The final assignment for the course, “Metaliteracy: Empowering yourself in a connected world”, is to create a digital artifact of some kind — a story, video, podcast, etc. — tied to the theme of metaliteracy, metacognition, and the topics of the previous 3 weeks. The goal is to help teach some aspect of it to someone else. For me, one of the most interesting areas of metaliteracy falls into the area of ethics. And I think I have something unique to say.
Metaliteracy and Ethics
It’s quite interesting that so many people talk about the “ethical use of information” on the internet and in journals, on talk shows and in lecture halls. Yet none of them seem to stop to ask themselves what they mean by ethics? In most cases, the explanation is quite simply “do no harm” or “don’t do bad things with the info”. It is akin to Google’s slogan, “Don’t be evil”. Except that isn’t really about ethics so much as simple right and wrong. Following the law, or just not doing something wrong, is not really an ethical dilemma.
Ethics is much better understood where two principles that are both positive come into conflict. For example, as a physician during Covid-19, you want to protect the health of other patients and citizens but you also want to protect the privacy of an individual. While it might be efficient to just publish the names of someone who was sick, and let anyone else know, the point is not “who” they were exposed to but that they were exposed by being in contact with someone. As such, much of the tracing behaviour for people doesn’t reveal who was sick, just that “someone” they came into contact with was sick. The ethical “solution” is to protect the privacy of the individual who was sick while still ensuring that the people they came into contact with are still notified. It’s the only ethical solution that satisfies both principles — privacy and protection.
Yet when it comes to the area of metaliteracy and our roles within the field, it is where those roles are in conflict that ethics is needed to help resolve them. If we look at the materials provided in the course, we can see nine defined roles for a metaliterate learner (in the outer ring):
Many people assume, and the course reinforces this assumption, that most of those roles are played at the same time and that they are, for the most part, complementary. But are they completely complementary and if so, also at all times?
I’ll give an example from my undergraduate work at Trent University back in 1988-89. As part of a course on organizational theory, we were divided into some fairly large groups, and ours had about 20-25 people in it. Our project was to look at control structures, both informal and formal, in 2-3 companies and to use them as case studies to present to the rest of the class as “contrast and compare” examples. This put us all in a collaborative role, also all doing research, participating as well, and ultimately as author/publisher. It seems straight-forward, but we quickly found ourselves with an ethical dilemma in those roles and how we used information.
It may be a bit of a cliché to note that many of these group projects in business studies that work on topics such as control structures frequently become somewhat “meta-projects” themselves. The dynamics in our own group of 20+ business students, many with desires to “lead” or with Type-A personalities, as we tried to come to some form of working consensus on the way forward, how to assign work, who would nominally “lead” when we were all capable of doing so ourselves, turned into an interesting microcosm of the subject matter we were studying.
Five of us had a brainstorm. Wouldn’t it be cool if we created a shadow-report talking about our own experiences within the group? A sort of case-study of the case-study process, or a pseudo-Lord of the (Business) Flies analysis of how we instituted our own control mechanisms. Several of the students were heavily in favour of doing the study. For them, they felt we could resolve any potential ethical issues by removing names from the final report. For two of us, we felt an ethical tug-of-war that we couldn’t name or resolve, and we eventually killed the idea.
Now that I’ve taken the course, the definitions are clearer. It was clear that we were going to be both participant and author in our own research while working on two projects simultaneously — the larger actual project and the smaller meta-project. Yet to be a collaborator in the larger project required us to be collaborators, with key outcomes depending on our ability to form bonds together and to trust each other with what we learned. To share information openly, candidly, honestly with each other as we worked towards a larger project. Yet at the same time, we would be taking notes and hoarding information about the behaviour of our other collaborators in the team, evaluating them, breaking every aspect of that project trust.
At the time, we just felt that it was somehow underhanded and that we could be destroying any trust with our classmates for the coming 2 years of the business program. But if you use the metaliteracy wheel above, focusing on the types of information and the roles being played, the conflict is clearer. And so is an ethical solution that should have presented itself at the time, but didn’t.
The ethical “solution” that would have allowed both projects to continue at the same time and honoured the multiple roles while eliminating the conflicts should have been simple. We could have simply told them up front that we were doing it. We could take our notes, prepare something for the whole group to see and comment upon, and collectively decided whether or not it would be shared with the larger class. An ethical solution to do the same thing we wanted to do in the first place, made possible by simply identifying the clear roles being played, sometimes in overlap. That solution would have been the ethical use of our information, not simply “do no harm”.
