Download or down payment: the perils of “free” software

June 8, 2009

They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. I say there is no such thing as free software. The exercise in downloading left me both frustrated and furious.

I already have many of the recommended software applications such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, Flash and Shockwave players, Apple Quicktime for Windows, Window’s Media Player and Real Networks Real One installed on my PC. Of the others mentioned in the unit notes, the Search Manager/Combiners appealed to me most. The ability to combine the best results from the best search engines could be useful.

I followed the link from the unit notes to the Glooton.com site. Unfortunately, it defaults to the French language site – I do not read French and could not find the download site. However there was a link to a site featuring French knickers.  I searched for Glooton for Windows using Google with the same results, more French knickers.

I moved on to Copernic Meta for PC. The link from the unit notes was to a Copernic site but again no sign of the software I was seeking. Instead I was presented with the options for Copernic Desktop Search, Copernic Mobile, Copernic Agent Family, Copernic Tracker or Copernic Summarizer. After some further reading, I opted for Copernic Tracker, which seemed to fit the description contained in the unit notes. I answered some non-intrusive questions and the download proceeded quite quickly. The download was an executable file that also opened and installed without any fuss.

I tried my first search using Copernic Tracker. I would try to find the Glooton for Windows download site in English. A bit disappointing, the first three hits were “paid” results for aluminium window sellers and installers – Copernic Tracker could learn a little from Google Adsense about relevance. The next top two results were more promising; the first from altavista.com and the second from ark.com. Unfortunately, they directed me to the French site I had visited earlier – another opportunity to buy some French knickers.

I applied the evaluation criteria to Copernic Tracker as follows:

  • Cost – free for the basic version but with the hidden cost of irrelevant sponsored results appearing as the top three results.
  • Ease of use – easy to use but not very elegant.
  • Functionality – the basic (free) product has less functionality than the more expensive paid-for products. Copernic Tracker does not utilise Yahoo or Google for its searching, which is a distinct disadvantage.
  • Utility – Could be useful but I found Google, Yahoo and the new Microsoft Bing individually produced better results than Copernic Tracker basic.
  • Commononality – The program does not appear to be in common use nor is it becoming standard.

Another feature that appealed tome that was mentioned in the unit notes me was the offline browser/copier. First up I looked at Webcopier for Windows. I declined a download because it came as a thirty-day trial after which you had to purchase. Free trials can turn into freeloaders. You do not realise until after you have downloaded the file that it has implanted some annoying “prompt” into your hard drive that relentlessly reminds you that your trial will end in 30 days. At the end of the 30-day trial, when you decide to reject the product, you discover there is no uninstall program. After you finally manage to delete the program, your computer is littered with detritus including constant reminders that your trial has expired. Although the trial may have been free, it is difficult to break free from these ongoning reminders.

Pagesucker for Windows appeared to be a better option.  However, I would live to regret the words attributed to P T Barnum that  “there is a sucker born every minute”.  Without reading the fine print, I selected the “free” program, which downloaded and installed quite quickly. However, once I went to use it a pop-up activated to inform me that the program was share-ware and that I would have to pay a registration fee of $US10.00 to continue using it.

There is another truism that you get what you pay for. No doubt, the continuing quest for the nirvana of “free” programs will result in many more experiences that are disappointing.


Us or them: Web 2.0 versus Web 1.0

June 7, 2009

Web 2.0 is about us whereas Web 1.0 was about them. For me, this sums up the fundamental differences between the two formats. David Curle (2009) describes Web 2.0 as:

a web of relationships, a web of empowerment, and a platform for application development … where the power of information, application, and peer-to-peer intelligence meet in order for people to do something – converse, purchase, practice medicine, share, invent or answer.

Users are empowered to create these relationships and develop applications by combining Web 2.0 technologies such as blog software, wikis, RSS, widgets etc with Web 1.0 search and access platforms (Curle, 2009).

Web 1.0 formats ‘broadcast’ to users while Web 2.0 formats invite users into a conversation. Another fundamental difference between the two is the tendency for Web 1.0 formats to control users while Web 2.0 formats empower users (O’Reilly, 2005).

In the following table I have listed some examples of the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 collated from some suggestions by Tim O’Reilly (2005) and Joe Drumgoole (2006).

Web 1.0 Web 2.0
Reading (homepages) Writing (blogs)
Publication Participation
Companies Communities
Client-server Peer-to-peer
HTML XML
Portals RSS
Taxonomy (keywords) Folksonomy (tags)
Wires Wireless
Owning Sharing
Content management
(Brittanica online)
Wikis
(Wikipaedia)
Advertising Word of mouth

Do these differences make one format any better than the other?

First, consider reading versus writing. A great many people do not blog. They are content just to read. In those circumstances, Web 1.0 formats are as valid as Web 2.0 formats.

Next, consider the suggestion that Web 1.0 was about companies whereas Web 2.0 is about communities. In reality, Web 2.0 is more often about companies enabling the formation of communities. No great advantage is apparent there. In any event, Web 1.0 formats such as Yahoo Lists also allowed communities to develop.

