This is water

A bit of a deviation from my standard fare of techy news and opinion, but I’m bundling this under “Community & Social” – I think it fits well.


This video gave me pause for thought…
It’s a well produced, visually engaging excerpt from an address to graduates in 2005 by novelist David Foster Wallace. Sadly, this man took his own life in 2008 after struggling with depression for many years.

Watch this. Listen to the message. See if you can use it in your life.

The full address can be found here:

Hat Tip to my former colleague Curtis – thank you for sharing.

Authenticating Users – The Struggle to Raise the Bar

Photo Credit: Ibrahim Asad / Flickr (CC: by)Interesting quote from an article that I was reading this morning:

“When creating a patient portal that provides access to electronic health records, healthcare organizations must educate patients about the need for authenticating their identities, says Sharp HealthCare CIO Bill Spooner. […] Spooner notes that some patients have complained that the authentication method for its patient portal is cumbersome.”

It’s not the fault of the user, they’ve not been educated as to why the bar should be higher (and they don’t necessarily understand the potential consequence of a low bar). It’s not the fault of the business, after all things have been “good enough so far” so why spend money changing something that doesn’t look like it’s broken?

It’s (almost) nice to know there are others struggling with the balance between usability, user acceptance, funding and the changing landscape of threat.

Chrysalis Cam – Using Open Source to Open Minds

The kids in Room 3 had a problem, all of the caterpillars that went into the pupa stage of their metamorphosis were emerging when the students were out of the classroom.

The solution was to setup a laptop with a web camera programmed to take a snapshot of a waiting chrysalis once every minute. These images were stitched together into a time-lapse which captured the butterfly emerging in this video.

Feel free to skip over rest of the content in this article as what is of interest will vary greatly between viewers – but I wanted to present the whole story in one location in case it is useful to others who are studying similar processes.

The Lesson

Before getting into the detail of the ‘how’ the project was done, it was fascinating to watch the kids go through the journey of:

  • Identifying the problem of missing the butterflies emerging
  • Strategising what they could do to overcome the issue
  • Discarding ideas which were unworkable
  • Agreeing on using the computer / webcam
  • Thinking about what other things time-lapse would be useful for

Continue reading “Chrysalis Cam – Using Open Source to Open Minds”

Notes from Barcamp Auckland 2010

Barcamp Auckland is an annual gathering of developers, designers, start-ups and social-media types. It’s a full day event held in an ‘unconference’ like style, where the attendee (see my attendee & interested folks list on Twitter) set the schedule – and people turn up to discuss topics which interest them.

The following are the session notes I took during this years Auckland Barcamp

Continue reading “Notes from Barcamp Auckland 2010”

Education and the Future of Learning

As I gear up for this weekends unconference, I’ve been looking through my Delicious bookmarks, specifically on things around Education, which is one of the sessions I’d like to run, if nothing else – to get a different perspective from that discussed at this years BaaCamp where I was part of a similar session.

I came across this video, speaking to the one way approach many educators are taking to using the Internet as a resource. The presenter has written a supporting article (PDF) where he explains the different roles students can take to build engagement, and to collaborate with their global peers

Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November from Brian Mull on Vimeo.

Food for thought – and a definite starter for our discussions at TelecomONE this weekend – how can we as an industry help support our educators and their students to become part of the global voice of learning?

Day Two of Foo

This is part two of my three part coverage of FooCamp 2009. You can also read part one and part three for more.

Again, this entry is written under the constraints of FrieNDA and will summarise only those observations which are non-attributable to anyone but myself.

After the big brain squeeze yesterday, I kicked off the day sitting under a tree and summarising my thoughts as to what shape my session on Education would take, I wanted to engage conversation early – but felt it important to frame the direction I was approaching the issue from up front so we could end the session with some definite take away points and next steps.

The rest of the day took the following format:

Renewable Energy
A inspiring gentleman who is in the process of building (and experimenting with) his ‘Eco House’ in the Coromandal took us through a great discussion around renewable energy and how, harnessing something as simple as the free energy of the sun, we can heat our homes, our water and make a real impact on our energy usage.

Out takes:

  • The installation costs are still somewhat high (could do with some governmental/power company assistance?) but the running costs are negligible
  • There is a definite case to be made for dual voltage systems in a home (low power for appliances/LED lighting, mains voltage for high drain devices)
  • The freedom to experiment in the suburbs is minuscule, truly effective eco-housing needs (currently) to be situated in a rural area.
  • There is such a thing as a device which allows you to send generated electricity (from a Photovoltaic array on your roof as an example) back *into* the power grid. Power companies in NZ that support this will give dollar for dollar. This provides a potential for distributed power generation via private citizens homes.

Hacking Government
The interesting thing I found here is that the framing of the debate is typically influenced most heavily via the use of words and the spin put around them by/via the media. As an example of this consider the use of the words ‘Theft’ and ‘Piracy’ when the issue of copyright is discussed.

A suggestion was made that it would be interesting to track the word clouds of political communications and compare them to those of lobby groups to see where the influence was coming from. This may already be being done, I just need to find some links to point you toward.

Out takes:

When communicating with a government official:

  • Have, and express your points clearly
  • Be polite and concise (email spamming the same message does NOT work)
  • Know your stuff and, if you are fortunate enough to get some face time with an elected official be able to back your position with facts/studies etc. as there will be people present who will know their stuff and challenge your points.

And most importantly.. give the decision maker a safe way out!

Recommended reading:

Real-time data
I attended this session to feed my home/consumer devices and automation obsession, and came away with even more information than I dreamt.

