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I’ve migrated my blog over to Blogger: http://edbilodeau.blogspot.com/

Please update your links and feeds.

Rational: My exploration of using the free hosted version of WordPress for my blog ended up being somewhat of a disappointment. The inability to modify or specify any of my own CSS was a major pain, especially given that the default templates all has some minor layout issues that required polishing. I was prepared to live with that, but I finally got fed up when I was trying to format my last post and was running in to no end of grief in how the editor tried to interpret the simple paragraphs I pasted into it. Blogger/blogspot is free, and it just works. They also have some new features that are still in beta that will make it even more compelling as a blogging platform. I’ll also be able to use Google Analytics with it, which is far superior to the rudimentary system that comes with the WordPress free hosted version. yes, Blogger/Blogspot has its limitation, but they are not limitation that I am likely to find myself bumping into on a regular basis, which makes it a better choice for me.

Note: I was able to migrate my posts from WordPress to Blogger in less then 5 minutes using this WordPress2Blogger online service. Seemed legit and it worked like a charm.

  1. The world is ever-changing, so what we need to know in the future is different from what we needed to know in the past. How we will learn in the future is also different from how we learned in the past.
  2. Universities need to change in order to prepare students to participate fully and effectively in the future.
  3. The learning objectives and outcomes must be based on our understanding of what knowledge students will need to possess in order to be effective participants in society when they graduate.
  4. Universities should consider the the capabilities of the students entering university in order to design effective learning experiences. Student capabilities should not be a factor in determining learning outcomes.
  5. Universities must set their entrance requirements such that it is possible for students to meet the learning objectives after the multi-year learning experience offered by the university.
  6. If it is not possible for the university to design a multi-year learning experience that ensures that students have met the necessary learning objectives, then we have a problem.

Just tried the new Google Reader UI, and I’m fairly certain now that Google doesn’t test new features before releasing them. I’m giving it a thumbs down.

(Note: Google isn’t pitching this as a replacement UI for Google Reader, just a poorly implemented alternative.)

The default view is “All items” which generates an error message that i don’t have any recommended items. Problem 1: “all items” is not supposed to show recommended items, but rather items from *MY* feeds. In the old Google Reader UI, I have 23 new items, but I can’t access these in the new UI no matter what I try. That makes it useless as a news reader.

Also, grey text on a black background does not make for a better reading experience, which should be a top priority, given the name of the product. Note to Google Reader team: please see Readability bookmarklet for ideas on how to improve reading experience.

Given that the only thing it seems to do well is display pictures and videos that I have no control over, maybe they should rename this Google TV.

For aspiring librarians who might still be wondering whether management matters, or whether all that data gathering, reporting, and other business-like activity has any purpose, here is an example of how critical these numbers can be to a library.

I came across an article this morning (via the always useful ResourceShelf) that describes some of the metrics that the Boston Public Library will be using to determine which branches will be closed. A few excerpts:

Library administrators will rank the 26 neighborhood branches by foot traffic, computer use, and how many Web surfers use laptops to log on to Wi-Fi networks. They will count how many programs are offered at each location and tally the number of people who attend storytime and English classes.

The library will quantify details about each of its buildings, noting energy efficiency, handicapped accessibility, and whether the wiring could support more computers. Administrators will examine how close each location is to another neighborhood branch and the distance to one of the system’s nine lead libraries, such as the 20,000-plus square-foot facilities in Dudley Square and on Centre Street in West Roxbury. They will scrutinize proximity to buses and subways and take into account other resources in the neighborhood, such as community centers, schools, or Boys and Girls Clubs.

It isn’t clear whether these metrics are long-established measures of success, or if they were adopted recently in order to assist the decision-making process around the branch closures. In an ideal world, the metrics are known to branch managers and staff, allowing them to work towards achieving what target-levels are set for them.

One might (and should) question the quality of service that would result from, for example, trying to maximize the number of people making use of the library’s wi-fi. If the metrics are well chosen, however, all facets of the library experience would be represented, preventing staff from trying to optimize one metric at the cost of another. Sure you can fill the library with people using laptops, but if it creates an environment that no longer feels welcoming to children or seniors and their visits drop off, you won’t be any further ahead.

What is unfortunate about the approach being taken by the Boston Public Library is that it appears that they have already decided to close a number of branches, and now they are using a system of metrics to determine which will go. It isn’t enough for a library to offer good or great service: they have to be better than the other libraries in order to survive the cuts. As mentioned in the article, this can only pitch branch against branch in a competition for survival. I wouldn’t blame anyone who makes it through this mess (or anyone reading about it) to take the lesson to heart and operate in full competition with the other branches.

