Dave Winer goes to Harvard

Dave Winer goes to Harvard.

Dave Winer’s job hunt was pretty short. This is great news for academia.[Sebastien Paquet]

[Seblogging News]

Let me add my congratulations to “Dave Winer” on his upcoming stint as a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. Plugging Dave into another network ought to lead to some interesting and useful outcomes. I certainly know that I’ve gotten a lot out of hooking into his network (“Scripting News”, “Userland”, “Radio”), however peripherally.

I’ll be particularly interested in seeing how Dave develops his thinking on organizational uses of blogging:

If a weblog is used by a workgroup to keep the members informed, and to connect with other workgroups; and if their feeds are aggregated to inform shareholders, management, regulators, and other interested parties, you might measure the money-making in the form of money saved, or shortcuts found, or new ideas discovered, or blind alleys averted. Weblogs have a place in business that’s as strong as their place in decentralizing news gathering and reporting. [DaveNet]

I hope once he gets to Cambridge that he makes time to take a short walk across the Charles River and pay a visit to the Harvard Business School.

Alien abduction dog tags

Alien abduction dog-tags for humans.  Dogtags for human would-be alien abductees. Parody? Mmmmmm….. could be:

Money back guarantee! Should you ever be abducted by aliens and not returned back to earth, you will be entitled to a full refund… ”

Link Discuss (Thanks, Dale!)
[Boing Boing Blog]

Personally I’m planning on being rescued by Mother Thing . She’ll know how to get me home.

I suppose I should download an electronic copy of Cory’s novel in case I get abducted before the copy I ordered from Amazon gets here.

Forward motion and self-organizing networks

Technicolor Blogmap.

An update to the Blogmap Project. Using the same Friendship links data from the Blog Tribe on Ryze, Valdis developed two new maps. The first map shows the Tribe’s network within Ryze with Tribe Members colored in magenta and non-members in blue. This differentiation makes clearer the size and linkages of the actual tribe.

Maps are great at revealing where you are. Combined with the whitepaper’s framework, it reveals that while the network has gained some strength through the centralized communication facilitated, it lacks redundancy and wider contribution. Recall that the community is only 2 months old and it is one without a specific organizing principle except the common interest of blogging, and one could say the progress has been fantastic, when measured by membership growth and linkage structures. But that image still disturbs me.

[Ross Mayfield’s Weblog]

More interesting data and analysis from Ross and Valdis. Ross expersses a bit of concern at his central positioning but none of this would be happening without his energy and commitment to the experiment. Something to remember in all this talk about networks and self-organizing systems.

There may not be a visible hierarchy but the energy still has to come from somewhere. Someone has to be the spark and put enough energy into the system for it to become self-sustaining and self-organizing. Here it’s started with Ross. He’s doing it in a way that is engaging the rest of us (witness his recent effort to promote a blog-buddy system at Ryze).

So, don’t just take a look at what Ross is up to, but get involved! Add to the forward motion .

Learning versus schooling

Beyond Couch Potatoes.

Beyond “Couch Potatoes”: From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors by Gerhard Fischer

The fundamental challenge for computational media is to contribute to the invention and design of cultures in which humans can express themselves and engage in personally meaningful activities. Cultures are substantially defined by their media and tools for thinking, working, learning, and collaborating. New media change (1) the structure and contents of our interests; (2) the nature of our cognitive and collaborative tools; and, (3) the social environment in which thoughts originate and evolve, and mindsets develop.

Unfortunately, a large number of new media are designed from the perspective of seeing and treating humans primarily as consumers. In personally meaningful activities, the possibility for humans to be and to act as designers (in cases in which they desire to do so) should be accessible not only to a small group of “high-tech scribes,” but rather to all interested individuals and groups. While the core message of the article applies to cultures, mindsets, media, technologies, and educational systems in general, my examples are mostly drawn from computational media, and more specifically from human computer interaction as a particular domain. [Gerhard Fischer] [via David Carter-Tod]

Gerhard Fischer is associate director of the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D) at University of Colorado at Boulder. This group is doing very interesting projects. I have been following their publications since 1999. Fischer’s focus is on “computational support of self-directed learning”. If I remember correctly I came across Frontier and Manila because of a project that was carried out by the group of Gerhard Fischer. I think it was called DynaSites… or something like that. So, if I wanted to create a BlogTree for my Weblogs, I would have to put the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D) right on the top. [Sebastian Fiedler]

[Seblogging News]

Following the bread crumbs back to L3D, I started poking around. Looks like a great new resource.

