Nick Heer on web hosting and user data

These are all concerning avenues for users. Adding advertising tends to mean user privacy is compromised, as ads become increasingly targeted by the day; shutting a company down means all user data gets removed, and it’s up to each user to find a new product or service to fill the hole. Rinse and repeat.

Arguably worse is when the company and all attached user data is acquired. There’s very little control any user has over that decision: they may like the original product, but are uncomfortable with the new owner. These decisions are impossible to foresee: if you signed up for Flickr ten years ago, or Tumblr five years ago, would you be expecting your photos and blog posts to end up in the hands of Verizon today?

Source: Don’t Cry for Yahoo — Pixel Envy

We see the same thing in education. Hopefully, a vendor is successful and things go smoothly. But, corporate (or open source) failures, acquisitions, or changes of terms will all impact what happens to student data.

We need to make sure we own our data, or at the very least have workable backups and/or exports that can be quickly spun up if things go south.

desocialmediafacating

I’ve been frustrated by how much time I burn away fidgeting with social media. Lately, it’s been essentially a form of self-regulation or soothing as it feels like civilization is melting down. Trump stumbles to pronounce a 5-letter acronym fed to him on a teleprompter? Ugh. To Twitter! etc.

The world isn’t melting down. I need to snap out of the pattern of just pissing away time on social media. So, I’ve deleted the Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone and iPad. And I’ve added a handy /etc/hosts file to my Mac that will block everything (even MySpace and Orkut! Thank Jebus!)

Anyway. I’m not deleting any accounts. I’m not disappearing. I’m (hopefully) just snapping out of this pattern of fidgetting with social media rather than doing literally anything else that is more interesting and productive and relevant to anything – even nothing. Life is too short for that kind of bullshit.

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You Don’t Have as Much Control in Videogames as You Think | WIRED

Warren Spector on dialogue:

“It’s very easy for us to simulate the pulling of a virtual trigger, and it’s very, very hard for us to simulate a conversation. I defy anybody to show me a conversation system in a game today that isn’t identical to the conversation systems that Richard Garriott was using in the ’80s. The big innovation in conversation systems now is that there’s a timer on your choice on the branching tree. And I just don’t think that’s good enough. But again, if I knew how to solve that problem I would. I’m not disparaging everybody in the game business. What I am saying is, I wish we would spend a little bit less time on combat AI and a little bit more on non-combat AI—on creating characters you can bond with on an emotional level.”

Source: You Don’t Have as Much Control in Videogames as You Think | WIRED

(via Patrick Finn on Facebook)

David Levy On the Agony Of Going Offline

David Levy, in “The Useless Agony of Going Offline“:

(He went offline for 72 hours over the new year’s long weekend. Productivity ensued.)

I didn’t miss my smartphone, or the goofy watch I own that vibrates when I receive an e-mail and lets me send text messages by speaking into it. I didn’t miss Twitter’s little heart-shaped icons. I missed learning about new things.

During the world’s longest weekend, it became clear to me that, when I’m using my phone or surfing the Internet, I am almost always learning something. I’m using Google to find out what types of plastic bottles are the worst for human health, or determining the home town of a certain actor, or looking up some N.B.A. player’s college stats. I’m trying to find out how many people work at Tesla, or getting the address for that brunch place, or checking out how in the world Sacramento came to be the capital of California.

What I’m learning may not always be of great social value, but I’m at least gaining some new knowledge—by using devices in ways that, sure, also distract me from maintaining a singular focus on any one thing.

I struggle with this (as I’m sure everyone does). “Screen time.” On the one hand, I’m shocked at how much time I spend with a magic internet device in my hand. On the other, I’m amazed at how much I read, and on such an incredible variety of topics. Pretty much instantaneous access to any current information, from pretty much anywhere on Earth. Is that a good thing? Breadth over depth? Is this mediating my experience with the “real world” – and does the “real world” mean “everything except those things that have a MAC address” (or are these things now part of the “real world” and so the either-or deliniation is false anyway)?

