2024 Week 15


I (finally) got outside on an actual bike ride, just straight out to Cochrane and back on 1A. That felt great, but sssssslllllooooowwwww. And an hour in zone 5 is probably not ideal. My VO2Max is still “below average” so I’m aspiring to make it up to average this year.

clear to Cochrane on 1A

⚙️ Work

  • Tyson led a great discussion in the Learning Technology Forum, gathering questions from instructors and staff about their use of edtech.
  • We had an interesting Copyright Committee meeting. Which is a thing that looks weird to actually type out but is genuinely a thing that happened. And we wrapped up with a lively discussion about one of our vendors who has produced a content publishing platform and who has described it as having “no concept of attribution”. Which is a fun thing to talk about with librarians and lawyers.
  • I went to a retirement party for two long-long-timers from IT - the guys that have basically run classroom AV and videoconferencing on campus for the last 30+ years.

Neurodiversity

  • Alex Paquette wrote a guest post on Michele Jacobsen’s blog: To mask or not to mask?: A story of a neurodivergent graduate student in STEM

    This is a guest post by Alex Paquette (he/him), PhD Candidate, in Earth, Energy, and the Environment in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary. Alex works full-time as a Neurodiversity and Work-Integrated Learning Specialist at the Taylor Institute of Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary. During his MSc and PhD degrees, Alex was always involved in student leadership as the Co-President of the University of Toronto Mississauga Association of Graduate Students (2016-2017), and the Vice President of Academics of the Graduate Students’ Association at the University of Calgary (2020-2022).

Webstuff

  • I’m trying the Kagi search engine. Subscription-based, with no ads. Bonus points for not tracking anything. (via Cory Doctorow and a bunch of others)

    I’ve started paying for the $10USD/month “professional” subscription. The search results have been really good - not the same as what I used to get from DDG - but good. A minor adjustment maybe. Kagi says they only return the most relevant results, not all 2.1 million for whatever, because they don’t need to insert ads. It still feels weird seeing the name “Kagi” used for something other than shareware distribution…

    At first blush, Kagi says it’s a new search engine with its own search index. Digging a bit deeper, and sure, it does have its own index. But it also uses all of the other indices via their APIs. And it looks like the company has done some bone-headed dot-com stunts like spending a third of their capital to produce t-shirts for their first 20,000 subscribers. And maybe some sketchy things with AI? They also seem to conflate Pagerank and Ad-supported as the core problems of Google’s search engine. Pagerank works well. It’s the toxicity of ad-supported search results that nudged Google to enshittify their core product. I’m not sure what happens when the guy that literally coined the term “enshittification” also recommends Kagi.

    And. It looks like the CEO of the company has been harassing a critic. Which feels like something a douche-bro CEO might do, and is highly concerning. Even if Kagi search is awesome, this has me seriously reconsidering paying for a subscription.

    And I’ve been surprised to see how much I’ve been using its Universal Summarizer AI tool (after adding a bookmarklet to easily use it), and how well it actually summarizes. This, despite my distaste for using generative AI to summarize things. Cognitive dissonance is fun.

    I’m not sure what to do with all of that. It seems like a decent attempt to create a new, privacy-minded search engine without ads. I’ll try it for a month to see if it’s worth the corporate weirdness. A company that would blow a third of their capital on t-shirts might have the potential to make other bone-headed decisions, especially if/when the rest of their capital is gone. The choice of search engines isn’t “good vs. evil”, it’s “use one from a company that’s strip-mined the internet, systematically invading privacy to industrially ferment what’s left of online culture in the pursuit of generating insane profits” and “use one from another company that does some things well but does some seriously problematic stuff as well”. Cool cool cool. At least it doesn’t have any blockchain bullshit built in…

  • Self-Hosted Applications and Alternatives - a great collection of links to self hosted webstuff. (Via Tara Calishain AKA ResearchBuzz and Lili Saintcrow)

AIStuff

  • Sidhartha Banerjee @ CBC News: Trudeau announces $2.4 billion for AI-related investments. Looks like pre-pre-election spending has started in earnest. The majority of this $2B is going into an “AI Compute Access Fund”, which feels like “let’s just give it to Microsoft”, but with more steps.

