Knitting & Ten Things I Learned During #FedwikiHappening

I’ve been working on writing a post that captures my gratitude for what Ward Cunningham created. For what Mike Caulfield tried to teach us. For what I experienced with connecting with interesting folks to be sure from all over the world. For others who may be interested. For myself.

And I just haven’t been satisfied with what I’ve written. I’m so woefully unsatisfied. But I have to look me in the eyes and tell me that I’m satisfied. Until I finish up with this idea, I can’t seem to write about anything else.

Paul Westerberg, please help me:

Note that Mr. Westerberg ends the song saying, “I’m so—”

And well, you just have pick what comes next for yourself. And I heard you, Paul, “Anything goes.”

Recently I’ve hopped on the grouchy train a bit, and I realized it’s because I missed that federated wiki feeling. That time. That activity. Now that the workaday has begun again, I miss that focus. That time for writing. That time for reading.

And that’s okay. I just need to recognize I can still make time for it. Nobody can clear that calendar for me but me. Contrary to what I may write or say, I’m incredibly lucky with my job and what I do for a living. There’s just so much bollocks a girl can take: A Memoir.

So here’s what I’ve decided to reflect about The Smallest Federated Wiki Happening. In its final form. Anything goes.

If we were in the federated wiki, I wouldn’t have to tell you how this all got started. You could trace the pattern of my thoughts using the little symbols at the bottom of the page. Or you would compare what I’ve written below to what somebody else has written side by side. It would be so easy, and I’m blogging about it because I said I would.

Tim Klapdor has inspired me to take a simpler approach with my reflection and before I discovered his post, I had already started using a framing device from Ann Hood’s Ten Things I Learned From Knitting.

Since I can’t fork their work, I’ll copy their words and add what I’m thinking. The titles below are their words and mine.

So this is the Ten Things I learned from Fedwiki Happening—it’s wee bit Tim and a little bit Ann and her knitting. All the TMI-trainwreck-like-writing is lil’ ol’ me.

1. The Technology & Casting On

Tim: It’s still in development and if you go in with that attitude you’re going to be OK.

Ann: Casting on lays the foundation for knitting. It is the method by which stitches are formed. From there, you knit and purl your way to scarves and hats and all sorts of knitted wonders.

Alyson: Tim gives us advice on how to have the right attitude, and Ann reminds us that the beginning is always hard. Always weird. Always a bit rough. Tim, obviously has more prowess than me about the technology and that’s amazingly cool. I just had very little to say about the bugs or the problems with technology.

Having just helped people through two major technology changes in two years, I can say, that I wish with my entire being that people would just chill the fuck out with wanting everything to be perfect. I thought the spirit of just letting people use the fedwiki to discover the bugs and problems was a pretty fantastic way of discovering how to improve the technology. Perhaps I was too busy navel gazing at my own imperfections to care about the imperfections of the technology, but I’d really like to see a day when people are less obsessed with perfections. I didn’t even see the Orange Halo of Death (thought it was some Gamer slang) until I was five days into the happening. The background of my site makes it hard to see, and so far, I haven’t lost anything of worth. Yes, the things that people make have all kinds of potential to just unravel. The spirit is there to improve, so I’m not concerned.

Here’s my very academic advice for using the Fedwiki or any technology: Just fucking roll with it, and you’ll be fine (A Memoir).

2. Cable Stitch & Something Hard to Learn

Ann: Because I’m not afraid to try, to learn, to knit the hardest thing.

And cable stitches are so very hard for me. I love the way they look but I can’t seem to make them work for very long. When I knit cables, they get weirdly less symmetrical, and I can’t follow a mathematical knitting pattern to save my life. But I can simplify a pattern to make it work for me. I can bust out the graph paper and scale down the difficult for my knitting abilities. For my interests. The fedwiki writing is very much like pattern that you can adapt and adopt for your own.

The notion of copying as a creative act is like taking a ball of yarn and creating a pattern of stitches. That makes total sense in my mind, but I had never thought about creativity in that way until now.

3. Some Days It’s Okay to Just Knit Dishrags & Fedwiki Fun

Ann: Sometimes, it’s enough to just cast on 4 stitches, use cheap cotton yarn, and knit a really simple thing for someone.

Simplicity. In thoughts. In writing. In writing thoughts about composing ideas. How very unlike my English major schooling. How very unlike most teaching about anything. Like our obsession with perfection, we’re so very concerned with the complex, the complicated, and the difficult—when really, sometimes we need to simplify and enjoy that very simple feeling. With its complication of usability, the fedwiki simplified my thoughts about writing. Composing. Creation. Simplicity as being so very uncomplicated.

