Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Living in a world-wide web

A local store used to have a card under the glass counter at the cash register that read,"Congratulations!  You have won the distinction of being our very favorite customer.  Your award of 1,000 bison will be delivered to your front door tomorrow morning." 

Thinking of that message helps me get a perspective on modern communications.  It is well-known that teens often love to use computers and cellphones and what-not to do things, see things and communicate.  I believe that older people are slower in large part because they can envision some setup that launches a gift of a herd of buffalo at them.

This morning, I am sitting beside my little electric picture frame that shows memorable pictures and people in a continuous roll.  Meanwhile, I read about Boxee, some sort of software that may be able to show me downloaded tv shows and movies on my computer or tv set.  "Download tv shows" in Google brings up several sites that just(!) want my name and email address and will allow me to download many movies and shows "free".

Meanwhile, Wired has an article on Abilene Christian University where 97% of the faculty have iPhones and a large group of students have been given the phones for free.  To quote the article:
The traditional classroom, where an instructor assigns a textbook, is heading toward obsolescence. Why listen to a single source talk about a printed textbook that will imminently be outdated in a few years? That setting seems stale and hopelessly limited when pitted against the internet, which opens a portal to a live stream of information provided by billions of minds.

Not long ago, I joined the Sunshine Foundation which is trying to get more information from the government online and fully accessible.  From them, I got an email today that the Obama administration is proceeding with its efforts to move further in that direction.  By means of chat, blog and web site, the administration announced today further progress and plans toward greater transparency, participation and collaboration.  I know that Tim O'Reilly and his team have been calling for more public accessibility for quite a while.  They and other computer people have seen the power of properly organized and handled collaboration in the many open source projects.  What got my attention was this statement from the White House:
At, for instance, what started as 47 data sets from a small group of federal agencies has grown into more than 118,000 today – with thousands more ready to be released starting this week.

Keep in mind that a "data set" can be an absolutely enormous set of data. currently has 118,000 sets with many more on the way.

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