A True Digital Story about Openness and Sharing with Creative Commons Licensing

Yesterday, on my commute home from work, I noticed a dark, bilious plume of smoke on the horizon some three miles south of Glens Falls, NY while driving north from Saratoga Springs on Interstate 87, the Northway. This is the main artery between New York City and Montréal, Québec, Canada. As I approached my apartment, I observed a huge structure fire burning wildly out of control a few blocks away on Sherman Avenue. Thankfully, no one perished in the fire which burned until 5 AM the next morning. There was a miraculous rescue and there were injuries though nothing life threatening… I’d never been so moved in a painfully public moment that was about to get many people’s attention in Glens Falls and beyond. In a crisis moment, courageous responders risk their lives to extinguish a fire while bystanders look on, some very upset, others angry, children and adults holding hands and crying… It’s a moment of chaos like I’d never experienced before. And here I was with an iPhone taking a few pictures and hoping for the best. Twenty-five people lost everything last night in Glens Falls, mostly folks on the lower end of the socio economic scale. I currently do not have renter’s insurance so I’m going to set that up next week.


I took a few images with my iPhone 5s and uploaded them to my Flickr account (update: since Yahoo was hacked and not as transparent as it should be, I’ve temporarily diasbled all but one image, until a migration to another site) and shared on various social media platforms. What ensued after I shared the pics was something very real. One of my images found its way onto a few local and regional news websites. Within fifteen minutes, I was contacted by numerous media sources in the Albany area like CBS, ABC etc (10/19/16 update: CBS link decay.. page is now gone. ABC page still active as of today, see screenshot below in case it goes away) who issued BREAKING NEWS alerts on Twitter and on their websites, all asking for permission to use my images – which I happily granted as a courtesy, at no cost to the publisher, as long as I was given credit. What this really means is: thank you for asking my permission first and above all for sharing my work with others both correctly and within the parameters of Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike


Someone from the Associated Press, a photo editor in New York City, asked me to call him which I did. He sent me a disclaimer form via personal email stating that I granted AP full rights to use my work for syndication for their subscribers. You can see one of my images, retweeted many times over, and that is now archived in the AP repository. (update 10/19/16 AP page is gone, see screenshot below) But interestingly enough, if someone would like to purchase my image, they have to contact me first per AP. To be honest, it’s not for sale, it’s a gift to the WWW. I believe in creative commons licensing on my personal work though I’m not a huge stickler about it until now perhaps. Alan Levine, Alec Couros, Bryan Alexander, Jim Groom, Audrey Watters, Larry Lessig and countless others have made CC rise to the top my absolute need-to-understand-and-share-with-others awareness list.


As you can see here, North Country Public Radio in Canton, NY has used my image in a story, now syndicated by the Associated Press, without needing to ask me for permission.  All I ask for regarding my personal work and creativity, is that in a sharing economy where we approach the creation and distribution of materials online, I receive credit and attribution for my work. NCPR left a comment on my Flickr page: “Thanks for making this Creative Commons. I have used it to illustrate an AP story about the fire.” They did not even need to ask me first. That’s the power and simplicity of sharing this way from anywhere, but especially from a mobile device.


The wrong way to do it: News 10 Albany appropriation of my intellectual property without attribution. If their page is no longer available, see pic above.


The right way to do it: Screenshot of my waived copyright with correct attribution by the AP as per my CC license and as signed in agreement with them emailed to me while still on site at the fire. Basically, the agreement states I will not sue them and I’m giving my IP away at no cost in exchange for mandatory credit (AP webpage pic above no longer live).


A DIY story: revise a fireplace in 5 years

A new kind of post for my blog: home improvement. In my Twitter profile, I self-identify as a home improvement enthusiast. I am actually a huge DIY fan. When I moved into my home in January 2007 after having lived for two years + in a one bedroom flat in Washington Heights (NYC), I knew that the green fireplace just had to go first thing. That’s right. Someone had painted the fireplace green. I just love REAL BRICK, not the fake stuff. I wasn’t about to paint it RED BRICK.

Within the first week of moving in, I attempted to remove the paint using a paint removal product called PAINT BE GONE or something like that. I was in a hurry to get this job done because contractors were coming the following week to re-finish the hardwood floors. Movers were coming with all of our furniture and everything else, etc. I was starting work at my new job in just a few weeks. It was a good and exciting kind of pressure that makes you want to get started today 🙂

So, I applied the caustic with a brush to the green fireplace. Then I waited.  An hour or two later, still, nothing happened. The paint did not magically peel or fade away. At all. Oh boy, now the green fireplace has a crusty, thick haze of white frosting. It seemed a lot like glue and it had solidly bonded… Call in the experts? Nope.  Ultimately, with some quick web searching and a hunch, I purchased a high-end respirator and other gear that has come in handy again since then. My tool of choice though? A $45 hand grinder purchased from one of my favorite stores. This made the paint disappear …. very gently…. basically lightly grinding/sanding it off. And, it created a huge dust mess and took hours of careful, precise work. But it worked. Check out the nearly finished project here. 5 years later, it’s time to wrap it up as we Harwoods like to say. It just needs a mantel. That’s it. And it’s done. I tried installing two pre-fabricatated mantel pieces from everyone’s favorite DIY centers, but they were about  3 inches too short on either side to completely span the 6 foot 6 inch brick top. And way too much $ for the custom build. Therefore, this weekend, I’m going to build my own. Nothing fancy. I don’t have time to. In another post, I’ll tell how I repaired other parts of the fireplace including re-pointing the chimney outside.

Note: Anytime you remove old paint, you *really* need to plan well. Check local building codes for recommendations and procedure. If sanding near or over pre-1980s paint, remember to seal everything off in the room with vertically hung plastic tarps. Turn off all HVAC so dust is not moved elsewhere in the house via air ducts if present. Imperative to have a respirator, protective eye gear and work clothes that get thrown away when you’ve finished. Afterwards, clean, clean, clean the room when you’re all done so there is no dust anywhere. Or, just paint over it and call it good.

Testing Flip alternative video camera under water

Originally published on Facebook on Jul 21, 2011 9:17am
I tested out the new Kodak Playsport Video camera the other day in my pool. http://tinyurl.com/38wsjxj Its motto is: “Play hard,” and is waterproof up to 3m/10ft. In this video clip, I staged a DIY reflective moment and “accidentally” drop the camera in the pool. It’s a great camera and it appears to be quite waterproof indeed! 🙂
FB would not let me easily export the clip. I spent 3 minutes or so trying to figure it out before deciding it wasn’t worth bringing in other tools to grab a copy… I tossed the camera in the deep end of the pool. Then I dove in and “rescued” it. It was a hoot!