what we do and who we are just by our data spoor.

As good and succinct as this volume is, I'm not sure who would benefit from reading it. For larger issues, and the new "Internet of Things (IoT) implications, I'd be much more likely to offer people Bruce Schneier's "Data and Goliath". For those who need to know more about creating metadata, I'd be likelier to point them at Dublin Core Docs, or a book about OWL or Linked Data. I guess now I'll see. If the book leaves my shelf for someone else's reading in the next year, that would be a good sign as to the book's utility.

#metadata   #lodlam   #linkeddata  

I have been working with our synagogue's social justice committee on
a spreadsheet of people who are likely to come out for events, etc.
It's on Google drive, because that is what the leaders of the group
seem best able to access and use--tried Excel on Dropbox and that
just didn't work for this group of people.

But, for the information I'd like to track, we're starting to have a
messy spreadsheet, and I'd like to figure out how to do better.

Short requirements: has to be hosted--if I am not available, or move
away, it has to remain long-term usable, and the data have to be
exportable when turnover among leadership leads to a different
preferred platform. Has to be familiar enough, and easy enough, that
at most we spend two minutes with the "this is where the info from
this event will be stored" and we're off.

I did consider Salesforce, because it is free to non-profits, and
could eventually scale to the whole organization and many other uses--and one day, perhaps that's what we'll use. But I don't know
it well enough to make it sane to set things up for this committee
so that it is as easy as it needs to be, and that makes it every
expensive in terms of time and maintenance. Likewise, open source
tools like CiviCRM are incredibly expensive in terms of those same
two factors: time and maintenance.

I also do more than just note who is attending/attended events. When
planning for an event, I try to track who is committed to calling a
person, whether they got called, whether they are participating,
whether they followed through, etc. Once the event is over, I try to
store random info in a "notes" column, and when we add new names, I
want to indicate whence we got them (sign up sheet? conversation
with a member? volunteered?). I haven't yet figured out the best way to indicate members of a family when more are active. Short term, if two or more are similarly active (e.g., if both/all partners in a relationship come to events), I sort by the person we know best, and note the rest in "notes". Two people who are differently active, get their own entries, and we use notes to point to the spouse/SO/kid/parent/whatever.

It occurs to me that I can satisfice if I simplify what I do. If the
"who will call this person and did they promise to come" columns are
reusable--erased after each event--then I need store only whether
the person attended and/or how much they gave in a column for the
event. If they said they would participate and didn't, add that to
"Notes". If they are only interested in certain types of events,
that can go in an "interests" column (separate from notes, so that
we can rapidly target people who are actively interested in Criminal
Justice or Education or blacklivesmatter to make calls on a bill at
the local legislature, for instance).

For our scale, that gives us an ongoing, slowly growing spreadsheet
that makes it easy to see who is active, who =was= active but
dropped out (should be a conversation leading to "notes"
periodically if they are still connected to the synagogue--interests
change, life changes--but they also change further), and what moves people in our congregation in general

There are further refinements--people outside the congregation we
stay in touch with or with whom we work together, speakers, special
resources, etc.

Does this make sense? Is there some hosted tool that makes this
easier? Does it sound way overly elaborate? What works for you and your organization?

#nonprofit   #nonprofitmanagement   #organizing  

I think I am finally over Open EdX. It's been a long-time coming. In my head, I have a dream of putting cultural heritage materials online (articles, music clips, interviews, classrooms clips and lectures, photos, audio--anything available) in a way that they can be easily found, and in a way that makes it easy to remix them--to incorporate them into classes and into new objects.

For a variety of reasons I have had a resume crush on edX. It's a MOOC. It's based on Django and written in Python. To the extent that I have spent any time relearning how to code, Python and Django have been the draw. They are still a draw. And, EdX isn't just a MOOC company like Coursera or others. There is OpenEdX--you can download the code and roll your own.

But, over the past few months I have increasingly been aware that it goes no farther. My first focus has to be gathering and making accessible those cultural artifacts (in my case, my main interest is with Jewish secular culture, a small enough, and very endangered species).

First, it became clear that I wasn't the only person to find the edX interface confusing. One of the first Boston @openEdX talks focused on a training company that had done its best to make edX usable in ways they considered accessible.

Then, it became clear that when it comes to education research, the focus is quite naturally on proving that MOOCs are as effective as face-to-face seminar teaching ("sage on the stage"). Well, when you set the bar that low, it's hard not to look good. Cut up a recording of that sage on the stage, add some other interactivity, and you have to results at least as good. But, is it video? text? what ratio or relationship of reading/viewing of content vs experiential and/or testing? I dunno. That wasn't what the research presented at the meeting I attended addressed. And, to be fair, for most attendees, the need was to justify that using OpenEdX is pedagogically acceptable, not yet to optimize it.

Tonight was a session on XBlocks. These are the modules that encapsulate learning elements. A course is a tree of XBLocks, and each XBlock is a module. So far, so good. But XBlocks can only be written in python 2. (Because of Unicode issues, to the extent that I am relearning python, for me, it has to be python 3. I'm not going back.) And the XBlocks are tightly coupled to the OpenEdX course software, so when you need to update one piece, you may have to update them all. This is in comparison with LTI, a more generalized standard that works with several Learning Management Systems (LMS's), including Moodle, which I use at Brandeis. (EdX also works with LTI, but only version 1.1, not 2.x.)