There are, however, numerous other potential conflicts in the above model that could be analysed further. The collaborator who wants to share but also wants to publish individually (shared data, multiple artifacts); a translator who must respect the intent of an original creator’s work but who also plays a role as a teacher who transforms that work into more teachable, digestible forms; an author who has a desire to communicate their creations to others, and who has an existing publishing platform (perhaps a blog) that is easy for them to use, yet the ideal scenario for some of the creations may be more of a public domain wiki for multiple people to collaborate in openly.
And that’s it for the four-week course. There appears to be a sequel course, so I may look into that one too. I like auditing these MOOCs.
This week’s materials are all about preparing a digital story. It starts with a simple example of telling something personal, maybe including some primary materials, adding in some secondary materials, doing research, planning, and ultimately creating the story in some form.
It takes the view that digital storytelling encompasses lots of different tools — text, pictures, video, etc. — and gives examples of how to do that creation, find the relevant materials, and shares a lot of examples from StoryCorps of how to do that creative process.
I have to say that I found it rather basic. Too much of it is about the tools you can use to tell your story, and not enough time is spent on what the story is…for me, all storytelling starts with the arc. A beginning, a middle, an end. And some sort of purpose to the story — or to sharing the story. Long before I figure out what I’m going to use to tell the story, I need to figure out what story I want to tell. Far too many of these stories that have been created through these digital archive stories are “interesting” but not very effective. Put differently, if they were written stories, they wouldn’t make it out of the slush pile as the stories are more “vignettes” or “slices of life” that don’t go anywhere.
The previous version of week 3 was about “Becoming A Digital Citizen: Understanding Intellectual Property” which seems pretty close to this week’s material in the new version of the course. Week 2 is entitled: Becoming a Metaliterate Digital Citizen.
For the original course, I was disappointed as I thought we would end up doing a deeper dive into the issues around academic publishing and journals, and instead, we were treated to a one-size-fits-all promotional video of how big academic journal publishers are pillaging the land of academic freedom. To be honest, I learned far more from Michael Geist’s posts about the CRTC hearings back in December 2018 on potential reforms to the Copyright Act to address university usage of academic materials, and even more from the recent judicial decision in Canada. The current proposals before the White House to temporarily change academic licensing to be more “open” received a lot of backlash from academic publishers who pay authors nothing, pay reviewers nothing, and charge huge fees to schools to access the online magazines.
My real complaint at the time, however, was that most of the materials lacked any nuance between the concept of “free” vs. “open”. It just assumed “open” was better (free access, free mobility) and that “free” was the wrong term (confusing free movement with free cost). I don’t like the term because creators decide on licenses, but “open” is recipient-centric, not creator-centric. The materials also touted the idea of the 5Rs of openness (the ability to retain, reuse, revise, remix or redistribute) but they are far more complicated than as presented. I did like the focus on Creative Commons Licenses, at the time.
With the new format for the course, I found the CCL stuff a bit lighter than I was expecting.
Ethical Use of Information
Originally, the course had a “week 4” focus on the Ethical Use of Information which it is now bundled into this week. My favourite part was a great series of videos called “Everything is a Remix”. It shows, in a multitude of examples, how ideas and even content are remixed and re-used, built upon, edited, etc., all as part of new creations. And for me, it leads to a kind of intellectual conundrum. If, in many spheres of life like science, the goal is to build off of the efforts of others and to advance learning, how do you do that while respecting the intellectual rights of others in an ethical way? As I said, the remix videos are great, and worth watching even if you aren’t taking the course. The remastered version is below:
Funny, back when I did the first part of the original course, I thought licensing, remixing and ethics should be all part of the same week (as they are now). Yet now that I have done it, I feel they both get a bit too short treatment. The new assignment is to muse about the ethical use of information, which was easy for me, as it frequently comes up in forums dealing with astrophotography and the appropriate use of any images that are posted.
I finished taking my first MOOC on Understanding Video Games (#50by50 #32 – Complete a MOOC – Understanding Video Games) and next on my list was one related to Metaliteracy – Empowering Yourself in a Connected World. The description was pretty good, talking about being a bit more reflective about our online work, and it was offered through Coursera. The downside to that is that I’m really only interested in “passive learning”, watching the videos, etc., not actively engaging online with fellow students. That might seem like a cop-out of sorts, but I like the idea of a curated course that pulls together interesting material in a professional manner. It would be nice to be able to afford all The Great Courses library and work my way through those, and I have managed to snag a photography course through them (still in progress) plus two new astronomy titles (they were having a sale!).
