Shared posts

26 Mar 20:24

Nuzzel launches its ultra-useful “What Your Friends Are Reading” news app on Android

by Daniel Bader

I feel very privileged to follow a lot of very smart people on the internet. These are people I’ve met through the years, personally and professionally, and many of them follow other very smart people on the internet.

And while Twitter and Facebook have made it relatively easy to find great things to read, it’s often difficult culling through the noise to get to the truly valuable content.

Enter Nuzzel. The former web service that scrubs the best news stories shared by one’s Twitter and Facebook contacts has finally come to Android, with a beautiful Material Design interface reportedly approved by Google’s Android team itself.

Founder Jonathan Abrams, based out of San Francisco, said of the release, “Since Nuzzel’s iOS launch last year, we’ve been inundated with requests for an Android app. We’ve gone through multiple cycles of review and feedback with various design teams at Google to make sure Nuzzel for Android will meet the expectations of Android users worldwide.”

True to his word, Nuzzel went through a brief Android beta product to get it to feature parity with the iOS version, which is already quite excellent.

Upon entering the app, you’ll see a list of “News From Your Friends,” which is considered the main feed, since it’s content that’s most likely to appeal to you. Heading into the left-side menu bar reveals “News From Friends of Friends,” “News You May Have Missed,” and “Recently Read Stories.” Further down are the same things, but from the perspectives of your friends. Not yet in the app is the recently-added Custom Feeds, which are curated by select topic experts.

The reading experience in the app is superb, having been built on the latest Android SDK. The WebView performance is smooth, and there’s a one-touch “text” feature that strips images and advertising from the page you’re on.

What makes Nuzzel so useful, and so much better for long-form reading than its competition, is that it displays content based on the number of shares, so the more popular the article the more likely you are to see it. While the same is true of Twitter and Facebook — hence the retweet or reshare — Nuzzel’s algorithmic magic makes sure to weed out lower-quality content.

There’s also an immediacy to Nuzzel that Twitter and Facebook haven’t properly tapped into yet; users can get notifications of popular and up-and-coming content based on the number of shares. By default, you’re notified when an article is shared by 25 friends, but you can lower that number all the way to three friends if your social lists are smaller.

Nuzzel has quickly become an indispensable tool for my workflow, and is well worth the download. It is free, and ad-free.

Source Nuzzel
26 Mar 20:35

Techno Fantasies

This review, co-authored with Sara Goldrick-Rab, first appeared on Inside Higher Ed

Kevin Carey has written a book called The End of College – by which he means the end of college as we know it... and he feels fine. At least we assume he does, because The End of College is a celebration, not a lament. The traditional college education is dying, he says. As it should, he adds. No more buildings, no more exclusively face-to-face classes, no more libraries, no more graduation ceremonies. Everything will fall by the wayside, Carey predicts. The good news, he posits, is that it will all be replaced by what he calls the University of Everywhere.

Carey's book comes at a time of rising college costs, swelling student debt and cuts to university courses, faculty and majors. From students to parents to taxpayers, everyone is alarmed about higher education's most pressing challenges. As an education technology writer and scholar of higher education policy, we are too. Unfortunately, many people will find false hope in The End of College and its fantastical promises of the University of Everywhere.

"The University of Everywhere is where students of the future will go to college," Carey writes. "The University of Everywhere will span the earth. The students will come from towns, cities and countries in all cultures and societies, members of a growing global middle class who will transform the experience of higher education."

How will such a thing be possible? The Internet, of course: the University of Everywhere, says Carey, will be digital, personalized, networked, virtual, intellectually rigorous, hybrid, cheap if not free and lifelong.

Parents of future undergraduates will be understandably relieved to know that someone finally has figured it out. To know they will not need to mortgage their home or take that second job. To know that technology is coming to save them. Like Netflix or Amazon, like Uber or Fitbit, the University of Everywhere will soon emerge from the cloud, ready to disrupt the status quo with its flexible, accessible tools. Or so we're told.

The University of Everywhere is the response, led by venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs, to "ancient institutions in their last days of decadence," Carey argues. And we are to believe that an end will come soon for the oppressive regime created by colleges and universities, as he personally has numbered the days until they either "adapt" or become extinct.

In the book and with his platform with The New York Times's Upshot blog and in various essays on the subject written from a perch at New America, Carey professes to possess a deep understanding of higher education. He genuinely believes his plan for online degrees will disrupt recalcitrant institutions, unleash individual ingenuity and power the jobs of the 21st century. He is "angry" about the "chronic neglect of undergraduate education" that he assures us he has witnessed in personal meetings and read about in a single volume with hotly contested findings, and he isn't going to take it anymore. This book is his response.

One of Carey's strongest objections is to the way in which higher education confers enormous benefits on the privileged and powerful (an issue that we agree is a major problem and have each written about time and again). And so, in this age of extreme inequality, Carey declares that the University of Everywhere will serve to flatten and erase hierarchies of social status and socioeconomic privilege. The future of education in his vision will be, as edX C.E.O. Anant Agarwal has also pronounced, "borderless, gender-blind, race-blind, class-blind and bank account-blind." It will be, in other words, the ultimate meritocracy.

This vision of the University of Everywhere is endowed with such grandeur that it can leave one breathless; it is so hopeful about the future that any doubt or critique may seem unkind, even inappropriate. Why ask questions about how or why or who or what? Carey and his University of Everywhere want you simply to believe. And if you do have questions, you must be a defender of the status quo, an insufficiently "careful reader," or, worse yet, a professor in a traditional institution.

Indeed objections seem to offend Carey, as they would any true believer. He promotes the online and hybrid future of higher education and extols the innovations that have spun out of Stanford's artificial intelligence lab - startups like Coursera and Udacity - with a fanatical sustained passion that sets aside the far more conflicted reality of these initiatives. While the University of Everywhere purports to be a meritocracy that will save us all from social inequities, it's worth noting that it is being built and promoted by three of the most elite of America's universities: Harvard, Stanford and M.I.T.

These universities are at the center of the recent push for massive open online courses (better known as MOOCs), which are the cornerstone of Carey's University of Everywhere. In his telling of their history, the Golden Three and their new MOOC initiatives can do no wrong.

Except they have already done much wrong. Take the experience of San Jose State University with MOOC-like instruction provided by Udacity. Beginning in early 2013, this experimental effort at one of the most racially diverse universities in the country was promised to "end college as we know it." Yet the data show that the pilot was an unmitigated disaster. The students in the Udacity-run classes - remedial algebra, college algebra and statistics - did far worse than students in traditional, face-to-face classes. Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun blamed the students, whom he said "were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives… [For them] this medium is not a good fit."

Here is Thrun in a Silicon Valley tech blog: "If you're a student who can't afford the service layer, you can take the MOOC on demand at your own pace. If you’re affluent, we can do a much better job with you, we can make magic happen." Incredibly, as Tressie McMillan Cottom has noted, the University of Everywhere is also magically postracial. No wonder, since, as the data from MOOCs around the country clearly show, this university is for the highly educated, not the underserved.

Given the sheer vehemence of his argument and a professed lack of responsibility to warn off "careless misinterpretation," perhaps it is unsurprising that Carey omits the evidence about the real and disturbing flaws of online and even hybrid education. To support his contentions that information technology can lift all boats, he turns to William Bowen, author of a study using a randomized experiment to assess the effects of online versus face-to-face instruction. He reports that Bowen found no differences when it came to the outcomes he measured: course completion rates, scores on final exam questions and a standardized test.

"Bowen had previously been skeptical of the idea that technology could fundamentally change higher learning. Based on his new research, he wrote, 'I am today a convert. I have come to believe that now is the time.'" Rather than question the wisdom of sudden conversions based on single studies, Carey wonders, why didn't colleges immediately hop on board and begin embracing what he calls "a golden opportunity to charge students less money without sacrificing the quality of instruction"?

The answer, of course, lies in empirical research and respect for the scientific process, both of which Carey has little time for. Bowen's 2012 study was then and remains today one of only a tiny number of such studies producing these sorts of results. Despite efforts, including those of Ithaka S&R, where Bowen works, to suggest that instructional format does not affect outcomes, there are just four rigorous yet also stylized and idiosyncratic studies that even somewhat support the conclusions that Carey promotes. And the most robust of them, a study of 700 students at the City University of New York, identifies negative impacts for lower-achieving students placed into online-only courses.

Moreover, none of the studies examine the outcomes commonly used to assess the utility of educational interventions - for example, year-to-year retention and graduation rates. A thoughtful reader of the research might ask: What responsible educator, and indeed, what responsible educational policy expert, would recommend wholesale changes in higher education based on such a paltry body of knowledge? When a long and detailed body of scientific evidence (the most recent example is the evaluation of ASAP at CUNY) details the intensive attention required to bring first-generation and low-income students from college entry to graduation, why run in the opposite direction, offering less personal contact and coaching?

