comments on facebook

These comments were started in response to a friend, who was taking a stand against Facebook and their take-it-or-leave-it end user license agreement (EULA). They’re not the most profound comments, nor the most well-crafted, but I think they need to exist (also) outside of Facebook’s corporate walled garden. Ironically, after I posted the first comment, the Facebook iPad app prompted me to take a survey about how (un)comfortable I was with the state of Facebook, with specific questions asking about the algorithmic feed. So, I filled it in to indicate that I am very (VERY) uncomfortable with the algorithmic news feed…

From the Facebook post that triggered my responses:

OK, then: I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future. With this statement, I give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any other action against me based on this profile and/or its contents. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity. All members must post a note like this. If you prefer, you can copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.

And, my responses:

No. By using Facebook, you give them the right to do everything outlined in their EULA. You don’t have to like it, but you agreed to it by activating your account. I’m seriously considering nuking my Facebook account (again, for maybe the third time) because of Facebook’s creepiness and overreaching, and their messing around with privacy and experimentation with algorithms – I can’t trust their algorithmic news feed because I have no idea how it works (but I do – it is obviously optimized to maximize eyeball-time rather than to act as a news feed). But Facebook is where many of my extended family exist online, and where many of my non-online-innovation friends hang out. So, I’m stuck. Nuke my FB account to withdraw from corporate greed, or keep connected with friends and family, while choking back the distaste. Sigh.

I’d guess that unless FB is reclassified as a utility rather than a proprietary social network, there’s not much hope. It’s completely their game, and if we don’t like it, we have to leave. Or, governments have to step in to say it’s more than a social network and needs to be regulated to ensure we have fair and equitable access to the information managed on our behalf. It’s now the biggest news publisher, with no transparency on editorial oversight over the algorithms. Kind of a scary thing to have in a democracy…

and so, here we are. Democracy vs. Capitalism. When many (most?) people are unclear about the definitions of either. When everyone is a lottery ticket (or a TLC reality show contract) away from being a millionaire, they identify with successful capitalists and against “the people” (who are then recast as freeloaders and bums). When popularity and fame are equated with democratic representation, we’re left with reality show dropouts as viable contenders for the most powerful governmental position on the planet. Holy shit this is scary stuff.

on tony bates retiring

Dr. Bates has been seriously kicking ass for many years. He’s decided to retire – and he deserves it. I can’t even imagine how much energy he’s dedicated to the field of teaching-and-learning, and eLearning, over the last few decades. Well earned retirement.

His post announcing the decision is full of gems. I have to admire his no-BS summary of the state of eLearning.

Even the processes of learning, which used to be relatively stable, given how much is biological, are also undergoing change. Technology is not neutral; it does change the way we think and behave. Furthermore, I foresee major developments in the science of learning that will have major implications for teaching and learning – but it will also have major false directions and mistakes (be very careful with artificial intelligence in particular). So this is a field that needs full-time, professional application, and very hard work, and I just don’t have the energy any more to work at that level. To put it simply, this is not a profession where you can be half in and half out. Dabbling in online learning is very dangerous (politicians please note).


And then there’s MOOCs. I can’t express adequately just how pissed off I am about MOOCs – not the concept, but all the hubris and nonsense that’s been talked and written about them. At a personal level, it was as if 45 years of work was for nothing. All the research and study I and many others had done on what makes for successful learning online were totally ignored, with truly disastrous consequences in terms of effective learning for the vast majority of participants who took MOOCs from the Ivy League universities. Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational. And the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker. This is a battle I no longer want to fight – but it needs fighting. But my reaction did make me wonder, am I just an old man resisting the future? And that has definitely left a mark.

I’d been hoping to find a way to get Tony to visit our campus to work with our Learning Technologies Task Force. Looks like that’s out. But I look forward to following his writing. This is a guy who’s been working in this field for decades, in various roles, and who has had the good fortune to travel and see what various institutions are doing. That’s gold.

Congrats, Tony!

scanning the family photo archives

I picked up a scanner a couple of months ago, and have been slowly scanning in old photos when I get a chance. A few batches in, and I’ve already done 451 photos. I’m viewing the activity as potentially rescuing family history from fading pieces of paper. I have no idea if JPEG files will still be readable in 100 years, but it’s worth a shot to try to preserve photos going back well over 100 years (the oldest photo is from before 1893).

Family archives

As I scan, I try to add as much metadata as I have – often it’s just a scrawl of a name on the back of the photo print. I’m struck by how metadata poor many of these photos are. I can’t even guess at what decade some of them were taken in. Some have a name or two provided, some a year, and some have a wealth of hand-written documentation. And the quality of the photos themselves – there are a handful that I’d describe as not bad. The vast majority are absolute crap, technically. Blurry, poorly exposed, and small – several of the older photos are only available as 1-square-inch prints – I’m guessing the cost of printing photos back in the 1920s-1940s made it prohibitive, but even when cranking up the resolution of the scans to 1200dpi, there’s just not a lot of image to work with.

Family archives 2

Some of the oldest photos, of my grandparents and my dad in his childhood, kind of blow me away. Especially, knowing that they’d likely be lost forever without being rescued. The only metadata available for many of the photos is inferred – either through association with other photos that have rudimentary data scribed on the back – or via automated tools like face recognition. It’s interesting to see names get pulled out of group photos, and to see photos of individual family members spanning over several decades.

