Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Myth of Liberal Media

Fascism is such a strong word. I think the USA is drifting towards a fascism. We aren't there yet, there is still hope. We are still a democracy (the last election proves that things will pull back the to the center eventually).

However, I am quite concerned about the media. It's in the title of my blog somewhere I think. Certainly this bit of news gave me pause. I find this analysis (scroll down please) to be useful in understanding the author's underlying message.

When we consider the rise of fascism in Italy before world war II, it is important to remember that Benito Mussolini began his career as a journalist, but his coverage drifted from a neo-leftist to what we identify as fascism today. His rise of power occurred because of the overwhelming support of Italian industry, because he was decidedly pro-business. Consolidation of the media was immediate, as it was the media that was the message. Even back then there was an implicit understanding of the concept.

When we think of coverage today, consolidation is a key term. Media outlets are multi-faceted; print, radio, television and the internet (to a lesser extent given the lack of limitation on access to medium of delivery).

We assume that the Government will be the one to control media, but I think it could be argued easily that it is the corporations that control media. The message is one that is a confluence of different opinions, but the often the result are division. Things are painted as either/or because it is too hard to give a realistic portrayal given the timeslice nature of television and radio programming.

We learn over time to mistrust media, the message is the same from the left and the right. The sense of ambiguity, lack of authentication, what is the agenda overshadows what is the message. A democracy requires that the participants be engaged; being jaded promotes a sense that it does not make a difference one way or another, so why bother?

This is why I am worried. It is becoming harder to have an adult conversation about our country and where it is headed. We can't be realistic about things because opinions get in the way. If you read the Wikipedia entry on Fascism, understand that that is exactly the right environment for this to occur. People get tired and want the answer. This not a good thing.

Sometimes I get comfort from history.


Moment of clarification

This is the day after christmas, and I fortunately have some time to work on things that I have been delaying for the last few months.

Taking a break from writing here gives me a moment to do some self-examination. I write here for myself, but I am conscious of the potential for pomposity and self-congratulation. I try to be focused less about myself, and more about issues that are important to me. It is a public record of private thoughts.

This is why I have two blogs. "Hal Meeks Slept Here" is about the things I do for fun, the random kvetching. I try to spare people this personal chatter (really, who really cares what wine I like, about my car, etc).

So, I forge forward. I have no illusions of hundreds of enthralled readers. This in the tradition of the academic journal. My other blog keeps it light.

Hope Santa visited you too.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006


And with this posting I am entering a new verb into the vernacular: Zuned.

Definition: Reasonably good idea torpedoed by a million little compromises, as in "He zuned my project, so now it's dead" or "The Chevrolet Corvair was zuned from the beginning" or "Stop zuning me".

There are plenty of reviews of Microsoft's new player, some are lukewarm, some not so much.

The critical things to learn about the Zune is that there is a balance in control of content versus individual freedom to use technology and content as the owner sees fit. Zune simply has too many little compromises to be a success.

The hardware is not dreadful. It is a little bigger than an iPod, but has a bigger screen. The user interface on the player is decent enough. Toshiba hired away someone from the iPod design team that worked on the iPod's UI, and as this player is made by Toshiba, it shows.

It has wifi, an interesting addition. The assumption is that the wireless would allow people to connect to your zune, and thus you can share your content with others. You can't share content from a Zune with a friend that has a wifi equipped laptop, even if they have a Windows laptop. If you do manage to find another Zune user, and send them a audio track (including non-DRM'd music or podcasts) the player wraps DRM around it, so that it will self-distruct after three plays or three days.

To many people, it may feel like bait'n'switch. Things that they could do with other wireless devices don't work on this device. The expectation of a particular functionality is not fulfilled, even when that expectation is quite reasonable, being based on precedent.

To make matter worse for Microsoft, they now have a new Digital Rights scheme that they have to support for this device separate from the digital rights scheme they developed and licensed to other manufacturers. For customers, the bad news is that there previous "play for sure" content is not really "play for sure" since it won't work with this new player.

Wow. It is as if Microsoft was the bright kid in class, but only because they read the headlines in lots and lots of newspapers, without actually reading the stories.

Microsoft gets that social computing is becoming really important, and wants to be part of that. However, they don't get the details -- the parts that are so important.

YouTube is a success because of the freedom it gives users -- both authors/posters and viewers. It sometimes feels like the wild west -- exciting by it's controlled chaos. It's a breath of fresh air after 50 plus year diet of commercial television and film (okay enough for now on that).

Part of me thinks that Microsoft looked at the wrong model. Nintendo's DS has built in wifi, which allows it to do both near and far networking for gameplay (and soon, chat and voice) with other DS users. It doesn't let users send content, but some games do allow two players to play together, even if only one user has a cartridge. Furthermore, some games allow the owner to send a demo version of the game to another DS user.

There is a form of protection to be sure, but does it feel obtrusive? Absolutely not. The context of the way the system will be used, and the functionality that is desired is consistent with how wifi is implemented.

The dilemma for the Zune is that it has to play in an arena where it can't be just as good, it has to be heads and shoulders above it's nearest competitor. What could have been a half-way decent competitor to the iPod isn't, due to compromises that have nothing to do with technical limitations, but Microsoft creating a platform that caters not to the user, but to companies who want to have tight control over their content, allowing them to further shift rights of ownership of content away from the purchaser.

I will stop here, because while I have wanted to write about the Zune for a while now, I think it was important for me to reduce it to the critical issues that will likely prevent the Zune from being a success -- but more importantly -- what is the role of social computing in contexts outside of the web browser. What is happening with the Zune, it's success or failure, is an excellent lesson unfolding.

And please, use the verb "Zune" at least once today.


Friday, November 24, 2006

NCSU Web Redesign

I am posting this here because I don't think it is appropriate for me to post a comment on NCSU's web site redesign, since I am on the committee.

The point of this posting is to examine where we go next when thinking of how a web site should represent an organization.

NCSU has finalized on three designs for their next site redesign.

The third one is the one that is clearly different than the first two, but more importantly, it is different than just about any other campus web site that I have seen.

Different is of course not always better, but in this case it is. Simply put, the web should be the campus's primary face on the world.

And this is a different focus than what many organizations do now.

I want to abandon the junk drawer approach of current web site design. Yahoo got beat by Google. Yahoo is 5 years ago, when the idea of the "sticky" web site was all the rage. The idea was to keep people at your site for as long as possible, so you can show more ads. Google blew that apart, sticking advertising alongside content. It didn't get in the way.