Carey's book invokes education research only when it serves his narrative. Otherwise, education research - indeed all manner of research - is framed as one of the many flaws that weigh down certain elements of our current higher education system.

Carey does not ask questions of experts who are unlikely to agree with what he is arguing, including noted economist David Figlio. "When I look at the weight of the evidence, it looks like online education might come at some sacrifice to student learning," said Figlio in a recent article. "Thoughtful administrators will need to weigh those sacrifices against the cost savings. You can see a situation where schools for the haves will continue with face-to-face instruction, perhaps enhancing it with technology. And the have-nots will get this mass online instruction. That can be potentially problematic from an equity perspective." Of course, Figlio works at one of those "traditional" institutions that Carey abhors and thus he can be ignored.

Credentials like those held by Figlio will not matter in the future, we're told, thanks to the University of Everywhere. The prestige associated with certain institutions will be flattened. Opportunity, access, biases - all swept away by the Internet.

The University of Everywhere, in Carey's telling of it, will be free of racists, trolls, harassers or stalkers. Despite all empirical evidence that the single greatest change in higher education over the last 50 years is a remarkably diverse and diversifying student population, Carey's vision for U.S. higher education also has no race, class or gender. These are unexplored and unmentioned in his book. In his version of the future, the Internet, site of the University of Everywhere, is open equally and safely to everyone. Who cares that M.I.T. emeritus professor Walter Lewin, once the star of YouTube for his videos demonstrating various physics experiments and featured by Carey in The End of College, has been accused of sexually harassing female students in his MOOC? M.I.T. has scrubbed much of Lewin's course materials from the Web. But the University of Everywhere remains unscathed.

The University of Everywhere that Carey promotes cares not for intellectual property, neither the professors' nor the students'. He writes, "We can already, today, replicate much of what colleges are charging a great deal of money for and distribute that information electronically at almost no marginal cost." Students can hand over their content and data to technology companies to mine, with the promise of more efficient personalized learning. By transferring their data to technology companies and not to universities, "people will control their personal educational identities instead of leaving that crucial information in the hands of organizations acting from selfish interests," he writes. Universities, not the tech sector, are the ones with selfish interests here, according to Carey. Similarly, faculty will manage their classrooms, including their syllabuses, lectures, lessons and course design via those same companies.

As for research, it will happen elsewhere, beyond the University of Everywhere, as Carey argues that existing universities have erred by trying to fulfill a mission of both research and teaching. The University of Everywhere is "unbundled." That is because the "roaming autodidacts"" of the University of Everywhere do not need these services. The learners of the University of Everywhere need their MacBooks and Wi-Fi, and the world is theirs. As such, they don't look much like today's students in community colleges. Nor will their experiences look like the experiences of undergraduates working with faculty in university laboratories today - experiences that studies show are demonstrably effective at creating cadres of scientists from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Without an explicit attention to diversity, the University of Everywhere will ignore this - much like Silicon Valley has already proven to do as demonstrated by the demographics of its employees and investment portfolio and much like Carey's history of the development of higher education does as well.

Echoing Silicon Valley, the University of Everywhere envisions a meritocratic labor market, just waiting to be filled by those with badges and certificates, though not necessarily by those with bachelor's degrees. The person with the right badges and MOOC certificates will get the job and the promotions, and there will be no discrimination based on prestigious universities; indeed there will also be no discrimination based on race or gender or sexual identity. These are the proclamations and promises made over and over in the book despite their direct contradiction to rigorous studies of how employers treat job candidates with nontraditional credentials from new or no-name institutions.

Such facts matter little as Carey sweeps his readers through the book into this magical world and takes them into a new age of higher education in a text that makes no mention, offers no analysis of race or gender or sexual identity. These facets of today's life simply do not exist in his dream. This is a story told by a white man about other white men - indeed, all other voices, with the exception of Daphne Koller's, are mute. The story is set entirely in an America that isn't part of global communities. Despite the nod to "Everywhere," there are apparently no universities in the rest of the world that might respond to the technological imperialism of MOOCs or to the cultural imperialism of standardized general education classes.

As should be clear by now, this entertaining narrative about higher education is an inch deep in shallow waters. It zooms past debates of history with barely a note of documentation for its claims (indeed a total of 21 endnotes are provided for 5 entire chapters of text, with some supporting statistics about "achievements," such as those about the new "elite" online college Minerva, provided by unverifiable sources including the founder of the school himself). Research findings that fit the storyline are termed "shocking" and "mind-boggling," while those that contradict the tale are simply left out.

Certainly, Carey is not alone in constructing such accounts. There is a plethora of higher education prescriptions funded by respectable think tanks and nonprofit organizations. They are issued nearly weekly, many hopping onto the excitement and hype (and hefty venture capital funding) for MOOCs and other education technology efforts. Carey references very few of these even when his arguments are clearly influenced by them (think of the formative DIY U by Anya Kamenetz and the forward-thinking prescriptions offered by Andrew Kelly and Rick Hess). Many in this space value "outsider" takes on higher education for their supposed unbiased clarity. They also seem to value the insights of wealthy technologists and data scientists who pose as being too serious for identity politics or culture wars.

In this political economy, the experts on education are rarely experts in education, and that is just the way an increasing number of powerful people seem to like it. Books like these and the speeches and essays accompanying them eat up the landscape of popular discourse. With the microphone, these voices have the gravitas of maleness and whiteness and wealth. They are so loud they must be expert. They look like, walk like and talk like leaders.

And the story that they tell is quite comforting for many who look at the rising cost of college and the fragile economy and hope that their children will be able to follow the right path toward a more secure future. As such the University of Everywhere is a consumer fantasy of the future of higher education, a fantasy that purports to be about freedom for learners, about more personalized learning, but that is traced through the history, at least in Carey's book, of programmed instruction. Machines will teach. Artificial intelligence will replace teachers and tutors.

Swept away by the mystical magic of technology, Carey sees a world of possibility. That is the moral and the lesson of The End of College, his prescription far more than his analysis. Carey promises, as the title of the opening chapter suggests, a new "secret of life." It's a secret that, once unleashed and fulfilled, will disrupt institutions - much like Uber, which Carey describes with fascination and glee when he visits Silicon Valley. Designed to replace the taxi service - like higher education, a service that's deemed outmoded - all you need to summon an Uber is a mobile app. Like the future of higher education that Carey predicts, Uber is always on, always on demand. It is also unregulated, well funded by venture capitalists, collecting personal data not simply for efficiency and algorithms but for dubious purposes, and based on a precarious labor force. But we're not supposed to ask questions. No one should ask questions when the end is nigh.

26 Mar 00:00

I hate type errors!

I hate type errors!

Even though the Unison editor isn’t yet suitable for real programming, my experience using it has made me even more aware of just how much time programmers waste dealing with type errors:

  • Let’s say 95% of errors are trivial to fix. You probably don’t even bother reading the message. A quick look at the line number and ten seconds of thinking and you know the fix. Flow is maintained. Your focus stays on what matters—making the actual edits to the code. You’ve made an edit, and the compiler has helpfully pointed out a missed or incorrect step, which you immediately rectify. This is why people like type systems.
  • In 5% of the cases, the error message(s) are misleading and/or point to the wrong location(s). You take a look, scratch your head. 30 seconds go by; it becomes clear you aren’t going to intuit this one. Now you actually have to gather more information. Okay, maybe you’ll start by reading that error message more carefully. Is the information useful? Maybe. Maybe you try a change, use typed holes to gather info about the types of values in scope, etc. But recognize that you are now in full-on yak-shaving mode. You started off by conceiving of some edits to your code. You then made these edits, but now look—you aren’t productively fixing your mistakes or providing missing steps, you are engaged in a very inefficient search process to narrow down and understand what the problems even are.

Note that if we deferred our typing errors until runtime as in a dynamic language, we wouldn’t have to spend any time deciphering type errors, and the runtime errors would now be in terms of actual program values that we can inspect, rather than a possibly inaccurate symbolic description of the problem. Of course I feel this is throwing the baby out with the bath water—static types are overall a huge win especially in languages like Haskell with nice type systems. But I point this out because I think it’s important to develop some perspective.

When you start out doing typeful programming, perhaps that 95% is more like 60%. A very large number of error messages you get from the compiler are frustratingly opaque. What the hell is the compiler even talking about? Some people in this situation get frustrated enough that they leave the typeful programming world in favor of some dynamic language. But if you stick with it, over time, with experience, you get better at intuiting what the issues are or avoiding them in the first place, and the 60% creeps up to 90%, 95%, 96%, 97%… But here is the problem: in getting to this point, you have brought the cost of deciphering errors down to acceptable levels but also lost perspective on the cumulative costs. The past costs are forgotten and the present costs are ingrained in your workflow and thinking, a productivity tax you don’t even really notice or think about.

