An Example of the Power of Twitter

25 August 2010

2010.08.24: During the first day of the Introduction to Computer Science class, I asked the 26 students the following question: How many of you use Twitter?

My question prompted some gentle giggling, but a couple of hands were raised.

I shared with the class about how I’ve been trying to turn students on to Twitter, but that my current grade would be an F-.

I shared with the class that for me the power of Twitter was in whom I followed. I told the class that the first thing I do when I log into my computer is scan my un-read tweets. I pointed out that if the “right” people are followed, then Twitter can be a treasure trove of great stuff.

Student (sitting in row one): Give us an example.
Me (excited): Did I pay you to say that?

The following example was then presented…

On 2010.08.20 at 6:14am @compufoo tweeted:

RT @hrheingold Doug Engelbart & Ted Nelson came to dinner (14 min vid): http://bit.ly/cprNC8

Student (excited): Doug Engelbart?
Me (yet more excited): Yes. Do know about Doug Engelbart?
Student: Yes, he invented the computer mouse.
Me: How do you know that?
Student: I learned it last semester from Peter Martin. Engelbart was his idol.

Back to the tweet…

RT @hrheingold Doug Engelbart & Ted Nelson came to dinner (14 min vid): http://bit.ly/cprNC8

I explain how my tweet was a re-tweet (RT) of a tweet by @hrheingold (i.e. I follow Howard Heingold on Twitter). Howard Heingold lives in Silicon Valley and he’s a visiting lecturer at Stanford and UC-Berkeley; a research fellow at the Institute for the Future; and a guru when it comes to understanding “virtual communities” (and these days “social networking”). Howard Heingold tweets; he is a user of Twitter. In his Twitter biography, Howard says he’s an “online instigator, educator, offline gardener.”

I click on @hrheingold and we see (which at that time was) Heingold’s most recent tweet.

Thank you! @jimmy_wales for great interview on collaboration. Will publish video eventually.

Wow! Look at that… It appears as though Howard Heingold has interviewed Jimmy Wales and he’s going to share the interview with the world. Question to the class: Who is Jimmy Wales? There’s a pause, so I tell the class that if they use the Wikipedia, then they should give thanks to Jimmy Wales. I also point out to the class that they too can follow @jimmy_wales on Twitter.

Back to the tweet…

RT @hrheingold Doug Engelbart & Ted Nelson came to dinner (14 min vid): http://bit.ly/cprNC8

I point out the class that the power of Twitter is significantly amplified by the ability to insert hyperlinks into tweets. Hyperlinks make the web the World Wide Web (WWW) that it is. But well before the WWW (almost 30 years before), one technologist was thinking about hypertext. Question to the class: Whom do think this technologist was?

“It felt like having Newton and Galileo over for dinner,” wrote Howard Heingold on having dinner with Engelbart and Nelson.

At this point, this power of Twitter example is over. With one tweet I was able to introduce Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart to the students in an introductory Computer Science class. In addition, the students were introduced to Howard Heingold and Jimmy Wales.


Doh! It turns out this power of Twitter example isn’t over. On 2010.08.26 (i.e. day two) of class, the following was presented.

Let’s rewind three weeks to a tweet by Mitch Kapor.

2010.08.03 at 2:10pm @mkapor tweeted:

I’m grouchy that so few people (except us old-timers) have even heard of Ted Nelson http://bit.ly/cGbsWC (Wikipedia bio)

Observe… Mitch Kapor hyperlinked into the Wikipedia.

2010:08.03 at 2:11pm @mkapor tweeted:

All of the web is in essence a pale shadow of just one of Ted Nelson’s dreams. Now do I have your attention?

2010.08.03 at 2:15pm @nanofoo in reply to @mkapor:

I’m going to make sure my CS1 students learn a bit about Ted Nelson this fall. They’ll come in knowing Gates & Jobs, but not Nelson.

@nanofoo never got reply from @mkapor, but @rossk did…

2010.08.03 at 2:48pm @rossk in reply to @mkapor:

where should the Nelson-newbie start?

2010.08.03 at 8:07pm@mkapor in reply to @rossk

Read “Computer Lib” by Nelson. Also see the Wired article on him for a dissenting view

Mitch Kapor did not provide his followers with hyperlinks, but here they are…

Computer Lib/Dream Machine (dot-pdf) and Wired.com: The Curse of Xanadu

Ted Nelson

Ted Nelson

Hmm… Who is Mitch Kapor and more…

Advertisements

Who is Howard Schmidt?

24 December 2009

Howard A. Schmidt has been named Cyber-Security Coordinator of the Obama Administration (i.e. Cybersecurity Czar). Schmidt was a cyber-adviser in President George W. Bush’s White House.

The only thing I know about Howard Schmidt is that he is not the father of Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt.

When it comes to computer security I try to listen to Bruce Schneier, Gene Spafford, Phil Zimmermann and Edward Felten; therefore, I am interested in what these computer security gurus have to say about Howard Schmidt. To date (as of 02009.12.24), I haven’t been able to find much, but I did find the following.

From Schneier.com…

Reporters are calling me for reactions and opinions, but I just don’t know. Schmidt is good, but I don’t know if anyone can do well in a job with lots of responsibility but no actual authority. But maybe Obama will imbue the position with authority — I don’t know.

From Spafford via TheCommandLine.net…

Well, to be correct about it, neither Bruce nor I was ever contacted about taking the position or about suggesting anyone to fill it.

I find it beyond amazing that President Obama did not seek out advice from Schneier and Spafford.

Spafford continued via TheCommandLine.net…

This may or may not say something about the search itself. I do not know of anyone with a primarily cyber technology background who was contacted — only people with business and/or military backgrounds. This is another factor that made me believe that the view of this position is skewed in a direction that will limit its effectiveness.

Keyphrases… Schneier: “a job with lots of responsibility but no actual authority.” Spafford: “this position is skewed in a direction that will limit its effectiveness.

Barack Obama himself has been quoted saying that a computer can be morphed into a “weapon of mass disruption.” Catchy words, but I’m not convinced President Obama knows what he’s doing when it comes to cybersecurity.


The power of twitter

4 November 2009

I was reading what some psychologist had to say about Facebook and Twitter and the following quote caught my attention.

“On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it’s also very succinct,” Dr Alloway said. “You don’t have to process that information. Your attention span is being reduced and you’re not engaging your brain and improving nerve connections.” (via news.com.au)

I understand Dr. Alloway to an extent; however, tweets can contain hyperlinks that in turn, if clicked, take us to a constantly growing world wide web of information. In other words, tweets can exploit the power of the hyperlink.

I think of tweets as expanded headlines/titles/subject-lines and the effective use of these communication objects can be a powerful tool.

In a nutshell, for me right now, the power of Twitter is in who I follow.