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Comment Costs and outcomes (Score 1) 866

What about those parents/students that want chemistry? So now you're offering public speaking AND chemistry AND drama AND stagecraft AND drafting AND computer science AND... AND... AND... And where does the money come from to find appropriately skilled teachers and equipment? What happens to courses that have low enrollment? How do you supply the space and scheduling to cover all the whims of a diverse population? What if those alternative courses don't equate to more successful students?

I think the main thing is that we have to ensure that our children are taught HOW TO LEARN! They need to be taught critical thinking. They need to learn process and at the same time learn about how intuition can be part of the process. They need to be taught to explore and experiment. They need to be taught to take risks, but calculated ones. That's really what school should be about is setting them up for making their own choices in College and the rest of their life.

The other thing I think about is that while I didn't see much use for Algebra or Geometry or quite a few of my other classes, what I'm finding out much later is that YES I do need those things. Why? Because I have kids that need DO see a use for those subjects and they need help with their homework. So it's good that I got that experience and I can go out and get refreshed and be of some use to my children so that they can go on to choose what they want to do in life, versus what I've pigeonholed them to do.

One thing that I see today is that our schools are just too large. They've consolidated in an effort to control costs at the cost of making things harder to manage and reducing that sense of community. The other thing that I thing our schools fail at is finding a way to interweave subject matter. For example, why shouldn't Science and English go hand in hand. Why couldn't the Science teacher ask the students to do a creative writing assignment about Chemistry or Biology and it be a joint grade between English and Science classes. It would show that the student had a mastery of both subjects and at the same time it would allow them to leverage the one that they were most interested in to get through the one they were less interested in (i.e. my daughter who loves English and hates Chemistry.) If the classes were shortened and interwoven the students would be more engaged and use the time more effectively. The other consideration might be to define some trial period to use the first few weeks to assess where the students are, which style of learning might be best for the individual student, which interleaving might work best for them, and then adjust their schedule to the set of classes and teachers that work best for that student (within some reasonable balance of class size and costs)

Comment Half-whitted attempt at fixing a real problem (Score 1, Flamebait) 398

The problem that we have with freedom of speech is that people take that to mean that they can say whatever they want without repercussion. They believe that they can defame people, lie about them, harass them, spread hate, threaten, and otherwise bully and because they are only words it's all covered and okay. No harm no foul.

Freedom of speech and expression is great when it works to our advantage (i.e. the Federalist Papers) and disastrous when it doesn't (e.g. Ryan Halligan, Megan Meier).

I believe that we should have the freedom to anonymously criticize our government and government officials. I think where that anonymity begins to become cloudy is when it moves from political commentary (blog post, letters, manifestos) and into conversation (comments, forums, chat).

Think about it like this... If I write a manifesto that says that all brown haired people came from the mud and are some lower life form separate from the rest of humanity. I write it, put it out on the internet and maybe someone reads it and maybe someone doesn't. Maybe it resonates with a couple of people and we get a little brown haired hate group going. However, if I go onto CNN and post in the comment section of another article and express my hate for brown haired people and my theories about their origin, then it is part of a conversation and has a much different audience. That audience may include people who are trolling, just for entertainment, and believe it's funny to back up other people's crazy claims. So now I've posted my comment and 5, 10, 20 people start saying "right on", even though the first 4 or 5 people were liars or just kidding, other people start seeing the support and start questioning if they should be in on it. The more people who post, the more it seems "right" to others and the more their small discomfort around brown haired people becomes justified. Soon the number of people who would argue that it's wrong are simply drown out by the number of people who are there trolling for fun and the number of people who are simply following the anonymous mob and reposting the same thing over and over again. Moderators have a hard time keeping up without looking like they are censoring legitimate comments and unmoderated areas explode with nastiness.

The problem areas are defamation, liable, and slander. These issues, which were relatively easy to control in the past, can explode overnight on the internet. What was, at one time, simple bullying in the halls of a school between a few students can be inflated to hundreds of attackers because of the effects of anonymity online.

