Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sink or Swim: the Daunting Sea of Blog Semantics

The dive into the blog pool is one into the deep end. I mean, it's relatively easy to setup a blog (aside from finding a unique site name) but trying to separate and understand the terminology is dizzying.

Initially, on recommendation from Stephen Downes in a presentation he did at the 2005 This is IT conference on how to be a good learner, I created a bloglines account. From what I understand, bloglines is an aggregator which helps you to read other blogs through their RSS feeds. Okay, works good, cool. So, I'm reading and learning, and it isn't long before I see an item that I want to clip/blog. Clicking on that link prompts me to create my own blog on bloglines and wow, there's my post - except that it appears that no one can comment on it. A blog that isn't a blog? For me (remember, I'm a novice), blogs are tool for social interaction - I'd like some feedback on some of my posts, exposure to new ideas and criticisms that will help me grow and learn.

I've also created a Jots account which is a web-based social bookmarking application. In using it, I find myself sliding into 'blogging mode', wanting to publish some comments to accompany the link, to give my personal take on the site and why it's worth mention.

And so now, here I am, with Blogger.

I really wish there were some / any guides out there that compared these different technologies, illustrating when you would use one over the other. I'm also worried about etiquette - if I want to blog (or link?) to an item on BlogY that I've actually read on BlogX - how so? is there a prescribed method for this? where would it go? blogger? bloglines blog? jots?

I find myself struggling to swim in this sea of new technology (more precisely, the semantics thereof). As I'm brand-spanking new to the scene it's unlikely that anyone will throw me a life preserver anytime soon. Until then, I guess I'll keep treading and search for a pair of waterwings.

Sony Revolution

A short video clip of something Sony has in the works, which reminds me of the technology in the movie Minority Report. The user places plastic (or perhaps glass?) tiles onto a grid that spring to life and can perform specific functions based upon the type of tile placed (eg. shopping, music, webcam). In one example, the user places a music tile and a shopping tile onto the grid, selects a CD, drags it onto the shopping tile and then places his cell phone onto another tile for identification. Pretty fascinating and worth a watch.

URL [video]:

Keyboards are Good; Mouses are Dumb

URL: Keyboards are Good; Mouses are Dumb
from Paul Tyma

Paul makes the compelling case that the mouse is not nearly as effective a device as the keyboard (for text people anyway) and I would definitely agree - I love my hotkeys. Paul also explores the idea of us (humans) as cyborgs (or rather, cyborg as he would have it), arguing that the keyboard is similar to the watch and that we have extended our concepts of self to include these technological devices.

This Blog Is 100 Percent Solar

URL: This Blog Is 100 Percent Solar
from Amit Asaravala, Wired News.

Some data centres have made the (smart) move to solar energy and are saving bundles in energy bills as well as drawing in environmentally conscious customers. Seems like a win-win tactic, but until larger, major data centres follow suit we have yet to make a dent in global energy consumption. Still, we have to start somewhere, right?

The End of File Organization?

URL: Tiger Tweaks Could Kill Folders
from Abby Christopher and Mike Faden, Wired News.

The new desktop metaphor is search. Personally, I think it's an idea whose time has definitely come. Sometimes, a file meets multiple criteria that make placing it into a single folder restrictive, inappropriate and difficult to later retrieve. A new mechanism such as search and tagging is needed.

OTTL 2005: "Balance or Integration" by Steve Robinson

My notes from an Our Turn to Learn 2005 presentation by Steve Robinson from Georgian College. The presentation was built around powerful metaphors, such as water, that I haven't adequately captured in my notes.

  • Mice live approximately 2 years normally. Under stress (frightened, food water deprivation, etc) they may only live for a couple of weeks! With a little TLC however, a mouse may life up to 5 years.
  • Stress is a reaction, suggesting that if we are able to change our perception we have some form of control over it.
  • What inspires you? Turn off auto-pilot. Taking time to identify and become aware of the things that make you feel good. Attention becomes intention.
  • We are like balloons, bursting under pressure but we also have a resiliency to bounce back.
  • Concept of balance - not static, in motion, ups and downs. Someone mentioned a concept called PIES (Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual). The problem with balance is that it implies that aspects of life are separate and distinct when they really overlap. How many of us can leave our family life away from work? How many of us take our work home? Has technology may have caused or contributed to these blurred boundaries?
  • Juggling the 5 balls: work, family, health, friends and spirit. The work ball is rubber. The others are fragile and cannot be dropped.
  • 13 tips:
    1. Spend time organizing & planning
    2. Set goals (the power of a glacier)
    3. Prioritize
    4. Use a TO DO list
    5. Be flexible (rivers never form a straight line but always reach their destination)
    6. Consider your biological prime time
    7. Do the right thing right
    8. Eliminate the urgent
    9. Practice the art of intelligent neglect (learn to let things go, play, have fun)
    10. Avoid being a perfectionist
    11. Conquer procrastination
    12. Learn to say "no" (but gracefully). If you never say 'no' then what is your 'yes' worth?
    13. Reward yourself
  • The Life Wheel, adapted from Deb Clifford's "Inspirational Coaching" model. How bumpy is your wheel? How comfortable a ride?
  • If you were a boat, what type of boat would you be? What kind of waters would you be in? William Shedd: "Boats in the harbour are safe, but that's not what they were built for".
  • There is wisdom in the "Row, row, row your boat" poem.
  • The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

