Off the Top: Learning Entries

May 17, 2012

The Natural Progression of the Thought of Man

In an attempt to try and remember (still flailing) the rhetorical and or narrative style that James Burke uses in Connections I was also recalling other times I heard the same or similar style used. One of them was by a tutor/lecturer in Oxford, Dr. Allan Chapman, with whom I took “The Natural Progression of the Thought of Man” lecture class from at The Centre for Medieval & Renaissance StudiesThe Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in 1988. ()Dr. Chapman has also been on James Burke’s Connections talking about inventions and discoveries in astronomy during the early renaissance).

The class was a once a week amazing hour (or so) of Dr. Chapman laying out the drastic shift between medieval understandings and the more enlightened renaissance approach across a wide swath of subjects, from medicine, populations studies, war craft, astrology, and much more. One of the amazing things was there were no questions allowed mid-lecture, as he had structured and memorized the lectures verbatim. After the hour lecture of so he would take questions and often he would recite exactly what he had stated in the lecture. He would not let on to the method of how he did the memorizations, but his method allowed him to roll the lecture off with ease and at a rather quick pace.

This class is one of many in undergrad that deeply changed how I saw the world, but also how I saw the potential and the collection of all the things happening as fodder for more optimal ways of doing things. Seeing pitfalls and gaps at the same time as advancement and improvements. Seeing the shifts in underlying understandings and grasping the echoing across its own and other disciplines it will have in a relatively short time, when taking the long view.

In my search to see what Dr. Allan Chapman was up to these days I found his joint address to the Royal Society and Gresham College Annual Lecture on the subject of “History, Science, Religion: Capturing the Public Imagination” on Vimeo.

Dr. Chapman’s lecture style is much the same as I remember and much more enjoyable not taking notes as fast as one could (his lectures were the only source of information for our one and final exam).

May 2, 2012

The Data Journalism Handbook is Available

The Data Journalism Handbook is finally available online and soon as the book Data Journalism Handbook - from Amazon or The Data Journalism Handbook - from O’Reilly, which is quite exciting. Why you ask?

In the October of 2010 the Guardian in the UK posted a Data Journalism How To Guide that was fantastic. This was a great resource not only for data journalists, but for anybody who has interest in finding, gathering, assessing, and doing something with the data that is shared found in the world around us. These skill are not the sort of thing that many of us grew up with nor learned in school, nor are taught in most schools today (that is another giant problem). This tutorial taught me a few things that have been of great benefit and filled in gaps I had in my tool bag that was still mostly rusty and built using the tool set I picked up in the mid-90s in grad school in public policy analysis.

In the Fall of 2011 at MozFest in London many data journalist and others of like mind got together to share their knowledge. Out of this gathering was the realization and starting point for the handbook. Journalists are not typically those who have the deep data skills, but if they can learn (not a huge mound to climb) and have it made sensible and relatively easy in bite sized chunk the journalists will be better off.

All of us can benefit from this book in our own hands. Getting to the basics of how gather and think through data and the questions around it, all the way through how to graphically display that data is incredibly beneficial. I know many people who have contributed to this Handbook and think the world of their contributions. Skimming through the version that is one the web I can quickly see this is going to be an essential reference for all, not just journalists, nor bloggers, but for everybody. This could and likely should be the book used in classes in high schools and university information essentials taught first semester first year.

October 1, 2010

Where Good Ideas Come From - Finally Arriving

I don't think I have been awaiting a book for so long with so much interest as I am for Steven Berlin Johnson's (SBJ) new book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.


Ever since I read SBJ's book Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software I was impressed how he pulled it together. I was even more impressed with how the book that followed, Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life (my notes from one piece of this book that really struck me is found in the post The User's Mind and Novelty). During all of this SBJ was writing about how he was writing and pulling notes together. On his personal blog he has talked often about DevonThink and how he uses it (this greatly influenced my trying it and purchasing it many years back and is the subject of a recent post of mine As If Had Read). This sharing about how he keeps notes of his own thoughts and works though ideas that go from tangents and turn into solid foundations for great understanding. It was this fascination that I included Steven as one of the people I would really like to meet, with the reasoning, "I like good conversation and the people that have provided great discovery through reading their writings often trigger good conversation that drives learning." (from Peter J. Bogaards interview with me for InfoDesign in July 2004).

