The Risk of a Personalized Web and the RSS Solution

This morning, I watched an excellent TED talk posted by the Inter-tech Education blog about how personalization of the web can block us from different ideas and sources of information. This type of thing is already happening on Facebook and Google, without us knowing about it. The presenter makes a call, to the big companies already doing this, for more transparency and control for users. I believe that what he calls the possible “web of one” is a bad thing that will separate us all rather than having the internet bring us together across the globe. I do not like the idea of personalization without my explicit input or authorization. One example of transparent personalization is the iPad reading app Zite, which allows readers to give a thumbs up or down to articles. Then the app tries to learn what types of articles you would like to read. This is no different, but the reader is a conscious participant. There are many other tools out there using this type of model.

I think another solution to this is RSS technology. With the death of Google Reader, we have had plenty of replacement services, Feedly being my choice. RSS gives you total control over what you subscribe to and what you read – no filters.

Do you think RSS fits in to this conversation? Do you see it as a viable solution for the masses? Do you care that Google and Facebook are personalizing your experience without telling you?

Watch the TED talk below. It is definitely worth your 8 minutes.

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Must Reads #education Edition: Search Operators, Twitter Insights, Ed Tech Guide and More

What were the best, most fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring things I read or watched this week? Some will be about technology, photography, or education. Some will not. Catch up on things you missed. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and share alike…here’s the Must Read list:

 

Tech

How To Make Good Use Of Google’s Search Operators

I thought I was an experienced Google Search users until I read this. Target your searches in a simple way by adding these search operators to your searches. Useful for teachers and students.

The Popularity of Your Tweets Can Be Predicted

Interesting read about the importance of your connections on Twitter, who reads, and who retweets.

The Only Hashtag Guide You’ll Ever Need

Excellent, comprehensive guide to Twitter hastags.

Grow Your Twitter Network With a Spiffed Up Profile

Great advice for teachers getting started with Twitter or for students.

Education and Ed Tech

A snapshot of Google’s uphill battle getting Android into schools

A quick, interesting read.

Hack Education Ed Tech Guide

An awesome ed tech resource in the making. The site has different sections depending on your stake in ed tech and is still being updated with not ideas and resources. Keep this one in your back pocket.

Allow Your Teachers to Teach—Before They Leave

Inspiring teachers to do what we do best, and inspiring administrators to let us do it.

Navigating the Rough Waters of Teaching

Another inspirational post (I do not like overusing the word, but it fits).

And finally, here is what happens when spammers slack off…

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See more of my Must Reads.

Must Reads #media Edition: Generosity, Fake Reality Shows, Silly Dogs, Banana History, and Soldier Photos

What were the best, most fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring things I read or watched this week? Some will be about technology, photography, or education. Some will not. Catch up on things you missed. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and share alike…here’s the Must Read list:

 

Pay It (‘it’ being donuts) Forward

This is just a feel-good story of 55 donut customers paying for other people’s food…

Fake Reality Show – Long Island Landscapers

Hilarious trailer for a fake reality show by NY PBS station. There are a whole series of these.

Silly German Shepherd Bouncing Around Trying to Catch Shadow

Very funny and cute – title says it all.

The surprisingly interesting history of edible bananas

Interesting background about the genetics of the bananas we eat.

Here Are Your Odds of Dying from the Most Common Causes of Death

A striking visual showing causes of death. Also a great example of the power of simple infographics.

Satirical Versions of Corporate Logos

Soldier in Afghanistan photographs comrades using Civil-war era technique

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See more of my Must Reads.

Must Reads #longreads Edition: War on Fire Ants, A Band on the Road, the Birth of Pixar Theory, and Phony Bomb Detection

What were the best, most fascinating, exciting, puzzling, or inspiring things I read or watched this week? Some will be about technology, photography, or education. Some will not. Catch up on some things you missed. Maybe I dug up a few obscure gems that are totally new to you. Check out the brief ones now and save the more lengthy ones for later. Share and share alike…here’s the Must Read list:

 

Ants Go Marching

by Justin Nobel on Nautilus

Fascinating exploration of fire ant colonies, how they have spread through the American South, and the impact of intense efforts by people to destroy them.

On Tour

by Claire L Evans on Aeon Magazine

“Life on the road with a rock band: memories blur, cities blend. Only in the frenzy of performance does the world pause.”

A worthy read for musicians and music fans. Insights into life on the road for your average touring band, making a living in rock clubs around the US.

The Pixar Theory

by John Negroni via Mashable

The author has developed an elaborate theory involving all Pixar films, where the characters exist in a the same universe, but at different times, and are part of one large narrative and theme. A thought-provoking read for fans of the animated movie company.

In Iraq, the Bomb-Detecting Device That Didn’t Work, Except to Make Money

By  on Bloomberg Business Week

This piece details the history of fake bomb detection devices and the swindlers who continued selling these devices around the world for decades. I was incredulous reading about the simplicity of the con and how so many different people fell for the scam. It is actually rather frightening when you think about it…

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See more of my Must Reads.

10 Instagram Accounts to Follow

Photo by chriswalts CC license

In the past few months I have become a more active Instagram user, finally seeing the value in the service. It is very different and separate from my DSLR photography, which is still a slower, often more thoughtful and technical process. Instagram is more like snapping Polaroids to capture interesting, casual moments, and instantly sharing them. You know how people take photos with their phone or point and shoot camera and immediately walk up to you wanting to show you the picture? Instagram allows us to post those moments instantly and tap into that urge to share, all while feeling really cool. I stayed away from the service thinking that all it was were pictures of drinks, pets, fashion, food, and selfies. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of that going on (even some of my own). But there is a lot of beautiful things going on in hidden corners and not so hidden corners of the Instagram world. And despite the spontaneous nature of instaphotography, there are photographers practicing thoughtful composition and clever concepts. I like to try to follow people who only post photos from there phone, part of the fun is viewing and creating images that look like they were taken with professional equipment, using only your phone and mobile post processing.

Here is my list of favorite accounts to follow:

@uncornered_market is my absolute favorite Instagram account. This couple have been on the road, traveling the world, for years. They post stunning photos of the places they visit, as they visit them. A source for daily inspiration.

@bkindler is a pilot in Europe who posts pretty landscape photos from his plane that will open your mind to a bird’s eye view of the world.

@samhorine is a NYC photographer who posts awesome iPhone pictures capturing the pulse of the city.

@japhetweeks and @sollsken share crisp images from life in Egypt. They do not post frequently, but when they do, you will be glad you are following.

@vagfrag shares awesome iPhone street photography from Greece.

@swopes posts some really fun, hip, colorful images from Chicago.

@payphones is a really fun concept. This account posts hip, colorful pictures of payphones around the world.

@dguttenfelder is a photojournalist for the AP in Asia who posts photos from his iPhone showing the texture of life in North Korea and other countries.

@nasagoddard posts awesome photos from the NASA archives. You do not have to be a space geek to appreciate the science and won display in this account.