Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Eve 2005

The sloan males 2005

Everybody got together at Jeff's House
We had a great Christmas Eve.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Great family times

I hope you are having a great family holiday. I am taking a posting break from this blog, to spend time with my family. I will be posting some of these holiday activities and you are invited to follow along at the Sloan family blog [Link].

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Eve Geek Dinner in SF

You may have other pressing plans on Christmas Eve, but there will be a WordPress meetup and Christmas Eve Geek dinner in San Francisco with Ryan Boren [About Link] according to Ashley Bowers [Link] at Chaat Cafe.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Labor unions to face takeaway threats

Public Employees on Strike
It is having a well paid workforce that has driven the American economy since the great depression. Henry Ford doubled the wages of his factory workers because he wanted them to be able to afford the cars they built. Now, with globalization, the labor movement is challenged to react to an economic climate where even companies that desire to do good are forced to find the lowest price for human labors. Only by globalizing themselves will unions have a chance to respond. Meanwhile, unions in all sectors are going to be faced with take away contracts, loss of benefits, lower pay, erosion of working conditions, automation, layoffs and further off-shoring of the work we do.

Transit workers on strike

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Be true to your own voice and brand

In a recent post Scoble reacts [Link] to someone who alleges he is a tool (of Microsoft.) Of course that is not true, but the reason of this post is not to defend a friend. Bloggers are in a unique position. When you say something good about your employer it is easy for readers of your blog to say you are a tool of your employer. If you say something bad, folks inside your employers organization start rumbling terms like "trouble maker" and "loose canon." Especially for bloggers out there on the long tail, that connotation that you are perhaps not a team player is a very real cause of fear and anxiety.

In my opinion there is something bigger than "the team," especially for bloggers. I believe that is honesty, integrity and reputation all of which are important parts of your own personal brand. I urge folks who blog not to use blogging solutions within their employer's domain. But, that is only part of the solution. The most important thing I think is to consider and be true to your own personal brand. It is that brand that is, in my opinion, more important than your current job because that brand is your reputation. Before you blog, or not, consider your brand. Be true to it, as Scoble is, and your audience will come, or not, and readers can decide to believe you, or not. And, before you choose an employer be sure they respect your brand.

Those who know you will, hopefully, know you as a trusted source.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Are podcasts conversations or not?

In this recent post [Link] Garywiz asked the question, "Are Podcasts About Conversations?" (He also cited a disagreement I had with the university over one of my podcasts, but that is a different story.) My answer to the question is, mostly I think so, but it really is too soon to tell. From a cluetrain perspective, I think they generally are. If I podcast a conversation I am having in the present time, or if I do a monologue to the blogopodosphere, I think it is a conversation. If I blog/podcast to the world and others blog/podcast back, especially then yes, I think that is a conversation. But, being the old train buff that I am, what if I do an RSS 2.0 feed of old steam engine sound recordings. Is that a podcast? Yes... Is that a conversation? I think no.

I have started a podcast of old recordings of people talking in my family [Link], remixed from old video and audio tapes from years gone by, way before there was an Internet audience. This is speech, put on an RSS feed, but does that make it a conversation, or is this Podcast just an audio family snapshot?

It reminds me of a blog posting I read about somebody's "ten rules of podcasting." This person liked to do high production values, so this person's rules emphasized recording, editing and mixing. Maybe that was his ten rules, but not mine. The point of all this is that this is nascent emerging technology. Trying to define what it is now, based on our current frame of perception, could have the unintended effect of limiting what it could be. I say relax, podcast, play and let the medium define itself.

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Scoble geek dinner here on Dec. 30th? Poop!

Man, I am really bummed! My friend Bob "the bunny" Scoble is going to be here and having a geek dinner in Palo Alto on the 30th [Link]. That's the same day another friend is having a surprise 50th birthday party. I am so bummed, but I can only be in one place at a time. My other friend's 50th party (he doesn't read this blog, so don't tell him) is a very big deal and the party is in a biker bar and will be a blast. I am going to have to pass on seeing the bunny. If you can go, go see Scoble. Unless you are going to my other friend's party. So many of my friends are turning 50, that's another story. I followed the stories of Bob's trip to Europe on his blog. I would love to hear them in real life!