The Sneak Preview Webinar

Today (Thursday 30 September 2010 as of this writing) Steven provided a webinar for those who had pre-ordered copies of his new book. It contains everything I have been expecting the book to have and have wished he would right up and put in a book over the last 6 to 7 years of wishing. He brings into the book the idea of the commonplace book, which I have been mulling over since I read it (I may be a bit obsessed with it as it ties in neatly with some other things I have been mulling about for a long time, like the Personal InfoCloud as written up in It is Getting Personal and many presentations going back into 2003, if not farther).

One of the great ideas that came out in the webinar was the idea of taking reading vacations to just take time off and read and focus on the reading and the ideas that come out of that reading and the ideas that are influenced by it. Steven talked about companies like Google and their 20% projects. But, what if companies gave employees paid time to read and focus on that. Read, learn, challenge what you know, expand your own understanding, mix what you have known and challenge it with new ideas and challenges and viewpoints. I think this is not only a good idea, but a great idea. Too many ideas have yet to be born and far too many "thought leaders" haven't evolved or challenged their thoughts in a long long time.

Yes, I can not wait to get this book in my hands and read. I am hoping the webinar will be made available more broadly as it is a gem as well.

September 29, 2010

Learned by Failing: Best Lesson was About Experience

This return back to blogging is hopefully unleashing quite a stack of things both here in this blog, but as well in Personal InfoCloud. It seems I will be using this to discuss personal tools, processes, and life stories that I often recount so to make things a bit easier (not sure who it is easier for, but there you have it).

Going Abroad to Learn a New Way

In 1988 I took my last semester of classes for my undergrad degree at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) in Oxford, England. I did this for a few different reasons: 1) I really wanted to study abroad; 2) I wanted to fill in a gap in my education's knowledge of history around European history; 3) It was a program on the study abroad flyer board at my college; and 4) It was much closer to my college girlfriend who was studying abroad in Lyon, France and I could still speak English (my French I had from an hour a day for three years in Montessori school from age 3 to 5 was more than a bit rusty). These may not be in the order of value I placed on them at the time.

One of the strengths of CMRS was it was run on the Oxford (Oxbridge) system of tutorials. My class load consisted of two tutorials and two lectures each week. Each of the tutorials required self-study (directed by a question given by the tutor and often one to four starting resources) so to fill a gap in one's knowledge and then write-up a six to 8 page paper each week on the subject. This was 12 to 18 pages of writing each week (or that was the aim) after learning as much as possible on the subject.

Learning By Failing the Lesson of Experience

One of the tutorials I had was focussed on the Early Northern Renaissance Art, which covered some of my favorite artists like Albrecht D%C3%BCrer, Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Jan van Eyck as well as the perfection of symbology in art, use of proper prospective, and incredible attention to detail. This tutorial required quite a bit of reading, but the introduction lectures to CMRS provide insight into gutting a book to help get through the large volume of reading needed.

I was doing rather well, or passably well in this tutorial and then came the last essay for the tutorial, "Compare and contrast the Early Northern Renaissance with the Early Italian Renaissance". I had purchased a two or three of the needed Northern Renaissance art essential books and used the libraries heavily, but I had nothing on the Italian Renaissance period. This being toward the end of term the libraries were rather bare. I read up on what I had in my Northern books and pulled as much as I could from general art history books covering the Renaissance in general. When I had as much as I could pull together for the paper I wrote what turned into a four page paper. It was thin on content, depth, and quality (having put off writing to get more time to find information).

