Not sure that title says what is should, but I have been ultra frustrated with one piece to my iPhone world -- the small amount of storage. I am used to having a solid 80 GB of space to take my media with me wherever I go, but since the iPhone landed in my hand I am having to learn how to manage a mere 8 GB. I know that still sounds like a lot -- if you are like me, you recall computing in the days of 128K of RAM, 400K floppies, and when you did have a hard drive it was 5 MB. So 8 GB should be enough ... and it is when I am just running around town. I keep a handful of playlists, three podcasts (with the three most recent), and really only a movie I have been trying to watch. But when I hit the road, I like to have enough media to keep me occupied during flights ... that becomes very challenging especially if what I am after are several episodes of a TV show -- in my case the Sopranos.
What is so frustrating is how hard it is to regulate what shows up on the iPhone -- I have had the same problem with my Apple TV. I finally figured out how to get the 5 most recent episodes on my iPhone in the right order -- what was happening is that I would get the 5 episodes at the end of the season ... in other words, instead of episodes 1-5 I would get 6-11. It was driving me crazy. The following solution is the only way I have been able to reliably get what I want.
I start by heading to the Info tab of the iPhone when it is connected to iTunes. I check the "only sync checked music and video" checkbox.
Next I head over to my video area of iTunes and locate my show ... I uncheck the episodes I do not want to see synced to my iPhone.
I then have to go back into the iPhone area of iTunes and set the pull down to only grab the 5 most recently unwatched episodes.
May not seem like all that much, but it sure took me ages to figure it out. Sorry if this seems obvious ... one thing that I should mention is that Apple has the best UI people in the World, they should refine this feature in iTunes.
I >wrote a while back about the Blogs at Penn State and how we are now seeing people on campus writing in the open. One of the things I was sharing was a growing sense of un-discoverability with the amount of content being created. We created a self-service directory that allows people to add their blog URL so others can find them. Lots of people asked why we weren't just exposing all the blogs -- it is a simple thing to do, but the feedback we received from a handful of our population was that may not be a great idea. As I watch the directory grow I tend to add people to my feeds in Google Reader and that works fairly well, but there isn't a ton of filtering that goes on there for me -- I have a huge folder of PSU Bloggers now without a whole lot of rhyme or reason to how all the content gets structured for me.
I've said it before, my RSS habits have been changing over the last year or so. Especially now that my local community is contributing as much as they are I am struggling with ways to find the best stuff, read it, comment on it, and keep track of it. It really means my RSS reader is stacked with local content and my global RSS reading is on the decline. I have honestly followed a path from local RSS aggregation in NetNewsWire Pro to Google Reader, but I am now searching for ways to go beyond simple aggregation and organization of my feeds. I have been keenly interested in making sense out my community of content and I think I am coming around to the idea that as my community of content grows I may need to lean on that community to help organize it.
I have always loved the digg model to comment sense-making as it relates to smart mob content organization ... I always wanted to have that kind of control over content (and control is a funny word to use in this situation). We recently organized a Hot Team to look at Pligg (BTW, this is our first International Hot Team -- thanks, D'Arcy!). We've been running it for a while around here on a development box trying to get a sense for how it all works ... no real customization, just working it to see it in action. I like it quite a bit! I can see it taking a very central place in our ongoing and evolving web strategy. You can take a look at it for yourself.
Pligg is essentially an open source digg toolset that does a couple of things very well and very valuable in this new world of mass-community created content.
First, it offers the social ratings features of digg ... you have a little bookmarklet that lets you flag posts (sites) that are of interest, enter tags, and submit them into the pligg site. Others can then browse the "upcoming news" and vote for it. As an admin you get to say how many votes moves content into the front page. In a model like this the community gets to decide what is important and what is noise.
Second, and perhaps more important to me, is the tool's ability to act as an aggregator. I can submit RSS feeds for all the sites in the PSU community (or anything) and the content is automatically pulled into the "upcoming news" area for the community to browse and vote on. So in this situation, I could legitimately add several hundred feeds from around the PSU community and watch the posts that the community finds interesting/important/smart/funny rise to the front page.
With that I am leveraging two very important things -- the content and interestingness of the community. I have said in the past that one of the reasons I want to see members of my organization writing in the open is to expose the overall intelligence of the group ... with pligg aggregating content and the community voting on it I can expose the intelligence of a much larger group. To me that accomplishes a whole bunch of my goals. I am working to understand how it fits into the landscape -- and trust me, I'll be using it in my class next semester as the aggregator of choice for my student's blogs.
