HigherEdWEb 2015: A Restrospective (Part 1)


As I sit waiting for the red stapler session (red stapler for best in conference by track) to begin, I am waxing about my experience in Milwaukee part 2.  A conference is mostly about sitting and note taking and learning.

I have sat and I have learned but this has been an especially good year for sitting.  I was fortunate enough to choose 3 best of track sessions to view and now am sitting and waiting to hear a forth.


Sessions have been strong.  The sessions by Josh Palmeri, Peter Anglea, and Amy Grace Wells stand out to me as real value for my time.

I learned long ago in attending conferences to find 1 thing that you can take with you back home.  If you are paying attention and I find that most people are you will find many things to take back home.  But, take 1 thing to implement before the conference next year.   I am not sure what my 1 thing is but I have some strong candidates.

Also good was the food and the host city of Milwaukee.  Milwaukee is mostly likely not a primary destination for tourists traveling America but Milwaukee holds up as a host city rather well.  I slept good, I ate good, and as I prepare to return home I feel good about my time here in Milwaukee.

Scott Stratten is later this morning and I can hardly wait.   I am certain he will be a Canadian delight as before.

A Bad Cup of Tea

I drink hot tea.  I drink it with milk and sweetener and for the taste but mostly for caffeine and liquid.  I prefer a breakfast blend.   Other blends do not suit me but it’s ok.  Earl Gray suited Captain Picard but is not my cup of tea.

In the same way Bill Nye is not my blend.  I found him arrogant, distasteful, cranky, and mean.  Science for children is important and Mr. Nye’s contributions to American school children are great.  He taught and inspired a generation of school children to learn, grow, and explore.

He however came to HighEdWeb with an agenda and hatred in his heart for those who disagree with him.  As a scientist I would think he welcome other viewpoints and opinions.  Anyway he was mean and cranky and not worth my time.  In fact I walked out of his talk feeling persecuted. In the future I suggest a less politically polarizing figure be chosen for the keynote.

That’s all for now.  Larry is improving and I need to listen.

Searching the horizon for a new better social network

sailboatDo I see a new network right now? Well no. So let’s start by heading back in time to 2008.

A different social media age

I logged in yesterday to Friendfeed. It had been a while. Friendfeed is still up and some still log in. Friendfeed of course had its hay day back in 2008. I was an active user, an active blogger and unofficial proponent of the Facebook killer life streaming social network that was rolling out enhancements so fast that Facebook could not help but to buy the site for the development team. So here we are in 2014 and all of the good features that made it so innovative have long ago been gobbled up by the behemoth that is Facebook.

Early Adoption is dead

The web culture is has invaded every part of daily lives as every start-up wishes to combine the non-digital with the digital life. It’s not a bad thing as we refill prescriptions on the web, we make appointments, pay bills, shop for media, shop for groceries, shop for cars, and simply do life digitally (mobile or otherwise).

As a self declared early adopter I was early to gmail, early to FriendFeed, early to many, many other web apps that have since gone away. But because of this digital culture everyone is into social media. Grandparents and great grandparents are on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They share, they re-tweet, and consume the same over abundance of content that the rest of us do.

More and more this web culture means that people aren’t afraid to register for a new service and give the new site a try. It seems to be a badge of honor for the young.   Instead of saying, ‘hey did you check out this movie last weekend?”  They say, “hey have you tried that new app?” or “there’s a great new web site you should check out.”  The digital life is an integral part of pop culture and more simply put a part of a real modern life.

A tidal wave of data

Back during the age of FriendFeed one subject that was often discussed was cutting through the noise. FriendFeed, in my opinion, attempted to remedy the problems of the deluge of data by integrating search, implementing a smart news feed, assisting in content discovery and displaying real-time results and updates from outside sources.

Here we are in 2014 and this is still a problem. Facebook, as I mentioned, long ago has implemented these FriendFeed strategies and expounded upon them. But the problem remains. How do we cut through not just a fire hose of data but a 100 foot tidal wave? It’s a tidal wave that contains lots of garbage and we want the treasure, the good that is masked and hidden in the sea of unimportant.

