Archives for the month of: July, 2008


G33K B33R, originally uploaded by jakonavitch.

Thanks Bawls for being so awesome.



The philadelphia airport., originally uploaded by jakonavitch.

I’m here at the airport sitting, waiting, going crazy, and I notice this trash can placed strangely close to my chair.

And then it started. Dripping. Droplets of water falling from the ceiling sometimes making it in the trash, sometimes on the chair next to me.

A sketchy place.



Telephones and semi-colons, originally uploaded by jakonavitch.

Checking out of a hotel you’ve moved into for four days is unpleasant. Certainly something will be left under the bed, in the bathroom, or behind that chair in the corner. I think I managed to collect all my belongings and check out of the hotel with out haggling over extraneous charges. Freedom.

The jitney was kind enough to transport me from the Trump Marina to the convention center / train station. the Jitney is much nicer at 9am, and no other passengers, than at 5pm where three pass by without stopping and their FULL signs glowing.

Riding the New Jersey Transit to Philadelphia is an amazing, and inexpensive, way to travel. The trains are mostly full, but not uncomfortably so. The landscape isn’t miles of asphalt and strip malls but more of the back country, houses, small towns, and lots of green trees. I have always been drawn to train travel as a kid I remember riding through eastern montana and north dakota and trying to count the telephone polls. Let me tell you from experience that there are quite a few.

This reminds me of a quote I think about often. “The more common a thing the more invisible it comes” when looking out the train window the telephone polls seemed to be a prime example of this. We see fields and trees and sandhill cranes and farm houses, but telephone polls and fences are lost.

As a programmer I often think that semi-colons have a lot more in common with telephone polls than a lot of people think.

The fraternity of bloggers is here. They are the young, well dressed, fresh outta college, with business marketing degrees, or whatever working in admissions, this is what they do. Fluent in social media taking social networking to a new level. Using ustream to stream the presentations to the web for free, and broadcasting the url’s via twitter. It’s a machine, the twitter storm, creating a buzz that moves faster than anything before. Push ideas, thoughts, and presentation reviews directly to the phones, computers, rss feeds, websites with minimal effort. The instant gratification of twitter is where it’s most powerful.

Email is dead. You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it six times already today. Next: business cards don’t exist. We carry them around as a formality, In case we meet someone over 35. It took me seconds to realize I wouldn’t be handing out the business cards I ordered for this conference, but would be networking and making contacts via Twitter. Yeah, behold the power of twitter. So one of the first things I did was redesign my twitter page (http://twitter.com/nshontz).

PowerPoints here don’t have have phone numbers or websites, some don’t even have email addresses. But they all have their twitter account. The keynote speaker says “if you want to keep up on my reading list just follow my twitter.” I’ve been here for 2 days, and I’ve been followed on twitter 15 times and handed out 1 business card.

I’m sitting in Head in the Cloud. About using “the cloud” in higher ed to maximize your cost/exposure ratio by using the infrastructures that exist. Using the Amazon API, Using the Elastic Computing Cloud. Using Amazon you can get 8 processors 16Gb of ram for $0.80 an hour and manage it all from your location by using *nix commands.

Using S3 to store and serve videos, they were able to give users an better experience without worry of bandwidth issues, and they did some IP address filtering so folks on campus pulled the video from the local copy and off campus users got the video from Amazon, faster smoother, and with no change in the user interface.

Another use of the cloud they discuss is the ability to manage data archives. A comparison of backup systems: to buy a Dell system with 9Tb of space stored in a storage array, it would cost 14,000, for the same space in the cloud using S3 it costs $392 a month. Using S3 you loose the headaches of server management, uptime, admin support. The cost breakdown comes down to using S3 for 3 years is about the same as buying the same storage in a Dell Server. But you will save even more by not having to provide bandwidth to the server, not having to pay someone to administer, and manage a server with that kind of responsibility.

