Tuesday 1 December 2009

Tips to to avoid being a Christmas Box idiot

Written for the South African Chapter of the Limit Christmas Boxes To Those You Know Foundation.

Be warned, it's that time of year when the contemptible aim to take full advantage of one's generosity....

Now, there are a certain number of indignities in December that dwellers down South have no choice but to put up with: for starters, a fair amount of Christmas' symbolism is lost when one's in the wrong season; White Christmases are simply lost in translation during hot Summer nights. There's nothing one can do about this... except cynically hope that climate change is more far-reaching than predicted. Similarly, it's counter-productive to be upset about the paradoxes embodied in partially-costumed Santas popping up at the roadside; garbage bags in tow. One's grumbling won't prevent them plying you for rubbish and cash, next year.

Fortunately, one indignity is avoidable if SAffers unite to combat those opportunists-in-uniform who genuflect to complete strangers for undeserved Christmas Boxes, year after year. To help you combat this scourge, here are some choices to combat the evils of Xmas Doose:

Take advantage of reincarnation
"Christmas box? But I'm a Buddhist. In dreams, Buddha told me I should only give Christmas boxes in my next life." Feel free to substitute Buddha with any other deity related to re-incarnation.

Join the Cashless Society
Carry a spare, empty wallet for occasions just like this. Open it in front of the supplicant, saying; "I'm afraid I'm a member of the Cashless Society. Do you take credit cards or mobile phone payments for your Christmas box?" If the answer's yes, I regret I can offer no refunds!

Learn a foreign language
If you know a foreign language, speak only that to the erring supplicant. Hopefully, it's not his third or fourth language.

Bigotry is everywhere
This one requires a high-degree of bloody-mindedness and indignation. Shout angrily; "Everywhere I go, I'm asked for a Christmas box. Do people think that because I'm , that I'm made of money? That cash grows on trees in my backyard? That silver and gold coins fly out of my microwave? I'm gatvol of being asked this by bigots. So, are you a bigot?"

If there's a danger of this becoming a rational, two-way conversation, simply go berzerk, launch into a nonsensical rant about political corruption, communist-para-statal-failure, a culture of entitlement, etc... Then visit your shrink to deal with the pent-up anger that years of unsolicited, unwarranted Christmas box requests have led to.

Pack a few empty Christmas boxes
This one takes the most preparation... wrap an empty shoe box with Christmas paper. Carry it around for handing to the undeserving supplicant. If it's opened before you, with shock that it's empty, say: "But you asked for a Christmas box. And that's just what you've got. It's not right to look a gift horse in the mouth, bru."

Or simply try the fail-safe
"I only give charity to the unemployed."

Thanks for joining me in only supporting deserving charity this Christmas; leave the silly season to fools.

Amen to that,

Monday 30 November 2009

How to duck a Christmas Box (from any Xmas doos)

Written for members of the South African Christmas Box Fatigue Society.

"Bah! Humbug!", Travis grumbled to an unknown petrol attendant at a strange BP on being asked for a Christmas box. Reflecting that this was neither an erudite nor emotionally intelligent way to say NO, he resolved to master the art of verbally ducking future Christmas box requests from undeserving chancers (or Xmas Doose) and share his ideas with you.

Now, in South Africa, the Christmas Box is a present usually given before the December Holidays for services rendered throughout the year. It is the domestic help's, gardener's, postman's, waste removal teams' (yes, very much plural), et al. equivalent of a thirteenth-cheque. It is ingrained in South African culture; like sunshine, braaivleis and amoral leading men (think Stander, Tsotsi and Jerusalema, fellow patriots)...

It is totally bogus for complete strangers to ask you for Christmas boxes, but that won't stop them. So, here's a list of four excuses to tackle Xmas Doose with linguistic cunning and emotional aplomb:

1 The Recession, Buster.

State bluntly: "I'd like to. But I just can't. I've just been re-trenched. At least you have a job!" Unlikely to work when you are driving a wa-benzi-type-vehicle or caught with bulging wallet.

2 You want to give me a Christmas Box?

Pretend you have a hearing problem. Look completely ignorant, say; "No thanks, I don't want a Christmas Box." "No, really, you don't have to give me one." "It's OK. Please keep yours." Frustrating for doos, very funny for you (and onlookers), if done well.

