MIT AITI 2013: Accelerating IT Innovation

The Joburg Centre of Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University has successfully hosted an entrepreneurship-training programme presented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and funded internationally by Google.  Known as “Accelerating IT Innovation” (AITI), more than 30 engineering and computer science students developed real-world mobile service start-ups as well as implemented well-researched technology and business plans.

MIT AITI - Prof Barry MIT Entrepreneurship Programme

The MIT AITI 2013 comes from a multidisciplinary group of MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives that promotes development in emerging regions by cultivating young technology entrepreneurs.  JCSE Director and host, Prof Barry Dwolatzky says that AITI is an inspiring 6-week intensive incubator programme: “As a significant emerging market, South African needs programmes like this to not only develop skills, but to encourage young students to consider careers in engineering and technology, or to aspire to start their own business.”

Pictured right: JCSE - Prof Barry Dwolatzky (image: supplied)

Dwolatzky says that AITI partners with universities such as Wits to offer advanced courses in entrepreneurship and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). These courses are taught by MIT student instructors and have since 2000, sent nearly 120 MIT instructors to teach over 1500 students in twelve countries worldwide.

“The programme develops curriculum materials, software technologies, platforms, and networks that enable undergraduate students in emerging regions to innovate.  It often results in the creation of technology start-ups, which is in line with the ethos of the JCSE and our approach to incubator programmes.  It also fosters the development of entrepreneurial spirit as well as job creation, which is critical,” says Dwolatzky.

The MIT AITI 2013 course culminates on Saturday 27 July 2013 with a Demo Day at The Wits Club from 14h00 to 18h00. Student-led start-up groups will present their products to an audience of potential investors, mentors, and the technology entrepreneurship community in Johannesburg.

Anyone wanting to attend MIT AITI 2013 can contact student leader Mahlet Woldeyes on mahlet.woldeyes@gmail.com or the JCSE on +27 11 717 6390.  For more information contact Samantha Watt at Samantha@wattcommunications.co.za or on +27 11 425 6290.

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SEO SECRETS: What you likely know already but will read anyway

Yes, it's another damn article on SEO secrets. I've been pondering this one for a while, but thought I might be able to add 1 or 2 useful SEO tips to the thought-pool.

For starters, I don't consider myself as an SEO guru or pharaoh, as I believe anyone can teach themselves how to do good SEO. It's not overly complex and shouldn't be thought of as such. It merely takes practice and a willing attitude.

Note: This SEO guide is largely intended for bloggers who use WordPress

An alternative take on SEO Secrets by www.qualitynonsense.com

SEO Secrets 2012

SEO Secrets with love from a WordPress snob

#1 What does help is a good understanding of how Google works (keywords, meta-data, indexing etc.) as well as a rough understanding of how human beings work. Put yourself in the mindset of someone actively searching for your content via Google. How would you search for content that you have to offer? Test it to see where your articles/posts rank and rework them – optimising each of them for search.

#2 This next point should be quite obvious to most people. Your blog posts/articles should have 3-5 main keywords as well as one focus keyword or keyphrase. These keywords should be used throughout your article. You should also try include them in your headline or post title (at least the focus keyword, e.g. "SEO Secrets"). It also helps if these keywords appear at the beginning and end of your post.

#3 Links. Google loves links. The more websites that point to your website or blog, the better – especially if they are high-ranking websites. But don't expect everyone to just link to you; have something interesting and unique to offer and make an effort to read other people's content and link to them. Think of it as "idea-sharing" rather than "content hoarding". On that note, make an effort to comment on and engage with other blogs if you expect others to do the same for you.

#4 There is a lot more you can do regarding link building. If you have a YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook and any other social media account, make sure that your blog url is on all your profiles. Take this further and get your blog listed on directories and blog aggregators. Some of these include myScoop, Amatomu, Technorati, Blogs Avenue and Blogrollcentre. You might find it interesting to note that Google favours social media sites that are Google-owned (e.g. YouTube, Google+)

#5 Another reason why I feel that SEO doesn't necessary need to be taught is that there are so many fantastic SEO plugins available - for WordPress especially. To find them, log into your dashboard, go to “Plugins” and click “Add New”. Type “SEO” into the search box and search! Installing WordPress plugins is quick and paintless.