I read my paper to the tutor that week. He was more than a little displeased at the lack of volume, content, and quality. I pointed out that all of the books that were on the list were not available and I pulled from the best resources I could find, which were rather lacking on the subject. He asked a very pointed question, "Have you ever seen any Italian Renaissance art?" I said I had, as I was a fan of museums and the prior summer I had been to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy (among many other art museums around Europe). The tutor asked what differences I could tell him between the two Renaissance. I went into some solid detail explaining the contrasts regarding texture, color palettes, sharpness of detail, focal points, skies, clothing, and many other large contrasts.

The Great Payoff of All My Undergraduate Courses

The tutor looked at me over the glasses at the end of his nose and bluntly stated, "That, Mr. Vander Wal, is an A paper, if not better. But, what you have written is a D paper at best. I only grade on what is written. Let my advice to you be: Trust your experiences more than what is written, as that is how we all advance. Let your own experiences trump that others have written or have not written and you write that down so to document it."

So, there in what was my last paper in my last class of my undergraduate career was the most valuable lesson I had learned in all of my undergraduate collegiate career. All the work and money that went into it was tied up in a wonderful bow that prepared me for the rest of my life like no other. I had many great learning experiences prior to this, but nothing with as much gravitas as this. It gave me conviction to examine and tear everything apart and question it with my own lens and one that had me pay much closer attention to my own experiences while trying to frame everything from experiences to learning from other's experiences where I lack my own.

August 23, 2006

Apple Scholars

A quick note... Apple announced their Apple Scholars for 2006. Congratulations to all who one and to Apple for making this possible.

May 26, 2006

College is not about academics

The University of Washington has a new football recruit who seems to want to focus on the football field. When asked about the opportunity to go to Stanford on scholarship he stated, "The academic side of things there was kind of intriguing," Izbicki said. "But I decided it wasn't for me.".

Mind you, the University of Washington is a very good school, as is Stanford.

November 21, 2005

Language as a Divider

A wonderful piece about language and experience by Meg had me recalling recent language adventures. Having been in the Netherlands, Brussels, Berlin, and Boston in recent weeks the shifting of language (and jet lag) and its impact on communication was brought back to me.

While much of the Netherlands (particularly Amsterdam) is fluent in English, I always feel badly using it as my default. The downside is I really do not speak Dutch, I have a vocabulary of about 20 or so words (although this last trip thank you was about the extent of it) so I fall back on English very quickly. Being of Dutch ancestry is the driver for the guilt, I feel like I am letting down previous generations.

The trip to Brussels was a little more problematic as English is not spoken everywhere, but they do speak French (I know a little more French than Dutch)and Flemish (close to Dutch, but not my forte). I had to rely on friends (mostly Dutch) to navigate menus and other essentials. But, Brussels is a very English friendly city.

Now we get to Berlin. I speak some German (Deutsch) from years of schooling. I can get by with my remedial Geutsch, but it does not get me as far as I would like. I can ask, "what beer is she drinking" and then follow-up with "I would like a large one of those, please". Food is fine, but complex directions (particularly with a city whose parts I am not familiar nor the transportation systems) were lost on me. These needed English. I also found that nearly all of the channels on my television at the hotel were in Deutsch (except for a time slice of CNN interwoven), although others friends in the hotel seemed to have more English channel access (could be related to my horribly flakey WiFi, which they did not experience either). All of the newspaper options in the hotel were in Deutsch, which made the Financial Times not quite as wonderful as usual.

When I got to Boston and checked into my hotel I went out to go to the reception and passed a newsstand on Harvard Square that was selling the Financial Times I had been trying all day (18 hours already) to get my hands on. When I went to ask for the paper my English had failed me. I had lost all languages for a moment. Language quickly returned, but I could easily ask for the paper in Deutsch, as well as for how much, and say thank you in Deutsch or Dutch. This I knew would not get me far. I just sort of mumbled something in some language and tucked my paper in the back pocket of my Barber coat and went off into the night.

