Category Archives: Social Media

Ranting and Whining – And you call this ‘social?

There was a time, not too long ago when social media was the place to be nice to others, and celebrate the ‘small world’ we live in.

What did we do with that?

A week seldom goes by without seeing humans whining and groaning like 14-year olds, complaining about the most mundane things, broadcasting what most people used to keep private in their petty-little spats, or rambling about the speed bumps we all face each day.

There are a 101 reasons why this is bad for us as a society – overuse of social media, that is. There’s a good summary of Why it’s bad for you here (and you probably intuitively knew most of these already.)

Just because we can screen-shot a conversation or an email, or tell our Instagram followers why someone makes us mad, doesn’t need we have to. I’ve written plenty on ‘Why Web 2.0 ought to make us more human’ but find myself having to call out those who turn this wonderful resource we call social media, into the most advanced anti-social media behavior.



Zak Wilson demos 3-D Printing to my students

IMG_3466Always wanted to introduce a class on 3-D printing in my computer and technology lab.

Tomorrow, our students will have just that, as Zak Wilson, a mechanical engineer who recently spent 8 months on a NASA-sponsored mission, visits Salt River Elementary. He is our keynote speaker and presenter at Mars Day.

Why is 3-D printing suddenly popping up everywhere? Depending whom you ask, you’ll find out that the ‘maker Movement’ is partly responsible. It’s driving young people to rediscover the art and science of building things from scratch. Libraries began hosting these Maker spaces, and organizations began experimenting with ‘printing’ hardware from a bicycle to an engine transmission. The latter by a mechanical engineer, for a Toyota! Not to mention the medical industry, and the space industry.

Which brings us back to NASA. There’s a 3-D printer on the International Space Station. One of the astronauts recently printed a 4 1/2 inch ratchet wrench, out of plastic. Zak, featured here, printed many small items in the Mars dome, and we will find out more about this.

More about the previous Mars Days, here if you are interested.

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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Social Media


Playing to the cameras – Politics as usual

In the swim suit contests for our future president, the conflict of style vs substance is hard to miss.

These debates are, after all political theater, set up by TV networks. Sometimes I wonder if we have the right to even complain that it is such a frivolous affair, and we hardly come away with substance about a candidate.

So this month, in my column, I covered it from the premise that the candidate who really masters the ‘camera angle’ of this theatrical exercise, is the one who could win.

If you watched the incident in Iowa a few months back, when Donald Trump was interrupted by TV journalist Gorge Ramos, from Univision, you’ll know what I mean. The cameras rolled, and as crass and disingenuous as Trump was, he demonstrated camera mastery.

It’s no longer Public Relations 1.0. The groundswell of offline and online conversations is creating new possibilities. It’s possible now to follow real-time commentary in the Twittersphere, On Facebook, Instagram, or via ‘Vine’ while a campaign speech is being delivered. And these short burps of commentary, are fed by what comes to us via the camera soundbite.

 If you want to read more on this it is here.


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Instagram ain’t for everyone, but sadly it’s a mass medium

I’ve been extremely sceptical about Instagram, and not just because of who own’s it, but because of what a pathetic wasteland it was becoming. That was more than a year ago.

This was soon after lawyers were also going after Instagrammers with intellectual property lawsuits (Janet Jackson’s legal issues, for instance). And it was about the time when a bulk of preteens and teenagers began to adopt it as their social bragging network, populated by selfies.

But then I discovered the real Instagammers, those passionate photographers with an eye for detail, who didn’t really need the canned filters that come with the app. People like my niece, Melissa Bocks, for instance who captures the most amazing moments in and around London. When you follow such people, you begin to feel you should not be licensed to even use your camera phone!

I believe that it’s about time Instagram separated the wheat from the chaff, before it becomes just another social network. Take a look at these pictures, and see what I mean.


















London, St. Pancras Square – by Mel Bocks


















Sugar candy vendor, Madampitiya – by Nazly Ahmed

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Posted by on October 28, 2015 in Social Media


So many (scientific) ways to use a GoPro!

If you saw The Martian, you couldn’t miss the GoPro cameras strategically placed where Mark Watney (Matt Damon) hast to talk to other humans who were mostly absent.

It’s not exactly a webcam, but a powerful tool to ‘journal’ an activity a whether it is extreme sport, or something technical. I’ve started off using a GoPro in robotics, and it was quite revealing how the camera sees a manoeuvre.  I am now considering a class about the camera itself.

For this there will be two three cameras at work, in fact. The first, will be a webcam because of the expert I am going to bring in, via Skype. He will demo a GoPro and ‘teach’ us how to turn a GoPro into a scientific inquiry tool.WE will be using one in class as well.

The GoPro on Mars didn’t seem contrived – or a blatant product placement —  since some have actually been used in Space before. In real space, that is, and not on a movie set. And it has also gone to on some breathtaking missions — in a balloon, for instance.

Here’s one of my favorites. What a great way to demonstrate the surface tension of water, by making the camera a part of the experiment, while acting as a journaling device!



The GoPro is obviously switched on, and what’s really smart is how the editor of this video reverses the perspective. We finally see the scientists (the astronauts) through the scientific object (a submerged camera), and the water bubble acts as another distortion lens!

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Posted by on October 13, 2015 in Robotics, Social Media, STEM


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When Distance Learning was a mule-drawn wagon!

I have always been interested in Distance Learning, but as I like to tell young people many of our modern business and education models existed before the Internet.

For instance, about 50 years before eBooks made it possible to have the library accessible from home, we had the ‘mobile’ bicycle-drawn lending library.

But this ‘school on wheels’ known as the Jesup Wagon beats that! It was developed by George Washington Carver, a former slave.

A scientist, better known for the innovation we call ‘crop rotation’ and also peanuts, he loaded a wagon with seeds in this His ‘horse-drawn classroom’ and laboratory. His students were former slaves who had become sharecroppers.

The Movable Classroom program began in 1906. The wagon cost $674.

We could all use this to get some perspective, especially when we think we need fancy technology to connect knowledge with students.


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Selfies, a gift for lazy journalism

Oh please, stop it will you! Newspapers and magazines appear to trot out the staple photograph, the selfie, whenever someone important is being covered.

It’s become old. Self promotion at its worst. Lazy photo-op at best.

What’s the real story of photographing a child running up to someone and taking a selfie? That he/she was brave enough to approach the subject with a phone? Of is it that we are so infatuated with children wielding phones, that it just looks cute – so ‘story’ ain’t important.

I’m all about taking human interest photos, but there’s more to humanizing the photo than a glob of a nose (in the photo itself) or two people staring at a piece of glass.

And it’s not just teenage territory. Grown-ups do it all the time.


It’s become a rite of passage that getting close to a pope or politician is really to grab a selfie, not to have a real conversation. And it’s getting seriously, seriously, boring to hear a story begin on TV or in print that “…It was a selfie seen around the world!” or “Today a selfie taken by (insert subject here) went viral!”

WHILE WE ARE AT IT: could we outlaw the term “went viral” once and for all, now that it’s in the same cliché bucket as “Information superhighway” and “World Wide Web”?

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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Journalism, Media, Social Media


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