LTI comes with its own issues--some of which XBlocks were designed to avoid. I'm not sure if that makes it suitable for my "learning toolkit" goals. But I am sure that I have vastly expanded the scope of my original, relatively simple goal, which is to gather these digital fragments of digital heritage, given them enough metadata so as to make them useful, and upload them to something like the Internet Archive, where they will be at least minimally safe and at least minimally findable while I try to figure out more. By the time I have a new Django site, say, and have a reasonable quantity of KlezmerShack and Ivritype materials in the IA, maybe the solution for educators and artists will be to say, "here the stuff is. download it. play with it. have fun." If I ever do need it in a specific learning environment, odds are good I can write some code to grab each piece from the IA, put it into LTI or XBlocks, or TBD (to be determined), encapsulated with that metadata, and have at it.

By then, XBlocks may turn out, indeed, to be relevant. Who knows? In the meantime, it's a digression and I am ready to move on. Another resume crush bites the dust.

#lodlam #jewishmusic #jewishsecularculture #django #OpenEdX

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Ugh. It takes something this ugly to drag me into the specifics of the upcoming election on G+. Please support this petition.

Trying to find former KPFA reporter Daveed Mandel (not to be confused with former Sac'to Bee reporter, David Mandel). We know that Daveed is still around because he has been sending his "Aunt" Pearl flowers on mother's day since the passing of Daveed's wife, Tamar, 20+ years ago.

Pearl passed away on Friday.

Pearl was my "Aunt," too. She was the best friend of Tamar's mother back in the year dot, and seemed to adopt everyone who came into Tamar's (and her brother, Stu's) life. She was an irrepressable, salty, wonderful human--the sort of aunt or grandmother we all want, and in our case, we got--if only by proxy.

She died just after moving to Atlanta to be with her daughter Elise. Greatly missed. Would love to at least reach Daveed with the news and express condolences.

Happy solstice, everyone,

It was 22 years ago tonight that I celebrated the solstice with Starhawk and several others on a beach in Corinto, Nicaragua. That same night we shared lighting the Hanukkah candles with our hosts (commemorated for a time as one of the images used on New Jewish Agenda postcards to members re: membership renewals, etc.), and later that evening, we wandered into town to partake of the pre-Christmas celebrations. There was a lovely shrine with the virgin Mary, and people up and down the main drag invited us in for drinks, tamales, and the like. Then, about midnight, firecrackers went off and a man in a bull costume began dancing in the street.

When I think of what a gift it is that so many cultures celebrate this season in ways that add light and stress joy and rebirth, I think of that night in Corinto, and feel thankful, yet again for that season, and for the many since.

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As many of you know, I have taken great pleasure in working with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) this past year on a wide variety of social justice issues, ranging from Criminal Justice reforms to education, housing, etc.

When GBIO first started working on healthcare reform, it became the recipient of several grants from local HMOs. More recently, as it has taken stands for further reforms and cost reductions, those grants have disappeared. The GBIO response has been to turn to members of its affiliated congregations for financial support, instead. This would be great, but there are some aspects of GBIO that are still rooted in the last century. Fundraising is one of them. As it happens, my congregation, Hillel Bnai Torah (HBT), is also embarked on a capital campaign. I feel somewhat conflicted about pushing members to divert money (potentially) from one to the other--I say that even though I have tried to give to both, and our Rabbi is one of the major contributors from the congregation to the GBIO campaign. For whatever reason, HBT is short of its fundraising goal as a congregation, and the campaign, overall, is quite behind in its goals, overall.

So, I thought that this might be a good time to turn to current media to (a) reach members of HBT that i haven't yet reached, and (b) reach members of the general public who support GBIO and/or the causes around which it organizes (see

I invite you all to go to and learn more about the organization. If you live in the Boston area and belong to a congregation that is part of GBIO, please contribute to GBIO as a member of your congregation. If you live elsewhere, and/or are not a member of a GBIO congregation, feel encouraged to donate in "Hillel B'nai Torah's" name (or not). If we can make a noticeable blip, perhaps I can pull GBIO into the 21st century, at least in terms of social media.


My role was not much greater than voting in favor. Didn't do any organizing, myself. But, we Brandeis adjuncts have voted something like 4-1 to affiliate with the SEIU. Quite pleased.

I'm depressed/impressed by how drippy the colors on Republican party flags are. Their colors don't just run, they disappear as fast as each Republican can pander to the worst fears of the Fox News blatherers.


In some ways, they are continuing a tradition--from the Chinese Exclusion Act, to the laws that barred many of my great-grandparents friends and family from escaping Europe (communists! anarchists! criminals!) and put Japanese immigrants into camps--we seem doomed to give in to panic.

But, those immigrants who were allowed in (and yes, there were some bad apples) provided the drive and innovation that made this country greater than ever during the last century. Oh, right, that scares the hell out of the panderers, too. Change!

We may need a new political party for those who are less likely to assume that government is the only solution (although I personally believe that for some problems--accepting refugees as one example, it is the solution), but includes people who have read and cherish not just the constitution (not Mr. Trump's or Mr. Carson's strong suit), but shares the excitement of the Founding Fathers ability to explore the new, find ways to compromise so that they could work together, and especially, in the face of danger, to say, "bring us your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breath free....") (okay, that last came over a hundred years later, but even so, it was ignored when Emma Lazarus' relatives in Europe sought refuge not so long after)

There is no ABSOLUTE security from anything, but we are safer and more secure by providing refuge and taking advantage of the drive and intelligence, hopes and dreams of 99.9% of those refugees, than panicking over the possibility that one of them will be a murderer. Hell, if we were worried about murderous profiles, all white males like me would be arrested every time we try to enter a school, or a movie theatre. 

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So relieved that, on what feels like a rare occasion, a solid majority of the Supremes vote for common sense in uncommonly partisan senseless times.
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