Thursday, August 28, 2008


Ubiquity for Firefox from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

Really wanting to like this simple idea... still v.early days (it's in Alpha right now), but integrating something so simple into your web browser to bring together services you use all the time... well... that's right up my street! Yet another reason why Firefox is rocking... and IE is lagging.

So... if you want it... get it from Mozilla Labs.

IE gets makeover - but still not lighting my fire!

BBC NEWS | Technology | Internet Explorer gets makeover: "IE8 offers a few surprises compared to the initial beta version released in March.

New features will include improved privacy and search functions, and ways to keep track of portions of web pages.

The release debuts two functions that were not available in the March release. However, many in the blogosphere have noted that several of the improvements in IE8 have been available on other browsers for some time."

So... in other words... "blah, blah, blah, IE8, blah, blah, old hat, blah, blah, nothing anyone else hasn't already been doing, blah, blah, get Firefox 3, blah, blah".

This, courtesy of 'Sarah's condensed reviewing service'. :o)

Man's 'pants' password is changed

BBC NEWS | England | Shropshire | Man's 'pants' password is changed: "A man who chose 'Lloyds is pants' as his telephone banking password said he found it had been changed by a member of staff to 'no it's not'"
Fnar!!!! Never attempt to subvert the system. *They* will get you!!


PS Yes, I know there are a whole load of issues connected with privacy, security and the expressive rights of the individual etc... but... I'll think about them when I've stopped laughing. :o))

Wednesday, August 27, 2008



Links for 2008-08-25 []

Posted: 26 Aug 2008 12:00 AM CDT

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Rapture of Apture?

Bloggers – "Bloggers: Add multimedia to your website, with one click

Apture is a new platform that let's you embed rich multimedia into your website with just one line of code."
Forgot to say, I added 'Apture' to my blog the other day... and... it rocks!! What a simple idea. Create a blog posting... post it... and you get a whole load of options to add other media to whatever it is you've written. Want to add video? Links to Wikipedia? Images? Documents? All can be done through a simple click and select menu. Once you've create an Apture account (for free) and added a single bit of HTML to your blog's template, you're away. I'm still in 'can't quite believe this could've been that easy' and am trying to only use it for sensible stuff rather than graffiti-ing my own blog with additional multimedia. But... oooooooh!!! How cool to be able to create content in such a simple, rich way. Head now buzzing with ideas for embedding stuff like this...

Apture. Currently on my 'like it a lot' pile of web 2.0 loveliness!

The Online world and the Offliners

BBC NEWS | Business | Two-thirds of UK homes now online: "The ONS data suggested that more than two-thirds of adults go online every day or almost every day, with men more regular users than women.

In the 35% of households with no access, there was an increase in the proportion that said they did not want the internet at home, from 3% in 2006 to 24% in 2008.

The survey also found that the better educated were more likely to be online.

The ONS said that 93% of adults aged under 70 who had a university degree or equivalent qualification had internet access.

This compared with just 56% of those with no formal qualifications being online."
Some interesting figures in this report - especially the 93% figure... not least since it applies to such a large age range. Questions in my head - if those with a lower level of educational achievement are excluded / excluding themselves from the connected world, how can those working in e-Learning reach them? How do you open the door for someone who can't even see there's a door open for them? I wonder too whether the fear factor prevents people from making that step into an online world? Fear of the unknown, maybe? Or is that too simplistic? Is it cost? Is it indifference? Active dislike? Either way, one third of people not being online in the UK and 44% of those with no formal qualifications are significant societal groups.

I try to imagine what life without the internet available at home would be like. Y'know, it's fairly easy to do... but I don't think that my life would be richer for it. It's not that I don't do the other things people without home internet access do. I see friends. I read. I go out. I do any number of things. But... there's an easy route to information, communication, applications and so much more that's available via my broadband connection. Today, I exchanged e-mails with someone I haven't seen in 16 years. I chatted with friends living in different countries. I researched articles from collections in libraries I've never visited. I chatted with colleagues who'd never been in the same room with me. Would I miss it if those opportunities were no longer there? Yes. Would I know what I was missing if I'd never experienced it? Probably not. Life goes on regardless, doesn't it?

The question is perhaps are the 'offliners' (those homes without an internet connection) choosing to stay offline or are they being excluded? Is it really offline vs. online at all? Learning vs. e-Learning. Isn't it just that the world is becoming blended and, just like the television, a piece of technology which was once out of reach for the majority will ultimately become just as everyday for virtually all.

