Miscellaneous

How to design a product at a startup

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:23

Yevgeniy Brikman, O'Reilly, Jul 11, 2018

This is a long, detailed, and in many respects very orthodox treatment of the subject of designing a product at the startup stage. Though this isn't something most of us will do, the lessons are more widely applicable to the development of any new service including a course or a program). The focus here is on iterative and user-centered design. You don't build a Great Work of Art and then launch it. You do a bit at a time and interact with your audience. Also, "the second question, 'What are they trying to accomplish?', still trips many people up." It's difficult to get past 'how' something will be done to look seriously at 'what' should be done. There's a lot more in this, and if you want to get a good sense of the design process in 2018, have a look.

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Delivering WordPress in 7KB

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:18

Jack Lenox, CSS-Tricks, Jul 11, 2018

This article focuses on "obese websites" that take up too much energy to function. It's an issue I've faced in my move to Reclaim as I jumped from a dedicated bare-metal server to a shared hosting environment. It has taught me some lessons about gRSShopper - there are some pretty clear areas for improvement. Now the headline refers to getting the load of the homepage down to 7KB of data transfer. I'm more focused on the CPU cycles operating the PLE costs. Either way, the lesson should be this: we should be designing for fast, efficient and low-overhead services. As devces get smaller and energy gets more expensive, this will become all the more important.

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An Invisible Tax on the Web: Video Codecs

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:05

Judy DeMocker, Mozilla Blog, Jul 11, 2018

I created the term 'techpayer' on Twitter a few days ago to convey the idea of costs we all pay for necessary technology that are s inevitable and unavoidable as taxes. And a lot less democratic. This article describes a case in point, the royalties charged for the video codec (coder/decoder) we all use to watch, say, YouTube. In this article Mozilla is promoting a roylty-free alternative, AV1 . It's worth spending some time thinking about these issues.

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The LMS is broken, so what’s next?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 14:22

Nelson Sivalingam, Training Journal, Jul 11, 2018

"It’s time to make learning fun again," says this article. " The LMS might have got content online, but it hasn’t improved how or the way we learn, it simply moved content from a textbook to a computer screen." I think the LMS has done a bit more than that, though to judge by some of the page-turners I've been subjected to, it hasn't done much more. But this isn't the solution: "companies can create engaging content that can be personalised to fit with an individual’s learning needs, and accessible to anyone at any time across the globe." Yes, relevant content is helpful, but a page-turner is a page-turner. Learning needs to be usable and interactive as well. But we've known this for a long time.

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Get the Re:Learning Newsletter

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 14:22

Goldie Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education, Jul 11, 2018

I welcome the addition of another entrant into the field of education-focused newsletters. From the Chronicle: "It’s written by Goldie Blumenstyk, a longtime reporter here, who is known for her expertise on innovation in and around academe. Goldie’s reporting brings her close to many of the institutions, organizations, and companies that increasingly wield influence over the direction of higher education, and the Re:Learning newsletter is our way of sharing what she’s hearing with you." This newsletter joins the Teaching Newsletter, devoted to, um, teaching. "This issue was put together by Beckie." Who I guess doesn't have a last name (it's probably Beckie Supiano).

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How to solve the local news crisis? Look it up in the library.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 14:10

Don Day, Medium, Jul 11, 2018

I live in a small town in Ontario where decisions about the local school and the local (badly paved) main road have a big impact. News was always a challenge in small towns, and now it's a major challenge. And contrary to what is suggested in this article, I don't realy see the library stepping in and filling the gap. A library serves an informative function, sure, but what it lacks is an investigative function (where by 'investigtive' I mean nothing more complicated than asking the obvious questions (like, "where did that $2 million extra cost really come from?").

P.S. This post, the 30109 is the first post created entirely on my new platform at Reclaim Hosting.

