Wednesday, January 06, 2021
January 6th, 2021 is a day that will live in infamy. The lying, reprehensible, and dangerous behaviors of the last years were laid bare before America and the rest of the world. Americans should and do feel ashamed. And scared.
Before I review some of the others, I'd like to also point out that in some ways, January 6th, 2021 was a great day for the American democracy. Again, we completed fiercely contested high stakes elections. The results of the two Senate races in Georgia were announced and one of the losers followed the proud American tradition of conceding his race and congratulating the victor. A newly elected Senate and House of Representatives took their seats of responsibility and started working. The national election results were, despite astonishing drama and obstacles, ratified. The Congress overall rose to the challenges and occasion and acted promptly, with determination, and with their eye on the big picture All of this, like every time the awesome American democracy works, brought tears of pride and awe to my eyes.
The stains and horrors of the day were very real and open up many many questions.
- Donald Trump, the current president, continued to lie about the results of the November 2020 election. It's unclear to me if he is delusional, unanchored from reality. Or, is he cynical and amoral and calculating? Is this just a plot to continue to gather hundreds of millions of dollars from the gullible, to build and flaunt a fearsome mob (like the Brown Shirts), and to try to use his mob and position to overthrow the American democratic process and stay in office? Did he start cynical and become unhinged? Whatever understanding Trump may or may not have, on the 6th, he openly tried to use mob violence to overthrow or intimidate Congress. He sent the mob to attack the Congress. This seems like a sedition to me which is a criminal felony.
- Trump Political Supporters. Through-out the day, some US Senators and Congressmen continued to support Trump's tactics of spreading lies and attacking the American institutions that protect us. Senator Ted Cruz showed formidable oratory skills and a total commitment to amoral cynicism. He argued that the success of his and Trump's lying to Americans about the election is so great that they have now created so much confusion that maybe the will of the electorate does not have to be followed because they have made it so confusing by lying to them so Cruz proposed that we not certify the election. There were many others, particularly in the House of Representatives, who pursued this line of pandering and perpetuating lies. To be clear, the confused Americans are confused because people who they should be able to trust are lying to them day after day after day. If these politicians wanted to help the public understand the reality, they could speak the truth and stop lying. Is there a legal or other recourse to muzzle this lying?
- Also during the day, around eight Senators decided that they had played with poison and fire long enough. Most prominently, Linsey Graham found he has a conscience or a backbone and renounced (after many years) his self proclaimed position of being the biggest supporter of the liar-in-chief. Better late than never but it's unclear to me whether there is any forgiveness for him from colleagues, the public, or any deity who may judge.
- A mob in the hundreds of thousands, summoned by Donald Trump to Washington, to have a wild day, to be strong, and to stop the steal, acted at the bequest of Donald Trump. How this culpability of Donald Trump is going to be dealt with by the government is an open and widely discussed question. I want to move onto another one, what about all those people in the mob?
- The Mob Goes Unpunished? If I tried to rush into a restricted secure area anywhere, including and especially the Congress, I would expect to be clubbed, tased, taken roughly to the ground, and have my hands cuffed behind me. I would expect to be incarcerated and to spend the rest of my life carrying the burden of being a felon. If I broke windows and defaced a Federal building (never mind desecrating and defiling sacred spaces), I would expect time behind bars and vast fines. I'm dumfounded that this not underway. I get that there were some problems on January 6th, but when will the law enforcement agencies announce that they are starting to arrest and process the perpetrators? Where are the videos of the perp walks where these individuals are taken into custody? Where are there mug shots? The photographic and other evidence of crimes is so clear, I do not understand the delay in starting this process. I think these are Federal crimes so wouldn't the FBI and the other federal agencies have jurisdiction and be able to start these processes?
- What happened to security on the 6th? There are videos of Congressional cops opening barriers to let people in. Were they sympathizers? Were they trying to limit violence by conceding ground? Who was making decisions? Who decided to have small scale security with a large scale mob marching their way? As a Federal City, did Trump have some say in this? Were the security decision-makers controlled directly by him? Were they sympathizers? Incompetent? The investigation into this is a huge priority especially with the inauguration so close.
