Monthly Archives: April 2010

University of Michigan Informatics Graduation Remarks

Update: I watched Barack Obama’s University of Michigan Commencement address today (Saturday) at the football stadium and really liked his remarks. I was glad the weather held off to allow his speech to be given.

I was honored to give a few short remarks to our University of Michigan Undergraduate Informatics graduation ceremony Friday morning. Here is the text of my remarks.

Every graduation is an important transition. Every graduation is an ending and a beginning. I remember as I was working on my own Master’s Degree and it seemed like it would never end. I took to humming a few bars ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ to myself each morning to motivate me and keep me focused on the end-goal of my education. But graduation of course is not the end.

It is the end of being a student and the beginning of being an alumnus. It is the ending of an undergraduate education and perhaps the beginning of a wonderful graduate education. It may be the ending of going to class and the beginning of going to work For a lot of students, it means taking out a loan and driving a brand new car for the first time in their life. Graduation is the end of taking out student loans and the beginning of paying back your student loans.

All of that ‘ending and beginning stuff’ applies to pretty much any generic graduation. This particular graduation is is not just any graduation – it is a very special graduation – the first of its kind. You are the first graduating class of Informatics concentrators at the University of Michigan! Now you might ask, ‘exactly why is that so special?’ I will tell you why I think that this moment is very special.

I believe that Informatics at the University of Michigan is a live and ongoing experiment that will ultimately redefine how higher education thinks of an undergraduate liberal arts education for the 21st century.

When a small group of faculty from Engineering, School of Information, Math and Statistics got together back in 2006 to dare to imagine the Informatics program, the founding principle was that this was to be an interdisciplinary program from its very core. A program that focused on giving students the breadth of a traditional liberal arts education and the skill depth needed to be a leader and an agent of change for their workplace and ultimately for society in the next century.

The recent and current economic situation is just one more tremor as the world economy moves in fits and starts like grinding tectonic plates from a manufacturing to a knowledge economy. The transition will not be easy nor will it be quick, nor will it will be smooth. No longer do you leave the University with your diploma and plop down in a job and stay the same organization for the next 40 years and then retire to a cottage up north.

If our world economy and the organizations in that economy are to survive, we need leaders who both understand the present and can anticipate a quite different future and pick the best path from here to there. Leaders who understand social science and social computing. Leaders who understand ethics and choices as well as statistics, technology, data mining and cloud computing. In a sense, the best leaders are the ones who pretty much know a good bit about everything and know how it all is connected together.

The Informatics program that we have developed and that you have experienced is designed to produce students who are both ‘well-rounded’ and ‘technically-skilled’. You graduates not only hold in your hands the hopes and dreams of your parents and friends as you move forward into a successful life, but also the hopes and dreams of the Informatics program itself. We have a grand vision that you have the right blend of skills and knowledge to make a positive impact on society going forward. And while your numbers seem initially small, we will be graduating lots more Informatics students to join you and help make the positive changes in society that we expect from you.

I hope that we have also taught you to think critically about everything and question everything. Not in a harsh or negative way – but always searching for opportunities for positive change. I hope that we have taught you that everyone in the crowd has a valuable contribution to make to our collective wisdom. This reminds me of a little speech I give to high school students when we are trying to recruit them to come to Michigan. It is a little late now since you are already here, but it still applies. I borrow my favorite line from the University of Michigan fight song. I think that the Michigan fight song is unique in that among the lyrics about “victors”, “heros”, and “champions” it has a line that to me speaks about about academics, philosophy, and approach – in a sense the ‘Michigan way’. That line I like from the fight song is, “the leaders and the best”. It is not just about winning and crushing opponents on the athletic field – it is about leading and being the best.

I hope none of you have seen the inside of the University of Michigan Hospital except as a visitor – but on the wall is one of my favorite UM posters. It is a picture of an open-heart surgery patient with a big scar down the center of her chest and below her are the simple words, “the leaders and the best” – that kind of sums it up for me.

What I tell incoming students and what I am telling you now is that the Michigan way – the way of being a leader and the best is not an ultimate goal – it is not the end-state. It is how you approach every moment – right when you are in that moment. You had to have been a leader and the best in high school just to make it to Michigan. While you are a student here at Michigan we don’t want you to just listen and furiously take notes from the sage on the stage – we want you to be part of us, contribute to us, be a a leader and the best as a member of our learning community that is Michigan. And now as you move on to the next phase of your life, we know you are prepared to continue to be a leader and the best in whatever you do going forward.