 

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Self-Regulated Learning: Beliefs, Techniques, and Illusions

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 19:17

Robert A. Bjork, John Dunlosky, Nate Kornell, Annual Review of Psychology, Jul 07, 2018

This 2012 paper (29 page PDF) on self-regulated learning was just listed on today's O'Reilly newsletter. It felt dated even for six years ago, and is much more so today. The approach the authors take to learning is 'study and recall', and the mechanisms they describe - things like reading, self-testing, spacing, interleaving - are things from a purely cognitivist model of learning that involves encoding, storing, and retrieving content from memory (as though one were a computer). Their point is to argue that students need to learn how to learn - not something I would contest, necessarily - but this is based not on what the students do (which seems to be effective enough) but on studies about what they believe about what they do. So overall I wasn't very happy with the paper (notwithstanding that it is a pretty good paper), and felt there was a lot of room for improvement. But here's the point: this is what software developers are being told we are trying to do in education, even though a proper review based on modern sources would make it clear that it is not. This is where the problems in educational technology begin.

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REST vs GraphQL APIs, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:56

Derric Gilling, moesif, Jul 07, 2018

Representational State Transfer (REST) saved the web from the ugliness of web services using ugly protocols like Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). As the article notes, it was introduced in 2000 and became the de facto standard for interoperability. But as we gradually migrate toward non-SQL data storage, alternatives like GraphQL present themselves as an alternative. This article looks at the advantages and disadvantages of REST and GraphQL. I've worked with both, but I wouldn't be able to say which is the better option. But as the operator of small underpowered web sites, I do love caching, which leans me still toward REST.

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An Interview with Jeff Gallant from Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 14:31

Stefanie Panke, AACE Review, Jul 07, 2018

This straight-forward interview contains few surprises but is a good snapshot of the OER initiative at the University System of Georgia (USG) "to promote student success by supporting the implementation of affordable alternatives to expensive commercial textbooks, particularly Open Educational Resources (OER) and open textbooks." There's some data on impact ( 200,000 students saved more than $31 million to date), links to some comparable initiatives, and links to some funded projects (in total, there are 170 projects that have been completed and 60 in progress).

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Twenty Years of Edtech

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 14:17

Martin Weller, EDUCAUSE Review, Jul 07, 2018

I've been following the series of articles of the same name on Martin Weller's blog. 20 years ago, it was 1998, I wrote the Future of Online Learning, and we were looking forward to LMSs and learning objects. A lot has changed since then (but a lot has rolled out exactly as we expected to, proving to to a large degree you can predict the future). While I would order and date them a bit differently, I played a role in each of the technologies described in the 20 parts of this article, and it is with no small sense of accomplishment that I look at what we as a community has done over that time. We have indeed transformed education.

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How International Corporations Can Help Educate the World

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 13:14

Sarah Brown, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jul 07, 2018

According to this Stanford article, "The private sector offers more than just deep pockets to the quest for global education; companies have talent, resources, and new ideas to share." All true, but overall I'd rather see more from the deep pockets (after all, they got it all from the techpayers in the first place) and fewer new ideas (after all, they don't have a good track records, and they have an unfortunate tendency to change the objective from 'teach needy children' to 'make more money'). This of course is not the perspective offered in this article, to which I refer you now.

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India tells WhatsApp to stop the deadly rumor mill, somehow

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 13:07

Mathew Ingram, Columbia Journalism Review, Jul 07, 2018

India is dealing with "beatings and killings that appear to be related to conspiracy theories circulating on WhatsApp."  It's easy to blame the technology, but as argued here, "The fact that such misinformation not only fuels citizens’ paranoia, but also causes them to take matters into their own hands in droves, is indicative of a lack of faith in the machinery meant to maintain law and order." Meanwhile, WhatsApp has responded by saying that it believes misinformation is a challenge “that requires government, civil society and technology companies to work together”.

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You don’t have to live in public

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 12:57

Austin Kleon, Jul 07, 2018

Austin Kleon discusses the topic of his recent book Show Your Work! and emphasizes that " It isn’t a book about living in public, it’s a book about working in public. It is, I think, about sharing your work with intention, and using the technology available to you to connect directly with the audience you seek." He's responding to recent criticism about the use (and overuse) of social media, and especially Jaron Lanier's recent book 10 Reasons for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Kleon says, "It’s not a particularly well-written book (Franklin Foer’s review is worth reading — he calls it '“less polished' than Lanier’s other books and, even, 'hokey') but it has an important message." Readers will recall that I quit Facebook almost two years ago, though I can still be found on Twitter and Mastodon, as well as on a quiet Google+ account.