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Wikipedia takes more whacks

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is being accused of changing his own Wikipedia bio 18 times, according to this article in Wired news [Link]. According to Wired:

Public edit logs reveal that Wales has changed his own Wikipedia bio 18 times, deleting phrases describing former Wikipedia employee Larry Sanger as a co-founder of the site.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Monday Mixed Bag

Explorer for Mac going away
This is not new news, but we have to prepare for it better than we have. According to Microsoft [Link] IE for the Mac is going away. It will not even be available for download! We need to be sure our on-line resources are available optimized for other tools for Mac users.

Cool Kudos from Harvard
Jim Moore from Harvard Law School [Link] picked up my post, that referred to the post by Scoble [Link] on converting PowerPoint to OPML. It is neat to see someone else who sees the potential for this technology. Moore said:

OPML is the perfect open, "peoples'" free way to instantly create a "deep metaversion" of a file, making it instantly searchable, able to be used to point to dynamic RSS and HTML and podcast/audio/video sources, and able to be cut-and-pasted by students and faculty anywhere.

Wireless kinks at SJSU
SJSU Wireless 2.0 is up and running and having a few burps at SJSU. This is the second phase of wireless at our campus, this phase is going to provide the campus free campus-wide wireless. These burps are to be expected when we are taking such a big leap. Everybody's patience with this process is greatly appreciated.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Podcasting: remix that old family history

Think of all that old oral family history that is locked away on old audio tapes or maybe even video tapes. You can grab that audio and easily convert it to MP3 files that can be also easily shared with family members all over the world via the Internet and podcasting. And, while you are at it think about using your digital audio recorders to record and share those wonderful stories that are so much a part of the legacy of your family. I know I wish I could have recorded and shared the story of how my parents met. Now that my family is spread all over the country it would be nice to be able to share that with siblings, cousins and my own kids and grand children. Oral history is so human because it is told by the people who lived it. So, what are you waiting for? Start saving, remixing and sharing yours today.

Sloan Family Podcast Number One, 9.9 minutes - Posted December 17, 2005
December 1, 1989: Sloan Family Podcast, A Conversation With Kenneth Sloan
To listen to audio, click here --> MP3 File Here
Conversation with my youngest son Kenneth Sloan who is now 18. This was recorded December 01, 1989 when Kenneth was just a month short of turning three. Kenneth and I are watching TV and discussing the relative merits of things like Birds and Snakes while his brothers Jeff and Steve have a conversation of their own in the background. The conversation was caught on audio tape with a small tape recorder, and was since converted to digital audio.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Podcast is the word

Podcast, word of the year for 2005
Few technologies have exploded as fast as podcasting. Earlier this month the Oxford American Dictionary declared "podcast' to be the word of the year [Link.] I think podcasting has grown faster than I remember the web itself taking off. Just as somebody comes up with a set of rules for podcasting, other people come up with new and exciting ways to use this technology. I am proud to claim I am the first person to start a podcast in higher education. This is really cool stuff!

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Former SJSU professor goes through Wiki Hell

On the Internet trust is becoming a rarer and a more valuable commodity. One of our university's greatest losses, in my opinion, was the loss of alpha professor Dennis Dunleavy to Southern Oregon University. Dunleavy is an extreamly talented guy and I still follow his blog and I sorely miss our conversations. In a recent post [Link] professor Dunleavy explains how he was demonstrating different technologies to some colleagues when he decided to show them what a Wiki looks like. They got a look they are likely never to forget. According to Dunleavy:

After talking a little about Wikipedia's credibility issue and the Seignethaler situation, I went online and clicked on a link to a featured article at the top of the homepage. The article was a biography about the actress KaDee Strickland. As I talked and navigated through the site I innocently clicked on Strickland's name in the featured column. What appeared in front of us -- on the big screen -- was not the actress. What came up on the screen was a close up image of a significant part of the male reproduction system.

This is a big danger in using Wikis, or really any other on-line media. The Wiki (or any Website) can be "hacked" or in an otherwise defaced state just at the moment you go to them. It is especially easy for people to deface Wikis. Even if it is even easier for the Wiki community to fix a defaced Wiki page you have to know that the ability to absolutely trust that the content you want will be available , and be presentable, in real time is not there. It is not just Wikis that are vulnerable. Websites are defaced all the time by miscreants people call hackers. If you really, really need to trust that what you want will be there and will be suitable for public view at exactly the moment you need it. You cannot.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Emerging Pedagogy: PowerPoint to OPML, this could rock!