As I close, I would like to thank the students, their parents, and families for being part of our Informatics program. First, I want to thank the parents and family for producing students who are bright, inquisitive, intelligent, and ready to throw themselves wholeheartedly into ‘what ever is next’. I want to thank our students who are the ones who make the effort we put into this program all worth while. You have brought your energy and creativity to what we do. You became Informatics concentrators knowing that you were the pioneers and that there might be a few rough edges as we worked all the details out. And most of all I want to thank you as you pitched in and helped us work out those details for the next generations of Informatics students.

Even though next week you will be graduates, we still want to hear from you going forward. And we want you to come back and tell us how well you are doing and how we can improve and do a better job educating the next generation of Informatics graduates. And we will also try to make sure that whenever you come back, we always have a jar of free Starburst waiting for you.

Thank you.

A Student View on Blackboard, Sakai, and Moodle – Logan Rosen from Staples High School

I would like to recommend that you read Logan Rosen’s article that compares Blackboard, Sakai, and Moodle and describes his experiences with each product and his suggestion as to which product would be best for his high school:

Here are a few quotes from the article which I liked:

…Although Moodle and Sakai are free in a sense, most schools would opt instead for the all-inclusive hosting options provided by third-party companies, and which range from not-so-costly to very costly. I looked into what a hosting and support package would look like for Sakai. One of its providers, The Longsight Group, offers a solution which would cost approximately $12,500 per year.

… Since it is similar to Blackboard, Sakai doesn’t have much of a learning curve. This would reduce training costs. … The features that Sakai offers, such as a global calendar for all classes and better private messaging, give it an advantage over Blackboard and other systems.

I think that in just about 150 words – Logan captures the essence of the Sakai 2 value proposition. By the way, Logan is a sophomore at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut.

I think that Logan’s review points out something that we as the developer community often miss as we look at what we need to add and what we need to fix and how we never have the time to do what we dream of for the product.

From the point of view of teachers and students Sakai 2 is excellent software – quite mature and with a great commercial ecology around it because we have been around for a while.

Thanks to Ed Mansouri of for the pointer to Logan’s article.

P.S. Logan, I know it is a little early but we really like students with your kind of vision at University of Michigan – :)

My Latest Foray into PHP and SOAP with IMS LTI 1.0

Note: I am completely not a WSDL/SOAP expert here – do if some expert reads this and tells me that I missed the point completely – I would very much appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

I started playing with trying to send some Full LTI SOAP messages back and forth between a PHP server and a PHP client. I got pretty close pretty quickly but got stuck on the same thing that got me stuck back in 2007 when I tried to build a PHP harness for TI 1.0 – the problem is in WSDL that looks like this:

 <wsdl:message name="registerToolRequest">
     <wsdl:part name="Parameters" element="tns:registerToolRequest"/>
     <wsdl:part name="HeaderInfoParameters" 

And then:

     <soap11:body use="literal" parts="Parameters"/>
     <soap11:header message="tns:registerToolRequest" part="HeaderInfoParameters" 
             use="literal" wsdl:required="true"/>

If you look on the web, it is very rare when you see a wsdl:message with more than one wsdl:part within it – as a matter of fact, other than IMS WSDL, I could find no other examples of multiple uses of wsdl:part within a wsdl:message.

I hoped that it was simply prohibited :). I looked at the WDSL spec at:

And was disappointed to see:

   <element ref="wsdl:part" minOccurs="0" maxOccurs="unbounded"/>

And it clearly allows many parts, schema-wise. The search continues.

Then I started looking at the WS-I Basic Profile aimed at scoping WSDL/SOAP down in the name of interoperability:

And while it did not flatly prohibit multiple parts in a message it did have a few recommendations around parts, messages, and literal encoding, in particular:

R2210 If a document-literal binding in a DESCRIPTION does not specify the parts attribute on a soapbind:body element, the corresponding abstract wsdl:message MUST define zero or one wsdl:parts.

R2301 The order of the elements in the soap:body of a MESSAGE MUST be the same as that of the wsdl:parts in the wsdl:message that describes it.

Neither seemed to prohibit multiple wsdl:part items – but it made me a little nervous – where there is smoke, there might be fire.

