Posted tagged ‘Internet’

The Comparative Value of Things

29 April 2014

This one goes out to all the trolls.

Relative scale with platinum at one end and anonymous comments on social media at the other.

Porn, weed and fireworks

29 October 2012

Last weekend I was privileged to contribute to the Human Brochure – a world first initiative by Australian Capital Tourism to promote the nation’s capital city, Canberra.

When I told my friends that I was going down to Canberra for the weekend, they invariably asked: “Why..?”

You see, Canberra has a reputation among Australians as being boring. As the home of yawners such as Parliament and the High Court, Canberra is associated with porky politicians and pompous legal types.

Paradoxically, Canberra is also notorious well-known for its sale of X-rated erotica, its decriminalisation of cannabis, and its availability of pyrotechnics. Yep, our very own Amsterdam.

But like most places where people haven’t actually been, its reputation is about 20 years out of date.

And the Human Brochure set out to prove it.

Human Brochure logo

The idea of the Human Brochure was to invite 250 social media-savvy people to Canberra; feed them; shelter them; and cart them around to several major tourist attractions. In return, we were asked to “spread the word online” about “all the great things” we got up to.

I joined the Arts & Culture stream. We were treated to national treasures such as the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and Canberra Glassworks – not to mention lunch at Two Before Ten, dinner at Mezzalira and z’s at the Diamant Hotel.

That may sound excessive (and yes, we were spoiled out of our minds) but it all boils down to how much you value word-of-mouth marketing. The point of the exercise was for us to share our thoughts, opinions and experiences with our followers on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Sure, Australian Capital Tourism could have pumped the money into yet another traditional advertising campaign, but we all know how they’ve been tracking. Instead, they tapped into the power of personal influence.

Here are a few of my tweets…

I was mindful not to sound like an over zealous salesman. I endeavoured to present only genuine thoughts and share only real experiences. Luckily that was easy to do because I thoroughly enjoyed just about everything!

I did provide some constructive feedback to the National Museum (it conspicuously omits Parramatta, one of Australia’s most important historical places), and I suggested the NFSA play more of its precious footage to visitors (they have since pointed me to their excellent YouTube channel).

But miniscule gripes aside, I expect the Human Brochure will prove to be a roaring success. Not only was the glory of Canberra amplified throughout the social media metasphere, but the initiative itself was the subject of interstate media attention.

Time will tell whether ROI is achieved. My prediction is that other tourism boards will copy the Human Brochure concept, and that will be the ultimate endorsement.

Regardless, I can say hand on heart, I had a wonderful time in Canberra.

Even without the porn, weed and fireworks.

The browser you loved to hate

19 October 2012

That’s the tag line for Microsoft’s latest promo for that much maligned browser, Internet Explorer.

I love it! It’s irreverent, it’s cheeky, it’s self-deprecating. In other words, it’s un-Microsoft.

Part of the fun is their use of clever graphs to depict the evolution of, say, bird-based communication:

Bird-based communication from carrier pigeon to Twitter

I had a go at depicting the evolution of preparing for battle, and they’re using it!

Preparing for battle from Viking helmet to console controller

Check out more funny graphs at The Browser You Loved To Hate.

Reach for the clouds

4 June 2009

Earlier this week, Michael Bromley, Head of Online Services at Telstra Business, visited my workplace to provide me and my colleagues with an overview of cloud computing.

What is cloud computing?

Michael defines “cloud computing” as:

…common business applications, platforms or infrastructure that are hosted on the internet (i.e. in the cloud) and are accessed locally from a web browser, while the software and data are stored remotely on servers.

hong Kong building 5, courtesy of herman430, stock.xchngThis definition may be particularly relevant to the corporate sector, because it could reflect the typical corporation’s chronological journey into the cloud.

For example, Company X might dip its toes into the cloud by discontinuing local installations of their standard desktop software onto individual PCs, in favour of connecting to Google Docs.

Of course this is a far cry from migrating all of their data and IP into cloud-based infrastructure, but it’s a significant start.

Private clouds

The major barrier to wholesale upsourcing to the cloud, I feel, will be data security. I can’t imagine too many organisations rushing to shift their sensitive customer details onto unseen servers in foreign jurisdictions. It’s one thing to use an online word processor; it’s something else again to store names, residential addresses and social security numbers out there, somewhere.

I can also appreciate corporate hesitation with public clouds like YouTube; many companies won’t want to share their IP with their competitors. That’s where I think private clouds may prove useful. By restricting access to jealously guarded content, but managing it within the cloud infrastructure, the company might strike a balance between security and efficiency.

vpc1, courtesy of Michael Bromley

What does this mean for e-learning?

Local installations of specialised e-learning authoring software is notoriously difficult in hierarchical corporations.

