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October 21, 2001

Catching Up - In the last week I spend three exciting days at Net*Working 2001 in Brisbane, Australia, two relaxing days far away from the internet in Montville, Australia, and two unproductive days in transit back to my home in Edmonton. This Extra Issue of OLDaily is a recap of the most significant items from that time.

MS Digital Rights Management Scheme Cracked If you were thinking of using Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology to prevent people from copying your materials, think again. An anonymous coder named 'Beale Screamer' claims to have broken the Version-2 Microsoft digital rights management (DRM) scheme, and has produced the source code and a DOS utility to un-protect .WMA audio files. By Thomas C. Greene, The Register, October 19, 2001.[Refer]

Gluing Learning Applications Together With SOAP A protocol similar to RSS, SOAP (Simple Objects Access Protocol) makes use of the HTTP protocol used to request web pages from web servers, and combines it with XML to pass structured information back and forth between computers. It could be used, for example, to send a message from one system to another containing a student registration for an online course. By Scott Wilson, CETIS, October 15, 2001.[Refer]

Know Thy Learner: The Importance of Context in E-Learning Design This is a useful article, but not in the way the author intended. It highlights the importance of context in online learning - that is, it highlights the many things that could vary as the online audience varies, things like the language of instruction, educational and employment background, and more. While you can take this - as the author does - as a list of thinks you need to take into account as you design your web-based course, this list also serves as an interesting guide to the variables that must be customized each time a learning object is delivered. By Moises F. Sheinberg, Learning Circuits, October, 2001.[Refer]

The Future of TV This isn't a great article and it takes a long time to get to the point, but it offers an interesting glimpse into what television will look like in the future. In a nutshell, picture all your computer and all your television functions rolled into one and displayed on a large wall-hanging plasma screen. Yeah. By Mark Fischetti, Technology Review, November, 2001.[Refer]

Machine Learning Journal Update on the resignation of most of the Machine Learning Journal's board of editors. This link contains two replies from Robert Holte, executive editor of the journal. He writes that while they didn't lower prices, they increased the number of pages. And he also points out that "MLJ articles *are* universally electronically accessible." True, but this didn't happen until October 11, well after the resignation occurred. By Robert Holte, FOS, October 15, 2001.[Refer]

E-Book Provider netLibrary Puts Itself Up for Sale, Worrying Librarians From the informed caution department, netLibrary has failed to find a funder and is now looking for a buyer. The provider of more than 33,000 electronic texts leased by libraries may go out of business, leaving some colleges and universities without access to the books. By Jeffry R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 18, 2001.[Refer]

The DOI Contest Delivered Three major content agencies, CrossRef, Content Directions, and Enpia Systems, have demonstrated how DOI (Digital Object Identifier) can be used to control, trade and sell content electronically while protecting copyright. A DOI is an identification code for a digital object like an online article, book, or book chapter. By Press Release, DOI, October 10, 2001.[Refer]

The ?Emergent? Semantic Web: A Consensus Approach for Deriving Semantic Knowledge on the Web It's like taking my university epistemology classeds all over again as researchers work through two thousand years of philosophers' attempts to represent knowledge. Case in point: the consensus method of creating a basis for the semantic web. It's a good article but a fatally flawed proposal: there just isn't enough consensus to be useful. This is a really difficult read; don't bother unless you are very interested in the technical details of knowledge management. PDF Format. By Clifford Behrens and Vipul Kashyap, Semantic Web Working Symposium, July, 2001.[Refer]

Metamodeling Architecture of Web Ontology Languages Wheee! Tarski semantics in knowledge management! Oh, um, sorry. This is another difficult paper but one that really should be read by people involved in knowledge management as it provides a good overview of what they call Berners-Lee's functional architecture of the semantic web and a detailed examination of what they call the metamodeling layer, that is, the vocabulary and grammar of languages used to describe schemas in RDF and similar representation languages. PDF Format. By Jeff Z. Pan and Ian Horrocks, Semantic Web Working Symposium, July, 2001.[Refer]

Public Access to Digital Material An interesting and provocative article suggesting, as the authors say, that "The goal of universal access to our cultural heritage is within our grasp." The idea is to create an online version of the lending library, thus granting at least temporary access to all works while at the same time preserving authors' and publishers' copyrights. By Brewster Kahle, Rick Prelinger and Mary E. Jackson, D-Lib Magazine, October, 2001.[Refer]

