Friday, April 27, 2012

Google ads

You gotta hand it to Google, they tend to have ideas from time to time.

Problem: How do we get people looking in the space we use for ads more?

Solution: Use that space for handy tips every now and then

I noticed in my gmail ad space, not an ad but a handy tip:

"Empty tissue boxes can provide easy and handy storage for plastic grocery bags."

That alone will probably see me looking at the ad bar a little more often

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


A trench at Lone Pine after the battle,
showing Australian and Turkish dead on the parapet
Image from The Australian War Memorial, through Wikimedia Commons

Re-enactment of Gallipoli landing from Jax on Vimeo.
Today was ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which was established as a British Empire Colonial Force during World War One.

ANZAC Day is held annually in Australia and New Zealand, beginning with a 4.30am dawn service to commemorate the ANZAC amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula, in the Aegean Sea, Turkey, in what was then the Ottoman Empire, on the morning of 25 April 1915. The operation was a failure, and 8 months later the ANZACs along with the British, French, Indians and Canadians evacuated the siege on the Ottomans, with combined casualties of 392,338 (the vast majority Ottoman). This was the beginning of Australia's involvement in WW1, and many in Australia strangely believe it to be a nation defining event!

In Australia, ANZAC Day, along with Remembrance Day, has come to commemorate many wars that Australians have participated in. Some have even forgotten the associations with New Zealand. The wars not remembered however are the Australian Frontier Wars, The New Zealand Wars, The Boer Wars, or the many secret special operations carried out by Australia's Special Air Service and Special Operation's Force. Nationalism in Australia, is sadly defined by limited perspective on war.

In school we are taught some bizarre story about how or what WW1 was about. Something to do with an assignation of an Arch Duke in Europe, leading to a crisis between Germany, France, England, and other colonising imperialists.. and somehow that crisis in Europe lead to ANZACs being deployed across the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Europe. Some say WW1 was actually a British campaign to prevent Germany completing a railway from Berlin to Baghdad, and securing it's interests in oil there. They say WWI was the first of many oil wars to come (9.27 Mins).

The way in which Australians remember their wars is important to me. My teenage friends and I spent most of our adolescent years dreaming of the day we would 'serve' in what was a kind of right-of-passage to us as boys to be men. Some of us went on from Army Cadets to join the Army. I joined the 1st Commando Company. While I dropped out pretty soon after my initial training, others stayed at it. Had I stayed, I might have ended up in the 2nd Commando Regiment, deployed to Afghanistan and possibly even participating in that terrible masacre there. I can hand on heart say, that ANZAC day, along with many movies, inspired and motivated my interest in a combat military career. Lucky for me, I found a girlfriend who cured me of such junk thinking.

If we as a nation and as individuals, could remember war differently, without the nationalism, militarism, fetishism, suggestion to boys of what it means to be men... if we could cease using words like service, suprime or ultimate sacrifice, bravery, valour, and others like it... if we could rethink our memorials and museums... if we could instead stay away from nationalistic gatherings - hopefully in the peace and love of our friends and families, reflecting on the true and untold costs of war, remembering the parts we each play in causing our conflicts and wars, and even burning effigies of politicians and corporations who failed in their honesty, diplomacy and setting right their many injustices of the past and soon-to-be-present, then ANZAC Day would be something I would maybe participate in.

Lest we forget [be careful how we remember]


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Agenda Benda 1999

I'm absolutely stoked to have found John Normal again. In the 90s, he inspired me a great deal. Doing the zine political mashup like no other, he made meaning where so much of it was missing.

This was a bit before the Internet took over, and I lost the copies I had of the Agenda Benda zines he put out. But now, thanks to Facebook, we've connected again, and he's pointed me to his recently revived website

John e Normal - Zines

Open Assessment

I had to repost this after accidentally deleting it!

Peter Rawsthorne maintains his long held interest in developing an open source, peer to peerassessment system, and in many ways I think what OERu is doing today is to some degree informed by Peter's contributions to Wikieducator 2007-2010...

Achieving a critical mass seems to be the biggest problem to the idea of successfully developing a P2P Open assessment system. Linking it to formal and informal learning, and open education would be a logical place to start toward attracting some of that mass.

Maybe thinking about how people begin to go about learning something.. let's say it's a Google search at some stage. That search often leads people to either Wikipedia and/or Youtube both for a quick overview, and developing something in either one of those spaces is not only possible, it seems to me to be the place where one might hope to find enough of a critical mass...

