Saturday, September 24, 2011

Facebook is becoming the next big platform with Timelines, smart social apps and better privacy

I know it's super trendy to be anti-Facebook and looking for more "open" or less "evil" alternatives like Google+ or Diaspora. But after the massive changes announced at Facebook's f8 developer conference on Thursday, I feel like it's time I say this out loud: I love Facebook.

Facebook, one of my favorite web destinations
Skating to where the puck is going to be

I love Facebook as a service, and I love Facebook as a company. I completely agree with MG Siegler from Techcrunch on this: Facebook is becoming the new Apple, skating to where the puck is going to be, and leaving the competition baffled in dust, miles behind.

Sure, change and innovation are often difficult to accept for the now almost 1 billion strong mainstream Facebook user base. Even a minor repositioning of a button is bound to make someone upset. For a week or so.

And that's why I have even more respect for Facebook: despite being very mainstream, they are not afraid to innovate. They could easily sit on their asses for a year or two and wait for Google+ or something else to catch up. Instead, they choose to run head first into the questions nobody is even asking yet, and often finding answers nobody else can think of. Like Apple, Facebook is still able to maintain the mentality of a startup and has the guts to challenge the status quo.

Do they get it right every time? No, of course not. But you're bound to make mistakes if you're trying hard to be the first and the best in what you do. The tricky part is knowing how to recover from your falls, move on, and find the next big thing that will change people's lives forever.

This might seem like a big statement; after all, Facebook is just a social network, right? Well, it seems like they have bigger plans than that. The folks at Facebook are really hard at work trying to find the best ways for people to connect online. And not by pilling up features, but by rethinking the way we connect to each other on a human level.

And human is the keyword to the two major changes announced on Thursday. Firstly, completely redesigned user profiles, now called Timelines. And secondly, the new generation of Facebook apps that enable social experiences, and finally make seem the semantic web a step closer to reality. Let me explain why I'm so excited about all these new features.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Subjot: bridging the gap between Twitter and Facebook with subjects and dicussions

Yesterday I came across a blog post on TNW on Subjot, a Twitter alternative. Yeah, I know. At first, I rolled my eyes. (Yet) another Twitter is probably not what we need. But I'm glad I read the post anyway and discovered that Subjot actually offers a solution to a Twitter dilemma I've been having lately and builds an interesting product centered around discussion on top of it.

I wouldn't really call Subjot a Twitter alternative. It actually works quite well with Twitter, and in a way provides a middle way between Twitter and Facebook, providing a public space for discussions based around topics user define themselves. Call me crazy, but I actually see Subjot as Google+ done right. Intrigued? I sure do hope so, because I think Subjot is a nice little gem with a lot of potential and a harbinger of a larger trend. Let me explain why.

Subjot: "Talk about your favorite subjects. Let your friends choose what to follow."

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making Tumblr my online home

The mission: find a new home for my online hub

Not long after Steve Jobs announced iCloud, a free service that would replace (and, quite honestly, dramatically enhance) the existing paid MobileMe service, it was clear that those of us that were using MobileMe to host our iWeb website would have to look for a new home.

Which, for me, meant looking for alternatives for hosting my online hub @ Until recently, my online hub was a simple iWeb website that pointed to all my profiles around the web that I'm using actively, and had a few extra pages for an extended bio and featured work. Nothing complicated, and I liked it that way.
Goodbye, old iWeb website!

But apparently time had come to find a new home for my online hub; a journey, which ended up on Tumblr. So, read on if you want to know why I chose Tumblr and how I'm using this micro-blogging platform as my personal website.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

5 key mobile trends you should know about [Lecture]

Recently I was invited to prepare a guest lecture for a small group of business and management students attending an E-learning course as part of their Summer School in Koper. I was told to choose a topic that would be fresh, something that students don't get to hear about that often in regular classes.

