Monday, March 6. 2006
Anyone who has gone surfing (the old-fashioned water kind) knows that in every set of waves there are a few really big ones. I see postings online about the "third wave" for the Internet or the "killer apps" that have changed the web and predictions of what the next killer application will be. Most predictions turn out to be wrong. It's even difficult to write a history of the Internet if you want to make choices about what the most important events have been - it's the basic "Top Ten List" problem. This is my own personal set of waves.
The three apps that got things moving for me were hyperlinking, email and the browser. [There's already a generation that doesn't realize that there was a time when the web didn't have links and you didn't use a browser.]
Email makes the killer apps list all the time. However, it predates the Internet. It started in 1965 as a way for multiple users of a time-sharing mainframe computer to communicate. The history is somewhat unclear, but some of the first systems to have such email were SDC's Q32 and MIT's CTSS. In 1969, US Air Force users were sending text messages by making punched cards and transmitting them as card decks from one computer to another. ARPANET added email transfers soon after its creation and Ray Tomlinson initiated the use of the @ sign to separate the names of the user and their machine in 1971. If I include email in my history, it is for the entry of tools like Outlook and the early offerings of free email accounts.
My wife was using Minitel (Teletel - France Telecom) in the early 1980's in her French classes well before I had established any real connections online. It was an early indicator to me that social networks would be developed in education. Like many teachers, although I had some access to the Internet at school, I didn't have it at home until late in 1989 when AOL launched.
My history deliberately jumps over some important technology and software: TC/IP in 1983, DNS in 1984, NSFNET with itsbackbone speed of 56Kbps in 1986 which allowed many new connections (especially at universities)
America Online was for many people in the early 1990's was THE Internet. (AOL for Windows came out in 1993) Yes, I know that now in 2006 to say that you have AOL (except for the AIM service) is embarrassing. They offered a special deal to teachers at a lower cost (I don't recall the price, but I know I got 40 hours per month which seemed like a lot.) AOL, like other popularizers to follow (Netscape, iTunes...) was a big wave. Not for innovation, but for bringing it to the masses. There were others that faded - Prodigy, CompuServe, GEnie - but AOL hung on.
Another big wave came as the web began to fill with pages (and many of them were junk that began to clog the web) and it was obvious we needed a directory or index to search. Enter Yahoo, Google and the many search engines that have fallen off the web that allow you to find things.
Subscriptions is another wave that is still cresting. The ability (generally using RSS feeds) to subscribe to blogs, news sites and podcasts is already well established [Bloglines, Feedburner, Newsgator, iTunes, iPodder]. When Apple came in with iTunes and its music store, it made downloading music legal and easy. Those who pirate music would say it's still easier to download it illegally and Apple adds digital rights management (DRM) to it's downloads which limits your ability to do "whatever you want" with the music. Apple built up a strong base, so when they introduced podcasts to the store (though almost all were free to download) it seemed like they invented podcasting. The fact that the term podcasting evolved from iPod didn't hurt them either and there are still many uninitiated who believe you need an (Apple) iPod to listen to podcasts.
A smaller wave that follows subscriptions and is just building is personal broadcasting. It probably should be personal narrowcasting since a lot of what is being offered is for a small, niche audience. The same thing happened with TV when cable (originally called CATV for Community Antenna TV) took hold. Who would have predicted when cable systems first emerged that there would be major channels for food or gardening? There was a little swell in that industry when community access channels were offered (required by law in 1969) and many people thought we would see a lot of local/amateur/homegrown video. That swell never created a wave that was worth riding. Local public access channnels still don't come close after 3 decades to fufilling the predictions.
Sometimes I even click on an ad or find it interesting (Amazon suggestions, some Google ads that have keyed on an appropriate word on the webpage - ads that were "well placed") I'm not saying that ads are a killer app, but they are a large part of the Net. Will Web 2.0 have ads? Absolutely.
more to come...