Growing up in Bloomsburg, PA we had this diner on Main Street that seemed to change its name every year or so -- Toddle House, The Bloom Diner, and (my favorite) Something Different. It was a lousy diner, not the kind you'd want to hang out in ... no that place was across the street, the Texas Lunch. It was the Texas from back in the day ... probably the 1930s or so. The Texas had the world famous egg burger, the hot dog special, and anything else that screamed of grease and goodness.
At any rate, that is a strange way to say that I am once again tweaking the look of this site. Just like the new-age diner with bad meals (you seeing the extended metaphor here?), I am once again trying to reinvent my lame content with a fresh look. I loved the old theme, but it was starting to perform poorly as WordPress continued to grow so today I spent an hour or so trolling the Internet for a good WP theme. I found what I found and it is what it is. I suspect most of you never see the actual look and feel of the blog and are stuck with just the same old content. At any rate, the blog has been changed so stop over and take a peek. Let me also say that I am not convinced I like it and may just blow the whole thing up once again -- they shoulda done that with the Something Different Diner a long time ago.
Update: Since I got the, "it looks like Vista" comment, I tried just swapping the banner image out. Still not sure.
With the Blogs at Penn State project fully opened as a controlled pilot (can you be fully open in a pilot?) I am finding it difficult to discover blogs across our new PSU Blogosphere. When I do come across new PSU Blogs I instantly add them to Google Reader and have been enjoying getting to know people on campus via their blogs very much.
The Blogs at Penn State is a centrally managed environment that allows users to create and publish blogs into their personal webspace. At PSU we give people 500 MB of default webspace that they can easily expand by asking politely ... this webspace can be used for anything they want -- as long as they adhere to some basic policies. The nice thing about this is that people's bogs seem like they really do belong to them and that they are part of an already established technological cultural understanding -- whatever the hell that is.
The big issue for lots of people is finding these blogs. Yesterday the stats told me we have about 700 active blogs out there in the PSU Blog Cloud ... finding them is tough. Sure, we can create a directory that lists every blog, but I'm not sure that is the right thing to do. I have talked to more than one person who doesn't want their blog listed in a directory -- sure they know it is open, but the effort it takes to discover it makes them feel better. My colleague, Brad Kozlek, recently created a self-service Blog Directory where individuals can choose to list their blogs. This seems to work, but as we go from pilot to production what really is the best thing to do.
I have seen other schools where they do pull out the latest posts, comments, and links to display on a Blogs at the University home-page -- that scares the hell out of me. Remember, these spaces are tied to personal webspace for a reason ... they are personal. Not everyone is down with that kind of exposure. So for now, the self-service model is what lives on ... it just feels silly asking people to visit another site to "register" their blog. There has to be a better way.
It has been a whirlwind of a Summer -- one I am both happy and sad to see go. The amount of loss has been heavy in the air for us this Summer, but at the same time celebrations of life have been all around. I guess what it means is that I have been in a total state of divided attention for months. This week will be no different as my Sister gets married on Friday! That means another short week of trying to cram way too much stuff into the available time. We are all crazy busy, so I know bitching about it will get me nowhere fast.
Last week was particularly difficult. We found out that one of my best friend's Mother passed away, finally losing her battle with cancer. She was a wonderful woman who acted like a second Mother to me -- but honestly, acting like a Mother and losing your Mother pales in comparison. At her service he, his Father, and two siblings stood in front of the most crowded church I have ever been in and delivered the most heart wrenching tribute. It became clear to me that it was harder for me to see him hurt so much then it was knowing his Mother had passed. Not sure if that makes any sense, but it was a new place for me to be.
From there, it was off to a wedding of another great friend. His wedding was at his home outside of Honsdale, PA on his 20 acres in the woods. What a wonderful venue -- unlike anything I had been to before. It was a wonderful evening. We stayed in a great lake community and I actually relaxed -- very little cell coverage, wifi was scarce, and the kids were with Grandma. I noticed I didn't feel the need to check email or RSS feeds or anything else.
Today is back to reality for a couple of days and then back into the wedding cycle. I am thrilled for the weekend and I am excited to see the seasons change. I think we all need a new vibe around here. Sorry for the off topic post, but I had to write.
I just wrote about what I think will be the tipping point for mobile devices on our campus over at Learning and Innovation ... already a couple of interesting comments. We shall see how it all shakes down.