Aside: I consider this a problem with our industry and education system. We are raising generations of programmers implicitly taught to accept everything as a given, no matter how arcane or costly. But in software, nothing is a given, every single aspect of the software world is the result of choices made by people “no smarter than you”.

But even for people with experience, the costs of deciphering type errors is much higher than that 5% would indicate. The issue is not the direct costs due to time wasted deciphering type errors, it’s the indirect costs. Programming is an activity that demands focus. When focus is maintained, it is possible to accomplish tasks in hours that might otherwise take weeks. Maintaining a state of flow for longer periods of time is an almost trancelike experience, and incredibly empowering. One feels attuned to the tasks at hand, subtasks get pushed and popped from the stack, and there is a feeling of directness, control, and creative energy.

But maintaining this level of focus is rare. We don’t like to talk about it, but if we are being appropriately humble about our limitations, we must recognize that human focus is a very scarce and very fragile resource. Our puny little brains can only allocate so many resources, and us programmers are constantly losing focus. I don’t mean obvious distractions like wasting time checking Twitter or Reddit when you should be doing something. These things are often the symptom, rather than the disease. What I mean is the act of doing things that aren’t the actions most likely to be most productive at furthing progress. Everyone knows what that feels like. Perhaps you are debugging, and rather than methodically narrowing down the problem via a set of well-chosen experiments each giving maximal information, you instead meander around, perhaps adding random print statements or inspecting random values in the debugger. When you should step back and go for a walk perhaps, you instead stare at the screen. You’ve lost focus, but before you realize it and do something productive about it, you’ve lost an hour.

Deciphering type errors leads to exactly this same sort of inefficient, meandering, unfocused mode of work, perhaps on a smaller scale. But the costs are still there, and they are substantial, if you pay attention.

Also see: Why are we still programming like it’s the punchcard era?

25 Mar 18:57

Please welcome Allison Banks, Vice President of People

by Chris Beard

We’re thrilled to announce that Allison Banks is joining the leadership team at Mozilla today as our new Vice President of People.

As the leader of our global human resource team at Mozilla, Allison will be responsible, above all, for ensuring our people have what they need to help move our mission forward. Specifically, her team will develop and execute the people-related strategies and activities that will help to foster growth, innovation, and our overall organizational effectiveness.

With over 20 years of experience, Allison joins us most recently from GoPro where she served as Sr. Director of HR overseeing the hiring of 900 people, opening offices in seven countries, integrating acquisitions and building the HR processes and systems required to support a dynamic global organization. Prior to GoPro, she developed her HR expertise and track record for inspiring and supporting people at Perforce Software, Citibank, and Ingres.

Allison’s background, experience and passion for the human side of business is an exceptional fit for Mozilla.

She will be based in the Bay Area, working out of our Mozilla Space in San Francisco and our headquarters in Mountain View.

Please join me in welcoming Allison to Mozilla!



Allison Banks, Vice President of People, Mozilla

Bio & Mozillians profile

LinkedIn profile

High-res photo

26 Mar 18:24 Article on Mozilla Community Education

by Emma

Super excited to share my post published on for Open Education Week: “Mozilla cares for community with educational resources“.


27 Mar 04:29

Introducing People

by Richard Millington

You’ve been through as many patronising icebreakers as I have.

Here’s a better way of doing it:

"What if instead of introducing your friend as Jennifer the nurse, you started introducing her as Jennifer, one of most thoughtful people you know, or Jennifer the friend who helped you move in when you didn’t know a soul in this city.

Introducing your friends for who they are rather than focusing on what they do will remind them they are loved before and beyond their titles. It’s an easy way to remind them that you see them for their hearts instead of their accomplishments.

I want people to know my friend Carolyn is amazing at her job, but more than that, I want people to know the stuff inside her that makes her a great friend."

26 Mar 19:47

The best frameworks are apps

The best software frameworks are apps that do things users care about.

Back in the 80s it was dBASE and then FoxBase. 1-2-3 had a macro language, it was weak, but it was widely used because 1-2-3 was so popular with users.

Today it's WordPress.

And Slack is doing interesting things with their APIs.

Twitter too, but that got kind of muddied-up.

The best one of all of course is JavaScript, a very bizarre language in a totally underpowered environment that reaches into every nook and cranny of the modern world. It's an awful environment, you'd never design one that worked that way, but the draw of all those users makes up for its sins.

Flickr had a wonderful API, still does, but Stewart left the house before it could really blossom as a community thing. See Slack, above.

Chatting with Brent Schlender the other day, I commented that Steve Jobs' politics and mine are exactly opposite. Jobs was an elitist, all his products were as Doc said in 1997, works of art, to be appreciated for their aesthetics. I am a populist and a plumber. Interesting that this dimension of software is largely unexplored. I hope our species survives long enough to study it.

BTW, when ESR saw XML-RPC he said it was just like Unix. Nicest thing anyone could ever say. When I learned Unix in the mid-late 70s, and studied the source code, I aspired to someday write code like that. So well factored it reads like its own documentation.

Today, I'm mainly concerned with getting some outside-the-silos flow going with people I like to read. If we get (back) there, I will consider it a victory.

26 Mar 16:06

Mozilla Foundation March 2015 Board Meeting

by openmatt

What’s happening at the Mozilla Foundation? This post contains the presentation slides from our recent Board Meeting, plus an audio interview with Executive Director Mark Surman. It provides highlights from 2014, a brief summary of Mozilla’s 2015 plan, and a progress report on what we’ve achieved over the past three months.

What we did in 2014

  • Grew contributors and ground game. (10,077 active contributors total.)
  • Prototyped new Webmaker mobile product
  • Expanded community programs by 3x

March 2015 Board Deck - Share.004

March 2015 Board Deck - Share.005 March 2015 Board Deck - Share.007

Mozilla’s 2015 Plan

Mozilla-wide goals: grow long-term relationships that 
help people and promote the open web. By building product and empowering people.

Webmaker+ goal: Expand participation in Webmaker through new software and on the ground clubs.

Building Mozilla Learning

By 2017, we’ve built Mozilla Learning: a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web. Part community, part academy, people come to Mozilla Learning to unlock the power of the web for themselves, their organizations and the world.

2015 Mozilla Foundation goals

  • Deepen learning networks (500 cities)
  • B
uild mass appeal learning product (250k Monthly Active Users)
  • Craft ambitious Mozilla Learning and community strategy

Q1 Mozilla Foundation highlights

  • Major victory in US net neutrality, with Mozilla getting 330k people to sign a petition.
  • Launched Webmaker app at Mobile World Congress. Strong interest from partners, possible link to Orange FirefoxOS launch in Africa and Middle East.

March 2015 Board Deck - Share.019

March 2015 Board Deck - Share.020

March 2015 Board Deck - Share.021

26 Mar 22:58

London: Why take Heathrow Express?

by Jarrett at

HeathrowExpress.svgMy recent visit to London, the first in 19 years, gave me a new appreciation for the dangers of creating express trains to the airport that are useful only to high-paying travelers.

We stayed at Paddington, on the north-west edge of the inner city, because I presumed that the Heathrow Express -- nonstop trains between Paddington and Heathrow Airport every 15-30 minutes -- would help us handle the awkward moves with luggage.  It worked fine for that, but the fare was obscene (well over GBP 20 each way) and the trains were therefore nearly empty.  I should have suspected this from the logo's resemblance to a luxury car hood ornament. 

This appears to be a classic example of an overspecialized transit service -- designed to separate people by fare even though they are all going in the same direction at the same time.  Its based on the assumption that people with money would like to wait longer for a more comfortable service that skips a few stations, rather than use the ordinary Underground line from Heathrow that is far more frequent and runs directly to many more parts of London.  I have similar concerns about overspecialized airport train projects in Toronto, and others proposed elsewhere in the world.  

Quite simply, I'd have been happy to pay half the fare for a train that made a couple of stops, so that a lot more people could get on.  Heathrow Express has achieved a nice sensation of luxury; near-empty trains are always a pleasure, but they also suggest a poor business model.  Heathrow Express will eventually have competition from Crossrail, which will run deeper into London with a few more stops, but which will still be much faster than the old Piccadilly Line from Heathrow.

After all, if people with money refuse to ride the Underground, then why does the Underground contain advertising for first class seats on Emirates?  






