The thing that caught my eye about this report in the Chronicle of Bill Gates’ keynote at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit was:
“In the Q&A, Mr. Gates predicted that MOOCs would not be “place-based” classes but would be led by a small subset of instructors who taught to a broad audience. There’s a set of people, he said, who are really good at it and who have big budgets and great support.”
I’ve been wondering where the money will come from to create MOOCs (who hasn’t). Right now most institutions are simply absorbing the cost for their own early ventures with MOOCs because this is a game that everyone wants to get into without necessarily knowing where it will lead, or even the rules of the game. A few of the lucky ones may have external funding to create their MOOCs. However if you’re a university with any ambition for online learning, can you afford not to be dabbling with MOOCs right now? But longer term, when the initial rush to go live is over and the revenue models are known for the big players, how many can afford to remain in this space? I think Gates is probably right. MOOCs, or whatever they turn into, may remain the product of a small number of players with big budgets and great institutional support. Those of us without the cash will have to come up with different sustainable models for production and support for our online learning, or else mooch rather than MOOC.
The retirement of Google Reader has forced me like many others to look for an alternative service to manage my RSS subscriptions. I’ve tried a number of services and apps and have decided to go with Feedly, at least for now. Feedly made the transition from Google easy because I started using it as an interface to my Google Reader account in the weeks leading up to the switch off so there was no need to export my feeds from Google. I like Feedly’s web interface, and use that the most, although I also have the iPad and iPhone apps and use those occasionally. There’s also an IFTT Feedly channel, so I might play with that too.
Some people are saying that Google dropping Reader is another small step away from the open web towards a closed walled-garden web composed of proprietary services. In terms of RSS at least, I’m not that pessimistic. For a long time RSS was my main route to getting all the news I read from multiple sources. But in recent years I’ve been getting news and updates via all kinds of other routes including Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. I now mostly use RSS as a way of keeping up to date with various blogs. It fits with my workflow. I use Twitter to find out about updates to apps and web services that I use. I read one or two of the big news meta sites like TechCrunch and The Verge, and I subscribe to a number of Linkedin groups for professional interest. RSS has a place, and for that Feedly works well for me.
Dave Winer clearly has a view on this, as he was instrumental in most of us using RSS to read news in the first place (whether or not most people knew it). There’s much to be optimistic about for the future of RSS in Dave’s piece, even if he’s not sure himself. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
I’ve had an interesting few weeks fixing my blog. It was hacked. I suspect – though I have no direct proof – through my domain host CPanel account. Reading around the Internet, the host that I had chosen and had been happy with for a number of years had been victim to a server attack since early in the new year, and the account details of customers had been posted online somewhere. My CPanel password was relatively strong and not guessable (it wasn’t a dictionary word) yet a file was uploaded to my account via CPanel file upload. When I asked my domain host about it and how they think my account was hack they simply said via an unsecured script, and didn’t elaborate whether it was in my WordPress install or on their server. Anyway, after much cleaning and reinstalling – thank goodness I paid for routine site backup – I’m now back online with a clean site.
As a result of all this unwanted excitement I’ve made a few changes. Most importantly I’ve changed my domain host. I’m now with Bluehost, one of the few hosts recommended by WordPress themselves. I couldn’t be happier. It was an easy switch and I’ve now got more control than ever before over my CPanel account. I’ve also paid for BulletProof Security Pro plugin. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re a serious WordPress user. I used the free version for a while and liked it. The Pro version is just terrific and for the first time I feel safe in my WordPress bed at night. The owner Ed Alexander is so helpful. Please do seriously consider this plugin if you manage your own WordPress installation.
As an extra layer of security I now also use CloudFlare. I’m completely new to the word of content delivery networks and web application firewalls. It’s early days to know whether I’m benefitting from the claimed security and performance improvements, but the basic version is free with Bluehost so I’m giving it a go.
If you have any WordPress security tips and favourite plugins please let me know in the comments.
Interesting new app and alternative to MarsEdit. Curious name.
Not wanting to overdo it, I’ve limited my blog to one post per year. Ha ha. I’m not a new year resolutions kind of guy, because resolutions are hard to keep and only make you feel guilty when they’re broken, but I will try to post more often over this coming 12 months. But if I don’t, see you in 2014!
The picture by the way is Matt’s sawn-off party popper. Don’t try this at home kids.
