June 16, 2007

Getting Paid by the Word

Three years ago as I was drifting off to sleep, I came up with the perfect new name for a long term project of mine, PLANalyst, which I wrote in HyperCard in the early 90s. For some time I've been wanting to revive it as an online application and hosting site for user-contributed lesson plans. Someone else had since trademarked PLANalyst for another product, so a new name was needed. My new name was perfect and the next morning I registered the .com, .net, .org domains, and then kept renewing them while waiting for the time to put the site together.

But then, last week, an email came out of the blue from a startup company that wanted to buy the domains. They said it was exactly the right word for their forthcoming super secret product. I refused at first, since the domain name was also perfect for my updated PLANalyst site, but everyone has their price. We went back and forth a bit and settled on $5500. The check arrived today.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of writing short stories for science fiction magazines. They paid 5 to 10 cents a word in those days, so a story might end up netting a few hundred. Big bucks to a downtown poor kid. And today, I've gotten paid much more handsomely for just one word. Nice work if you can get it. Time to think up a few new words.


November 19, 2006

A Morning in Second Life

Yesterday was the wrap-up of my 1-unit class called 3-D Multiplayer Environments for Learning. We had just 10 in the class, and our collective task was to explore Second Life as a platform and culture and to tease out the possible (mostly still unrealized) educational purposes it could be put to.

Over the last year, Cathy Arreguin and Peggy Ward, my two graduate assistants, have overseen the creation of the Virtual EDTEC SDSU building in Second Life and yesterday we gave it a workout. The scene above is our lecture hall, with students gathering to watch each others' presentations. That's me, Bernardo Trudeau, in the front row, looking more or less like a skinny version of myself.

The sense of being present with the others in the room was very cool. The conversation certainly wasn't deep, but still engaging. I've learned some things about improving the experience and I'm going to start building this into my other classes for special events. This is clearly a direction that some distance learning is headed towards and what we have now is just a very primitive version of what's yet to come.

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June 14, 2006

How Do You Know When You're Spending Too Much TIme on the Computer?

When you're reading a magazine and you look to the upper corner of the right hand page to see what time it is.
I actually did that.


February 12, 2006

The Algebra of Real Estate

Long before the web existed, I was a math teacher... the first job I ever loved. Sometimes I wish I could return to that now that there are so many cool new things to inflict math on. The latest case in point: Zillow.com.

Try it out. Type in your home address and see how much it says that your house is worth. What about your neighbors? Your old boy friend? The house you grew up in?

Clearly, since most homes are not actually on the market, there is some math going on in the background to estimate these prices. Wouldn't it be a terrific inquiry exercise to try to figure out what the underlying equations are? Zillow gives you the lot size, house size, number of bathrooms and bedrooms and year built. For a given neighborhood, could you hold everything constant except for one of these and plot that against the price? Could you develop equations that show the value of adding a bedroom? If there are outliers, is there an explanation based on location within the neighborhood?

Could be fun.


October 16, 2005

Word of the Day: Splog

I've been noticing this for awhile, and someone has finally given a name to it. A splog or spamblog, is a blog set up, usually on blogspot.com, to raise the page rank of links to a wide range of products and services for body part enlarging, welght-reducing, mortgage-payment-shrinking, etc.

I use Technorati to keep track of what the buzz is about WebQuests, and for awhile it was useful for finding accounts of WebQuest use in the classroom and the poignant laments of teens who had to actually stretch their minds by completing a WebQuest. Little by little, though, my Technorati searches would lead to blogs with all kinds of other stuff mashed together. It's as if they took a sentence with WebQuest in it and threw it in a blender with sentences about arthritis joint pain or golf bags. Here's an example, though with any luck, Google will squash it before you get to read it.

Why is splog a problem? According to the Fight Splog! site,

"Splog clutters the internet with useless content. Web search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN, and blog search engines such as Technorati, IceRocket and Bloglines serve to manage the huge amount of information available on the Web. Splog makes it much more difficult to find the useful information."

Tim Bray calls it an emergency.

I'm honored that the word "WebQuest" (and my own name) have achieved enough notoriety that they can now serve as bait to lure people to get-rich schemes, but I'm hoping Google can put an end to this, or maybe VeriSign. Soon.


October 08, 2005


I just got home after teaching my Saturday Seminar on Wikis for Education and Knowledge Management, and was half-dozing while scrolling through my RSS feeds, when first, I found this cool link to Geobloggers which mashes up Upcoming local events with Google Maps. From there I noticed this which lead me to this: WikiSym 2005, a very timely event being held right here in Mission Valley. I'm thinking I'll go!


August 24, 2004

Fighting Back Against 419 Spam

I was listening to a program on NPR tonight in which they interviewed someone who responded to the ubiquitous Nigerian spammers by engaging the writer in a counterscam, one that required the Nigerian to join the fictitious Church of the Painted Breast. Hilarity, of course, ensued.

By trimming back the URL, I found that this was just one example of a much larger world of Scambaiting with many efforts underway. Even though McLuhan foresaw that we would all be part of a global village, could he possibly have imagined all this?


August 19, 2004

My Own Private Palagic

I love stuff like this: the Tagging Of Pacific Palagics site. They are tracking the comings and goings of over 1500 birds and sea creatures and making the data available to all of us, scientists and tuna-sandwich eaters alike. You can get a godseye view of tags reported within the last 10 days and pick out the critter of your choice.

I'm personally identifying with Elephant Seal #39456 at the moment. He (or she) seems to be marching to a different drummer by heading solo down the Baja coast having, I guess, a wonderful time.

