Sunday, March 13, 2011

My SI ASB 2011 at The Adler Planetarium Week Wrap-up and Reflection

The School of Information's Alternative Spring Break has come to a close.  I had such a great time volunteering at Adler Planetarium.

Following my last update midway through the week my project took a turn for the worse... just kidding.  Actually Debbie B. and I worked on revising the survey for larger audience distribution and looking to add qualification questions for non visitors as well.  We previously conducted our survey with Google Doc Forms and for the large distribution after we left they wanted to use SurveyMonkey... needless to say Google's method was much easier to input the questions and arrange them.  SurveyMonkey caused headaches left and right and took a combined effort to find out where it was messing up and rearranging our logic.  It took 6 hours to get straight due to errors within SurveyMonkey and their logic handling/auto rearrangement.

Reflection and Thoughts:
Now that a week has passed I have had a chance to reflect upon my experience at Adler.  I not only received the opportunity to lend my skills to a worthy organization I met and bonded with some people at the School of Information that I did not see regularly.

The Alternative Spring Break experience is not only a great way to give to an organization where an individual can make a real impact, but a place where one gets the opportunity to share memories with classmates.

I would definitely participate again and I plan to support it in the future.

Support Future ASB Programs:
If you feed inclined to donate to help support this opportunity for more students to participate in more volunteer opportunities at nonprofits in Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit, and New York make a donation via my Crowdrise account raising funds for the program: Make a Donation

Thursday, March 3, 2011

School of Information Alternative Spring Break 2011 Mid Week Update

Adler Planetarium a.k.a. "The Adler Planetarium" is the first planetarium in the US and a really cool place that has much more to it than what meets the eye.  I am not stating this because I am currently volunteering there this week nor because I am a science geek... well maybe a little.  My experience at The Adler Planetarium has helped me learn and as much as I have share with the people there during Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

Adler Planetarium is very lively for being around so long.  It has active space research and interactive experiences being created right there through various partnerships.  Their Journey to the Stars show is one of the best space visualizations that I have seen. For the first time being at Adler I am really enjoying the behind the scenes experience.

So, what have I been doing at Adler you might think?  Well, I am a social media intern here along with Debbie B. from the University of Michigan School of Information Masters of Information program.  We have been working with Angelique R. at The Adler Planetarium on many tasks.  We have focused thus far on a few areas: mobile device use in museums, social media strategy and enhancement, comparative analysis of local museum web offerings, and how to enhance the website and exhibits with social aspects facilitated by technology.  

Over the course of this week we studied the Adler Museum and Field Museum's website.  On Friday we will look at the Shedd Aquarium's website.  Both the social media interns and web interns are conducting these looks at the websites to provide feedback on what is done well and what could be improved.  A part of this comparison included venturing to these locations to check out the exhibits and look at how social media was being integrated into the exhibits already.... I have included the pictures I have gathered when I arrived, where I have gone, and what I gathered while on the comparison visits.  You can view them and follow along on my adventure if you wish: The ASB 2011 Experience Photos Disclosure: ASB only covers travel to and from Chicago and the hostel while we are here... the food in the photos was paid for from my pocket. 

Debbie B. and I created and conducted a pilot survey on mobile technology use in museums.  It focused on current use and desired use.  We created a revised edition of the survey that will be used to reach a larger sample of visitors and fans via an online survey using social media and other mediums.

The mobile extension of the exhibits fell both in Human Computer Interaction as well as Social Computing since they are intertwined in some areas.  We worked on how you can extend the experience beyond the exhibits and the device you use... but the results are secret. ;)

I am really happy that SI ASB exists and that I received the opportunity to give my knowledge and skills to a nonprofit that does not have the resources to do this work alone. 

I look forward to the days ahead and thank all those who supported my both motivationally and financially.

If you think that this experience is great and that it should be a program that continues show your support by sharing this program with those who might find it interesting or support its current and future with a donation.  

