Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by @brianlucey #cornflakesandcommerce @MetroHMarketing @NCIRL

This morning's well attended Business Breakfast at NCI was presented by Professor Brian Lucey of Trinity College who spoke about the state of the Irish economy. Prof Lucey is an accomplished speaker and a well-known economist, and I (as a non-economist) was looking forward to hearing an informed State-of-the-Nation presentation (i.e., not one from a politician).

Image source:
Prof Lucey got straight to the point and said that the biggest problem facing Ireland is "jobs". Though he suggests that we have reached the "bottom", we will still "bounce along the bottom for a while" yet.

The Good:
Exports, muted inflation, and the fact that the banks are not any more "rancid" than before. He called the banks the "rotten corpse" of the Irish economy. He suggests that to improve on these "good" things that Ireland should focus more on the SME sector rather than FDI. He even pointed out that the Greek economy is in a better shape than ours (if you forget their enormous debt). He also points out that Ireland has not yet experienced "austerity" (are you watching Sinn Féin?) - simply because we have exported it. I couldn't agree more.

The Bad:
The domestic economy is "on the ropes" and making very slow progress. The ugliest thing about the Irish economy is the unemployment level. Prof Lucey got really annoyed when talking about this as he sees a massive waste in educating and exporting our best people - he called this an "unspeakable economic crime". He also showed us some evidence that "HiTech" won't solve the problem - this was disappointing for me to hear as I had assumed that this sector was thriving and was the bright spot in the jobs market.

The Ugly:
As if we were not depressed enough by now, Prof Lucey spoke about the promissory notes to Anglo. I didn't know this, but he told us that this was basically "destroying money" instead of using it for other purposes. He also made the point that the problems in Ireland are not "just about the banks", and that the European Union cannot do a lot if we simply "walk away" from the Anglo debt.

Overall this was both a very interesting and a depressing talk, and very informative for less-knowledgeable people (like me). Prof Lucey was a passionate speaker, even mentioning "independence" and "1922". I had to leave before the end (to deliver a class), but I'm sure he got a great round of applause at the end. Well done also to the NCI Marketing Department for putting on such a great event.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I am not a money launderer or a terrorist - why do I have to prove this to the EBS?

This is annoying, what happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?....

Image source:
The Educational Building Society (EBS) has written to me to inform me that under the "Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010 (Section 33)" that a "block has now been placed" on my account. How dare they do this! 

The account is a joint account with my 11-year old niece. I have recently provided the required identification and proof of my address to the Liffey Street branch who told me that everything is now in order. Clearly not. I also had to do this for my own account which I set up in 1985!

While my niece does have a passport (with a photo of her as a baby), she of course does not have a utility bill or any documentation to prove her address.

The EBS, and other financial institutions, have been told to do this by the Government. We, the customers, have to prove that we are not terrorists, criminals, or money launderers. Presumably they don't want to have such nasty people to have accounts. But my question is this - HOW COME SUCH PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO RUN THE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND GET AWAY WITH F**KING UP THE COUNTRY? 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Last evening we went to see the new "Lincoln" movie starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the Odeon in Stillorgan. We were not out of place in the (mostly) middle-aged audience - this screening was sold-out. The movie is 2.5 hours long and it is an effort to concentrate all the way through - as you must. However, it is well worth the effort, with Daniel Day-Lewis putting in a master class though I thought Tommie Lee Jones was also outstanding (there should be a preservation order put on his face).

Despite the fact that we all know the outcome of the American Civil War, what happened to Lincoln, and the result of the vote on the 13th Amendment (which outlawed slavery) - the tension is kept up throughout in what surely must be one of Steven Spielberg's finest ever movies. It is hard to nowadays believe that members of the Democratic Party in the US voted against the amendment to abolish slavery, especially since the first African-American President is a Democrat. The arguments on both sides were well put forward, and behind it all was a lot of lobbying and pressure being put on Congressmen to vote either way (just like today!). The Amendment is really what the movie is about, with Lincoln's role a central theme - but the war taking a secondary role. 

