Saturday, June 25, 2005

douglas adams

Using Descriptious: Populicious within minutes I found this very funny piece by Douglas Adams

So, I'm going to trial Descriptious: Populicious as my home page for a while.

Here's an extract from the Adams essay:

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.


I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’

‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’

‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’

‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’

Five Orders of Ignorance

from Philip Armour's "Of Jet Planes and Zeppelins"

  • 0th Order Ignorance: Lack of Ignorance
    • I (probably) know something
  • 1th Order Ignorance: Lack of Knowledge
    • I do not know something
  • 2nd Order Ignorance: Lack of Awareness
    • I do not know that I do not know something
  • 3rd Order Ignorance: Lack of Process
    • I do not know a (suitably effective) way to find out that I don't know something
  • 4th Order Ignorance: Meta-Ignorance
Philip goes onto explain that you can only have a process for something you already know how to do.

And the corollary: you can't have a process for something you've never done.

He applies this to software production, in support of the Agile or Extreme programming method.

I think it needs to be applied to other things, like education, too.

Descriptious: Populicious

Thanks to Russell Phillipson for publishing my RSS services article in RAMpage (Computer in Education Group of South Australia).

Aside: I was about to provide a link to the RSS article but my website is down again. It has been dropping in and out for weeks now. I am blaming EduConnect although they are in denial. I guess I will have to set up my site elsewhere. I have just formed a one man organisation called Victims of Educonnect. If you want to join then drop me a line.

I reread my article (written originally in January 2005) in order to do my own review and update. Since writing the article I have begun blogging myself and regularly using the RSS services mentioned (especially blogdex, and bloglines ) and so I now know more.

In the aforesaid article I recommended blogdex as my preferred site for providing a broad overview of what is currently popular amongst the blog collective.

Descriptious: Populicious is a webapp developed by Jonathan Aquino which augments with descriptions entered by users.

Translation: users bookmark their favourite websites publicly on the web. From this collection the currently most popular sites can be ascertained by processing the RSS / XML.
These are published at Jonathon Aquino has augmented this by adding in the descriptions of those popular sites that have been added by users as they bookmark the websites. The result is displayed at a site with the unwieldy name, Descriptious: Populicious.

Up until now I've set blogdex as my homepage. Blogdex tracks the most contagious information currently spreading in the weblog community. I'm now torn between blogdex and Descriptious: Populicious.

Blogdex is more generalist / populist whereas Descriptious: Populicious is more techie.

I also revisited technorati and successfully searched for some of my own blogged articles from there. For example by typing "ICT and the curriculum" in technorati search I quickly found the article I blogged last night.

I was also curious about the current number of blogs in the world. In the original article I had quoted 5 million with a new blog being created every 7.4 seconds, which means there are about 12,000 new blogs a day (stats from technorati in January 2005). The same page in technorati now says "over seven million weblogs". That makes rough sense, about 2 million new blogs have been created this year. I did the maths but won't bore you with it.

ICT and the curriculum

I posted the following to the Victorian IT lists as part of a discussion about the integration of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) into the curriculum. These integration efforts look good on paper but have led to IT lessons taught by specialist IT teachers being removed from the curriculum. What follows is the text of my original post punctuated with various new thoughts which add some more detail and clarification.

I think the problem with ICT in the curriculum is more dramatic and conceptual than the "interdisciplinary nature" of ICT.

Software is a medium for storing / transforming knowledge - there have only been a few such mediums in human history: machines, books, DNA, stuff like that. Software is the latest and arguably the fastest, most efficient, most flexible, evocative etc. yet.

update: This is argued in an article by Philip Armour: Of Zeppelins and Jet Planes (sorry, can't find the link). He says:
Software is not a product. It is a medium in which we store knowledge. Historically there have been 5 such media: DNA, Brains, Hardware, Books, Software.
ICT, for want of a better descriptor, cannot just be added onto the existing curriculum or integrated with it because software - the whole phenomenon of "being digital" - represents a brand new way of doing everything.

update: Being Digital is the name of a book by Nicholas Negroponte. The link is to an on line version.