26 Mar 00:00

Innovative Efforts for Universal Quality Education

Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin, OECD, Mar 29, 2015

This report summarizes "an international workshop on 'Innovative efforts for universal quality education'." It states: "If education systems are to provide disadvantaged groups with quality education, the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired by students need to be relevant to the environment, improve their employability and be aligned with their work aspirations." Short PDF, most of the useful content is in the 'Highlights' on page 3.

[Link] [Comment]
26 Mar 11:47

PiJuice: portable power for your Pi projects

by Helen Lynn

Helen: some Kickstarter campaigns just jump out at you. When I took a look at PiJuice it was obvious it was the real deal – they’ve only gone and sorted out portable power for the Raspberry Pi, with bells on. Their Kickstarter runs until Tuesday, so you’ve got the weekend to jump on board. Here’s Aaron Shaw to tell you more.

I started playing with the Raspberry Pi since the very beginning and after being involved in The MagPi and various other activities I am now fortunate enough to call Raspberry Pi tinkering my “work”. The thing that got me hooked back in 2012 was the hardware and physical computing capability – writing code to do things in real life (probably because of my background in Automotive Engineering) and I still spend a considerable amount of my time just learning new things and playing around with everything the Raspberry Pi has to offer. It has been a fantastic opportunity and I want to share it with as many people as possible.


Around a year ago I met Harry Gee from PiBot and we started by just throwing around our ideas for how we could help to make the Raspberry Pi even better. One of the things that we had both found difficult was creating portable or remote projects – it was of course possible, but it was just a lot harder than it needed to be. This ultimately led us to the idea of making a neat, safe, portable power solution for the Raspberry Pi to allow people to do even more exciting things with their Pi, whilst saving a lot of time and effort in the process.

PiJuice module

We’ve called this the PiJuice and it’s the ultimate product for portable and remote Raspberry Pi projects. The idea with PiJuice was to remove a barrier to entry from portable Pi projects so that beginners and professionals alike could focus on building, making and learning rather than worrying about the complexities of lithium battery charging and other electronics issues, whilst reducing the costs in the process.


Maker Kits – Made for Makers

PiJuice is more than just an add-on board. We are passionate about education and are keen to turn PiJuice into a modular project platform – a way to allow people to build their awesome ideas much more quickly and easily.

To kick things off and provide some inspiration we have developed a number of exciting tutorials and projects including a Raspberry Pi games console, a compact camera, a Pocket Pi and more.

Make cool stuff

We are calling these Maker Kits and they are already available to purchase in kit form from our Kickstarter page and are being uploaded as free guides on Instructables.

These guides will soon be turned into high quality step-by-step guides that you can either use with our Maker Kits or to build and make your own.

Free Off-Grid Power To the Pi

Off-grid power

When creating Raspberry Pi projects outdoors we’ve also been interested in using solar power as it is free and renewable. We’ve worked hard to create an efficient and low cost solution that will open up new off-grid and sustainable applications for the Raspberry Pi.

The PiJuice Solar has additional circuitry which adds functionality to enable truly autonomous, self-monitoring operation of the Raspberry Pi – perfect for weather stations, remote camera systems for nature watching and more.

Additionally, we are actively investigating possibilities for affordable wind and thermoelectric power generation with PiJuice Solar for added flexibility.

What would you do with yours?

What would you do with yours?

We are really interested in what you want to do with your own PiJuice. We want to create the projects that appeal to you the most, so please suggest us your ideas in the comments, or on Twitter (@ThePiJuice) using the hashtag #ProjectPiJuice to get our attention. We will turn the best of these into free projects for everyone to enjoy!

We really hope to help as many people as possible create awesome portable Raspberry Pi projects as well as continuing to create beautiful guides for cool projects! We’re currently coming to the closing stages of our Kickstarter and would appreciate any support to help make PiJuice even better –

– Aaron & The PiJuice Team

25 Mar 21:27

Twitter Favorites: [rodmickleburgh] The day the late Singaporean autocrat Lee Kuan Yew came face to face with Yippie-dom at UBC

Rod Mickleburgh @rodmickleburgh
The day the late Singaporean autocrat Lee Kuan Yew came face to face with Yippie-dom at UBC…
26 Mar 10:20

Old school data journalism from the 1800s

by Nathan Yau

Compensation map

Data journalism is relatively new as a concept, but in practice it has been around for a good while. Scott Klein for ProPublica tells the story of Horace Greeley, an editor for the New York Tribune and a congressman in the mid-1800s. Greely was displeased with a law that specified mileage compensation for travel to the capital, so he found a way to prove his point with data.

Rather than simply opining against it, he conceived and published a data-journalism project that, in form if not in execution, would be very much at home in a newsroom today. He asked one of his reporters, Douglas Howard, a former postal clerk, to use a U.S. Post Office book of mail routes to calculate the shortest path from each congressman's district to the Capitol, and compared those distances with each congressman's mileage reimbursements. On Dec. 22, 1848, with Greeley now simultaneously its editor and a brand new congressman from New York, the Tribune published a story and a table in two columns of agate type. The table listed each congressman by name with the mileage he received, the mileage the postal route would have granted him and the difference in cost between them. "Let no man jump at the conclusion that this excess has been charged and received contrary to law," wrote Greeley in the accompanying text. "The fact is otherwise. The members are all honorable men — if any irrelevant infidel should doubt it, we can silence him by referring to the prefix to their names in the newspapers."

See Greely's results table and article.

Tags: journalism

26 Mar 02:40

Twitter Favorites: [donnamatrix] I don't love transit because I'm an employee, I'm an employee because I love public transit.

Donnasaurus Fox @donnamatrix
I don't love transit because I'm an employee, I'm an employee because I love public transit.
26 Mar 00:34

Twitter Favorites: [ruhee_] Oh my god you guys Python is awesome.

fleetwood windows @ruhee_
Oh my god you guys Python is awesome.
26 Mar 15:12

Wikipedia And The Sea Lions

A fresh and funny study at Sea Lions Of Wikipedia of the wisdom of extending Gamergate sanctions to all gender-related disputes and controversies, plus anyone involved in gender-related disputes and controversies.

So you see, Sea Lion fans, if it’s a Bad Thing that happens largely to women — like Campus Rape and domestic violence — it’s automatically controversial!

There’s no chance that this will work; it can’t be supported rationally and it can’t be administered sanely. As far as I can make out, the plan is to ban trouble-makers (like me) left and right until everything is calm and civil, a plan excused because Gamergate is not terribly important in the great scheme of things.

The problem for Wikipedia is that gender-related issues and controversies are important. Wikipedia stumbles badly on many of them, in part because so much editing is performed by factions, cliques and trolls, and in part because so many Wikipedia editors just aren’t interested in gender beyond looking at pictures of pretty women who have misplaced their clothes.

26 Mar 13:12

Because freedom matters

by Doc Searls

After one of myaxiom reluctant visits to Facebook yesterday, I posted this there:

If I were actually the person Facebook advertised to, I would be an impotent, elderly, diabetic, hairy (or hairless) philandering cancer patient, heart attack risk, snoring victim, wannabe business person, gambling and cruise boat addict, and possible IBM Cloud customer in need of business and credit cards I already have.

Sixty-eight likes and dozens of comments followed. Most were from people I know, most of whom were well-known bloggers a decade ago, when blogging was still hot shit. Some were funny (“You’re not?”). Some offered advice (“You should like more interesting stuff”). Some explained how to get along with it (“I’ve always figured the purpose of Internet ads was to remind me what I just bought from Amazon”). One stung: “So much for The Intention Economy.”

So I replied with this:

Great to see ya’ll here. Glad you took the bait. Now for something less fun.

I was told last week by an advertising dude about a company that has increased its revenues by 49% using surveillance-based personalized advertising.The ratio of respondents was 1 in a 1000. The number of times that 1 was exposed to the same personalized ad before clicking on it was 70.

He had read, appreciated and agreed with The Intention Economy, and he told me I would hate to hear that advertising success story. He was correct. I did.

I also hate that nearly all the readers all of us ever had on our own blogs are now here. Howdy.

Relatively speaking, writing on my own blog, which averages zero comments from dozens of readers (there used to be many thousands), seems a waste. Wanna write short? Do it in Facebook or Twitter. Wanna write long? Do it in Medium. Wanna write on your own DIY publication? Knock yourself out.

And, because the bloggers among us have already done that, we’re here.

So let’s face it: the leverage of DIY is going down. Want readers, listeners or viewers? Hey, it’s a free market. Choose your captor.

I’ve been working all my adult life toward making people independent, and proving that personal independence is good for business as well as for hacking and other sources of pleasure and productivity. But I wonder whether or not most people, including all of us here, would rather operate in captivity. Hey, it’s where everybody else is. Why not?

Here’s why. It’s the good ship Axiom: . Think about it.

Earth is the Net. It’s still ours: See you back home.

That’s where we are now.