Lincoln is portrayed in the movie as a great leader, politician, and emancipator of slaves - he was not always thus. It is worth noting that in 1858 Lincoln stated, in a debate with his rival for the presidency Stephen Douglas, in Charleston "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people" (quoted from "A. Lincoln" by Ronald C. White). Nevertheless, his attitude changed somewhat during the war. 

I absolutely recommend this movie to everyone, and I will make it part of my film library when it comes out on Blu-ray. Here's the trailer...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Teaching and Learning in Further Education

Today I attended a short Conference at NCI on teaching and learning in the FE sector in Ireland. It is not a sctor that I am very familiar with, so I was keen to learn more about the sector and meet some of the teachers and practitioners that are the educators in this space.

Image source: The Hindu.
The first presentation was by our own Dr Leo Casey who got us thinking about learning as participation. He also decided to to talk to us about theories of learning, but instead of boring us to death with a re-telling of the established theories he spoke about the fact that "we all have theories of learning", and gave his his own take as a "lifelong stance" where we learn to remember, think, act, and participate. He also gave us an interesting thought about how "Alienation" and "Participation" actually feels, and how prior knowledge can help and/or hinder education. He finished up with discussing Communities of Practice, with a desire to set up a CoP for the FE sector.

The next speaker was Rory O'Sullivan from Killester College of Further Education who was both entertaining and informative. He gave us a great insight, backed up with s loads of statistics, about how the sector is structured and provided a fascinating look at the breakdown of student profile. He also spoke of the "language of unemployment" and how it must feel for the unemployed going "back to school". Rory was followed by Dr Arlene Egan who got us thinking about "Thinking", and who asked the question "How much space is available for thought to happen". Key to her discussion on participation was "mastery" and "autonomy" over a subject. Arlene is also an excellent speaker who did not use any notes or PowerPoint slides throughout. She also gave us a good tip at the end where she suggested we never say "but", say "and" instead.

The final presentation was a series of four short sessions on "Innovative Approaches" to T&L, in which I participated myself. First up was Tina Reddin who gave us some great ideas for using augmented reality (AR) in education. Frances Sheridan summarized a great initiative that she is involved in at NCI with first year students, and getting them to cope and participate more in their transition to third level education. I spoke about YouTube, and the session was brought to an end by Susan Duggan who told us about Service Learning, and in particular emphasized that we should look for evidence of "Reflective Learning" in student feedback.

Overall a very enjoyable half-day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"Could a university be the next HMV" and lose out to the Internet?

Financial pressures and falling student numbers are threatening the future of British universities according to Anna Fazackerley who asked the question in yesterday's Guardian newspaper: "Could a university be the next HMV?". She writes that some third-level institutions (especially the "ex-polys") are suffering up to 20% drop in student numbers and that "some institutions, especially smaller ones" are "looking quite vulnerable". It is "shocking" to think that student numbers at the London Metropolitan University were down "a huge 43%", and that this institution has undergone some "serious subject cutbacks". Tough times indeed ahead for the third-level sector in the UK, and lessons for us too here in Ireland.

His Master's Voice.
Image source: Wikipedia.
However, I can't help thinking that when I saw The Guardian's headline that I was wondering if it would be about how universities are losing out to the Internet and on-line courses. There is no doubt that traditional university campuses are vulnerable to the widespread availability of on-line courses. The likes of Hibernia College here in Ireland, the University of Phoenix in the USA, and the Open University in the UK have been offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses for years. More recently Udacity are offering courses to third-level students. It could be that universities and colleges will lose out to these institutions and go the way of record shops, travel agents, and book sellers as students increasingly move to an on-line experience for education. 

Time to take our heads out of the sand?

Monday, January 21, 2013

How To... Embed a Web Page into a PowerPoint Presentation

Following on from my previous video on how to embed a Google map into a PowerPoint presentation, is my latest video showing how to embed a web page. It is very similar to inserting a Google map, it also needs the free LiveWeb Add-in from the OfficeTips web site. It could be a useful technique for presenters to show a web site without having to use links or screen shots, or exiting PowerPoint and opening a separate browser. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Les Misérables

It's is not since I was a kid that I read the story of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, and I have not seen any movie or stage versions since. Last evening Roma and I went to see the latest movie starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. Of course many of the songs are very familiar, and the music is the best part of the movie. However, overall I found it very boring.