Web 2.0 is an evolution not a revolution. Whether one format is superior to the other is part of the age-old debate about whether something new is better than something old. As the evolution continues, so too will the debate.

References:
Curle, D. (2009). Professional Networks and Social Publishing in the Legal Tax and regulatory Segment, Outsell, Volume 3, Burlingame. Retrieved  on 3 May 2009 from http://www.outsellinc.com/store/products/832

Drumgoole, J. (2006). Web 2.0 vs Web 1.0, Copacetic. Retrieved 2 June 2009 from http://joedrumgoole.com/blog/2006/05/29/web-20-vs-web-10/

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next  Generation of Software. Retrieved 3 May 2009 from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html?page=1


Go fetch! – exploring two way interaction on the internet

June 7, 2009

I was playing “go fetch” with my dog in the park the other day. I threw a stick and  commanded her to “go fetch” the stick. But she was too busy playing with other dogs. So, I sat on a park bench and chatted with some other dog owners. After a while, my dog was at my knee with the stick she had retrieved in her mouth. She was begging me to throw it again for her to chase. By her actions she made it clear to me that retrieving the stick would be at her initiative and not at my command

The internet is another form of  “go fetch”. I place a file online using FTP. I can command that others retrieve my file for example by sending them an email directing that they “go fetch” my sample html file. But the decision to retrieve remains theirs. Unlike email, where I push information at the user, FTP is “an asynchronous technology” that is client driven.  Like my dog, FTP users will not be pushed and will “go fetch” only at their discretion.

Although the internet is a two way street, the direction a user takes remains their prerogative.


Conceptual Research & Reflection Project

May 23, 2009

Concept 9: Permanent ephemerality

Advanced Internet users do not confuse the electronically generated ‘ephemerality’ of their communication with a real emphemerality: they take seriously the requirement to communicate with clear vision of the consequences of what they are doing.

From here to eternity: issues of permanence and privacy on the World Wide Web

On the Eastern Serengeti plains in Northern Tanzania lies the Olduvai Gorge, one of the most important known prehistoric sites in the world that has contributed to the understanding of human evolution. Over millions of years, successive layers of volcanic ash have covered the shores of a former lake. Further seismic activity diverted a stream that has eroded through the ash revealing seven distinct layers embedded with various artifacts and in some instances, hominid bones (“Olduvai Gorge,” 2009). John Battelle suggests that the trail of searches and emails we leave when surfing the web may be the Olduvian ashes of our generation (Battelle, 2004).

Before the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW), issues of ephemerality and permanence of information were relatively simple. Most of us assumed that no records remained of our digital experiences. Our reference point was the telephone, where calls were fleeting, passing and unrecorded (Battelle, 2004).  The traces of our digital ramblings, which Battele terms our “clickstream exhaust”, were only useful as the means to finding a file or passing along information; they were of no other value (Battelle, 2004). We assumed ownership of our emails, just as we “owned” our telephone conversations, even though we knew our emails passed through the hands of ISPs and sometimes resided on their servers. This assumption was reinforced by statute in the USA with the passage of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 1986 (Battelle, 2004). Similar provisions already existed in Australia under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) (Mallam, 2009).

WWW complicated things and our digital ramblings traversed from ephemerality into eternity. Innovative companies realised that our clickstreams were rivers of gold. Like gypsies reading tealeaves, they soon began divining clickstream patterns (Battelle, 2004). Some uses were underlying such as Google’s PageRank while others were more direct such as Google’s Adsense and Amazon’s Recommendations (Battelle, 2004). Users of these services traded privacy considerations for other benefits such as ease of use, speed and convenience.

However, there were even greater trade-offs in the offing. When Google launched Gmail in 2004, it offered users of its new webmail service, free of charge, one gigabyte of data storage. The catch, Google would display ads based upon keywords appearing in the email (Templeton, 2004). Few gave any thought to how this would occur, blinded by the astonishing offer of free data storage and the improved search facilities in the new webmail product. If they had, they would have discovered it was necessary for Google to “read” their private emails to identify keywords that determine which particular ads to display. Google asserts that robots and not individuals “read” the mail (Templeton, 2004). Templeton (2004 ) expresses suprise people blindly accept this claim and argues that we would be unlikely to allow robots to read the mail in our letterbox and then place junk mail in the letterbox based on what was read.

Templeton has other privacy concerns with Gmail. He suggests that the protections afforded to email users by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 1986 may not extend to emails stored on Google’s servers. He posits that emails cease to be communications once received and stored on the server and that the relationship then becomes a contract for the provision of database services, which he argues are not covered by the Act (Templeton, 2004). These emails may be accessed without warrant or authority. It is also doubtful whether protection exists under the Australian Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act for email stored on Google’s server. The Australian Act was amended in 2006 to cover storage of information by telecommunication carriers, which definition includes ISPs (Mallam, 2009). However, Google is not a carrier as defined under the Act.

