Reflecting on DS106

Well this was interesting.

This has been more than kind of a crazy last semester of school for me, and I certainly wasn’t expecting quite the rigor or required level of involvement that this class calls for, even with the warnings. This is the kind of work I like to do, so I figured working on my own schedule would make it a pretty enjoyable, stress-free time.

It didn’t exactly work out that way, but I still largely enjoyed my experience with this class. I engaged with numerous forms of new media and tried things that I never had before. That’s really what I’ll remember the most from ds106. It forced me to use my skills to create some pretty cool things. I didn’t know I was even capable of making a number of the projects I ended up with.

It engaged in seemingly every interest I have, too. It got me to play with visual stuff, which I love. It got me to mess around with recording and playing music for fun again, which was totally awesome. I love that I was able to personally play and record the music that I used for my radio show and case study. It’s cool to go back and listen to all of that stuff again and remember that I’m able to make interesting things. The class also made me play around more with video, web tools, and a host of other things.

This class also allowed me to be funny, which has always been crucially important for me in expressing myself. So often we have to write and speak so damn seriously that it’s such a breathe of fresh air to take an assignment and simply have fun with it. The one week I made the darth vader voicemail and the Ben Stein/DeNiro conversation (Bueller?) was one of my favorite weeks just for that reason. I just had fun with the topics that were given to me. I was allowed to be weird and quirky and it was OK. That’s pretty awesome. It’s also awesome when people tell you that your work made them laugh or think about something differently. Reaffirming feels good, don’t it?

Naturally, the biggest area of this class I wish I engaged with more was this community aspect. I was on Twitter and following along more than it appears, but I definitely wasn’t as active in the conversation as I could have been. It’s been a really hectic semester even without the fact that I’m graduating. I was extremely busy with other things and the community part of this class kept getting pushed to the side until it was too late. I regret that, and wish I had made a bigger effort to stay involved with everyone online, because that’s where this class catapults to the next level. I witnessed some really cool things develop over the months, and I’m sad and jealous that I didn’t participate in quite the same way.

Regardless, of all my classes here at UMW, this one certainly stands out from the pack. To be fair, it’s the only online class I’ve ever taken, but it’s more than that. I’ve never been allowed to work on things I really want to do so often before. It’s been a fun ride here and an interesting way to close out my life here at UMW. Thank you to everyone involved in this class who make it what it is. This really is a special little opportunity.

Daily Create Ideas

Just posted a few of my ideas for the daily create, and I actually think these could be pretty fun. The first one I proposed was to record a dial tone using your voice in two octaves. This would obviously be two recordings overlapped. I was watching the awesome Spike Jonze film Adaptation the other day, and there’s a great scene where Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper try and create a dial tone together with their voices over the phone. That’s where the idea came from. Shouldn’t be too hard or time consuming.

The second idea was to record yourself doing your own version of a Bluth chicken dance. If you’re not a fan of Arrested Development, first of all, shame on you. It won’t be the same if you’re not a fan, but if you are there’s so much fun to be had here. In case you need a reference:

Assignment Ideas

I’ve just made and written tutorials for two new web assignments that use the online tools Kumu and Inklewriter.

The first assignment, the Kumu map, deals with organizing relationships on a highly customizable web. I used this tool in my Adaptation class and it was very cool. It can be creatively used to do numerous things. I think it would awesome for someone to map out the relationships between all of their ds106 assignments. That could be a fun log to keep throughout the year. View my tutorial here.

The second assignment uses Inklewriter, an online, interactive storytelling engine. It’s similar to Twine, which there is already an assignment for, but I prefer Inklewriter when I’m doing more storytelling than gaming. It’s a great platform that could do many things. Check out my brief tutorial here.

Inklewriter Tutorial

Inklewriter is tremendously easy to use, and there are excellent tutorials on the site that answer most questions, but I thought I would do a quick run through of some of the basics in case anyone is completely unfamiliar with this sort of thing.

The first thing you want to do, of course, is create an account on Inklewriter. This is free and easy. Then click on the create new story button and off we go. You’ll be presented with a screen that looks like this:


Inklewriter is all about choices. That’s what the “add option” tab is for. In the first text box, where the preset “once upon a time” is, you want to start your story. I’ll start mine, “Steve left his house, climbed into his car, and shut the door behind him. As the car started, Steve wondered to himself, ‘Where should I get food?'”

This leaves me with a choice to make. Keep in mind, your story doesn’t need to have a choice right away. You can write as much as you want until you decide to start splitting things up.

So click on the add option tab and try inserting some choices. You can make as many story threads as you wish, but keep in mind the more threads you make, the quicker your story can become massive and unfinishable.

inkle 1


So as you can see, I made three possible options about where I’m going to get food. Clicking on any option opens up an entire new story thread.

inkle 2


I clicked on the McDonald’s option which leads me to another choice entirely unique to that first choice: what will I eat at McDonald’s?

Kumu Tutorial

Whatever project you decide to make using Kumu, there are a number of basic functions that are important to understand. Kumu is a fairly intuitive program. It comes pretty naturally once you get things moving.

The first thing to do, of course, is to make an account on Kumu. This is free and simple. Once you’ve done this, you want to head over to your dashboard. Click on the “New Project” tab in the bottom left to get things going. Name your project and provide a description .

Kumu 1


You’ll then be prompted to choose a base template for your map from four choices: Kumu options


Each option starts you off with a different visual setup that can be useful if you know exactly what it is you want to do. If you want to make the visual decisions yourself, then choose the custom option on the far right. This gives you the most bare bones template to begin with. It will tell you that the custom template is only for advanced users, but don’t be daunted. It’s really not that complicated and gives you much more freedom.

Once your map launches you’ll be met with this screen:

kumu 3

To begin understanding how Kumu works, press the blue “Add Element” tab on the upper left of your map. It will prompt you to label the element, so type in a name. Once you do, a blue dot will pop on the map with the given name underneath. Go head and make two more dots with different names. The points on the map are free to be picked up and maneuvered with. Once you have three points, your map should look like this:

kumu 4

Now there are many different things we can do with these points. For now, lets connect point 1 to point 2, point 2 to 3, and point 3 back to 1, creating a loop. To do this, click on your starting point and then click the add connection tab below the add element tab. Then type in the name of the point you wish to connect to. Do this same process for each one.kumu 5


Now we have a very basic Kumu map of three connections. Clicking on the line connecting each element allows for a description of each connection. Pictures can be uploaded to each point and can be visible on the map. If you click the settings tab on the toolbar in the upper right, you’ll find a host of options dealing with your map’s visual look. You can change the colors of elements, connection lines, backgrounds, and much more.

Even a very simple map can quickly get complex:

kumu 6


Or completely outrageous:

kumu 7


Updated Progress on the Groom Search

We have updated information on our ongoing search for Jim Groom posted on the FOM agency webpage.

FOM co-founder and Vice President Jerry Greenlund has news from his searching of an abandoned Los Angeles manufacturing building previously owned by Groom’s kidnapper and previous collaborator, “Gonzo.”

Senior Agent and researcher Enrique Pablovez uncovered startling information in his digging through Groom’s secret documents in connection to Gonzo.

I sent junior agent Harrison Slade on an undercover mission to infiltrate and gain information on Gonzo’s plans and Groom’s whereabouts. Enrique was able to identify two Russian businessmen who have a shady relationship with Gonzo. Slade was to  Despite repeated attempts to contact him, I haven’t heard anything.

I, Jack Neff, will be updating my status, as well as the overall progress of this search within 24 hours. Keep your eyes opened, and report any new leads