Monthly Archives: April 2009

Twitter dangers?

With all the third party Twitter applications mushrooming on the Net, I began wondering how safe it is to use them. It seems that people rather carelessly get attracted by Twitter-related applications, like Twitpic, which enhance Twitter functionality by allowing to tweet pictures, view stats and graphs of various kinds, or do a trend analysis. More personal apps allow you to Geotwitt your location from your iPhone, or how many steps you have taken today on your pedometer.

While most of these third party apps are trusted and probably safe, it would be all too easy to set up a malicious site that promisses something, but in reality just steals your Twitter account details for abuse. It would not even have to connect to the real Twitter, because it’s purpose is fulfilled once the naive user enters his Twitter details.

What are the dangers of losing your account details you may ask. There are quite a few of them:
Probably the greatest danger is that most people use the same username and password on all their social networking sites, which would provide an attacker with access to your facebook, myspace, perhaps even e-mail accounts!

Then there is the more direct danger that your name and account are abused for defamatory or spam messaging, which the user would have a hard time to prove not to have published. How about an insult to your boss coming from your account? Furthermore, you may be locked out from your account if the attacker simply changed the password.

If you want to avoid the described scenarios, it is best not to use third parties, unless there is a high level of trust and publicity connected to them. So be aware!


EQF – The European Qualifications Framework

The EQF was adopted by the EU in 23 April 2008 and approaches its first anniversary in a few days time. Time to reflect a bit on what it has brought to us.

The intention of the EQF is to make qualifications (as the name says) better comparable between member states’ education and recognition systems. It disects human capacities into three major areas: knowledge, skills and competences. For those wondering what the difference between skills and competence is, here is a rough guide to the working definitions:

Knowledge comprises data and facts, principles and theories

Skills are cognitive and/or practical abilities, this includes creativity, dexterity, language and communication skills, intuitiveness and logic.

Competences comprises the ability to act independently and responsibly

These three areas are divided into levels 1 to 8 (basic to expert), but there is no level 0 (no knowledge of the area). The good thing about the framework is that it can be applied to any domain or discipline. Equally, it is meant to cover every area of learning: formal education, professional and lifelong learning.

Adoption in real organisations or institutions has been slow to say the least. One reason for this is that in practice the framework is too detailed. Studies into corporate activities in the area of identifying staff levels of competences revealed that the middle management, who are the most likely to engage in such measuring, would suffice with three levels instead of eight.

Another criticism I would like to level against the EQF is its notion of innovation. Indeed, already from level 5 upwards there is a strong emphasis on innovation and change. This is not really surprising because we live in a changing world, where adaptability and innovation are valued highly. Higher, in fact, than experience – which used to have a higher rating (and still has) in traditional industry.

Evidence for this emphasis are terms like “boundaries of knowledge”, “advanced knowledge”, “forefront of knowledge”, “most advanced frontier”, “innovation”, “new strategic approaches”. All of these occur as critical elements in the upper levels of the Framework. In implementation this would mean that you can’t advance to the top expert layer without it.

Still, I am sceptical about this view. Take the ‘customer’ view and ask yourself this question: Would you like your appendix removed by a surgeon who’s removed 1000 appendices, or rather one who tells you “let’s try something really new today…”. Similarly, I am happier being a passenger on board a plane with a captain who’s done hundreds plus hours on a Boing 737 than with a helicopter pilot who’s being innovative, or on a spaceship to Mars. In some cases, I believe, experience outweighs innovation. Frankly, I don’t like living the life of a guineapig!

SM2 – Social Media Mining

Everyone using Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Elgg, or other similar social networks knows what enormous wealth of information is out there, if you could only find a sensible way of accessing it. Most of us hope Google would do this, but alas, the search giant lets us down on this.

Now Techrigy have come up with this superb social media mining application SM2 that answers a lot of these questions. It’s really been created for marketing departments who want to watch public opinion on their brand and competitors. However, there is no reason for not using it as a watch-engine on your personal or professional topic.

I have created a search on “learning technologies”, and here below is a glimpse view of SM2’s strength in this business. With the Freemium account you can only create 5 profiles to watch, but this would be enough for the average professional. A wizard guides you through entering some specific search terms and exclusions. Then it takes a while before you see first results as the engine trawls through the Social Web. I got an e-mail notice that results have been found, so I went back to see them.

You can set your own time frame for the search, depends on the short-livedness of your topic. The first result you see is the daily stats:

Stats over time

Stats over time

All the graphics are drillable, so you can really drill down to the individual post in twitter, flickr & co. I cannot go into every detail of what SM2 provides. It’s all very useful. There is e.g. a map view, showing where posts have originated from. If you are watching a political topic, such as e.g. the Moldovan uprise, you will find which part of the globe is most responsive to it. Here’s the map on learning technologies in Europe:

"learning technology" postings in Europe

"learning technology" postings in Europe

What I find particularly impressive and useful is the semantic analysis that identifies (more or less accurately) the tone and sentiment of a comment. Currently, it uses a static algorithm, but I can see this in future being developed into a learning application. Already now, you can adjust the output by using the sliders on the emotional analysis to where you think they should be (5 level scale ranging from very negative to very positive)

You see that although there were recently a few negative postings, the majority of the posts on “learning technology” were of positive nature (most in fact neutral). You can interpret this your own way. Below in the screenshot you see the list of analysed posts which you can “calibrate” with the sliders. The system, naturally, cannot detect sarcasm and irony.

Overall "learning technology" has a positive connotation

Overall "learning technology" has a positive connotation

My conclusion is that this is a really useful analysis and mining tool. My only worry is that it is sometimes a bit slow and I wonder how scalable it would be if it became very popular.

By the way, it is also worth mentioning that the people from Techrigy are enchantingly helpful and supportive even to Freemium users. They also provide helpful web training sessions, which enlightened me a lot.

Legacy technology

Remember this technology? It used to provide ubiquitous access to communication networks. I wonder how many people still know how to use it.

public telephone

public telephone