Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Social Search Network

I am watching the interview on CBS 60 Minutes about Mark Zuckerberg and the new Facebook upgrades; specifically FB Messages and Profile.

I have been running FB Messages for a few weeks now and it has taken all comments and messages I have generated with my friends since 2006 and listed them all in this one area. I have a complete timeline of all messages with them. When I send messages now, I have combined texting and email all in one window. I now have a Facebook email address at where even non-Facebook users can get a hold of me.

I just started playing with the new profile feature which changes how people learn about me. Before, there was a lot more clicking. Now, the heading at the top of the page lists the basic information I would be comfortable sharing with someone new. I can add and change the profile information and I am still keeping my profile private to only the friends that I want to share that information with.

All this is nice and makes for an easier navigation with Facebook. It is a design factor that has been needed to reduce the amount of clicking for information. But this isn't the WOW Factor of the new Facebook. The wow, shock and awe is now seen in the function of search in Facebook.

Facebook has gathered all of our likes and mentions of products so that we are the collective information hub for our network. You can see on sites like CNN, CBS, and product sites where friends either recommend or like a certain part of the page. This information ties back to Facebook and the search engine will help us not just find information but get a personal experience or note from our friends based on what we search for.

The search box now lets me search for products and shop the comments and "likes" of my entire network. Instead of just searching for topics in a generic search engine, I am searching my friends for a shared shopping experience. If I started to shop for a Toyota Prius, I will get the recommendations and notes of my friend network.

We are now a social search network and that is a direct competition with Google and Bing and other search engines. Search has now become personal. This is something these other sites haven't been able to create because the network is fractured. Some of us are Bing users or Google users but ALL of us are Facebook users.

Is the search result more or less valuable when it is recommended by a friend?

What happens when information is presented in results guided by the thumbs-up "like" by your network?

What value is your social network when it now becomes your guide for finding information online?

Try the search for yourself by typing in a product or media in the search box. Click on the result and then scroll down to see friends who like this product. I am guessing you can now contact these friends to find out why they like the product. Each of us become pseudo-experts in what we are liking because we are now references for the searches our network will attempt.

I hope my network needs my advice on videos of people falling! :)

There are so many possibilities and many more questions to consider based on this change. I am really blown away by the new Facebook. I look forward to exploring more and seeing what they come up with next!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Being a Selective Media Consumer

I am a selective media consumer.

I pay for only the content I want to watch or listen to.

I do not watch network programming.

It is rare for me to see or hear commercials for new products.

I have access to what I want to watch on all my mobile devices.

This is not a new concept nor is it going away.

For years, I have been a satellite radio subscriber. I have access to over 180 channels of content that is for the most part, commercial free. Each channel offers a specific music or talk selection. The model for satellite radio has been one that I have watched grow in television programming.

Corporate entertainment programming is suffering because of people like me. They know that we are not bound to their entertainment schedules. We don't count in their ratings because we don't watch during their commercialized drive time. And ratings is what equals money from sponsors. People like me are throwing a wrench in mass-media and consumer commercialization. Want to be like us?

1. Remove the cable box. You don't need it.

My cable bill is only $40 a month for Internet access. The other money I used for paying for commercialized television now goes to subscriptions that don't have commercials.

2. Subscribe to Netflix, HuluPlus, and/or Amazon Player.
Subscribe to content. Pay for satellite radio for your car especially if you drive often and for long distances. When you don't have commercial interruption, you have more enjoyment of the programming you listen to.

3. Watch an entire television show without commercials or waiting a week for the next episode.
The show "24" is a great example of being able to follow so much action and plot without interruption. You can knock out an entire season in a week if you use a portable device while working out!

4. When your DVD player burns out, don't replace it with another or even waste money on BluRay. Why do you keep buying these?!? More and more of our entertainment companies are releasing their videos through Internet streaming. Plus you don't have to waste time ripping them to play on your portable devices.

