Friday, February 29, 2008

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose

I posted the following as a comment over at ReadWriteWeb in a thread about the Economist debates on whether Web technology is making our lives better.

A man universally renowned for his wisdom once said, "There is nothing new under the sun. All is vanity and chasing after wind."

Human nature has not changed since the beginnings of recorded history. Look at the Greek or Norse gods, Native American tales, Gilgamesh, the Baghvadgita, the Bible, Confucius, the Arthur cycle, the Edda, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc., etc. You will see the very same human wants, needs, faults, and foibles as we see today.

Want to see a struggle to improve one's lot in life? See the ancient African tales of Anansi the Spider, or the Native American tales of Coyote. Noble sacrifice for a great cause? Look to the Spartans of Thermopylae, Roland at Roncesvaux, or today's Medal of Honor recipients. Soap-opera infidelity? Peek at Guinevere and Lancelot, or King David and Bathsheba.

Human needs have not changed. What *has* changed is the way we go about meeting those needs. For entertainment we download MP3s - remix our own - instead of waiting for a traveling minstrel to come through town. For news we have an RSS feed piped to our Blackberry. To communicate long-distance we use Twitter or Skype rather than couriers carrying sealed scrolls.

The ends are the same, but the means have changed. On those means, though, are industries and empires built and lost. There's not much of a market for sealing wax these days. But build a killer Facebook app, and you might make a buck.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. The more that things change, the more they stay the same.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Four Barriers? Really? - Fireside Learning

Reason # 954 why I love Twitter. BudTheTeacher did one of those irresistable "Excellent discussion." tweets, which led to this post on Nathan Lowell's blog. (Nathan is one of the Smart Folks to whose brains I subscribe.)

He seeded a class discussion by outlining four barriers to educational equity (the "digital divide") and let the students have at it. Great stuff.

Election 2008

Gen. George Patton vs Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Long Tail doesn't have to be lonely

A couple of days ago Kelly Christopherson wrote a thoughtful piece entitled, "Let’s meet them at the door." In it, he mused about what it's like being an edublogger who isn't Dave Warlick, Will Richardson, or one of the other "big names."

Diane Cordell gave the post a shout-out on Twitter. I'm a sucker for Tweets that say, "@whoever - great post!," so I clicked through.

The post was indeed teriffic. As were the comments - reflections on how this amazing new way of connecting with peers and mentors has transformed the way so many of us think about our work.

The blogosphere is often described as having a Long Tail - If you sort the readership of all the blogs, there are a few with lots and lots of readers, and lots and lots and LOTS of blogs with just a few.

The Long Tail is often depicted like this:

stretched out along a long, lonely line.

In reality, though, thanks to tools such as Twitter, the long tail becomes something like this,

intertwined with itself, overlapping and intersecting at many points.

We may be "the little folk."
But there are a lot of us, and we talk together, we do.

We do.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We put the "fun" in dysfunctional

With Super Tuesday a few hours away (as I write this), let's look at the Presidential field as a family reunion. Imagine you're a little kid....

Aunt Hillary has that wierd laugh. She's kinda scary. And though she tries real hard to act like she loves you, you know better. Uncle Bill is great fun, and when he looks you in the eye you believe whatever he says. He makes you just a little uneasy sometimes, though. Momma tells the girls not to be alone with him.

Cousin Barak is cool. He plays volleyball and lets you win. You feel good just being around him. And he says he's gonna take you shopping for toys the next visit. Now, though, he wants to be in charge of the food. But you don't recall ever seeing him working the grill or cleaning fish with the grown-ups.

On the other hand, Grandpa John has been around forever, it seems. He's a gen-u-ine war hero, and thinks for hisself, thankYOUveryMUCH. Odd thing is, he gets along with everyone (even Aunt Hil). So long as they don't cross him, that is. Lawsy-mercy, do NOT get on his bad side!

Uncle Mitt is real smart and has a ton of money. But he sometimes seems kinda fakey, somehow. Nothing you can put your finger on. It's like he's still running for class president. But! He's like Midas, man. Whatever he touches turns to gold. Is that why so many of the other grown-ups hate him?

Pastor Mike is your uncle, but everyone calls him Pastor, except for some of the old ladies who call him Brother Mike. He's really funny sometimes.

And then there's crazy old Uncle Ron. Just don't get him started, OK?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Another lesson in customer service

There's an old saying in marketing: Make it easy for your customer to buy from you.

Over the weekend my wife wanted to buy a single song from a certain online retailer, renamed here as ""

When she went to "check out" she got a somewhat cryptic error message with an email address for customer service. We copied sent error message to the customer service address.

Here's the response we got back:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding your download order. We apologize for the difficulty you've had with your purchase.

We have reset the download access and resent the link. You should now be able to log in to your Download Manager and access the music. Please review the system requirements listed in our FAQ's 13.6 and 13.16 at the following link before making your attempt:

Internet Explorer is recommended to allow receipt of the license along with download files. Please make sure that any popup blockers or firewalls are deactivated during the download process. (These may be in Internet Explorer; in your Antivirus program; in any Antispyware programs; and in any Internet/firewall programs you have.)

Here are the instructions for accessing your purchased item:

1. Go to our website ( and click on the "ACCOUNT" link toward the top right.

2. Enter your email address and password to get to the Account screen.

3. Once on the Account screen, scroll down to "My Downloads" on the lower left and click on the "Access Your Downloadable Purchases" link to get the download screen. After filling in the next password challenge, your files should be listed under the "Currently Active Purchases" section. At the bottom of that section, your downloads will be listed under the "Music" heading. Click the green DOWNLOAD button to the right of each song to start the download process.

Note: Please check the top of your browser during this process to make sure you don't get a popup warning about a download. If this should come up (it's usually a tan-color), please follow the instructions to be able to start the download. Otherwise your computer will not allow it.

Please remember to choose "Save" (as opposed to "Open" - which only gives one-time access) when presented with that option after clicking the download link. It may be best to save the music in a folder (such as 'MY MUSIC' or 'MY MEDIA'), although you can also save it onto your Desktop if that makes it easier for you to find later.

We strongly suggest using Windows Media Player to initially listen to any downloaded music files to verify that the required licenses have been properly connected to the music.

If you need any further assistance, please let us know.

If it's this hard to buy a legit copy, is it any wonder that folks download illegally?