Why does classmates.com advertise on Facebook?

Post ImageI have been spending far too much time on Facebook lately, so I couldn’t help but notice the vertical banner ads for classmates.com that appear on the site. And I can’t figure out why they bother. I mean, I signed up for classmates.com probably six years ago, and never visited the site again.

Well until this week, when I went back to see if it still sucked (so I suppose you could argue their advertisement worked to an extent). And yes, it does still suck. I understand why there are two gas stations on every corner, and why you can usually find a Wendy’s or Burger King wherever there is a McDonald’s. They have really similar offerings. Is this the case with Facebook and classmates.com? I don’t think so.

Facebook and classmates.com just might be the best examples of Web 2.0 and Web 1.0, respectively.

They are almost polar opposites. Facebook is clean and fast. Classmates.com pages are slower and cluttered. Facebook is entirely free, while classmates.com is primarily a premium service. Facebook has features like photos, blogs, and mobile support. Classmates.com has message boards and biographies. Facebook is new and hip, classmates.com is old and tired.

It seems to me that at their core, the two services serve the same purpose: connecting people with friends (and especially classmates). In my opinion, Facebook does a much better job. It’s easier, and costs nothing. Classmates.com appears to be quite successful though, so I wonder if people use the two in different ways.

If they are in fact used for the same purpose, then I wonder if advertising on Facebook is at all effective for classmates.com. I can’t imagine it would be, but perhaps I’m missing something here.

My final school year begins

Post ImageI started what had better be my final year of University yesterday. Three classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and one on Tuesday/Thursday. In every single one, the first class was just a review of the course outline and nothing else. In a way that was good, because we got to leave early, but in a way it was bad too – I had lots of time to kill yesterday. Here are some notes about the “back to school” experience thus far:

  • This year is going to be great: I can walk from my house (remember, I just moved) to class in Tory (northernmost part of campus) in under 20 minutes.
  • I am always amused by the first years running around like crazy people, worried because they don’t know where their class is. I was probably like that too, I know. I think part of the problem is orientation – the University itself should offer a simple, no-frills orientation that is a tour of campus and getting your ID card and nothing else. The SU puts a lot of work into their orientation events, but I skipped mine because there was too much “lets all be friends and sing songs and dance and play games and wear stickers all day.” I wonder if lots of students skip orientation?
  • Wireless in CAB seems much faster than it used to be. Maybe it’s just that hardly anyone was using it on the first day?
  • Also on the topic of CAB (I had to stop there, for old times sake) I found out you can buy stuff from the cafeteria using your OneCard now! Apparently this isn’t a brand new development…but it’s not like I was really on campus last year to know that 🙂
  • I met Andrew, Megan and Renee for lunch at the PowerPlant. It was good to see them and we had a good time, but the service was absolutely horrible. The Plant has a “new look” and stuff this year, but they apparently chose to ignore how impossibly slow their service is. I remember now why I stopped going there. Next time we’re gonna try the new Hudson’s (where Scholars used to be).
  • Construction on the new Sciences building is moving along! Well sort of, the are still demolishing the old buildings, but still, it was a very busy and active place.

Now that the “course outline classes” are finished, the real lectures will begin tomorrow. I am taking two 300-level economics courses this term, a first year astronomy course, and a 200-level EAS course (as you can probably tell I am filling in the gaps for my program requirements). So far it’s a tossup between the astronomy course and the environmental economics course for which one looks most interesting. Astronomy is the clear winner in terms of scenery though 😉

Red Deer Trip Recap

Post ImageMy trip yesterday to Red Deer with Tom went very well! He is all registered now and ready to start classes in September. My many years of registering for classes and creating timetables came in handy as Tom was one of the first to be done registering. The only thing left to do now is find a place to live!

I had never been to Red Deer College before, so I learned a lot about it. Here are some thoughts on the college:

  • The college is not nearly as big as I thought it was, in terms of physical space. I can’t seem to find out how many students are registered at the college, but it can’t be that many.
  • They did have wireless networks all over the place, but you need a student username and password to access it, which didn’t surprise me.
  • There was apparently the largest number of students ever at the registration day for kinesiology yesterday. Most of them were female.
  • In fact, I have decided I am in the wrong program. There are a few girls in computing sciences, and a few guys that look like girls, but Tom’s program has a ratio of about 4-1 girls to guys, and they are all extremely attractive.
  • Speaking of computers, they do have a technology program at RDC, but it’s clearly not the focus. The computer labs and stuff were excluded from our tour, described only as “being in the basement and sort of dark.”
  • They need to fix the signs for public parking, as it was quite confusing to figure out where to go!
  • The campus itself is quite nice – lots of grass and trees outside. Inside there seems to be a mix of old and new.
  • Parking is WAY cheaper than the UofA. The daily maximum is only $6! We ended up not paying for parking though, which was fine by me.
  • Everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful.

I think Tom is excited to get started in the fall. Looks like he’ll be quite happy at RDC!