Should we be troubled about the loss of privacy as we shift from the ephemeral to the eternal, since “life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal” (Jean-Paul Sartre).

Site 1: John Battelle’s Searchblog – (Battelle, 2004)

John Battelle is a journalist as well as founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing. He has been a visiting professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.  Searchblog has been manitaned by Battale for more than eight years. From the Ephemeral to the Eternal is the first part of an incomplete conversation that Battele has continued to blog about since 2004. Battalle explores the the passage of clickstreams (the paths our mice lead us on whne we surf the net or send email) from apparent ephemerality to apparent eternity. He observes the chnages became apparent with the exponential growth of the WWW. Battalle also provides links to useful sources on associated concepts.

Site 2: Brad Templeton’s Home Page – (Templeton, 2004)

Brad Templeton founded ClariNet Communications Corp (the world’s first “dot-com.”) He is current chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a leading cyberspace civil rights foundation, and involved with the Foresight Institute and BitTorrent, Inc. He wote and posted the article Private Subtleties of Google before the public release of Gmail. His predictions of privacy issues proved prescient. After lobbying by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 1986 was amended in 2005 to provide additional protection for stored documents.

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Concept 15: Metaphors of use and communication differentiation

Internet communication technologies draw for their appeal and legibility (ie how they care understood) on metaphors and practices from non-internet communication. We use them, we understand them as versions of the latter, finding or creating differences between them that are not actually technically there since the net reduces all information flows to an identical format (with small variations) as it actually works

Without metaphor, life could not be a bed of roses

Since time immemorial, man has used metaphor to help him understand the meaning of concepts, ideas and things. The Bible is full of metaphors. The Gospels long ago proclaimed that man is “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Metaphors have been especially useful when describing new scientific discoveries or concepts. Rutherford used a planetary metaphor to describe molecular structures, clockwork metaphors were used to define the solar system while English physician William Harvey explained how the heart functioned by reference to a metaphorical pump (Eaton, nd).

The design of the first cars driven by the internal combustion engine resembled “horse drawn carriages” (Thorburn, 1998). Nothing was inherent in the concept the internal combustion engine that demanded this. The metaphor of a horseless carriage, which had been chosen to explain the invention drove the design (Thorburn, 1998). Thorburn recounts that his father drove an “early Ford whose elaborate leather dashboard was fitted with a pocket for the handle of a buggy whip” (Thorburn, 1998).

Koolmees suggests that Western cultures tend to develop an understanding of concepts and ideas by imagining them as things or “stuff” (Koolmees, 2007). In Western society we understand knowledge by viewing it as a “thing or substance” (Koolmees, 2007). We use these “stuff” metaphors to communicate concepts such as knowledge transfer or sharing and information storage or flow (Koolmees, 2007). Eastern cultures use different metaphors to understand knowledge (Koolmees, 2007). Rather than seeing knowledge as “stuff”, Eastern cultures tend to view knowledge through concepts of “spirit and wisdom, as unfolding truth, as illumination, or as enlightenment” (Koolmees, 2007).

Koolmees argues that metaphors are especially useful “to conceptualise abstract phenomena like information and knowledge” (Koolmees, 2007). It is not surprising then that metaphor has played a powerful part in developing our understanding of the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW). Indeed, the name selected by Tim Berners-Lee for the WWW is a metaphor in itself, referring as it does to an interconnected network of computers encircling the globe like a spiders web.

There are a number of dominant metaphorical mnemonics used when attempting to describe the Internet. Jacobs identifies two apparently contradictory concepts; “the Internet as an ocean” and “the Internet as a highway system” (Jacobs, 1999). The first analogy conjures images of a nature, vastness and water with expressions such as “surfing the net”, a “virtual ocean … overflowing with useless cyber trash”, “navigating the net” and web ”piracy”. The second relies on images that are man made denoting transport such as “information highway”, the net “crashing”, “old browsers as roadblocks” and “slowing traffic” (Jacobs, 1999).

There are many other metaphors outside these dominant paradigms. Surfers use “gophers” to “tunnel through cyberspace”. “Flames” are “incendiary” comments posted on a discussion board. Users “bookmark” favourite pages, they “launch” programs, they “finger” sites, use the “paintbrush” visit the “network neighborhood, install applications via the “bus”. They “freeze”, “boot” and “re-boot” their computers. They may accept “cookies” while at other time they only allow “handshakes” (Jacobs, 1999).

The history of the Internet and the WWW is comparatively brief. In a short space of time a rich language has evolved, through metaphor, that enables us to know and understand these previously unknown concepts.

