Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Where to begin?



Usually, the answer is: "Begin at the beginning."  But where is that?

A while back, I started a discussion on LinkedIn about useless advice for writing. What topped my list was, "an essay has a beginning, a middle, and an end."  Writers may be told the same for novels, and it is really just as useless there because you don't necessarily start with what happened first in the story. In fact, classical works are famous for beginning in medias res. So, there is very good precedent for the beginning of a piece of writing not to lay out the framework to set the chronology.

The key thing is to begin in a way that draws the reader into wanting to continue reading the story, the essay, or the poem. And, yes, you should think of making it interesting even when your  reader is also your  teacher.

What doesn't work for openers? That question will get different answers. Today someone, no doubt thinking of Bulwer-Lytton  posted the warning not to open a novel with the weather. As some pointed out, though, there are novels that do it quite effectively. I would say that there are no set rules for opening novels, and that's a good thing. The perception that there are rules for opening essays, in my humble opinion, is what leads to very formulaic and boring openers, like the one I just read this morning. It started with "The Oxford dictionary defines... ." Now, that is the sort of thing I  expect students to rely on -- in high school. It's something they should get beyond in college. Certainly, it's not what I'd expect to find in a piece written by someone who gets paid for his work. It's true that you do sometimes want to use a formal definition to clarify how you use a particular term, but it's not exactly an attention-grabber.

Any thoughts on what you find does work well for openers?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Big data, analytics, and insight into health


Mobile phones coupled with apps make it possible for people to hold the key to their own health information in their hands at all times. There are major ramifications for this possibility.

  Healthcare Analysis: Doctor vs. Device explores the position that doctors are becoming obsolete, replaced by more timely feedback from monitoring devices.

IFighting Heart Disease With Big Data  looks at the Health eHeart plan to collect health data of a million people over ten years in an effort to learn more about heart disease, the leading cause of death in America.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Opportunities in Africa

Which region promises the greatest expansion? IBM thinks the answer is Africa. It’s not alone among tech companies that are seeking new markets and trainable talent on that continent. While growth tapers off in many more developed regions, Africa offers great potential, particularly as its workforce gains access to education and technology for communication. Read more in 

Africa: The New China

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Big data and social networks for students preparing for college

The common denominator between both these uses of technology is the nonprofit organization College Summit.  You can check it out at Charity Navigator

In Bridging the Gap to the Goal With Educational Data
I focus on the use of data:


Armed with that information, educators can make informed decisions about what modifications are needed to better prepare the next batch of students for their college careers.As Camille Jacobs, Assistant Principal, Pathways College Preparatory High School, Queens, NY, noted in the College Summit whitepaper, "With postsecondary data, we have the ability to work backwards, improving or revising our practices to provide targeted instruction and services, addressing the varying needs of each of our students."

In College Apps for College Apps I look at the social media apps designed to help students to and through college. College Summit was one of the key organizations behind  The College Knowledge Challenge, which awarded prize money to the best apps for student use. 




Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Getting libraries out of the horse-and-buggy days

In 1967, Dr. Vannevar Bush, who envisioned a computer capable of massive data retrieval in device he called a memex  published Science Is Not Enough, which included a chapter entitled "Memex Revisited," which considers the question of data compression and retrieval.  You can read the entire chapter here: http://www.bekkahwalker.net/comt111a/reading_pdf/memex-revisited.pdf

On p. 88, he brings a critical observation about priorities: 

The great digital machines of today have their exciting proliferation because they could vitally aid business, because they could increase profits. The libraries still operate by horse-and-buggy methods, for there is no profit in libraries. Governments spend billions on space since it has glamour and hence public appeal. There is no glamour about libraries, and the pubic do not understand that the welfare of their children depends far more upon effective libraries than it does on the collection of a bucket of talcum powder from the moon. So it will not be done soon. But eventually it will.

Now, 46 years, later, the public is understanding the importance of libraries, and the power of the internet to gather all the world's digitized information at put them at one's fingertips.On April 18 and 19, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) will celebrate its launch at the Boston Public Library. In keeping with the ideals underlying the project, there is no charge to attend, though the registration forms indicate the event has filled up.


The dream of the DPLA was to harness the power of the Internet to break through the silos that isolate vast quantities of data collection at various universities, museums, and libraries. It began to take shape in late 2010 when representatives of various institutions met at the Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and resolved to take the necessary steps to bring together that data through cooperative content sharing. In bridging the public-private divide, DPLA has had to overcome the challenge of managing metadata variations and staying on the right side of copyright law.
Read more in Metadata Key for Digital Public Library of America

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Humans, big data, and cheesecake

"For all their brilliance, computers can be thick as a brick," observed Tom M. Mitchell, a computer scientist. Read more about this in There’s Still Room for Humans

Another post on big data looks at how a restaurant chain uses the technology in

The Cheesecake Factory's Big Data Entrée