One scenario for scholarly research

Here’s me talking about one possible way we can do scholarly research online. (larger size here)

It’s only a couple of minutes, so let me add a few thoughts:

  • I’m talking about an individual faculty member or two.  It’s not a macro discussion.  So no time to get into publication economics, big tech trends, metadata standards, etc.
  • My final point might be lost, so: what I describe isn’t cutting-edge tech.  It’s established tech and settled practices in the online world.  I’m just seeing academics actually take them seriously.
  • The boundaries here are fluid, mostly due to social media.  Scholarly thinking sprawls across platforms and into different forms.  It’s what we do now, actually, but here rendered more visible, more of a driver for venue selection.
  • Yes, I have that much hair.
  • This is an optimistic scenario.  It sees more scholarship and more access.  So it’s opposed to my peak scholarship concept.
  • I left off institutional repositories.  Am still thinking about that.

Many thanks to Gerry Bayne for the editing and Educause for the setting.

Posted in future of education, interviews, research topics | 1 Comment

Hotel internet connectivity: how bad is it?

Frequent travelers know what hotel internet connectivity can often be frustrating.  But I hit upon a principle, many years ago, that lets us understand the connection between hotel and WiFi.

Bryan pointsI called it Alexander’s Iron Law of Hotel Connectivity, and it runs like so: the more expensive the hotel, the more costly and/or lower quality the internet.  The reverse is also true: the less expensive the lodging, the cheaper and/or better wireless.

(It’s an iron law because it’s nearly always right.  So far.)

Extensive experience has borne this out throughout the United States.  Wherever I go, I know that high-end chains and pricey conference venues will offer me a lame internet experience.  For connectivity I prefer the low-rent hotels.

Now some recent research confirms my Iron Law.  The Hotel WiFi Test site (of course there’s one) gathered data on a bunch of hotels.  Their conclusion?

Want cheaper and faster WiFi? Skip the Marriott – Get Connected at Quality Inn

More fully, Continue reading

Posted in technology, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Starting a business: one year of success

One year ago I launched Bryan Alexander Consulting and changed my life.  It’s been a wild ride, and a successful one.  Since I vowed to share this work through social media, I’ll use this post to reflect back on year one of BAC, LLC.

2013-2014 has been a rapid voyage of learning and self-development.  I shifted from being in the non-profit space to becoming a businessperson, from chronically recovering from the literature professor role to thinking like an entrepreneur.

Bryan addressing NERCOMP

Addressing NERCOMP, March 2014.

It’s also been a very busy year.  I’ve been in continuous demand, which is a splendid thing.  At the same time I have been learning and experimenting a great deal (see below).

What does this new work look like?  It’s a mix of ideas, presentations, discussion, listening hard, research, discussion, brainstorming, reflection, analysis, more listening, and more discussion.  On a practical side, BAC’s efforts are split between speaking and consulting engagements.  For the former, I’m often asked to keynote organizational or campus events, from conferences to symposia.  For the latter, it’s been a mix: preparing analyses, helping campuses through academic computing challenges, and facilitating meetings.  The two sometimes overlap, as when a consulting assignment leads to a speaking gig, or when a breakout discussion or workshop follows a keynote address.

The work also includes a great deal of writing.  I’ve been producing articles, interview content, and book chapters.  A new book proposal is heading to a publisher.

FTTE logoA good amount of that writing happens in the monthly FTTE reports.  These free documents go out to more than 1000 subscribers, and distill my futures thinking.  They’ve also sparked relationships with active futurists and keen-eyed readers.

Still more of writing and futures work happens via social media.  Over the past year I’ve ramped up my social media engagement, using the Web to think out loud, in public.  That’s meant more blog and Google+ posts, Tweets, LinkedIn discussions, more comments on podcast Web presences, and a surprising amount of Facebook conversations, not to mention posts to old-fashioned listservs.  These have refreshed, enhanced, and challenged my thinking, sharpening my work.

On the back end of the business, I’ve learned a great deal: insurance, taxes, state policies, and  financial software.  Well, I’ve done some, while my wife has done far more.  Ceredwyn has become BAC’s chief operating officer, a major job with a demanding learning curve.  She’s indispensable to operations.   BAC wouldn’t exist without her.

BAC logo

Continue reading

Posted in personal | 1 Comment

Quinnipiac pares back, otherwise maintains queen sacrifice

Quinnipiac university has reduce the number of faculty layoffs from 16 to 11, according to a local update.  That’s good news for the five reinstated instructors (although see the article for a process problem).