In this post [Link] SJSU graduate Robert Scoble talks about using a tool to convert PowerPoint to OPML. This could really rock for distance learning or remediation. Imagine converting a presentation you give in class to OPML and assigning to each bullet point a hyperlink to dynamic media that either explains or graphically illustrates each point. The learner could navigate through the presentation with each slide being a node and then concentrating on the points that he/she needs to study or desires remediation on. The instructor could then choose the media that illustrates the point best. It could be print, graphics, audio or video and all of this could be packaged in an OPML file. The students could get the OPML files in an RSS feed or just by clicking on a hyperlink. That is pretty cool!

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Fatal car crash gives perspective

Marie Grimes Roby & Kirk Roby

The news of the death of our dear friend Marie's sister  near Lincoln, CA [Map Link] in a tragic Thanksgiving Day car crash [Link to family blog post] really puts all of this in perspective. We are mortal and vulnerable [Link to news report summary.] Technology, in my opinion, only has value to the extent that it enriches the lives of people. We only have a limited number of days and if our efforts do not somehow improve those days, what value is there to our efforts?

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

J-school profs: You need to listen to Ryan

Ryan Sholin [Link] is the kind of Journalism student in this decade that Robert Scoble [Link] was in the last. If you are a J-school prof and are not reading Sholin everyday, you should be. I read Sholin at least once a day. Recognizing talent is easy in hindsight after the talent has had media recognition. The hard thing is seeing and appreciate the gift of it when it is nascent and is walking in our midst. I remember when Scoble was nascent and walking in our midst. He would talk to us often and freely and yet he was not listened to by many faculty who thought they knew better than he. Now look at us and look at Scoble [Link]. Thankfully Robert Scoble cares enough about us that he came and talked to us, and we listened [Link.] A year ago in one of my now defunct blogs I wrote about how I thought Scoble was a "think different" kind of guy [Link]. Well, I think the same of Ryan. If you want to talk about the future of Journalism and Mass Communications, listen, listen... [Link.]

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Emerging Pedagogy: The Innovator's Dilemma

Required reading for the instructional technologist
Christensen, Clayton M. (1997). The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change The Way You Do Business. New York: (2003 ed.) Harper Collins, ISBN 0-06-052199-6.

Why this is an important book
In this book Christensen [Link: his home page] speaks about disruptive technologies. Disruption in this case is not like we may think of disruption as having an unruly student using a cell phone in class. Disruptive technologies are technologies that disrupt existing technological and market paradigms.

This is a business book, not a book about how to use some important new technology. What this book talks about is markets and how technologies come along that change sustaining markets and offer features that eventually make the previous sustaining technologies obsolete. Christensen uses many examples ranging from small disk drives to steam shovels.

What the sustaining technologies he speaks about have in common is that they had evolved to the point that the products of the sustaining technologies were very mature. There was little that manufacturers could do to differentiate their products from those of their competitor or ad value to their mature products. When this happens products became commodities. Manufacturers have sought to improve these products, most of the improvements added features of little value for the consumer. This left the products with a surplus of performance over need.

This surplus introduced the opportunity for a new smaller manufacturer to introduce a product of seemingly inferior performance that had an attribute, such as small size or lower cost, that met a need that was not addressed by the sustaining technology. Because of the size of the big market, manufacturers sought big customer accounts to get big profits. The big market players were not able, or even desirous to compete in the niche small profit markets addressed by the new small companies. This left the emerging small players alone to define the emerging products and the initially small markets they addressed. In such a niche market the disruptive product could evolve. The disruptive product often had such inferior performance to the sustaining product in the established market that it was not seen as a threat. By the time the disruptive product was evolved to the point that it could attack the established market from below it was too late for the manufacturer of the established product to react. Time and again the result has been the collapse of the manufacturer of the product that was disrupted and its replacement with the manufacturer of the disruptive product, which then became the new sustaining product.