What we need is a mechanism to ensure anonymity for the known good aspects (political speech, government criticism, whistle blowing) and curtail anonymity for areas where we know it's not really useful or good. That's a tall order from a technological perspective, there's no easy solution. However, that doesn't mean that we should stop trying to think of ways to make things better (not necessarily legislating, but innovating). If we can't eliminate anonymity under certain circumstances perhaps we can find other solutions that curtail the destructive power of online defamation, liable, and slander, especially for those who don't have the resources to engage in lengthy court battles for reparation.

Comment Parents and Integrated Knowledge (Score 1) 343

Parents are a huge factor in the learning experience. I see some great parents now and then who are asking their kids to spell different produce while shopping, or having the kids add up prices, or figure out which is a better value. I see some horrible parents who just don't know what they're kids are doing at school, who don't even know if their kids had homework, and who never attend school functions. One teacher at my daughter's school recently begged for volunteers for a field trip. They needed 15 adults to assist and they only had 2 who volunteered. Without parent involvement that trip will be canceled and the kids will ALL lose out on a valuable experience.

That's another key point about learning. We have to stop teaching in these silos. Students go to one class to learn math or science or history and it's all disconnected. Scientists are finding that the best way to learn is by interleaving; mixing the study of two or more fields along a common path or toward a common end. Think about if your history teacher coordinated with the biology teacher so that each day the history teacher ended his session talking about the science of the day they were studying. Then the biology teacher picked up from that point and talked about how the science of that time was right or wrong with concrete examples. Then they ended the discussion on some point of math that proves/disproves a theory of that time and leads into the students math coursework.

Right now it's up to the students to figure out how to integrate the knowledge they gain. That leaves them grousing: "I'm never going to need to know why Custer failed at the Battle of Little Big Horn", completely missing a lesson on scientific observation, being prepared, the importance of the march of technology, or taking into account internal stereotypes and prejudices before making decisions, etc.,. Little Big Horn is a key example of the usefulness of techniques like the OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act).

Comment USER EXPERIENCE!!! (Score 1) 716

Why is Apple on top of the tablet market? Is it because of Apple Stores? A high quality "good" product? The air of exclusivity/cool? Ease of use? Marketing? Packaging? Word of mouth? The Cult of Apple? An abundance of apps?


Apple is king of user experience from the point where you see the product for the first time on TV, in a store, or hear about it from a friend to the time you open the package up and turn on the device. They know how to create an emotional connection with the user. They create that emotional connection much more often and consistently than other companies. Their retail locations are part of the equation, but not the lone reason they are successful.

They've engineered a user experience where:
1. They show you the product
2. They show what the product can do
3. The things they show are a mix of things you really do (e.g. play games, send e-mails) and the things your fantasy self does (e.g. view tropical vacation photos, mix your latest hit CD)
4. You can see and use the REAL product at a retail location (versus a plastic mockup)
5. Everyone can do the top 5-6 things they do every day (e.g. internet, e-mail, music, photos, video, games)

Why do other companies fail? Other companies have a lack of organization around the product. It's like one area designs it throws the specks over the wall to people who market it and then another set of specks over the wall to the people who do sales and support. There's no consistency, no direction, no defined user experience.

Take the Motorolla XOOM as an example. The commercials are too abstract. They make a comparison to replacing your laptop, when many people in the target audience might not even have a laptop or might not use the product in the same way they would a laptop. They put some guy on a roof with the tagline "unhinged" and people start worrying that he might be jumping. They don't show what it can do. They don't appeal to the user's ego. Then you go to the retail location and try to find it. There it is at the end of the netbook lineup with ZERO marketing material and no demo/walk-through software running on the device. Plus, because of it's level of customization and the widget metaphor - the 50 other people who managed to find it before you have moved so many things on the screen that you can't make sense of what all the elements are for or where to even get started. The price tag has made it outside of the realm of justification for a casual purchase, which means you won't be getting a lot of word of mouth from average users, you'll get geek speak from early adopters and fan-boys.

HP/Palm - similar issue. GREAT website material, great packaging, great first user experience, HORRIBLE commercials, poor first release of hardware creating a mixed word of mouth message, leaving no cohesive end-to-end user experience.