The Alternative Spring Break program costs ~$35,000 to send and house all 105 students to various cities to volunteer.  I set a goal to raise $2500 to support myself and 4 others, but I am only 4% of the way there.  A small or large donation helps to keep this program going: fundraising page for ASB.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mueller's Pasta and Parent Company Accountability Request Letter

Dear Mueller's and America's Italian Pasta Company (AIPC),

I love Mueller's pasta because it tastes great and is high quality, but I was disappointed with and  First off the Muellers site does not link to AIPC anywhere so without searching off the site one does not know that AIPC is the parent company to Muellers.  The rest of the in consistencies are the following:

The AIPC website mentions as a company it values Empowerment with Accountability and Environmental Sustainability, but no information is available to the public via one of the most visited and assessable aspects of your company... the website.  

I cannot find any information on the company's sustainability practices for its food or packaging.  I would like to see this information and future plans for development of these practices and other values Mueller's may have provided on the Mueller's website.  Knowing where the food comes from, how the ingredients are grown, transportation and packaging reduction and sourcing, company energy use, etc is of value and important to my friends and me who do purchase your pasta.  Other than saying your boxes are 100% recyclable there is no other indication of valuing environmental sustainability that can be detected.  

Also other than the mention of Susan G. Komen and your work there I cannot find any information on Mueller's community citizenship and if it gives back to communities around it in any way.  All businesses should provide this information to give people a better look at what their money supports.  Businesses are not only about products and services, but about the values and impact they hold and create.

I respectfully request that this information become more available about your company.  It cannot only increase your visibility and transparency to consumers like me, but really allow you to market yourselves in a whole new way.  Hold yourself to a higher standard and be a leader as you state on the AIPC website "we provide much of the pasta consumed by the food service industry, including restaurants and cafeterias, schools, business and industry" you should understand that your company creates a large impact on our economy as well as food supply.  This information will not only be of value to us as consumers, but to you as a company to better understand your impact.

I write this not to be a burden to your company, but to embrace your value and mine, empowerment by accountability.  I am holding you accountable to your values by requesting that you support your claims with my witnesses of this request being your social media followers and the Internet. 

Respectfully yours,
Jonathan Brier

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Switch Flickr Login From a Yahoo ID to Google Account

I was able to successfully drop my last Yahoo login service today... Well, this has been on the to do list for a while.  I do not use Flickr other than to browse photos making it low priority.  I only use it to save photos if I find them interesting and track any with me in them.  My largest frustration was the need to log into the Yahoo account I created in middle school and only used for Flickr.

I am writing this to help others that are experiencing the same frustration as I did.  Having the desire to switch methods, but the search for the instructions of how to ditch the Yahoo login and move to Google for login turning up dead ends.  The lack of freedom for a user to choose their login method and switch offerings by such a large company is a poor design as well as a terrible experience for the users to be unable to use the methods and featuers offered to newcomers. 

Note: This is how I made the switch, some steps may be unnecessary.  I thought it be better to tell all my steps taken and let you tell me if there is something unnecessary instead of being unable to perform the switch.

How To Switch:

Pre-Requisite conditions: The Google account you wish to use is not already associated with a Flickr account.