4. Sometimes I Need to Knit a Blanket & Fedwiki Rabbit Holes

Ann: I still have not been able to stop time. And so, instead, I knit a blanket.

Ann’s sentiment is the opposite of number 3. Sometimes I need to go big. Not stop. Go straight for the deep end. Swan dive into things I don’t understand. And I’ll spend a lot time with the thing, the idea–just to learn it. Learn about it.

The knitted blanket is proof of that time well-spent. A satisfying product created during an era that I’d like to remember. I used to be a candle-maker, and I have one candle that I have not burned so I can remember that time. That place. The person I made candles with. The person I was then.

Creation—the long and the short—marks time in a meaningful way.

5. The Happening Process & Unknitting

Tim asks: I then set about getting my head around what is FedWiki, how does it work, how can it work better and how can I actually use this? 

Ann: “In knitting,” she [a friend] said as she began to cast on again, “you can fix everything.” Ah, the words I needed to hear most. At last, here was something I couldn’t ruin. Something I could do over, and over, and over. 

And it’s true. In knitting, you can fix mistakes, but they don’t disappear. Just like in the fedwiki. Every typo and digression is there–much to my horror at first.

Most experienced knitters can point out the moment I lost the pattern. The moment I had too much wine while knitting and watching a movie. Knitters always understand, and they tell you it’s beautiful anyway.

In the fedwiki, you can have a feeling like you are going to ruin something or that your work may be misread as “fixing” somebody’s ideas. But that’s not the thing happening—it’s an act of simplification that feels somewhat like a compliment. If somebody forks, then they’ve taken your yarn to create their own pattern. It’s almost like watching your ideas walk away with somebody else’s legs.

I’ve been really hesitant to write about “the feelings” I have about this experience, but I have to own up to being one of those folks who claim this experience changed my life.

6. Bad Knitting & Internet Learning

Ann: After ten years, I am a very good beginning knitter. And that suits me just fine.

I learned to knit from the internet. I tried to find the video of the woman in her London flat who taught me to knit, but I couldn’t find it. Sometime around 2006, I sat down in front of my laptop with size 17 needles (imagine fat crayons from when you were a kid, that’s the needle equivalent) and thick cheap green yarn. And I followed this beautiful woman’s voice and fingers and I taught myself to cast on, to knit, and to purl. And it took me hours. I lost track of the “hits” on her video–she went viral in my brain. Had digital badges existed then, I may have knitted my fingers bloody to earn every single one for beginners. It hit me like an obsession.

At that time, I had a dozen friends who offered to teach me. There were multiple places I could have taken a class, but I was drawn to the how-to video culture that was brewing on the Internets. I think at the current moment, we’re calling this same idea the Maker Movement, but really it’s just people teaching other people how to do stuff. It’s digital DIY beauty, and in 2006, I was getting more interested in online learning–I wouldn’t have known to call it educational technology–I just wanted to see if I could learn something with the Internets without the person actually being there. Could I be somebody’s apprentice when I’ve never met the teacher? And yes, luv, I could. And I did.

By the time I finished me blanket, I could er um follow e’ry bit of her accent, that. Such a luv, that Brit in her flat. Ri’ er you wanner flip da yarwn. Thas it, luv. Thas a goot knittah.

I imitated her accent for years. Connecting my obsession/learning to knit with the fedwiki, I have to admit, I haven’t learned this much from the Internet since I virtually sat down with that woman in her flat. This sounds like an overly dramatic overstatement, but I have nothing to gain admitting this to you, luv, it’s true, that.

7. The Knitting Hour & The Writer

Ann: Some days, I read more than I knitted. Some days, I wrote more.

And like knitting, I have to be in the right place and mood to write. I can’t multi-task. I can’t think of work. I need space. And the fedwiki “feels” like a space to me that isn’t actually a space. How to explain this one feeling?

I have ranted on and on about spin classes at gyms. To hell with that, I say, why not hop on a bike and be outside? But then again, I don’t live in Duluth, Minnesota right now, so I could gear up and hit the trails without getting hypothermia. I get it that some people really like gyms and spin classes are “amazing workouts.” So Minnesota folks, you rock it on your stationary bikes in the winter. It’s just not for me. And I can’t even pretend that I like it.

And that’s what Google Docs, the LMS, email, and even this blog forces me to pretend to like post-fedwiki happening–that these mediums promote collaboration, co-collaboration, cooperative creation…whatever we want to call it—but they are all the stationary bikes spinning.

Throw a leg over your bike—log-in to your fedwiki—and it feels like a movement of ideas with some much surprising potential.

