Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interesting Fable - Interesting Idea

A long read, but an interesting one. I've heard rumblings of this kind of research, and I'm hearing more and more all the time.

The guy that wrote this article also wrote this one. It is an another interesting concept regarding a 'great filter' that may explain why we haven't heard from alien species. But that article is down because of the slashdot effect. Check back later.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is up, over at the super trio. The audio is a bit better, I think. I'm still trying to tweak things, but it's been fun learning how to do this.

I had a bit of a panic last week, because my intention has been to try to keep ahead of my reading. I wanted to start a second book, and write it while I podcasted the first one. But the second book wasn't gelling in my brain.

However, the weather was nice a few days last week (we've either had 70 degree weather, or snow), and I walked home one day. While walking, a great idea for how to tie together all of the things I want came to me. So, I've almost got chapter one worked out in my head, and hopefully will be able to have the second book finished by the time the first chapter has been podcasted. There are 13 chapters in book one, so I've got three months.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 25, 2008


Just checked and my podcast is now searchable on iTunes. If you do a search for super trio, or Matthew Buckley, it appears.

Kind of fun. The second chapter should be up by Sunday.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Super Trio

I have tried for a year to start on another book, but it just wasn't coming. I had planned a third in the Headlights series. However, about a month ago I was lying in bed, and the idea for a mid grade reader just came to me. In about an hour I had the story worked out in my mind. I couldn't help but giggle into my pillow, and take notes so I wouldn't forget it while I slept.

Well, I've finished the book and have decided to deliver it as a podcast. I'm going to read the book and post it a chapter at a time. The first chapter is up, and I would love if you passed this link on to anybody you think might be interested. I think the book will appeal to 5-11 year olds.

The book is completely free. I'm not going to do anything like ask for donations, or make people pay for 'the rest of the book'. I plan on trying to get an agent, and get the book published, but for now I'm giving it away. You can listen on the site, or subscribe to it on iTunes (iTunes link forthcoming).

The book is about superheroes. From the first page of the book:

"Rafter Hans Bailey looked at the clock. In 12 more minutes he would finally be ten. And in 12 more minutes, he would finally be a superhero..."

So, if you know anybody who would like a good story read to them over the next three months, point them my way!



Chasing License Plates

As many of you have been reading in the news, over 400 children were taking from their parents down in Texas. Yes, they were polygamists, and yes there was a (single) phone call reporting sexual abuse. But shouldn't we all be a little concerned over the response to that phone call? The authorities have swooped in and affected the lives of hundreds of families, all because they have the same religious belief.

I am not a supporter of polygamy in any way, shape or form. I am certainly not an advocate of teen age brides, and forced marriages. But now things are really starting to look fishy down in Texas. It looks like the phone call that started this whole mess didn't even come from a member of the community, but from somebody who likes to call the police and report made up crimes

So, as I see it, we have a random trouble maker pose as a young woman and claim to be abused. The authorities swoop in and take hundreds of kids from their parents because there might be sexual abuse in all of these families? Because they live in the same compound?

Isn't that what makes America grand? You're not arrested because you might be doing something wrong, or your neighbor is doing something wrong, rather you're arrested because there is evidence that you've actually committed a crime!

My neighbors and I all live in the same suburb, and most of us attend the same church. So if my neighbor is accused of sexual abuse, will my kids be taken away too? Will I be forced to take a DNA test, to prove that my kids are my own?

And where is the ACLU in all of this? The organization that is supposed to be protecting our civil liberties? They are trying to get the word God taken off the Indiana license plate.

It's all a little frustrating.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Facebook and Blockbuster, take 2

A few weeks ago I posted my experience with Blockbuster posting what I was renting to Facebook, despite the fact that I had never asked it to do it, and in fact had 'opted out' of this lovely feature.

Looks like others, and those with a tendency to sue, have had a similar experience. A class action law suit is under way, and the suit is asking $2,500 per incident. Of course after attorney's fees, I would probably get about .83 cents, but hey, I'm a published author, I'm used to those kind of percentages.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Give me some credit...

I've been thinking a lot about 'credit' lately. USU OCW receive 1-2 emails a week from people asking if they can take a test for credit. Many of these people say they've been through course material, and feel they understand it. But the knowledge itself isn't good enough. What they want credit, and it's a completely rational thing to want. Consider the following.

