May 9, 2007

New feed address

I've switched over to wordpress, after getting frustrated with MT.
I haven;t managed to sort out the feeds redirect yet, but in the meantime, you might want to update to:

Sorry for any inconvenience ...

May 8, 2007

links for 2007-05-08

May 5, 2007

links for 2007-05-05

May 2, 2007

links for 2007-05-02

May 1, 2007

links for 2007-05-01

March 26, 2007

links for 2007-03-26

March 25, 2007

links for 2007-03-25

March 21, 2007

links for 2007-03-21

March 20, 2007

Little Legends - any feedback gratefully received

Little Legends is a newish, free service for parents and carers in the UK. A while ago, my sister and I were discussing how hard it was for her to find anywhere useful and good for mums (schools, late night chemists and the like). As a solution, I've hit the Ruby books, scratched my head a fair bit, and developed Little Legends with her.

Essentially, it's a mix of a wiki, directory a social bookmarking site and maps. Something that Will Davies said a while back sums it up really:

"ICT can localise and delocalise communication; our public discussions can descend upon places, and then depart, and then descend again, like a stone skimming across a lake."
What we're trying to do, in our own small way, is to help parents, carers and people with kids to look after skim those stones more easily. [If you want a more in depth explanation of the thinking behind it, you might want to have a look here.]

Like all these things, it's by no means a finished article. There's more coming in the way of helping mums actually connect with each other (groups, messaging and the like). Anyway, I'd love to hear any feedback you have so we can find out what we're doing wrong, what we could improve, and where we're on the right track.

And of course, if you think it's at all useful for anyone you know, do pass it on.


March 8, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

Fascinating documentary, including why CO2 levels rise after global warming, not before.

A Physics of Society: Critical Mass Notes #1

Ton has written an elegant post about the value of maths in the design of social tools. It reminded me of a book by Philip Ball called Critical Mass, and I realised how little I could really remember of it other than the broad brush strokes.

So I thought I'd reread it and post some notes.

1: Raising Leviathan

  • The Scientific Revolution did not just affect the sciences. It affected politics too.
  • Various thinkers, such as More, Grotius and Bacon began to imagine societies based on scientific reasoning. They were "Utopians"; in many ways descendants of Plato in that they gathered some first principles, and tried to deduce what sort of societies would work given those principles
  • Hobbes was an especially mechanistic Utopian. He fell in love with geometry and the way mathematicians could build on simple assumptions to find more complex, and sometimes surprising truths.
  • With his Leviathan, he aimed for
    "a theory of governance as unimpeachable as those of Euclid's geometry".
  • Traces of his approach can be found in Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and other political theorists.
  • That's one trajectory, but it's not particularly scientific one.
    "Political theorists tend to concern themselves with what they think ought to be; scientists concentrate on the way things are
  • "There are few political thinkers who have defined a social model with the logical precision of Hobbes, and none who have carried those precepts through to their conclusions in a truly scientific way."
  • Physicists have developed tools since then that, however unintentionally, add rigour to the sorts of scientific models a modern day Hobbes might want. The same tools that allow physicists to understand the behaviour of atoms can be used to begin to model the behaviour of people.

Crowd Control

At the school I'm working at, one of the teachers is coming to the end of her career. She gave me a quick distillation of how she's learnt to keep control in a classroom.

There are 3 golden rules:

  1. Move around
    As you move around the classroom, you spread your influence and it's easier to stop children switching off. Moving your questions around, i.e. not always asking the same children, keeps everyone involved.

  2. Vary your delivery
    Whispers, sharp yelps, different visual cues all keep children on their toes and focused on what's coming next.

  3. Balance criticism and praise
    If you have to reprimand a child make sure you come back to them later, and find something good to say about what they've said, how they're behaving. It stops children making a virtue of being naughty.

Gold dust, really. What she missed out, I think, was to say how much her enthusiasm for what she teaches engages the children, but then she's modest like that.

February 27, 2007

links for 2007-02-27

February 26, 2007

Templeton bombs

Thankfully everyone's ok.

February 25, 2007

Coping with the Printing Press

Here's a thought.

I'd always assumed that invention of the printing press increased the ability of people to pamphleteer, to disseminate new ideas, and to bypass, and sometimes to topple, existing power structures.

And I'd always assumed that the Scientific Revolution was helped enormously by this new invention. People were suddenly able to share the results of their sometimes homebrewn experiments and a wave of new discovery was unleashed.

I'd always assumed that the scientific method was another one of these positive discoveries. But perhaps things aren't quite so rosy-tinted. Presumably scientific method, peer review, empirical testing et al. could have become prized because they were the best way people found to cope with the boom in quack theories and amateur views.

February 24, 2007

links for 2007-02-24

Net neutrality awareness

It's important stuff.

Save the Internet | Rock the Vote

February 23, 2007

links for 2007-02-23

The Expertise Paradox

So you can't be an expert and have a balanced view. From Three-Toed Sloth:

"experts need to acquire and store tens of thousands of cases within their domains in order to recognize patterns, generate and test hypotheses, and contribute to the collective knowledge within their fields. In other words, becoming an expert requires a significant number of years of viewing the world through the lens of one specific domain. It is the specificity that gives the expert the power to recognize patterns, perform tasks, and solve problems.

Paradoxically, it is this same specificity that is restrictive, narrowly focusing the expert's attention on one domain to the exclusion of others. It should come as little surprise, then, that an expert would have difficulty identifying and weighing variables in an interdisciplinary task ..."

This gets kind of interesting if you think about experts in say, Web 2.0/social computing. And you get another paradox, because presumably Web 2.0 expertise includes, along with the O'Reilly Mile, a strong appreciation of the fragility and inherent bias of expertise?


Well, it's been a long while, and it feels a little odd posting again. Lots has happened - career change into teaching being the main one - but have still been keeping up with various feeds.

Had a bit of a fatigue, a little like Ed's with his "collaboro-competing Web 2.0" consultants. And felt I was tub-thumping more than thinking, much to my annoyance.

Anyroad. Onwards and sideways.

Turns out my nephew Oliver (5 years old) loves computers, the internet, anything gadgety. And he calls all of this not "IT", but "E".

Which makes it a little awkward when he booms out "Mum, when are we going to get more E?"


Recent Entries


Contact Me


Ton Zijlstra: Hi Piers, I already wondered what LittleLegends w ... [entry]
Piers: Thanks chaps :) ... [entry]
anu: About bloody time ;) welcome back ! ... [entry]
Ton Zijlstra: Hi Piers, Welcome back! Looking forward to hear a ... [entry]
Bibiana: i loved this, i am actually planning on preforming ... [entry]
Steve Harold: If Billy needs to know his posts have been read to ... [entry]
anu: ...andis possibly the ugliest man in football sinc ... [entry]
Steve Harold: Makes you wonder if increasing complexity is a par ... [entry]
Raxo the laxo: Igod is easily confused but cool. But he doesn't l ... [entry]
zeke: umm new here, why does god use a computer? hes god ... [entry]


Reader Spots

A worthwhile project



Nuts & Bolts