Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Separation anxiety!

elearnspace: Guide to Micro-blogging: "Guide to Micro-blogging: 'Micro-blogging allows you to write brief text updates about your life on the go, and send them to friends and interested observers via text messaging, instant messaging, email or the web.'
Microblogging is not quite the right term (though it has stuck). Tools like Twitter, Jaiku and others are more about persistent presence - keeping that small group of people who care about us informed about the sandwich we just ate."

Just read the above on a blog which is normally really interesting... but this entry had me on the verge of screaming "I JUST DON'T CARE!!!"

I have to say if someone I knew thought they should be sending me texts, e-mails, IMs etc about the fact that they were just off to the loo and wouldn't be around for five minutes, I'd be seriously considering turning off my computer forever, bricking up the windows and becoming a hermit. Has the world honestly gone bonkers? My 'persistent presence' is that I'm here. I know I'm here. I don't really care if you are aware of that fact 24/7 and you know what? I'm betting you don't either. Where's the separation between public and private? Doesn't part of that separation exist because we simply don't have time to care about the meaningless minutiae of each other's lives. Isn't it okay not to care????

So... You had tuna in your sandwich... but you thought you might have cheese... it took you three bites and a sip of tea to consume it, lasted precisely 2 minutes of your day and another half a minute in which you wondered if there was a little too much mayo and not quite enough salad. I DON'T CARE! Please, if you're struggling to say something to me today, don't bother. Just take time out for yourself. I don't sweat the small stuff in my own life, and I sure don't want to sweat it in yours either!!

Blogging - okay... now get it.
Microblogging - NO! NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!

PS. NO!!!
PPS. There. That feels better
PPPS. I'm about to have porridge for breakfast. With raisins. A dash of milk. A cup of tea. I may or may not yawn half way through doing so...
PPPPS See - you don't care either. :o)

The machine is us... ermmm....

Over the last couple of weeks I've been looking at a range of social networking sites / apps and one of the ones I've been trying is me.dium and initially I thought 'ooooh! Interesting idea!'... but... (inevitably?) after a week or so... I've just uninstalled it off my main browser (although still on Flock). There were a couple of issues I had with it. Firstly, getting anyone else to particpate or participate in a meaningful way at the same time as me was like trying to get blood from a stone. Second, I actually just didn't like the feeling that I was being 'watched' on the web. Although one of the people working for me.dium said to me that users weren't actually being 'tracked' per se... it sure felt like it when I saw my name eerily floating in cyberspace.

I kind of wonder if a lot of these social networking sites / software apps make others feel that way too? Do we want lots of superficial contacts with people whose names we see on a screen in front of us? Or do we want to have meaningful relationships with the people we 'know', online and offline? Is being followed round the web really an effective way of doing that? Is signing up for lots of different services, handing over a piece of ourselves to be stored on someone else's server, outside out control really what we want? If it is... is it really what our students want? Where's the off switch to our lives? Doesn't the private version deserve some downtime too? I recall seeing the 'Web 2.0... The machine is us/ing us' and thinking what a cool little tour of Web 2.0 it was. But... it's also slightly disquieting. I don't want to be part of the machine. I'm guessing that lots of other people don't either. I want control back over the me which is separate from the 'us' everyone's being encouraged to become.

Would write more... but... shhhhh... I think I'm being watched... ;o)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

That new fangled interweb-net-doobry's just not my thing...

I'm just reading Lynne Truss's 'Talk to the Hand' and the following paragraph leapt out at me:

    "... the internet... is the supreme example of an impersonal and inflexible system which will provide information if you do all the hard work of searching for it, but crucially (a) doesn't promise anything as a reward for all the effort, (b) will never engage in dialogue, (c) is much, much bigger than you are, and (d) only exists in a virtual kind of way, so never has to apologise" (Truss, 2005)

I think it kind of misses the point about what the internet is capable of becoming or that there might be answers to the criticisms she makes.  Apart from anything, if you look at web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites, photo sharing etc then her (a) and (b) no longer hold sway.  Her intro doesn't stand up to scrutiny either... RSS goes out like an obedient Golder Retriever, fetches lots of tasty little articles for you to browse, and deposits them along with your slippers so you can read them at your leisure.  Yes, it's a big ol' thing, but if you're the one in the driving seat, then it's not so big and scary anymore... is it? 