I found "Les Mis" to be quite a depressing movie in parts, and a lot of the sung dialogue felt forced to me. There are some super performances from Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter, with Hugh Jackman being by far the star of the show. Russell Crowe tried hard, but was not quite convincing to me - his sung dialogue seemed the most forced of all. As for Anne Hathaway? While she does misery very well, all I wanted was to hear Susan Boyle sing "I Dreamed a Dream" instead.

At 2 hours and 38 minutes it is far too long, and there were times I would happily have left the cinema. I'm glad I didn't because the most iconic song of the lot, "Bring Him Home" sung by Jackman, was worth waiting for, not to mention a bit of action at last at the barricades. I'll not be too bothered to see the movie again, but if it comes to Dublin on stage I think I'll still check it out. Good to see our own Colm Wilkinson get in on the act with his role as the Bishop of Digne.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What not to do with PowerPoint by Don McMillan

We have all been at presentations where we have understood the meaning of "Death by PowerPoint". Some lecturers, like me, bore the pants of our students with endless slides showing bullet points and diagrams that we want our students to learn off and give back to us in an examination. These presentations are actually course notes, but somehow they have now become an essential presentation tool and I use them all the time. I don't claim to be good at presentations and I'm sure I too fall into the "What not to do with PowerPoint" trap all the time.

Comedian Don McMillan in his "Life After Death by Powerpoint 2010" comedy ketch has hit the nail on the head with what not to do. Take a look, and if you use PowerPoint and do not do any of the things Don describes in the following video, you are a PowerPoint guru and I want to watch your presentation!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Rumblings from the HEA

Today the Higher Education Authority has published Completing the Landscape Process for Irish Higher Education. Proof that things move slowly in this field is that after almost a full year since the HEA first started this process that the new document does "not represent, at this point, the considered conclusions of the HEA". There's a lot more to come.

The document is, like other documents on this subject from the HEA, essential reading for all involved in third-level education in Ireland. The landscape being painted for us all is quite different from what we have at present, though there is very little on how this new environment is going to be achieved. The document does state that the HEA "does not address the funding, pension, HR and legislative issues which will need to be considered as a necessary part of implementation". You could be cynical and translate this into "cuts in funding, redundancy payments, and changes to employment conditions" will not be discussed at this time. However, I do accept that this is a position paper for further discussion.

Included in the "landscape" are merges and clusters, with an overall reduction from 39 institutes to about 15. The document dithers on what to do with the likes of NCI as further "discussion with these institutions is required". It is clear that the HEA's earlier stance on smaller colleges being "unsustainable" and that they either have to merge or go it alone, it not as easy to do as it sounds. We are in good company here as there are eight other colleges (including IADT and NCAD) needing "further discussions". The next step is a "consultation process with the HEIs in February" following which the HEA will "provide the Minister with our definitive advice in March". Sounds as if actions will actually take place quickly, so we don't have long to hold our breath. I'd love to be a fly-on-the-wall at these discussions.

NCI's old campus in Ranelagh.
Image source: Irish Press Releases.
The National College of Ireland was founded in 1951, so it is a relatively young College when compared to many others in Ireland. It would be an extraordinary pity to see it disappear from the Irish education landscape by either being merged with other Colleges, or going out of business due to lack of funding. We have made our mark on third-level education and there is definitely a role for us to play in the future to provide access to education for the City centre and for second chance learners (all 3,000 of them!). 

In an uncertain future, greater minds than mine in the HEA and DoE are working on a strategy for us all. Let's hope they come up with something that makes sense, is fair, and is workable.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What I have learned from 1,000 blog posts

Yesterday marked my 1,000th blog post, so I have decided that for my 1,001st post I would write about what I have learned from blogging over the past six years. So below, in no particular order, are some of my learnings from blogging:

  • My blog is me: All thoughts on my blog are my own, and I find it liberating that I can express them in my own way. The word "blog" is short for "Web Log" which is essentially a diary on the web. I like to record what I have done and write about things that I see and do. I have only ever kept a paper diary once - this was for the year 2000 when I got a present of a Whoseday Book. I updated this every day and sometimes look back on it to see what I was doing on a specific day. I do the same with my blog.

cartoon from
Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use
on your blog at 
We Blog Cartoons.

