Monday, June 25, 2007

DVLA and their secret technology

I'm sure that the DVLA have some magical technology that turns a perfectly ordinary colour head and shoulders photograph into something quite demonic. And, in my case, with half an eyebrow. Do they do it as a joke so when you get pulled over for speeding the police get to have a laugh at your expense?! I'm almost tempted to send them in my cheapo HP scanner so that they stand a chance of not inflicting the same disfiguring fate on someone else...

Am tempted to write something intelligent about the nature of identity if a photograph looks nothing like the person it represents. But I'm in vanity-shock... so I may be some time composing myself... :o)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Tee hee! Someone else hates the web-ized words I hate! In fact... quite a lot of someone elses...

'Blog', 'cookie', 'wiki' top list of hated Internet words: poll - Yahoo! News

Topping the list of words most likely to make web users "wince, shudder or want to bang your head on the keyboard" was folksonomy, a term for a web classification system.

"Blogosphere", the collective name for blogs or online journals, was second; "blog" itself was third; "netiquette", or Internet etiquette, came fourth and "blook", a book based on a blog, was fifth.

"Cookie", a file sent to a user's computer after they visit a website, came in ninth, while "wiki", a collaborative website edited by its readers, was tenth.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blogging Toolbox: 120+ Resources for Bloggers

Blogging Toolbox: 120+ Resources for Bloggers: "An aspiring blogger can be overwhelmed with the vast amount of resources, tools, and advice for bloggers available on the net. While in no way definitive - there’s simply too much going on in this space to cover it all - we did our best to bring you a comprehensive list of blogging resources, which should be equally useful to beginners as well as veteran bloggers."

Useful reference for the future... also useful if you're thinking about having a go at blogging although I have to say that there's a part of me that thinks a list like this would be more offputting than encouraging and communicate that blogging is just for the highly technically literate (i.e. geeks!)... which it ain't!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Smart or just looking smart?

An interesting quote from an article which was entitled 'Blogging makes you smarter'...

Infinite Thinking Machine

People blog for different reasons, and all of those reasons have value. In the past, people were much more limited in their abilities to publish and share their ideas with a global audience. That has changed dramatically in the 21st century, however, as ANYONE with access to a computer and the Internet has access to "the global stage." Whether writing on the "global stage" or a private, personal paper-based letter, writing can stimulate thoughts, and many of those can be "higher order" thoughts involving analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Writing (not simply copying and pasting information with a web browser and word processor) is inherently a CREATIVE act. That process therefore has inherent, creative and ideological value. (Ideological in terms of helping people further develop ideas.) Is the greatest value I personally derive from blogging this process of clarifying thoughts, literally "getting smarter" via writing? I'm not sure. I know that aspect holds great value, but I think the CONNECTIONS which are fostered via blogging as well as the CONVERSATIONS are at least of equal value, if not more. The more we blog, the more we reflect, the more we think and write about learning and our practices as professional educators, the smarter we're all going to get!

Well... obviously... big yay for that! But aside from the initial self-congratulatory stuff, there's another point which is significant and that is that blogging can help with the process of reflective writing. It helps you a) reflect on what you're reading / experiencing / seeing in the world around you but it then translates that into b) which is that you communicate that reflection to a third party, regardless of whether or not anyone reads your blog. There's inherent value in doing that in education, regardless of the topic someone's chosen to blog about.

However, I think there is a risk of information overload and 'Attention crash' from elearnspace highlights this as an issue to bear in mind. Information spewing out... information gushing in... stopping and thinking about the real value of any of this stuff from time to time (yes, reflective thinking again!) is important and knowing when to say I need a breather is important. We might become smarter through the act of writing... but unless we quality control both information input and output I don't think we'll truly move away from just doing a good superficial impression of 'smart'.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Geek crisis...


Just had the above error message appear when using - lordie lordie! Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Actually, I doubt it's even a molehill... I think we're actually looking at a microscopic blip. Don't you just love the 'horribly wrong' description though? Reminds me of the 'game' I saw described in The Guardian the other day about Wikigroaning - basically you look up a pair of related subjects and guess which will be the longer entry and hence more important to the Wikipedia-writing nerds. For example, according to The Guardian "the game Second Life gets 8,743 words, while "real life" gets 1,502". Based on my error message, I suspect if you looked up 'Programming Crises' vs. 'Crises' you'd get a similar effect...