Site 3: European Centre for Digital Communication – (Koolmees, 2007)

Hans Koolmees is a director of the European Centre for Digital Communication, a research unit based at Zuyd University, Maastricht, the Netherlands. His article, The power of metaphors, considers how metaphor is used to map our understanding of ideas, particularly “abstract phenomena like information and knowledge”. Koolmees distinguishes between the use of metaphor in Western cultures and Eastern cultures. He notes that Eastern metaphors “emphasise the subjective, dynamic, independent and emerging nature of knowledge” compared to the Western metaphors of “stuff” which “stress objectification and controllability of knowledge”. He reports the results of an experiment to determine whether different cultural metaphorical concepts influence organisational structures. He concludes that applying Western metaphorical concepts produced more formal and structured results that were generally proposed by managers and opposed by employees. Whereas, those applying the Eastern concepts developed solutions “aimed at humanising the organisation instead of formalising it”. Both managers and employees proposed these solutions.

Site 4: James Q. Jacobs on the web – (Jacobs, 1999)

James Q. Jacobs is an anthropologist and archeologist. His website features a number of scholarly articles, including Cyberspace is a parallel world: a metaphor analysis. Jacobs examines how our language has been shaped by metaphor to enable us to understand computer technologies, the Internet and the WWW. He observes that “rather than creating novel new words … various existing domains have been mapped onto computeers and cyberspace”. He cites examples from the domain of “computer as an office” such as “desktop”, “clipboard”, “scrapbook”, “mail box”, “trash can” and “folders”. The cyberspace world is mapped in cartesian space with examples like “drag and drop”, “bring up, bring forward”, “shut down” “background”, and “running”. He also considers the contradictory metaphors of the internet as an ocean and a highway.

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Concept 28: The paradox of the World Wide Web

Advanced Internet users recognise the character of the Web, seek to utilise its advantages, ameliorate its deficiencies and understand that not all users have the same abilities as themselves in reconciling the paradox of the WWW.

Together yet apart: a paradox of the World Wide Web

In 1998 a group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania carried out research into “the social and psychological impact of the lnternet” on “community life and social relationships” (Kraut, 1998). In their opening remarks Kraut (1998) and his colleagues predicted that the Internet had the same potential to alter peoples’ lives as the telephone and television had in the early and middle parts of the twentieth century. However, their research identified a paradox. The greater the use of the internet for social interaction the greater the degree of isolation from family and community taht was experienced by the users (Kraut, 1998).

Thorburn (1998) identified this paradox, which he termed the “contradiction of dissonance”. He demonstrated the paradox by comparing physical and heroic metaphorical images, such as surfing or navigating the superhighway or cyberspace, typically used to describe the perceived internet experience, with images of actuality founded in morality and intellect of computer users who were timid and isolated (Thorburn, 1998).

Thorburn observes that a sense of the social is developed through expressions such as “support group, interest group, news group, chat room, market, subculture, community [and] society” (Thorburn, 1998). Paradoxically, this sense of the social is diminished by use of the qualifier “virtual” such as “virtual community, virtual reality” etc (Thorburn, 1998). It remains a paradox that promises of bold new relationships, experiences and communities can be diminished by use of just one word. These communities and experiences are not real they are simulated or, at best, almost real.

Much is promised to the users of the World Wide Web such as world travel, participation in multiple causes and a multitude of public and private conversations. Yet to achieve this we must “sit, solitary, at the keyboard, interfacing deeply not with a human other, but with Windows 95” (Thorburn, 1998). While the internet encourages our participation in the cyberspace community at the same time it panders to less attractive human traits such as isolation (Thorburn, 1998). Anonymity affords the opportunity to scandalise, seek revenge, defame, stalk and indulge in pornography (Thorburn, 1998). Thorburn (1998) draws on Dickens to express this paradox as “the best of Webs, the worst of Webs”. The late Pope John II (2002) shared this view and described the World Wide Web as “full of the interplay of danger and promise”.

Thorburn (1998) argues that the paradox of the internet threatens “vital conceptual and psychological boundaries such as ‘near’ and ‘far’, ‘presence’ and ‘absence’, ‘body’ and ‘self’, ‘real’ and ‘artificial’”. The paradox is not unique to the internet; it has many precursors. The apparent truncation of time and space allowed by the telegraph and the telephone is one early example (Thorburn, 1998). Thornton (1998) notes that our experiences with books, movies and television also feature elements of virtual reality “by blurring of  ‘real’ and ‘false’, of  ‘connection’ yet ‘isolation’, ‘public’ yet ‘private’.  Thorburn (1998) suggests that the concept of the virtual site dates back as far as the early dramatists. Plays are an early form of a virtual site by which belief may be suspended through dramatic conventions such as scene changes and ellipses of time.

Site 5: Internet paradox: a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? – (Kraut, 1998)

Robert Kraut is the Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With his research colleagues Michael Patterson, Vicki Lundmark, Sara Kiesler, Tridas Mukopadhyay, and William Scherlis, he researched and wrote on the paradox of the internet on “the social and psychological impact of the lnternet … on social involvement and psychological well-being”. He considers the argument that “the Internet is causing people to become socially isolated and cut off from genuine social relationships, as they hunker alone over their terminals or communicate with anonymous strangers through a socially impoverished medium. He then examines the competing argument “that the Internet leads to more and better social relationships by freeing people from the constraints of geography or isolation brought on by stigma, illness, or schedule. According to them, the Internet allows people to join groups on the basis of common interests rather than convenience”.

