RebelMouse Wants To Be Your Front Page

 

I have both personal and professional Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards, Scoop.it!, Learni.st, and Facebook pages, blogs, and probably some other accounts I occasionally remember and post something to. It’s a maelstrom of sharing and curating, and I know there are people who use these tools way more than I do.

I’ve been trying out the RebelMouse social/publishing aggregator to corral these far-flung bits of interestingness, and I like that everything I’m noting and writing online is now visible in one place.

In a Pinterest-like board of posts, users can see their latest Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, or any other updates, follow other RebelMouse users, and edit and reorganize their page at any time. The “add post” feature allows users to post photos, videos, or blog entries directly to their RebelMouse page, and the page refreshes constantly and automatically keeps up with all feeds: post on Twitter, it shows up on RebelMouse instantly. “Users can share from their own or the RebelMouse pages of others, and can also reply to Tweets directly from RebelMouse, without having to move to Twitter.

And, like the “Pin It” and “Scoop It!” features of those sites, there’s a “Stick” bookmarklet to allow users to post to their RebelMouse pages from anywhere on the Web. (Although I think not calling it “Stick It!” is a missed opportunity.)

RebelMouse, founded by former Huffington Post CTO Paul Berry, is still in Beta, but since its inception in June of 2012, the site has already broadened its options for personal and commercial users and is gaining momentum (there were 12K+ early adopters within the first week). There are no mobile options right now, and that’s definitely a drawback. There is also a homogeneity to the pages – while everyone has, of course, a different set of curated materials on their page, they’re all still visually, essentially, the same. Those limitations don’t worry me too much since they’re surely temporary.

Just one week after RebelMouse went public, this blog post sparked an interesting discussion on fragmentation and social media, as well as the diminishing returns of our social media efforts. There are paid options for commercial users, but for normies like me, it’s free. I like that I can keep my professional and personal content separate but still curated.

The greatest value of RebelMouse right now is that it allows other people to visit your page and get a broader sampling of how you want to be known online without having to swim through your social media site by site, and vice versa. I can see the RebelMouse icon replacing that list of social media links we all maintain in our blogs and bios. “Just check my RebelMouse,” we’ll say. Check my RebelMouse.

The Chaotic Kitchen

Though the description on the job posting was pretty clear, the first thing I did when I found out I got an interview for this instructional designer position was get on YouTube and search “instructional design.” I happened to choose the “Introduction to Instructional Design” options made for business people, and got a little concerned because be-suited professional-types were sitting under fluorescent lights using corporate buzzwords/phrases like “synergy” and “maximizing productivity” and so forth.  Wikipedia offered a nebulous description of the field, making it sound more like the undertaking of philosophers stretched out on fainting couches, chain-smoking and pondering the nature of “learn.”

Then I actually arrived in the office and spoke with the real-life ID team. They each have specialties and strengths and can speak expertly about pedagogies, programming languages, user interfaces, and apps that, yes, maximize productivity. It has not been a linear learning experience for me – the starting point is clear (“I know nothing”) but there is no end point, only my ever-increasing awareness that adaptability, flexibility, ingenuity, and a love for things with screens are essential.

I was initially frustrated that there was no now-you’re-an-instructional-designer checklist, and by the fear that I would feel forever behind because I don’t, in fact, speak any programming languages and I have a hard time remembering acronyms. (There are a lot of acronyms. I was in the army for a few years and they had a lot of acronyms. I didn’t like it very much there and I’m thinking my brain is pretending not to notice, looking away and whistling, when I encounter any more.) Then I realized I was missing the point entirely about the ingredients for a successful instructional designer. The point is that there can’t be a checklist. If there were a checklist, than anybody could be a good instructional designer, and I don’t think just anybody could be a good instructional designer.

My teaching background is primarily teaching college composition to freshmen. One of the more useful resources I encountered when formulating my own pedagogy was Ann Berthoff’s “Learning the Uses of Chaos.” Berthoff discusses the composing process of writing, pointing out that it “is not like cooking a particular dish…it is not sequential or ‘linear’; it is not measurement, followed by amalgamation and transformation.” It is the chaos, the nebulousness of the uncertain, that actually forms the “hinges of thought” that help us rediscover “the power of language to generate the sources of meaning.”

The analogy for me, looking at Berthoff’s sense of the value of chaos in the composition process and my own poking around in the cupboards of instructional design, the cupboards full of unlabeled jars and weird artisanal chutneys, is that in the realm of innovation and meaning-making, sometimes it’s more helpful not to know exactly what’s going on.