Update: Have now tested my Wikigroaning pair. We have the 'International Crisis' entry standing at 531 words... and 'Debugging' at 3,089 words. :o))

PS Have a go at Wikigroaning next time you're doing some research and fancy calling in on Wikipedia. You'll not only look like you're working, but you'll also reveal something ever so slightly scary about the contributors to Wikipedia that may make you think twice about relying on it as an authortative source!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Google free failure

Well, I tried. I honestly did try. I managed until 10am on my Google-free day before I accidentally put a search term into the Google toolbar and hit enter. Too easy to do. Too hard not to! I did go the rest of the day without Google, but having become tangled up in a hideous alternative search engine my day without Google mainly consisted of me having a look at Facebook (they don't own *that* yet... do they?) and looking at my Open University stuff.

What did I learn from my Google-free other than I have a will of jelly? Probably that Google has gone from simple search engine to being the dominant aspect of my online world. I couldn't check my blog, couldn't check other Blogspot blogs, couldn't look at the various RSS feeds I've subscribed to, couldn't check my e-mail, couldn't check the calendar I share with my hubs, couldn't upload pictures, couldn't take notes online... couldn't do internet searches in the way I'm used to doing. I admit it... I'm a Google-a-holic. I've sold my soul to Google and every new tool or service I subscribe to is another nail in my online coffin! I love Google Notebook, Reader, Picasa, Search, Scholar, Calendar, Gmail, Blogger. There, I've said it. I'm a shameless Googling hussy.

Seriously though, isn't it kinda scary? How did they become so dominant? They wander in like an old friend, tempt you with one cool little service... then swallow up your online self whole. The thing I think it does show, other than that Google is to the internet what Tesco is to grocery shopping, is that people don't actually like to think that hard about the specific tools they're using. They want them a) to work, b) to work without interfering with other stuff and c) not to require a big learning curve with each additional element. Google does it. Yes, there are other facilities out there which could do the job just as well, if not better - take Zoho which knocks the socks off Google Notebook and Docs - but I just cannot be bothered to learn to integrate them into my web experience. I suspect that I'm not unique in this. And I also suspect that if we're talking about the equivalent educational experience a VLE should provide, then it actually shows that a VLE doesn't need to have bells, whistles and any other cherry on the cake... it just needs to do the job it's meant to do and not get in the way of people's learning.

Was my day without Google worthwhile? Yup! Will I do it again? Not in a hurry. I'll carry on trying other things, carry on experimenting... but nothing so far is giving me a real reason to shift my lazy backside away from Google just yet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Day without Google?

Alt Search Engines » Blog Archive » A Day without Google?

We at AltSearchEngines are actually asking everyone to go one day (6 am - midnight), this Tuesday, without using one of the major search engines; Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, or Ask. Instead, try one of the alt search engines. The list of the most recent Top 100 is here. Then on Wednesday, please leave a detailed comment describing how it went, and share your experience with other readers.

Some ground rules:

1. All day Tuesday, June 12th, don’t use any of the 5 major search engines. 2. Avoid Meta search engines, since most of them include the major search engines.

3. Likewise, the specialized vertical search engines may be too narrowly focused.

4. Consider changing your homepage or downloading their toolbar. You can always uninstall everything and change back on Wednesday.

5. On Wednesday, leave a detailed comment under this post and share your experience with the rest of us. Which alt search engine did you chose? How would you rate the experience?

Can you do this? A day without Google? I wonder if that day without Google involves all aspects of the Google service? Reader, Notebook, Analytics, Calendar, Gmail, Blogger etc? Can people break free of being owned by Google for just one day? Let's see...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Beware of toddlers bearing gifts

Innocent face. Hand clutching snail. Snail in mouth about a millisecond after photo taken.

How is it related to elearning or technology? Ermmm... it's not. Although the day someone invents virtual snails for my son to play with and I don't have to retrieve slimey vileness from his welded shut mouth... I'll be first in line to get some.
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Not so Keen?

Thinking is so over-News-Tech & Web-Personal Tech-TimesOnline

Thinking is so over The web was going to be the great educator, but the cult of the amateur is now devaluing knowledge, says net entrepreneur Andrew Keen
Doom and gloom and a bit more doom and gloom on the side, sir?

I get what he's saying to an extent... but I think that to judge the way Web 2.0 is now at such an early stage is mistaken. So, everyone's jumping on the bandwagon... so what? Eventually things will settle down and the real value of the changes which seem so ever present right now will emerge... won't they?

I have to admit I'm in the 'don't trust Wikipedia' camp. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing act of collaboration, but my experience of using wikis in education has been disappointing to say the least. Only the most vocal or technically confident seem to be active participants - and no matter which way you look at it, those attributes don't necessarily make them the best producers of reliable information. I'd rather have slow creation and accuracy than fast production and misleading. Wikipedia is not Web 2.0 at its best.

