Shared posts

02 May 21:47

Discovering new diseases with the internet: How to find a matching patient

Genome and exome sequencing are the greatest diagnostic breakthroughs in the history of rare disease.

When sequencing identifies a genotype already associated with human disease, it can short-circuit years of costly and painful one-off disease tests.

But, if sequencing turns up “variants/mutations of uncertain clinical significance,” then a new kind of diagnostic odyssey unfolds.

Narrowing down which variant is responsible for a disorder may require “functional studies”: going to the lab to study cells or genetically modifying organisms in an attempt to link the mutations to the presentation of the disorder.

(Functional studies are not and are unlikly to ever be covered by insurance.)

Alternatively – and preferrably – you can find a second patient to confirm discovery of the disorder.

This article describes how to use the internet to find a second case for a previously unknown genetic disorder.

If you find success with this approach, please email me to let me know how it worked out for you.

Click here to read the rest of the article

03 May 11:20

How to quickly access Google Now on Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

by Android Beat
The Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are among the very few Android devices in the high-end smartphone market that still ship with a physical home button and capacitive navigation keys. Continue reading →
03 May 12:07

Molly Watt’s Apple Watch Review

by Federico Viticci

Molly Watt, who has Usher Syndrome Type 2a, published a unique, personal series of Apple Watch first impressions unlike anything I've read to date.

I am fortunate to have a few friends who also have the Apple Watch and together have devised ways of communicating in ‘Code’ when out, particularly when out at night and in dark situations when I am completely blind.

Useful codes in the event I need help of any kind, for instance if I am in a badly lit and noisy environment and struggling to be included in something I can get message to friend I’m uncomfortable or I need assistance or help of some kind or “I’m bored” can we do something else!

Many have reviewed Apple Watch as a gadget or a fashion companion. And that's fine, but make sure you also read Molly Watt's take for an idea of how wearable technology can truly impact other people's lives in meaningful ways.

∞ Read this on MacStories

03 May 14:42

‘Everline’ SkyTrain transit system transforms Yongin City, Korea

by Daryl Dela Cruz
^ New Yongin Everline promotional video (in Korean)

The 18km “Everline” rapid transit system in Yongin (near Seoul), South Korea, which utilizes the same “SkyTrain technology” trains used here in Vancouver, has celebrated its two year anniversary this past week – and along with that, city residents and officials have also been celebrating its positive effect in transforming the city of Yongin.

A new report published in English by the Korea Herald reports that the Everline is transforming Yongin City – helping to foster business growth and attract high-tech industries, encourage more people to adopt transit-oriented lifestyles and reduce congestion. The Everline is now meeting the ridership projection that was initially made in 2011.

Yongin, once regarded as a commuter town in Gyeonggi Province, is now developing into a business-centered metropolis equipped with a growth engine as it amasses infrastructure befitting a city of more than 1 million residents.

The development has been underway since Mayor Jung Chan-min took office nine months ago. The city is setting up several industrial complex centers including the Yongin Techno Valley currently under construction, and the once-dormant light rail ‘Everline’ is currently used by over 30,000 passengers daily.

[Yongin growing into business-centered city – The Korea Herald]

The Everline story: dismal beginnings

The Everline opened for service in 2013, after being unable to open in 2011 (the line had been fully constructed and in a ready-to-open state since before even then) and again in 2012, due to refusal from the City over issues with both construction and projected ridership (see INTERVIEW with Joongang Daily – Feb 2011). The delay was seen negatively by the Yongin Rapid Transit Company (YRTC), the line’s operator, which was awarded nearly $500 million in damages through the International Court of Arbitration, after suing Yongin City for delaying the opening of the line.

These issues, among others, gave the Everline a very dismal reputation among city residents – and a reportedly low ridership when the line was opened did not make things any better. One group of vocal residents, who were understandably not too happy about the delays and lawsuit, at one point called for the Everline to be dismantled altogether.

Yongin Everline Train

Although the Everline service operates at an exceptional frequency, trains operate with a single car and that has created even more dissatisfaction among critics. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA Minseong Kim

But, according to The Korea Herald’s report, it turned out that one of the key problems with the Everline during its initial year of operation was a total lack of fare integration with surrounding transit systems. There was also no direct station-to-station connection or fare integration between the Everline’s terminus station in Giheung, and the nearby Giheung Station of the Bundang Line subway connecting to Seoul City Centre.

Both of these issues were fixed by late September last year, causing ridership levels on the Everline to increase by triple by this April, a period of just over 6 months.

Everline, the major light rail line of Yongin, opened two years ago, but it had been long regarded as a public nuisance with fewer than 10,000 users per day. After implementing the Metropolitan Unity Fare system in September last year, the number of passengers drastically increased. After one month, over 20,000 passengers on average used the light rail daily, and the number reached an average of 30,000 passengers last month.

The ridership is now close to meeting the latest daily ridership forecast of 32000, by the Gyeonggi Research Institute in 2011; and at this rate will surpass it some time this year.

This is very significant for Yongin, because one of the things that pressured the City into refusing to open the line in 2011 was the lack of confidence that it would meet this projection – the city’s internal projections of 10,000 daily riders disagreed with the Gyeonggi Research Institute. The Mayor stated the City did not want to open the line, expressing concern about the increased operating subsidy and a loss of revenue due to lower ridership.

When the line finally opened in 2013, Korean transit blog Kojects noted that the city’s projection had turned out to be true (see No Passengers on Yongin Everline – June 2013) – with the line recording just under 10,000 passengers daily. However, the fare integration with surrounding transit had not yet been implemented, despite its anticipation during previous attempts to open in 2012. Now that it has been implemented, the ridership level is now triple the city’s initial projections and nearly matches the projections set by the Gyeonggi Research Institute; it will handily surpass those projections within this year.

The Everline costs about $26 million to operate yearly, which is a relatively low cost made possible by driver-less train operation. As a result, it is now close to half-way to reaching its total “break-even” point when daily ridership hits 75000 (This is according to a Korean newspaper – [see here]). At 75000, fare revenues will 100% cover all operating costs, completely eliminating the operating expense for city taxpayers.

By comparison, here in Vancouver our SkyTrain lines have hit their break-even points and are covering their operating costs through fare revenue. The newest Canada Line, opened 2009 and using Korean-built trains from Rotem in two-car sets, hit its break-even point of 100,000 daily riders in 2011 (against projections of hitting this in 2013). However, our SkyTrain lines have opened on-time and on-budget. The Canada Line opened several months early, and was bolstered further by the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Everline as an asset to Yongin City

Map of the Yongin Everline

Map of the Yongin Everline

On top of the recent fare integration, new efforts – including the promo video at the top of this post – have been made to promote the viability of the line to residents, many of them still bitter from having to wait years to ride and sitting through the handover of a major chunk of the city treasury.

It’s taken some time, but shuttle buses from the four main universities that are connected by the Everline, which previously were connecting to major transit centres, are now connecting to the Everline (According to previously linked report in Korean – [see link]), helping the universities reduce their transport costs. Activity on the line is increasing and there are now buskers performing at many of the line’s busier stations, fostering a lively urban atmosphere.

New developments on the line aim to take advantage of the Everline’s convenience. One multiple high-rise proposal, at the Everline’s junction with the Bundang Subway Line at Giheung Station, is expected to be a massive contribution to the line’s ridership (see report in Korean – [link])

The new Mayor of Yongin, who was elected to office 9 months ago, has supported the Everline and demonstrated its versatility by making the Everline a part of his own commute (the Everline has a station in front of Yongin City Hall), and has organized a citizens committee to make the best of the line now that it has been built. He has also used the Everline’s example to push for further rail investment in Yongin City – which may include further extensions of the Everline itself.

Everline trains consist of a single car, which is the same length as our Mark II cars but as wide as our Canada Line vehicles at 3.2m wide. The trains have been termed by some media and riders as “cute”, but derided by critics as being “more like buses”.

Nevertheless, trains run every 4 minutes during weekday peak periods, and no less frequently than every 6 minutes except during early mornings and late nights on weekdays and weekends. This is a higher quality service than many grade-level, driver-operated Light Rail systems. In addition, all stations are ready to accommodate 2-car trains.

Significance to Vancouver

Although the Everline operates an exceptional frequency, the fact that trains operate a single car has created additional dissatisfaction among critics.

You betcha that Everline train looked just a little too familiar. Look, linear motor rails!

The Everline has often caught the attention of transit observers in Metro Vancouver, noting the identical ‘SkyTrain technology’ from Bombardier being used on the new line.

Critics of SkyTrain expansion in our region were the first to jump on the Everline story, framing its issues as reasons that we should avoid expanding our SkyTrain system. I find it particularly ironic that it is the same kind of interference from municipal politicians – which resulted in the Everline’s shortfall as a Yongin City asset – that has been desired by critics referencing that shortfall as a way of stopping SkyTrain expansion.

But it should be clear that none of the problems with the Everline were the result of ‘SkyTrain technology’, or Bombardier. In his interview with Joongang Daily, the Mayor of the City in 2011 cited two reasons why the City was refusing to open the project: issues with ridership (which we now know to have been lack of integration), and issues with construction resulting in “noise and safety concerns”. These apparent construction issues were related to the elevated guideway structure and so a result of the construction contractor, not Bombardier or anything regarding ‘SkyTrain technology’.

