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Facebook: pay to promote your wall updates

One of the main concerns that has been expressed regarding the recent Facebook IPO is whether or not it can monetise its massive user base properly. As Rushkoff (I think) has said, all of us who are on Facebook are its product, not its users. Our personal data is number crunched and requalified as advertising targets.

If you want to see this in action, just try changing your gender, or your age, your location or other data, and see the ads change.

There is a new feature on Facebook now that enables you to promote your posts ( all details and pics taken from here).

So - in the example given. You take any post and say how much you want to spend
facebook promote page
All promoted posts will show in the news feeds of the people who like your Page and, when they interact with the post, to their friends. These posts will be labeled as "Sponsored" in the news feed. Promoted posts will not be shown in the right-hand column of Facebook.

facebook promote post
Your promoted posts will be seen by a larger percentage of the people who like your Page than would normally see it. It will also be seen by a larger percentage of the friends of people who interact with your post.

So – I guess this means that if you liked a page once, and never went back there (as happens), then instead of no longer showing up (as your feed is more likely to show those you regularly interact with) it will suddenly pop up. Also, it will be pushed to more of your friends.

It's not for everyone, you need to have at least 400 likes on your page, and it's limited to posts that you have done in the last three days. But the money is am "lifetime budget" so I guess if you pay a lot of money upfront it can keep running for a long time.

Just like with regular ads and sponsored stories, promoted posts will be reviewed by our Facebook Ads Team, but generally they should start running as soon as they're created.

I suppose this means that they do an automatic check for inappropriate content.

What does this mean? Well, just like all media we are going to have to get used to tuning out the advertisements, though these updates will look at first glance just like a normal one. By the time you have checked for the ‘Sponsored’ tag, you will have taken in much of the content. I doubt that Facebook will give you the option to not have any of these sponsored posts. One response could be to unlike the page, which may happen in some cases but most people will probably just live with it.

Over time, the interleaving of your personal posts and friends' posts with sponsored posts will highlight the commercial nature of Facebook, and therefore tend to make people more likely to leave to another service if they have the options.

Remote control, children, and television

I often hear parents telling me that television is a good way for their children (infants, toddlers) to educate themselves. I usually shudder inwardly and then tell them about this research that shows how too much television for infants is likely to cause short attention spans and possibly also slow learning of language, etc. (By the way he specifically mentions ‘Baby Einstein' DVDs as being a bad idea; also note that Disney had to *remove* claims that Baby Einstein was educational and offer refunds after legal action was brought against them in the USA.) One of the main problems is that the editing of TV programmes is so snappy, with new scenes every 10 seconds or less. We have not had television for a few years now, and when I do see television, I start to get annoyed at the way in which everything moves so quickly.

One of the reasons for this is the need to keep people interested, and to stop them zapping onto another channel if they are not stimulated in the next 15 seconds. So, imagine a world without the remote control - it's an interesting way to think of the effects of technology on our lives.

The inventor of the remote control just passed away, and he could reasonably claim to have been a major contributor to the current short attention span-friendly TV programming, with his invention of, as his patent application put it "a system to regulate the receiver operation without requiring the observer to leave the normal viewing position" (Rosen)

On the other hand, and in a good example of the need to avoid plain technodeterminism (i.e. the argument that technologies cause social change), it is instructive that one of the selling points of the ‘Flash-Matic' was its ability to "tune out annoying commercials" (by reducing the volume, Rosen), and the ability to avoid advertisements is still a motivating factor for most TV viewers.

Toddlers want control, they need it. Which is why they keep saying ‘No'. It's an important part of how they develop a sense of their own individuality in the world. So it doesn't surprise me that they (apparently) pick up the use of a remote very quickly, and one research reported that
One subject, three-year-old Jimmy, was incapable of articulate conversation and could neither recognize numbers nor tell time, but he "had mastered the basics of RCD use." He "primarily used the RCD to change channels on the TV in order to watch his favorite programs," and when told the time, clever Jimmy "knows if his program should be airing." (Rosen)

Frankly, I can't help thinking that if poor Jimmy hadn't been given free reign of the remote he might have learnt more words, numbers, and the time. Let's hope that he eventually managed to learn to read.