Sunday, March 5. 2006
I've already written here about academic blogging but I want to add some information that will help you find blogs that deal with your interests.
Bloglines is a free online service for searching, subscribing, creating and sharing news feeds, blogs and rich web content. No software to download or install -- simply register as a new user and you can instantly begin accessing your account any time, from any computer or mobile device. Bloglines connects you to dynamic content that is being created and distributed over the new "live" web. You can make your own personalized news page tailored to your unique interests from their index of tens of millions of live internet content feeds, including articles, blogs, images and audio.
Bloglines not only helps you collect all the feeds that interest you in one place, but is also a good place to just search for blogs by keywords.
There are so many blogs that we need ways to search the blogosphere. Google has, of course, entered the fray with their blog search engine. Using it, I can find a blog about social computing, such as http://socialsoftware.weblogsinc.com
What are the most popular blogs right now? You can check out the always-updating list at Technorati http://technorati.com/pop/blogs/ However, view the list as you would view the most popular movies and books lists - not necessarily the BEST blogs, but the most popular. There's plenty of trash out there too.
Saturday, March 4. 2006
There seems to be a fascination (American) with turning nouns into verbs, so now you can be "facebooked."
verb: The action of 1) looking someone up on the facebook website or 2) asking someone to be your friend on facebook.
That girl I met at the frat last night facebooked me this morning.
If you are a member of this particular online social computing community, you can also "poke" someone (a kind of gentle message without content), send an email-style message to them or leave a message on their "wall."
So what is thefacebook?
According to Mark Zuckerberg (founder):
"The idea for the website was motivated by a social need at Harvard to be able to identify people in other residential housesâ€”Harvard is a fairly unfriendly place. While each residential house listed directories of their residents, I wanted one online directory where all students could be listed. And Iâ€™ve always enjoyed building things and puttering around with computer code, so I sat down and in about a week I had produced the basic workings of the site.
We had a launch plan to enter into other colleges based on where friends would be most likely to overlap, so the site spread organically based upon that model and now we operate on a broad spectrum of campuses. It doesnâ€™t make sense to exclude anybody or any college from the resources that facebook offers. This is a product that should be fun and useful for all college students.
We donâ€™t view the site as an online communityâ€”we bill it as a directory that is reinforcing a physical community. What exists on the site is a mirror image of what exists in real life.
To a certain extent, the website is unfortunate because it oversimplifies things. Everybodyâ€™s concept of having a friend is different. It can definitely blur the relationships that exist between people. But in the end, I think that thefacebook can only reinforce preexisting communities. We think we have been particularly successful in strengthening those relationships that exist between people who are only â€œfringe friends.â€
Itâ€™s not unusual for us to receive an email from somebody saying, â€œI spend all of my time on your website and now I have less of a social life than I had before.â€ We would much rather have people meet people through the website and go out and party than stay at home on a Friday night reading other peopleâ€™s profiles. And itâ€™s surprising, but we have actually received far less complaints about stalking than we otherwise would have expected."
I joined facebook myself mostly to see what it was all about. I knew that my college-aged sons both used it. (It seemed like my younger son - a freshman in 2005 - met a hundred people at his school through facebook during orientation and the first weeks - plus all his high school friends at other schools that were added to his friends list - and then their friends who added him...)
I felt pretty sad at first because I had no one to add to my list. I started with my sons who "allowed" me to be their friends (you do have to approve someone's request to be added) though they made me promise never to put something on their wall.
I sense that parents/adults play no real role in facebook, though alumni can create accounts for their alma mater (if you graduated before 1995 I would not expect to find any of your classmates there) and faculty can have a profile at their school. I really didn't like that my profile said "You have 0 friends at NJIT." Who would? So I had to facebook a few students that I thought would say OK to my request.
Facebook is not really for mom and dad...
Then I started searching on students I had taught in my former K-12 days. Found a few and sent them a message. And that led to a few of their classmates finding me. Social networking...