Gates on High School Education

Post ImageMany of my friends are in, or have graduated from, the Faculty of Education. I guess that means that whether or not they become teachers, they have some interest in education, and indeed a vested interest in seeing education move forward. Yet I have often said that I don’t think the way we do things is right. I have wondered aloud to these friends that perhaps a move back to the old “master and apprentice” way of learning would be more appropriate! Today I came across these remarks from Bill Gates made back in February:

When we looked at the millions of students that our high schools are not preparing for higher education – and we looked at the damaging impact that has on their lives – we came to a painful conclusion:

America’s high schools are obsolete.

By obsolete, I don’t just mean that our high schools are broken, flawed, and under-funded – though a case could be made for every one of those points.

By obsolete, I mean that our high schools – even when they’re working exactly as designed – cannot teach our kids what they need to know today.

I’d say that’s a fair assessment. Almost since day one of my University career, I have thought there must be a better way to do this. After the first two years of University, Grade 11 and Grade 12 largely seemed like a waste of time. Or maybe not a waste of time, but an inefficient use of time. Maybe I’m just cynical, I don’t know. I know there are teachers who care, but there’s often not enough resources. And some of the things that students need, they don’t have the opportunity to obtain.

I don’t really have a suggestion for alternatives though either – I simply haven’t given it enough thought. I do know however, that I want my kids to have the best education possible. There’s so much that we could be doing in high schools that we aren’t.

Read: Bill & Melinda Gates

Differences in CAB

So far this year I had been avoiding CAB (Central Academic Building) on campus like the plague. Today though, I decided to check it out. I have a lab Tuesdays at 2 PM, so I have a little time to kill between classes. Every other day I can just go to the office.

Anyway, as I’ve been sitting here, I’ve noticed a number of differences:

  • As Dickson noted, it seems the food services company Aramark has their own wireless network. Of course, it’s secured, but that’s okay because the ualbertawireless network works here (that’s what I’m connected to).
  • They are now speakers on the pillars playing what sounds like The Bounce (lots of hip hop whatever it is). This just adds to the noise, but I guess it would be worse.
  • Maybe I’m blind, but I don’t see the microwaves! Looks like they have disappeared.
  • The have big, plastic, funky napkin holders at the checkouts now that only let you take one napkin at a time. That didn’t prevent me from taking a stack anyway though!
  • There’s no one here anymore. Four years ago I could walk into CAB and be sure to find at least one table of “the group”. Now I’m hardpressed to find someone I know at all.

And as much as things change, the more they stay the same. I bought a slice of pizza, and purposefully used my debit card. And not surprisingly they still charge a 35 cent surcharge. Bastards.

I need to find a place on campus that is quite and has reliable wireless. Any suggestions?

Back to School: Part 2

Today was my last “first class” for this semester. I had CMPUT 410 this morning, which is “Web Based Information Systems”. Here’s the description and objectives from the CS site:

Overview of Web technologies and applications. This course is project based and addresses issues such as web-based applications and databases design and implementation, XML data exchange and modeling, application component integration over the Web, security mechanisms, and Web Mining for intelligent web-based applications.

Expertise and skills in web technologies are very sought for in the current market place. This course is intended to present the students with the basic knowledge needed for professional web information systems development. This course will also introduce current advanced technologies used for web-application development.

So basically, stuff I do on an almost daily basis. The description the professor gave of DNS this morning wasn’t what I would consider “extensive”, so I think I’ll be okay in this class. It fulfills a requirement at least. One nice thing about Computing Sciences courses is that almost everything is online, including the outline, notes, assignments, solutions, exams, etc. If only all courses could be so forward-thinking!

After class I met Megan in CAB and we hightailed it over to the PowerPlant for a pint and pound of fries. Just like old times! And it really was too, as the service in the PowerPlant remains extremely slow, though our server was at least friendly this time. And Megan is right, the place smelled better when they allowed smoking inside. The funny thing about this year is I have this incredible urge to avoid CAB at all costs. Having spent every day there for the last four years must have made me hate the place, I don’t know.

We’re a long way from my vision of wireless everywhere. I really wish the University would just spend the money to blanket the entire campus with wireless access. I can’t get a connection in any of my classes this semester (as my CMPUT class is, very oddly, in the Civil Engineering building). For a list of buildings with wireless and wired access, check out Academic ICT (formerly CNS (not sure I like the name change)).

Back to School

Post ImageAs the years have gone by, I have found that I look forward to the first day of school less and less. This year was no different, as I almost didn’t go back. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel a little excited this morning as I made my way to my first class. The usual stuff goes through your mind – this is going to be interesting, I’m going to keep up on my readings, I’m never going to skip class, etc. It never works out that way, but there’s no harm in trying right?

