Miscellaneous

The DAO is alive, now let the evolution begin

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 19:00


Julian Feder, Backfeed, May 13, 2016

I spent a good part of the day exploring this (and the rest of the day exploring the awesomeness of Windows 93). What we have here is really a two-part story, the first about Ethereum, and the second about Dao itself. To the first: according to the website, "Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference." Basically, it enables developers to create their own blockchain 'currencies' (which may or may not have financial value) which can be used in a variety of applications.

This leads us to the second part of the story, Dao, which is one of those applications. Basically it is a 'distributed corporation' that receives investments, chooses projects, and pays for their development; some of these projects return revenue to Dao and others don't. The key here is to prevent the corporation from being taken over and milked for value by large financial interests. As they say, "The idea of an organization without the need of headquarters, which exists almost outside of physical space, unseizable by force, which doesn’ t belong to any individual or group, and which has the ability to execute itself and self-regulate, would have sounded almost religious just a few decades ago." I wonder whether we could run science and education like that.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) Explore Plans to Combine

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 16:00


Press Release, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), May 13, 2016

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is, of course, the body that defines major web standards. The most important standard managed by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)  is the ePub standard for eBooks. According to the release, "The future evolution of EPUB technical standards would continue at W3C, along with broader work to improve publishing features across the entire Open Web Platform."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Inconvenient Truth About Personalized Learning

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 13:00


Julia Freeland Fisher, Clayton Christensen Institute, May 13, 2016

I think this article captures the core problem not only with learning research but also with learning analytics: "simply asking what works stops short of the real question at the heart of a truly personalized system: what works, for which students, in what circumstances?" There is, notes the author, "mounting evidence that 'average' itself is a flawed construct."  At a certain point, you need to be able to say why something works, which includes having an explanation for when it doesn't work. Most education research doesn't come close to this point.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Predictive Analytics for Publishing

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 13:00


Carl Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, May 13, 2016

A new entrant based in Toronto is offering competition for  Academia and ResearchGate. As this article says,  Meta helps researchers to follow topics of interest in biomedical sciences (it intends to expand) with individual feed lists and libraries. The interesting bit is that Meta has organized this work as a graph of topics, researchers, journals and other elements. Presumably individuals using the service would also be included in the graph. The idea is to be able to predict emerging trends using data analytics. This may be more difficult than it sounds. After all, as cofounder  Sam Molyneux says,  “ There’ s always going to be a fraction of information that doesn’ t get published in articles,” Molyneux said. “ There’ s also the unpublished leading edge of science." Yeah. And that's a very large fraction. I tried out the site - I really didn't like the way the wizard seized control and wouldn't just let you explore until you had set up feeds and topics, but overall it seemed relatively intuitive.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Educational Technology Education Conferences 35 June to December 2016

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Fri, 05/13/2016 - 11:00


Clayton R. Wright, Stephen's Web, May 13, 2016

Clayton R. Wright has published the latest iteration of his excellent conference list. He writes, "Attached is the 35th version of the educational technology and education conference list. Since the previous list was published, 89 events were added to June 2016. This version of the list contains basic information regarding 1, 511 confirmed professional development opportunities. Additional events are noted, but dates and/or locations could not be confirmed."

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Why is simpler better?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 23:00


Elliott Sober, Aeon, May 12, 2016

Elliott Sober is one of the more well-known and well-regarded philosophers today, and it is on the strength of work like this that he deserves his reputation. In a relatively short and crystal-clear essay he explains our historical preference for simplicity in science, and explains some of the theoretical underpinnings for that preference. In the end, as he says, "there is in the end no unconditional and presuppositionless justification for Ockham’ s Razor," is is still nonetheless relevant to making decisions about scientific theories. It would be interesting to see, by contrast, what a comparable essay for a 'middle ground' between simple and complex theories would look like. After all, science is at least in part an art, and in art, simplicity is not necessarily a virtue, as Gaudi so aptly demonstrates. Via Leiter.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

