Archive for the ‘web’ Category

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

Shaw « Deep Packet Inspection

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Shaw « Deep Packet Inspection.

I do believe that DPI and related technologies will be abused by ISPs and media conglomerates if they are allowed to do so – and also that they should not have the option to arbitrarily favour one technology over another (as eg when Shaw says that internet delivery is “not a substitute” for cableTV). But technologies like bittorrent and skype do create speed by using extra bandwidth, and this does give the ISPs an opening to claim that they sometimes need to throttle certain kinds of traffic. However that claim is only valid becuse their chosen pricing model does not increase the cost for high bandwidth users. If we do not want to give the ISPs the authority to manage traffic volumes based on content-type (which they will certainly abuse) then we need to accept that bandwidth is a commodity in limited supply and should be paid for on a usage basis. This would have the effect of allowing market pressure to favour technologies which have less impact without giving anyone the power to arbitrarily favour their own technology or content.

OnLine Educational Resources

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Scott Leslie may be on the right track with another 1/4-baked idea – OER “virtual reference librarian” at EdTechPost, but I suspect that it may be less with the idea itself than with the doubt he expresses as follows:

<<Is “discoverability” even actually the problem with resources getting reused, or is it possible that the whole model is so flawed, so disconnected from how educators construct course materials, that it wouldn’t make any difference..?>>

Commenter Mike Caulfield followed up on this with

<<the really interesting thing is how many people said they wanted that, and how few people contact us for help>>

Some educators want a complete package provided by a publisher while others want to develop their own way of engaging students with the material.

In the space between those two extremes it would seem that there was ample room for a style of preparation which involved searching for and combining the best of what is available, and many of us think that is where we belong – but when push comes to shove we bifurcate and either go with a complete package or “roll our own” completely.

As variously a creator, organizer, and user of OERs I think I may have gained some insight into why this is the case.

Blog Action Day

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

This year’s Blog Action Day is devoted to the theme of Climate Change and an understanding of mathematics is certainly essential for anyone involved in making making decisions about how to respond to this issue (which in a democracy is presumably all of us).

The choice of Math and Climate as the theme of this year’s Math Awareness Month emphasized this connection, and Murray Bourne at squareCircleZ  today points to a number of articles in which he has used related topics as a source of examples for teaching mathematics.

A good source of background on the science of CO2 related climate change is this excellent history prepared by Spencer Weart at the American Institute of Physics, as is also the RealClimate site managed by a team of well-reputed climate scientists, and the question of how to compare the effectiveness of different policy choices is addressed in this on-line book by UK physicist David McKay (reviewed by theRegister).

The fact that no amount of restraint or conservation can counterbalance the harmful effects of increasing population is not often noted in the CO2 debate so I was a bit disappointed that Murray did not include his discussion of that topic in his list.

Facebook Problems caused by Skype Firefox extension

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Recently Facebook has been running very slow for me and even just hanging completely on page reload. I wasted a lot of time trying things within Facebook and after reading of many others with similar problems was even considered abandoning Firefox as my preferred browser, but as soon as I disabled the  Skype Firefox extension everything returned to normal. So if you are having similar problems, this may be the solution. (The extension is not necessary for the normal use of Skype – just for having phone numbers on web pages all become clickable.)

What disappoints me about Skype as a result of this is not the fact of the problem per se (making different programs interact is often difficult and it is not surprising that things go wrong), but rather the fact that there has been no loud public warning from Skype of a problem which has been around for some time (in fact the extension is still loaded automatically without warning during Skype upgrades).  If Skype had acted appropriately there would have been a high ranking Google hit which resolved the issue but in fact on Googling Facebook and Firefox I found many discussions which did not identify Skype as the source of the problem, and there has been no warning transmitted during several recent Skype upgrades.

WordPress Trackback Tutorial

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I have always been a bit intimidated by bloggers’ talk of “Trackback” and “Pingback”, and am still unsure of whether they really do anything that isn’t just as easy to do “by hand”.

I recently came across a Tutorial written a couple of years ago by Teli Adlam which helped me to what I think is a bot better understanding but still leaves me wondering whether I am missing something.

Getting Smarter

Monday, July 20th, 2009

This article shares some of my own reaction to the “internet is making us dumber” nonsense, as well as commenting on other possible sources of increasing global intelligence.