The technologies of emerging pedagogy and their relationship to the technologies of the sustaining pedagogy can, in my opinion, be seen this way. This can be compared to technologies of the past. For example, like the horseless carriage of 100 years ago in how that technology attacked the dominant land transportation technology of the early 20th century, the steam powered passenger train. One hundred years ago the automobile was of such low reliability, had low performance and the road infrastructure was so poorly designed that it seemed no threat to the Pullman trains of the era. When we look at technologies like blogging, RSS, SMS, small portable devices, podcasting and so forth we need to remember, these are very young emergent technologies. We can't just sit snugly in our ivy covered buildings smug in the belief that the university will always be the best and only solution for higher education. There are a lot of people out there who are unable to come to our universities. This is a niche market just waiting to be served by technologies that have a lot of potential for development.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Wikis and wargamers

Wikis in the news
According to this article in Cnet [Link] the recent accusations of what really amounts to subtle undesirable manipulation (also known as "hacking") of the information in Wikipedia [Link] [definition of wiki] [definition of Wikipedia] has led to a change of the way the tool will work. According to the article by Daniel Terdiman the founder of wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, is instituting a change. Terdiman wrote, "he's going to change the ground rules for the popular anyone-can-contribute encyclopedia." In short it will no longer be anyone-can-contribute. The whole point of wikis has been that the community itself can be trusted to maintain the integrity of the source. To some this security enhancement will be seen as an indication that this trust may have been misplaced. Why enhance security unless you don't trust the community?

Gaming for profit
Even war gamers are becoming a commodity that can be outsourced, according to this story in the New York Times [Link.] It may seem funny to some, but there is a subtle warning here. No matter what happens, do not let yourself and your skillset become a commodity. What ever can be outsourced, will be outsourced. Remember, when it comes to selling commodities, the person who makes the sale is the one who sells the cheapest. For folks who become commodities it is a race to the bottom. You need to establish a personal brand in this new world that sets you apart.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

This is my life, on OPML

I have taken the plunge into OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) [Wikipedia definition of OPML]. Alex Barnett created this screencast [Link to screencast] that describes what OPML is and shows us a really cool tool for creating OPML files. Here is a brief definition of of OPML from Wikipedia:

OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) is an XML format for outlines. Originally developed by (Dave Weiner of) Radio UserLand as a native file format for an outliner application, it has since been adopted for other uses, the most common being to exchange lists of RSS feeds between RSS aggregators.

That tool is a web application called OPMLManager [Link to web application.] This is, as Barnett [Link to Barnett's blog] says, "really excellent." In Barnett's screencast he describes how he uses OPMLManager to create OPML lists of RSS Feeds. Well, that's cool, but that is not how I am using it. I am using it to create taxonomy's of information. One of the biggest weaknesses of blogs and other blog-like time based ways of presenting information is that it does not present an easy way of navigating information on subject hierarchy's. Yes, tagging does offer some of this, but tags only create ways of grouping information by keywords. Tags do not provide the kinds of tree-like constructs that a taxonomy does. This is something OPML does very very well!

OPML allows us to organize all of our content, and the content of anything else that can be linked to into hierarchies that make it easy to find information by topic. And, we get to choose the topics and those hierarchies can be linked to, shared and included in other people's OPML trees. This is so cool. So, using OPML I have created my own little Yahoo and other folks can plug into it. I love it, I have only just begun to organize my unorganized virtual universe. Here is what I have created so far:

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The importance of establishing a personal brand

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me in conversations with colleagues and in my readings of books like The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman [Link] and The Rise of The Creative Class by Richard Florida [Link] is that the nature of work is changing. People are contracting their services more often. When people are hired as employees they are staying with employers for a shorter period of time. By its very nature work is becoming more transient. This greatly amplifies the need to market yourself and set yourself apart in a market where you want to have something unique to offer. If you do not do this you are in danger of becoming a commodity and believe this, you do not want to become a commodity. Both Friedman and Florida note this and my own non-scientific observations confirm this. In my conversation with the students in SJSU Professor Cynthia McCune's [Link to profs blog] class  [Link to podcast of class, 16.5 MB MP3 File] I am not convinced students see or understand this. One of the worst things to be in a global economy is a commodity. People buy commodities based on the concept of who is selling cheapest. To stand apart from commodities students need to be aware of the importance of establishing their own brand. This is something folks like Scoble [Link], Steve [Link] and Dan [Link] Gillmor and so many others understand intuitively. Students today need to establish a unique brand and identity before they enter the workforce. Computers, and the Internet, provides people with powerful tools to establish a personal brand with a global presense. If you do not do this, and plan to leave it to your future employers to brand you, they will. They will assign you a number and that number will be as unique as you get to be.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Emerging Technology, Podcasting & Mass Communications