Wikipedia has a sister project called Wikiversity, and their association affords a rather large graphic link on any Wikipedia page to any Wikiversity page. That link could read, "want to find out more about this topic, join a peer to peer assessment project" (Link to related Wikiversity page). That Wikiversity page could be any number of things to do with the topic found on the Wikipedia entry.. an index of open research projects, or a collection of lesson plans, links to more content, and links to a range ofassessment options, including assessment driven learning schedules, or guides for collecting a range of evidence for more formal assessment, from peer assessed badge systems through to Nationally recognised certification systems... the first project I ever witnessed attempting this was Michael Nelson's Web Design course on Wikiversity, where he was developing that space specifically for his Australian TAFE students, but in such a way so as to invite other formal assessors into the project and offer formal recognition for people learning web design through that Wikiversity project. Critical mass did not come :(

The search that leads to Youtube is a space that's a little harder to occupy. But at the very least it could be via instructional videos loaded to Youtube, to attract viewers and link them back to a Wikiversity page that offers a range of options for further learning, including assessment. That Wikiversity page could well include a suggested activity that has the punter returning to Youtube to upload their own videos in an effort to attract peer assessment there, or to simply generate evidence for more formal assessment.

These suggestions - to occupy two of the most popular open education spaces on the Internet: Wikipedia (and associated projects) and Youtube, is an attempt to attract critical mass toward the idea of peer to peer, open source assessment. Perhaps there are better spaces to attract that mass though (?)

That mass needs to be significant if there's truth behind the claim that a project like Wikipedia is created by less than 1% of the total number of people who use it. An open source assessment project could not expect to attract any more than 1% of the people that might look at the project, so the need to occupy popular domains becomes even more compelling I would think.

Next though, the model for open assessment needs to be simple and attractive, with obvious value to the wide range of people who may be interested. I'm wondering if something could be learned from the Local Exchange Trading Schemes, to try and generate some form of value in the assessmentsystem? 

The old Flash work I used to do

Yep, unpacking boxes has me sitting neck deep in junk, remembering years gone by. Here's an early draft of a pretty major Flash job I took on, back when Flash was with Macromedia and Firefox was awsome for coming out with a player to silence all the nay sayers.

This one's from 2003, for Surf Life Saving Australia. The content is based around a very nice TV commercial the Life Savers were running at the time.  Only a couple of the menu items have content behind them, find them and you'll get the idea. See if you can find the political comment I slipped in.

I've lost the near finished version. I don't know what happened to the project in the end. For reasons I never new, I was taken out of it. It was a bitter end to a project I really enjoyed working on, and I think this is an example of some pretty tidy Flash work, if you can forgive the audio getting out of synch with the subtitles, and the extra compressed images and audio, because dial up was all the range back in those days.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Maria Island 2002

The group of artists in the old convict mess hall.
More photos if you click to the right

Unpacking our stuff into our new house in Darwin, I found an old CD with a few files on it from 2002. That year I attended an artist in residence program, where about 15 digital artists from Australia, Finland, Norway, Austria.. and a few other places I can't remember, all stayed on Maria Island for a week, composing art pieces to exhibit back in Hobart the following week. The program was called Solar Circuit, and the theme was Wilderness. These clips were for looping in an audio visual performance I put on inside an old wheat silo on the island one night. And this one was more focused on the first contacts between Indigenous and Settler Tasmanians

Groomed for money

Shortly before shit hit the fan between me and North America I posted something that might have been the beginning of the deal breaker up there, Lucrative Teaching. While it's pretty short of lucratice, raising 12 grand through kickstarter is pretty darn impressive, and very encouraging. When/if access to that sort of capital raising comes to those outside the US, it might be a feasable way to sustain a lot of educational initiatives. I'm thinking the amazing Melbourne Free University for example.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Anarchism and Education

Take a look at "Anarchism And Education: A Philosophical Perspective"

Well written introduction, which can be freely accessed through the Google Books link above.

