Landing : Athabascau University


  • One thing that bothers me a bit about TBL's stance is that such clustering will occur no matter how open and distributed the network - it's built into the very nature of the web that he designed. Subreddits are functionally equivalent to websites...
  • TBL is rightfully indignant and concerned about the fact that “what was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms.” The Web, according to Berners-Lee, is at...
    • Thank you for sharing the article, Jon.

      I agree on your points on Facebook.  Though I still use Facebook, it is more of a observational standpoint now.  It is interesting to see the developments of news and opinions through the lens of Facebook.  For example, I find it interesting how certain population of my friends on Facebook have specific viewpoints that strongly go against other segments of my friends (i.e. left vs. right wing political viewpoints).  There doesn't seem to be any middle ground for the most part; you are either on one side or the other.  Moderates are drowned out.  Its the formation of social media bubbles.

      I find Reddit running into this issue now too, as people seem to only congregate into their favourite subreddits.  Subreddits are like specific factions now in a sense, as sometimes these subreddits 'brigade' other subreddits.  There is more polarization, too.

      Interesting times we are in.



      Viet Nguyen March 14, 2018 - 1:19am

    • One thing that bothers me a bit about TBL's stance is that such clustering will occur no matter how open and distributed the network - it's built into the very nature of the web that he designed. Subreddits are functionally equivalent to websites or, for that matter, newsgroups of old in that regard. When we get to choose what we see and who we interact with, echo chambers are inevitable. Nothing new here apart from scale and the length of the long tail.

      Filter bubbles, on the other hand, are far from inevitable. Where I think he is right to be worried is that the perspective you see on Facebook and, in principle, might see via Google, depending on the degree of 'personalization' (I greatly dislike use of the term to mean something done to somebody rather than by somebody) you let it get away with, is determined not by individuals but by secret algorithms. This means that, especially in the case of Facebook (that knows and ruthlessly exploits the value of polarization in driving engagement) your view of what your 'friends' are saying is not necessarily determined by the natural spread of opinion among them but by the system's deliberate manipulation of what you see which, thanks to FB's largely repulsive algorithms, represents a tiny fraction of the whole.

      One part of the answer might lie in making those algorithms scrutable. This opens up a can of worms inasmuch as it makes it easier for evil-doers to exploit them but, much as open source can be more secure than closed source because people can spot and fix the bugs (only works when there is much ongoing active development), it would certainly encourage the perpetrators to tread more carefully. Another part lies in making them not just scrutable but personalizable (in the true sense of the word). Unfortunately, as Judy Kay (and I, for that matter, in a slightly different way) found a decade or two ago, the chances of people even understanding the effects of changes to weightings, let alone actually applying them, are slim. Most will simply accept defaults. The more you force it on them, the more sophisticated the filtering you enable, the less usable (and used) the system will be. There is almost certainly at least a partial answer to this problem - it's a design problem that can in principle be solved by a sufficiently inventive technology  - but I've yet to find it.

      Another part of the solution - which speaks more to echo chambers than filter bubbles - lies in culture and literacy. It is natural to be drawn to others that share interests or other commonalities with you, and for those that are not part of your sets to be considered as other, with all the bad things that entails. Escaping these traps means making an active decision to do so. If we, as individuals, put greater value on diversity - for instance, we actively seek things that conflict with our views, that are not in our comfort zones, that are not among our self-decided interests, that are randomly chosen, or serendipitous - and try to understand them, then there's a much better chance that the world will become a better place. One of the big reasons that Canada is a better place to live than most others in the world is that, as a culture, we celebrate and embrace such diversity. The same can and should be true of our online lives.

      Jon Dron March 14, 2018 - 1:00pm

  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark JavaScript Is Eating The World in the group COMP 266 March 6, 2018 - 10:49am
    Good points, Louise, thanks - I was certainly being unfair on C#, though I still think it is a redundant and pointless (and largely pointerless!) language that was more a result of marketing than genuine need. I guess the big thing I like about...
  • This is brilliant - how common algorithms work, presented in the form of IKEA-style assembly instructions. No screwdriver needed.
    • This is actually the best way to explain algorithms. I was thinking about it this week. I was wondering why don’t text books include as much models and figures or these kind of drawings to explain a problem solving method. I do find images helpful to understand a new concept, maybe because I learn this way better than reading boring paragraphs.

