Collateral Damage

We are all perfectionists. We want everything to be perfect before we share it. We are paralyzed by a need for perfection, and it keeps us from getting anything done.

We should be more like the big tech companies. Start with a big idea. Spend a little bit of time getting the basic idea formed. Then, release it. Get feedback on it. Refine it as you go along. Your customers will tell you what’s working and what’s not working. They will show you where the innovative and interesting pieces are, and you can devote more time and energy to that.

This guy uses the metaphor “Ready, Fire, Aim”:

To quote:

Most people know the phrase like “ready, aim, fire.” You get your gun, you figure out. You make sure it’s in the right spot, and then you fire. But I like to do “ready, fire, aim,” where it’s like I think of what it is I want to do, I put a couple hours… into it. I fire. And then after, I make adjustments.

Let’s set aside the horrific metaphor, and the irresponsibility of firing a weapon indiscriminately with the idea of maybe accidentally hitting the target. If we ever enact common sense firearms legislation, maybe one of the provisions can be that this guy can’t have a gun.

What if I’m doing this as a software designer? Using this philosophy, I write a basic application without spending very much time or thought on it. After all, doing some design and planning seems like actual work, and I don’t have the time or motivation for that. I send my half-baked application out into the world with a ton of marketing hype promising that it does the stuff I thought about but didn’t actually implement. If people start using it, they quickly notice that it sucks, and they tell me. Now, I try to patch some holes and make it a little better so it doesn’t suck so much.  I release an update, and I get more feedback, and we keep going through this cycle. The approach is to try to spend as little time and energy as possible, just enough to get people to use it without complaining so much. If there are problems with performance or security, we can just blame those on other hardware or software. If there are features that don’t work, we can just say it’s a project in active development. If there are are bugs or data gets corrupted, it must be a compatibility problem.

The result is software that barely works and has to be constantly updated. We’ll make the end user responsible for that too, and create a culture where people are afraid to not install updates. We’ll write a license agreement that disclaims any liability for the software or any damage it may cause.

I’m tired of being the collateral damage. I’m tired of beta testing everyone’s software. I’m tired of being the bad guy for not installing every update and security patch the minute it’s released. Maybe we should spend a little less trigger-happy time firing, and just a few seconds aiming first.

Video credit: Rob Dial on Youtube.


Flickred Out

I just deleted my photos from Flickr. There were 10,457 of them. They told me that I can only have 1,000, so they were going to start automatically deleting them in a couple weeks. I saved them the trouble.

7768539330_770b9098c5_zI guess I don’t really have much right to be upset. I’ve been using the service for free for the last five or six years, ever since the retooling by Yahoo in 2013 made the Pro service useless. Before that, I had been a Pro member since joining the service in 2009. I could have gone back to being a Pro member. It’s probably worth the money. But I never seriously considered it.

It’s not like this is the first online service to change their terms. I hardly even noticed when Delicious shut down. Ning went pro years ago. Wikispaces shuttered last year. Elgg…. Remember Elgg? Nah, I didn’t think so. I guess I’m that old. Web 2.0 was built by companies. Those companies, ultimately, were supposed to make money. A few of them did. Most did not. A lot of them were bought by larger companies, which themselves were bought or sold or re-organized. It’s a messy business.

So Flickr was purchased by Yahoo and then Yahoo was purchased by Verizon and reorganized into Oath and ultimately sold to SmugMug. Regardless of who owns them, though, they have to make money. There are several ways to do that. They can charge subscription fees so people can upload and store photos on their site. They can add advertising, so viewers of the site see ads. They can partner with other services, like photo printing or custom branding. And when one approach doesn’t work, they are certainly free to change their terms and revise the strategies and try to continue to exist. I don’t have a problem with that.

But the current policy, announced a couple months ago, says that the 1 TB storage limit is going away. Instead, you can have up to 1,000 photos. In my case, I was using 14 gb (1.4% of the old limit), but had 10,000 photos (1000% of the new limit). So I can start paying for a premium account, or they’ll helpfully delete my old photos for me.

That’s the part that really bothers me. Fine. If you want to limit me, don’t let me upload any more photos until I upgrade or remove some. Maybe reduce the resolution that people can download or set other restrictions on how the content can be used. Add advertising to my photo albums if you have to. But don’t delete my content. There’s something very permanent and irresponsible about that. The content is mine. I’m just letting you use it.

The old saying is if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. It’s a bargain we’ve largely agreed to in this online world. But if you’re going to delete my stuff because it’s not making enough money for you, then you can’t have it.

So I need somewhere else to put my photos online. Or maybe I don’t. Does the world really care about the photos of my kids and vacations? Probably not.


Photo credit: Extinguished, by Earl on (ironically) Flickr.

Changing Standards

The media specialists were describing how the elementary schools are using technology. Because the first graders did a lot of work in Google last year, the second graders aren’t having any trouble at all with Google Classroom. They log right in, and can access the resources that their teachers are sharing with them. It took a couple days at the beginning of the year to work through the login and password issues, but after that, they were ready to go.

ipad-1126136_640Don’t get me wrong. The second graders aren’t taking online classes. They’re not doing most of their work online. They don’t have hours and hours of screen time at school. But when the tool is appropriate, they have no trouble using it.

In a different meeting the same week, we were discussing the rollout of our 1:1 program for the high school next year. It’ll be the first time we issue take-home devices to high school students. Up to this point, the high school has used classroom sets of devices, and we’ve been focusing on the take-home program at the middle school. There was a lot of talk about the Google ecosystem, and the need to get our teachers Google certified. They’d like to get more classes using Google Classroom.

A few years ago, we developed a technology skills graph based on the excellent work done by Joanna McNally and Janette Kane at Orange. It took quite a bit of time to weave together the ISTE standards, the information and media literacy pieces, the old Ohio technology standards, mandatory training on digital citizenship, online safety, and cyberbullying, and the need for so-called 21st century skills. We debated how and when and where each topic would be introduced, and when students should be expected to show competency. Part of this was driven by the need to apply that technology in other areas. If students are doing a research project in 7th grade, then they need to know how to evaluate and cite sources before they get to that project.

Now that we’ve grown into the skills chart, we’re going to spend some time this year amending it. There are new state learning standards for technology that will need to be considered. We can also take some time to assess what’s working and what’s not working at different grade levels, and make adjustments to make sure students have the right skills when they need them.

That’s getting more difficult. The first time we went through this process (in 1999), we said that we wanted the tech standards to be covered by the end of 8th grade, so students can apply them to their work in high school. We revised that to the end of 5th grade to accommodate 1:1 a few years ago. Now, it’s looking like we need to be doing a lot more in kindergarten and first grade, because our learners are digital almost before they’re literate.

The key, of course, is to embed the technology instruction when it’s needed for something else. That breaks it into small, manageable pieces while providing an immediate application for the new skills. We’re fortunate to have professionals to help our teaches with that process, as well as teachers who are willing to take risks to increase rigor, improve differentiation, and better meet the needs of their learners.

Photo credit: Pixabay.