I usually have this problem in English as I can always think of the larger words, but always pause to think of the more simple words or the one that is more culturally appropriate. English is not one language, but many culturally loaded variants. The use of sofa rather than couch or supper rather than dinner frames who you are in other people's minds. Let alone various terms from cross professional disciplines, which can quickly alienate you or engender you to those to whom you are speaking. So I often pause to pull from the appropriate vocabulary, but most often I can only think of one term and just go with it, then hope I get called on it so I can explain I am not exactly the person they think I am (that rarely happens and inferences of who I am are sealed). C'est la Vie!

November 17, 2005

Design Engaged and Symposium on Social Architecture

I got back home late Tuesday night from Design Engaged in Berlin and Symposium on Social Architecture in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Harvard. I had a deadline to meet by midnight Tuesday. Much of Wednesday was spent unbolding e-mail and getting essential replies out (more of this to do today) and unbolding my feed aggregator (1500+ things). I also spent time posting photos of the trip to Berlin (currently at 216 photos, possibly a few untagged).

Design Engaged

Design Engaged was somewhat different from last year's event in Amsterdam. It was still interacting with many of my favorite people, but it was a little larger, in a new space, in a new city (one I was not familiar with), and had a larger representation of women. All of these turned out good, but I felt a little more disconnected. The disconnection I think was attributable to an unfamiliar city, staying at a hotel away from where the sessions were, and not having most of the people staying at the same hotel. I tended to stick with those staying at my hotel, which was good for those relationships. But, part of this was tied to my unfamiliarity with the city.

This unfamiliarity changed for the better and I have learned something about myself, and that is all good. The unfamiliarity shifted to familiarity. I got to know some incredible people and spend time with people I knew, but now know much better. I got to know Berlin. I have not been to a completely new city that I had time alone in quite a while (Brussels last month was new to me, but I was with a large group I had become familiar with, I all were staying in the same hotel, and I had very little interaction with the city itself). My first impression of Berlin was good, nothing more and nothing less. This was formed on an outing to Potsdamerplaz and walking back through Mitte.

Part of the Design Engaged experience is interacting with the city. A group of us headed out to Friedrichshain, which was part of East Berlin and is not being torn up and made western to the degree that Mitte or Alexanderplaz have been and are going through. This was the perfect outing for me as I really wanted to understand East Berlin or get a flavor of what pre-unified Berlin was like. I was interested in the Soviet style architecture and the working neighborhoods. Why? They are something I do not understand and had not experienced. I was utterly thrilled with our exploration of the area, both on our own and with a local who life is in that neighborhood.

I also learned a fair amount about myself on the Berlin part of the trip. I use various supports to explore that which is new. I use friends to guide in new surroundings and meet new people. Familiar surroundings to best embrace new people and expand my knowledge of the surroundings. I learned that having much new causes me to fall into an observation mode and a little less interactive. There are people I really wanted to get to know better and spend more time with. I tended to spend time with the people I already know well, in part to catch-up and get to know better. I also spent a lot of transit time trying to take in as much of my surroundings as possible. Understanding the lay of the land, the flavor of the neighborhood, trying to glimpse what the neighborhood was, what that neighborhood is becoming, and the expression of the people who live in and move through that area. The architecture, design layers (planned and emergent layers -- painted and overlayed), traffic patterns, lines of sight, etc. are all important components to understanding the people, their interests, and indicators of importance. Digging through the international layers (Starbucks (particularly behind the Brandenburg Gates is problematic), Duncan Doughnuts, American brand advertising, and global mass produced products), which in my opinion are disruptive to the local culture.

After returning home I know I have a much better understanding of Berlin and it is a city I would love to return to so to spend more time and explore. Now that I have a foundation of understanding I am ready to drink in more. I also realized that observation limited my getting to know others better than I would have liked. Ever single person at Design Engaged this year was utterly fantastic. It is a very special group of people. There are no egos. There are no agendas. There are people who love sharing, learning, embracing, and exploring. This is something very special and something very different from most any other gathering. Part of it is the event is not about certainty, but exploration, asking questions, listening, and growing all in a shared experience. Unfortunately I am more ready to engage others and interact now that I am home, but hopefully there will be more time.

