Dead Drop no. 3

More Bots

http://pushpullfork.com/2017/09/botnet-cometh/

I’m following the public facing war between disinformation and the public. Yes, this is not a conspiracy theory, but an actual war, on social networks, aided and abetted by profiteering conspiracy theorists who want to make millions (in some cases) off paranoia. It’s fascinating because it really means the end of being online as a non-combat participant. Everyone is involved in this.

https://moz.com/blog/chat-bot

https://tutorials.botsfloor.com/opensource-ai-chat-bot-framework-with-natural-language-understanding-and-conversational-abilities-7c6b71e2c461

One of the important aspects of successful bots are the natural chat sophistication. Mapping conversations is part of that. Also, this open sourced framework for conversation construction is going to be extremely helpful.

https://booking.design/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-designing-a-chat-bot-4f07886d3fd0

Amazing how Medium is taking over from where WordPress used to dominate. More tips about chatbot design. Really interesting stuff here, some of it straight forward and obvious, but I really dig reading about how other people made decisions.

https://github.com/google/bottery

Google’s chat engine/bot framework.

Dead Drop no.2

A second hodgepodge of things I’ve found on the Internet.

How to Build a Twitter Bot

http://www.zachwhalen.net/posts/how-to-make-a-twitter-bot-with-google-spreadsheets-version-04/

https://www.labnol.org/internet/write-twitter-bot/27902/

https://www.fastcompany.com/3031500/how-twitter-bots-fool-you-into-thinking-they-are-real-people

The third article is the most interesting because it’s from 2014 (remember Klout scores?) and really shows how little (and how much) has changed in the Twitter bot universe. Essentially the heart of the strategy is the same, but mixed with a way to learn (through AI, or natural language processing which is clearly being done at some more sophisticated campaigns) and adapt depending on where we are, I suspect that we are on the cusp of what the future looks like when everyone you meet online could not actually be a person. My Philip K. Dick collection became a lot less sci-fi and more prescient.

More Bots (Cisco Spark/Microsoft Teams):

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/botsconversation

https://developer.ciscospark.com/bots.html

Both Cisco Spark and Microsoft Teams are available where I work. Both have vague collaboration mandates, both can be used for communication. At this point, Spark might be more advanced with third party enhancements and bots. Teams might end up being the platform of choice if students are involved. I’m hoping to build a chatbot to handle common sorts of requests that our LMS support team get (ie. the stuff we have a predefined reply in our ticketing system, which isn’t attended to after 4:30 PM).

Natural Language Processing:

https://research.google.com/pubs/NaturalLanguageProcessing.html

https://medium.com/@jrodthoughts/ambiguity-in-natural-language-processing-part-ii-disambiguation-fc165e76a679

https://chatbotsmagazine.com/the-problem-with-chatbots-how-to-make-them-more-human-d7a24c22f51e

Natural language is key for the chatbot above, and of course the first attempt will be ruthlessly primitive I’m sure.

Chatbots in General:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/18/chatbots-talk-town-interact-humans-technology-silicon-valley

D2L Fusion 2017 Recap

Every year it’s a bit different; some new faces appear, some old ones disappear. Jobs and roles change, focus changes. Las Vegas is a place that exemplifies an absurd demonstration of capitalism at its most consumer-driven absurdity. With the event happening in Las Vegas, I thought that D2L might be subtly telling us that they were taking a gamble. Turns out, that the gamble is not a big, all-in shove to take the pot, but perhaps a less-sexy gamble of shying away from glitzy announcements, to a more mature, iterative approach.

People talk about Las Vegas light shows being spectacular, but the one over Oklahoma City was pretty dang cool.

Flying Near Lightning from Jon Kruithof on Vimeo.

Usually in my recaps I’ll talk about the sessions I attended and what I learned. This year, was like every other, the sessions were well done, interesting, and useful (although maybe not immediately useful in my case). I won’t break down each thing learned, or really talk about what the learning was, instead I’ll reflect on the conference as a whole and maybe some of the underlying things that were interesting.