The first and second designs are remnants of the idea, a gateway to an organizations web presence that has to be all things to all people. This is the Yahoo approach. Everyone gets a piece of real estate, which may reflect more internal hierarchies in an organization, and less what the user actually needs. It is just a lot of clutter, discontinuous narratives juxtaposed.

I suggest that instead we think of the biggest audience, and give them what they want. Think of not what a web site is now, and the inward view of site design, but what the audience wants.

NCSU's audience in this context is the world, not the staff, faculty and students of NCSU. They are a much smaller percentage of the audience. I suggest sending them somewhere else, and giving them what they want. They do not want to go to NCSU's main page everytime they need to find something on NCSU's site. They need something much more focused.

Well, then, that frees things a bit!

I like to talk about HP's web site redesign a few years back. HP is actually a bunch of small companies under a corporate umbrella. But think about it -- their dilemna. How do they represent all of this diversity in a web site that is primarily focused on customers.

The answer is of course, is that you don't show all the complexity. You simplify to what your majority audience wants, not making sure that everyone is represented on the main page.

Organizations need to rethink their web presence, particularly Universities. I am looking at other campuses sites for reasons separate of my involvement here at NCSU. I am looking at Phd programs, and the beyond talking about curriculum, I need a lot of information about the campus culture, what does it offer, where is it situated; some Universities forgo telling people about where they are, what does the terrain/climate look like. I find this astonishing.

I like the third design for these reasons, because that possibility exists. I don't think this idea is as prominent in intent in the other two designs. OF COURSE there can be secondary pages that could do the same thing as the "Your Story" design, but it will always feel tacked on, and lots people will never bother to see it, where it will languish and eventually die due to lack of content refresh. It is given secondary priority, and will be treated that way.

The 3rd design is more forward thinking. If it is actually maintained (and because of where it is, it will be) it is something that can be relevant a year from now for it's biggest audience.

If one of the other two are chosen, the University should be thinking of another redesign in at least two years, because the shift elsewhere will be towards more direct marketing of campuses through a web presence, and we will need to follow. Clean and simple, directed on the audience's narrative will always win.

I suggest that NCSU be out front. There is more risk, but there much more to gain.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Notes for Design Expo 11/2/06

I promise I will clean these up. Just wanted to make them available:

{Thank Audience for Coming}
{Brief Introduction}

Disney -- another garage innovator (Ford, Wozniak/Jobs)
So where are we now?

Show StrongBad

Made in Parent's Basement
Money is made on merchandise
Marketing is word of mouth via the internet

It is too hard. Animation takes too long:

Show Red vs. Blue

I have this idea for a movie!

Show Dracula's guest

Key points:

Strong characterization Easily identifiable characters (Mickey Mouse)
The Audience is in on the Joke (Strongbad/Red vs. Blue gaming/internet culture)
Voice Acting is critical, perhaps more important than polished animation

What do we make of this?

Star Wars PowerPoint

Is this animation (yes it is, a parody of what is essentially a storyboarding tool, PowerPoint).
Does it tell a story? Steamboat willie told a story. So does this.

It shows that economy has a place. Everything doesn't have to be big to work, which is in favor of animators (time/labor intensive) and potential audience (cartoons work great on the ipod).

Digital media is now reached commodity state. YMND is communal digital media jokes, reflected/refracted/remixed with a rapidity that is quite amazing. It is almost like a bed of coral that grows and grows. It demonstrates in a tangible way what "visual literacy" really means, what a literacy beyond text could look like.

Digital Media is folk art for today. What we create is a part of us, no matter what the material.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Vista Got Fripped

Not everyone knows that the startup sound for Windows 95 was created by none other than avant-garde musician/producer/artist Brian Eno, but what is just as much surprising to me is that his buddy Robert Fripp, certified guitar god (King Crimson, et al) is doing the sounds for the soon to be released (but perhaps not quite done) Windows Vista. Here's the video of Mr. Fripp doing some good old new age noodling.

I will spare myself and others the obvious snipes at Vista. It would be interesting if they were to hire *a lot* of different musicians, some perhaps unknown, and let them take a stab at creating sound sets for Vista, where the user could choose their own.

I know in the end it is just a dumb startup sound, and some soothing loops in the background while you fill out your registration for Vista (with checkboxes that read "yes, I would not like to have Microsoft not store all my personal information, and not share it with trusted partners"). We undoubtably will have to do this, or would we rather have our computer stop working after 30 days (okay, that is officially a joke.). I will leave this in the spirit of it being a good thing that a geniuely talented musician with a very long career got a sweet gig.


Monday, October 16, 2006

UserPlane + AOL sitting in a tree

UserPlane was bought by AOL a while back. There was much less coverage of it than the purchase of YouTube by Google, but I think it is almost as an important, certainly for the future of AOL.

UserPlane is a online chat tool, but combines the abilty to not just chat, but includes audio, video and file sharing. It is one step shy of tools such as Webex, or Microsoft's LiveMeeting, but it is free. If you can stand the advertising, and convince your friends to sign up, you can have a real live videoconference. The most important aspect of this is that the user does not have to have anything other than a browser and the most current version of the flash plugin. It uses the Flash Communication Server backend to do it's magic. People can create their own customized chat that appears right in their website.

I very much believe that this sort of service is the next big thing in online communication. We are still using tools that work best for non-synchronous communication (email, blogs, etc) but when we look at online gaming, it is the feeling that things are happening in realtime, that you are interacting with others, that makes these experiences compelling -- it is quite addictive. The reason it is not widespread has to do limitations of connectivity, complexity (it is too hard to set up) and simply because people are not necessarily comfortable with that. But when I watch the spread of Jabber use in our organization, it is clear that it offers advantages that a telephone can't -- namely the ability to push content (not just voice) to another user. This kind of experience is more natural than a simple text chat.

My guess is that AOL will roll this into their existing subscriber services at some point, making it a little more compelling reason to use their services. But then Google will come out with something similar, but Free ;-)


Monday, October 09, 2006

Google and YouTube Marry and make many babies


This is welcome news to me, as I like both services quite a bit. I think there is much afoot in this arena, but I am happier that Google bought them than a old media conglomerate, which would probably kill it (either on purpose or by accident).

What is next? I do hope the Apple/Google Video rumor is true. I really do want my Google/YouTube on my iTv.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

MySpace is not Their Space

These collisions of personal rights, pubication and social computing are so damn interesting.

Latest news from NC State, University professor in hot water for using requiring his students to use myspace.