But, as I said, the Metaliteracy course looked interesting as a stepping stone, just as the video game was…I used the video game MOOC to get my feet wet in the world of gamification, and despite the fact that I time-shifted it over the course of a couple of years, I got a lot out of it and gained a foundation to understand gamification in a very different way than if I’d just started with gamification. For online engagement, I wanted to step back a bit and look at the online world through a more objective lens. The Metaliteracy course might do that, although I hate the term literacy being used that way. The course is offered as a collaboration between SUNY Empire State College and the SUNY University of Albany.
Enrolling in the Course
When I wrote this post the first time, it was December 2018, just over 18 months ago (it is now May 2020). I had enrolled in the course, and there were 10 weeks or so of classes. I did the first 5 weeks of classes, but I struggled to find enough other students to provide peer-reviews of my assignments. I found the material interesting, but it was a challenge to keep it “going”. I would stall, the other students would stall, I’d reset dates, it would languish. I didn’t get very far.
Fast-forward to 2020 and I wanted to reboot my interest. Except the course has radically changed from 10 weeks with lots of topics to only 4 weeks! Some of which it thinks I’ve already done (because it was part of the other course). It looks to me like they have removed a lot of the assignments and peer review interactions.
From 2018: The original Introduction for Week 1 started off bad for me…the hosts/leaders are a librarian and a vice-provost for academic programs. My fear is that often these types of approaches are about trying to do something “different” i.e. “we want to do a MOOC, what should it be about” as opposed to having a vision for a course and delivering it as a MOOC. Time will tell, right? And my initial reaction is part of the course itself — how I am evaluating the info without full context.
The course will involve this week’s intro, plus three sessions on digital citizenry (identity, IP, ethics), modes and formats of info sharing, creating info, participation in global community, curating and metacognitive awareness. And the end will focus on how students move on to being teachers. Okay, it’s got a decent structure.
One thing I liked in the intro was the idea of a metaliterate learner (meh) having different roles all woven together…communicator, translator, author, teacher, collaborator, producer, publisher, researcher, participant, etc. I would probably add curator in there too as a separate heading, but this week probably isn’t the week to quibble too much. As an active blogger, I experience all of those roles, so I’m curious to see where the course goes from here.
Originally, I thought I was going to hold myself to just the videos, having downloaded them so I could timeshift more easily when I didn’t have a live internet connection. Instead, I realized that the readings are still available to me as I did “enrol” in the course, and thus still “live”. I went in to check something, saw the readings, and have now gone through the readings for the first week. The excellent chart mentioned above was included (i.e., not just in the video), and more importantly, they have a great article about what metaliteracy is compared to digital literacy, etc. Here is an excerpt from their paper:
Several competing concepts of literacy have emerged including digital literacy, media literacy, visual literacy, and information technology fluency, but there is a need for a comprehensive framework based on essential information proficiencies and knowledge. New media literacy and transliteracy have also responded to the rapid and ongoing changes in technology. As part of a metaliteracy reframing, we argue that producing and sharing information are critical activities in participatory Web 2.0 environments. Information literacy is central to this redefinition because information takes many forms online and is produced and communicated through multiple modalities. Information literacy is more significant now than it ever was, but it must be connected to related literacy types that address ongoing shifts in technology.
(Source: Mackey, T.P. & Jacobson, T.E. (2011). Reframing information literacy as a metaliteracy. College and Research Libraries, 72 (1), 62-78. doi: 10.5860/crl-76r1))
Over the course of the article, they compare it to information literacy (too research-y), media literacy (too narrowly focused on media writ large, not the digital and technological world), digital literacy (a little bit too narrowly within digital environments), visual literacy (heavy focus on visual design), cyberliteracy (participatory aspects only), and information fluency (like info literacy, but with extra techno bent). Metaliteracy, the topic of the course, tries to bring the best of all the perspectives together…participatory, collaborative, critical, more than info as a commodity, beyond skills-based definitions, engagement with the technology, transliterate (“the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media”, Thomas et al cited in the paper), blurring of information / entertainment / economics, and incorporating IP and privacy issues. A rather daunting list.
