Seattle in Virtual Earth 3D (Beta)

Ok, so there aren't many cities available in Virtual Earth 3D (Beta) yet, but it's still very cool. I did some moving around Seattle, and quite easily found the standard shot of the Space Needle with the city and Mount Rainier in the background. You can see it at http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=47.618049~-122.346581&style=h&lvl=19&tilt=-17.5733726439434&dir=156.518344228474&alt=251.429188030772

virtualearth3dbeta

Now, wouldn't this be even better if it could detect some photos that people had taken of it, and place a Photosynth-style picture on top of this? Keep the street labels and stuff like that, so that you can actually see what's going on, but use the 'hybrid' concept to be able to get a photo-real map. Then making the photos smarter could really start to see some incredible technology.

I'm sure this will be available in Firefox soon too, but for now, IE is the tool of choice.

Not glandular fever

I do have something – although I'm nearly better now. But my blood test showed that my white cell count wasn't up, so therefore, it wasn't glandular fever. I had most of the symptoms though, and the doctor said it was some virus similar to the glandular fever one.

I'm hoping to be back at work tomorrow, although I might have to ease back in. Working from home might be a better option.

Photosynth – I hope it handles movies

Photosynth is cool. But in the trial version you can't upload your own photos. That's cool though – because at the moment you can get a good feel for what it's going to be like.

But it got me thinking – when I went to St Mark's Square in Venice, I didn't take that many photos. I don't really want to take 100 shots, even in an incredible place like that. I appreciate that other people will have taken shots and be letting the Photosynth community share them, but they won't be doing that when it comes to looking around a school, or a house that I'm considering buying. So then I got to thinking that if I take a video camera, and split out the movie into individual frames, then Photosynth could weave its magic with that. I know the resolution is a lot smaller, but it would let me walk in somewhere, turn around (slowly), keep walking, and get my 'hundreds of shots' quite quickly. If my wife is taking photos of things in detail, then together we should get good coverage – enough low-res to cover up the gaps, with high-res detail for zooming in.

So then my imagination started to run… if Photosynth could just handle movies straight off, then could it be modified to take several synchronised feeds? Could it then produce a world from the images at a certain point in the game, like when a goal was scored, or something like that? With enough processing power, could you watch the match from anywhere on the ground, flying around it as you wanted?

Or could you manipulate the world that Photosynth created? Could you make a world of your house, and then replace a wall with a window? If Photosynth knew what was on the other side of the wall (garden, other rooms, whatever), then you could work out how your renovations might look? Or could you change the colours, wallpapers, etc?

Could you then make a movie of yourself, which you could look at from various angles (but particularly, looking directly at the eyes, in mirrored image, as if you were looking into a mirror), and try on clothes, glasses or hairstyles? It's all well and good for people to have software that shows a picture of their face with a different haircut, but if you could move around this world, and even see animations, then that gives you a much better impression about what you will look like.

The thing that impresses me the most about Photosynth is the imagination. I know the technology must be pretty clever – I did some image processing subjects during my degree, and I know it can be all kinds of headaches… but if they've cracked the concept of matching pictures to a virtual world, then I can see much bigger things in the not too distant future.

Office 2007 RTM today, great time for a talk about it and SQL!

Office 2007 has RTM'd today, and this includes Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

This is great timing, with Grant Paisley coming to Adelaide to give his talk about integrating BI and MOSS. This is a great talk, and if you're going to be in Adelaide, you should be there! Go to sqlserver.org.au, and find the link. And if you can't make it in Adelaide, go to his session in Canberra instead! I heard it at the SQL Code Camp, and it's definitely worth checking out.

The great thing about Office 2007 with BI stuff is that BI is all about making the data you have more useful. And Office 2007 is so much better integrated with other systems than previous versions, so it can become a great portal to getting your information out there.