3 No credit, sorry.

Blurt out; "Sorry. My bank manager said I can't give any Christmas boxes this year. You don't want to put me in greater debt, do you?"
N.B. Must be done with a completely straight face. And, ideally, puppy dog eyes

4 I'm turning Japanese, I really think so.
Quietly say: "I've recently become a Japanese citizen. It's against my culture to tip anyone, especially a stranger." If pressed that when in SA one must do as SA citizens do, say angrily; "Like you eat raw octopus in Japan, huh? You lie!"

Wishing You A Very Merry Xmas-Doos-Free Christmas,


Tuesday 29 September 2009

Affordances of social media for visual arts education

I did a presentation to UCT's Multimodality in Education group on "Affordances of social media for visual arts education", yesterday.

I have revised it using the group's feedback and you're welcome to view it on Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/TravisNoakes/affordances-in-social-media-for-education.

Feel free to experiment with slideshare's social media functions: please comment and/or share it. Thanks!

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Can this Video get Teachers Started?

Here's an inspirational slideshow from a teacher on how social media can benefit teaching. Time for Bishops to do a local version, what, what ;) ?

Can this Video get Teachers Started?

Shared via AddThis

Friday 12 June 2009

Hyperlinks from Jeff Howe's Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing: how the power of the crowd is driving the future of business by Jeff Howe (contributing editor to Wired) gives an illuminating view of ways the internet is being used to create new businesses and initiatives using the resource of a crowd.

I enjoyed learning about the innovative businesses and decided to list and link them this playful index:

#2 Where fans and groupies fund the next Beatles, Beach Boys or... Bros (oh dear).

#3 Where amateurs show the Spineless Aliterate Braindead Cowards (SABC) how it's done PLUS no license fee...
YouTube.com and current.com

#4 Star Trek's Data's cat Spot is on Wikipedia... and I'm not.


#5 Clark Kent just left the Daily Planet to wear spandex undies full-time.

#6 Where Floridians blow the whistle on crime ('Not needed in Cape Town; it's only a perception problem', or so Mr Thabo told me...)
Florida Today's WATCHDOG page

#8 Tag, share, care.
digg, reddit and stumbleupon

#9 Sorry, Mr Getty, but this time I'm buying good stock photos that won't bankrupt my clients.

#10 With rewards ranging from $ 5,000 to $1,000,000, best you unleash your troubleshooting genius here...
#11 Be a stalkerazzi and earn extra cash at your next Caprice visit. Smile, Leo!

#12 Fund your own movie. Just, please no more dogme productions, OK?

#13 Learn cool tips from computer graphics pros. Weird Science here I come...
CGsociety and c4dcafe.com

#14 It's a return call from ET... are you home?

#15 Better to invest here, than MTP {Madoff, Tennenbaum and Ponzi}.

#16 Not funny. Lifting entrepreneurs out of poverty, one donor at a time. Respect.

#17 If you buy a football club for just £35 a pop, do you get what you pay for?

#18 Copy code, tweak it and win more attention than my gold-plated-pocket-protector and tooth-grill.

#19 For the birds... tracking Tweetie (not Sylvester) in a web 2.0 stylee.

#16 Live to eat?

#17 You don't have to cameo in a Revenge of the Nerds prequel to view a course in Computational Quantum Mechanics of Molecular and Extended Systems, here.
MIT OpenCourseWare

#18 Let Dell know how it should improve its products and services. Get bought out by Apple?
DELL ideastorm

#19 Local community info; if you happen to be a mom and in Cincinatti...
Cincy Moms Like Me

#20 Before you say that the Democratic Alliance will "rule the Western Cape until Jesus returns", check the prediction market that beats the pundits.
Iowa Electronic Markets

#21 Better to invest here than with M.T.P. {Madoff, Tennenbaum and Ponzi}!

#22 See how Intel plans for future hardware based on the cool software it must support.
Intel's COOLSW

#23 Create your own community-driven website.

#24 Need help crowdsourcing?

Cambrian House

#1 Last, but not least...

So, was this list useful to you?

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Principles behind Bishops’ digital communities

I've just created a slide showing the (draft) principles that must inform the future development process of Bishops’ digital communities.

This follows yesterday's discussions, which highlighted the need for Fred and I to clarify the framework in which World Wide Creative, Steve Vosloo and I would help the school.

Hopefully, the slide does the job. Fred and Steve, what do you think (: ?