- Communications. Apparently, the mob and those types have migrated from Twitter to some extremely private and secure community communications packages. I assume that these are scanned and infiltrated by the FBI and other antiterrorist organizations. If these communities are planning treason and crimes, like they did yesterday, they should be dealt with. These packages are ultimately just software and their access to networks and resources can be shut down, they can be blocked on cell phones, and they can be disabled. We are way past the point where there is any question of whether they represent a viable threat to safety. There are many limits on free speech including when it slanders, threatens the US and its government representatives, and endangers lives.
Wednesday, December 09, 2020
I have some hobby blogs (like this one) that I have kept up on Blogger since around 1983. Or it feels that long. One one of them - https://www.AmusedByJokersAmi.com (also known as jokercollection.blogspot.com ) - there is a feedburner widget which supposedly sends out my blog posts to my subscribers.
I'm not sure it's working any more. I clicked around and found this:
Uhg, there are an indeterminant number of people who were in that system. Feedburner seems impossible to login to. What to do now? Just remove it? Start again with what?
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Today I learned a new user experience (UIX) design technique. It's for organizing different topics into a few top level menus. In the simplest form, there's closed card sorting.
It starts by creating a card for each topic that the site is going to cover.
With closed card sorting, a set of cards are given to different potential users along with a few pieces of papers with a topic on them, and the users are asked to sort the cards onto the pages based on the topic where it best fits. This gives guidance to site designers as to where to put topics in terms of where the users expect to find them.
|Surprise! The Visitors Think About |
Topics Differently Than the Professionals.
So Whose View to Use?
Open Card Sorting. To get more pure user feedback on how they visualize topics and categories, the cards can be given to users who put them in piles based on the categories that they imagine they should be organized along. This can reveal a more genuine sense of the mental maps with which users approach the relevant topics. It can also be overwhelming to users and in many cases, produces haphazard sets of logic that users turn to when they get frustrated and just want the exercise to end.
A purer sort might be to give the users a blank set of cards and a few pieces of paper, tell them what the site is about, and ask them to put a major topic on each of a few pieces of paper, and then name and organize the cards. This system does not have a name that I am aware of.
It's easy for these techniques to get out of hand. It's important to remember that they are techniques to reveal the mental maps that people approach a topic with. But the site designer, through careful wording, should be creating navigation and topics that steers users down paths that support the goal of the website. Websites are not libraries or wikis where users are expected to freely browse and learn. Websites usually have a purpose and while knowing the mental maps with which users might first approach the site is useful, it does not necessarily dictate how the site should present its experience.
Stay tuned or an example which illustrates these choices...
Friday, October 02, 2020
Even as we rolled out SpellingCity, teachers and literacy coaches asked us to do more with helping students with sounds. They asked us to convert the games to focus not just on spelling practice but on practice activities for recognizing and working with sounds. They wanted help not just with the spelling of words but with learning phonics and building phonological skills. So we focused on building the tools needed for games to help students with the sounds and the letter combinations that represent them. The goal was to give students audio visual practice with the sounds that create words helping them connect the sounds that they hear and the letter combinations that they see.
The idea was simple: We wanted to treat words like “tooth” as three blocks of letters which correspond with the three sounds: T, OO, and TH. But, as we searched, we could NOT find a system which mapped the sounds in words to the way the words are spelled. At first, this seemed unbelievable. Surely, in some university or research center, somebody had created a mapping which connected all the common English words into their sounds and mapped those sounds to the letters used to spell the words.
We spoke to a lot of people which confirmed our initial findings. This mapping did not exist. Dictionaries, for instance, routinely have a phonetic spelling of words using various systems for writing phonics. But none of the dictionaries mapped the sounds back to the actual spelling of the words. Nobody had ever done this. Our vision came from watching endless tutors, teachers, and parents help students by pointing at a few letters in a word and having the student say the sounds that those letters created. We watched teachers help students read the sounds to decode the word and then blend them together to write them.
So, we decided to create the VocabularySpellingCity Phonics system, a novel contribution to literacy. The phonics system can be used for building a variety of prereading phonics-related skills including phonological skills, phonemic awareness, and spelling skills. Since we knew we had created something original and valuable, we started talking to lawyers. We decided in 2015 to file for a patent on our original system. We started with two provisional patent filings. Our permanent patent is number 10,387,543, issued on August 20th, 2019. It’s called a “Phoneme-to-Graphemes Mapping Patent”. It’s a utility patent covering our original method for algorithmically mapping the sounds in English words to the letters. The patent grant is both a recognition of novelty, a recognition of usefulness, and a grant of intellectual property ownership. What is Phoneme to Grapheme Mapping? Phonemes are the basic sounds of the English language. Examples of phonemes from the word “cheek”, would be: CH, EE, K.
