Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Worthy of Support?

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Telus CEO touts ‘Switzerland’ approach to content.

What’s Wrong With Usage-Based Billing?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

The folks at are concerned about the recent CRTC ruling to allw Bell to apply usage-based-billing to independent ISPs. But I don’t se the problem. So long as everyone gets the same speed of sevice regardless of data type it does not seem unreasonable to charge people in proportion to how much bandwidth they actually consume. What am I missing?

TV vs Internet

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

This article at the Tyee addresses the broader issue of whether ‘Net Neutrality’ is enough if the physical network used by the internet is being shared with competing services owned by the owners of the infrastructure.

Artificial Leaves from North Carolina

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Thanks to reader Colleen McGuire for pointing out  this interesting development. It does look promising if it can be developed further, although as one of the researchers said, “We do not want to overpromise at this stage, as the devices are still of relatively low efficiency and there is a long way to go before this can become a practical technology.” (more…)

Network Environments for Personal Learning

Friday, September 24th, 2010

In week 2, the focus of #PLENK2010 shifted from the basic terminology, and emphasis on user “client-side” tools to the “server-side” area of support tools (more…)

myPE(N)L ctd

Friday, September 24th, 2010

So here is my current Personal Environment for Networked Learning
(which I think of as the interface with physically remote people and information): (more…)


Friday, September 24th, 2010

is a mess (like this post) because my data streams are not well integrated. (more…)


Thursday, September 16th, 2010

My Sept 13 post on PLEvsPLN does show up in the link from the #PLENK2010  Feeds List, but never seems to have been captured by the aggregator for the Daily.  So I’m giving it another go here just to see if I’ve set things up properly.

PLENK Week 1

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Week 1 of the #PLENK2010 course on Personal Learning Environments,  Networks and Knowledge is devoted mainly to getting used to the terminology.

More Defense of Links

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Scott Rosenberg (who I was led to by Crawford Killian) shares my skepticism re the “studies” cited by Nick Carr. And what is more, he actually took the trouble to read them carefully and point out some of the nonsense in detail. (more…)

CRTC consultation on Obligation to Serve

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

For what it’s worth, here is the main point I made in my submission today:

with regard to the question about ensuring access for all Canadians, I said:

CRTC should set national rate caps for broadband access via both telephone and cable operators AND should ensure ‘net neutrality’ with regard to content type and source. This does NOT preclude charging users on a per data quantity basis. In fact that is the best way to counter arguments for throttling, and is the only fair way to deal with the fact that some users ‘hog’ bandwidth. The most important fundamental principle to apply is that all transmitters via a given carrier should pay the same rate per unit of consumed bandwidth and similarly for recievers (with a difference between unit costs for transmitters and receivers being acceptable).


@maferarenas on microblogging and learning

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

My linking to this is evidence for @Downes of more real interesting learning from #CritLit2010.

But it’s not just the shape of the network that’s important here; it’s also the semantic content of what we are linking about. (If we had drifted off into a classroom conversation about mutual friends in Argentina then the network connections might look stronger but it might not be so “interesting” from the course’s point of view.)

Perhaps some more direction about how to tag things in a coordinated way (beyond just the one #CritLit tag) would have made it easier for Stephen’s colleagues to extract the necessary information from our network activity (and also for us to get more immediate value from the course!)

For me the effectiveness of Twitter as a tool is definitely increasing as a result of participating in CritLit2010 (though mostly after the fact), and I am learning lots of other things as well. Perhaps my reading of the actual course resources has left me with useful mental hooks for conceptualizing these new skills, but I’m still not convinced of that; so I do think that a more practical approach (as in Maria’s post here) would have been more useful.

Is Google Evil?

Monday, August 9th, 2010

No this isn’t about the Verizon thing; it’s something completely different.

I was looking at both Feedblitz and Google’s Feedburner as tools for offering email subscription service, but despite claims in the help files on both sites that Google is supporting Feedblitz as a complement to Feedburner there is no apparent way of reaching it from the Feedburner site.

Now I can understand if the cooperation agreement is perhaps no longer in place and what I was reading is outdated, or if the intent was only to support those who picked up Feedblitz by going to its own site (as I did), but what is really EVIL is that when I tried to edit the email subscriptions properties in Feedburner the only option I was offered was to disable Feedblitz. This kind of Microsoftian ploy is not the kind of thing that will build public confidence in an organization that wants to be the guardian of ALL our information!

New Web Host

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

For some time I have been looking forward to the arrival of WordPress v3 which, among other things, enables easily setting up a separate blog for the CMR website. But to install it I needed my host to run a more recent version of MySQL than I had currently available. It turns out that they could do that, but that the process of transferring my database would be no less complex than taking my hosting business to a new provider whose interface I find more compatible and whose price is a lot less also.

So, after a week or so of email exchanges with (where the staff were always polite and helpful but the interface repeatedly defeated me), interspersed with productive work on a new “free trial” site at, I have decided to go with the latter. And after one last slight unexpected delay in getting the DNS change recorded it seems that everything is now being served from the new host – including the new blog-of-its-own for CMR and an up-to-date installation of Moodle (into which I have been able to upgrade the old work I was doing re inclusion of editable graphs and dynamic math in quizzes).