My focus this year was to really better understand two things, API extensibility and the data hub (Brightspace Data Platform, or BDP, which is awful close to ODB). I think I did that. I attended one session that described how they use the API to scrape everyone’s course outline, which was cool because that’s something that has come up periodically at McMaster, and I’ll have to get in touch with them to see how they handled ownership and other matters. It’s that fine line that admins run up against, where they can do things, but should they? We often fall on the no, we shouldn’t side.

I didn’t really pay attention to the keynotes – John Baker’s become quite a good speaker – but I’ve heard it before. I’ve been working at D2L clients now for almost a decade. I’m probably as intimately familiar with the product as many of the people working at D2L. Ray Kurzweil is interesting as a person, and I appreciate some of his theories, I don’t think the singularity will happen (we may approach it, but never achieve it) and I don’t really dig his speaking style. The talk (for me) really circled around the changing nature of work and that is a reality of my everyday.

I did a session about the work we’re doing badging faculty for skill in LMS use, more in another post about that.

I saw echoes of what I’ve done around faculty training in other presentations (which I stole from others whom I’ve worked with and talked to). More importantly, I walked around chatting with folks I know, wondering if this was still right for me? Is EdTech still the thing that I want to be working in? I’ve been in this field since 2001 (or 2003, or 2005, depending on when you want to mark my start – whether as a computer programming co-op student looking after a language lab, or when I graduated or when I first started working in higher education relatively uninterrupted). That’s a long time. I’m still energized by seeing the exciting things that other people are doing. And almost to a person, whenever I say to those people, “hey that’s awesome” or express my interest, there’s the same, humble responses of surprise that anyone would want to talk to them about what they’re doing. I don’t know if that’s a Fusion specific thing, or an EdTech person thing, or just my humble radar forcing me to talk to those people.

It also reminded me that any interesting work was extending the LMS –  using Node.js to create an Awards Leaderboard, doing data analysis for LMS wide analytics using the Brightspace Application API. Hell, even understanding what the Discrimination Index means in the Quiz tool.

My personal underlying theme was that there’s more that can be done with the LMS if you extend it’s capabilities. I think we’re on the cusp of doing just that. 

Once again, it was a fun after the conference experience. Hanging out with some of my favourite people (and recognizing the posse from just a few short years ago is just about gone!).

 

The CRAP Test Doesn’t Work?

Mike Caulfield (@holden on Twitter) delivered a keynote a long while back which I only caught on twitter by way of others posts. It’s interesting that one of his comments was that the CRAP Test Doesn’t work in a world filled with misinformation. Now, the fact that the CRAP Test isn’t a widely taught technique, nor that the real components that one needs to do (including such archaic things as WHOIS searching, and name searches geolocation of posts by IP and cross referencing with known authorities) something that the general public doesn’t​ do. It’s too much work. So sure, that aspect of it “doesn’t work”, but the underlying skills founded in skepticism work. If you use them. I think that’s an important distinction. To say the tool doesn’t work because the person doesn’t use it is a bit disingenuous.

Most people don’t, because they take a short cut, because it was a parent, in-law or someone they know and trust who forwarded it. Or it already fits their point of view. Or it passed a superficial sniff test. And that’s where the conspiracy theory peddlers make money. And much like advertising where it’s not effective the first time you see the ad and think you need a new sofa, it’s the thirtieth time when you actually need a sofa, that your brain brings up the ad you saw repeatedly.

The public has been primed for this for years. It’s essentially advertising that has replaced truth. It’s bullshit that’s replaced truth. It’s repetition that’s replaced truth.