- Some sounds are created by a single letter which almost always makes the exact same sound. For example, the T is “ten”. T almost always sounds the same (except when it’s in a combination with another letter like H).
- Some sounds such as the long E sound can be spelled a number of ways including a "ee", or "ea", or an E followed by a consonant followed by an E at the end of a word, a y at the end of the word, and an "ey" at the end of the word.
- Some letters, like the S, can make different sounds. S usually sounds one way, like in sound, and sometimes sounds quite different, like in sugar (where it makes the SH sound)
Friday, September 11, 2020
It's amazing to me that link beggars are still out there begging...
From: ****<**** @gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, September 11, 2020 1:44 PM
To: T**** @gmail.com
Subject: Guest Post Request on :https://www.*****.com
I Need Guest post at Your Site: https://www.*****.com
With do-follow back link Permanent
Post and Insert link let me Know how much
price for each post
Waiting your good Reply
Sometimes I answer saying that a million dollars in bitcoins would do it.
Since I work for a legit corporation, this bit of humor will probably get me in trouble some day. Still, I think it's funny.
I was in an SEO meeting this week where we discussed link building and a suggestion was made to start asking for links. I was in disbelief but it turns out, they were talking primarily about contacting people who had written articles about us or were mentioning us. In these cases, you can sometimes turn the mentions into links, even sculpt them a little. And legit press will actually treat that as a profit opportunity and sell those links.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
To manage the process of optimizing our sites for the search engines (SEO), we license a tool called Conductor which helps us with tracking, ranking, and all sorts of the nitty gritty of SEO.
Mostly, the relationship is pretty minimal. We send them money, they let us use their tool (which is great).
This week we heard from them. Apparently, an unusual and alarming number of links were appearing aimed at our site and they worried that we were spamming or being made to look like we were spamming and were we aware of it?
"It is back-to-school season during a major pandemic and many parents are trying to figure out what to do for their children's education. Homeschooling is a school choice option that is now of interest not just to the ~1 million families that were doing it at this time last year, but all ~30 million families of kids with school age kids. The press as well as the public have picked up on this. Time4Learning is the leading homeschool online service. Yes. WE ARE TRENDING"
Nothing nefarious or devious about it. We're just getting a great deal of attention.
Thanks for checking. Oh, you too have children and have some questions? Well, check our website and look at the demos and videos, visit our facebook groups and ask some questions, download our free guide to starting to homeschool, and good luck to you."
Here's today's joker. It commemorates the 1934 World's Fair. It's part of the Americana collection of jokers.
Monday, July 06, 2020
For our purposes, the info could be anything. It could be about poodles. It could be about coffee mugs. It could be about business education for dentists. Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that the site is about poodles.
So assume there is an info website in place with people who visit it, people who write for it, people who sell ads on it, and people who buy ads on it.
|Not Poodles but poodles is easier to spell!|
As a growth and brand strategy, the info site would like to grow into all the places that people might want this info since people like to grow. But that is a lot of places. In some places, it might not make commercial sense. Overall, it would make more sense if the content could be created once, used everywhere. It would make less sense if the articles, videos, social media posts, podcasts, and so on were each an independent creation effort so there is no leverage and synergy.
In addition to a website full of articles info about poodles, the business might:
- syndicate its best content onto other platforms related to dogs, pets, families, and parenting.
- solicit other content writers about poodles and get their content onto the poodle website
- create videos about poodles and put them on Youtube
- create emails and newsletters about poodles
- hold conferences about poodles
- create social media accounts about poodles and fill them full of poodle info. This could include Facebook, Pinterest, Instragram, Twitter, and more.
- create ebooks about poodles and put them on kindle, iTunes, Google Play, and other channels
- create podcasts about poodles
- create new content on the new platforms as they emerge such as tiktok and interactive speakers (Alexa) and others that have not yet emerged
Is more always better? No, there is an optimal amount of expansion and content creation. You can overspend on content creation. You can over extend and put too much effort into too many media. You can create content around topics where there is no real advertising or business opportunity. Novels, for instance, are a powerful media but with NO opportunity for advertising. The color gray has a lot that can be said about it but virtually none of it attracts any advertising. You can accumulate an audience but not monetize it.