In all my testing of PHP, it really wanted to send the two parameters as two parameters and then the server would freak out as its view of the WSDL was that there was one parameter – as a matter of fact, if you asked PHP the proper signature for the RegisterTool – it showed this:

registerToolResponse registerTool(registerToolRequest $Parameters)

So then I went looking for how PHP folks make WSDL and happened across this tool:

I never ran this tool, but while examining the file SoapService.php, it seemed like it did allow for situations where there were multiple wsdl:part entries for a wsdl:message – but looking closer, it did *not* use “literal” in its soap:body.

Given that the best practice document seemed so nervous about “literal”, I decided to give encoded a try. So I changed the WSDL to be:

     <soap11:body use="encoded" namespace="urn:xmethods-delayed-quotes" 

And poof! Everything worked. My client calls passed in two parameters and two parameters happily arrived in my server with all the right shapes and sizes. Now my PHP SoapClient thinks this is the registerTool signature:

registerToolResponse registerTool(registerToolRequest $Parameters, 
      imsx_RequestHeaderInfo.Type $HeaderInfoParameters)

I don’t fully know what this means – but it is a starting point to investigate more.

Book Review: Plone 3 for Education by Erik Rose

Content Management Systems like Plone are very powerful tools for building web sites for various purposes ranging from a campus web presence to a web site for a course. While content management systems give us great power and a lot of fun extensibility, it takes a little skill before one starts to “think content”.

Most of us (myself included) when faced with making some new web thing we immediately think of hacking up some HTML or PHP in a file and throwing a few tables in a database. Instinctively we know that there must be a better way given that most of the web stuff we build are some variation on a bit of content, optional attachments, some metadata, a search capability, and some user interface and navigation bits. All too often we will decide to give a content management system a try, download it, get it up and running and then stare at it and think, “what do I do now?”. You know that your newly installed Plone can do what you want it to do, but all of your instincts, training, and experience lead you in the completely wrong direction.

This is where you really need a personal visit from Erik Rose from the Penn State WebLion team. He needs to come to your office and sit next to you for about a week and he needs to coach you in the “ways of Plone in Education Applications”. By the end of the week, you will start to “think Plone” and have some “Plone instincts” and have an inkling of the right way to go about solving the problem using Plone. Now if Erik were willing to come to all of our offices for a week, that might be a good solution for us, but since there are so many of us that need his help, it might be a little stressful for Erik. And it might be a bit expensive for you, paying Erik travel, expenses, and consulting for a week.

Erik’s book, Plone 3 for Education, is the next best thing to having Erik come for a week and coach you. Buy the book and read it from cover to cover before you even start to configure your Plone 3 instance. Your first goal is to get the lay of the landscape of Plone, the choices you will need to make, and the approaches you should take in solving a new problem. Think of Erik as your “Plone Coach”.

The book is a series of solutions to common problems, but does not stop at simply getting something installed and working. You also need to learn about secondary issues around the choices you are making as you configure, extend, and add content to your system. The book talks about more subtle details about each of the choices you make including: (1) which version of a plugin to install, (2) how to make designs that convert nicely from one version to another, (3) how to make Plone scale to a large number of simultaneous users, (4) how to approach a problem so you can divide up labor between administrators and departmental contributors, and so on.

As a person interested in teaching and learning, I loved the first chapter on “Creating Courses” – I wished it went further – perhaps an entire book could be dedicated to “How a Teacher can install their own Plone and use it as their own LMS.” After the first chapter, the rest of the book is aimed more at Plone administrators and walks you through a series of exercises/case studies to set up a campus or departmental Plone instance.

Right off the bat, in Chapter 2 (Calendaring), we are not simply told how to install a plugin, but instead, how to think about content and how to think about plugins and how to pick the right plugin for your needs. In Chapters 3 and 4 (Faculty/Staff Directory) we start to explore the pattern for extending functionality for particular local needs and as usual, it is done in a style where you are told what you need to do but not treated as a dummy or beginner. Throughout the book, it assumes that if you have gotten this far, you know how to find your way around a source tree and a user interface – so he focuses on what needs to be done and does not waste a lot of time documenting every single click.