5. Invest in a portable streaming media device.
I researched and selected the Roku XDS which is a portable streaming media device that connects a TV to the programming I was already watching on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. There are many out there and they all seem to cost about $99.

6. SHIFT your perspective about media.
The question I am most often asked is "so, can you subscribe to [insert specific network] on your device?" The answer is "no". Nor do you want to.

This is about removing the grid of the TV Guide. You aren't restricted by the grid anymore. Your viewing experience is now about the shows you want to watch. Not the time slot.

7. Become a LIVE CONTRIBUTOR to Content.
I listen to live content on the radio and watch live demonstrations on some shows. On two shows in particular, I instant message with a producer about some ideas on content and I am in a chat room with other listeners discussing the content. I am an actively participating in what I am entertained by. This is way beyond just voting for an American Idol.

8. Consider developing your own content.
When setting up my Roku, I saw several free channels that people can subscribe to including church programming and the Khan Academy. Now it appears that if you have content to share, you could make a channel for it with little experience.

I wonder if we would see a TEA channel? A Teacher Channel? A Project Share channel? Sounds like something to look into....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nice note...from a scorpion

Gus the Scorpion is the mascot for one of the elementary campuses in my district. Today he sent a really nice note to my Superintendent:

Joel Adkins is the stuff of which legend is made;
His value's beyond what can be measured or weighed.
When we need him, he's there,
Like a breath of "smart" air!
Eduphorically, he has made the grade!

Whether it is digital storytelling, podcasting student council announcements, skyping with authors/illustrators, broadcasting book trailers, and supporting student/teacher media projects, Joel has never failed to teach, encourage and assist (even in the evenings.) He always leaves you knowing more than before and excited/capable to tackle something new.

Please know that in a world of problems, good things are happening. I may be a small, quiet scorpion but I know a good thing when I see it! Joel Adkins has been a big support to Mrs. Hopkins and her pet projects. The kids at Starkey benefit greatly from his knowledge.

Please know that I am always available to assist you and our district in any way.

Best wishes and keep up the good work,
Gus the Starkey Scorpion

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

White Space

A few years ago I really started focusing on the concept of "White Space" and the future of wifi-mesh. It seemed so distant to figure out how the world would be able to access the Internet. Having moved to a rural district, I have been waiting to hear how our telecommunications companies will be able to provide high speed Internet to homes out here.

The concept of White Space involves using the broadcast signal left behind in the old analog cable television system. You know what this is also called? The American Broadcast System - meaning it is owned and regulated by the American public. White space is the spectrum that resides in the old analog systems of cable that have been "off" since we all moved to digital cable last year. These companies have been working on building systems to work in the white space spectrum

Short and sweet idea: Motorola, HP, Microsoft, Google and other manufacturers will have a product that will attach to your cable port in any room in your house that has a cable port. This product will create a wireless access point that can share the wireless spectrum through your home. Your neighbors will get these as well. Your neighborhood is now a wireless mesh. Your city is a mesh through your county. The more buildings with cable ports, the more opportunity to strengthen the mesh.

EVERY home in the United States with a cable drop is a potential customer for a white space access point. EVERY home!

The spectrum is the key and the FCC is starting to open up some more of this spectrum for development of applications.

Keep your eyes and ears open on "white space" tech. It is really interesting.

For those in rural areas, keep a watch on the FCC limiting the pipeline to certain areas. The web should be equal access for everyone no matter where they live. Internet neutrality is BIG in this discussion. Keep watch!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I met with my "mentee" today who left teaching elementary students to teach Computer Applications to middle school kids. This is a passionate teacher. A teacher who had energy with her kids and kept the room active when she taught elementary. She got involved in committees about technology and innovation. She was our district SMART trainer and she really knows her stuff about teaching with technology.

She had asked me to come observe and make suggestions. Within 15 minutes, I had filled up a page.