Which pairs nicely with:

  • Suchman, L. (2023). The uncontroversial ‘thingness’ of AI. Big Data & Society, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517231206794 (via Alan Levine)

    …this does not deny the specific data and compute-intensive techniques and technologies that travel under the sign of AI but rather calls for a keener focus on their locations, politics, material-semiotic specificity and effects, including consequences of the ongoing enactment of AI as a singular and controversial object. The current AI arms race is more symptomatic of the problems of late capitalism than promising of solutions to address them. Missing from much of even the most critical discussion of AI are some more basic questions: What is the problem for which these technologies are a solution? According to whom? How else could this problem be articulated, with what implications for the direction of resources to address it? What are the costs of a data-driven approach, who bears them, and what lost opportunities are there as a consequence? And perhaps most importantly, how might algorithmic intensification be implicated not as a solution but as a contributing constituent of growing planetary problems…

  • Michael Geist: AI Spending is Not an AI Strategy: Why the Government’s Artificial Intelligence Plan Avoids the Hard Governance Questions. “Hey - we’re throwing a LOT of money at it. That means we must have figured something out, right?”

  • EDUCAUSE: Higher Education Generative AI Readiness Assessment - could be useful in helping to develop a strategy.

  • A.J. O’Connell @ EDUCAUSE Review: How (and Why) the University of Michigan Built Its Own Closed Generative AI Tools. UMich built their own AI platform, and this article talks about why and how, and responses to it.

Alberta steadily marches toward Gilead

  • Alberta intends to intervene in Saskatchewan government’s appeal of pronoun law challenge - our province feels the need to take their anti-trans territorial pissings on the road, to pre-emptively fight a constitutional battle in another province in an act of F TRUDOE showmanship. An effective use of my tax dollars. This province is exhausting. (via Ian Hecht)

  • The province just announced new legislation that will require cities and universities to seek provincial approval before working directly with the federal government. Which feels like adding some red tape. It’s a blatant proto-fascist power grab to try to stop uppity cities and universities from doing WOKE stuff like developing green energy solutions or not sufficiently marginalizing trans people, etc. Good thing we have a Ministry of Red Tape Reduction (a legitimate, not-made-up, definitely-not-Orwellian name for an actual ministry in our provincial government).

    red tape reduction

    Anyway. I’m probably On A List™ now. Under His eye.

🍿 Watching

  • ★★★☆☆ The Gentlemen (Netflix) - Is it a British Breaking Bad? A Posh Weeds? A UK version of Queen of the South? It was a mess. It started out interesting and built toward something, and then pulled the “subvert expectations” trick where nothing matters and SURPRISE except it was all formulaic and predictable.
  • ★★★★☆ Fallout (Prime) - I’m 4 episodes in, and it’s really good so far. As long as we’re bathing in post-apocalyptic stories, might as well throw in a little satirical retro-futurism. Gorgeous cinematography (if a post-apocalyptic wasteland can be gorgeous). It feels like the video games, which is good. But Prime has started adding unskippable ads before episodes. Not cool.

My star rating things seem to be:

  • ★★★★★ reserved for things I’ll watch again and again. 2001, etc.
  • ★★★★☆ excellent, interesting, entertaining, well written, well acted, well produced, but I’m probably only watching them once.
  • ★★★☆☆ good-to-OK. Interesting, but some issues (some bad writing, some cliche tropes, etc.).
  • ★★☆☆☆ bad. Not recommended. But something redeeming in there somewhere. It’s a waste of time, but there are worse things to watch. They should feel bad for making dumb decisions, though.
  • ★☆☆☆☆ reserved for things that I feel active self-loathing for actually watching the thing, and/or things that I came to my senses and stopped watching before it was over. Burn it. Do not watch. Things like Hancock and the remake of Total Recall. (I got into the habit of not giving things 0 stars back in the early iTunes days, where ☆☆☆☆☆ was the same as unrated.)

🧺 Other

🗓️ Focus for next week

  • Team meeting, featuring Natasha joining as part of a regular “listening tour”. Looking forward to the discussion!
  • Co-chairing the Learning Technologies Advisory Committee, and adding a team member to the committee.
  • (Hopefully) final preparations for our conference presentation on April 26th.
  • Some other various committee meetings.
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