Tips Up or Tips Down?

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by courosa

I just returned from the grocery shopping with my five-year-old son. As we approached the fruit section, my curious little guy asked, “Do bananas grow with tips up or with tips down?” Since we don’t have a lot of banana plants in Regina, I didn’t actually know off-hand. But, being the connected father I am, I pulled out my iPhone, Googled it, and in less than 30 seconds, we were looking at photos of banana plants and we no longer had to wonder.

We no longer had to wonder.

I did that entirely wrong. At the very least, I could have asked my boy, “Well, which do you think son?” perhaps followed by “So, why do you think that?” But I didn’t. And because I didn’t, I messed up a great learning opportunity.

Instead of providing my boy with an extended opportunity to be curious, to imagine deeply and to think creatively, I reinforced one of the worst habits of our generation. I demonstrated to my boy that you can solve a problem without thinking. And, I won’t do that again.

Google. Where’s Our Doc?

A few days ago, there were several of us on Twitter discussing the possibilities for a new open journal. Twitter is often not great for deep conversations, so following the success of the Ning Alternatives document, I thought I would tweet out a public, real-time Google Doc so people could write and share characteristics of a model, open (academic) journal.

The creation of the document moved quickly, and within minutes, we had several pages of information that helped to outline possibilities and partnerships that would help make this open journal a reality. Off the top of my head, collaborators included (I think): Jon Becker, GNA Garcia, Ira Socol, Jeremy Brueck, Tom Fullerton, George Veletsianos, Cole Camplese & Rob Wall (if you were involved, please let me know). Cole actually took a photo from his iPad while he edited from Twitterfic (see below).

Editing Document with the iPad

But then, all of a sudden, we could no longer access the document. The document now produces the following error:

Google Docs Error
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

So, I am writing this for a couple of reasons. First, we want this document back, and I’m hoping that someone at Google Docs will actually respond and help us recover it. There does not seem to be a straightforward way of getting Google’s attention, and thus, no easy way to resolve this problem. Second, I am using this as an example as a possible pitfall of depending on cloud computing. What if this was your dissertation? An important grant proposal? That book you’ve been working on? Or a document with some of your most important memories? While in this case, the issue happened so quickly that we didn’t really get a chance to take alternative measures – I hope this prompts you to keep a back up. The cloud can’t be trusted.

In any case, please forward this message along, and hopefully it gets the attention of a Google engineer that can actually do something about this, or get us some answers.


Update: As of May 4, 2010, the document is now working. Thanks everyone who passed this one. On May 3, the issue reached the Product Manager of Google Docs, and the team attacked the problem almost immediately. I received an apology, status reports, and finally, a detailed report of what had happened and how it had been fixed for the future. Overall, I am very satisfied with response I received from Google.

The Airwaves Have Been Freed


On November 4, 2008, by a vote of 5-0, the Federal Communications Commission agreed to free the unused TV airwaves for unlicensed public use.

This is a tremendous victory for Internet users.

Thanks and congratulations to the more than 20,000 of you who signed the Free the Airwaves petition to the FCC. This historic vote would not have been possible without your effort.

To understand what this could mean for public wifi access, listen to Minnie Ingersoll of Google.

More at Google blog.

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Can you relate?

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I certainly can. Read this article, that is, if your attention span allows it.

Drug Deal? – Google Maps Streetview

This is almost too crazy to be real, but the link to Google Maps is authentic. points to this very focused view in Google streetview in Chicago.

The zoom/street view on Google Maps is crazy, here’s another great find – in Chicago of a car break in . Yes, this is real.

Google Streetview theft

Now I can’t tell exactly what this individual is doing. NotCot reports a car theft, but I do not see verification of that anywhere else. For all I can tell, it could be two people trading baseball cards.

Google Maps, amazing, but still more than a bit scary. See also “Top 15 Google Street View Sightings“.

Google Sites Tour

I am sure that many of you have already heard that Google Sites was released today. However, if not, the following is a product tour that gives an idea of what it is, and how it works.

And, here’s some more information from Wikipedia:

Google Sites is a structured wiki offered by Google as part of Google Apps. It was launched on February 28, 2008 and is currently in beta stage. Google Sites started out as JotSpot, a software company that offered enterprise social software.

Looks like a great tool so far, and I am already contemplating its usability as an educational tool.

Google’s Highly Open Participation Contest

Google’s Highly Open Participation Contest was announced today at the Open Source Developers’ Conference in Brisbane, Australia.

Following on from the success of the Google Summer of Code program, Google is pleased to announce this new effort to get young people involved in open source development. We’ve teamed up with the open source projects listed here to give student contestants the opportunity to learn more about and contribute to all aspects of open source software development, from writing code and documentation to preparing training materials and conducting user experience research.

If you’re a student age 13 or older who has not yet begun university studies, we’d love to see you help out these projects. In return, you’ll learn more about all aspects of developing software – not just programming – and you’ll be eligible to win cash prizes and the all important t-shirt! You will, of course, need your parent or guardian’s permission to participate where applicable.

Almost any initiative the exposes students to collaboration and sharing while helping them build technical skill is all right by me.

More information.