I’m ready for all that 2012 has to bring with my new Moleskine 2012 daily diary, Muji notebook and a selection of pens.
I’m excited to have been picked to join BJ Fogg’s 3 Tiny Habits programme for this coming week. Dr Fogg is founder and director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, and an expert on the psychology of persuasion. His behaviour model and in particular the behaviour grid are worth checking out.
The 3 Tiny Habits programme is a way of looking at how people form habits. As I am both a serial procrastinator and someone who finds it hard to stick to routines, I thought I’d give it a go. So I signed up and found out yesterday that I got accepted on the programme. The instructions are simply, very simple, but that’s the point.
- Pick something simple & easy to do in very little time.
- Decide when to do it.
There’s more to it than that but I’ll wait until after the programme to describe more. In the meantime, writing down the 3 habits I will try to form over the coming week is a way of declaring publicly my commitment. Mine are:
- After I finish my breakfast, I will write down on an index card 3 things that I want to do during the day.
- After I eat my lunch, I will take my vitamin tablets.
- After I have cleared up after dinner I will post a single Tweet describing one thing that I have learnt during the day.
See, I said they were simple. Of course with some willpower you wouldn’t need to join a programme to create such simple habits. But that would miss the point I think. Doing things in a group like this strengthens the behaviour. The really fun and rewarding part will be building bigger habits in the future. From little acorns to great oak trees grow.
So today I’m 17,000 days old. Thanks to a neat little iPhone app ‘As Of Today‘ for letting me know. For my 17,000th day I treated myself to an iPhone 4S.
As I start to write this piece, it’s just before 7pm on Saturday 13th August. Despite owning a ticket for the UK National Lottery draw at 8pm tonight, I will be pleased if I find out that I have not won, and so too should you if you also find out you have not won. In fact you and I and indeed all of us should be thankful, because it will mean we have survived until 8pm. You see the odds of winning the UK lottery, approximately 14,000,000 to 1 are around the same odds that you or I will not have died in the run up to the lottery draw.
According to Ronnie Bowie, the former President of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries as reported on the BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme broadcast yesterday, buying a lottery ticket anything more than an hour or so before the draw is risky if you are middle aged like me, because you are more likely to die during the hour in the run up to the draw than you are of winning the lottery itself. In fact only males under the age of 19 and females under the age of 37 have slightly less statistical risk of dying in the hour before lottery draw than they have of winning it.
So regardless of whether you think winning the lottery will make you happier (odds are it probably won’t even if you did win), the chances of doing so are so small compared to the risk of you dying, that to live to find you are one of the millions of ticket holders who have not won today should be a cause for rejoice. For to have lived thus far means you get to live a little while longer, well, at least for another hour or so. Make the most of every moment you have. There is only this moment, and it will last a lifetime.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
Like many, I’ve been watching the development of the semantic web with interest but also with a degree of scepticism. Interest, because it just makes sense that expressing in a machine-readable way what we humans already know – why one piece of information is linked to another – is a good thing to do (the arguments in favour being so apparent and well articulated elsewhere that I don’t need to state them again here), but also scepticism because most methods of doing this to date are just too darned difficult for the majority of us. To me at least it has seemed that the semantic web and it’s underlying language, RDF, is one spoken only by the initiated few.
Well that was until my 2-day workshop at Talis this week. My brain is now full of graphs and triples with their subjects, properties and values. The trouble is, this little insight into how linked data is helping to shape the semantic web has made it even more frustrating for me. I left the workshop fired up to add machine-friendly meaning to all my information in future, only to get back home, fire up my blog, and realise that if I want to add RDFa, the in-line annotated version of RDF that can be embedded in any web-based document, then I’d have to add it by hand by editing the source code of my post. Ok. Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. But no, after a couple of days of searching I can’t find an easy way of adding RDFa to a WordPress post. No matter, this is still, ahem, early days of the semantic web and maybe the user-friendly tools are coming RSN (real soon now). But at least if I accept the pain of adding RDFa by hand, it’ll be worth it, my posts will enter the web of linked data. The only trouble is, I’m not sure if that is true. I can’t find how my RDFa-enabled posts can be used to extract their meaning. Am I simply adding this meaning now for future consumption by a semantically-aware search engine, or have I missed something?
By the way I tried to add valid RDFa inside this post but WordPress kept changing it, I guess out of the box it doesn’t like RDFa, or perhaps I was just doing it wrong.
Maybe I should have written a recipe instead.