This is indeed a collision, a collision of things related to generational issues (but not what you think), institutional issues, expectations of privacy, and what does that really entail? There is of course the idea of content and authorship.

Content that students create may need to be private, or it may need to be public. The question is what happens to that content when the student leaves the university? I think the idea of creating a body of work is important for everyone. It can happen through many means. As we move to a purely electronic manifestation of our expressions, insights and knowledge, we may treat content differently. Because of the volume of information, we begin to treat it all as ephemeral. This is dangerous thinking, because much of it may not be. We really can' t decide.

Think of this. In the early 60's, television shows were recorded on early magnetic tape recorders, but some shows were still archived in film form as well. Because the tapes were expensive, the tapes were often reused, and television shows were then deleted forever. This may not seem like much, but it is important to note that this is a time where we have a medium that creates an artifact that is treated as ephemeral. Even junk printed matter is hoarded by people; complete collections of playboy, popular mechanics, old repair manuals, religous tracts. We come upon a time when the things we create are seen as transitory, vapor, perhaps because there is no physical artifact.

Myspace is a space where users create versions of themselves online, use it as a networking tool, a promotional tool. We are brought up different with ideas of how stature works, the 15 minutes of fame is a real and true thing in our world. It is possible to grab a brief flash of fame through manifestations like myspace because it is flat. It is reduced to peerage, networking and content.

Think of this in the context of a University. Universities offer courseware systems that have some features of Myspace, typically watered down, with much fewer options for student self-expression. Everything is focused on learning, but when we consider using courseware environments to teach in, they do not offer the richness of something like myspace, youtube or more combined. Because the encouragement is to string these services together, to build a multifaceted online manifestation, through tools like second life, wet paint, and so on.

When students wrote papers, the faculty member would grade them and give them back. It's the student's responsibility to archive. When we move to purely digital means of doing coursework, with no physical artifact as a result, the temptation is to treat this as ephemeral, like email. But it often isn't. This problem is usually addressed through some sort of "e-portfolio" system, but unless everyone addresses it, and the student still can use it when then leave the university, it's value is greatly reduced. For this to work, students need to have the ability to own their own work, even when they leave the university. As long as we stick with word document attachments and such, perhaps we will be fine, but what happens when we move to a environment that fully embraces that ridiculous term "Web 2.0", which means the content that the student creates is locked away?

I don't know what Universities will do. I think what I see in the reaction to a faculty member using Myspace to teach in is a glimpse of the future. It is not because of a generational difference, that the older people don't "get" myspace. Myspace's user community has grayed rapidly in the last year. I don't think that many faculty do actually have myspace accounts, because it works in a different way than other tools, such as email, static web pages, etc,, things we have just become to take for granted. In some ways it requires you to rethink ways you structure information, the way you approach work. This is not a good thing or a bad thing.

So what is the problem here? It's not accessibility, enough of myspace is accessible to be useful. Privacy? You choose yourself how much you want to make public and private. You don't have to answer all the questions. You do not need to post a picture of yourself.

Is it because it is something that is quite powerful, and perhaps seductive, in a way that Blackboard/WebCT Vista/D2L will never be? Because it lives in the world, and not in a campus.

I applaud Dr. Hoban for doing this. It pushes all the right buttons. This is something that Universities will have to address. Social computing, cyber existence outside of a university wall, how dow scholarly work inform this (there is so much that can be contributed here, such as formal peer review process to test for veracity). I hope that Universities just don't walk away, or perhaps as bad, try to do it themselves, but in a way where the walls exist, and work is locked away in the name of "privacy" or worse, "intellectual property". Myspace is not perfect, it's just another thing in a series of things, but the underlying ideas are powerful, and tap right into aspects of ourselves that rings true throughout time, that we want to leave our mark, we want to be seen and heard, we want to be remembered.



Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Open Letter to Independent Music Online

Patrick Hefner's Editorial on the recent fuss on Bob Schrag's university lectures being sold online via his companies Independent Music Online service illustrates several false assumptions about content ownership, intellectual property, and the whole mess we are in right now.

The editorial is surprisingly reactionary. It uses the tried and true "The Man Has Got to Be Paid" argument, ignoring the fact that in this case the "The Man" has been paid. Schrag's lectures have been paid for by the students that paid to take his course. His salary has been paid by the university. He is simply repackaging: taking content that he has already been paid to deliver, and creating derivative work that he then sells, splitting the profit between himself and a third party entity.

There is much lost in this thread. Mr. Hefner never acknowledges the tradition that is contrary to that of commercial music publication, which is the tradition of scholarly publication, peer review. Much of what we enjoy as accessibile knowledge, what is taught in our schools, the words that we use to describe our world, are essentially in the domain of public. It is almost arcane to think of these things as belonging to some sort of artificial hierarchy based on the economic model that knowledge is a restricted commodity, and thus should be priced accordingly.

His examples are, to put it mildly, lame. Throwing out judgement calls such as "evil money" is an attempt to blur the argument. I for one am not arguing whether we should all become communists, capitalists or something else. I am talking about pragmatism.

Here we are again -- but someone has to be paid! The author of a book, that tirelessly does research, takes painstaking notes, this person should of course derive benefit from their work.

I am not denying that. What I am saying that in this case, the author has already been paid.

IF Dr. Bob Schrag decides to produce a television series in his own spare time, hires production people, and pays their salaries, well -- he should be able to sell this work.

However, that is not the arrangement he is in now. He is abusing a system that allowed a great amount of latitude in how faculty use their intellectual pursuits to further their career. Many faculty write textbooks, of course derived from their experience in teaching the subject matter. The faculty are allowed to do this.

What is happening here is simply abuse of that privelege. Nothing more. It has nothing at all to do with justifying a business model. It has nothing to do with the University wanting to split the profits. In fact, this bit of insight on the part of Mr. Hefner shows how ensnared he is in one way of thinking of the world, how limited his view of the world is.

By the way, I just love the OpenOffice.Org ad at the bottom of the page listing Dr. Schrag's lectures. But wait -- how can that work! They are giving the software and source code away for free! That simply can't be right!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Future, Unlocked

This is an abbreviated of a much longer story that I am writing. The best part is that it is not quite over yet.

This is a story of lust. This is a story of dreams. This is a story of good intentions and bad exectution. This is a story about a Nokia N70.

I had finished writing a paper for my class last spring, and was feeling elated. Hey.....I thought....let's go to to Ebay....