  • Careful What You Write, Eugene: Blogging by its nature forces people to be careful about what they write - it's the same with me. I check for spelling and grammar all the time to ensure that I don't look foolish and careless. But I also try to express myself in a way that readers will want to read. I try not to use bad language, and avoid any comments that could lead me to being sued. I am also careful to not be seen to be blogging at times when I should be doing something else (it's lunch time as I am writing this!)

  • Reference, Reference, Reference: In the last couple of years I have been better at referencing. I have always used hyperlinks to other sources, but I also now use quotation marks and italics for direct quotes, attribute content to others where necessary, and give the source of items like graphics I use. This is simply the right thing to do, and I have learned to do it better
  • Choosing topics: I blog about anything, and sometimes it is not easy to come up with a topic. Items like reviewing a movie or describing a family event are easy. But at other times I am stumped about something to write and I need inspiration from somewhere. I'll look up on-line news for ideas, or if there is something like an election on I generally have a go at writing about this as if I was a journalist. A good source of ideas is Twitter where I can get dozens of relevant ideas from the people I follow

cartoon from
Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use
on your blog at 
We Blog Cartoons.
  • Engaging with Others: Blogging allows me to share and communicate ideas with others. I get many comments on posts I write - some of them are supportive while others often take me to task on what I  write. It's important to remember that not everybody is going to agree with me all the time, so I accept (and publish) other peoples comments even if I don't like them

  • Not a Lot of People Read my Blog: Occasionally people will say to me "I read your blog...", and it's nice when this happens. The number of views are growing on a monthly basis - last December was the highest so far at 9,492 views. Most of these are as a result of Google searches. Since Analytics have become available in 2008, "eugenes blog" is the most searched term that drives traffic to the blog 
cartoon from
Cartoon by Dave Walker.
Find more cartoons you can freely re-use
on your blog at 
We Blog Cartoons.
  • Content is King: Management in SmartForce when I worked there (1989-2002) used to bore the pants off us by saying "Content is King". It's only now that I realise that this is at least partially true. Posts that attract the highest views are generally about things that people want to read about - no surprise there. Very few people care about what I think of the musical Oliver! (which I reviewed here), but one of my more recent posts about the Higher Education Landscape (see here) has been read by 380 people in 17 days. As I wrote yesterday, my blog is a personal treasure trove of content
  • Blogging has Established me as an Authority and Expert: (Or at least has gone some way to doing this). The traditional route for an academic to prove their authority and expertise over subject matter was to get a PhD, publish papers, and teach. Of these three I only can say that I do two - I do not write research papers any more. Blogging is an alternative outlet for academics to publish and express their opinion. And it is faster too. A published paper in a peer-reviewed journal will take several months (even years) from start to finish. A blog post can be written in an hour, and shared with your peers instantly. I predict that in years to come, a more important question at academic interviews than "How many peer-reviewed papers have you published?" will be "What do you blog about?"

Monday, January 14, 2013

1,000 Blog Posts

It is just over six years since I set up this blog, and today marks my 1,000th post. On Monday November 13th 2006 I wrote My First Post. It was still to be a full year before I started to post on a regular basis as I only wrote 13 posts in the first year. When I set the blog up I had no intention of it becoming what it is today when I write about many different topics, and I had no idea that it would become such an important and valuable part of my life. I work on my blog almost every day and try to post at least 20 times a month. It's not quite every day that I post, but I do find myself writing almost all the time. 

There are times when I have nothing to say, and there are times when I have a lot to say. There are days when I have to search around my brain, or on-line to find ideas to write about, and there are other days when I have several options to write about. I usually have several working unpublished posts on the go and sometimes it takes more than one session to complete a post (I started this one yesterday). Just over a year ago I started tagging my posts and the screen shot of my Tag Cloud to the left gives an indication of the types of things I write about. Education and YouTube matters are dominant, but I also write about family and holidays, as well as other topics such as reviews of films/books/restaurants. It does take up quite a bit of time, but it is something I like to do in the evenings and weekends. I do most of my writing outside of work hours, but on educational matters I do use working time to write as I regard this as part of the role of a modern academic to have an outlet for their thoughts. This is becoming more popular among academics and I look forward to the day when most (if not all) academics do this.