Mobile phone supply lines in Egypt

I got this picture from the BBC, and it interested me because it made me think of the practicality, the logistics of organising protests.

For any military campaign to succeed, communications and supply lines are vital. In this case, the communications are probably more important, as the individual protestors will get their own food and water.

Imagine if you are a protestor. It's no fun, and it's scary. Your mobile phone must be a real source of comfort and support, and you get information that may warn you of attacks, and boost morale when Mubarak shows signs of conceding. And they are crucial in coordinating actions. Though of course it has to be noted that when the government shut down (or severely limited) mobile phone networks and the internet, they continued all the same. It is a testimony to their commitment and fortitude, and I wish them all the best.


The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum.
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.

Computational thinking and the digital natives.


The 'digital natives' argument is that people who were born in world of omnipresent computing and internet (let's say born 1990 or later) will be able to intuitively understand computers in a way that 'digital immigrants' like me, who remember writing essays by hand at university, and writing snail mail letters to friend, cannnot.

However, it's my observation that the majority of the 'digital natives' just take computing and the internet for granted, and know little about what goes on behind the interface they are able to use. This says something good about the GUI design paradigm, but also means that perhaps innovation is not happening as much as it could be.

When my son goes to school, I would like him to be taught about computers in the same manner as learning to write and do sums. This is apparently the idea promulgated by Jeanette Wing
The term computational thinking (CT) was coined by Jeannette Wing (2006) to describe a set of thinking patterns that involve systematically and efficiently processing information and tasks. CT involves defining, understanding, and solving problems; reasoning at multiple levels of abstraction; understanding and applying automation; and understanding the dimensions of scale. While the concept has emerged from computer science, students can engage in CT with or without a computer. CT draws on a rich legacy of studies of human cognition, such as systems thinking, problem solving, and design thinking.(The ITEST Small Group on Computational Thinking)

I think this means that computers are designed according to a basic logic, and by teaching that logic one can enable people to engage with computers as reconfigurable technology, not black boxes which only do what they've been sold to you as doing.

It's about empowering the next generation to take technology in a direction that integrates it on an individual level in ways that are given direction by persons, and not by corporations and governments.

So - for example - children could be given their own version of the One Laptop Per Child, a sturdy piece of hardware, with an open source basic platform, and taught how to write their own programs into it. Imagine - they could write programs that help them to learn to read, or do maths.

What do you think?


The 15-minute blog post.
I like to blog, but I can't afford to spend a lot of time on it. Solution: limit myself to 15 minutes per post.
One link, one picture maximum.
All comments, critiques and corrections are welcome. Thank you.

My favourite podcasts

I love listening to podcasts - they are a great way to use some of that downtime in an interesting way - when you're driving, walking the dogs, cooking, and so on... I can listen to my favourite programmes whenever I want, pause them, rewind, turn up the volume (great for people like me with hearing problems), etc.

If you're wondering how to get podcasts, the first thing to know is that You don't need an iPod to listen to podcasts! (obvious to those of you who know, but not obvious to all). A podcast is just an mp3 file that you can download and listen to on any mp3 player, your phone (if it plays mp3 files), or on your computer, and some home stereo systems. If you have the proper equipment, and your mp3 player supports it, you can also transmit from an mp3 player to a car radio.

If you do have an iPod, then it can connect seamlessly with iTunes to update automatically when you connect it to your computer. But, you don't need an iPod to use iTunes - I like iTunes as it does really useful things like organising all my sound files in neat folders for me. It also makes subscribing to podcasts very easy.

When you subscribe to a podcast, this means that you tell iTunes (or other software too I suppose, but I never used another) to check online regularly and download the latest podcast. Most sites that offer podcasts also have a 'One click subscribe to iTunes' button which makes life easy.

Here are some of my recommended podcasts:

On Point with Tom Ashbrook: a daily phone in talk show from NPR (public radio) in America. Invites knowledgeable guests and covers a range of subjects. A bit America-focused, but generally interesting, and I've learnt a lot about America too, since I've started listening to it.

