Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This Life

Second Life continues to catch media attention.
I still don't get it and really don't understand the hype.
Those people that believe that Second Life is the sort of place where we can create a virtual classroom where students will come to learn in an alternate reality are so misguided.
Yeah its a cool tool, but its not the beginning of a bave new world.
What matters is how we might use it to persuade students to come together to reflect upon their learning.
Its hard to do that in the real world.
It might be harder than we think to do it in a virtual world

Richard and Judy were there yesterday, or were they?
They talked about it on their show, displayed their avatars and made them jump.
I was watching them on the TV.
Their discussion showed that they weren't there, I'm not sure that they had been there. They certainly didn't design their avatars.
I guess their researchers were there pretending to be Richard and Judy.

They had some bloke talk about spending more time in Second Life, than he does in this life.
He spends his time in this life sitting at his computer, no different to spending time in a book, in a dvd or on the playstation.

I think everyone should have a look at this place and then perhaps spend a little more time in the real world!
Read the response made by Linden Labs to the creator of Get a First Life.
Its hard to see where the parody ends and the real world begins.

Stephen Downes comments on ebay banning the sale of virtual goods here.
I'm with ebay. At least they don't want to be seen to be making money out of nothing.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Their Space!

It is just over six months since I read "Everything Bad is Good for You" by Steven Johnson. At the time I mentioned the book to my tutors and we discussed several of the key ideas so ably identified by Johnson. The book is an easy and entertaining read, with a clear argument suggesting that popular culture is far more complex and intellectually challenging than we might have suspected.

Demos "the think tank for everyday democracy", drawing inspiration from Johnson's work have spent time exploring the relationship that children have with the Internet. It makes for fascinating reading. In fact I think that it should be read by anyone with an interest in learning. Demos spent nine months observing, researching and recording online activity and now have published their findings in the wonderfully named "Their Space: Education for a digital generation."

In this report Demos suggest that "the use of digital technology has been normalised by this generation (of children) .....and integrated into their everyday lives."

They find that
  • the majority of young people use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks
  • almost all children are involved in creative production - eg. uploading /editing
  • children are capable of self regulation when informed of risks contrary to popular opinion
  • create their own hierarchy of digital activities when assessing their potential for contrast to their teachers and parents they were very conscious that some activities were more worthwhile than others.
The report identifies a number of user types

  • digital pioneers
  • creative producers
  • everyday communicators
  • information gatherers
(I am not certain as to how creative some of the uploading / editing activities actually are in practice. Digital dexterity sometimes obscures lack of knowledge, but that's nit picking)

As might be expected the report highlights the conflict between our existing education system and the world of this generation of children "who can't remember life before the Internet and mobile phones" . Some of us now working in Higher Education are aware of this challenge and are actively seeking ways of bridging the gap.

"Their Space" makes a number of important proposals.
In fact I believe the Demos proposals could and should be applied to all sectors of our rather formal education system.

  • "The Children’s Commissioner should convene a working group of children to advise on children’s use of technology
  • The development of a national strategy, led by schools in combating the ‘digital divide’, with schools responsible for delivering access to hardware such as a laptop, tablet or mobile device for every child
  • Measures should be taken to tackle a divide in knowledge, with schools working with parents to develop the skills to help all children interact with technology confidently and safely
  • Children should be given the opportunity to build up a ‘creative portfolio’ alongside traditional forms of assessment, access to which would be determined by the children themselves"
I like this report, everyone should read it. Its nice to read a report that's not produced in America. But are the proposals really new?

It's not been that long since I left the world of Primary Education. In my school we kept creative portfolios in which the children self selected work to be displayed, shared and celebrated between Key Stages and on transfer to High School. We worked with adult education and community groups to enable and facilitate interaction with technology by children alongside their parents. We worked at diluting the digital divide offering community access to the Internet whenever practicable.
What we didn't have was a laptop for every pupil.
What a difference that would have made and would make now.

Try transferring or translating the proposals to Higher or Further Education :-

  • a working group of students to advise on the use of technology
  • a laptop for every student
  • tackle the divide in knowledge between lecturers and students (in both directions) to help students and lecturers interact with technology
  • students should be given the opportunity and actively encouraged to build up creative portfolio in digital form

Now there's another report!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Gradatim Ferociter" the search goes on

Well, my blog stats are now back to normal, interest in the Blue Origin project seems to have died away.

