Athens Tech Blogs

Our office resides in Athens, GA about an hour from Atlanta. A work news post noting Atlanta tech blogs was strange to me. There is plenty HERE. Why ignore all the great local stuff?

And I do not mean my blog. I post too infrequently to really matter and mostly ignore technology of late.

  • Four Athens is a technology incubator here in Athens. They organize networking events and have a good calendar of various tech meetings happening here. (Twitter)
  • Free IT Athens is a local volunteer organization who help re-use computers and free software for the needy. They recently brought Richard Stallman here. (Twitter)
  • Vitamin C makes healthcare software. (Twitter)
  • The Accidental CIO is run by the Chief Information Officer for UGA. Work is related to UGA, but not part of their organizational structure. Tim has a seat on the search committee for our replacement CIO because, well, who we select is critically important to UGA. (Twitter)
  • The Hatch is an Athens makerspace. (Twitter)
  • Mark Fennell is an Athens DBA / web developer. (Twitter)

If there is something IT-related going on in Athens, then these two are probably writing about it.

Blogs are like so 2000s. They are sunsetting as the readers spend more time on Facebook and Twitter. All of you probably noticed I put links to the Twitter feeds for those blogs. That’s because much of the conversations who used to occur on blogs have shifted to Twitter. Actually, most of the blogs listed above I found through Twitter. Some other Athens Tech Tweeters:

The Loss of Tech Support

I found a statement in Twitter is your IT support interesting:

For reasons I won’t go in to, I haven’t been able to get [a WordPress install with the FeedWordPress plugin] done at the Open University, despite trying since last July. I’ve spoken to people at others unis and it isn’t isolated to the OU, it seems to be this low-level, experimental type of IT support is increasingly difficult to find.

Do you know who I think the culprit is? The VLE. As universities installed VLEs they became experts at developing enterprise level solutions. This is serious business and I have a lot of respect for people who do it. The level of support, planning and maintenance required for such systems is considerable. So we developed a whole host of processes to make sure it worked well. But along the way we lost the ability to support small scale IT requests that don’t require an enterprise level solution. In short, we know how to spend £500,000 but not how to spend £500.

(For those of you non-British/European readers, VLE are Virtual Learning Environments which are often also called Learning Management Systems on this side of the Atlantic.)

It is true the higher education IT has change with online class systems, but I think that part of the symptom and not causal. Chief Information Officers, Chief Academic Officers, and presidents all get recognition for big things. Enterprise level solutions are sexy because it is something that makes them look decisive and effective. Employees who report to them know this, so enterprise level solutions have the priority. Everything else fits into the dwindling extra work time.

What extra time?

The good news though is the small things have gotten much easier for anyone to go off on their own. At my last job, I sat as an ex-officio member of the Faculty Senate technology committee. One of the hot topics one year was a couple faculty members taught students how to use the LMS adopted by another college system in the state. It was two courses. Should we spend $20,000/yr and take up a significant amount of my time running a second LMS? Or should they continue to pay $800/yr for Blackboard to do it? The answer ultimately was to continue with Blackboard. Now days, they probably would be directed at CourseSites. At the time my to-do list was several pages long and hundred plus hour weeks were not uncommon just to keep top and high priority items timely done. The ETA for anything not top or high priority was over a year.

I prefer working with innovative technologies. Custom solutions that require creative thinking and problem solving make me feel like I accomplished something special. They give the biggest rush. Enterprise level software is steak and potatoes, so it is the core. The enterprise is the minimum. I just wish I more time to devote to achieve going beyond the minimum than I did. Well, do. This is a top level decision. Improve staffing and flexible team management so that people can spend time working on the things that make them happier.

Voting Rights Act

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 protects people from malicious actions by state and local governments to prevent people from voting. Yes, we have a president of African-American descent. Yes, the United States Supreme Court took no action. However, the majority opinion statement that, “We are a very different nation,” suggests it could be repealed. The argument against maintaining the law seems to be since governments are behaving now no law is needed.

