Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No Time to Blog Home

Today is the second anniversary of this blog and of me blogging. Last year, I marked the anniversary by waxing philosophical on how blogging triggered and/or coincided with my regained enthusiasm for the Internet and some profound personal and career changes as a result. While asserting my passion for the Internet, I remarked on how my other interests were equally important.

I did not intend the anniversary of blogging to be an occasion for cloying sentiment, but it does seem that blogging has formed a pivotal role in my life this last year again, so I will indulge myself.

What's changed since last year?
Coincidentally, just 3 days ago, I was offered to be paid to blog regularly, opposed to the zero amount I make from blogging here and being picked up by Backbone Magazine. As much as I would like to blog more often, lately I haven't had time to sleep fully, let alone commit to regular blogging. So I reluctantly had to postpone the offer. As it is, I love blogging here and for Backbone, but find I just don't have the time either to blog or even to keep up with interesting developments worthy of posting. Although I have been using my Netvibes page to quickly keep track of important Internet news, and I finally succumbed to Twitter and realized it was great for microblogging (see right).

As far as keeping a balance with my other interests and hobbies, that's been complete history for the past year. My master's program at Royal Roads University, while fascinating and enriching, has proven to be so much work that it leaves little time for anything other than school and family time (which I won't sacrifice).

But I still have had time to pursue Internet activities and learning. I attended Mesh again (the best conference I've been to), some Casecamps and Facebook camps, as well as recently some of Toronto Tech Week. I've read some interesting related books either for a class or on my own (recent highlights are: Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder by David Weinberger, Structures of Participation in Digital Culture, edited by Joe Karaganis, and Groundswell -- one of these days I'll blog about the Internet canon.)

Career-wise, I've had huge changes as I quit my job managing the website for a pension plan. I won a research grant to study website accessibility so that money was enough that I can afford to focus on studies to pursue more meaningful work. When working at the pension plan, I felt the parade was passing me by. And it was for years and years. But blogging was a great way to make my own float and join the parade at least somewhat. It also let me chronicle my other cyber-adventures, such as my love affair with social bookmarking (delicious) and social networking. Before I left the pension plan, I helped with the launch of a fully transactional website for plan members, which was really the last applicable online thing left to do there.

This blog has been great for letting me publish some of my essays from class, which would have otherwise been confined to the dusty recesses of my computer. I intend to continue blogging about my research and findings in school, including an upcoming conference to India for the Internet Society and my thesis findings on website accessibility. I'm now certain I want to do a doctorate, but have not found a suitable place (other than Oxford) where one can devote oneself to studying the Internet so I'll probably continue with communications, and focus as much as possible on the Internet.

Over the last year, my blog postings have got more coverage, which is great. I love seeing other people quoting my blog (who doesn't) and Technorati and AideRSS have made that really easy. I still do the vanity googles, but Technorati and AideRSS pull up stuff Google doesn't.

So right now, my only problem with blogging is not having the time to do more of it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Google Is Ten Years Old

Checking out Bargainista's blog today and it brought to my attention two things. One Google is ten years old, as Eden states:

Can you even imagine a day without Google? I can’t. For the past 10 years, it’s helped make our lives easier by giving us all kinds of incredible online tools – and all of them are free! Bargainista, Sep 2008

I was surprised Google was ten years old, as it doesn't seem like that long ago we had to make do with Alta Vista for search and Yahoo for directory browsing. I remember responding to Google's early buzz by telling people Direct Hit is even better and Ask Jeeves was more fun. I also remember trying to convince Toronto companies of SEO back in 1999 and having zero luck so I gave up.

The second thing I discovered today from Eden's blog is this neat functionality on her blog to let one easily quote passages to their blog, called Zemanta Reblog. I've never tried it, so I figured it this was a good time to try it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trumpeting Toronto Tech

This Monday was the first day of the Toronto Tech Week conference. The event's goal is to foster Toronto as a tech sector and help position local companies to make the most of new and emerging technology. As such, Web 2.0 was a hot topic.