For the first time in my life, I had to hire an attorney. I'm not going into details, and it's nothing big, but lets just say that me and another person had a friendly disagreement. And when I say friendly, I really do mean it. We both read a contract and interpreted it in two different ways.

Now I knew I was right, as I'm sure you readers know I was right. Your faith in me in humbling. :) I showed the gentleman why I was right, but he did not budge. He felt he was right. So I let my fingers do the walking (I didn't use them to communicate, because that is just plain rude), and called an attorney, and asked him to clarify. When I talked to the attorney he laughed and said that my interpretation was in fact correct. Everything I had explained to the man was right.

When the man learned this, he agreed to comply with the contract. I had told him the same thing the attorney had told him, but there was a difference. Think about it. The attorney and I had the same information. We shared the same information with the man. The only difference was that the attorney had a certificate of 'credit' on his wall. He'd been to school, and so he must know about these things.

We do this all the time. We go to doctors, accountants, and lawyers because they have received a degree, or a certificate from a place that says they know how to do X.

OpenCourseWare must solve the problem of credit. There are people using our materials, and there are people who are learning skills. But unless there is some easy way to demonstrate that knowledge, it is the same as if they don't have it. Imagine having to sit down with a doctor, and quizzing him before you determine whether or not he is capable of examining you. It's much easier to look at degree hanging on a wall, and know somebody with more knowledge than you made sure this person is competent.

Universities currently have a monopoly on issuing credit. I'd love to see an alternative. We're seeing the beginnings of this with institutions like Western Governor's University, but even this is just a first step. There is much more that needs to be done.

You either know the stuff, or you don't. And if you do, I'd like to see you get the credit, regardless of where it comes from.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Favorite Quote of the Day

We had a guest speaker teaching our scout troop how to perform CPR. He made a comment something to the affect of, "Once you have started CPR, you have to keep doing it, you can't quit."

One of the scouts replied, "Kind of like World of Warcraft."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Why Digg Should Fail, But Probably Won't

When I first heard about Digg I was quite excited. Digg is a site where people can submit articles, pictures, or other content that they think is interesting. If other people like the story they can 'digg it', and it pushes the story to the top. The content on the front page only contains articles with a lot of diggs.

What appealed to me is that you don't have a 'gatekeeper'. You can submit content to slashdot, but there are a group of editors who have been hired to sift through stories, find the good ones, and ultimately determine what makes it to the front page. When you have gatekeepers, you will have bias. If they are not interested in a certain topic, you're out of luck. If a thousand people are interested in a topic, but the editor isn't, you're out of luck.

With Digg, this isn't a problem. It's democracy in it's purest form.

Which leads to the problem.

Let's look at an example. This article about Yahoo rejecting a Microsoft bid was submitted to Digg 57 days ago. You can't tell by the time any longer, but it was submitted several hours before this article, about the same topic. The latter article was the one which ultimately made it to the front page.

I see four problems with this scenario.

First, although the one article was submitted first, ultimately it was the second article that made it to the front page. Not a big deal, but it starts to raise a reg flag. Why did the second article make it, even though the first article had several more hours to collect diggs? The Digg submissions were linking to different articles on the same topic, maybe the article that made it to the front page was of higher quality?

Which leads us to the second problem. The article that made it to the front page can be found here. It is three sentences long. The rest of the page is nothing but ads, ads, and more ads. The article that didn't make it can be found here. In my opinion the second article is superior because it links to the original article, is clear and concise but goes into depth. So it can be argued that the article submitted later, and of lower quality, made it to the front page.

The third problem is that of duplicate articles fighting to get to the front page. The first article got 95 diggs. Anybody who has submitted articles to Digg knows that it can take a long time to get that many diggs. If you have 5-10 articles on the same topic, and they are all getting dugg, a 'breaking story' might not make it to the front page for some time, because the votes are being spread over a number of articles.

Finally, what I ultimately see the biggest problem of Digg, takes us back to the 'gatekeeper' issue. My initial excitement over Digg was the removal of this gatekeeper. If a story is good, it will make it to the front page. But this example shows me that this might not be happening. Instead, what I'm seeing is a group of submitters who have risen to the top, and now have a better chance of getting material to the top page. In fact, we've ended right up where we began, with a group of gatekeepers. But it's worse than that.