I want my data

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 23:00


Mike Sharkey, Blackboard Blog, May 12, 2016

Interesting post from Blackboard talking about the different ways institutions can receive data from their LMS (no word on data for individual students). I like the way the different types of data provision are depicted, ranging from raw data to automatically generated predictions (as compared to fixing up your own car vs taking an Uber). I think that the author needs to get out more, though. He begins the article by saying "The nostalgic 80’ s kid in me reads the title of this blog in my best Sting accent… .” I want my D-A-T-A” … and then I jump into a  frenetic mix of air drums, air keyboards and air guitar riffs," and in so doing gets both the reference to the artist wrong and links to a video with  "content from UMG, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds." Although I guess we can hardly blame him for the latter.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Options for Building Web Forms

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 23:00


Geoff Graham, CSS-Tricks, May 12, 2016

This may seem like a pretty basic thing, but if you don't know how to do it there's no obvious place to start. I've used a number of the form providers listed here (as well as using some server-side scripts, so I have a basis for comparison). If I had to pick from those listed right now, I'd probably go with TypeForm, because the interface (for the user) is beautiful and intuitive. Here's another list  from Zapier, which also provides a handy cost comparison. If you want to create tyour own (and have a backend that can accept input) you can try the JQuery form builder.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Docker as a Personal Application Runner

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 20:00


Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, May 12, 2016

Now that I have a lot more free time (during which I will not be writing program reports) I will have time to investigate what can be usefully done with technology like Docker. There's a lot here that accords with my own thinking about educational applications. Anyhow, this is a good post looking at Docker  not as a virtual machine but rather one which "views containers from a single user, desktop perspective, seeing Docker and its ilk as providing an environment that can support off-the-shelf, ready to run tools and applications, that can be run locally or in the cloud, individually or in concert with each other." The data, meanwhile, resides else, perhaps on a user's desktop or in the cloud. Maybe I'll even be able to do some rapid prototyping in this environment. We'll see. See also:  What is Docker? and  Get started with Docker.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The People's Manifesto

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 17:00


Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, May 12, 2016

Our society exists to provide the means and opportunity for each of us to fulfill our maximum potential and reach our highest aspirations, whatever we perceive them to be...

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Categories: Miscellaneous

What do you see?

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 12:00


Jennifer Borgioli Binis, When 140 just isn't enough…, May 12, 2016

Sure, they're just prom pictures. But: "There’ s a pattern there. A pattern girls and boys notice and internalize, to say nothing of the messages transgender children may be picked up. Boys are heroes. Girls  can only be heroes if they stop being a girl. Just ask Mulan." People learn not only from class but from the totality of their environment, and especially from marketing and media. "Representation matters.  Patterns add up. If the images we boost, over and over again because they’ re just 'kids having a good time', what images, voices, and representation are we not boosting?" What we share matters. What we promote matters. Each moment we act in a community, we are educating someone.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Elsevier Complaint Shuts Down Sci-Hub Domain Name

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 09:00


Ernesto, TorrentFreak, May 12, 2016

If you've noticed that the URL sci-hub.io is no longer resolving, this is the result of an injunction by Elsevier, which argues that the website, which shares academic papers, is a form of piracy. However, according to this article, "several ‘ backup’ domain names are still in play, including Sci-Hub.bz and Sci-Hub.cc. This means that the site remains accessible to those who update their bookmarks. In addition to the alternative domain names users can access the site directly through the IP-address 31.184.194.81, or its  domain  on the Tor-network, which is pretty much immune to any takedown efforts." See also: Meet the Robin Hood of Science.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

LinkedIn Just Made a Savvy Business Move and Nobody Noticed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Thu, 05/12/2016 - 09:00


John Nemo, Inc., May 12, 2016

LinkedIn has been moving in this direction for several years, and as the Inc. article notes, "Modeled after popular 'freelancer-for-hire' sites such as  Fiverr  and  Upwork, LinkedIn's ProFinder  matches customers looking for a specific type of product  or service  with a qualified professional." It gives rise to a new type of business model on the other end: a commercial entity with few full-time staff employing dozens of professionals on a contract basis. Ah, but here's the rub: what is to prevent a race to the bottom as individual contractors compete against each other?

