Online = talking about what you are interested in!

From World in their Hands, Sydney Morning Herald Icon today:

But Dr Jan Fletcher, of the Child Study Centre at the University of Western Australia, is wary of virtual lives for children. “There is a danger that this online interaction might be limiting the amount of social interaction the child is actually having,” she warns. “I want kids to talk to each other about what they’re interested in, not about a world invented by a toy company.

Hmmm, online interaction takes many forms – and kids do talk to each other about what they are interested in. Online, offline, within and without borders.

It seems the world of “toys” and “information” joined together magically means “education”. What if information is actually, well, fun? Gone are the bookish days of reading an encyclopedia and welcome to the world of instant information.

The critical skill is information literacy.

Learning Technology Challenge. It’s not the Technology.

As highlighted by one of Australia’s leading Social Networking thinkers in Education, Mike Seyfang, technology in schools is already in schools. Mobile phones, the MSN Messenger communities, blogs, Myspace, Wikipedia: these technologies are being used by students today.

One pervasive technology that hounds parents today is the use of MSN Live Messenger. It’s the standard tool for all kids today. Without Messenger, kids are outcasts from their social networks. They use it to gossip (like the telephone of previous eras) and to collaborate on school projects. And probably bully, too. In all instances, collaboration is king. Today, the ability to collaborate in work and life scenarios is underdeveloped in K-12 (especially at the pointy end of K-12) as the focus moves to individual achievement.

Unless you are stuck on a deserted island, your life is going to be collaborative. Work, too. In a connected world, this is amplified and packetised.

What is needed is policy and technology-frameworks to unlock the power of the networks that exist. It might be Single-Sign-on (sometimes referred to SSO), firewalls and other pieces of technology that corporations already use. Microsoft (my employer) eats its own dogfood: smartcards, firewalls, network security and the like.

However, it is my contention that the first hurdle isn’t the technology: it’s enabling the passionate teachers to engage in the learning networks. Removing the blockages of knee-jerk blanket restrictions – as they do not work. Remember, the internet was designed to deal with failure and route around it. Censorship is classed as a failure, and therefore is routed around.

I’d love to hear teacher stories.

A Life in Packets

TCP/IP is the low level stuff that has changed the world. VoIP, Web, Web 2 and all that stuff require TCP/IP to work. When I was first introduced to this protocol in 1987 (late bloomer, here) I wasn’t that overwhealmed.

What has TCP/IP have to do with life? TCP/IP packetizes data. Instead of have a channel open (like TV, Radio) and streaming constantly – TCP/IP puts bits into discreet packages at one end, throws them out the network, and expects the other end to re-assemble to get the data.

Maybe life and work comes in packets, too? Bursts of energy and bursts of reflection

Why is there a 5 days work, 2 days weekend imposed on us by some distant hierarchy?

Another key concept is latency, or the space between the packets. Keeping the latency predictable, or as low as possible, is another life skill.

Life and work comes in packets and latency, that get munged. 

Connecting to Make a Difference

It has been three days of absolute pleasure in Adelaide.

dulwich oak

Firstly, a big shout out and major thanks to Mike, Mandy, Jamie and Jemma Seyfang for their hospitality and recording studio (which doubled as my late night work area and sleep area) for three days.  Oh, and happy birthday Jemma. Getting out of the hotel room shenanigans and living with real people made the difference on this trip.

mandy & mike

It also gave Uncle Mike and I to discuss the day’s events in depth, explore ideas and suggest directions. I must deeply thank Uncle Mike for his suggestions on improvements to “The Geek Stories”. Having Australia’s premiere Social Networking thinker at your beck and call night and day, making you cups of tea, is a rare experience.  The value is inmeasurable.

with immanuel headmaster

Secondly, a major thanks to my video subjects: Dave “Lifekludger” Wallace, Mike “Fang” Seyfang, Kevin Richardson, Glenn Butcher and Kinglsey Foreman. Unlike last Friday, I purposely spread the video capturing over three days to ensure I was on the ball through all interviews.

dave and mike

Oh, and I rang Robert Scoble after he Twittered he was bored on his way south from Petaluma to his home. That’s California.  Connections and wiring brings us together in strange ways.

