Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Connecting the Dots - CCHRD's 2006 Conference

Some conferences are just great, and this was one. Today I attended the CCHRD (College Committee on Human Resources Development) Central Region (Centennial, Seneca, George Brown, Sheridan, Mitchner Institute) Conference called Connecting the Dots. The one & a half hour rush-hour commute was not fun, but shortly after I arrived, I was greeted by two women, one of whom, with a lovely warm smile, told me she reads this blog! It was exciting to meet a such a positive reader!

Then Dr Marcel Danesi spoke, and he's wonderful! He talked about the fact that academic researchers don't actually know how people learn, however the person and their background, both personal and cultural, are at the core. He went on to affirm that human contact is central to teaching. Yes. I agree totally.

As a teacher you have to shut up and listen, which is part of becoming wise, and part of seeing your students as researchers of what you both are interested in. Absolutely! You want your students' respect, not their friendship. You want to be a "wise elder" and their mentor.

I can't possibly impart the flair and humour of his talk, but I enjoyed and benefitted from it.

The students on the student panel had interesting comments and insights.

The morning workshop session I went to was called "Popular Culture and Critical Media Literacy" given by Lena Carla Gutekunst, and it was very interesting. She's an engaging speaker with real insight into the culture many of our students live in, and how to teach critical thinking using (and respecting) it.

Lunch was great, as was the conference space Centennial had provided.

I presented on Blogs, Wikis and Students in the afternoon, and was grateful for the help I got from the sound man and a quiet stranger I later realized was Dr. Sandy Shugart, the closing keynote speaker. I loved talking about Web 2.0, and how it helped my students connect with each other, and how it gave them a real context for communicating with each other. (If they didn't reseach, present and post on the wiki, their fellow students wouldn't learn what they needed to learn.) And the subtext to both the class and the presentation, was that my students had engaged with each other because they had heard each other's stories, and had been heard when they told their stories.

The Web, my message was, is easy and allows our students to communicate in ways they find meaningful, using a technical tool they are familiar with, though they might have to learn some new elements. It is a powerful teaching/learning tool, especially when combined with face-to-face time in class.

Dr Sandy Shugart gave the closing keynote and what a wonderful note to close on. He spoke holding, and occasionally playing his guitar. He talked about Robert Frost's "Two Tramps in Mud Time" and how our work can deform us, how it can be a shrinking prison, or how it can be a crucible, where we are transmuted into our full humanity. He spoke about how important it was to a "servant leader" - and he sang great lyrics. I was very glad I'd stayed (instead of leaving early to miss the traffic). I needed to hear what he was saying, at many levels. Here's a description of him -,0,w

A lovely, rewarding day!


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cool Cat Teacher

Vicki Davis's students explain the difference between a blog and a wiki.
Synopsis of their posts
The most meaningful point that they have brought out for me is that they see wikis as a place to share information and they see blogs as a place to share opinions and discuss.

For more detailed versions of her students comments - go here

Thursday, May 18, 2006

mesh06 - Reflections

Looking back on mesh
Of course my first observation is that I had fun and learned a lot. Those are my two central requirements, and they were certainly fulfilled. Can't ask for more.
Last year at a college conference in North Bay, I noticed something significant, and I could see it again at mesh. The Web used to have distinct groups, especially at conferences. The technical people gathered and talked about java and ruby-on-rails and other obscure (to me) topics. Teachers, or in the case of mesh, PR, marketing, and business people (Web entrepreneurs), got together to discuss how to use the Web.

Both at This is IT in North Bay last spring, and here at mesh this spring, I see the two formerly distinct (except in rare cases) groups starting to overlap. There is a Web culture that includes engineers and communicators, and I see the business actions as coming from the middle, the overlap, where we are in the same space with similar enough understandings that we can disagree. (If you don't have similar maps and language, you can't communicate enough to argue ;->) A fascinating development.

So I see the emergence of a strong Web culture with segmented areas attached to it.

