Kids in Ethiopia Get Tablet Computers, Hack the System, Learn to Read, No Instruction!

From the edge of the Rift Valley in East Africa comes an amazing experiment. The One Laptop Per Child Organization simply dropped off boxes of tablet computers at a couple of remote villages and observed what happened. The villages were illiterate and were not (according to the article) exposed to the printed word.

Without instruction the children of the villages customized their tablets and filled them with applications. In a few months they had even hacked their way through the operating system and enabled the disabled camera.

The next step is to do the experiment again in a more “scientific” way to prove that the experience these youngsters had, and some had even begun to read, is valid objectively.

Human potential is an incredible thing. A tablet in the hands of a child unhampered by creative restrictions imposed from the outside must be an amazing thing to see.


Early observations are encouraging, said Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC’s founder, at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference last week.

The devices involved are Motorola Xoom tablets—used together with a solar charging system, which OLPC workers had taught adults in the village to use. Once a week, an OLPC worker visits the villages and swaps out memory cards so that researchers can study how the machines were actually used.

After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”

“We Are Ok” Is #1 Shared Term This Morning (On Facebook)

I was on social media from the first drops of rain on. Of course I tend to spend a fair amount of time in various social media anyway. But as of last night it seemed as if everyone in the universe was on Facebook and Twitter- which apparently they were according to the attached article.

I did notice a common phenomenon last night. It usually started with a post that read something like “Winds getting strong.” Followed by “Lights are flickering.” And then that person vanished. That’s what happened to me last night.

(From TechCrunch)

“Here’s the top 10 shared terms by U.S. Facebook users as of this morning, compared to the 24 hours from Sunday to Monday morning, as shared by Facebook’s journalism program manager Vadim Lavrusik. Before Sandy hit, people were discussing weather forecasting and sending well wishes to friends in affected areas. Then as the storm hit over night, people began sharing their personal situation to reassure loved ones.”
Click here for the story.

Johns Hopkins Computer Model Predicts 10 Million Without Power Due to Sandy

I am just outside of Washington DC to the south and west, and even here, 100 miles inland, the winds have already started to pick up. The core is far out in the Atlantic right now. It is a massive storm.


“An engineer at The Johns Hopkins University predicts that 10 million people from northern Virginia through New Jersey and into southeastern Pennsylvania will be without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.”

Click here for a map.

Learning Online is Now Illegal in Minnesota (I am not kidding)

If you want to use the free online course software offered by Coursera (or any other similar entity) and you happen to live within the borders of Minnesota, you are out of luck. Just one more reason to head south I suppose.

We are not even talking about the pursuit of a degree or certificate or some other credential. This is learning for the sake of learning. And now you are breaking the law in Minnesota if you do it.

(From Slate)

“The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the state has decided to crack down on free education, notifying California-based startup Coursera that it is not allowed to offer its online courses to the state’s residents. Coursera, founded by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, partners with top-tier universities around the world to offer certain classes online for free to anyone who wants to take them. You know, unless they happen to be from Minnesota.”

“The future power plant is no power plant.” – Justin Hall

In this remarkable TED Talk from last year entrepreneur Justin Hall discusses a whole new way of looking at energy. If this technology was to get beyond stall speed it would revolutionize human existence. That is not too strong a statement.

Imagine if the windows in your house or office building could generate all the energy you would ever need and that additionally this energy could be transferred, with no grid, no wires, etc, to any other building in your line of sight. If you can imagine this then you are imagining what Justin Hall thinks is already possible.

Chicago Fights Innovation in Transportation, Sues Uber

Uber is a company that is increasing efficiency in the taxi business. Using a smart phone a potential rider can call for a taxi and pay for that taxi using an online account. Simple, easy, efficient. Many taxi riders absolutely love it.

However there are those – specifically the established taxi companies- who would prefer that Uber go away. As such these companies have mounted an effort to regulate Uber out of existance.

(From TechCrunch)

It’s no secret that Uber’s disruptive on-demand car and taxi service is ruffling the feathers of the taxi industry. It seems that in every city in which Uber launches, there’s legal pushback from the industry that the startup is disrupting. We’ve seen this in D.C., San Francisco, New York and Boston. Today, Chicago joins the mix, with a new lawsuit filed by a group of taxi and livery companies in Chicago.

Click here for the story.

The Simple Genius of Twitter and TV

I love to watch a show and open up Twitter. There is nothing better- TV wise – than getting a good Twitter conversation going while watching a show. Well, watching a show that one cares just enough about to watch but is not glued to. Madmen for instance is a post show tweet.

I watch only a handful of shows each week, but the conversation around a show, which is readily available on Twitter adds to the experience for me. TV execs are fretting over the fact that conversations are happening outside of their branded shows. They’d like it much more if people chatted within a specific show platform- easier to advertise to. TechCrunch examines what TV is doing wrong in this respect.

As silly as such a discussion may appear, it has huge implications for an industry increasingly behind the 8-ball, and for how live events (such as elections) are covered.


So here is the undeniable fact: Twitter currently dominates live TV because it enables these “come-in come-out” experiences that are light, delightful and informative. But ultimately, Twitter is also dominating because of the mistakes we are making in the social TV industry.

Click here for the story.