How to learn effectively using the internet

It is common knowledge that the internet is a treasure trove of information. And one of the often repeated applications of the internet and broadband is education. But using the internet as a learning tool is easier said than done.

There are many challenges for learning with internet. Television and social media have contributed to declining attention span (“You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish“). And internet is full of distractions that divert attention easily. Commercial use of internet for commerce, advertising and marketing purposes does not help either. Learning is hard work, which is another inhibiting factor.

However, internet bloging can be an effective learning tool. Reading information has a retention rate of less than 20%. When using bloging as a learning tool, you are messing with the content and analyzing it from different perspectives, enhancing retention and comprehension by making it an active learning process, increasing comprehension over 75%.

To get started the essential skill is self-discipline [2, 3], since it is self directed learning. Curiosity and motivation to learn are also essential.

The system, Net Learning ClusterTM, described here is developed by the author, resulting from a practical need (more details below.)

Net Learning Cluster (NLC) consists of structured use of easily available tools on the internet. Net Learning Cluster helps with learning subject matter, concentration, and language skills: reading, editing, authoring, messaging and more.

Net Learning Cluster turns internet browsing into a goal directed activity to create (bookmark) blog posts. Social Bookmarking [2, 3] is one of the most popular Social Media applications on the internet. WordPress makes this process as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4

This is how it works.

Allocate a dedicated time for this learning effort. Your learning goal needs to be sufficiently broad to be effective, and must be practiced regularly.

For each Net Learning Cluster session, have a large number of articles and web pages ready for review, so that you don’t spend time searching for material during the session. With each web page or article ask yourself: Am I interested in reading this again? Next week? Next month? Next Year? Learn to arrive at this decision rapidly. If the answer is ‘No’, proceed to the next one. This step will help improve your reading, comprehension, and decision making skills.

If the answer is yes, then identify the main idea or key points and create a blog post, with a link to the web page. Business Exchange used this idea. For examples, please review the posts in the News links blog.

If the information is something you feel strongly that others need to read as well, then create a synopsis. The aim of the synopsis is to motivate the reader to visit the original site. Then use the power of the blogging tools, and the internet as a rich media to make the synopsis as compelling as possible. However, you must be mindful of copyright, since the original content belongs to someone else.

To learn how to create compelling synopsis from articles mindful of copyright, study how blog posts are constructed in the Net economy.

Once you practice these steps or you already have ideas of your own that you want to write about, Viewpoint is a place for original articles.

To use this methodology for self-directed learning, it is not necessary to use the blogs provided as examples. You may create your own blogs. But collaboration available with the example blogs cited will be missing. There is at least one research report using this methodology.

This methodology, Net Learning Cluster, was developed by the author with a learning objective: How does the United States government work? More specifically, how does the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) operate? The article, Net neutrality: issues and solution, is a result of this exercise.

If you have reached this far, take the next step: become a contributor.

Posted in Communication industry | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Maybe AT&T should fully divest from the communication industry

AT&T, by vigorously pursuing innovation, developed a patent to help manage the people who are not using the networks properly. The invention is currently a patent application to better manage “bandwidth abuse” [2, 3].

This is interesting at many levels. First, you would expect inventions are to help improve the use of networks, and not limit its use. Or, maybe, AT&T has very good ideas as to what are the “good uses” of networks, and what are the “bad uses.” And their self-appointed role is to make sure everyone’s “good behavior” regarding networks.

However, for the Internet as the emerging media for communications, the real controlling issue is First Amendment Rights [2, 3, 4, 5]. If the United States is to adhere its founding principles, then it is clearly outside the purview of commercial interests of AT&T.

This also creates interesting dilemma. For example, if Verizon or Comcast were also interested in correcting their misbehaving users, will they be infringing on AT&T’s patent? (assuming the patent gets granted) And they would be required to pay royalty to AT&T?

AT&T in its current incarnation is clearly motivated by financial profits, as explained by CEO, Randall Stephenson. It is worth pointing out that AT&T became the legend and most admired company in its glory days not by pursuing profits, but high ideals. Theodore Vail, who architected its growth, developed a “strategy to achieve a single communication system offering the best possible service,” subordinating the maximization of profit. And there was a vigorous campaign about “One policy, one system, and universal service,” to help implement a unified, coherent national network policy. The result was, at its peak, AT&T employed more than 1 million people, admired by all, and affectionately called Ma Bell.

Now, AT&T’s network assets are not helpful for maximizing financial profits to match the “financial games” by the innovators in the financial industry. For example, to create and dominate a whole new market like the CDS (credit-default swap). Or, the clever trades by Blackstone.

There is a clear solution for the conundrum AT&T finds itself in. AT&T should fully divest from the communication industry, and concentrate wholeheartedly in financial operations. Then, they would be able to beat JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs et al. at their own game.

Posted in Telecom industry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is strange about the telecom industry?

The FCC has unanimously voted to allow AT&T to conduct trials to turn off the phone network. It must be puzzling, at least to those who are unfamiliar with telecom industry inner workings. In normal markets, you hardly ever have such debates. For instance, there is no public debate as to how jet engines or future light bulbs are to be designed — even though everyone uses them. GE and Rolls-Royce introduced major enhancements without most people even noticing them. New light bulbs pack major innovations and plug into the old sockets, without any accompanying brouhaha. What is different with telecom?