And with that, the Internet has ended. Well, the Internet that held hope for a lot of educators, for a lot of activists, for a lot of free thinkers and artists. For marginalized folks. If we take this as a parrallel to punk rock – which exploded in 1976 with diversity of sound and voice, and quickly marginalized people by 1979 by getting harder, faster and more straightforward, we can see what the future of a “free” Internet will look like. Lots of the same, but with pockets of interesting, but marginal works. Except this time, we got close to 10 years of the web before it became an advertising platform for bullshit, junk and waste, with some good information out there.

This is the end of truth:

What conspiracy theorists, bullshit peddlers, technology hacks, blackmailers, and those who value lies over truth want has won. Technology has helped them get there faster than we can manage. And no one is working on a way to fight this bullshit, because there’s no money in a truth serum.

Dead Drop no.1

Dead drop is a term that describes a way for two espionage agents to signal an exchange, or some event. This collection of sites with a bit of text is similar to that. It’s funny how I’ve done these things in waves – this time the infrequency will continue but I’ll try to use this titling to link it all together.

Badging/Gamification

https://alistapart.com/article/gaming-the-system-and-winning

http://cct.edc.org/projects/digital-badges-research

Both these articles are deep-ish dives into the related fields of gamification, digital badges and extrinsic motivation. One from a design perspective, which is part of the story I’ll be talking about this summer – how well designed badging experiences can help with adoption – and really understanding your audience and who you’ll be badging. The other is part of the HASTAC research project on K-12 students and looks at the effectiveness of badges on that group.

Data Visualization/Storytelling with Data

https://alistapart.com/article/big-data-visualization-with-meaning

I’ve really rediscovered how much I love A List Apart. I haven’t built a full on website for a couple years, and wouldn’t consider it part of my daily job, but I really do love designing things. With that said, there’s a narrative story that most sites have, whether you recognize it or not. Big data visualizations are really telling you a story as a website tells/sells you a story.

Web Design

https://html5up.net/txt

A really great framework for sites courtesy of Cogdogblog. I’ve been thinking about creating a website for myself, which would link here, and to the photo gallery I’m planning on doing up and trying to build something that touches the intersecting parts of my life. I’m not sure why, after 20 years on the Internet I think this is the time to build a vanity site, but maybe it is? I think back to all the things I’ve done that should be documented somewhere (but aren’t) and all the work I’ve done on ePortfolios, and it seems like I should be doing this more seriously. And age is a factor I’m sure. It’s funny that I’ve tried to keep my social life, my family life and my “professional” life separate, and done quite well at segmenting the three areas. I have no problem sharing parts of those lives within each context, but I’m 99% sure that people that know me from educational technology circles don’t necessarily care about my band.

Deep Learning/Surveillance Society

https://www.oreilly.com/learning/how-does-facebook-recognize-my-face-and-the-faces-of-friends-and-family

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/01/facebook-advertising-data-insecure-teens

Yeah, creepy. I’ve had three conversations about leaving Facebook with three different people this week. Reminder, in 2014 Facebook did the exact same thing: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jul/02/facebook-apologises-psychological-experiments-on-users

Reclaiming My Digital Identity

After deleting my Yahoo accounts and thinking about the stuff that’s gathered all around the web – I think it’s time to reclaim my stuff. So I made  a list of all the places I consume/create things on the web:

  • Faceboook – how I connect to family and friends, manage a band page
  • Flickr – still have some photos there
  • Tumblr – Hamilton Punk and Hardcore visual archive
  • Picasa/Google Photos – have quite a few photos from my phone
  • Instagram – yeah, photos here too
  • Twitter – my edtech tweets
  • Google+ – not really but some stuff there
  • various message boards – music, music and more music
  • LinkedIn – work related
  • PebblePad – ePortfolio
  • Trello – abandoned workflow/project management
  • Vimeo – portfolio related videos
  • YouTube – portfolio, music (two separate accounts), general watching (yes, a third account for stuff I’ve watched)
  • Discogs – record collection
  • Google Drive/Docs – three different accounts for three reasons (work, personal/travel, music)
  • Dropbox – filesharing
  • Diigo – bookmarks 
  • The Old Reader – RSS
  • Netvibes – RSS

Some of those make sense to reclaim (photos for sure), some don’t because the purpose is to leverage their platforms to communicate. The ones in italics make some sense to reclaim to me. The one benefit is that the storage for stuff out there, is paid for by someone else. However I’m thinking about how a website reflects one’s identity and maybe it’s time for a more holistic version of what I am, who I am.