  1. Reset the password to your Yahoo account (this disassociated Flickr from my Yahoo Account)
  2. Go to Flickr's login help site select the "Help by Email" link at the bottom.  Provide your Flickr profile URL and username.  Ask them to make your Flickr Account "Dangly" so you can switch login methods.  Explain that you want to login with your Google account, but due to their method of switching associated Yahoo ID's that you cannot make the switch.  I expressed how I was disappointed in the lack of the ability to make the switch on my own.  I told them that the option for logging in with Google was not possible at the time that Flickr Required merging with a Yahoo ID and had I had the choice I would have chosen the Google Login. (this is true)
  3. My first reply was that my issue was being elevated to a senior support specialist and it may be up to 3 days for them to respond.
  4. Upon getting the reply email from the senior support specialist you should have a link at the bottom that will ask you to setup your Flickr account.  Even though they state that you need to associate it with a Yahoo ID, select the Google login method.
  5. Follow any other steps on the screen and you should now be able to Log into Flickr via Google.  
First support email response from Flickr:
Thank you for contacting Flickr Member Support.I have escalated your email to a senior representative inan effort to obtain the best answer. Please allow up to 3days for us to respond to your question.In the meantime, please feel to check out our online FAQs: well as our Forum: you have any other questions, please feel free to replyto this email.Thank you again for contacting us.Regards,Flickr Member Support
The following text is the email the Flickr help senior support specialist sent me.
Hi [username],
You're getting this email from Flickr HQ because youdecided to detach your "[username]" Flickr account fromits Yahoo! ID. That means you've got what we like to call a"dangly" Flickr account that you need to deal with.
You have two options.
1. You can either merge your "[username]" Flickr accountwith another Yahoo! ID, *or*
2. You can delete the "[username]" Flickr account andany/all items associated with it.
Here's the deal:
We had to reset the password on your "[username]" Flickraccount when you detached it from its Yahoo! ID, so Step 1will be to choose a new password; something you'll rememberin case you have to sign in again.
Then, you'll need to let us know whether you'd like tomerge your "[username]" account with another Yahoo! ID, orjust delete it.

Thanks!The Flickreenos
----If you get stuck, just click on the "Help" link you seewhen you're on Flickr. Tell us as much as you can about youraccount

I hope this was helpful to people wanting to migrate to their preferred login for Flickr. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Improve Windows Security Awareness and Automate Patching of All Programs

Patching is more important than antivirus and malware as the patches close holes that are exploited by these infections.

I currently use and highly recommend for anyone with Windows to install Secunia PSI on their computers. I have used it since version 0.9 and it is great.

Secunia PSI is free for personal use software made by a security company. It helps alert you when programs on your computer have security vulnerability alerts released for the installed. The beta can auto patch popular programs in the background: Flash, Firefox, Winamp, Adobe reader, and others if you would like. It could alternatively provide the link to the update's download and provide more info on the vulnerability that was reported. According to the site people increased their security by 15%.

To learn more or get the download for Secunia PSI go to:

in reference to: Gmail Help (view on Google Sidewiki)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Social Web Breaks Barriers, Influences Development

In todays Internet the Social Web is the hot topic.  Google Buzz, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and many more.  These have provided us as humans a level of connection that breaks down the barriers of distance and allow people to interact on much more of a global scale.  The real time communication is disrupting the traditional flow and management of information that many governments are finding to undermine their structure and giving power to individuals that may or may not use the new found power for the benefit of the many.

This power transfered to the individual can be good and it can be bad.  Now compared even to 10 years ago it is easier for an individual to start a movement to combat domestic violence.  In contrast it is also easier for an individual create PR havoc or create political barriers to what they think is objectionable even if the majority feel otherwise.  I encourage you to flex your individual thought and to analyse the statements being made.  Do not just follow the pack or individual on an issue.  Do your research and form your own opinion.

Questions for Thought and Discussion:
What does this mean for the future of humanity's development?  What is the potential of change of the world's political systems as more people come online and are exposed to views that may not be of the censored sort that their limited access to information has shown them?  How will the power the individuals with thousands or millions on social networks influence our society's development?

These questions above I pose to you to discuss below (I doubt there are any readers).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Intro and Volunteer Computing

Good Day everyone and welcome to my blog. I would just like to say that this is a work in progress and may be some time between posts until I make time in my schedule to address my blog. This blog as the title explains is there to make you think about things you may not know of and work to expand your mind and view. Here I hope you will come with an open mind, leave with questions, and use your grey matter to find those answers yourself.

This weeks topic:
"Volunteer Computing"
Some of you may have seen me posting on your blogs already about GridRepublic. Yes, I am a huge fan of it and feel that everyone should use it. If this is your first time hearing this name then let me take a moment to explain:
Almost every computer connecting to the Internet can help bring about amazing change in the world by working together. How you might ask? Well its through what is called "Volunteer Computing".