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Itty bitty sites

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 12:45

Nicholas Jitkoff, Itty bitty sites, Jul 07, 2018

As the itty bitty website says, "Itty bitty sites are contained entirely within their own link. (Including this one!) This means they're: portable - you don't need a server to host them; private - nothing is sent to–or stored on–this server; easy to share as a link or QR code." It's not really an exaggeration. There's some code - available at GitHub - and some samples set up in CodePen. The idea of a web site in a link is appealing.

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The Big List Of Resources On xAPI

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 19:15

Melissa Milloway, Jul 07, 2018

This is exactly as advertised in the title, a list of xAPI resources. It's not as big as you might imagine, but it's well curated, which more than makes up for that. Some useful things: xAPI Wrapper, which will allow you to configure a way to send statements from projects where you've built out customized xAPI statements. Also, the xAPI Statement Viewer, which allows you to create an activity stream of statements that can be hosted and sent to others.

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The Matrix Calculus You Need For Deep Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 17:50

Terence Parr, Jeremy Howard, explained.ai, Jul 07, 2018

The mathematics of neural networks is daunting for most people (including me). This paper is an attempt to give readers a grounding in the basics. "This material is for those who are already familiar with the basics of neural networks, and wish to deepen their understanding of the underlying math." You'll have to read this strategically. Start at the bottom, in the section titled 'Notation'. Also review the Wikipedia article on index notation. Then go back, skim the introduction, and begin in-depth reading at the section "Review: Scalar derivative rules." Plan to spend the day. Related: Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Getting on the AI Learning Curve: A Pragmatic, Incremental Approach.

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Google launches new college search feature

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 17:05

ICEF Monitor, Jul 07, 2018

According to this article, "LinkedIn has its University Pages, Facebook is partnering with community colleges, and now Google has quietly – to the extent that one of the world’s tech giants can do anything quietly – launched a new college search service designed to make it easier for students to 'explore educational options and find a college that meets your needs.'" As is normal for similar services, the search covers only U.S. institutions. 

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Why we shouldn’t let economists play with education

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 16:01

Benjamin Doxtdator, A Long View on Education, Jul 07, 2018

This is a long and detailed criticism of Bryan Caplan’s The Case Against Education. Caplan isn't against education per se, he's against publicly funded education. But as Benjamin Doxtdator argues, he reduces education to purely economic incentives (and most disparagingly, as 'signaling' of social status). But this reduction becomes inevitable unless we change out perspective. "Like so much of our lives under late capitalism, education has been subjected to an 'excessive market ideology' for at least the last 50 years... If we want to get to the root causes of why the education system is broken and what can be done to fix it, we need to free ourselves from the ideology that makes Caplan’s calculations all but inevitable."

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Status of Consumer Education and Financial Education in Canada (2016)

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 15:40

Sue L. T. McGregor, Canadian Journal of Education, Jul 04, 2018

Consumer education is “a process of gaining skills, knowledge and understanding required for living in a consumer society [in order to] make full use of the range of consumer opportunities present in today’s complex marketplace.” This article (32 page PDF) reviews the state of consumer education in Canada. I've never really been a fan of consumer education because of its bias toward consumption, a trend evidenced in a 2000 report: "Most (84%) consumer concepts pertained to resource management, followed by decision making (11%), and then citizen participation (advocacy and protection) (5%)." The currently study sets the numbers at 73%, 13% and 14% respectively. These, and the subjects taught, vary widely across provinces. And the article reflects the question of what consumer education should be: "What power does the consumerism ideology lord over people, mesmerizing them into relentless and meaningless consumption? Why are people engaging in excessive, unsustainable consumption? These larger philosophical, ideological, and moral questions (see McGregor, 2010) are more than just knowing how to make savvy and effective financial decisions when spending one’s money." Good questions, but I see few signs of a change in our current (and unsatisfactory) focus.

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Open Preservation Foundation launches new strategy

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 14:56

Open Preservation Foundation, Jul 04, 2018

The Open Preservation Foundation has a new mission and strategy. Here it is (edited to correct punctuation): "Enabling shared solutions for effective and efficient digital preservation, the Open Preservation Foundation leads a collaborative effort to create, maintain and develop the reference set of sustainable, open source digital preservation tools and supporting resources." 12 page PDF.

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