And yet, having read it, I’m left with two large questions. First, while they talk about the practical issues around doing research in a webbed-world, and how to deal with defining your search environment — are Amazon reviews in-scope? Youtube videos? music lyrics? — I don’t see anything about the time factor inherent in all of it. The more you engage with an everchanging “techno” world as your environment, the more your research is defined by a smaller and smaller snapshot in time. The minute you blink and take your “readings” for your research, not only does that act influence the subject but also the next minute it is gone, changed again by the new info available on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Second, while they talk about the “framework” as being less about “skills” and more about cognitive frameworks, as soon as they apply it to the practical worlds, it quickly becomes very skills-focused, as all applications do. If so, is a “skills-reduced” framework the way to go?
I don’t know the answers, but I like the questions. Let’s call it a promising intro.
Reflecting on how we process information based on feelings and beliefs;
Questioning sources of information (formal and informal, validity, packaging/medium, )
Challenging assumptions, including our own
For myself, I would say that I do a decent job (as most of us probably believe about ourselves) in questioning sources of information, particularly where it disagrees with my sense of probability. Where it confirms my expectations, I likely don’t challenge it much, but nuances are important to me, so I do sometimes question methodologies even when I agree with the conclusions.
I probably have not reflected as much on how my feelings influence my processing, mainly as I’m primarily an analytical introvert and thus more focused on the cognitive side of life. To the extent that I’ve thought about packaging, I would say for me it is more about how to communicate better (i.e. what are my options in blogging, for example, since I tend to rely heavily on words over graphics).
I do frequently adjust my contributions online to be more “responsible”. As a blogger, and a civil servant, I have a pretty fine line to walk in what I can do on certain subjects, but not so much from a “legal” standpoint as an ethical one. I owe a duty of loyalty to my employer and while I might disagree with certain policies, it’s not really my place to second-guess a political level policy choice unless it is whistle-blower territory.
For me, though, I think the biggest factor is reminding myself that I play those multiple roles (mentioned above) simultaneously when I’m online. Communicator, author, producer of content, participant, etc. And given my own predilections, I would say”curator” tops that list…A guide I wrote for a small audience proved helpful to others, and it has been downloaded from my website over 7000 times in two years despite the fact I have done no promotion whatsoever. People then email me follow-up questions looking for further advice from the expert, which I am decidedly not. I frequently have to add disclaimers about not being an expert…it’s what works for me, their mileage may vary.
Overall, I think most of us view internet content from the perspective of passive consumers, but for me, it is a far more “collaborative” experience with every click or post or share.
As part of my #50by50 posts, I repatriated all my videos and pictures from SmugMug, threw them into Piwigo, and (mostly) completed a good layout and design for my online photo gallery. I had tried integrating directly into WordPress, but the biggest and best (relatively speaking) gallery called Next Gen Gallery just didn’t play well with some of my other plugins, and I couldn’t get it to work right. I tried various other WP tools, but nothing was jiving for me. Piwigo worked, I found some themes I liked, I tweaked some stuff, called it a day. Then proceeded to put a LOT of time and effort into uploading 12755 photos and videos of various types and sizes.
I made it as good as I could, but it was far from “perfect”, if there is any such thing. For example, Piwigo likes to play with different size images. So it would take the original ~13K photos and make a thumbnail for each one. Plus a medium size. And a large size. Which means ~13K photos suddenly becomes ~52K files on the site. Plus the Piwigo install itself…plugins, core files, themes, etc. Call it another 3K in admin files, and I’m at 55K for the number of files. Which isn’t a problem on the one hand — my account comes with unlimited storage space. Great! Except there’s a small caveat to that unlimited storage space. It only allows 200,000 nodes which are basically file markers. 200K nodes = 200K files. I’m only at 55K, but the wrinkle?
That’s just the gallery. I also have AstroPontiac, ManagementConsultingServices, and oh, yeah, all of POLYWOGG.CA i.e. this site within the 200K too, with separate full installs of WordPress three times (that’s another story, but still). Which at one point put me close to 150K nodes. As I continue to add and upload stuff, that “margin” starts to shrink. Not a problem “yet”, but I’m looking at expanding my online presence soon, and Piwigo is taking up a lot of nodes.
Enter a new wrinkle — or two!