Site 6: Web of Paradox – (Thorburn, 1998)

David Thorburn is Professor of Literature and Director of the Communications Forum at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Conrad’s Romanticism and many articles on media and culture and was the general editor of the book series Media and Popular Culture. Thorburn views the World Wide Web as “more than a technology, more than modems, bandwidth and computers”. Instead, he sees it as “a thing made of language and history, a Web of Metaphor”. However, the metaphor of adventure, heroism and physicality that typically defines the WWW is a paradox when compared to the real world experience. Thorburn also observes the paradox of interaction with a virtual community achieved through isolated solitary interaction with a computer terminal. Thorburn does not regard the concept of the virtual world as new or particularly connected to the WWW. He argues that earlier communication systems including the telegraph, telephone, movies and television, and even books and plays, were all a form of a virtual site.

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Concept 33: Information and attention

In the era of the ‘attention economy’, readers and users of Internet information must be carefully craft, in their own minds, the kind of metadata which will – almost instinctively – ‘fit’ with the metadata of the information sources they want, so that – in the few brief moments of initial exchange, when a seeker of information encounters information being sought, rapid, effective judgments are made that ‘pay off’ in terms of further reading, accessing and saving.

You can pay attention, but you cannot pay for it.

American psychologist Herbert Simon created the concept of the “attention economy” when he wrote:

In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it (Simon, 1971).

Goldhaber (1997) suggests that the attention economy has come about through changes to the underlying tenets of the economies of industrialised nations, shifting as they have from reliance on workers producing, transporting and distributing material goods to “managing or dealing with information in some form”. Goldhaber (1997) rejects the tendency to describe this phenomenon as the “information economy”. Goldhaber (1997) bases his theory on an understanding of economics, which is the “study of how society uses its scarce resources”. Information, particularly on the internet, is abundant observes Goldhaber (1997). What is in short supply? What drives people to place information on the interne? Goldhaber (1997) answers “attention”.

The language of the attention economy is widespread.  Phrases such as “pay attention”, “do I have your attention” or “I can’t give that my attention at the moment” are commonplace and metaphorically indicative of the commoditisation of the concept of attention (Goldhaber, 1997). Commercialisation follows commoditisation. Mandel and Van der Leun describe “attention” as “the hard currency of cyberspace” (Mandel, 1996).

Modern production techniques mean that many commodities, which were previously scarce, are now plentiful. There is more of a problem with overeating in countries like Australia than there is a scarcity of food. While it is possible to mass produce quantities of an item to satisfy demand, a person’s attention is limited. Even in this age of multi-tasking, it is still difficult to direct one’s attention to more than one thing at a time. It is important for information providers to recognise this scarcity and to develop their offerings accordingly.

According to Goldhaber (1997) the “attention economy is a star system, where Elvis has an advantage”. Known celebrities, brands, blockbuster movies etc will always draw more attention than less well-known equivalents.  Individuals can attract attention to themselves by hitching a ride on a star. By associating themselves with “stars” they will achieve some attention as “micro stars” (Goldhaber, 1997). Goldhaber (1997) emphasises how attention not only flows from fan to star, but is hyperlinked from star to star and fan to fan.

A significant factor that differentiates the commodity of “attention” from other commodities is money. Goldhaber (1997) argues that money cannot buy attention. More radically perhaps, Goldhaber predicts a dramatic change in the advertising model. Goldhaber (1997) claims that advertisements will have as their dominant purpose the attraction and direction of attention, “because money will be obsolete”. Goldhaber sustains this argument on the premise that “cyberspace is not that hospitable to monetary transactions [and] … requires a complex set of codes, passwords, firewalls, etc”. Conversely, Goldhaber (1997) notes: “Attention requires no encryption. It flows naturally across the Web.”

Goldhaber (1997) turns to history as justification for his argument. In feudal Europe it was unimaginable that occupations such as “tilling the soil for food” or the then unchallengeable rights of nobility to land, title and wealth could be usurpe (Goldhaber, 1997). However, the industrial revolution changed that, and money became the central focus of the econom (Goldhaber, 1997). Only time will tell whether “attention” can take the place of money.

Site 7: Designing organisations for an information rich world – (Simon 1971)

Dr Herbert Simon was the  winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Economics. Simon earned an international reputation as one of the founders of artificial intelligence. Dr. Simon’s research extended from computer science to such areas as cognitive psychology, administration and economics.His seminal work, Designing organisations for an information rich world, was published in 1971 and is attributed with establishing the concept of the “attention economy”. Simon raises his concept of  “the scarcity of attention” as a consequence of an abundance of information. He suggests “the scarcity of attention in an information rich world can be  measured in terms of a human executive’s time”. He argues that “the cost to recieve information” (the cost of attention) is more important than the cost to produce information. He provides three examples of his theory under the subheading: “information overload”, “the need to know” and “technology assessment”.