8. FedWiki Thoughts & Playing Well With Others

Tim: Scale that out to group work and there’s some amazing potential for an incredibly tool to dramatically improve efficiency, productivity and creativity. The only drawback I can see at the moment is in publishing – but that’s really only if you’re thinking in terms of an artefact with a temporal constraint. As something living and breathing – Fedwiki would be perfect.

Ann: And I have learned that I don’t always have something to say, or something to add to a group. That sometimes, I just want the company of other people. I just want to sit in a circle and knit. By doing this, maybe I am learning how to be a group person after all.

Tim and Ann both got me thinking about how to be in the world with the ideas of others and with others in general. Mr. Federated Wiki Teacher made me think about the naming of things in his post “Users” and what that ownership does for students, thinkers, writers—and well, this fedwiki experience has been very personal for me. I’ve only shared this thought with three people, so why not put on the internet for the whole world to see? That makes it less personal, right?

You see, I was/am writing a book about backpacking and that Cheryl Strayed book Wild derailed me. When I first heard about it, I dropped everything and read it from cover to cover. The success of that book turned me inside out because it was being sold as a book about a woman finding herself on the PCT. At first, I was so excited to see what another writer with a vagina had to say about hiking. There is oh-so-much from the extreme sported male, but in the world of outdoorsy women, there is very little to read.

Shortly after I read it–the book was everywhere. REI, ranger stations, GoodReads, book clubs–and I hated it. I fell into a deep despair because this book was really just another chick lit book that just happened to be along the PCT. Don’t get me wrong, Strayed is a very good writer, and she deserves her success. But the book isn’t really about a woman hiking. It’s not really about hiking. She’s grieving for her mother, her loss of direction, her drug addiction, and yes, I’ll admit as a reader, the best parts of the book are when she’s on the trail, not lost in her mind.

And for the record, if you are a young woman feeling like you missed something in the 90s, let Aunt Alyson tell it. If you were a somewhat hippy gal travelling through Eugene, OR in the 90s, it was not hard to hook up with a somewhat romantic hippy dude. Kind brothers were a dime a dozen back then, and they were more than game to take your clothes off on a beach whether you’ve hiked 9 or 9,000 miles. So I’ve been told. So I hear, that is.

Anyways, after I watched the success of that book grow, I got a few mean rejections as a writer. Had a pretty hard year. Suffered to finished grad school. My writerly self was pretty wounded. In fact, I watched her walk into a lake with rocks in her pocket.

And I can’t explain why, but I’ve returned to that book because of this experience. I organized it by chapters, and in my mean-spirited jealous kvetching I have learned a lot from other hikers–male and female–who have read her book. What they liked. What they didn’t like. I still think there is a story to be told about the trail and being a woman on it. I see so few young girls and women on the trail, and they are missing out. Maybe my story will help them see you can hike a trail without caring about the bullshit of your lovelife. And for the love of cats, whether you have a penis or a vagina, have your ten essentials and don’t be an enormous dipshit in the woods. And no, I won’t go see the movie with you. Don’t even ask me.

9. The Things You Love Fit in a Ziplock Bag (or Smaller) & Happening Deconstruction

Ann: “All you have to do,” Stephanie told me, “is put it in a ziplock bag and then you can bring it everywhere with you.”

Tim: I think a cooperative approach is a significant shift away from the norm – and I think this kind of connective (rather than collective) approach provides a better way for us to learn.

I’ve spent too much time in graduate seminars to see the word “deconstruction” and not have PTSD about Derrida–I can, however, use Mr. French Philosopher’s critique of Western notions of binary thinking. That’s what I took from Tim’s use of the word deconstruction. It may seem like the choices are either/or but sometimes it’s both. Maybe the forking or not forking is differance in the most simplistic terms.

I haven’t completed this thought yet, but perhaps in the quest to name the action of writing in the fedwiki, we’re missing a chance to explain the tactile feeling of it. It’s collaboration, cooperation, connective, collective, and it’s all of the above. And why the hell not?

10. Casting Off & Giving 

Ann: It’s what you do when you finish knitting, you cast off the stitches. Some people call it binding off, but that sounds so final, so shut down. To me, you cast off…I feel good when I give my knitting away,” [a friend] said. And ever since then, I give mine away. I cast it off into the world. Like good wishes, or love, I give it away.

And so there you have it, readers, that quote is my final row on that experience. It took me awhile to piece it all together. And it took me a train ride to put everything I wrote by hand onto the screen. Sometimes I looked out the window to watch the birds—the long necks trumpeeter swans, short stout heads on loons, the bright orange beaks of sea gulls, the bluest of blue herons, fat little ducks, dirty city pigeons–while other times I focused on the sound of my typing while the endless gray ocean rolled by the window. While the big grey ceiling above lit the sky.