And that's why I decided to put together an overview of some of the key trends in the mobile industry that are already influencing the way we study, work and socialize, and will probably be an increasingly important part of our day to day life. You can find the slides and the video of my lecture, as well as a text recap, in this post.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

iPad, AirPlay Mirroring and Apple TV: the new portable interactive white board that can do so much more

Yesterday's Apple Keynote at WWDC 2011 was full of big announcements. No shiny hardware upgrades this time, but a lot of great stuff coming up for our desktops with Mac OS X Lion, our mobile devices with iOS 5 and a solution to keep it all nicely synced together, iCloud.

I'm still digesting all the new announcements, but here's one particular feature of iOS 5 that I think could really be a huge hit in our classrooms: AirPlay Mirroring.

AirPlay Mirroring brings the ability to mirror your iPad screen through Apple TV. You can see a short demo in the video I've embedded below.

Now, imagine this setting: instead of hooking your classroom overhead projector to the painfully slow computer on the teacher's desk, connect it to the $99 Apple TV. And then use AirPlay Mirroring on your iPad to share presentations, your web browser or any of the 90,000 (!) beautiful apps for the iPad.

And the best thing? You're free to walk around the classroom and let your students interact with the apps.

There are of course already several iPad apps that can help you turn your tablet into an inexpensive, portable interactive white board, but with this set up you could do so much more. It's not limited to an app - you can do anything you can do on your iPad. Not to mention the setup is super portable, so you can take it along to any classroom you visit, not just at your own school.

Unfortunately, AirPlay Mirroring isn't out yet; it will be available in fall with the release of iOS 5. But I still think we'll be seeing some nice uses of iPads hooked up to the not very expensive Apple TVs through AirPlay Mirroring. Bringing the magic of the iPad to the classrooms or meeting rooms, enabling people to work together just by passing the tablet around the room.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

iMoot 2011: the Experience (Part 2)

In the previous post I highlighted some of my favorite presentations from this year's iMoot, a web based international conference dedicated to Moodle, an open-source learning management system. The 4 day event ran 24 hours a day to accommodate all time zones and was packed with 50+ speakers across 6 continents. So, how does it feel to attend such event purely online?

First of all, I would like to thank and applaud the iMoot organizers for putting together such an amazing event. Julian Ridden and his team worked hard day and night to make sure everything was running smoothly and everyone had the necessary support. And if you're wondering what it takes to orchestrate such an event, just take a look at Julian's "iMoot Control Room".

The program was well planned and ran simultaneously in two tracks. There was just enough time to catch a little break between sessions, plenty of opportunities to interact with the presenters, and the repeat sessions made it possible to attend almost every session I was interested in in person.
Basic options for every iMoot session
By the way - all repeat sessions were done live, not with recordings of the previous session! And in case you missed the repeat, you still have the chance to watch the recording on the conference website, usually posted within the day after the session.

I also got a lot of opportunities to practice Moodle 2.0 on the conference site, and the organizers did a great job at providing a dynamic conference schedule (custom coded by Shane Elliott). The schedule showed your local time for all sessions and made switching between sessions a breeze. You could even save it and print it as a PDF file in case you wanted to have it on paper.
Awesome dynamic schedule with all session links on the iMoot site
I must say it was a bit confusing to have a separate course for each session, particularly because each session had its own discussion forum in its own course, so there wasn't much discussion going on on these individual forums - after all, it is difficult to follow forums in over 60 courses. It must be said that some presenters did a great job at adding extra resources to their courses and even used them for demos during presentations.

So, the main place for asynchronous discussions was the iMoot Lounge, though most discussions were related to the technical issues and questions/comments about the program. That's why I think it might be perhaps a good idea to have session discussion all in one place, perhaps right in the Lounge, so we'd all be exposed to more content oriented discussions.
iMoot 2011 conference lounge
But of course, as with face-to-face conferences, most of the interaction took place during the live sessions. All presentations, panels and keynotes were delivered through Adobe Connect, a professional web conferencing solution, which is relatively easy to use and set up (note: I have used the system before in different roles, so I came prepared). Yes, there were some technical problems along the way, particularly in sessions with over 40 participants, when we'd all get occasionally kicked from the session room. It kinda reminded me of Second Life events with sims crashing and all (good old times!).

