Deciding the Fate of North America

The French and Indian: War Deciding the Fate of North America

In high school and college the French and Indian War was this long amorphous event in between settling the colonies and the American Revolution. It took a movie, The Patriot (not even in my top 500 movies), to give some color to the story in colonists fought in that war, found it brutal, and took tactics learned there into the fight against the British. In [book:His Excellency: George Washington|6462] this was confirmed as many of Washington’s officers earned their British commissions by fighting in this war.

The American Revolution owes much to this war. These points are all my own combining information from several books I’ve recently read.

  1. The colonists agreed to fight in this war in order to secure lands on which to settle west of the Appalachian mountains. So to set the lands aside as Indian territory (the same tribes who killed so many colonists) angered the colonists. Then to reset the lands aside for British lords was even worse.
  2. Allowing the colonists to fight trained thousands of soldiers who went unpaid for months (the regular soldiers were paid) and fractions of what was promised. The worst people to anger are the ones you have armed.
  3. England increased taxes to improve the coffers after nearly bankrupting the country to fight the French and Indian War. The taxes which the Boston Tea Party was to protest.
  4. The French lost most of their navy in fighting the French and Indian War. By the time of the American Revolution, the French navy was somewhat recovered. To throw it at an internal British conflict would have been reckless. So the French delayed supporting us until they had an idea we might actually be able to win.

Not too dry. Brings up too much rumor and legend. I got what I wanted, clearer idea of the missing decades prior to the American Revolution.

P.S. I liked the British strategy of choking the supply lines and seizing production. This is my usual approach to war games. Maybe I would be speaking British today if William Pitt had remained in power through the American Revolution?

TED Talk: Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation

I was attracted to this video because a while ago I read Daniel’s book: A Whole New Mind. Take the concept that simple, clearly defined jobs will move to overseas. So to succeed in the United States, children need to be learning conceptual skills and become the people inventing the work doled out to overseas workers. Let’s ignore that overseas workers are more than capable of conceptual work like our kids.

The pervasiveness of functional fixedness perhaps explains why I have a job. (That and I’m not a gestault pscychologist.) The web comic xkcd recently posted a flowchart on how to become a computer expert where the pick one at random is overcoming functional fixedness. Much of what I do is figuring out non-intuitive issues and document a way to make it work aka a workaround.

I like his list of what economists say are good motivators to replace monetary incentives. The opportunity to get incentives like these drew me to this project. Of course, we don’t have the levels of autonomy Pink describes. Baby steps! Can you see your employer allowing the employees to spend one day a year working on whatever the employees wish to deliver a new product? Some autonomy in a group I work with here resulted in Yaketystats.

  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose

My favorite quote:

Traditional notions of management work great when you want compliance. If you want engagement, self-direction works better.

So this video is why this week I’ve been talking about how compliance sucks.  🙂

LMS in a Pandemic

Mama Banditito As we head into the new school year across the United States, medical officals are warning about higher than normal numbers of young people with the flu. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says this about H1N1, “Current visits to doctors for influenza-like illness are down from April, but are higher than what is expected in the summer.” Yesterday the CDC released Guidance for Responses to Influenza for Institutions of Higher Education during the 2009-2010 Academic Year.

Review and revise, as needed, policies, such as student absenteeism policies and sick leave policies for faculty and staff, that make it difficult for students, faculty, and staff to stay home when they are ill or to care for an ill family member. Do not require a doctor’s note to confirm illness or recovery.

Some faculty use online learning systems to provide notes to students so students can concentrate on the lecture or discussion rather than furious copy the blackboard or projection. The minority place all the information from lectures and slides online so students don’t get too far behind if they miss a class. If entire faculties did this for all the lectures, then students with the flu could stay home in isolation withouth much ill effect this flu season.

Of course, working to place all this material online is a ton of work to place on the shoulders of the faculty.

Also it would be an enormous weight on the shoulders of my colleagues who manage our storage.  I would find it unlikely we host more than 1/5 of their classes. 🙂

Photo: My mother demonstrating how she spends time outside during fire season. Nothing to do with the flu except some people cover their mouth and nose to protect themselves.