A personal solution they mention is Mozy. I think i’ll give it a try.

The presentation is over. Time to relax and enjoy the ride. The topic table I lead was really just that, a place to discuss a topic. I gave a quick introduction of myself and The University of Montana’s journey into open source. We talked about our similar experiences, getting tied into large products and paying support, and running into road blocks due to lack of flexibility and ability to customize and tweak the different systems we work on.

One of the things that I noticed was that several of the people there didn’t really care if these tools were Open Source, but the fact that they were free and easy for non-techy folks to set up, try out and use. And they’re free. The point no one can get over. It’s free. The red tape disappears. The bureaucracy is bypassed. The pain, is mostly, averted. Really trying out 3 or 4 products, full installations, is an option and gives ownership and power to the people who have to manage them.

Sitting in Branding is not just for cows, (by Ms. Alka Joshi, Director, Marketing and Community Relations, and Shashi Naidu, Web Technician, Evergreen Valley College) given by a marketing director of a community college surrounded by something like 8 other institutions that offer courses in California. They really played up their diversity and the feeling student had of being embraced by the college. Their style guide features colored dots to signify the diversity, a photo collage, and their tagline: We’re proud of you. Their ad campaign focused on the stories of several individuals. This is something the University of Montana admissions office is doing, and the new UM homepage will also be able to do. Really highlighting the individuals, and their goals and achievements.

Budgeting:
Using Open Source tools frees up money that can be spent on marketing exposure.

Points:

  • something she hear from a faculty member: We’re an academic institution, what does branding do for us, we’re above that.
  • Grandmother Research works. She worked for a research firm and was amazed how no matter what the results were, they could always be spun into a favorable statistic. Be skeptical.
  • Web function is a Marketing Function

Sitting in my room trying to prepare for my presentation tomorrow morning, not getting very far. It’s surprisingly difficult to work with out the internet. But oddly enough blogging is no problem. Out my window the falcons are out, they are only visible monetarily while the the flood lights below light them up like fireflies.

Tomorrow after my table talk, I’m going to be learning about Branding in the Wild Wild West, or at least I intent to sit in on that session. Today I met Matt Ryan who will presenting on Reason an open source Content Management System they developed, have to say i’m looking forward to it. I am also going to attend a presentation entitled Blogs: many voices of a university, it should be interesting to learn how other people are using blogging, as we are really in an infant state of campus blogging. I would say all in all blogging at the University of Montana has been a success, we have several folks around campus who have really embraced the idea of university hosted and supported blogging.

My talk starts tomorrow at 7:30 and will be given at the breakfast table. There is room at the table for about 8 or 9 other folks so it should be a smallish audience, and I hope to have a discussion about all of the tools that are available, and are easy to use, easy to install and don’t come with a major hit to the web budget. I’m going to start talking a little bit about our shift at the University of Montana from web apps that were entirely proprietary to a better well rounded toolbox.

On of our greatest success stories, is that of our news and events system. Our proprietary system that managed and feed news and events directly onto the homepage crashed and we were unable to get the support that is assumed (more commonly by management). After attempting to salvage the product we (the developers) made the decision that we needed another option. So we have a gapping whole on our homepage, a new hired manager who is across the country monitoring our situation, and we are making our first impression. Good or bad, this is it.

Jamie came to me with Joomla and Jcal Pro and open source solution, with an extension that was able to meet, and even exceed our needs. The homepage feeds were down for 2 days and on the third day the new system was up functional. The only reason we were able to pull this off was because we didn’t have to fight the red tape and we picked the product, and were free of the committee.

I present Vendor Free: open source solutions for higher education in 20 minutes, I am sitting in the breakfast room and watching people slowly shuffle in. I got here at 7 expecting to find the room set up, and the organizers organized, but I found the breakfast buffet being set up and the organizers nowhere to be found. There are about 7 table topics, each presented over breakfast, and signed up for the night before. We are all a bit puzzled as to the lack of order. The signs we expected to see indicating which table was which are not here, so we have chosen tables by chance, and hope not to have to pack up the lappies and coffees and bags and move tables. I’m a presenter so I’m moderately certain that if in fact a shuffle happens I can claim this table as Vendor Free.