What does, given all these possibilities, a business case for a podcast look like?
- Envisage success. If all goes well, in 12 months:
- What is the size of the audience that is following the podcast?
- What is the value, in terms of advertising, of this audience?
- These are easily answerable questions since we are buyers of ads on these platforms and we know what the revenue opportunity looks like. To think about it, a monthly advertising revenue estimate should be made.
- In 12 months, to maintain this audience, what are the monthly costs of producing and publishing this podcast?
- Measure progress. Find some comparable successful podcasts and look at their history.
- How big was their audience after the first quarter, the second quarter, etc.
- Compare that growth pattern with the growth pattern that our podcast is showing.
- Are we going slower or faster than our model of success?
- Any adjustments we can make?
- What is the current expense to maintain the current growth rate?
- Create a spreadsheet and add it all up. Does the business case make sense? Is it a high ROI? Is it a money pit?
- What's the alternative? Could we for a certain amount of money sponsor some other podcast creator?
- Could the postcasts be published at the same time as videos on youtube and elsewhere?
Thursday, July 02, 2020
Again, I'm sick of this. I'll do what I usually do which is either switch rooms and see if one of the other TVs can be coaxed into showing me what I want to watch. Or I just go read.
If I get around to it, I'll write about the incredibly finicky process of trying to pick either Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime. While it appears for a second to be a simple choice, the problem is that it keeps kicking into some sort of universal app and I have no idea how to use it or how to get out of there. Sometimes the Back button (the hard button on the remote) will get me out of the univeral app. Then, if I'm careful, while staring at the big screen, I can coax the indicator to get out of the default pick-a-video menu that it is in, down to the pick-an-application mode, pick it, and then go.
Mind you, neither the Home nor the Back button are of any use in these areas, they just do weird things. Often, the screen has four big colored rectangles across the top and I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out how they work. I've recently decided that they are just distracting decorations that some idiot added thinking that while people puzzled out how to use things, a few colored useless buttons might help.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
So I thought I'd share what I think I know about how Facebook decides what to show you.
My hope is that people will stop believing in what sounds to me like superstition and magic and start thinking rationally about it. Maybe, this breakthrough will light a fuse and all of the public discussion about tech and algorithms work will start getting more sensible.
Let's start with how Facebook decides what to you show you.
If you only had six friends on Facebook, Facebook would probably show you all their posts. But, once you have sixty or six hundred or six thousand friends, Facebook must make lots of systematic decisions on what to show. A good starting point to think about this is to ask yourself, how should Facebook decide what to show you. I'll start with three questions.
One, how does Facebook decide which of your friends you are interested in hearing about? Let's assume that you obsessively visit one of your friend's Facebook pages, do you think Facebook should take this as a signal that you are interested in that person and show you more of their posts? Of course, the answer is yes. Similarly, what if you like, comment, and share a large number of a certain friend's posts? Again, Facebook will take that as a signal of your interest in seeing more from that person.
Second question: do you think Facebook should show a preference to show you the most recent posts over ones that are a week or a month or a year old? Are you interested in "last week's news?" Probably not. So there's a time decay concept that FB follows and they are more likely to show you posts by your friend if you are online exactly when they post them than posts that the same friend made two days ago.
Thirdly, if a post by someone seems to get a lot of engagement in the form of people commenting on it, liking it, and sharing it, do you think they should show that post to more people? AgainL YES.
As far as I know, those are Facebook's big three foundation policies in their algorithm of what posts to show.
1. Who do you appear interested in, they'll show that to you more. This is called affinity.
2. If you are online at 3 am and one of your friends posts at that unholy hour, FB is very likely to show it to you and the other handful of people who are on FB at that time. This has two reasons. One, immediacy is preferred by most people. This is the principle of Time decay. However, FB also uses the first handfuls of people who see a post to decide how interesting that post is. If none of the first viewers engage, FB might conclude that this post is a bit of a dud of a post so it'll be shown to less people. But, if lots of people in those first handfuls engage with that post by commenting and sharing, FB now has the signal that this post is hot and the showing of it will trend upwards.