26 Mar 14:23

Rekord: 2014 erstmals eine Milliarde Smartphones verkauft

by Heike Scholz
phones india

Das letzte Quartal 2014 war mit 35 Prozent Wachstum gegenüber dem Vorjahr eines der erfolgreichsten. Das Wettrennen zwischen iOS und Android geht weiter, genau so wie Microsoft weiterhin keine relevante Rolle spielt.

Diese Zahlen liefert der aktuelle Bericht von BI Intelligence. Mit dem kräftigen Schub aus dem vierten Quartal 2014 wurden erstmalig eine Milliarde Smartphones in einem Jahr verkauft.Smartphones

Auch für die kommenden Jahre werden noch jährliche Wachstumsraten von 16 Prozent erwartet, so dass im Jahr 2020 3,4 Milliarden Geräte verkauft werden.

Durch günstige Smartphones werden die Feature Phones zunehmend ersetzt. Schon heute sind von allen weltweit verkauften Mobiltelefonen nur noch 25 Prozent Feature Phones.

Dieses Wachstum wird in erster Linie von den Schwellenländern getrieben. Wobei der chinesische Markt sich der Marktsättigung nähert und nur noch mit acht Prozent pro Jahr wächst. Die höchsten Wachstumsraten verzeichnet Indien mit 31 Prozent.

Apple konnte mit dem iPhone 6 Terrain gut machen und konnte im vierten Quartal 2014 mit einem Zuwachs von 46 Prozent einen um acht Prozentpunkte höheren Anteil auf sich vereinen als im Vorjahr. Dieses Wachstum ging vorrangig zu Lasten von Samsung, deren Verkäufe in diesem Quartal um sieben Prozent fielen.

Android iOS

QuellenStudie BI

Artikelbild: Shutterstock

26 Mar 15:44

How to stand (at your desk)

by Mark Lukach

You’ve heard about the risks of sitting all day long. If not here, then here, here, here, and here. The studies are everywhere, and the verdict is in: We should not spend all day sitting, even if we make time to exercise. It’s not how our bodies are supposed to operate.

So, you want to take the plunge for a standing desk? Here’s our advice on how to go about doing that.

Ease into it, and start cheap

Don’t rush out to buy a top-of-the-line, thousand-dollar desk that moves up and down with the push of a button. Save that for later, once you’re really into this. For now, start small. Any little bit of standing that you do will be an improvement over sitting all day long.

Here are a few small things that you can do without even creating a standing desk. They might be seem silly, but they’re certainly better than sitting for eight hours straight.

  • Commit to doing a certain work task while standing, every time you do it. For example, take all of your calls while standing. Or, if you read at work, stand while reading reports or articles. Neither of these require a standing desk.
  • Take standing breaks during meetings. I’ve found that this actually helps me stay focused, too.
  • Drink more water. This is not only healthy, but also a way to keep you moving–by forcing you to get up to refill your glass, and go to the bathroom. All that walking time is good time.

Enough foreplay, I want to stand

Cheesy tips aside, this is about actually standing while you’re at your computer, not just peeing more during the day.

Again, start small. The best first steps are to set realistic goals and keep your desk cheap. If you try to stand too much right off the bat, you’re probably not going to like it, and you might not stick with it. You should also figure out your own patterns before you rush into spending more money than you need to.

A good first goal is to stand for one hour a day while at work.
A good first goal is to stand for one hour a day while at work. And do it in small shifts–20 minutes here, 20 minutes there. Do that for the first week. Then increase it to two hours. Gradually work your way up until you find a standing amount that feels right for you. Even the most ambitious standers don’t stand for the full day, usually maxing out at about 80 percent of the workday.

Since you’ll start by moving up and down a lot, you’ll eventually want a desk that adjusts easily. While it might be tempting to go for the $22 IKEA Hack, that, along with many other cheap standing desks, is a fixed-height desk. These can work as an introduction to standing–my sister, the person who got me into standing, stacked boxes on her desk for eight months. But once you’re serious, you need something that can easily adjust. It’s a huge deterrent to standing if it takes you 15 minutes to set up your desk, and then another 15 to take it apart each day. That is why we recommend the Ergo Depot Jarvis as the best adjustable standing desk, and the Kangaroo Pro Junior as the best way to convert your current desk to a standing desk. Both are “affordable” (compared with competitors), reliable, extremely functional, and good looking. You can read our full review of standing desks for a better understanding of the options that are out there, and why we like the Jarvis and the Kangaroo Pro Junior.

It’s important to put your keyboard and monitor at the appropriate heights. If you don’t, you might cramp your shoulders, back, or neck by craning. To determine your ideal height for your monitor and keyboard, stand up straight and bend your elbows so that your forearms are parallel to the ground. Wherever your hands are, that’s the ideal height for your keyboard. And whatever is at eye level, that is your ideal monitor level. Create your desk around those dimensions.

You will quickly realize that laptops are not conducive to standing, because the keyboard and monitor are at almost the exact same level. It kind of makes sense–the name is “lap”top after all, which implies sitting. The easy fix for this is to purchase a separate keyboard, which isn’t very expensive at all, but will make your desk much more ergonomic by separating the keyboard from the monitor. Or, you could purchase a separate monitor, such as our favorite, the Dell UltraSharp U2412M.

Mastering the fine details

Once you’re standing an hour or two a day, you’ll notice that there are a few nuanced touches that can make a huge difference.

Standing in place all day is not that good for you either. With all of these studies showing how bad it is to stand, some doctors have looked at the harm of too much standing, and have concluded that static standing, without any weight shift or movement, can lead to increased varicose veins, which are pretty gross.

To combat this, set up your desk near something that you can lean on from time to time, which will help you shift your weight around. And also, try to get into the habit of swaying or rocking–nothing drastic here, but enough to get your weight moving around a little bit.

Get comfy shoes or, even better, go barefoot. If it’s not going to freak anyone out, go ahead and take off your shoes. But if you need footwear, keep a comfy pair of flats at the office that you can change into for standing.

Get a standing mat. They are pretty cheap and can make a huge difference in your comfort throughout the day, especially when you start standing for extended stretches of time. We have a full guide to standing mats, where we explain in depth the benefits of a mat, and why comfy shoes alone aren’t enough. Our favorite is the WellnessMats Original.

Put music on. It’ll get you dancing, which is good! You’ll shift your weight more and avoid that problem of standing in the exact same place all day.

Take breaks. This isn’t a race. This is a behavior that ultimately you are hoping to adapt to for the long haul, preferably the remainder of your working life. Give yourself a break from time to time. Standing all day is harder than you’d think. Make it easy on yourself to enjoy standing.

For the advanced stander, try a treadmill desk. That’s guaranteed to keep you moving. AJ Jacobs wrote an entire book at a treadmill desk, and he speculates that he logged about 1,200 miles in the process. Or, you can work on any variety of balancing boards. I work at my desk while balancing on an Indo Board. I’m often on there for three to five hours a day. It feels amazing.

Otherwise, it’s just standing. Hard to overthink it.

Check out our guide with our recommendations for the best standing desk. And, hey, try standing up while you’re reading it.

26 Mar 13:42

Hover Stories: Frederick Van Johnson from This Week In Photo

by Michael Keshen


When Frederick Van Johnson enlisted as a photographer in the United States Air Force’s Combat Camera unit in 1988, he developed an affinity for photography that would change the course of his life forever. He would go on to work at some of the biggest companies in tech – including Yahoo!, Adobe and Apple – helping to shape their photography products that we all know and love today.

As great as these experiences were, they were all preparation for his biggest endeavour to date: This Week In Photo. Part podcast, part network, part training center, TWiP is the go-to source for aspiring and professional photographers looking to both develop and refine their craft. In turn, Frederick juggles multiple roles: entrepreneur, marketer, photographer, speaker and countless other responsibilities that come with running your own business.

“It’s going well but I have more grey hairs because of all of this. But other than that it’s really fun,” he jokes.

When we discovered that Frederick uses Hover to manage his many domain names, we were of course excited and wanted to learn more about his story. We recently sat down with him – or rather video chatted with him from his iconic home office seen in his video podcasts – to learn more about how he got to where he is today, as well as the exciting places that he’s heading.

Getting Started


Frederick got his first taste of photography in the U.S. Air Force where he photographed, directed and designed multimedia projects for military officials. His nearly 8 year tour of duty enabled him to really get to know his way around a camera, and sparked a passion for photography that would only grow as the years went on.

“That’s where I learned photography, learned to love light, and got bitten by that creative photographic bug,” he reflects.

After leaving the military in 1996, Frederick relocated to Silicon Valley. His first job was at the San Jose Mercury News, where he became the newspaper’s Chief Multimedia Producer. It was here that he learned more about the rapidly growing tech industry, which began to capture his fascination.

