Students First

Yesterday Gina, a coworker, joined me for lunch. She asked about where GeorgiaVIEW‘s attention is focussed since we recently completed our upgrade to Blackboard Learning System Vista Enterprise 8.

She pointed out students are the most affected by and most important constituent for any decisions we make. Yet the student point of view is almost never considered. Capturing what is good for students might mean installing all the possibilities where students and faculty could compare. It might mean surveys, however, I think self-reporting provides so much erroneous data we could do without it.

My job’s focus is more toward what is the most efficient, least problematic system for me to start/stop, install, upgrade, and review logs. I am still mulling what job position we have who would focus on ensuring whatever we do will provide for the best student experience. Guess really that should be all of us.

Passing the Sniff Test

I found a discussion over brunch entertaining.

Apparently women sniffed teeshirts worn 2 days by males. Women preferred the shirts belonging to genetically dissimilar men. These are the good men because they ensure better MHCs in offspring. Unfortunately, the women on oral contraceptives preferred genetically similar men. Yeah. The latter women would prefer their brother, son, or father (all sharing 1/2 her genes) to any other men. The feared scenario is women marry men satisfying their preference for genetically similar men and in preparing to have children suddenly find their husbands revolting.

Our mothers were on to something when told us to always smell nice. Preventing women on birth control from smelling who we really keeps us from getting judged down inappropriately. Well, really the game we play is not letting the other side have too much information.

P.S. The same study almost found significance to single women preferring genetically similar men. That really would make news.

Watch Out For Sinkholes in Georgia

Back in 1994 a neighbor city, Albany, GA, experienced massive flooding. For a couple months after the waters receded, sinkholes opened up under houses and cars driving along roads in the formerly flooded areas. Waters filled underground caverns making them only stable with the water still in them. Without aboveground wanter coming down, these caverns dried and became unstable again.

Looks like in the Atlanta area sinkholes are starting to happen.

A sinkhole caused by the recent rain swallowed up a car and driver in Gwinnett County Saturday.
The sinkhole opened up at the intersection of West Liddell Road and Club Place earlier in the week.
Police blocked off the intersection, but someone moved the cones and the motorist drove right into the gaping hole early Saturday morning.
The driver suffered minor injuries, but the car is stuck in the deep hole.
Police have blocked off the intersection again.
– See more at:

I wonder why news agencies are not warning people to expect these might happen? Maybe the ground under Atlanta doesn’t have as many caverns compared to Albany so the danger is not as great? Hopefully it won’t take several of these for people catch on to the possibility.

Site Changes


Upgraded to the Tarski 2.5 theme. Previously I was using the Tarski 2.4.

One of the reasons I like Tarski is the opportunity for a custom header image.  Something I can use of my own. However, like the cards, finding a photo whose crop to this narrow 720×180 window isn’t so easy. At the moment I am using the train photo. Through the weekend I might try new photos.

Original Tarski Custom Header

IMG_3859 tarski header
Consideration one from my train photo.

IMG_3149 tarski header
Consideration two from my Queen Anne’s lace photo.

IMG_6201 tarski theme
Consideration three from my mushroom photo.

phlox tarski theme
Consideration three from my phlox photo.

Leave a comment if you see something you like.


I’m thinking of putting the above photo into the splash page as well.

The tacky Facebook profile widget got tackier. So now I have a Flickr widget for a slide show of my Most Interesting 60 photos. So, ya’ll visit the set of the strobist shoot to increase the Interestingness of your favorites into the top 10.

Tracking Specific File Use

CE/Vista Reports and Tracking displays summaries of activity. If an instructor seeks to know who clicked on a specific file, then Reports and Tracking falls down on the job.

Course Instructor can produce a report of the raw tracking data. However, access to the role falls under the Administration tab so people running the system need to make a user specifically to enroll themselves at the course level to get the reports. (Annoying.)

Instead the administrators for my campuses pass up to my level of support requests to generate reports. For providing these I have SQL to produce a report. This example is for users who clicked on a specific file. Anything in bold is what the SQL composer will need to alter.

set lines 200 pages 9999
col user format a20
col action format a32
col pagename format a80

clear breaks computes
break on User skip 1
compute count of Action on User

select tp.user_name "User", "Action",
      to_char(tua.event_time,'MM/DD/RR HH24:MI:SS') "Time",
      NVL(,'--') "PageName"
  from trk_person tp, trk_action ta, trk_user_action tua,
      trk_page tpg, learning_context lc
  where = tua.trk_person_id
    and = tua.trk_action_id
    and tua.trk_page_id = (+)
    and tua.trk_learning_context_id =
    and = 1234567890
    and like '%filename.doc%'
  order by tp.user_name,tua.event_time


  • User aka tp.user_name – This is the student’s account.
  • Action aka – This is an artifact of the original script. You might drop it as meaningless from this report.
  • Time aka tua.event_time – Day and time the action took place.
  • PageName aka – Confirmation of the file name. Keep if using like in a select on this.


I use the learning context id ( aka because in my multi-institution environment, the same name of a section could be used in many places. This id ensures I data from multiple sections.

