Archive for April, 2006

El Paso claiming it is an April Fools

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

El Paso are claiming they caught out the Sunday Times. Trouble is the Times were writing the story before that notice went up. Was the legal letter a prank too? I don’t think so. Were the nasty remarks against someone that was fictional? I don’t think so. Were the comments from the Gardai fictional? I don’t think so. So is El Paso going to continue going even after legal threats? The soap opera continues.

Sunday Times on shut down of El Paso Times

Sunday, April 2nd, 2006

El Paso Times shuts its doors after legal threats.

Last week El Paso Times announced it was being forced to shut down its operations after being served with “very serious legal documents�. It followed a series of vicious attacks on Cathy Maguire, a local singer-songwriter

Ireland’s Education disaster

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

This is a long rant, you have been warned.

I had a very long chat with Seaghan Moriarty of Digilogue on Friday about technology in Schools or rather the complete lack of it. I was coming at this issue with my IrelandOffline hat on and the fact that 60% of schools are getting “broadband” using a satellite dish. The connection is a 512k connection when the minimum dsl connection these days is 1mb. Broadband for boats, for schools. Imagine whole schools are powered with a connection many of us started our broadband lives with. The conversation quickly turned to deeper matters like the fact there are probably more Tesco freebie computers than Government sponsored computers in classrooms and the fact many of the computers are those old Gateway 2000 computers and still run Windows 95. What’s worse again is that most teachers are not skilled in ICT and so don’t know how to look after the computers in the schools. There is no tech support for schools either so each school must fend for themselves.

The bigger issue again though is that there is no proper curriculum for technology in the classroom. Seaghan said education seems to be one of the few areas where nothing has changed in 200 years. Take someone from the 1800s and put them in a class room of today and would they notice they have traveled 200 years into the future? Blackboard, teacher droning on, kids sitting, reading books and looking bored. The same would rarely hold for any other part of our culture. No other industry apart from maybe knitting jumpers has changed. What does this say about education in this country?

People might say that we’ve done very well with the traditional model of education. This is true, we have done, but technology now makes it possible to stimulate the brains in more ways and has been shown the more stimulated a brain, the better chance of educating someone. I find it hard in this day and age that lessons in the classroom are not enriched with video examples or web examples and that kids still need to lug books into school. It’s upsetting that the question part of education is not exercised and I mean the kids questioning, not the teachers trying to catch out the kids. We learn most when exercising our curiosity. Teachers should be finding ways of getting their students passionate and interested in various areas. They should be giving them the basics and then let the kids branch off and discover their own information. Teachers and students should have a pilot and co-pilot relationship. Pilots teaching their co-pilots the basic and once to a specific point in the journey they have the co-pilot take control and choose their destination. From then on in the teacher just gives guidance but the co-pilot has the control.

One of the key skills in the future is not going to be retaining information, but how to find information, how to filter it to be relevant and then how to combine it with existing knowledge and present it. Where’s that being taught in schools? It’s an extra curricular activity which to me is just madness. Why the concern though about a better form of education? Because there are dozens upon dozens of countries who have already seen the future and have made the necessary changes to be a strong force in the future global economies. These countries are going to be producing super-educated kids.

We are losing out in agriculture and manufacturing already and those other companies we are currently attracting will have no issue moving on to another country if they are cheaper and they offer a more skilled workforce. It is only a matter of time before this happens. The free third level education has allowed us to attract more international companies to this country as our workforce is currently valuable to them but these skilled graduates need more and more skills to keep the inward flow going. If primary and secondary schools are not future-proofing the kids then there will be even more pressure on third-level institutes to provide these skills. However these colleges will be trying to cram these skills into a 3-4 year period when graduates in other countries will have 10-15 years experience with these. We’re going to lose.

It seems madness in a way that the group I’m in (IrelandOffline) can make a national issue out of broadband and that we can get so much coverage on radio, TV, and print and yet something that’s massively more important does not get weekly attention. Broadband is important, don’t get me wrong and is crucial to the knowledge economy pipedream but education is ten times more important.

It’s annoying for me that until the chat with Seaghan and additional research I was not aware of the extent of this problem. I don’t think my head was in the sand either. The Government has failed us, as have the opposition for failing to make a huge issue out of this. Others have failed too including teachers and parents and those who have noticed the issue and failed to kick and scream. This isn’t about blame though, it’s about action.

