Monday, March 31, 2014

Happy 83rd Birthday Dad!

Today is my Dad Joe's 83rd birthday - he was born on the 31st March 1931 in Portobello Dublin. His parents were PJ and Kathleen O'Loughlin. Though I did not see him today I called him up to sing "Happy Birthday to you" to him over the phone. Dad has recently recovered fully from cancer after a difficult and scary year. On Saturday last I visited Ballingate to see him and my Mum. We spent much of the day sawing timber, and in the photo below Dad invites me to share a very nice glass of whiskey after finishing out (messy) work.
Happy Birthday Dad!

Friday, March 28, 2014

25 Years Since Starting First Real Job

On the 28th March 1989 I started my first full time job with CBT Systems (which became SmartForce in 1997) based in Mount Street in Dublin - 25 years ago today. I left the company in October 2002 during the second round of redundancies that year. My first day was spent looking at the company's existing e-Learning courses, though it was not called e-Learning then. I remember that the product we (two others started the same days) looked at was called "Protocol 90" - a course on telecommunications that was the first big success for CBT Systems. We spent over a week training in a basement in 39/40 Upper Mount Street before we were added to project teams.

One of my first business cards.
When I think back to the technology that we used then it amazes me how we got any work done. The PC I had was an early 80s IBM 8086 with no hard drive. It had two 5.5 inch  floppy disk drives, the program we used (TenCORE) was on one disk, our work on the other. The operating system was MS-DOS. No network to back up our work - this was done at the end of the week by copying our work onto separate floppies which were taken off site. None of us had mobile phones or our own computers at home at that time. I mostly cycled to work, which I sometimes still do. 

I remember being very nervous on the first day, but I was put at ease straight away. No way would I have predicted that I would spend 13.5 wonderful years which involved moving from floppy disks to the dot com boom. Though it is now over 12 years since I left SmartForce I still have fond memories of the people and the work since my first day nervously knocking on the door of 39/40 Mount Street.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

O'Loughlin Girls in Capetown with @IrishTownship #WayToGo!

Roma and Kate are in Capetown in South Africa with the Niall Mellon Township Trust helping to rebuild the Orangekloof Primary School. It's hard work for the girls and all the Volunteers that are spending the week working all day long in pouring rain. Their target is to get the school finished by Sunday as it re-opens on Monday! Here are some photos of the girls at work - images are all taken from the Niall Mellon Township Trust Facebook page. Way to go girls!







Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seminar for the Business Analysts Association of Ireland @IrishCompSoc

This evening I gave the first lecture in a series of events organized by the Business Analysts Association of Ireland. The event was well attended with about 40 people coming along to hear me discuss "Requirements Gathering: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?". I hope that the audience found the event useful, and I promised them I would publish my slides on Slideshare - so here goes:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

85+ year old tree falls in Ballingate

A few weeks ago I reported on Storm Damage in Ballingate where a favourite tree of our family that was a centre-piece in our garden was felled by the storms last February. Yesterday my Dad (Joe) and brother (also Joe) spent some time sawing it up with chainsaws as fuel for next winter. I took a large log from the tree trunk home and counted the rings to determine the age of the tree. Most rings were easy to count, but some were very close together and were hard to make out. The cross-section is from about 4m from the base, so it is older than my count. Nevertheless I figured that the tree is at least 85 to 90 years old meaning that it was planted/germinated sometime between 1924 and 1929. This was before my grandparents moved to this part of South Wicklow (from Newmarket in Cork) and before when my Grand-uncle Pat bought this land. It was a great tree to climb and play in and even though it will warm us during the cold nights of next winter, it will be sadly missed.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Heroic Realm - a Great New Idea in Publishing

My old colleague and author Tom O'Neill has just published a new book entitled Fionn and the Legend of the Blood Emeralds. But this is a publication with a difference! Tom has also created 11 videos on YouTube where his book is read as a fireside story. The entire book is read by two storytellers who are sitting by a fire in an effort to return to old style storytelling that we just don't get any more. Below is a copy of the first video and you can find out more about this excellent project at www.heroicrealm.com and see all the videos at the Heroic Realm YouTube Channel.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: "Surplus People - From Wicklow to Canada" by Jim Rees

During the Great Famine in the middle of the 19th century, many of the big Irish estates embarked on a policy of clearing their lands of the many tenants who (in most cases) lived on small holdings in hovels. There were too many people on the land and something had to be done. The famine, combined with increased emigration to Canada and the US, provided the ideal opportunity and Irish landlords wasted no time in clearing their estates.

