What you see here is the percentage of users of various age groups that use social media from Pew Research Internet Project. For more detailed data on social networking, click here. I have been fortunate to have been a participant of the Internet from very early on. Many of us in Higher Ed would relate to this because we were the first ones to experience it before it was opened up to everyone in early ’90s. In the same fashion, out of my own curiosity, I have been active in social media fairly early on. I am not sure about you, but every morning, when I get up, the first things I check are my social media applications such as Twitter and Facebook before checking my email. I have a careful subselection of everyone I follow on Twitter whose posts I value the most and this provides me such a lot of useful information every morning. While I sleep, they have done the work of scanning the world events and post information that I am most interested. It is like reading a newspaper. Similarly, I get a lot more information on Facebook about friends and family than through emails. The use of social networking tools has been on the rise as you see from the graph. Email, while its use has not declined as much as one would think, serves a whole different purpose. This is where I get most of the professional communications, be it work related or from colleagues from other institutions.
I am a big fan of modular design and reusable “things”. From Wikipedia – “Modular design, or “modularity in design”, is an approach that subdivides a system into smaller parts (modules or skids) that can be independently created and then used in different systems to drive multiple functionalities.” The general idea of looking at a problem and breaking it into smaller and reusable parts doesn’t come naturally to everyone. However, I am a big fan of this methodology and practice this as much as possible. When I was doing my Masters in Chemistry in India, I took a class in Group Theory taught by a fantastic teacher – Prof. P. T. Manoharan. It turns out that Group theory is very handy in understanding symmetries and vibrations in molecules. One of the things we learn there is the concept of “Irreducible Representations”. In simple terms, these are the representations that cannot be broken down further. All other ‘representations’ can be constructed from these. Obviously, this is like modularity somewhat and my fascination for this began in 1977 in my Group Theory class. I believe that this has wired my brain to think the modular way!
I just came back from a road trip from our home in CT to Las Vegas. My son moved there and he needed a car so I drove with him. It was a great trip. My wife and I did an unforgettable road trip in 1984 from NY City to LA and back. The route that my son and I took to get to Vegas had a lot in common with the route that my wife and I took coming back east in 1984. The variation in the landscape from Ohio to Nevada is amazing. The most breathtaking part for me is always the transition from Colorado to Utah to Arizona and Nevada. Whereas the time scale in which the nature changes is many orders of magnitudes slower, the technology around it is changing rapidly. But then, technology is not changing as rapidly in certain places, even in this country, one of the most advanced ones in the world!
We left right after the big snow storm last thursday and the roads were pretty bad in CT as well as most of NY. Weather prediction technologies have become fairly sophisticated and we knew with fair certainty when the snow will end, so we could plan accordingly. The very first talk I gave in this country was a required talk for all PhD students in Chemistry. The subject of the talk is required to be not directly related to Chemistry. Because of my interests in computational methods, I chose the topic of weather modeling. The models that I spoke about at that time were being developed in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In simple terms, it involves solving complex differential equations and evaluating predictive values using advanced numerical methods. This requires prior values of many variables, dividing up the atmosphere into cubes and solving the equations within the cubes. Of course, you have to make sure that the values at the edges of the cubes are within the margin or error. Humongous number of calculations were done using the supercomputers (probably slower than the most powerful PCs of today) available then. Of course, the weather accuracy depended on how good the prior values are (these were reported by various weather stations) and how small a cube is. The smaller the cubes are, the better the accuracy can be, but it requires exponentially more computing power. Anyways, before I get carried away too much – even the simplest model in 1978/1979 required so much computer time that the predictions arrived 5 days after the weather had passed. Look where the technology has taken us now!
I am sure you are tuned into the news about statue of the near-naked sleepwalker on the Munger Green. Sunday’s Superbowl XLVIII was a blowout and the half time show resulted in its own controversy about the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers really did not play live, but were accompanied by recordings of instruments. I loved a few of the commercials and suggested that they should have run them more during the second half because that would have been more fun than the game itself!
Now it is time to concentrate on NCAA basketball. I had good luck with calling the Superbowl outcome and I am wondering whether that luck will continue with NCAA bracket. I am looking to win $1 billion by getting every winner in the bracket right. And no, that won’t make me retire because I love what I do!
My introduction to the first major snow storm was in early 1979. I remember venturing out in the snow and trying to take the subway to Manhattan. I was bored in the apartment and wanted to get to school and do some work. That was how bored I was! But, the normal 10 minute walk from the apartment to the subway turned into a disaster, because, in 10 minutes I barely went to the end of my street because nothing had been cleaned. What a different world it has become now!