Leonard norman photos

Contrast that with the almost 30,000 photos in my own family archive (with a few hundred more ready to be scanned in a couple of banker’s boxes in the basement). Most of those photos have at least some metadata, and everything in the last few years has buckets of automated data – location, time, etc… – assuming Aperture library and image
files will be somehow readable in a few decades…

on 2012

what a year. this is not a sappy end-of-year recap, but I needed to take a step back to see just what an epic year it’s been. in rough chronological order:

  • a bunch of LMS-related activities, to try to kickstart discussion about what to select
  • traveled to mexico to watch my niece get married on a beach
  • got the all-clear after a potential cancer scare
  • Northern Voice conference (likely my last)
  • rode my bike a lotBanff Gran Fondo and Highwood Pass (twice) and a bunch of other great rides. over 5000km throughout the year. woohoo!
  • Open Education conference (hopefully not my last)
  • got to ride in an ambulance
  • almost lost a parent (heart attacks suck)
  • lost a friend, mentor, colleague (heart attacks suck)
  • realized that winter bike riding freaks my wife out, so decided to cut back on that. cue trainer. less woohoo, but still…
  • finished my thesis, passed oral exam, completed MSc.
  • continued working on the cat herding that is the LMS upgrade project, but stumbled closer to completion.

still working on the whole work/life balance thing. the loss and near-loss (and cancer scare and ambulance ride) kind of kickstarted a focus on fixing that. I struggle with maintaining a sense of perspective. the oldest surviving post on my blog, over a decade ago, is about the same thing (back then, triggered by impending dad-hood). so, yeah. balance.

PSA: Guys, get your stuff checked

First, this is not a pity party thing. If things go that way, comments get turned off or this post disappears.

I finally got a GP, after 20 years without having a regular doctor. Drop-in clinics just don’t cut it. So I see him, and he gives me a pretty thorough checkup. If you know what I mean. And he pauses, and checks again. He says there’s something he’s feeling, while examining a nut.

Not the kind of thing you want to hear. He explains that it’s most likely nothing, but it’s worth checking it out. He writes up an order for a scrotal ultrasound. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

I book the ultrasound, and go to the appointment. Super easy procedure. The tech took about 10 minutes, to get a full image. A couple days later, I get a call from my doctor. He wants to talk about the results. I think to myself “that’s good news, right?”

I meet the doctor as soon as I can, which is a couple days after the call. Not great sleep in the meantime.

He tells me they found something. That it’s not necessarily a tumor. But if it is a tumor, odds are that it’s cancer, based on where it is. They can’t do a biopsy, due to the type of mass or something – they’re scared that a biopsy would just spread the cells. If it’s malignant, that’d be Bad.

So, we get to play a waiting game. Another ultrasound in a few months, to compare. If it’s a tumor, it’ll be bigger, and we can figure out what to do then.

It’s not easy to be calm about this. I’ve had freakouts. It’s scary having to think about this stuff, feeling like my body has betrayed me, and hoping it turns out to be nothing.

So, really, I don’t have any information. We wait. But I wanted to tell everyone to get their stuff checked. I don’t think of a 42 year old guy as being the poster child for this kind of thing. But here I am. Something on a nut that probably shouldn’t be there.

I’m going to try documenting the process. This shouldn’t be a secret, and sharing it might help someone.

Get your stuff checked.


I’ve had epilepsy since I was a child. I think I was around 3 when it started. Not very often, but about once every year or so. Not often enough to be a real problem, but often enough to loom over me and get in the way. I didn’t get a driver’s license until I was 32, just prior to my son’s birth.

I hadn’t had a seizure (confirmed as a genuine seizure, anyway) since my first year as an undergrad – back in 1987. It’s been a long, long time.

But, I had one the day before Northern Voice. Thankfully, I was in a safe place (in every meaning of the word), and my friends were absolutely amazing at helping me feel comfortable and recover. Before I get a seizure, I get an aura as a warning. Since it had been so long, I tried to ignore it. I figured it was low blood sugar or something. Then, I could feel myself slipping, and I was gone. The next thing I remember is fragmented snapshots of my friends standing over me, looking worried.

I didn’t say anything to the rest of my friends who were in town for Northern Voice, because I didn’t want the thing to turn into Are You OK? Fest 2010. I was fine. After a good night’s sleep, I felt completely back to normal. There was no point in telling anyone else.

But, it took me much longer to recover from the seizure than ever before, so I needed to get things checked out. I saw a doctor today, to get a referral to a neurologist (my own neurologist sadly passed away a few years ago, and I never had the need to be transferred to a new one until now). The doctor wrote a prescription for the meds I used to take, to hold me over until I can get in to see a neurologist and we figure out what’s going on.

I won’t be driving for some time. The bottle of IPA in the fridge is likely the last beer I’ll have in a long, long time. Things will be different, but not radically so. I already ride my bike to and from work, and will be doing more of that to run errands.

Why am I writing this? I remember when I was a kid, I was terrified that people would find out I had epilepsy. That they’d think something was wrong or damaged. It was something to hide. I don’t want to do that anymore. My epilepsy is not a big deal.