Tŷ unnos

Tŷ unnos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tŷ unnos (plural: Tai unnos) (One night house), is an old Welsh tradition which has parallels in other folk traditions in other areas of the British Isles.It was believed by some, that if a person could build a house on common land in one night, that the land then belonged to them as afreehold. There are other variations on this tradition: that the test was to have a fire burning in the hearth by the following morning; and that the squatter could then extend the land around by the distance they could throw an axe from the four corners of the house.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Design for Human Scale - Victor Papanek

Victor Papanek - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Recently Chris Watkins, who manages came to stay, on his way through to Townsville for the Wiki Academy being held there. Naturally our conversations revolved around sustainability and appropriate design, and we passed each other readings. Chris passed me Victor Papaneck for his Design for Human Scale, and I passed him Tools for Conviviality. I look forward to reading Papaneck, in the hope to gather a stronger handle on the idea of researching with my bare hands

Colin Ward

Childhood and informal education

Thomas Steele-Maley is a blogger to follow, if you're interested in alternative models for learning and education, perhaps even deschooling or an anarchist's perspective on education, Thomas is across it. Recently he blogged about Colin Ward, who I have not studied, but will do after Thomas' notes on him.

Crisis in the Northern Territory

MFU Podcast 18.4“On the crisis in the Northern Territory”

A chilling podcast from Melbourne Free University, on some of the incredible policy mishandling in the Northern Territory affecting Indigenous Australians in the region

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Failures of XO

The Failure of One Laptop Per Child

Right from the start, my thoughts and experience with OLPCs was that they would be successful in the wealthy countries more than the poor.

OLPC proved a design concept and sparked the whole affordable netbook and tablet development. But in the poor countries they rolled in on mass, they delivered a totally unique-alien device with next to no contextual relationship, and probably little association with  computing aspirations held by locals, if any. An operating system that, while innovative, offers little immediate skills transfer to other computing devices, if such skill even had value or relevance, and to a less degree, the same can be said for the hardware and the XO mechanics programs they're rolling out.

The shame of it though is they layed the market foundation at the institutional and government level, for big money to flow to threw idea of supplied personal, portable computing devices. So in walk Apple, Google and Microsoft to meet that new market and their "digital education revolutions".

If computing is something that people need and want, maybe learning how to build their own, from spare parts and free software, would see them develop highly transferable skills, and a sense of independence and self determination to boot. Having spent far too much money on computers and software myself, I wish I had more of that skill, and that more people around me had those skills as well.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Notes on education as instrument of colonisation

As I was reading through Aboriginal Knowledge Narratives and Country By Payi Linda Ford I emailed it's title to Chet Bowers, who I thought would have interest and comment based on what I've read of his work recently. Chet replied with a number of related texts, and with permission I have copied his comments into a Wikiversity page, to make notes on the beginnings of a reading list around the topics of Education as an instrument of colonisation. Hopefully these notes will help others to find their way into this dense and complicated area, and I will aim to update them as I get through the readings, and with whatever else it connects me to. I'm thinking these notes will be of some use to Matthew Stinar, who I exchanged words with on Twitter recently.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Twitter very broken

9 April Update: I may have been mistaken about the problem extending to Ubuntu, as it appears not to be the case today. I spent a little while looking into the problem on my wife's Mac, and it appears to be related to the encoding settings in the browsers, and the font sets saved into the system. It would make sense that the fonts are affecting it, because my wife downloads a bunch of strange fonts for her design business. But this shouldn't affect the primary fonts selected for use by the browser.. so it's still a mystery and not fixed.


Something is terribly wrong with Twitter on my Ubuntu running Chromium, Mac running Chrome and Safari, and Tweetdeck extension to Chrome on both operating systems. A search reveals no help. Anyone else having this display problem? See photo:

Aboriginal Knowledge Narratives and Country

Aboriginal Knowledge Narratives & Country: Marri kunkimba putj putj marrideyan - eContent Management

After introducing myself to some people over morning tea a few weeks ago, mentioning my ongoing questioning of our industrial strength, state education system, I was given this book that has been recently published.

I'm past the introductions and am finding it most interesting.

The intention of the author is to find a better middle ground between the knowledge traditions of her country in the North West of Australia's Northern Territory, and that of an oppressive system handed down to everyone from our nation state.

I'm very interested to find the synergies with such concerns, between those from indigenous culture and my own, which is obviously from within the culture of that nation state, but where I think many others feel the opression and dispossession also.

Torches of Freedom

Suffragette banner.
One of the banners, the women who
picketed the White House carried in 1917-18
Image via Wikimedia Commons
There's a well known account (via Adam Curtis' Century of the Self) where Edward Bernays (inventor of 20C public relations) is said to have gloated at how easy he found it to leverage the suffragettes movement in the early 19 hundreds, using them and their cause to successfully market cigarettes to half the population that - as yet, did not smoke (due to it being associated with a masculine past time). Berneys scored a photo of the leading suffragettes, posing in front of the Statue of Liberty, each smoking a cigarette, and then ran the photo in the papers with the heading, "Torches of Freedom". So began the film industry's indorsement of Berney's construct, who then adopted the simbolism throughout their productions for the next 100 years, enjoying the money from the tobacco industry that came with it. 