State of the LMS

Watched an informative WebEx about The State of the LMS: An Insitution Perspective presented jointly by Delta Initiative and California State University. An true innovator in this market could become the leader.

Market share numbers annoy me. These are always self-reported numbers from a survey. The sample sizes are almost always not very impressive and when broken down doesn’t really represent the market. DI didn’t post a link to where they got the numbers just the name of the group. Some digging and turned up this Background Information About LMS Deployment from the 2008 Campus Computing Survey. For background information it is woefully lacking in important information such as sample size, especially the breakdown of the types of institutions in the categories.

The numbers DI quotes of CC are very different for the same year the Instructional Technology Council reports: Blackboard market share 66% (DI/CC) vs 77% (ITC). An 11% difference makes is huge when the next largest competitor is 10% (DI/CC).

Other missing critical information: Are these longitudinal numbers, aka the same respondants used participate in every year the survey quotes? Or is there a high turnover rate meaning an almost completely different set of people are answering every year so the survey completely relies on the randomness of who is willing to answer the survey? So the numbers could shift just because people refuse to answer giving Blackboard reduced market share only because Moodle customers are more willing to respond to questions about it?

Most of the major LMS products on the market started at a university or as part of a consortium involving universities. I knew the background of most of the products on in Figure 1. Somehow I never put that together.

Will another university take the lead and through innovation cause the next big shakeup? I would have thought the next logical step to address here in the DI presentation would be the innovative things universities are doing which could have an impact. Phil described Personal Learning Environments (not named) as potentially impacting the LMS market, but he was careful to say really PLEs are an unkown. The were no statements about brand new LMSs recently entering or about to enter the market.

Figure 1: Start year and origin of LMSes. Line thickness indicates market share based on Campus Computing numbers. From the DI WebEx.

Network Recording Player - State-wide LMS Strategy 8262009 90839 AM-1

When people use my project as an example, it gets my attention. GeorgiaVIEW was slightly incorrectly described on page 26 Trends: Changing definition of “centralization”.

  1. We do not have an instance per institution which has a significantly higher licensing cost. We do give each institution their own URL to provide consistency for their users. Changing bookmarks, web pages, portals, etc everywhere a URL is listed is a nightmare. So we try to minimize the impact when we move them by a single unchanging URL.We have 10 instances for the 31 institutions (plus 8 intercampus programs like Georgia ONmyLINE) we host. Learn 9 will not have the Vista multiple institution capability, so should we migrate to Learn 9 an instance per institution would have to happen.
  2. We have two primary data centers not have a primary and a backup data center. By having multiple sites, we keep our eggs in multiple baskets.

The primary point about splitting into multiple instances was correct. We performed the two splits because Vista 2 and 3 exhibited performance issues based on both the amount of usage and data. With ten instances we hit 20,000 4,500 users (active in the past 5 minutes recently) but should be capable of 50,000 based on the sizing documents. We also crossed 50 million hits and 30 million page views. We also grow by over a terabyte a term now. All these numbers are still accelerating (grows faster every year). I keep hoping to find we hit a plateau.

Figure 2: LMS consortia around the United States. From the DI WebEx.

Consortia Nationwide

All this growth in my mind means people in general find us useful. I would expect us to have fewer active users and less data growth should everyone hate us. Of course, the kids on Twitter think GeorgiaVIEW hates them. (Only when you cause a meltdown.)

UPDATE: Corrected the active users number. We have two measure active and total. 20,000 is the total or all sessions. 4,500 are active in the past 5 minutes. Thanks to Mark for reading and find the error!

TED Talk: Social Bacteria

We have 10x bacteria cells on or in our bodies as human cells. By far most of those protect us. Soap which kills 99% of bacteria kills both the good and the bad. This video by far gives an idea as to how cool bacteria can be.

Bonnie Bassler here says bacteria use produce chemicals which attach to receptors to communicate with each other to know when they have enough presence to do their joint action called quorum sensing. The human brain acts similarly. Vasopressin, oxytocin, dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol, etc. all influence brain cells with the right receptors. Really most if not all human cells are operate in unison by chemicals attaching to receptors. Of course, our cells are super-specialized descendants of bacteria, so why not use a known efficient communication method?

