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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 26 April 2019, 3:00 pm


It looks like it's the end of the line for Pond, the government's resource sharing service for teachers.

Part of Network for Learning (N4L), Pond was supposed to be a leading-edge social network where teachers could house and make available content they had put together for various projects. New teachers, or teachers looking for new resources, would be able to log in and access work already developed by other teachers and adapt it for their own use.

So, if you're due to teach a module on World War I and want to target it at a class of 12-year-olds, why not have a look and see what someone else has already done in that area.

Ultimately Pond would be opened up to students and whānau who would use it as a central location to store and share work, making it a tool that would add value to the entire teaching process.

It was a bold idea and one that was welcomed by teachers and technologists alike but five years after launch, enthusiasm seems to have dried up. A decision on its future is expected next month.

It's a real shame although not totally surprising to see Pond evaporate like this. It's hard work building a social network and without constant upgrading, care and attention to the interface and to the usability of the service, similar social networks have gone to the wall in years gone by. User willingness is only part of the battle but I have heard from a number of educators that the searchability just wasn't there and the interface was clumsy and non-intuitive.

Schools all still have the same issues and a need to figure out how best to tackle the digital collation and sharing of student work as well as how best to coordinate activity between professionals. I'd hope they won't turn to a closed solution (like Facebook) but would rather embrace the learnings from Pond, figure out a way to build an open platform for all educators to use and take it from there.

Stuff - Axe hangs over what was the 'icing-on-the-cake' of school UFB initiative

Reseller News - N4L's education social network Pond dries up


'Cautious optimism' over Huawei

Good news for Huawei - the beleaguered telco network equipment maker has been given a cautious green light for its role in building 5G networks for the UK market.

Britain will still ban Huawei from building the core of the 5G network but will allow it to bid for tenders for the rest of the network deployment.

What this means for the New Zealand market remains to be seen. Spark and 2Degrees both use Huawei for mobile network deployments and had planned to do the same with the next generation rollout but these days such deployments need government approval in the form of sign-off from the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). Spark's plan was rejected but details are scant in the public forum. However, Huawei New Zealand has said it will opt out of building the core network here if that helps and now that the UK has said it does, time will tell as to how the GCSB responds to any re-submitted plan.

Questions still remain about whether there are actual concerns or whether this is just the US using security as a lever in its ongoing commercial stoush with China. The US has said it won't share intelligence materials with countries that do use Huawei equipment - presumably that's only those that have Huawei in the core and not just any country using Huawei kit because frankly, that ship has sailed.

Of course it wouldn't be a story involving government spy agencies without a leak and the UK is waking to news that the report hasn't been released but rather leaked and so tables are being thumped and demands for inquiries of the highest order are being made and it's all highly entertaining given the other problems the UK has at the moment, but it seems entirely fitting in this case.

CNN - UK could give Huawei a limited role in building its 5G networks

Newsroom - Spark and Huawei show cautious optimism as UK allows Huawei into 5G build

ZDNet - UK allows Huawei for 5G: Report

BBC - Huawei leak row: Government 'cannot exclude' criminal investigation




In our regular section (which should probably just be called "What did Facebook screw up this time") it seems the social media giant has accidentally gathered more than 1.5 million users' email address books (as you do), now faces an investigation into the same by the New York State attorney general's office, faces a US$5 billion fine for the Cambridge Analytica scandal, refuses to fix weak privacy protection for Canadian users, said the British Columbia privacy commissioner has no jurisdiction over it about the same issue, has said it won't be doing anything differently with Facebook Live following the Christchurch shootings despite saying it would review the service, wants to launch a new online shopping experience that will be far more lucrative for the company and wants to set up a new privacy-first social media platform that won't upset anyone.

All this in a short week to boot.

And yet, through all of this, with investigations swirling around the company, with the D7 nations discussing how best to regulate the company and its ilk, with fines being levied by formerly friendly regulators not to mention the more aggressively hostile ones (such as in the EU), and with potential presidential candidates saying it needs to be broken up, Facebook's share price has increased, its attracted more users and it continues to dominate the advertising world.

This says as much about the insanity of the allegedly logic-driven market dynamic far more than it does about Facebook in particular but honestly, it's all a bit odd.

The whole thing should be turned off and back on again… or perhaps just left to cool down for a while.

It's not just Facebook - Twitter is proving to be equally as unwilling to do the right thing (see linked story below) because it might upset people (as opposed to today where it upsets hardly anyone, right?) but honestly, is there any way out of this mess?

One thing we have to be very careful about is the way we decide to manage social media giants because the rules that we apply to them in this situation will apply in all others and the risk of unintended consequences is quite high. It's important we get it right because the impact reaches deep into our electoral system, into our private lives and into our basic fundamental rights as citizens.

Techblog - NZ and France seek to end use of social media for acts of terrorism

Stuff - The devil will be in the detail of the 'Christchurch Call'

The Spin Off - How to stop the 'Christchurch Call' on social media and terrorism falling flat

Globe and Mail - Watchdogs say Facebook broke Canadian privacy laws, urge Ottawa for power to enforce findings

New York Times - Canada Says Facebook Broke Privacy Laws With 'Superficial' Safeguards

CBS - Facebook expects to pay up to US$5 billion over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg's blog

CNN - Facebook investigated in Ireland over mishandled passwords

New York Times - New York Attorney General to Investigate Facebook Email Collection

E&E News - Facebook fact-checker has ties to climate doubt

Motherboard - Why Won't Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too


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