Adobe Connect during Martin's keynote
But hey, it really wouldn't be a real web conference without tech problems, would it? Plus, the support staff was very helpful and fast in solving any issues, so for the most part the technology did work as it should have and the sessions were easy to follow. I especially enjoyed the lively backchat during presentations that was usually both informative and fun, and provided a great opportunity to learn from one another.

Big kudos also to all presenters that really engaged their audience in the presentation and did a great job at keeping an eye on the live Chat while presenting. I really feel we had more opportunities to ask questions and steer the direction of the presentation than we would in a face to face conference.

So, regardless of whether you're a Moodle pro or a Moodle beginning still exploring what Moodle can do, I strongly recommend attending an (i)Moot. It's a great experience and wonderful opportunity to connect with Moodlers around the world, get direct feedback and insight from core Moodle developers, and learn tons of practical tips and tricks. Also, way more affordable than attending Moodle Moots around the world, though that's of course also a great experience if you can afford it.

And finally, to all fellow iMooters, class 2011: hope to see you again next year! Perhaps I'll even find the time/courage to join in with my presenter hat as well :)

Related post:

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

iMoot 2011: the Highlights (Part 1)

I'm really glad I took the time to attend this year's iMoot, a web based international conference dedicated to Moodle, our beloved open-source learning management system. The 4 day event ran 24 hours a day to accommodate all time zones and was packed with excellent speakers and presentations.

That is why choosing just a few highlights from the conference is anything but an easy task. But I want to give it a try anyway, so, without further ado, here are seven of my favorite presentations from iMoot 2011:

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Android for girls: a new frontier

According to last year's AdMod Mobile Metrics Report, nearly three quarters of Android users are male. Sure, other tech gadgets and smartphone operating systems do tend to show a slight male bias, but why is the percentage of Android female users so dramatically low? And can anything be done to make Android more appealing to women?

These were the two key questions I tried to answer while searching for a topic to present at the recent MobileCamp Ljubljana, Android edition. I was pretty sure more than three quarters of the audience at the event would be male (I was correct), so that seemed like a nice topic to explore with the guys, mostly app developers.

You can see the slides from my talk embedded below. As the slides attracted quite some interest on SlideShare (my first presentation that got featured on the homepage!), I also decided to do a little write-up on my blog, to expand on some of the key points.
So, why aren't more girls using Android? What can we do to make Android phones feel right and not (only) a geek device?

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7: the classroom potential [Part 2]

In part 1, I talked about my personal experience with three of the most popular operating systems for mobile devices of today and the future. In this post, I'd like to continue my analysis by looking at which OS has the biggest potential to become a hit product of our classrooms.

So, we have three main contenders running for classroom OS of the year:
  • iOS, the app focused OS running on incredibly sexy Apple mobile devices,
  • Android, the geeky OS of many choices and opportunities that can even be installed on an e-book reader and
  • Windows Phone 7, Microsoft's attempt to catch up by focusing on a simple user experience (and making Apple fans feel bad for liking a Windows device).

What the school is looking for

And we're at Sunnydale High School. Helen, the principal, really wants to make their school cool and fun by providing their students and teachers with one-to-one technology. After all, it's so hard to capture students' attention these days, and being proficient with computers will surely give students a competitive edge in the information society of the future.

But here's the thing: the school is on a really tight budget and they have to decide what to invest in. Should they install interactive blackboards in every classroom? Get a computer in every classroom? Give each student their own computer?

That's all very expensive, and the investment they made in those tiny netbooks two years ago didn't really pay off. Nobody likes them. The teachers hate them because the screens are so tiny and because Word is so slow to use. The students hate them because they are slower than the computers they have at home and because even their phones provide a better Facebook experience. And the IT stuff hates them because they are just as annoying to maintain and support as their big brothers in the computer lab. So, the netbooks are mostly collecting dust in the closets. or being used as paperweight - at least something they're sort of good at.

