Crossing from p.m. to a.m.

Posted December 15, 2008 by pdraper
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m not alone in wanting to be part of a “revolution”. There are so many different ways to be part of the new new thing. But the transformation from one day to the next is really a subtle thing. Let your attention drift for a couple minutes, and the clock has turned from 11:59 to 12:01 without the slightest fanfare (except maybe on one day of the year). ist2_973819_clock_at_midnight

Really the trick is keeping your eyes open to incremental movements — itty bitty things that will result in different weather tomorrow, or a headline a month from now, or new vocabulary a year from now.

Moving things from 11:59 to 12:01 requires unabated effort sometimes. A consistent leaning in one direction will eventually turn the largest boat. Sometimes a couple degrees to the left is all the movement that’s required, even if your objective seems completely orthogonal to where you are now.

TED and the replacement of the classroom

Posted April 29, 2009 by pdraper
Categories: educational technology

Tags: , , , , ,

There are three primary functions that a classroom education provides, especially at the college level.

  • Encyclopedic reference material and a guide who is very familiar with its contents who can help navigate the material. This has traditionally been the role of the textbook and the professor directing the use of the texbook.
  • Invigorating and insightful presentations of the content. This is the role of the lecturer.
  • One-on-one interaction to pinpoint, diagnose, and correct misconceptions and rusty skills. This is the role of the tutor, which may be a mix of classroom and office hour visits.

For this combination, a great deal of money is paid. However, more and more, these functions are becoming available in online vehicles that are just as usable and at least as productive.

The first element is rapidly being replaced by Wikipedia for reference and online news for currency. Students are voting with their wallets on the relative worth of books versus Wikipedia, much to the chagrin of higher education publishers.




The second element may soon also be on its way out, as online video becomes the default delivery. As an example of how good this can be, take a look at TED, short for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It is a growing collection of lectures by experts and inspirations of the highest class. Subjects span an already wide range, though not quite yet up to the range of departments at a typical university. Give it time.

The third element is still a way off, but when a solution is found, there will be real competition for classroom-style teaching.

Amazon consolidates its ebook position

Posted April 29, 2009 by pdraper
Categories: consumer technology, educational technology

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday 4/27, Lexcycle announced its acquisition by Amazon. Lexcycle is the maker of Stanza which, along with the Amazon Kindle app, comprise the two leading ebook reader apps on the market. Like the Kindle app, the Stanza app is free. By the end of 2008, Stanza had been downloaded a million times and was awarded Best Free App of 2008.

The Kindle app was a remarkable move by Amazon, opening the ebook experience to users who don’t have a Kindle device, and expanding their ebook storefront at to iPhone and iPod Touch users. To sweeten the pot, the geekerati that have both kinds of devices will find that the last place they read on one device is synched with the other device.

The Stanza acquisition opens the market even more, as Stanza supports purchases from storefronts other than Amazon. For example, libaries can loan ebooks rendered with Adobe PDF or EPUB formats using Adobe Content Server digital rights management. 

It’s not clear whether Amazon’s move is a preemptory, elbow-swinging defense of their market space, or whether they really see potential for combining the two complementary business models. 

From Lexcycle’s site:

We are not planning any changes in the Stanza application or user experience as a result of the acquisition. Customers will still be able to browse, buy, and read ebooks from our many content partners. We look forward to offering future products and services that we hope will resonate with our passionate readers.

We are excited to join forces with a company that has innovated on behalf of readers for over a decade and is a pioneer in ebooks. Like Amazon, we believe there is a lot of innovation ahead for ebooks and we could not think of a better company to join during this exciting time.

Browsing the Lexcyle user forums, there is a mix of optimism and pessimism about the consolidation. For example, one anonymous poster wrote:

So I’m wondering where the purchase of LEXCYCLE by Amazon is going to lead Stanza. I mean lets be perfectly honest here, there’s very little to gain by Amazon from leaving Stanza alone. So, I see this going one of two ways:

1.) Is Amazon going to roll the Stanza application (desktop & iPhone) into their existing Kindle infrastructure… ie. take the desktop app, the ePub technology and toss the rest away or

2.) Is Stanza going to gain the ability to read the .azw format and purchase books OTA from Amazon?

