Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Tribute to Aaron Swartz

This week, we lost an amazing mind in the world of technology.  Aaron Swartz committed suicide after a prolonged battle with depression.  In case you are unaware of Aaron's contributions to our world: he had a part (and no small part) in developing the concept of RSS Feeds, Co-founding Reddit, led the development of the nonprofit Open Library in 2007 and assisted in laying structure of the framework for the development of Creative Commons licensing - among many other projects.  But until now, you probably didn't have a clue who he was.  Aaron was also a man of conviction and was passionate about the concepts of freedom of information the Internet.  This led him to develop Demand Progress an organization committed to the aforementioned ideal.

Unfortunately, living by one's convictions can often lead you over the top and outside the bounds of social norms.  In 2011, Aaron was indicted on charges of downloading millions of documents illegally from the non for profit online database JSTOR which provide academic journal articles free of charge.  I will not speculate on whether his actions were right or wrong.  Unfortunately, facing a prison sentence of up to 35 years for hacking, Aaron took his own life.  Aaron had suffered from depression for some time as he noted in this blog post from 2007.  It is my opinion that passion, genius and depression are typically a recipe for a catastrophic disaster and in this particular case it took a young 26 year old from us much too soon.  

Depression needs to stop being looked at as a stigma in the world in which we live.  It is a sickness that must be addressed and allowed to be done without shame.  Who knows what a bright star like Aaron would have accomplished if he had gotten the help he obviously needed.  We need to watch out for each other and be a support system to those in need.  We need to be more alert so that these kinds of tragedies can be prevented.  Rest in Peace Aaron and as Tim Berners Lee so succinctly tweeted at the news of your loss: "Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep."  You will be missed.




Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Switching Devices during a Google + Hangout

Google continues to blow my mind with Google +.  For a long time the most exciting feature for me on this social networking tool has been the Hangout feature.  Being able to have meetings with 9 other individuals is fantastic.  Then Google added app integration and suddenly you could collaborate on Google Docs, watch Youtube videos together and most recently share and control their Slideshare.com presentations.  In a previous post, I believe I described how Don Goble did just that to keynote a recent SET Connections conference. The tonight I was privileged to "Hangout" with Carol Broos and a number of Golden Apple Academy members, many of whom were new to the idea of the Hangout feature.  Carol had asked me to talk a bit about PLNs and in preparation I wanted to make sure my screenshare feature was working properly so I could show Twitter, Facebook and Google + So I opened a Hangout and saw Carlos Fernandez was available.  I sent him an invite and was surprised to find he answered on his cell phone.  I knew this was possible but really needed him on a device where he could confirm my screen looked right.  So he walked over to his laptop and suddenly the screen blipped and his image became clearer.  My jaw dropped when it dawned on me that he had just switched his connection to the hangout "on the fly" between his IPhone and his laptop.  This was because he had the invitation to Hangout open on his laptop and simply clicked it and disconnected his phone.  At least I think that's what happened.
So during tonight's meeting the question arose as to whether you could join a Hangout on an iPAD.  I knew you could but wasn't sure exactly how.  So, during the meeting I downloaded the Google+ app to investigate.  Sure enough once you have the app installed and are signed in, you can look in your notifications for Hangouts happening now and click the join button and you can Hangout from your iPAD.  Now here's the even more mind blowing part.  If you join a hangout your already in on another device - you actually get in TWICE! Which is really confusing to yourself and other participants - but this has implications.  Maybe you need to have a screenshare happening on you desktop or laptop but still wish to be seen?  Pull your video connection up on your device and screen on the other! Maybe you need to show multiple angles of an object, put it between your tablet or iTouch (yes, it works on those too) and now you have a multiple angle shot.  I'm trying to figure out the best way to do a screencast of this using a Hangout.  But until then I hope this info blew your mind as much as it did mine and you are already thinking about implications!

*******************************Addendum**************************************
In trying to record a Google + "On Air" Hangout so I could demonstrate how this works, I discovered that it does not seem to work in a recorded Hangout. I was not able to join a recording session in progress from an iTouch like I was the live discussion last night.  If anyone knows how this can be done, please let me know! We all learn from each other!

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