Tuesday, March 31, 2009

United Kingdom Broadband Green Light

In the United Kingdom the government agency that oversees the communications industry is the Office of Communications (Ofcom) . Ofcom is the equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States and, like the FCC, has been struggling with the same television, radio and broadband issues.

There has been one particular ruling that Ofcom has been deliberating that involves the rollout of telcommunications provider British Telecom (BT) fiber networks. BT (telco) and Virgin Media (cable) are the two major broadband providers in the UK. BT in particular has been extremely anxious to upgrade its old copper based network with fiber but only if the company could get a fair return on their investment.

Well.... last week Ofcom made a decision to allow BT to set its own prices on how to sell access to its network to secure a fair return on their investment.

Here's an interesting BBC News quote from Ofcom chief executive Ed Richardson on the ruling:

Our message today is clear: there are no regulatory barriers in the way of investment in super-fast broadband. We want to promote investment to support the widespread adoption of superfast broadband but we want to balance that with the need for competition.

BBC News blogger Rory Cellan-Jones predicts by 2012, 40% of the UK will have BT's 40Mbps service, and 50% will have 50Mbps Virgin cable broadband - and although the two firms will overlap a lot, that means well over half of the UK should be in the fast lane.

Nice bandwidth! Two questions still remain though according to Cellan-Jones:

- How much will consumers pay?
- What will happen to the large numbers of people who still won't get access?

These questions sound very familiar.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Upside: Learning From Failure

Engineers, technicians, race car drivers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents, students..... all of us...... we all learn from failure. I love this video from Honda .

Monday, March 23, 2009

How Do Twitter, Google And Facebook Compare?

This video from Rocketboom provides an interesting perspective.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

U.S. Dept. Of Agriculture: Rural Broadband At A Glance

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently published an interesting six-page (short!) report titled Rural Broadband At A Glance . The report draws on research done by the Dept of Agriculture's Economic Research Service , the Federal Communication Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Rural Internet is investigated and indicates rural residents are less likely to have high-speed, or broadband, Internet access than their urban counterparts. The main limitation of slower, dial-up Internet access is that many content-dense applications and documents, and such critical services as anti-virus protections, are not readily usable via dial-up due to low transmission capability and speed.

Circumstantial evidence in the report suggests that the difference in access may lie in the higher cost and limited availability of broadband Internet in rural areas. As a result, rural residents depend more on Internet use outside of the home, relying on places like the library, school, and work, where broadband Internet access is available.

Here's some selected report stats:

  • Internet use is lower for individuals in rural areas (71 percent) than in urban areas (77 percent).
  • In 2007, 63 percent of all rural households had at least one member access the Internet, at home or elsewhere, compared with 73 percent of urban households.
  • Fifty-two percent of all rural households had in-home Internet access compared with 64 percent of urban households.
  • In 2005, 30 percent of farmers were using the Internet for farm business; 2 years later, use had increased to 63 percent. As Internet adoption increases, the need for high-speed Internet also rises as online purchasing and marketing become the norm.
The report summarizes that rural communities have not been left out of the ever-changing information economy, although issues of equal access exist. Evidence suggests that the difference in access may lie in the higher cost or limited availability of broadband Internet in rural areas. The report indicates more information is needed, saying data on broadband use in households and businesses and its cost are needed to better address this issue.

You can download and read the full report PDF here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Twitter has become a household word for many of us - just like Google , YouTube , MySpace and Facebook (among others) have in the past. Lately I've noticed lots of people following my Twitter feed and I've been careful to follow back unless the feed looks like it's been robot-generated, is pornographic, etc. The result is - I follow lots of people and they follow me back..... keep it real and keep it clean and I will follow. Post something inappropriate and no more follow for you!

Part of our NSF Center work is to determine impact - if we create something, produce something or post/share something we look for answers to questions like:

- How many people looked at it?
- How many people used it?
- If they used it how did they use it?

For example, let's say Mike Q posts a series of classroom ready presentations on wireless security on the web. We'll look for answers to questions like how the curriculum materials are being used, modified, and adapted to individual classrooms, and how the teaching and learning methods are impacting faculty and students. This level of measurement usually comes from observations, interviews, and focus groups all looking at the changes in the actions and activities of instructors, students, and ultimately workforce and industry. The term we commonly use when referring to these kinds of measurements is metrics .

I'm particularly interested in Twitter because it has the potential to have tremendous impact without some of the tedious one-on-one type of measurement a lot of us are doing now. I've come across a couple of tools that attempt to do some Twitter measuring - a web-based application called Twitter Grader and another called Twinfluence . Let's take a look at both.

Twitter Grader

Twitter Grader ranks Twitters on a percentage scale - looking at the screen shot below (Click it to enlarge) you can see I'm currently ranked at 99.7%.

This ranking, according to Simon Salt, is based on the number of followers you have, the power of this network of followers, the pace of your updates, the completeness of your profile and “a few other factors.

Twinfluence goes a little deeper than Twitter Grader , and according to their website, attempts to measure the following:

First and Second Order Networks: From the perspective of graph theory, a Twitterer's followers would be considered their first-order network, and their "followers count" the same as their "degree". "Degree" is a simple form of centrality measurement that equates to "prestige" or "popularitiy"; different types of centrality can measure connectivity, authority, and control in a network.