Happy Birthday Mac! Hard to believe that 30 years have gone by and the genius of the folks, headed by Steve Jobs, that resulted in a computer for the masses, has withstood the brutal technology landscape for so long. Many of the original ideas with respect to the interfaces still remain, giving a sense of familiarity that people crave for, while the underlying software has gone through enormous changes. The Macs, like all other computing devices, has gotten much faster and is able to do a lot more, but life’s simple pleasures such as ⌘Q still remain. I thoroughly miss Hypercard. I loved it and drove my officemate nuts by making Apple read the text in HyperCard, using MacinTalk, I think. Oh, those good old days!
I was listening to an NPR story on this today, I was amazed at the creativity of the group that designed the first Mac. “A self educated dropout, someone in the middle of an MD-Phd program, musicians, an archaeologist, and an artist” who formed the initial team that designed the Mac. Of course, the result shows that this was indeed a brilliant idea. Leave it to the techies and you will get Alt-CTRL-Del!
I have been fortunate to have participated in the evolution of the Macs since its existence. Since I worked in computational chemistry, we had plenty of chances to dabble in new technologies. Initially we used it for writing papers, but soon it became evident that it had enough compute power and a version of Basic programming language that allowed us to visualize small molecules. Soon after several programs emerged such as ChemDraw, that allowed you to draw and rotate small molecules with ease. This was extremely useful.
I saw this image posted by someone I follow on Google Plus and I love it. It captures the perception of various people on what you do and in reality what you actually do! I saw something similar posted to our LTS discussion group about Librarians, which was very funny too.
OK, let us get down to the topic at hand. What is net neutrality? This definition by Wikipedia captures it well “Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.” Makes sense, right? It turns out to be not so and the Internet Service Providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have been fighting this in the courts. Net neutrality suffered a big blow recently when a court struck down this on technicality.
I am not a lawyer, so I don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of the difference, but as you see in this Time magazine article, “The groundwork for Tuesday’s defeat was established in 2002, when the FCC made the fateful decision to classify broadband as an “information service” not a “telecommunications service,” which would have allowed the agency to impose “common carrier” regulations prohibiting discrimination by the broadband companies.”
Bottom line – your ISPs will soon have a lot of control over what content and how it is delivered to you and you won’t have a say on it except to choose the best available option, which may not be necessarily the one you are so used to. You can read this article for “What the Internet could Look Like without Net Neutrality”
We enjoyed the holiday break and I hope you all did too. We have been spared the wrath of Hercules in central CT. As far as I can tell, we got about 3 inches of snow, however, it is supposed to be bone chilling cold. Boston area seems to be affected more significantly and the College is closed for the day.
Though weekends, end of the month and beginning of a year are all totally arbitrary, we have grown accustomed to them and live with the cycles and in some cases the hype that comes with them. In that spirit, I have been following the various technology predictions for 2014. “2014: The Year That Puts the Nail in Desktop’s Coffin“, “Eric Schmidt’s 2014 predictions: big genomics and smartphones everywhere“, “Top Technology Trends for 2014” and “Cybersecurity Will Get More Complex in 2014” are a few that are worth a quick read. The problem with all of these is that no one bothers to measure these predictions at the end of the year to identify who has been a reliable predictor so far. In fact, in the second one regarding Eric Schmidt, the author notes correctly “It’s worth noting that Schmidt has a shaky track record on predictions.” It is the case that these trends have significant implications for libraries, but you would be hard pressed to find direct predictions for libraries!
Many of these predictions are relevant to businesses to prepare to maximize their profits and based on “consumer” behavior. Whereas we all have a “consumer” persona when we make purchasing decisions in our personal lives, it is a bit different when it comes to the use of technologies at the College. Primarily, the “consumer” options don’t always work well for what one needs to get done as a faculty, staff or a student. Whereas all the buzz about mobile phones and tablets is exciting and these devices are great for information consumption or even reading (for those who can like e-books), you can’t write a paper on them or solve a math problem or even run many of the academic software that you need to run. Of course, for the advanced users, there are apps that solve every one of these, but they are not convenient or efficient. Though it is extremely important to be tuned into these trends because our future students will be arriving on campus as users of some of these trendy technologies and we need to be prepared to support them.
A more relevant prediction for us is from New Media Consortium’s Horizon report. For 2014, they have identified what is going to be featured in the report and we will closely follow how it develops.