      Zakaria Bakkal February 21, 2018 - 3:15am

  • Jon Dron bookmarked Facebook has a Big Tobacco Problem February 18, 2018 - 12:08pm
    A perceptive article listing some of Facebook's evils and suggesting an analogy between the tactics used by Big Tobacco and those used by the company. I think there are a few significant differences. Big Tobacco is not one company bent on profit no...
  • A small pilot study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn, but this is an interesting and novel use of video games to help schizophrenic patients to control their hallucinations without drugs. The technique actually has almost nothing to do with the...
  • The end of Facebook couldn't come soon enough, but we've been reading headlines not unlike this for around a decade, yet still its malignant tumour in the lungs of the Web grows, sucking the air out of all good things. Despite losses in the youth...
    • The best we can do is offering and promoting alternatives. It's not easy and it's time consuming, but it's rewarding and for a good cause.

      Viorel Tabara February 14, 2018 - 11:31pm

  • I don't know about you, but I am getting increasingly bothered about the vast numbers of dubious permissions, unwanted tracking ads, and risky bits of software available via Google's App Store. F-Droid is a fully open source replacement for the...
  • Jon Dron commented on the file How education works: a technological perspective January 11, 2018 - 12:53pm
    Thanks Gerald. Alas, it was 2am in the morning (actually 2:20- things were running late) and I forgot to press the Record button! There's a link on slides 21 and 22 to a paper that explains most of that - it's an older paper and my thoughts have...
  • Jon Dron uploaded the file How education works: a technological perspective January 11, 2018 - 12:15pm
    Slides from my keynote for Confluence-2018:8th International Conference on Cloud Computing, Data Science & Engineering in Uttar Pradesh today (I was delivering this online from Vancouver, at 2am this morning, so am feeling a bit the worse for...
    • Jon,

      Thanks for sharing this slides. Do you also have an audio recording, by any chance?

      I was particulary intrigued by the soft vs hard technologies and pedagogy as technology.



      Gerald Ardito January 11, 2018 - 12:30pm

    • Thanks Gerald. Alas, it was 2am in the morning (actually 2:20- things were running late) and I forgot to press the Record button!

      There's a link on slides 21 and 22 to a paper that explains most of that - it's an older paper and my thoughts have evolved a little since then, but it gives the general gist (nb. despite appearances to the contrary on the website, it is not in Italian!).

      Jon Dron January 11, 2018 - 12:53pm

    • Jon,

      I understand. I did a presentation for some folks in Europe once at 3am my time. It was quite challenging to have a productive day thereafter.

      Thanks for the paper. I look forward to reading it.

      On a separate note, I just finished The Systems Bible. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Gerald Ardito January 11, 2018 - 12:56pm

  • At least in Ontario, it seems that there are about as many women as men taking STEM programs at undergraduate level. This represents a smaller percentage of women taking STEM subjects overall because there are way more women entering university in...
    • Jon,

      This post is very timely (at least for me).

      I have been feeling the same as you report in your field. I began teaching adults (way back when) because I was incredibly curious and inspired about learning (and still am). That curiosity led me to teaching adolescents and that led me to my current career as a teacher educator.

      But like you, I see the whole enterprise as being an inherently cross disciplinary one. I am not only a teacher of teachers. I am a learner and have broad (and even some deep) interests. 

      I wholeheartendly agree with this:

      We don't need disciplines any more, especially not in a technology field. We need connections. We don't need to change our image. We need to change our reality. I'm finding that to be quite a difficult challenge right now.