#6 Final SEO secrets: Keep articles between 300-500 words. Write simply and eligibly. Choose your keywords / tags carefully and don't use too many. Make sure your focus keyword appears in your title, meta description and throughout your article. Include at least one outbound link and remember to add metadata to your images.

I hope you find some of these SEO secrets useful!

Much Love,
Galen

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HAPPY FRIDAY: How the Internet really started

WELL, you might have thought that you knew how the Internet started, but here's the true story ...

In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot.

And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.

And she said unto Abraham, her husband: "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"

And Abraham did look at her - as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said: "How, dear?"

And Dot replied: "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.

To prevent neighbouring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew.

It was called Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS). She also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew To The People (HTTP).

But this success did arouse envy. A man named Macabia did secrete himself inside Abraham's drum and began to siphon off some of Abraham's business. But he was soon discovered, arrested and prosecuted for insider trading.

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.

And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. And indeed did he insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drumheads and drumsticks.

And Dot did say: "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others."

And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known. He said: "We need a name that reflects what we are."

And Dot replied: "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."
"YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside. It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).

And that is how it all began.

* View more Happy Friday Posts *

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ARGUMENT: The Internet impairs our ability to contemplate and concentrate for long, sustained periods of time

AN ex-colleague of mine (Ryan Calder) started an interesting debate about the Internet on Facebook. He was asking whether or not people thought that the Internet (and cyber culture in general) impairs our ability to concentrate. Some of the comments were quite interesting.

Does the Internet impair our ability to concentrate?

Kathryn: It's a complete problem. I actually disconnect when I have to graft properly now. It's to easy to justify looking at loads of irrelevant poop when you're permanently online.

T.J.: I have to force myself to write sometimes in places without the internet, and it's like de-toxing.

Ryan: At least your attention span isn't completely diminished... you both managed to engage in this status update momentarily.

Hayden: Yup, and video games and cartoons too. The brain learns to discard information at the same rate it receives it. What it doesn't learn to do is differentiate between PC time and real time so we end up discarding information constantly even when we shouldn't.

Lesley: Those of us who teach have seen this change for years! Certainly true. Not just the Internet - all technology.

Ryan: But isn't the Internet subsuming most technology? So increasingly, most gadgets have the Internet inherent in them?

Hayden: It is, and I find that the things I want to do have become over reliant on the internet. We have been conditioned into being reliant on the web for many things we wouldn't have been able to do in the past. Also most gadgets don't work without internet connectivity so we're stuck.

Marek: Ryan, I agree with you. People don't read anything else than short status updates and re-posts, moving constantly from one to the next. It is like people develop ADD from the moment they learn to use a mouse.

Tamlyn: Have you seen what it's doing to teenagers' spelling and grammar!? If you look at the Facebook page of the average teenager it looks like the person is half-witted!! I often have to have a 'face break' as I call it and take a week or so of no FB and of read books only.... feels like I'm saving my brain cells when I do it!

Marek: I do not entirely agree with Hayden on the video games and comics, though. Some of these require intense concentration.

Hayden: They do Marek but the rate of information being sent to the brain is so high that one cannot possibly retain it all so the brain sees it and discards it moments later as the games progress. So while they promote reasoning and good response they also train the brain to rapidly discard information that isn't immediately relevant. I see it in my own children and how it affects proper learning. It makes it that much more difficult to teach them when their brain is constantly discarding what they are presented with. As a result I limit video games to just a few hours on weekends.

Marek: Tamlyn, not only teenagers' spelling and grammar, but many adults too. And it is not the internet, but texting on cellphones, which usually with a certain level of maturity improve. It is also linked to social standing, and level of education with certain racial groups more prone than others.

Marek: I agree with you there, Hayden. I personally do not play video games, and I fully agree with you limiting childrens' gaming, using Whatsapp, Mxit and Facebook. I have a 20 year old student recently moving in with me, who in the beginning was constantly texting on Whatsapp. Meals are taken sitting down at the table, phones are left ringing or switched off, plugged out, with me setting the example. Texting now after a mere 3 months has been reduced to the bare minimum. Now I just have to get him off 9Gag :-)

Hayden: In our house too. My children will only get phones and Facebook etc. when there is a need for it. At dinner time Skype etc. gets ignored and we now only eat in front of the TV on a Friday pizza night as a treat. No phones at the table either. They only get discovery channel etc. in the morning as I find the cartoons just pout them in idle mode, which isn't good before school. Two hours of TV at night and that's it.