It seems like bacteria intending to attack a human would have been selected for two contradictory points:

  1. Large enough numbers to overwhelm the body.
  2. Small enough numbers to prevent white blood adapting and increasing their own numbers to fight off the infection.

Interrupting the quorum sensing used by bacteria to delay the attacks ought to violate that second selection point. If so, then this might create selection pressure for bacteria which launch their attacks with smaller numbers. This might be even better for us?

I also like how she gave credit to her team of people who did the real work.

Name Collisions

Blackboard has a conference they call BbWorld. I noticed there are some odd tweets with the same #bbworld hashtag lately. These appear to be about a Blackberry conference to be held next month.

Collisions on names are common enough. For example, here are a couple names our clients use to brand their sites which other places also use.

My own project, GeorgiaVIEW is not immune. Some time ago I noticed the GeorgiaView Consortium (geological remote sensing) at the University of West Georgia.

I guess it is a good thing one Bbworld is in July and the other is in September.

For now I’ll just drop my RSS feed for the hashtag.

Cognitive Load

My parents taught me as a child lying is harder than telling the truth. I am way too lazy to bother with anything other than using a tangent to change the subject. Simplicity also helps keep track of my life. I like understanding what is happening and why.

Skills involved in deception also teach problem-solving, project management, and social context management. My favorite friends were the brilliant liars. They always had a new entertaining story.

For a host of reasons, their theory goes, lying is more mentally taxing than telling the truth. Performing an extra task while lying or telling the truth should therefore affect the liars more. The Load of Lying: Testing for Truth

As evidenced by Dunbar’s Number, our brains are wired for both determining honesty in others and being the cheat.

Computer Metaphors

An effective way to explain something is to use a metaphor. This can be especially effective by picking an metaphorical object or behavior with which the audience is already familiar.

The one I see most often is comparing computers to a car. This morning I saw this on an email list describing a person’s experience  migrating to Vista 8 from Vista 3.

It is like I have traded in a familiar (though frustrating) car for one that has the lights, wipers, and radio in new locations.

Also this morning, Vista 8 was compared to a malfunctioning pen forced on faculty who would rather use a better pen. Nevermind all pens are not used exactly the same. (Fountain vs rollerball) Some require more maintenance and care than others.

A coworker always says Free Open Source Software like Sakai or Moodle are free as in free puppies not free beer. Nevermind proprietary bought systems like Blackboard are bought as in bought puppies.
🙂

Weblogic Diagnostics

I noticed one the nodes in a development cluster was down. So I started it again. The second start failed, so I ended up looking at logs to figure out why. The error in the WebCTServer.000000000.log said:

weblogic.diagnostics.lifecycle.DiagnosticComponentLifecycleException: weblogic.store.PersistentStoreException: java.io.IOException: [Store:280036]Missing the file store file “WLS_DIAGNOSTICS000001.DAT” in the directory “$VISTAHOME/./servers/$NODENAME/data/store/diagnostics”

So I looked to see if the file was there. It wasn’t.

I tried touching a file at the right location and starting it. Another failed start with a new error:

There was an error while reading from the log file.

So I tried copying to WLS_DIAGNOSTICS000002.DAT to WLS_DIAGNOSTICS000001.DAT and starting again. This got me a successful startup. Examination of the WLS files revealed the the 0 and 1 files have updated time stamps while the 2 file hasn’t changed since the first occurance of the error.

That suggests to me Weblogic is unaware of the 2 file and only aware of the 0 and 1 files. Weird.

At least I tricked the software into running again.

Some interesting discussion about these files.

  1. Apparently I could have just renamed the files. CONFIRMED
  2. The files capture JDBC diagnostic data. Maybe I need to look at the JDBC pool settings. DONE (See comment below)
  3. Apparently these files grow and add a new file when it reaches 2GB. Sounds to me like we should purge these files like we do logs. CONFIRMED
  4. There was a bug in a similar version causing these to be on by default.

Guess that gives me some work for tomorrow.
🙁