Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Voting for Change

Please don't complain about not having time to vote or think about who to elect and then ask me if I watched Duck Dynasty... Here's a quick rundown and a few options

While the PCs and Liberals are providing starkly contrasting views for the province, the NDP are trying to be more centrist. The Green Party has a bold idea to save 1.6 Billion (how many elections could you buy with that?) by consolidating the school systems and eliminating the Beer Store monopoly.  A great summary of all platforms can be found here - take five min

There is one final option. If you really can't align yourself with any of those parties, don't just stay home. Millions of people line up for hours for the ability to vote in barely legitimate elections between despots.  Show up at your polling station, make your civic interest known and then decline your ballot. Declining your ballot is registered as a form of active protest. People who are willing to go to the ballot box and NOT make a choice, will definitely register with our provincial politicians. Whether you want them to focus on other issues, or maybe change the rhetoric, show them that you care about where you live and want to make a choice.

If you write "You all Suck!" on your ballot, that's counted as a spoiled ballot, the same as grandpa who can't colour within the lines.

Take a minute, look at the platforms make a decision and vote. Or register your disapproval. It doesn't take a long time. It's our time to have our voices heard.

Please Vote.

Compare Party Platform

Monday, June 9, 2014

Soylent, Fasting and the Tyranny of Choice

Soylent is getting a ridiculous amount of publicity for an apparently horrible tasting slurry. Why? Is this the iphone or itunes of food products?

I think the excitement around its proposition  can be related to the growing acceptance of fasting. You want to make healthy choices but like all choices it gets tiring. The convenience of processed foods takes over. Hot dogs, chips. Even mass-marketed meal replacements are loaded with sugar and sodium. What can you do?

Enter soylent, it doesn't taste great but it's apparently nutritionally complete. For a quick breakfast/lunch etc

I find the binary simplicity of intermittent fasting to be great. I get myself into an overall calorie deficit. I save time not getting and preparing food; and money not eating it... I don't have to choose between a salad or a sandwich or a burger. Just eat nothing. This is not even considering all the other benefits of fasting, but this one choice for simplicity eliminates others.  More research into willpower shows that reducing choice is often easiest.

Could this be the food revolution the founder wants it to be? Perhaps. Could this help you reduce food choices, some will argue this is destroying food culture and society itself. Just like starving yourself is a bad idea, so would a diet solely of soylent. As with everything, the dose makes the poison.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What is Tin Can API?

Most of the learning technology world is a buzz with Tin Can or Experience API. It's been very prominent at all learning conferences I've seen. However within the broader community of instructional designers and content developers it's still quite fuzzy. So here's my attempt at Tin Can in a nutshell.

A little context: The issue I and many other learning practitioners have with the modern day LMS is its self-centeredness, not navel-gazing but the LMS doesn't care about the real world. In the current paradigm, measurable learning doesn't happen unless it is within the confines of the LMS. If it wasn't an assessment, simulation, presentation, video - it doesn't count. The reason for that, is because of SCORM

Tin Can is meant to be the next evolution of SCORM. The ability to report, track and manage a user's progress. what makes this unique is its robustness and simplicity. Subject Action Object. Shaun wrote a blog post. That's a single call. What's the big deal about that? Learning & Performance professionals need to focus less on written assessments and course completion. The focus needs to be on what students can do. What better way to measure a learner's progress on a topic than to track what they actually do. Can they perform?

There is often a lot of time spent crafting the perfect learning objective as if most learners don't just skim or skip them altogether.

From a technical training view, here are some tasks that are regularly simulated for training:
  • Logging in
  • Editting a Report
  • Publishing a Blog post

The premise of Tin Can is to enable a simple connection from any application to report back. The LMS or LRS (Learning Record Store) will capture the completion of tasks for analysis and centralized reporting. The main thing is that the performance being recorded is not an elearning simulation of a task, it can be a real task. In theory this could be much easier to implement that building an elearning simulation subject to change. In the Tin Can example of logging in, you simply add some code in the login screen to record the fact the active user logged in.  Let's look at an example.