My twin's birthday

Today is my twin brother's birthday. He's 32, poor guy. He'll probably call me later on today, which will give me the opportunity to wish him a happy birthday. But if he reads my blog, he'll see me wishing him happy birthday here. Happy Birthday, Andrew. You're getting old!

Oh, I get it. 🙁

So, the thirty-second year is over. Felt like it took longer than half-a-minute, although in some ways it didn't. Time to reflect perhaps – I'm sick today, so maybe there's a good opportunity.

Mono = Glandular Fever

Tomorrow I get birthday presents and blood test results. I'm sick at the moment, have been for more than a few days. Today I had blood taken out, which is being tested for glandular fever.

I told an American friend of mine (in Phoenix), and he said "What's that?" Turns out that it's what Americans call 'mono'. I never knew that! I knew there was a thing that Americans called mono, but I didn't know it was glandular fever.

I'm not sure whether the news would be good or not. I guess it depends on what they can do about it.

Looking at the wikipedia site, I don't have the fever which it says tends to occur. But I do have the swollen glands, and fatigue. My throat isn't great either, and 3 out of 4 ain't bad. Or ain't good, whichever way you want to look at it.

So I've been resting. Only doing a bit of work… wishing I had wireless at home, and wondering how the user-group meeting this Thursday is going to go. If you're going to be in Adelaide, you should come along…

My brother, the Hawk

Well, he's training with them at least.

I heard a few weeks ago that Jonathan had been invited to train with Hawthorn (the Aussie Rules side). And today my Hawthorn-supporting friend Ryan has dropped me a line showing me an article on the AFL site which lists him. The funny thing is that they've spelled both his names wrong. They've put Jonathon instead of Jonathan, and Wynne instead of Wynn. He's a half brother, 12 years younger than me, which is why we don't share the same surname.

There's no guarantee he'll actually become a Hawk. Apparently he'll be in the draft, and so any of the clubs (or none) could pick him. The Norwood coach (the Victorian Eastern League club where he's played recently) Brett Ratten (yes, the Carlton legend) thinks he'll be picked in the 3rd round of the draft, and I think Doug Barwick (of Fitzroy and Collingwood, but more significantly the dad of Jonathan's girlfriend) agrees. He's a lot taller than me (I think he's about 6'7"), which could help generate some interest. And he'll be 20 in January.

Very proud of course, although it's a shame that I have very little interest in the game. 🙂

 

On learning (Calvin and Hobbes, the ACS and digital natives)

Digital natives learn differently. How do we take advantage of that?

The funny thing is that right away, I've written this from an external perspective, when I'm probably in a mixture of both camps. Feel free to consider me in either camp as you read this.

At TechEd Australia this year, the keynote was from Anne Kirah. She talked about the concept of the digital native. That's someone who has grown up in a technology culture, and therefore thinks differently to someone who has grown up in a non-technology culture and come into it. I was born in late 1974, and I grew up without being surrounded by technology, although at the age of 8 or 9 I got a C64 and started writing code, doing my homework on a computer, thinking about ways to use a computer in better ways, for better purposes. I've never really considered myself a geek, because I'm actually far more interested in people (although not how to use people in better ways for better purposes, <insert evil laugh> well, not really). But I do find the cross-over between technology and the rest of the world fascinating. I certainly enjoyed Anne's talk a lot.

I'm also a fan of learning. If you have read my blog in the past, then you will appreciate that I have done a lot of Microsoft Certifications, I run a user-group, I have a few degrees, I'm generally a big fan of the whole learning experience.

But more than being addicted to learning, I'm very interested in the study of learning. My wife did part of a Bachelor of Teaching, and I really enjoyed having conversations with her about the different things that enabled or hindered a child's ability to learn. Now, several years later, we have our two sons at a boys' school, because we appreciate that boys learn very differently to girls, and that teachers seem to be far more able to cater for the boys in the class if there aren't a bunch of girls in the class, accentuating the differences between the two.