Shenzhen: China’s Cooperation

I watched this documentary the other week. It really made me think about how cultural imperialism (ie. capitalism) might just not be a great thing for economics going forward. Work through this with me – if China can innovate quicker because of the sharing of ideas and materials, and capitalism restricts the sharing of ideas thanks to intellectual property, patents and copyright, how will western countries be able to keep up? Maybe they’ve lost already? In fact I think we’re seeing that the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries ascend to superpower status not on military might, but on economic. This, to me, is a very clear decline of the Western civilization that we’re living through.

The other thing about this is the absolutely stunning (I assume) drone shots, and the generally beautiful cinematography of the entire thing. I’ve been falling back on some of my media development background lately, and after years of hating films (mostly because we analyzed The Manchurian Candidates opening sequence over 14 weeks in frame by frame detail and that arduous process singlehandedly destroyed my ability to turn off the critical framework) I’ve finally come around to enjoying the beauty of stuff like this without thinking about how to make it better. Educational media needs to become far more literate with this sort of visual storytelling because it’s cheap to do now and really, really accessible. Every place of higher education has a media group – and they can do this if you can’t. It used to require thousands of dollars of equipment, studios, editing suites, but really if you have a modern DSLR (or mirrorless compact) and can get good photos, you can probably get good video. Sound might take a cellphone and a post-production sync with the camera – but that’s easy enough in iMovie, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro or Camtasia.

Goodbye to All the Yahoos

No, this isn’t some grandiose sign-off from public life (although I’m fairly certain I should probably do that…). Really it’s the end of an era where I’ve finally deleted all my Yahoo related accounts. I really only had two Yahoo accounts, one for life (dietsociety@yahoo.com) and one for “professional life” (jonkruithof@yahoo.com). But with stuff like Facebook linked to my life account at Yahoo (who’ve had some serious data breeches) I really didn’t feel safe anymore with it. I had the Yahoo account since the late 90’s, because I was a Rocketmail user, and Yahoo bought them out. It was a long process, to finally pull the plug. I started migrating mail from Yahoo late last year. I thought about migrating my band photos from Flickr but realized that I didn’t really care – I have them still and can post them in a gallery on my own website.Or maybe I don’t really care about them either? I don’t know. Flickr’s social aspects are a mere blink of what they used to be. I don’t know that they need to be online at all. The hardest part is all the places with logins tied to the yahoo account. Holy smokes, ten years of logins, some at places that don’t exist anymore.

The tipping point was my Instagram account being hacked, e-mail changed and then deleted in rather quick succession. I got on to the Yahoo account associated and deleted it. And that was it. Identity snuffed out. All the angry e-mails, pranks, early evidence transferred to Gmail for searchability and for it to exist somewhere (I do have some prized correspondence with now dead people that I treasure – as well as digital ephemera that is fun to dig up and look at from time to time) was comforting,

With all that said, I don’t think moving to Gmail is that great an idea but it’s what I’ve done. I keep the name dietsociety because, well, it’s in a lot of places, but 15 years since doing anything resembling a zine, maybe I need to let that go too.

Learning Technologies Symposium 2016 Recap

McMaster University holds a Learning Technologies Symposium every year and this year’s event was spread over two days just after (Canadian) Thanksgiving.  I have a bit of a biased view, as I’ve been one of the organizers over the last four years so unlike my other recap type posts where I share the things I’ve learned attending the sessions, this one will document the things that I did and the things I learned.

