Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Twitter Revisited: Shark Jumping, Apps and Metrics Podcast

On Sunday, Mike Qaissaunee and I recorded a 36 minute and 40 second podcast onTwitter applications, shark jumping and metrics.

Listen to it directly in your web browser by clicking here.

If you have iTunes installed you can subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.

Here's the intro and list of questions asked during the podcast:

Intro: Twitter has become a household word for many of us - just like Google , YouTube , MySpace and Facebook (among others) have in the past. Chris Brogan (in this video) even calls Twitter his "central nervous system". We first podcast on Twitter almost two years ago. In this podcast we take an updated look at Twitter.

Two years is a long time ago it seems. Probably one of the biggest things in my arsenal is my iPhone today. Two years ago the iPhone did not exist. What's changed in two years with Twitter?

What are some of your favorite apps?

What's up with all this Twitter following - how should we be handling?

I've been hearing the term "jump the shark" recently when some discuss Twitter. What does that mean?

I notice a lot of business people using Twitter, maybe it has jumped the shark. What are they doing? How are business people using it?

So, lots of people seem to be giving Twitter a try but how do we know who has actually drank the kool-aid and has become a daily Twitter user?

Before we talk about numbers, The Influential Marketing Blog has put together something called the 5 stages of Twitter Acceptance.

We talk a lot about impact when it comes to grants - can you explain what that means?

So, what's the interest in things like Twitter?

What are some Twitter measurement tools?

We've come across a couple of tools that attempt to measureTwitter - a web-based application called Twitter Grader and another called Twinfluence .

Twitter Grader is interesting but there is not a lot of detail. Can you discuss Twinfluence?

Didn't Twinfluence at one time try to measure efficiency?

So, Twinfluence attempts to measure more things. How does it compare to Twitter Grader?

What about spam?

So, what did this guy do?

How do metrics applications handle these spammers?

What can be done to prevent Twitter manipulation?

Are there any other Twitter based applications we should be looking at?

We should see applications like these improve?

So, has Twitter jumped the shark yet?

Here's how you can get the answers:

To read show notes and listen to Mike Q and my 36 minute and 40 second podcast titled Twitter Revisited: Shark Jumping, Apps and Metrics, click here .

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

FCC Development of National Broadband Plan

On April 8, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started the long overdue process of developing a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. The plan creation has been charged by Congress as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - what most of refer to as the Obama stimulus package.

On April 8 a Notice of Inquiry was adopted by the FCC that, according to an FCC press release, is seeking input from all stakeholders: consumers, industry, large and small businesses, non-profits, the disabilities community, governments at the federal, state, local and tribal levels, and all other interested parties.

As part of the inquiry process, the FCC is seeking comment on broadband deployment and use. The following elements are included, as listed in the FCC press release:

  • The most effective and efficient ways to ensure broadband access for all Americans
  • Strategies for achieving affordability and maximum utilization of broadband infrastructure and services
  • Evaluation of the status of broadband deployment, including the progress of related grant programs
  • How to use broadband to advance consumer welfare, civic participation, public safety and homeland security, community development, health care delivery, energy independence and efficiency, education, worker training, private sector investment, entrepreneurial activity, job creation, and economic growth, and other national purposes.
The FCC has to deliver the plan to Congress by February 17, 2010.

In my next few posts I'll provide some detail on the Notice of Inquiry process and discuss some of the key points in the 59 page Notice of Inquiry document.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Power Supply/Charger Energy Waste Explained

I've had a few people recently ask me about power consumption by vampire devices in their homes - most specifically about power adapters for devices with rechargeable batteries like laptop computers, cell phones and iPods. The typical question is along the lines of:

I hear these things still draw power when plugged into a wall outlet even though the device (iPod, cell phone, etc) is not attached. Is that really true?

My answer is typically YES! These external supplies have transformers and some rectifier circuitry in them that convert alternating current (AC) voltage to direct current (DC) voltage. A schematic of a simple DC power supply/charger is diagrammed below (click image to see larger and clearer version).Here's how they work:
  1. The power supply/charger is plugged in to wall.
  2. AC current flows through the primary coil in the transformer and creates a magnetic field. This magnetic field from the primary coil is coupled into the secondary coil. The transformer is used to step down (reduce) the AC voltage by adjusting the number of coil wire turns (turns ratio) in the primary and secondary coils.
  3. The rectifier circuitry takes the AC voltage from the secondary coil and flattens it out into a non-oscillating DC voltage that portable devices can use for power and battery charging.
If you take a close look at the diagram you will notice AC current flows through the primary coil as long as the power supply/charger is plugged into the wall. Notice the device (laptop computer, cell phone, iPod, etc) does not have to be attached for power to be consumed and effectively wasted.

How much power is wasted by vampire devices like these? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates 5% of all electricity used in the U.S. is consumed by devices in standby mode and predicts this will increase to 20% by 2010!

What can be done? The simplest thing to do is unplug your charger when it is not actually being used to charge the device it was designed for. Another option is to plug power supply/charger devices into a switched power strip or electrical outlet, only turning power on when devices are attached.

We're also starting to see "smart chargers" for some devices that use some simple circuitry and only power up when a device is actually attached.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Alternatives to the Amazon Kindle

On Friday, Mike Q and I presented on mobile classroom technology at the 12th Annual Massachusetts Community College Conference on Teaching, Learning and Student Development. Our Presentation was titled The Future of Mobile Teaching & Learning and we discussed how the Apple iPhone and the Amazon Kindle , along with the iPhone software development Kit (SDK), will transform mobile teaching and learning. The session detailed what is different about these devices and showed how they are significant using hands-on demonstrations and examples.