What does seem plain is that, with this move, the other players in this space, like the Sony eBook Reader, are now at an enormous disadvantage. Expect that a number of these also-rans will dry up and blow away before 2009 elapses.

What may also be in play is Amazon actually anticipating its eventual capitulation of the device to Apple and the horde of me-too’s. Steve Jobs famously dismissed Bezos’s Kindle as an unusable piece of junk and expressed the further thought that people don’t read books anymore. But if the rumors of a “media pad” with a 9.5″ touchscreen from Apple do turn out to be more than rumors, then this device would easily out-Kindle the Kindle. Apple doesn’t have to market such a device as an eBook reader. It would just be one of the many things the new device can do, thanks to the App Store. When other manufacturers start to mimic the new device, the Kindle’s fate (the device, not the app, not the business model) would be sealed.

Apple cranking to shake everything up again?

Posted April 28, 2009 by pdraper
Categories: consumer technology

Tags: , , , , , ,

Whether you love them or hate them, Apple has a tendency to cause wide ripples when they enter the market space with a new product. The iPod and iTunes redefined the consumer end of the music business. The iPhone and the App Store completely altered market expectations of what a cell phone is supposed to do for you, and how software is developed and sold. In both cases, the devices caused an industry realignment around me-too campaigns.

So, rumors are a-flyin’ about two new developments which are not as interesting from the Apple product perspective as they are from the field-changing potential. They are expected in the second half of this year.

The first is an iPhone-lite, smaller and thinner than the present iPhone. What’s interesting about this is that the deal negotiations are with Verizon, which means that Apple intends to open up its market penetration by providing different products from its line-up to different carriers. This may also be a preemptive strike against the Palm Pre, which is the only strong contender against the iPhone and in active talks with Palm.

The second is something without a name other than some kind of “media pad”, which has been reported to be smaller than an Amazon Kindle, but with a larger touchscreen than the Kindle’s screen. It is rumored to be something on which you’d play music, HD movies, and photos. But think about it a minute. That’s the nominal description of an iPod Touch (except for HD), but with the App Store, the iPod Touch is much more than that. It’s a facebook client, an ebook reader, a calendar keeper, a web browser, and (with the Skype app) a phone. Plus, it’s rumored that this will also be distributed through Verizon Wireless, which means that the wireless network connection would be much more than just wifi zones. leatherholes-apple

We’ve pooh-poohed here the notion of an Apple netbook, as that term is usually understood — a low-cost, low-capability, traditional format laptop. But we’ve also said that this doesn’t rule out a new breed of device that starts a new wave of “we can make that too” hysteria and changes the industry. In this case, what it may well mean is a significant change in what is sold in the Electronics department at WalMart, as well as what’s sold in wireless stores like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, and so on. It may not be long before you’re headed to the Verizon Wireless store to buy a computer for your kid going to college in the fall.

15 most dangerous US cities

Posted April 27, 2009 by pdraper
Categories: politics and economics

Tags: , , ,

Forbes has just preduced a list of the most dangerous cities in America, from 2008 FBI data. Are you as surprised as me about what cities are not on this list, and about the southeastern concentration of the ones that are on the list?

Numbers in parentheses are violent crimes per 100,000 people.

  1. Detroit, Michigan (1220)
  2. Memphis, Tennessee (1218)
  3. Miami, Florida (988)
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada (887)
  5. Stockton, California (885)
  6. Orlando, Florida (845)
  7. Little Rock, Arkansas (837)
  8. Charleston, South Carolina (824)
  9. Nashville, Tennessee (817)
  10. Baltimore, Maryland (791)
  11. New Orleans, Louisiana (773)
  12. Baton Rouge, Louisiana (728)
  13. West Palm Beach, Florida (726)
  14. Charlotte, North Carolina (721)
  15. Philadelpha, Pennsylvania (709)

“Whoops,” CERN physicists quoted as saying.

Posted April 27, 2009 by pdraper
Categories: science

Tags: , ,

In an unexpected development, web cams near the Large Hadron Collider recorded an unexpected development. Reviewing their calculations which showed that the LHC could not possibly create a black hole, physics now acknowledge that they forgot to convert inches to centimeters at one point in the calculation.