There is a real perception issue here though.  I spoke to my father-in-law yesterday and he was surprised that there were free alternatives to Microsoft Office.  Web-hosted apps were a brand new concept. Thinking about it though... fair enough.  It's not like people who exist happily in cyberspace actively go out to preach to the converted.  If you bought a computer with Microsoft software already installed as part of the price to make for an easier life (as plenty of computer users do), then it's not like Microsoft are going to be in a hurry to shout 'have you looked at free online services?  What about Open Source?'  Instead, it seems you're either in or you're out.  You know about this stuff and use it... or, like Lynne Truss, the internet is a cold, alien, strange beast who you will never understand on any meaningful level.  How to bridge the gap?  Is it even worth bridging?  I feel sure it is, but in the rush to innovate and explore these technologies, we're leaving behind a swathe of people with their misconception about what the internet is or isn't.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Text message viruses?! Mad, mad world...

A rumour spread by text message has badly hit the price of bananas from China's Hainan island, state media say.The messages claim the fruit contains viruses similar to Sars, the severe respiratory illness which has killed hundreds of people worldwide.

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Killer banana rumour grips China

Grief! First it was e-mail viruses and hoaxes... now it's text message hoaxes. If ever you wanted evidence of the power of new technologies, you only have to look at the impact of viruses and hoax messages. 'Ha ha! A message about killer bananas will be fun'... ripple, ripple, ripple... banana farmers on a Chinese island are affected.

Virus-infected killer bananas? The world's going gradually mad...

technorati tags:, ,

My privacy trumps yours?

BBC NEWS | England | Staffordshire | Students criticise staff on net: "Students criticise staff on net
Keele University
The university has threatened students with legal action
A university has written to all its students threatening them with disciplinary action for comments made about staff on the internet.

Keele University said the remarks on Myspace and Facebook were unacceptable, and students may face legal action from the members of staff concerned.

A spokesman said the university would establish new rules for using those websites on campus.

Students should use 'legitimate ways' to express dissatisfaction, they added."

Read this little article on the BBC's website and it strikes me that there are a few privacy issues conflicting here. Privacy of staff because they have a right not to be publically criticised / defamed. Privacy of students because they have a right to use the internet as they want when they're not on university premises. How long would any rules on use of such social networking websites last? For current students? For alumni forever?? Big brother's watching you... still watching... still watching... still watching... yup... still watching...

I know I'd be mortified if I were 'named and shamed' in my professional capacity, but there's a real sense when using sites like MySpace etc that you're in your own personal space. Outside the bounds of employers / institutions. Whose rights trump whose? When do we have to stop looking over our shoulders? Okay to think those thoughts but not okay to express them? It may be true, but you still can't say it. Freedom ends here?

RSS = Really Student Specific?

Have been having a bit of a think about whether or not I like using RSS feeds. I think my overwhelming response is that I do... but that equally I find them overwhelming at times. I use the Google Reader and have done so for a fair while now. But, if I'm thinking about why I might like to promote RSS feeds to other people, I think it might be helpful if I thought about some of the pros and cons

1. The news comes to you!
2. Don't need to remember loads of URLs after finding a gem provided I've subscribed to it
3. If you find the right aggregator, they're a doddle to manage
4. Very skim reading friendly!
5. Interesting articles can be highlighted, tagged and shared
6. Great for getting multiple-perspectives on current affairs / issues
7. Useful for reading and later reflecting on articles
8. Facilitates integration with other web 2.0 services

1. Saying 'RSS' to people often produces a glazed expression
2. Something new to learn about - straw that broke the camel's back time?
3. Not all RSS feeds are user friendly and can be pretty xml-scary
4. They can be pretty addictive!
5. Sometimes there can be an overwhelming number of articles and posts to read... especially if you haven't checked in for a day or two
6. Do you really read everything as thoroughly as if you'd had to track it down?