Often these power diggers push their own site. They will copy content or stories from others sites, and then throw tons of adds on their site (as is the case in our example). In other words, these gatekeepers now aren't pushing material they think is interesting, rather whatever content they put on their site, in hopes of getting a financial reward. Conflict of interest in it's purest sense.

So, in the end we're left in the same situation as we were before, except the gatekeepers aren't paid employees who must demonstrate competence in their job or risk being fired, but people who are pimping their own site for financial reward. There will always be bias in these 'gatekeepers', but blatent bias can be dealt with in the first model, not as much so in the second.

There has been a lot of talk about Digg vs Slashdot (who uses paid gatekeepers). In my mind there is no comparison. Slashdot is not a perfect model, but Digg is even less so.

So, if you want pictures of cute puppies, stories about topless women, and the random interesting tech article posted as a copy of a copy on somebody's personal web site (that you can see after you've closed all the popup ads), then keep digging away. If you're looking for something a bit meatier, I recommend slash dot or any of the other 'traditional model' sites.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Compelling Idea...

This is one of the most exciting articles I've read in a long time. I've long said that the old publishing model is outdated, and really needs to be changed. The old model is a scarcity model. There are few books, and few ways to get those books. Only one entity can distribute the book, so it creates a monopoly. Because of that, the entity can charge whatever they want. Growing up, I remember paying $1.25 for a book. Now a paperback can run you over $15; a hardback will run you $30-$40.

Anyway, I've been working on a new book, one that I'm quite excited about. It's a chapter book, geared toward elementary children. I have a friend who is a podcasting master, I think I might beg him to teach me how to do it, and release the book online.

To me, writing is too much of a solitary activity. I like to be with others, to hear feedback, and share ideas. I believe when this happens, a work becomes better. With the latest book, the driving factor has been my children. They love the book, and beg for more. They ask me about the characters, and what is going to happen next. My sister-in-law has written to me and told me how much she and her husband like it. It is an interactive experience, which is what I need. So the next logical step is to share that with a broader audience. It would be even better to hear more feedback, and would be fulfilling to me if more people were enjoying the book.

So, keep checking back. I've got 6 of 10 chapters done. I'll talk to my friend, and see how difficult it is to get set up podcasting. Once the book is done, I'll start releasing a chapter a week. Hopefully, that will give me 10 weeks to complete the next book in the series.

Friday, April 04, 2008


There are a lot of good groups out there, and many of them have taken on the phrase 'X without borders'. You have Engineers Without Borders, Teachers Without Borders, etc. I've always thought Fence Builders Without Borders would be funny. However, now I'm thinking the ultimate would be for a group of pirates (maybe these guys?) to call themselves Boarders Without Borders.

Now that is a club I'd join.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bite me, Blockbuster Online

Oh, and you too, Facebook.

About 3 years ago I signed up for Netflix, Walmart DVD online, and Blockbuster online. I wanted to see which interface was better, and who was quicker about sending me DVDs in the mail. Netflix won, hands down.

Blockbuster has recently come out with an interesting idea, however, where you can rent online, as well as in the store. They have been pestering me to 'come back' for years, but yesterday they sent me a free month, so I thought, what the heck. I'll sign up, rent a few, and then cancel after 29 days.

I canceled after one. Here is why.

I put Enchanted in my queue, because the kids have wanted to watch it. I thought it would be a fun surprise. It was a surprise, all right.

I wandered over to facebook sometime later, and there in my newsfeed is a proud proclamation, 'Marion Jensen added Enchanted to his blockbuster queue!"


I'm glad I didn't add what I wanted (Beaches, Sense and Sensibility, and Pretty Woman).

Now I've gone through the settings of Facebook long ago, and have turned notifying all actions from external sites (nobody is so bored that they run to the web to see what I've been doing), but that didn't stop Facebook. Even though the default to blockbuster online was 'notify me first', it posted this breaking story to my news feed. My co-worker logged in and saw that I had added Enchanted to my blockbuster queue.

I'm pretty ticked.

So, the lesson? Screw blockbuster, go with Netflix. And as far as facebook goes, BACK OFF.

As soon as I see an alpha version of Justin's app, I'm bailing.