Friday, February 22, 2008

Go and see Gamerz!

I wrote some time ago (in Editing Wikipedia) about how I updated my cousin's, well technically my second cousin's, Wikipedia entry. I noted that the film Gamerz was not shown widely in the UK. Well, after some success in the USA, it will be shown in the Cineworlds in Glasgow and Edinburgh starting today. (See the Cineworld plot synopsis for more details.)

If it does well enough, it may be shown in more cinemas. Apparently, the opening weekend of a film is very important, so if you are in or around the area where it is being shown this weekend, why not go and support a Scottish film?

If you do go, post a comment to say what you thought of it.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Did he Google it?

One of my favourite cartoon strips is Get Fuzzy. A recent comic amused me but also got me thinking. A character asks how somebody knew something and suggested he must have Googled it. The reply comes back:
"No, no. He already knew it. He Noodled it."
Not Googled but Noodled. Brilliant!

This got me thinking... It has been said that "know where" is more important than "know how" - i.e. it's more important that we should know where to go to find out stuff or to get something done than it is to just know stuff. There is some truth in this I think. We live in a complex world and we can't know everything we need to know for the rest of our lives. It's about learning to learn. We should know how to find out... and Google seems to be where many people go to find out. (I touched upon this in "Education: product or process?" some time ago.)

However, I think it's important to be able to Noodle stuff too. I'm sure I've said before that I used to be able to recite the whole of Tam O'Shanter from memory. I would now struggle to get past the first couple of stanzas but I'm glad I learned it once. (I think it's all still in there as bits get dragged to the surface of my memory every so often.) Perhaps even the process and discipline involved in memorising stuff (any stuff) is valuable. So it's not Google or Noodle, but Google and Noodle.

Has memorising poems and/or lists of facts disappeared from the curriculum? Should it disappear? Is there a value in memorising things for reasons other than mere utility?

What do you think?

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Free MP3s

I've posted before (nearly two years ago - grief!) on how I almost succumbed to the temptation to download cheap music from Russian MP3 site and subsequently mused on how we teach the ethics of behind this sort of thing. Well, Russian (and now Eastern European) sites continue to tempt. Posts on the Internet continue to insist that it's OK despite at least one of the major sites being shut down. And occasional news items surface about links to crime or the failure of these sites to pass on money to the artists... So I continue to avoid.

However, I was pleased this week to hear about a legal, free MP3 music download site. Will I say that again... a legal, free MP3 music download site... Oh, and no Digital Rights Management nonsense either. Huzzah!

How do they make money then and how do they pass on royalties to the artists? Simple - advertising. I'm not talking about the much hyped Qtrax here (which as far as I can see is still vapourware). No the service that's got me excited is We7 - stupid name, great idea. What they do is stick a short advert at the start of every track you download. Bit of a pain you might think but the really cool bit is that after 28 days, you can re-download an advert free version. A straight mp3 file - no adverts, no DRM, no problem. Brilliant!

The service has been going for a while, but somehow slipped under my radar. According to TechCrunch, although they are still in Beta, they have about 100,000 users who have downloaded over 1 million tracks. And icing on the cake is far as I'm concerned is the involvement of the genius that is Peter Gabriel.

So what's the catch? As far as I can see, there isn't one. Advertisers get to target adverts at specific groups of music lovers, artists (including loads of unsigned bands) get rewarded when people download their music and music fans get free music in exchange for listening to (very) short adverts for a few days. ...Well, perhaps a few problem. Downloads can be a bit slow and there is currently a fairly limited choice of artists - in particular, no Gabriel despite his involvement with the project (and I don't think any of his Real World label artists are their either). Also, at the moment, instead of CD Art , you get a We7 advert (although I guess that may go too when you download the ad free version). However, they are still in Beta and as a proof of concept, they've sold the concept to me. I hope they can sell it to artists and labels too!

To finish on the positive, despite the current limited choice, I've already downloaded over sixty tracks and I'm trying to stop myself from downloading more until I've spent some time listening to the first bundle. :-)

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