Regardless of everything, the Everline has proved to be a successful transit system – and every day it carries more passengers and transforms life for more and more citizens in Yongin, it is turning around its dismal beginning of being a “failure” or a “white elephant” and becoming a true rapid transit icon in Korea.

I believe the Everline Story has two main lessons for all of us here in Metro Vancouver:

  1. “P3″ transit projects must be carefully planned and considered. The Yongin Everline is essentially akin to a “what if the Canada Line P3 failed” scenario, with ridership not meeting projections – except the disaster was also kind of pre-empted as a result of fear of failure from the City’s politicians, the resulting delays in opening, and the lack of fare integration. The Canada Line did not fail because it was built on a well-demonstrated transit corridor (the previous 98 B-Line rapid bus was demand proof) and kept a promise to riders by mandating travel time improvements – the designer was actually required to orient its proposal around a set travel time value, and the Canada Line’s reliability in meeting that travel time was subsequently found to be the line’s #1 most-liked aspect in rider surveys. The City of Surrey should particularly be paying attention because it wants to use a P3 model on its proposed grade-level Light Rail system, which is more vulnerable to ridership not meeting projections than a grade-separated SkyTrain extension.
  2. The value of integrating transit fare systems. Major metro areas in North America like the San Francisco Bay Area are facing serious challenges dealing with multiple transit agencies, including major ridership losses due to the lack of integrated fares. We don’t have this problem in Metro Vancouver because of our system of having a single transit operator throughout history. As a result, TransLink is one of North America’s most efficient transit systems.
02 May 01:38

Less Than Meets The Eye

I met Jim Prentice once.  He was wearing a tuxedo - or rather, the tuxedo seemed to be wearing him, as though his neck, hands & feet had been inserted into an elegant body-cast.

He was shorter than I expected - mainly because of the angle photographers choose, which would make you think they’re all 6′3″.  He was also stiffer, thanks to the suit.   His starched shirt had been bleached so white it glowed in the dark, and could withstand a blow from a hammer.

Previously I  had admired Mr. Prentice at second-hand - as an island of competence in a federal cabinet full of little shits from the Common Sense Revolution.   Then I appreciated the fact that Harper saw him as a threat - meaning that he became Environment Minister, a graveyard if ever there was one.  

Look what happened to Peter Kent, whose eye-bags say it all.

In my case, the tuxedo said it all.  A man uncomfortable in his own clothes, because somebody else dressed him that way.

02 May 17:52

Research and Evidence

by Stephen Downes
I wrote the other day that the study released by George Siemens and others on the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning was a bad study. I said, "the absence of a background in the field is glaring and obvious." In this I refer not only to specific arguments advanced in the study, which to me seem empty and obvious, but also the focus and methodology, which seem to me to be hopelessly naive.

Now let me be clear: I like George Siemens, I think he has done excellent work overall and will continue to be a vital and relevant contributor to the field. I think of him as a friend, he's one of the nicest people I know, and this is not intended to be an attack on his person, character or ideas. It is a criticism focused on a specific work, a specific study, which I believe well and truly deserves criticism.

And let me clear that I totally respect this part of his response, where he says that "in my part of the world and where I am currently in my career/life, this is the most fruitful and potentially influential approach that I can adopt." His part of the world is the dual environments of Athabasca University and the University of Texas at Arlington, and he is attempting to put together major research efforts around MOOCs and learning analytics. He is a relatively recent PhD and now making a name for himself in the academic community.

Unfortunately, in the realm of education and education theory, that same academic community has some very misguided ideas of what constitutes evidence and research. It has in recent years been engaged in a sustained attack on the very idea of the MOOC and alternative forms of learning not dependent on the traditional model of the professor, the classroom, and the academic degree. It is resisting, for good reason, incursions from the commercial sector into its space, but as a consequence, clinging to antiquated models and approaches to research.

Perhaps as a result, part of what Siemens has had to do in order to adapt to that world has been to recant his previous work. The Chronicle of Higher Education, which for years has advanced the anti-technology and anti-change argument on behalf of the professoriate, published (almost gleefully, it seemed to me), this abjuration as part and parcel of its article constituting part of the marketing campaign for the new study.
When MOOCs emerged a few years ago, many in the academic world were sent into a frenzy. Pundits made sweeping statements about the courses, saying that they were the future of education or that colleges would become obsolete, said George Siemens, an author of the report who is also credited with helping to create what we now know as a MOOC.

“It’s almost like we went through this sort of shameful period where we forgot that we were researchers and we forgot that we were scientists and instead we were just making decisions and proclamations that weren’t at all scientific,” said Mr. Siemens, an academic-technology expert at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Hype and rhetoric, not research, were the driving forces behind MOOCs, he argued. When they came onto the scene, MOOCs were not analyzed in a scientific way, and if they had been, it would have been easy to see what might actually happen and to conclude that some of the early predictions were off-base, Mr. Siemens said.
This recantation saddens me for a variety of reasons. For one this, we - Siemens and myself and others who were involved in the development of the MOOC - made no such statements. In the years between 2008, when the MOOC was created, and 2011, when the first MOOC emerged from a major U.S. university, the focus was on innovation and experimentation in a cautious though typically exuberant attitude. 

Yes, we had long argued that colleges and education had to change. But none of us ever asserted that the MOOC would accomplish this in one fell swoop. Those responsible for such rash assertions were established professors with respected academic credentials who came out of the traditional system, set up some overnight companies, and rashly declared that they had reinvented education.

It's true, Siemens has moved over to that camp, now working with EdX rather than the connectivist model we started with. But the people at EdX are equally rash and foolish:
(Anant) Argarwal (who launched EdX) is not a man prone to understatement. This, he says, is the revolution. "It's going to reinvent education. It's going to transform universities. It's going to democratise education on a global scale. It's the biggest innovation to happen in education for 200 years." The last major one, he says, was "probably the invention of the pencil". In a decade, he's hoping to reach a billion students across the globe. "We've got 400,000 in four months with no marketing, so I don't think it's unrealistic."
Again, these rash and foolish statements are coming from a respected university professor, a scion of the academy, part of this system Siemens is now attempting to join. As he recants, it is almost as though he recants for them, and not for us. But the Chronicle (of course) makes no such distinction. Why would it?

But the saddest part is that we never forgot that we were scientists and researchers. As I have often said in talks and interviews, there were things before MOOCs, there will be things after MOOCs, and this is only one stage in a wider scientific enterprise. And there was research, a lot of it, careful research involving hundreds and occasionally thousands of people, which was for the most part ignored by the wider academic community, even though peer reviewed and published in academic journals. Here's a set of papers by my colleagues at NRC, Rita Kop, Helene Fournier, Hanan Sitlia, Guillaume Durand. An additionally impressive body of papers has been authored and formally published by people like Frances Bell, Sui Fai John Mak, Jenny Mackness, and Roy Williams. This is only a sampling of the rich body of research surrounding MOOCs, research conducted by careful and credible scientists.

I would be remiss in not citing my own contributions, a body of literature in which I carefully and painstakingly assembled the facts and evidence leading toward connectivist theory and open learning technology. The Chronicle has never allowed the facts to get in the way of its opinions, but I have generally expected much better of Siemens, who is (I'm sure) aware of the contributions and work of the many colleagues that have worked with us over the years.

Here's what Siemens says about these colleagues in his recent blog post on the debate:
One approach is to emphasize loosely coupled networks organized by ideals through social media. This is certainly a growing area of societal impact on a number of fronts including racism, sexism, and inequality in general. In education, alt-ac and bloggers occupy this space. Another approach, and one that I see as complimentary and not competitive, is to emphasize research and evidence. (My emphasis)

In the previous case he could have been talking about the promulgators of entities like Coursera, Udacity and EdX, and the irresponsible posturing they have posed over the years. But in this case he is talking very specifically about the network of researchers around the ideas of the early MOOCs, connectivism, and related topics.

And what is key here is that he does not believe our work was based in research and evidence. Rather, we are members of what he characterizes as the 'Alt-Ac' space - "Bethany Nowviskie and Jason Rhody 'alt-ac' was shorthand for 'alternative academic' careers." Or: "the term was, in Nowviskie’s words,' a pointed push-back against the predominant phrase, 'nonacademic careers.' 'Non-academic' was the label for anything off the straight and narrow path to tenure.'" (Inside Higher Ed). Here's Siemens again:

This community, certainly blogs and with folks like Bonnie Stewart, Jim Groom, D’Arcy Norman, Alan Levine, Stephen Downes, Kate Bowles, and many others, is the most vibrant knowledge space in educational technology. In many ways, it is five years ahead of mainstream edtech offerings. Before blogs were called web 2.0, there was Stephen, David Wiley, Brian Lamb, and Alan Levine. Before networks in education were cool enough to attract MacArthur Foundation, there were open online courses and people writing about connectivism and networked knowledge. Want to know what’s going to happen in edtech in the next five years? This is the space where you’ll find it, today.
He says nice things about us. But he does not believe we emphasize research and evidence.