3. So the third big rule is the appeal of each post: The Weight.
So those are the basics (I think) of the Facebook decision making. I suspect the next set of issues that FB considers are:
1. Ads. FB sells ads, Much of what you see is paid advertising. People pay to show you ads. Also, on pages of businesses, FB could extract more advertising dollars by only showing it to a few percent and charging money to get it shown more broadly.
2. Pages and groups. FB has special policies around different affinities you've shown by signing up with pages (not of people but of companies an things) and groups.
3. Look-alikes. FB will for many decisions reason that you are behaving and have demographics like some group and will make decisions based not just on your shown preferences but by thinking that you like what other people similar to you (family, friends, look-alike groups) have been shown to like. I think they are particularly prone to show you what your friends are seeing since that seems to create a special type of back and forth
4. Types of posts. FB probably does not like posts with links to other sites that leads people to leave FB. So they prefer posts with videos that are uploaded to FB, they probably don't much like posts that include links to videos on Youtube. Probably, FB likes original graphics on FB and other internal to FB links. Does FB prefer long or short answer posts? This is a trick question because of what we know: FB will take its cues on whether to show you graphics or long posts probably based on your personal history of engaging more or less with long posts or with images. Again, this is what I think. Unlike the big three at the top, I haven't really researched these questions.
5. Outrageous stuff. There is a lot of news about how FB prefers to show you views that are slightly more extreme than yours or the total opposite since both seem to produce a certain type of reaction which results in higher engagement. But this is an advanced question that we'll leave aside for now despite it probably being the reason that the world is not getting along and why WWIII is just around the corner. It's so FB could make a little more money and incidentally, build a hateful unstable world. But let's not get into that now.
Does this help you understand Facebook's decision-making?
If you are interested in learning more, this subject is called the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm. Many businesses and social media people obscess over trying to understand and manipulate this algorithm and there is a lot written on it.
Other interesting algorithms to think about to help understand the daily experience:
- How does Google decide what to answer your query with?
- How does Youtube decide what videos to suggest?
- What about Instagram and Twitter? How is Facebook different than Twitter in showing?
- What will the stock market do tomorrow?
- And what mood will my wife be in tonight?
BTW - if this article helped you, would you leave a comment? I see that there are about 100 visitors a day of this site but I don't hear much from you.
Wednesday, January 29, 2020
- Expertise - does the content have meaningful additions and direction. Are there quality links out to quality sites?
- Authority of writers and staff. Are they listed? Can they be found on LinkedIn or other sites? Do they have expertise relevant to what they are writing on? Obviously, the first step is that writing needs a listed author or authors. Maybe also a board of advisers.
- Trustworthyness -
Here's the Google Rating Guide.
Friday, January 24, 2020
Sunday, December 29, 2019
However, as a single mom, the logistics and finances of a boot camp were daunting. So while attending a conference, she was introduced to the idea that a person can learn to code on their own.
The article is excellent addressing such things as how to find mentors, when to start interviewing, how to use the "tech tests" from interviews as an opportunity, and how to hold oneself accountable.
My experience in the tech industry confirms Ms. Adewusi's view of how possible it is. As a 62 year who has been in the tech industry since the late 1980s, I have rubbed elbows with self taught engineers hundreds of times.
Sometimes I worked for them. At Silicon Graphics in the early 90s, I worked for Carol (something) who had gone to work as a secretary after high school. I don't really remember her career story (or her last name) but she was running a big engineering organization at a premier Silicon Valley company and I think her tech skills were all acquired independently by her.
More often, I have employed self taught engineers. I ran a video game development company in London in the late 90s with about a 100 people, often more, and perhaps half of the of the tech staff were self taught "hackers", a term we used back then to distinguish between the self-taught and the formally trained.
I've run an educational software for the last 15 years and the engineers that have most helped with the actual coding were...yup... totally self taught. We also have plenty of comp sci and software engineering graduates and many with masters degrees. And we have some bootcamp graduates. One of our clerical staff just left us to go to a bootcamp.
Many ways to get there....
Saturday, November 09, 2019
There are two very important types of fluency or memorization that should happen in elementary school.
1. Learn your time tables - I recommend Time4MathFacts as Gamified and Effective. See this math facts educational article
2. Retain your vocabulary. While learning vocabulary has a number of clever techniques, there's a different question of how to retain. Research says that for most of us, 12-15 touches with a word, different contexts, different ways over 3-5 weeks provides a very high probability of long term retention. Read about vocabulary retention.