Anyone that knows me knows that I like small electronic gadgets. It is a perversity that I decry unusable design but I contingue to fall for little blinky things. I currently have a Sony Ericsson P900 (great phone) and a Blackberry 8700. But I really wanted....a Nokia N90, which is a curious hybrid of video camera and phone. And it costs $600 new.

But hey....what's this? The Nokia N70. Two cameras -- one in front for video conferencing, the other a 2 megapixel camera. Good reviews. And what do you know.....here's one for pretty cheap!

Let's bid! Oh, what the heck. I will lowball, and of course lose at the last minute.

What the heck! I won the bid. Cool. Oh wait....what's this? It's locked to Orange in the UK. Oh, that's not a problem. Nokia phones can be unlocked with software. No problemo.

Wow! What a cool phone. It's a little smaller than the P900. The screen is smaller, but that's okay. The camera is quite nice, way better than the P900. And it shoots video!

But wait.....what are all these people asking to get their N70 unlocked? What this thing about BB5?

(Fast Forward to Now)

So, I am looking at this phone these many months later, and it's still sits locked. A reminder of my folly, but also something that has taken me on a journey. I am planning on recounting this in full detail.

But for now, I want to fast forward to the conclusion. That devices that the end user won't be able to unlock are becoming the norm. The iPod bridges the gap between commonly supported commercial and non-commercial media sources, but your cable company's DVR is not yours to do with what you want. That would seem reasonable, since the cable company rents it to the customer.

But what about a cell phone? In the past, it was possible for customers to reuse cell phones, mainly GSM phones (the prevalent standard throughout the world). The Nokia N series (Nokia N70, N90, N93 etc) represent a device that the customer is never able to completely own, even if they buy it. They are at the mercy of the specific cell provider that issued the phone. In my case, it is Orange UK, which charges 20 pounds to unlock, but only if they decide that they want to. They don't have to do it.

So, these cell phones will end up in a landfill somewhere, because they can't be reused by moving to another carrier unless the carrier decides to release the phone, or someone shells out $$. This is really just presaging other devices tied to specific services, things build on "service models" that build in the essentially disposable nature of technology. This is the yard sale WebTV boxes, perhaps the future of Akimbo boxes.

This is not a sustainable future. I mean this from both an ecological viewpoint, but also from a society/culture/futurist viewpoint.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Newton beats UMPC and maybe the $100 laptop

Whew, after the last post I think I need to something a little nicer.

CNet did a comparison between a Samsung UMPC (small form factor TabletPC) and a 10 year old Newton 2000, and the Newton won. This is interesting not just because it is good to still be able to poke fun at new Microsoft products (Vista jokes aren't even funny anymore, it is just too tragic). Face it, Microsoft has done a good job of marketing the TabletPC in education, but it still lacks a lot of basic, day to day functionality. Notice that convertible tables vastly outweigh tablets that don't have a keyboard. It is for the simple reason that the user experience really is not designed around the idea of a purely pen interface -- no legacy thinking tied to a keyboard or even a mouse. I wish I had more time to go into depth here on what that would mean (tie pressure to accelerated navigation, fast forwarding through data, menuing not tied to hierarchies based on linear lists). In a strange way, it is some of the same issues that come up in thinking of computer navigation for accessibility.

I think the important lesson that should be remembered in cnet's comparison is that is ultimately is not the hardware that matters. It really is the software. The newton wins because it is designed around a pen interface. A lot of things flow from that logically, including unique decisions on how data should be stored and represented. What happened to the Newton for myself is tragic, because the world could really use something like it now, using slightly faster hardware, better battery life, built in wireless. Kind of the like the Nokia 770, but more like.....a Newton.

And this is the thing that popped into my mind when I first heard of the MIT project to build a sub $200 PC for developing countries......the one computer per child initiative. While a commodity hardware platform is a nice idea, I prefer the idea of focusing on the software, and make it work on any kind of commodity computing platform that is being mass produced at the moment. Fast, cheap and out of control. For sure.

That would be a nice thing for Apple to do. Give it up, and let people have at it with the Newton. Make it run on the Nokia 770, or my cell phone. It could unlock devices that may be destined for the rubbish heap, and give them new life.

.....and then I woke up.


Blackboard patents LMS, Sues nearest competitor

Start here:

Blackboard LMS patent press release
Blackboard sues Desire2Learn

I believe that while the patent issue is a serious one, it is not what I think is most important. The patent issue is part of a generalized theme of bad decisions by the patent office on software/technology/internet/genetic engineering/etc. -- anything that doesn't end up in a manufactured, finished product (like a pen, bottle opener, paper clip, tank). Give me "Intellectual Property" for $200, Alex.

One potential bad outcome could be that Blackboard's patent is overturned. Whew! Boy, did we dodge that one! Let's get back to work on implementing WebCT Vista.....

The problem is tied to this patent, but it is not just the issue of whether these types of things are patentable, but that proprietary implementations of monolithic learning environments are actually anti-academic. They actually work against the things that are the core of a University's duties -- to teach, promote the expansion and transmission of knowledge. This is done through the free exchange of information. One key emphasis in environments such as Blackboard and WebCT is on *Containment* of information, restriction of access. I am reminded once again of the poor faculty who stated plainly that their course content was free for others to use, until it was pointed out to them that it *was not* free for anyone to use, because it is contained inside of WebCT.

I don't believe faculty have been made aware of the potential dangers here.

I don't mean to single any campus out. I think we are really at a crossroads in education now. What is and what is not important. Do we avail ourselves to the belief that what this university has to offer has to be contained, be treated as "intellectual property" in the lawsuit/licensing/DRM sense, or do we go with the academic tradition of authorship and publication/verification?


Friday, July 07, 2006

Tivo To Go For the Mac, $$$ version

I apologize in advance for posting this here, because it strains the usual threads in my blog, my whining about the state of education, media DRM/copyright, why palm is lame, etc.

This is a recipe for accomplishing something I have wanted to do for a long time, which is allow me to watch shows on my Tivo with my Mac without having to hack anything. Everything I talk about is off ther shelf, boring stuff. I just thought it would be good to document it because it is so easy to do.

First you need a PC running Windows XP. This part sucks, I agree, but that is because the Tivo Desktop for the PC has TivoToGo, which isn't available for the Mac. Whether or not it will become available is now irrelvant for me. I was lucky in that I scored a two year old Dell 400SC server (2 Ghz celeron) for $50.00 which I had to buy a drive for, and a XP license. If you are starting from scratch just buy the cheap nasty PC with a license for XP home included, nothing more than $300.00. But hopefully you will have this lying around.