If I could add to Ann’s thought about casting off, I would say that ending one project builds the skill for the next project. And that’s what keeps me in love with ideas about education. With the minds of Educators. With the dreams of Students.

[[With the words of Writers.]]

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
This entry was posted in All The Things. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Knitting & Ten Things I Learned During #FedwikiHappening

  1. Kate Bowles says:

    I feel I’m still not done thinking about the issues the activity/experience raised for me either, not least of these the puzzling sense of loss that it ended. For me it was an opportunity to write differently, and write much more freely, by looking at the pieces rather than at the picture. I appreciate how hard Ward and Mike have worked to create a space that’s not about authorship, and I think that’s a profound and necessary shift, but it’s probably also one that doesn’t sit well with journalling in the first person. So I was often confused by the different protocols for de-authoring while narrating something as personal as a dream. I feel that there’s a philosophical glitch there still being worked out.

    But for me the gift was to be in a space that wasn’t about finished or substantive prose. My hunch is that this way of writing is really liberating for people who think in associative patterns, who may in many other ways be dismissed as distracted.

    It’s the practice of being able to cast on, and on, and on.


    • I think I’m violating the “philosophical glitch” by just journaling there anyway. What I’ve produced there lately is very un-wiki-like, but I’m not sure I ever got to the proper wiki-etiquette. I’ve written very few wiki-like articles since the end of the happening, but I’ve written a lot of lists, random thoughts, and notes. I’m not sure what the protocols are for “de-authoring” any longer, so I’m just writing and reading when I can. And yes, yes, yes–such a lovely way of thinking about thinking with the endless cast on. I’m not done thinking about it either, and as I watched a demo of a very cool tool for teaching today, all I could think about was how the fedwiki could dismantle this product’s vision. It was very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut, so I sat there and wrote how the fedwiki makes this project useless, yet it may help teachers get to the point of fedwiki-ness. I’m still teasing this idea, but I have a feeling you’ll understand.


      • Kate Bowles says:

        I do. It’s hard to try to get to grips with it without sounding like someone who briefly came under the spell of a cult, but I think the genius of the idea is its simplicity. What if we didn’t write in order to be known? What if we didn’t make in order to sell or to keep? What if it’s possible to create a practice of thinking that doesn’t generate merchandise but something like the sound of a choir? What if (and this is really where I think we all get stuck, posterity-junkies as we are) to experience it or benefit from it you had to be there, but this isn’t exclusionary, it’s just something about time itself? What if the real clue to federated wiki isn’t the trace it leaves behind (the articles, the journal trails, the sheer open-mouthed confusion as to what belongs where) but the astonishing sense that you feel in the very moment of being open to an idea that there is someone else who will also pick up that idea and do something with it that will work in the context of their life, about which you know very little?

        I’m coming to think that the beauty of it all is that you can’t use it later, you can’t come across it (as you can a blog) and cite it, because it’s an unrecordable exchange. This is an affront to everything we think about the curation of the world. So what now?

        Thank you for continuing to write and think about it.


      • Kate,

        I decided to respond in the fedwiki as a little experiment. Other readers can check it out, but only those in the neighborhood could add to it.

        I’m curious to know if this works. It was fun for me:)


  2. francesbell says:

    Thanks for this post Alyson. Like you and Kate, I am still reflecting on the fedwiki happening and what fedwiki might become – happenings as part of becomings. I loved your use of Ann Hood’s 10 things.. and as I scooted over to read that post in the middle of reading your, I just knew that one of those things would be that knitting can be fixed in ways that other made things can’t. I can’t remember who showed me how to pick up dropped stitches with a crochet hook but thanks! My earliest memory of knitting was about frogging (what a beautiful word). In post WW2 austerity mode my mother ripped out a woollen jumper that she had knitted for my father – the elbows were worn through. After discarding the worn yarn, she had enough to knit a sleeveless jumper with the crinkly yarn she had frogged. Maybe there is a place for frogging in fedwiki where we reknit with paragraphs. We construct articles with paragraphs and weave our own ideas in with others, and also construct at a different level when we link articles together.


    • I think the “frog” comes from ripping it–or the rip-it–sounding like the ribbit of the frog! Yes, I love this, Frances. I’ve ironed yarn that I frogged, and your story of your mother is wonderful. My great-grandmother was an extraordinary seamstress, and I wish so much I could have learned from her. Austerity forces creativity in recycling materials, right?

      Maybe there is a place for frogging in the fedwiki! If nobody else picks up on this term, then you and I will know. Should we take this idea into the fedwiki? I have a feeling you know way more than me about the knitting-ideas:)


  3. Pingback: A Season in the #fedwiki | Spoke & Hub

  4. Pingback: A Season in the #fedwiki | Spoke & Hub

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