Just as there is a difference between the way that boys learn compared with the way that girls learn, there is a difference between the way that 'kids these days' learn. And when I say 'kids these days', I largely mean 'digital natives'.

On Thursday morning, I saw this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip. I apologise if I'm breaking copyright by posting this here – but hopefully you'll all be inspired by this go and buy a book of C&H – it's well worth the investment.

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Just like Calvin, digital natives hate the idea of sitting in school. I'm the same, with some differences. I love being in a learning environment. I'm very happy to go to a lecture. But I need to be able to ask questions. If I can't have the learning experience be more like a conversation, I'm frustrated. People who were at the SQL Code Camp in Wagga Wagga earlier this month will have seen evidence of this.

At the ACS SA Branch AGM on Wednesday night, we heard Dr David Lindley talk about some of what he does in the Professional Development programs that the ACS run. He talked about the fact that the system they find very effective is to have people post opinions on matters, and then once everyone has submitted their ideas, the ideas become public (within the group) and people discuss them. Sounded like a blog to me, but David suggested that the differences are massive because the initial feedback on the post is from an appointed mentor, not the wide community. I really liked his opinions on learning through discussion though. I think the opportunity to learn is primarily through the discussion, rather than through submitting thoughts on a matter and then having them 'marked' by a 'mentor'. I think a mentor should guide learning, but not necessarily teach. But more on this later.

A quick point about blogging. I think there's a massive benefit to blogging from a learning perspective. When you write your ideas down, they solidify much more in your head. This is partly down to the principle that when you teach someone something, you have to know it so much better, but it's more just that in writing it down, you see things from a different part of your head to when it was just a thought. But there's more opportunity to learn from blogs, as I'll write later.

Many digital natives are finding themselves getting into the IT space without first going through the university system. They grok computers already, and can't see the relevance of sitting in lectures to learn things that may not be relevant to their careers. Their opinions about learning is based on what they know from school, and it's just not cutting it (I can make similar arguments for God and the church – you don't need to get me started on that to be able to quickly see the parallels). If you were to suggest that they enter any kind of formalised learning program, they'd laugh. These people are even against Microsoft Certifications, because they have become so prejudiced against learning because of school.

Let's address Calvin's problem first. He wants an environment where he doesn't have to learn anything. Where there's no teacher and no other kids. I'm sure when Bill Watterson wrote this strip, he wanted to list every aspect of school. His point would have been "Calvin just doesn't want to go to school". But we see elsewhere that Calvin is interested in learning. He asks his dad questions (although his dad doesn't give him the right answers), and talks about quite deep things with Hobbes (who of course is his imaginary friend).

Perhaps the fact that Calvin's dad gives him the wrong answers is part of the reasoning behind David's consideration that the primary feedback should be from a trusted mentor. I offered to be a mentor in David's program, but apparently I'm too young (I'll be 32 in early November). More on this later too.

As someone interested in making sure that Calvin is able to learn effectively, we need to find a way of having him learn without being at school. I'm not saying that home-schooling is the answer for kids, I'm just saying that learning cultures are changing and this needs to be addressed.

Paul Stovell is a good friend of mine. In some ways, I mentor him. I learn a lot from him too. He has just turned 20. He will never go to university (he's actually not opposed to the idea, he just can't see the relevance). But he's starting to realise the power of blogging, as he writes in his article at http://www.paulstovell.net/Posts/Post.aspx?postId=b07d1424-ae9a-40e6-881a-d22fc28de646

Paul has found that if he writes on a topic, the community of his peers who read his blog comment on it, tell him where he's wrong, expand on his ideas, and together, they all learn something. Naturally, this being open to the entire internet, there is a risk of people writing rubbish. But the opinions that Paul values more than the others are the ones to which he pays the most attention (and typically, these people are slightly more experienced than him, but within a similar culture, rather than being people who are necessarily older and wiser – useful mentors, but perhaps not the types of people who would be a traditional choice of mentor). Of course, by writing in the public domain, you also have the opportunity to release your thoughts to the people who are the experts in the field, and this then present an even bigger opportunity for mentoring.

