Monthly Archive for February, 2008

“Shpigler, you shark, how the hell do you do it?”

I was randomly exploring the followers of followers of me on Twitter when I saw this satirical educational video on Micki’s mickipedia blog.

How to raise money from VCs” has this Israeli investor sharing his tricks to getting venture capitalists to part with their money. Thing is, the tips are downright absurd (though they might just work).

My favorite phases from the clip include…
“You shark, how the hell do you do it?”
“Web 2.0 – The new anti-trend”
“Ride your Excel like there’s no tomorrow”
You get the picture…

Aside: If you’ve got a hot idea and need a VC, might want to check out some of these free VC eBooks via Mashable.

HelloTxt: For microbloggers who can’t get enough…

If you have too many microblogging and social networking accounts, updating your status messages across all of them can be a pain. There are desktop apps to remedy that, but here’s an all-in-one web service which posts your status to a bunch of them.

Making round over twitterverse is this new service called HelloTxt. HelloTxt is an aggregate of microblogging services through which the user can insert their messages on all main microblogging services in a simple and simultaneous way.

There’s also a timeline view for reading the latest updates of your friends status on a particular service. Currently supported are: Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Meemi and Beemood. Facebook support is coming soon.

It’s free to use from your web browser, but you need a mobile code to get it to work with your cellphone (including iPhone). I’ve got mobile codes for the first four commenters who need it and can tell me when you’ll ever get tired of signing up for another new webapp.

Aside: Until data portability becomes an everyday reality, these services are really stop-gap solutions to help manage our identities online. Our personal data should really flow and part (like the Red Sea) at our will, instead of being in these information silos (e.g. social networks).

Thanks: MacGeekPro for the mobile codes.

Why stop at your organs? Be an Intellectual Property Donor!

Public Domain Donor (sticker)

Clever media art project. Makes sense especially in countries where copyright length go for an average of + 70 years after death of the creator. Least I now have a failsafe choice to share my work beyond Creative Commons.

See the sticker sample, then print your own set.

Aside: Was wondering about the economics of having copyright persistent over death (beyond their family wealth)… then I realize what a cruel world it would be if creators were to get offed (i.e. assassinated) frequently so everyone could have access to their works.

How to Generate and Read QR Codes for your blog

How to Generate and Read QR Code

Back in 2006, I talked about generating semacode for your blog. More recently, it seems that QR codes have become more ubiquitous in the States. For the uninitiated, this Wikipedia entry explains it well:

A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response”, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. QR Codes are common in Japan where they are currently the most popular type of two dimensional code.

QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards or just about any object that a user might need information about. A user having a camera phone equipped with the correct reader software can scan the image of the QR Code causing the phone’s browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. This act of linking from physical world objects is known as a hardlink or physical world hyperlinks.

I’d love to start printing name cards and t-shirts with these visual bookmarks, so anyone could simply snap and decode using their camera phone, then pull down a URL of my blog or more directly, a personal hCard.

Key differences between Semacode vs. QR Codes:
1) QR code is popular in Japan, while Semacode is popular outside Japan
2) QR code is open and can store more types of information, while Semacode is developed to store just URLs (Note: debated issue as URLs are pretty open too).

Here are some relevant places you can go to have fun with QR codes:
To generate QR codes for URL, Text, Phone number or SMS, go to

To read QR codes on your iPhone, go to

To read QR codes on your camera phone, download via

To learn how QR codes work, see

Can’t wait to see everthing tagged with QR codes… I think we should have these generators built into sticky label makers!

Freshly Presented: “Facebook Strategies for the Classroom”

The above presentation includes audio recording, but it is not in-sync with the slides as I diverted to actual demos half the time. You can control the slides on your own while listening to what I’ve got to say.

Facebook is one of the most popular online social network today. Founded on February 2004, Facebook does seem to have a wider appeal than other social networks given the relatively clean design. To account for its initial growth, I suspect an initial attraction to the relatively high brow user base seeded by Ivy League universities. As seen from their timeline, Facebook started with the academic circle, but has since opened to all.

More recently, Facebook has emerged as a new form of search for information highly relevant to oneself. As explained on the Facebook Press Room, the web company considers their service a social utility, by developing technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, that is, the digital mapping of people’s real-world social connections. For instance, with copious details on yourself and your peers, searching for recommendations through Facebook would be more relevant to your taste than what Google Search could muster.