Monday 8 June 2009

Updated presentation for Bishops on "Opportunities for teachers and pupils using web 2.0"

Tomorrow, Fred Roed and I present to Bishop's headmaster, Mr Grant Nupen, and vice-principal, Mr Mike King. Fred's talking on "Building the BIshops Community with Social Media", while I focus on "Opportunities for Teachers and Pupils using Social Media (web 2.0)".

I have updated it to feature US president Barack Obama's insights. He recently said: "….it's not enough for our children and students to master today's technologies, social networking and e-mailing and texting and blogging, we need them to pioneer the technologies that will allow us to work effectively through these new media and allow us to prosper in the future." So, Bishops doesn't have to take just Fred and my words for the importance of digital literacy :) !

President Obama also pointed out: "But we need to remember, we're only at the beginning. The epics of history are long. The cultural revolution, the industrial revolution. By comparison our information age is still in its infancy: we're only at Web 2.0." Based on anecdotal evidence, I guess that most South African schools are at web 1.0, or less!

Our first meeting with Bishops staff was a success; teachers agreed that social media have an important role in education and community. However, concerns were raised about the speed (and costs) of Bishops defining and implementing a web 2.0 strategy {and the importance of overcoming passive resistance}.

I am convinced that by; (1) embracing open education, (2) defining a clear, consultative strategy and (3) focussing on the low-hanging fruit, Bishops can become a South African school that pioneers digital education {it already provides its entire curricula to pupils on an intranet}! 

Hopefully, Bishop's example will be a case-study for other schools to follow... with a little help from Fred and I :) !

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Web 2.0 opportunities for teachers and their students

I'm meeting with key Bishops (Diocesan College) staff tomorrow to present on how teachers and students can benefit from web 2.0's novel affordancesThe presentation is at http://www.slideshare.net/TravisNoakes/web-20-for-teachers-and-students-at-diocesan-college-bishops.

I'm presenting with Fred Roed, CEO of World Wide Creative (click here for his neat presentation on How Can Small Business Use Social Media To Stand Out In A Crowded Marketplace). We're looking forward to exchanging ideas with the school!

N.B. Another interesting presentation on web2.0 and academia is How Social Networks Are Changing Academic PR, Marketing and Alumni Relations.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Sharing bookmarks from your blog with Delicious

For South African bloggers who want to share their bookmarks.

To provide my blog's readers with the opportunity to check-out sites I like, I set-up my Delicious account today and added its widgets to my blog. Although it seemed simple, it took over 3 hours to get the foundation right:

1 Importing all my bookmarks into Delicious from Safari was easy: 10 minutes, tops.

2 Sharing useful bookmarks took about an hour, as it took me a while to work out that a 'Bulk Edit Beta' option existed... DOH!

3 Delicious used my Safari bookmarks folder structure to generate most two-word (and more) tags. Most of these are not relevant to my blog's readers (much as I'd love to share my bank's details or fireplace choices with you ;)), so removing these redundant tags was the next step. It's a three-step process to remove each tag, though. As Charlie Brown says, 'AAAUUUGH!' That was another hour; going, going, gone.

4 Adding the widgets, testing them on Safari and Firefox and refining them took another twenty minutes.

Anyway, it's done and I'm interested if you think it's been worth the effort? Post and let me know :)!

P.S. If you're on Delicious and like this blog, please add me to your network. Ta.

Sunday 1 February 2009


Written for South Africa's unfortunate television watchers

Like the music industry before it, the television industry is undergoing an end-consumer-focussed revolution. This is already happening in in the US through hulu.com, sling.com and Apple's iTunes Store.

There, the television user benefits in particular from:

1 Being able to pay for only the show(s) he or she wants, being able to download and view them when convenient,
2 Having advance notice of the series one is interested in, plus convenient access to an extensive back catalogue to 'fill in any series gaps',
3 Reduced (or no) advertising interrupting programming.

South Africans can only dream of such a service being offered locally... sigh! Wouldn't it be great if a future broadcaster offered to:
  • Charge you only for what you (wanted to) watch,
  • Provide a service that fitted into your schedule {versus yours into its},
  • Notified you as soon as new episodes in a series you enjoyed watching are available,
  • Made back-series and old movies readily-available,
  • Informed you if any new channels feature content that you may like,
  • And (perhaps, most optimistically) delivered a no-advertising TV service for an extra fee!

At present, I believe I'm overpaying for MNET's DSTV service. It simply does not offer good value to its pickier, low-volume users.