The tricky part is identifying the file name. HTML files generally will show up as the name of in the title tag (hope the instructor never updates it). Office documents generally will show as the file name. Here are a couple approaches to determining how to use (aka

  1. Look at the file in the user interface.
  2. Run the report without limiting results to any Identify out of the results the name you wish to search and use: = ‘page name

Most tracked actions do have a page name. However, some actions do not. This SQL is designed to print a “–” in those cases.

TED Talk: Web as random

In the first video, The Web as random acts of kindness, the characterization of the founding of the Internet here is a group of high school teenagers working in their garage to altruistically to benefit the world because that is what high functioning nerds do and the world behaves kindly on the Internet because of it. The individuals he means worked as graduate assistants at UCLA on ARPANet. (I was disappointed Jonathan Zittrain failed to say the names of the founders of the Internet. Pretty sure he means Vinton Cerf, Jon Postel, and Steve Crocker.) Sure they were not working for a company. They were working for a university on a grant from the Department of Defense.

They had an amazing freedom which was they didn’t have to make any money on it. The Internet had no business plan, no CEO, no firm responsible singly for building it. Instead it is folks getting together to do something for fun rather than because they were told to or expecting to make money off of it.

The examples certainly seem compelling. However, I fail to see the connection between the architecture of TCP/IP and human small acts of kindness. Instead some examples make the Internet and Wikipedia sound a single step from oblivion. Maybe I am not a pessimist?

The second video, Is the Internet what Orwell feared?, discusses the failure of social media to break down dictatorships. Connectivity * Devices != Democracy. Instead of censoring the bloggers and commenters, give the bloggers the opportunity to see the cleaned up issue. The issue gets dropped because there is no longer a story. The moral is transparency can look nice but not actually result in actual change. Wait… The same thing happens in democracies. Hmmmmm.

Jonathan Zittrain: The Web as random acts of kindness

Evgeny Morozov: Is the Internet what Orwell feared?

Strobist Meetup

Renee Back in July I mentioned Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. A number of people from the Athens Flickr Meetups group showed for the August walk at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (my photos). At both of these, the same individuals talked quite a bit about the newest toys Tim Rogan built and strobist techniques.

From what I gather strobist is about shifting camera flash from near the camera lens off to the side. Similar to golden hour sunlight, the light is more dramatic when not coming from near the camera. Also, camera flashes throw harsh light so soften the light by having it reflect off surfaces or go through translucent material.

Interest built about having a strobist meetup to shoot together and help each other. Steven Skelton, Tim, and Megan arranged a meetup last Saturday (group photo set). I was the only photographer walking into this totally cold without having at least read or watched any tutorials. So the quality of these pictures could better be a testament to the efficient teaching by Steven and Megan. At least it didn’t seem nearly as difficult as I expected.

LeannThis would also be the first photoshoot where I consistently used Manual rather than Shutter Priority.

This was also the first time I worked with models. (top right: Renee, right: Leann) The one wedding I shot taught me I really do have to direct people to get what I want while listening to get a feel for what they want. Megan sensed my hesitancy and worked through some ideas with the first few pictures then let me to go work on my own ideas. Models are people too. As a card carrying introvert, dealing with people normally exhausts me. This not so much.

This was a fun experience. I know I have things on which to work:

  • Putting together my own strobist setup.
  • Compose more carefully.
  • Find dramatic locations.
  • Become more social to approach people to photograph.

Perils of a Photoshoot The mechanics of photography are also entertaining. Call me a geek, but that there are so many values to track in photography fascinates me. Plus there are tons of toys. I’m not really a builder, so I probably will not be crafting custom flash grids or softboxes.

I knew I enjoyed watching the antics photographers go through to get the right shot. The antics a good model will go through to be in the right shot adds a whole new dimensions for me. For example, pictured right is Clinton easily a dozen feet off the ground so Megan can take a dramatic shot.

For about a year I’ve really slacked off using my camera. The wedding, photowalk meetups, and now strobist meetups put me back in the mode of thinking about what I should do next. That is a great thing.

P.S. Normal is about 100 views of my photos a day. Since I posted the photos Sunday, traffic has been 250+ views a day.

TED Talk: Stroke of Insight

The first couple TED videos I watched didn’t impress me. A few weeks later, I saw this post from Sam about the top 10 TED videos. Sam is one of those people who reserves good for the truly special so I made sure to watch them. This video was the first on that list and occupied me as I watched it about once a day for a week. (Admittedly I didn’t get around to it until a few months later.)

B&N suckered me into buying the book My Stroke of Insight by setting up a table for interesting topics. Smart because I nearly dropped a couple hundred dollars that day. Anyway, I gave it as gift to Mom. Family conversations and book gifts about random miscellaneous topics is why I blabber so much about random miscellaneous information. No, I had not read it before I gifted it. So… Now I am reading it. I do like the book.

Alexis told me she knows someone else who is reading it. She has exams so I recommended she at least watch this video. I figure the invitation should be more global.

I’m kind of hoping to have a stroke now.