Chapter 5 (Blogs and Forums) is another great example of how to morph “content” into a blog using a combination of convention and approach plus simple add-ons to move from a simple blog to a more feature-rich blog. You have lots of choices and the book talks about those choices, but also walks you right through to a good set of choices for most installations. In the chapter on media, I was particularly impressed with the power of the collective.flowplayer plug in. This adds an open source Flash Video player into Plone and makes it trivial to embed Flash Video on any page throughout Plone. As usual, the book shows us the ‘easy to do it’ and then shows us a few more powerful ways to embed audio and video as well as connecting your site to Apple’s iTunesU.

With the underlying ‘schemaless’ ZODB data storage, folks will often create a lot of different content types for their application. Forms automates the creating, updating, and management of these content types. While PloneFormGen (Chapter 7) takes a little getting used to, it ultimately can be very powerful and keep you from writing a bunch of custom code. One of my favorite pages of the book is page 116, “Doing Custom Processing”. Often form packages in other systems try to do everything in some complex UI with a myriad of options. In PloneFormGen, for custom processing – you just type in some Python! For a competent admin, I think that it is far easier to express some subtle custom rule in Python than some tricked up XML rules for form processing.

Chapters 9 and 10 talk about production aspects of your Plone project. It covers everything including load balancing, content caching, application servers, ZEO, back ends and talks about how to tune the system for performance, back the system up and recover your system from a backup. All of this is essential information that would take a long time to derive from web sites and documentation across many projects. It is nice to have this all in one place – particularly since often at the time you need this information, a system administrator might be under a bit of stress working on a performance problem or restoring data after a server crash.


Plone 3 for Education is as close as you can get to a week-long visit from an expert Plone consultant. It contains a blend of straightforward advice as to how to configure a Plone server for use in an Educational setting. However, the more important knowledge is how Erik teaches us how to ‘think like Plone’ and how to think about your Plone installation over the long term across many years, different applications, and different versions of Plone.

Video: Jono Bacon, “The Engines Of Community”

Jono Bacon is the Ubuntu Community Manager. He wrote the book titled The Art of Community which is published by O’Reilly and Associates.

He gave the following talk at the O’Reilly MySql Conference and Expo titled, “The Engines of Community” where he talks through his perspective on the things to do (and not do) which trying to build a community.

I want to thank Amy Stephen who shared this talk on her blog and Twitter. Amy does a lot of commentary on the Joomla community and open source in general. It is fun to follow Amy so I can see how other communities function over time and learn from their experiences.

I think that this video and book might be quite helpful as the Sakai Foundation continues to define ‘Community Source’ and in particular as we look toward our next Executive Director and begin the review of the year-old Product Council.

I highly recommend the video and have ordered the book. I think that I will use the book as optional reading in my new proposed course (SI124 – Wisdom of Crowds).

Video Summary

Here is my summary of the first portion of the video.

He spends some time defining the job of ‘Community Manager’ and suggests that a large portion of the task is ‘dealing with irritating people on the Internet’.

He talks about a few myths about open source development including the perception that Executive/Business-types have that all of the contributors are “Tron Guy” whom we meet at a combination open source / science fiction convention.

He describes two types of community managers: (1) Evangelists/Marketing Community Managers – who are valuable to whip up excitement among a user community – but don’t contribute much to contributor growth and (2) Engineering community managers work on tooling and getting things done in the community and moving the community forward on getting work done.

He says that community leaders need to be “contextually capable” and need to match the right kind of community Manager with the community they are managing. Marketing managers can grow the ‘User’ or ‘Consumer’ community and engineering community managers can grow developer communities. Choosing a marketing style manager and putting them in charge of a developer community or vice-versa will generally result in disaster.

He comments on the role of governance or a council / board / code of conduct – and how those aspects fit into a community. He suggests that there is a need to focus on “getting stuff done”.

He says that biggest enemy of growth is when you in a community and it seems like the only thing that is happening is a lot of talk. Volunteers who spend too much time in meetings and not enough time contributing will get frustrated and (as Jono says) – “Go watch Lost”.

Continuing with his ‘two types..” theme, he classifies communities as ‘Read Communities’ and ‘Write Communities”. Read/User communities consume something and are fans – they don’t generally contribute to the thing they consume – they talk and theorize about it. Read communities need communication channels – just connect folks. Write communities are the people *making* and changing the software – their connectors need to ‘fit into’ the community rather than just talking to the community.

… I suggest you watch the video and buy the book and draw your own conclusions.