So despite the overwhelming money and might of Facebook and the popularity of twitter a noise problem remains that still only seems to be getting worse.  I have a real life friend who has over 1500 Facebook friends.   Every week I follow a new Twitter account.  How do we cull?  How do we see in this data abyss?

Generation young

There are many examples already in this relatively short digital age of the power of the 13 year old. And the teenager will lead them. And the tween is right behind.  The sphere of influence of the next generation must never be overlooked.  They only know digital life.

Friendster, myspace, and Snapchat to name a few are examples of apps and services that begin with a mostly younger audience. The inroads to Facebook’s market share and beginnings of a new network’s adoption start with young people and I believe end with innovation.

A new hope

The hope for my ideal social network would balance crazy fast innovation across OS and device with a cult like grassroots following by the 13-34 demo. The new network would then dodge the billion dollar valuations from Google and Facebook and then take market share like breaths of air.

The new one would integrate voice, text, and video and take input from the other big 3. The algorithm to rule them all would cut the noise as a hot knife through buzzfeed butter.

The product would be simple for those that want simple but complex and precise for those that demand it.

Great content, important content would float like a buoy to the top of the cluttered content sea. Content discovery would also be important too as we are shown what we need before we know we need it.

Digital Seafaring

So as I peer out in the digital sea, I see no ship on the horizon but that’s ok. Our digital lives are consuming. The waves are getting higher and I am ready for a lifeboat.

I certainly will not be the first to spot it but I will know when it arrives. In the meantime I will dream of FriendFeed.

HighEdWeb 2013

Hi, I’m Franklin and I am a web professional.  Here I am emerging from the blogging darkness.   It’s been too long old friend.  I am here in Buffalo this week for High Ed Web, a niche conference for Higher Education web people.   This is my forth High Ed Web (in a row).

Conferences for my web team are primarily about educational value.  We return with ideas, trends, frameworks, and features.   It has often been said to take back that one thing, the one takeaway, from the conference that we want to implement.  We try to bring back a list and isolate that one thing.

But overall conference life is a blur.  6 sessions a day plus keynotes and poster sessions and late nights make for a packed few days.

Our keynote speaker for 2013 was the Woz, Steve Wozniak co-founder of Apple.   He was great and the attendees seemed to hang on his every word.

It’s Tuesday morning and I have to get to a session.  Buffalo brought me back to this blog.

Am I dinosaur? I use Firefox!

I saw several blog post tonight discussing the continual decline of Internet Explorer. IE finally dropped under 50% for the month of September. (Techcrunch)(Mashable)

Just under 50% use IE the most non-compliant insecure browser available. But largely that group does not know better or has no choice. You know the folks who refer to their desktop IE icon as “the Internet.”  The ones who call you, their tech savvy friend or relative, and say, “I started up my computer and the Internet was gone.”  Someone call the FBI and put out a “Red Alert”: the Internet is missing.

In late 2010 I cannot imagine using IE6. As a web developer IE causes more day to day problems than I can count.  I do not code for IE6.  IE7 and IE8 are headaches in their own right.  I spent this summer in the redesign of a website and 99% of the compatibility problems where related to IE.

But, my primary browser is still Firefox.   Yes I know Chrome is fast.  Yes I know Chrome has addons.   Yes I know Chrome is closing on all the other browsers like a freight train.  It’s latest percentage share finds it at 11.54%.

Firefox simply has the set of addons I require on a day to day basis.  Firebug (not Firebug Lite)(DL) is still Firefox only.  I can not function on a daily basis without it.   Tab Mix Plus another add-on allows me to control tab behavior and how links open up.  I have used it for years.  I must have it.

So, I am early adopter no more but a relic, a fossil limping along in Firefox.  But for now functionality is king.

By the way if someone finds “the Internet” let me know.