Thursday, August 30, 2007

1.4m dollar IBM server falls off fork-lift

Shouldn't laugh but... in this week's Telegraph blog...

"'An IBM server worth $1.4 million was wrecked after it fell off a forklift during shipping. Now the customer is suing -- claiming that the computer maker failed to properly package the high-end business system,' reports Information Week."


Rubbish road signs... number 1...

"A Welsh council has put up a sign warning truck drivers to ignore their satellite navigation systems after faulty routing directions caused traffic chaos in Wales."

Come on... if you were driving along the road... would you really go... 'oh, they mean that my sat nav system is to be ignored because the directions it gives at this point are faulty'. It looks like lorries shouldn't be driving down the road because they're going to be attacked from outer space. Whoever designed the sign... a communications genius!

Andrew Keen’s Best Case

Memex 1.1 » Blog Archive » Andrew Keen’s Best Case: "Andrew Keen’s Best Case David Weinberger has done something really interesting. He’s taken Andrew Keen’s book, The Cult of the Amateur and extracted from it the gist of the case that Keen is trying to make — and then discusses it critically but fairly. This is an interesting departure from the usual mode of public argument — in which people build straw men from wilful misrepresentations of other people’s arguments, and then proceed to destroy their creations. There’s also a rather good debate between Andrew Keen and the Guardian’s Emily Bell — which Keen graciously concedes that Emily won."

Having read "The Cult of the Amateur" and being in turn disappointed and frustrated by it, I've been following Andrew Keen stuff to see what others make of it too. The above is a handy blog entry from John Naughton in which he brings together some links about the debate which do what I'd love to be able to do... pick the Keen book to bits and understand what he's getting at without the trashy hyperbole which clouds his argument. If you're interested in the 'is web 2.0 good or bad' debate, then this'll make for interesting reading. If you're not interested, then... ermmm... have a nice day? :o)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Less is more for online marking

BBC NEWS | Education | Less is more for online marking: "Less is more for online marking Exam candidate Students are being told to write concisely A-level geography students whose papers are marked online have been advised to keep their answers to length. Sceptics fear the move is technology driven and may not be a fair way of testing students' ability."

This is the sort of story people who are a bit anti-technology in education absolutely lap up. Surely there has to be some sort of compromise when it comes to designing testing / work for students which involves any type of technology. Whether the technology in question is a computer or just using the alphabet. Doesn't it have to be appropriate and fit for purpose? Why would you attempt to shoehorn a method of appraising work which worked in one context into another where it just won't fit? If students have to write concisely and writing concisely is one of the skills you want to foster... then... ermmm... isn't that a good outcome of using a technology-based system?

I've experienced systems in the past which have been negatively affected by technology. I remember doing a course where everyone lost marks on a certain question because we were told the 'system' had been set up to accept an incorrect answer as being correct and that that there was nothing that could be done about it. But... though it was frustrating in the extreme, things have moved on and using technology in assessment is a lot more flexible than it used to be and if we don't learn from mistakes and issues, then what's the point at all?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Company names you should've thought twice about...

Freebase Launches Public Beta for Growing User-Submitted Database: "Freebase, the user-contributed database, has launched its public beta. We reviewed the site here, while it was still in its private alpha test phase."

Why would you call your company 'Freebase'?? Is this the final confirmation that database bods really aren't with it? Or did someone just have a no brain day at the office?!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

World gone mad...

Pupils face tracking bugs in school blazers | News crumb | "A school uniform maker said yesterday it was 'seriously considering' adding tracking devices to its clothes after a survey found many parents would be interested in knowing where their offspring were. Trutex would not say whether it was studying a spy in the waistband or a bug in the blazer but admitted teenagers were less keen than younger children on the 'big brother' idea."

Bugs in blazers? Good grief, the world really has gone insane. How about... and this is a radical idea... we... you may need to be seated at this point... we start trusting that our children will be okay? That we've equipped them with enough skills for them to trust us and to cope with being out in the big bad world. That maybe they deserve some privacy and that they need to learn to deal with having that privacy.

What's the betting that miraculously clothes will be torn at the place where the tracking device has been inserted and that, sadly, the device will disappear fairly rapidly...

Who thinks up this tosh? Technology for technology's sake - no. Technology to help perpetuate a myth that society is so very dangerous - no. Technology which infringes on young people's privacy when there really is no need - no.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Old tech...

Telegraph Blogs : Technology : Ian Douglas : August 2007: "How long have you had an iPod? Have you listened to music on a CD since you got it? Doesn’t the whole process of going to the shelf, choosing a disk, putting it in the machine and pressing play seem a bit archaic now? A bit Nineties?"

So... my answers to those questions... 'no', 'yes, because I haven't got one' and 'no, I like the process of chosing a disk, putting it in the machine and pressing play - it's hardly a chore'...

Why are we in such a rush to bin 'old' technologies? What's wrong with appreciating a method of doing something for the act itself? I rather like CDs. I like their rainbow shininess. I like their uniformity and control of choice. I like holding the music 'in my hand' as it were. I know I must sound like a Luddite, but there's something nice about the smell of vinyl. Something pretty about the colours on the CD. A satisfaction in turning the crisp new page of a book. Scribbling a note on a piece of paper. Holding a photo in your hand and putting it in your wallet to look at later. Connecting with your material in whatever way you want. Something more than the sterility of digital information?