I had a couple of pretty busy weeks. I traveled to Washington DC for a gathering of fellow CIOs from merged IT-Library organizations. Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) had organized this and a few of us from small liberal arts colleges gathered to discuss organizational makeup, challenges now and going forward. It was a very useful exercise and we all had a great time. There were the usual mixture of agreements and disagreements. My flights were delayed in both directions, which was annoying, but I think this has become the norm. Talking about delays being the norm, it happened again with my doctor who I went to see my physical. He is such a nice person that it didn’t matter much.
From Washington Post. http://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_606w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/12/03/Editorial-Opinion/Graphics/toles12042013.jpg
Hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving with your family and friends. We had a fabulous time, celebrating with family and friends over multiple days. Lots of calories were consumed and now comes the hard part of trying to shed them. The incentives to go and exercise is proving harder and harder. I just came back from the second town hall meeting where we all got to hear about the plans for the facilities renovations and how paying for them will result in a serious belt tightening. It will not be easy, but this is the reality.
It is at these times that one should not forget that innovations are critical to what we do and that we should continue to find the strength to keep going despite the morale issue that will try to pull us down. So, what is innovation? Merriam-Webster says ” the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods”. Wikipedia says “Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, inarticulated needs, or existing market needs.” The first definition is in the right spirit of innovation. You innovate without thinking about an end goal. The second one is more goal oriented. You innovate to meet some new requirements or existing “market” needs. For us, the market is our faculty, students, staff and alumnae.
By the second definition, I am proud to say that LTS has introduced several “innovations” in all areas that we support. Patron driven acquisition, creative and innovative use of the resources in special collections by faculty from all disciplines, the many ways in which we are collaborating with the faculty on the use of instructional technologies to enhance teaching, learning and research (such as digital storytelling, the use of maps, and multimedia annotations), many ways in which we have extended the use of Drupal to accommodate the needs of community as well as improve efficiencies (such as automating the feeding of data and eliminating manual updates), and a whole list of web applications that have simplified many of the administrative tasks, and the use of document imaging systems and data warehouses. The list is long and can go on and on!
It is almost Thanksgiving time, it is hard to believe. I have always wondered whether how we feel about time is more recent, due to the influence of technology in our lives and not having a pause button. I just completed three years at Wellesley and it has gone by so fast. This year, for our Thanksgiving, we will have a few additional guests and we are so looking forward to next week. Since Thanksgiving is a family “reunion”, I wanted to share with you an excellent, emotional video from Google about the reunion of two old friends who were separated due to the partition of India in 1947.
Apparently, the next big wave in technology is “Wearable Computing“. The hype really has picked up primarily due to increased use of Google Glass. The real question is how many of us are ready to wear computing? I highly recommend an excellent conversation on this subject by Bryan Alexander and Veronica Diaz from EDUCAUSE Learning Institute (ELI) which touches on many interesting areas around wearable computing devices.
I spent most of the weekend catching up on the MOOC that I am registered for – The Secret of Life. We are learning about cloning and it is fascinating. The acceleration in discoveries and innovations has gotten up to a point where the “tools” of cloning are now available in a catalog – you can order the “cloning vectors” (“Plasmids“). We are also learning how the scientists have been unraveling the “secret of life”. It is mind boggling to hear how there is always an enzyme that assists a specific chemical reaction, which led the professor to quip that “there is always an app for that”! It is pretty amazing how all of these have to come together in particular sequence (no pun intended) and at particular times for everything to work just right. No wonder it took several million years to perfect this….
Whereas this course is teaching us the intricacies of formation of life, I was so sad to see many lives lost in the Philippines due to super typhoon Haiyan. I sure hope that they get the help they need and recover quickly. We were relieved to hear how technology, combined with the government machinery, helped evacuate 800,000 people from somewhat a smaller Typhoon that hit Eastern India a few weeks ago. I still vividly remember the 1964 cyclone (cyclone, hurricane, typhoon – they are all similar) that destroyed a bridge in South India (called the Pamban Palam) connecting an island called Dhanushkodi. My cousin was coming back to Sri Lanka after a trip to India around that time and it took us several days to know that he luckily skipped the train that submerged in the waters. Communication was pretty bad in those days!
I was talking to a colleague last week about a proposal to collaborate and we were both fretting how hard it has become to collaborate. We also were wondering aloud as to “what is collaboration?” One can look for its definition in dictionaries, but I think this definition in Wikipedia captures the essence well “Collaboration is working with each other to do a task and to achieve shared goals. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals”. The key is “working together”, “shared goals” and ”recursive process”. Too often, in our interest to collaborate, we lose sight of these key things.