So what would I do? I’d set up a group and have cross-section of all the stakeholders in it. It should be an umbrella group comprised of other groups such as teacher organisations, chambers of commerce type groups, student groups, academic groups, other organisations such as IrelandOffline. They should meet and agree on what needs to be done. Maybe create a plan and then share and pool resources to make this a greater issue. example: IrelandOffline campaigns for broadband but we could easily push how important it is for education. We could help write a document on why broadband for schools is currently failing and what is actually needed. A lot of these organisations need people to point to the clothing that the emperor wears.

I’d field candiates in the election in every single area where the Government are weak and where a change of power could happen. I’d do the same for all the shaky seats by the opposition parties. This is a cross party issue and every party needs to take notice. This should not be an empty threat. Do it and become the king makers. Areas that contain colleges could make a significant impact. Cork South Central where John Dennehy won by less than 20 votes is the perfect example.

Some might say I’m probably not seeing the “big picture” and there are other areas like social welfare and health to be considered too. Go create groups for them too. Education would get me going more than anything else, not that I haven’t opinions on those areas. I’d very much welcome other opinions on education and what is working and what is not and suggestions on how change can be brought about.

Business Blogging: The market for unique monopolies is infinite

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Come on people, justify business blogging!

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel got their collective selves clotheslined by Amazon’s CTO Werner Vogels when they presented their case for business blogging to Amazon. Apparently Werner was rude to them and asked questions they could not answer. Ironically Robert is best mates with Dave Winer who is never politically correct when asking questions or calling someone out. It’s good to see them being brought down a peg or two, not because they are up their own ass or anything but because they do seem like the business blogging pinup boys and a dose of reality is needed in this arena. Fair play for Werner. I wonder if they presented to him before they released their book , would it have made their book stronger in the end?

Even for me who likes to promote blogging through the Irish Blog Awards and the Blogger Academy I would say that there does need to be a stronger case for business blogging. The other poster boys for business blogging are the blogging bespoke tailor and the blogging wine company. They were unique in their market because they blogged first plus they had a very controversial publicist. It was something new. It made them flavour of the month and got them a lot of attention. What if a second bespoke suit guy started blogging or another 200 wine makers? Then what? What if every bespoke tailor blogged? What sets them apart then? Surely blogging isn’t as vital then? Is business blogging not just an arms race? Didn’t we see the same with getting your site online? Didn’t it happen with people advertising on radio and getting themselves a phone number that people could call? Is this why Werner didn’t worship at the Naked Conversations altar?

So business blogging proponents. Here’s a challenge for you. I run a ball bearing company. Ball bearings are fairly uniform. What is the advantage for me in blogging? What can I blog about ball bearings?

Day 1. So they’re spherical.
Day 2. They don’t bounce, they are not rubber balls.
Day 3. 7 things you can do with ballbearings. (Hat tip to Guy “lists” Kawasaki)
Day 4. Lets have a ballbearings geek dinner.
Day 5. I am diverifying into golden ballbearings. Jumped up shits love paying for rare things like speedboats and 10 grand suits. I can exploit this.
Day 6. Here’s a witty cartoon that does a double entendre about balls. Added in is the word “fuck” for the shock value and so you know I’m an edge case.
Day 7. Some clever A-list bloggers said something profound. I’ll make a funny but nonsensical comment that attacks their detractors and it’ll boost their egos. Sucking up allows me to become part of the luvey dovey club. Oh yes, almost forgot, I sell ball bearings.

If business blogging is ubiquitous then surely you won’t have the success that stormhoek or Thomas Mahon had? Then isn’t it just going back to other forms of marketing to get attention and be unique? Bring back in those techniques that we spat on while being unique business bloggers? I can see it now: “Crazy Al’s Winery. I am the crazy!!!! Read my blog, phone me, see me crazy!”

Tell me why business blogging will give me greater marketshare when everyone else is doing the same. Tell me how in a business that’s all about uniformity I need to stand out? Or must I get out of the market and find a new niche? Doesn’t that create a billion markets and a billion monopolies?

Hat Tip to Hugh Macleod on his post about the market for something to believe in is infinite.

Knorr ****** dinners

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Via Frederik Samuel

AT&T takes over Google

Saturday, April 1st, 2006

Google assimilated by AT&T. Net neutrality is completely fucked now. End isn’t nigh, the end just happened.