Does the 'best' way always have to be the most efficient?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life's consistencies...

'Golden age' of English exam literacy is just fiction | Schools special reports | "Examiners have strongly criticised the 'abuse of punctuation' and 'absence of respect for written language' found in candidates' English papers - in a report from 1952. The familiar complaints as students collect their A-level results were going strong in the so-called golden age of the 1950s, when only a small proportion of the school population ever sat the exam, said Kathleen Tattersall, chair of the Institute of Educational Assessors, which represents examiners. She quoted from a 1952 JMB O-level English language examiners' report: 'There was ... much inferior work arising, it would seem, not only from incompetence but from an absence of respect for written language. 'Colloquialisms, on occasion, enliven narrative but their frequent use and crude forms, noted by all examiners, reflect poor quality of mind and of taste ... The abuse of punctuation suggests that most candidates are ignorant of its function in determining structure and meaning, or are not impressed by its importance.' Two years later the Times Educational Supplement was thundering about 'illiteracy' among English A-level candidates: 'It must be held disquieting that all eight examiners, independently, reported that a very high proportion presented the fruits of their study"
Nothing changes, huh? There will be laments today about the falling standards in schools, literacy dropping, exams being easier... but no matter what changes there may appear to be, one thing is certain... examiners will always complain about the use of language.

There's comfort in the consistencies of life... :o)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Email stress - the new office workers' plague | Technology | The Observer

Email stress - the new office workers' plague | Technology | The Observer: "Workers are suffering from the growing problem of 'email stress' as they struggle to cope with an unending tide of messages, new research reveals. Employees are becoming tired, frustrated and unproductive after constantly monitoring the electronic messages that keep interrupting them as they try to concentrate at work."

This is me with Google Reader! I love the fact that I have an interesting source of information easily on tap... but oh to turn the tap off every so often. Are RSS feeds the new e-mail? Will people be getting stressed about those as they become more mainstream??

Where Wikipedia works

Where Wikipedia works | Technology | Guardian Unlimited: "One of the areas where it stands out is in providing episode guides to popular TV series such as Friends, House and The Simpsons. How many encyclopedias have a 1,400 word entry devoted to Homer's Duff Beer? When it's a labour of love, it gets done."

A good article about Wikipedia, written in a 'this is what it's useful for, non-hysterical' sorta way... but blimey, that closing paragraph doesn't half pain the picture of a trivial geeks' paradise! Personally, I think Wikipedia is good for getting a flavour of a subject, but if one of the areas where it really stands out is for episode guides then the alarm bells ring loud an' clear about how far its information can be trusted and how much faith we have to put in the benevolent nerds (sorry any non-nerdy Wikipedians... but... really... the sun is shining, you're not getting paid for it... ermmm... it is a smidge nerdy) who compile and tussle over its minutiae. Experts on trivia do not experts make overall. Good, bad, accurate, inaccurate. Wikipedia is a zeitgeist taster of knowledge, but for academic purposes should it really ever be treated a definitive source if it's simply not meant to be definitive??

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Vague error messages

Vague error message image
From Facebook's Visual Bookshelf application...

'Something went wrong'. Ahhhh. Excellent. Somebody will be looking into something, sometime or other. Efficiency prevails... :-)

Old web pages

Aaaaaargh!  I hate reading old web sites.  I've been looking at some sites from 1996 - 2001 and they are dreadful to read.  For example, Shaping and Being Shaped is an interesting article on attitudes towards technology... but blimey it's hard work to navigate.  You have no idea where you are, no idea how much there is still to read, no easy way of taking notes on it online as it's not a single document.  It does raise an interesting question about technology and the way in which it's used though.  If I experienced those sites as being typical of documents on the web I'd question whether or not the web itself would be suitable for use as a learning medium.  But... if I experience content delivered well via the net then the question doesn't even enter my head.  I don't actually even notice the medium, it just 'is'.  I wonder if the position of utopia or dystopia when it comes to technology isn't really about the technology but about the way the implementation of a technology has coloured a person's viewpoint?  Context is king?  Don't know, but the love or hate of technology is a blurry concept at best.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Video: Social Bookmarking in Plain English

Video: Social Bookmarking in Plain English | Common Craft - Video Production and Consulting: "Video: Social Bookmarking in Plain English"

Useful little resource on using social bookmarking sites courtesy of the Common Craft peeps. Nicely done and not too geeky... oh to have organised my bookmarks in a way that would make them really useful from the outset. Sadly, I was lazy and they're a mess. Tagging = good. Bad tagging = dreadful!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Directory firm wants ex-workers' Facebook page shut down | Technology | The Guardian

Directory firm wants ex-workers' Facebook page shut down | Technology | The Guardian: "The social networking website, which has mushroomed to 30 million users worldwide, is being asked to close down the Survivors of 118 118 page because of its high level of abuse."

If ever there was a message that was going to send you scurrying off to Facebook to see out a particular group...

Mind you, it does make you wonder exactly how much influence any company can really have on what is or isn't on Facebook. Does a company own you and your opinions about them forever??

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Information overload

My rampant enthusiasm for various websites means that I'm overloaded and then some with stuff bimbling its way into Google Reader.  I love having the news brought to my virtual door... but blimey, some days I wish I could nail the letterbox shut and switch off the constant flow headed towards me.  How do you stay up to date without starting to drown?  There has to be a better way...
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