Andre: Case in point: I just read this thread and can't remember what the original status was. That being said, I do love knowing everything in the blink of an eye.

Marek: I don't have TV. I refuse to have the drone in the background, or constant streaming of propaganda and other mindless rubbish into my home. I prefer to choose what I allow into my home, and that applies to people too.

Hayden: Case in point. I just Googled a quote to "remember" where it was from. Too much effort to remember the old school way.

Marek: hahahahaha, I often have to Google stuff too, but I do have dictionaries lying around on my desk, just in case Google is wrong.

Hayden: I find it easier to type a quote in rather than wrack my brains to remember. Bad news I tell you.

Dave: It isn't the internet per se but our connectedness to it. Change to my provider and enjoy automatically facilitated periods of contemplation.

Hayden: ha ha ha, you mean downtime Dave?

Dave: Yeah. Except that downtime usually only provokes the kind of contemplation that focuses negatively on the service provider and raises blood pressure.

Ryan: Contemplation is becoming increasingly difficult. My brain thinks differently to how it used to. It only functions if there are diversions. It's a problem... I haven't even read all these comments...

Hilary: And I thought it was old age that was doing that!

Barrett: False... I am dyslexic and find it helps.

Galen: Interesting discussion! We are living in an era of instant gratification, which is largely fueled by web-culture. I think the shocking spelling & grammar is not a result of the Internet but rather created by teenagers themselves. Re video games: this really depends on what is played. They can do wonders for lateral & creative thinking, hand-eye co-ords and arguably even improve eyesight. I'd much rather have all the above than be fed television and have my brain die.

Marita: One of the contributing factors is surely that people no longer read books. There are so many digital connections out there that there is never any reason to pick up a book. A book demands that you get involved, concentrate on the characters and remember who they are. When young people come to University they are overwhelmed by the amount of required reading, because they have never developed the skill.

Barrett: The main point is that parents are being ripped off and kids not given the education they deserve. It has been proven that the SA education system is a mess and not worth the paper its written on.

*****

I'd like to note that I had to correct spelling and grammar for nearly every single one of these comments. Case in point?

** More Opinion & Analysis pieces **

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Deleting Google search history, blocking ads & starting fresh

As from 1 March 2012, it will be easier than ever for online advertisers to target web users, thanks to Google. Apart from debates about privacy, the simple fact is that the majority of Internet users are not experienced webmasters who know how to control and customise their privacy options.

For those rare occasions when we don't just want to buy random crap off the Internet (sarcasm), it becomes really irritating and intrusive to be constantly bombarded by adverts. I spent a couple of hours going through all my Google accounts and finding information from my teenaged years and experimental student days. Any “likes” or “interests” that you may have added somewhere in the webesphere could soon be used to load the cannons of consumerism and bombard you.

If you use Google, you may want to read this is a good article to read (published at The Age dot com) if you haven't a clue what this is all about. But what follows are a few useful places to start if you wish to start blocking ads and begin cleaning out some of your data and baggage before Google gets a firmer hold on it.

Clearing your Google Search History:

(the info below also appears on The Age dot com):

  • Go to the Google History page and sign in.
  • Click “Remove All Web History” then “Okay” to confirm.
  • Your Google Search History should be turned on by default. You can always click "Resume" if you decide to turn this feature back on.

For more control over your various Google accounts that you may or may not have, try these:

  • Google Dashboard: Here you can control the data associated with your Google Account.
  • Ads Preferences Manager: Here you can make changes to the ads you see, including blocking specific advertisers or opting-out of seeing personalised ads completely.
  • Eject button: If you decide you want to opt out altogether, Google provides a one stop shop to opt out of everything and take your "data dandruff" with you completely.

Blocking Ads in Firefox and Chrome

For blocking ads, there is also a useful plugin for Firefox and Chrome called Adblock Plus, which does as the name suggests: blocks ads.

Blocking AdsA final website I came across almost by accident is the Network Advertising Initiative. An article on here called Opt Out of Behavioral Advertising gives a status on which advertising groups you have received cookies from over the years. There is a really useful "Opt-out from all" option here, which lets you remove most (if not all) of these.

And before any of you haters start bashing out comments, understand that this is not about "having something to hide"; it's a much more complicated issue around privacy, freedom of information, and how we are treated as Internet users.

Peace out.

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