OmniUpdate was good enough to bring travel mugs as some of their schwag, I’ve been in search of on as I can make free coffee in my room but a bottle of water in this joint is $2.50. kudos to you OmniUpdate, even if you didn’t put in a bid for our CMS.

The food has just arrived, and a man in the front of the room is doing a mic check, and as usual he is over-doing it and mostly just annoying those of us interested in getting anything done.

Check one, two….. Test one, two…. Check one, two….. Test one, two….

In Vegas you can’t tell the difference between 7pm and 7am. The AC seems to be trying to pull the same thing off, but the patrons don’t seem to be interested. At 7 this morning the music was going, the lights were on everything in full swing, except 90% of the machines were empty, the sound of the slots was missing. Its odd to be in an immense Vegas style casino and not hear that noise.

I find my seat, pull out my laptop, check my email. I see I have a new email, someone has followed me on twitter. I attempt to follow back, Twitter Whale. Great. As the row in front of me fills in I notice a name tag that seems an awful lot like the twitter follower. We greet and conclude that indeed he is my newest friend. Awe the power of social networking even as simple as twitter. Meeting people virtually, opens the door to face to face meetings and facilitates casual meetings.

I’m sitting here watching people pile into this long skinny room with the keynote speaker way up at the front. Mark Greenfield is giving a very interesting presentation, entitled the web as we know it is dead. This is something we all know, with the painful buzzwords like web 2.0 and AJAX blah blah. He discusses some interesting thoughts on where the internet is going and maybe what we should keep our eyes on. He mentions some fancy new things like Slingbox and Kindle. Some of the web tools he talks about are ning, a place to make your own social network for anything, qik, streaming media directly from your cell phone and ping.fm, push out your twitter, facebook, myspace from one place.

One thing that struck me was his comments about the word “audience” and it’s relationship to the web. He says that he is removing the word from his web vocabulary. It gives the impression of a monologue. And we are really looking for a dynamic experience. This concept is particularly important to us in the higher ed world because so many of us base our sites around “audience pages” (future students, current students, faculty/staff, international, alumni, friends/family) nearly all of the higher ed sites I’ve looked at use this concept. There will be more thoughts on this.

Some points.

  • People don’t just adopt mobile devices, they merry them – B.J Fogg
  • When choosing a technology consider the Relationships it will serve over technology for technologies sake
  • Use an authentic voice
  • This social medium includes both the good and the bad you have to accept it.

His top 10 web trends are:

  1. The End of Print

  2. The World Network

  3. Virtual Reality

  4. E-mail is Sooo Dead

  5. The Read/Write Web

  6. Information Overload

  7. Redefining Time

  8. The End of Walled Gardens

  9. Community

  10. The Mobile Web



The view, originally uploaded by jakonavitch.

Its an amazing view from my room on the 25 floor. I get an awesome view of downtown to my left and 4 large wind mills to my right. Right out front I see the 2 casinos in the photo. I’ll take and share some more soon.



Mini review of otterbox for blackberry curve., originally uploaded by jakonavitch.

Initial impression: Fantastic! Makes the whole thing feel more sturdy, which was my only complaint about the curve. As you can see in the pic I got the black and yellow one. The holster is nicer than the ones that came with the world edition, I managed to break 2 of them before giving up… It does make it a bit thicker, the holster (usually I’m not a holster fan) solves the problem. Only one minor fixable complaint. The plastic wrapping that goes over the camera first, also covers the camera. When zooming in the camera has a hard tom focusing and looks blurry, I’m gonna cut that part out and it should solve the problem.

Ok, its 2am I’m going to bed.