Thursday, February 04, 2010
  Brick walls and motherly God-talk
I've run into a brick wall working on my Amos land and territory material, a belated [well the oral paper was supposed to be only that, thoughts of publication followed the colloquium, and last year was so busy] literature search has thrown up a highly relevant article that could impact hugely on what I write, but the journal may not be available in NZ :( So, if anyone has access to
S. D. Snyman, "The Land as a Leitmotiv in the Book of Amos." Verbum et Ecclesia, 2005, 26(2) 527-542
and could scan and email me a copy, I'd be delighted :)

In the meanwhile I need to change mental gears and work on the Day of YHWH and the structure of Amos. To help me with the transition [at least that's my excuse] I have been doing the mindless but necessary job of converting more of Not Just a Father, my book on the use of motherly language and imagery to speak about God in the Christian tradition into the format that will allow readers to comment on, ask questions about and argue with my thinking paragraph by paragraph.

I am now doing chapter 5 "Theology of God as Both Father and Mother" though I have cheated a bit as chapter 3 is not yet written ;)

All I need now are people to make comments, so once again (now that I am back at work after the summer) if you know someone who might be interested in this topic please point them to the site and suggest that they really say what they think :)

But before you do that do please email the Thai prime Minister...

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Friday, June 06, 2008
  Britannica does Wiki
And I missed it, it was there on the Britannica Blog sitting in my feedreader since Tuesday, but I've been so busy with a laptop that is almost dead, and another that is nearly ready to take its place (though it has not battery life, or microphone :( that I nearly missed it.

As I understand it, the post Britannica’s New Site: More Participation, Collaboration from Experts and Readers basically announces that the Wikipedia model has so much going for it that Britannica has to adopt elements from its greatest rival's method of working. By that I mean that the announcement clearly hopes that something of the incredible energy and diversity of the Wikipedia community involvement will be able to be harnessed into a more controlled and even attributed and peer reviewed environment. It is a grand dream. It looks well thought out.

Among many ideas, this one stood out for me:
Britannica will help them with research and publishing tools and by allowing them to easily use text and non-text material from Encyclopaedia Britannica in their work. We will publish the final products on our site for the benefit of all readers, with all due attribution and credit to the people who created them. The authors will have the option of collaborating with others on their work, but each author will retain
control of his or her own work.
Is this Britannica "getting" the commercial potential of Web 2.0, and like Google and YouTube planning to profit from it, or is it more?
You can preview the new site, which is still in beta testing, at A portion of the people who visit Britannica Online today are being routed to this site and are using it now; soon it will replace our current site at entirely, and the new features we have described above will be introduced in the weeks and months ahead.
I can't wait to see how this attempt to marry the best of the new with the best of the old works out, in the years and decades, rather than weeks and months ahead! One thing is for sure, at last the "old" is gone, buried and dead... I still wonder what the new will look like, and wonder at what it has already given us.

In the post that preceded the announcement and anticipated it a contributor, Jorge Cauz, three important principles:
  • "ownership" - by which he means attribution and responsibility - about which none need fear or quibble
  • "the voices and powers of experts" which is a much less attractive phrase than the Britannica's official "community of scholars" I hope the official version wins out, I would hate to be at the mercy of the power of experts, since the "experts" of the past become in the present fools
  • "objectivity" which he claims is merely "difficult to attain", my view is that it is an impossible though perhaps desirable dream!
While there is much in this post that is sensible (as Jim W will doubtless have pointed out back on Tuesday) there is a tone that I fear:
We believe that to provide lively and intelligent coverage of complex subjects requires experts and knowledgeable editors who can make astute judgments that cut through the on a topic.
This reads to me dangerously like the tyranny of "experts" that every successful totalitarian regime in the 20th century ensured.Give me the "cacophony of competing and often
confusing viewpoints
" over the bland, expert unitary point of view - but then I believe truth is more important than "standing" ;-)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
  Omnisio or nomnisio?
I took a look at Omnisio today. It is a tool that allows one to associate video clips with slide presentations, and then allows users to comment directly on the video. It sounded cool and useful.

I chose to watch Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero talk. Watching him speak, as well as hearing the talk with slides should be so much richer, I thought. And some intelligent comments from other previous watchers would be added value. In fact it is the worst of multimedia meets the worst of "Web 2.0". Since you have good sized video and good sized slides, with OK sound the presentation did not so much stream and trickle with frequent annoying hiccups. Make the video smaller, maybe compress the sound a little more and that combination would be great though (or deliver it from a DVD for real quality). The comments, of course are not intelligent, they are anonymous and crowd out the video with such gems as "Great!!!" repeated 16 times at various apparently arbitrary points. It might have been interesting to know that the chair (that almost appeared in the video) was Ikea, but it was irrelevant and so just another blot on the video. All in all a big disappointment.

