Me Social Media

Dan Schultz doesn’t like Facebook or Twitter because they are too focussed on individual expression rather than the community.

That may be because he is using them wrong. I liked photography as a kid, but I didn’t know any photographers. Flickr happened to come into my life just after I bought my first digital camera. My participation in photography exploded. Not because I had a way to post my photos but because I had a way to find other local photographers for mutual encouragement. Even better was forming local groups to encourage people to meet. The value of Flickr is developing the community.

Worldwide Photowalk Panorama

Similarly, I got into Twitter because my community, peers at other universities running the same software as myself, were seeking help there. Any place with answers to the problems we face, which is where people with the answers are watching, is where we go. Twitter was the place to get the attention of the right people not a forum like phpBB. (There are already lots of email lists.) My other community, people using the software I run are also on Twitter. I’ve resolved issues for many clients by finding their public complaints and offering solutions. When my focus changed away from using Twitter for the community is when I stopped liking Twitter.

Personally, I have yet to find much sense of community in the phpBB, Google Wave, and Ning. So I find it strange these are the exemplars of community applications. They seem fractured so one finds dozens of groups to covering the same interest. Sometimes this is because some moderator upset a portion of the community with draconian behavior causing people to form an alternative community. Bad blood exists for a while. Other times people set up a new community unaware others exist.

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!

June 15th – Nature Photography Day

For Nature Photography Day 2008, I made an NPD Flickr group and invited a bunch of people. The only rules were to a) post pictures taken on June 15th (thank you Flickr / EXIF) and b) about nature or destruction of nature. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to the group as I should have. So a bunch of nature picture spammers (they post the same picture to dozens of groups) posted hundreds of rule violating photos to the group pool. A month later I closed posting to the group because the spammers wouldn’t likely stop of their own accord.

Anyway, I forgot about NPD until the day of. No one posted to the group of their own accord. Who remembers after a year? I cleaned out the photos not following the rules. Set calendar reminders a couple weeks in advance to publicize the group. Hoping NPD 2010 will go better.

I’m also considering bending the rules. Maybe close to June 15th is close enough. Something like anywhere in the range June 10th to 20th is close enough? What do you think?

Anyway, here are the pictures from the group:

Blackboard Learn Password Changes

Normally when presenting the opportunity to change a password, a user is required to provide the current password in addition to the new. It ensures the one changing the password already knows the password. 

According to Olaf Ritman, Blackboard Academic Suite 6, 7, 8 and Learn 9 ignore asking for the current password. Can anyone with access to one of these confirm?

We run Blackboard Vista 3 and 8. Neither have this particular issue. Since our product is the end of the line and Learn is the future, I pay a little more attention to what is happening on the other side of the academic house.

Any thoughts on the scale of this as a security risk? Olaf makes the point any user leaving the browser logged into the site could have their password changed.

Bbworld ’08

My cameras (yeah, two of the three) have lots of pictures. Expect some this weekend. Hopefully they will be paced to last the week rather than an insane dump all at once. Watch my Flickr.

Yet again, I failed to blog at BbWorld. Probably I would had wifi been available in the sessions. Instead, I paid more attention and tookk notes. Hopefully this weekend I’ll compose some thoughts. Certainly, the repercussions of what I have learned this week will occupy my thoughts for months to come as it gets rehashed over and over in meetings. So… No rush.

Also, as a recruiting trip, it has been a dismal failure so far. I do have a couple sessings later today which might yeild something.

Lost in Communication

Would you believe United States employees cost their employers $650 billion in productivity costs in the seconds it takes for them to return attention back to the task at hand? The time spans lost are the same amount of time required to interpret a CAPTCHA. E-mail, instant messaging, Twitter, etc. are all distractions from getting the work done. Those who choose to disconnect or limit the distractions improve their productivity. At least that is what the technology corporations studying the problem have decided. I have my doubts. This sounds like a restating of “all employees with access to the Internet just surf all day and get nothing done.”

What I like about instant messengers is they are more efficient than email but cheaper than a long distance phone call. By marking availability status, employees alert others not to contact them. Employees also may ignore messages until they have are done concentrating on the task at hand. Another article, also from the New York Times, supports this view employees using instant messengers effectively are not distracting.

Looking at an alert just to decide whether to respond would “waste time.” Then again, so would talking about a cool movie, the family, or any of the standard means of bonding which establish trust between individuals (without which far more time would be wasted in mistrust).

Guess there will be more research to debate what is really the problem.
🙂

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Loving Day 2008

The plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving

Image via Wikipedia

Did you do anything for Loving Day? Do you even know what it is? From the site….

Loving Day is an educational community project. The name comes from Loving v. Virginia (1967), the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Loving Day celebrations commemorate the anniversary of the Loving decision every year on or around June 12th.

This is personal for me.

When my parents went to get married (after this decision), the Justice of the Peace refused to grant them the marriage license, citing a state anti-miscegenation law. Lately, Mom has been adding to the story: This was a huge deal within my parent’s circle of friends. Some, excited at the prospects of making national news, encouraged them to fight the decision and sue the state to grant the marriage just like Loving v. Virginia. Other encouraged them to avoid the confrontation and attention.

In college, I found a death threat written to Mom once about her dating Dad. When I confronted her about this, she told me this was actually benign compared to the face-to-face threats and even the rifle the neighbor across the street at times trained on my dad.

So my parents were intimidated against making a similar fight. They found someone in another state who willingly married them without the fuss.

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Book Review – The Edison Gene

The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child by Thom Hartmann

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reading the DSM-IV about ADHD sounded to me more like the behavior over a typical boy than a mental illness. Thom theorizes a gene came about which allowed our ancestors to survive an intense period of ice ages. This gene, when triggered, exhibits behaviors teachers find abhorrent in the Prussian style education system of the United States better geared to producing soldiers and factory workers than scientists and creators.

View all my reviews.

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Eduyawn

Edupunk is “Do It Yourself” in education or instruction technology. Free or at least cheap tools suitable for classroom use are so ubiquitous, the faculty have plenty of alternatives to the monolithic “enterprise” LMS.

If edupunk was a boat, then what would it be? A bamboo raft?

Kid at an Apple IIeThis is not something new. My mom conned her principal into letting her have an Apple IIe for her classroom where she refused the computer teacher’s help. Instead, Mom found and installed programs herself for what she wanted to do. She was not going to become an extension of the computer teacher’s classroom. She maintained this DIY approach throughout her career. She was always annoyed with technology in education classes because she already knew about most of the technology they taught teachers to use and offered her experiences in not only how to make it work better but more recent technology which looked more promising.

Her approach was simple but methodical.

  1. Try something.
  2. Covertly pay attention to what the students are doing.
  3. Evaluate the effectiveness.
  4. Keep successful approaches and ditch failures.

This was her method in both K-12 and higher education. If she were faced with using something like Blackboard Vista or Academic Suite, then I have no doubt she would be looking for greener pastures. At the same time, she is proud of me for having the job that I do: running the monolithic “enterprise” LMS.

* Picture by Greg G. It was licensed Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

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Ticket Inbox Zero

Blackboard implemented a ranking system to determine the priority of support tickets. This effort uses criteria like the age and recency of updates to ensure the attention of Technical Support Managers. Certainly this initiative is due to continuing customer complaints about languishing tickets. Last spring we saw a similar push to fix support.

We have a weekly call with our Blackboard TSM where we discuss the status and priority of the issues. As GeorgiaVIEW is a consortium, these calls allow us to track the progress of the couple dozen of active tickets. From our vantage point, the tickets get verified as a bug in relatively short order and escalated to Development in rather short order.

Once there, the tickets languish for months to years. Most tickets impact a single section so once grades are posted, a fix is pointless. Even one ticket who passes this point to me proves a failure in the system. As fixing the issue after this point solves nothing. It cannot help anyone as the class is inactive. Yet, we hold on in hope someone might look at the issue and provide a fix for the next time this happens. Maybe that will be another customer or ourselves soon?

Unless a fix is provided immediately, we start losing the confidence of the instructors or students. Within only two weeks, we have irrevocably lost the confidence of these users. At that point we are incompetent to this person and may never be able to regain trust.

Our TSM seems effective in the realm in which she operates (confirming bugs, providing known solutions, and pestering Development for updates). We hawkishly ensure no tickets are dropped through the cracks.

If the goal really is to make the customers happy, then providing us timely updates that nothing is being done will not cut it. Provide the resources to Development to get our tickets resolved. Only then will our users be happy.