An Essential Add-On for Mac OS/X – Perian Quicktime Components for Flash And Other Formats

I am downloading a video because it played so badly as it streamed that I want to really listen to the whole hour-long presentation and focus on what was being said. I assume that the reason it played badly is that my hotel limited bandwidth to slightly lower than the bandwidth needed to play my video uninterrupted. Ah well – it is now downloaded and I can enjoy the talk and focus on the content of the talk rather than the start/stop of the streaming.

But what I get from the download is Flash Video, I would have to endure another hour-long conversion before I could listen to it – but that is where Perian comes to my rescue.

“Perian is a free, open source QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats.”

Very nicely done and it allows me to (a) instantly play Flash videos in my Quicktime Player and (b) if I want to convert to Quicktime or MP4, I have far more control than automated conversion programs from Flash to Quicktime that pick my settings. Also with QUicktime Pro and QUicktime 7, I can trim, etc without converting first – and actually, I can keep the FLV as my highest quality archival format – while the FLV videos are pretty harshly down-sampled, at least I do not have to down-sample again and lose quality and increase size.

I can pretend that FLV is a native QuickTime format – thanks Perian!

Sakai Tips: A One Question Timed Exam in Test Center

Update: Talking to Vivie, she suggested an excellent improvement to this approach that I missed (doh). Instead of uploading the file and making a link in the text, simply add the Word file as an attachment to the question right below the question text. Much easier and an even cleaner user interface – thanks Vivie for the tip! I have updated the instructions below and will redo the video at some point.

This blog post talks about how to make a one question exam in Test Center (a.k.a Mneme). The basic idea is that you want to give an exam and give students flexibility in starting times but only give each student a fixed amount of time to complete the exam. Individual timers as it were.

I use this a lot for on-line finals where students have complex (often international) travel schedules so I open an exam for 48-72 hours and they can pick any 3 hour window. In addition, the exam is in a Word document so they do not have to be connected while they take the exam – they simply edit the exam on their computer and reconnect to upload their answer when they have finished editing. I like having a really low requirement for connectivity for something like an exam. If something goes wrong the students still have a copy of their exam.

Here is a video of me creating an exam using CTools (Sakai@UMich):

Here are the rough steps in the process:

Create an assessment

Add a single essay question – with the question text below

Upload your word document containing the Exam text as an attachment to the question. The attachment button is right below the question text.

Then save the question and back in the assessment screen set the points for the question and save the assessment.

Then switch to ‘Test Drive’ and begin the test. Once you get into the test, you should be able to download the Exam document. At this point you can log out of CTools (or press ‘Finish Later’) and edit the exam document on your computer.

Once you finish the exam on your computer, log back into Sakai and go back into Test Center and press ‘Continue’ to go back into the test. You then upload your edited exam to Test Center and press ‘Finish’.

Once you like the test, you can publish it. Make sure not to publish it until you test it because publishing locks the test for future editing.

Then you go into ‘Publish’ and set the open, close, and late dates, set the time limit for the test (i.e. 3:00), set the number of tries on 1, set the honor code, and anything else you like and then press ‘Publish’. Make sure the number of tries is set to 1. As an example, if you set the tries to two it will let the students have two three-hour test attempts.

If a student makes a mistake and presses ‘Finish’ before they upload their answers, simply use the ‘Special Access’ feature of Test Center to give them one more try.

At the designated time – the test opens up and students can start taking the test.

I am curious if you find this useful. Here is some text I use for the test.

Question Text

This entire test is in a file which you edit. You are to download the test and insert your answers to the questions in the document and then save and upload the document. This file should open in any word processor. When you upload the file you can upload a Word Document, or PDF (preferred).

You have now entered the test and so the timer for you to take this test has *started*. You should download the test and begin working so you can finish and re-upload your answers within the time limit for the test.

The file may open in your browser – in this case you use Save As. Or the file may download to your computer – in this case you go and find the file on your computer.

If you have technical difficulties – send a note to – in a pinch send a text message to +1 517-xxx-yyyy – please include a callback number in your text message.

Once you have downloaded the file, you can leave this screen by pressing “Continue Later” and then come back *within 3 the time limit* and upload your answers.

When you have finished the exam – come back and upload your modified document as an attachment to this question below. Press ‘FInish’ only after you have uploaded your answers.