Other Observations
The conference had an interesting mix of (Web) business, PR/marketing, and engineers. I noticed a few differences from academic conferences - which is what I'm used to.
  • more hands are shaken more often;
  • more business cards are exchanged;
  • people move on from conversations more often; there's a faster pace;
  • the attendees were not as old in general as at academic conferences, but the conference wasn't as skewed towards youth as I expected. I would say most attendees were from 30 to 50, and there were more older than younger. Would love to hear from someone who found it different.

I did encounter a couple of misogynist moments.
  • I overheard, in the lunch lineup first day, two guys talking about a woman who was "too aggressive". They used the phrase repeatedly. It turned out they were talking about someone who didn't share back business contacts and information. (Hey, the lunch lineup was long and I couldn't help overhearing!) The phrase "too aggressive" has more negative connotations when applied to a woman than when applied to a man, and it is rarely applied to a man. "Aggressive" is a complimentary term when applied to a male. I have yet to hear people talking about a man who is "too aggressive" when what they mean is he doesn't share business contacts and information. They usually skip the negative definition and get straight to the information, maybe adding that he's an "a**hole" which is a nicely non-gendered perjorative.
  • I saw in one of the blog comments, a reference to "that Tara chick". I can't even imagine someone referring to "that [insert male name] pup". And she was criticized for preparing an interesting presentation that enacted what she was describing. I am NOT being critical of the interview approach (I liked it) but it takes less work to prepare for.

    On a related topic, my husband, after watching a public school talent show, commented that the boys got more applause for ballsy improvisation than the girls did for skill and preparation. I think some of that mindset is still there in less mature men.

So mesh was fun, amusing, educational, and provided grist for my tendancy to engage in analytical observations.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

mesh - Viable Web Applications

Live blogging is something I saw Stephen Downes do last year at the This is IT Conference in North Bay. As I watched him blog during the sessions, I wondered how and why he did it. I can’t answer for him but now that I’m blogging my way through mesh, I’m finding it helps me focus! It’s not doing 2 things aat once, it’s sort of like taking notes in a lecture, where you ‘get’ more of what’s being said because you write it down.

I’m in Idee‘s Leila Boujnane’s session on Creating a Viable Web Business, with Michael McDerment of FreshBooks, Malgosia Green of Nuvvo and Albert Lai of Nuvvo
They are describing the start-up mistakes they made, and what they would do differently if they were to do it over.

  • Being flexible and responding to change seems to be central. Feedback is essential.
  • Different patterns for getting your name out, some through the blogosphere, some more traditional newsletters etc. plus the blogosphere.
  • Making things simple to use and having good customer support are really important
  • Different approaches for tech support, one by phone, others by email and forums
  • Your tech support can be your sales department – you build loyal users who stay and refer others
  • Nuvvo – most users are free, then they can subscribe for more robust services. The free users are more forgiving of weak support.
  • Bubbleshare and Idee find customers want to help each other, (like on MySpace)
  • This conference – mesh – was advertised by 4 guys writing on their blogs, and the news spread.
  • simplicity of use, a fluid user-experience, is what users find attractive. Design for these, not for elite super-users
  • Understand the purchasing process of your customers, and it’s different for different applications
  • Set up almost a funnel – first someone looks, then a free trial, then full users – about 5% of the lookers
  • Raising money takes a lot of time
  • Recruiting talent is tricky
  • Knowing enough to know how to communicate with employees is important, worth taking some courses in their areas.
  • churn is scary but a chance to learn
  • mentors are a real help


mesh - Day 2, more - Tara Hunt

Tara Hunt – From Toronto – a former online marketing manager
Discovered the blogosphere, recruited through her blog and joined Silicon Valley .
BarCamp showed her both world and Toronto’s tech communities

What does this mean for the future of marketing?
We discussed this in small groups, and interestingly, there is an immediate distrust of the authenticity – in this group!
Bowiechick isn’t an “expert”; she’s a user and others would identify with her.
Many would trust bowiechick more than a TV commercial.
Tara suggests – “Go pinko!”
Pinko Marketing Principles
#1 inbound, rather than outbound messages
#2 you advocate to your company, not for your company
#3 100% authenticity (Stop using the word “viral”!)
#4 serve niche markets – the long tail Riya will soon have a Mac Uploader
#5 open source – wikis etc.
“Snakes on the Plane” – literally changed by the blogosphere, huge buzz
The blogosphere is the source of so many stories, but how do we bring social translucency into systems – evangelism – change your institution!