You need to have a Tivo Series 2, connected to your home network. If you have put this part off, well duh! At least get a wired usb adapter, I am using a 3Com which I picked up for $14.00.

Download Tivo Desktop for your PC. DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID. Don't buy the Tivo Desktop Plus. I bought it and regret that decision. I wish I could give it back. It works (mostly) but has limitations (such as quality settings, etc). Use the free version.

If you have never set up Tivo Desktop before on your PC, you will need to go online and set up your Tivo to work with Tivo to go (log into your account). You will be furnished with a Media Access Key. If you have previously done this, you can get your key online when you log into your account.

Download and purchase Roxio's MyTVtoGo. It isn't quite a nicely integrated as Tivo's software, but it works great.

If you don't already have iTunes installed on your PC, download and install that.
Run iTunes and go through the legal blather stuff. After you have it running, go to Preferences, and Select Sharing. Check the box "Share my Library".

In any case, if you are successful, you will see your shows on your Tivo. You can of course select individual shows to download, but you can also instruct the software to download all shows for a given series, which is really handy, as you will see in a moment.

After you have downloaded a couple of shows, open MyTVToGo and configure it. For your video quality settings, use the iPod settings. I use the highest quality myself. Note that the software tells you that it will copy the converted files to our iTunes library.

MyTVToGo has a setting which allows the software to convert all new shows that show up in TivoToGo automatically. I highly recommend using this. Combined with the setting in TivoToGo that downloads the equivalent of a season pass from your Tivo allows the whole thing to essentially run itself. I leave mine alone, and when I go to iTunes on my Mac every day, new shows are added with no intervention on my part.

So, I have my PC setting behind my equipment in the living room, but it could just as well be in a closet somewhere. I run it remotely via Windows Desktop, but I actually prefer to use UltraVNC. Maintenance is basically dropping on the machine every once and while to download shows from the Tivo, or delete stuff I have already watched.

Otherwise, the thing pretty much runs itself. Any computer on the network that has iTunes installed can play stuff on the TivoToGo server.

It is of course possible to set up a shared volume on the PC so that I could just mount the drive and play back the shows, but I preferred using iTunes as my front end because it requires little or no configuration.

I should also point out that while it is simple for me to actually copy these shows to my iPod or burn them, in my case that is not my intent. I am not much of an archivist these days. After I have watched something I rarely want to keep a copy of it.

I know that I could have just hacked my Tivo, or built a MythTV box or blah blah blah. I have gone through many many many different attempts to replicate the Tivo experience, with the added ability to watch shows on my network, but Tivo still has the best overall user experience. I really hate that I had to go through this much trouble to do something that Tivo could supply to me via a TivoToGo for the Mac. Quite simply, I decided I had waited enough. I hope that someone finds useful.

I will write a separate article shortly outlining a parallel experience I am having with off-air digital television.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Nokia 770, The AJax Appliance that Could

I have been fortunate enough to come across a Nokia 770 Web Tablet. This is a small device that resembles PDA, but oriented horizontally. It features a very high resolution display in a pocketable device. Bluetooth and 802.11b mean that if you are equipped with a cell phone, you can potentially always have access to your email, web content and more in a manner that is not nearly as compromised an experience as the typical PDA or Smart Phone.

This device has recieved notoroiously bad reviews, but it is not entirely the device's fault. Partially to blame has been a initial release of the OS that was at times sluggish, some rough edges in the user experience, and stability.

The beta of the new "2006" OS is on my 770. It is quite good. In fact, in using it for a while, the strengths of the device become much more obvious.

The 770 is not a PDA. It is not a laptop. These are obvious points, but they color our expectation of how devices that resemble them should behave.

The 770 is purely a creature of the connected experience. This is apparent in little things, such as the well done connection manager which makes configuration with a cell phone simple, but also in larger aspects, such as the default "desktop" of the 770.

The 770's initial UI resembles in some ways Apple's dashboard, and this is no accident. It is possibly a low threshold approach to allow developers to build "infowidgets" that can be accessed immediately, exactly in the way this device is envisioned to be used. It is for immediate access.

The inclusion of a chat client further supports this. It expands the utility of a cell phone by offering a useful way for users to communicate. Intriguingly, due to Nokia's partnership with Google, the 770 includes voice over IP support, and does have a microphone built in, but of course could be used with a bluetooth headset as well.

The browser included with the 770 is quite useable, and this is where it becomes interesting. Since the 770 is so network centric, technologies that make use of the browser as an application platform (AJAX etc) can leverage this.

I think this is where reviewers that gave the 770 a bad rating didn't get it. The 770 isn't necessarily about writing applications for it per se, but about utilizing web development and cross platform expertise to power a portable device. It is actually quite smart. Palm has to convince people to learn a unique development platform to write software for their PDA's. People can write for the 770 using skills they already have; and their efforts won't just work on a single series of devices, but a broad range of devices and environments.

Microsoft has ushered in a smaller tablet format, but it is quite expensive -- the cheapest one is at least 3 times the cost of the 770, and can't be slipped into a pants pocket. The only thing they got right is the idea of a network centric tablet device that people carry with them, but I don't any of the existing UMPC models qualify.

The 770 is an imperfect, but I think vital, glimpse of the near future.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Just What Do They Want From Us Anyway?

A New York Times Article
on high tech cheating generated a fair amount of traffic on our TLTR list here at NCSU. Due to crunch on projects I was not able to respond in a timely manner to the posts, and had intended to post something here. Well, time has passed and this response has morphed again into something else.

One question that never asked during the discussion was why students cheat. The answer is obvious, because they have not done their work, they are unable to keep up, they want a simple shortcut to a good grade instead of doing the work.

The work. The work indeed.

The answer was "higher moral conduct" by some to this problem. Students should be held accountable. This is a safe answer. It is sort of like saying that I like babies, sunny days and ice cream.

I think it is actually much harder to ask the question I want to ask. The same dumb question. Why do students cheat?

I have my own answer. It is a semi-successful means of accomplishing the goal, which is getting a good grade. Actual grasp of the subject matter is a distant secondary goal(and in fact, may just get in the way of accomplishing the primary goal). With no "moral" boundaries, students are apt to cheat. It is a morally objectionable, but perhaps successful way of navigating a system that rewards good grades.

I don't worry if there is a superior being watching me when I work on a assignment. My motivation for not cheating is pride in my work, my engagement in my studies. I guess I am not the normal student, but I think something is at work here.