My first class today was SOC 300, or “Principles of Sociology”; clearly, one of my electives. There are many things about this class that made me feel old. First, SOC 300 is the same as SOC 100, but only first and second year students can take SOC 100. Second, the majority of the class (judging by the hands that were raised) are third year students, not fifth year. The professor didn’t teach any material today, just went through the outline and gave a brief introduction. Near the beginning of the class he asked how many people in the class of roughly 200 were Sociology majors. Not a single hand went up; it was rather funny!

My second class was ECON 222, or “Technology, Institutions, and Economic Growth”. Again, I couldn’t help but feel a little old. One kid walked into the class and I swear he looked like he belonged in high school. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t look that old either, but this kid was just incredibly young. I was also the only one who said anything the entire class besides the professor (I asked him to clarify if something he said was in real or nominal terms). I think back to my first and second year, and I realize I didn’t say anything back then either. Must be a student maturity thing.

My last “first class” will be tomorrow morning, so we’ll see how it goes. Both of the courses today seem like they will indeed be interesting, so that’s always a good thing. A couple of other notes:

  • I absolutely hate how the Tory building doesn’t have wireless, drives me nuts.
  • My SOC 300 professor very loosely defined “mass media” as television, radio, newspapers, etc. because they are media outlets that reach a mass audience. I think I have come to prefer the term “mainstream media”, as a website or blog or podcast could also be considered mass media in that they can reach the masses. They might not, but neither does the Food Network.
  • It never ceases to amaze me how some people just saunter along in the middle of a major thoroughfare. Do they not realize there are people behind them?
  • I didn’t see anyone in my classes today with a laptop, let alone a Tablet PC. Granted it is only the first day, and there was very little work done. There were a few laptops out in the common areas though.
  • For the fashion-minded among you – I have decided that girls in pink tops and white bottoms look good, but not the other way around. You might not think so at first, but wait until you see them sitting almost side by side as I did today. Pink pants just don’t do it for me.

Changes at Light Speed

Post ImageLife is funny sometimes. One day, you’re just working away and things are pretty much status quo. The next day, you’re registered for school and your brother arrives in Edmonton! At least, that’s what happened to me in the last two days.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was still unsure of whether or not I was going back to school this semester. I feel like a break, like I don’t want to be in school. I gave it quite a bit of thought, and had some good reasons for just working for the semester, but then I started talking with an advisor and reality hit me like a brick. Our post secondary school system, which we pay like $500 per course for, isn’t really setup to allow taking a break right in the middle. The University seems to want you coming back, spending the money – imagine that!

I flirted with the idea of graduating with a general science degree and just a minor in Computing Sciences as I only needed one more course to do that, but I decided against it. I am going to try and finish what I started, the Specialization in Computing Sciences with a Minor in Business. So I’m now registered in three classes, meaning I’m once again a full time student.

At the same time, I found out that my brother was coming to Edmonton to attend Centre High this year. Apparently the high school in Inuvik was deemed unsafe, as the majority of the building’s pilings are rotting. So in what was probably the fastest turnaround time ever, the decision was made for Tom to come down and live with my grandparents, just as Kim did last year. Kim and I picked him up from the airport tonight, and tomorrow he registers for classes (a little late, just like me). I’ve created a photoset for Tom’s arrival in Edmonton, so you can see the initial three pictures here.

I’ve got to get Tom blogging now! Kim has started once again – she posted today.

Helping Kim Move

Post ImageHaven’t been around much the last couple days as I’ve been busy helping Kimmi move into residence at Grant MacEwan. It’s funny how you don’t realize just how much effort it takes, and just how much stuff you actually have. I don’t think I have ever owned as many clothes as Kim does right now!

The residence itself is very nice – minus the concrete floors that make your feet black. There is room for 900 students total in bachelor, two-bedroom and four-bedroom configurations, and the building is currently home to 600 students. I’d expect it to fill up pretty quickly though. Kim is in a two-bedroom, so she shares a bathroom and kitchenette with a roommate. They don’t have an oven, but they do have a stovetop and a microwave, and let’s be honest, you really only need a microwave anyway! You can see the pictures here.

There are some pretty strict rules about having guests and that sort of thing, so I am not sure how often I’ll actually be there. I also think it’s funny that they are only allowed to have 9 sleepovers per semester. What kind of number is that? Why not just make it an even ten? I don’t get it. At first I thought it was dumb to have such a rule at all, but then I remembered one of those facts of life that I look forward to one day when I am a father – you live under my roof, you live by my rules!

Read: Pictures

Trading textbooks for laptops

Post ImageIn case you missed it, we’re in the year 2005 now, and I don’t know about you but I expected far more schools to have laptops by now:

An Arizona high school is set to become one of the first ebook-only schools, as it preps to hand out laptops to 350 students this fall. The cost for the laptops at Vail High School will be about $850 per student, compared to about $600 for textbooks. The school plans to supplement electronic versions of traditional textbooks with online articles assigned by teachers.

I like the idea of using computers in school for more than just “computer class” or research in the library. Seems to me that Tablet PC’s would be better suited for a classroom environment, but maybe the price is still a little prohibitive.

Read: Engadget