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The brain in your pocket

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 19:00


Daniel Willingham, May 11, 2016

Daniel Willingham has two tried-and-true tools he goes back to again and again: the unproven theory, and the artificial example. In this post he combines them to suggests that the internet  weakens our cognitive powers. The theory in this case is 'cognitive miserliness', suggesting that  "we think when we feel we have to, and otherwise avoid it." And computers in our pocket give us a new way to avoid thinking, leading to (he says) poorer results on some 'analytical problems' such as the artificial example he provides. I think the sort of study he proposes would be substantially misleading, because as our technology changes, the nature of the problems (and the thinking we have to do) changes as well, rendering  moot the artificial examples Willingham uses so frequently.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Free Artificial Intelligence (AI) software for your PC

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 13:00


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet, May 11, 2016

The 'artificial intelligence' part of Braina  (I keep wanting to pronounce it 'bran ah') lies mostly in the voice recognition software and in its ability to interpret natural language requests. "It isn't just like a chat-bot; its priority is to be super functional and to help you in doing tasks. You can either type commands or speak to it and Braina will understand what you want to do." According to the review, "Braina is very utilitarian, practical, and actually very functional." I haven't tried it myself (I'm afraid to overload my laptop so I'll wait until I'm in the office). No matter how it functions, something like this application will provide a lot more support for personal productivity and support some time in the near future. Via Doug Peterson.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

The Increasing Problem With the Misinformed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Thomas Baekdal, Baekdal, May 11, 2016

This is a long article but an important read. It embodies a lot of the philosophy behind my own work in this newsletter, as well as highlighting the danger that misinformation presents to society as a whole.   This danger is as pervasive in education  technology as anywhere else. And it won't improve until we accept the responsibility  to inform seriously. This is a task not only for journalists - it is also an imperative faced by educators. Especially educators.

The problem is this: "The political organizations, associations and committees are lying sleazeballs with a staggering score of -40%, and 'other', being the media personalities, are -20%... The 'experts' used by the media are less truthful than the politicians. And you are giving them a voice? No wonder people don't trust the news anymore... You can't just report the news and think that people will trust you. If the people you cover aren't trustworthy, you have to  step up and do more. You have to show people what's true and false. You are being dragged down exactly because you don't question the news before reporting it... We don't need journalists who are just reporting what someone else said. That's the old world. Today, we need someone who can  analyseexplain  and  put it into perspective... using unbiased analysis." 

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Global Blockchain Project Fermat Revealed

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Simon Cocking, Irish Times, May 11, 2016

Don Tapscott was given the liberty to edit an issue of the Toronto Star as his response was to put a picture of himself  on the front page. He has also jumped on to the blockchain  bandwagon. I think it's interesting technology, but I thing there are more interesting forces at work under the surface. Consider, for example, Fermat. "60+ full time contributors now collaborating to develop global open source platform that will launch the 'Internet of People.'" This is something that very much bears further investigation. "The great thing about this  Internet of People, in contrast with the current web, is the option of freedom from third parties. This brings several advantages in terms of privacy, cost reductions and removal of arbitrary rules." This is very much the goal I had for LPSS (though taking a very different approach). Now in my world, this goal has been explicitly rejected. But focusing on the superficial doesn't change the undercurrents of long-term technology development. The personal will prevail. It is in the process of prevailing.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Replace RESTful APIs with JSON-Pure

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Michael S. Mikowski, May 11, 2016

If you're not coding websites and web applications, this post is not for you. But for the rest of us, it's interesting to look at the evolving world of web applications development (formerly known as 'web pages'). "The primary goal is to provide the best possible user experience for modern SPAs (Single Page Applications). Certainly the practices shown below are nothing new or revolutionary. You will see echoes of SOAP, JSON RPC, JSON API, JSend, JSON LD and Hydra in the recommendations." See also: RESTful APIs - the big Lie, and  Thoughts on JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Node.js, and JSON-LD.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

I fly 747s for a living. Here are the amazing things I see every day.