If I had a middle school class to teach, I'd have every kid adopting their own critter, tracking it every few days, predicting where they're going next, writing diaries from the undersea point of view, relating the journeys to other datasets of water temperature, placing bets on when their fish would meet up with one of the others... lots of science, math and language arts wrapped around something interesting and real.


July 30, 2004

The Dark Side of Online Ads

Prankster uses plastic wrap as road trap. That was the headline on CNN one day last week. It tells the story of how some dingbats in Wisconsin made an invisible barrier across a two-lane road and caused a motorcycle accident. If you click on the link now that it's in the archives, you'll see some benign ads for credit reports and home equity loans.

But if you read the story on July 18th you would have seen the ads generated automatically by Overture's software scanning the content of the article. The story was about plastic wrap, so Overture dutifully ponied up these ads: "Plastic Stretch Wrap Equipment Experts"; "Plastic Wrap - Low, Discount Prices"; "Plastic Stretch Wrap Shipped Today". Click the image to the right to see the original story.

How perfect! If you were inspired by the sheer genius of this prank, CNN was there to provide the resources you need to launch a copycat crime wave.


May 02, 2004

I'll Eat Manhattan

"Pac Manhattan is a large-scale urban game that utilizes the New York City grid to recreate the 1980's video game sensation Pac-Man. This analog version of Pac-man is being developed in NYU's Interactive Telecommunications graduate program, in order to explore what happens when games are removed from their 'little world' of tabletops, televisions and computers and placed in the larger 'real world' of street corners, and cities.

"A player dressed as Pac-man will run around the Washington square park area of Manhattan while attempting to collect all of the virtual 'dots' that run the length of the streets. Four players dressed as the ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde will attempt to catch Pac-man before all of the dots are collected.

Using cell-phone contact, Wi-Fi internet connections, and custom software designed by the Pac-Manhattan team, Pac-man and the ghosts will be tracked from a central location and their progress will be broadcast over the internet for viewers from around the world. "

What a hoot! We should do that here. The tree streets west of Balboa Park (Walnut down to Redwood) might be sufficiently rectilinear and untrafficked.

[Thanks to ArtLung for the link. Joe's is probably the only blog in the world that would ever have "Neal Stephenson" and "nasal cannula" on the same page.]


January 19, 2004

Google Holiday Logos

If you did a Google search on January 15, you would have seen the Google logo take on yet another celebratory form in honor of the Spirit rover on Mars. From Megnut's blog, I've just learned that there is an ongoing collection of all the Google Holiday Logos used over the years. Clever people, those Googlers.


January 11, 2004


What are the computer literati buzzing about lately? Check BlogPulse: Automated Trend Discovery for Weblogs to find out.

Today, for example, there's a lot of chatter about Paul O'Neill's description of life in Bush's cabinet...and his appearance on 60 Minutes tonight. There's also talk about the Consumer Electronics Show, Tom Harkins's endorsement of Dean, and Tom Cruise.

The site looks for phrases that have had a sudden rise in frequency, not necessarily the most popular phrases occuring in blogs. Looks like an interesting way to keep your ear to the ground.


My So-Called Blog

Great New York Times article about the world of 15-year-old bloggers. Rings true to me.


December 09, 2003

Samarai Linestanding

Remember when Soviet citizens had to line up for hours to buy shoes or sausages? In Tokyo they've taken the concept to a whole new level. I stood in the line for opening day in Glendale and San Diego, but this is extreme!

As a holder of AAPL stock, I'm all atingle about this.


April 06, 2003

Swarming: The Next Big Thing?

Surfing as a social activity? In a way, it's already happening in slow motion. Someone finds an interesting site and emails the URL to friends or blogs about it. Doing this in realtime is the obvious next step and technically I don't think it's very hard. The challenge will be to create a critical mass around a common way to do it, and that will take someone with a good eye for interface and skill at social design.

Eyebees, a Dutch start-up, has released a beta of software that allows people to surf the web together. You can play follow-the-leader, take people on tours, and message each other about what you're seeing.

I think this is an idea with legs, and that we'll see a wave of imitators coming very quickly (hopefully cross-platform and perhaps open source). If swarming takes off, it might well build on and reinforce the Smart Mobs and Second Superpower memes. The second-order ripples of the web continue to amaze.


April 02, 2003

Celebrity Blogs

It's interesting to come upon blogs written personally by famous people. The first one I started to read was Wil Wheaton's, and it's clearly from the heart and not the product of some PR firm. Also genuine (I think) are the blogs by Moby and Dave Barry.

Vanessa Dennen just sent me the link to an even more famous blogger: Kim Jong Il! Reading this regularly is a great way to gain insight into the mind of an important world figure.

(I should have posted this yesterday.)

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March 16, 2003

Future Fetish

Wired has a sampling of gadgets they hope we'll have by 2013. This one's my favorite:

Apple redefined the desktop, laptop, and MP3 player. The next insanely great thing: an LCD arm cuff that includes a PDA, wireless Internet, a mini iPod, and, of course, a phone. The iPhone bracelet's motion sensor allows you to scroll through apps and files with the flick of a wrist; its clasp holds a digicam for use during video calls; and its wireless ear clip lets you listen and speak to callers. And everything can be done via voice recognition or touchscreen.

Actually, I think we'll have something like this long before 2013. Think of where we were ten years ago: 50Mhz CPUs; 9600 baud modems, and 100 Mb hard drives filling a desktop. Moore's Law rules for at least the next decade.