With all due respect, that's a load of crap. We could not be "what’s going to happen in edtech in the next five years" unless we were focused on evidence and research. Indeed, the reason why we are the future, and not (say) the respected academic professors in tenure track jobs is that we, unlike them, respect research and evidence. And that takes me to the second part of my argument, the part that states, in a nutshell, that what was presented in this report does not constitute "research and evidence." It's a shell game, a con game.

Let me explain. The first four chapters of this study are instances of what is called a 'tertiary study' (this is repeated eight times in the body of the work). And just as "any tertiary study is limited by the quality of data reported in the secondary sources, this study is dependent on the methodological qualities of those secondary sources." (p. 41) So what are the 'secondary sources'? You can find them listed in the first four chapters (the putative 'histories') (for example, the list on pp. 25-31). These are selected by doing a literature search, then culling them to those that meet the study's standards. The secondary surveys round up what they call 'primary' research, which are direct reports from empirical studies.

Here's a secondary study that's pretty typical: 'How does tele-learning compare with other forms of education delivery? A systematic review of tele-learning educational outcomes for health professionals'.The use of the archaic term 'tele-learning' may appear jarring, but despite many of the studies being from the early 2000s I selected this one as an example because it's relatively recent, from 2013. This study (and again, remember, it's typical, because the methodology in the tertiary study specifically focuses on these types of studies):
The review included both synchronous (content delivered simultaneously to face-to-face and tele-learning cohorts) and asynchronous delivery models (content delivered to the cohorts at different times). Studies utilising desktop computers and the internet were included where the technologies were used for televised conferencing, including synchronous and asynchronous streamed lectures. The review excluded facilitated e-learning and online education models such as the use of social networking, blogs, wikis and BlackboardTM learning management system software.

Of the 47 studies found using the search methods, 13 were found to be useful for the purposes of this paper. It is worth looking at the nature of this 'primary literature':

(Sorry about the small size - you can view the data in the original study, pp. 72-73)

Here's what should be noticed from these studies:
  • They all have very small sample sizes, usually less than 50 people, with a maximum size less than 200 people
  • The people studies are exclusively university students enrolled in a traditional university course
  • The method being studies is almost exclusively the lecture method
  • The outcomes are assessed almost exclusively in the form of test results
  • Although many are 'controlled' studies, most are not actually controlled for "potential confounders"
This is what is being counted as "evidence"for "tele-learning educational outcomes." No actual scientific study would accept such 'evidence' for any conclusion, however tentative. But this is typical and normal in the academic world Siemens is attempting to join, and this is by his own words what constitutes "research and evidence."

Why is this evidence bad? The sample sizes are too small for quantificational results (and the studies are themselves are inconsistent so you can't simply sum the results).The sample is biased in favour of people who have already had success in traditional lecture-based courses, and consists of only that one teaching method. A very narrow definition  of 'outcomes' is employed. And other unknown factors may have contaminated the results. And all these criticisms apply if you think this is the appropriate sort of study to measure educational effectiveness, which I do not.

I said above it was a con game. It is. None of these studies is academically rigorous. They are conducted by individual professors running experiments on their own (or sometimes a colleague's) classes.The studies are conducted by people without a background in education, subject to no observational constraints, employing a theory of learning which has been for decades outdated and obsolete. These people have no business pretending that what they are doing is 'research'. They are playing at being researchers, because once you're in the system, you are rewarded for running these studies and publishing the results in journals specifically designed for this purpose.

What it reminds me of is the sub-prime mortgage crisis. What happened is that banks earned profits by advancing bad loans to people who could not afford to pay them. The value of these mortgages was sliced into what were called 'tranches' (which is French for 'slice', if you ever wondered) and sold as packages - so they went from primary sources to secondary sources. These then were formed into additional tranches and sold on the international market. From secondary to tertiary. By this time they were being offered by respectable financial institutions and the people buying them had no idea how poorly supported they were. (I'm not the first to make this comparison.)

Not surprisingly, the reports produce trivial and misleading results, producing science that is roughly equal in value to the studies that went into it. Let's again focus on the first chapter. Here are some of the observations and discussions:
it seems likely that asynchronous delivery is superior to traditional classroom delivery, which in turn is more effective than synchronous distance education delivery. (p. 38)

both synchronous and asynchronous distance education have the potential to be as effective as traditional classroom instruction (or better). However, this might not be the case in the actual practice of distance education (p. 39)

all three forms of interaction produced positive effect sizes on academic performance... To foster quality interactions between students, an analysis of the role of instructional design and instructional interventions planning is essential.

In order to provide sufficient academic support, understanding stakeholder needs is a main prerequisite alongside the understanding of student attrition (p.40)

I'm not saying these are wrong so much as I am saying they are trivial. The field as a whole (or, at least, as I understand it) has advanced far beyond talking in such unspecific generalities as 'asynchronous', 'interaction' and 'support'. Because the studies themselves are scientifically empty, no useful conclusions can be drawn from the metastudy, and the tertiary study produces vague statements that are worse than useless (worse, because they are actually pretending to be new and valuable, to be counted as "research and evidence" against the real research being performed outside academia).

Here is the 'model' of the field produced by the first paper:

It's actually more detailed than the models provided in the other papers. But it is structurally and methodologically useless, and hopelessly biased in favour of the traditional model of education as practiced in the classrooms where the original studies took place. At best it could be a checklist of things to think about if you're (say) using PowerPoint slides in your classroom. But in reality, we don't know what the arrows actually mean, the 'interaction' arrows are drawn from Moore (1989) , and the specific bits (eg. "use of LMS") say nothing about whether we should or whether we shouldn't.

The fifth chapter of the book is constructed differently from the first four, being a summary of the results submitted from the MOOC Research Institute (MRI). Here's how it is introduced:
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have captured the interest and attention of academics and the public since fall of 2011 (Pappano, 2012). The narrative driving interest in MOOCs, and more broadly calls for change in higher education, is focused on the promise of large systemic change.

The unfortunate grammar obscures the meaning, but aside from the citation of that noted academic, Laura Pappano of the New York Times, the statements are generally false. Remember, academics were studying MOOCs prior to 2011. And the interest of academics (as opposed to hucksters and journalists) was not focused on 'the promise of large systemic change' nearly so much as it was to ionvestigate the employment of connectivist theory in practice. But of course, this introduction is not talking about cMOOs at all, but rather, the xMOOCs that were almost exclusively the focus of the study.

Indeed, it is difficult for me to reconcile the nature and intent of the MRI with what Siemens writes in his article:
What I’ve been grappling with lately is “how do we take back education from edtech vendors?”. The jubilant rhetoric and general nonsense causes me mild rashes. I recognize that higher education is moving from an integrated end-to-end system to more of an ecosystem with numerous providers and corporate partners. We have gotten to this state on auto-pilot, not intentional vision.

Let's examine the MOOC Research Institute to examine this degree of separation:
MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a set of investments intended to explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways.
To support the MOOC Research Initiative Grants, the following Steering Committee has been established to provide guidance and direction:
Yvonne Belanger, Gates Foundation
Stacey Clawson, Gates Foundation
Marti Cleveland-Innes, Athabasca University
Jillianne Code, University of Victoria
Shane Dawson, University of South Australia
Keith Devlin, Stanford University
Tom (Chuong) Do, Coursera
Phil Hill, Co-founder of MindWires Consulting and co-publisher of e-Literate blog
Ellen Junn, San Jose State University
Zack Pardos, MIT
Barbara Means, SRI International
Steven Mintz, University of Texas
Rebecca Petersen, edX
Cathy Sandeen, American Council on Education
George Siemens, Athabasca University
With a couple of exceptions, these are exactly the people and the projects that are the "edtech vendors" vendors Siemens says he is trying to distance himself from. He has not done this; instead he has taken their money and put them on the committee selecting the papers that will be 'representative' of academic research taking place in MOOCs.

Why was this work necessary? We are told:
Much of the early research into MOOCs has been in the form of institutional reports by early MOOC projects, which offered many useful insights, but did not have the rigor — methodological and/or theoretical expected for peer-reviewed publication in online learning and education (Belanger & Thornton, 2013; McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, & Cormier, 2010).

We already know that this is false - and it is worth noting that this study criticizing the lack of academic rigour cites a paper titled  'Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach' (Belanger & Thornton, 2013) and an unpublished paper from 2010 titled 'The MOOC model for digital practice' (McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, & Cormier, 2010). A lot of this paper - and this book - is like that. Despite all its pretensions of academic rigour, it cites liberally and lavishly from non-academic sources in what appears mostly to be an effort to establish its own  relevance and to disparage the work that came before.

I commented on this paper in my OLDaily post:

The most influential thinker in the field, according to one part of the study, is L. Pappano (see the chart, p. 181). Who is this, you ask? The author of the New York Times article in 2012, 'The Year of the MOOC'. Influential and important contributors like David Wiley, Rory McGreal, Jim Groom, Gilbert Paquette, Tony Bates (and many many more)? Almost nowhere to be found.

