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Category Archives: Social Media

The Chatbots are coming! The Chatbots are coming!

You are not imagining. Suddenly there is a lot of talk about these things called Chatbots.

And, um, what exactly is a Chatbot? It’s probably not what you might imagine at first. It’s not an App that you use to talk to someone – thought that evolution might just happen. A Chatbot is a virtual information assistant that uses artificial intelligence to provide answers you may ask of it. Yes, like SIRI, but better.

A Chatbot may predict what you are looking for (say weather in Colombo, as opposed to weather in San Francisco), and provide you with some insight it gleans from past interactions with you.

Amazon and Microsoft have been early out of the gate with these AI assistants. Amazon, for instance has Alexa, and is used with the Amazon Echo speaker. It’s basically a piece of hardware you talk to (as opposed to an App like SIRI). And it this networked speaker provides you with things such as sports scores, places you are looking up such as restaurants etc.

What’s the big deal about Chatbots?

Let me answer this from the perspective of my book (conveniently titled) Chat Republic. The big deal is that we humans fully immersed in a Web 2.0 world are moving towards having deeper, richer, and dare-I-say commercially-infused conversations. For whatever reason, we sometimes prefer technology over humans (which is why we are often politely asked to text someone not call!), so the market is giving us what we show preference to.

Artificial Intelligence has developed to the point that it can deliver information that was once curated, created or thought through by humans. Oddly enough, some Chatbots do have humans working behind the scenes! I’m not against Chatbots. They have a role to play, after all.

Side note: Many moons ago, before smart phones (c. 1998), I used a phone-based service to find movie times, demographic information and such. That data was saved on servers we now call the ‘Cloud’, and that database has evolved into AI.

Supreme irony: Chatbots do the work once done by humans. Humans also do the work done by Chatbots.

 

 
 

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Creating an eBook from a PDF – Cool tool!

I am testing a book creation tool called YouBlisher. The goal is to learn how it works so I could teach my students next year how to ‘publish’ in more ways than one! Test it out and let me know what you think.

Click on the icon to view a digital book that lets you flip pages. Then read below the pros and cons:

eBook Experiment - YouBlisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s good about Youblisher:

  1. It’s free, so I don’t have to download any software.
  2. The content has to be created on a local computer, and not on the provider’s website.
  3. You need to convert your document into a PDF to upload it. Which means you create your book as a Microsoft Word doc, or Publisher. Alternatively, you could create a photo book using Photoshop or Powerpoint. As long as you save it as a PDF.
  4. The pages flip like a professional ebook.
  5. YouBlisher gives you a link to embed (which is not what I did here – I just linked an image of the cover, back to the site.) They also give you a Facebook embed code.

What I wish was possible:

  • A way to download the entire ebook, and save it on any device
  • A custom URL would be terrific! Right now it’s www.youblisher.com/p/1391665-Full-STEAM-Ahead. But hey!
  • I wish the links within the content worked. There may be a way to fix this…

Note: The content for this eBook was culled from several posts on this blog. It took me just 20 minutes.

 

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No magic eraser on the Internet. UC Davis learns the hard way

There’s a corollary to that old saw, “On the Internet, information lives forever,” and it’s this: “There’s no such thing as a magic eraser.”

But that doesn’t stop people from trying. Like this case of University of California, Davis and the ‘image scrubbing’ scandal. There are still companies offering services to clean up bad information by some dubious SEO work. But most experts say this isn’t possible. Search engines crawl, index and place information in so many places it’s not possible to delete a bad story once it gets out. Especially something has covered by the media, shared, and posted to several media channels. UC Davis reportedly paid two PR firms $175,000 for this magic eraser.

Is this a good thing that we cannot turn back the clock? It has given rise to a privacy right case known as the ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ right that the European Union fled against Google in 2012. It states that : “Individuals have the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them.” A good Fact Sheet is available here. There’s a longer discussion in Stanford Law Review, here.

I feel sorry for US Davis, because the story they tried to bury has given rise to hundreds more – giving the original piece that much more links. SEO companies often advice as much: Instead of trying to delete a story try to generate enough good information that will push down (not take down) the bad.

Oddly enough, while Google has complied, it accidentally revealed data about these requests.

Which brings me to social media literacy and privacy. We ought to be telling young people the ramifications of over sharing, being in pictures –group shots or selfies –that they might regret later.

 

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Those social media users you hardly know

Let’s be honest. We have no clue how people (other than our closed circle of friends) use social media.

This important study is not just how social media changes people — pretty obvious in many cases. It is about how society changes social media.It was done after a 15 months study by nine anthropologists, each of whom spent that time living in communities in China, Brazil, Turkey, Chile, India, England, Italy and Trinidad.

Daniel Miller, (a prof at Univ College London) one of the researchers/authors, sums it up this way: While social media companies decide (and probably control) how users will interface with their platform, users find new ways to use the service, leaving companies to play catch-up. “They repurpose their digital worlds” transforming the social medium.

The book studied people as diverse as Kurdish users, Moslems, Chinese, Indians and more. It’s available as a book and as a free PDF. I found it interesting how Chinese users of the social platform QQ (similar to Google+) sort and evaluate friends. Or that mine workers in Chile would use WhatsApp, but are concerned that it could breed jealousy!

it is the first in a series of studies by the anthropologists. I can’t wait for the next installments.

 

 

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Earth to Scott Kelly: Welcome home!

Watching Scott Kelly, and his ongoing work on the International Space Station for the past year has been like following a live-action science-and-technology class.

Many of the NASA-related activities in our school this past year (talking with an engineer at JPL, and the crew of a Mars mission simulation etc) have directly or indirectly addressed to the big question “What will it be like to live on Mars?” Astro-twins Scott and Mark Kelly, have become the human faces of astronomy, aerospace, and space exploration.

Students keep asking questions such as:

What kind of ‘work’ do engineers and astronauts do, besides floating around doing ‘space gardening’ and 3D mapping? Some amazing work is described here. We watched some incredible views taken by GoPro cameras aboard the ISS, including one involving inserting the GoPro into a water bubble.

On the fun side, I’ve even used Scott’s Time Magazine cover photo to teach a class on Photoshop (replacing Kelly with a 6th grade teacher who’s got a similar look.)

Here’s hoping we see more of Kelly brothers, and get to hear from Scott. Perhaps in a future Mars Day!

He should be back on earth tonight – NASA says touchdown is scheduled for 11:27 pm Eastern Time. As he put it in 140 characters before he left the ISS, “the journey isn’t over.”

 

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At Digital Learning Day 2016 – Chris Cardinal on Creativity and Online Safety

Chris Cardinal, co-founder of software development shop in Tempe, Arizona spoke to our 5th graders today about Apps – more specifically about how to convert a good idea into a productive (or profitable) application.

He showed us the progression from back-of-a-napkin sketch, to a wire-frame, to what the software looks like. He also drove home the point that one needs to get into this as early as possible. Chris broke into software by figuring out how to write HTML. Today, things are not so complicated, he said, because there are plenty of places to learn how to program, and design apps.

Speaking of design, he pointed out how ‘designers’ are often young kids with creativity problem-solving skills. “Look at how things work, and figure out how you could make it better, or solve some problem,” he urged.

ChrisC

We also asked him questions about safe digital practices, and he urged students to be aware of the dangers of sharing pictures and personal information online. Just because the website or software asks for it, there’s no reason to provide that information, he said.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Social Media

 
 
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