A few days before, we had some session cancellations so I, being the diligent jack-of-all-trades offered to run a few sessions to fill in the gaps. The first was on using PebblePad as a peer-review platform, the second was a session I co-presented with a colleague on WebEx, our new web conferencing tool and lastly I ran a quick introduction to digital badges.

I also had to dip back into my history as a media developer to help sort out (with the help of our current digital media specialists) how to get a video camera (actually two video cameras) with HDMI outs into a WebEx broadcast of our keynote (the answer was that it’s best to run it through a video mixer, in this case a Roland VR-50HD). It came together fairly well, without the caveat that WebEx is persnickety when you don’t connect devices in the correct order (ie. it accepted the video feed fine, but didn’t switch audio to match, a quick audio reset fixed the issue).

So I missed most of Barbara Oakley’s keynote, which dealt with a lot of scientific research into how we learn and pay attention, and a lot of the discussion that followed as I was busy with the setup and breakdown of the streaming rig.

The first session I attended was one I was presenting for 15 minutes about peer review – the other session was about Individual Assessment and Personal Learning – in the context of an Italian language course (which as an aside, uses an open textbook). Unfortunately, no one showed up. It was great to catch up with Wendy, who was presenting in the same slot as I, and we chatted about all sorts of educational technology things.

Onto day two… I missed the first block of sessions working on preparing for my own session on WebEx (and catching up on e-mail from the last week, when I was off). The WebEx introduction session went really well, people were happy with the visual fidelity and audio quality. They also seemed intrigued with the testing option, but who knows if anyone will actually take it up. I’m really hoping we could do something with it – maybe review classes at the end of a semester could take advantage of it?

Day two had a series of presentations on some of the VR/AR work that’s being done on campus right now, which is new and exciting even though I’m not involved in it. Every project I’ve heard about is using the technology in a way that makes sense and should enhance learning (unlike in the past where technology is used for flash and wow, without any consideration for it making any sense). I wish I didn’t present twice on day two, because those sessions would’ve been great to see more than for a few seconds.

At lunch David Porter (who I didn’t know I was following on Twitter) new CEO of eCampusOntario (our version of BC Campus) did an overview of how he sees eCampusOntario developing and essentially threw a job recruitment pitch out there as well. We’ll see how the latest round of funding for research and projects goes, because the call was very specific and rigorous – so that vision is really well defined. I did start a proposal, but of course, it was due on October 31st, and I was in Texas watching my favourite band play their last show (NSFW), so I was a little busy.

After lunch I did a presentation on digital badges (do we need them?) that was a brief introduction to digital badges and tried to answer whether we need them (the precis is no, we don’t need them but you may still want to use them in cases where you want to explicitly assess skills or document experiences – transcripts and portfolios can handle the rest). This was paired with an instructor who uses our LMS for exams, in a relatively unique way. The exam is a paper based math exam, mostly generating matricies. The students complete the exam using pencil, paper and calculators, then are given half an hour to transcribe the work into D2L. The instructor then uses the auto marking feature to grade exams using fill-in-the-blanks. It’s a pretty clever way to make marking easier.

After closing remarks – and a giveaway – it was all wrapped up for another year.

 

 

Down

The world this past couple of weeks have really gotten me down. I used to think that education, and technology, could help people improve themselves, open themselves up to new experiences, believe new things, try new approaches but now I wonder if all that’s just been talk.

I don’t want to blame this talk:

But in some ways, it’s really galvanized a lot of what I’ve been thinking this past month. About how the work I’m doing is not enough. I’m not fighting for what I believe in enough (by the way, that’s work on the open web, understanding digital literacies, criticizing educational technology for putting us in boxes we shouldn’t be in). I’ve become comfortable supporting other’s work while not doing my own work to push for what’s right.

Semester start up always bring these feelings to the forefront – I keep hoping that someone will step forward and do something interesting and innovative. And we keep falling short of that. I keep falling short of that. This post isn’t intended as a pity party, it’s a blatant reminder to myself that I need to find ways to do the work I want to do, work that’s important to do.