Rinse and repeat for any number of other devices out there that use almost the same marketing tactics. They have learned ZILCH from Apple's past few years of dominance.

It's really a stupid simple formula - "simple trumps complex"
1. Have simple commercials (see Apple, Progressive - Flo, Sony PS3's latest commercials as examples)
2. Have simple product displays, signage and in store material
3. Have the simplest UI ever or barring that a hands-on quick-start guide or demo on the retail unit to show off the capability
4. Train the sales staff (or alternately the product booth/display becomes the staff's training tool with repeat exposure 8 hours a day)
5. Hit a price point that is high but not unreasonable for a casual non-aficionado (at the lower end of PC/Laptop pricing, but above Netbooks)
6. Have simple packaging with zero or next to no manual or marketing fluff
7. Align every aspect of the company to the user experience

Comment Re:Its a done deal (Score 1) 367

AT&T would. They've already bought up most of the baby bells that they originally spun off, Cingular, and plenty of others. This spin-off and re-buy happens all the time. Either companies are forced to spin off as part of a merger agreement, or because of poor performance or just to spin-off some debt to make the core business look better. Then when everything has calmed down they snatch the businesses back up.

Comment Re:Should've kept him (Score 1) 301

That's sort of the point of the large exit bonuses. The ex-executives get enough cash to allow them to take a couple of years off, or seek less lucrative employment outside of the industry they were originally in. Then after a couple of years they're usually safe to come back. They also have the option of working for a company that's not a direct competitor or looking for employment with partner companies. It's not like they CAN'T work anywhere without a lawsuit.

Comment Re:Leasing Infrastructure (Score 1) 276

How about this. broadband, tv, phone, electricity, water is all taken care of by the government. no private companies trying to make a profit from them. It's part of our rights as american citizens.

But then you lose all competition. The costs would rise and eventually exceed those charged by the greedy corporations.

Now I'm all for the government building the infrastructure - just so long as they do not actually do the work themselves. Let them contract out - and ensure there is some diversity in handing out the contracts so that competition remains healthy.

With the government (ie, us) owning the infrastructure we can ensure that people will not be stuck with only one provider. The data might all go through the same lines, but different providers would all have an equal footing thereby ensuring that there is no price gouging.

With limits to the amount of infrastructure that can be built this system actually makes sense. It would maximize the amount of competition resulting in both better prices and service. Probably too socialist for most in the US, but it is still a good idea...

In a situation where multiple vendors can share the same infrastructure (e.g. telecom) you might be right about competition. However, when you have infrastructure that can only be reasonably used by a single entity (e.g. power, gas, water, sewage) creating a geographic monopoly then you lose the power of competition. The consumer in that case doesn't have the option of switching to a lower cost competitor or shopping around. An additional problem with corporations holding these local monopolies is the fact that the shareholders are often geographically dispersed and are not themselves receiving services from said company. They have a single stake in the output of the company - profit. Having a local monopoly they can set pricing to what they want without having to worry about losing customers to a lower cost competitor. The only thing that keeps those prices in check is local regulation. It then becomes a battle between the corporation to prove that it needs to raise rates and the regulator needing to prove that it doesn't.
There are also examples of companies reducing output or creating false shortages in order to manipulate regulators and the market and thus prices and profits.
In one example I read the privately held utility divested itself of equipment and facilities and instead purchased power from other companies while market rates were low, however as the divestment occurred and there were fewer facilities producing power and increasing demand, prices increased too. The corporations having already divested themselves of power generating facilities and investors not wanting to invest in new facilities because of fears of market volatility left the corporations with only one option, raise prices. They continued to raise prices until pricing was almost twice the national average. Local government was then forced to step in.
When it comes to services that require local monopolies and/or services that EVERYONE MUST use, we have to find the right balance between corporate ownership and government involvement.

Comment Leasing Infrastructure (Score 5, Interesting) 276

Why can't we do this in a logical organized manner.