The short answer is the Internet. Because the Internet has become everyone’s everyday tool, the dysfunctional behaviors in the telecom industry have become a matter of public debate. Anyone who uses Facebook or Twitter seems to believe that they have a say in the way the networks are to be designed.

For the long answer, you have to go back into history. Years of litigation resulted in the divestiture (break-up) of the AT&T in 1984. Bell Labs [2, 3] was the final authority on networks at that time, when, the Internet was in its infancy. The predominant network being the telecom (phone) network. One side effect of the divestiture was the dissipation of the technology know-how and knowledge, accumulated over a century, in the Bell Labs. The reconstructed Bell Labs is regaining its moorings only now. While the Bell Labs was in decline, the Internet as its protagonists were rising in prominence, culminating in the Dot-com bubble.

This is critical because the technologies, vocabulary, and principles underlying the telecom networks and the Internet are as alien as the German and French languages, even though the telecom networks and the Internet are an inseparable mesh.

The concurrent decline of the telecom stakeholders and ascent of the Internet stakeholders resulted in the neglect of telecom infrastructure and the underlying products. In fact, the primary suppliers (Nortel and Lucent) for the North American telecom networks are no longer viable business entities — Nortel is no more, and Lucent merged with Alcatel. The net result is cost of operating the telecom networks has been increasing, while the number of customers using voice components of the telecom networks have been declining. AT&T, therefore, wants to replace the voice telecom network with the Internet.

But the problem is that the Internet is not an exact replacement for the telecom networks for voice services. The best example is the 911 emergency service. The result is the convoluted public debate we are witnessing.

Texting has been suggested as replacement for the 911 service. However, this is not a good substitute. Dialing 3-digits — 9, 1, 1 — and speaking on the phone are simple to perform. But texting is not that simple — among the reasons are lack of uniformity of operation among devices, and the option for alphanumeric data.

A better solution is a mandatory “Alert Button” on all messaging devices, including phones, smartphones, tablets, dashboards, remote controllers, radio/TV receivers, wearables, keyboards, game consoles, door openers, and connected devices. The Alert Button could internally send text messages. In addition, with Alert Button, implementing different types of Alerts, in conjunction with GPS, will be trivial. Different types of Alerts, such as medical, fire, disasters, rescue, roadside assistance, burglary/intruder, equipment failure, threshold alarms, diagnostics, operating parameters, and other types could be easily implemented. This has the potential to create market for a whole new class of Alert devices and services, similar to the pagers used in the past.

Another issue missing in the debate is “transparency.” What are the goals of the trials? What are the objectives? How the results of the trials will be evaluated? And how the decisions will be made?

Posted in Communication industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Net neutrality: issues and solution

As expected, FCC’s Net Neutrality rules have been struck down by the court. The reason is FCC’s position is self-contradictory.

2002 FCC rule classified broadband/Internet as an information service, and outside the purview of FCC regulations. But 2010 FCC Net Neutrality ruling, placed conditions on the Internet service providers. Verizon’s challenge brought out this contradiction, and the court invalidated FCC’s 2010 Net Neutrality rules.

What is the way forward? The solution is not restoring Net Neutrality, as some have suggested.

Net Neutrality is a legal construct imposed on how networks are to be designed. Legal principles have no place in the design of networks, or for that matter, in the design of any technology products. But legal rules may be applied in the manner in which the technology systems are operated, or used.

Designing network systems involve making tradeoffs for efficient resource allocation, functionality and preventing deadlocks. This inherently involves treating different sets of bits differently. Hence, prudent engineering practices cannot be reconciled with the legal principles embodied in the Net Neutrality.

However, imposing telephone-centric common carrier regulations are also not appropriate for future networks, if it is to evolve to its full potential. The reason is that the phone-centric regulations were a compromise: In exchange for a government sanctioned monopoly [2, 3], AT&T agreed to be regulated as a utility. Network industry is no longer a monopoly, but has many entrenched competitors. And one of the critical issues is limiting market power abuses.

One issue, probably the most important, absent from the extensive discussions is the technology constraints involved. One critical factor for the current impasse is the lingering aftereffect of the dot-com bubble. The dot-com bubble created and reinforced the idea that all future networks are to be IP (Internet Protocol) based – “All-IP.” However, there is no technology rationale for this conclusion.

There are four primary data types: voice, data, video, and connected devices. Each has its own unique characteristics and requirements. Developments in digital technology enable transmission of all these data types over packets (internet.) That does not mean that the optimum network for these data needs is internet.

The situation is similar to transportation. It is feasible to build flying cars that also operate in water. But nobody argues that flying cars should be the universal transportation solution.  We have car, bus, train, boat, ship, plane, spacecraft, etc.  Each of these are designed for different transportation needs and requirements.

If we design networks in a similar manner — design different networks optimized for different services targeted for different data types — the issues related to the Net Neutrality will get simplified, allowing simpler resolution. However, such an approach will provide only limited, if any, opportunities for political drama.

Posted in Net neutrality | Tagged , , | 6 Comments