Here is the chart of citations collated from the papers selected by the committee for the MOOC Research Network (p. 181):

 Here is the citation frequencies from the same papers (p. 180):

What is interesting to note in these citations is that the people who Siemens considers to be 'Alt-Ac' above - Mackness, Stewart, Williams, Cormier, Kop, Williams, Mackness - all appear in this list. Some others - Garrison (I assume they mean Randy Garrison, not D.D.) and Terry Anderson, notably, are well known and respected writers in the field. The research we were told several times does not exist apparently does exist. The remainder come from the xMMOC community, for example,  Pritchard from EdX, Chris Peich from Stanford, Daniel Seaton (EdX). Tranches.

But what I say about the rest of the history of academic literature in education remains true. The authors selected to be a part of the MOOC Research Institute produced papers with only the slightest - if any - understanding of the history and context in which MOOCs developed. They do not have a background in learning technology and learning theory (except to observe that it's a good thing). The incidences of citations arise from repeated references to single papers (like this one) and not a depth of literature in the field.

What were the conclusions of this fifth paper? As a result, nothing more substantial than the first four (quoted, pp. 188-189):
  • Research needs to create with theoretical underpinnings that will explain factors related to social aspects in MOOCs
  • Novel theoretical and practical frameworks of understanding and organizing social learning in MOOCs are necessary
  • The connection with learning theory has also been recognized as another important feature of the research proposals submitted to MRI
  • The new educational context of MOOCs triggered research for novel course and curriculum design principles
This is why I said in my assessment of the paper that "the major conclusion you'll find in these research studies is that (a) research is valuable, and (b) more research is needed." These are empty conclusions, suggesting that either the authors of the original papers, or the authors summarizing the papers, had almost nothing to say.

In summary, I stand by my conclusion that the book is a muddled mess. I'm disappointed that Siemens feels the need to defend it by dismissing the work that most of his colleagues have undertaken since 2008, and by advancing this nonsense as "research and evidence."

02 May 19:46

RIP Dan, RIP Dave

by Matt

We’ve lost two incredible souls this week: first Dan Fredinburg in Nepal and now Dave Goldberg has unexpectedly passed. I encourage you to Google articles about their lives, like this one about Dave Goldberg or this on Dan, because both were unique and incredible individuals. In an example of how software can have unintended effect on emotions, I just realized I had a pending friend request on Facebook from Dan, probably years old. :( Going through a lot of emotions, but a good reminder that life can be fleeting and to make time for friends and those who you love, something both of these men were great at. May they both rest in peace.

02 May 19:10

Five things on Friday [on Saturday] #122

by James Whatley

Things of note for the week ending Friday May 1st, 2015.

the things, there are five of them



My two-year old daughter, dance recital. Pink tutu. Cat ears on her head. Along with five other two-year-olds, in front of a crowd of 75 parents and grandparents, these little toddlers put on a show. You can imagine the rest. You’ve seen these videos on Youtube, maybe I have shown you my videos. The cuteness level was extreme, a moment that defines a certain kind of parental pride. My daughter didn’t even dance, she just wandered around the stage, looking at the audience with eyes as wide as a two-year old’s eyes starting at a bunch of strangers. It didn’t matter that she didn’t dance, I was so proud. I took photos, and video, with my phone.

There is so much relevance here I feel like copy and pasting the whole article word for word. You wanna talk about neuroplasticity?

Try this:

So, every new email you get gives you a little flood of dopamine. Every little flood of dopamine reinforces your brain’s memory that checking email gives a flood of dopamine. And our brains are programmed to seek out things that will give us little floods of dopamine. Further, these patterns of behaviour start creating neural pathways, so that they become unconscious habits: Work on something important, brain itch, check email, dopamine, refresh,dopamine, check Twitter, dopamine, back to work. Over and over, and each time the habit becomes more ingrained in the actual structures of our brains.

How can books compete?

This is a recurring theme [for me] at the moment. I saw the amazing neuroplasticity talk (#neurobrand) at SXSW (y’know, the one I mentioned during item number two last week) and ironically enough, it’s been playing on my mind ever since.

Neurons that fire together, wire together – right?

Email is bad.

Digital dopamine is bad.


I’ve recently signed up to Headspace (cheers Jed) maybe you should too.

Also: read the whole article quoted above.

All of it.

In one sitting.


Jeroen Akkermans is an RTL News Correspondent for Holland. With the still-under-investigation MH17 air disaster on lockdown (dubbed ‘the biggest crime scene in the world’) Akkermans decided to do some investigation himself.

It’s unbelievable that no one, thing, or group has been held accountable for this crime.

If you know anything about the theories behind this ‘accident’ then you’ll know where the main evidence points – and reading Akkermans’ words serves only to underline them further.

MH17 Crash: my revealing fragments from east Ukraine

This slideshare document, from one of London’s better looking plannery-shaped pessimists, is really on point. What does the future of influence actually look like?

There be gold in these slides.

This is worth reading: back in Five Things #119 I stated that The Verge had written the definitive review of the Apple Watch. I take it back.

This beats that.

Oh, and this is fun too.

The premise of this photo shoot is simple: ‘What would cities look like if they were lit only by the stars?’ – and the photographer, Thierry Cohen, nails it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 19.48.23 Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 19.50.41 Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 19.57.04




Bonuses this week consist of three awesome videos.

  • Video 1 is one man’s attempt to save a falling drone. Watch this one to the end.
  • Video 2 asks the question: ‘What if Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL’ was in colour?’
  • Video 3 demonstrates how dangerous ‘one click’ purchase can really be.


Hope you’re having a gorgeous weekend, until next time..

Whatley out.


02 May 22:55

Apple Watch – Day 9 check-in

by janet tokerud


Which Apple Watch?

Acquired Apple Watch on April 24. I went with the Sport Watch for the price and the lightness over the Sapphire lens. So far no scratches. Part of my thinking was that Apple does an awesome job with aluminum. The iPhone looks stellar, why would I want to spend more to get stainless steel? It’s the same wrist-computer, after all. And, like I said, I wanted light.

Got the Space Gray with Black Sports Band. Working like a charm. Comfortable. Doesn’t bother me to keep it on all the time. Good to go! Yes. This is my dog, Spinner. Kind of fun to have her on my wrist.

Got the 42mm. This was a close call as I have small wrists. So the 42mm watch is pretty big on my wrist but I have worn bigger in the old days from time to time. And I survived. I went for the screen real estate and the extra battery life. No regrets.

Does Apple Watch Meet my Expectations?

It’s working great for my first goal of Standing regularly. This alone may justify the purchase. Actual Goal 1 was to learn about this new wearable computer something I’ve heard about for 20 years back when all this stuff was in the future. Now we have something real and backed by Apple’s economic power to change the world.

My minimum requirements are good. I haven’t mastered notifications so they are hit or miss and sometimes I get haptic notifications and sometimes not. I’m sure more will be revealed but I’m busy right now with work so don’t have oodles of time to sort all this out. At least now the Apple Watch is on my wrist so I’m getting to experience this ground breaking new release from day one.

Experiencing the Apple Watch

The experience is pretty transparent, actually, if you don’t count getting dinged to stand up every hour. I usually beat it to the punch partly because I’m afraid I’ll miss one of my hours and I like to get as many Stands as I can per day at this point in the game.

I don’t notice that the watch is on my wrist. That’s the transparent part. It’s just there. After a good 15 years not wearing a watch, it’s kind of handy to have one on my person. And in addition to my iPhone which might not be in an app that shows the time or is somewhere in the house but not on me. It’s pretty rare to not have the iPhone near, but the watch is really near. Even if it takes a half second to turn on.

I have no doubt I will be wearing this watch for the foreseeable future. At least until next year’s version that is. I would love to be able to control some of the variables myself. One great candidate would be how long the watch stays on before going to sleep. I would push it to at least 20 seconds over the current 15 unless battery life got to be an issue.

Looking forward to learning more and seeing cooler and cooler apps over time. Developers have had little to no time to learn how to take advantage of this device. As they learn and iterate, all sorts of improvements will be made.

02 May 01:35

Memory Machines: Education Technology Without the Memex

Among the things that (education) technology is supposed to revolutionize: memory.

Memory in computers is not wholly analogous to memory in humans, of course, despite using that same word to describe what we are increasingly coming to think of as a process of information storage and retrieval.

Human memory is partial, filtered, contextual, malleable; computer memory is fixed (we hope – until the machinery fails, at least). You store written text about and photos from your vacation on your hard drive, and these will never change; as long as that drive functions and the file format persists, the story of your vacation will remain accessible. Human memory is different. The story – the memory – will change over time. It can be embellished; it can be forgotten. We forget by design.

Now (purportedly) the machine can remember for you.

As educational practices have long involved memorization (along with its kin, recitation), changes to memory – that is, off-loading this functionality to machines – could, some argue, change how and what we learn, how and what we must recall in the process.

And so the assertion goes, machine-based memory will prove superior: it is indexable, searchable. It can included things read and unread, things learned and things forgotten. As such, it is highly “personalized.”

The Memex

This vision of personalized, machine-based memory is not new (although I would argue it remains almost entirely unfulfilled). Here is an excerpt by Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, whose article “As We May Think” was published in 1945 in The Atlantic:

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.