And, was David Levy’s sudden burst of non-screen productivity a result of non-screen-ness offline time, or was it the novelty of the situation that resulted him in doing a bunch of other things? Try it for a few months to find out… (I haven’t. I don’t think I will…)

Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap” | EL PAÍS

Q. You are skeptical of the way people protest through social media, of so-called “armchair activism,” and say that the internet is dumbing us down with cheap entertainment. So would you say that the social networks are the new opium of the people?

A. The question of identity has changed from being something you are born with to a task: you have to create your own community. But communities aren’t created, and you either have one or you don’t. What the social networks can create is a substitute. The difference between a community and a network is that you belong to a community, but a network belongs to you. You feel in control. You can add friends if you wish, you can delete them if you wish. You are in control of the important people to whom you relate. People feel a little better as a result, because loneliness, abandonment, is the great fear in our individualist age. But it’s so easy to add or remove friends on the internet that people fail to learn the real social skills, which you need when you go to the street, when you go to your workplace, where you find lots of people who you need to enter into sensible interaction with. Pope Francis, who is a great man, gave his first interview after being elected to Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist who is also a self-proclaimed atheist. It was a sign: real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you. Social media don’t teach us to dialogue because it is so easy to avoid controversy… But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.

Source: Zygmunt Bauman interview: Zygmunt Bauman: “Social media are a trap” | In English | EL PAÍS

Tyler Hellard on the state of journalism

Columnists, Gawker, ViralNova, porn and websites profiling other websites prove that the Internet was a wonderful thing and we absolutely broke the shit out of it. Well done, team!

So what’s the point? A lot of this stuff isn’t thought provoking, it’s rage provoking. Which, I suppose, makes it traffic/pick-up provoking, too. Newspapers are supposed to be for the benefit of public discourse, so it kills me that pageviews could be keeping these assholes in work. I love hate-reading as much as anyone (my entire Saturday is built around reading Wente’s column), but that doesn’t mean I think this stuff is good for society or that I’m not willing to go without. We don’t need these generic “person has opinions on all the things” columnists in our newspapers anymore. That’s what the Internet is for.

Burn it down.

Source: Pop Loser No. 42: Go Take a Flying Fuck at the Moon

Downes on lectures

The point of a lecture isn’t to teach. It’s to reify, rehearse, assemble and celebrate.

via Stephen’s Web.

Stephen ended his post linking to Tony’s blog post with what appears to be a throwaway line. It’s not. This is where the tension is centred when it comes to teaching. Lectures aren’t teaching, but have been used as a proxy for teaching because how else are you going to make sure 300 students get the appropriate number of contact hours? Butts-in-seats isn’t a requirement anymore. We can do more interesting things. And we can then use lectures for what they are good at. To reify, rehearse, assemble and celebrate.

on after-hours work email

The results were immediate and powerful. The employees exhibited significantly lower stress levels. Time off actually rejuvenated them: More than half said they were excited to get to work in the morning, nearly double the number who said so before the policy change. And the proportion of consultants who said they were satisfied with their jobs leaped from 49 percent to 72 percent. Most remarkably, their weekly work hours actually shrank by 11 percent—without any loss in productivity. “What happens when you constrain time?” Lovich asks. “The low-value stuff goes away,” but the crucial work still gets done.

via Are You Checking Work Email in Bed? At the Dinner Table? On Vacation? | Mother Jones. (via BoingBoing

I’d love to set this policy up at the office. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

Update: and… 5 minutes after sending the link to the article, and we have an informal policy in the Taylor Institute to try out prohibiting work-related emails before 8am and after 5pm, and on weekends. Awesome. It’s a start.

UofC budget

I haven’t seen an official breakdown of the impact of provincial budget cuts on the UofC itself. Saw this mention in a related article on executive salary freeze:

In its 2013 budget released two weeks ago, the province cut the University of Calgary’s operational budget by about $32 million, or seven percent.

The university states that is equal to a nine percent difference in funding when it includes a two per cent increase which was promised in the 2012 budget.

via Wage freeze for U of C executives – Calgary – CBC News.

also, the 9% difference is even higher, when accounting for inflation. likely more info available in tomorrow’s town hall meeting.

glad I’m not an executive…