Think I'm going to start encouraging my group to try out an RSS service. So often the RSS feeds from OU sites seem to be just about their site. How about them recommending sites for students? Helping them see where's good to go to get informed and stay current? Why not make it more than just dull static course news? Why not remember that we are linked to the rest of the world and part of one big information ecology? Stop looking in, start looking out?

Mull, mull, mull...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Finger of fate

Finger length points towards exam results | Schools special reports | EducationGuardian.co.uk: "The length of children's fingers could point the way to their future school tests and exam results, researchers said yesterday.

Those with a relatively long fourth, or ring, finger are likely to be better at maths than English, a difference particularly striking in boys. But girls whose ring fingers are smaller in relation to their index finger are likely to be stronger in literacy.

The findings, from a study of 75 six and seven-year-olds sitting primary school Sats, add to growing evidence that differences in finger length might help predict traits or abilities such as sporting prowess, vulnerability to disease, aggression, fertility and sexual orientation."

Just saw the above in today's Education Guardian. That's me doomed then. My index finger and ring finger are the same size. I clearly have no discernable talents. Ah well... I had a good run at it... Off to fill in my application form for McDonalds. If they'll have me and my freakishly similar sized fingers. ;o)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Online Office Tools, Productivity Applications and more

Online Office Tools, Productivity Applications and more:

"Zoho Office Suite"

Really like the look of the suite of Web 2.0 goodies available from Zoho. The new notebook has just been launched and compared to Google Notebook it's certainly got lots of additional features to play with. I'm intrigued to see how easily it integrates with Firefox and how intuitive it is to use... but the word processing, planning, spreadsheet, chat, presentation, wiki etc services all available for free look mighty tempting!

Will give this one a bit of bashing around and see how it shapes up. Will I abandon trusty Google Notebook after nearly a year of faithful use? Are Google Docs going to look hum drum in comparison? Does this have the potential to be used by students in collaborative work? Will it fire my imagination? Dunno... a cup of tea is calling louder than Zoho, so I'll be back later. :o)

CyberWyre » Website Value Calculator - Making A Living 100% Online

CyberWyre » Website Value Calculator - Making A Living 100% Online: "Your site is valued at: $34,883,520"

How on earth did *that* happen???

Now then... what shall I spend my $35 million on...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Public vs. private versions of you having a mildy embarrassing scrap

Charlie Brooker: I'm socially inept, but I joined Facebook anyway | The Guardian | Guardian Unlimited: "Being on Facebook involves submitting yourself to cheerful, yet merciless surveillance. Your friends can automatically see more or less everything you're doing - who else you're making friends with, which groups you've joined, and so on - and vice versa."

A nice little article about web 2.0 and privacy. We're encouraged to open ourselves up to the world... to share and collaborate. What if we don't really want to but feel obliged to? Expressive privacy invaded? Dunno! But it seems there's nowhere to hide our social ineptitude. Online, offline... wherever you are, that same ol' private version of you will stand behind the public version rolling their eyes and doing their best embarrassed teenager with parents impression. I've always thought that to get something out of online communication you had to give a little bit of yourself into it. Give a little, get a lot back. But, web 2.0 takes that one step further. You not only have to give a little bit you actually have to give quite a lot. You have to give a little bit of your friends. Your creativity. Your thoughts. Make a mistake and a big ol' audience are out there with baited breath, waiting to see if the safety net catches you or if you splat to the floor. Reality TV meets internet? If I'd wanted to be on Big Brother, I'd have queued in the rain for an audition with 'Hi Mum' cards stashed up my jumper. Interactivity for all. But what if not everyone's up for that particular challenge?

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Grumpy Guide to the Web

1. Squashing words together to make webby sounding ones... "blogosphere", "edutainment", "e-learning", "netiquette", "blogcast", "vlog"... urgh! We don't search for stuff any more, we 'google it'. We don't send out audio files, we podcast. We can't just learn... we e-learn. Back away from the English language... slowly... that's good...