Connections. This social networking thing is about connections. Using them to produce value greater than the sum of the parts. A common theme emerging from all my interviews is that either for life (Lifekludger), learning (Kevin) or entertainment (Glenn) humans value connections. Making them, and reinforcing linkages.

munge brother uncle tim

With Munge Brother, Uncle Tim Kleemann, we explored this from a business perspective. Tim owns NextByte, and originally hired me way back when I was a pimply kid in 1985. To Tim I owe gratitude for the 21+ years in this crazy industry.

These human traits of wanting connectedness extend to our kids, too. They have strong social networks that extend into the digital world, and outside of school in the home and on the proverbial bus – and the lines between school and home are becoming equally as blurred as work and home. Presence via Messenger; publicity via MySpace and YouTube. All around are connections. Both visible and invisible.

Uncle Mike is exploring some of the learning aspects to these social networks through his work with; Dave experiences this everyday in his extraordinary life.

Ensuring Parents and Teachers understand the environment of social networking in all its forms is the major challenge for technology companies working in this space: Microsoft, Google or whomever. I think the time is ripe for a major model change in the way educators think about online access, and the skills kids are going to need to survive in a smaller, greater connected and information rich world.

Returning to Immanuel to speak to Kevin, I learnt many things. I did not expect this as an old scholar. One learning was that I owe Noel Volk and Greg Sharp a major thankyou. In my school years there was a concious effort to install computers into the school and use these as a part of education. This effort lead me into this industry I now find myself. Money was siphoned off other projects into this some 22 years ago. Like the Angle Park Computer Centre, Abefoyle Park project and others – the product of these efforts have not gone to waste. So thanks.

interode central

Internode is a connection company; the interview with Glenn and Kingsley will air sometime next week. Australian gamers know Internode as the best gaming network, and service, around. You can feel their passion for games; a passion that extends from the MD of Internode, Simon Hackett.

late night edit geek

I feel that getting people’s stories told, and out there for all to see is important. Geek Stories or not, the connection potential is huge.

Send in your story, and let’s go make a difference.

Arhhhh! got me

Yeah, user error. My mistake. I should have watched all the check boxes on the site. Mea Culpa. Now all my gmail contacts get spam from me. Ugly.

So, whilst I am on the topic: social networking sites should only opt-in, not opt-out. Make it a little more difficult to show your friends you are an absolute dork and idiot. Plaxo had the same effect on people, and it made your Outlook run as slow as treacle.

I am a fan of; is interesting but looks as ugly as Prince Charles’ second wife; not much else has caught my eye.

Sydney goes Ga Ga over a big Cruise Ship. Or Two.

The big boats Queen Mary II arrived in Sydney this morning, and the Queen Elizabeth II arrived late this afternoon. And Sydney came to a screeching halt as people oggled the sight.

Now, if Princess Mary was on the Harbour. Wow. The productivity of the nation would fall by 2%. Now, I would even get out of bed early to see her.

Moore’s Law and Compounding Interest

In deploying the small Ruby on Rails application on an old Dell 8200 running Debian-sarge, I decided to see how the application would perform under load.

Apache comes with a great little application meekly called ab. ab is a small command-line tool that slashdots your web application, and gives you a nice measure (in pages per second, amongst other things).

Measuring the performance of the Dell 8200 using the Mongrel web server vs. my Mac Book Pro running the same versions of all the stack of software (except, obviously the OS) – the speed difference is 16x. Now as these machines are about 4 years apart from each other in the Intel-world, 16 is exactly what you would expect: the performance doubles every year. Very wise prediction from 1970 that continues to drive this whole crazy industry.

What has this to do with Compounding interest? Exactly 22 years ago one of my kind, late great-uncles started a bank account for be with the grand deposit of AU$200. Which I’ve subsequently forgotten about.

Mum found the Deposit booklet somewhere, and sent it to me. Today that account is worth about $640. This is a compounded interest rate of 5.4%. In another 22 years it will be worth AU$2,023 at the same rate.

Now, if it had compounded at Moore’s Law over the last 22 years: the amount in the bank would be a grand $6,276,211,921,800.

Now I know why I work in IT, not finance!