Is the answer in those new mobile, post-PC devices everyone keeps talking about? Let's take a look!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, March 04, 2011

iOS, Android and Windows Phone 7: the facts and my experience [Part 1]

Q4 2010 brought a big milestone to the mobile industry: smartphones outsold PCs for the first time ever. And that's not even taking into account tables and iPods that provide similar functionality. In short, mobile devices - or "post-PC devices", as Steve Jobs calls them - are hot stuff right now.

However, it's easy to get lost and confused by all the devices and even by all the mobile operating systems we can choose from. Apple is certainly leading this new revolution with the iPhone and the iPad, but other software and hardware companies are trying their best to catch up and capture our imagination.

Last Summer I started blogging at Mobitel Tehnik, a blog about mobile technologies, on which my posts (in Slovenian) mainly cover news and tips related to mobile app development. As part of my assignment, I've been using and following the development of some of the recently most popular smart mobile operating systems on the market.

That is why I've decided to sum up some of the thoughts and experiences I've had with various platforms on my blog in two parts: in the first part, I focus on introducing facts and my personal experience with 3 of the most talked about smartphone operating systems: Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7. And in part 2, I will try to imagine the potential of using iOS, Android and WP7 mobile devices in classrooms.

Ok, so let's take a look at the facts and my personal experience with each of the three platforms first.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

iMoot 2011 to explore New Directions

MoodleMoots, conferences dedicated to users, administrators and developers of Moodle, our beloved open-source learning management system, have always been my favorite events for exchanging learning and teaching experiences. This year, I'm particularly excited about attending iMoot2011, the second annual web based International Moodle Moot.

iMoot2011 will be running from 30th April to 3rd May 2011, 24 hours a day to accommodate different time zones. If you want to get involved as a presenter, you can submit presentation proposals and academic papers by February 19th, or register as an attendee (got my early bird registration yesterday!).

The theme for iMoot2011 is New Directions, a fitting title considering Moodle 2.0 has finally been released at the end of last year. However, it's good to know that Moodle's new directions won't be the main focus on the conference; instead, the goal of the conference will be to explore the potential of using new technologies and pedagogical ideas in an evolving online learning space, where Moodle is just a piece of the puzzle.

You can find more info about the conference on the official iMoot2011 website. I'm certainly looking forward to participating in the conference, getting new ideas and meeting new and old Moolde buddies. Will you be joining us?

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sharable Bits: Compliments, Doing Nothing, Standing Desk

Blog post: Genuine compliments matter

Why it's worth sharing: Vicki A. Davis reminds us about how important it is to give genuine compliments to our students and colleagues every day. I certainly try to follow this advice in my day to day work. Remembering to thank people for their effort and acknowledging their success is a simple gesture that can make a big impact. After all, we all want to be good at what we're doing and to know that what we do is meaningful, don't we?

Challenge: Do Nothing for Two Minutes

Why it's worth sharing: It's a simple website with a simple idea: relax and do nothing for only two minutes. Easy, no? Well, it turns out it can be quite a challenge if you're used to constantly check your e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and what not. It's certainly a nice idea that encourages to stop and relax, even if it is just for our couple of minutes. Perhaps we'd all felt a little bit better if we passed this simple challenge every day. (via @mashable)

Idea: Standing desk

Standing desk

Why it's worth sharing: Gina Trapani's blog post Why and How I Switched to a Standing Desk provides a nice overview of the transition from a traditional "sitdown desk" to a standing desk and working on your feet. As someone, who tends to sit behind the computer desk in awkward positions all day long, I find this idea quite intriguing. I admit - I haven't decided to make the switch yet, but at least the post reminded me that I should get up and stretch more often during the day.

Sharable Bits is a series of weekly posts that will highlight some of the most interesting bits and bytes that I stumble upon. No bad news, just ideas that inspire, touch or entertain in a unique way.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mobile single-tasking leads the way to a more human friendly desktop

The web seems like somethings everyone should know how to use by now. But what about the less experienced aka the majority of users? Do they really know how to use their browsers? And understand what's going on on their computer screens?

I think computers are still mysterious, magic boxes for a lot of people outside the tech savvy crowd, and we need to keep looking for solutions that can change that perception. Perhaps by learning from simple, easy to use, user centered mobile devices, like the iPad.