As a reflection of Facebook’s growing significance and popularity, I presented a session exploring the strategic uses of Facebook. Running with a full house last Friday morning at the Teaching & Learning Center (UB), the workshop explored the potential uses of Facebook for teaching and motivating collaboration between students. Issues of privacy naturally became the hot topic, as well as concerns about intellectual property. Finally I covered the advantages and pitfalls of social networks, with specifics to Facebook. Everyone’s intrigued with Facebook, and just as ambiguous as “poking” on Facebook, we’re trying to make sense (and utility) of it.

As seen on Slide 6 above, here’s my Facebook workshop agenda which has two parts shown in bold…

What is Facebook?
1. History
2. Who’s Using It
3. Things you can do

For the Classroom
1. Opportunities
– Promotes conversation
– It’s Spontaneous
– Integrate your stuff (RSS)
– Reputation as Motivator
2. Challenges
– Application Spam
– Getting Informal?
– What Privacy?
– Walled Garden
3. Questions

Multi-dimensional conversations of Facebook Users

One particular learning opportunity I highlighted about Facebook is how it promotes conversation. As seen in the chart I’ve put together above based on concepts shared by FaberNobel Consulting, there is a higher chance of users cross-breeding thanks to how multi-dimensional conversations can get. On Facebook, users are in constant interactions with one another through messaging (including pokes), sharing media, joining groups and events, as well as the use of Facebook applications. This is one of the unique aspects of Facebook which supersedes it over traditional course management systems such as the popular Blackboard. This feature does have its share of challenges too, ranging from distractions (spamminess) to informality (teacher / student relationship).

If you’re interested in keeping up with this, feel free to join our Facebook Group. Alternatively, you can browse the workshop photos taken by Mili, listen to the audio recording in various formats, or download the slides for re-use under Creative Commons by Attribution and Share-Alike.

FAIL: Chatting with Singaporean friends over TokBox

Our first tokbox session

Wanted to have an online get-together with the media socialists, so we tried a six-way video conference using Definitely convenient that the service is entirely web-based.

By 11am EST, three of us chatted over video, one friend lurked (no cam nor mic), while the rest couldn’t make it. While it was certainly fun seeing everyone’s faces at once, there was a 10 second lag from what I said to what they heard, rendering the experience quite painful. Even with all our broadband connection and incredible state of web technology, our international Internet connectivity still has a long way to go.

TokBox should be great if everyone were in the States. I guess I’ll still be looking for a way to video chat with my Singapore-bound friends.

Goodbye USA-193, your death helps test our planetary defenses

USA-193: The Spy Who Gets Shagged

To USA-193: “Good day mate! It’s aboot time!”
Using coordinates from A Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued on 18th Feb 2008, Alan put together a KMZ file which we can overlay on Google Earth for a good view of the spy satellite’s killzone and the expected trajectory of debris. If it makes for land mass, the debris should end up either over the sparsely populated parts of Canada or Australia, due to the spy satellite’s parabolic orbital path.

If you’re wondering what this is about, over Valentine’s day, the Pentagon made the decision to blast their failing satellite out of the sky before it hits the ground. Some nations are in dispute about taking this course of action (i.e. missile action), but there are a few reasons backing this up:

1. It contains 1,000 pounds of hydrazine
According to the EPA, “exposure to high levels of hydrazine may [induce] irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, dizziness, headache, nausea, pulmonary edema, seizures, and coma in humans.” It’s the same stuff in cigarette smoke, just way more.

2. It’s a spy satellite
Just to be safe, they’re blowing it away.

3. Makes good target practice
Despite the operation costing an average of $50 million, this is will be a pretty good test of the U.S. strategic missile defense. I’d say it might even let me rest easier to know that we stand a better chance if some stray asteroid were to come for us.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first satellite take-down of this sort. China previously took theirs down at a much higher altitude, sparking sharp criticism for bringing military testing to space and creating an astonishing amount of debris out there. It’s still going to be messy, just not as bad.

See the full explanation of the operation on Zarya spaceflight web site as well as on the New York Times. Thanks to Nelson, he’s pointed out WIRED’s video simulation which shows how it’s all going down…

Facebook thoughts for libraries and classrooms…

Karen's Facebook Workshop for Librarians

Facebook for Librarians workshopThis morning I sat in on Karen Morse’s workshop introducing Facebook to her fellow UB librarians. While our UB Libraries has already taken to blogs, wikis, Youtube and Facebook, Karen’s talk was the first of a series aimed at helping the rest of the librarian community understand what social media was about.

This was particularly useful to me, since I could ascertain the primary concerns of new entrants to social networking. Some of the points & issues raised included:

Students “live” on Facebook
A primary reason for understanding Facebook, is because students are spending their time there, so why not bring our services there where it makes more sense. This is an accessibility move, as well as a marketing opportunity.