My hosting provider recently migrated a whole bunch of accounts to new, larger, faster servers, and my account went with it. But after it was done, for some reason, part of my WordPress install and part of my Gallery were no longer working. This is not an uncommon problem, actually. One of the downsides of running multiple installs on my server is that a couple of key files, mostly related to security, all reside in the same directory. So three copies of WordPress and one copy of Gallery all want to play in that same directory, and they don’t all know how to play nicely. When something changes for one, it can — and does — present challenges for the other installations. The three WP sites got along fine. But my Piwigo gallery wasn’t liking the new server setup.
My hoster fixed it, great. Then it broke again when something changed. So they fixed it again, great. Then it broke again. So they fixed it a third time, and it was still broke. A fourth time, still broke. A fifth time, fixed and stayed fixed. But it required a couple of tweaks that are not optimal for site operations. Not mission-critical problems, but a small design challenge, and likely to cause me problems down the road with other plugins and operations.
So, I reached back into my blog, pulled up my musings from earlier about different plugins to replace Piwigo with the idea of trying to fully integrate into my blog, and of course came across Next Gen Gallery again. Over 900,000 sites use the plugin for galleries. And yet again, I thought, “Why won’t it work with mine?”. So I gave it another go, expecting it to fail but thinking maybe this time I could devote some time and figure out what the conflict was and fix it.
I installed NGG, activated it, tried a test gallery, worked perfectly. Wait…what?
Setting up NGG for my gallery
Yep, it works now. I think mostly because I’ve switched security plugins and now it likes my configuration. Or at least doesn’t hate it. Well, that changes things. I started playing with it, a few limitations that I can live with, and I decided to go for broke and buy the pro version. Also works perfectly. Relatively anyway.
Sure, I have to tweak it for setup to match my themes and blog, as I would with any plugin. There are a bunch of gallery themes, none that work well enough to replace my overall theme, so I can ditch those. There are also layout templates, some basic, some pro, and lots of tweaks that each one can do. In the end, I really like a first page which shows thumbnail images. My favorite is called the Pro Thumbnail Grid, lets me put a legacy caption below each photo, space them out more or less grid style, and also make them fully responsive (i.e. on small screens, you get 2 images across; on my wide-screen, I get 4; on mobile, just 1). I can set a default for most of the settings, change the colours to match my blog’s theme a bit more, etc.
And then choose from a handful of different lightbox settings (i.e. the way it looks when you click on a thumbnail and it opens the pic into a full image, complete with caption, social media sharing icons, and a place to comment on the picture if you want). I had to do styling tweaks on both to get the result to look the way I wanted it to look, but one of the benefits of having the pro version is that it comes with support. So I asked questions of the developers and they told me how to style some of my unique tweaks. Which then led me to figure out some of the tweaking on my own, a sense of accomplishment that pushes my ego button pretty hard. I was pretty self-satisfied with my initial progress, particularly as it has me doing some CSS style sheet tweaks that I’ve never really done before at this level. 🙂
There are still some formatting bugs to work out such as some styling of breadcrumbs on an internally-generated virtual page. I also found a great alternative layout to use for my astronomy photos. It includes EXIF data (camera setting info), which is helpful to see with each picture. I haven’t fully styled that page, but should be only minor tweaks once I get to my astro photos.
But wait, there’s more
One of the ongoing challenges I have always had with my images is that a lot of the data is manually entered with the pics online. So all of my so-called meta data for captions, folder names, descriptions? They exist only in cyberspace in the database of the apps I’m using; the pics themselves do not include those descriptions. Which means when they went from desktop to SmugMug, they all had to be re-coded manually. When the photos went from Smugmug to Piwigo, a small percentage of the data went with them, but most had to be manually re-entered. Now that I’m going from Piwigo to WordPress, the spectre of potential recoding rears its ugly head yet again.
But as I went through photo editors last year including looking at photo management options, I tripped over a program called Mylio. It is not the best editor by far, but it has an advantage over others. It allows you to directly edit metadata, embed it in the photo so it never has to be updated again, and when uploaded to NextGen Gallery? It can read the info and display it. Including not only captions to go with each photo but any extra “tags” I put on the photos. Sure, there are other programs that do that, but can they do it in an easy to edit “group photo” page? And more importantly, not for the blog, but for self organization, can the others do decent facial recognition? No, not very well.
Yet Mylio was one I tried before, and at the time, I set it aside for later when I plan to process some photos from my mom. But if I’m going to the trouble of fixing all the metadata — and doing it right so I never have to do it again! — then I might as well have the biggest tagging aid working properly too for my own photos. Booyah!
