Sakai and OpenSocial (via OLDaily)

Via OLDaily comes this piece about developers at Cambridge building a new interface for Sakai based on Google’s OpenSocial API. This is good because Sakai utterly sucks at the UI level and the observation about it being written by and for hard core Java developers (who love architecture) with no space for innovation by others is completely accurate. It’s a very long-standing complaint of mine.

Adventures in customer service: Air Canada

Comcast gets mad props for finding and following up on my post about their local office, which is both fixing the door and fixing the signs.

Air Canada gets my ire today with numerical error codes when trying to buy a flight. You have to call them to find out what the error means. Rapidly running out of patience, especially when I’m trying to give them a pretty sizable chunk of cash.


Update: Comcast emailed me for details, followed up with my local office and got the signs and door fixed!

Saying something negative about Comcast is hardly news, but stopping by my local office provided two examples that struck me as emblematic. There was a sign on the door telling people not to slam it. However, the problem was that simply letting go of the door made it slam. This means that the problem is not the responsibility of customers, but rather very simply that their door needs fixing. However, the sign made it their customers’ fault. Then there was a sign telling people off for using their cell phone while in line. While no-one’s excusing the potential rudeness of conducting a call while also conducting business, and it can certainly be annoying, the sign framed the problem in just the wrong way.

Simply a matter in both cases of striking precisely the wrong tone.

Euro 2008

Guess I’m not alone in finding Tommy Smyth’s commentary on ESPN completely infuriating. I cannot bear to hear him talk about “bulging the old onion bag.” Meanwhile Andy Gray is showing the depth and sophistication of his experience. I can’t help thinking that ESPN thought they were hiring the different Tommy Smith, since on the face of it, the one they have is completely unqualified to comment.

Today was a beautiful day in Blacksburg

If you’ve never been to Blacksburg in the spring, you should.

We are Virginia Tech

Yards from million-dollar research enterprises, the grass is a deep, exuberant green, and I walked past a noisy stream on my way back home, past cows and horses grazing in rolling fields, birds yelling at each other rudely from tree to tree. I looked on rolling hills, not quite the downs of my youth, but reminiscent enough. The grass has been growing vigorously for the past few weeks, doing its best before the summer heat slows it down.

The sun shone in a sky with a few small clouds to break up the boredom and the wind was strong. It was a day and a time to not stop walking, when you didn’t want to, even when the wind blew a little harder than you really wished it would.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. WE are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

I took a bus to the meeting. I was the only one on it as there was another just in front. We passed perhaps fifty TV trucks. Everywhere I looked there were cameras. I was dropped off at the coliseum, which was full and closed, so I joined the line to get in the stadium. We waited, held up until the president was delivered to the building. I saw some people in Scientology t-shirts, but didn’t have enough in me to be angry at them.

We are Virginia Tech

I looked at the different news cameras, wondering where they were from, with their sticker slogans on their trucks, and wondered where they would be tomorrow, or next week.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

And then I found my way to wherever we felt was best. I sat in the bleachers looking straight down the fifty yard line, satisfying my inner symmetry. Many were sitting on the field. More were in the stands. Some found a lonely spot high, high in the stands. Some were in the executive boxes with nothing to see. Most sat quietly.

We waited.

We are Virginia Tech

We watched the big screen at one end. At first there was no sound, none except a groan that swept across the crowd when the silence began, and then it slowly came, and was barely audible. It was never great, but it didn’t need to be that good.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

During the president’s speech, some people silently turned their backs. I wanted Nikki Giovanni to talk about children in Iraq, or Sudan, but she has more class than I do, and her silence, the not mentioning, was louder to me than anything. She could have. I knew it. I think everyone knew it, perhaps even the people in the front row.

We are Virginia Tech

Sitting in the stadium, we were part of it, but we were not. Watching on a TV screen. You know more about it all than I do. I haven’t watched TV in months. I know as much as anyone with an internet connection. But I was there. I hardly spoke to anyone, but I was there. A witness. A statement.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

There is something intangible that connects us across continents, whether our mutual love for an institution, or a place, or people. We don’t all feel this loss the same way, but our fear during those moments, waiting for a phone call, is shared. We know. We’ve looked down that path, seen where it leads, and felt the relief of not taking the first step.

We are the Hokies

I waited all through for someone to say this. To say, that we are each other’s keeper. We share something, and we are stronger for it. We belong to each other and every word we say, every moment of compassion or kindness, counts. They matter.

It was the relief of being reminded of our shared strength. We are not to be spectators watching the performances of politicians. We must embrace and commit to support each other in a thousand small daily kindnesses.

We will prevail, we will prevail, we will prevail

We have a voice, and we shared it. We shouted it, because this is our grief, our loss. In the stadium, we started our own chant. After the polite applause inside the coliseum they had theirs.

We are Virginia Tech

And we left, when we were ready. And I walked home across parking lots, besides green fields with cows and horses and birds and squirrels and streams.

And on the way, cars stopped to let me cross.

It’s a start.

Conference presentation

I had an opportunity to present at this Digitial Government conference last week. Here’s the session information. I think the presentation itself should be online soon. It was loosely based around this JISC document on Web 2.0.

Given the audience, I was quite nervous, but I think it went off well. There ended up only being two of us on the panel (the third member was sick), so we each used more time, which I was grateful for (I can get a bit chatty). A number of questions were directed at my topic, which I presume indicated interest.

“Dear Sophina” in the classroom

A week or so ago, I read the strange tale of neighbors and noise. In a lovely application, an english teacher (who surely deserves some kind of acknowledgment for creativity) had his students read and respond in a couple of different ways, recording their performances, and putting their content on a wiki.


Read about it in Ironic Sans: “Dear Sophina” — An amazing follow-up to “The Astoria Notes”.


Alan creates a meme: Linktribution. Actually, I was thinking about this concept today, because I was searching for some code I wrote some years ago, and found it reproduced in a number of places online. That’s fine and dandy with me since it typically has my contact information in it (umm….outdated however).

Whenever people attribute things to me in e-mail (on Blackboard lists for example), I can pretty much guarantee that they’ll get my name wrong. Most people do…..”Todd”, “Davis”, “Carter”, “Tod Carter”….I have finally learned to let it go, and forgive people for not hearing it right when I say it either. I have to twist my mouth to approximate an american accent when spelling it out.

I’ve been working on some things I don’t want to talk about yet, but there’s a light I’m beginning to see at the end of the tunnel, and no, it’s not a train.

Oh, and I want to follow up on the Creative Commons thing. Forget Creative Commons, most people I encounter haven’t heard of blogging…sigh.