Edupodder podcast sixteen, 72.1 minutes - Posted December 6, 2005
December 6, 2005: Emerging Technology, A Mass Communications Class

To listen to audio, click here --> 16.5 MB MP3 File Here
This is a class session on recorded December 6, 2005 in the School of Journalism and Communications at San Jose State University. The class is taught by SJSU Professor Cynthia McCune [Link to blog] and I am presenting as an alumnus of the school. In preparation for this class students were asked to read the first few chapters of Dan Gillmor's book We The Media [Link to related site]. The topic is, "Changes in Mass Communications and how students need to prepare for a new mass communications paradigm." A subtopic that emerged in the conversation is related to education and emerging pedagogy. As the session opens the words "The End of Business as Usual" [Link to related site] have been written on the board.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A podcasting course plan

Edupodder podcast fifteen, 37.31 minutes - December 2, 2005, A conversation with Gwen Dapper.
To listen to audio, click here --> 8.5 MB MP3 File Here
A very fun and candid conversation with Gwen Dapper on December 2, 2005. Gwen is a web developer and an Instructional Technologist from San Jose State University. Gwen has just finished a course description for a proposed class on podcasting at San Jose State University. She and I talk as we look over her course outline. She hopes to teach this course at San Jose State. We discuss her course and the applications of podcasting in education.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Emerging Pedagogy Tools: What is wrong with wikis

The problem with wikis seems to me to be that when a community manages a wiki nobody can be held accountable. In a recent on-line news story retired journalist John Seigenthaler [Link to story] [Link to biography] alleges he was done wrong by Wikipedia [Link]. In a "Public Eye" story on, Seigenthaler said wikipedia committed “Internet character assassination.” According to the story when Seigenthaler checked his own biography on wikipedia it said, in part:

“John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960's. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. Nothing was ever proven.”

According to the story Seigenthaler said:

“One sentence in the biography was true. I was Robert Kennedy's administrative assistant in the early 1960s. I also was his pallbearer.”

This is exactly what I dislike most about Wikis and why I have very little interest in them. According to the story:

The philosophy behind Wikipedia and similar “wikis” is to create open-source community definitions for words, events and other bits of information. Theoretically, the more people contributing to a given topic entry, the better the definition because you are drawing from various perspectives, backgrounds and expertise rather than a limited number of sources. Anyone can go into a given wiki and change it.

Assuming Seigenthaler is right:

  • Who is accountable?
  • Who issues a retraction?
  • If the record is set right, who assures that it is not made wrong again?

With wiki's it is all about the community, in other words it is a collective of self-appointed posters that has the power to set the record straight, and then screw it up again. The voice of a wiki is not a voice easily held accountable. That is why it is hard to trust a wiki and why I seldom use or contribute to them. In my opinion a wiki is a Website by committee and we all know how good committees are at getting the job done right. With wiki's the truth is defined not by the most accurate to post, but by the most recent to post. We cite from, and quote from, wikipedia and other wikis as though they have real authority and in my opinion they do not because they lack the most important element of authority, what they lack is accountability.

In a story related to this incident, Charles Cooper of C-Net's [Link] in a story entitled Perspective: Wikipedia and the nature of truth said, "Somebody nursing a grudge can always pervert or airbrush the historical record." Cooper went on to say this:

Of course, Seigenthaler might have registered as a user with Wikipedia and corrected the article himself. Failing that, he could have posted comments to the article correcting the mistakes. The reality is that this is asking too much. We're talking about a 78-year-old guy who came of age when state-of-the-art was defined by 78 rpm records, tube radios and black-and-white televisions. And with so much stuff out there--and more getting created each day--was the burden on Seigenthaler to know he was the subject of a Wikipedia article? I'm sure his first question was, "What in the heck is a Wikipedia?"

I am happy to report in the version of Wikipedia I saw today [Link] the errors seem to have been corrected. There are even links there to stories like Coopers. So, this record seems to have been set straight, for the moment anyway.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Photo E-tailers exposed

Don Wiss [Link to his home page] decided to go and visit some of the Brooklyn retailers that have been getting bad press lately for what some consider to be lousy business practices. Here is what he found [Link].

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