This is the twenty-second episode of the Ask Different Podcast. Your hosts this week are Kyle Cronin, Jason Salaz, Nathan Greenstein, and Daniel.

  • Welcome to the podcast, Daniel! This is the perfect week to have Daniel on the podcast because, in addition to being the #10 user on Ask Different, he’s a community college teacher.
  • We begin with a discussion of Area 51 and the process of starting a Stack Exchange site. Kyle recalls that his ‘Apple’ proposal took some time to get off the ground; in many ways, that was harder than maintaining the site now. Daniel used to do something similar when he evaluated potential Usenet groups.
  • Ask Different has come a long way from its Area 51 days. Our traffic and questions have been rising steadily ever since graduation, about one year ago. That’s right, on January 28th, 2012, Ask Different celebrated its 1-year anniversary! Here’s to an even greater site a year from now.
    • In the time after the anniversary, we’re planning an Answer-a-Thon-style cleanup effort.
    • In the first phase, the community will flag posts that should be closed or deleted (for example, incomplete questions where the asker hasn’t responded to requests for more info). Otherwise, edit questions to make them cleaner and less localized.
    • In the second phase, the community will go on a campaign to answer as many of the unanswered questions on the site as possible. There will be prizes for the most productive users.
  • Discussion shifts to notifications in OS X. Daniel reminds us of the hidden iTunes preference that displays a pop-up when a new song begins playing. This is a new addition to the notifications ecosystem, joining Apple’s BezelUI and Growl. Nathan hopes that this is a sign of a new notification system on the way, to bring OS X’s notifications up to the level of iOS’s.
  • We now move to our topic for this week: technology in education. This week, Apple announced several new education-related products: digital textbooks, iBooks Author, and an improved version of iTunes U.
    • We begin with iBooks Author, the free Mac app Apple released for building books for the iBookstore. We agree that the license agreement is the limiting factor here: prohibiting users from selling their content on their own isn’t a good move.
    • Not only are iBooks made with iBooks Author only distributable through the iBookstore, they are only viewable on an iPad. Apple would love schools to buy iPads for their students, but Nathan doesn’t see it happening.
    • iTunes U could, in theory, be used to support a large-scale remote course like Stanford’s recent AI class. Daniel argues against the idea that these giant classes are effective, though: learning requires students interacting directly with teachers.
    • We agree with Matt Welsh, though, that there are some aspects of education that should be modernized. Lecture halls and fixed semester lengths could both be improved using the technology that is now available.
  • Our app of the week is OmniGraphSketcher, a Mac app that makes it easy to create graphs (to show, for example, supply and demand). Everything just ‘works’ as expected. This app is very useful for Daniel’s economics classes. OmniGraphSketcher is available for $30 ($20 for education users) from the Omni Group. An iPad version is also available ($15).

This episode was recorded on January 25th, 2012. You can subscribe to this podcast via RSS or iTunes. We would appreciate it if you could take a second to give us a rating on iTunes. We’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment on this post or e-mail us at Thanks for listening.


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