Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Posting and it's aftermath

The other day, I saw an instance where the responses to an article where much more interesting than the article itself, and in a way, were hopelessly intertwined.

Responses to "IT is boring say graduates" is custom made to generate traffic on a site like slashdot, or many in IT a daily read. And it certainly did.

First -- the study itself queried 2000 non-IT curriculum students in the UK for their views on job propects, funding and job satisfaction (or perhaps, "fun"). Only 60% said that they wouldn't go into IT because it would be boring.

What was astonishing for me was the vast similarity in responses -- essentially -- that yes, IT (and work in general for many) is boring -- and those young no-nothings better get down with that fact!

First off -- there are many questions to be asked about the data collection itself. That may not sound interesting -- but the story of the data can be quite revealing. Which students? Which colleges and curriculum (2000 students in theatre arts?).

The article was superficial, great headline and little substance. Custom-made for the soundbite delivery of Slashdot, and it's readers. There were some good responses, and of course the usual digressions on to things like capitalism and quality of life.

I think it is a dumb thing to ask this question. The idea of IT as a department will possibly evaporate in the next few years for some folks. There will be layers on layers instead. Certainly we see that now. Customization becomes the rule, not the option.

The idea of a boring job -- wow. I think that there needs to be engagement by the individual, or time is wasted (and we have a finite amount). I recognize the artistry of coding. I see the architecture and it makes me think. To be able to see profundity in everyday things is a valuable thing. I think some of the folks I work with are artists - not in the hokey "cybercowboy art" -- but in the very real classic sense, making objects that have deep meaning and are readily apparent. Good code is like this.

I have more questions than answers for this little bit of fluff of an article. I couldn't spend as much time on the comments as I would have liked, but the negativism I saw may have more to do with expectations and disappointment than what could be possible.

Gates Rant Shows He Gets It

We want to believe that Bill Gates is some sort of clueless nerd past his prime (ie "The Road Ahead"), but occasionally he gets it.

Read this rant
and see what happens when Bill Gates tries to install MovieMaker.

By the way, did you know there are two versions of MovieMaker for Vista?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The upcoming HD revolution

Tracking the cost of HD cameras has been a sideline as of late. I am finally in the market, and prices continue to plummet. As I mentioned in my other blog, there is the $200.00 Aiptek A-HD, which with all it's flaws, does indeed shoot HD video.

I think about this because I feel a sense of deja vu. "It's not professional" I heard someone pronounce the other day about a consumer HD camera. Professional Videographers avoided YouTube until it became apparent that they would be edged out by the great, unwashed masses.

I am quite excited by this trend. Watch this music video, which was shot entirely with a Sanyo HD1000.

There are problems to be sure -- chromakeying is more difficult with the type of encoding that is done on these cameras. There may be problems with using software based image stabilization, particularly at 30fps. I can say, despite popular wisdom, that I have managed to get acceptable chromakeys with DV footage. Sure -- I would love to shoot on more expensive formats that have a better colorspace. But it indeed possible. I can even mimic the color look of particular film stock with a $200 piece of software and a little elbow grease.

This stuff puts "close to film" in the sub-$1k region. Let others get excited by the upcoming RED Scarlet. I think the revolution is happening right now.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why Digital Monkeys Don't Get Books

Waiting to get into a session at the Apple Developer's conference, I heard the group in front of me talking about "full text search" in video, and how it would revolutionize *everything*. I can't imagine that they had seen a Virage demo from a few years back (their heads would explode most likely).

One pronounced: "Books will be dead in 10 years!".

I rolled my eyes.

He went on. "I took a class on publication, and loved goading the class! They didn't get it! Books are dead! You can't do full text search!"

Another chimed in: "Yeah, I had a friend that took a course with an open book final exam. He had the digital version of the book, so he was able to finish it in half of the time of everyone else in the class!"

Hoo boy. I would not hire that guy to build a bridge. Searching does not replace deep understanding of content.

I stepped in at this point. "Have you read any Tufte?" There was a blank look.

"He talks about information design. His content is in a book. It will never be digital, because digital is a poor representation of his work. It demands high resolution, and a specific layout that digital does poorly."

"Hmmmm, well....haven't you seen DIGITAL PAPER?"

"Yes, I have. It is a compromised experience. You trade off a rich experience and high resolution for search ability and portability. Two page layouts (image one page, text on the other) are removed. You don't get full color plates. The user experience of books is effectively destroyed."


"Imagine a map that fills a wall. A digital, zoomable version is a distinctly different experience. One is not necessarily better than another. One immerses you senses in a panoramic data representation that exposes relationships that may be masked in a lower resolution digital version. But the digital version allows for a different, but as valuable experience."

I forget the rest of my rant. I doubt I made an impression -- I probably came across as a gray-haired luddite. This is a shame, because here at WWDC I see the usual trap that a generation falls into (and I have fallen into myself). The dominant technlogy tends to inform all things -- remediation (aka bolter et al). It prevents people from seeing the compromises that exist in adoption -- the things that are left out. It prevents people from seeing beyond what is in front of them. These people will be temporal innovators - better software.....but will never make that dramatic leap to the next great thing. We have to forget what we know now when looking at what came before, what was compelling about it, what was left behind in the compromise to adapt "old media" to the shiny new. Books and digital representation of text are quite different things. They only have text and images in common -- the user experience can be aped in technology -- but in the transition it becomes a different thing -- again -- not necessarily better or worse -- different. Too many times we think in either/or.

I write this as I sit here in a session on Podcast Producer at WWDC, and as I look at the audience, I wonder who here thinks about this as I do, and how many cannot make the connection between the books on their shelf, and the text in a web page.

I hope we learn from the past.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Oh, Surprise -- Just Giving out $100 laptops doesn't help learning

I broke my promise -- at least I am not using the O**C word.

Curriculum design and parental involvement doesn't get you on slashdot. Giving out cheap laptops does.

Ho Hum.