This is not the kind of environment library students might envision when they think about working in a library, but it is the reality for most libraries, and not only in the public space. Academic libraries and specialized libraries deal with the same pressures and work in similar organizational contexts, ones that see them having to quantify their performance and compete for resources. Library students approach the field with a passion (ok, maybe passion is a bit too strong a word to use here… let’s say they believe in the value of libraries and librarians) for the work, which is important. But they cannot take it for granted that everyone shares their innate sense of the value and importance of libraries, and they will need to work tirelessly at justifying their existence to both their funding agencies as well as their patrons.

You may have heard the story of the recent hoax announcing the death of singer Gordon Lightfoot. Someone called a friend of Lightfoot’s claiming to be his grandson and passing on the news that Lightfoot had died. From there, the friend, a trustworthy source, passed the news on to his wife, who told others… eventually the story ended up in major news papers and news services. For the full details and links to the coverage and after coverage, head over to Steve Faguy’s blog.

Hoaxes of this sort seems to be occurring with greater frequency. In a race to get our attention, news media have decided to cut corners on fact-checking to get the story in front of us. Ad revenue is what counts here, not the truth of what they are reporting.

What this means is that we shouldn’t be trusting *any* breaking news coming out of the major media outlets. We probably shouldn’t trust any breaking news whatsoever. In today’s networked world, most stories take a day or so to be validated by the network of blogs, twitter posts, comments, etc, so maybe we need to give all breaking news a day or so to cool off, to gel into something resembling accurate information.

For example, if this is the first you heard of the Lightfoot story, after a day or so the only news item you could find would be focused on the hoax. If you searched, you’d probably come across blog posts like Faguy’s setting the reocrd straight.

This may seem trivial to those of us who spend a large part of each day sifting through posts, feeds, and news. We have learned, probably the hard way, to be skeptical of most information. We have developed trust networks based on our experiences, people and organizations that we trust to provide us with accurate information. I know that my network still contains several newspapers and major media sources.

So this is if anything a note to myself: take what you read on the major media sites with a grain of salt. Research the stories of interest and give the news some time to cool in order to get a more accurate version of the story.

The recent launch of the Apple iPad has me thinking a bit more about the form factor in general, and what exactly I would like to see in such a device.

Let me start by saying that I think the iPad is a very good design for what it was intended to do/be, and that it seems that most of the complaints around the iPad stem from a mismatch of certain people’s wants/needs with Apple’s intentions for the device. Such are the risks of using secrecy and leveraging people’s hope and dreams, of stirring their unmet desired to sell your hardware. But I digress…

While I don’t see myself purchasing an iPad, I do hope that it succeeds in creating a market for panels, because I really could use one.

My needs, though, are different from the one’s Apple is trying to meet. They are, roughly:

  • The panel should display my files, specifically files related to my work. It needs to be simple like Dropbox, automatically and effortlessly syncing with file store(s) of my choosing. It needs to be able to handle text, MS Office documents, PDF documents, images, video, etc, and handle them all well.
  • The panel should allow me to load ebooks from a variety of sources, using standard, open, DRM-free formats.
  • The panel should allow me to browse the web.
  • The panel should allow me to handle my email (multiple accounts, including Exchange email and gmail).
  • I’d much prefer handwriting recognition over an on-screen keyboard.
  • The panel should have a headphone jack.
  • I don’t need a built in camera or phone.
  • Dreaming: the panel would have a video-out (to standard VGA via an adapter if necessary) so that I could use it to drive any of the projectors on campus.

Essentially, I need a work-oriented panel to bring with me around campus to meetings and to class, and to read on the train during my daily commute.

My guess is that that panel will be based either on Android or Windows, since I don’t think this is the game Apple is trying to get into. Of course, it could be that such a device will never materialize (I’m still looking for an inexpensive mobile phone that is only a good phone). But if the iPad takes off, even modestly, we should see a few vendors coming up with offerings in this space.

WordPress.com linkjacking

I came across this worrisome post this morning describing how blogs on WordPress.com sometimes have their links rewritten for advertising purposes. From what I understand, the links still go to their intended destination, but the action is captured and mined for valuable information.

This clearly isn’t the end of the world. I knew when setting this blog up on WordPress.com that going with the free option meant running the risk of occasional ads showing up on my site. Rewriting links, though, seems more underhanded, a more direct use of my content to enhance Automattic‘s data mining efforts.

To get rid of the problem, I can pay $30 USD/year to get rid of all ads on the site. I’m not sure it is worth it: probably not, at least at this point.

What I do know, however, is that I feel a little less happy about having moved by blog to WordPress.com. For whatever that’s worth.

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