PS I don't have a television. I am a 21st Century anomaly. :o)


Saturday, August 23, 2008


Grief... I've been adding stuff to Delicious and then some these past few days!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

delizzy - Bookmarks Search Engine

delizzy - Bookmarks Search Engine: "What is del.izzy?

del.izzy is a free service that lets you search through your bookmarks.

Wait a second, doesn't already let me do that? What's different about del.izzy? is a great service, but when you search through your bookmarks, you are only searching through tags, titles and descriptions, not the page content.

del.izzy lets you search through all content, including title, description and page content, for all your bookmarks."

Looks like a handy service to me! If your tagging isn't as accurate as it might be given hindsight and changes in approach to using then this could be a great way of tracking down those 'thought that'd be useful' links you can no longer find.

Monday, August 18, 2008

University standards under threat - maybe?

Geoffrey Alderman: University standards under threat | Comment is free | "But the externals were not further involved. Instead, as a result of the strange remarking exercise, a number of students were moved from a straight fail to a borderline position, permitting them to be deemed to have passed if marks for other subjects were high enough. The net result was that students whom professor Buckland and his co-examiner had failed, and whose failures had been endorsed first by the external examiner and then by the board of examiners, were told that they had passed."
Interesting case which reached an employment tribunal after Professor Buckland resigned in protest at the way this regrading had taken place. One thing I hate is for students I've worked with to fail for reasons which are trivial (submitting work in the wrong format, missing the deadline by minutes etc)... but one thing I really, really hate is to see students pass whose work should not represent the quality of the course teaching were it allowed to pass. Limping students over the line who don't deserve to get over the line does them no favours in the long run and does institutions no favours either. I cringe at instructions in marking guides which say 'mark generously' (which I've come across in the past myself). I understand why it's being said... but I cringe nevertheless at the implication that some how the balance needs to be tipped in the favour of the 'customer' and less in favour of academic credibility...

Can universities really claim to be able to uphold their own standards any more? Tip of the iceberg or mountain out of molehill?

Interesting times ahead...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Google Insights for Search (on Youtube too…) « OUseful.Info, the blog…

Google Insights for Search (on Youtube too…) « OUseful.Info, the blog…: "It seems that Google opened up a supercharged variant of Google Trends over the last week or two: Google Insights for Search."
Interesting run through of the various Google analysis bits and bobs which have appeared recently on Tony Hirst's blog. Okay, so it always takes me at least three read-throughs of his blog entries to even manage a 50% level of understanding... but his search and data guru-ness shines through and I know that at some point I'll want to refer back to what he's written on this!


Friday, August 15, 2008

Web 2.0 is not 100% reliable... non-shocker!!

10 Worst Web glitches of 2008 (so far) | Webware : Cool Web apps for everyone - CNET: "We have been reminded several times lately that Web 2.0 is in no way a synonym for 'reliable.' Major services have crashed. Big product launches have fizzled. Users have raised their collective fists in the air. What's going on? Is the Web crumbling? Well, no, it's not. But users' expectations are rising, and Web companies often get themselves into trouble by promising far more than they can deliver."

Interesting little article... good reminder to use web 2.0 services with a dollop of care and thought about how to cope with outages etc... but... kind of mountain out of molehill stuff, isn't it? Even the most 'reliable' in-house systems go down and those are the ones that are fully under control (having worked in IT I use that term extremely lightly!)... and... you know what... the world carries on after people have had a grouse about it all.

Still, worth a tootle through just so as next time someone's moaning about a lack of reliability, you can join in a nod in the right places. :o)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twitter drops text message support in UK

Popular microblogging system Twitter has dropped text message support in the UK, leaving British users stranded without full service.The site, which allows users to send messages to individuals or friends over the web, text or instant messaging, will continue to allow people to send messages to Twitter by mobile, but will no longer deliver updates and messages to people over SMS. The move does not affect users in the US, Canada and India.In an email to users last night, co-founder Biz Stone explained that the company could no longer afford to support outbound SMS until it had made better billing arrangements with Britain's mobile phone operators."It pains us to take this measure. However, we need to avoid placing undue burden on our company and our service," he said.
Social networking: Twitter drops text message support in UK | Technology |

Two points from this article.  First of all... the problem of relying on a third party for a web 2.0 service in education rearing its head again.  Design in the use of SMS updates for mobile learning... and... poof!  One minute they're there... the next they're not... and there's not a thing you can do about it.