“Working at the newspaper I saw: a) the decline of newspapers, and; b) we were reporting on these crazy tech companies that were doing all this cool stuff,” he explains. “I wanted to go and join one of those companies. I wanted to be making tech news, instead of helping to report on it.’”

Working in the Valley


The next chapter in Frederick’s career consisted of establishing himself as a prominent marketer in the tech industry.

His first position was at Yahoo! where from 1998-2002 he was initially a Senior Producer, and was responsible for the company’s entry into mobile content delivery. Specifically, he started what later became Yahoo! Mobile. Later, he served as Creative Director and on-air host for Yahoo!’s media property Yahoo! FinanceVision. There, along with being on-air talent, he focused on the look and feel of the company’s streaming video efforts.

Next, he moved over to Apple where he held the role of Product Marketing Manager for the popular iPhoto photo management software. Then he landed at Adobe in 2007, and accepted a position Sr. Product Marketing Manager for the professional photography market segment, and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

In 2009, after a year and a half at Adobe, Frederick received the first major blow to his career. “Adobe was one of the first companies during the economic slow-down to have a massive layoff — 800 people in one day!” he recalls. “It was just like boom, 800 gone, everyone was carrying boxes and crying, it was a really emotional day.”

Though this was quite shocking, it ended up being a blessing in disguise. While he was busy building a successful career as a marketer, he had been neglecting his true passion — photography. “I was seeing myself moving further and further away from my creative roots and photography,” he explains, “so I decided it was time to move back into photography.

This Week In Photo


It was around this time a few of his friends started a photography podcast called This Week In Photo (TWiP). When Frederick found himself with some free time on his hands, he realized that the time was right to rekindle his love of photography. So, he joined TWiP as a co-host, and would eventually take over and drive the operation altogether.

Regarding how his mind works, he says, “it’s kind of like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, where you have the chocolate and the peanut butter together. I had marketing and photography skills, and I wondered, how could I put these together to make something that’s a viable business as well as help people.’ So over the years I grew TWiP from being just a hobby podcast to a profitable business and media property to be reckoned with!”

Under Frederick’s helm, TWiP has evolved from a single podcast to a network of podcasts covering the diverse world of photography. In total they have around 25 staff, and have an additional 7 new shows slated for release within the next 6-7 months.

“The This Week In Photo site is kind of like an ‘incubator’, because many of  the shows are new and full of promise,” he explains, “and as they grow, they’ll get their own legs and break off to become separate properties themselves, each with its own community of fans, advertisers, content, etc — away from the mothership.”

Over the years, Frederick has hosted over 400 shows that have been listened to millions times all over the world, and he has interviewed countless photographers and industry leaders. Along with his frequent speaking engagements and his seat on the Brooks Institute’s Board of Trustees, this has all cumulated into establishing himself as a powerful thought leader in the photography world – something that he is both surprised and honoured by.

“Podcasting is kind of a weird off-shoot of celebrity,” he explains. “It’s not real ‘Hollywood’ celebrity. It’s an accessible kind of celebrity, because people know that you’re just a normal person, and you are using the exact same gear that they may have. I’m just another guy that you happen to have heard repeatedly. But that repetition somehow equals importance. It’s an interesting nuance.”

Why He Chose Hover

While we had Frederick’s attention, we chose to be a little selfish and ask why he uses Hover for all of his domain names. Luckily he didn’t mind, and in fact had many great things to say about us.

“I chose Hover because the company struck me as the ‘Apple’ of domain registration in terms of the transparency and simplicity of how it all worked together,” he reflects. “Initially, I had domains in several different places, and if I recall correctly Hover had a valet service that basically facilitated moving my other domains over to Hover for me. And I was like ‘hallelujah!’”

Coincidentally, he had even been recommending us to his sister that very morning.

“This morning, I received an email from you guys about some new top-level domains that are becoming available,” he explains. “My sister has a cosmetology business and I explained to her that she should register a .CARE domain name for her business. She said ‘I have no idea how to register that, tell my nephew to do it!’ and I said, ‘no, just go to and just do it’ and I sent her the link and she’s doing it right now!”

“I wouldn’t have felt comfortable sending her to some other services. Instead, I likely would have said, ‘you know what, let me just do it for you.’ But with Hover, I feel confident sending my sister over to register her domain.’”

Need a new website? Search for a domain name ending with .COM, .PICS, .PHOTOGRAPHY or any of our other 300+ top-level domains:

Name Your Thing


26 Mar 16:43

Amazon Cloud Drive now offers unlimited plans for photos and everything else

by Evan Selleck
Amazon Cloud Drive has offered cloud storage for quite some time, and for Prime users unlimited photo storage has been a perk for a stretch now. Continue reading →
26 Mar 17:04

The Power of Reuse: Wikipedia in Action

by Stephen Downes
Summary of a panel at the Hewlette Grantees' Conference. Errors are again my own.

Pete Forsyth, Wiki Strategies
(See also his blog post with resources for this panel at )

In the past we've been saying that it's important to the field of OER to improve content. But really, it's about teaching and learning. So what is it about Wikipedia that is an opportunity for learning?

Jeanette Lee, the Cambridge School of Weston

We are integrating technology in the classroom, and students are always asking whether they can use Wikipedia. We have a handout we created on how to use Wikipedia. One of the students wanted to use the message box from an article, and we had a conversation about how to use it. So, students are using Wikipedia and the question is how to integrate it.

Amin Azzam, UCSF

The peer review process has sort of a stranglehold on academic advancement, but they were interested in partnering with Wikipedia such that if an author updated an article it might be counted as a publication. The meeting on this was just yesterday.

The medical students all go to Wikipedia first when they go o look something up, because it's written in a way they can understand, and then they go to a more reliable source. So then someone suggested that students could contribute to Wikipedia.

Dan Cook, Wiki Strategies

I'm a voracious consumer of Wikipedia. My work is both as a journalist and as a consultant. This week for example there was the experience of going from an article being marked for deletion to the potential removal of the banner altogether. I have these experiences pretty much on a daily basis.

I was part of the 'new journalism' when it was coined in the 80s. Secret sources and fights with the editors and all that. But now Wikipedia is the new journalism of today; leave your ego at the door, don;t use any modifiers, we don't want any spin. But it's a hard place for traditional journalists to work; we have to unlearn everything we learned about journalism.


I compare Wikipedia articles to an expository essay, which students have to learn. So getting them to understand that Wikipedia articles have structure, they have references, etc. So the idea is making the use of Wikipedia in academia transparent. People are using it, they're just using it quietly. It was about how to get a language to move between Wikipedia articles and the more traditional essay.

A funny statistic from Pew, from February: 90 percent of AP and National Writing teachers find information online for their classes; 90 percent use Google, 87% use Wikipedia, but they discourage their students from using it. So there is this contradiction. So we need to get out in front and deal with this contradiction. We need a PR campaign or something, so people know it is legitimate to use in their classrooms.

Amin: Yes, 87-93% of medical students admits to using it.

Dan: If you could just get them to take the next step and look at their sources!

Jeanette: yes, that's what we want them to do, it's a great skill to develop.

Amin: there's roughly 26K articles in the medical field, but a lot of them have room for improvement. One thing wwith my students is they're in the final year of med school, so they can contribute, but they haven't lost the ability to speak English yet.

Pete: the articles I contributed to most were on topics I was learning about. Also, Amin mentioned 'English Wikipedia'. This points to a way where Wikipedia and OER have a lost of aspirations in common. (Reads from letter mourning the death of Babu Gi, from Kerala, and commemorating his contributions).

Amin: discusses the translation of medical articles into other languages. Wikipedia has an initiative called 'Data Zero' to give access to Wikipedia content for free. To me this is a no-brainer. (See )

Jeanette: opportunities for OER to learn from Wikipedia - I don't have students contribute to Wikipedia, but I do have students use materials from Wikipedia and OER Commons - I do hand over a lot of content to students, and then they create the content that everyone uses. I give them the option: either I lecture, or you do this project. Usually they choose the project. And they know that everybody will be using the material for understanding the text. I view Wikipedia as part of the OER community, and it's a way for them to use Wikipedia even if they can't contribute (they're just high school students, I would have too many permissions I have to fill out).

Amin: there's a source of med information by students for students called 'Up To Date', it's called 'crack for medical students', but it's subscription, and they don't realize how much the school has to pay.

Pete: where do students become ready to contribute to Wikipedia?

Jeanette: I think definitely there are high school students ready for that.

Amin: it's a question of what fraction of school work is contributing. For example in my class they have peer review. They need this support.

Jeanette: some projects are individual and some are group. Anything that's a presentation for the class, they grade it, I don't grade it.

