Conversation Prism

It’s been a while, so it’s only appropriate that I start speaking again with a post on the Conversation Prism. It’s now up to version three, and this one is an improvement over previous versions – this one is more specific in it’s categorization. Gone are SMS/Voice from version 1.0,  and it still doesn’t address the community based music genres like SoundCloud and Bandcamp – where I think important music conversations are occurring.

A couple of large tools are missing – Plurk, Netvibes to name two that come to the top of my head in a moments notice. While I don’t think the new category Attention/Communication Dashboards add anything to the conversation other than a central location to read distributed feeds, if you’re going to have it in there, Netvibes and Google Reader are the two top ones, to not mention them is a pretty large omission. Plurk was on the previous Conversation Prism 1.0, under the category of Micromedia, but could easily fit under Blogs/Conversation. Twitter is not really a Streaming tool, even their own description is Microblogging platform, so I quibble about the categorization of a lot of these tools.

Despite my criticisms, it’s a monumental effort, one that I might shell out $20 to put on my wall. In fact it would be interesting to get older versions and compare them side by side. Where’s my time machine when I need one?

QR Follow Up

I haven’t had any luck with getting any hard numbers about click-throughs for the local QR campaign run by Mohawk, but coincidentally, a report on QR code activity (PDF) has been made public and I found out about it through this article about using QR codes in social media. RWW then published an article today claiming that barcode scanning (both traditional and 2D QR type codes) are up 700%. While that’s interesting, it’s not indicative of whether this is a real trend or marginal activity. If activity is only at 1% of the population, an increase of 700% is not necessarily significant (7%). The quote towards the end of the article does note “80% of US consumers surveyed expressed interest in scanning mobile barcodes”. Again, that’s within the Android marketplace, which may be skewed towards consumers who are technologically early adopters.  It is significant when you start to tie all these loose ends together – there clearly is a trend developing where people are using barcodes and QR codes to link real objects to virtual information. Those that are not doing this now are at least interested in doing this in the future. Now, what will be the killer app for this sphere?


I love when technology helps remove corporate ubiquity (yes, I do understand that technology is mostly developed and maintained by corporate entities, but still, do I need to be marketed to 24/7?). Unlogo is a project that removes corporate advertising from video and can replace it with alternate images. Neat project and gives hope to people who want to remove this sort of influence  from their lives that it might be possible to do. Imagine this technology grafted onto Augmented Reality, where the inside of glasses can remove advertising from your centre of vision. If you feel it’s worthwhile, maybe pledge a couple of bucks at the Kickstarter page for the Unlogo project.

Adding MouseOver Tooltips Within Desire2Learn

Lightly tested with: IE 7/8, Firefox (Win) 3.0/3.5, Chrome 5/6, Safari (Win/Mac) 5, Safari (Mobile). No guarantees for browsers earlier or later.

I’ve been working both angles of my strengths lately – I was asked by a faculty member who was trying to use the D2L tools for glossary and content in conjunction to provide context sensitive tool tip like definitions of terms. Like all web programmers, why start in a vacuum? So knowing that a great tooltip JS is available in JQuery, I considered using it.  The JQuery solution is a large one to embed the entire library for a couple of functions. Looking further, I searched out this tutorial/premade tooltip script, which does the job nicely. It would clobber any styles created by D2L that had been already added to a topic created prior to adding the script, so I had to hack around it to fix that. I also had to fix the tooltip always surfacing above the text, which in the frames based LMS world, defeats the purpose of having a definition; in this case you get a definition you can’t read because it’s behind a frame (or the top of the window). Another fix I put in was to ensure the box did not appear off screen if it was too close to the edge of the window, it still does in certain cases, which I haven’t narrowed down – if anyone out there wants to take a crack at fixing it, be my guest.

The implementation of the script isn’t too difficult if you’re OK with editing HTML code (a matter of adding three lines and editing two lines) and are precise in your edits.

Here’s a link to the PDF instructions and the zipped file with the javascript and CSS file.

Of course, if there’s any errors please let me know and I’ll correct and/or clarify them as soon as possible.

Is Formal Education Important?

I was looking at the results of A List Aparts 2009 survey results, and was downright flabbergasted by the results of the question asking whether the respondent’s education was relevant (figure 8 on the main page for those looking at the data results right now). 18.2% found that their education was not relevant to web design. That’s one in five. When combined with the next figure (a little), it jumps to 47.9%. Almost half felt that formal education was essentially only marginally useful for their career. On the further breakdown by age (figure 2.3 on this page) ,   there is an almost 15% drop in relevance for the 65+ crowd. This makes a lot of sense, most of these people would have gone to school in a very different climate of the mid-60’s. Computers took up the size of rooms and networking was a high end venture. It makes sense that a lot of people who ended up as web designers would probably have come from graphic design backgrounds as print morphed into web. Many of these people may be in managerial positions as well – who may not need the technical skills that the front line grunts require. It would be nice to have a basic breakdown by age and job title to see if there’s any sense of that information.

Now there’s not a lot of web design programs – even fifteen years later. Most students who are interested in the field learn HTML in high school – either in a class or on their own, then develop whatever skills they need to complete the task. Informal learning for the most part, these people are task oriented, which school does not really address well. School does a good job of broadening people’s horizons.

I feel that while I didn’t get an education that informs my skills as a web designer (I am mostly self taught), I do draw from the lessons learned in software engineering  and in media arts as well as education (the three things I’ve studied formally) and apply them to design in a greater sense. I wonder if I think about these sorts of questions more than others though.

How Much Is Too Much (Training)?

I’ve been thinking about the resources we provide for the continued migration of faculty at work from whatever system they’re using (there’s FirstClass, WebCT, Blackboard CE 6, maybe one or two Moodle, several proprietary web-based creations and CourseTools – so a total of 6 different systems) to Desire2Learn. The department has offered over a hundred training sessions over the last year and a bit. We’ve pushed out thirteen multi-page documents in addition to Desire2Learn’s documentation. We have a dozen training videos, and have published all our workshop documentation. We’ve seen probably a hundred or more faculty members walk through our doors for one on one help.

Are we doing too much?

Is there too much information, or are people turned off by the sheer amount of resources and contact we’ve provided? Or maybe is it not enough? Our rough estimates guess that we’ve maybe seen one third of the faculty. Will another two hundred sessions get everyone? What about the part timers? No one pays them to attend workshops, no one pays them to develop resources, but it’s in their best interest to do so (keeping it for themselves and reusing it again or elsewhere).

I think that maybe we’re stifling people’s curiosity – people might explore and innovate with online learning if they had the curiosity to do so. Maybe too much is too much and we’re creating a real version of information overload. If this is the case then we need better ways to manage the information, or to teach these skills to people (which we do not). Maybe we’re killing people’s sense of play by telling them what they should do. I don’t have any answers really, just questions, which if you’ve read my blog at all, you should come to expect.