Site 8:The currency of the New Economy won’t be money, but attention – A radical theory of value – (Goldhaber, 1997)

Michael H. Goldhaber  is the author of Reinventing Technology and a visiting scholar at the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written extensively on the “attention economy” and his prediction, first made in 1997, that the “attention economy” will replace the “money economy” in time. He regards “attention” as  “a truly limited resource”. He observes that the “star system” need not limit opportunities for “micro stars” from gaining attention via hyperlinking of fan to fan, star to star. he predicts that the “attention economy” spells the “end of money”. He turns to history, feudalism through to indistrialisation, as proof of his theories.

References

Battele, J. (2004). From the Ephemeral to the Eternal. John Battelle’s Searchblog. Retrieved 16 May 2009 from http://battellemedia.com/archives/000647.php

Eaton, J. (nd). Metaphor. The Network for Creative Change. Retrieved 16 May, 2009, from http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/CommunitySupport/NCC/SC3META.htm

Goldhaber, M. (1997). The currency of the New Economy won’t be money, but attention – A radical theory of value. Wired Magazine, 5(12). Conde Nast Digital, New York. Retrieved 16 May 2009 from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html

Jacobs, J. (1999). Cyberspace is a parallel world: a metaphor analysis. Retrieved 16 May, 2009, from http://www.jqjacobs.net/anthro/metaphor.html

Koolmees, H. (2007). The power of metaphors. Retrieved 16 May, 2009, from http://www.ecdc.info/content/blog/?m=200711

Kraut, R. Patterson, M. Lundmark, V. Kiesler, S. Mukopadhyay, T. Scherlis, W (1998). Internet paradox: a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? . Journal, 53(9), pp 1017-1031. Retrieved from http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:qi9Hf3psdXkJ:www.cs.cmu.edu/~kraut/RKraut.site.files/articles/kraut98-InternetParadox.pdf+internet+paradox&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au&client=firefox-a

Mallam, P. D., S. Moriarty, J. (2009). Media and Internet Law and Practice. Sydney: Thomson Reuters.

Mandel, T. and Van de Luen, G. (1996). Rules of the Net. New York: Hyperion Books.

Olduvai Gorge (2009). Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, retrieved 16 May 2009 from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/427425/Olduvai-Gorge

Pope John Paul II (2002). Address of John Paul II to the participants in the plenary meeting of the pontifical council for social communciations. Retrieved 18 May 2009  from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2002/march/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20020301_pccs_en.html

Simon, H. (1971). Designing organisations for an information rich world. Computers, Communications and the Public Interest, 37-72. John Hopkins Press, Baltimore.Retrieved 16 May 2009 from http://diva.library.cmu.edu/webapp/simon/item.jsp?q=/box00065/fld05029/bdl0001/doc0001/

Templeton, B. (2004). Privacy Subtleties of Google. Journal, retrieved 16 May 2009 from http://www.templetons.com/brad/gmail.html

Thorburn, D. (1998). Web of Paradox. MIT Communications Forum Retrieved 16 May, 2009, from http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/papers/thorburn-web.html



About a blog: the what, who, how and why of blogs.

May 3, 2009

Before commencing Net11 I thought that “blogger” was a synonym for “wanker”. Since becoming one, a blogger that is, I realise how wrong I was to judge so quickly.  This post outlines some of my discoveries as I follow the yellow blog road to online enlightenment.

What?

Perhaps my disdain stemmed from the origins of the blog as the medium for publishing personal diaries online. The term “blog” derives from the abbreviation of “web log” (” Macquarie Dictionary Online,” 2009). Blogging has evolved and now includes many well-respected editorial vehicles. In addition, blogs, as opposed to mainstream media, possess the potential for discourse between bloggers, which can lead to the establishment of communities of interest (Educare, 2009).

Blogs increased in popularity with the advent of services or applications that made publication simpler by removing the need to learn complex html. Some of the most popularblog  applications are Blogger, Word Press and Moveable Type. These applications are to online publishing what the ballpoint pen was to writing. They removed many of the constraints imposed by the innate complexity of the internet and served to facilitate online publishing without recourse to costly website developers or html markup programs.

Who?

With the shackles removed, there was no holding back the proponents of the blogosphere.  Entertainment, commerce, news and politics are just a few areas that flourished in the blog world (Educare, 2009). Blogs can be the musings of one author or the collaborative wisdom of many (Educare, 2009). Some focus on a single issue, while others stage a “war on everything”.  Even old media has moved into this brave new world with many newspapers promoting blogs by there respected journalists as part of their print and online publications. One of my favourite old media blogs is the New York Times Laugh Lines. The education environment uses blogs as a means of exchanging views and promoting dialogue within and across faculties (Educare, 2009). In some instances, Net11 for example, students undertake their studies by regularly posting to blogs, which tutors check periodically to monitor a student’s progress.

