Category Archives: General

Web Brings Solar Eclipse ‘Alive’

I have always been fascinated with the eclipses. A major eclipse will happen tomorrow (July 22nd, 2009) and will be notable due to the length of time the event will take.  These eclipse events have become more tangible, and I would argue personalized, with the advances of web based technologies.  In particular, our ability to broadcast live events through streaming technologies is a significant step forward in bringing significant events to our global community.

I have pulled together a few links related to the eclipse event this week. I hope the web enhances your solar eclipse experience!

Backgrounder Mr. Eclipse

NASA TSE 2009

Wikipedia Article

Facebook repost from Mashable

Enjoy the eclipse!

~ Mark

ISP Rant

A friend, fellow blogger and educational colleague recently made aware of a blog  on a new meme asking bloggers to identify four posts from their blog in the categories of:

  • Rants
  • Resources
  • Reflections
  • Revelations

As a newcomer to blogging, I don’t have posts that would address all of these categories, but I was intrigued by the idea of the 4 R’s and have decided to post a rant based on a recent experience with my ISP. 

As an educator and IT professional, I realize this scenario is likely common, and easily arguable from the troubleshooting rigor needed to sort things out. None the less, it is very frustrating and made me painfully aware that online activity has clearly woven its way into the fabric of what I (and my family) do. 

My RANT:

– Saturday storm > internet outage
– call to ISP helpdesk
– all the usual pretest stuff … router/no router, reboot, drivers blah blah blah ….
– finally,  its not me, sending a tech out
– tech says its not here, finds a problem in an unmanned bldg
– internal work ticket created
– finally we can get back online
– BUT, the performance was brutally slow – no throughput
– 3 days of calls with the techs and back to the pretest stuff
– no change, they keep insisting their gear is fine
– then I find out they configured our setup to the previous end user package we had, no tech records of my upgrade 18 months ago – this must be part of the problem
– I locate a copy of the email I kept confirming the upgraded package I signed up for
– I call customer service – they don’t have that package anymore
– I bite the bullet, pick a new service from the current suite
– they livened up the new package last night
– finally things are working as they should, and faster, for close to the same price

Great to be fully back on line! – a happy me and our whole household is no longer going crazy from online withdrawal symptoms!!!

~ Mark

Always something new

There is always something new to learn in the online technology world. Web 2.0 tools have certainly raised communication, collaboration and PLP’s to a new and exciting level.  This post shares two learnings from today.

Today I became aware of the Digital Buzz website and blog. The site looks very interesting based on my initial impressions. The URL is http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com. In particular you may find this Top 10 Social Media Presentations of interest. For your convenience the link is http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/the-top-10-social-media-presentations-online/. A special thanks to Angela Maiers for sharing this link on Twitter.

This afternoon I started to read What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll. I picked up a copy of the book at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. I am just into the book and must admit I am intrigued already. In the first section of the book captured my interest with a couple of insightful thoughts. First, the notion of ‘aggressive indecision’ and secondly ‘lost momentum’. It is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems. Now, to dig into the book. 

One area the immediately captured my interest is to see how the content of the book may line up with some future blog posts I have planned regarding systemic change as referenced in my earlier (and first) post titled Education Is The Place To Be

~ Mark

You Never Know When …

 

… a great technology discussion will occur. This week I was in seeing my eye doctor. During our session I commented on some new equipment I noticed in his office. This triggered a very interesting discussion about his desire to digitally capture eye images and store them, at least short term, as part of the patient records system. 

 

What amazed me was part 2 of the discussion which focused on all of the technology and business related challenges he had encountered. The original special (and expensive) microscope purchased for this purpose is still not working – the hook up is not straight forward and a long string of broken support promises from the vendor involved.

 

Further investigation into alternatives uncovered all kinds of interesting information – unbelievable price gauging in a relatively small and controlled marketplace, potential uses of other more reasonably priced cameras which seemed promising but these devices did not interface to the original expensive microscope, at least easily. 

 

What about other alternatives? I through out the idea of using a USB microscope for the task if the resolution and functionality specs could be met. I pictured a device something  like the Proscope which we have used with good success in our classrooms for science curriculum delivery. This notion sparked some interest, and will be investigated further.

 

The last part of our discussion hit on the storage and integration component. The computer in his office is a high end MAC. One would anticipate this computer would easily handle the graphic and interface requirements. The patient system in the office is a multi user  based system. I could not determine if it was written for windows or some other environment with my over the counter observations as the screens did not appear to be a standard Windows environment and looked almost DOS like. Hmmmm. More general discussion ensued regarding what a better integration package might look like. 

 

Who knows where this will all go, but it was a very interesting eye appointment!

 

~ Mark

Click, click … web design part 2

I have finished reading Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. Further to my earlier observations (see previous blog post), I wanted to share a few more comments regarding this book.

 

The point that really struck home for me was the notion of visual hierarchy. Web sites must be designed to enable the end user to quickly identify what is most important, relevant and least important on a page with great ease. Design elements that impact this include layout strategy, fonts, graphic use and colour schemes and choices. 

 

Just as important is the concept of what is NOT there on the page. Many web pages need a serious decluttering to achieve a better presentation and flow of information ~ important content vs. detractors ~ function vs. confusion. There are many good examples illustrated in the book.

 

Graphics are more that ‘just graphics’. They really do need to relate to real world uses to reinforce function to the end user. An example of this is the use of tabs. People know what tabs are – they divide, different information is contained behind different tabs. Tabs provide high level organization on websites because people can easily identify with the concept of how they function.

 

Steve outlines some great strategies around the whole design (check out the ‘truck’ test section and the notion of testing and validating before ‘going live’. 

 

All in all, this is a very informative book well worth the read! 

 

~ Mark

Click, click … web design

A couple of weeks ago a co-worker gave me a copy of Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug to read. I read about a third of the book today. As I started to read, I could see that the typical web user patterns described in the early chapters were in fact a reflection of many of my own browsing habits. 

There were a couple of key points were made that really struck me. Although it seems painfully obvious, it is important that web sites be designed to reflect the manner in which the TYPICAL end user will use/browse/interact with the site. The bottom line is, if a site is too awkward to use, people will be less likely to return to the sight. Secondly, in spite of the careful design of most sites, users gather information much in the same way you do zipping down the highway and glancing at a bill board.

Ideas covered in the book so far include: simplistic design, minimizing the amount of text used, establishing a clear visual hierarchy of information and minimizing the clicks – and all illustrated effectively through some great analogies.

My context? As we look at rolling out web sites for large numbers of staff in my Board, we have been focusing on simple design in an easy to use, easy to support environment. Many aspects of the book clearly line up well with our intent and gives me even more insights to planning our rollout of websites. 

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Based on what I have read and learned so far, I would recommend Don’t Make Me Think as a good read for anyone involved in web design whether your plans are big/small or professional/personal. 

~ Mark