Thursday, September 11, 2008

Assistant Professor position, Emerging Communication Technologies and Digital Media

Are you in rhetoric or a related field? Do you study digital media? Are you an assistant professor or about to receive your Ph.D.? And have you ever dreamed of working at a Research I university in the (self-proclaimed) music capital of the world?

You may be in luck. We're hiring. I'm the chair of the hiring committee.

Don't hesitate to contact me over email if you have questions, and please disseminate widely to your graduate students, friends, etc.

The Department of Rhetoric & Writing (DRW) at The University of Texas at Austin is accepting applications for an assistant professor position in emerging communication technologies and digital media, including video and gaming, and with emphasis on production.

DRW faculty members have the opportunity to teach a wide array of courses designed to contribute to the undergraduate major in Rhetoric and Writing and the graduate concentration in Digital Literacies and Literatures -- all with the support of our nationally renowned Computer Writing and Research Lab (CWRL), which operates state-of-the-art computer classrooms. As a member of the DRW faculty, the selected candidate will be expected to teach at all levels of our curriculum, to direct dissertations, MA reports, and honors theses, to publish actively, and to offer service to the Department, the College, and the University.

The successful candidate will demonstrate both a scholarly and a pedagogical commitment to the intersections of rhetoric and technology studies and should have completed a PhD in rhetoric and writing or a related field prior to start date.

The DRW boasts a dynamic, collegial, nationally and internationally recognized faculty with interests in the history, theory, and criticism of rhetoric, composition theory and pedagogy, technologies of writing, visual rhetoric, empirical research, writing in the disciplines and professions, rhetoric and poetics, and language and literacy studies. Sub-units of the DRW include the Undergraduate Writing Center, the Computer Writing and Research Lab, and the College of Liberal Arts Writing Across the Curriculum Initiative. Teaching load is 2/2; salary is competitive.

Application deadline is October 31, 2008.

Email a letter of application, curriculum vita, dissertation abstract, and statement of teaching philosophy (no longer than one page) to Search Committee Chair Clay Spinuzzi at

Also submit three letters of recommendation via U.S. Mail to:

Clay Spinuzzi, Search Committee Chair

Department of Rhetoric & Writing
1 University Station B5500
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712-0200

Position funding is pending budgetary approval. A background check will be conducted on successful candidate. The University of Texas at Austin is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Google Docs continues to add functionality

Today it added support for tables of contents and dictionaries. These were available in the past through Javascript hacks, but are now officially supported.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Automating location-based mobile tasks

This article on HeyCosmo got me thinking. From the article:
To capitalize on the growing mobile market, a company called HeyCosmo is launching two new location-based service designed for use on both the web and the phone. The first service, HeyCosmo Concierge, wants to help you save time on everyday tasks like making dinner reservations or finding an affordable contractor. The second, HeyCosmo Blaster, is a social event planning tool.
HeyCosmo's software goes about these tasks the wrong way, in my opinion, by essentially pushing people into phone trees:
The easiest example of this would be making dinner reservations. Instead of you calling restaurants one-by-one in order to find an 8:00 PM seating for a party of five, you could use HeyCosmo Concierge to do the dialing for you. With an automated, but customizable, message, its robo-dialer immediately contacts all the restaurants in your area (and this can be narrowed down by cuisine, too) and asks the recipient of the call to press (1) for yes, we can accommodate you, (2) no, we cannot accommodate you, etc. in response to the initial recorded greeting and question. The particular questions and how they are phrased can be specified by you. You can also record your own voice if desired. At the end of the messages, an ad will play, which is how the service makes money.
This is of course the wrong way to solve the problem. People hate phone trees and automated calls. Putting these two together is a terrible idea. It's the opposite of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. It's the Reese's from Hell. I predict that concierges will become adept at hanging up on such calls.

However, something like this could work quite well if HelloCosmo Concierge talked with an automated service on the restaurant's end. Push it from the restaurant's side, peg the pricing structure to the number of connections, and find a way to incentivize customers' use. Unfortunately, restaurants won't have an incentive to help customers comparison-shop.

Thinking about how HelloCosmo tries to automate location-based mobile tasks leads me to thinking about the problem more generally. Currently, the web-based task management system Remember the Milk allows you to associate tasks with locations. For instance, if you want to "remember the milk," you might put "get milk" as a task and associate it with a grocery store location. However, you still have to supply the trigger: you have to check the location to see what tasks are available. That's because your computing device is not currently location-aware.

It will not always be so. More mobile phones have GPS, and are being used increasingly as primary computing devices. Remember the Milk has an iPhone-based application, for instance. The next logical step is for the application to proactively sample your location and push tasks that you could perform at the location. You won't be able to forget the milk if your phone reminds you every time you get within 50 yards of the grocery store, for instance. Or to take another example, you might associate a task with another person ("get that loaned book back from Lauren") and your phone will remind you next time Lauren is in your office.

We're starting to see the beginnings of this sort of leverage going on with the iPhone, although it's slowed by Apple's walled garden approach. I predict an explosion of such capabilities with Android, although I worry that Android will not be fully baked at the time it ships. Either way, I imagine that a year from now, this post will seem quaint.


Here's a fascinating example of how a New York Times article on the Olympics was translated and, er, copyedited for the Beijing Evening News.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Twitter for the Enterprise

Yammer, which launched today at TC50, is being billed as "Twitter for companies."
Yammer is an enterprise version of Twitter. If Twitter asks: “What Are You Doing?”, Yammer asks: “What Are You Working On?”
I expect to see a lot more like this.