Dan et cetera

Catching signals that sound in the dark

"If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
-Antoine de St.-Exupery

I must not fear
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

-Frank Herbert (Dune) via @jerrycolonna

Facebook v. Twitter

Facebook’s big IPO numbers have got the chattering classes opining these days about all things Zuck.  Yet, at this moment of triumph, there are questions as to whether or not his social-networking juggernaut has reached the high-water mark of its mighty ambitions.  Many first adopters are now beginning to opt out of Facebook in favor of Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and other alternatives.  Some feel that Facebook has overstepped privacy boundaries, and the just-launched “Timeline” feature does nothing to assuage these concerns.  A recent report by Global Web Index (GWI) finds that while Facebook continues to grow across all platforms it seems to have reached a saturation point in most of its markets, especially those in the developed world. Additionally, a trend is emerging that shows the rise of “Facebook fatigue” in the US.  A number of GWI studies find social networking activity among Americans such as messaging friends, searching for new contacts, and joining a group have all fallen over 10% since July 2009.  None of this necessarily spells doom and gloom for Facebook, but it is interesting to see how there may be a point at which this type of social network becomes more a of a curse than a blessing.  An article from the Guardian notes that “Facebook’s usage is undergoing a split” with younger, more engaged users increasing their activity, and older users become more reluctant and careful.  Matthew Ingraham writes in Gigaom.com that he has “heard from a number of websites and services — and from sources within Facebook itself — that many users don’t want to connect their Facebook profiles to their behavior on other websites.”   The main complaints other than privacy are the complexity of the site’s interface and a rise in advertising presence.  

Twitter, despite it’s 140 character limit, actually seems more substantial and is often a better platform for online tastemakers to share their thoughts and opinions, likes and dislikes.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter uses an asymmetrical model: people can follow you without you having to follow them back.  This means that information can be shared, more freely with less commitment, and as a result people are using their Twitter handle as their public persona as opposed to the more symmetrical email address or Facebook page.   As the events in the Arab world this past spring illustrated so perfectly, Twitter is also a drastically new source of breaking news.  Mark Suster says that it is not only news, but data that’s coming out of the Twittersphere: “Twitter is becoming the most interesting and predictive dataset in the world…Every large company (and many small ones) will consume the Twitter stream in order to gain insights, determine actions to take, and gain competitive advantage.”

All that being said, financially-speaking Facebook is still around 30 times bigger than Twitter and continues to have a tremendous impact on the world.The two platforms are different yet there are similarities that make them inherently competitive in the online social sphere. Twitter is a much more versatile platform, but with  845 billion users, it is hard to picture Facebook drifting into irrelevance anytime soon.  However, 425 million of these users access the social network via mobile devices, posing a dilemma to what Wired Magazine calls “the last great company of the desktop age.”  Facebook has yet to advertise on its mobile platform which remains a challenge the company must contend with if it hopes to increase its revenue above the current $4.4 per user and live up to its immense valuation.   Twitter is behind in terms of both revenue per user and total number of users, and may face even a more difficult challenge in terms of monetization.  But Twitter asks less of its users than Facebook, is more elegantly designed, less of a time sink, and remains untainted by privacy issues.   While the proverbial “What I had for lunch” tweet is still out there, people are coming to the realization that the true value of Twitter lies in its link sharing functions.  Thus, it is ultimately ideas that take center stage on Twitter and the directness of the tweeting experience contrasts sharply with Facebook’s more onerous user interface.  To a certain degree it is an apples to oranges comparison, both social networks have their respective strengths and weaknesses,  but in the long run, I would put my money on David (Twitter) to beat Goliath(Facebook).  

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
-Ann Lamott via @brainpicker

Where does education go from here?

As Joseph Schumpeter famously said, “Capitalism is creative destruction.”  Gazing out at the current economic landscape, riddled with the dead, dying, and wounded business casualties of the internet age, one could have few doubts as to the prescience of the famous  Austrian economist.   Yet it isn’t just the Blockbusters and the Borders of the world that are staring down the barrel of technology’s gun, the sacred cow of education is also, to some degree, in the firing line.  

No need to be alarmed.  We are living in an informational golden age which is only in its infancy. Yet, it is precisely this tremendous abundance of information that has allowed us to question our previously held assumptions about education.  Rising tuition costs come at precisely the same time as the price of information is declining,  and the ivy-clad walls of the campus are longer the barriers they once were.  

