Archive for October, 2006

MacArthur initiative on Digital Media and Learning

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Earlier this year, Brad DeLong suggested that he should get rich and then give a large grant to me to do a study. I’m all for Brad getting rich and I happily await the day including the check he’ll send my way as a result. However, in the meantime, it’s good to know that there are some other sources of potential funding for work on information technologies.

Yesterday, the MacArthur Foundation announced a new initiative in Digital Media and Learning. They have committed $50 million dollars over five years to this. I was fortunate to be one of the recipients of a research grant. My project will be a look at young people’s uses of the Internet with particular focus on their skills and participation. I will also be conducting a training intervention (on participants randomly assigned to the control versus the experimental group) to see if we can create a program that helps people improve their online abilities (in such domains as efficiency in content navigation and evaluating the credibility of information).

Generally speaking, the goal of this initiative is to gain a better understanding of how young people are using digital media in their everyday lives and how various types of learning are taking place outside of the classroom through the use of such media. MacArthur has also launched a blog to discuss related projects.

The press conference was simulcast in Second Life and some participants captured a few screenshots, including ones from Teen Second Life.

As you can imagine, I’m super excited about all this and so will likely be blogging about related issues in the future (hah, not that I haven’t already).

Links for 2006-10-20

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-19

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-17

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

GMail ads

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Remember all the concerns about GMail reading people’s emails with the goal of displaying targeted ads? I was among those expressing reservations back when the service was first introduced. I continue to believe that it is important to be generally conscious about how much of our email and other activities are stored and potentially analyzed by Google and other service providers. Nonetheless, it’s also interesting to pause on occasion to see the level of sophistication – or lack thereof – that some of these services have reached nowadays.

Sometimes I am surprised by how well the ads on the sidebar match the content of my messages. For example, from very little text, GMail seems to be able to tell if a conversation is conducted in another language and serves up ads consistent with the language of the correspondance (here I’m referring to some experiences with Hungarian).

Today, however, I was reminded that there is still considerable room for improvement in the system. I am in the midst of corresponding with some friends about an evening outing consisting of drinks and dinner and possibly dancing. There is no information in the messages about the location of all this (even at the city-level) so it’s hard for the ads to be targeted in that way. Our email addresses either end in or educational institutions scattered across the country so even if GMail analyzed that information, it wouldn’t help in this case. We also haven’t mentioned any restaurant names to provide clues.

There is one piece of specific information that has come up, however: “I’m flexible (except the usual Thai food allergy problem).”

Given this note, it was curious to see a link to “Thai Restaurant Iowa”. The word “allergy” is right next to “Thai food” in the above sentence. So what are the chances that information about Thaid food restaurants is going to be of interest?

Record-setting snow

Friday, October 13th, 2006

Snow sets record I have no idea why I’m smiling in that photo. There was not much fun about the scene. The Chicago area saw record-setting weather yesterday. Apparently this is the earliest measurable snow since snow has been measured in the city. Yikes. Thursday’s snow beat the record by six days! It’s not as though I wasn’t already very happy in California, but I guess the weather thought I needed more reminding of why I should just stay put and enjoy the sunny and warm days.

Links for 2006-10-11

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Fun Flickr finds

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Over the weekend I found a few fun Flickr tools. I’ve bookmarked these (see links), but they are worth a separate post.

First, Steeev’s Flickr Projects is a goldmine. The resources there are mostly Greasemonkey scripts, which requires that you use Firefox and that you download Greasemonkey. (For the non-techies in the audience, it’s not that painful. The instructions are pretty straight-forward on that site. Just remember, as with all Firefox extensions, you’ll have to restart Firefox after the installation.)

My favorite script from Steeev’s site is FlickrPM. It adds useful links next to each user’s name. You can now quickly find out whether they have any images in the Explore archives, view their images in order of interestingness, jump to their mail or profile page directly, all via a direct link right next to their name.

There are several other goodies on that site, it’s worth a look.

Another interesting Greasemonkey script imports information about the Upcoming event with which the photo may be associated. I no longer remember, but this may also be the script that lets you add a tag with Upcoming event information from your Upcoming event list seemlessly to any Flickr photo.

Finally, for some fun, check out Museumr, which lets you place any of your Flickr images (or probably any image from anywhere online) in a museum setting. Here is an example.

Links for 2006-10-10

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-09

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-08

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-07

Saturday, October 7th, 2006 birthday bash

Friday, October 6th, 2006 cakeYahoo! hosted a party the other day celebrating the third birthday of and the registration of its millionth user. I found out about it thanks to a listing on Upcoming. It was a fun reason to return to Yahoo! headquarters just a few days after Yahoo! Hack Day.