Overwhelmed yet?
Karen did the right thing by showing MySpace, then showing Facebook. While I agree that social networks like Facebook could be overwhelming to new users, in terms of evolution, it does have a cleaner design. I’ve seen plenty of new friends get so overwhelmed, they find all the interactions nonsensical (poke, applications), and could very well leave the network before they could derive value from it. Remember that there isn’t exactly any user manual to Facebook, so most users have to play around to figure everything out. Despite its clean look, some of the pages aren’t intuitive to get to as they are contextually spread across the page rather than consolidated in one spot.

Privacy Perspectives
Karen and I believe that it is largely a cultural thing. For one, we both see that plenty of students were willing to share the full home address and cell phone numbers online. I exclaimed that women used to hold their age private, but now even they share their birthdays on Facebook. Karen tells me that she enters her birthday without the year. I suspect that users are inclined to fill out their profile forms completely, rather than to leave them blank (psychological design?).

Saying No to Friending
While many love the idea of finding old friends, the problem of rejecting “not so close friends” can be daunting to some. Even the act of rejecting Facebook applications from friends worries plenty of folks. As a result, some end up feeling stressed on Facebook, while some learn to be extremely selective with friends. I’ve heard one story of a friend’s friend who had multiple Facebook identities for this reason. Consider what Cory Doctorow calls Boyd’s Law where “Adding more users to a social network increases the probability that it will put you in an awkward social circumstance”.

Messaging Mayhem
As if the the Wall, the Inbox, the Notifications, and Status Updates aren’t enough clicking through for you, there are applications like Superwall that create yet another messaging space to tend to. One major issue about communicating via Facebook is how spread out your inbox can be. Nothing is consolidated (once again!), which leads me to believe that it’s an insidious move to have users click all over the place, to serve more web banner ads.

UBlearns vs. Facebook
How is Blackboard different from Facebook? Other than the earlier point where students live there (captive audience), it’s really about two things: 1) The Third Place: Being a shared space not owned by either parties (librarians nor students) may mean equal standing in power. This motivates the user by choice (self-interest), rather than coercion. 2) Informality: I believe that informal channels allow for more spontaneous interaction. I worried myself once when I told my students how I wasn’t just their teacher, but their friend who wants them to succeed. Fortunately they didn’t try to “climb over” me, but rather approach me in all honesty as their mentor. Might work for some, not everyone.

Facebook Strategies for the ClassroomThese are just some of more salient discussion points I recall. I will be conducting a related workshop entitled “Facebook Strategies for Classrooms” this Friday from 10am to 12 noon at the TLC. As I prepare my presentation about Facebook, I’ve started a wiki page to collect relevant resources I plan to use.

If you’re interested to keep this discussion going, join the “Facebook Strategies for Classrooms” Facebook group today.

Gift Economy: From Eco-Gaming to Community Currency Research

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

This morning, while I was googling up “point metrics game mechanics” for rewarding environmental action (e.g. recycling plastic = 5pts, refusing disposable chopsticks = 8pts), I chanced upon a terrible environmental board game and an example of eco-currency.

Since I barely had time to blog about it earlier, I emailed them onto my environmentalist friend, November (aka Leaf Monkey). An interesting turn of events transpired via her Twitter

LeafMonkey: @brainopera sent me some links about eco-currencies and a boardgame about the environment which @budak has shown me before. im lazy to blog too! about 2 hours ago from web

LeafMonkey: Terra – the environmentalism board game that is not so eco-friendly about 2 hours ago from web

LeafMonkey: @brainopera also mentioned an eco-currency concept which reminds me of community currencies which I am fond of about 2 hours ago from web

LeafMonkey: I even found an international journal of community currency research very interesting! about 2 hours ago from web

Serendipitously, November’s discovery of the International Journal of Community Currency Research was a prize I didn’t expect to find as supporting material for tomorrow’s class discussion on the Gift Economy. In meta-speak, even this exchange we had is reflective of the non-market creative orientation of the Net; it just worked out on its own.

My graduate colleague Derek and I taught this for our COM125 Intro to Internet classes, as a form of social currency in an online community. If you’re interested, here are the reading materials I assigned back in Feb 2007.

Scott Johnson of 56 Geeks does “Kevin the Lifecaster”

Scott Johnson's "Kevin the Lifecaster"

Illustrated by the talented Scott Johnson, creator of The 56 Geeks Project.

What do you think?
First thoughts from friends was that I look fat, but I think it makes me more approachable. I’m thinking of making name cards out of these. BTW, can anyone make out what that pink tamagotchi-like thing on the belt is suppose to be?

Scott runs a game-centric cartoon blog at