In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism. Yet if the user inserted 5000 pages of material a day it would take him hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely.

Most of the memex contents are purchased on microfilm ready for insertion. Books of all sorts, pictures, current periodicals, newspapers, are thus obtained and dropped into place. Business correspondence takes the same path. And there is provision for direct entry. On the top of the memex is a transparent platen. On this are placed longhand notes, photographs, memoranda, all sorts of things. When one is in place, the depression of a lever causes it to be photographed onto the next blank space in a section of the memex film, dry photography being employed.

There is, of course, provision for consultation of the record by the usual scheme of indexing. If the user wishes to consult a certain book, he taps its code on the keyboard, and the title page of the book promptly appears before him, projected onto one of his viewing positions. Frequently-used codes are mnemonic, so that he seldom consults his code book; but when he does, a single tap of a key projects it for his use. Moreover, he has supplemental levers. On deflecting one of these levers to the right he runs through the book before him, each page in turn being projected at a speed which just allows a recognizing glance at each. If he deflects it further to the right, he steps through the book 10 pages at a time; still further at 100 pages at a time. Deflection to the left gives him the same control backwards.

A special button transfers him immediately to the first page of the index. Any given book of his library can thus be called up and consulted with far greater facility than if it were taken from a shelf. As he has several projection positions, he can leave one item in position while he calls up another. He can add marginal notes and comments, taking advantage of one possible type of dry photography, and it could even be arranged so that he can do this by a stylus scheme, such as is now employed in the telautograph seen in railroad waiting rooms, just as though he had the physical page before him.

Memory Machines (versus Teaching Machines)

Bush’s essay and his vision for the Memex influenced both Douglas Englebart (see his 1962 article “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”) and Ted Nelson (the Memex, with its associative linking, is often cited as a precursor to hypertext).

While it sparked the imagination of Englebart and Nelson, the idea of the Memex seems to have had little effect on the direction that education technology has taken. (It is in retrospect one of those forks in the history of computing that, as Bret Victor has pointed out, people failed to take.) Indeed, the development of teaching machines, during and after WWII, was far less concerned with an “augmented intellect” than with enhanced instruction.

As Paul Saettler writes about computer-assisted instruction in his history of ed-tech The Evolution of American Educational Technology,

The bulk of the CAI projects during the 1960s and 1970s were directly descended from Skinnerian teaching machines and reflected a behaviorist orientation. The typical CAI presentation modes known as drill-and-practice and tutorial were characterized by a strong degree of author control rather than learner control. The student was asked to make simple responses, fill in the blanks, choose among a restricted set of alternatives, or supply a missing word or phrase. If the response was wrong, the machine would assume control, flash the word “wrong,” and generate another problem. If the response was correct, additional material would be presented. The function of the computer was to present increasingly difficult material and provide reinforcement for correct responses. The program was very much in control and the student had little flexibility.

Rather than building devices that could enhance human memory and human knowledge for each individual, education technology has focused instead on devices that standardize the delivery of curriculum, that run students through various exercises and assessments, and that provide behavioral reinforcement.

Memory as framed by most education (technology) theories and practices has involved memorization – like the early twenthieth century concepts of Edward Thorndike’s “law of recency,” for example, or H. F. Spitzer’s “spaced repetition.” That is, ed-tech products often dictate what to learn and when and how to learn it. (This is still marketed as “personalization.”)

The History of the Future of Personal Learning Infrastructure

The Memex could be seen as an antecedent to more recent efforts like “Domain of One’s Own,” “lifebits” and “hosted lifebits,” and IndieWebCamp, where the shape and control of technology is both individualized and decentralized.

That means that one should ask, of course, who would actually control the Memex. Is the software and the hardware (or in Bush’s terms, the material and the desk) owned and managed and understood by each individual or is it simply licensed and managed by another engineer, company, school, or organization? Who has access to our learning/memories?

01 May 12:08

Why Joe and I are Voting Yes on the BC Transit Referendum

by Maggie

We are voting Yes for in the BC Transit Referendum for transit expansion because it is the right thing to do: for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our city, and for our planet. For a relatively small annual cost to each household, we can expand transit and ensure that Vancouver continues to be a liveable region for years to come.

The post Why Joe and I are Voting Yes on the BC Transit Referendum appeared first on Average Joe Cyclist.

01 May 21:27

OmniOutliner for Mac 4.2.1

It’s on the Omni website and will be on the Mac App Store once approved. (In a week, give or take, I suppose.)

I like this particular release a ton because we concentrated on fixing crashing bugs to the exclusion of almost everything else.

Ideally we’d have zero known crashing bugs. OmniOutliner isn’t quite there, but it can see that promised land from where it stands.

Argument about crashes

You could argue that fixing crashes isn’t that important these days. The risk of data loss isn’t what it was, now that so many apps do auto-saving, syncing, and state restoration. And re-launching an app is much quicker than it used to be. (Remember the old days of counting the number of bounces in the Dock?)

So a crash is really just a slight annoyance, you could argue — and you could argue that users take the occasional crash in stride.

I understand the argument, and I disagree. Each crash means somebody got a little surprised and angry, even if only for a moment — and that’s hard to wave away. If you care about your craft, you care deeply that what you make never unintentionally makes somebody mad.

And it’s also notable that once a user triggers a particular crash, they’re fairly likely to hit it again. Maybe it’s something about their document, or their machine, or the steps they’re taking to accomplish a certain task.

That person won’t be slightly annoyed at the second and third crashes. That person is — quite rightly — going to email support, particularly if the crash stops them from completing their work. So now the crash, however rare, is costing the developer time and money. (If you don’t buy the craft argument, you should buy this pragmatic one.)

Software doesn’t have to crash. You may think that it’s an idealistic goal, but it’s not — it’s do-able (I’ve done it; other people have done it), and it matters.

29 Apr 22:23

Automatic Face Tagging Now Supported in my Upload-to-Facebook Plugin for Lightroom

by Jeffrey Friedl

I've just released a new version of my Upload-to-Facebook plugin for Adobe Lightroom that can automatically tag people in photos you upload to Facebook.

It requires Lightroom CC/6, which was released last week, and also the latest version of my People Support plugin, which now allows you to associate a Facebook account with people in your Lightroom catalog.

Here's an example of how it works....

First, using Lightroom CC/6's facial recognition features, ensure that all faces that you want to tag are noted within the People view of the Library module.

People View
in Lightroom's Library module, with photos from this outing

If Lightroom does not automatically detect everything you want, you can manually add the faces with the “Draw Face Region” tool, available in Loupe (single-image mode) in Library, as illustrated here:

In the screenshot above, I'm in the process of drawing a rectangle around the back of the nearest cyclist's head, which of course wasn't automatically recognized as a “face” by Lightroom. Nevertheless, I want the cyclist to be recognized as a Person in my catalog, and to be tagged with his name at Facebook.

The “Draw Face Region” tool is available only in Library's Loupe mode (the keyboard shortcut to bring up Loupe mode is “E”). The tool is enabled via the bust-in-a-rectangle icon on the toolbar, highlighted with the orange circle near the bottom of the screenshot above.

If you don't see the toolbar in Lightroom, you can bring it up with the “T” keyboard shortcut. (“T” again toggles it away.)

If you see the toolbar but don't see the face-region tool icon, either your window is not wide enough to show the icon, or you've not enabled it for your toolbar. In either case, you can adjust things to your liking by using the little down-triangle icon at the far right, highlighted with a purple circle in the screenshot. There you can pick and choose what to show in the toolbar.

When you enable this tool, face regions that have already been recognized are shown, and you can drag out a new region with the mouse, as I'm doing in the screenshot above. There, I'm about ready to fill in the name of the foreground cyclist; earlier, I'd drawn and named the background cyclists.

Once I've done that for all the photos that I intend to upload to Facebook, I want to make sure that I've associated a Facebook account with each person that I intend to tag at Facebook. I do this via my People Support's “Manage Keyword People” dialog, which I invoke via:

      “File > Plugin Extras > Open People-Support Dialog”

(Actually, I use it enough that I've assigned a keyboard shortcut to it, in my case “Control-Option-Command P”.)

The dialog brings up the hundreds of People keywords that my catalog has accumulated so far, which is overwhelming. I immediately cut this down to just the people found in the currently-selected photos by entering “!” in the “Filter” box, as illustrated here:

The “!” is one of the special search terms that the dialog supports, omitting anyone not tagged in the currently-selected photos. (Before invoking the dialog, I'd selected all photos I intend to upload.)

I want to make sure that each name has a small Facebook icon next to it, meaning that I've associated Facebook accounts with all of them. In the example above, I've not yet associated Gorm with his Facebook account, so I click on his name to do that now:

I click on the highlighted button and paste in the URL for his Facebook profile page, and now I've got accounts associated with all the people in my next upload.

Finally, in the dialog for my Facebook export or publish, I make sure that I do not strip people information. The option to so do is in Lightroom's standard “Metadata” section of the Publish or Export Dialog:

I make sure that “Remove Person Info” is not enabled, and proceed with the upload to Facebook. The result is an album filled with photos with my friends already tagged.