Mythical Myths – #1: People read on the web

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Many of the items in this list of usability myths are genuine myths, but the very first one is not.

There are two reasons that “People read on the web” is not a myth (by which I mean a widely believed falsehood). Firstly it is not widely believed, and secondly it is not false.

Almost anyone these days, if asked to describe their main behaviour on the web, would identify scanning rather than reading. And they would be right because that is what most websites are designed for.  So it is foolish for “usability experts” to express surprise or claim some merit for the discovery that people typically approach a new web page by looking for the navigational elements that they have been trained to expect.

But although it is not widely believed that “people read on the web”, there are in fact many web sites which are designed for deeper reading, and although some may initially aproach them incorrectly there must be plenty who want to read deeply online or otherwise they would not survive. (Examples include thoughtful blogs like PhilosophyTalk, and Real Climate, as well as various on-line books such as David McKay’s Without the Hot Air, along with most of the items linked to by Arts&Letters Daily)

Thus the idea that people read on the web is not a myth, and it is rather the claim that it is one which is the widely believed falsehood. So the idea that it’s a myth is itself a myth which makes it a mythical myth.

(And although it’s not the first on my list I think it deserves the #1 position – which I have been holding open til now while waiting for the perfect candidate).

Assessing Learning in #CritLit2010

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Stephen Downes post on Semantics at Half an Hour: Having Reasons is devoted largely to the issue of how to establish the well-foundedness aspect of knowledge as well-founded true belief.

A large part of the discussion was devoted to the question of how confidently it can be asserted that “interesting learning” occurred in #CritLit2010. (With “interesting learning” apparently referring to the acquisition of new knowledge rather than just unfounded beliefs or behavioural responses – which are also of course examples of learning but not so interesting)

In the course of that discussion Stephen referred to slide 23, where the inference of learning appears to be derived from observation of behaviour in a social network. But it requires quite sophisticated observation to confirm that the behaviour is based on beliefs that are founded on good reasons as discussed in this posting. (For example it might involve observation of exchanges between members of the network when solving problems together and evaluation of the explanations given to one another in that process.) Also, there would have to be a change of behaviour (beyond that attributable to increasing familiarity with that specific network) in order to infer that the demonstated knowledge was newly acquired and so evidence of learning.  Given the looseness and scale of the network involved it would be a huge task to sift through all of the exchanges to identify signs of increased knowledge in even just a few of the participants.  So I must say I agree with those who are skeptical of Stephen and co’s ability to provide convincing evidence that “interesting learning” has occurred (other than perhaps by direct testimony of the participants).


Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

#CritLit2010 is now over.

I enrolled in this largely out of curiosity about what it would entail and in the knowledge that my travel plans for subsequent weeks would make it difficult to devote much time to it.  I was interested enough to go through most of the readings and to make some discussion entries and blog postings, but if I had had to pay for it then I think I would have been a bit disappointed.

Categories, Links, and Tags

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Both Heli Nurmi and MCMorgan have commented on the CritLit2010 week 4 reading from Clay Shirky Shirky: Ontology is Overrated — Categories, Links, and Tags.

I can’t help feeling that the idea that search based on content and tags will replace heirarchical categories is in one sense overstated, but in another sense doesn’t go far enough. (more…)

Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

Friday, June 11th, 2010

I was led to this by a #CritLit2010 Tweet from Ruth Howard.

In it Clay Shirky responds to Nick Carr and others who worry that “the internet is making us dumber”. But I think to some extent Shirky misidentifies the concerns of the “dumber” camp (and certainly says nothing about making us smarter) although he does  address some important issues.

Carr and his ilk worry about the impact of web-based media on our reading habits and attention spans, and although I think that the evidence they cite is questionable I can’t really deny that their concerns about a potential issue may be legitimate.

Shirky looks instead at the concerns about quailty of content being drowned in a flood of garbage, which are also commonly expressed but not really as “the case for digitally-driven stupidity”.[1]

What I think is most useful in Shirky’s article is his claim that we will address the abundance issue by “invent(ing) cultural norms that do for the Internet’s abundance what the intellectuals of the 17th century did for print”. This is already happening (via “like this” buttons, “people who bought this also bought that” recommendations, and other reputation management schemes) but Shirky is right to draw attention to it as something that still needs work.

(June 13): Stephen Pinker does a better job of addressing the actual question of effects on intelligence.

Update (Aug 13) the Globe and Mail published a comparative review by Anthony Williams of Carr and Shirky’s books on July 16, and also, on Aug 4, republished (from LA Times) ‘The Digital Alarmists Are Wrong’ by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Collateral Murder

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Arrest over leaked video of US gunship attack – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). The video really is shocking – especially since nothing I could see (except the camera) looked remotely like a weapon to me.  But the former soldier who has spoken out against attacking the rescue truck actually defends the original shooting. He appears to accept the identification of weapons in the group and also claims that his team did find some on the ground when they arrived (but doesn’t say how many).

It would be useful to the US military if they could support these claims (and/or show that the victims were in a well announced no-entry combat zone). Since they haven’t done that my guess is they can’t – and so the charge of murder still stands.