SlideShare: Sharing slide shows like PowerPoint

SlideShare is a beta social network site for sharing slide shows. You can have shows with audio attached, or just plain one that you click through.

I’m not really sure why slide shows should be shared, especially if they don’t have an audio track. This strikes me as a corruption. Slides were meant to enhance (not replace) talks. Now we have the slides without the talks they support. Tufte described the problems with shoehorning ideas into slides in The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint. If slides are a crutch, SlideShare is a pilgrimage spot where you can see the crutches left by others.

Of course, there are uses for SlideShare. I guess you can put you slides up there so you can access them for a presentation. And trading decks of slides has become a way of proving you know something.

Mashing Texts and Just in Time Research

Screen Shot from PowerPointWith colleagues Stéfan Sinclair, Alexandre Sevigny and Susan Brown, I recently got a SSHRC Research and Development Initiative grant for a project Mashing Texts. This project will look at “mashing” open tools to test ideas for text research environments. Here is Powerpoint File that shows the first prototype for a social text environment based on Flickr.

From the application:

The increasing availability of scholarly electronic texts on the internet makes it possible for researchers to create “mashups” or combinations of streams of texts from different sources for purposes of scholarly editing, sociolinguistic study, and literary, historical, or conceptual analysis. Mashing, in net culture, is reusing or recombining content from the web for purposes of critique or creating a new work. Web 2.0 phenomena like Flickr and FaceBook provide public interfaces that encourage this recombination (see “Mashup” article and Why not recombine the wealth of electronic texts on the web for research? Although such popular social networking applications as mashups seem distant from the needs of humanities scholars, in many ways so-called mashups or repurposing of digital content simply extend the crucial principle developed in humanities computing for the development of rich text markup languages: that content and presentation should be separable, so that the content can be put to various and often unanticipated uses.

Mashing Texts will prototype a recombinant research environment for document management, large-scale linguistic research, and cultural analysis. Mashing Texts proposes to adapt the document repository model developed for the Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPoR) project so that a research team interested in recombinant documents can experiment with research methods suited to creating, managing and studying large collections of textual evidence for humanities research. The TAPoR project built text analysis infrastructure suited to analysis of individual texts. Mashing Texts will prototype the other side of the equation ��� the rapid creation of large-scale collections of evidence. It will do this by connecting available off-the-shelf open-source tools to the TAPoR repository so that the team can experiment with research using large-scale text methods.

Buying friends online

Do you want more friends for your MySpace presence? The Globe and Mail has an article by Keith McArthur, Trouble making friends online? Buy them (May 22, 2007) about services known as “friend trains” that help people make lots of friends. These services are selling enhanced access so that people can get lots of friends faster. Companies that use Facebook for viral marketing can then get lots of friends who then get their feed.

Obviously you may not be able to buy love, but you can by friends.

Facing Facebook

Today’s Globe and Mail had a story No more Facebook for city employees (Jeff Gray, May 10, 2007) about how (Toronto) city employees will not be able to use Facebook at work despite the fact that “there is no evidence of rampant abuse”. Toronto seems to be following the province of Ontario which is reported to have banned Facebook as it “does not add value to a workplace environment and civil servants should not be wasting office time visiting the site” according to Premier Dalton McGuinty. Do we have evidence that it is not useful to civil servants? Could there be uses of social networking? At McMaster a number of librarians have Facebook accounts that they are using to be more accessible to students on the princple that they should be where their audience is. (Coming soon a WOW librarian.)

Issues of time wasting hide what to my mind is the more serious issue. Two of my students did a multimedia project on
Facing Facebook that deals with privacy issues. There is a Flash opinion piece that Alex pointed me to that similarly asks, Does what happens in the Facebook stay in the Facebook? These deal with the large-scale corporate privacy issues. My previous post, Facebook Ethics looks at the local ethical issues.

We need to avoid being spooked by a new use of technology just because it takes off. (Toronto is apparently the largest community on Facebook.) But, we also have to be vigilant.

McMaster Youth Media Study

A colleague of mine, Phillip Savage, supervised an interesting student research project into the attitudes of McMaster youth towards broadcast and youth media. A group of upper-class students in his Communication Studies courses surveyed students in a first-year class and prepared a report titled, The McMaster Youth Media Study (PDF). What is impressive is that one of the students, Christina Oreskovich, presented this at the “CBC New Media Panel” to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (today, May 10th, 2007.)

Here is their “composite sketch of the typical student” which nicely captures the results:

She is 18 years old in her first year of a liberal arts program, her parents were immigrants and she speaks English and another home language (mostly with her grandparents now). She has a cell phone with a built-in camera and is toying with the idea of perhaps in the summer upgrading to a phone with a built in MP3 player. She got a laptop computer when she started at Mac in the fall and has broadband access at home, and in certain locations on campus. She downloads music for free from the Internet form a range of sites and although she has an iPod she rarely pays for iTunes. She regularly downloads complete TV programs off the web to watch on the laptop but rarely whole movies. Almost every day she catches one or two items from YouTube (usually sent as attachments to electronic messages from friends). She occasionally uses MySpace for social networking. On a daily basis she keeps up to date with over 100 friends from school, home and work on Facebook. Only occasionally does she look at blogs; and she doesn’t keep one herself – though some of her friends do.

She still watches TV – usually at least once a day. Her favourite channel is City-TV but she also catches CTV, CBC-TV and CH. She regularly listens to radio (very rarely CBC Radio), although she figures she gets most of her music from other sources. She’s heard of people getting satellite radio but since she doesn’t have a car she very rarely experiences – it’s more something her Dad is into. She will read magazines quite regularly, at least once or twice a week.

She doesn’t feel she has the time or interest to follow most news closely, yet. When she does she is as likely to use traditional mass media (TV, newspaper or radio) as internet sources. She prefers TV, radio nd newspapers for national and international news, and the internet for arts and entertainment stories.

She feels strongly that the Internet allows her to both keep in touch with a wide range of friends, but worries a bit that maybe she is spending less face to face time with close friends and family. She is also a bit concerned about whether time on the internet is making her a little less productive in her school work, although she thinks that it really helps her understand quickly about what’s going on in the world and exposes her to a wide range of points of view (more so than traditional mass media). She gets worried at time about her own privacy on the Internet, especially when she spends so much time on Facebook. She’s not really sure if she can find more Canadian information on the Internet versus traditional media. (pages 3 and 4)

I knew Facebook was popular, but didn’t expect it to be this popular. I’m guessing that it is becoming an “always on” utility for many students that aggregates, summarizes and nicely shows what’s happening to their friends. I suspect interfaces like Facebook Mobile will become more and more popular as iPhone type cell phones become affordable.

Swivel: When Sharks Attack!

Monthly Iraqi Civilian Deaths vs. Coalition Military DeathsSwivel is a simple site where people can upload data sets and then graph them against each other. You get graphs from the intriguing like, When Sharks Attack! vs. NASDAQ Adjusted Close, to the serious, as in Monthly Iraqi Civilian Deaths vs. Coalition Military Deaths (seen in picture).

With Swivel you can explore other people’s data, graph different data sets, comment on graphs, and blog your results. It is a clean idea to get people experimenting with data. I wonder how we could provide something like this for texts?

Thanks to Sean for this.

What we need from universities

DeLuca and Rockwell PictureWhat sorts of graduates does Canada need? Bill Gates in a opinion piece At risk: innovation (subscription required) in the Globe and Mail about a month ago argued for more computer science and engineering graduates arguing that our ability to innovate is at risk. This triggered a response, that Technology’s overrated and that what we need are more business students. Frankly I think they are both wrong, we need social content innovation. The innovations of the Web 2.0 (from blogging and wikis to Flickr and YouTube) are not technical innovations, but content innovations involving innovative ways for groups of people to communicate meaningful content. The areas of growth in information and communications technology are those areas that intersect with creative practices like digital imaging and computer games, as the resport Beyond Productivity points out.

What we need are more arts, humanities and social science students who are comfortable with communications technology and curious to use it in interesting ways. We need what Eugene Roman of Bell Canada calls “content scientists”. Companies like Bell have neat technologies, but need people to find ways to use them to create value. Toys are not enough, people need to play with them to give toys meaning and that is what arts, humanities and social science students do. Imagine a world where we made soccer balls but never organized a game – that’s what Gates, Martin and Milway will leave us with. Instead, as Chad Gaffield, the new president of SSHRC, puts it, Canada should support the human sciences which encourage understandings of people and developing talent.

In the picture above, I am with Gerry De Luca of Bell Canada after a meeting between Bell Canada representatives and colleagues at McMaster where we discussed the problems we face in teaching and research. Can we find an appropriate way for an enterprise like Bell to support the development of talented content scientists? What’s in it for them? This is not an easy problem in the content disciplines as industry engagement carries different risks than in science and engineering. When industry supports research in engineering the site of the engagement is a matter of patentable property ownership that is relatively free of controversy. When industry supports the creation of content it is a matter of copyright or expression, something that resists control or ownership. On the one hand there is too much content making most new content worthless; on the other hand content innovation takes freedom and rarely has a commercialization pathway when free. To support innovative expression you have to be willing to risk the tasteless, the controversial, the political, and the just plain bad. What entreprise would want to be associated with a chaotic explosion of content, even if there were a gem or two? Likewise, how comfortable are universities allowing industry engagement in content science.

Ning: Andreessen gets into social networking

The Globe and Mail has a story, Andreessen gets into social networking, on Ning, a “platform” for creating your own social network. It’s like an open FaceBook that lets you create a network for your family or for a class. You can create private or public networks; the public ones are visible and you can join them. You can pay Ning to make money off ads and for other services. Andreessen is, of course, the famous founder of Netscape. (So this is what he is up to now.)

Ning Screen Shot
Ning has a nice simple interface for choosing what you want on the portal. You drag the modules you want to the different columns. It lets you see what you can have and lets you arrange what you want.