Cory Doctorow – a little bit pregnant

Cory Doctorow, the geek Dad, digital rights activist, writer, sci-fi author, and famous cape-and-goggles-wearing blogger from Boing Boing, visited the OU on 18 May 2011 to give a talk. He’s also a visiting lecturer in the Computing Department at the OU.

Portrait, home, Hackney, London (by Paula Mariel Salischiker,, CC-BY) 4.tif
Photo by Paula Mariel Salischiker,, CC-BY

These are my liveblog notes.

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Google Apps planning for curriculum usage

Liveblog notes from an IET Technology Coffee Morning, 18 May 2011, in the Jennie Lee Labs.

Rhodri Thomas from the OU’s Learning Innovation Office (until the end of July) gave a talk titled “Google Apps – where next? Planning for curriculum usage”.

I last blogged seriously about this about a year ago, when I reported on what was on the radar. This is an update; at the moment it’s released to OU students on an opt-in basis only, but there are Plans for much more.

Excitingly, Rhodri tells me some of the stuff he’ll be talking around is under NDA, so this public report may well not be complete.

Liège / Luik / Lüttich

The slides are available in Google Docs – where else?

And the latest information is all on the Google Apps [OU only] part of the  Online Learning Systems website [OU only].

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The Sinister Sausage Machine

There’s a longstanding argument – currently very live in the UK – about whether higher education is or is not a market, or should or should not be.

If it is one at all, it’s not a straightforward market by a long chalk, no matter how hard you might try (if, for example, you are a Government trying to make it in to a market).

In a market, you have sellers, products, and buyers. But in HE these are all unclear.

In fact, I think, the confusion between all these, implicit in the market view of higher education, makes a university look like nothing less than a Sinister Sausage Machine.

Summer = Grill = Hotdogs!
photo (CC) Mike Johnson -

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Doing the To Do

I’m after a better task management system – organising my to-do lists, projects and activities and so on.

What I really want is something that:

  • Works well with more than simple, short lists, but doesn’t take too long to get my head around
  • Is available on the Mac, since that’s what I use most of the time
  • Is available online, for when I’m at a ‘strange’ computer
  • Ideally, is available on multiple platforms, but Mac-only will do if the web version is passable
  • Syncs seamlessly (and preferably automatically) between different instances on different machines (Ideally with the same model as Dropbox: automagically syncs when connected, but always has a local store available)
  • Has a good iPhone app that also works offline, so I can use it when away from keyboards, which syncs with zero effort
  • Lets me try it out properly beforehand if I need to shell out money
  • Preferably doesn’t require a paid subscription, particularly if not dirt-cheap, and particularly not MobileMe
  • Ideally has an email-in-to-inbox facility, for capturing ideas ad hoc as they come to me
My current system – a set of plain RTF files synced via Dropbox – sort-of works, and is wonderfully quick to start up, but doesn’t transfer easily to the iPhone (I have to remember to sync, and it doesn’t read well on the small screen). Fundamentally, it doesn’t help me organise, overview, and sort my tasks easily. Also, it doesn’t have a good way of getting stuff in to it.

Controlled detonation

Here’s what I’ve found, in note form. I’m very interested in any other views, recommendations, suggestions!

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