      Gerald Ardito January 4, 2018 - 5:40am

  • Jon Dron bookmarked terra0 - a forest that will one day buy itself December 19, 2017 - 10:58am
    I love this art project - a forest that owns itself and that makes money on its own behalf, eventually with no human control or ownership. From the blurb... "The Project emerged from research in the fields of crypto governance, smart contracts,...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked Oh, shit, git! in the group Programming & Problem Solving December 18, 2017 - 8:41pm
    One for programmers and others, such as writers and scholars, using Git, which is (arguably, but IMHO) the best distributed and collaborative version control system available right now. This is a brief (nb. very brief) set of common (nb. very...
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire December 12, 2017 - 11:49am
    Update: the Landing will be offline tonight between approx. 8:30pm and 10:30pm, Mountain Time.
  • Jon Dron posted to the wire December 11, 2017 - 11:11am
    Reminder: the Landing will be offline 8:00pm Dec 12 - 2:00am Dec 13 (Mountain Time) while it is moved to a new virtual server
  • Jon Dron commented on the blog Strategies for successful learning at AU December 3, 2017 - 10:37pm
    Thanks Viet! My suggestions just scratch the surface.  COMP602 is quite different from COMP266, for which I originally wrote this, but there are nonetheless consistent concerns that the courses share. Those central issues of motivation -...
  • Jon Dron commented on a bookmark A Universe Explodes: A Blockchain Book, from Editions At Play December 3, 2017 - 12:33pm
    I don't think blockchain will be useful in tracking as such - quite the opposite. Even the evil Erudition Digital approach relies on different mechanisms to perform its dirtier deeds. The big idea is that it makes it possible to wrap up other tools...
  • Jon Dron bookmarked DADA - social networking through drawing December 2, 2017 - 1:53pm
    DADA is a social network where communication occurs through drawings. Conversations turn into collaborative artworks. It's wonderful.
  • Martin Rees (UK Astronomer Royal) takes on complexity and emergence. This is essentially a primer on why complex systems - as he says, accounting for 99% of what's interesting about the world - are not susceptible to reductionist science despite...
  • A really nice project from the Editions at Play team at Google, in which blockchain is used both to limit supply to a digital book (only 100 copies made) and, as the book is passed on, to make it 'age,' in the sense that each reader must remove two...
    • Your perspective on blockchains is very interesting, in particular the distributed nature of the digital tech.  I am wondering how crypto-washing of money and information will affect bandwidth and the actual environment where the network energy is being exploited? How can blockchains efficiently (CPU) track open e-book versions and associated layered information (i.e., annotations)? Would an open DNA/GPS content tagging standard be more efficient on the network?

      PS. Blockchain crypto-stratedgy seems like a game of trivial pursuit on implosion, while the actual world is exploding.

      Steve Swettenham December 3, 2017 - 3:31am

    • I don't think blockchain will be useful in tracking as such - quite the opposite. Even the evil Erudition Digital approach relies on different mechanisms to perform its dirtier deeds. The big idea is that it makes it possible to wrap up other tools and standards (including those to implement intentional decay) fairly robustly without requiring a central server or authority, without (necessarily) disrupting the traditional economics of publication, including the rights of buyers to resell, gift, or mutilate their purchases.

      In my scenario, blockchain doesn't have to eat power to quite the extent that it does in Bitcoin because it is only used to manage a single, indivisible (transferable) resource a finite - and usually low - number of times. A book is not like a currency: there is no profit to be made for end users from mining new books. At a wild guess, I suspect that the environmental impact would be significantly lower than that of traditional books, averaged out over time, once you factor in transportation and storage costs as well as the more obvious embodied energy costs of deforestation and production. It might even be not much higher (and possibly lower) than the current centralized approach, which still consumes quite a bit of bandwidth, storage, and processing power, not to mention sustaining armies of managers of such systems, with all the associated costs involved.

      And yes, ideally, books would all be open and we could use tools (that already exist in most ebook standards) to add glosses or whatever metadata we liked. Right now, a 'purchase' of a DRM-encumbered ebook is no more than a provisional rental, with the added burden that sellers can arbitrarily choose to disable our access to it at any time as, most famously, Amazon did to readers of 1984. Combined with the ability of publishers to impose a range of conditions on how long we can read it, where we read it, on what device we read it, and so on, not to mention their creepy ability to track what, how, when, and where we read, it's a raw deal for consumers. In return we get very little: mainly, the potential to receive updates and, what a blockchain-based approach would give us for free, the ability to annotate and share annotations. All of this is available from DRM-free works such as those published by Tor or O'Reilly, (or, for that matter AU Press) that are thriving without such ugliness, so the added constraints are the result of pure greed, not business necessity. That said, in the near future, it is unlikely that we are going to stop most publishers from jealously protecting their wares with DRM (though it could happen: the music industry has, with reluctance and huge caveats, mostly reversed course on that). Although it would, if done well, prevent them from exploiting the technologies in new ways to make even more money, using blockchain with DRM and a decay mechanism would still allow publishers to make money the same way that they have always done, and for people to actually own the books they buy.

      Jon Dron December 3, 2017 - 12:33pm

Load More