Now before you think I am a multimedia Luddite, or a Web 2.0 sceptic, hear me out...

The multimedia aspect is brilliant, the combination of video and slides has the potential to offer so much more than slides and audio alone. Except in this implementation it does not work. Both slides and video are smallish (about 480px wide each) which is unavoidable for web delivery, but they are not small enough (at least on NZ's rather narrow "broadband"). Bigger slides with smaller video in one corner (think Camtasia with a webcam) would download faster and give a fullscreen experience.

Or, deliver it on DVD...

Web 2.0 is great, when users contribute usefully. The "wisdom of crowds" works (at least often) and applications like Google Earth and sites like Flickr use publicly contributed resources brilliantly to provide a growing and useful body of material. But do not give me the folly of "Anonymous" once humans are sure they will not be identified we tend to give reign to our baser instincts - in this case a plethora of useless, annoying and occasionally rude comments. Which proliferate like rabbits, at times almost hiding the presenter behind a barrage of meaningless verbiage.
Microsoft's chief, estimated worth $46bn, is the US' richest man
Make users login, identify them and provide their email address so that particularly crass and stupid "comments" can get the feedback they deserve, and you'd have a brilliant opportunity to interact with the video. (Probably you'd need to put most comments outside the video and only put those which like the "Ikea chair" comment relate directly to some visual element on the video itself.) But you can't do that, because of spam, once again spam ruins a potentially useful tool.
Do you remember back in 2004 when Bill Gates multi-billionaire philanthropist and founder of the world's biggest software company proclaimed that the spam problem would soon fixed? Spam will be a thing of the past in two years' time, Microsoft boss Bill Gates has promised. Nice one Bill!

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Friday, December 07, 2007
  Experts and Web 2.0 :: teaching and learning
Photo by Cdr Aitch
In his post Web 2.0 and experts: a metaphor Nichthus continues to ruminate on the relevance or place of Web 2.0 approaches to teaching.

This time he proposes a thoroughly Kiwi metaphor: refereeing decisions at a rugby match (I'm sure denizens of other sports-mad nations can translate ;-). Of course, in terms of the Rugby match he's right, no one but the blindest, most one-eyed fan would want the crowd consulted over a difficult point of interpretation of the rules of a sport that could decide a world cup.
Photo by Jitsu
BUT is refereeing a match, or indeed any other decision making process, the best model for teaching and learning? By this I mean: when I learn am I placed in the position of a referee who much decide what is "right"? In a totally, 100%, unguided system I might be, but if I have a guide or teacher (whether by my side or on the stage ;) the model no longer describes my experience or the process.

In teaching and learning the question is not: which decision will be taken - was it a try or not? Rather the issue at stake is: will the learner acquire the desired information and skills, and through what process will they be best facilitated in this learning?

Here Web 2.0 provides a much better model than a referee. For, through the advice and critique of my peers, through trying things for myself, as well as through professional advice and critique, I am likely to learn more and better - not least because my peers motivate me. The joy of discovery motivates me, in ways the threat of bad marks does not. I respond better to stick and carrot than just stick! Maybe to use another Kiwi metaphor teaching is more like herding sheep than refereeing a rugby match, sheep are more likely to find their way to the desired pasture if they are part of a flock moving that way than if they respond alone to the shepherd's yells and waving arms! Of course the ideal is to have a few sheepdogs helping too ;-)

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Saturday, December 01, 2007
  Why e-portfolios?
Do NOT yawn, despite all the boring waffle and technical jabber, e-portfolios actually matter to ordinary mortals!

Cathy Gunn (U of A) has posted a video of extracts from Mark Nichols presentation on e-portfolios (see also my post below) so now you can see what I meant, his "A movie or a snapshot?" really does explain why this matters. Unfortunately it was posted to an Apple site, so I can't embed it here (or at least I can't see how to...) sometimes Mac people are just SO proprietary - I wonder when a shareable YouTube pirate version will appear!?

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Friday, September 28, 2007
  TV Listings with a 2.0 twist
Rachel announced the new, clever (and probably, ask me in a few weeks time, for now I'm wondering if one could add the ability to tune out and in different people/classes of people so the featured items in the "tag cloud" reflect better - but not too perfeectly - MY preferences) TV listing service my commiserations to readers in the frozen north (USA, Canada Europe etc.who are going all autumnal just as weather in the real world is turning nice and spring-like) for they will have to wait till the 21st century catches up with them ;-) and they get cool TV Listings 2.0...