Volunteer computing is where people lend their spare processing capabilities and other resources of computers and other electronics like video game consoles and cell phones so that computations can take place on their hardware.

What does that mean? It means that when these devices are on they don't use their full abilities and that in this case BOINC an open source program developed at the University of California Berkeley is enabling the utilizing the otherwise wasted abilities of these devices. Universities and some individuals are creating projects in many areas of science and computational work which any person can join and help without knowing anything more than how to install a program on a computer.

Why would this be necessary? Well say that you wanted to make a copy of an entire encyclopedia by hand. It would take years for a single person to do that alone, but if you and some of your friends split up the books and pages and started copying different sections then with the more friends that are helping the less time it would take to copy to the encyclopedia.

This concept is the same thing as what volunteer computing does. Scientists and other projects take problems that would take months, years, or thousands of years to for a single computer or even supercomputer to return and break it up so that computers all around the world can work on a small piece of the problem. These projects without these volunteering resources would be extremely expensive to complete and would take a long time. Volunteer computing also enable smaller more focused projects that may otherwise be unable to gain the computing resources or funding to take place due to their topic or very concentrated problem that does not concern a large population.

Why should I join? Each person joins volunteer computing efforts for different reasons. You must find your own reason, but some examples of why people join are one to help a good cause like the search for cures for diseases, for the chance to display their computer's abilities and/or power, for a publicity stunt, to help accelerate research in clean energy, to help discover the unknown, or my reason for the love of the advancement of science, technology, and understanding.

What is in it for me? The results and good feeling knowing you are helping. The projects that you help turn up discoveries. Some of the projects actually list volunteers who make the discoveries in their papers and others acknowledge those who help. Secondly some of the projects you help might bring about a drug that saves your life or a life of a friend or relative, or a discovery impacts the ability make your dream car, or whatever happens these days. It is your choice what projects you help and each projects have impact in fields directly and indirectly related in materials enabling traveling to space, creating safer cars, and the list goes on and on. Really discoveries in science can bring things from Sci-Fi to Sci-Fact like cloaking and teleportation or micro machines that repair your body from the inside without surgery. Each discovery will be something known for the future and that is what can really matter. Before we thought the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth, just imagine what we may have misunderstood and how the may change through volunteer computing.

What about security, slowing my computer down, or impacting my normal use? Obviously security is a major concern and another being how BOINC affects their computer... least that is what it is for me.

First to address the security: BOINC is developed with security being one of its top concerns due to the the potential to be installed on so many computers around the world. The programmers use many techniques that work to minimize the risk to users. As of the date this is posted there have been no documented cases of security problems. The largest risk for users is attaching to projects with malicious intent. Though the community of active volunteers discuss and check out the projects and GridRepublic is working to make only trustworthy projects available for joining though their website.

Secondly to address the computer impact: BOINC/GridRepublic is set to run at the lowest priority for using your computer's resources. Thus it should act the same as it did before you joined, though one thing to mention is the fan might be a little louder or on more due to increased heat having to be dispersed. If this does happen and it bothers you there is a setting where you can limit the % use and that can be played with until things are acceptable. Also to mention each project requires different amounts of memory to run and if you do not have much memory in your computer you might want to set BOINC to only run when you are not using it. What happens if you do not have enough memory? Two things might happen one you don't get any work to help and/or two your computer will do a thing called page filing which your computer uses its hard drive as memory, but that is much slower and you may see programs not load as fast and other performance hits. I would recommend you have at least 1 Gig (and more is better), but it can still be run on computers with less than that.

Ending Questions to Ponder: Working together with volunteer computing what would be the greatest accomplishment humanity could benefit from? What have you done to help someone recently that really mattered?

Ending Mission: Make at least one person smile each day. You will be amazed how much better you will feel about your life and your reason for living.

I would like to thank you for visiting my site and I hope you have a great day and take a moment to check out GridRepublic. I look forward to sparking your mind about other subjects.