By the time students get to college, they have figured out that school is mostly easily quantifiable knowledge. You are tested on that which is easily testable. Successful students "read" an instructor, and know fairly quickly what is expected of them, what is the percentage of their time they have to expend to get a good grade. They stare at the instructor, and ask themselves the title of this posting: "Just What Do They Want From Us Anyway?".

I know this because I was often terrible at doing this when I was younger. I would try to understand formulas instead of just memorizing them. One takes more resources, but in the end it doesn't matter -- just being able to memorize a formula is better when you have 50 minutes to take a test. You may forget every bit of it 2 years later, but that doesn't matter.

The "high tech" angle on cheating in the NY Times article is just a red herring anyway. Cheating is simply a way that students try to bypass a system that is becoming irrelevant to learning anyway. They have figured that out. Life is not a series of multiple choice questions, although with some thought we may be able to reduce them to that. I think the fact that no one seems to be thinking about "why" versus "how" is quite instructive. Education is stuck. in. a. rut.

On another note, I have begun updating my LiveJournal account again. It's personal stuff, nothing too personal, just a scratch pad, random thoughts. Changed the name to "Hal Meeks Slept Here".

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Music and Alternate Interfaces

I dabble in music, sort of inspired in part by the likes of Brian Eno. I used to enjoy setting up audio "systems" where I was a participant, using a combination of cheap synthesizers, tape loops and overdubbing. Now I play guitar, record it and screw around with it in Garageband. I particularly like the "Voice Changer" plug in, combined with other effects. It kills my poor powerbook, but I do love Augustus Loop, which emulates a tape delay/loop unit. These devices are magical because of the decay effect that they provide; Robert Fripp uses two Revox tape decks to get the same effect.

For non-musicians, and perhaps traditional musicians, the sort of musical devices that are created for electronic composition and performance can seem quite other worldly. There are many devices that share characteristics with the Theremin such as the Photo-Theremin. The Alesis AirFX is something similar, where you feed it an audio signal, and by waving your hand over a sensor modify it in several different ways.

I have been a fan of the Suzuki QChords for some time. They are sort of like a autoharp, where you press keys and "strum" over a sensor. They were originally designed to teach children the basics of music, but the newer ones have midi out.

I remember having a discussion a while back with someone who felt that learning music was too hard; that it should be possible to create software that can do most of the work. I don't think I convinced them that not only was this an unnecessary thing, it is likely an unwanted thing. Playing with loops in Garage Band all them time gets quite boring.

While all of these tools simplify mechanical aspects of creating music, they still require work to master. The theremin is notorious for this -- it is a great toy, but to actually play music on it takes a bit of practice. However, the variability of the output from using these devices is what makes them engaging. It is a bit different every time. Ask any electronic musician about the evils of "quantitization", it sucks the soul out of a piano part. It is that little bit of variability in timing that makes it seem "natural". It's just a little bit of noise, a bit of dust.

So we are left with our musical devices, but it us that makes them go. Even when we look at compositions made up of nothing more that looped samples, it is our process of selection, not a piece of software, that makes it relevant for us. Even Eno's "systems" such as what was used in Discreet Music require some input to begin. We are the water for the mill.

I know that I am kind of meandering here, but I will come back to this again soon and try to make more sense.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Edit video online

Reading Bolther/Grusin's Remediation is at once a great reading experience and a opportunity to turn your world view into some sort of oppositional view for a brief while. The idea is quite infectious, that mediums combine and "remediate" each other; TV becomes more like the web, and the web expands out from text and still images into a experience that is not television -- something more and in my opinion much better.

I have spent a lot of time in YouTube, because I think they get it in a way that Google and some of the others (such as Veoh) don't get it; it is about a simple viewing experience enhanced with a social construct. It's pretty deep, I've written a paper on it for a course I'm taking, and I hope to publish it somewhere. It is close to offering the types of things that people might want in a future video sevice; the only thing that is missing now is ditching the web browser centric interface for a "10 foot" experience.

I talk a lot about how pervasive visual tools for contructing knowledge have become. Word processing is now something that doesn't live on your desktop, but is an application that lives in your browser -- Google has a word processor, Microsoft has Live Office, and there are a host of other simple word processing applications such as AjaxWrite. The folks behind Ajaxwrite continue to roll out web-based applications as a way to undermine Microsoft's move into this environment, but it is not clear to me that what they offer is a suitable replacement.

Eyespot is a online video editing and sharing environment. It has some aspects of YouTube, but offers the ability to mix and match content. "Editing" in this environment is essentially cuts-only editing, but given time I am sure that will change. However, the quality is not great, it is almost more of a technology showcase than a practical tool. But still, I am in favor of anything that makes this more approachable.

The mind-numbing truth is that we have always been visual thinkers, some more than others. Film and video were not invented by arbitrarily; it hooks into the way that our brains work. It is, to use a bad analogy, why Tetris is popular -- it uses a basic skill that we have, the ability to rotate objects in our head, and turns it into a game. Video editing combines the cultural (what is the proper way to tell a story, what is time, what is real) with the innate (we think in pictures).

Eyespot itself is not necessarily that important, but what it represents is important; that these once esoteric tools are becoming common as dirt. It is not the accessibility to the tools that is preventing us from embracing them and using them to construct knowledge, it is our attitude towards them. Education is not ready to deal with students that are heavily visual thinkers.

Everything has moved away from that; again I come back to the general ideas of "industrial revolution" thinking; repeatability, quality assurance, easily quantifiable knowledge, scaling. These goals are not consistent with this breed of learner. I will not call them a "new breed" because it is my strong belief that these people have always existed, what has changed is the opporunities they have to learn, and our attitude towards them. The schools of today and the near future do not embrace these students; they are considered abnormal -- borderline autistic, adhd, what have you. We give them medication to make them manageable, but we don't teach them. They have to teach themselves.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reinventing Radio

I have been working on a simple streaming radio station project. In the process, I thought about the whole satellite radio thing.

Some speculation: what happens when wireless data access is good enough that it can be integrated into consumer products such as portable radios? There are some UI considerations, but what if Live365 was available on your car's stereo?

A while back, Nextel was testing the "wireless broadband" service in our area, and I was fortunate enough to try it. I really liked it. When reading the documentation, I noticed the curious admonition that I shouldn't use it while operating a moving vehicle. Of course, I then had to do just that to see why.

It still is not clear to my why they told me to not use it while driving my car, but I can say that it worked. It was cool to be able to drive around with a laptop streaming internet radio.

