20 Mbps & We’re Still Searching for the Same Stuff

I’ve been doing a lot of deep digging while working on my book about the history of technology in education – as I’ve seen it.  This afternoon, I happened upon some online handouts for one of my first keynotes and its slidedeck.  The address was called, “The Three Ts of Teaching in the Twenty-First Century.”  It appears to have been delivered in November of 2000.

On one of the opening slides, I had listed the ten most searched for terms of that month.  As a comparison, I found the top ten searches on Google in 2014, and have listed them as well.

November 2000   2014
10  Pokemon   10  Sochi Olympics
91  Napster   91  Frozen
81  Playstation 2   81  ISIS
71  NFL   7 Conchita Wurst
Florida Recount   Flappy Bird
Britney Spears   ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Thanksgiving   Malaysia Airlines
Dragonball   Ebola
Election 2000   World Cup
Christmas   Robin Williams

I was actually surprised how little it’s changed?  We have video games, sports, entertainment with a peppering of world-shaping issues.

A Very Cool Story

At this moment, I’m sitting at the Burlington Airport, having a burger in the restaurant filling time before my 7:00 PM flight to Washington.  Then is a short wait for the final leg to Raleigh and a full Saturday at home.

It was an excellent day in Burlington, working with educators from the Northwest region of the state.  Vermont is an interesting place with very interesting people, and the workshop ended out being a lot of conversation and sharing of ideas. It was one of those days I wish somebody had recorded — everything.

One of the best stories I heard was told by a school librarian, Kathy Gallagher.  Her daughter is a senior in high school and is currently shopping for colleges.  Kathy said that all of the schools her daughter is considering have their own Facebook groups — except for one, a fairly small liberal arts school.  …So her daughter set up the the group for the school.  She said, “In just a couple of days, the group grew to over 300.”

This was very impressive — to all of us.  But hoping to learn more, I asked, “So why did she set up the group?” 

Gallagher looked at me, as if I had completely missed the point.  I had completely missed the point.  She said that her daughter was visiting the Facebook groups to get answers to questions about student life at the schools from the perspective of students.  She wanted to ask the same questions about the small liberal arts school, so she created the community for the school, grew the community, and then had over 300 sources for answers to her questions.

This was, hands down, one of the most interesting and resourceful strategies for finding information on the Internet that I have ever heard.  It has as muct to do with working the environment as it does with using Google.

A 2.0 Sort’a Day — Part 1: Leapfish

Leapfish Search page [Click to enlarge]

I was flattered a few weeks ago, when Lena Shaw, a marketing specialist with Leapfish, contacted me about the recently launched (nov 2008)  search site.  She started talking about this new searching engine, hyping it like I was some sort of TechCrunch or something, and although it gave me a momentarily gratifying sense of importance, I politely indicated less than enthusiastic interest when she asked if I would like to talk with the CEO.  “I’m sorry, but I am leaving on a business trip and won’t be back for a few months.”

I looked at the site and was somewhat impressed with its layout and features, but frankly never went back — so I had very little recollection of it when Ms. Shaw called again a few days ago, asking if I would like to participate in a teleconference with the CEO on January 15.  Again, I couldn’t bring myself to honestly express my cooling interest, so I asked her to send me the details in an e-mail, and to copy it to Brenda.

So, it was because Brenda got a copy of the e-mail that I was reminded, took another look, and, again, was somewhat impressed.  I wrote back to Lena, telling her that I was interested in being a part of the teleconference, but reminded her that my topic of writing usually revolved around technology, as it applies to education and literacy.  If she had other tech bloggers and media folks more relevant to their goals, to please feel free to bump me from their list.  I’m holding her response to the end of this post.

I dialed in and listened to the companies Director of Marketing and then the CEO, Behnam Behrouzi, who seems to carry a great deal of experience in the world of technology startups.

About Leapfish?  The most interesting task that this search tool seeks to accomplish is that of easing our access to what has become an increasingly fragmented information landscape.  You have at your disposal, Google, Yahoo, MSN, Flickr, YouTube, CNN,  Stock Market, AP, and on and on.  Great information, but too many channels.