But the university is still axing nearly a dozen professors.

(thanks to Robert McGuire)

Posted in research topics | Tagged | Leave a comment

The power of convenience

Make MagazineMake magazine cites me in a recent newsletter.  They liked one of my lesser-developed arguments:

“We should never underestimate the power of convenience,” Alexander said. “Wearable computing can make things easier for users, and that’s enough to drive adoption.”

True enough.  Shel Sax (Middlebury College) was the first person to get me thinking about the power of convenience when it comes to technology and its usage.  We were discussing mp3 players, podcasts, and student use around 2004, and Shel emphasized that that tech succeeded because it was very accessible, easy to use, available nearly all the time… convenient, in other words.

Convenience is a vast force in the universe.  It’s why many people drive a car rather than take the bus, or watch a movie on Netflix streaming instead of schlepping to a movie theater.  Convenience is why so many of us use mobile apps rather then Web apps or even the Web on mobile devices.  That’s why we use Windows or Mac operating systems instead of going to the trouble to learn and deploy Linux.  That’s why carefully scaffolded and easy to start computer games beat difficult-to-start-and-run Second Life.

Convenience isn’t a bad thing in itself, although its outcomes can be awful (cf global warming, acquiescence to horror, etc.).  It’s like oxygen: massively present, a force of nature.  We can’t out-moralize or legislate or browbeat it into shape.  What we can do is work with convenience and appreciate how it shapes our work.  Look out for the desire paths as they form.

That’s why I’m looking hard at wearable computing, and not just because of the latest Apple rumor. Continue reading

Posted in interviews, technology, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My monthly report: triumphs and questions

As of today I’ve been publishing my Future Trends in Technology and Education (FTTE) report for one year*.   I’d like to reflect on its progress here, then ask you all for advice on a two questions.

FTTE logoTo begin with, FTTE has found a growing number of subscribers.  That number now stands around 1046, which makes me very happy.  Thanks go to each person who signed up – and stuck around.

Out of that number comes a good amount of feedback.  Every week, sometimes several times a day FTTE subscribers send me a steady stream of recommendations, pointers, pushback, and suggestions.  I’m deeply grateful to them, and try to acknowledge each one by name in report notes.

FTTE also has a vibrant if largely unnamed online presence.  During each report’s production month I fire off ideas across social media venues: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and this blog.  People who aren’t FTTE subscribers (yet!) hurl back very valuable perspectives and general input.  Each report therefore owes a lot to the crowd.  Each report is the result of many conversations rippling across cyberspace.

So, June 2014: so far, so good with FTTE.


  1. At this far FTTE doesn’t have much of a formal Web presence, beyond its two signup and info pages (here, here).  The report lives primarily as a pdf document** sent early each month to subscribers; secondarily as conversations with me.  Should I expand this, by, say, setting up a LinkedIn or Facebook or Google group for FTTE?  Perhaps place stories to Diigo or Tumblr?
  2. To publish FTTE to loyal readers I email lots of PDFs.  This seems to have hit a wall called “Google worries Bryan might be a spammer”.  Is there a good service which can help me with this?  Mailchimp helps, but not for attachments, and the feedback I’ve received is that people prefer FTTE as a standalone document apart from email.

Any questions or comments about FTTE from you, the reader? Continue reading

Posted in discussions | 6 Comments

Adventures of The Exploded Twitter book club

In May I participated in an ad hoc social reading experiment.  I hereby dub it The Exploded Twitter Book Club, and think it was both entertaining and instructive.  The experience offers a snapshot of social media in 2014, while perhaps suggesting some emerging trends in reading.

It all began in Twitter during the last days of April.   The indispensable Audrey Watters tweeted to me about a review of a book I’d recommended before, Vernor Vinge‘s Rainbows End (2006).  The reviewer was one James Pulizzi.  The three of us quickly fired tweets at each other concerning the novel and some of its themes.

Then things expanded, as they can do in social media.  We fed each other’s Amazon habits, touched on other books, notably Piketty’s Capital (previously), and complained about other readers:

Twittering about Vinge
It was for me a pleasant experience, and must have seemed so to others.  Because more people joined in, like Tim Scholl, Jesse Willis, and Jenny Colvin.  This emergent thing must have struck Tim the right way, because he thought to ask if “Did all of you just (inadvertently) invent the Twitter Book Club?”  We liked the idea and started brainstorming readings. Continue reading

Posted in research topics, reviews, technology | 3 Comments