The concept of "this is the way we've always done it" was made clear viewing students learn about Output Devices using a workbook and a highlighter. She showed me the stack of resources left to her with notes about how the previous teacher had taught.

They managed to get through the highlighting portion of class when she took them on a journey to Glogster. This is one of those tools she excels at and it really was great for the kids to get their hands on something productive. But she spent the rest of the time answering raised hands about "how do I....".

I left my notes so I am drawing from memory, but this is what I would say to ANY Computer Lab teachers:

1. Your room is not designed like other classrooms. You are competing with computers for the kids attention. Each day, you will lose if you keep competing with the computer. Because your room is not like other classrooms, you need to let go of teaching as they do in other classrooms.

2. Throw away books and workbooks. Keep the teacher edition for yourself as a guide ONLY.

3. Instead of reading vocabulary words, use Google News to look up those words and their relevance TODAY. Let the kids learn about the products involving those words and then define them as they learn about the relevance of that product or discovery. Today's lesson was on resolution. Yesterday Apple introduced new devices that have a revolutionary type of resolution. Take the lesson further to let them predict future resolution type devices.

4. Create projects based on the discoveries of the group. Based on what concepts they learn, create projects where they apply the technology tools. Print these or post online. These will be the reference points for reviewing for tests and future projects.

5. Create a safe place. You have to tell them that your room is safe to ask questions of their neighbors, to collaborate and to click around and explore. You have to tell them this. You have to educate them that they don't have to ask YOU for help.

When introducing a new concept or lesson, setup a timer if you need to and give them 10 minutes to click around and discover without asking for help. Let them fail and start over. Then discuss as a group what they discovered, what they liked, what they didn't like and HOW THEY WOULD MAKE A PROGRAM or TOOL BETTER.

6. Not all lessons need to be done in a computer lab. Reserve classrooms during conference times, use a conference room or multi-purpose lab to go over expectations on projects where you can sit at eye-level with the students. Collaborate with them about projects and your expectations on time and production.

I left her my notes and planned a visit in the future where I can help her with a lesson. I will be in there all day with her watching, tweaking and then helping her reflect on ways to improve.

I love this. This is the job I would love to do each day. This isn't about a specific software or device. This is about the technology of innovative education. This is about pushing the boundaries and creating an environment of collaborative work between teacher and student. I have been vocal to this teacher about my jealousy that she is getting to teach this class.

I can tell she is worried, scared, even frightened about teaching something so different. But it is that energetic fear that makes it the most fun. Wouldn't you agree? She is excited about the possibilities and I can't wait to see the change!

I sure hope the principal doesn't freak out. ;p

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blogging Ridiculousness

I transitioned to blogger from years of service with due to creative differences. Edublogs served me well for a few years but began to position advertising all over the site including breaking up chunks of text with ads for textbooks.

I thought I could deal with it until they stopped allowing for embedding of videos. I tried using my MobileMe account to run a blog but it was too time-consuming with the web editor. I felt I was stepping back in to webmastering days and needing to use a WYSIWYG editors.

I know I could pay edublogs to remove ads and give me more fine-tuning for adding to the site, but I want to go the free way so I can help teachers use resources free for them as well. That said, this is my fourth blog in a short amount of 2 years.

For the uninitiated, I am not much of a blogger. I don't post often. Sometimes I will post several items during a given week. Sometimes, I won't post anything for months. My blog is not so much a pontification on an idea, but a way for me to post quick snippets from things I find online and can elaborate on in a free form.

I tend to rant about things that bother me, but I filter this too because I understand the concept of the "open web" and how colleagues read to check up on me. Other bloggers bother me, especially when they are introduced as "bloggers". I don't see this as a great achievement to be a blogger when anyone can setup a blog in a few clicks. Even more bothersome is "an award winning blogger". What's the award? Oh, a badge you can put on your blog that says "award winning blogger". Nice.

This blog will never be award winning. Thank God!