Leapfish gives you access to much of it from one basic interface.  I typed Daniel Pink (See Part II) and got a relevancy based listing of 740,000 web references, as delivered by Google.  Clicking the Yahoo link at the top of Leapfish delivered 23,655 hits, and MSN offered a mere 115,000,000 (correct number of zeros).

On the same page, in the right panel, I get the latest news with something from News-Leader.com and New York Magazine.  Beneath that were three videos (Daniel Pink: A Whole New Mind; Daniel Pink: Abundance, Asia, and Automation; and Daniel Pink: Exercise Creativity at Your Job).  That’s followed by images and then shopping, where I can buy the book or a Sanrio Hello Kitty Dear Daniel Pink Dress S Set Plush from ebay (:-/)

Another interesting feature is the ability to hoover your mouse over an image or video and have a higher resolution version of the image pop up and the video start to play.  In playing around with it this morning, the Pink videos do not play, but the video and image thumbnails do enlarge to about double the size.  However, the popups do not seem to be large enough to add any real value to the information.

The point of the teleconference was to debut a brand new feature that “..pushes Search to 2.0.”  It’s click free search, which is interesting to watch.  Basically, as I type each letter, Leapfish starts searching.  The table below indicates the ongoing results of typing in Daniel Pink.

Type Hits Starting with..
D 6,000,000,000
Democratic Party
Da 2,000,000,000
Dan 95,000,000
DAN Divers Alert Network
Dani 43,000,000
Natural Products for bath, body, and home | DANI
Danie – meaning of Danie name
Daniel 327,000,000
Daniel NYC
Daniel P
Daniel P. Siewiorek
Daniel Pi
Amazon.com: Lists by Daniel Pi
Daniel Pin
Daniel Pin – Australia | Facebook
Daniel Pink
Daniel Pink

Is this 2.0? Well, you can call it what ever you like, and there are certainly a lot of qualities than can be attached to 2.0.  To me, the characteristics to pop to mind most readily are conversation and self-personalization.  Leapfish could be said to provide a conversation between me and an enormous base of content. and having results come back as I continue to type is pretty cool — though I’m not sure how much that adds to the experience or to the task at hand.

The CEO also shared plans to include personalized widgets and the ability to create and share dashboards — but there really isn’t anything new in that, is there?

Google’s SearchWiki features for personalizing your searchs [click to enlarge]

More to the point of personalizing my search experience, is Google’s recent feature addition, SearchWiki.  It gives Google members the ability to delete hits from a search and to rearrange them, so that the next time you search for that term, you will get a more desired arrangment of results.  This is a bit more 2.0, though I must confess that I’ve never actually used this feature.

An even more personalization of my research comes from a Firefox addon called WebMynd.  When I search with Google, this addon places a panel to the right of the screen offering links to relevant YouTube videos and Amazon products.  I can also add to the panel,

  • Wikipedia
  • Flickr
  • Twitter Tweets
  • Backtype comments
  • Factiva Coverage
  • TechCrunch
  • Hacker News
  • CNN
  • Google Books
  • Delicious links

..and more.

WebMynd results panel [Click to Enlarge]

Of particular interest to me is that WebMynd also remembers the web sites that I have visited, and returns a seperate Google search from only those sites.  So, as I entered a quote that I wanted to site yesterday, the original page showed up on my list of visited sites immediately, saving me from scanning through pages of straight Google hits.  This is search personalization.  I love this feature.

Back to Lena Shaw.  The most memorable part of this entire exchange was when I wrote to Ms. Shaw to remind her that my audience was mostly educators.  She wrote back and said, “Perfect!  Without education, where would innovation be?”

It was a great line and it explicitly expressed a value of education.  The fact of the matter is, innovation is happening inspite of education, and I am becoming afraid that we are going to continue to damage our children and our future with industrial models of assembly-line, quality-control leadership.  Read this from FairTest.

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