Symposium on Social Architecture

Counter to the Design Engaged the Symposium on Social Architecture was in a somewhat familiar place, but I only knew a few people prior. I knew many from digital interaction, but personal "in place" interactions were limited. There were more people who knew of me, than I knew of prior. I was continually having to put people in context of digital and idea spaces (some of this is now connecting). I had somewhat slept much of the journey from Berlin to Boston (transferring in Washington, DC) so I was not really dealing with jet lag. On the first night there was a reception at the Harvard Faculty Club and I met many fantastic people. I noticed there was a fair amount of clustering by gender, which was bothersome as there were a few women I wanted to chat with, but I found some very good discussions in the men's clusters and did not break free. There are many women whose work I find insanely helpful and wanted to say thanks and engage in some longer conversations.

The symposium was utterly fantastic. Every session had something I really enjoyed and there was a lot of reassurance of my own understandings and directions. I am not as fully engaged in the social software realm as I would like as it is an insanely important component of how we do things on the internet and it is growing ever more important. Much of my work discusses the Local InfoCloud as an intersection with the Personal Infocloud.

I have a lot of notes from the day (but more complete notes will be expressed in a later posting). I heard a lot of mention of local (closeness drawn through interconnection in social contexts), which was a reinforcement of my understanding as well as the language (or problems with the language) I have been dealing with at times. I heard a lot of discussion of all current social software is simple software, as it is easy to understand what the value is and the barrier to entry is a relatively painless in comparison to the reward received in the perceived value. Many also discussed building tools that got out of the way, they just let people interact. This was explicitly stated by Tina Sharkey of AOL, which made me very happy as it was a large social portal that expressed they understood what to do and have done it. It is not the tool that is important, so much as it is the social interactions that are the key. The tools should be a platform for connecting and communicating not for controlling.

I also met one of the people responsible for Steve, The Art Museum Community Cataloging Project, which could be the most important folksonomy and tagging endeavor that is ongoing. The importance is in part their work, but the research into tagging and folksonomy is insanely helpful and seems to be the best work out there at the moment. The work proves the strong positive significance that tagging and folksonomy plays in connecting people to objects and information. Having the world framed in a language or vocabulary is incredibly helpful and that is not often a result of formal taxonomies as they tend to optimize toward the norms and not embrace the edges. I will be writing about Steve more in the future, but I was so excited to meet somebody tied to the project so I could have more conversations and learn what they have found to be helpful and not so helpful.

The panel on politics and social software, particularly in relation to Katrina, was great. It highlighted the problems with politicians and their lack of understanding technology that could better connect them to their constituents, but also technology that could better enable solutions and resolution for their constituencies. I was completely moved by this panel.

The piece I had disappointment in was the closing. Er, the closing was Stowe Boyd interviewing me about what I found of interest from the day and what I would take home. Stowe asked the perfect questions, but I learned something about myself, I framed my responses literally and too personally. I let myself down in the responses as they were too general and did not capture the whole of what I got from the day nor the strong themes I noted. I was still taking in the politics panel and re-digesting the day based on that context. When I get a new perspective or new information I run the world I perceive through that lens and adjust accordingly and then emerge with a slightly reshaped or more inclusive framework. I think my closing remarks were poor, because I was integrating the last panel into my understandings. The rest of the day went largely as I expected, but the wonderful politics panel disrupted me in a positive manner. I apologize for the poor closing observations. For me it was the poorest part of a great event.

July 28, 2005

Presented Personal InfoCloud and Folksonomy to MIM Class

Last night I presented my Designing for the Personal InfoCloud - Including a Focus on Folksonomy to the User Interaction with Information Systems class in the Master of Information Managment program at University of Maryland.

I had a blast doing this, maybe more than last year. This year's class is quite sharp and had great questions during the class and after. I have seen two classes in the MIM program and helped a student project last spring and I think the University of Maryland is on to something. The program is a professional masters program for information professionals in management positions.