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Mark Vanhoenacker, Vox, May 11, 2016

I read this a couple days ago while I was in Malaysia. Now I'm in my kitchen in Ontario, typing this out. This is an obvious point, but it's deep and important: "Everywhere is going on at once...  All this would still be going on if I hadn't flown here. And that's equally true of London, and of all the other cities I passed in the long night, that I saw only the lights of.  For everyone, and every place, it's the present." It applies equally well to my next door neighbours as to Tatevik in Armenia, Viplav in India, Dave in PEI and Doug in the UK.

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Categories: Miscellaneous

Unlearning and Other Jedi Mind Tricks – Finding the (Creative) Force

Stephen Downes' OLDaily - Wed, 05/11/2016 - 10:00


Amy Burvall, AmusED, May 11, 2016

Creativity isn't something you have to have a special talent for. It is something that results from paying attention, following your own interests, and most of all, hard work. This is the gist of the message offered by Amy Burvall as she prefaces a list of 'Jedi mind tricks' to promote creativity (quoted and lightly edited (my own take in italics)):

  • sense of wonder.... is to be  mindful  of one’ s surroundings and all the things your senses are taking in (I get this from travel, the beauty of everyday life, from animals and from people).
  • hone your skills of observation... be curious, stay in the question longer, take in different perspectives of things as well as people and processes (I use photography for this).
  • challenge assumptions - learn the rules so you can break them  -  and don’ t take things at face value (not just rules - patterns, expectations, order and organizations...)
  • the best way to complain is to make things - so after you’ ve deconstructed or assessed something, it’ s important to  move on (for me, making things usually means coding, though sometimes it means carpentry).
  • an  incubation period  is also necessary - this is when you step away from the creative endeavor and chill out or do something mundane (for me, this is things like cycling)
  • chefs of creativity must have a variety of tools at hand - it’ s important to achieve  fluency  with your creativity (and this requires practice with your tools, even for no purpose).
  • being able to  learn, unlearn, and re-learn anew  will be imperative (just ask anyone who does web development)
  • creativity inherently involves remix and connecting the dots - dot-connecting takes practice. It’ s a balance of curating (“ dot collection” ), finding, sense-making, and associating (this is the work I do with OLDaily, an essential part of my creative exercise).
  • having a  creative mentor  is so important – even if it’ s not someone in your real life (these, to me, are the people who struggle with genuine enquiry - David Hume, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig Wittgenstein - and   not those who simply see it as a game)
  • while we don’ t want something to be overprescribed - we  can thrive  on conditions  -  rules  -  challenges (This isn't me so much -  I don't like people telling me what to do, or not to do).
  • creativity should be scheduled (OLDaily first thing in the morning at at 4:00 p.m., morning time for priority tasks, afternoon for routine, evenings and weekends for me).
  • Focus will yield flow - Let all the extraneous stuff whiz by – at least for a little while – while you are  intent (yes) 
  • it’ s key to have other, more tedious aspects of the creative task at hand that you can tackle when the big work is difficult (like doing email, reading the RSS feeds, some paperwork, cleaning and sorting).
  • we want our work to touch people- We need people to work with us and spark us on – a  creative posse (I've thought about this a lot - mostly I just need someone to tell me I've done good).
  • if you are hating you are not creating (I need to work on this).

P.S. the list format here, which would work well on slides, is especially for Amy. :) Via Doug Belshaw, who also recommends this Tilt Brush  video. See also Amy Burvall, Everybody is an Artist.

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