My guess is that we will be able to do that at some point with edge phones that connect to our bluetooth car stereo system. It should be interesting, since it is actually quite easy to set up a streaming service. I can see very focused regional broadcasters that otherwise couldn't be supported in traditional broadcasting.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Video Furnace Mon Amor

I went to a demo of Video Furnace yesterday. It is a solution that allows you to offer cable services over IP. It has several pieces:

  • An encoder that takes a video source (s-video,composite or cable) and turns that into a mpeg-4 stream.
  • A program channel manager and on-demand video server.
  • A desktop client that has an integrated channel guide, authentication. It is essentially TV for your computer. It requires no install, but does require java.

It's biggest appeal is that it allows telecom to stop using coax. They can use this to send TV channels over ethernet. However, it requires a separate encoder for each channel. If you carry 32 channels of TV, you need 32 encoders.

The system can support HD resolution video, but they can't encode it yet. The demo I saw yesterday showed content at 320x240, but I know it will do double that comfortably.

It's strength and weakness is that it is an end-to-end solution. As a replacement for cable television, I think it is quite viable. The player has nice features, you can open more than one channel at once, and the program guide is nicely designed. I'd use it instead of regular TV if they would let me time-shift programming (they don't). I did ask them about accessibility and the CEO said they supported captioning, but didn't know if the player would work with a screen reader. I didn't think to ask at the time, but I wonder if it would be possible to allow users to roam (log in and watch TV anywhere).

I am more skeptical about it being a solution to replace other kinds of video delivery. The channel metaphor it uses is limiting in some ways. It isn't a replacement for a commodity streaming media service, where content can be found using Google. It would be interesting if they were to integrate a search engine and RSS reader into their software, so that coursework content could live alongside Cartoon Network.

In the end, I think the whole channel idea is on it's last legs. I think what we see with YouTube, GoogleVideo and iTunes is the future.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Adobe Systems Incorporated
345 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA 95110-2704
Tel: 408-536-6000
Fax: 408-537-6000


Dear xxxxx ,

It has come to our attention that you, or a user using your license code for our product Macromedia Flash MX 2004 has created content that is in violation of the agreed upon user license.

Section VIII, Titled "Extra Stuff You Should Really Think About", paragraph 5, states the following:

Macromedia Flash is intended for the use of content that does not do the following:

  1. Piss users off with annoying, gratuitous noises (unless they want them)
  2. Mystify and frustrate potential customers with an obscure, too clever user interface that sends them off wherever.
  3. Does stuff that HTML does just as well, if not better.
  4. Oh I don't know, something that is just dumb the first time, super annoying after that.

The site in question is at and was retrieved as of xxxxxx .

To prevent further legal action, we ask that you do the following:

1. Burn your Macromedia Flash MX 2004 License Sheet, and your installation media. Send the ashes in an envelope to the above address. If you live in the CA, VT, MA, you may shred the above items and send them, as burning some plastics can release gases that may be in violation of these state's air quality laws.

2. We ask that you remove the content in violation upon receipt of this letter from the above site. You should then delete the content, the project files, the whole damn directory it was in. You may want to consider reformatting the harddrive, and taking a nice vacation. You may either confirm that this has been accomplished by sending email to: support@adobe.com. Adding Code:4955 to the title of the email will ensure more rapid response.

3. Tell everyone that you are really sorry.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.


Adobe Customer Support
"We're here for you!"

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Why no Apple in the Palm

The cry of investors to "sell Palm" is actually a bit funny. What in the world would Apple want Palm for?

OS? The current release of the Palm is badly aging. They do have something else upcoming, anyone can look at it if they sign up as a developer, which is free.

But I think the request is based on wistfullness, a "coulda shoulda" glance at the iPod -- the thought that Palm should have been there.

Far from it. Palm has never had particularly good media play back support. This has been a critical failure of the product. It is telling when $99.00 cell phones has superior media support to a $300.00 Palm.

The article makes several bad assumptions. While the TabletPC has defied my expectations, and has not sunk like a rock, it is hardly selling like gangbusters. The form factor remains an unfullfilled promise -- something we would all like to really, really work. Windows TabletPC OS has too much legacy tied to conventional Windows (including the dumb start menu with nested menus, which is hard to navigate on a Pen interface) to be truly useful. I know, I have tried my darnest to like the one I have on loan. Ultimately, I end up using a keyboard to do just about anything, simply because it is more efficient. I have noticed this to be true of most tablet users as well. It is really worth the price differential between a tablet and conventional laptop to be able to use a pointing device to point at the screen?

I am confident that someone like Apple could make a tablet UI that would be more useful. Inkwell isn't bad at handwriting recognition, Apple has some promising accessibility tools that could be repurposed for a tablet environment (Voiceover). Will they do it? Recent patents hint that they are thinking about it, but it remains to be seen that there is a market.

My guess is that instead of a general computing device, it should perhaps be more like the Nokia 770 -- a web-centric device that is inexpensive and easy to use, inside of it's tightly focused functionality.

So, don't expect to see an Apple buyout of Palm. There simply isn't any value there, nothing that Apple could not invent themselves. Perhaps a stripped down version of Mac OS X, with a simplified UI, running on one of Intel's processors normally used for PDA's. Have it support dashboard widgets as a integral part of the user experience -- many of these would be quite useful in a mobile context.

Will that happen? Who knows? Everything at Apple is incremental, it is often best to predict what they will do by what they have done.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Narratives gone wrong

About 4:00 Friday afternoon I received a SMS from cingular on my cell welcoming me as a Cingular customer. I didn't think much of it at the time, but discovered by 5:00 that my phone had ceased to work. Ironically, I discovered if first when I went to check my email, and it couldn't connect. I then tried to call my cell phone, when I got a "beep beep beep" -- secret code for "your phone isn't answering anymore".

Later, I tried to make a phone call on the phone, and got the "Welcome Cingular Customer" greeting. I was asked if I wanted to activated service -- Well, yes, I would like my phone to work ;-)

After giving them my last 4 digits of my social security number, I then got the following spiel. This is a paraphrase, I am sure that I may missed specific wording, but it's close enough:

"Welcome Cingular Customer! Understand that by agreeing to the terms of the following contract, that you will be liable for all charges. Any trial services may incur additional charges after the first month of free service. This contract will be for a 2 year period of time. Press 1 to agree to the terms of this contract, press * to hear this again."