Analysis of my statistics shows that for every 100 visits On The Hill received from Americans searching for information about "gradatim ferociter" we received 10 from the UK.
I'm no statistician, those figures could indicate more interest in private space flight in the USA than in the UK, or they could mean that there are more internet users in the USA. Its hard to tell.

I read somewhere that Jeff Bezos posted the test flight video to assist in the recruitment of staff. That makes sense.
I wonder how recruitment is going?

Their standards are high.

"Our hiring bar is unabashedly extreme, and we insist on keeping our team size small. This means the person occupying each and every spot must be among the most technically gifted in his or her field. Other hiring criteria include:

1. You must have a genuine passion for space. Without passion, you will find what we're trying to do too difficult. There are much easier jobs.
2. You must want to work in a small company.
3. We are building real hardware. This must excite you. You must be a builder."

That means these guys from Texas must be in with a shout.

Update 23/02/07 Competition for 'Goddard'

Friday, January 19, 2007


FLOSS is a new acronym to me. I'm not sure that it would be allowed in France but it has a certain ring. I believe it translates as Free/Libre Open Source Software.

I have been following the discussions about open source or commercially produced Virtual Learning Environments with some interest. As a student I must admit I was somewhat disappointed by Blackboard, but I suspect my opinion had been rather clouded by my limited but wonderful experiences as a distance learner at the OU.

I have no axe to grind in this discussion. I drift between open source and proprietary software, trying to choose the right software for the job.

Today I came across these two links.
They both point to the same report but from slightly different perspectives.

The BBC report that "Open Source gets European Boost"
the Monkey Bites highlights a "Huge New Study of Free / Open Software."

I am no economist but I suspect there are important arguments here. We all hope that pedagogical arguments lead discussions about choice between open source or commercial VLE
s but experience indicates that the finance department might also be interested in our discussions.

My experience of managing a school budget was that far too often the opinion of accountants determines educational policy. In this case it could just be that the accountants agree with the Open source movement.

A version of this post appeared as a comment at Learning Zone, a University of Glamorgan Blog.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Anything but what I should be doing

I wanted to write about this last night but.......

Rebecca has shown us the work of Piers Steel and his formula for calculating our procrastination response.

More than that she points us towards Procrastination Central where one can spend several happy hours discovering all there is to know about procrastination!

Do the test! Explore the links! You know it makes sense.

I've not done the test because I was re reading Paul Graham's magnificent essay on Good and Bad Procrastination.
Read it ..... learn how to do it well.

To be serious for a moment, Rebecca's Pocket is one of the great blogs. Rebecca has been blogging since 1999 and should be on every one's favourites list. Her book is a classic and can be found in the library at Treforest.

Rebecca's blog posts use very few words, but are eloquent.
When will we learn?

Blessed Fools

In my time as a teacher I encountered and worked with several mildly autistic children and many who now would be categorised as being "somewhere on the autistic spectrum". I also worked with teachers who found it difficult to work with those children who were "different" and a nuisance in the classroom.

I have no doubt that there are students in college who could be placed on this "spectrum" who may present certain challenges to their lecturers, tutors and peers. Many children will have passed through our education system without having their needs specifically diagnosed. Indeed many of us will know someone who is different. We may even suspect that we ourselves are different and do not see the world as others do.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen's work at Oxford is important and needs to be promoted. I wonder if similar materials will become available for adults.

William Allen has written an excellent article for Slate; The Autism Numbers, Why there's no epidemic. He points to a new book by Richard Grinker, to be released in this country in February. I've not read it so I can't comment upon it but I will be adding it to my wish list.

My attention was drawn to the phrases used in other cultures and times to describe autistic children; "green children, blessed fools, eternal children, marvelous children" are all so much more inclusive and wonderfully descriptive of these children and their needs than the medically precise labels provided by modern society.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Critical Friends or the Comfort of Strangers

I came across The Huge Entity this evening and have been intrigued by a recent post.

Huge Entity is the blog of a student in Roehampton studying for a MA in Creative and Professional writing. Here Danieru practises his craft. Blogs are well suited to students of creative writing and Danieru's deserves reading.

His course requires submission of a non fiction article which will be assessed.
Danieru has written his article entitled "Myth, its Evolution and the Problem of Perspective" and has posted it,
"in the hope that someone might read through it and give some honest, no-holds-barred, criticism."
He suggests that
"it's hard reading back through a work objectively when you've spent so long slaving away over it."

For what its worth I enjoyed his article and found it informative, interesting and well written. Had I come across it in a magazine it would have attracted and held my attention. Danieru offers us ideas to consider, a logical argument and a great deal of common sense. Well done. I'm not competent to offer critical advice but I do applaud his enterprise in seeking criticism in the public eye. In his introduction to the work Danieru asks "Does the essay draw you in?" The answer irrefutably is yes.

Huge Entity is an established, well read blog, he has an involved audience, some of whom were happy to take the time to criticise his work. I have no doubt that his writing is the better for the criticism. No trolling here, no sarcasm, no foolish comments; just careful scholarship.

We must also remember Danieru's readers, those travellers through cyberspace who took the time not only to read his work but became involved by leaving constructive comments. That's where the real power of blogging lies, in an involved community of participation.

I shall be looking for more of Danieru's work. Good luck with the Masters.

Learning Spaces

I am a fan of the Independent.
Indeed it is my newspaper of choice both on line and in its paper form. When ever I see a link to an article in the Independent I cannot help but follow it.

So imagine my delight to discover a pointer from Learning Zone to Lucy Hodges' article Universities: The learning mould is smashed.

The link was introduced with these words,
"There was a really interesting article on the way Warwick University are converting their learning spaces - getting rid of desks, lectures and moving to research-based learning."

I followed the link and found myself in strange, strange place.
" a large space, containing no table but, instead, a heated rubber floor on which you can loll, soft plastic squares on which you sit, a Le Corbusier reclining chair on which one person can lie, and a projector"

Why? "This is a place where students can work together, think, talk, write and be scholarly, using all the latest technology, and at the same time free up their minds to be original!"

As they come into the room, they are "handed a laptop and a tablet" and all is well.

Question. Why a laptop and a tablet? Are they not really the same thing? or are the tablets of the mind expanding nature?
I still don't understand the point of the reclining chair (but more of that later).

Dr. Neary director of the reinvention centre says
"Students are not very well prepared for their third-year project or dissertation, our initiative is about getting more research-like activity into the curriculum at an earlier moment so that students begin to think about what it is to do research, what it is to be, say, a sociologist."

Question. Why aren't they very well prepared for their final project or dissertation?
Answer. Put them in a room with no desks and a rubber floor.

Now we come to the crux of the article, Warick is applying itself to thinking about its curriculum, is thinking about research based learning, is thinking about new technologies. Excellent, but they're not getting rid of desks and lectures. They are undertaking research in one room. Research into a "progressive pedagogy". If we read the article we might believe that this minimalist teaching space is costing £2.5million, just how much does a Le Corbusier chair cost? There is much more to Warick's research than this one room.

Consider the next paragraph
"Those involved in designing the new room are determinedly idealistic. The designers took a deliberate decision not to have any tables in the room because tables force students to sit in one place and not move about. Tables create a barrier, according to Neary. Having no tables means that people can feel closer to one another. "This room is driven by the dynamics of the relationship of collaboration," says Dr Neary. "There's no place for the teacher. It's open and democratic and dynamic.""

Just remember that sentence........"there's no place for the teacher"

And now my favourite paragraph
"The centre has been acoustically designed too......It's architecture-literate, hence the Le Corbusier chair," says Dr Neary. "The room itself is challenging.""

"Its architecture-literate hence the chair"; tell me what does that mean? Who gets to sit in the chair?

I admire the research and work being undertaken at Warick but this article does them no favours. Neither does it do much to encourage practioners of teaching and learning in HE to reconsider their practice. Which is a shame.

The article continues to describe further innovations at Warick which should be commended, their Learning Grid or Library, or the work in their Capital Centre.
In fact the university's own materials do a far better job of describing their work than this sensationalist article does.

I am still a fan of the Independent and would recommend this leading article which offers a far more balanced view of the innovation at Warick.

Read it and don't throw away those desks yet.

Digital Bits

More reading from my bookmarks for the week, now deleted.

Pupils to Get Home Internet Access
Seems like a good idea to me, but why just pupils, what about pensioners, students, teachers, nurses, why not everyone?
That would fix the digital divide in one fell swoop

The Government are to Close 551 Web sites. Is this wise? If they were post offices, there'd be a fuss but they're not and I suppose we won't notice any difference to the service offered. The full list of the culled web sites can be seen here. Any of your favourites going?

Whenever I need anything on a Government website, I look for what I need through Google. Doesn't everyone else? This may not be the best move for a Government that has strugged with digital initiatives. Forcing everyone to access Government service via two entry points might just lead to system failures and queues at times of crisis. Remember what happened during the last food scares?

In contrast here is an excellent idea. Government Data Shake Up. Well done everyone involved. Perhaps now they will consider making the registers of births, deaths and marriages free as well.

While reading about Government I stumbled upon the brilliantly named
They Work For You, another Web 2.0 application which is "a non-partisan website run by a charity which aims to make it easy for people to keep tabs on their elected and unelected representatives in Parliament, and other assemblies."

Enter your post code and check out what your MP has been doing. Check out the numerology section, where all sorts of statistics on MPs can be found. I particularly enjoyed discovering how hard my MP, Julie Morgan works; and that that she has used three word alliterative phrases 144 times in debates; which is above the average amongst MPs. Well done.

Try the website, read about your MP, check out the numbers and then read the explanation which explains of the dangers of using statistics. All statistical web sites should carry health warnings.

I look forward to the day when this outstanding site includes the National Assembly in its output. Then we'll be able to check up on her husband too!

Friday, January 12, 2007

In Search of "Gradatim Ferociter"

Exactly one week ago while browsing the net I came across news of the Goddard's first flight. I wrote about it here on my fledgling blog. I made a far too obvious link between Bezos and Richard Branson, linked to a star wars video on youtube and using long forgotten schoolboy latin tried to translate Blue Origin's motto.

News of the test flight spread, some newspapers picked up the story, the BBC ran it, and many more bloggers commented.

Just about everyone has had a stab at translating Gradatim Ferociter. I thought that step by step with ferocity came close, but a quick browse through Google produced the following :-

bit by bit ferociously,
step by step courageously,
step by step fiercely,
step by step boldly,
step by step arrogantly,
step by step with spirit,
by degrees fiercely,
step by step by degrees and fiercely,
step by step courageously,
to step fiercely,
slowly but fiercely,
patiently and step by step,
plod ferociously,
small measured steps taken boldly,
step by step bravely,
measured ferocity.

I wonder which of these was Blue Origin's intended motto?

Then to my astonishment (and pride), by Wednesday last the number of daily hits received by this little bit of cyberspace increased five fold. Exploring Google Analytics I discovered that my choice of post title had prompted this increase in visitors.

These visitors did not really penetrate the blog. A few went to read Lost in Space, a few read about the Panopticon and one enterprising cyberscholar read the chocolate posting, most came in on the Gradatim Ferociter page and bounced from it!

How disappointed you must all have been coming here to discover more about the Blue Origin project; only to find that I know very little. But because I used that motto as a title, searchers for information came looking and as Hassenpfeffer notes the more you came, the higher I rose in Google.
As I write my blog lies fifth on the Gradatim Ferociter page.

I find this highly motivating. Should I pay more attention to this blog, write more carefully, start to seek links, sign up for pay per click adverts etc. etc.
Perhaps I should have thought more carefully about my profile, filled up my sidebar with interesting links, posted more photos to Flickr.

Now I'm not stupid. I know that I've been lucky with the hits, already things are returning to normal, The story has moved out of the public eye, less searches are being undertaken. I've had my brief moment of fame. But there are observations to be made........

70% of referrals came from Google, 10% from blogger, the rest from newsgator, techorati and directly from earlier links I have made. Some bloggers obviously research who links to or lurks on their blog.

During the last week, 60% of visitors to this site came from the USA, 23% from the UK, the others were scattered around the globe mainly in Europe.
Are more Americans interested in space exploration than Brits, or are there just more of you?

The range of words searched for is also of interest; these are referred to in Google Analytics as Keywords (I think). My visitors arrived here by using the following (in order of use) :-

gradatim ferociter,
gradatim ferociter!,
"gradatim ferociter",
gradatim ferociter latin,
gradatim, latin gradatim ferociter.