The Tragedy of the Commons This article will probably be quoted over and over again because its by a Nobel Prize winner in economics. But it is an unbelievable shallow application of the old 'tragedy of the commons' theory to the concept of free internet content. The fatal flaw in the argument, of course, is tha while the traditional commons represents a very limited resource, online information is for all intents and purposes an unlimited resource. By Daniel McFadden, Forbes, September 10, 2001.[Refer]

A Study of Reading with Dedicated E-Readers Some PhD dissertations are useful! A case in point is this interesting analysis of e-readers. I'm not thrilled with the methodology (five case studies and an online survey aren't really up there in the list of scientifically reliable methods) but the observations and conclusions seem sound (i.e., they match with my intuitions (which are at least as reliable as an online survey)). People read e-books mostly for pleasure, and (as a consequence?) some of the features proposed for ebooks (such as annotation) aren't as important as previously supposed. But mainly, people prefer e-books that are light, portable and easy to read. This is a large (2.2 megabyte) PDF file. By Miriam Schconik, PhD Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, 2001.[Refer]

How Free Content has Damaged the Content Industry In his free newsletter Gerry McGovern argues that the proliferation of free content is undermining the content industry and concludes that most online content will have to be based on fees or subscriptions. But his argument is based on the idea that the only reason that people create content is to make money and that, as he says, "A product or service is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it." Both these propositions are demonstrably false. By Gerry McGovern, New Thinking, October 22, 2001.[Refer]

Aboriginal Digital Opportunities A good report on the usefulness and impact of online learning technologies in Canadian First Nations (Aboriginal) communities. From my own experience I can attest to the accuracy of their assertion that students in remote reserves are ready and primed to use technology, but that access is often a limiting factor. Working with the community to determined desired outcomes and goals is also important. And as the study asserts, "Learning technologies alone cannot address the serious social and economic challenges that many Aboriginal communities face. They represent one piece of the puzzle; coming up with effective solutions to complex problems will require holistic and coordinated approaches on the part of all community stakeholders." Or as philosphers would say, technology is necessary, but not sufficient. PDF Document, about 500K. By David Greenall and Stelios Loizides, Conference Board of Canada, 2001.[Refer]

A Letter to E-Learning Execs A call to e-learning executives to help provide an affordable e-learning opportunity for the developing world. A worthy initiative. By Christopher Hedrick, E-Learning Magazine, October, 2001.[Refer]

Driving, Death, and Usability A simple argument that has given me something to think about. In a nutshell: turn signals are an excellent example of usability, simple to use and very important. But they only work if people use them; otherwise they are useless. Now what lessons do we draw from this? That people are the problem in technology? That we have to develop new sets of empathy with new technologies? That there are some things we simply can't sutomate. As I said, some things to think about. By John S. Rhodes, http://webword.com/moving/turnsignals.html, October 17, 2001.[Refer]

Online Unschooled Your typical misunderstanding of online learning. "The typical online college makes Brigham Young University look like a party school?no frats, football games, concerts or beer blasts. And that's just the problem." Of course the social dimension is important - but whre does it say that an online learner has no social life? Or does the writer suggest that the only social life worth having is on a university campus? Either way: an untenable position. By John Edwards, CIO, October 15, 2001.[Refer]

Building and Sustaining Communities of Practice Hardly the last word on communities of practice (they say nothing about how to manage one once it's built, for example) this article nonetheless provides a useful taxonomy of four types of communitiy of practice (as defined by Wesley Vestal): the innovation community, the helping community, the best-practice community, and the knowledge-stewarding community. By unknown, American Productivity & Quality Center, October, 2001.[Refer]

Yaga A company to watch, Yaga has combined an online marketplace philosophy with a means to allow people to submit and sell or to buy digital goods, including music, videos, software and more. One - just one - company doing the same in online learning would upset a dozen or more LCMS business plans. By , , .[Refer]

Sun Microsystems and Stanford University Protect Online Materials Around The World Here is an approach to protecting copyright that just might work, if handled properly. "The program is based on the theory that a greater number of good data sources can overwhelm bad data delivered by any one or more 'rogues' in the system." It's not - as the press release suggests - akin to Neighborhood Watch. It's more like 7-Eleven. Make your products convenient and affordable, and people will decide it's too much trouble to bother searching for the black market version. Like I said, it might work - but personally, I think that no such system will work until it breaks the credit card barrier (i.e., it offers a quick and easy way to sell to people who do not have credit cards). By Press Release, Sun Microsystems, October 17, 2001.[Refer]


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