Berneys went on to do the same for the auto industry, shutting down trams and railways, by constructing the idealised suburban lifestyle around the automobile.

Torches of Freedom was pulled off 100 years ago, using theory's from Bernay's uncle, Sigmund Freud. Over those 100 years, they have honed their skills through WW1, The Great Depression, WW2, The Cold War, Pop Music, and Globalism and now the early stages of data-driven, massive propaganda in social media. The Public Relations industry has come a long way since Torches of Freedom. 

It's based on this simple observation that I have no trust what so ever in groups of people susceptible to that industry's messages. Just look at the polarisation, disrespect and name calling that goes on between people who probably agree on more things than they disagree! 

Ours is a manufactured disconsent. A new politik of divide and conquer, or opportunism over the new tribalism. 

Saturday, April 07, 2012

P2P BitTorrent, The Pirate Bay, and a new economy

Nothing new to add in this sadly old debate, but my own voice:

I'm new to P2P through BitTorrent, but through experiencing it recently, I'm really impressed.

I have finally experienced the joys of downloading a very large file in pieces, from a distributed network of people who have that same file, and who happen to be online at the time I want it, and who are willing to "seed" others that file for a time.

I remember when the music industry shut down websites facilitating this, but today, sites like The Pirate Bay live on, and I'm not sure how much we appreciate the incredible opportunity to knowledge sharing this site gives us!

Suddenly I have access to a breadth and depth of video I never would have, even if I could afford it. Titles I have only vaguely heard of. Older works by directors that are almost impossible to get other ways. My interests in film are as wide as anybody's, and no single store, not even Amazon, has the films I'm looking for. Many, a great many in fact, simply aren't distributed any more, if they ever where in my country.

I pay >AU$100 per month for bandwidth and data that enables me to download some of this content I now have access to, it seems to me that my Internet Service Provider should be paying a royalty (and I would agree to pay a little more to cover that) if it meant preserving P2P file sharing, and delivered money to the industry that produces this content. How we can be sure that money gets to the people who made the content is another question...

But that royalty would have to be much smaller than all the middle people are currently getting through the resitrcted markets. The people who make content need to get smarter with their marketing, and establish a range of products on demand that relate to the digital content getting shared, to supplement the income they currently draw from royalties and licensing.

I am such a huge fan of some of the truly amazing content I now have access to, I would gladly purchase a range of products to extend the experience. Everything from the script in a printed and bound book, educational materials, to clothing and the usual range of products. Of course, I wouldn't do that for most of the content that is churned out for the box office, and now that I have access to a wider range of alternatives - good bye box office! 

As it is now, my daughter's obsession with some of the more obscure but beautiful Japanese anime from the 80's would translate into at least AU$200 purchasing follow through, if our past experience with some of the more regrettable Disney productions is anything to go by! If I see or hear another f*%$*Ng mermaid, I'll crack it!

There IS an economic model in P2P File sharing. Shutting down such amazing opportunities of access is a ridiculous idea.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Guy living in a Teepee on a lake in Canberra

Teepee battle heads to court

I really admire this guy. Rents, not just student rents, have inflated well above indexed levels in Australia, more so in places like Canberra (and Darwin). Its even better that his protest has the support of indigenous elders. Unfortunately, the hostile comments are indicative of the narrow mindedness in Australia that prevents any real solidarity around just about all issues.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Migrating to Google Apps - a problem with Microsoft

There's talk that Microsoft will collapse
within a few years. Maybe we should think about
this as a medium to long term risk to be managed.
I've been investigating the user experience when migrating from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps. Predictably, the Google side is friendly, the Microsoft side is disappointing. I've hit a problem with Microsoft Exchange server dropping recipients from email that is redirected to Google Apps mail.

I'm working with a group that have a domain name already, but they have been using that domain for their website only. Their email, calendars, shared documents, and even their desktop computers are split between two parent organisations, who each use a slightly different Microsoft set up. Google Apps might be a way to tidy this up a bit.