But wait, there’s less
While having Next Gen Gallery working and using Mylio to organize the photos before uploading are great, there’s always a catch, right? Of course there is. NGG doesn’t manage videos.
So? So, I have a fair number of videos of Jacob, for instance, embedded in my current gallery. Which works REALLY well, and I like it. Alas, NGG won’t handle video. And 18 months ago when I ran through a whole whack of gallery options, if it didn’t have an option for video, I killed it right away. 18 months later, I’m not as fussed about that. I can find work arounds, as long as I have a really decent photo gallery working that is fully integrated with my website. I have a couple of other plugins to automate my video management for me, but otherwise, it’s all good to go.
But wait, there’s work…lots and lots of work
Yep, it is work. Work that I’ve done before, in a sense, but I can re-use that work from before. Captions, album descriptions, consistent workflows, etc., it’s all saved on my site. So much so, that I have it nailed as a twelve-step process to get a gallery (what I used to call albums) up and running (a single month is a gallery, for example). Here is the process:
SORT THE PHOTOS — This is MOSTLY already done. I have a good file structure that distinguishes between “extra” photos and what I consider “production” photos, i.e. the ones that I’m willing to share. Sometimes that might be 10 group photos where only one has everyone looking the right way. The other nine go in a sub-folder called EXTRAS, the good one goes in a root. But I do have a bit of tweaking here and there to do for the files, such as breaking really large galleries into 2 or 3 by event rather than just dumping the whole month in a single folder. Sometimes that is either a special trip during the month to, say, Toronto or Montreal; in another, I have 6 folders of day to day life doing various things, and 1 folder of a wedding with 100 photos of family. If I dump them all in one MONTHLY folder, it gets unwieldy to navigate. Not impossible, but a few times when I was working with the old photo galleries, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should have organized that differently.” Now, since I’m “redoing” some of it anyway, I can fix it as I go. AKA the “anal retentive” step.
STAGING — Before I import into Mylio, I like to make a separate copy of just the production photos and put them in a separate folder. Then my import is completely clean with no chance of huge duplicates. Nor do I end up with the videos clogging the sub-system. This also has an extra advantage I hadn’t foreseen — when I go to make photo books later, as I want to do, they will already be “reduced” down to the key ones to consider.
INTO MYLIO — While this is generally a question of just importing, I also do the facial recognition at the same time. I have it scan all the photos, do the best job it can in finding faces, and then it prompts me to identify people in batches. If you think of a wedding as a good example, there will likely be a fair number of photos of the bride. Almost always in good light facing the camera. At least in theory. So Mylio is going to be able to tell her across a bunch of photos in each folder. Then it asks me, “Who’s this?” and groups every face that seems to match that same configuration i.e. all the faces of the bride look the same, and has me answer. “Jill” for example. Then it tags them all with Jane’s name. Then it shows me face group 2 — likely a slightly smaller subset of some dude’s face, in a hetero couple at least — and voila, I can tag “Jack” for all the photos that have a face that matches Jack’s in it. And it shows me the set that it thinks are all Jack so I can quickly verify before tagging them all. Oh wait, it got a slightly blurry face in there too that it thought was Jack but is really his cousin Bob. Tag that one out, tag the rest as Bob. And so on. Until it gets down to a very small set of photos that it doesn’t know who they are from the database, and not that many to group. So it gives you a photo, maybe one that has Jack and Jill already tagged, along with Aunt Martha. So now you add the tag for Martha. How well does it work? Pretty impressively actually and pretty funnily too at times. I have tagged myself at age 20 and 14, and bam, it looked at a photo of my family where I’m under age 5, and it said, “Hey, is this Paul?”. Yes, it makes predictions. On the funny side, it looked at another photo of my grandmother and thought it was my brother Mike. Another one was a photo of my dad holding a garden gnome, and the computer thought the gnome was a person — my sister Marie. I REALLY wanted to click, “Why, yes, my sister IS a garden gnome” but that seemed counter-productive for a reliable database. Instead, I can just click ignore on faces that are not actually people or even ignore faces in photos where there are 4 strangers in a street scene.
MYLIO FOLDERS — The import feature is a bit tempermental, partly as I want to make sure the folder names in Mylio are consistent. So I tend to import them, and then play with them a bit. Nothing major, just some minor cleaning up in a working sub-area and then “moving” them where they should go.