OTTL 2005: "Balanced Brain Thinking in a Left-Brain World"

My notes on another Our Turn to Learn 2005 (OTTL) keynote presentation by Brain Thwaits.

  • Psychologists say the average person's attention span is around 20 minutes.
  • The Curve of Forgetting. Most information is lost in the first hour (more than 50%!)
  • We have known since 1885 (?) that passive learning (students are sponges to be filled with intructor's knowledge) is not effective but we have not done anything about it!
  • The Curve of Remembering. Reinforce learning the day after, a week after, a month after...
  • Teachers commonly tell you what to learn (ie. "read chapter 3") not how to learn. It's something we just develop on our own.
  • Our brains are much better than computers (yay!). There are virtually an unlimited number of connections and patterns of thought.
  • Intelligence located throughout body, not just the brain.
  • The Book of Genius top 10 geniuses - all men, all white.
  • Brian's own Top 10 female geniuses - Oprah is #1.
  • Tips:
    1. Organization - chunking, tripping, turning into "resume format"
    2. Imagination - colour coding, using colour markers, diagramming relations, indicating questions. As adults we have a discomfort to using our imaginations in this fashion ("what are we in kindergarten?")
  • Essentials for success: communication, problem-solving, ability to prioritize, work ethic, knowing how to learn.
  • Dale's Cone of Learning (Edgar Dale). Also used by the advertising industry.

    We remember:
    • 10% of what we read.
    • 20% of what we hear.
    • 30% of what we see.
    • 50% of what we hear and see.
    • 70% of what we say (peer tutoring may benefit the teacher more!)
    • 90% of what we say and do.

      Passive learning is BAD!
  • Chinese proverb:
    I hear... and I forget,
    I see... and I remember,
    I do... and I understand.
  • Chunking - making lists, teamwork, "straining" information, choosing key words. Breaking paragraphs into sentences into words into letters, developing mnenomics, pictures. Example: learning the treble clef (EGBDF - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge!).
  • Balancing left-brain and right-brain. How did we learn the alphabet? The alphabet song (invented by Mozart)! Why not do the same with the multiplication table?
  • Mind-mapping, developing trees. Topics > Ideas > Detail > Examples, Mnemonics, Explanations
  • Earlier grades more fun, but less so as we progress through the educational system. Increases in left-brain activities, teaching methods.
  • How to learn like Einstein did:
    • Consider everything from all angles
    • Visualize thoughts
    • Produce (brainstorming)
    • Combinations
    • Think in opposites
    • Force relationships
    • Prepare for chance. "Chance favours the prepared mind" -- Louis Pasteur.

OTTL 2005: "Train Your Brain" by Brain Thwaits

My notes on an Our Turn to Learn 2005 (OTTL) keynote presentation by Brain Thwaits.

  • Problems with memory:
    • No interest
    • No Attention. The average brain speed works at 1,000 to 25,000 words-per-minute (wpm).
      • Reading (250 wpm)
      • Listening (125 wpm)
    • No Effort
  • Stress and anxiety are bad for memory
  • It is normal for humans to forget names, faces, etc. Our fears are common!
  • Visualization helps.
  • Brain test #1: Here are 20 words (not listed here). Commit them to memory. Here they are again. Now tell me what they were. As a group we only got to about the 7th word.
  • Reinforcement, the more senses involved with the learning experience the more deeply it gets encoded into memory.
  • Brains are unique, like fingerprints, which lends itself to explaining why we have such trouble communicating and understanding each other!
  • Teacher. They explain everything perfect... to themselves!
  • Gardner's multiple intelligences.
  • Brain improves with age.
  • Dendrites. Social interaction causes more developed ones.
  • Brain Test #2: Visualize these 20 words (not listed here, told in a story-like format). Here they are again. What were they again? We managed to get all 20.
  • Principles of Brain Training
    1. Motivation - tricks, rewards, generating interest
    2. Practice - makes perfect, strengthens connections in brain.
    3. Emotion
    4. Association - builds stronger bonds
    5. Meaning - ask questions (when they arise)
    6. Visualization
    7. Chunking - summarizing, distilling information
  • Left brain vs. right brain. Our society is left-brain dominant (math, sciences, etc). Harmony is key, getting the two sides to work together.
  • There is no known capacity to the human brain.