For now, o deprived and backward masses, just look on and weep. (Yes I'll admit you have 909 more free to air channels and 50% less time devoted to adverts, but we've got the listings...)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007
  Bible $2.0
Well, actually for .5% less than that! Yes apparently if you live in the USA you can buy a Bible for less than $2.0. The only catch is that you have to buy 24 of them. But at $47.76 the one you keep for yourself is not over expensive and the 23 you give away might change a life. Especially as these are CEV translation Bibles, nice clear simple English to make the words of the "word" come alive!

CEV is the translation used by PodBible, so all you PodBible listeners from the USA should sign up today and start giving Bibles away to your pastors, teachers and friends asap. (Your pastors and teachers need them so they can start reading from a clear simple easy to understand version, so people stop thinking the Bible is complicated and old fashioned and can start really hearing what it says!)

HT to Lingamish who told me about this great deal!

Bible Society in NZ's sales page seems to be down, does anybody know if there is a similar deal here? Maybe it is the rush of orders that crashed their server ;-)

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Saturday, August 04, 2007
  Web 1.8 Beta : Oxford Internet Survey and Web 2.0
Web 2.0 is a convenient shorthand for the way in which a combination of disparate but related elements promise to change the way we "inhabit" the web.

The term is also a horribly overworked cliche, a trite marketing ploy, and annoying enough to cause the imperturbable Nichthus to engage in a long discussion with AKMA and me (by a mix of posts and their comments Retrospect and Prospect, Bible, Babel and Web 2.0, ...and I clawed my way to the summit section "...Civilising the natives" and email) about Web 2.0 and education.

Now - despite the hype, marketing and twee graphics - the factors that are drawn together under this rubric have the potential to change "things" radically. Hence the 2.0 designation.

But what is the reality? A couple of days ago BBC News reported on the Oxford Internet Survey (a really interesting collection of information on Internet use in the UK). They focused on the evidence that the "Digital divide grows with web use", but equally striking is noticing that while
42% of students have created a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace, but just 15% of the employed and 2% of retired people
and that
e-mail and internet messaging are still by far the most dominant means of online communication.
There has been an enormous increase in the use of search engines such as Google to find information - with 57% mainly using search engines, compared with just 19% in 2005.
But still,
Only 16% of internet users have tried to set up a website for personal use - and the proportion is unchanged since the last survey in 2005.
only one in 10 internet users have taken part in political activities online, such as signing an online petition
Which suggested to the BBC sub-editors a heading:
No Web 2.0 - yet
Maybe a better conclusion would be that what we currently have is Web 1.8 Beta ;-) Something that has the potential to be the start of a significant change, but which has still not been really tested, matured and made into a stable "product". That's why encouraging people to trial the Beta is so important, if we do not use it then we will be stuck with another product currently undergoing testing WebMax Web that serves the big corporations and media moguls where, at last, we are all reduced to consumers of what our "betters" think is trite enough to attract our feeble attentions long enough to pay...


Sunday, July 01, 2007
  Bible, Babel and Web 2.0
In AKMA's post "Retrospect and Prospect" he writes:
The items of special concern to one constituency in our planning
meeting stayed fixed at the Web 1.0, or generously at the Web 1.5 level
— whereas the digital natives who will very soon be entering
seminary take Web 2.0 for granted, and some have begun messing with
more adventuresome instantiations of the digital environment. To a
student who’s active with Facebook and Flickr, who plays in
Second Life or Warcraft, who’s comfortable chatting in text,
conversing over a shared audio server (such as Ventrillo or TeamSpeak),
at the same time she’s flying to her island in Second Life, a
seminary’s installation of BlackBoard not only represents archaic
technology, it represents determined irrelevance to her way of daily
I'm not sure whether the "one constituency in our planning meeting" phrase indicates an otherwise widespread desire to engage with the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0 and beyond, or whether it is just a scholarly caution not wishing to implicate others in what one has observed is true of a small sample. Either way, the inability to engage with Web 2.0 and beyond seems to me to be endemic in the Theological world. How many teachers at your institution (assuming you are institutionalised ;-) have a blog, even?

There is a reason (beyond old age and advanced technophobia) for this. Web 2.0 begins from letting everyone and anyone have a voice. Scholarship is a series of guilds. Guilds are communities designed to keep others out, and ensure that only the authorised, and properly respectful, may perform the holy acts and mysteries that the guild "owns".