Google only started providing detailed analytics on blogs in July 2008, and since then the blog has received 175,025 views. The United States and Ireland account for about 49% of total views. While I'm guessing that the USA views (48,768) are as the result of searches, I'm hoping that many of the 37,505 to date from Ireland are people actually reading something that I have written. Below are some more stats taken today:

I find blogging tremendously liberating and I only wish that I could have started doing this back in the 1960s when I first learned to read and write. What a personal treasure trove that would be. I'd like to think that I can keep doing this for the rest of my life! Tomorrow I will write about what I have learned from blogging.

Keep on Blogging!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Scan of Show Programme Cover.
I attended the musical "Oliver!" at the Bord Gáis Theatre last evening for a fantastic show. Many people of my generation were kids when the film version was released in 1968 (I did not know until today that Mark Lester who starred in the title role did not sing in the film!). On stage this is a spectacular production - this one was produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

All the familiar songs are there - "Consider Yourself", "Who Will Buy", "I'd Do Anything", and "Food Glorious Food". The many kids did on show did a super job, but Oliver Twist himself is underplayed a bit. The real star of the show was Neil Morrissey as Fagan, he really seemed to be enjoying his role and he delivered a funny, slightly dark, but masterful performance.

There were many kids in the audience who might have been bewildered by some of the sexual overtones, particularly in the "OOM-PAH-PAH" scene.

Overall - a great show and I'd recommend that the producers tone down the smutty bits to make it into the really brilliant family show that I think this is.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trainspotting (but not much passenger spotting) at the Merrion Gates

Yesterday late afternoon I was stopped on my bicycle at the Merrion Gates railway crossing waiting for the DART to pass by. This seems to happen all the time when I travel this road, so I have plenty of time to indulge in a bit of train spotting. Like a lot of other people I have noticed in the recent months that many trains are reduced from 8 carriages to 6, sometimes 4, and even 2 carriages in response to lower passenger numbers.

DART. Image Source: Wikipedia.
It was exactly 5 o'clock, rush hour was upon us, the roads were very busy, and I would have expected the train I was waiting for to pass to be very crowded with commuters heading home. Instead, the 8 carriage train was almost empty - at a guess I would have thought that all the passengers that were on the train would have fitted comfortably into ONE carriage with nobody standing. This was not an out-of-service or an empty train heading out to the suburbs in the morning to bring back a load of commuters to the city centre - it should have been full of commuters, but instead this was an expensive way to carry a handful of people home.

So I asked myself: 
  • Who in Iarnród Éireann timetabled an empty train? 
  • Where are all the commuters?
  • Why were there 8 carriages?
  • Why are there so many near-empty trains (and buses)?
  • Is anybody doing anything about this?
  • Why am I as a taxpayer paying for this?
Rant over - that feels better!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Embedding Google Maps into a PowerPoint Presentation

It's been a week where I have had some time to create a few new videos for my YouTube Channel. I had previously tried to figure out if it was possible to embed a Google map into a PowerPoint presentation and make a video about it. Despite many searches, the best solution that I could come up with was to simply use a screen shot of a map. Now thanks to an Add-in called LiveWeb for PowerPoint it is possible to embed a Google map into your presentation. 

The free LiveWeb PowerPoint Add-in is available from the OfficeTips website of Shyam Pillai who is a Microsoft MVP. This Add-in must be downloaded and installed into PowerPoint before you can embed a Google map. In fact it can be used to embed any web site into a presentation. Full instructions on how to download and install this Add-in are available from the website. Here is my video showing how to use this Add-in to embed a Google Map of Dublin City Centre (and NCI) into a presentation:

The technique described is relatively easy to do, but I had a hard time making this video as I had to record it several times before I got it right. Hopefully people will find it useful.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Two new videos on Learn with Dr Eugene O'Loughlin YouTube Education Channel