May 30, 2005

Academic Cites for Interested Parties

One of the things that I am still mulling over that came out of the Social Software in the Academy Workshop is the relationship between academic cites and interested parties (non-academics researching, thinking deeply, and writing about a subject). Over the past year I have had some of the work I have posted on my web sites cited in academic papers. These papers have been for general coursework to graduate thesis.

In the academic realm these cites in other's works give credibility and ranking. In the realm of the professional or "interested party" these cites mean little (other than stroking one's ego). These cites do not translate to higher salary, but they may have some relationship to credibility in a subject area.

Another aspect is finding a way to tie into academic work around these subjects. There are often wonderful academic related gatherings (conferences, symposia, etc.) around these subject matters, but these are foreign to the "interested party". There is a chasm between academic and professional world that should be narrowed or at a minimum bridged in a better way. At SSAW there were some projects I found out about that I would love to follow, or even contribute to in some form (advisement, contributor, etc.).

I have a feeling I will be mulling this for some while, and will be writing about it again.

December 31, 2004

Books Read in 2004

I bought and read one standout book this year, Malcolm McCullough's Digital Ground mixed in with many more that I enjoyed. Digital Ground stood out as it combined a lot of things I had been thinking about, but had not quite pulled together. It brought interaction design front and center in the ubiquitous computing and mobile computing spectrum. I have been working on the Personal InfoCloud for a few years now and this really moved my thinking forward in a great leap. I considering better questions and realizing there are many next step, but few of these next steps the design community (in the broad user experience design sense) seems ready for at this time. One of the key components that is not was thought through is interaction design and the difference place makes in interaction design. It was one book that got my highlighter out and marking up, which few books have done in the past couple years.

I greatly enjoyed the troika of books on the mind that came out in 2004. The first was Mind Wide Open by Stephen Berlin Johnson, which was a relatively easy read and brought to mind much of how we use are minds in our daily lives, but also how we must think of the coginitive processes in our design work. Mind Wide Open focussed on improving one's attention, which is helpful in many situations, but I have had a running question ever since reading the book regarding focus of attention and creative problem resolution (I do not see focus of attention good for creative problem resolution).

The second book was On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins. On Intelligence is similar to Mind Wide Open, but with a different frame of reference. Hawkins tries to understand intelligence through refocussing on predictive qualities and not so much on results based evaluation (Turing Test). I really like the Hawkins book, which throws in some guesses in with scientifically proven (unfortunately these guesses are not easily flagged), but the predictive qualities and the need for computing to handle some of the predictive qualities to improve people's ability to handle the flood of information.

Lastly, for in the mind book troika I picked up and have been reading Mind Hacks by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb. This is one of the O'Reilly Hack series of books, but rather than focussing on software, programming, or hardware solutions these to gents focus on the mind. Mind tricks, games, and wonderful explainations really bring to life the perceptions and capabilites of the grey lump in our head. I have been really enjoying this as bedtime reading.

Others in related genres that I have read this year, Me++: The Cyborg Self in the Networked City by William Mitchell, which was not a soaring book for me, mostly because Ihad just read Digital Ground and it should have been read in the opposite order, if I had cared to. Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Meands by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi was a wonderful read, once I got through the first 20 pages or so. I had purched the book in hardback when it first came out and I was not taken by the book in the first 20 pages. This time I got past those pages and loved every page that followed. Barabasi does a wonderful job explaining and illustrating the network effect and the power curve. This has been incorporated into my regular understanding of how things work on the internet. I have learned not to see the power curve as a bad thing, but as something that has opportunities all through out the curve, even in the long tail. On the way back from Amsterdam I finally read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, which was quite a wonderful end to that trip.

I picked up a few reference books that I enjoyed this year and have bought this year and have proven to be quite helpful. 250 HTML and Web Design Secrets by Molly Holzschlag. CSS Cookbook by Chris Schmitt. More Eric Meyer on CSS by Eric Meyer.