So Paul has a way of learning without going to school. Of course, it's a learning environment that he's driving himself, but Paul could just as easily become part of a learning environment that was slightly more structured, in that it suggested discussing particular points.

This is more like what David is doing. He facilitates discussions about the topics, guiding people in what they need to be learning.

You see, IT present the opportunity to allow people to learn in a manner which suits them. I think David could take it much further again, but there is a risk that fall into the trap that many home-schooling parents find themselves in – that much of the syllabus can get missed.

Developing a learning culture for digital natives (which would include many of the highly skilled people in IT) is a massive challenge. I love that the ACS is trying to find ways to address this, and if I can help them develop their ideas, then I will do so. Microsoft Learning are also trying to address it, with a move towards e-learning, away from instructor-led courses.

The biggest opportunity here is that the IT Industry is full of people who have been digital natives longer than anyone else. I don't mean people in their 50s, I mean people in their 20s and 30s. If we can work out how to teach these people (including myself), then perhaps the rest of the education industry can see what we are doing and apply the same to non-IT learning. Kids learn history by playing computer games already, but there needs to be more to it than that, so that they realise they are learning and can start to love the learning process.

The fact is that digital natives won't do school. But they still want to learn. If we want to be a part of that, we need to reinvent school. The burden is on us, because traditional learning cultures have hurt education significantly.

PS: This doesn't cover anything about assessment, such as the concept of MS Certification exams – that's a whole nother topic as well.

What's wrong with IT?

To a large degree, it's the perception of experience. The IT industry has so many things wrong with it. It tends to be 'governed' (I don't know of a better word for what I mean there, 'run' would be wrong) by people in their 50s. It's also full of Cowboys and Indians (and I don't mean 'people from India' here, I mean 'people who will work for a pittance'), and this means that some degree of governance is actually quite important.

My blog post about "How they know you know" really is a much bigger factor than assessing a candidate or helping your CV stand out from the rest. If you consider the insurance agency who need to work out how much professional indemnity to cover people for, then that helps to start consider the size of the problem. If someone's going to trust their critical data (or processes) to you (or a company for that matter), they need to be quite sure that you're not going to break everything.

If there was a boom in the health industry like the .com boom of the late 90s, you'd see hospitals popping up everywhere, full of people who had no clues about what they were doing. But would you go to any of them? No of course not… you wouldn't dream of letting someone operate on you if they didn't have the proper credentials. And yet we in the IT industry perform surgery on people's businesses on a daily basis.

The ACS is really great in that it is trying to govern the industry in some way, but in many other ways, I think they need shaking up a bit. The ACS encourages Professional Development (which is often sorely missing in professionals). They encourage community (they sponsor several special interest groups). They are active in campaigning to government and other industries of the virtues of IT. All great things, which a younger crowd might not do. But that's part of the problem. The people that run the ACS typically aren't the younger crowd.

I don't want to come across as ageist here. These people have learned a lot over their years in the industry, and really have a lot to give. They are probably the ideal crowd to be doing this type of thing. But if the perception of them is that they are irrelevant, don't understand the later generations (let alone their technologies), and are just 'governing' for the sake of it, then half the battle is lost already. And if any of this is actually true, then that's even worse.

And of course, if they are perceived this way from within the IT industry, then our industry is already a house divided against itself, and it's got no chance. Law, Accountancy, and all the other professional industries are united. They ALL get the relevant certifications and hold them dear. That makes them stronger. A lot stronger. As industries they are far more united than IT. IT can't even agree between "pro-Microsoft" and "anti-Microsoft", but that's a whole nother post.

Is the ACS the right conduit for this stuff? Well, I think probably. Who else would you pick?

And if you consider that the ACS is the right conduit, then you have to get involved, to help them change the way they're perceived, and to help them achieve their goals, which ultimately help all of us in IT.