Image source:
The Collins Press.
About 5 miles/8 kilometres from where I grew up in the town-land of Ballingate, and just 2 miles/3 kilometres from where my Dad grew up in the town-land of Tomacork, is Coolattin House. This was the "big house" for the Coolattin Estate which at one time was 85,000 acres in size - this included both the Ballingate and Tomacork town-lands. The enjoyable account of how the Coolattin Estate was cleared is excellently provided by Arklow man Jim Rees in his re-issued book "Surplus People - From Wicklow to Canada". Beginning in 1847, Lord Fitzwilliam, widely regarded as one of the more benevolent landlords in Ireland, selected whole families from his estate for emigration and provided them with funding to get them to Canada. The conditions that people endured were horrible on the trip and at their destinations, and Rees gives an excellent account of the suffering of the Coolattin people especially when they reached their destination in Canada. 

Though my own family did not arrive in Tomacork until 1929 (from Newmarket in Co Cork), I still feel a bond with the families that lived in the area around Carnew and the Coolattin estate. Exactly 110 years later in 1957, almost my Mum's entire family emigrated to Canada - plus ça change. Indeed one of the men who assisted Lord Fitzwilliam, Ralph Lawrenson, lived in Ballingate House on the site where my Mum and Dad now live. Jim Rees provides many sources and details of ships and the names of families who emigrated. From Ballingate alone, 40 people were "cleared" to emigrate to Canada. It is a must read for anyone from this part of South Co Wicklow, and while the book is short (156 pages), historians will also benefit from Rees' research into a traumatic time for Coolattin and Ireland. The book will now be passed around my family starting with my Dad!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Twitter Statistics for @eoloughlin via @dubl_twopcharts #analytics

Yesterday I was followed by @urlofcork who became my 1,000th follower on Twitter - there has been a big jump in the number of followers since I started tweeting recently about the Wild Atlantic Way. Twopcharts.com keeps track of all twitter accounts and is a mine of information about all things in Tweetland. My own current stats are as follows:


At the time of writing there are 19,026 Twitter accounts in Ireland with (not surprisingly) rugby player Brian O'Driscoll at the top of the Irish charts with 401,926 followers, which is almost twice as many as U2 (209,405) who are in third place. Incidentally I am "bubbling under" the Top Ten at 4,715th position.

Looking through some of the 1,002 Twitter accounts that follow mine I have to say I have no idea who most of them are. I'd guess I have actually only met a tiny fraction of followers, and that this is the same for everybody else. I wonder how many of his 401,926 followers does BOD personally know? 

Not knowing who your followers are puts us in an era where we will interact with people we have never, or will never, meet. Previously perhaps book authors, journalists, and TV/radio folks would have been "followed" by people they never met - now we are all at it. Maybe not in my lifetime, but I do predict that one day everybody in the world will be connected on-line in some way - the tools to do this have not yet been invented. There will be different levels of connection, perhaps something like Linkedin where I have 736 "connections" that somehow connect me to "7,827,629+ professionals" - that's 7.8 million people!!! (if I were to count to this number non-stop it would take 90 days). What does it mean to have this modest (in Linkedin terms) number of people in my network? Certainly the word "network" now has a different meaning.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back on the Wild Atlantic Way

On Saturday I journeyed down to West Cork to find some signs to photograph for my new book "Exploring the Wild Atlantic Way". I met my sister Kathleen who was to be my photographer for the day. We found the first signs in Clonakilty after not finding any in Kinsale, Old Head, or Timoleague. We stopped for lunch at An Súgán in Clonakilty - delicious! The we continued west towards Rosscarbery where signs are more numerous - we got lots of photos done. The weather was magnificent, blues sky and bright sunshine all day long. It was a treat to be back on the Wild Atlantic Way for a day!


Friday, March 14, 2014

The Formula One Technology Challenge (F1 in Schools) @F1inSchoolsIRL

Today I had the pleasure of attending the F1 in Schools event in Griffith College organized by the Irish Computer Society. Second Year and Transition Year students were tasked with creating a Formula 1 model car powered by compressed air. Students had to present not only their car, but also a demonstration of their group work, project management, design, and testing skill. I had good fun learning about how the students overcame the problems that they faced and I enjoyed al the stands I visited. Great enthusiasm and passion for the project was shown by all I met. This teenage generation is a credit to their schools and their families. Well done to all!

F1 in Schools.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Tweets, less Blog Posts #Twitter #Blogger #Analytics

Over the past couple of years I have posted less and less to this blog. There are two main reasons for this: First - I have less to say! Secondly - I have been using Twitter a lot more. Twitter started out as a micro-blogging service and I joined it in April 2011. I have been blogging since November 2006. From a high of 262 posts in 2011, the number of posts per month and year has declined. In the graph below you can see that the decline on the number of blog posts started when I began to use Twitter. The graph also shows a steady increase in the number of tweets per month, and a corresponding decrease in the number of blog posts per month.

