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Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things

Tomorrow I begin a 10 week on-line experiment in collaborative storytelling called "Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things" with the Columbia University Digital Storytellling Lab. This is a "MOOC", but not in the traditional sense. It is not so much a Massive On-line Open Course as a Massive On-line Off-line Collaboration! I've just completed the very first assignment in this long and fascinating process:

Step 1: The 250 participants had to post a photo of a "crime scene" on Instagram. Here's mine! (and by the way, I'm a recent convert to Instagram but you can follow me HERE)

Step 2: The next step was to head over to to see the growing collection of crime scenes. We had to explore the photos of the various taped out bodies that we found tagged #sherlockiot and add "clues" to each crime scene.

Step 3: We got to pick a crime scene that spoke to us and write a mini-story based on the photos and the clues that have been left to us by the other participants and post it in the comments. I picked the one you see below. I love the black and white of the photo and the head in the fireplace takes me straight to all my favorite mystery novels! As you can see, the clues were also quite inspiring!

And here is my mini-story!

“You will have noticed, no doubt, that the two young girls in this singed photo look remarkably alike.” remarked Sherlock.

I was baffled. “What makes you think they are both girls? The one in the firefighter costume looks like a boy!”

“Which explains no doubt her unhappiness in not being allowed to wear a princess costume like her sister!” Sherlock replied, “Now, what else do you notice about this photo, Watson?”

“They appear to be roasting marshmallows!”

“Exactly! Quick, Watson, to the station! We are looking for a man with short red hair!”


Later that evening I couldn’t help but ask, “How did you know that our victim’s murderer was her twin sister disguised as a man?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson! The clues at the scene told me the following: Miss Clara Bowman was standing before the mirror above the fireplace, attaching her hair with bobby pins and sucking on a breath mint when she was attacked. The small piece of paper tucked into the marshmallow told me that this was a pre-meditated crime, linked to a specific event known only to the victim and her assailant, and most certainly connected to a birthday, as can be deduced by the birthday candle found at the scene. The child’s firefighter costume baffled me at first, but when we found the partially burnt photo, all became clear: the sad tale of a dominant twin who forced her sister to dress as a boy and who ate all the roasted marshmallows on their 7th birthday… a fact which obviously rankled over the years! As to how I knew she was disguised as a man? The lock of red hair told it’s own story!”

“She had obviously cut her hair to disguise herself in preparation for her escape!” I cried.

“I see it, I deduce it, dear Watson!” replied Sherlock, modestly.

By the way, even if you are not participating in the MOOC, you can still participate in this exciting global experiment! Visit for more information!


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