“How do we train our users to use the new Corporate Portal?”

Traditional eLearning Scorm World


Tin Can

"Ok, we'll build up a set of elearning simulations, job aids and on the job checklists to ensure learners can login and configure panels. 

"Let's build a series of job aids and checklists with a link to a training environment where users can perform the tasks live. When the identified tasks in the system are completed we insert a tin can call back to our Learning store than Learner X performed this task

“Well we just rebranded the portal – we need that learning updated by next friday”

Ok, I’ll need to call the vendor and have him do an emergency build. With this timeline It’ll cost about  50k.

I’ll update the job aids this week, we’ll still have to check that we’re making the right call to Tin Can for each task. Are there any new things we should track?

It's definitely a simplification, but having to maintain a large and static simulation would always be more difficult to maintain.

Tin Can has the potential to be immensely disruptive. Learning professionals could do so much more with much less. Some will defend the simulation, while clutching their rented movie. What do you think you could do with Tin Can. I'm going to be exploring Tin Can some more, with some open source applications (drupal, wordpress) Definitely more to come.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Too bad we can't all hire Magic

LinkedIN is doing an interesting series within their Influencers news section with How I Hire. A bunch of executives tell tales of how they unearth top performers, weed through the BS, and throw people off script to get beneath the surface. Recent LI superstar Sallie Krawchuk recently wrote a piece on how she hires You can't build a team with all Point Guards.

As a basketball fan I was immediately drawn in. Her main point is that we often seek good leaders and team-first guys. As a leader and a ball player lacking in height, I've always love the point position. Your goal is to put others in a position to succeed. A great PG to keep them all together, and play the right style at the right time. In truth, all winning teams actually require role players, or specialists. Perhaps even some selfish folks.

What struck a chord with me, is that a good point guard, like a good leader must understand the strengths and weaknesses of the team and adapt his or her style. Case in point : Earvin Magic Johnson, as a rookie in the NBA Finals no less, the great Kareem Adbul-Jabbar missed the potential title-winning game 6. Lakers were very nervous. Magic took it upon himself to start at centre and lead his team to victory playing the 5. He wasn't a traditional 5, but he played one of the most remarkable games ever - out of position.

 The right leader will play the role the team needs in order to succeed, whether it's their strength or not. I think an all-PG team could win with the right PGs playing the diverse roles needed. (Magic, DRose, Oscar Robertson, Jason Kidd, John Stockton )

I definitely think they'd beat the All - any other position team. Yes even the Shooting Guards...

Magic moves to center, beats Sixers for title
You can't build a team with all Point Guards

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This post will self-destruct in 30s

Maybe the internet isn't forever after all. New services are popping up to enable you to privately share messages with a select few, and to even have them self-destruct at a given time/interval. Some high-profile people with a penchant for sending pics (looking at you Carlos Danger) should Love this. In the era of domestic surveillance and the realization that most tech companies are complicit is this the silver bullet?

Maybe not. Just because it's deleted from public consumption, how long does it take the site's respective crawlers to get it? Accessible and deleted are two different things.

 How will FB and Twitter feel about being used less as a publisher and more as a temporary broadcast medium. You might think that's what they were... you would be wrong. The ability to broadcast and store your thoughts, ideas and drunken outbursts for future consumption is a part of their value proposition.

Are their respective graphs as valuable without storing everything? If not look for the API or ToS to change very quickly to eliminate the ability for a 3rd party to delete on your behalf. On the other hand this is a means to combat hot new chat technologies like SnapChat (which for some reason feels it's worth more than 3 Billion)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cut the Cord - Tales from the Clipped.