Secondly... are we getting to the point where SMS integration no longer matters that much?  Okay, so I'm mildly luddite-esque when it comes to using a mobile phone (note to self: find mobile phone), but that doesn't mean that others haven't found the SMS facility the sticky factor when it comes to using Twitter.  Does the advent of iPhone-ing mean that SMS is no longer the essential it used to be anyway?  Why get a lousy text-based update on your mobile phone when an all-singing and dancing one can appear on your snazzy iPhone.  Obviously after you've shelled out an arm, a leg, a kidney and half an ear lobe for the iPhone and sold your first born to afford the contract... but... SMS is a bit of a poor relation to the 'real thing', isn't it?  Wonder how long it'll be before we think 'how quaint' about SMS being even vaguely that important?
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Digging Digsby

Okay, so although I do like a good bit of social networking... it can get seriously overwhelming at times. And, because I like an easy life... I like finding things that'll make my life easier (naturally!)! The problem with social networking is that while you're only a click away from what you're friends and contacts are up to... opening up various browser windows / clients to see what's happening... well... as far as 21st Century Laziness goes... it's kinda tiresome. Basically, for a while I've wanted my own little pot to store all my social networking treasures in. Something that keeps them together, gives me a quick way of checking and updating them... and doesn't gobble up memory on my ailing laptop.

Soooo... my latest toy for making life easier comes in the form of 'digsby'.

It allows you to send 'tweets' via Twitter, chat with people on Facebook and see what's going on with people on MySpace. It'll even let you check your e-mail, use the main chat clients such as MSN, AOL, GTalk etc and having your main forms of communication in one place is handy if nothing else and it saves having to use the horribly clunky Facebook chat interface! So, even though it's not the prettiest thing out there, (it does let you customize it a bit in the style of a teenage boy's retro 1980s' bedroom)... and I don't think that Mac or Linux versions are available at the mo... and it doesn't support things like 'FriendFeed' or 'Plurk' - it supports the main big boys and no doubt others will be added as they emerge from the web 2.0 heap.

Yup, this is on my 'nice little toy' list for now. Solves my general 'fed up of flicking from this to that' issue anyway! And it hasn't made my poor laptop collapse in a sad, resource-hogged little pile either. Which is always nice. :o)
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Monday, August 11, 2008

This week I...

... knew as soon as it happened that Britain had won a gold in the Olympics... without having a TV or hearing it on the radio

... joked with colleagues without seeing them face to face

... arranged to talk through an assignment without doing any talking

... read the news without ever picking up a newspaper

... was given pointers on areas to live without going into an estate agent

... was reminded of a friend's birthday without needing to look at the calendar

Isn't social networking amazing?
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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Now and then... same old same old...

Education: Golden age of exams is a myth, say experts | Education | The Observer: "anxiety about poor spelling and grammar had been a constant theme. 'A trawl through reports on examinations from the Twenties upwards reveals that there was no 'golden age',' said David Wright, chief executive of the institute. He cited an official report on O-level papers in 1958 which found: 'The standard of English was no worse than in previous years, but is still very unsatisfactory... The most evident, if not the most serious weakness, is in the spelling. A few examples will suffice: ammount, Brittain, Britian, buisness, bussiness, deffinate, fourty, fivety, ocurred, occured, payed, polytitions, publically, usualy.'"

Plus ├ža change...

Interesting little piece in The Guardian... especially after the nonsense about 'variant spellings' which appeared in the Time Higher Education supplement earlier in the week. On the one hand people are fed up of correcting the same old spelling errors and accepting these is seen as further 'dumbing down' of education. On the other, it turns out that the same old spelling errors have always been the same old spelling errors.

Is it harder to swallow that education is dumbing down... or that we were all just dumb in the first place? :o)

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Friday, August 8, 2008

AC Grayling: Spelling is important in university essays

AC Grayling: Spelling is important in university essays | Comment is free | "Dr Ken Smith of Bucks New University says that undergraduate spelling is so bad that instead of the penury of having to correct the misspellings in their students' essays, university teachers should simply accept the students' orthography as 'variants'."

Brilliant response to the twaddle which was circulated yesterday about 'variant spellings' being appropriate for graduates.

My feelings about his article?

"Yeah. wot ee sed".

Additional uses for Twitter - ToAnswer

ToAnswer » Get your questions answered in 140 characters or less

Seems like a useful, simple little idea... follow "ToAsk" and "ToAnswer"... send a 'tweet' to 'ToAsk' and you'll receive the answer via various twiddly twittering bits on the interweb. Looking at the quality of questions / answers so far though... ermmmm... not shaping up to be massively high quality... but this sort of thing gives me lots of ideas which is groovy!