Today I spent some time creating new videos. The first is an updated version of one of my most popular videos "How To... Embed a YouTube Video into a PowerPoint 2010 Presentation". Since I posted this video on 31st August, 2010 it has been viewed 121,756 times, has 258 "likes" (9 "dislikes"), and 117 comments. Many of these comments are about the location of the Embed button that I refer to in the video. This is moved about by YouTube quite a bit, and due to some recent changes in the layout of the YouTube page I decided to create an updated version. I also added an annotation with link to the old video so that anyone viewing it can choose to click to the updated version. Here's the new video, which shows how to embed a Natural History Museum video into PowerPoint:

The second video is a new one - this time about simple linear regression. Once again Excel 2010 makes this an easy task to do is you want to compare two sets of data. You can plot the data on a scatter chart, add a trend line, generate the regression equation, and also calculate R-squared which tells you how strong the correlation is between the two sets of data. This is a straight-forward, but lengthy task if done manually - Excel makes it looks easy. Students should be warned that they probably have to know how to do the manual calculations on paper, but they can use Excel to check their results if necessary. Here's the video:

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

How to reference a web link

My previous two posts were about using web links and whether they should they be paid for. As a Lecturer I obviously grade many projects, assignments, and essays - almost all nowadays reference on-line resources. I insist on all sources being cited, and warn students about the consequences of plagiarism. Many students feel that it is enough to simply add a web link to the end of a paragraph, or in a footnote, or in a "Bibliography". This is poor scholarship and will certainly lead to marks being lost, but does usually prevent accusations of plagiarism. So how do you do it correctly?

Suppose you want to reference the article in the on-line edition of The Irish Times of 6th January written by Johnny Ryan "Links are lifeblood of the web - unauthorised use of content is not", which I referred to in my previous post, using the Harvard Style. Perhaps you are writing an essay about copyright and the unauthorized use of third-party content. For example, you might refer to it as follows:

                        A recent case involving The Irish Times and the Women's Aid charity has stirred some debate in Ireland about the use of content from another source - specifically linking to that content from another site. Should you have to pay for this? Ryan (2013) separates the benign issue of “linking to” content from the more fraught issue of “reproduction of” content when discussing the use of web links.........                        

Note that the article in the main body of the text is simply referred to as "Ryan (2013)" - you do not put the wed address (URL) here, just give the author and year of publication. Note also that the quotation from the article is in italics. The full reference to this article must be provided in a bibliography at the end of the essay/project. For above it is as follows:

                Ryan, J. (2013). Links are lifeblood of the web - unauthorised use of content is notAvailable from: [Accessed 7th January, 2013].                       

Note that the name of the author, year of publication, the full title of the article in italics, the full URL, and when this URL was last accessed is provided.

Learning how to do this properly is a good skill to have. If you plan to do a Masters or PhD you just simply have to do this correctly at all times. Undergraduate students should do this as well for two reasons: First, it is the right thing to do. Second - you won't lose marks. It is also a good idea to cite sources in business, whether you are displaying a chart from another site, quoting from another source, or simply displaying a graphic - add underneath the source. Not only does it make you look good and that you have carried out careful research, it is also the right thing to do.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

"The Irish Times' does not expect payment for URLs" @johnnyryan #copyright

Following up from yesterday's post I received a comment from @johnnyryan (must have a Google Alert on - Hi again Johnny!), which I have published in the post. Johnny points out that both he, and the Editor of the Irish Times @hlinehan, have made it "clear that The Irish Times' does not expect payment for URLs". I'm happy to make that clear here too. I do believe that the Irish Times has a good model for a newspaper where the most recent content is free, but that older material must be paid for (€10 for one day is a bit steep though).

As I wrote yesterday - a "storm in a tea cup".

Monday, January 07, 2013

Is Linking Stealing?

There is a bit of a storm in a tea cup brewing about whether people and organizations which link to content on another site should pay for the privilege. I believe this started with a blog post by McGarr Solicitors entitled "2012: The year Irish newspapers tried to destroy the web" (I hope this link is free!). In this post the blogger writes about the case of the Irish Times demanding payment in the form of a license from Women's Aid for linking to content from the Irish Times newspaper.

