Archive for October 2008

Network Theory

29 October 2008

Last night I watched a fascinating documentary on the ABC called How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer.

The title of the show alludes to the humourous yet intriguing trivia game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which itself is based on the urban myth Six Degrees of Separation. In the game, players try to connect random movie stars to Kevin Bacon in as few steps as possible.

Take Cate Blanchett for example. Cate was in the movie The Shipping News with Deborah Grover, who was in Where the Truth Lies with Kevin Bacon. Cate therefore has a “Bacon number” of 2.

Cate Blanchett was in the movie The Shipping News with Deborah Grover, who was in Where the Truth Lies with Kevin Bacon.

Alternatively, Deborah Mailman was in Lucky Miles with Don Hany, who was in The TV Set with Kathryn Joosten, who was in Rails & Ties with Kevin Bacon. Deborah therefore has a Bacon number of 3.

Deborah Mailman was in Lucky Miles with Don Hany, who was in The TV Set with Kathryn Joosten, who was in Rails & Ties with Kevin Bacon.

Try it yourself at The Oracle of Bacon.

Network spheres, courtesy of gerard79, stock.xchng.Small-world networks

Networks that have a small average shortest path length between nodes, along with high clustering coefficients, are known as “small world networks”.

The Six Degrees myth prompted Duncan Watts of Columbia University and Steven Strogatz of Cornell University to mathematically analyse a range of real-world networks. Their paper demonstrated that the nervous system of a worm, the power grid of the western United States, and yes, the Hollywood filmerati, are all examples of small-world networks. In fact, many systems in the real world are small-world networks.

A common characteristic of small-world networks are “hubs” – those relatively few nodes that have relatively high numbers of connections to other nodes.

Applicability to e-learning

Network theory has been applied to activities as diverse as epidemic control and counter terrorism. I wonder if it can also be applied to e‑learning?

Leaving the obvious (Facebook) aside, let’s consider blogs. Individual blogs frequently link to other blogs, creating the network that we call the “blogosphere”.

If we analyse the blogosphere through the lens of network theory, can we identify the hubs and, by inference, isolate the key sources of knowledge? Should those (relatively) few blogs then be the ones you put into your blogroll?

I’m sure there are countless more potential applications of network theory to e-learning. It’s certainly an avenue worthy of further exploration.


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”…!


14 October 2008

With virtual classrooms and e-meetings becoming more popular in the corporate sector, netiquette (or “network etiquette”) is becoming increasingly important in our working day.

Similarly, as the myriad of acronyms and abbreviations used in text-based chat become de rigueur for the tech-savvy, the rest of us are left scratching our heads.

To shed some light on the situation for both myself and my colleagues, I have found the following sites on the web:


Top 10 Internet Etiquette Rules to Survive Online

Internet Etiquette Tips for a Safe and Fun Online Experience

Chat, Usenet, and Text Message Acronyms and Abbreviations

The List of Chat Acronyms & Text Message Shorthand

What are your favourite netiquette and chat acronym websites?

tia :)


9 October 2008

Are you looking for a good audio recorder/editor?

My favourite is Audacity.

Audacity logo

I’ve got the Beta version (1.3.5), and it works very well for me.

Oh, yes, it’s free!