It would make for an interesting Data Analytics project to see if this trend was reflected in other bloggers who also tweet.
Click image to enlarge.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Cleaning Up The Harley

It takes quite a bit of time to wash and polish a Harley-Davidson - this week I did a badly needed wash and polish to remove dirt and grime in the continuing fight against rust. Not having done this for a few months I was naturally pleased to see the shining chrome metal again. So much so I took a few photos and thought I'd share them here - looking good for eleven years old!

Stripped of windscreen and saddle bags. Looking tougher!
Full dresser!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Nine Country Summer Holiday: Ireland, Wales, England, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden

It has been almost three years since I last took my bike to mainland Europe - in 2011 I went to Murcia in Spain via France and Andorra (2,420 miles/3,895 kms). In 2007 I took the bike on holiday to Sigean in France (2,072 miles/3,335 kms), and in 2005 I rode to the Algarve in Portugal via France and Spain (3,210 miles/5,165 kms). So it is time for another tour?

I have only been to Germany twice (Düsseldorf and Heidelberg) on short business trips and often vowed I would return. I have never been to Berlin, so I plan to put that right this summer. While I'm in that part of the world I plan to visit Denmark and Sweden - never been there either. My proposed route is as follows:

Image Source: Google Maps Screen Capture.
According to Google Maps this is 2,690 miles/4,328 kms. I'm hoping to be able to spend about 14 days in total with stops in Calais, somewhere in central Germany, Berlin, Lübeck, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Bremen. I might still modify the general route, but also plan to tour around a bit too. Of course I will no doubt blog and tweet each day, and take lots of photos.

Still only in planning stage, but as the summer gets closer I am getting more excited about the thoughts of doing this (while I am still young enough to be able to do long trips like this).

Friday, March 07, 2014

What a Fantastic Educational Resource! "The world's largest photo service just made its pictures free to use" via @verge

The Verge, in a report by @russellbrandom reports that The world's largest photo service just made its pictures free to use. This is Getty Images which "is betting its business on embeddable photos". Up to now the library stamped each image with a transparent square placard reminding you that you don't own the rights. Now Getty Images will allow you to use the images free, though they will add a footer with the image source. I understand that the vast majority of their photos will be available to embed, this means that of course some will still have to be paid for.

I did a quick search for "college classroom" and selected the following image from the 3,165 results that were displayed:


It has the author name and links to Twitter and Tumblr to allow the image to be shared further.

Think of how this could be used by educators! You can find images on any educational topic, below is an embeddable royalty free image of Trinity College:

Or perhaps you are interested in sport? Below is a royalty free image of Pelé from the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The Getty Library is worth browsing if at times you are stuck for an image to use, and want to do more than just a simple copy & paste with a Google Images search.


Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Making Twitter work in the classroom

Many educators like to experiment with new technologies, mainly to see if they can add value to the educational process. I recall experimenting with and piloting Moodle before it was launched in NCI. My own YouTube channel and Blog were very much part of an experiment when I was teaching on the now defunct Higher Diploma in e-Learning and MSc in Learning Technology programmes.

I have been using Twitter since 1st May 2009, but only this year have tried to use it a bit more in class. I know a few students follow me (and I do follow back!), and perhaps they read some of the links in the tweets that I occasionally post. This year I have two classes where I have set up hashtags especially for the class. For the most part I tweet something that I think will be of interest, or that may have popped up for discussion in class. However, my very modest efforts have not really succeeded, though some students do keep discussion going.

Today I was interested to read an article entitled "Twitter Aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy: A Must Have Poster for Your Class" by Med Kharbach in the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning eZine. In this he provides an infographic which is "a visual guide to help you better leverage the educational potential with your students". It is cleverly linked to Bloom's Taxonomy and shows how Twitter can develop literacies such as: digital literacy, global literacy, network literacy, and information literacy. It also encourages higher order thinking skills.

The infographic also shows some do's and don'ts with Twitter. I think it is a valuable educational tool and I will persevere with using it in class, with perhaps more thinking into how I can integrate it better for the students.







Saturday, March 01, 2014

Photos from South Wall Dublin morning walk

This morning I went for a walk on the South Wall right out to the lighthouse at the end. The tide was in and the wall was like a path stretching out in to the sea. I spotted a man who looked like a professional photographer. He had two DSLR cameras with lenses as long as your arm - he seemed to be taking pictures mostly of birds. So I thought I could do better with my iPhone!

Here are my amateur photos - click to enlarge:

The Arrow entering the Liffey.
No light tricks or settings used!
Lovely view towards Killiney Hill
and Dalkey Island.
Some small birds resting on the rocks.
One the way back towards the old
Poolbeg Powerstation
Three ducks in a row!
Nearing the end of the South Wall.
On the way back.
The old power station at Poolbeg.
Time to paint these cooling towers?