Apple Announces iAd (and Multitasking) in iPhone OS 4.0

On Wednesday, Apple announced its plans for iPhone OS 4.0 and somewhere in the fine print mentioned the new iAd mobile advertising platform.

Apple Previews iPhone OS 4

It is funny that about the same time this announcement was taking place, I was doing an in-class discussion in SI301 (and a day later with some UMich executives in the Business and Finance Forum) where I was trying to get both groups to think about the end of the web and the end of web-search as the primary way we view the web. I told them that instead of trying to figure out why, when or how search and the web would go away – but instead I asked them to assume that at some point in the future, when simply searching the web was not longer ‘interesting’ – and under that assumption, what would be its replacement.

I am thinking that we should make a mental note about the year 2010 and wonder if the introduction of iAds indicates that on Wednesday we quietly passed the half-way point in the time where the web and web browser are the ‘alpha-technology’ technology in the marketplace.

Math version – feel free to skip: Perhaps Wednesday we passed the point where the second derivative of web growth went from positive to ever-so-slightly-negative. A vertical inflection point as it were. Vertical inflection points and changes in the sign of the second derivative of a function are often hard to notice in the short or even medium term because the first derivative remains positive. But in time….. end of Math version.

I have this weird calculation that suggests that the pattern where we lose interest in a technology is the mirror image of the pattern in which we became fascinated with a technology (an S-Curve). So if my instincts are right (and they usually are not) that Tuesday was the point at which the web reached its apogee, and since the web is 20 years old (started in 1990), it will take 10 more years (2020) before the web starts to fade a little bit and after 15 years (2025) the web and search will noticeably be falling off our collective radar and by 2035 teenagers will be asking ‘what was the Web?’ much like they might wonder about America Online now.

The numbers are easy to remember – 2020 a gentle noticeable decline in the primacy of the web and search – 2025 – a noticeable decline in the primacy of web and search.

In the meantime, you have plenty of time to read Clayton Christensen’s book, Innovator’s Dillema to learn about how a market evolves through a series of independent S-Curves where disruptive innovation causes us to jump from curve to curve.

Hmmm. This sounds like another keynote speech for me to try to give places.

Response to “Pandora’s Box” Post on Michael Feldstein’s Blog

I am an avid reader of Michael Feldstein’s Blog, but a recent post with a conversation between Michael and Anya Kamenetz, kind of caused me to have an an “excess use of metaphor” alarm when I read it. So for two days I stewed and wrote several long critical comments – but then in honor of the TedXUofM event tomorrow I decided to throw all my critical comment drafts away and try to make my point in a more fun and light manner..

The Original Post: Should Pandora Have Opened the Box?

Here is my response:

I have written four different comments for this blog post and mercifully threw them all away. Now I have come up with this gentle formulation of my ideas.

I start with this quote from the Wikipedia page on EduPunk:

… Stephen Downes, an online education theorist and an editor for the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, noted that “the concept of Edupunk has totally caught wind, spreading through the blogosphere like wildfire”.

Please read this carefully paying close attention to where the so-called “edupunk movement” is happening.

I actually have some experience with the word “Edu”, “Punk” and “DIY” because I am a teacher that is always looking at ways to fight the system and do things my own way. My son is in a Punk band – so I hang out with a bunch of young punk types wearing my black band T-Shirts and his band plays at lots of DIY music venues. SO while I am not an expert on “EduPunk” and “DIYUniversity” – I actually have some real experience in the underlying metaphors that you are borrowing from.

I would suggest the following exercise to give you both a little experience in the sustainability of the Punk/DIY approach – take a look at this web page:

And go through and figure out how many of these registered DIY venues are still operating one year later.

My son’s band wants to go on tour this summer and they want to go DIY all-the-way – but nearly all DIY music venues close up shop after a few short months because they are a labor of love by some special person but then that special person becomes tired of spending their weekends hosting demanding out-of-town bands with a station wagon and a ratty trailer who bitch about the sound systems in the DIY venues.

So the DIY music venues which are the hives of creativity and clever innovation appear and disappear and never get close to any kind of tipping point – appear and vanish sadly – way too quickly. It is clearly a movement – just not a mainstream movement and a movement that is uninterested in affecting the mainstream in any way. All they want to do is make a place where they can express what they want unhindered by “the man” and in doing that they learn something about themselves and learn something about creativity.

