Author Archive

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.

Cork Bloggers Meetup Sat April 8th

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Whoever is interested in meeting up on April 8th, just stick your name in the comments and a suggested venue. Venue doesn’t matter too much. Yes Conor, Cork City, not Bandon.

Remember to actually put something in the title

Friday, March 31st, 2006

Web 2.0 A-listers for Dublin event. The Web 2.0 is a load of bollox. It’s like calling a Power point presentation Presentation 2.0 just because you found new swishes and fadings and woosh sounds and segways. Christmas Tree 2.0 because we have new sparkly tinsel. Been through the same hype for WAP, java, shockwave, activewords and all the rest. A-listers? Jesus. There are no A-listers. We barely have enough “listers” in the first place. Fight Club time: “You are not your fucking A-Listers, you are not your fucking paradigm shifts, you are not your fucking AJAX.” Less time on making new labels and inventing new half-speak and more time on making products that are useful and do something, thanks.

Well done to Tom Raftery too by the way who just happens to mention in the comments in the post above, a very understated “mini-conference” in June that IT@Cork are running. He made the same announcement in a matter-of-fact comment at IT@Cork RSS event on Monday night. Mini? Look at the lineup. Fantastic.

Tom also has news about a nice deal with Electric News who’ll have a Podleaders channel on their site. Way to go Tom. Good to get greater recognition.

Another Corkman was in the Irish Times today too. Well done Walter Higgins of PXN8. Love the Tom Coates quote too.

suggested someone should give it a “bajillion dollars”

Brilliant post from TwentyMajor on how blogging can once again keep families in touch. Love the linkroll on the new site too.

Via BoingBoing are these dead cute Love/Hate mittens for a baby. Perhaps we should have a line for all the soon to be or recent Dads in the Blog O’Sphere? “Baby Blogger” maybe?

iPod Nanos are not pregnancy tests, you stupid girl. Meanwhile, how about doing webhosting/colocation on an iPod Nano?

Dole.ie, search all the Irish job sites at once. Bernard mentioned RSS feeds for job listings. If Dole.ie did this for their sites using both the catergory sections and the search ability then every other job site would be redundant. Dionsaurs will always become extinct if they don’t evolve.

Amazon builds a service allowing anyone to make their own search engine. Woah. First they bring in dirt cheap file storage with Bittorrent support and now this. Amazon is turning into an infrastructure provider. Clever.

Another Awards: The Irish Press Plagiarist of the Year

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

The Irish Daily Mail knocking off Mark Tighe’s Sunday Times piece about Bebo isn’t the first time a mainstream news outlet has knocked off a story though it was quite blatant this time round. Mostly though they’ve been lifting whole paragraphs from blogs or web forums without attributing their sources. Lazy reporting and to some it would be classed as basic thievery. So, since Awards.ie isn’t going to be used for another while, why don’t we set up the The Irish Press Plagiarist of the Year awards? 🙂 And to keep with the theme, this isn’t an original idea. I nicked it from Guido Fawke’s blog.

SiliconRepublic does feeds … or maybe not

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

There’s an RSS button on the front page of SiliconRepublic at the moment but when you click on it you are brought to the Syndication page where it is suggested you email SR so you can syndicate their feed. Uhm, RSS doesn’t work like that. Kind of defeats the automation of it all.

Ineffective regulation = 14BN loss in Telecoms Investment per year

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Via this consultation.: European Telecom’s Lost Investment: An analysis of the ECTA Regualtory Scorecard

Europe is missing up to €14 billion of telecoms investment each year due to ineffective regulatory environments in some countries. In this report we calculate the regualtory elasticity of investment and show how much investment is left on the table.

This new report from Strategy and Policy Consultants Network (SPC Network) entitled “European Telecom’s Lost Investment: An analysis of the ECTA Regulatory Scorecard� examines how ineffective regulation of the telecommunications sector is costing Europe vital investment. The key findings of this analysis are:
1. Effective, pro-competitive regulation is strongly correlated with increased investment: the better the regulation the higher the levels of investment;

2. Improved regulation could increase annual investment in European telecommunications by up to €14 billion;

3. The ECTA Regulatory Scorecard found that Germany and Greece achieved the lowest scores while the UK and Denmark received the highest scores for regulatory effectiveness;

4. Over 60% of the variation in telecommunications investment can be explained by unequal implementation of the European telecoms regulatory framework;

5. For each 10% increase in broadband competition there would be a 5% increase in investment

Wow. Ireland gains in World Economic Forum Report

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

The World Economic Forum relased their Networked Readiness Index Rankings for 2005 and Ireland is 20th. Last year we were 22nd. We’ve moved ahead of New Zealand. France has fallen back though France has a fantastic broadband infrastructure which we of course don’t have. Here is report for 2005-2006. (PDF file)

Here’s the report from last year.