On the Apple/Mac front the following reference books have been good finds this year. Mac OS X Unwired by Tom Negrino and Dori Smith. Mac OS X Power Hound by Rob Griffths.

Two very god books for those just starting out with web design (Molly's book above would be a good choice also). Web Design on a Shoestring by Carrie Bickner. Creating a Web Page with HTML : Visual QuickProject Guide by Elizabeth Castro.

The year started and ended with two wonderful Science Fiction romps. Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow. Jennifer Government by Max Barry.

Update: I knew I would miss one or more books. I am very happy that 37signals published their Defensive Design for the Web: How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points, as it is one of the best books for applications and web development on how to get the little things right. The tips in the book are essential for getting things right for the people using the site, if these essentials are missed the site or application is bordering on poor. Professionally built sites and applications should work toward meeting everything in this book, as it is not rocket science and it makes a huge difference. Every application developer should have this book and read it.

September 2, 2004

July 12, 2003

Fred an iBook and Cambridge photos

My friend Fred picked up an iBook just prior to his trip to Cambridge, England for a summer study session. So far the switch has been good. He has posted his first pictures from Cambridge on his .Mac site. His pictures bring back wonderful memories of mine from the other side of the Oxbridge family.

He has found a rather inexpensive WiFi connection in a coffeehouse there. If you know of others post them and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.

June 23, 2003

Interact Lab research papers

Department of Informatics, University of Sussex, Interact Lab, HCI papers provides offerings in: Pervasive Environments and Ubiquitous Computing - Shared Interaction Spaces; Playing and Learning - Tangibles & Virtual Environments - Collaborative Learning; Theory & Conceptual Frameworks; Technology Mediated Communication; and Interactive Art. [hat tip Anne]

May 12, 2003

Oakland's education angel sees first college graduate

The best thing I have read in the news in months is about the graduation of Oral Lee Brown's promisses. Sixteen years ago Oral Lee Brown promissed 25 first graders she would pay for their college education should they have the ability and desire to go to college. Oral Lee believed and offered hope. This past weekend LaTosha Hunter graduated from Alcorn State.

In a school not known for hope, Oral Lee offered hope and believed in the kids. Out of the 25 first graders 19 went off to college four years ago. This is in a school district that sees three out of four high school freshman drop out.

April 14, 2003

Philip Greenspun has a view of the future university

Philip Greenspun offers his view of the university of the future. It is a very different view and part of it is somewhat odd, in that Philip would like to see large group work areas for students to huddle by subject area. This is odd as Philip is very wired, but it also makes sense in that the bits I hear about ArsDigita convey the collaborative environment it offered.

I rather liked the Spring and Summer breaks, which meant I had to work, sometimes up to three jobs. But it was a time to digest what I had studied in the previous nine months. This time allowed me to investigate subjects with more time to reflect. My favorite time in college may have been the summer I lived in Berkeley and had two jobs (one on campus and the other running roomservice at a hotel in Oakland). I also really enjoyed Jan-term (one course during the month of January two or three hours a day four days a week.

I do agree that the cost of a university education is getting out of hand. Joy and I went to Georgetown for brunch on Sunday at the Tombs and walk around the campus. We read that tuition will be $28k next year for tuition (that does not include book, bedding, or beer). That is just nuts. I got a great grad school education there and Joy a great under grad education, but we were a little shell shocked. Something needs to change I guess.

January 14, 2003

Gender and using technical instruction

In First Monday A Gendered World: Students and Instructional Technologies by Indhu Rajagopal with Nis Bojin offers a good insight into some gender differences in learning with technology. I want to come back and read this in full.

January 6, 2003

A peek in to Feynman

Thanks to Mr. Blackblet Jones I have stumbled across Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine over at the Longnow site. This article pull enought snippets about Richard Feynman to get a very good understanding of who he was. Feynman was a great thinker, to me much along the lines of an Alan Turing. Understaning how to approach problems is often the key to solving many problems.