Now I have 37 friends - which by facebook standards is pretty pathetic it seems. Of course, I only have 55 people on my AOL AIM buddy list (also considered pathetic) so 37 seems about right.
It has been interesting to hear from former students. More interesting to see them, as everyone posts pictures which you can view if you are a friend.
I have shown the site to a few real-life/ in-the-flesh friends and colleagues and the most common comments are:
- Yeah. So what's the point? [Remember, most of my friends are old.]
- Why does everyone seem to have an alcoholic drink in their hand in all the pictures? [sad but true]
- Many more females. [Overall on facebook - I'm not sure. They definitely are more likely to add me as a friend than former male students. Just as they have always been more likely to come back to visit, spot you at a Yankees game and say hello, mail you a letter, IM you etc. Nothing new about that.]
- Wouldn't it scare you if you had a daughter and she was posting pictures, her dorm room #, email address and other info online? [Yes}
- Doesn't it scare you that your sons are doing that? [To a degree - but maintaining a common double standard, not much.]
- Don't you think employers will check this kind of site when screening clients? [I've heard about that. I doubt it's widespread but employers can get access through students, faculty and alumni from an applicant's school. I saw a posting that said "Monster.com is who you portray you are, but Facebook is who you really are.â€ Last fall, North Carolina State University disciplined several students for underage drinking after a resident assistant found party photos of them on Facebook. A few days after students rushed the football field following a Penn State win over Ohio State, campus police found pictures of the incident containing identifiable students on Facebook. Northern Kentucky and the University of Kentucky both have disciplined students theyâ€™d seen drinking in pictures posted on Facebook. Campus police at George Washington University use Facebook to find underage drinkers. Employers and the career center at the University of Kansas use Facebook to evaluate students being considered for KU jobs.
- What about identity theft? [As with any sitaution where you reveal personal information, facebook could open you up to id theft by giving someone enough information to attempt to create a fake account.]
- You can't seriously think that these people actually have 345 "friends"? [Well, not the way we may have once defined friend. I'm pretty confident that someone who has 345 friends on facebook and 150 buddies on AIM realizes that they are not friends in the same way as their 6 really close friends that they see face-to-face regularly.]
That last point has been borne out by research on the Millennial Generation.
I'm going to send a few messages to students in my facebook friends list and ask them to comment here on this blog about my facebook observations. We'll see if they are more likely to comment than my "adult" colleagues who were sent this blog's link prior to my March 10 presentation.
I also just facebooked Mark Zuckerberg. He has 323 friends already, but hey, you can always use a friend, right?
Friday, March 3. 2006
If keeping a blog is a form of participatory journalism, then creating your own podcasts and offering them for download is one form of personal broadcasting.
It's not the only form. MySpace.com started out as a way to offer space to bands and artists without recording contracts so that they could offer mp3 music downloads and get their music heard. They still offer that but they are better known these days for the many personal sites that teens have created there. Another popular indie band site is http://garageband.com.
Internet broadcasting AKA webcasting is competing with - and frightening - traditional, over-the-air radio stations. There are thousands of streams with music and talk being offered by webcasters.
You'll also find crossover. Traditional radio stations are also offering their programming on the web (like my local NPR station in New York City WNYC) and are offering podcasts of archived shows. But I'm not talking about the big guys when I say personal broadcasting.
I'd say that colleges starting out with podcasts (sometimes called coursecasting, though it involves more than just course materials) are somewhere in the middle.
You have big university podcasting programs like Purdue's Boilercast. Listen to a few lectures - if you can. I find them unendurable. 90 minutes of unedited audio (sometimes with frequent references to things on the whiteboard or in an unseen PowerPoint!) It's almost like turning back the clock to the distance learning courses that used 90 minute videotapes of lectures (grad courses at 3 hours - yipes!) We've been celebrating the death of those tapes the last few years at NJIT and I'd hate to see us go back.