(Unauthorized) Snip of screen shot
from The Irish Times 7th January, 2013.
Click image to enlarge.
The Irish Times has stepped back a little bit in today's edition where Johnny Ryan writes that "Links are lifeblood of the web - unauthorised use of content is not". In the near future this link will not be available as you have to pay for archived content in the Irish Times anyway. In Colleges all over the world we educators preach that all sources of material for essays, assignments, and projects must be cited - indeed failure to do so will lead to a charge of plagiarism. No student has to pay to cite any source, these days many do cite web pages, including newspaper sites. Indeed the Irish Times itself promotes linking to content by providing Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other means of sharing the page - ironically this is done with a hyper-link! (see image to left).

Above I have linked to the Irish Times in four places without permission. The "Careful with that Axe, Eugene" blog has advertising on it through Google Adsense - last month it earned me the grand total of €2.31. So I guess technically I am earning money from this blog and arguably the Irish Times is entitled to some of this if I link to their site. Somehow I don't think they will be coming after me!

However, I am now very careful about citing sources, especially with images. I usually try to use quotations and italics when quoting content, and cite the sources - this is standard academic practice. Indeed last April I wrote an Apology to when I used one of their cartoons without permission. I certainly agree that if you use someone else's content that you should cite the source, and if you use it for profit you should pay. But the Web is all about sharing, in 1997 Tim Berners-Lee wrote that “The intention in the design of the web was that normal links should simply be references”. 

To me that is exactly what a link is - a type of reference. On the same page that the screen shot above is from there are advertisements for Peugeot cars, Irish Dancing, Hotel Lanzarote, and Nationwide. If I view or click on any of these ads the Irish Times makes money - maybe they should have a license for that?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Harley-Davidson Woes

The trouble with Harleys is that they break down, as do all other motorcycles. And when they do they are expensive to repair. Last week while putting my bike into the shed I felt the clutch cable snap, or at least I thought I did. I have insurance with HOG Assistance, so I called them up on Friday morning - TWO HOURS later I finally got the AA to collect the bike after HOG failed to help me and I got the AA to sort me out. They have a clever system where they have a bike trailer in the back of the van that folds out like you see in the photo. The very helpful Mick of the AA brought me and the bike to Motorcycle City in Blessington Street.

What at first appeared to be a simple case of replacing the clutch cable has now turned into a massive repair job. First, I had never seen the inside of the left side of the bike's gearbox. In the photo to the right the bike is on a its hospital bed. I got a great detailed explanation as to what caused the "snap" I felt. It had nothing to do with the clutch cable. It is connected to a clutch shaft on the right side of the bike. This shaft goes through to the other side where the problem was located. In the photo below the finger is pointing to the end of the shaft, just below this is the nut that has broken off the end piece of the shaft. 

The clutch shaft has to be replaced, and unfortunately all the bearings and clips attached to it also have to be replaced too. It is a major mechanical operation where the bike has to be taken apart. I don't have a price yet, but I am worried about how much this is going to cost - labour alone will run to a few hundred euro. Only last month the starter clutch was replaced. For the first time I've wondered whether I should keep this bike at all - but ten seconds later I stopped wondering this.

Friday, January 04, 2013

The Changing Face of Publishing

Today in the post I received an offer for a year's supply of Time Magazine for €30 - this is a massive €213 off the regular annual subscription. This included a so-called "Privilege Card" which is cleverly designed to make me want to subscribe immediately.

Several years ago I did subscribe to Time (that's why I am on their mailing list). It was a brilliant magazine and it arrived weekly through my front door letter box like clock work. The trouble was that it was based not only yesterday's news, but mostly last week's news as well. With the advent of instant information from the web I quickly got bored reading the same stories that I had read days previously on-line. I am still interested in things like the Time Person of the Year, and who gets to go on the cover (our own Enda Kenny last year), but no more than that.

Providing Time Magazine for a year at the knock down price of €30 must be a major loss leader for the Time company. It either shows that they can afford to do this, or that they are desperate for new subscriptions. I'm not biting - I look up on-line newspapers everyday now, rarely buying print media. I haven't bought Time for a very long time, and am unlikely to do so. In the age of "instant everything" with Google News and Twitter, yesterday's news is no use to anyone. This has serious implications for all involved in print media.