Most people know by now, that Google Apps offer a pretty complete service including website, shared documents, email and instant messaging, calendar, blogs, and web analytics second to none, and all of it can be managed within the capabilities of a person with amateur web skills.

Before anyone thinks I'm all for Google, I'm as nervous as anyone about putting all eggs into the one Google basket. I worry about the level of help and support I might be able to expect when going it alone with Google, and am very concerned at the increasing instances of Google services engaging in censorship, not to mention the keeping their services within the auspices of US law. But weighing up these concerns between Microsoft and Google is in many ways like comparing two peas from the same pod - or the same gene of vine at least. I've suggested taking a good look at Ubuntu Cloud services as a real alternative, but the concerns about the abilities of people to handle a migration to free and open source services are still too strong, despite the principles of that service provider being much more aligned to the rhetoric of the organisation I'm working with. So Google it is, and let convenience and 'what-everyone-else' does be the guiding principle.

Google Apps

Registering the domain into a Google Apps account couldn't be easier. You just type it in, and then Google gives you a little file to add into the route directory of the servers used to host the website for that domain. If that's a bit challenging, then simply create your website on Google Sites or Blogger, and register a domain through them and get a Google Apps account along the way.

The setup for Google Apps email, calendar, docs etc, is very straight forward too. You have to go into the settings of the domain server if you want sub domain URLs like, but you can leave the URLs alone and keep it all easy.

The problem is with Microsoft

But, the problems start when looking at how people will manage the move off Microsoft Exchange email, Windows shared folders, and perhaps even Microsoft Office. The biggest problem right now is that one of the parent companies provides email on an out-of-date MS Exchange server (2007 I think) and one of the known issues with that version is that it drops other recipients out of the address fields of mail that is set up to automatically redirected to any other mail server. What this means is that after each person sets up a rule to redirect all their mail from their Microsoft based account to their new Google App based account, any mail that comes to them through that rule will drop other recipients of that message out, meaning the person can no longer just click "reply all" and join a group discussion.

This will create a big headache for people, especially when it is not clear from the email body who else has received the message. Their only option will be to log back into the MS Exchange email, and reply from their - defeating the purpose of the migration, or delaying the establishment of their new email address with people sending them mail. Apparently this is not an issue if the rule runs on MS Exchange 2010. The other parent organisation runs that version so this problem only affects half of the people I'm working with.

I had this same problem when I worked with the University of Canberra. Deep down I knew my time there was not going to last, so I was very reluctant to dilute my online identity with a new and non-sustainable email address. Others at that university struggled to understand my point of view, and preferred to build 2 if not 3 identities for themselves online. For me though, I wanted to redirect all UC mail to my personal Google email, but I had to manage the very tedious problem of the MS Exchange dropping other recipients and making it impossible for me to reply all. Despite my best efforts to rectify that problem at the source, Including having to prove to the IT people at UC that the problem was with Microsoft and not Google, and asking them to delete my UC email address in the staff directory and replace it with my preferred email address, in the end they decided to update their server software about the same time I stopped working there.

What to do?

So what to do I should do this time? In my mind, I'm thinking to approach this problem in the following order:

  1. Try the POP solution described in that Microsoft forum (quoted below) 
  2. If that doesn't work, we'll discuss a more committed approach to the migration, that avoids the redirect mail approach
  3. If that's not feasible, we'll find out if/when the parent company plans to upgrade their mail servers
  4. If that's not going to happen anytime soon, look at migrating everyone to the other parent company's mail servers that are up-to-date, and then redirect to Google mail
  5. At the same time, hope someone out there reads this post and suggests a solution
  6. And if all that doesn't work, we might have to ditch the Google Apps for email idea all together
Darcy Jayne (MSFT) 01-27-10We finally have an answer for you, Brian - this is not supported in Exchange 2007, which is the version of the Exchange server that is hosting your mailbox.  Until your school upgrades to Exchange 2010, redirects will not include cc: information.  I'm sorry we don't have a more satisfactory answer for you. 

BloomUMailStaff - 02-03-10What I would suggest is setting up a pop account subscription (or whatever google calls it) in gmail to POP your exchange account down to your gmail account.  This way you have the full messages and don't have to worry about getting through mail filtering.  Only issue is it will only POP your main inbox.  As long as you don't have rules moving messages to other folders, you should be good.  By default the only other folder that gets mail is the junk mail folder.  You may want to turn off exchange junk mail filtering on your exchange mailbox so everything comes down to gmail for you to see.