At this stage only the enthusiasts "get it" and they are the people found here, on ICT lists. They are a minority in schools but will carry the message into schools as best they can. Our numbers will grow, there is no doubt about that.

update: There is probably more to it than being on a list but that's a good start

In the meantime, School (Capital S) will try to adapt and constrain the computer to make it fit the existing curriculum through sheer inertia, silly buggers and other means. Nothing new there.

update: read Alan Kay, Seymour Papert, Brian Harvey - ask me for more detail if you want it

No solution is adequate because we are in the middle of a paradigm shift but the best available solution for government would be to give the ICT enthusiasts as much power and encouragement as possible. Sooner or later it will happen, in the meantime the policy from the hierarchy could make a big difference but I don't think the hierarchy "gets it" either.

Maybe in India and China the hierarchy does get it, they seem to be powering along while the West is scratching it's head wondering why.

update: What I really mean is that despite the human rights abuses and extreme poverty found in those two countries they are taking education in maths, science and IT seriously and going places because of that. Asians win all the International Maths competitions these days. Should we put that down to genetic inferiority or some sort of soft culture / mathophobia in white western countries?

Monday, June 20, 2005

ted nelson

Originally uploaded by Bill Kerr.
I like ted nelson because he makes me think and he's very entertaining in the way he uses language.

He invented wonderful words like hypertext and cybercrud.

Someone recently asked me, "Is it more important to think of a new idea or to design and make something to put that idea into practice?"

That made me think of Ted Nelson who thought of the idea of hypertext whereas it was Tim Berners-Lee who put it into practice. Maybe.

I checked out Ted on the web and found a page of his one liners. They stretch the mind and invite the reader to look at things in a new way.

Here is his commentary on the term intuitive software:
"Oh, SURE the Macintosh interface is Intuitive!
I've always thought deep in my heart that command-z should undo things."
-- Margy Levine

The term "intuitive" for interfaces is a complete misnomer. I can think of two meanings in software for which the term "intuitive" is presently used:

1. Almost nobody, looking at a computer system for the first time, has the slightest idea what it will do or how it should work. What people call an "intuitive interface" is generally one which becomes obvious as soon as it is demonstrated. But before the demo there was no intuition of what it would be like. Therefore the real first sense of "intuitive" is retroactively obvious.

2. Well-designed interactive software gradually unfolds itself, as in the game of Pac-Man, which has many features you don't know about at first. The best term I've heard for this is self-revealing (term coined by Klavs Landberg).

I thought of those words today when I explained to a student how to remove the line around a MS Publisher shape:
right click > Format AutoShape, then click on the dropdown box labelled Color and then you'll a button labelled 'No Line'.

Make a lots of sense, eh? Click on Color and you get 'No Line'. Today I said to that student, "it's not intuitive, but you might be able to remember it"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Translucent Generation

The Translucent Generation by Alex Krupp
A substance is translucent when it transmits light, translucency being the intermediary phase between opacity and transparency. This generation is translucent because bits and pieces of our thoughts, feelings, values, beliefs, and actions are available on-line to anyone who cares to look. Not enough to tell the complete picture about any person or institution—transparency—but enough to put us in a state of social disequilibrium that will have a profound impact in the years to come.

The translucent generation is made up of those whose values, beliefs, and ideals have been shaped by their dynamic use of the Internet. There are lots of twenty year olds today who use the Internet daily, and a few who have used it since they were old enough to read. Of those even fewer are power users; the web logging, Usenet posting, wiki editing, IRC chatting types. And of those power users, very few were engaged in these activities during their formative years. Those elite few share a unique value set that will revolutionize the world. And because these values spread virally, the size of this generation will continue to grow exponentially.

