Saturday, June 23, 2007

One day, your computer will be a big-ass table

Via TechCrunch, a great parody of Microsoft Surface, the ten thousand dollar table-sized information appliance.

Microsoft Surface Parody Video

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Defense secretary doesn't use email!

And people are just floored by this. At Wired's Danger Room blog, Noah Schachtman says:

The U.S. military is the most technologically-sophisticated fighting force on the planet.  And it is being lead [sic] by a man less computer-savvy than my 93 year-old grandmother.

The difference, obviously, is that Noah Schachtman's grandmother will probably never have to worry about a subpoena.

Danger Room - Wired Blogs

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Two campaigns' online strategies

Two interesting blog posts have appeared today, looking at two of the most Internet-savvy presidential campaigns.

First up, TechPresident reports on Obama on the Go, a mobile campaign with its own shortcode (Obama is lucky enough to have a five-character name). You can join to get campaign updates, download ringtones and wallpaper, and (possibly) submit your own. The idea looks well executed, and Justin Oberman concludes:
It looks like it has been a smooth launch for Obama mobile. I hope the campaign keeps the alerts focused on the mobile medium and doesn't just send out reminders to visit websites and watch television. The mobile medium is best accessed as a form of digital self expression and call to action. Obama has been good with that in the past, now let's see if he can translate it to the fastest growing digital medium in the United States.
Of the top tier candidates, Obama is consistently ahead in adopting social networking and now mobile technologies, and that gives him the potential to spread messages virally and to leverage the inventiveness of his supporters. Whether this translates into a winning strategy remains to be seen.

But let's go to the second tier of candidates. Here, Ron Paul has really jumped in with both feet -- paradoxically, by avoiding creating much infrastructure, as Todd Ziegler reports:

In all the talk about the Ron Paul online machine, there has been very little discussion of his actual campaign website, which has recently undergone a facelift. His approach is novel. Instead of building an infrastructure on his own campaign website. like most candidates have done, Paul has created a portal to his presences on various third party websites.

The Paul website itself essentially consists of a homepage, an issues section, a bio page, a donation form, a sign up form and a blog. Interestingly for the social candidate, his blog doesn’t even allow comments. Instead, it encourages visitors to discuss/interact with the blog content on social sites like Digg,, StumbleUpon and Facebook. He seems to deliberately avoid building a community on his own site. Due to this, supporters have no choice but to organize elsewhere.

Ziegler goes on to talk about how brilliant this is, and I concur: people already have accounts on other internet services, so why not leverage that? The campaign avoids the expense of developing and adminstering these services. Of course, this means giving up control of these services, but that's not necessarily a drawback for a candidate looking to break out of the pack.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Facebook vs. Blackboard

The other day, I idly wondered if Facebook could replace Blackboard. After all, Blackboard suffers from slow development, poor aesthetic design, and middling (at best) interaction design. Its main advantage at UT is that it has been integrated with UTDirect, so students are automatically signed up in their classes.

Compare that with Facebook, which has great scalability and development, good aesthetic and interaction design, and a huge base. You can set up private and public groups, create events, etc. You can't post grades, but UT has a separate secure gradebook for that anyway. Oh, and Facebook is free.

Checking Facebook out today, I notice that BJ Fogg from Stanford has set up a Facebook group on "Teaching and learning with Facebook." He lists three main advantages of using Facebook:

Compared to other online systems, Facebook's tools for groups are limited. Facebook offers no wiki, no group notifications, no applications you can install on a group page. Despite the current limitations (which we all hope will change soon), Facebook has big potential for teaching and learning.

Facebook offers three clear advantages over any other solution:

#1. Our students use Facebook and like it
In most cases our students are already on Facebook. They hang out here. They like it. As teachers we bring our expertise and learning processes into their world.

#2. The social connections are built in
Facebook maps out students' social connections. This can be used in many ways, such as having students get peer feedback on their work. (The value of Facebook's Social Graph is a big topic, which we'll explore together in the coming weeks.)

#3. New applications launched daily
Facebook is adding applications faster than any other company. It seems that most days someone posts a new app that benefits teaching and learning. Soon we'll have a wealth of options. Most important: All this functionality will be integrated with social connections. (This last idea probably should be point #4.)

Facebook | Teaching & Learning with Facebook

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Mobile YouTube

I'm a little late on this, but YouTube now has a site for mobile devices. I tried it, and it works okay, although only a portion of the YouTube library is available for mobiles right now. My sense is that this is going to do a lot more for mobile viewing than the canned content the service providers are offering. YouTube is really ideal for mobile viewing -- mostly short low-fi clips.

Mobile YouTube

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