01 May 16:46

HTC One M9 gains RAW capture support with new Camera app update

by Daniel Bader

When HTC launched the One M9, which has been available in Canada for nearly two weeks, the company promised RAW capture support for the 20MP camera.

Twenty megapixels makes a lot of data, but the limitations of JPEG compression mar much of the finer details. Shooting in RAW, which produces a DNG (digital negative) file in addition to a regularly-sized JPEG, allows users to edit facets of the photo in desktop imaging apps like Lightroom or Aperture, to bring out its best qualities.

In an update to the HTC Camera app, downloaded through then Play Store, users now have the option of shooting in RAW, though editing the file is not possible on the phone itself. The update also makes it easy to hide unused photo modes.

While the One M9 has been criticized for its disappointing photo quality, RAW shooting should go a long way to attracting more serious photographers to the device. The recently-announced LG G4 also supports RAW mode out of the box.

SourceHTC Camera
01 May 17:22

The Grid. The most important enabler of mass cycling, but a cycling concept which is often misunderstood.

by David Hembrow
The need for a very fine grid of high quality, safe and efficient cycling routes is something I've been writing about for many years. Since 2008 on this blog, for instance. It may seem simple and obvious, but this concept is often misinterpreted and very often watered down. Does your city have an airport ? If not, pretend that it does for a moment. Think of a truly amazing airport with a dozen
01 May 17:27

Android 5.1 update for Nexus 9 is around the corner

by Rajesh Pandey
An Android engineering manager at Google has confirmed that the Android 5.1 update for the Nexus 9 is just around the corner.  Continue reading →
01 May 15:17

Simple Rules for Hard Decisions

by rands

The authors identify two types of simple rules: Those that can help you make decisions and those that can help you do things.

Decision rules set boundaries, prioritize alternatives, and establish stopping points. The disastrous ascent of Mount Everest that resulted in eight deaths in 1996, chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s best-selling book Into Thin Air, was precipitated by the violation of a single rule that had been set by Scott Fischer, an expedition leader: “If you aren’t on the top by 2:00, it’s time to turn around.” (Any later and the risks were exponentially greater because the exhausted climbers would have to make the descent to their camp in the dark.) After unexpected delays, Fischer and most of the party ignored the rule and kept climbing. Fischer himself didn’t summit until 3:45 p.m. Unfortunately, his body is still on the mountain.

(From Theodore Kinni on Quartz)


01 May 16:50

So, this happened

by Patrick Cain

Global News racks up 4 Canadian Association of Journalists award nominations #CAJ

— (@globalnews) May 1, 2015

01 May 12:34

Open Badges spec v1.1 Release

I’m excited to share with you all the work we’ve been devoting ourselves to in the Badge Alliance Standard Working Group over the past several months. We are releasing the latest Open Badges v1.1 specification today. Yay!!!!

Details here:


This work has been done in collaboration with the W3C Credential Community Group under the leadership of Nate Otto from Concentric Sky with the support and stewardship of Kerri Lemoie, Chris McAvoy, John Knight, myself, and the larger standards working group and open badges community - so truly a community driven effort with no shortage of contributors and folks who have guided and helped us along the way!

A couple things to note about this release:

  • This specification is fully backwards compatible with v1.0.
  • We have adapted the specification to use Linked Data/JSON-LD technology which is increasingly being adopted by the big players such as Google, Yahoo, Yandex and Microsoft. You can read more about that here. This only requires adding three new JSON-LD properties to new badges to make them fully understandable Linked Data: @context, id and type

What are the benefits of JSON-LD?

  • This will enable all 1.1 Open Badges to be indexed and understood better by search engines and directories.
  • Key stakeholders in the ecosystem such as issuers, earners and badge consumers will benefit from well-understood, well-defined and context-driven metadata.

The biggest feature introduction is the extension specification. As many of you know, open badges metadata fields are clearly defined, and there has long been the ability to add additional data to badges but nothing was ever done with this additional data. Increasingly members in the community have been requesting the ability to add additional fields to satisfy the particular needs of their communities in a way that can be understood across different issuers. The extension specification enables just that. We think this has a couple advantages:

  • We can keep the open badges foundational metadata itself lean.
  • We can experiment with additional fields through the extension field first. If we see increasing use of a particular extension, say geolocation extension, we can start a discussion around the utility of bringing it into the foundational specification.

As many of you already know, Open Badges are comprised of 3 objects: Assertion, Badge Class and Issuer. Any of these 3 badge objects may be extended.

We think this is an exciting development for the Open Badges community.

We will be making sure to dedicate some time to this release during our next open badges community call on May 13! Come with your questions!

In the mean time, Nate Otto and Tim Cook have been putting together this FAQ

Please reach out to us with any feedback, comments or questions. Thank you all for your ongoing support of this important work.

01 May 18:04

Meerkat now available to everyone on Android

by Ian Hardy

Live streaming service Meerkat released a private beta for its forthcoming Android app on April 16th. At the time, the company didn’t say how many people would be welcomed into the beta, or when the app would be released to everyone.

Now, two weeks later, Meerkat is available to all Android users running 4.2 and up. The app still carries the beta tag, but there don’t seem to be any restrictions in terms of device compatibility.

In the race to own the live streaming app space, Meerkat’s main competitor is Periscope, which is owned by Twitter and doesn’t yet offer an Android app. The latest iOS stats revealed Periscope had 1 million downloads within its first 10 days of availability. Meerkat, on the other hand, had 120,000 after three weeks. As of today, Meerkat’s Android app has been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times.

Meerkat notes in its Android app description that “everything that happens on Meerkat happens on Twitter” and you should “be kind” with the content you stream. Recently, the NHL banned the use of live streaming apps such as Periscope and Meerkat at its games, stating that using the apps were a “violation of the NHL’s Broadcast Guidelines.”

01 May 17:07

Manny Pacquiao's name defeats most boxing 'experts' - CNNMoney


Manny Pacquiao's name defeats most boxing 'experts'
By Leezel Tanglao @leezeltanglao. How do you pronounce 'Pacquiao?' You've been hearing about it non-stop since it was announced -- the "Fight of the Century" -- Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao. Forget what you've heard. Chances are you've ...
Betting 'unprecedented' on Mayweather-Pacquiao fightWDBJ7

all 12,381 news articles »
01 May 18:35

Custom BBM PINs discounted by 50%

by Ian Hardy

Back in March, BlackBerry introduced custom BBM PINs on iOS, Android, and BlackBerry 10, allowing millions of users to personalize their identification numbers for a monthly subscription of $1.99 (USD). The move was a part of John Chen’s strategy to gain $100 million in BBM revenue by the end of fiscal 2015.

BlackBerry hasn’t indicated how many custom PINs have been purchased, but “spring is in the air” and BlackBerry is offering something loyal BBM users might want to take advantage of. For now until an unspecified time in the future, new and existing BBM users can get their own custom PIN for a 50% discount at $0.99 cents per month.

Custom PINs  can be purchased from the BBM Shop, and can be anything as long as they are between six and eight characters.

Source BlackBerry
01 May 18:35

MobileSyrup Community is now open! Come join the conversation

by Ian Hardy

There is nothing better than a good conversation, and  MobileSyrup readers are incredibly passionate. Whether it’s the latest smartphone, tablet, smartwatch, fitness band or even the latest game, Canadians are more connected now than ever before.

Today, we’re launching the MobileSyrup Community. Signing up for our community is a simple affair: either drop in an email and password, or log in through your favourite social platform, and you’ll be good to join in the conversation.

Since our core focus on MobileSyrup is providing Canadian-centric news and reviews, the community will be a place for you to post questions and find answers, or just randomly rant about a specific company, carrier or operating system.

There are four sections within the Community:

- Carriers: Discuss the latest on Canadian carriers, such as plans, phones or coverage.

- Platforms: Discuss the latest news or updates on iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

- Manufacturers: Discuss the latest trends, designs, sales and defects from various mobile manufacturers.

- General Discussions: Discuss anything and everything you want, such as gaming, accessories and wearables.

The latest posts will appear at the top of the forum, but if you’re interested in keeping up with a specific topic, we’ve included a subscribe button that will notify you of replies.

You love to talk. We love to talk. Let’s do it together.

Enter the MobileSyrup Community here

01 May 19:03

How to turn off Briefing screen on Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge

by Rajesh Pandey
Samsung has greatly toned down TouchWiz on the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge by removing most of the unneeded features from its skin. However, some of the features that barely add any value, are still present — possibly to remind Galaxy S6 owners that they are still dealing with TouchWiz here. Continue reading →
01 May 19:24

Music streaming service Grooveshark closes after copyright settlement

mkalus shared this story from globeandmail - Law.

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>, one of the Internet’s earliest, but most legally murky, streaming music services, shut down this week as the result of a settlement with major record labels.

Its parent company, Escape Media Group Inc., faced trial in a New York federal court this week that could have seen the company pay more than $736-million (U.S.) in damages for copyright violations on close to 5,000 songs, Reuters reported.

The trial started Monday, but on Thursday night, Grooveshark’s founders announced that a settlement had been reached and that as a result the service would immediately cease operations.