This morning I came across a little something from SixApart, the people behind Movable Type -- they make the blogging software we are using for the Blogs at Penn State. They've released a plugin that provides an iPhone/Touch specific template for authoring your blog. I still think once people on campus (a) get blogs, (b) realize all they can be used for, and (c) embrace these new devices we'll see a whole lot more mobile blogging.
We should have MT 4 running soon. Just a matter of time until students' thumbs will be tapping out posts.
As an Apple fanboy -- man I hate labels (or is that a tag) -- I was interested in the release of the new iPods last week. It seems strange to me that the new stuff hasn't made waves with people like some of the other iPod updates in the past ... especially given that at least one of these new devices has stepped into all new territory as it relates to features and usability. Lots of people got jacked up when Apple released the iPhone and were crying that the iPod didn't do the things the iPhone did -- full screen, wifi, touch controls, and more. Well, with the release of the Touch, it is all there. I think it represents a change that in the next 12-24 months will signify a radical change in the whole portable space for teaching and learning.
I was hanging out in my office for the 30 minutes I had there today and one of my students (who happens to work in ETS now) stopped in to tell me he had purchased a new Touch. I asked him if he thought it would be big on campus. He immediately told me that most students wouldn't get it ... I can see that, today. He went on to tell me until it could connect to universal wireless and posses massive storage it wouldn't be a hot device on campus. I begged to differ -- now keep in mind that I value his opinion and I certainly feel like he has the pulse of the student population much more within his reach, but there are some factors at play here that may make this device something to prepare for.
First of all the Touch is expensive, but not all that more than other devices that let you get online to work your FaceBook profile, check your email, respond to questions in ANGEL, browse ESPN, and just about everything else you can do in a browser -- did I mention it fits in a pocket? See we know some stuff about our students ... they do very specific things with technology. Here is a brief summary of what we know ... somewhere around 80% of them own laptops and nearly all of them have wireless access ... we also know that under 20% actually carry them to campus and the number one reason they tell us they don't is because they report they are too big! Sure the VPN on our campus is not yet compatible with the Apple offering of the iPhone, but honestly how long can that last? With the price drop on the iPhone we will see all sorts of new touch sensitive devices show up this year (even before the Holiday season) in the hands of faculty, staff, and students. That in and of itself could provide a tipping point. What will happen over the next 12 months will change the game -- the iPod Touch v1 will give way to a faster more powerful V2 device with a lot more storage, better VPN, and more tools than ever to access all the stuff they do. Did I mention that close to 85% of our students are on the FB and that 25% of them spend more than 5 hours a week there? Having access to all that in the palm of their hands will drive change.
We've been thinking and looking at the role mobility plays in education for quite some time now ... I was the PI on an HP grant several years ago (maybe 5) that asked us to look at this exact topic. The tools were lame then and didn't allow us to do the things we envisioned -- they aren't now. Couple that with the close to 250 sections of courses with an iTunes U space and it is easy to see that the time is right for a portable access device to an ever-increasing sea of digital academic content. I am going to argue that the iPod Touch will be the first mobile device that will actually make it to classrooms and live with students like only their iPods and cell phones do now ... wait a second, they already carry this stuff. Jeez, I wonder how many of them own iPods now? Let's call it about 50% of the PSU student population (and the number of MP3 ownership is at about 87%) ... I wonder if they'll refresh and buy new ones? I wonder if the new students showing up will come with them (did I mention our freshman own MP3 players at a higher percentage than our seniors)? But they don't own cell phones do they? Yeah, 93% of them do ... again, imagine if the devices they carry let them hit the network to do the things they stop into our labs for. Another little insight -- most of them spend less than 10 minutes on our machines ... know what they do? Yep check email, update profiles on FB, and check ANGEL. What the hell did Bob Dylan sing?
I wonder if the WIFI enabled iPods will change the way students do stuff? I'll let someone else answer that. Thoughts?
This does nothing for me as I am a proud user of PSU IMAP mail, but I have heard people trying to make it happen. I didn't test it, just passing it along. If you need to sync with Exchange 2003, here is an option.
I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the iPhone allows you to use curse words while typing. I didn't give it much thought until this morning when I bumped into this post over at the "peterme.com" blog space. Apple has allowed us grown up people to use bad words within our emails and doesn't treat us like idiots telling us they are misspellings. Most systems want to flag curse words -- I guess to encourage you to change them. I just thought it was interesting.