Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Thoughts Before Ringing in the Next Decade

Here we are just minutes from closing the first decade of the 21st century!  I am a big fan of the Terminator movies.  Have been since the last century!  Since the kids came along, getting to the theater has been near impossible.  So I missed the most recent installment "Terminator: Salvation", until tonight.
Every year for Christmas I buy the house some exciting new entertainment for the family.  A few years ago it was a DVD Burner with a VCR deck, then came the Wii, last year was a bit tough economically; but, I was still able to squeeze in a Flip camera.  Two days before Christmas this year, I saw an add for an Insignia Blu-Ray player that had Wi-Fi at an incredible price and snatched the last one off the shelf.  OK, that's a long way to go to get to the fact that I just watched "Terminator Salvation" on Blu-Ray, but there it is.
Now what on earth does the Terminator series have to do with education and technology (the driving force of this blog)?  Glad you asked.  I was actually highly disappointed in the movie.  Oh sure, there were plenty of explosions and cool looking futuristic weapons.  But the plot was very dark, almost non-existent and depressing.  But here's it's saving grace.  When we look at movies like this (Minority Report is another good example), we begin to realize that Michael Wesch, the self-proclaimed Digital Ethnography, was astutely correct in his now famous YouTube video "The Machine is Us/ing Us" (which incidentally could not have occurred until the 21st century since YouTube did not exist until 2005!)
Every time I see this video I have a different idea of what it's really about.  However in this final version I think I finally get that what Michael is getting at (and correct me if I'm wrong Professor Wesch - I would love to hear from you):  We as human beings, have become humans doing and as such have developed and continued to improve upon ways to ways to communicate and share information.  And over the course of the past 20 years or so, the internet has become a tool for the masses.  It is no longer for the geek in his basement with an analog modem connecting to the "internet" to play their favorite MUD (that's geek speek for multi-user dungeon role-playing game).  And in fact, what we have developed is a user friendly environment that encourages social collaboration without having to have the technical skills to develop the sites needed for the sharing of information.  In fact what we have been doing for the past decade is adding more and more information to the cloud and developing vast databases of valuable information.  This will eventually lead us to what Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the realfather of the internet as we know it today) refers too as the Semantic Web - that's web 3.0 to you and me.  The linking of data that will make it even easier to analyze and collaborate on a global scale.
OK, so that's a lot of rambling and a ton of information to digest in getting to a very small yet indelible point: the machine is indeed using us, but I don't think Skynet and it's Terminators are going to be coming for us anytime soon, because we still have free will.  We are able to create amazing new technologies that enable the betterment of our lives.  And when you consider the fact that even though countries around the world have the ability to wipe each other completely off the map, the simple fact remains that deep down beneath it all we have an inherint need to survive, to live and to thrive as a global community.
I'm sure in the next few days I will post a decade in review and a look to the future, but until then may the new year bring you peace, harmony and good fortune!  Happy 2010 everyone!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Something doesn't taste quite right at Delicious

First, a little history lesson.  The Social Bookmarking giant Delicious has been around in some form or another since 2003.  Originally, Joshua Schachter of memepool fame created a personal linkblog called Muxway.  This site quickly grew into what became del.icio.us in 2003.  By 2005 Schacter was working on the project full time and by the end of that year had sold out to Yahoo for an undisclosed sum (although according to Business 2.0 that sum was upwards of $30 million with Schacter netting about half that).  OK, all well and good.  Bravo for Joshua!
For some years, Delicious continued to function in much the same manner that it had since it's inception.  You were able to share your bookmarks with the world and have anytime/anywhere acesss to your favorite links.  No fear of a hard drive crash wiping out years of research, no worries about being able to find a link away from the office and best of all you could now easily share relevant information with colleagues.  With Yahoo being the backbone of the new Delicious things continued to get better as features became more robust.  I have been a Delicious user for some time and particularly in the last few years.  In fact, whenever I see someone using browser bookmarks I have fully encouraged them to use Delicious.  That is, until the last few months.
What has changed you asked.  Well as with most things in the Web 2.0 universe, eventually even free has a price.  Much to my amazement, a few months ago I was helping someone sign up for a Delicious account when Yahoo reared it's somewhat ugly head and asked for your username and password.  Say what?!  Since when did you need a Yahoo account to sign up for Delicious?  Well, it had to happen eventually.  Now when I suggest Delicious as an alternative to static bookmarking, I have to use the caveat that you must also sign up for a Yahoo account.  And while a Yahoo account is free (and I have a few myself) this deters a number of people from signing up to use the social bookmarking service and that's a shame.
If you already had a delcious account, fear not dear reader you are grandfathered in and all your old links are still there. Just sign in the way you always have in the past.
So why am I blogging about this?  Who cares? You ask. The cynic in me is questioning Yahoo's motives for this move.  How long will it be before our precious research and links are held hostage by a change in the Yahoo TOS (Terms of Service).  Will there be a fee?  Will we eventually have to have a Yahoo account to get our information.  Will they pull a "Facebook" and make all our private information public?  Who knows?  But you should care!
So what is a social bookmarker to do? Well, I would start looking for another resource to backup my Delicious information (Diigo, Blogmarks.net or Faves).  Better yet why not upload to all your Social bookmarking locations at once using something like SocialMarker? That way all your links have been cross-referenced and saved across cyberspace.
While Yahoo has left a bad taste in my mouth, I don't plan to stop using or encouraging the use of Delicious, however I will have a backup plan if Delicious decides to try and start using me!
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