Traditional streaming music services pay royalties rights holders, like record labels and publishing companies, for each play by a user. While these are usually worth fractions of a penny, they can add up to significant quantities. Grooveshark allowed users to upload music to be listened to by other users across the service, circumventing these cumbersome, but legally required, licensing agreements.

The service’s website has been replaced with a statement apologizing for the company’s actions, admitting that it “failed” to secure licences. “That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation,” the statement reads.

While streaming video enterprises like Netflix have seen profit and widespread adoption, audio streaming has lagged behind in both. The shuttering of Grooveshark is a major step forward in the maturation of audio streaming services, evening the playing field for legitimate competitors like Spotify and Rdio while encouraging consumers that music, even when streamed, has value worth paying for.

When Grooveshark began operating in 2006, downloads were king, and there were so few competitors that consumers who wanted to stream had few options. But in the past few years, streaming music has seen massive growth, making licensing agreements the norm.

“Grooveshark consciously broke the law and knew it,” said Terry McBride, founder and chief executive of the Vancouver independent label Nettwerk Records and a well-known proponent of fairly licensed digital music. “The very big difference between now and a decade ago is that there’s alternatives that offer a free way of doing it that are licensed and that treat everyone in the ecosystem fairly.”

It once boasted 35 million paying users. But now the Swedish service Spotify, which has licensing agreements for all of its audio content, has 60 million users, one-quarter of which pays via subscription, and three-quarters of which pay nothing, but must hear ads. The marketplace for on-demand audio streaming is now full of healthy competition, including Deezer, Rdio, Jay-Z’s high-fidelity Tidal service and Google Play.

None of them has turned a sustainable profit, but the streaming industry has seen impressive growth in the last few years. While the $15-billion global recording industry saw flat growth in 2014, the decline of CD and download sales was bolstered by 39 per cent revenue growth from streaming. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a major recording industry lobby group, said in a report earlier this month that subscription streaming is becoming a “key driver” of the floundering industry.

Grooveshark’s business model relied on having users upload music to their servers, rather than licensing from the companies who owned the rights. This free-for-all mentality also used to extend to YouTube, but the Google-owned video player has, in recent years, been pulling down audio that includes unlicensed music. YouTube also introduced its paid “Music Key” program last Fall that works in conjunction with its Google Play streaming music service.

Reuters reported that the Grooveshark’s growth plan was fuelled by unlicensed content with a plan to “beg forgiveness” when caught by labels.

“If Grooveshark had gone and gotten properly licensed, they might still be around right now,” Mr. McBride said in an interview.

Representatives from streaming services such as TIDAL, Rdio and Deezer did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication.

01 May 21:49

Remembering Daffyd ap Moran

by Bruce Byfield

Today, I learned from a comment on my blog that a friend had killed himself. His name was Gary Wadham, but I always thought of him as Daffyd ap Moran, his name in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).

We lost touch years ago, but there was a time when Trish and I considered Daffyd one of our closest friends. We were living a few blocks from him in New Westminster, and frequently saw him several evenings a week. On weekends, we often saw him at SCA events, where he served as a marshall during fights and played his guitar at feasts. He had a thin voice, but enthusiasm and a large repertoire of SCA songs more than made up for it. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, playing “Duke Paul,” the “Sam Hall” parody about Paul of Bellatrix,” and, later in the night, the off-color “The Ball of Ballinor,” and, more reluctantly – because he hated the song for its mediocrity despite its local popularity – “Lions Gate the Fair.”

In fact, we were close enough that he presided over our medieval wedding in Druidical green. Although not a pagan, he took his duties seriously, fasting beforehand despite (if I remember correctly) being borderline diabetic, and taking the trouble to pick the exact marble goblet for use in the ceremony. I still have that goblet, enclosed by the wooden ring used in the ceremony.

However, even then, we knew he had troubles. He had a taste for greasy spoons and seedy rented rooms, and his engagement fell through partly because of his moodiness, although it lasted long enough to get him into a marginally more upscale apartment. But he seemed to take a stubborn pride in living, not just simply, but on the edge of squalor.

Even more seriously, he was a mostly functional alcoholic. He did manage to hold down his job as an engineering designer, although he sometimes arrived at work hung over and his idea of breakfast was a couple of beers. But in his own hours, he often drank steadily. I remember one evening in particular when he left our group at the Simon Fraser University pub without saying anything, and a half dozen of us spent an anxious hour or two in the cold night, wandering the campus trying to find him – only to find him, eventually, asleep in his own bed with no memory of how he got there. He was never a nasty drunk that I heard, but his binges often alarmed his friends.

Trish and I lost touched with Daffyd when we moved and quit the SCA; in the circles we had moved in, if you weren’t in the SCA, you didn’t really exist. But from the rumors that reached us from time to time, he continued much as he had been when we knew him, but going slowly downhill, increasingly withdrawing and increasingly ill. In the last few years, I gather, he had largely dropped out of the SCA, and was going blind.

I regret, now, that I never got around to looking him up. Not that I suppose for a moment that I could have done much for him – if anyone ever had their fate written on their forehead, it was Daffyd. But I’ve learned a little about being solitary in the five years that I’ve been widowed, so the feeling persists that I could have done something. But the fact remains that I didn’t keep up the connection, and I lost the right to mourn him long ago, no matter how sorry I am that he died alone.


01 May 21:47

Windows 10 for phones is coming months after desktop version

by Igor Bonifacic

Speaking at a media event during this week’s Build Conference, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore told journalists that Windows 10 for Phone devices won’t be ready in time for the operating system’s launch this summer.

“Our phone builds have not been as far along as our PC builds,” he said to journalists at the event. “We’re adapting the phone experiences later than we’re adding the PC experiences.”

Belfiore went on to add, “From the device view, our main focus is to kick off the Windows 10 launch wave with a great launch on the PC. You should expect that the other devices — phone, HoloLens, Xbox, Surface Hub — will be staggered, probably not on the same date as the PC.”

Moreover, certain Windows 10 features won’t make onto phones in time for launch. The company didn’t specify which features will arrive later—likely because Microsoft hasn’t decided on a final feature list yet—but did say that it will work quickly to bring those missing features to phones.

If the approach Microsoft took with its Office apps is any indication, the company will likely try to release updates at a quick phase in the first couple of weeks and months following the release of Windows 10.

SourceThe Verge
01 May 18:46

25 Apple Watch Impressions, Wants, and Thoughts

by Jeremy Toeman

Screenshot from my Watch of me using Watch to take picture from iPhone. Whoa. Meta.

Buying the Apple Watch on day one for me was the precise opposite of buying an iPad – I had absolutely no idea why I was buying it, but figured I’d either like/love it, or return/eBay it – in other words, no downside. One week into using it, and I’m well into Like, but not yet at Love. I’d hold the core Watch functionality at 50% accountable for the Like, 30% for Apple apps, and 20% for third-party apps.  Or, as I see it, as long as better apps come along, which is inevitable, I may soon Love the Watch. And astute readers know that I must end this post with “only time will tell” – apologies.

If you want to learn more about the Watch, or read countless “must-get” App lists, I’m sure you can figure that out. I’m focusing specifically on my personal impressions and experiences. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Having the Watch is relaxing.

I put this first, as it’s the most important thing about the Watch. My iPhone now spends about 90% more time in my pocket, I don’t leave it out on tables or my desk, it’s just away. I can deal with at least 2/3 of my notifications through my Watch, and they go away. Further, I feel less urges to glance at my phone – ever. Considering how much I find notifications distracting and frustrating, yet utterly necessary in modern life, the Watch is a clear win on the claim of helping you deal with the basics of modern interruptions.

2. There are some useless apps:

For non-Apple Watch owners, know this: 100% of your regular Notifications will appear on the Watch. So much like how annoying apps that just show you the content of a blog can be, Watch apps that just show you something you’d get via Notifications are pretty silly at this point. Perhaps my feelings on this will change with more than a week’s exposure, but I’m seeing a lot of things I don’t need to see.

IMG_6592 IMG_6591


3. There is a lot more iPhone co-dependency than I thought/expected

The Watch doesn’t talk to any other of my Apple products – so notifications from iPad/Macbook don’t hit my wrist. It’s specifically an extension of the iPhone. Further, there are many Watch apps, including those from Apple, which require significant phone-based interactions to work. This isn’t a good/bad thing, but it’s an important mindset.


Letterpad game


Post-Shazaming a song

4. Prediction: App Management is going to become a problem

Installing Apps happens via your iPhone, where you manually, on an app-by-app basis, “install” them to your Watch. It’s seamless and elegant. Or it is as long as I still have less than 50 apps with Watch functionality. When this hits 100+ apps, it’s going to be a nuisance. Ditto for “navigating” apps on the Watch.



Installing an app on the Watch

5. The Digital Crown is awesome, intuitive, and I love using it. And I forget about it a lot.

It’s smooth and elegant, and whenever I remember to use it, it works exactly as I’d hope/expect it to. But most of the time I forget it’s there, as I’m soooo used to everything being touch-based. Not that it should work different on the Watch, but it’s a “Getting Used to it” curve.