In one of Fischer’s presentations I discovered the following bit of negative feedback from an anonymous student:

I will not ever take a course of this nature again in my undergraduate career, and I hope to find a more structured graduate program with an adviser that is more forthcoming. I will reinforce my strengths by continuing to study in the method that I have developed over the past 15 years. I will redirect my weaknesses by avoiding unstructured class environments.

First, kudos to Fischer for sharing both positive and negative reactions to his work. More importantly, however, I wanted to react to the assumptions reflected in this bit of anonymous complaint because it’s symptomatic of an important distinction between schools and learning that’s caused me trouble as I’ve increasingly focused on the latter.

The more I learn about learning the more I discover how little most school and formal teaching/training environments are organized to promote learning. This isn’t new news, of course (see John Taylor Gatto’s or Roger Schank’s work for particularly strong views against formal education environments, for example). On the other hand, this news isn’t especially widespread. The “average” citizen may care about good schools, but hasn’t thought very much about how schools and learning connect. When and if they do, they seem to end up asking for some idealized vision of what they think school was like when they were in it.

DIGRESSION: When I was at Diamond, I helped create the training function there. I worked with Roger Schank and also with Tim Gallwey of Inner Game fame. I had Tim present his work at one of our All Hands meetings and he asked the group of about 300 at the time to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest) on how expert they felt they were about learning. The group average was about 7, I gave myself a 4, and Tim rated himself a 3.

I try to think in terms of setting up conditions that will contribute to better learning. That often leads to doing things that don’t look much like conventional classes or lectures and may not look like I’m doing very much in the mix. In the short term, this leads to reactions like the ones Fischer reports above. If you do it right, however, and can stay with it, you do have people coming back to you later to thank you. On the other hand, it is a very high risk strategy in most environments. Far easier to give the customers what they think they want.

I’m not making claims that I have this all figured out yet. Tenure isn’t the answer because by the time you’ve worked the system to that point, you’re likely to have forgotten what’s wrong with the system. If you’re lucky you land in one of the handful of institutions that get it and support it. One of the wonderful things about the blogging world is how it helps connect you to a larger universe of folks who are more interested in learning than schooling.

Weblogs and comments

Flamers and Weblog Comments. Nick Denton: Comments and Communities. One day, everybody will have a weblog, and a place to comment, and indexing systems… [Dan Gillmor’s eJournal]

More from Denton:

…this is the way to deal with flamers: let them post on their own damn sites. And then let everyone else ignore them. Weblogs are a gigantic interlinked discussion forum, in which it’s trivially easy to route around idiots.

I’ve been mulling over whether to enable comments on this site for some time. I’ve always found discussion groups disappointing, not just because of these who feel compelled to flame, but also for the choppy nature of the interaction. I’ve been much happier with the periodic cross-blog conversations that I’ve participated in. For now, that means no comments here.

I’m open to being convinced otherwise. If you do have an opinion and you don’t have a weblog, feel free to drop me a line Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog..

Learning and Community

Article : Learning is a Community Experience : By …. Article : Learning is a Community Experience : By Adele Goldberg – “Perhaps it is obvious – you do not learn alone, but you do take responsibility for your own education. (14-pages, 206 KB PDF)
* Go to Learning is a Community Experience, published in the July/August 2002 edition of the Journal of Object Technology [SynapShots]

Adele was one of the creators of the Smalltalk programming language. She worked at Xerox PARC with Alan Kay and later became the CEO of ParcPlace Systems where she worked to commercialize object-oiented technologies. This article contains her reflections on introducing object-oriented technologies and thinking to the technology world. Lots of good material.