How?

The ballpoint pen simplified writing on paper by removing the need for a constant supply of ink, blotting paper and the constraints imposed by ink nibs. Blog applications such as Blogger, Moveable Type and Word Press simplified writing online by removing the need to learn html, acquire costly html scripting programs or engage website designers. A blog is simply an online journal. Today anyone with rudimentary internet skills can maintain a blog.

Using their preferred blogging application, bloggers enter the information they wish to publish, known as “posts” generally by typing using a keyboard or by “cutting and pasting” from a word processing application. Formatting, images, multi-media content and hyper-links can be added to the post by using the various features in the application. The blogger saves the post and selects the “publish” function. The application updates the blog with the new post, makes the updated blog available online and notifies any users who have subscribed to the blog that changes have occurred (Educare, 2009).

Blog visitors may read the postings and submit comments. Blogs catalogue entries chronologically though some blogs also catalogue under topic. Many blogs have a keyword search function that allows a visitor to find particular information in the blog (Educare, 2009). Regular updates improve the effectiveness of blogs.

Many bloggers encourage two-way communication with their readers as well as interaction between their readers. Readers may add comments to a blog or post a response on their own blog, which they link back to the original post. This feature is called “track back” (Educare, 2009). The track back feature also notifies bloggers that one of their posts is referenced in another blog. The popularity of a post can be determined by monitoring the number of comments and incoming links.

These linking, commenting and track back features facilitate the dissemination of popular (presumably better) ideas while ignoring less popular ideas (Educare, 2009). Referencing by a popular blogger enhances the reputation of the referenced blogger. Reputation grows exponentially with the frequency of referencing. This peer based review process creates a de-facto filtering system effectively “sorting the wheat from the chaff”.

Why?

Bloggers have participated in liberating the World Wide Web, allowing it to become more like its founders intended. Blogs achieve this by facilitating people sharing their knowledge, reflecting on life and challenging and debating ideas (Educare, 2009). Bloggers are attracted by the opportunity to engage in unedited expression without the constraints of censorship or the restrictions imposed in mediated chat rooms or by old media forms.

Guido Fawkes, an alias for Paul Staines, a political activist blogger, recently orchestrated the downfall of one of the British Prime Minister’s most trusted advisers, Damien McBride (Totaro, 2009). McBride, whose nickname around Westminster was McPoison, had a reputation for bullying political journalists with excoriating emails and text messages, ensuring compliance by them in their political reporting (Totaro, 2009). This conduct was accepted and tolerated by the journalists in the old media. Fawkes would have none of that. He published some of these emails and texts on his blog, Order Order, exposing McBride’s history of bullying and vicious texting (Totaro, 2009). McBride resigned three days after the blog post went online (Totaro, 2009).

The evolution of blog applications strengthened the effectiveness of blogs by enabling ease of editing and timely, almost immediate, publishing. This timeliness promotes the blog as an ideal vehicle for meaningful and impassioned discussion. The system of feedback and track back resulting in “referrals” to reliable or popular blogs provides a new way to evaluate and validate useful and meaningful information.

Possible pitfalls

Blogs are often produced and maintained by individuals and may therefore contain biased or inaccurate information (Educare, 2009). One man’s soapbox might be another man’s font of knowledge. Although the natural filtering process, feedback and track backs, can often weed out less than useful blogs, users would be well advised to remember the WWW technique; who, where and when (Intute, 2009). This technique is used to validate the reliability of information obtained from the internet. First, consider who wrote or published the material, whether that person is a trustworthy source and whether the person is trying to sell or promote something (Intute, 2009). Next, look at where the blog originates or is stored, which can also be useful in determining legitimacy of the information. Finally, consider when the blog was published and whether it has been updated.

Where to now?

Presently, I am confining my blogging activities to the requirements of my studies. However, when time permits, I intend to enter the blogosphere with meaningful purpose.

References:

Educare (2009), 7 Things you should know about blogs, retrieved 26 April, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu

Intute (2009), Virtual Training Suite: free Internet tutorials to help you learn how to get the best from the Web for your education and research, Intute, Mimas, University of Manchester, retrieved 11 April 2009 from http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/

Macquarie Dictionary Online, (2009), Sydney: Macquarie Online Pty Ltd, Sydney, retrieved 2 May 2009 from http://www.macquarieonline.com.au/dictionary.html

Totaro, P. (2009, 2-3 May 2009), The blog is mightier than the sword, The Australian, News Limited, Sydney


Cause and effect: confessions of an html virgin

May 2, 2009

That was frustrating!! Sorry, I keep forgetting you do not see what I see so I will repeat that: <b><font size=”6” color=”ff0000”>That was frustrating!!</font></b>

This was my first time working in html. I spent far too much time on this exercise, so much so that I have left the html markup exercise as a work in progress, to go back to when I have time.