BBC World Service has many, including:
From Our Own Correspondent: BBC's foreign correspondents do random stories that are not necessarily breaking news. Great snippets and insights into all parts of the world. My long term favourite.
Interview : half-hour interviews with interesting people - politicians, business leaders, activists, celebrities...
Crossing Continents: "On the ground reporting from around the world which focuses on the human dimension of the big international stories."

Examples of other choices are:
World Book Club ; One Planet; Newsweek (Cantonese); World Business News

Radio 4
Thinking Allowed: Laurie Taylor usually has the author(s) of books on history, and social sciences, and host analytical conversations about the world we live in.
In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg : "The history of ideas discussed by Melvyn Bragg and guests including Philosophy, science, literature, religion and the influence these ideas have on us today."
Woman's Hour: News, Politics, Culture : Sometimes interesting daily programme on 'Women's issues'. I listen to it mostly for tips on bringing up children, but it also discusses other issues related to women - legal issues, art, whatever...

• Tech/Geek stuff
Digital Planet: Weekly BBC techie podcast, with the latest on gadgets, and the effects of technology on society.
The Digital Edge: local Malaysian weekly discussion on all things techie, geeky and related industry matters; hosted by @johnlim.
This Week in Asia: Weekly Singaporean-based Singapore/Malaysia based techie discussion with a regional focus (thanks @Cerventus for the clarification); similar to The Digital Edge.
Digital Campus: More or less bi-weekly. Based in George Mason University, academics discuss issues related to Digital Humanities - with a particular focus on history, libraries and museums.
Supernova Hub: regular high calibre discussions with leading academics, business people and technology experts - you can learn a lot here!
Yi-Tan Weekly Technology Call: this came highly recommended, but has yet to live up to expectations I'm afraid. The site is a bit messy, but if you want to subscribe via iTunes, click here.
TED Talks: also highly recommended, but all online streaming video as far as I can see. TED means 'Technology, Education, Design', and there are regular top speakers (e.g. Tim Berners-Lee) who impart wisdom in relatively short talks.

• Finally, The Teaching Company has many great lecture series with proper academics teaching everything from "Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition" (I actually understood quantum physics for a while!), through a "History of Ancient Rome", "History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon", to the "Roots of Human Behavior". They're not free, but if you're lucky you may find someone with a copy to share.

New camera - Canon PowerShot G10

After getting my camera stolen a couple of months ago, I have finally got a camera again and feel like a real blogger again! 8-)

It was weird going to a blogmeet without a camera, and I would find myself reaching for my belt but grabbing thin air...

I'm no expert in cameras, but I liked my previous one (PowerShot S80) because it had quite a lot of manual options which means you can control the aperture and shutter speed; in particular, what I really liked was that the LCD screen would give you a preview of the picture with slower shutter, etc. So even an ignoramus like me could occasionally do some nice night shots and the like.

I don't want a dSLR, although they do good pictures I find them too much hassle to carry round - so although they have got pretty cheap, I was still looking for a 'prosumer' compact. After reading DPReview I found out that my best choices were either the Canon PowerShot G10, or the Lumix LX3; and ShaolinTiger confirmed this, with some extra useful information, as well as prices in Malaysia.

The general consensus is that they are both pretty good, although DPReview recommended the LX3 in the end
"If you want more SLR like controls and a longer zoom - and don't mind the bulk - go for the Canon G10. Me personally? By that point I'm using an SLR. For a carry anywhere 'walk around' camera I'd go for the LX3 every time" (DPReview)

I went and had a look at them: in Low Yat the LX3 was going for RM1550 (but a lot of places were 'stock finish already'), and the G10 was 1750 (cash prices). The G10 is definitely bulky, and the LX3 much more portable, but in the end I went for the G10 anyway because:
• It still has that 'preview' function when using the manual mode
• The lens cap is an automatic close-by-itself one, the LX3 is one that you have to take off and hold it or something (and then lose it)
• There's a three year guarantee on the current promotion, and I had good experience with the Canon service centre here before

So, here are a few photos - first, Lucky looking completely unimpressed with my new camera...
unimpressed bored dog

Gambit, however, is practising his best profile
happy dog posing
(why do dogs get 'green eye' and not 'red eye' with the flash??)

and this is a random shot of some pastis :-)
pastis in a homer simpson glass