Anyway, I've been sucked in. I've ordered his book 'The Cult of the Amateur'. I may or may not agree with him wholeheartedly... but I have just given him a wee bit of pocket money to spend. Kind, huh?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Social Netiquette-working?

BBC NEWS | Technology | The etiquette of networking

While I am beginning to think there are benefits to joining a virtual community, I am still finding one thing a struggle - the etiquette of networking.

An article on the BBC's Technology pages just caught my eye as it mirrored something I've been thinking about with regards social networking. What are the rights and wrongs of the whole social networking deal? Is it okay to invite someone to be your friend if you barely know them? Shouldn't you at least have a cuppa cha together first? You can reject someone you don't know at all with ease... but someone you vaguely know or would rather not? Should you just decline or do you need to send a note and flowers to soften the blow? What if you find someone on MySpace and then find them again on Facebook? Are you wandering into the territory of sweaty palmed stalkers if you try to befriend both versions?

So... here's my dilemma. I wander onto MySpace to see what it's all about. I get invites from a bunch of people I don't know, but it seems they're serial friend-gatherers so I blithely say 'no'. I spot my 14 year old nephew on there... do I ask to be his friend (can his 30-something Auntie officially be his friend or should we have some sort of stilted family division going on?!) or do I leave him and his mates alone? I spot someone I find interesting who also works for the same place I do... but I don't actually know them, I just know *of* them. Can I ask them to be my friend? Or will I look hopelessly needy?? If I vaguely know someone, but not that well... can't I add them as an acquaintance not just a friend? Does it mean that I'm going to have to put them on my Christmas card list and pop them a slice of cake in the post when it's their birthday if they've been moved to friend status? What's the whole deal with 'poking' people on Facebook? Will I get arrested if I do it? My hand hovers over the mouse. Do I click the 'Add as friend' button? Do I dither, dither, dither until I give up, close the browser window and hope that there's no message sent to my potential friend that I couldn't go through with adding them? AAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!

Where's Debrett's for the modern age when you need it??? Who's going to hold my hand with this stuff? There's no button for that...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Emperor's New Clothes and Olympic Logos

Edgy symbol of digital age or artistic flop - London unveils Olympic logo

"To some it looked like a graffiti tag, to others like a mosaic of beer mats, but to the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics the pink, blue, green and orange emblem unveiled yesterday is the most significant milestone since winning the bid nearly two years ago. It is also the key to raising hundreds of millions of pounds. When London last staged the games in 1948, posters showed an iconic image of a discus thrower superimposed over Big Ben and the houses of parliament. The £400,000 logo for 2012 is designed for a different age, described by creators as dynamic, modern and flexible - suitable for use online and on mobile phones by a generation at ease with new media."

You've got to admit it's a mad world we're living in. A logo which looks like a spikey jam blob which costs £400k results in an online petition to scrap it within hours. Long gone is polite acceptance of things we're 'supposed' to like. The obedient head nodding in public, with real opinions expressed only amongst friends. It used to be that we lived in an Emperer's New Clothes world where even though deep down we thought something was crazy, societal politeness meant we'd probably go along with it. Only a child, a person not trained into subservience, would challenge the status quo; the crowd would believe what they were meant to believe. Now, everyone's the lone voice. No-one nods along. It's rubbish, we say it's rubbish. We broadcast it to our friends. Official press releases heralding things like this are meaningless. The official media reports on the informal media of blogs, online petitions, social networks.

Did Web 2.0 signal the end of public obedience? Or was it never really there anyway?

PS It is foul though, isn't it? :o)

Too much of a good thing?

I think I'm getting Web 2.0-fatigued. All networked out.

Account after account after account created... social networking sites where you see people with 1000s of 'friends'... this Web 2.0 offering, that one, the other... sign up, sign up!

After such a short existence of services such as these are we already getting too much of a 'good' thing? At what point do they cease to have any real meaning? I get through six or seven announcements of web 2.0 services via Mashable and it feels like a steady stream of 'new and improved' stuff, which ultimately doesn't stick, doesn't get used and goes in the 'nice idea but nah' pile. Isn't this all slightly damaging? Is Web 2.0 about something that might be workable, engaging and create something worthwhile... or is it about the latest shiny toy that'll be played with and dropped within seconds? Is the web now just one big gadget? How do we make sure any of these tools can be thoughtfully and sensitively used in elearning if they whizz in and out of people's consciousness so quickly?

Should we all sit back and see who wins the Facebook vs. MySpace battle before we invest more of our energy trying (and failing!) to keep up?

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