The web is a strange place for the average user

As a reader (or occasional visitor) of this blog, you probably have a good basic understanding of how the web works. You're probably familiar with the concept of a web browser and how your browser interacts with web servers to display different web locations. You know how to copy, type and check the URL of a website to make sure you've opened the right web page, and you're probably reading this page in one of the many tabs open in your browser, perhaps even an RSS reader.

But all of the above isn't such an easy task for everyone. If you think the web is easy to use, I challenge you to observe the way so-called "average users" interact with it. Users, who have never received any real training, and are not really interested in understanding how the whole system works. They just want to check their e-mail, share photos on Facebook or find a store's phone number on the web.

I have seem that many times in the past few months (while trying to teach them how to use a pretty complex online tool), and I must say it has changes my perspective. The web just seems like a different place for the average user than it is to me or probably you. It's a place where the Google search box is your starting point because you don't know the URL of your school's website, it's a place where you only use one window at a time (tabs? what tabs?), it's a place full of confusion and notifications you don't really understand. Update? Pop-ups? RSS? Java script? Is that even English?

Humorous Pictures

It's just so different from the world we, the tech crowd, live in. It's not a world where the lack of multitasking before iOS 4 was a problem, it's a world where no multitasking is a great feature.

Why do you make me switch windows and apps?

It's certainly something that we should all keep in mind when designing user interfaces and user experiences on the web. You think your registration process, which requires e-mail confirmation, is simple? Think again. The average user doesn't want to switch windows and apps, and doesn't want to read your friendly instructions about activation and other nonsense. They just want to get things done.

And that is where we can learn a lot from the new generation of smartphone operating systems (thinking mainly about iOS and Windows Phone 7, I'll leave my Android rant for another post). They make it easier for people to understand what they'll get and where to get it. With big, easy to tap icons, and a simple, physical Home button that always gets you back to the starting line. No complicated lists of programs, no need to decide where to save your files... In many ways, the mobile OS is smarter than your desktop OS, even though the "smartness" is a result of the limits such small devices have.

Let the OS do the work and just enjoy the ride

Many of the features that make current smartphones so pleasant to use, were first introduced by Apple. Of course, a lot of skeptics laughed at the lack of multitasking, physical keyboard and what not, but 4 years after the original iPhone came out, everyone is trying to make a better iPhone. Not a better smartphone per se, but a better iPhone. And even though the geeks love Android for being a more open platform, iPhone keeps setting the standard for the high-end smartphone market.

And I think Apple is actually on the right track again with the concept of Mac OS X Lion, the next major upgrade to their desktop OS due to be released this summer. Lion will take a bold step at bringing features from the mobile world - the magic of iPad, as they call it - to the desktop. A unified place to download, buy and update your applications, a launchpad with big, colorful icons, and full-screen apps that take away all the distractions of your desktop.

I can see all this being a big hit with the average users (time to switch grandpa to Mac OS X!). An app for Facebook, an app for your e-mail, an app for your workspace (which lives in the cloud, but you don't really know or care about it), and an app for Google, so you can find everything else. And you don't have to worry about whether apps are closed or open and about saving your work. You want to do something else? Fine, hit the "Home button" and come back to the first app when you're done, picking it up just where you left it.

Mobile devices are changing our expectations

While the emphasis in the discussions about the mobile revolution often seems to be on portability and the business opportunities of mobile apps, let's not forget about how all these mobile devices are changing the way people interact with computers and their expectations.

We are already seeing examples of how the iPad and similar devices are influencing web design, and I definitely think that's a positive trend that will make more and more web destinations feel more natural and uncluttered. Now is the right time to take a look at the web sites we build and maintain, and figure out how to make it more mobile and consequently human friendly.

And the end result will not be something just the less tech savvy users will enjoy; I think we can all benefit from less clutter and distractions. After all, it makes much more sense to have interfaces that adapt to the way people think, than to have people adapt to interfaces they have to use.

Additional readings:

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.