In biblical studies this fear of letting "lay" interpreters loose on the sacred text is deeply ingrained. (See Jim's post More Wretched Dilettantism for a textbook example!) In academic institutions the stakes are different, after all "we" control the marks. Yet the fear is similar, if teaching gets tainted by Web 2.0 ideas students will decide for themselves what is worth their time and what is not. They might decide that the solid (if frankly often dull and insipid) scholarship we value is not interesting enough... No, "we" know what's right, and good, and true and we'll make sure our students are not given freedom enough to think for themselves - they might hurt themselves poor things!

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Monday, June 18, 2007
  Oh, no, not another TLA!
I'm continually surprised how many people around me do not understand RSS. Actually I don't mean UNDERSTAND (only geeks need to understand) I mean have a basic idea of why and how to USE the results (and everyone needs that - even if they don't realise it). Common Craft have a neat short YouTube RSS in Plain English video to explain!

BTW thanks to Nichthus for pointing me to Common Craft's You Tube output (their item on Wikis at last enabled me to see what apart from Wikipdedia they are good for) (-;


Thursday, June 07, 2007
  You Talk - PodBible interactive
I'm just off the phone with Mark Brown (the CEO of Bible Society in NZ) basically, since he visited Carey before being appointed and sounded interested in the use of the Bible online, I've been meaning to talk to him about several of my dreams and projects. It makes such a pleasant change to talk to a "church leader" who not only thinks the electronic world is important, but who seems to "get it".

Mark has a blog [he also is some kind of Anglican Bishop of Second Life!], and I've added it to my Bloglines subscription because in the ten minutes since getting off the phone I've found several interesting posts there. Check it out!

Among other things we talked about ways to make PodBible more interactive. Mark suggested I look again at Twitter.He has a post that will suggest something of what he said: What am I doing right now? Twittering that’s what. I'd looked briefly at Twitter, and spotted instantly that it is not for me, that instant communication doesn't suit me, not least because I live in NZ and 95% of the world lives in a different time!

After a second look, I still don't think Twitter is the answer, but I suspect it's part of the answer... as well as "old fashioned" asynchronous discussion forums, and maybe instant messaging etc. perhaps a Twitter (or twitter-style?) sidebar which shows what people are "doing now" could be great.

I'm beginning to get an idea of what PodBible's YouTalk section should look like. A means to navigate (linked to tags, both of Bible references and other topics) an area to write "posts" and comments, the capacity to IM (perhaps with an asynchronous capacity like the IM tool in Moodle) and a twitter-like "how I'm responding to the Bible now" section. At least... When I talked with Stephen about all this last week my ideas were pretty unformed, now they are coming together...

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Saturday, February 10, 2007
  Why Web 2.0 is more than a meaningless slogan
I was pointed to Michael Wesch's little Web 2.0 video on YouTube a while ago (it seems like weeks, but apparently the thing only went public on Wednesday, doesn't time fly on the web!) I watched the start, and thought "this is good, I must bookmark it to watch tomorrow". Of course, tomorrow never came - it only rarely does!

But then AKMA posted about the video and I watched all of it. It is brilliant, simple, short, low(ish) tech and it explains simply and clearly why "Web 2.0" is so much more than a neat - but meaningless - slogan.

Starts with hypertext, reminding viewers what all the hype was about once upon a time, then it makes clear the nature of the underlying revolution that XML generates by separating content and form. (Don't worry people I said the video was neat, quick and simple, he gets you to this point in under 2 minutes of the annoying repetitive techno music. At least if you haven't being living under a stone and you have spotted that webpages have some sort of markup that makes them work. If yiou have been living under a stone go |View|Page Source| right now! And then watch the video...)

By the third minute we are ready for the question "Who will organise the data?", and (almost) ready to spot the answer "We will!" (rather than giving the tired old "Google!").

And then... we've worked out, with Prof. Wesch's help why and how Web 2.0 means that everything needs rethinking.

And then... if we're me we have worked out that actually it is because Web 2.0 changes nothing - all that people producing content, machines linking people stuff was there in Web 1.0, it was even there in ARPANET - what has changed is how easy it is to get stuck in. The web changed everything because non-geeks could manage with a little effort to act like geeks... Web 2.0 changes everything because the effort required just dropped another order of magnitude. And at the same time the power of the results just got raised a power or two...

Wow, Web 2.0 ain't just an annoying slogan, and Michael Wesch's viral video deserves all the attention it's been getting. (I hope the Wayback machine has a good copy for when I need it in 10 years time for a class...)

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