1. The government builds out infrastructure
2. The telecoms lease infrastructure
3. Individuals buy service from the telecoms at a regulated rate
4. The regulated rate has enough buffer to subsidize service to those under the poverty line
5. The lease rate has enough buffer to pay for the original build out, maintenance, plus further innovation
6. Innovation money is funneled back into colleges for research into next gen technologies

The build out could be done with contractors through the telecoms, or contracted on a state by state basis giving states control of where and when to build but the federal government own the spec of how to build out so that it remains consistent and interoperable from a interstate trade perspective (i.e. some broadband may be shared over boarders like in the case of St. Louis). The telecoms still get to profit from the infrastructure albeit at a reduced profit due to regulation and people below poverty get the opportunity to take part via subsidy, library, schools, etc.,. You could even due partial regulation where it's regulated up until some minimum standard and anything over that is considered "gold plan" allowing the telecoms to charge higher rates for higher usage.

Comment "... and then any moron can do it." (Score 1) 415

Well yeah, isn't that the point. Isn't the whole concept underlying the internet is that anyone can get on and anyone can contribute. Isn't this shared experience about offering people knowledge, helping them learn a new skill, try things out and possibly contribute what they've learned for other people to use and learn from. Then we as a collective get to rate, tag, comment, sort, and share those bits of knowledge allowing the cream to float to the top and the less useful bits fade into obscurity.

And let's give up on the elitist snobbery thinking that more "advanced" programming languages create a barrier for morons. There are plenty of morons programming in Java, .Net, C, C++ and other languages. Take a look at TheDailyWTF or talk to any programmer in the business and they can point out moron after moron developing absolutely shit products. Just because it's harder to do doesn't stop people. So it's JavaScript, HTML and CSS, big deal. I've found that the biggest reason programmers don't want to switch over isn't because of limitations in the technologies, but because it's outside of their comfort level and they want to stick with [insert favorite programming language here]. Done right, the API can provide hooks into more robust features in the OS and Browser callable from JavaScript. Plus with HTML5, newer improvements in JS, and CSS, plus Canvas we should see a boon in RIAs and widgets built off of just JavaScript, CSS, and HTML.

Comment Re:Just watched the CES Presentation (Score 1) 91

The main draw of the Pre and more specifically the Pixi is simplicity. The UI is simple, uncluttered, and easy to use immediately - no flipping through manuals to find what you need and if you do want to dig deeper the help file and Google are just keystrokes away. The Pixi form factor is familiar to anyone coming from previous Palm or Blackberry devices and familiarity is a big draw. It's also lightweight and the form factor just feels better in your hand than any of the Android phones I've held. These are both great phones for anyone wanting to make the transition to Smart Phone because you don't have to be a geek to figure out how to use all the features. The Pre and the Pixi will succeed in the consumer space for exactly the same reason Apple did with the iPhone. Simple uncomplicated design.

Android really draws in the more technical crowd. This includes people who've already gone through several rounds of Smart Phones and are ready for something different. These people have already dealt with the complicated ins and outs of other smart phones and don't see the extra time spent as a big deal. They typically also don't mind spending a little more for a phone and they're willing to sacrifice form for function. The UI is more powerful than the iPhone and WebOS UI in some respects, but with that comes a certain amount of awkwardness that might put off your average user. I know that when I've tried Android over the last couple of years I've struggled a couple of times where I shouldn't have had to.

Comment Re:No, It's a $1M pool for the top 442 developers (Score 1) 91

1066 apps in the official catalog as of today.
http://www.precentral.net/app-gallery/app-catalog/, http://projectappetite.com

393 apps in the homebrew section.

There's some overlap as things from homebrew eventually go into the official catalog.

The one thing that people forget though is Classic. The Classic app allows you to use the thousands of apps made for PalmOS or your WebOS device.

Comment Re:That works! (Score 3, Insightful) 91

You mean like Google's Android Developer Challenge - http://code.google.com/android/adc/

Apple had a little bit of an advantage with the iPhone since it had been out for almost a year with the iPod, had tons of units already in circulation when they initiated their developer program and don't kid yourself into thinking that Apple doesn't offer it's own incentives with their "partnerships" and such.

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