Even after you have secured funding (which is a feat in itself), you need to secure managerial approval to use the software, then you need to justify to various IT people why you need it, then you wait for a technician with the necessary admin rights to install it, then after 14 days you realise he didn’t register it properly, then you have to call him back to re-register, then he tells you he can’t seem to register it for some reason… By the time it’s all set up, a new version is released.

OfComm Series - Collapsed, courtesy of rajsun22, stock.xchng

Wouldn’t it be nice to skip all that?

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to simply log into the software on the web?

If you need 20 licences now, you can subscribe and have them in an instant. If you need only 12 licences next month, you can drop the other 8. On the other hand, if you need 30 licences, you can subscribe for 10 more.

Sure, you’ll still require the necessary funding and approval, but already the flexibility of licensing is promising an attractive ROI. Add the fact that you don’t need to install or register anything, nor maintain it or upgrade it, and it looks even rosier.

Suffice to say I’m keeping an eye on Lectora Online.

But online course creation is only one aspect of e-learning. Consider also:

Happy Cloud, courtesy of ba1969, stock.xchng.•  YouTube channels
•  Podcast hosts
•  Blog platforms
•  Wiki spaces

The list goes on…

Just log in

2 May 2009

A little while ago, I attended an executive briefing about cloud computing, hosted by SMS Management & Technology and presented by Paul Slakey, Director of Americas & Asia Pacific at Google, and Peter Coffee, Director of Platform Research at Salesforce.com.

Laptop in the clouds

What is cloud computing?

The 2009 Horizon Report states:

2009 Horizon ReportThe cloud is the term for networked computers that distribute processing power, applications, and large systems among many machines. Applications like Flickr, Google, YouTube, and many others use the cloud as their platform, in the way that programs on a desktop computer use that single computer as a platform.

Cloud-based applications do not run on a single computer; instead they are spread over a distributed cluster, using storage space and computing resources from many available machines as needed. “The cloud” denotes any group of computers used in this way; it is not tied to a particular location or owner, though many companies have proprietary clouds. “Amazon’s cloud,” for instance, refers to the computers used to power Amazon.com; the capacity of those servers has been harnessed as the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and can be leased from Amazon for a variety of purposes.

So it’s a little bit techie, involving distributed computing power, extended data storage, and scalability.

But for the lay person, I would suggest the term “cloud computing” can boil down to everything is web-based.

Head in the clouds

According to Paul and Peter, it’s clear that cloud computing is a rising trend. With thorny issues such as connectivity, reliability and security improving over time, more and more organisations are moving their work “into the cloud”.

One of the key points from the briefing that I feel compelled to reiterate is that cloud computing isn’t just some far off abstraction – it’s here and now. Probably the best known example is Google Apps, which provides email, calendars, documents, spreadsheets and presentation software, among a range of other tools and services, all on the web.

Sun Burst, courtesy of ba1969, stock.xchng.And surely you’ve used TwitterFacebook, Flickr, Delicious or YouTube…? These are all in the cloud.

In fact, the 2009 Horizon Report maintains that cloud computing is likely enter mainstream use in learning-focused organisations within one year or less  – and that was written in December 2008!

The report also notes that the technology is already well established on many educational campuses (including K-12), with claims that more organisations have their plans in place.

Sky’s the limit

Imagine if the corporate sector fully embraced cloud computing…

Businessman working on laptop

We could access our word processor, spreadsheet, e‑learning authoring tools, CRM system, sales figures, productivity reports, in fact any data or software, all online.

We could finally embrace thin clients. All that our laptops would need is a browser and an Internet connection.

We could purchase only the licences we need right now, and scale up later when we need to.

We could centralise our files and content, and collaborate more easily.

You can use a Mac, I can use a PC. It doesn’t matter.

No more relying on a technician with administrative access.

No more downtime for upgrades.

Just log in.

Who's that? He's my thin client.

When did you first surf the web?

25 October 2008

I was reflecting the other day about a question my postgrad lecturer, Dr Peter Goodyear, asked me a couple of years ago:

When did you first use the Internet?

Of course, the “Internet” is a potentially controversial term. For me, however, the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW), and I remember first browsing it with Netscape Navigator back in my undergrad years at UTS.

In haste, I answered 1993. Peter challenged that answer, politely suggesting 1994 in its place.

Monitor screen, courtesy of kiclaw, stock.xchng.

I didn’t think much of this conversation until recently, when I was reminiscing about my college years. So I looked up Wikipedia, which informed me that the WWW was proposed in 1989 by Englishman Tim Berners-Lee, who developed all the tools necessary for a working web by the end of 1990. Users of the WWW in the early days were science academics and physicists, but all that changed in 1993 with the introduction of the popular Mosaic web browser.

Mosaic was superseded by Netscape Navigator in December 1994. Well, I certainly wasn’t visiting campus in December, so my first exploration of the WWW must have been in 1995. This is probably what Peter suspected all along.

Having said that, 1995 is still very early. Australians must have been among the first people outside of Europe and North America to “surf the web”…!


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