Archives for the month of: February, 2010

BBC’s Virtual Revolution highlighted research, including JISC/British Library funded Google Generation Study that suggests today’s online culture produces/supports certain types of behaviour: a fast, shallow scan, over the ‘long read’.

The idea of the long read is interesting in terms of what I understand about constructivism. In order for me to fully learn/understand what is being explained to me I need to get my neurons firing off, forming new patterns. If I won’t concentrate enough then that article / textbook / course won’t be able to bring me new understanding. So yes, I agree too that the long read is important.

But the idea that everyone’s learning style is changing, and that there’s no going back, seems to me to be very ahistorical. Surely there is an ebb and flow of different styles of thinking, different approaches to problem solving, and different ways of communicating about the world?

Where would geology be without the victorian collectors, with their obsessive gathering, describing and classifiying? Or chemistry, without its risk-takers? Or art, without its misfits and depressives? And going back further its fascinating to wonder what type of people thrived when the romans came to britain, or the normans: people with a talent for translation and negotiation must have been highly valued.

It seems to me that with each new challenge or opportunity, different sorts of people rise to the challenge. Maybe what we need now *is* surface connectors, enough to carve out some shared consensus. The deeper thinkers follow on, that will come.

Maybe society visibly values those skills that it needs to hone fast, to respond to its environment. Some people will be rewarded for developing their behaviours in that direction, and once that is in motion we will value the next skillset we need.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

After watching the episode of BBC’s Virtual Revolution about the economics of the free web I’ve had a nagging feeling that its not reflective of my experiences.
The I realised that since I bought myself a blackberry smartphone I mostly use that for web access. I get Facebook via a mobile app: very little space for adverts. Ditto google search.
I’ve had the same hotmail email account since c.1993, and never followed the crowd to googlemail.
Aside from a very persistent coffee maker company, most of the commercial email I get is stuff I’ve given permission to.
Obviously the revenue models for mobile web services will catch up, but I suspect iphone users with gmail accounts will be the main practice target while companies work out their next steps.
For now I have a little frisson of smugness that I seem to be cheating the web without really trying.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Do we need a new word for "business case" when its about the public sector?

Business implies there needs to be profit in it, but in the public sector few activities even cover their costs. What's needed is for the investment to be worthy: to produce overall benefits across the system/network of services/users. I'm not sure what the right language to use is. Ttracing the value of the investment can be tricky, because the benefits of investment might be felt at a different point in the system, so the problem is knowing what and where to measure the change affected by a particular investment.

… and yet it does need to be accounted for somehow. maybe the responsibility of initiatives that invest public money is to show that the investment is valued at different parts of the chain, even if we don't have a good language (yet?) to express it.

There seems to be an increase in organisations providing twitter feeds. I instinctively prefer using twitter for more social 1:1 exchanges rather than many:1. Surely people use email newsletters or rss aggregators for organisation-provided feeds? 

Except that I'm currently on maternity leave, my netvibes aggregator is all based on work, so while I'm not working its not sticky enough for me to visit it. And even then, there are some organisation-provided twitter feeds that I have signed up to. So it got me wondering why anyone signs up to a twitter feed from an organisation in preference to the same feed in rss?

  1. you don't have an rss reader/aggregator
  2. if you happen to keep up with your twitter feed, a tweet is pushed under your nose more effectively (but only if you do keep up with twitter, which is hard work)
  3. a tweet can be easily forwarded/broadcasted as a retweet (RT) which lets you use the information in a more social way: its easy to share than retyping an rss item to fit a tweet
  4. people can see which twitter accounts you are following, so you can say something about yourself and your interests. rss readers are much more private, unless you make your rss aggregator public, like netvibes or pageflake, but even then, they're more about other people optionally browsing your page so less people will see
  5. if you respond to the feed with an @ message, other people following the same feed and following you can see the exchange, so it reinforces connections and similarities between people.

There's also a special case I can see, and thats for event-based twitter feeds. I've signed up to the feeds for specific editions of the BBC programmes Question Time and Virtual Revolution – I've followed them whilst watching them, and then unfollowed them afterwards. They are very opinion-based programmes where I am interested in the public opinions of whats said in the programmes, I wouldn't follow any old programme.

So, ok, maybe there is a role for many:1 twitter feeds. But please please PLEASE, marketers beware: I will not follow a marketing feed because that's like barging in on my private conversation. If you want to follow me just because I mentioned chocolate fountains, be my guest, but you won't find out much, and I won't follow you back!

Open data is flavour of the month at the moment, with tim berners lee unveiling the goverments open data initiative. people are starting to look at what can be done with the data, for example: i'm interested in the cost/benefit of making the data available.

Firstly I have to admit that despite knowing that "data" applies to text as well as numbers I always think of open data as statistical reports, but thats my preconception and I'm battling it. So anyway …

It is good to be open. and openness is better than secrecy. but what is the amount of effort required to make data open, versus the actual use of that data?

Looking for a parallel, I thought of Freedom of Information legislation. For that FoI legislation, it is cost-effective to have a publications schedule rather than have to respond to each request for information. so, aside from the avoiding-writing-it-down tactic, it's in an organisation's interests to be more open with their key documentation than they used to be.

Is open data a similar change in the behaviour of organisations? And do the cost/benefits weigh up? What's the effort required, for example, to anonymise data so that it can be shared without breaching data protection rules? For example, if someone in every local council has to spend on average a day a week cleansing data for release, (at the taxpayers expense), does that data yield useful benefits to them? how long will it take for the benefits to be seen? 

Or is it just about openness vs secrecy, as an expression of the value of transparency above any real utility?

Interested to hear the evidence on cost/benefit …

I start 2010 with a strange feeling of contentment. is this about maturity or motherhood? its something i've felt in much greater doses since i was pregnant with my first child, and perhaps becoming a mum has altered my body chemistry forever. i certainly hope this sense of well being continues. i've not been without problems during this time, but as someone who has always fretted endlessly about most decisions, big and small, i've found that i've had a clearer perspective. 

Now i have two children, and my mother and sister have said i'm "nicer" when i'm pregnant. i feel a certain "you can't touch me" bubble around me, so i can smile zenlike as chaos reigns down around me.

I guess deep down i think perspective is very important to how you deal with life. some people will always see themselves as victims of circumstance. lets be clear here: some people do have better lives than others. i must be in the very top percentage of quality of life for people around the globe. i feel lucky, in a non-religious sense i feel "blessed". i have my family, my health, my job, my house. so do many people i know, and yet it doesn't stop them feeling dissatisfied. compare yourself to the majority of people in the world and you'll probably find you're very well-off comparitively.

That said, i'm sure that there any plenty of people with few of my luxuries, living in conditions i would see as basic, that use their capacity for happiness to the full. i'm sure we each have capacity for happiness, but maybe it varies. i've known people who didn't know how to be happy, and i'm sure thats an inherent limitation.

BUT just because people can be happy living in poverty, it doesn't mean poverty is ok. the problem with poverty is in its unjustifiable inequality, nothing to do with people's states of mind. so acknowledging that happiness is possible in the direst of material circumstances is not an acceptance of poverty.