6. Some very clever app examples.

There really aren’t a ton at this stage, but the “promise of what’s to come” is already clearly in the air. Here are my standouts:

a) Uber


Perfect use of Watch. Either Summon your Uber, or see Current Status of Uber. A+ implementation.

b) Apple MapsIMG_6578


Browsing, Searching, Contacts’ addresses, and everything you might want. Well done.

c) Apple Maps Navigation mode


Having the Watch vibrate right when I need to turn is amazingly helpful. Possibly the most useful specific feature on the Watch overall.

d) Charles Schwab


Pulls in my portfolio with quick at-a-glance info. Not particularly better than Apple’s own Stocks, but it’s my personal/actual portfolio, so no manual changes necessary.


This is Apple Stocks – also nicely done, just showing for comparison.





“Force Push” in Schwab app enables a 1-click to start a trade, which you complete on the Phone. Perfect use of “get a notification, trigger an action.”

e) Transit


Real-time, geo-located public transportation. So much better than pulling out the iPhone for same info.


Also able to pull up most recently booked trip on your iPhone

One caveat re Transit – I think it’s just a bug, but I’ve found it just doesn’t always update properly, and sometimes I’m at the office and it still thinks I’m at home.

f) SPG


Upcoming Reservations, Points/Status, and keyless entry!

g) Yelp


Find restaurants near you in seconds. And it works. And they keep it simple.

h) Circa


Candidly I don’t use Circa as much as Zite for my news reader, but their integration of recent headlines is perfectly done. Haven’t tried Flipboard yet.

i) Mailchimp


I really like the at-a-glance look at email campaign statuses. Another example of a non-ambitious, useful little app. That said, I doubt I’ll actually use it much, as I rarely just want to look at campaigns from such a high-level.

j) Wunderlist


If you are already a Wunderlist user, their Watch extension works exactly right. Quick glances, ability to mark things done, etc.

7. There’s also a lot of “still waiting for the a-ha moment” apps. 

I have to imagine as an app developer with no prior history of the Watch that it’s a very difficult thing to have projected the how of people using it. So I think there’s a lot of “1.0 efforts” that will get better over time, but for now leave me a little “huh?”


Also, I think there’s a lot of apps that just didn’t need full extensions to the Watch, where a basic Push Notification does the job. Some examples:

a) Calm


So it’s like the built-in timer, but with nicer background? Am I supposed to stare at this? Because if so, I’m not feeling Calmer…

b) Mint


Granted I haven’t seen any real improvements to Mint since their acquisition, but this is a real throwaway. Poorly implemented, confusing to set up, and questionable value proposition. Would be better as simple push notifications.

c) Apple Store


Haven’t yet figured out why I need this app. Maybe I just don’t buy enough products?

d) Starbucks


Maybe when any Starbucks actually put Apple Pay terminals in place I’ll love this, but until then, it’s pretty useless.

e) Twitter


Twitter seems to make a lot of people’s “top Apps for Watch” list. For me it’s a pretty mediocre experience, with hard-to-read individual Tweets (often cut off before 140 characters), impossible to Tweet usefully (no links, hashtags, @replies, etc). Twitter on Watch seems like just a bridge too far for an already difficult-to-use Twitter experience.

f) Skype


I honestly don’t know what I was/should’ve been expecting here, but Skype on your Watch without even support for audio-only calls is pretty weak.

There’s oodles more, including some native apps, that could do a lot better, but again, 1.0.

8. Siri is making a lot more sense, and it’s working really well.

I’ve always enjoyed Siri, even as a fairly infrequent user, I thought it was a great foray into trying to make computing more invisible. On the Watch, though, I use it a lot, and find it works better than I expect – particularly for texting folks.

9. Evernote and Uber are the kind of apps that will lead to Love

Evernote on my wrist is nice for quickly searching for important info. But it’s much much cooler as a record a memo feature. My only wish would be recording audio memos – something I’m shocked isn’t default functionality  between the Watch and iPhone.

Uber, however, may be the most perfectly designed Watch app out there. Launch the app, and within a few seconds the familiar “get an Uber” button appears. Perfect, as I don’t care about my Profile or Invite a Friend or the few other things Uber can do in the iPhone app. Then, with an Uber en route, I get the visible countdown and map/status until the driver’s arrived. Them, while driving, I see the map of where we’re going. It’s just perfectly done.

IMG_656610. Photos is far more compelling than I’d have projected

I was pretty skeptical of any use of Photos on the Watch – considering how small they are. But I really enjoy having my Favorites album synched – it’s visually very attractive, a great reminder of using the Digital Crown, and a nice/comfortable feeling.

11. Force Touch is a great experience concept.

Your fingers have a tremendous amount of nerve endings and are incredibly sensitive “devices”. So having the “push a little harder to cause an action” is welcome, easy, and intuitive, and I’d hope to see it come to other touch-input products in the near-term.

12. I’m more impressed with battery life than I was expecting

I find I only need to charge it every other night – which, as a non-Watch-owning friend pointed out to me is quite frequent from a watch perspective. But considering the expectations were set around charging it nightly, I’m pretty happy so far.

13. The Remote and Navigation are the best apps from Apple

Beyond basic notifications, the apps I use the most proactively are Remote and Nav. For Remote, it just works really well, and I frequently misplace my Apple TV remote as it is. For Nav, the physical reinforcement of “turn soon” works great in areas where you really need your GPS – especially those “do I turn here or the next block???” moments.

14. I haven’t gotten my head around Activity yet

I like getting told to stand up once an hour – and generally I’m doing whatever it tells me to. And I like seeing the steps, and calorie count, etc. I don’t know if it does (or doesn’t) motivate me, and I don’t trust the accuracy (not that I distrust the effort/intent, just that I doubt all fitness tracking at present). Maybe I just don’t care much about quantified self – I feel pretty good with unquantified me.

15. I want more extension-of-my-iPhone functionality

My Watch should tell me when my iPhone is low on power or fully charged, and should give me the option to show iPhone battery life in the Watch Face. Ditto for cell signal/wifi connection. In both cases (power/network), these are essential pieces of information for actually using my Watch, and should be available at a glance.

16. Want. More. Faces.

17. The Watch could be a bit smarter.

It’s super-easy to add Timer or Stopwatch to the Faces. But if I don’t have it on, and I do have a timer going, shouldn’t this be a “trumping” level of visibility? I really like using timers in general (17 minutes of intermission between periods), but feel this should be perennially visible when active.IMG_6565

18. The Watch-to-Watch functionality is cool, but too hard to get using.

There’s literally no way for me to determine which of my contacts has a Watch, which really tears apart the concept of how cool the “send a gesture/tap” to a friend features are (and they are cool). Shouldn’t something in my iCloud ecosystem help me figure out who these potentially wonderful people are, and even where?

19. No more Phantom Ringing Upper Thigh

I’ve stated several times how calming the Watch is – but one especially pleasant side effect is I never “wonder” if I got a notification anymore. Phantom Wrist doesn’t appear to be a thing, and I already have stopped expecting it elsewhere.

20. Phone calls sound surprisingly good

Not sure where the mic is on it (and frankly, I don’t care), but I’ve had a few calls on it without the other party even thinking they were on speakerphone, let along Dick Tracy style. I’ve also noticed that if I take calls on it in windy environments, it actually outperforms the iPhone for avoiding wind tunnel conversation effect.

21. It’s not 100% calibrated

I definitely find times when I “pull up” the Watch, only to see a blank screen. And even a shake or two might still leave it blank. Further, sometimes I just have my arm at an angle and the Watch seems to think I’ve “noticed” a notification. I assume this will improve over time.

22. I don’t feel as lame as I’d think using the Watch

Whether it’s taking a call, replying to a quick text, or looking at a notification, it feels much more natural than I’d expect. That said, I’ve caught myself several times in the “I should really just pull out my iPhone” phase of things. Curious to see how this calibrates over time for me personally.

23. Others get very excited to see it.IMG_6560

Was at my bank a few days back, I think I sold 3-4 of them in the span of 2 minutes just by answering a text. There’s something that’s gotten people really excited here. Again, not sure how this plays out in the long term.

24. I want more in-iOs integration

On my iPhone, a calendar location is instantly linked to launching Maps. Not true on Watch – but I don’t see why not. When I scan an email on my Watch, all links have been stripped. Why not just give me the chance to pull it up in Safari on my iPhone, I can look at it later. It could even go into Reading List automatically. There’s a lot of these little “in between” moments that I think could be improved over time.

25. It’s still a keeper

I can’t project 3 months out, once the fascination has worn off. But as of now, I have no desire to return it, I enjoy wearing it from morning til night (I don’t bring any “connected” products into my bedroom/sleepytime places), and I feel it’s a general improvement to digital living. Or is that living digitally?

Will I say the same in a year? Well, as forewarned many words ago – only time will tell.


01 May 18:43

More on GMOs

by Matt

After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s.

Mark Lynas writes How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food, particularly how GMOs impact the places where crops are needed the most. If you’re looking for a catch-up check out this link collection on last year.

01 May 21:42


by russell davies

Good night

There has been very little more inspiring, more impressive, than watching @iotwatch ship the @GNLamp - a hard fought journey. Amazing woman.

— Ben Hammersley (@benhammersley) April 17, 2015

Ben is right about this. And they work splendidly and look lovely.