One month ago we cut cable - so far so good.  I took this as a personal challenge to make this process as smooth and positive as possible. It still is a change, but with a little prep work it has gone really well so far.
Recap: We (a family of 5) cut our Cable TV provider, upped our ISP package and replaced our homephone line with a free VOIP alternative. We also employ a DIY antenna. For a full description of the setup see here.
Kids are definitely watching less TV. There are less occasions where the TV sits on as background noise. Those moments of respite where we need to occupy the kids were my biggest concern. More on that later.

I'm using subscriptions for TVO's the Agenda and the Big Think so I have something interesting to watch if I was bored. I'm most proud of the fact that we no longer live in the continuous "breaking news" death grip of CP24. I don't need live coverage of the Royal Baby's baptism or first bowel movement. In reality Netflix is a very dangerous thing. The ability to get so many full series on demand is something cable never offered. The wife loves having a full series at her disposal and is actually watching more TV now.

I've started watching the formal news broadcasts more on the antenna. We could raise a lot of money with a "wait rewind that" jar. The PVR for live tv is definitely a perk I miss. Investigating MythTV as an option to record off the antenna and pause live tv.

As with all change there is a downside. The biggest problem is the disjointed user experience. Content sits on different areas or inputs. Is it on my home media server? or accessed through a browser. Is it on netflix? How do i get to the antenna. For me it's not big deal, but for visiting family and friends, or less technical folks it can be a bit intimidating or frustrating. The antenna operates on one remote, google TV operates the rest. Even within the google tv you need to switch apps between plex or netflix. Cable itself has gotten a bit fragmented with ondemand versus live TV and a lack of great user experience. But for the most part you search for a show, or a recorded show in very similar contexts.

Related Links:
Cut the Cord - The Setup

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cut the cord - the setup

Droning on and on about cutting the cord some friends who are also feeling squeezed by robellus asked me for details. Maybe it was just to shut me up but i'm going to spell it out anyhow. Basically I swapped my ISP, switched to a no monthly fee VOIP service, cut my cable TV subscribed to netflix and installed an OTA antenna.

My main goals were cost savings, and to move off traditional media services. Cable companies are the next record companies the internet age is crushing large clumsy institutions.

I switched my ISP to a great company out of London ON. They have fantastic customer service in the few times I've called them. I've had no outtages beyond blackouts. $50/mth for 20+mbps down 2mbps up. I'm watching multiple netflix streams without issue.

Home Phone
I replaced my homephone with a free voip service from They have a bunch of options, one where you rent an ATA device from there for $5 a month and they provide customer service. Or you buy the ATA device yourself (~50$) plug it into your home router and enter a few settings they give you ($25 fee for ATA settings). I did the latter. If you want to keep your phone number they charge $25 to port your number over. I have call waiting, call display, voicemail, voicemail to email, call following and other settings I haven't tried yet. I also get free long distance to about 30 large Cdn cities (see list)

Cable TV
This was the most difficult in setup, resistance and also the most recent. I cancelled cable over the summer. I backed up our DVD collection onto a free media server called Plex . To use Plex I needed streaming boxes to hook up to TVs. Through sales I amassed a WDTV Live, a Plex and a Google TV. All a bit different with their own advantages.

 One thing that was missing was live TV, news in the morning, watching "prime time network shows". For that I built an antenna with a friend. 1x4 wood with some fairly cheap wire and a $1.10 balun from radio shack. Having a house provided me with a southern facing point to point the antenna. Being on a higher elevation also helps. The antenna in a 1st floor window gets TVO, CBC, Global, CTV regularly. On occasion it'll get Omni1,2 and CityTV. Eventually a professional antenna mounted on the roof should be able to get NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX. Hooked into the panel in the basement should provide OTA for all cable outlets in the house. I'll need some additional hardware for that when the time comes. I'll likely setup or buy a DVR for it as well.

The ROI is solid. I'll dig up some numbers on my initial costs and go through it in another post.

In a few weeks I'll provide a followup on how things are going. The main concern is getting the rest of the family onboard, getting the kids used to less selection. But i'm a change advocate. I think it'll be good for them. Some kids change towns and schools. I cutoff treehouse...