Here Comes the Jackboot

Many will recognize that as new changes emerge (I’m thinking of the web, the 60’s, art movements…) the initial freedom that is experienced eventually recedes as commercial forces normalize, co-opt, and outright buy and market to the masses. What it does is stifle innovation, freedom and creativity to fit it into a box that can be commodified. I think we’re seeing some evidence of that with the web. Governments working in the economic interest of the corporations (many of them self declared multinationals who shift labour forces and tax burdens at will to maximize profits) is counter productive.

Retweets, Likes and the Like

Here’s my comment from CogDogBlog‘s post about the decline of content creation:
I think there’s a couple of things at work here – one being the idea that one has to produce content all the time, a constant stream pushing out content for people to consume. As most bloggers have experienced, after the initial wave of writing it’s hard to maintain that push. Most don’t. Twitter has the same thing only sped up. It takes less than a second to consume 140 characters, maybe stopping the receiver for ten seconds if the post required decoding or some sort of thought. So Like and RT’s become easy to maintain an audience’s interest – a reminder so to speak. It’s a cheap way to maintain attention. Much like the way television shows are cut before the commercial breaks – mini cliffhangers to maintain interest while the commercial runs.
The other thing that’s going on is that Likes are different beasts than retweets – I think there’s a metric tonne of difference between liking something, which is a pretty vacant statement, and a retweet – which usually is some sort of statement that one supports. I can like something without a real investment, a retweet takes a bit more. I look at retweets the same way I look at links on a web page, it’s annotation. It’s telling me about the author of the retweet. A like does that as well, but it seems that a retweet is more nuanced.
Maybe I’m over analyzing it.

Now, I think it’s important to recognize the shift away from web publishing (websites and blogs) into more immediate forms of communication. The next big thing will come from the people who figure out how to catalog retweets and likes into some cohesive idea of mass consciousness – much like Google did with links on the web. Facebook may already be doing this – although I suspect that it’ll be someone from out of the blue. I think retweets act just like links do, as retweets are rarely just links – they usually have some form of annotation accompanying them. This annotation serves two purposes – information about the link and information about author of the retweet. Links on the web do this as well, although websites have a distance from an author in many cases. Does a bad link on say Boing Boing or Wired reflect poorly on the author or the entity?

Image Matching

I’ve been working on videos the past two weeks, spending a lot of time in a bubble examining clips in a sort of detail that is probably excruciating for everyone else. I like this sort of in depth analysis of what I look at. It also brings up how flawed we are in how we process images online. We generally assign a bunch of words, meaning and descriptors of an image instead of trying to mathematically or logically sort images. Google gets it right by being able to match images, but their similar image algorithm would be much more useful if we could upload an image and say “match that!” It’s further complicated when you factor in the 60 images a second that you get with a video. It would be great to be able to upload a clip and get a bunch of clips, YouTube videos that match not only the actions but the content as well. Want to see Devo’s live performance of Whip It? Just whip up a video of you playing Whip It on Rock Band 3, upload it and get matches for the band, but others also playing Devo on Rock Band.

It’s Like, No Big Deal

“Facebook is a charnel house of features that appeal to advertisers and businesses without actually being used, supported by tools that don’t work, for people who don’t care.” Jeffery Zeldman, on why Facebook’s Like doesn’t work.

Zeldman is a visionary when it comes to the Web. He’s a guy who’s influenced many of the top designers, and is one of the top designers of webdom himself, so what he says about web design bears some weight.

Liquid Democracy

I’ve often bristled at the idea of digital democracy – too many security issues to begin with: unsecured wi-fi points (which I love, but can pose a problem for authenticity), unsecured transactions between clients and servers and the impossibility of verifying who is clicking on screen. While many of those issues are big, it seems some Germans (hackers no less) have an idea of proxy voting digitally – which is a program Liquid Feedback (English information here). Essentially you find a like minded member and give them your proxy vote. Now, this won’t work in the partisan party politics we play in North America, but I’ve often advocated a more representative approach to democracy here in Canada at least. This might be one way to get people more involved. Here’s a blog post about the talk that Tim Pritlove gave at, which has a link to a PDF of the slides he presented with. It would’ve been interesting to have actually seen the talk but I didn’t hear about it until I stumbled on it this morning.

This might be useful if you teach in large groups and need a consensus builder, or want to have like minded groups based on ideas. Like democracy.

Formal Vs. Informal Learning

I’m applying for a job that is out of my educational range. Sure, this is something lots of people do all the time – where they have the experience but not the education credentials to back up the informal, on-the-job training that people have – or the experience. I’ve often wondered about formal education, whether it’s worth it, and I always assume it will be worth it. But maybe it’s not. I look at my experience, and comparing that to the job description, I’m confident I can do the job and excel in it. I have the skills and I have the passion to do it well. The thing that will hang me up is the lack of a Master’s. It’s not that I can’t do the education – every indication is that I can, my marks are high and feedback from my professors have been positive. The thing that holds me back is I just don’t have the money. At close to $700 for a half credit course, I’m about $5000 away from completing my Bachelor’s of Education. Even doing prior learning assessments would only reduce my courses required by one or two half credits. I’ve looked at the PLA’s as well, and in many cases, the theory required from these PLA’s bear no resemblance to the practical application of that skill.

Especially with online skills like HTML and the myriad of programming languages, most practitioners of web skills are self-taught or have learned on the job, a picture perfect definition of informal learning. How should we credit these people? Do we examine the projects they’ve worked on, or maybe give them a test to assess their skills? I lean towards the project based nature of assessment – I feel it’s closer to a real assessment of what someone can do. The other piece is that there’s such an open community of people out there sharing their work, is there any way to assess the individual with something as ubiquitous as HTML? Never mind the leaps and bounds that tools have taken since 2000, where it requires no memorization of tags, just the ability to select the appropriate tool from a list. Does that make the person less qualified than someone who has taken the time to go to class and learn tags? Factor this in further, most curriculum is behind the times, I know the stuff I learned in school in 2001/2 for HTML was already a couple years behind (it was equivalent to the courses in HTML I had taken at the University of Texas in 1997, which really didn’t tell me more than what I had taught myself already from resources on the web). Fast forward 9 years, and hopefully that curriculum has been updated and advanced, but there is no guarantee that the curriculum now looks at separation of content and design. In many ways informal learning has been superior to formal learning, especially so in this realm. I’d suspect that very very few institutions are thinking about HTML5, but there are already several books, many websites and untold numbers of resources coming out of the blogs around the Internet. Maybe formal education will be a curated process (much like George Siemens guessed at) where the instructor assembles the online resources and orders them so that they make logical sense, but doesn’t stand at the front of the class. Thank goodness, because I think it’s time for a change.