Take a look at Stanford's coursecasting that is part of Apple's iTunes U. More interesting. They offer lectures too but also sports, books & authors, music and campus speakers. They range from a few minutes to two hours in length.
Our own first semester of podcast experiments at NJIT includes formal, scripted lectures on World Literature, vodcasts (video podcasts) on Calculus I that run from 6-15 minutes, Calculus II audio lectures done live in class featuring homework solutions so that students can run through the solutions again after class. We are using a "Computers & Society" course that will offer video & audio-only versions to see how students use each. We are very interested in podcasts that have a "shelf life" that goes beyond one semester. Professor Eric Hetherington is preparing podcasts for selected topics for his "Engineering Ethics" course that he believes will be reusable.
We are uploading files in late February/early March to podcast.njit.edu and the files are currently open to the public. You can listen on your computer to any individual podcast or subscribe to a series using iTunes, iPodder or other podcast receivers. We have directions online. The experiment is in progress and we'd like to hear from you if you try out any of our files.
Audioblogger allows you to do blogs with audio and you can submit your text by email and your audio by phone!
Tuesday, February 28. 2006
Blogs are being used in many secondary schools and colleges. They are used for a variety of purposes: authentic writing assignments, collaborative assignments, asynchronous class discussion...
Here are some links to blogging information and some academic blogs to get you started.
Monday, February 27. 2006
Tim O'Reilly wrote a piece on web 2.0 in 2005 that is illustrated by this mindmap created by Markus Angermeier. Read Tim's article
You will keep seeing this term "Web 2.0" but finding a clear definition of what it is or will be is tough. Easy answer: it is what the web is becoming and (unlike Web 1.2 or whatever might have been the next version) it will be significantly different from the web we know & use today.
In this second version of the web, the architecture and the applications of the web will change.
1) This web will be interactive beyond clicking links on a page. I believe many applications will be running online, data files will be stored online "in the cloud."
2) Collaboration will be recorded in this space too. This is the web as operating system or platform.
2) This new web will require new security functions that had not been really considered in 1.0 (though that's what we should have expected and I don't blame Sir Tim Berners-Lee).
3) Web 1.0 encouraged sharing and stealing of content. 2.0 will further all of that. I don't mean to say that is a good thing. It's a social aspect that will require changes in our definitions of terms like sharing, plagiarism, fair use, copyright, ownership in the private, commercial and legal worlds.
4) New economic models will emerge of how to use this web for commercial moneymaking purposes. Web 1.0 never saw that. Now it's obvious.
5) Internet2 is an attempt to create another web for education and research use, but the other players will also want that speed and be willing to pay for it. If they stay separated, the "commodity" internet may end up being faster, stronger and more cutting edge then the research web. As with most technology in education from K to 20, education will be playing with the old toys.
SOME WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS and TOPICS TO EXPLORE
Sunday, February 26. 2006
You've probably seen some TV news coverage or articles about forms of social computing. MySpace and Facebook have gotten a lot of ink and sound bites lately.
Take this excerpt from the Business Week December 2005 cover story
"Preeminent among these virtual hangouts is MySpace.com, whose membership has nearly quadrupled since January alone, to 40 million members. Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Millions also hang out at other up-and-coming networks such as Facebook.com, which connects college students, and Xanga.com, an agglomeration of shared blogs. A second tier of some 300 smaller sites, such as Buzz-Oven, Classface.com, and Photobucket.com, operate under -- and often inside or next to -- the larger ones. Although networks are still in their infancy, experts think they're already creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinctions between online and real-world interactions..."
The complaints with MySpace (and other sites including Facebook) and high school & college students and pre-teens are much the same as fears that were voiced years ago about chat rooms and instant messaging.
There is a criminal probe into MySpace by the Connecticut Attorney following reports that a number of underage girls in that state were found to have had consensual sexual relations with adult males they'd
From THE EXPONENT at Purdue University
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