Are they? The DOJ disallowed a Georgia program to cull voters from the databases who might not be citizens. This strikes me as just like the Florida Central Voter File program in 1998-2006 to cull ex-felons from voter lists. Since they just used names, it was highly inaccurate and wrongly disenfranchised thousands in 2000… in Florida… the state which made international headlines as the place unable to count ballots. When Congress renewed it in 2006, “It held extensive hearings and produced voluminous evidence that minority voters continue to face significant obstacles.” [NYT] I may have to go looking for this in the Congressional Record.

With the protests happening in Iran right now about voter irregularities, is this the time to repeal one of the few deterrents against future abuses to erode the significant improvements over the past 40 years?

VistaSWAT

Do you run one of these versions of the former WebCT products?

  • CE4.x
  • CE6.x
  • CE8.x
  • Vista 3.x
  • Vista 4.x
  • Vista 8.x

If so, then you should join us for the next Vista SWAT web conference call Thursday, May 14th (and every other Thursday). We help each other solve issues and better understand how to use / run the product.

To be added to the Vista SWAT e-mail list, please e-mail jeff.longland who uses the uwo.ca domain. He graciously sends out the reminders.

I’m sure the Blackboard acquisition of ANGEL will get discussed.
🙂 

Am I Suspicious Now?

Surely the GBI isn’t looking for anyone about 6’3″. That is a lot of folks out there…. Even me. Maybe my only saving grace is not looking like I weigh 240. Hopefully Bankhead’s quote was taken out of context? 

While Zinkhan could have changed his appearance, [Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John] Bankhead advised people to look for his build – 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. “He can’t change his height. He can shave, he can dye his hair, but he can’t change his height,” Bankhead said. Zinkhan a no-show for flight | News | OnlineAthens.com

This would be a good time to be black. Oh… Wait… I am… Sorta.

Cross-Seeding the Clouds

There is a good post on backing up a PLE or really anything created in the cloud. The danger of working in the cloud is the site disappearing like Ma.gnolia recently. When the data is important, such as for teaching a class, this is huge.

So the advice to have additional copies elsewhere is good. Is it the only way? I like the concept of cross-posting better than backup and restore to alternative sites. Instead of regular exports and imports, as the data is generated in multiple places at the same time. Think of it as an near instantaneous export and import to minimize the loss.

Perhaps more opportunities for cross-posting would make the Interweb a safer place for our data.

Higher Ed Twitter List

Karlyn Morissette posted her Master Higher Ed Twitter List. Other than @eironae and @barbaranixon, I didn’t know anyone on the list. So I thought to post a list of higher education professionals I follow categorized by primary expertise.

Blackboard twitterers might be another post.

Those in bold are coworkers.

College / University / Departments

@atsu_its – A.T. Still University – IT Help Desk & Support
@BC_Bb – Butte College Blackboard System
@CTLT – Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology @ Goucher College
@GeorgiaSouthern – Georgia Southern University
@ucblackboard – University of Cincinnati Blackboard Support

CE/Vista

@amylyne – Amy Edwards – CE/Vista DBA
@corinnalo – Corrina Lo – CE/Vista Admin
@elrond25 – Carlos Araya – CE/Vista Admin, Dr. C
@jdmoore90 – Janel Moore – CE/Vista Admin
@jlongland – Jeff Longland – CE/Vista Programmer
@lgekeler – Laura Gekeler – CE/Vista Admin
@ronvs – Ron Santos – CE/Vista Analyst
@sazma – Sam Rowe – YaketyStats
@skodai – Scott Kodai – former Vista Admin now manager
@tehmot – George Hernandez – CE/Vista DBA
@ucblackboard – UC Blackboard Admins

Faculty

@academicdave – David Parry – Emerging Media and Communications
@amberhutchins – Amber Hutchins – PR and Persuasion
@barbaranixon – Barbara Nixon – Public Relations
@captain_primate – Ethan Watrall – Cultural Heritage Informatics
@doctorandree – Andree Rose – English
@KarenRussell – KarenRussell – Public Relations
@mwesch – Mike Wesch – Anthropology
@prof_chuck – Chuck Robertson – Psychology