Despite the much-hyped claim that Toronto is the third largest tech centre in North America, I am, however, dubious of this claim. My suspicion is that there is a lot of IT work going on here as we are a centre for corporate head-offices, but I don't know of a lot of companies doing innovative and/or wildly successful things in Toronto and the post-secondary options are limited and generally out-dated. Various speakers did point out that not enough was being done by government, education, and business to really make Toronto a viable tech centre. The Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, provided the opening keynote address, signalling the City's commitment to this issue.

Overall, the Toronto Tech Week first day had a good batch of speakers from business, academia, and government.

The day's highlight for me was a panel discussion on the Corporate Adoption of Web 2.0, which offered good tips and caveats for how companies can use web 2.0. The message from all speakers (and one I definitely support) is that companies need to decide first what they want to achieve and then decide the technology, rather than start with the technology. Web 2.0, it was agreed, is not about the technology, but rather the ability to connect companies with their customers in on-going conversations. When asked whether all companies should adopt web 2.0, one speaker, Sean Moffitt of Agent Wildfire, pointed out that for companies who aren't completely above board, it probably is best to not start that conversation, as it will undoubtedly not be good. However, Mike McDerment of Freshbooks, added that if you don't do it, your competitor will. John Meyers of Open Text noted in his experience of technology adoption, it takes ten years for new tech to be absorbed and embraced and by 2015 with web 2.0 "it'll be like why was there any discussion".

This discussion was followed by the presentation of Canada's Web 2.0 Awards handed out by Backbone Magazine and KPMG. Other discussions at the conference focused on how to help recruit technology workers, how to foster Toronto's technology sector, and how companies can best implement web 2.0.

With some exception (such as the panel) attendance seemed to be lacklustre, however, which I feel is due to this conference being targetted to C-level executives (who don't really have the time to attend these things) and then priced accordingly. Also, I was surprised that despite the tech sector's youthful and non-traditional workforce, the attendees were primarily Suits over 50. I feel this missed the opportunity to bring in larger numbers and diversity of people working in the tech sector.

This is the second year for Toronto Tech Week and judging by the first day they got some really good discussions started. My hope for next year is that it opens up to a wider cross section of the tech sector to help Toronto create the vitality and innovation needed to make this City the tech sector it wants (and claims) to be

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Press Release about me

Here's the press release that Royal Roads recently submitted for my scholarship. Can't resist posting it.


Toronto grad student from Royal Roads University earns scholarship

For immediate release – August 28, 2008

Victoria, B.C. – Glen Farrelly of Toronto is one of thirteen graduate students from Royal Roads University to be awarded a scholarship worth $17,500 for applied research required to complete his MA degree.

“We are proud of the high calibre of learners such as Glen that we draw to Royal Roads University and, considering the size of our university compared to peer institutions, our learners do very well in submitting successful grant applications,” says Mary Bernard, associate vice president of research at RRU.

Farrelly is completing an MA in professional communication and his research project is looking at how Canadian websites can be made more accessible for the visually impaired.

“The World Wide Web Consortium published accessibility standards as far back as 1999 but the visually impaired still face barriers when it comes to accessing many websites in Canada”, says Farrelly. “I will interview website managers to identify their levels of awareness of accessibility issues and then develop practical recommendations for government, industry and advocacy groups to help them enact technological and social change”.

The J. Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships, awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, seek to develop research skills and assist in the training of highly-qualified personnel by supporting students in the social sciences and humanities who demonstrate a high standard of achievement in undergraduate and early graduate studies.

Also earning J. Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships are Royal Roads University students Adrian Bergles of Radium Hot Springs, B.C.; Rebecca Henn of Vancouver, B.C.; Alison James of Victoria, B.C.; Gordana Jelinic of Williams Lake, B.C.; Johann Jenson of Salt Spring Island, B.C.; Dorothy Kelker of Edmonton, Alberta; Michelle Mungall of Nelson, B.C.; Shane Rooney of Abbotsford, B.C.; and, from Calgary, Alberta, Conny Betuzzi, Kathleen Frit and Eloise Pulos. Adrian Leslie receives a $17,500 Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada.