Joho the BlogAugust 2010 - Page 3 of 5 - Joho the Blog

August 17, 2010

The games of my life

Oscar Villalon has been inspired by Tom Bissell’s Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter to use the video games he’s played as “digital Madeleines” to remind him of the phases of his life.

Unfortunately, I’ve been playing the same game for the past few decades. All that’s changed are the targets — Nazis, mutant space creatures, zombies — and the quality of the graphics. This is not a criticism of the games, which I love. It is a rather sad statement about my life.

(Thanks to Evelyn Walsh for the pointer.)


August 16, 2010

Help create shareable syllabi

Every course has a syllabus. In it are an expert’s ideas about the topics essential to the course of study and the works that explain those topics. And that’s at a bare minimum. Syllabi rock.

Yet, all that wisdom and goodness is locked in the syllabi, of use to the handful of students taking or considering taking the course. What a shame! Think of all we could do if the information in syllabi were made available for open access by humans and machines:

  • Teachers could discover new ideas for how to teach a course.

  • Students could browse among courses to see how other teachers teach them.

  • Researchers could be guided by this canon-in-practice — both to the expected works and away from works that are too expected.

  • Researchers studying disciplines would have a rich source of data to analyze.

To unlock these riches, several things have to happen.

First, the syllabi have to be collected and put into an open access repository. I’d love to see universities adopt open syllabi policies that require (ask? suggest?) that faculty submit a copy of their syllabi for each course they teach.

Then the syllabi have to be scraped so that the data within them is searchable by humans and parsable by computers.

Then the data should be put into some standard data format so that it can be more easily found, reused, and mined.

It’s this last step that I’m looking for help with. I’ve started a little project with Joseph Cohen to develop an XML schema for syllabi. (Joseph has a commecial project underway that could help with some of the other elements required to turn dead syllabi into a living beast at our command.)

If you’d like to jump in, go to the SylliXml wiki. (You have to register to edit.) We’re just at the kicking it around stage, and your contributions will be very helpful.

There are lots of questions to resolve. At the moment, we’re aiming at producing the most minimal schema we can, because syllabi are unstructured documents and trying to accommodate everything that might ever be put into one is a mug’s game. So, what is the minimum set of data and metadata that would make the information in syllabi amazingly useful?

Come play!

There is tremendous value hidden in the syllabi diaspora. Let’s unite and conquer!


August 14, 2010

Jeff Jarvis and the two axes of privacy

Jeff Jarvis has an excellent, provocative post about the topic of the book he’s writing: the economics of publicness. (I’m paraphrasing. Read his post to get it right.) I replied in his comments. The following is a modified version of that comment:

Your post makes me wonder about two axes of public-private. (Thank goodness there was only one axis of evil, because “two axes of evil” sounds extra special scary! But I digress.)

The private-public axis used to measure how well-known we are: Marilyn Monroe was a public figure but most of us are private citizens. That used to be pretty easy to compute and, because of the nature of the broadcast medium, it used to tend toward one extreme or another: He’s Chevy Chase and you’re not. You make the important point that it’s not that simple any more.

But there’s another private-public axis: who we really are and how we look to others. We have tended to believe, at least in the West, that our true self is the inner self. The outer, public self may or may not reflect our inner, private self, and we have an entire moral/normative vocabulary to talk about the relation of the two: sincerity, authenticity, integrity, honesty…

So, I wonder about — what I really mean is that I hope your book will help us understand — the relation of these two axes. Is the rise of publicness (in your sense of social publicness) getting us to change our sense that our private self (call it our psychological sense) is our real self?

In this regard, I also wonder about the rise of “authenticity.” I’ve gotten more suspicious of the term over the past decade, and wonder if it shows up more and more because of a sense that the new publicness doesn’t fit with the old axis 2? That is, we’ve entered a new Age of Publicness (in the new social sense), but then we worry that we’re losing the deeply-held values of the old psychological/normative model, so we go back to “authenticity” as a way of holding on to the old norm in the new model.

Well, all I can say is that I’m glad you’re writing this book!

By the way, I’m pretty sure I wrote something about this in Small Pieces Loosely Joined. I wonder if I still agree with myself. I suspect not, especially on the issue of authenticity.


Berkman Buzz

This week’s Berkman Buzz, as compiled by Seth Young.

  • Doc Searls might be wrong about the future of the Internet link

  • Jonathan Zittrain gets to the core of net neutrality link

  • CMLP warns against three-strikes Internet laws link

  • Herdict discusses Australian Internet filtering link

  • Weekly Global Voices: “Rwanda: Bloggers Discuss Presidential Election 2010” link


August 13, 2010

Notes from a disappointed fanboy

American Public Media’s Future Tense has posted a looong post from me about the Googizon proposal. Here’s the beginning:

There is no denying that I am a Google fanboy. I postponed my technolust for an iPhone until I could get a Droid. I switched from the Firefox browser to Google’s Chrome. I use Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Docs, and Google Maps, and I’d probably use Google Bugle and Google Tattoogle, if such things existed. I bought into Google products in large part because they tend to kick butt, but I have put up with some frustrations because I believed that Google was on my side. Our side. “Where are the other big companies that are standing up for the open Internet?” I have asked in public more than once.

So, Google’s joint proposal with Verizon hurt. Has Google cheated on me? Were there others before Verizon? Did Google ever really love me in the first place?

It then goes through my attempt to understand a bunch of the issues.


August 12, 2010

“Whales Pursued in Planes Are Shot from the Air”

That’s the headline of an article in the November 1930 issue of Popular Science (p. 36). No, it is not talking about shooting down flying whales. The opening paragraph:

Careless slaughter so thinned the ranks of the giants of the sea and made the whales so cautious that new ways of hunting them had to be found.

Machine guns mounted on airplanes seem to do the job pretty well.

(Please, no one tell Sarah Palin!)

1 Comment »

[2b2k] Suggestions wanted: Amateur scientists

For the section of my book I’m currently writing, I’m looking for examples of contributions to science by amateurs in the Age of the Web. These can be crowd-sourcings, individuals with ideas or data that pushed a science forward, or some category I am not yet considering. (I’ve already briefly noted Make and Maker Faire. I’ve also spent some time in the book on Innocentive and other contests, but if you have a particular good example don’t assume I already know about it!)

I’d be grateful for any ideas or suggestions. Thanks!


August 11, 2010

Why we aren’t online

Pew Internet & American Life has a fascinating report on why Americans are not adopting broadband. Here’s some highlights Pew is circulating:

  • Broadband adoption has slowed dramatically in the overall population, but growth among African-Americans was especially high last year.

  • By a 53%-41% margin, Americans say they do not believe that the spread of affordable broadband should be a major government priority. Contrary to what some might suspect, non-internet users are less likely than current users to say the government should place a high priority on the spread of high-speed connections.

  • In addition to their skepticism towards government efforts to promote widespread broadband adoption, the 21% of American adults who do not use the internet are not tied in any obvious way to online life and express little interest in going online.

  • They do not find online content relevant to their lives. Half (48%) of non-users cite issues relating to the relevance of online content as the main reason they do not go online.

  • They are largely not interested in going online. Just one in ten non-users say would like to start using the internet in the future.

  • They are not comfortable using computers or the internet on their own. Six in ten non-users would need assistance getting online. Just one in five know enough about computers and technology to start using the internet on their own.


Slater and Jet Blue

I don’t know enough about the Slater incident to have an opinion, beyond unease at lionizing someone for dealing with a-holism by being an even bigger a-hole. — if that’s what happened.

But I do want to say that a couple of weeks ago I had an unguarded conversation with a Jet Blue flight attendant who had no reason to lie to me, and who went on for about half an hour about what a great place to work Jet Blue is. The perks are generous, the flexibility of scheduling is phenomenal, the people are fantastic.

You don’t often hear that type of enthusiasm. I already like Jet Blue’s respect for its customers. That they treat their employees with respect makes me want to use their services all the more.

BTW, the fact that one of their attendants cursed out an a-hole passenger and then jumped out the slide does not have the same effect on me.


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