Information Technologist / Support

@aaronleonard – Aaron Leonard
@Autumm – Autumm Caines
@bwatwood – Britt Watwood
@cscribner – Craig Scribner
@dontodd – Todd Slater
@ECU_Bb_Info – Matt Long
@ekunnen – Eric Kunnen
@heza – Heather Dowd
@hgeorge – Heather George
@masim – ???
@mattlingard – Matt Lingard
@meeganlillis – Meegan Lillis
@soul4real – Coop

Assessment / Library / Research

@alwright1 – Andrea Wright – Librarian
@amylibrarian – Amy Springer – Librarian
@amywatts – Amy Watts – Librarian
@elwhite – Elizabeth White – Librarian
@kimberlyarnold – Kimberly Arnold – Educational Assessment Specialist
@mbogle – Mike Bogle – Research

Web Design / UI

@eironae – Shelley Keith

Director

@aduckworth – Andy Duckworth
@garay – Ed Garay
@grantpotter Grant Potter
@IDLAgravette – Ryan Gravette
@Intellagirl – Sarah B. Robbins
@tomgrissom – Tom Grissom

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reCAPTCHA and Chrome

Was using this RSVP form with Google Chrome and found the reCAPTCHA was telling me I repeatedly failed the Turing test. After the sixth time, I decided it might be my browser, so I tried it in Firefox which worked fine.

Curious, I went looking for a possible problem between reCAPTCHA and Chrome. According to a post there, the Transitional XHTML DOCTYPE is the cause. Changing that DOCTYPE to Strict ought to fix the issue. Given the audience, I doubt there is anyone else using Chrome to fill it. So fixing it probably isn’t worth it to them.

Interesting. I’ll have to look into issues with Chrome and the XHTML Transitional DOCTYPE.

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Thankful

  1. Family, especially gaining a new member in a few weeks
  2. My dart team members and their significant others
  3. Friends
  4. Having a job, especially my team at work
  5. No health issues this year
  6. My cameras and accessories
  7. Car
  8. Google Reader
  9. Flickr video

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Blind Not Insane

The National Federation of the Blind is upset about a movie portraying people who are blind as behaving badly.

Pyyhkala, 36, of Boston, said he has read the book and seen parts of the film. He said his grievances stem from the film’s potential to sway public attitude about blindness. He said the movie exacerbates stereotypes and gives false information to uninformed viewers. [Link] (Since starting this post now requires a login?)

I haven’t seen the film or read the book, but the trailer for the films shows the people being put into quarrantine for a medical epidemic where people go blind. Stories generally portray people as acting incompetent and fearful when they are trapped in an unfamiliar situation. The whole point is to create an environment whereby a person, the hero or heroine, who is the bright light of reason and to whom everyone else appeals can rise to the challenge.

Blindness happens to use people who are blind, most likely because a the author was trying to be creative and use something readers would find new. Jose Saramago: “Stupidity doesn’t choose between the blind and the non-blind.” [Link]

Chris Danielsen, a national federation spokesman, said while he understands that the film plays on the public’s fear of sudden blindness, the idea that loss of sight is equal to incompetence and immorality is “outrageous” and “vicious.” Everyday tasks like getting dressed and using the bathroom do not become impossible if a person loses their sight, Danielsen said.

Works of fiction do not depict reality. Otherwise… they would not be fiction. Stop giving movies more meaning than they actually have. Otherwise, you give them power they didn’t already have.

The Catholic Church’s opposition to the Golden Compass made me read the book and go see the movie (latter was awful). I wouldn’t have cared otherwise. Denouncing it made me wonder what they had to fear from something so silly as a book and movie. After seeing the trailer, I wasn’t interested in Blindness. After reading about the opposition, I am interested. I don’t have much luck with movies from books lately, so I may go book first.