As part of my studies of blogs, as well as running Google Analytics I'm running a free hit counter on my blog. This shows me in a little more detail who has been running their eyes over my blogging; the geeks among you it will know that it uses reverse DNS to give me the domain name of my visitors.
It tells me where they come from; and makes for interesting reading.

Here are some of the domains that I recognised:-

Someone at one of those domains knows what Gradatim Ferociter means.
The others must just be curious.

Update 25/01/07 Gradatim Ferociter, the Search Goes On
Update 23/02/07 Competition for 'The Goddard'

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Visualising Links

I've been thinking of the links created between the participants in our project.

Left to their own devices, of the one hundred and thirty subjects twelve created links between their blogs (9%). The links were created within two separate nodes, one with eight members the other with four. Our subjects were not that connected.

Within each of the nodes as you might expect the number of other blogs linked to varied. Some of the members of these nodes had no outward links, but were linked to. To my mind these blogs with no outward links were not really contributors to the node, I suppose in biological terms they would be parasitic in nature, not contributing to the knowledge base of the node but drawing from it. Nothing wrong with that but the teacher in me wants to draw everyone in to contribute to the discussion.

What we don't know is whether members of each of the nodes actually read the blogs they were linked to. We might assume that they did but unless they left a pertinent comment or referenced the reading on their own blog we have no proof.

So we should analyse the links together with the content of the blog or comments about the blog.
Counting links is inadequate.........but you knew that didn't you.

I've been accumulating information relating to the visualisation of links and web sites.
Some of it is going to be useful.

Web sites as graphs, these are so attractive, if only I could illustrate our nodes like this.

A Periodic Table of Visualisation Methods, find the type you need.

Here's a interesting visualisation but the blog post is more important, its all about the blend between asynchronous and synchronous eLearning.

Vizster by Danah Boyd and Jeffrey Heer. I want to find out more about this. Their visualisations look like my scribbled drawings. Look at their photo gallery. How do we move our bloggers into a community?

On a Hill as DNA?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ephemeral profiles

Browsing Apophenia earlier this month I was interested by Danah Boyd's observations on the readiness with which teens create new identities for themselves when using social type websites.
I love the phrase "ephemeral profiles" that she uses to describe such activity.

I am no longer a teen and have such profiles, many of which I will never use again. Many I have forgotten, outgrown or just don't need any more. Some have been created in pursuit of academic research, some for the hell of it and some because a particular web site might have needed me to create a profile (with an email address) so that I can be contacted, spammed, sold to interested parties or just counted. I hope that I have developed a mature(ish) approach to investigating such websites and have created an on line persona for just that purpose.

To be honest like many of the teens, I was finding it difficult to remember the passwords and user names and was reduced to writing them on scraps of paper, post it notes or in my notebook! I considered investing in a password collecting application.

However if there are so many of these abandoned personae lurking in cyberspace what credence can we place in the statistics offered to us about the use of social websites?

Our work here at Glamorgan, reinforces to some extent the observations made by Danah.
A number of students were required to create a blog using Blogger in beta as part of their course work; of those at least 12% created more than one version of their blog before settling on the final version. The ephemeral blogs still exist often containing just one post and can be linked to from the bloggers profile.
Several of our would be bloggers had to start the process of blogging again, having forgotten their user name, blog name or password. Several (far too many) created their blogs in Blogger and had to start the process again. Our small contribution to the blogosphere has littered cyberspace with abandoned profiles and blogs.

When researching Blogger in beta during last summer I created several additional dummy / research blogs with which to simulate student blogging activity. Using these blogs over several days I wrote dummy blog entries, made dummy blog comments and linked blogs together. During this time I additionally deleted and altered the dates of blog entries, tracked my own activity using RSS readers and undertook searches in Technorati, Google, Google blog search and experimented with tagging. All of this was undertaken with an ephemeral profile. I suspect that many other students of the Internet do the same. When I was content and comfortable with the medium I deleted all the dummy blogs. Are they still being counted?

How many of the avatars allegedly wandering through Second Life consuming electricity at the same rate as a Brazillian actually exist?
How many of the blogs allegedly created and tracked every minute actually exist?

I've just noticed that Bill Thompson at the BBC points to Danah's work also and develops a similar argument with a little more style and substance.

Education, education, education.

Writing yesterday, I explained how I suffer from my eagerness to bookmark.

This evening while culling bookmarks I came across all these links to the excellent reporting of educational issues from the BBC that I stumbled upon over the Christmas break. I shall note them here and then press the delete button.

E-mail school reports considered.
I like these ideas. I'm not certain about the sense of sending reports via mobile phones, but maintaining contact with the home by informing parents of absent, misbehaving or unpunctual children would be so easy by text message. I would also want to send praise messages informing the home of good work or behaviour.
As ever the issue of the digital divide needs to be considered! Despite what they say, this is undoubtedly about middle class parents getting an easier service.
I know of one school in Cardiff, where a blog is used to provide information about a particular course of study and where the PTA contacts those parents with email addresses in the name of fundraising.

Stars must "check science facts"
as must the rest of us!
Especially when writing on publicly accessible blogs.
This is a message that has to be brought to the attention of a minority of student bloggers.

Change on the way in tests and tables (in England).
and about time too. How lucky we are to be in Wales where league tables no longer exist. What worries me here is the use of the word "personalised" as if it were something new. In the primary school before the introduction of SATS education was always personalised. Teaching to the tests reduced personalisation, the introduction of literacy and numeracy strategies reduced personalisation. Now it has become the new buzz word. We hear it mentioned in Higher Education, e-learning, blended learning, individualised learning, private learning etc. etc. Learning has always been personal, it can't be sold, bought, traded or centrally imposed.
Equally we have to grasp the fact that not all children are actually capable of achieving the jump between levels of attainment required by our political masters. When will they learn?
Equally dangerous is the way that no one really knows what personalised learning means. Beware the emperor's new clothes.

GP launches YouTube health films.
I love this. Web 2.0 at its best, providing a personalised service to the residents of rural Wales (but again we need to consider the digital divide). I'm not sure I'll be watching the cervical screening film but I might need the others one day.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Read this Later

Consider my on-line reading of which I do much.

My surfing is organised; I frequent a number of well loved, well respected, established, authoritative sites and blogs but I have bad habits. A lifetime of marking has left me a grazer, I read quickly scanning the screen for information, searching for that relevant section or sentence . When I find it, where once I would have ticked or crossed in red ink, now I bookmark. Sometimes I bookmark in relevant folders but more often than not I just "harvest" the site, adding it to an ever increasing list of favourites to be revisited at some time in the future.

This is a recipe for chaos!
Attempting to revisit a site visited several weeks ago results in a complex trawl through the list or even worse a search back through the history files of my browsers. Perhaps I should just stick to one browser!
Equally frustrating is the discovery within my bookmarks of dead links, what use are they?

At various stages through my surfing history I have attempted to discipline my wayward bookmarking.

I wonder should I use this blog to reference my on-line reading. I could provide a link to what would have been bookmarked together with a commentary as to why I thought it worth saving.
If I dared. A return to blogging in the classical sense.
Two browser windows open, one for the reading, one for the writing. The writing needn't be published immediately, Blogger allows for working in draft form, which could lead to the simultaneous creation of several mini essays or works in progress.

On my desktop, the IE favourites list is littered with folders e.g. multimedia, flash, religion, videos, trivia, work in progress, blogs, university, read this! etc. My Firefox bookmarks list contains more folders, additionally the bookmarks toolbar contains another range of folders. My laptop browsers have more. All these folders contain a host of once and possibly still useful informative links. If only I could organise them!

During the last month I have been revisiting these lists, reorganising them and placing them on Where once I placed information in folders, now I tag it. I believe I am contributing to a folksonomy. (Well I would be if I shared my link). According to wikipedia;

"The process of folksonomic tagging is intended to make a body of information increasingly easier to search, discover, and navigate over time. A well-developed folksonomy is ideally accessible as a shared vocabulary that is both originated by, and familiar to its primary users. Two widely cited examples of websites using folksonomic tagging are Flickr and, although it has been suggested that Flickr is not a good example of folksonomy.

And here lies the problem at the core of the creation of my personally tagged favourites.
What tags to use? How many tags to use? How to bundle my tags? Who are the tags for? Why bother? Right now I doubt that my favourites would be of any use to anyone, let alone me! Would there be any point in my establishing a link to my list here On a Hill?

However I persevere.
I think that to be of use everything should have at least two tags and possibly more. So my list grows. In the short time that I have been developing it, grazing, harvesting and posting I have also been culling.

I can see that as far as bookmarks or favourites are concerned less is definitely more.
Do I really need to bookmark everything?
If I can remember that I've read something, surely I can use Google to find it again.
If I can't remember that I've read it a search of the topic in question will produce it again, won't it?

When I bought my beloved MacBook I resolved to equip the bookmark toolbar with carefully chosen favourites that I visit regularly and a news reader. So the toolbar contains only six folders namely news, university, blogs, ed.blogs, aggregators and me (for quick links to this blog and flickr). If I'm honest I don't find surfing /browsing/grazing with a news reader very satisfying. Compare scanning the front page of Digg (while its still popular), with the front page of popurls.

Now as I browse using the MacBook, I bookmark sites that I might write about here and tag everything else on rather than bookmark it. The problem now is that my "read this later" tag contains so many links I can't remember why I tagged some of them in the first place!
I'm also not really certain that anyone else could possibly be interested in my reading list; but if I discover a colleague with a list I just have to run my eye over it and compare it with mine.

Curiosity, vanity, or the need to see that we are reading similar material?

And then, despite my resolve to moderate my bookmarking, despite my cynicism, despite my knowing, despite my understanding that less is more; as I look at yet another list of bookmarks I see an interesting link, I click, I scan and click again labelling yet another page "Read this Later"


Friday, January 05, 2007

'Gradatim Ferociter"

Now this is an interesting story.

Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon has an interesting hobby codenamed Blue Origin.
He and his team have been :-

"working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system. Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we’re working on it methodically. We believe in incremental improvement and in keeping investments at a pace that's sustainable. Slow and steady is the way to achieve results, and we do not kid ourselves into thinking this will get easier as we go along. Smaller, more frequent steps drive a faster rate of learning, help us maintain focus, and give each of us an opportunity to see our latest work fly sooner.

Our first objective is developing New Shepard, a vertical take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital journey into space."

His small frequent steps have achieved an outcome, a test flight!
Back in November last year the Goddard flew. Well it lifted, rose vertically to a height of 285ft, and landed safely.
Rather grainy video footage can be seen at Blue Origin.

On the strength of that test flight Bezos is looking to expand his team and is recruiting and offering internships for suitable American citizens.

My latin is pretty poor but I guess that Gradatim Ferociter translates something like step by step with ferocity?
So now NASA and Richard Branson have competition.

Who will you be flying with?

On a slightly lighter note boingboing pointed at this galaxy far, far away.
May the force be with you.

Update 12/1/07 In Search of Gradatim Ferociter
Update 25/1/07 Gradatim Ferociter the Search Goes On
Update 23/2/07 Competition for 'The Goddard'

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Person of the Year!

Its that time of the year for lists, lists of books, blogs, cds, dvds, web sites, people, places, things to do, things done, things dreamed of, things regretted etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Many newspapers, television programmes and the well known blogs are carrying such lists. My favourite source has to be fimoculous where a list of 650+ such lists can be found! I cannot help reading them, in fact I enjoy reading them. I enjoy the buzz that comes from seeing a book that I've read in a list of books of the year, and perversely I enjoy reading a list and wondering why a cd, dvd or film I've enjoyed isn't part of the list.

Even the University bloggers have entered into the frenzy offering lists of science fiction. I was delighted to discover that I've read and enjoyed many of the listed books and watched most of the films.

Time magazine opted out of chosing a person of the year for 2006. Instead in a clever piece of a writing they suggest that the person of the year for 2006 is anyone who has contributed to the mass of information that has been stored, shared or distributed on the Web; and thats you and me! Well it would be you if you left a comment!
They suggest that our contribution has been made possible by the new Web, the read write web, the strangely labelled Web 2.0.

Which leads us to consider what is Web 2.0. Ian Delaney offers us some help here. Over the next couple of days I intend to work my way through his excellent list of 10 Free eBooks about Web 2.0 and think about his 10 Definitions of Web 2.0 and their Shortcomings.

In exploring this Web 2.0 I have come across two items that caught my eye and made me laugh.
(Sadly if you are not a Mac user there's little point in following the links as they require Mac OSX Tiger and an isight type camera.)

Its time for you to buy a Mac.

Happy New Year.