PS Must stop using the word 'groovy'
PPS 'Cool' is also on my list of 'wean yourself off them' words :o)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Communicate without compromising the basics... please!

BBC NEWS | UK | Bad spelling 'should be accepted': "Common spelling mistakes should be accepted into everyday use, not corrected, a professor has said.

Ken Smith says the most common spelling mistakes should simply be accepted as 'variant spellings'."
My rational, logical side says 'this makes sense'... my emergent grumpy old woman side says...


Variant spellings are variants... incorrect spellings... are... wait for it... INCORRECT! For gawd's sake. Surely there has to be something which differentiates people studying at degree level from children messing up their spellings as part of their homework? Communicating accurately, concisely, thoughtfully - these are all valuable skills. They are valuable academic skills. They are valuable skills in the workplace. In life in general. Is it really that harsh to correct an incorrect spelling? Why not just learn those words? No, it's not the most engaging of activities to have to learn to spell... but... is it really the best way to hold your hands up and go 'well, let's give up and change the dictionary to accommodate the mistakes... correcting them's a bore'.

I love informal forms of writing. I love hearing people just express themselves. I also love reading things that don't make me cringe and wince at how badly they've been written when they're meant to be of a certain standard.

In a climate where the worth of higher education and education at all is challenged on an almost daily basis... why put out stupid articles like this which will have people champing at the bit to declare yet another instance of the 'dumbing down of education'? Please let things like this be filed under 'Stories that got published because we had a bit of space to fill' rather than anyone actually intending us to amend our language to accommodate people who can't find the spell check facility or... that wonderfully low tech thing... a dictionary.

*rolls eyes*

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

myOpenID and my online headache!

Welcome to myOpenID

Right - am now trying OpenID after repeatedly forgetting my id or password combination for various sites. Am hoping that it solves the issue of having too many accounts on too many sites and saves me from forever having to fill in the 'forgotten password' option. Although I try to keep my online identity as consistent as possible... over the years I've acquired Sarah_Horrigan, SarahHorrigan, Sarah.Horrigan, horrigans, Maddy Lou and various others... and being a security conscious bod, I haven't always used the same password across the board. The flaw in my security conscious side is that it competes directly with my forgetful side and I'm forever locking myself out of things.

Soooooooooooooo... myOpenID is being tried to see if it helps me manage my fractured online personalities. Let's see how it shapes up!

Is now the time to confess that I've already had to get password reminders from myOpenID and regularly have to track down their site to see if I can remember the ID I set for myself? Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Close encounters of the Twittering kind

Micro blogging site Twitter is the latest target of cyber criminals who are increasingly finding fertile ground on social networks.A fake Twitter profile with a malicious payload has been spotted by security firm Kaspersky.It purports to link to a pornographic video but downloads a fake version of Adobe Flash which installs programs capable of stealing data.The attack is believed to be the first to target Twitter.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Hi-tech criminals target Twitter

Well, 'twas always bound to happen. Where's there's people... there's people up to mischief. I've had a few 'odd' followers on Twitter who I've duly blocked, but I wonder how many people are careful with their clicks when it comes to social networking sites where you're supposedly connecting with people rather than malicious bods. I guess it's just another form of internet literacy which people need to get their heads round. It's not that these systems are inherently flawed, just that they are representative of society. And society, wherever it is, ain't all good. Why should something as seemingly benign as Twitter escape unscathed? Doesn't mean you can't use such services... just that you should always have a questioning head on your shoulders. And that's no bad thing.
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Sunday, August 3, 2008


Friday, August 1, 2008

Twitter tools

A few tools which make Twitter slightly more useful / user-friendly than its basic incarnation...

Most useful...
Twitterfeed - use Twitter as a sort of public RSS for your blog
Twhirl - desktop client which makes 'tweeting' and following other folk's updates far easier
TweetStats - want to track your usage of Twitter? This is an easy peasy way of doing it!
TweetVolume - allows you to compare key words to compare current popularity on Twitter
Feedtweeter - allows you to post your tweets to Plurk and vice versa, saving that clicking finger!

twittersearch - search for keywords in everyone's tweets
Hashtags - give you the potential to tag your tweets
Mashable's Twitter Toolbox - oodles more Twitter-ific toys!

Sure there have to be lots more useful ones out there so with luck I'll be able to update this with more soon!
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