The philosophical underpinnings of the translucent generation have come through the process of millions of people arguing about their beliefs for billions of hours. Ideas on the Internet compete in a Darwinian way; the best ideas spread at the speed of light while the others fade away. However, here are a few individuals whose actions or writings have summed up this philosophy exceptionally well.

Richard Stallman — Founder of the GNU project
Jimmy Wales — Founder of Wikipedia
Eric Raymond — The Cathedral and the Bazaar
Philip Greenspun — Philip and Alex’s Guide to Web Publishing and founder of ArsDigita
Lawrence Lessig — The Future of Ideas and Free Culture
Howard Rheingold — Smart Mobs and The Virtual Community
Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, David Weinberger — The ClueTrain Manifesto
Dan Gillmor — We the Media
David Weinberger — “Small Pieces Loosely Joined”
Joe Trippi — “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”
Bruce Schneier — “Beyond Fear”
Jeffrey Rosen — “The Unwanted Gaze” and “The Naked Crowd”
Don Tapscott and David Ticoll — “The Naked Corporation”
The whole article is well worth a close read.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

order, chaos and beauty

Originally uploaded by Bill Kerr.
Simple shapes are inhuman. They fail to resonate with the way nature organizes itself or the way human perception sees the world.

Gert Eilenberger, German physicist:
Our feeling for beauty is inspired by the harmonious arrangement of order and disorder as it occurs in natural objects - in clouds, trees, mountain ranges, or snow crystals. The shapes of all these are dynamic processes jelled into physical forms, and particular combinations of order and disorder are typical for them.
The above is extracted from Chaos, pp. 116-7, a book by James Gleick (1987)

My thoughts then turned to something else. Why do government schools, prisons and toilet blocks all have a depressingly similar architecture?

anger at Pokies

Originally uploaded by Bill Kerr.
I lost a dollar the pokies which made me rather angry.

Actually I was posing for my daughter who has chosen an anger theme for an emotionalty Visual Arts project.

I was amazed at how boring the pokies were.

Monday, June 06, 2005

more toys

PC World has a feature, The 100 Best Products of 2005, which made me curious.

I'm already using or have trialled some of these products ( Mozilla Firefox, Google GMail, Google Search Engine, Mozilla Thunderbird and several more).

Others I plan to adopt as soon as possible, in particular the Skype, VoIP service.
Skype uses peer-to-peer technology to connect users to other users to talk and chat with friends. Skype was developed by the founders of Kazaa P-to-P technology, widely used to share music files. Sharman Networks the company behind the Kazaa file sharing software.

More than 100 million copies of Skype software have been downloaded from the Internet. The company claims 35 million registered users.

A lot of the others I just hadn't heard of and for most probably won't get the time to check them out.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


I've made an iris using Photoshop and an internet tutorial. This took me ages but I've learnt a lot of skills in the process:

tools: smudge, dodge, burn, blur
blending mode: multiply
filter: blur more

I had to read the tutorial very carefully, tweak it in places and to keep trying when things went wrong. The one here is my fourth attempt

If you want to try it yourself the tutorial is at

Friday, June 03, 2005

save the children, NO

I've just read an article by Christina Hoff Sommers, Enough already with kid gloves, which outlines some of the near hysterical crimp of the human spirit that is currently being introduced into American schools.

Some schools have replaced red pens with purple pens for teacher marking because purple is more pleasant than red.

Other schools are prohibiting or banning competitive games such as tag and dodgeball because some child's feelings might be hurt.

A parent teacher organisation has recommended that
"tug of war" be replaced by "tug of peace."

Sommers writes:
... many adults today regard the children in their care as fragile hothouse flowers who require protection from even the remote possibility of frustration, disappointment or failure

She links these changes to a misguided self esteem movement that is intent on praising children even when they haven't achieved anything.

Maybe we should just get on with robust and caring interaction with children rather than wrapping them up in cotton wool