Towards the end of the presentation, we were asked about alternatives to the Kindle and I thought it would be interesting to list three of the more popular ones here:

Astak 6" EZ Reader
Like the Kindle, The Astak 6" EZ Reader has a Vizplex screen that is very high resolution, so that it reads well in low light environments. It includes an SD card slot, USB port and mp3 player. Future models (should be released soon - maybe this month) will include the EZ Reader Plus (adding Wi-Fi) and the EZ Reader Pro (adding Wi-Fi, Touchscreen and note-taking along with other innovations. In August, the company hopes to release the EZ Reader BigBook, with a 9.7 inch FLEXI screen and a host of new features. The company says this device will "READ TRUE" on an 8 x 10 item an that would be very nice when it comes to textbooks.
Approx Price: $329

iRex Digital Reader 1000S
The iRex Digital Reader 1000S has a large 10.2" 1024 x 1280 16-level grey scale Wacom® penabled® touch touch screen (requires use of Wacom stylus) which is very nice, allowing you to make handwritten notes in your digital documents, just as you would with a conventional pen. The iRex also includes an SD card slot and USB connector. The DR 1000 SW with stylus is planned and will include WIFI and Bluetooth connectivity.
Approx Price: $749

The SONY PRS-700 has a 6-inch display that also touchscreen technology. It comes with a stylus but it is not required - for example - you can turn pages by sliding your finger across screen. The SONY also has a virtual keyboard that can be used for annotation and searching. The SONY also includes a built-in LED reading light for low-light situations.
Approx Price: $400

If you are in the market for an e-book reader, you should take a look at these alternative devices along with the Kindle.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges

The Instructional Technology Council (ITC) is an organization that provides leadership and professional development to its network of eLearning experts by advocating, collaborating, researching, and sharing exemplary, innovative practices and potential in learning technologies. The organization recently released a report titled 2008 Distance Education Survey Results: Tracking the Impact of eLearning at Community Colleges.

The report is a must read for faculty, administrators, technical staff, graduate students, anyone involved with distance education at any level - not just community colleges. Here's some of the key findings:

  • Campuses reported an 11.3 percent increase for distance learning enrollments, while increases in overall campus enrollments averaged less than two percent -- 70 percent of the respondents stated student demand exceeds current distance learning course offerings.
  • Many colleges have significantly increased their number of blended or hybrid and/or Web-enhanced or Web-assisted courses.
  • Most colleges have rapidly expanded their student services and technology support services to meet accreditation expectations of “equivalency” with traditional face-to-face courses.
  • Thirty-one percent of the campuses surveyed are considering switching from Blackboard/WebCT, which had seen a near monopoly in the past. The merger of Blackboard and WebCT has prompted a number of campuses to review their learning management system commitments.
  • Administrators continue to identify finding and/or compensating adequate “support staff needed for training and technical assistance” as their greatest challenge. Workload issues are their greatest challenge related to faculty.
  • Assessing student learning and performance in the distance education environment emerged as the greatest challenge for students in 2008.
The report was authored by Fred Lokken , Associate Dean for the Truckee Meadows Community College Web College.

A downloadable PDF of the 9 page report is linked here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Who Wants Broadband Stimulus Money?

Last week Bloomberg News ran a piece titled Verizon, AT&T May Tell U.S. to Keep $7.2 Billion Stimulus Money. The broadband portion of the stimulus package intends to provide $7.2 Billion to bring high-speed Internet services to unserved and underserved regions of the United States.

The money will be distributed by two federal organizations - the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA, part of the Commerce Department) will handle $4.7 Billion and the Agriculture Department will handle $2.5 Billion. Each organization will define what unserved and underserved means with grants then awarded. Law requires all grants be awarded by September 30, 2010 and at least one project must be funded in each state.

Who's going to apply? The Bloomber piece says:

Officials at NTIA say more than 2,000 companies, local governments, community groups and consumer advocates have contacted them about the agency’s rules for disbursing its stimulus money. The first public meeting on the funds, held jointly by NTIA, the Agriculture Department and the FCC on March 10, drew an overflow crowd of more than 500 to the Commerce Department.

Looking at specifics, Bloomberg says:

Rural mid-sized carriers such as CenturyTel Inc., Embarq Corp. and Frontier Communications Corp. are likely to push aggressively for grants, said Jessica Zufolo, an analyst with Medley Global Advisors in Washington.

What's going on with Verizon andAT&T ? Bloomberg quotes the following:

Unlike the businesses that welcomed the $787 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last month, the two biggest U.S. phone companies have reservations. They’re urging the government not to help other companies compete with them through broadband grants or to set new conditions on how Internet access should be provided.

“We don’t have any plans to apply; we also have not made a decision not to apply,” Verizon Executive Vice President Thomas Tauke told reporters last month. “We’re certainly going to participate in those discussions to the extent that we can.”

“We do not have our hand out seeking government funds,” James Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president, told reporters March 11. While the company is “open to considering things that might help the economy and might help our customers at the same time,” he said AT&T’s primary focus for broadband is its own investment program.

The Bloomberg piece also says the companies (Verizon and AT&T) have remained noncommittal as they lobby to shape rules for the grants.

High speed access is critical for those that live, work or study in an unserved or underserved areas and it would be nice to see these two giant carriers involved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Australians Moving On Broadband

There's an interesting post on Reuters today about how the Australian government has rejected private company bids and has decided to lead a new private-public company, building out their own $31 billion high-speed broadband network. The government will ask private companies to join the infrastructure project, building a network that would be up to 100 times faster than the current network.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is quoted in the piece, saying:

It's time for us to bite the bullet on this. The initiative announced today is a historic nation-building investment focused on Australia's long-term national interest.

After the network is fully operational for five years, the government plans to sell its majority stake.

A gutsy move by Rudd in uncertain fiscal times that will likely pay off when things start to improve.

The initiative still requires Australian parliamentary approval.