There was some overlap in attendance, but I thought the demographics of this crowd was noticeably different from that of the one at Hack Day. There were more women and I no longer contributed to skewing the average age – toward ancient – considerably.

In the background was a screen showing additions to the site real-time. It’s fun to imagine the dozens of users, at any one minute, clicking on their bookmarklet (or whatnot) entering information and contributing to the overall value of the site.

The first person I met reminded me of the shallow shmoozing that went on at Silicon Alley parties in the late 90s. (I’m sure they went on at Silicon Valley parties as well, but since I was living in NYC at the time, I have experience with that bit.) He wasn’t even a user. Worse yet, he spent most of our brief encounter questioning the service. Why bother showing up? I won’t embarrass/dignify him with a link to his company’s Web site.

I did better with the next round of folks I met. I stumbled into a group of people who already knew each other through a Flickr meetup group. We spent a good chunk of time sharing our adminiration for that service and community.

Next, I went over to say hi to Andy Baio whose links page has often inspired posts around here. We’ve exchanged emails about numerous things in the past so it was nice to meet in person finally. I also got to meet some folks from the Flickr team including its co-founder Stewart Butterfield, and Matthew Rothenberg whom I look forward to seeing next week when I go back to Yahoo!, this time for research purposes.

Finally, I ran into our CASBS Librarian Trisha who, conveniently for me, took a picture of the swag, which consisted of a cute T-shirt (the back shows the party information as a entry) and stickers.

Overall, it was a fun event. It’s neat to be in the area and have the ability to just hop on over to these things.

Links for 2006-10-06

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-05

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Links for 2006-10-04

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

Celebrating 90,000 Flickr views!

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Celebrating 90,000 views!

There are 2,122 images in my Flickr stream viewable to all, 2,868 viewable to me (the number’s in between there somewhere for family & friends). It’s so much fun to be able to go back and remember various things from the past year by being able to browse photos of people, events and places. It’s also a delight to communicate with people on the site and learn about others’ interests, passions and environments. If you’re not yet a user, I highly recommend it! Here are some instances of Flickr mentions on this blog.

Another technical glitch: Flickr & Firefox

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

UPDATE: I really didn’t want to have to do this, but after reading some related threads over on Flickr Help it looked like it may be hard to avoid clearing the cache so I did. Things are now back to normal.

Original post:

I apologize, this is yet another post about a technical problem I am experiencing. And believe me, I am not finding these amusing nor do I think they are a particularly good use of blog space, but there’s always the hope that a reader may have an idea for a solution. So far E-BLOG readers have been very helpful so that keeps me motivated. (Which is not to say that if you’re sick of these posts you should stop helping me out with the hopes that then I’ll stop posting about them.:)

The problem: Flickr looks like a mess when I pull it up in Firefox. Here is a screen shot of the welcome page:

Flickr problems in Firefox

It looks like the css file is not being considered when rendering the page. Curiously, some pages do come up okay. For example, when I click on “all sizes” for an image, I get what I’m supposed to get.

But I get the above mess not only on the welcome page, but on each individual photo page and also on others such as my Favorites or “Recent comments you have made”, etc. And yes, it’s the same when viewing other people’s accounts as well.

This all started yesterday around the same time that Flickr was experiencing upload problems. For a few hours I just figured it had to do with that. I didn’t see why they should be related, but I figured there were just all sorts of general site problems. However, eventually I realized that no one out there was commenting on this and it had been a while so I pulled up Flickr in IE. It rendered just fine.

So what in the world is going on here? I cleared my Flickr cookies to see if that could help, but no change. I checked and I’m running the latest version of Firefox so no upgrading to do there.
I disabled all extensions in case something there might be a problem, but nothing changed.

I’m really hoping to avoid having to clear cache altogether as I have all sorts of things set that I don’t want to have to retype again on other sites. It is possible to just clear cache for one site? And yes, I’ve done lots of forced reloads.

Any thoughts on how I can get Flickr to show up correctly again in Firefox? I really don’t want to have to run IE parallel to Firefox.. but viewing the site this way is very annoying. Thanks!

Links for 2006-10-03

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Sloppy NYTimes illustration

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

The New York Times has an article about GMail’s increasing ability to identify spam correctly (including a lower case of false positives when it comes to legitimate commercial email requested by the user).

What caught my eye was the illustration accompanying this article (on the left in this image below).

Sloppy illustration

GMail calls spam “Spam” not “Bulk”. So why does the illustration show a Bulk folder? On the right, I have copied what all this looks like in GMail. How hard would it have been to get that right?

UPDATE: As a commenter notes on my Flickr stream, it looks like they lifted the image from Yahoo! Mail. Hah!