December 5, 2002

Females and technology

There are two intriguing articles in the BBC Tech section regarding females and technology. One covering Women as Africa's new tech warriors and another looking at children learning technology from building Lego robots. The second article brought out a particularly interesting point, in that girls tend to build the robots in a social manner and tend to script a story to build around, while the male groups had one lead that moved the tasks forward. I tend to think the girls approach is slightly better, in that it involves thinking through scenarios, which is a large part of what IAs, interaction designers, and user-centered designers do. It is along the lines of the measure twice, cut once approach. The article on Africa was intriguing to me seeing the gender stereotyping spanning continents. There are few things that I believe are out of reach from anybody learning (this could be my American can do enculturation), but getting over stereotypes and learning how people learn best and work best is very important.

July 1, 2002

Information through a child's eyes

I have been pondering of late about what a large organization's site would look like if its information structure was created by a child. We all pretty much know by now that Internet sites that partition information based on an organization chart are a failure for users finding information. Org charts protect egos, but don't facilitate information sharing, which is part of what triggered these thoughts as children really do not have egos to protect (even though they do get possessive of their toys, but only one or two at a time). The other trigger was watching my wife's niece (just turned 2) play with her plastic food from her wooden kitchen. She organized my colors first, then reorganized by shapes, then assembled foods in dishes with roughly an even mixture of color and shapes. All of this organizing was done while the "adults" were talking and not paying attention.

This was just a small observation of one, but if a child who is not yet two can organize plastic products by discerning qualities can we have them create informational organization structures by age three or four? Our niece learned her organizational skills by watching and patterning her expected org structures on observation. I was a little bit amazed by the facetted grouping and grouping by recognizable categories.

Many large organization site's are very difficult because they choose organizational structures that are based on their internal understanding of that information. Organizations that have readily easy to use sites spend time categorizing information by how the outside user's structure their understanding of the information. Can we learn to do things properly from children?

February 11, 2002

While ArsDigita may be gone, the content from ArsDigita University lives on. It is a good inexpensive resource for great technical instruction.

January 8, 2002

I clicked on my first Web ad in months, which was for Harvard is offering Distance Learning courses over the Internet. Most of their cources are technology related and they have the course outlines and syllabus posted for many of the courses.

December 10, 2001

We always find time to present the bright and ambitious so here are the Newest Rhodes Scholarship Winners.

November 23, 2001

One of the reasons that I love the Internet is its ability to be a conduit for exchanging ideas and discussion of topics. Not that this is not is new, it isn't. The comment tools in use on Web pages provides the ability to not only share ideas, but capture them for further use. Discussions are not lost in the ether as they can be at conferences, but they are stored for later reference.

This has been going on the past few days at Peter's site in a discussion about the term of use, Information Architect. The discussion has somewhat turned to the use of spatial metaphors to describe the Web and its use. None of the participants are really with in a short drive of each other. We are all sharpening our knowledge and ideas and changing perspectives to some degree. The Internet provides an amazing resource for life learners and bringing people of similar mind together to interact.

November 21, 2001

The University of Texas has an Information Architecture Curiculum that is a joint program with LIS. The program has nice breadth and seems to cover the broad understanding of IA.

November 8, 2001

Stand on the Shoulders of Giants and Build a Better Web

Peter Merholz announces the posting of Adaptive Path presentations on their site. I got a lot out of the AP two day Web2001 presentation. It provided much needed validation of my skills, approach, documentation, and mindset of how I go about my work. I had been using processes and tools that were cobbled together off the Vivid Studio's site and extensions of Communication analysis and planning skills learned in college. The live presentation also provided me a few new approaches, deliverable ideas, and understandings that I would not have picked up from reading.

If you like the presentations, you will love the live sessions. Do your self and your organization or client a favor and go to the sessions. You too will be able to stand on the shoulders of giants and build a better Web.

November 2, 2001

NY Times provides Digital Model Trains Help Engineers in its Circuits section (posted on Thursday). The article shows how model environments can provide insight and experience in the real world. Check the associated article if you hear the whistle blow for further links.

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