It's my (naive?) hope that the new entrants into South Africa's TV-broadcasting industry design their products for end-customers like me... versus its traditional benefactors; meatball advertisers :)!

Thursday 29 January 2009

Where to buy DRM-free MP3s online

Written for internet-connected, iTunes and Mac OS-using, (South) Africans

If, like Steve Jobs, Mark Shuttleworth and I, you believe that the Digital Rights Management-free music is ultimately the way to go, then your options for purchasing music online in SA are still suprisingly limited :(.

As Lloyd Gedye wrote, despite the example of the success of the iTunes music store (launched way back in April 2003!) and EMI's success with moving away from DRM-protected music, the South African music industry is still dead-set on enforcing DRM! So much so, that typing in 'buy mp3' into its website's search engine delivers no results. DOH!

So, what options does this leave you with; as a socially-responsible customer, who wants to own (not rent!) the music you buy online? Here are three suggestions:

1 Get DRM-free MP3s from overseas
Check-out how to buy music from Amazon relatively easily at http://www.tuaw.com/2007/09/25/amazon-mp3-a-quick-review. Alternatively, try prefueled.com or mp3.com.

2 Buy from your local...
You can buy proudly South African, DRM-free mp3s online from these shops*:
Rhythm Records offers mp3s from R 7 a pop!
Music.Overtone focusses on "high quality South African music".

3 Do the iTunes Music Store work-around...
Visit MediaWob to buy a voucher that you can redeem through the iTunes Music Store. The process is easy.

* Please note that this is not an exhaustive survey; these are the DRM free sites I could find through search engine look-ups. Please post other shop suggestions. Thanks!

Related links

Your 99c belong to the RIAA – Steve Jobs

Waiting for iTunes to come to SA? Don’t. Use Amazon MP3!

Find South African Music is a resource for promoting and exposing South African music to the world.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Five important iTunes music tags that are often blank... or wrong!

Written for internet-connected, iTunes users.

I've been told that I have too much time on my hands :)! If you find yourself with the same problem and also want to optimise your iTunes music library, I suggest you improve the accuracy of these five song fields*:

1. Setting the correct Equaliser Preset setting ensures your rock ROCKS on your speaker; not pops, fizzles or raps!

2. Often left blank by the automated look-up process, filling the Album Artist field correctly allows iTunes plug-ins to better find the correct lyrics and album covers.

3. The Genre field often needs to be tweaked to one's satisfaction. For example, your idea of Pop may be Bon Jovi. To others it may be Rock. Setting the correct genres for your tunes makes it a lot easier to play music suited to your mood. It also helps Party Shuffle work so much better on your ears :)!

4. If you own a fair amount of mixed music, setting a Start Time for your favourite tunes can avoid listening to a long mix-in from a previous one. Just as setting a Stop Time saves the boredom of a long outro...

5. The Comments field can be useful for creating smart playlists from its keywords. In particular, it's useful for labeling the mood of the music. For example, there are times when one only wants to listen to Indie music that's commented as happy (versus melancholy)!

I can't guarantee that changing these tags will improve your enjoyment of iTunes, but they should!

* Do this on a Mac by selecting one song (or more) and pressing 'Command' and 'I' simultaneously. Then select the 'Info' or 'Options' tab. Happy editing!

Monday 5 January 2009

Getting the most value from your capped bandwidth at month-end

Written for internet-connected, capped-bandwidth-using, (South) Africans.

As bandwidth is relatively expensive in South Africa, here are 2 suggestions to get the most value from a capped-account at month-end:

1 Use all your bandwidth in time!
Like most of you, my ISP also does not rollover unused bandwidth at month-end. So, to avoid forgetting to use it all, simply create a recurring calendar event for each month-end titled: "Check bandwidth availability".

If you've got a fair amount available, then run all your software updates. Once your software's up-to-date, here are other suggestions:
- Download free (or trial) software
- Do internet research
- Freshen up your desktop with new wallpaper and screensavers
- Download podcasts from TED and interesting content from iTunes University
- Update your blog, website, etc. with imagery and audio
- Catch up on YouTube or Zoopy!

For some reason, my ISP does not cut-off FTP downloads once they've begun (even if I've exceeded my allocated bandwidth for the month). So, I like to setup FTP downloads and run them just before month-end. If they are stalled, I simply pause the download and restart them after several minutes. This has worked well for me in the past; I hope it works well for you, too!

Related links
Telkom- SA's nightmare

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