Beyond the obvious question, whether this is actually an enforceable contract (by pressing one key on my cell phone, I am signing a contract worth a minimum of $1200, , there is a secondary issue. Whoever thought of this was an evil genius. There is no secondary option, which would be "decline" -- at least none is presented to the user. Of course, I just hung up. But I wonder if someone could be felt to compelled to press "1", because "there was no other choice". I have to believe that this was designed on purpose.

This is another example of how computer/human interactions can be shaped by playing off of the user's expectations. Up until this last menu, I was always given a secondary option -- press the number 2 to exit. But here, at the point where I am presented with the contract agreement, that option is taken away, implying that there is no other option.

I have been thinking about this a lot. I certainly don't want to paint Cingular as a evil entity -- in fact, I have been up to now quite happy with my service. However, I am reminded of examples of this very same phenomena in educational environments, where the plot is shaped in a way that on purpose, or even worse, by accident, the narrative is broken. The irony remains that in many of these cases, it is simply brushed off as a "programming mistake" or "oversight", but the very process by which the narrative is delivered can shape how the user interacts with it -- okay not so profound, but when we think of things like LMS systems, web publication systems, presentation software, things where in the interest of simplicity options are limited, unintended consquences may be the result. And it may be that we will not see this ourselves, immersed in the center of these software systems.


p.s. yes, I got my phone working again. A helpful fellow at a Cingular store set me straight. The irony is that it is because I am getting a Blackberry for testing, in addition to my existing phone, and wanted it added to my service. The University won't pay for service on cell phones, so I am paying for it out of my pocket. Another example of the ongoing cost of education ;-)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Notes from a Meeting

Just what do I write on my P900 while in a meeting on our organization?

------------start here-----------

think outside (what box?)

renew our commitment to our students

embrace our entrepreneur side by allowing funding and resource commitments for staff faculty student startups (google model)

mobile ls a key piece, not necessarily laptops or 802.11

do not be afrald to take risks -- you are either living or dying

the future is small
small services
small devices
little things can have big impact but only if everyone can play

user centric may be at odds with how we do business now (example: allowing students a richer set of network based services including the opportunity to develop their own applications and content)

most use of technology in teaching is focused on scaling not on improving learning. Be skeptical of "business models" when talking about education. Education doesn't scale.

converge video services (on demand, streaming and archive) follow self publishing model with minimal hierarchy and multiple channels of output (tv rss web mobile)

web conferencing should be a commodity service open to everyone

leverage our physical space and radically rethink based on what our students need not on what scales (rows of neat computers sit empty while students spread out their stuff) explore a design studio model (sort of like flyspace but different)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Deleting TV

Unwittingly I have been performing a survey on my friends and associates concerning Television. I was looking at my DirectTV bill, and realized that I am paying almost $50.00 a month for something that I watch perhaps 1 hour a day (and that is declining rapidly). On top of that, a lot of it is regular broadcast TV (with the exception of IFC, TCM and Adult Swim).

A fair number of the people that I know have either minimal cable (local channels) or just off the air (or not at all).Some have NetFlix, because they have kids.

Considering all the other options that I now have to consume my time, paying for access to broadcast TV is beginning to look more and more like an expense I can forgo.

Downloadable and on-demand content is accelerating. There is now a critical amount of it that is simply free. Expect to see more advertising supported commercially produced programming available online. Adult Swim offers their Friday night fix at the wee hours of the morning.

There is Google Video, there is iTunes Music/Video store, where you can download a free Monk episode. There is archive.org's moving pictures archive. I would love to teach a film course using just their content.

Really, it's a bit funny. About the time that cable is moving towards ala carte programming (which consumers have wanted for years), the busines is getting ready to take a big turn.

I am certainly not the trendsetter here. I think the thoughts I am having (why do I pay for TV, when most of it I don't want) is going through anyone's head that has a broadband connection. Certainly, the user experience will have to change as it transitions to the living room. I am not going to give up my remote just yet. MythTV has done a fair amount of integrating internet services into a television experience, but I am also betting that Apple has something up it's sleeve.

I think what we see as FrontRow right now is really just a test. Think what happens when FrontRow meets the iTunes store.


Monday, January 16, 2006

Blackberry and LMS

It has been a month ago that I wrote about Blackberry. Since then, another of NTP's patents has been rejected. While this is good news for Blackberry users, I don't think it really solves Blackberry's biggest problem, which is innovating itself out of it's proprietary environment. Java support is good, a better web browser will help, but I can't help but feel that it will always lag behind.

I have been thinking recently about Learning Management Systems. I certainly have quite mixed feelings about them. To be completely up front, my experience with LMS's is restricted to our campus's WebCT system, where I have used it as a student, peripherally supported it with questions using digital media with it, and 3 days worth of training on using it as an instructor.

It appears to me that an LMS is best suited for highly structured curriculum, which would be of more use in a k-12 environment. There is so much emphasis on consistency (Industrial Revolution thinking again) in the learning environment that an LMS is a compelling solution.

The closed nature of an LMS is attractive, as a way to lock down content to only those authorized to see it. However, this also bothers me, particularly when considering it's use in higher education.

I attended a presentation a while back, where one of the presenters was using a LMS system for course content. They had asserted that their content was open for anyone to use, but of course, it is not. It appeared that the faculty member did not themselves understand that their content was now restricted, unable to be viewed by a casual observer -- at least until this presentation, where another faculty member pointed this out to them.

So, what future with Universities follow? Will it be the path of the Blackberry, a proprietary one that offers great integration, at the price of flexibility? Or will it be an open one, based on an academic tradition of open exchange of knowledge combined with credit and respect, where we have to compete in the marketplace of ideas?


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Games as Activism

What follows is a from a blog I frequent -- "We Make Money not Art" -- it deals with activism, art, free speech. The following thread is quite interesting. It was started by a discussion of an academic conference on Gaming, but It further illustrates that gaming has morphed into a legitimate narrative form, much like what happened to film in the early part of the 20th century. I think in the light of the recent article on why British kids can't read, we have to think about not just the excesses of the application of technology to teaching, but what literacy really means.

Sample paragraph:

The main public for these games is neither teenagers nor kids, but adults. Moreover, the rules of these games are not the ones you would encounter in a commercial games: the aim is not to attract as many game addicts during as much time as possible; to captivate with an aesthetics as realist as possible or with the most original design; to attain as much identification to the hero as possible; to be the most competitive on the market; to satisfy the ego of the teenager that still lurks in each of us by killing what moves on the screen... the aim is not to win. The aim is to subvert and parody preconceived ethics and aesthetics; to generate reflection.

Start here:

And then here:

And then, finally, here: