Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On the Playing of Violins

The wonder that is the world wide web makes it easy for us to access information from around the world. From time to time I glance at the front page of the Washington Post. It makes for great reading.

On April 8th I came across "Pearls before Breakfast" a piece of sustained writing by Gene Weingarten describing what happened in January of this year when the internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell disguised himself as a busker and played on his Stradivarius to early morning commuters in Washington DC.

Would they stop and listen or would they walk on by?

Its a wonderful article and well worth reading.

On April 20th I came across 'Is that...? No it can't be her' an article in the Independent Arts and Books Review by Jessica Duchen. This is another piece of sustained writing describing what happened when a classical music superstar in this case Tasmin Little, goes busking with her Stradivarius.
Read them both, compare and contrast.

I prefer the Washington post article. But I have a question. Joshua Bell busked in January, when did Tasmin Little play? The Independent refers to the Post with the words "In a similar experiment......"
Which experiment came first? Does it matter?
I think it does.

The Washington Post on line edition is far more than a mirror of the paper edition. The written words of the article are supported by video and audio clips of the event. Multimedia reporting. The videos are described by the supporting text but the text is enhanced by the videos. Registered readers can leave comments. This is a truly excellent piece of work.

The Independent on line version of their article is just a mirror of their paper edition, I wish I could hear Tasmin playing, I wish I could see the children wanting to listen. I believe that the Washington Post has grasped the opportunities provided by the internet, the Independent hasn't.

I wonder how many readers of the Independent read the Washington Post?

P.S. Having read both articles I'm not surprised that commuters didn't have time to stop and listen. I'd love to see what happened if the musicians had been performing in a park.

As Jessica points out in her comment below, "Tasmin busked a week ago yesterday."
This comment has led me to her blog where she explains that her boss asked for a "London edition of the original Washington Post / Joshua Bell experience". Perhaps the article should have made this clear.
Now we know who reads the Post!

I wish I'd found her blog as I read the article, they compliment one another.
It's a shame the Independent doesn't point to it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

On the State of the Blogosphere

David Sifry has written another quarterly report on the State of the Live Web, with this change of title Technorati indicate that their work now includes all sorts of social media.

As ever it makes for interesting reading. The report is full of fascinating statistics.
Right now Technorati is tracking 70 million blogs, with 120,000 being created every day. No matter how you think about it that is an extraordinary figure.

I struggle as I am sure many do with visualising large numbers
Here's a page that shows one million dots, and here's a clock that counts out the seconds in a day.
Does that help you contemplate 70 million blogs?

Sifry notes that the rate of doubling of the blogosphere has slowed; and interestingly that the rate of posts created each day has also slowed. The report also suggests that "a significant number of people who are blogging are doing it during work hours."

I was also interested in the report comments about the adoption of tags. The number of people using tags is growing fast, by February 2007 35% of all posts tracked by Technorati used tags, with about 2.5 million blogs posting at least one tagged post.

I still can't but help wonder about dead, non active , abandoned or neglected blogs.
There must be many blogs just sitting out there in cyberspace, I presume that Technorati still counts them.

Those of you interested in the state of the UK blogosphere might be interested in this list at Modern Life, to my shame I don't read any of them regularly except for

I shall check them out over the next couple of days!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Using Wikipedia

Congratulations to Dr. Nicola Pratt and her postgraduate politics students at the University of East Anglia who are using Wikipedia in an original and exciting way.

The students edit Wikipedia articles and then research and create new articles as part of their studies. In preparing for weekly seminars the students are expected to refine exisitng Wikipedia articles. After eight weeks editing experience the students submit their own article to Wikipedia.

This activity works at so many levels. I have heard and read of students creating and contributing to class wikis, but this project encourages students to engage in real scholarship, resulting in new information that adds to the sum of global knowledge.

These students will experience writing for a purpose for a specific audience and will develop critical thinking skills. Their research grounded in real world issues encourages collaboration not only with their peers but also with the world wide community of Wikipedia users. Crucially their work which is assessed by the University, is also subject to the critical review of other users of Wikipedia.

It seems that Dr. Pratt would like to extend her pilot scheme to include undergraduates. This would be a worthwhile extension of the project and could be employed in other subject disciplines. Engaging undergrads in the creation of knowledge, instead of providing them with facts could offer us many opportunities to encourage reflection, deep learning and increased student engagement.

While researching this entry I discovered that Wikipedia actively encourages school and university projects, and provides guidance, templates and links to several other projects.

Interesting reading!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Digital Reflection

Here are links to three films. Enjoy.

The first is a short thought provoking video about Google entitled "Master Plan". Directed and produced by Ozan Halici and Jurgen Mayer it leads us to consider the "power of Google".
Watch it and reflect.

We should remember that Google are aware of their influence and of the significance of the information they possess. As doubts grow in cyberspace about their abilty to fulfill a corporate philosophy of "do no evil" it is pleasing to read of their intention to anonymise search records. Good for them. Organisations should attempt to achieve transparency in their record keeping. Why do the records need to be kept for two years? Seems like a long time to me.

The second much longer film is a documentary prepared by Chuck Olsen in which he explores the way in which blogs influence modern society. The film includes interviews with Rebecca Blood, Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan and other influential A List bloggers. As you might expect the the entire film is available online.

Finally, a film from the influential MacArthur foundation in the States that asks "Are kids different because of digital media?"

I'm not sure it answers the question......but there is no doubt that America is different.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Swim the Atlantic

I first read about this journey on kottke and then on Boing Boing.

If you ask Google maps for directions from Cardiff to New York, Google does its magic calculates the route, draws a map and prepares driving instructions.

Examination of the map reveals a thin blue line stretching across the Atlantic.
The written guidance suggests that travellers "swim the Atlantic", starting at Le Havre and ending at Long Wharf, New York.

Someone at Google obviously has a wonderful sense of humour.
I've explored a little and have discovered that this magical advice is offered for routes starting in most of Northern Europe, it works from Moscow but not from Baghdad!

According to Google the journey would involve 4095 miles of travel with 3,462 miles of swimming; a journey that would take about 29 days 13 hours of travelling.

In 1998 when Benoit Lecomte swam the Atlantic without the benefit of Google his epic swim from Cape Cod to Quiberon in France took 72 days.

Lecomte competed his swim, which is more than can be said for Jon S. von Tetzchener CEO of Opera software who set out in 2005 to swim the Atlantic in response to the success of Opera 8.