⚙️ Work

Queering Zoom, and preferred names and pronouns

Paul Pival has a great post on the need for being able to modify displayed names and pronouns in Zoom.

This goes beyond Zoom, of course, but is especially noticeable in the virtual classroom videoconferencing platform that displays a name card over each person’s video or avatar image, and in the Participants list. We’d initially set it so that anyone could change their names in Zoom at any time. Because that’s a thing that should be possible because we’re all grown-ups and why on earth wouldn’t we leave that setting enabled? 1

And then we got a bunch of reports of misconduct and harassment because people were changing their names to something crappy to “have fun” in class. Or changing their name to their instructor’s name or other students’ names and then posting “hilarious” garbage into the chat, resulting in panicked people thinking their accounts had been hacked.

So, we had to turn off the ability for people to change their Zoom names. Which means the names come from our campus authentication platform. Which means staff and students have different abilities to change their names. Students can change their names within our Student Centre portal. Staff currently have no way to change their name within Peoplesoft, so they get to open a ticket with IT to have it manually changed. And that may get pushed into other platforms, each of which handle names differently. Which is a crappy user experience for everyone.

Unless you don’t login via campus single sign-on and use your own Zoom basic account, because then you can still change your name to whatever.

There was a huge IT project under way, to develop a process to properly manage preferred names for everyone across all campus platforms. It got deferred due to budget cuts.

Provincial budget announced

Province of Alberta: “a modest decrease” in Advanced Education (on top of several years of “modest decreases” and more projected to come…)

President McCauley’s note to campus:

Yesterday, the Government of Alberta tabled its 2021-22 budget which includes a $25.0m reduction to the University of Calgary’s operating budget (-6%) and an increase of $8.6m to infrastructure maintenance funding. Since 2019, UCalgary’s operating budget has been reduced 18%, forcing difficult decisions by the campus community.

CBC News: Alberta budget puts off reckoning, and big personal impacts, to another day

Where “no big personal impacts” means “continued deep cuts to post-secondary education”…

Funding for post-secondaries will fall over the next three years and a portion of base funding will be allocated based on performance metrics outlined by the government. Government officials said Thursday those metrics could be released in the near future. Missing targets means less money for a particular school.


The government plans to cut its spending on wages by about $800 million this coming year through negotiated settlements, attrition and eliminating jobs.

The biggest impact will be in post-secondaries, where 750 full-time positions are expected to be cut in 2021.

The government said it could not answer questions on the types of positions to be axed or where the jobs losses would occur.

Calgary Herald: Budget 2021: Post-secondary sees further cuts, 750 job losses

“For a government keen on supposed jobs creation, they’re certainly good at getting rid of them,” Finley said.

Live video, from the provincial Budget War Room™…

dig up, stupid!

🤔 PhD

Revised a paper for submission to an IEEE conference, adding more photos to make it more clearly robot-y. Now to shift gears back into dissertation mode for a bit…

🧺 Other

I finally picked up a new whiteboard and mounted it on the wall in my home office.

And, thanks to Jason Kottke’s link, I’ve been playing these as background noise while working. I mean, it’s looking like I’m never going to have a mountain fortress of solitude, but this helps.

I’ve also been listening to George Stroumboulopoulos’ STROMBO radio show on Apple Music. Sure, it’s a bit pop-y, but it makes for good background music and talk while working. The way Apple Music handles episodes and back catalogs of its shows is pretty dumb, though.

🗓️ Focus for next week

  • Preparing the process and hiring committee for the new Learning Technologies Specialist - Program Innovation position.
  • Campus online learning platforms - several meetings to talk about Top Hat, Zoom, Brightspace, and third party tools.
  • Mentoring a group of amazing students as they prepare to represent UCalgary in the World’s Challenge Challenge.

  1. When we launch a campus learning technology, I always start with it configured as openly as possible, so that people can do the things they need to without intervention. This almost always eventually blows up in my face once people actually start using it and find creative ways to be crappy to each other. But I refuse to start by locking things down Just In Case™. ↩︎