Pete: I see this as a new journalism and I would like to see training begin in the classroom, so they don't get the bad habits I got. When will students work on Wikipedia?

Jeanette: there are concerns about privacy, that's the barrier. I do think it would be a hard sell for some districts. Showing districts how they can use Wikipedia would be much easier.

Amin: my students had to create user names, so we could track their contribution. They began with non-descriptive user names, but eventually made it clear they were future doctors.

Pete: there is this culture of anonymity in Wikipedia. It's a major part of the ethos. But then there's the potential for conflict of interest; we don't want the chief of Enron writing the article.

Dan: why did reporters have bylines? So they could be held accountable. Journalists especially need to have user names that are transparent and they should describe themselves in a transparent way. There needs to be a high level there. When I search to see if an article is credible, I don't like seeing that the author is anonymous. Wikipedians will have to grapple with this.

Amin: the concept of anonymity almost doesn't exist any more. They have their Facebook pages, they scrub them clean before going into med school.

Dan: I think it's people in my generation, they don't want to give up their social security numbers, etc.

Jeanette: developing people who are comfortable as Wikipedia users, as they go into college, they're used to working in that kind of environment.

Amin: my future students will be already equipped knowing how to be contributors.

Q: there are now things where you can remix in the OER space; but in schools there is this top-down ethic about who is eligible to do that (it has to be curriculum specialists, etc).

Amin: I consider the medical librarian an equal partner in the course, and the Wikipedia contributors to be equal partners. There's no way for any of us top be experts in everything. It takes a village.

Pete: Wikipedia and OER are characterozed by people coming together in ways that were never anticipated, and saying to previous generations, we're not waiting around for you any more. We want to address content gaps. Etc. The sort of thing that doesn't work well in that crowd-sourced way. Eg. the small number of contributions by women.

Q. Pete said to me, the first thing they do after you tell them about OER, they go to Google and search for it, and find the article on Wikipedia. Do you care about what they're reading? Do you feel this is your responsibility? What ought we be doing in this community?

Pete: it's not an easy process, it doesn't have easy boundaries, you have to decide what's important for yourself, and you have to think about how much you can get in, how to work with other people.

Amin: Wikipedia is not a democracy, it's a do-ocracy.

Q: it seems to be impermanent, in the beginning, anything we thought was of value was not surviving. But the value is where you should be participating. It does compel participation. We made a lot of mistakes, but most of our articles are surviving now; it's about participating in the community. Our students talk about 'surviving the Wikipedia process'. But that's the strength of Wikipedia.

Pete: we see this dynamic a lot. People contribute an article and it's highly imperfect, just what was in the newspaper. And then a few years later an expert comes along, and says there's all these errors. And I say to them, "when were you going to do this?" When would you write the article, without having seen all the errors.

Dan: I tell people, "go to the talk pages". That's where you can see the process at work.

Q: does it make sense to have a Wikimedian-in-residence in OER?

Amin: Brillian idea.

Jeanette: I totally agree with that. And Wikipedia has done a good job partnering with universities. Such a person could encourage partnering with districts.

Q: question was more whether it would conflict with the Wiki education foundation?

Pete: no it would not at all. I know most of those people, I think there would be delight.
26 Mar 17:04



The new live-streaming mobile app from Twitter. As an early investor (before the sale to Twitter, of course), I’ve been testing the service for months and I cannot wait to see what the world does with it now that it’s out there. 

So much time, care, and thoughtfulness went into this one. 

26 Mar 15:24

Software Aesthetics: Cuteness

Exploring fringes of software aesthetics, I’ve been reading up on things that are not quite beautiful. I came across this in a book review by Adam Kirsch in next month’s Atlantic:

Niceness without goodness is cuteness.

This makes a certain sense; it explains, for example, why a toddler can easily be cute but is seldom beautiful. “Goodness” here is not a moral judgment, or not just a moral judgment: an horse with a hat might be cute, but a beautiful horse is a horse doing what horses do – running gracefully through a meadow, say.

How would this work with software?

We look at a clever Perl one-liner, decipher it’s meaning, and exclaim “Nice!” But one-liners seldom do much good: even when they do something useful, it’s probably better to use a few lines to explain what you intend. Perl one-liners are cute.

Gratuitous user interface polish does little or no actual good; it’s an expense, and it seldom produces much benefit. Often, this year’s marvel may be actively pernicious in a minute or two: remember Cordovan leather backgrounds? Gratuitous polish is cute.

Under the hood, it’s entirely possible to use language features in strange and esoteric ways. You can be make C++ feel like a functional language. You can make C++ feel like Smalltalk. You can write little interpreters in C++ and do the real work in your own variant of LISP. Sometimes, this is elegant; often, it’s merely playing cute.

Games and fictions sometimes drop the mask (or the fourth wall) to attempt an arch and knowing address to the player. We’re in the middle of a complex and challenging city simulation, and suddenly notice that the factories all have silly names and make silly products, or have in-joke references to industry insiders. Archness in games and fiction is cute.

Almost all codewerk is cute.

Brent Simmons hit this nail on the head when he wrote about the problems of splitting classes that are too large and do too much into smaller, more focused objects. If you do this intelligently, you get better code. If you get carried away, you get a basket of bunny classes. Bunny classes are cute.

25 Mar 00:00

Why Free Is Not the Future of Digital Content in Education


Mary Cullinane, Wired, Mar 28, 2015

long ago accused Wired of selling out to advertisers, and this column (not coincidentally authored by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’ s Chief Content Officer) does not dissuade me of that criticism. Here is the argument, in one sentence: "If we do not get educational content right, students are less likely to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in college and careers." If this were true, nobody would have succeeded before academic publishers came onto the scene. But in fact, almost any content will do if learners are motivated, and no content will do if learners are not motivated. And the reason why free can work and is working is that it's created by and for people who are motivated. That's why it's enough of a threat to an academic publisher that they felt compelled to write an op-ed in one of their captive publications.

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25 Mar 00:00

The Ultimate Guide to BPMN2

Unattributed, SourceForge Resources, Mar 28, 2015

I'm not enamoured of Creative Commons's recent initiative to license 'open business practices' as outlined here, because it seems to legitimize the nidea that business practices can be licensed, which seems wrong to me. But I guess it's becoming a thing, which is why it now becomes relevant to link to this item from SourceForge (I don't know whether the URL will work for you; it's part of an email campaign. The  direct link is here and I don't know whether that will work either - it's all very private-like - or you can just grab the PDF directly  from here and skip the marketing pitch, and if they complain I'll explain about the concept of SourceForge and sharing and all that). "Business Process Model and Notation 2.0 (BPMN2) is one of the best things to happen in business process management in a long time - and many people and organizations who could benefit from BPMN have yet to give it a try." It makes me wonder who is behind all this and what they hope to achieve.

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26 Mar 02:20

Facebook Messenger’s “Optimized” Approach and App Discovery

by Federico Viticci

Over at Fast Company, Sarah Kessler has a good summary of Facebook's Messenger announcements from today's F8 developer conference:

Facebook wants to turn its Messenger app into more than just a messaging app. At its F8 conference in San Francisco Wednesday, the company announced details on its much-rumored plans to integrate Messenger with purchases made on other sites, and to allow third-party developers to build apps that work within it.

Messenger users will soon be able to select from a list of services inside of the app. At launch, most of these apps help users create new content, like singing telegram app Ditty, GIF app Giphy, and voice app FlipLip Voice Changer. There’s also a fun special effects app available from J.J. Abrams and an ESPN app that provides users with sports GIFs. Facebook says 40 apps will be available today or in the days to come.

I was curious about Facebook's plans for Messenger Platform, and the addition of an API immediately caught my interest. I tweeted:

Messenger Platform could be interesting for app discovery. How is Facebook picking which apps to show though?

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) March 25, 2015

Also interesting that Facebook is basically doing their own “extensions” for Messenger. Imagine this for iMessage?

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) March 25, 2015

After reading more about how Messenger Platform works with third-party apps, though, I realized that my tweets from earlier today don't exactly apply to what Facebook is doing.

From the apps announced in the Messenger Platform Showcase (about 40), I noticed that most of them were dedicated versions specifically made for Messenger. There is, for instance, GIF Keyboard and GIF for Messenger, made by the same developer; there's Bitmoji for all users and Bitmoji for Messenger. These apps are advertised with a special “for Messenger” suffix on the developers' websites, they have a different icon with a Messenger badge, and they're entirely new apps on the App Store. I downloaded the GIF Messenger app without having Messenger installed on my iPhone, and it's got a blue “Send” button that does…nothing.

I also noticed how some apps – such as Imgur and Action Movie FX – were not dedicated versions built for Messenger, but simple updates to existing App Store apps with the addition of Messenger integration. That piqued my interest and I did some digging on Facebook's Messenger developer website.

