How Google Works

A few basics of Search Engine Optimization came up at brunch a couple weekends ago. A few of the key points were that its not just important to have good information, but one has to have good metadata, good incoming links to raise authority, and no nefarious techniques.

When I saw this, I immediate thought of that conversation. (This is more or less a test to see if those people read my blog.)

(click image for larger)

How Does Google Work?

Infographic by PPC Blog

Another Ironic Keynote

Earlier today, Blackboard announced the keynote will be given by Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U as the DevCon keynote. It continues the tradition of ironic keynote speakers in even years:

  • 2008 Michael Wesch who spoke on how the traditional one-to-many classroom model isn’t good for helping students learn. The two LMS products Blackboard makes continue the one-to-many model online. He advocated using free online Web 2.0 tools to aggregate the information students collectively relevant research and provide to the many-to-many class discussion.
  • 2006 David Weinberger who spoke on how digitalization changes how we organize information. He was previously a contributor to The Cluetrain Manifesto, whose point was corporations need to have honest conversations with customers because we do talk to each other and discover deception.

How does DIY U continue the irony in 2010? Well, the idea is to get rid of the education model where students solely look to experts (aka professor) to provide information. Students use the abundance of information available online for free such as OpenCourseWare and use the experts to give practical application experience. An LMS is designed to place the expert (the instructor role) as the provider of the information, the exact opposite of what Anya advocates.

Ideally, Blackboard arranges these to pressure themselves to adapt to the changing landscape.

If so, then based on the 2006 keynote, Blackboard should have a culture of engineers and developers willing to frankly talk to me about the products. They should be hanging out on the email lists where I seek peer solutions offering their own given their insider access. They should be on Twitter. There are a few who do this, but they are by far rare.

I’ve already argued how the LMS is Web 1.5 not 2.0.

Maybe in 2012.


I wonder how many Americans became soccer fans after the upset tie with England? It seemed like the furor over the Slovenia tie became more conversational than I expected. After the amazing win over Algeria, even more people wanted to talk about the World Cup. Well, the loss to Ghana didn’t sustain the conversation. May Instant Soccer Fan? Why? can explain it.

CORFing stands for Cutting Off of Reflective Failure, and it basically means that people, like my friends, attach to a team when they are winning and dissociate from teams when they are losing. Visek says if you ask a soccer fan how the U.S. soccer team did after a win, you’re likely to hear a “we won” response. But, if the U.S. team loses their next match, most people will subconsciously dissociate from the team with a “they lost” response.

Well, we did lose the game. I hope we won more interest in the game.

Alien Peace

Whether or not people in the United State illegally are allowed to receive higher education is a hot topic at the moment. So I was curious what was in Georgia statutes about it. However, I was distracted by this gem:

(b) Aliens who are subjects of governments at peace with the United States and this state, as long as their governments remain at peace with the United States and this state, shall be entitled to all the rights of citizens of other states who are temporarily in this state and shall have the privilege of purchasing, holding, and conveying real estate in this state. O.C.G.A. § 1-2-11

This sounds like during the Iraq War, from March 20, 2003 to May 22, 2003, any citizens of Iraq, a nation very much not at peace with the United States, would not have been legally able to possess real estate in Georgia? It reminds me of the Japanese interment during World War II.

Also, Google  sucks at searching on “1-2-11”. It ignores the dashes. Any advice?

Support Nightmare

There was an interesting question the other day about a student claiming CE/Vista lost the draft a student wrote. The administrator, Michael Scalero, wanted to know how we “administrators recover or assist users in gaining access to the content that the students (or instructors) have saved”. Part of my response was,

Besides, CE/Vista isn’t designed for administrators to assist users. Administrator roles are just to manage availability, access, and settings. It just happens that by having the ability to enroll our account(s) we can go into a section and see what the users see in many cases.

This got me thinking…. There is no official support role at the section context in CE/Vista. At best administrators can place users they control into the section to replicate the issue which can only act like other normal users. The normal roles are designer, instructor, student, auditor, and teaching assistant. Because a support role was never created, there are not any built-in useful tools for diagnosing and addressing problems the users may encounter. Instead all that work happens by those with access to the database. A couple years ago Georgia Tech gave a presentation on the support panel they created for T-Square which was designed for helping them overcome common issues in Sakai.