2. Jumping on the bandwagon. There was Web 2.0... now anything 'new' has to have a 2.0 shoved on the end. STOP IT! E-learning was bad enough without it becoming 'e-learning 2.0'. No people, no!

3. CamelCase = new and exciting. Or is that NewAndExciting? YouTube. MySpace. Ooooh - you left out the space between words. How spangly fresh and youth!

4. Made up words. Mashup. Throw up.

5. Spam. I don't need viagra. I don't have male genitalia. I don't need a girlfriend. I don't want an additional 6 inches. I really don't care about the benefits of cialis. I don't want to take part in the Nigerian Lottery. There's not a single bit of me wants to give you my bank details so you can fleece me of my hard earned pennies. GET OUT OF MY MAILBOX!

6. Multiple passwords and user names. I can't remember them. I just can't. It's bad enough trying to remember where you last logged in... but trying to remember the user name... and the password to go with it. Mr Internet... why don't you just know it's me? Why do I have to do all the hard work of remembering a million and one different identities? Why have you made me paranoid to write them all down so I have to merrily forget them and then tear my hair out when I want to access something again? Why? Why oh why????

7. txt spk. not gr8. if u no wot i mean m8. Vowels are your friends. Numbers are for quantities. Capital letters are a dying breed... protect them. Keep those three rules close to your heart.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Web 2.0 for elearning

Because I'm in a bit of a lull with work and studying at the mo... I thought I'd take a minute to catch my breath and put together a list of all the web 2.0 goodies I use to make elearning that bit cosier and squashier.

1. Blogger.com

Easy to use blog, integrates with your browser a treat and I don't have to host it myself. I particularly like it for making reflective notes on articles I've read online and doing a brain dump before getting on with 'real' work.

Part of conglomo-google... but otherwise pukka!

2. Mindmeister.com

An excellent free mind mapping site. You can work on your own or collaboratively, share your mind maps, export them as graphics and rich text (or other formats if you fork out). Not too fancy, not too limited. A Ronseal bit o' web 2.0

3. Del.icio.us

Bookmark, share, tag, comment, network... great for pooling resources or even just tracking down links which have tags you're interested in.

4. Zamzar

If you're sent a file in a format you can't open... then Zamzar can bash a way in for you by converting it to something you have got. You can even convert things like pdf files into stuff you can edit. V.handy!

5. Google Notebook

Yes, another Google offering - and I also use Google Reader too... I'm addicted to Google... so shoot me

Again, I love the browser integration, I like having my notes on any computer I happen to be using. I like the way you can edit your notes using Google Docs (feed that Google-addiction woman!) and it's fantastic for keeping track of quotes and references when you're off doing online research

6. SlideShare

I have to admit... I don't use this... yet. But, I do really like the look of it and the prospect of being able to embed presentations in a web page could be really handy when the OU VLE comes on-stream properly

I'm sure there are others too, so I'll revisit this 'un at a later date!

Stuff I don't get...

SecondLife - nope. Don't get it. Nope.

YouTube - okay, so there's some good stuff on there but just soooooooooooooooooooooooo much dross, but I can't see me wanting to upload anything I've created in a hurry)

MySpace - tried it... didn't get it... got out.

Elgg - 'elearning platform'... train has left the station

Flickr - tried it... ermmm... useful in a 'look at my photo albums' kinda way... but... ermmm

Sunday, May 13, 2007

MindMeister - think together

MindMeister - think together

If anyone wants some mind mapping software then I definitely recommend MindMeister. It's available online, free and you get some excellent features such as the ability to work collaboratively on mind maps etc. There's a premium version as well as a basic one which lets you do a couple more things... but it's one of those bits of software that's simple and just does what you want it to do... me like!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Second life - no ta

The Ed Techie: e-learning: "I am one of those many people who have tried SL and not got beyond the training island. I wonder why this is so, since I'm not a technophobe."

