Friday, August 28, 2009

tt4t_096 Vanishing bits and warning signs in the cloud

It’s Friday, August 28th, 2009 and welcome to episode 96 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. It is now officially the first week of fall semester classes and we have met all the deadlines for having the technology infrastructure in place for a successful start to the school year. This summer has been particularly busy with a large number of new faculty and staff computers as well as the new netbook project we are implementing this fall.

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It is always interesting getting ready for the first day of school as there is literally a tidal wave of faculty, staff, and students that show up all at once ready to hit the ground running. We survived the first week of school and can breathe a sigh of relief as all the hard work over the summer has paid off with a smooth launch to the school year.

We are still in orientation mode as there have been many meetings this week and I will be meeting with several departments to give updates and provide professional development for new additions in the coming weeks. One thing you can say about technology is that you never get bored because it is constantly changing.

Of course the hope is that this change is for the better, at least it should be, otherwise why bother? We have been making our way into the Web 2.0 world over the past five years or so and there have been many growing pains along the way. Over the past month or so I have been thinking a lot about these changes and the consequences for educators.

This past month has had several items in the news that we need to address before we can move forward with confidence in this brave new and changing world.

About a month ago there was an article about how Amazon had deleted a couple of select books from their customers Kindle account without customer consent. A Kindle is Amazon’s version of an electronic book reader. Customers were however refunded the purchase price. This was all done in advance before any customer consent with the reason stated as a copyright issue with the purchased content.

I have provided a link in the show notes that describes this incident in greater detail. Ironically enough the books erased were from author George Orwell and included the books 1984 and Animal Farm. Amazon initially erased the e-books from the customers Kindle because of a copyright issue and has since back-tracked and has stated it will not erase e-books from customers Kindles in the future.

Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle


This whole incident appears to be very 1984ish where Big Brother can control everything, including taking away previously purchased reading material. That should give us all pause to be concerned about this over-reaching of protecting content. It is also a reminder that we are living in times of transition from the analog to the digital world where things are now possible because of digitization that were previously impossible in the analog world.

In the analog world of books Amazon would not have even considered going into a customers home and removing a previously purchased hard copy book from the customers coffee table because of a copyright issue. When things are digitized new possibilities are created, in this case for the worse.

These issues need to be worked through as we increasingly move our lives into the digital world now made possible by Web 2.0 technologies. I believe e-books have a bright future, however the transition that is occurring and digital rights management and terms of use need to be worked out before we will see wide-spread adoption.

Another Big Brotherish incident occurred over the past month that resulted in Apple not approving the Google voice application for their iPhone App Store. This incident is currently under investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

This situation is a tangled weave of competing interests between Apple, Google, and AT&T. AT&T currently subsidizes pricing for the iPhone based upon customers signing an extended data contract. Google’s voice application has some negative implications for AT&T in that it provides Voice over IP and texting capabilities that could possibly cut into the revenues of AT&T. AT&T pays Apple to reduce the cost of the iPhone and these subsidies are based on AT&T projections of future profits tied to customer data contracts. If AT&T starts to lose revenue then this may affect subsidies to Apple in the future.

Apple has said that Google Voice duplicates services already existing on the iPhone and other existing apps and that it also interferes with the customers iPhone experience. I have provided links in the show notes to a couple of articles related to this story if you are interested.

Apple Rejects Google Voice App, Invites Regulation

FCC Opens Inquiry of Apple's Ban of Google Voice

There was also some collateral damage to other apps in the App Store in that Apple is wanting to remove GV Mobile’s previously approve app from the app store. This incident is similar to the Amazon Kindle incident in that a company can decide to take away something that was previously approved for purchase and then refunding the customer whether or not the customer gives their permission.

Apple Yanks The Cord On GV Mobile. Is It Trying To Kill Google Voice On The iPhone?

This will be an interesting case to watch as these three Titans in Tech battle their way through the legalities of co-dependent terms and services with competing interests.

I guess the concerning thing for me as a consumer and as an educator is that a company may make a decision to reverse an application or service at their whim. Take this to the next level of a company controlling the actual content and then it becomes even more concerning and can easily lead to censorship and dictatorial control. This changing of terms happens rather routinely to Web 2.0 companies as they are purchased by bigger companies and are often shutdown, customers are then left without services.

Of course many of the Web 2.0 services are currently free and some say you get what you pay for but remember that the companies are often displaying ads for revenue and working out a business plan to make their service profitable.
We are definitely going through some growing pains as we work our way through this analog to digital transition of content delivery. This conversation needs to have all voices heard and not just the corporations as we develop the policies and laws over the use and sharing of digital creations.

We have been undergoing this transition for some time now but recently the capabilities of content delivery have increased due to increasing bandwidth availability. As broadband becomes more common so does the acceleration to digital delivery models of many things that were previously analog.

As people put more and more of their everyday life onto the Internet and as we educators move our curriculum online we need to pause and realize that we need to keep control of our own content including our digital pictures, writings, and videos. It is us that should be controlling the technology and not the other way around. We must not lose control to Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, the App Store, Flikr, Black Board or any of the other thousands of Web 2.0 services as we make this transition.

In my opinion we need to have a dual approach where we keep control of our original works and share a digital copy to the Internet. We may keep rights to the originals if we so choose, that way if a service goes out of business, changes the Terms of Service, or if a company starts charging for previously free services we have the option of deciding what we would like to do with our own content. This is just good computing practice. One of the rules I have followed for years is separating data from the application. Doing so provides you with the safety and control of the data (the thing that is valuable to you) and leaves your options open should you face a situation of changing application providers.

As for the actual software and services, in my opinion, the Terms of Services agreement should not be changed to retroactively take away previously purchased digital products and services without end user consent. That becomes a slippery slope.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is from my Personal Learning Network where I asked for recommendations this week.

My pick this week is called Posterous and comes to you from Twitter user @bookminder A link is available in the show notes to the Posterous website.

The Posterous tagline is “the dead simple place to post everything, just email us.”

This service can be used to very easily post things to the web, as always, remember that things you post are public so do not share anything private, confidential, or sensitive in nature and abibe by your organizations policies.

It can’t get much simpler to post things to the Internet than emailing an attachment that creates a website for you.

When I clicked on their “email link” here is the message that I received.
“Replace the subject line and body with your first blog post and hit send! Include pictures, an mp3, or anything else you want to share. It's just that simple.”

Here is a link to my first Posterous link where I shared a picture of Washington, DC back from this summer while I was attending the National Educational Computing Conference.

My first Posterous posting:

Sharing does not get much easier than that!

I have also provided a link to the FAQ section for you to learn more about the Posterous service.

That wraps it up for episode 96 of TechTalk4Teachers. Transcripts and show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the Eastern Illinois University Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have questions, comments or suggestions please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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