In CE/Vista,administrators have to rely on self-reporting (usually unreliable) or taking over accounts to see what legitimately they should be able to know to help solve problems. For example:

A student reports he could not see a section in the class list. An administrator’s verification is to check the enrollment in either the section or user views, but there is very little confidence this means anything. The student could have hidden the class, the start-end time could have briefly blipped, etc.

Step one of problem solving is identifying the problem. When there are dozens of potential problems without any way of narrowing down the field, administrators will rightly desire more access to the system’s nooks and crannies to see what is really happening. Because it doesn’t exist in the web pages served, they look at the data stored on the web and database servers to better understand. (Really, though something like Coradiant might help here by going back to see the HTML the server delivered to the student.)

“With great power comes responsibility.” Administrators are already very powerful and can do really scary things. The ability to act as any user? Would need to be kept in a log so employees who abuse this power can be terminated quickly and easily. Even the ability to see anything other users can see could be horrible if poorly implemented.

A former boss had a difficult time with a faculty member who often accused this boss of reading the faculty’s email. The evidence was emails the faculty member didn’t remember reading had been marked as read. The huge assumptions were: 1) the faculty member would remember having read it, 2) the only people capable are this boss and the faculty member, and 3) there were not automated rules to mark the email as read. All this because someone mentioned to the faculty member the people in IT would be able to read email. Imagine the ire if faculty thought administrators could do things as them in the learning management system….

Replace You With A Simple Download

Here is an interesting Governor Pawlenty interview from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Towards the end the governor says something like:

Can’t I just pull [course lectures] down on my iPhone or iPad whenever the heck I feel like it, from wherever I feel like it? And instead of paying thousands of dollars, can I pay $199 for iCollege instead of 99 cents for iTunes?

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Tim Pawlenty Unedited Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

What he says should exist arrived at least 4  years ago. Instead of being named iCollege, it is named iTunesU. Even better is MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Instead of being $199, these are FREE! If iCollege / iTunesU / OCW was the solution to eliminating higher education, then it should be on its deathbed. Instead, during the same period, the number of students attending universities has exploded. Why? The information isn’t why students attend higher education. Like the governor says, that is cheap.

Parents and students think to get a high paying job, these kids need a degree to allow them to be qualified. Higher education isn’t about an information dump. Its about kids getting vetted so employers have something to select the people mostly likely qualified for their job openings. That’s what Apple or someone will need to create in order for iTunesU to replace higher education.

Since jobs dried up, kids went to college to improve their qualifications so when jobs flourish again, they will be better situated to get one.

The Chronicle of Higher Education coverage.

Identifiable Browsers

It’s like the Electronic Frontier Foundation is Captain Obvious? It says web-sites fingerprint browsers to identify the users.

The website anonymously logged the configuration and version information from each participant’s operating system, browser, and browser plug-ins — information that websites routinely access each time you visit — and compared that information to a database of configurations collected from almost a million other visitors. EFF found that 84% of the configuration combinations were unique and identifiable, creating unique and identifiable browser “fingerprints.” Browsers with Adobe Flash or Java plug-ins installed were 94% unique and trackable.

A login is supposed to belong to an individual. Web technologies wanting to honor transactions sent by web browsers which have sent a successful login typically do so by granting that browser a token. Don’t want to enable cookies? Fine. Go somewhere else. As long as you want to use my application, you’ll have a cookie I’ll associate with a username.

All this other stuff is for fingerprinting browsers without using a login. Or maybe to identify who is using the same login? I’ve got different browsers for different logins on the same sites.

Oracle 11g

The highest revision of Oracle database supported by Blackboard for CE/Vista is 10g. Wondering if other Bb clients have noticed Oracle 10g leaves Premier Support on July 31, 2010. The first year of Extended SUpport fees are waived, so July 31, 2011 we’ll have to start paying extra money to Oracle unless Blackboard starts supporting 11g. (I’m guessing Blackboard isn’t going to discount what we have to pay to Oracle from the licensing costs. )

Maybe if enough clients complain, then Blackboard will start moving in the direction of supporting 11g? I’ve heard rumors of people already running 11g.