I was fascinated by the way some simple commands could influence the appearance of whatever I was writing online; but more so by the weird outputs that could happen if one of the tags or attributes was wrong. I quickly developed an understanding of cause and effect.

Some of my frustration flowed from my failure to read the instructions in the module and grasp the need to continuosly save the various exercises throughout the tutorial. I foolishly followed the instructions within the tutorial and cleared the slate each time. This meant going back to square one when it came to the second part of the exercise. Then I allowed myself to drift away from the purpose of the exercise “making changes … that may be useful for an Internet Basics related help site”.

Anyway, it is time to move on, so I’ll finish with some screen captures of the browser output for my first exercise in html markup:

html1

html21


To push or pull: some pros and cons of email lists versus discussion boards

April 11, 2009

When it came to email lists and discussion boards, I was an internet virgin. I was roughly and rudely deflowered through my first experiences of the Blackboard discussion board for Net11. This was not how it was meant to be. Things should proceed more gently and in an ordered fashion; instead this was anarchy.

I came to dread logging on each day, overwhelmed by the number of unread messages. I methodically followed each thread, thinking there might be some gem of wisdom further down the trail, more often than not to be disappointed. I was yet to post a comment then suddenly realised that I had become a lurker; that is a person who observes or follows the discussion, but does not participate (Macquariedictionary.com, 2009). But, I was determined to stamp my mark on this discussion group. How could I do that in this seemly endless barrage of messages? The concept of active communication generating identity awareness sprung to mind. In order to generate awareness by others of my identity within the discussion group, I would need to actively participate in the group (Active communication generates identity awareness n.d). Putting principle into practice I began to post selectively and deliberately, contributing I hope to the overall learning environment of the discussion board.

Was there a better way to have this kind of discussion? I decided to explore the world of the email list. I joined a group that interested me and sat back to see what would happen. When I checked my email the following morning I had eighty five emails, most of them trivial and offering similar responses to a rather inane request for help in removing odours from a new lounge. The next day, there was more of the same. I had subscribed to a support group for people with a medical condition with which I was recently diagnosed. However, it appeared that the support was more homespun and gossipy than of medical relevance. In three days I have received over three hundred emails three of which offered anything meaningful and useful. This group has lost its way; the members fail to recognise the boundaries between private and public communications. The responses have become too personally contextualised (removing odours from a lounge, a dog fight, and other similar minutiae) and have alienated at least one member, me (Public and Private n.d). I have decided to answer the three posts that interest me by email, and not via the list. The subject matters are best discussed in private not public.

After these experiences of email lists and discussion boards, I decided that the most obvious difference was the method of delivery of the information. Email lists use ‘push’ principles where the message is automatically sent to the reader’s email browser. Discussion boards utilise pull principles, requiring the reader to log onto the discussion board site and find the messages. The advantage of push versus pull can be overcome to a degree by subscribing to threads. The reader is notified by email that new posts have been made, but must still go to the discussion board site to read the posts.

Some critics of both email lists and discussion boards claim that they become tools for lazy research (Lambert, 2008). List and discussion board users rely on others to provide information that could readily be found through online searching or the catalogue at the local library (Lambert, 2008). Another criticism relates to the size of some email list or discussion board communities. Users can be overwhelmed by the mountain of emails that appear in their inbox each day,

Bad apples and flamers can be another problem with both lists and discussion boards. Sometimes uses forget the underlying aims of the group and use the list or discussion board to promote often irrelevant or inappropriate ideas of religion, politics or other pet subjects.

Both email lists and discussion boards promote an efficient way to exchange of information between groups of like minded people. Technological advances have enhanced the usability of email lists through magazine style consolidation of messages, eliminating the barrage of separate email messages. Also, since email lists do not require full access to the internet they will most likely be around for a while.

References:

Active communication generates identity awareness, n.d., Internet Communications, The Concepts Document, Net11, Curtin University, Western Australia, retrieved from http://lms.curtin.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_id=_2_1&url=%2fwebapps%2fblackboard%2fexecute%2flauncher%3ftype%3dCourse%26id%3d_14736_1%26url%3d

Lambert, G. 2008, Is Twittering better than listservs, 3 Geeks and Law Blog retrieved on 7 April 2009 from http://www.geeklawblog.com/2008/11/is-twittering-better-than-listservs.html

Macquariedictionary.com, 2009., retrieved 10 April 2009 from http://www.macquariedictionary.com.au/davidcarrhome@gmail.com@9190595890076/-/p/thes/article_display.html?type=title&first=1&mid=3&last=3&current=1&result=1&DatabaseList=dictbigmac&query=lurk&searchType=findrank

Public and private, n.d., Internet Communications, The Concepts Document, Net11, Curtin University, Western Australia, retrieved from http://lms.curtin.edu.au/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_id=_2_1&url=%2fwebapps%2fblackboard%2fexecute%2flauncher%3ftype%3dCourse%26id%3d_14736_1%26url%3d