Stanford, MIT, and other prestigious universities now have online classes with students numbering in the tens of thousands.  Openculture.com has 400-plus university level courses available on their site on topics from ancient Greece to theoretical physics, all taught by some of the country’s best minds.  Khan Academy is opening up new horizons for students of all ages, from elementary to post-graduate and beyond.  Started by former hedge-funder Salman Khan, the site provides free access to its more than 2700 short tutorials and is making a big splash, particularly in the world of elementary education.  Last November, the Los Altos school district in California decided to use Khan Academy as a classroom tool and the results have been impressive.  The Los Altos teachers were surprised—almost flabbergasted—by how powerfully the rewards motivated their students.  

Skillshare is another company doing great things to change the learning landscape, taking people who aren’t necessarily educational professionals and letting them share their expertise in a classroom format.  It’s opening up new horizons for those who have the knowledge, but lack a sufficiently large platform for sharing that information with others.  Skillshare is what happens when social media enables new, more powerful, far-reaching, and effective analog experiences.  

The “what” not only the “how” of education is changing as well. Codecademy is building an increasingly large following of people who want to learn to code but don’t know where to start.  A great user interface and easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions have led to over 364,000 sign-ups for their Code Year program.  Knowing how to code is an increasingly important asset for those in the job market where companies are being acquired for the sole-purpose of gaining a code-savvy workforce.  According to Jason Calacanis, companies are now being valued based on the number of code-savvy employees on their payroll, each of whom are valued at about $500,000 to $1 million.  Coding is also coming to be seen not as an optional skill, but rather  as a necessary piece of any thinking person’s cognitive toolkit.  Author and filmmaker Douglas Rushkoff analogizes coding to literacy in his new book Program or Be Programmed:

 

When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but   how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. And as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them. 

 

Education remains as important as ever, but traditional educators are quickly losing their grip on the “means of production.”  People are eager to learn and they are simply finding new ways of producing and consuming knowledge  The internet is the ultimate facilitator of this quiet revolution that has only just begun.  


brycedotvc:

Top Funding Sources For Startups:

1. Personal Savings
2. Credit Cards
3. Friends and Family
4. Banks
5. VCs

Interesting to note that less than 20% of the fastest growing companies in the US were VC backed. 

A great reminder that the traditional venture capital product is not for everyone. Nor is it a predictor of future success.  

fastcompany:

Which startups will rule 2012?
Venture capitalists, corporations, private-equity firms, and more poured billions into private companies this year—a huge boon for titans like Facebook and Groupon. Here, the best of the rest starting 2012 with supersize bankrolls.

fastcompany:

Which startups will rule 2012?

Venture capitalists, corporations, private-equity firms, and more poured billions into private companies this year—a huge boon for titans like Facebook and Groupon. Here, the best of the rest starting 2012 with supersize bankrolls.

jtotheizzoe:

Isaac Asimov on Creativity in Education & The Future of Science

Isaac Asimov was born on January 2, 1920 (maybe). To celebrate his birthday, here he is talking to Bill Moyers in a rare 1988 interview that details the need to reintroduce creativity to science education, and in which he foresees the future we live in today, and why science was and will be the key to our success as a culture.

“Science does not purvey absolute truth, science is a mechanism. It’s a way of trying to improve your knowledge of nature, it’s a system for testing your thoughts against the universe and seeing whether they match.”

True then, true today, true forever. For the whole interview, click the link below.

(via Brain Pickings)

gjmueller:

Students Want Social Media in Schools

In its Policy Priorities report, Can Social Media and School Policies be “Friends,” ASCD provides a state-of-the union on social media use in schools. How  administrators and educators deal with federal regulations, defining  what’s legal, parsing out school responsibilities and weighing them  against the benefits of using social media to engage and communicate  with students are all addressed in this useful guide. MindShift’s Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites is also in the lineup.

gjmueller:

Students Want Social Media in Schools

In its Policy Priorities report, Can Social Media and School Policies be “Friends,” ASCD provides a state-of-the union on social media use in schools. How administrators and educators deal with federal regulations, defining what’s legal, parsing out school responsibilities and weighing them against the benefits of using social media to engage and communicate with students are all addressed in this useful guide. MindShift’s Dispelling Myths About Blocked Sites is also in the lineup.