Information technology, gadgets, social media, libraries, design, marketing, higher ed, data visualization, educational technology, mobility, innovation, strategy, trends and futures. . . 

Posts suspended for a bit while I settle into a new job. . . 


Artificial Intelligence

There's nothing like a hit movie to reanimate popular interest in a formerly hot/hyped technology. (I haven't seen the movie Her and likely won't anytime soon; for me, it's just a little too uncomfortably portentous.) 

Here's a nice little piece in Wired's Innovation Insights by Charles Silver about the current direction in artificial intellignece

Artificial Intelligence Is No Longer a Four-Letter Word -- And Could Even Win an Oscar 

January 16, 2014

Despite enormous excitement when the field of artificial intelligence was established back in the 1950s, AI has repeatedly given itself a bad name. Again and again, leading researchers vastly underestimated the difficulties, overpromised the outcomes, and mainly succeeded at burning through billions of dollars at a time when that was real money.

By the late 80s, things had gotten so bad that the surest way to scare off technology investors from a promising project was even to hint at artificial intelligence. “AI” had become a digital dirty word, the pre-millennium equivalent of “WTF.”

Not any more. Just a few months ago, the phrase “artificial intelligence” suddenly started being tossed around presentations, blogs, headlines, seminars -- even a Facebook earnings meeting – as if it were the most benign concept in the world. AI could actually win an Oscar, thanks to Scarlett Johansson’s riveting voice-only performance as Samantha, the AI-enabled OS in the new movie "Her."

One reason for AI’s new respectability: Big steps have been made in solving the problems of artificial intelligence, especially in speech recognition and concept communication. Just think about how casually we now accept machines that can understand and talk, from Apple’s Siri to IBM’s “Jeopardy”-winning Watson.

Yet both these systems are starting to seem like old news. The age of super-smart computers that can read, infer, and “think” isn’t around the corner. It has already started – not least because someone has to read and make sense of the world’s galactic masses of Big Data. And it sure isn’t going to be humans.

Consider the CIA’s investment in Narrative Science, a young Chicago-based company that’s developed what one jaded reporter called “artificial intelligence that actually works!” Narrative Science uses complex AI algorithms and “robot writers” to plow through heaps of data, extract key facts and insights, and create story-like summaries and reports. Its software does exactly what the CIA may need more than anything: It makes easy-reading sense of overwhelming quantities of data.

IBM claims Watson is beginning to do this kind of work, pointing out that it can ingest and process 20-page medical reports in one gulp. But there are persistent questions about how well Watson executes the critical next step -- delivering accurate, useful information to its financial and health clients.

Article continues at link. 

Silver goes on to review AI's central importance to robotics and operating systems. 


Trends in 2014: Higher Ed Tech

In Campus Technology, some sensible predictions by experts concerning the direction of higher education technology in 2014. For each of seven trends, several of five experts offer a perspective and a one-to-four-star "hotness" rating. 

The trends are 

  • Mobile platforms and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) (See also here.) 
  • Adaptive learning
  • Big data. (See also here.) 
  • Flipped classroom
  • Badges and gamification. (See also here.)
  • iPads and other tablets 
  • Learning management systems

What's Hot, What's Not 2014

5 IT thought leaders take the temperature of the biggest tech trends in higher education.

By David Raths; 01/23/14

The start of a new year has long been a catalyst for reflection and prognostication, and at Campus Technology it kicks off an annual tradition: taking the temperature of the top tech trends in higher ed. We asked five IT thought leaders to assess the "hotness" of everything from mobile devices and flipped classrooms to adaptive learning, badges and the LMS — and to explain the reasoning behind each rating.

Meet the panelists: Phil Hill (@PhilOnEdTech) is an educational technology consultant and analyst who has spent the last 10 years advising in the online education and educational technology markets. He is also an author, blogger at e-Literate and speaker, and he has become recognized in the ed tech community for his insights into the broader education market trends and issues. Rey Junco is an associate professor of library science at Purdue University (IN) and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His research has focused on informing best practices in using social technologies to enhance learning outcomes. He blogs at Social Media in Higher Education. Malcolm Brown has been director of the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) since 2009. Previously, he was the director of academic computing at Dartmouth College (NH). Adrian Sannier is a professor of practice in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Engineering at Arizona State University. Previously Sannier was senior vice president for product at Pearson. From 2005 to 2010, he served as CIO and a professor in the Division of Computing Studies at ASU. Ellen Wagner is executive director of WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies), a division of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. She is also a partner and founder of Sage Road Solutions, providing advisory oversight for industry intelligence and enablement services and solutions practices. Previously, she was senior director of worldwide e-learning at Adobe and senior director of worldwide education solutions for Macromedia.

See link for full article. 


Web Design

I just came across this very rich resource for finding ". . . free and paid tutorials, courses, instructor-guided courses, and reference material."

Highly recommended.


Trends in 2014: Design

[January 19: for a funny story about a consequence from lack of attention to affordance, see here.]

Gannon Burgett in The Industry writes a very nice piece -- right depth, right length, (although very Apple-focused) -- on design trends he sees in the coming year. (Also reproduced in Gizmodo.)

14 Design Trends for 2014 

Just as I did a year ago, I’m kicking off 2014 – as well as our redesign – with a list of design trends I expect to gain ground over the next twelve months. The world of interactive design is an extreme fluid in terms of what’s determined as a staple of good design from year to year.

It should go without saying that these are my thoughts as to how design will play out over the course of the next year. I will certainly be wrong on a few of them, but I’m also extremely confident in all of these making some sort of appearance throughout the course of the year, as prominent or short-lived as they may be.

List continues at link. 

Three that stand out to me include 

  • Color as affordance. Affordance -- the intrinsic "property of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action" -- seems, to me, to be an under-appreciated concept. Folks who are responsible for design -- of services, interfaces, applications, spaces, etc. -- should be familiar with the canon, and particular with Don Norman's book, The Design of Everyday Things
  • Blur. See this piece in the very good resource design shack, and the example of Square's Cash (to some degree). 
  • Single-use pages. A beautiful example is that one cited by Burgett, The New York Times's Snowfall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek




These Web "Features" Must Die

Here is a welcome piece in Mashable about annoying, passe, or just plain useless web "features" or design elements. 

My least favorite elements are

  • needlessly presenting sites as slides (Business Insider is notorious for this), instead of long scrolling pages or, at least, regular old "next pages" (like TNW),
  • the below-mentioned photo carousels (e.g. Fast Company's Co.DESIGN, Co.EXIST, Co.CREATE, Co.LABS), and, also mentioned below, 
  • automated pop-ups (e.g., 

12 Outdated Web Features That Need to Disappear in 2014


We've all been there — yelling at a computer screen or particular website because the antiquated design prevents you from getting where you want to go.

But outdated features on your company's website can do more than annoy — it can cost you potential clients or customers.

To figure out what exactly agitates users the most, we asked 12 entrepreneurs which website features small businesses should avoid (or get rid of) at all costs. Here's what they had to say:

The piece goes on to cite:

  1. Irrelevant elements. (Clutter is always bad.)
  2. Flash intros
  3. Photo carousels
  4. Large hero images. (But see here.)
  5. Stock photos 
  6. Animated GIFs
  7. Autoplay videos
  8. Automated pop-ups
  9. "Hello, world" blog posts
  10. Sidebars
  11. Reloading pages 
  12. M. sites (mobile sites, of the form m._____.___)