Brent Knowles has a blog post up, GIVING THE GIFT OF PROGRAMMING (OR: HOW DID YOU LEARN TO CODE?) in which he asks about how to get his nephew programming. I started to write a long response as a comment, but then decided it would be better as a blog post.
I was about ten years old when I learned to program. I used paper tape on a proprietary language called Focal, which was DECs equivalent to Basic. I ran this on a PDP-8. Later, I started programming on punch cards in Fortran and PL/I.
I have three daughters, and I've always told them they are free to play any computer game they could write. The older two, who are now 21 and 18 started in a couple different versions of Logo. I think Logo is a great language for kids ten and under to start on. For a free version, they used MSWLogo, which was a good start. At school, they used MicroWorlds from LCSI. It is a very nice implementation of Logo for schools. Later on, I introduced them to a little bit of Basic as well as to MOO programming.
MOOs, or Muds Object Oriented, were text based virtual worlds with a great object oriented design. I set up my own MOO which I encouraged them to create things in. What is great about MOOs is that they are like text based multiuser RPGs and the kids could program and then interact with the program and with friends in the Virtual Worlds.
If I were to go down a similar route today, I might consider having the kids start in OpenSim, which is an open source three dimensional virtual world, a little bit like World of Warcraft, but even more like Second Life, in that players can create their own objects and program them.
However, I've spent more time encouraging my youngest to learn variants of Smalltalk. In particular, I've loaded various versions of Squeak. These include Scratch, EToys and Croquet. I found EToys very similar to good old Logo and so I tend to encourage that. Croquet was an early attempt at a multi-user virtual world environment based on Squeak. It has now morphed into Open Cobalt, which I really haven't had time to experiment with.
So, depending on the age and interest, these days, I'd probably start with EToys and perhaps move to Open Cobalt. As an aside, I've managed to run Squeak on my N900 cellphone, which was a fun challenge.
Beyond that, I believe three dimensional modeling is becoming more and more important, so I'd recommend encouraging kids to play a little bit in Google SketchUp. There is a simple free version. For kids that really get into that, I'd encourage them to play with Blender.
I'd also encourage kids to explore GIMP, a free open source image manipulation program, similar to photoshop, and to explore audacity for audio editing.
So, that is my fairly quick but long set of suggestions.
It seems like whenever a change comes along to some established technology, there are two predominant reactions that you hear almost immediately. Fans of the technology start screaming, “Ooh, Bright Shiny” as they explore the wonderful new features, while detractors start grumbling about someone moving their cheese. Usually, both camps have something valid to say, but then a new group comes along and complains about the people oohing or grumbling. Lost in all of this are underlying, and perhaps more important issues to be explored.
The latest changes to Facebook seem to fit nicely into this. Some people like the new newsfeed and timeline. Others are grumbling. Now that I’ve played with both the new newsfeed and the new timeline, let me share a few thoughts about the underlying issues what I think are two important underlying issues, engagement and privacy.
In social media marketing, engagement one of those rarely quantified goals that many people chase and few define. I won’t join with the ranks of those who denigrate engagement because of a lack of clear definitions or metrics. Perhaps engagement is like quality, beauty or other ideas that are important and hard to measure, or to borrow an old quote, like pornography; we can’t define it, but we know it when we see it.
Just because we can’t define it, or have a clear quantification, we can compare things relatively. Does the changes in Facebook make more engaging or less engaging? Do the changes make it easier or harder for people using Facebook to engage with their friends and followers?
To the extent that the changes are bright and shiny, that is likely to improve engagement. To the extent that they are moving cheese, they are likely to decrease engagement. That is, of course, until the new changes lose their shine and everyone gets used to the new location of the cheese. Then, we can look at the real impact.
In terms of the newsfeed, I don’t really see it as a big change. It continues to reflect Facebook’s attempt to find what you’re interested in. For people with wide ranging and varied interests, this is likely to be a bad thing. I don’t believe Facebook is going to help these people, and more likely will disappoint them. To borrow from Eli Pariser, Facebook is introducing a new and enhanced Filter Bubble. (See his TED Talk which touches on this.) For others, if it may build engagement, but it may mean that people trying to reach them will end up preaching to the choir.