Reach: Reach is the number of followers a Twitterer has (first-order followers), plus all of their followers (second-order followers). This is by necessity a crude maximum estimate, since there will definitely be duplicates and overlaps that could only be eliminated by up to thousands of API calls. Reach is a measurement of potential audience and listeners, a best estimate of the number of people that a given Twitterer could quickly get a message to.

Velocity: Velocity merely averages the number of first- and second-order followers attracted per day since the Twitterer first established their account. The larger the number is, the faster that Twitterer has accumulated their influence. Of course, this number could jump significantly with the addition of a few high-profile followers. Velocity is scored from "very slow" to "very fast" relative to other twitterers at your network size.

Social Capital: Indicates the average first-order network of a Twitterer's followers. It's essentially a measure of how influential are a twitterer's followers. A high value indicates that most of that Twitterer's followers have a lot of followers themselves. Social Capital is scored from "very low" to "very high" relative to other twitterers at your network size.

Centralization: This is a measure of how much a Twitterer's influence (reach) is invested in a small number of followers. Centralization scores range from 0% (completely decentralized) to
a theoretical 100% (completely dependent on one Twitterer). In social network analysis, a high centralization indicates dependency of the network on just a few nodes to maintain the connectivity of the entire network. Twitterers with low centrality networks would not have their reach greatly reduced if a few high-profile people stopped following them. Centralization is scored from "very fragile" to "very resilient" relative to other twitterers at your network size, implying that a network with only a few high-profile followers is very sensitive to collapsing if those followers leave. Conversely, a network with low centralization is not very dependent upon any few followers for its collective reach.

At one time Twinfluence was attempting to measure efficiency. After discussions with some other social media experts, they decided that the idea of twitter efficiency is an interesting one, but there really isn't any way to effectively measure behavior in the context of how a twitterer actually keeps on top of their tweetstream.

So.... using Twinfluence , what kind of impact do my tweets have using their metrics? Here's another clickable screen shot (note - Twininfluence appears to lag in updates so it is not seeing the same number of follows as Twitter Grader):

Twinfluence ranks me around 98% (similar to Twitter Grader ) with 2,315 followers and 6,556,780 second order followers. I'm not sure how significant the numbers are but...... if I can post something and have it potentially reach even one-tenth of a percent (6,500) of those 6.5 million second order users I'm really liking that possible/potential impact!

I'm hoping applications like Twitter Grader and Twinfluence continue to improve and provide additional and more detailed metrics. This is good stuff.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

10 Random Thoughts On 3-11-09

I haven't written one of these in a while - here's my list for this week:

  1. I've become a big fan of the iPhone Kindle App. If you've got a Kindle and an iPhone you need to to start using this free app!
  2. I've been dealing with a back problem and it slowed me down for the past couple of months. Physical therapy is working and I'm feeling much better now!
  3. We moved our office after 11 years in the same space. Cannot believe how many Windows 98 install floppy disks we tossed!
  4. We'll see how far broadband reaches into rural areas with the stimulus package. The FCC is seeking comment until March 25 so we may not hear much until then.
  5. It's been a long winter here in New England but things are warming up a little bit..... finally. Really looking forward to spring and some trout fishing (not through the ice!).
  6. I've become an even bigger Twitter user over the last couple of months and find myself going to it often for both posting and finding content. Follow me here and I'll follow you back!
  7. To organize Twitter content on your desktop I highly recommend Tweetdeck.
  8. For tweeting using my iPhone I'm a big fan of Hahlo . Even if you don't have an iPhone you can check it out here.
  9. Wanted to congratulate my daughter Gabby again on her National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) award! Go Gabby!!
  10. Finally - my favorite quote from this past week:

"The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy and unacceptable for our children."

- President Obama at the 19th annual legislative conference of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Women, Technology and Leadership

Yesterday our oldest daughter Gabby, along with 31 other other high school women, received an Aspirations in Computing and Technology award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and Bank of America at the Technology Stars of the Future Technology Showcase & Awards Ceremony in Charlotte, NC. At the ceremony, each of the young women were recognized for their outstanding aptitude and interest in technology and computing, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

NCWIT is a coalition of more than 160 prominent corporations, academic institutions, government agencies, and non-profits working to increase women's participation in information technology (IT).

Here's some interesting facts from the NCWIT website:

  • Girls represented just 15 percent of Advanced Placement computer science (CS) exam-takers in 2006; that’s the lowest female representation of any AP exam.
  • In 2007 women earned only 19 percent of all CS degrees. Back in 1984, women earned 37 percent of CS degrees.
  • Women hold more than half of all professional occupations in the U.S. but fewer than 26 percent of all computing-related occupations.
  • Only 13 percent of Fortune 500 technology companies have women corporate officers.
  • A study on U.S. technology patenting reveals that patents created by mixed-gender teams are the most highly cited (an indicator of their innovation and usefulness); yet women were involved in only 9 percent of U.S. tech patents.

Lucy Sanders, CEO and Co-founder of NCWIT is quoted in a press release about the event, saying “Encouraging young women’s interest in technology careers is critical. Our workforce needs their creativity and their innovation.”

Gabby had a blast at the ceremony yesterday, making lots of new female friends that have just as much of a passion and interest in technology as she does. Check out the list of winners linked here.

Congrats to all the Aspirations in Computing and Technology winners!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Video: The Obama Stimulus Package and Education

In this YouTube video, created by the Center for American Progress, Raegan Miller, a senior education policy analyst and former teacher union president from Palo Alto, Calif answers the question "What kind of education provisions are included in the recovery and reinvestment package?"