This is really sad because when you find and interact with one of these DIY music venues, it is a very freeing and very uplifting feeling and the people are so cool and fun and you so badly want it to be a “movement” and you want everyone to be able to experience this. But sadly, they generally only exist for a short while after which they go away.

Punk music at a DIY venue is like the most intensely creative group activity I have ever seen – the performers and the crowd function as one – there is continuous sharing and remixing of ideas and fluid group memberships – it is magnificent. It just does not last – it is sustainable as a concept – but no individual stays punk their whole life – it is the domain of the young who are experiencing it for the first time (and the scene-parents like me) who were squares in High School and so they are experiencing it for the first time in their fifties.

And as I have said before, when you first experience this amazing freedom and creativity – you wish it were the future for everything. The bad news is that punk is not the future of all music – sorry about that. Sooner or later we get old and our tastes move toward the blues or some variant of the blues. But the super-duper good news is that if you have not yet experienced it – punk will still be there 20 years from now – it will still be alternative and underground and will be happy to see you when you get there and you will paint your nails black and wear black t-shirts and “hate the man” with your fellow punk/DIY hipsters.

Bringing this back to your post a little bit, neither of you are Pandora, and there is no Pandora’s box – and there was no “opening of a box” that has brought into being some new profound sea change that we cannot undo.

All that happened is that you noticed something that has been happening since the beginning of time and will happen forever going forward. You mis-interpret this marginal, small, continuous, alternative, underground, situation as something that “just happened” and “is coming to get us all” – and a few pundits collectively named it “edupunk” so you could sell some books and sell some Google Adsense.

By the way, you can take a look at Google’s Keyword Value Calculator to see the potential value of the word “edupunk” in the advertising markets.

According to my recent calculations, the word “edupunk” is worth about 0.05 per click and was entered 1000 times in the last month roughly generating $50.00 in potential ad revenue for Google last month.

As contrast the query “lms” is worth $4.14 and was entered 823,000 times last month roughly generating 3.2 million potential dollars for Google last month. A rough calculation of the variations on the “lms” query says that there is a little over 15 million dollars total potential ad revenue for Google last month.

If we do some multiplication – that means for last year LMS systems represented nearly 200 million dollars of potential ad revenue for Google and edupunk represented nearly $600.00 per year in terms of potential Google ad revenue.

Just as another data point, the search for “Charles Severance” represents roughly $2016 of potential ad revenue for Google last year – roughly four times as much interest as “edupunk”. I have no explanation for this but a superficial analysis looking only at advertising revenue data might suggest that the “Charles Severance” movement is more real than the “EduPunk” movement.

P.S. I am still looking for a DIY punk/metal music venue in Nashville or Memphis for a summer visit. If in your research, you find one – let me know. Thanks.

P.P.S. If you really want to see the world’s most awesome DIY music/art venue in action – I claim it is in Lansing, Michigan – Basement 414 – I have lots of DIY punk video of my son’s band – I pick one of the earlier ones here – – their second concert ever.

The Incredible Shrinking iPhone “Nano”

I like to try as a hobby to anticipate Apple’s next move. If you had asked me two weeks ago, where the next steps in terms of the design evolution of the iPhone needed to go, I would have told you with 100% certainty that they needed a smaller iPhone – an iPhone Nano as it were.

I always felt that the iPhone was a little too large and a little too heavy and a little clunky to hold in one hand and felt like it needed a half-inch trimmed in both dimensions. A little more like a Palm Pre in terms of height and width.

Well now that I have my two iPads, it seems as though I am getting what I wanted all along and at no additional cost to me. After about 48 hours of having both an iPad and an iPhone, my iPhone started to shrink. It physically became smaller and the icons were smaller and the screen started to feel small and cramped when I tried to read something.

As of yesterday, it had gotten so small (in my mind) that it started feeling “too small” and I was thinking that perhaps Apple should release a slightly larger version to get away from this sense of packing all those icons into such a tiny space.

The good news is that today the iPhone seems a little larger – and actually right now it feels like it is almost exactly the right size. It is large enough that you can read things if you really have to and the iPad is not close and it is small enough to fit in your pocket and have with you all the time when you leave the iPad on your desk as you go to lunch.

So I am pretty pleased how the iPhone was silently upgraded from “too large” to “just right” simply because I purchased and started using the iPad.

I wonder how many other people are experiencing this “free iPhone upgrade” because they are using their iPhones right next a new, shiny iPad?