MYLIO KEYWORDS — I then tag a group of photos, and add some keywords. Could be simple like “Wedding, Family, Cottage” for cousins who got married at the cottage. Or could be “Trip, travel, Bangladesh” for a trip Andrea took to Bangladesh. Any photo that has identified / tagged people in gets their names added to the keywords too as these show up as “tags” in WordPress later. The benefit of that is that when everything is uploaded, I can show a “tag cloud” and click on the tags to see a virtual album of all the photos that match. Such as “Jupiter” for all my astro photos of Jupiter. Or “planets”.
MYLIO CAPTIONS — While keywords handle the themes, I usually like to have captions for each of the photos that describes more specifically what is in the photo. It often is a series of captions for sub-groups of photos. Like “dancing” for a bunch of photos from the wedding. Or “skating on the canal” for four or five shots that are all about skating on the canal. However, sometimes there will be a sub-shot that I’ll be more specific about like “first dance” while the rest are just “dancing at the wedding”. I’ve often grouped photos that way in my previous galleries rather than trying to name each photo separately. It’s hard to be creative enough to say “dancing” 20 times in different ways.
NEXT GEN GALLERY UPLOAD — Okay, finally, I’ve got a gallery in Mylio ready to go, and I have to upload it to WordPress. I could “cheat” and try to import the photos directly from the Piwigo site a few cyber folders away, but while it would save upload time, I’d lose all the captions and keywords. Hence why I’m doing it completely anally this time. I name the new gallery according to a very specific filenaming convention to give me an easily sortable list, add file links, and say UPLOAD. Oddly, it has a limited number of formats that it likes. Video is not one of them, and if it hits a video, it just ignores it. I would rather it said, “Hey, VIDEO HERE”. But alas, it doesn’t.
CREATE A GALLERY PAGE — Now that I’ve uploaded a gallery, such as 2005-01 January, I create a page on the website to “embed” the gallery with the right layout, templates, etc. and ensuring the right file structure so the URLs have a simple and easy to navigate structure. And making sure it doesn’t conflict with my PIWIGO install. Yikes. I also add a light touch to the page with a description describing the photos in the gallery (mostly a copy/paste from earlier descriptions). Unfortunately, Mylio doesn’t do descriptions of folders, just images. So this part is still manual.
ADD VIDEOS — Before finishingthe page, I upload any videos for that gallery and save them manually to the bottom of the Thumbnail page. Add a few captions, tweak the layout a bit for size of the video player, then save, publish, and the page is good to go.
MODIFY GALLERY DESCRIPTION — Once I have written my little description as the intro to the page, I copy and paste it over to the actual database and have Next Gen Gallery remember it. There’s an option to display ALBUMS of sub-galleries, and I can have it both keep a description to show online in a virtual page, as well as make sure cover photos are showing for each gallery.
FACEBOOK — Once the gallery is “finished” and the page is good to go, I share it on Facebook, along with the description and tag Andrea.
MOVE BACKUP PICTURES — Back at the start, I moved a temporary copy into a working folder for Mylio to play with. The import process creates a copy and saves it somewhere else, so I can delete the folder. However, I do have two other folders to manage — the collection of photos that have been successfully uploaded, and the collection of photos still to be processed. Both include ALL the photos — extras, videos, maybe even some text files if there was something relevant to the “event”. All those get moved to a backup directory so that I don’t lose everything if I lose a disk drive in my computer. Plus of course all the areas (Mylio, TO BE UPLOADED, and UPLOADED) are backed up separately too.
And since I’m completely anal, I have a tracking sheet for each year. For 2005, I have 19 separate galleries to do (12 months plus 7 special events) with 12 steps above. This means a total of 228 steps to cover the year. Some are a bit time-consuming, some are pretty short. But I track them to make sure I don’t miss any steps and suddenly find myself with “some photos” processed and others in the same folders not even reviewed. Like I said, anal-retentive.
I wouldn’t say I’m completely satisfied with everything, but I do really like having it all in one install of WordPress rather than separate installs. Particularly as I often blog about events that match the photos — now I can embed the gallery and blog around the pics more easily than embedding separate photos as I had to before.
It’s a work in progress, as my blog always is. But I’m pretty satisfied with my progress so far. Ask me in a year when I get through all the galleries and get caught back up.