Sorry Time, but I will not be taking up your offer.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Higher Education Landscape

There is no doubt that in Ireland's desperate economic situation that Education budgets are under threat. The Government is asking how to get more for less. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) last year asked for submissions from all third level colleges to express their views as to how the third-level system should be reformed as the current system has "led to mission drift, confusion over the role and mission of institutions, growing institutional homogeneity, unnecessary duplication and fears about the quality and sustainability of the system".

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It would appear to me that the HEA is not best pleased with the responses they got. The HEA states in an Analysis of Submissions document that the "submissions leave much of the system unchanged" and that the "commitment to formal and effective regional clustering is weak and little evidence emerges that there will be any significant level of voluntary course or faculty rationalisations". 

The seven Universities appear not to want to change very much (with the exception of DCU who have proposed a new Institute of Education). The Institutes of Technology express a desire of "first preference for independent status" though there is some evidence of "preparedness to form larger institutions as a means of achieving technological university status". 

The worrying thing for me, and for the National College of Ireland (NCI), is the tough talk in the analysis document in relation to smaller Colleges like ourselves. First, the HEA state that under the National Strategy, smaller colleges are "unsustainable and not eligible for continued public funding unless they formed close associations with or merged with larger institutions" and that the colleges are "not uniformly expressing a desire to make this change and some have made a case for continued independence for strategic reasons". The HEA concludes that "central authority would inevitably be required to force institutions either to limit their course offerings or to rationalise them in consultation with another institution, without the power to ensure that negotiations take place in an effective and timely manner while not jeopardising the system as a whole" - tough talk indeed.

NCI seems to be a particular target for the HEA, and it is worth quoting the entire paragraph from the document (page 23) here:

The National College of Ireland is in discussions with both DCU and NUI Maynooth to develop a strategic relationship. It is envisaged that such a relationship would enable NCI to retain its “autonomy and independence while creating tangible initiatives that will improve quality, scope of provision, access and pathways for students within the region”. The NCI has developed a reputation as a second chance institution which any change in its status should protect. However, as a small college it will remain vulnerable, so in light of the National Strategy objective to reduce the number of independent smaller colleges, it would seem logical that it be encouraged to proceed to a full merger.

The message from the HEA to NCI is clear - merge with another institution, or go it alone without state funding. Either scenario could mean severe rationalization with the threat of jobs cuts hovering over us for some time to come. The words of Corporal Jones of Dad's Army: "Don't panic, don't panic!" come to mind as I'm sure that any change will take time (maybe even years) to achieve. There is a lot of negotiation still to come, and also don't forget that both third-level educators and students make a powerful lobby. I just get the impression that there is somebody in the HEA and Government who is out to make a mark here with a slash and burn policy that will be both dramatically change education in Ireland, and have serious consequences for all involved in the provision of third-level education.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 - A Look Ahead

New Year's Day and it is the start of 2013 which means it's time for new year's resolutions and all that stuff. I'm not one for making many resolutions, and I'm certainly not one for keeping them. My main hopes (rather than resolutions) for 2013 are:
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  • Keep on blogging!
  • Keep on riding!
  • Try to get to 3,000,000 views on my YouTube channel before the end of the year
  • Establish a steady modest income for the same YouTube channel 
  • Finish my book about the "100 Corners of Ireland"
  • Get a publisher or self publish the same book
  • Re-start my abandoned book on YouTube and Education
  • Be a little more active on Twitter, especially on educational matters
  • Hang on to my job in what is likely to be the first year of significant change the Higher Education sector in Ireland
But perhaps the most important thing I should do in 2013 is to stop turning into a grumpy auld bollix! This year I will be 54 and there is definitely something about middle age that makes you less tolerant of other people and the things they do. A cigarette butt or chewing gum on the floor never used to bother me - now I think that culprit should be locked up in a dungeon and the keys thrown away. Chill!. I see young students with hoodies and filthy grey track suit bottoms hanging off their arses - I must stop being bewildered and annoyed at this. I must be less resistant to, and more supportive of change - especially at work. 

I will still rant when I think it is deserved - we all need to let a bit of steam off from time-to-time!