Is there a danger of community turning into just marketing?
You have to be part of the community you serve.

Reputation becomes part of it. You have to be in the community and build relationships over time, just like anywhere!


mesh - Day 2

Yesterday and today are my first experiences of blogging live. I just suffered my first lost post, when i lost a whole entry. Here's the summary:
Steve Rubel spoke this morning about PR and blogging, with many questions and rich conversation. Will blogs make PR more honest, or will monetizing blogs lessen thier authenticity?

Stuart MacDonald was an excellent interviewer, guiding and following the conversation.

Next up is Paul Kedrosky, interviewed by Mathew Ingram about Web 2.0 and venture capitalism.
  • There seems to be a concentration of capital looking to venture, and Web 2.0 benefits, but if you can avoid taking it for your company, do so.
  • The starting of a business has been democratized, BUT then there are multiple starts doing the same sort of thing.
  • YouTube, as an example, do they have a business plan? Is this an early version of the future of TV.
  • Google started up with no real business model, and found their way, but lately they’re running up their capital expenditures.
  • The pendulum is swinging towards business in Web 2.0, for example, DabbleDB
  • Some examples of Web 2.0 businesses that are successful – PlentyOfFish - $15,000 a day
  • Seed investing is problematic in Canada – DFJ - almost uses seed marketing as PR, lots of overage for what it does
  • Venture capitalists – trouble choosing when to jump in, seed financing can be too soon, later can be too late.
  • How many ‘products’ are actually just features – Google’s recent media day on 3 features treated as amazing
  • Skype moved people towards VOIP
  • IPOs don’t exist any more, creating problems with exits (Don’t understand but that’s what he said.)
  • A preoccupation with AdSense, Google totally dominates in this single-payer system, but subscription can be a viable option
  • P&G spend 10% of their advertising budget on online, “nada”
  • TV commercialization starting to break down, some companies refusing to play in the competition
  • Canada much lower in numbers per capita basis in terms of looking for venture capital
  • We don’t see as many examples of people making money exiting their companies
  • Where do eastern Canadians go fort venture capitalism – Boston, Canadians …
  • Advice – think about the contingencies of your business before asking for VC, a real appetite now for investments

Good session. Next up - 15 Minutes of Fame

More Later.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Blogging at Mesh

Writing with passion. Yup!

Tris Hussey is talking about blogging - and his presentation is EXCELLENT - and/or I agree with what he says. The room is crowded; I was lucky to get a seat. Joey, Accordian Guy, is in the room too.

Qumana is a free blog editing tool that Tris is referencing, and it looks interesting; I'll check it out later.

Blogs & Monitizing - Are ads the future? Does Google hold all the cards? Mark Evans suggests that blogs will federate and go to advertisers as groups. The money might come from branding, consulting, speaking etc. Someone suggests that the money made from blogs might come from the connections that result from your posts, with gigs and jobs coming to you.

Blogs could move into areas where people are used to paying - like education. I wonder if he is the guy from Nuvvo.

Now we're talking about marketing and advertising and transparency.

"We're all working for Google." Even if you take something down - it's still in the cache.

What about truth, opinion, and "blooging for evil"?
Who do you get to blog for your company? Webmaster, writer, team of developers, ....?

Good places to learn about blogs - books!


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert

photo by Meryle Cox

Yesterday my daughter, Meryle, (who has performed some of his songs) and I (both fans) went to the Bay-Bloor Indigo bookstore for the Leonard Cohen Tribute Concert, with Anjani, Ron Sexsmith, and the Bare Naked Ladies. I'd won Front-of-the-Line tickets in an Indigo contest (thanks Heather) so we had great seating! It was wonderful.

Here's a link to some of Meryle's photos on my Flickr account -

Ron Sexsmith knew all Cohen's lyrics. He and Steven Page gave great support to Cohen, and Anjani was like a female version of Leonard Cohen. Leonard, himself, both read a poem and sang. I waved my vintage 1968 Leonard Cohen album cover. Sigh!


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Fun Spelling with Flickr

From Shel Holtz

A link to a site where you can spell with Flickr images.

See my name!

J O oneletter A N
V Train Logo Circle N A IMG_0998 L

Neat, eh?


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Personal Web Environments

The online computer is essential in business and education today. It is also increasingly central to our family lives and personal economic life. People spend hours on the computer, sharing photos, keeping health and financial records, reading for news or entertainment, learning, and playing games. Having an effective and efficient Personal Web environment is essential for us all. One of the foundations for effective Web work (or play) is setting up your own
  • personal toolbar;
  • Favorites bar; or
  • Bookmarks bar.

Chose the name you want; they are all the same.

I first learned about how to use this feature of a Web browser from my friend, Janet, who works in a library. Using it is so easy and convenient that I have never looked back. In this post, I am going to introduce you to the IE version, because that is still the most used Web browser, but I will follow-up with a post about the slight difference to the way it works in the Firefox Web browser.

What is a
  • personal toolbar;
  • Favorites bar; or
  • Bookmarks bar?

Glad you asked.

A Personal/Favorites/Bookmarks Bar
In the screenshot above, you can see the Favorites bar, and the View Menu that allows you to make it visible or hide it. This view of the Favorites bar still has the links it comes loaded with; you can see many Apple links (I work on an iBook) and, on the far right, a link to my academic blog on Elgg, the only link I have added so far.

Delete (or Move) Rarely Used Links

In the screenshot below, you can see 2 red arrows:
  • The double-headed arrow points a link on the Favorites bar and where it is listed in the Explorer bar (found under View in the Menu bar.)
  • The second red arrow points to "Delete" in the menu, which appeared when I right clicked (or you could hold down the "ctrl" button and use an ordinary left click.)

That's one of several ways to remove a link you don't use very often from the Favorites bar. When I'm setting up a browser to be part of my Personal Web Environment, my first step is to clear the Favorites bar. The next step is to begin adding my frequently used Websites to the Favorites bar, where I will be able to quickly and easily click on them.

Adding to Your Favorites Bar
There are a number of ways to add sites to your personal bar. I have a favorite. First you go to the site you want on your personal bar, either by entering the URL (or Web address)or by using a search engine to find it. Got it up on your screen, like below?
  • See the Address bar, the now empty Favorites bar, and the empty Favorites folder in the Explorer frame?
  • Now look at icon to the left of the url in the Address bar
  • Put your mouse cursor on it and hold down the left click button
  • Drag the icon down onto the Favorites bar. Notice that you can see a shadow image of the icon and the site title
  • Let go of the button while on the Favorites bar, and presto! - it now appears on your Favorites bar.

Benefits and Possibilities
When you add sites to your Favorites bar, you can easily click on them there and watch them open!
In the image above, arrows point to the Wikipedia Webpage, the Wikipedia url, the Wikipedia link on the Favorites bar, and the Wikipedia link in the Explorer frame. I can go on and add as many links as will fit across the Favorites bar (and beyond, as I'll show in the next post with Firefox). Here's the last bit for this post -

How to Shorten Web Link Names
  • Right (or "ctrl") click on the link, either in the Favorites frame or on the Favorites bar;
  • Up pops a menu;
  • Chose "Edit Name";
  • Change the name to the shortest one you can easily recognize.

Now you can start building your Personal Web Environment by adding more of your frequesntly used Web sites.

Have fun!