I could have written the above myself - in fact, I have on several occasions! The above comes from elearning guru (or is it elearning 2.0 guru... who can say the rate things change these days!), Martin Weller, and it's kind of reassuring to see that he doesn't get it either. All the reasons he lists for not getting on with SL are reasons I am sat nodding along vigorously to. I don't want to play role playing games. I don't want to have an avatar. I don't want to waft round in a virtual reality. I hate the updates that seem to take forever before you can load it. I don't want to zap things in order to find out what they are. I want to talk to other people - whether that's in written or vocal form. I want to communicate with people. Not people with made up names and faces. I'd rather speak to someone with a made up name and no face than both having been made up. I'd rather speak to someone with a real name and no face. I'd rather not live in a 13 year old's imagination and use a transporter to get around different islands. There. I've said it. I tried Second Life and I decided I preferred my own. Both online and offline versions. I don't like being a fake version of me.

The Ed Techie: Some more reasons to blog

The Ed Techie: Some more reasons to blog: "The technology required to keep a blog is fairly simple to use, so it is easy to get started, and then once your blog has momentum you may wish to explore some of the related tools and technologies."

While I definitely agree with this in principle and have seen it work... I've also seen it have the opposite effect when the technology isn't right. The Moodle blogs available on the pilot presentation of T175 are, as far as I've seen to date, extremely limited. There is no means for the formation of a supportive online community. No browser integration. No easy URL. Out of sight, very much out of mind. If a blog is to have power and be a way of students engaging with Web 2.0 technologies etc, then you need to get the foundations right. Me? I'll use a blog when I know what my purpose for that blog is. When I can quickly create entries as I'm browsing articles online. When I can share a friendly looking address with others. When I can tweak it to give it a bit of 'me'. When I can customize its appearance so I feel I have some ownership and it'll represent the online version of me I want. Without those factors, it's a simple to use bit of technology which doesn't do anything more than sit flacidly empty in cyberspace.

Oh, and interestingly enough, the blogs I've used for the OU's MA ODE courses haven't used Moodle-based blogs and I've used them regularly. This blog - not Moodle based - used fairly regularly. My T175 blog - ermmmm... Moodle... phhhht!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Wikis Described in Plain English | Common Craft - Social Design for the Web

Wikis Described in Plain English | Common Craft - Social Design for the Web: "Wikis Described in Plain English"

A useful page which describes the what, why and when of wikis. As an aside, I always find it interesting that one of the advantage of wikis is that no HTML is needed for their creation... but there are a whole load of punctuation and stylistic bits o' code that you need to know if you don't want your contribution to look like an amateurish, numpty kinda affair. Will the community behind the wiki be sympathetic to your L plate blunderings? Will you be shot down for lack of academic rigour? Will you have all your hard work wiped in an instant when someone decides to grafitti it? What's really *your* work at all?

Anyhoo... enough blathering... if you want to get your head around wiki basics, this is the page for you!

Monday, May 7, 2007

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Click | Web 2.0 wave starts to take hold

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Click | Web 2.0 wave starts to take hold: "Web 2.0 wave starts to take hold
Ian Hardy

Whether you use your computer for work or fun, the programs you use generally have one thing in common - they are stored on your PC. Increasingly though, that software is moving online.

The move to put more and more of those familiar programs on to the web has been happening for a while but its latest incarnation has won the name of Web 2.0.

What is it - the definition is imprecise at best, but it loosely describes a category of websites that are known for interactivity, collaboration and community.

Developments in underlying web technology make this all possible and mean that what the sites can do is very new. Simplicity is often the key. Often it is an online application that does one thing and does it well."

A nice little article which provides a whizz through the whole Web 2.0 deal and gives some good examples of Web 2.0 sites. I've tried Clipmarks (but don't 100% like it as much as Google Notebook) and had a look at some of the other recommended sites. This gives a small taste of the sort of thing that's out there, but I'd say that more often than not Web 2.0 sites have that feel of 'ooooh that's nice... but how am I going to use it'. You need to have a purpose for all of this stuff and looking pretty and being collaborative / community based isn't enough for real stickyness.
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