The timeline is a bit different. Facebook has done a few things right here. They’ve opened it up to developers, and just as the Internet makes it possible for just about anyone to set up a blog and claim they’re a journalist, it also makes it easier for people to claim to be developers and get free previews. I actually set up a developer account a long time to explore linking Facebook and Drupal, so it was very easy for me to start using the new timeline. To the extent that this encourages others to dabble a little more with online development, this is a good thing.
The timeline is a considerable improvement over the old profile pages. As such, it is likely to improve engagement in many ways. Yet others have commented, and I concur, that it looks a bit more like MySpace now, which is noteworthy in a few ways. From a futurist viewpoint, should we be asking if Facebook is the new MySpace? MySpace was flying high once, but not anymore. Will Facebook meet a similar fate?
More importantly, when people think about stalking online, they very often think about MySpace. Now I believe that a lot of the fears about cyberstalking have been overblown, or perhaps more significantly, misdirected. It isn’t the unknown pedophile that is the biggest threat, it is our frenemies, and I suspect that Timeline will encourage inappropriate frenemy behavior.
It may be that Facebook will make it easier to filter out inaccurate information, or other information that you want filtered out. It already has that ability, and is asking me to confirm places where I have not worked, have not gone to college and who are not in fact relatives of mine.
Yet there is other information that it is putting up that I wish that it wouldn’t and I can’t find a nice way to prevent, such as detailed information about distant relatives, and details about various work experiences that are not appropriate. Facebook need to clean this up.
More importantly, there are concerns about other aspects of privacy raised by Dave Winer and others.
Bright Shiny? Moved Cheese? Enhanced Filter Bubble? Privacy Threat? All of this, and more probably applies to Facebook’s latest changes and more. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out. What’s your take?
Some of the recent changes to Facebook and Netflix got me thinking again about the technology adoption lifecycle. In that model, there are innovators and early adopters that start using a technology when it first comes out, and then later, the early majority, the late majority and the laggards finally come on board.
I identify myself as an innovator or early adopter. I like to play with new technology when it first comes out. I like to see what I can do with it, how I can tweak it to meet my needs. I’ve written in the past about how some of the early backlash against new technologies, whether it be Twitter several years ago, or Google+ more recently, may come from people further out on the technology adoption lifecycle curve. The late adopters are less likely to embrace a disruptive technology until it becomes mainstream.
All of this is a precursor to my thoughts about late changes. These days, technology is constantly changing. It needs to, lest it quickly becomes the disrupted technology of yesterday.
Some have suggested that Facebook’s changes were necessary responses to Twitter and Google+. Yet that doesn’t stop people from complaining. My initial reaction was not positive to the Facebook changes, and I still haven’t embraced them. Does this have to do with the technology adoption lifecycle, or is it really just about someone moving someone else’s cheese. Perhaps the two are related.
So, it got me thinking, Does one’s position in the technology adoption lifecycle also apply to reactions to changes to technology? Are late adopters more or less likely to gripe about changes than early adopters?
After my first initial negative reactions to the Facebook changes, I’m now pretty indifferent. They’re not bad, but I haven’t found anything exciting about them yet. (Am I missing something?)
Netflix is a different issue. We abandoned Netflix’s postal delivery a year or two ago, and only get streaming videos. It does seem like that is the future, and is the disruptive technology. I can see why people are disappointed by Netflix backing away from postal delivery, which is what it looks like to me, but if I were at Netflix, I’d perhaps be thinking about something similar. So, I’ll keep streaming Netflix until someone manages to one-up them, and I’ll stay out of the whole Qwikster, or whatever it’s called, debate.
That said, it seems like the splitting of Netflix into two parts may provide an interesting opportunity for some other organization, but I’ll write more about that some other day.
Yesterday, I shared a post on one of the discussion groups on Empire Avenue about my latest Empire Avenue programming and trading strategy. (Read more below the fold.)