Today I’m starting an irregular feature called "Things You Should Know" which exhibits two things: my conceit that I think I might know things that you should know, and my laziness in not committing myself to writing this thing on a set schedule. All of these posts will be filed under…"Things You Should Know". Brilliant, huh?
You may not have heard of this little texting doo-dad, but the tech
geeks have been using it for a good while now and I’m thinking it might
be ready to go mainstream. In a nutshell here’s what it is: it’s a
service that allows people to follow (subscribe to) things you text.
You set up a free account on Twitter, you send text messages (called
Tweets) to it and then the people that follow you get it sent to them.
If they don’t want to receive it by text they can also follow you on
their Twitter web page.
People that follow you also have to be Twitter subscribers, which I
thought would kill the idea, but it’s really starting to be used in
interesting ways by folks and I do believe that people are beginning to
learn how to use it effectively. I signed up for it a year ago and
then promptly forgot about it, but when I started following people I
really respect (Rex Hammock, Fred Wilson) and saw how they use it to
send out updates on things of interest I was hooked.
For average folks I think the most effective use would be as an easy
update service for groups. For instance I could set up a Twitter
account for my family, so when something comes up that I want all of
them to know about I simply have to "tweet" it once and they all get
the info. So if I’m going to be held up in a meeting longer than I
expected and won’t be home until late I can unobtrusively text,
"meeting’s going long, will be home at 11" one time and my kids and
wife will get it.
Of course I’m sure that if kids start really using this then we’ll
see all kinds of applications that our adult minds would never dream
up. FYI, you can see my Tweets in the box on the upper right corner of
my blog or at www.twitter.com/jlowder
Why you need to know: I guess you really don’t if you don’t care about how people are starting to communicate in this wired world, but again I’m conceited in thinking I know what’s important to know.
It’s Not Good When Teachers are Luddites
My Mom sent me a link to a video on YouTube that was created back in 2006. The video was created by some folks in Colorado for a local school in order that they might understand what they need to teach their kids to succeed in the 21st century. Much of the video highlights the exponential change occurring in our world, and it does an excellent job of pointing out how different things will be in the near future. Towards the end the video points out that students throughout the world, including in the USA, are now collaborating on projects. Utilizing the internet kids in Bangladesh, Australia, and the US work together on projects much the same way that kids have collaborated in classrooms for generations. The last part of the video asks viewers to contact their schools’ principals, school boards and elected officials to let it be known that we need to make sure our kids are connected to this new global communication grid are being armed with the tools to be able to use it, and educated so that they understand it.
Here’s the rub: most of the teachers I’ve encountered are resistant to new technology. I suspect it’s for a variety of reasons. Some don’t want to take the time to learn it, some are afraid that their students will know more than them and thus their position of authority will be compromised and most are given little incentive to learn this stuff by their supervisors.
Here’s an anecdotal piece of evidence: our kids’ school system gives all of our teachers their own "sites" which they can use as they please. The minority of my kids’ teachers use it for what I think is its most useful purpose: posting that day’s homework on the calendar for parents to see. Full disclosure: we didn’t even realize that was available until one of our kids started missing lots of assignments and his teacher pointed out that we could see what he’d been assigned by date on her web page. We then looked on all the other pages and found only one other teacher using it. Why wouldn’t this be required by the administration?
I should also point out that it’s not all the teachers’ fault. Many of them are dealing with information systems that are antiquated, poorly designed and often overly centralized. In other words they’re living life like it’s still 1993 instead of 2008. This is unacceptable. With the ubiquity of cheap, easy to use tools available these days a decent IT department could provide cutting edge solutions at a pittance if they so desired. Hard work? You betcha. Worth it? Absolutely. Expensive? Relative to other infrastructure costs, hardly.
Why you need to know: Our kids are hosed if they aren’t given the means to live in a highly networked world where they are as likely to be working with a peer in China or India as they are with their neighbor. If they aren’t intimately familiar with modern, online collaboration tools then they will be at an inherent disadvantage as they begin their adult lives. This probably won’t be a problem for college graduates, but what of the 70% who won’t go to college? If you think there’s a gap between the haves and have nots now, just see what happens in 20 years if we don’t deal with this now.
If You Have Sensitive Info on Your Laptop, Don’t Cross a U.S. Border
From Wired’s Threat Level blog:
Federal agents at the border do not need any reason to search
through travelers’ laptops, cell phones or digital cameras for evidence
of crimes, a federal appeals court ruled Monday, extending the
government’s power to look through belongings like suitcases at the
border to electronics.
The unanimous three-judge decision reverses a lower court finding that digital devices were "an extension of our own memory" and thus too personal
to allow the government to search them without cause. Instead, the
earlier ruling said, Customs agents would need some reasonable and
articulable suspicion a crime had occurred in order to search a
Why you need to know: Do you really want the same people who see potential disaster in every container over 4 ounces to be looking at your personal financial data, or your business data?
New Jersey Court is First to Rule that Online Users Have Inherent Privacy Rights
The unanimous seven-member court held that police do have
the right to seek a user’s private information when
investigating a crime involving a computer, but must follow
legal procedures. The court said authorities do not have to
warn a suspect that they have a grand jury subpoena to
obtain the information.
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner said:
"We now hold that citizens have a reasonable
expectation of privacy protected by Article I … of the New
Jersey Constitution, in the subscriber information they
provide to Internet service providers — just as New Jersey
citizens have a privacy interest in their bank records
stored by banks and telephone billing records kept by phone
Why you need to know: Well, it highlights how low privacy expectations are for everyone outside of NJ right now. In other words, if you don’t want the world to know that you have bizarre fetishes then it’s a good idea to avoid sites geared towards those fetishes. And your MySpace page? Fuggetaboutit.