I was struck by this definition of an educated person:

We think that an educated person is one who knows a little about a lot, and a lot about some focused subject area – one who reads broadly so is conversant on many topics, but one who holds his or her tongue when the hard data is not there to back up the inclination of that tongue.

Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if more of us took that advice to heart?

Some other excerpts:

learning on your own is preposterously hard given the quantity of new material regularly generated. Both filtering and selection techniques have to be taught so as to be able to focus without losing sight of the intellectually stimulating neighborhoods that surround any focus of attention.

Here is a small experiment to try when in a room with a group of 10-30 people.

Step 1. First, ask each individual to decide whether the group should consider the individual to be an expert in object technology. If you are an expert, then signal (by standing up) and remaining standing. (Note definition of “expert” vs proficient professional or virtuoso as defined by Peter Denning in the August 2001 issue of the CACM.)

Step 2. The non-experts, those who did not stand up, should find an expert to be physically near (they should physically leave their seats and move near the expert so as to be able to converse).

Step 3. Each non-experts should think about a question that relates to object technology, one whose answer the non-expert does not know and that is a reason why he or she is not to be considered an expert. Ask this question of the expert near you.

Step 4. If the expert was asked a question he or she could not answer, could the expert now designate himself or herself to be a non-expert and look for an expert who has the answer? After finding an answer, the individual can decide whether to stand up again as an expert.

An interesting outcome of this experiment is that, ultimately everyone designates him- or herself as a non-expert at some time in the process, with minor exception. And the exception is typically a developer who, although acknowledged to be an expert, can always find an unknown as a learning challenge but who, in the context of the experiment, was not stumped

Although, Goldberg’s focus is on object-oriented technology, her observations apply to learning and knowledge management issues in other settings as well.

Finally, I have to share one other comment from the article for those of us who have been afflicted with the programming bug at some point or other in our careers.

my colleague David Leibs likes to joke: programming is a personality disorder that you can test for

Getting your blog on the map

Metatags for Geographic Locations. GeoURL ICBM Address Server is a location-to-URL reverse directory. This will allow you to find URLs by their proximity to a given location. Find your neighbor’s blog, perhaps, or the web page of the restaurants near you.

Add yourself to the database.

For an example, check for sites near New York City and San Francisco. You can also get an RSS feed: see New York City RSS and San Francisco RSS (the RSS has an attached XSL stylesheet, so if your browser supports it, you will actually be able to see a reasonable rendering.)

Why is it called an “ICBM Address?” Old Usenet historical precedent [Smart Mobs]

Took me about 30 seconds to add myself to the database.

Social Network Mapping and Blogs

Blog Tribe Social Network Mapping.

Here is the initial social network analysis of the Blog Tribe at Ryze — which maps the Friendship networks and Blogrolls of Tribe members. What’s unique about this collaborative project is the mapping of blogspace and of how two unique communities intersect.

Thanks to the contributions of Valdis Krebs, Pete Kaminski, and those who volunteered to contribute their blogrolls, this is one of the largest online communities mapped. The data was captured within a month of the founding of the Blog Tribe, a snapshot in time that will be useful to return to, with 1,108 nodes from approximately 100 members. [full story]

[Ross Mayfield’s Weblog]

This seems like an appropriate item to launch 2003 with. I was one of the contributors of data for this experiment, so if you dig into the pictures and such you’ll find my name in there.

Ross did a great job pushing this along. He’s also tracking some of the early reactions to the data from others. Phil Wolff makes an interesting observation on the underlying differences between the Ryze and blogging environments. Most of the social network analysis efforts I’ve seen tend to look at reasonably homogeneous environments such as organizations. We did something along those lines in the early days at Diamond, when we worked with Wayne Baker from the University of Michigan to look at the network structure within our partner group. Very helpful to see the underlying structure of even a relatively small network of executives within a single organizations.

As I reflect on this particular analysis, I’m struck by the potential to find additional insight in mapping the bridges between multiple networks. Here we have a group who all belong to two explicit networks. How can we use these tools to get a better sense of how to more effectively navigate through half a dozen different yet interconnected networks?