Out takes:

  • The XMPP protocol is hella useful here
  • Need to expose location information to users so THEY can find an application for it which they find useful
  • The value of different types of data changes over time (there’s a graph of this I could insert)
  • Caution required to not overload users with information. Context sensitive notifications
  • Being able to connect disparate data sources which pertain to similar information would extend the functionality able to be offered (example of different types of weather stations, aggregating their ‘Raining/Not Raining” information)

Things to check out:
Pachube – “a service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world”

4 Million Leaders
Tim (in his usual enthusiastic manner) tells us about his latest project (conceived, built AND launched in 10 days) ThinkSmall a “free, open community aimed at finding solutions to issues that face New Zealand”

Out takes:

  • New Zealand is disproportionately able to effect massive change of it’s own environments
    We sit alongside 200 or so other ‘small’ nations, dwarfed by the two or three huge nations
    Sign up to ThinkSmall and get involved, you will be held to account for your calls to action

Things to check out:

Broadband
Broadband, a simple word and HUGE subject

Out takes:

  • Much angry shouting
  • Difficulty expressing what was desired in terms of services (fast and “[insert a big number]” is not a service)
  • People using an asynchronous technology to upload vast amounts of data have problems (they should like VDSL when it launches?)
  • General agreement that there needs to be a more collaborative approach to providing bandwidth appropriate to desired services to the people

Education

This was a session that I led, based around a growing interest in how we as technologists, can help our kids schools and teachers. We had over 30 of the Foo attendees interested in this session and, while I can’t discuss the exact nature of the outcomes due to FrieNDA, there were some generic truths and a call to action which a number of us will take away from the weekend.

Out takes:

  • Teachers spend an inordinate amount of their non-class time in administrative duties.
  • Extra curricular and professional development also take up a lot of a typical teachers time.
  • There are a huge number of things that we as parents with wide range skills can do to assist the teachers and their schools.
    • Volunteer, seriously. Whether it’s transcribing lesson plans, scrounging up some awesome resources for a specific lesson or coaching a school team, whatever you can do will impact on the additional workload of the teachers
    • Tutor or assist – I personally will be re-offering my services to the school for any teachers who would like to spend some time learning applications, how to search the internet, or how to get kids interested in the world accessible from the keyboard.
    • Ask the school what they need, see how you can help – is your company updating it’s infrastructure, can you redeploy old PC or Wireless LAN equipment to the school campus rather than attempting a resale via disposal brokers?
  • There are some incredible schools out there, there are some amazing teachers – if you have access to either, see if you can help them help others

Things to check out:

  • Discovery 1 – “Discovery 1 is a special character, state funded primary school based in the heart of the Christchurch Central Business District. It is an innovative learning community where all key stake holders (children, parents & staff) take an active part in the creation  of a child’s learning journey.”
  • Unlimited High School
  • Digital Technology Framework

For those attendees of the session, if there was a specific point that you made and you feel can be released here outside of FrieNDA, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly off the FooCamp attendees list.

Section 92 – The Countdown

We had an amazing and inspiring discussion around what could be done in the last weeks before the act becomes law. To be part of that conversation was both humbling and exciting. The results of the discussion will see the light of day in the weeks following Foo.

A huge day in the company of excellent people with phenominal brainpower and an unquenchable desire to lend their expertise to resolve any issue they can… Time for some more wine, another conversation or three and then bed.

FooCamp 2009, Warkworth, New Zealand

This is part one of my three part coverage of FooCamp 2009. You can also read part two and part three for more.

Well – here I am at the 2009 FooCamp New Zealand it’s 11:30 as I start writing this piece and I’d say that things were winding down for the night but I’d be lying. Although the first two sessions of the camp have concluded, there is no end to the discussions which flow as freely as the drinks.

It’s been an awesome start to what is shaping up to be an awesome weekend. I was fortunate enough to be able to offer a lift to 5 other Foo attendees and the car was filled with incredibly interesting conversation ranging from hacking whiteboard presentation tools for the purposes of entertaining infants, to privacy, security and airline saftey – through to the pain of managing open source coding projects.

I have had a remarkable conversation on education with a couple of people from a major Tertiary institution along with a gentleman whose role included going to schools and assisting teachers in the science curriculum. This conversation will spill into a session I plan to run on Saturday afternoon around Education, collaboration and community – not my standard fare of geek and gadgets, but a subject I’ve been mulling over on and off for the past year or so.

Due to the FrieNDA which is put in place at these ‘unconference’ events, there will be no specific details posted about people or the conversations.  This is to protect all of the attendees, promote openess, and allow compeditior companies to share views in a intelligent manner without egos and personalities getting in the way.

For the record, the first two sessions of the weekend that I’ve attended were both around the control of content. Session 1 was around if a company should start releasing it’s content under creative common licencing, and the second was a very good session led by New Zealands “Creative Freedom Foundation” it’s worth the time of every New Zealander who is active on the Internet to read and understand the implications of the impending changes to the copyright act. I must admit that I learnt a few things during the session that I’d not known before.

Anyway, it’s very late and if I don’t want to get dragged into a game of Werewolf (and lynched) I’d best go hit the hay… What a great strt to an awesome weekend.

World Wide Telescope – I want to be a kid again…

I read Scobles post when it appeared on TechMeme yesterday about Microsoft Research and their Worldwide Telescope project and the praise for the concept is again reflected on TED (love TED).

Anyway,  enthused by what I’ve seen thus far (the project still not being open), I told my son Max about it and, watching his eyes light up with the possibility of viewing other planets, stars and galaxies through the shared resources of spaces agencies around the world was simply magic. We were going to get the telescope he got for Christmas out last night to compare what the web will bring to his fingertips against what we could see IRL through his (admittedly low powered) telescope. Our children will have access to so much of the worlds information as they grow up, I envy the opportunities that this will bring them.