Why are most Messenger Platform apps standalone versions while others (Imgur) are simple updates to their existing app?

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) March 25, 2015

As it turns out, there are two ways for developers to integrate with Messenger: basic and optimized. With basic sharing, apps can let people “send images, videos, GIFs and sound clips through Messenger”. With this type of sharing, content shared from apps in Messenger carries an app's name and icon.

Optimized sharing is what Facebook thinks is the superior solution for developers and users. Once developers apply for optimized sharing and get approved by Facebook, they get access to special Install and Reply buttons for content shared from their apps. These buttons can help drive engagement by letting other Messenger users download an app their friend is using with one tap and reply in a conversation with the same app and flow.

So why have most developers from today's announcement chosen the make-a-standalone-Messenger-version approach for their apps? The answer is in the custom composer Facebook has built and how they're recommending Platform apps.

By opening the proprietary Messenger composer (a sheet of apps), users will see installed Messenger Platform apps as well as a list of more “Apps for Messenger”. How are these other apps picked? According to Facebook, you should “think of featured apps as an editorial list of some of the best Messenger integrations”. And to get in that section, Facebook offers some “tips to get featured”. After being approved for optimized sharing, the first recommendation from Facebook is:

Make your app exclusively for Messenger.

Facebook is cleverly and indirectly incentivizing the creation of Messenger-exclusive apps built with optimized sharing. The guidelines for optimized sharing don't mention Messenger exclusivity, but optimized sharing and exclusivity are the entry ticket to the Messenger Featured list, which will prominently highlight apps made exclusively for Messenger. Facebook wants users to stay inside Messenger and share their content with compatible apps, therefore it'll be in the developers' interest to be part of that in-app Featured list. Building a Messenger app with optimized sharing without exclusivity would likely be a wasted opportunity – assuming it would even get approved by Facebook.

There's also a branding factor at play. The Messenger badge that Facebook is providing with a downloadable Photoshop file is only available if:

Messenger is the exclusive means of sharing content from your app

Facebook is building its Platform for two installation methods: if you see a Featured app from Messenger's in-app recommendations, you know it's exclusive to Messenger; if you see a branded icon on the App Store, you know that app is exclusive to Messenger, too.

On the developer's side, Facebook is even replicating the traditional App Review model with their own App Review for apps that want to use optimized sharing. Interestingly, developers can submit apps that are already available on the App Store (and therefore initially limited to basic sharing) or upload a Simulator build file for a pre-release app.

I've been going through Facebook's guidelines and developer portal, and it seems to me that they're building Messenger Platform as a locked-in layer on top of the App Store itself. Facebook controls the deep-linking between apps, sharing mechanisms, branding, app review, and editorial curation for a subset of apps built for Messenger, most of them downloaded from the App Store but exclusive to Messenger. They're using the App Store as a dumb delivery pipe, with the core experience confined in Messenger and apps optimized for it.

How much of Messenger's app discovery will happen in Apple's App Store app, and how much will instead take place inside Messenger with App Store sheets that are contextual and never force users to leave Messenger?

I don't know if Facebook's experiment will succeed, but it is interesting to observe how this massively popular company with some of the most downloaded apps on the App Store is now using Apple's infrastructure to serve their own ecosystem with third-party developers. It's a walled garden inside the walled garden – not a new approach, but with a high visibility in western markets due to Facebook's established name.

Note also how Facebook isn't leveraging native iOS 8 extensibility features to integrate its platform with third-party apps. While Facebook could have promoted iOS 8 extensions and keyboards that work well with Messenger (like Apple does for iOS with curated App Store sections), they chose to go with a locked-in approach powered by a proprietary SDK that hinges on exclusivity and native integrations. This may as well be ultimately beneficial to Facebook and developers, but it doesn't seem like a straightforward experience for the average iOS user.

By eschewing iOS 8 extensions, Facebook has built a system that uses deep-linking (the company isn't new to that) to make users jump between apps to attach media to Messenger. This is a deeply different experience than what Apple wanted to promote with iOS 8, and it's both disconcerting and unsurprising to see Facebook using their own solution instead of the open approach granted by iOS 8 extensions. Considering how popular Messenger is across iOS users, I wonder if this custom definition of a “share sheet” will alter perceptions in how communication between apps works on iOS.

I'm not a fan of how Facebook decided to extend Messenger and I think that maintaining standalone apps could be problematic for developers and confusing for iOS users, but I'm curious to see how this plays out.

26 Mar 03:45

Google releases Android 5.1 ‘LMY74I’ factory images for Nexus 5 and Nexus 6

by Rajesh Pandey
Google today posted updated Android 5.1 factory images for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6. The new factory images are still based on Android 5.1, but carry a newer build number: LMY74I. Continue reading →
26 Mar 04:22

Constructing Symbols and Collective Identity

by Richard Millington

Trace the history of almost any flag.

Clearly the colours and design weren’t put together by accident. They reflect something about the country’s history and its members. The challenge isn’t to create a cool design, but to accurately reflect the history of those the flag represents.

At our SPRINT USA workshop, I asked all 20 groups of 5 people to design themselves a flag. It was a difficult assignment. They have a blank page and four members they've just met.

Most groups resorted to something funny, it's the safe option. 

Symbols help create a sense of collective identity. The best symbols reflect the history of the group. It's hard to do a symbol at the beginning, because it has nothing about the group history to reflect. Far better to wait a year or so and then introduce symbols which best reflect the history of the group. 

Next time we’ll do a flag at the end. I suspect even with a day’s history they’ll be able to put together a flag much easier. We can even let members offer their ideas and vote on them too. 

26 Mar 03:48

Facebook F8 – Family matters.

by windsorr

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Facebook is creating a family of products to address Digital Life.

  • Facebook has opened what I consider to be the most important season of industry meetings when it comes to really understanding the action and the money in the consumer electronics industry.
  • Between now and mid-June Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple will hold their developer conferences where they will unveil the innovations with which they intend to strengthen their ecosystems.
  • Users do not pay crazy prices for iPhones or let Google into every aspect of their lives for no reason.
  • They do so because they want access to the Digital Life services that these companies deliver and for that they are willing to pay in coin or in data.
  • In fact so commoditised has become the hardware that I would argue that over 90% of the mobile industries profits are in fact generated by people paying to access an ecosystem not a device.
  • Facebook kicked off the season with F8 where it is presenting to 2,000 developers how it intends to develop the Facebook user experience.
  • Facebook messenger has been a colossal success since it was stripped out of the larger Facebook app. and has now passed 600m users.
  • Facebook intends to build on this success and its offering is developing into a family of services which I presume will eventually cover most of the activities that users carry out on their phones.
  • To this end the big announcement of the day was that Messenger will now become a platform upon which developers can innovate.
  • It is starting small, with innovation limited to entertaining ways in which to communicate over the messenger system, but it is clear that the plans are this to evolve.
  • Facebook also announced the ability to communicate with businesses within the messenger app. neatly moving the system into e-commerce which is the single fastest growing activity on mobile devices albeit from a low base.
  • In effect, messenger is following the trajectory of Line and WeChat in creating its own platform from which it can offer value to users and keep them using its services for as long as possible.
  • I suspect that over time all of Facebook’s existing properties will be evolved to allow more developer innovation and to offer a more complete set of services.
  • Furthermore, I would expect them to end up working much more closely with each other so that users feel they are living in one place just with multiple rooms.
  • This is exactly what Facebook needs to do as its long term growth depends on users doing more than just social networking and messaging on Facebook.
  • Great coverage of Digital Life will mean greater relevance of advertisements and more time spent by users giving a much greater revenue opportunity.
  • This will have a significant impact on revenues but there is a long way to go before this revenue shows up in the numbers.
  • The first problem to solve is the awkward situation that exists with WhatsApp.
  • This asset is in the books at $19bn (1,357x 2014A Price / Sales) but Metcalf’s law of networking indicates that there is a lot of value to be gained if the two can be put seamlessly together.
  • This is badly needed if Facebook is to escape a massive goodwill write down as WhatsApp. Delivers virtually no tangible revenues of its own.
  • This is why WhatsApp. must become part of the Facebook family and I think that over the next year or two, we will see this become a reality.
  • Facebook announced nothing particularly new or revolutionary at its developer conference but it did announce what is needed to keep its revenue growth going over the medium term.
  • Its biggest asset is its 1.3bn MaUs and the 600m who regularly user Facebook and Messenger.
  • This gives it a massive advantage over its smaller competitors who will need to develop geographic or functionality niches to keep their users on board.
  • Facebook is slowly becoming an ecosystem but I need to see a lot more of the pie covered before I can be comfortable that it has arrived.