Category Archives: Web stuff

The future of MOOCs: Destination unknown


In my two previous posts, I offered reviews of my experiences with a couple of Udacity MOOCs: CS101 (Intro to Computer Science) and CS253 (Web development). My experience with the former was really good, and the latter, not so much (despite having a like-able instructor and some good content). Based on my two data points, and having spent the last year following the MOOC and online education movements (Twitter streams, higher-ed analysis, research findings, hand-wringing pleas that MOOCs just go away, Thrun-loving hagiography), I’m now going to making sweeping and completely unverifiable pronouncements about the future of MOOCs. And they will be as accurate as any others you read, because everyone is guessing… Continue reading

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Review: Udacity CS253 (Web development)

In my last post, I reviewed Udacity’s CS101 course (Intro to Computer Science), which was a really good experience. Here’s my take on the next more advanced (and seemingly popular) course: CS253 (Web development). Continue reading

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Review: Udacity CS101 (Intro to Computer Science)

In a previous post, I laid out what I think are eight ingredients for a great massively open online course (MOOC). My ingredient list grew out of my experience taking two computer science courses through Udacity: CS101 (Intro to Computer Science) and CS253 (Web development). Here’s my more detailed take on the first of these two courses (CS101), using my eight ingredients as a framework.

A swimmingly good experience (Grade = A-)

My overall experience with this course was very positive, and I accomplished my goal (to learn Python). In general, I think it would be a great course for someone looking to learn a bit about programming. For me, it was also terrific as my first MOOC, and set a pretty high bar against which other MOOCs must compete. Continue reading

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The eight ingredients of a great MOOC


Massively Open Online Courses (aka MOOCs) have been all the rage in the popular press and edtech publications for the last year, and not all the rage is positive. In an effort to gain a little perspective on the fractious debate (and learn Python in the process), I recently completed two MOOCs offered by Udacity: Introduction to Computer Science (CS101) and Web Development (CS253). While admittedly a small sample size, my experience with these two courses highlighted some of the promises and pitfalls in large-scale online learning.

As I thought about my experience taking the two Udacity MOOCs, and catalogued all of my comments, complaints and kudos, things generally fell into eight big buckets that can help answer the question, What makes for a great MOOC experience? Continue reading

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A real-world strategy to manage Web site sprawl

Managing sprawl can feel like battling a Hydra

In two previous posts, I explored the messy reality of Web site sprawl and looked at the big picture for getting things under control. The final piece of the puzzle before diving in to solving the problem is a basic strategy. If you’re a big company with a confusing plethora of Web sites, or a small company that wants to pre-emptively avoid sprawl in the first place, the steps below lay out a clear plan of attack. Continue reading

Posted in Web stuff | Leave a comment An avoidable failure by the numbers

Failure to communicate

A Wall Street Journal article written this week revealed how poor communication and disjointed oversight were largely responsible for the debacle. A review of that article, and others on the same topic, reveals a well-known laundry list of the classic problems faced by big Web projects: Continue reading

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How to control Web site sprawl: The big picture


In a previous post, I outlined a common problem many companies face after a few years in business: Web site sprawl. What starts out as a single company Web site can easily evolve into an unwieldy collection of sites scattered all over the place. Like a Zombie horde attacking your city, this is usually not a good thing.

It may seem hopeless, but there’s a way to bring order to this chaos. The approach is pretty simple:

  • Consolidate sites where it makes sense
  • Kill sites that don’t do any good
  • Leave everything else alone

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Six easy steps to create a custom short URL


URL shortening is de rigeur when using character-bound services like Twitter, but it’s also generally useful to turn gigantic and unwieldy URLs into something a bit more manageable. One thing you may have noticed is that lots of custom short URLs seem to be cropping up. It’s not just or or any more…Sites like the New York Times now generate their own custom short URLs (i.e., In fact, when you look on Twitter, it’s common to see more custom short URLs than those generated by services like Continue reading

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The education revolution – Part III: The Value Equation


This is the fourth in a series of posts about the pillars of the revolution in education. The previous posts examined the impact that technology is having on learning, and the thorny question of qualification. We now turn to the final question: value. Continue reading

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Shibboleths, semantics and buzzwords: How to communicate more effectively in business

One of the great things about working in consulting is interacting with new companies (startups or otherwise) and tackling new problems. The first order of business when I engage with a new client is to learn their language, because every company has its own lingo that can make you feel like you just came from Mars. I believe language inside companies (and when doing business, in general) falls into four buckets that I’ll label as:

  1. Shibboleths
  2. Buzzwords
  3. Semantic mush
  4. Clearspeak

The great challenge in business is overcoming the difficulties within the first three buckets, and keeping as much communication in the last bucket as possible. Continue reading

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