Monday, July 28, 2014

MOOC Style Preference

MIT just posted a note as to what "styles" were working best for EdX. They argue:

In a paper published this spring, the CSAIL team outlined some key findings on what online learners want from videos. These include:
  • Brevity (viewers generally tune out after six minutes)
  • Informality, with professors seated at a desk, not standing behind a podium
  • Lively visuals rather than static PowerPoint slides
  • Fast talkers (professors seen as the most engaging spoke at 254 words per minute)
  • More pauses, so viewers can soak in complex diagrams
  • Web-friendly lessons (existing videos broken into shorter chunks are less effective than ones crafted for online audiences)
Now this should be really segmented by the market demographics. Any credible market research effort segments the demographics by enough dimensions to make it work and then seeks what is most desirable for each segment of the demographic. Usually a sophisticated task. Yet this report just assumed that everyone was the same. The results are generally interesting but a good demographic and psychographic set of dimensions would make it useful.

In my experience, I will leave my demographic and psychographic to the reader, I want:

1. A short lecture and six minutes is good.

2. A Lander approach with the Prof in front of a class, makes you feel it is real and you are pert of the process. Also it paces the instructor. It appears that Lander was the only one I used that did this.

3. I really liked the white board approach. I had the notes and could then annotate them as the lecture proceeded.

4. The rate at which a person speaks is not as critical and the rate which the transfer information. Again Lander is sine qua non, he had one to three points to get across and he did it simply.

5. Pauses, if the lecture is in front of a class they take control.

6. "Web friendly", again Lander was spot on, you did something with genes, you learned by your mistakes, my dyslexia came to the fore so I had to do a work around. This did Python program to read and translate the gene structures.

It would really be worthwhile to do real market research on these courses and not just a computer science approach. Yet that means you have to know your "students".

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Remember the Electric Car

There are times when I read some comments by Academics that I am very glad that I wandered astray and did something real.

First, I remember the Electric Car, it was a Department of Energy project dating back to the 1960s, yes the 1960s. There was always a group of folks who tinkered with electric motors and batteries and tried to stuff them in cars.

Second, there was and is the Air Traffic Control System. In the early 1970s I spent time developing a new digitized system. Any change, not really, we still use WW II systems to track aircraft.

Third, then there is GPS. I remember GPS well, I taught the first course on GPS at GWU in the mid 70s as it was being developed. Yes the mid 70s. What made GPS a consumer product, Trimble, the Gulf War and mothers who sent their sons low cost GPS units so they did not get lost!  What held GPS back, well I argued at Sen Kennedy's staff in the mid 70s since they saw it as a strategic threat at the time. I saw it as a commercial opportunity.

Thus what does the above tell you? Government is not really good at commercializing anything!

Now comes the Guardian and some Brit Academic which states:

Mazzucato points out the state played a role in financing nearly every key technology in an iPhone, from GPS to the touch screen. She says that, even now, the lion’s share of funding for climate change technologies comes from state investment banks and public utilities, with just 6% coming from private capital. The problem is, the modern state sees this as accidental and residual. It avoids major projects, and their associated risks, seeing its role as mainly to act where the market “fails” – as with the near evaporation of venture capital funding for technology startups in the UK. Mazzucato, in a paper with LSE professor Carlota Perez, points out the danger of leaving tech to the private sector. In an economy bloated with printed money and cheap credit, if capital can’t find real-world, high-growth, high-profit opportunities to invest in, it will pool into the finance system, creating one bubble after another.

You have to be kidding us! The opposite is true, leaving anything to the Government will stifle the economy! GPS would never have prospered had it been left to the Government, and as for the authors claim on the iPhone, perhaps they are looking at a different universe!

Climate: Policy, Technology and Reality

I just read a piece in CFR by a Former Banking and Government official bemoaning what we do not know about Climate Change. What surprised me is that he says the following:

What we already know is frightening, but what we don't know is more frightening still. For example, we know that melting polar ice sheets will cause sea levels to rise, but we don't know how negative feedback loops will accelerate the process. As polar ice melts, the oceans absorb more heat, which causes more ice to melt. And the polar ice sheets have already started to melt.

But negative feedback often stabilizes systems, depending on where the poles of the system may lie. Yet he appears to be describing positive feedback which may often tend to destabilize a system.

If one forgot remeber:

Negative Feedback:

Out=GainForward*In- GainReverse*Out
or
Out=[GainForward/(1+GainReverse)]In

Note that Negative Feedback reduces output variation.

Positive Feedback:

Out=GainForward*In+ GainReverse*Out
or
Out=[GainForward/(1-GainReverse)]In

Note that Positive Feedback increases output variation.

Now this may be a nit but it does tend to demonstrate the problem we have with "Policy Types" who take words without meanings. Moreover the technical people all too often throw the words about as if they have both meaning and understanding.

This is a cooler summer than usual, but that is weather and not climate. Climate seems to be warming, but is that good or bad, depends one guesses where one is. But it would help if the Policy Types would get their words right or abstain from pretending they know whence they speak.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Who Would Have Guessed?

The USDA just issued a report that listed the land mass per state covered by trees. Above is the set of states where it exceeds 50% of the land mass. There are seven at 70% ore more and New Jersey has almost 60%! That is 60% for the most populated state per square mile! California is half that number!

It is interesting to examine the report and consider the data. New Hampshire is almost 90%. A century ago it we near total deforestation due to rampant cutting. Maine is at 85% and lumber is one its main industries!

One wonders how the current Bishop of Rome seems to worry that we Americans have deforested our lands. As VoA stated:

In an address at the University of Molise, an agricultural and industrial region in southern Italy, Francis said the Earth should be allowed to give her fruits without being exploited. “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: to convert ourselves to a type of development that knows how to respect creation,” he told students, struggling farmers and laid-off workers in a university hall. “When I look at America, also my own homeland [South America], so many forests, all cut, that have become land... that can longer give life. This is our sin, exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to give us what she has within her,” the Argentine pope said in unprepared remarks.

With this data one really questions that assertion. Perhaps on his proposed trip to Philly he could cross the Delaware and see the trees! The facts can be so disconcerting.

Vive La France, Ou est La France?

Le Monde observed that the LA Times showed a map of three air crashes but in the process eliminated France, exactement! As they state:

Sauf que le journal californien y dévoile une audacieuse image du monde... où la France a purement et simplement disparu, noyée sous les eaux :

 I guess out there in California Europe begins with Germany. Or we now have some new scheme in Geography, we can just imagine what it looks like.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Does This Make Any Sense?

The City of LA has issued an RFI for a fiber build for the city. The intents are:

  1. Ensure that every home and every business in Los Angeles can be served by an advanced communications network that will provide a high-speed, high quality broadband connection to the Internet.
  2. Ensure that areas of the City that are currently underserved are promptly served.
  3. Ensure that the City is served by an open network, so no one is prevented or blocked from taking full advantage of the Internet’s capabilities; and
  4. Ensure that every Angeleno can enjoy the benefits of broadband, regardless of income or the area in which they reside. 

Now this is projected to cost well in excess of several billions, to be controlled by the city, at no cost to the city, and to provide free service to those who cannot afford it. This has the signs of a total disaster.

First, there are two strong players there already; cable and telco.

Second, wireless is a clear winner in LA, it is flat for the most part.

Third, the costs are extraordinary and the revenue is problematic.

Fourth, litigation will just explode for a variety of reasons.

Fifth, well its LA.

And we thought Washington had the hold on most dumb ideas!