Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
April 30, 2002

Battle of the Online Payment Systems This is one for the business managers, a discussion of competing payment schemes on the web, looking mostly at services such as PayPal and BillPoint. There is some discussion of using peer-to-peer technology to manage online payment, an approach that I think offers more chances of success. Indeed, I would propose what might be called peer-to-peer-to-peer (P3P) that allows the vendor and purchaser to select a trusted broker dynamically. This is a decentralization of online payment, the only approach that will work over many environments. By Lou Hirsh, E-Commerce Times, April 30, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

Grads Want to Study on EMacs, Too Article protesting the fact that Apple's new eMac (see below - reverse chronology is fine except when a story develops during a single day) is available for students only. Though the author says Apple could not be contacted for comment, this sounds like propaganda (read: clever marketing) to me. By Farhad Manjoo, Wired News, April 30, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

Apple Unveils the eMac Apple computer launches its education-specific desktop computer, the eMac. Most notable about the new release is the $US 1000 price tag, making it a much more affordable solution. On the other hand, I have been recommending on this list that schools *not* buy desktops - wireless portables are the way to go, so each student can have his or her own computer (rather than a shared desktop) (people who question this don't really understand computers yet - a computer is an intensely *personal* technology - the idea of computer labs flies against that - no person will make the investment in time & industry in a computer lab that they would with their own machine). Short article with links to Apple's publicity. By Drew Cullen, The Register, April 29, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

Blackboard Announces the Availability of the EasySwitch Conversion Program This is pretty funny (well, perhaps less so if you work for WebCT): Blackboard has created a proprietary conversion kit and is directing its advertising at WebCT customers (currently themselves reeling from recent price increases). Why is this really funny? Well, of course both Blackboard and WebCT trumpet the fact that they are standards compliant. So why is a conversion kit necessary? And also: jumping from WebCT to Blackboard strikes me as being like jumping from the frying pan to the fire - the very same problems facing WebCT users (locked in proprietary format and price hikes) also face Blackboard users. Oh, the tangled web we weave... By Press Release, Blackboard, April 25, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

Twelve Principles Sometimes I'm so conflicted. I frequently see a post on other lists - like this one, trolled in today's elearningpost. On the one hand, I don't want to leave it out of my list, because it is getting wide currency. On the other hand, it simply recycles material carried weeks or even months ago on OLDaily - in this case, the article is a restatement of the RealCommunities White Paper, Twelve Principles of Civilization (retitled for a new audience) - a white paper which is in turn a (trademarked) recycling of previous work, including some work I presented in Australia (or at least, derived from similar sources). Getting credit for ideas and publication in today's web world seems more like a matter of marketing than of thinking - perhaps, though, it was ever thus. By Drew banks and Kim Daus, Customer.Community, April, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

Why Dons Won't Be Logging On Today The headline of this article is a bit miselading as the academic boycott is mentioned in one paragraph only. The bulk of the story is devoted to some high profile failures in the e-learning field, most notably Open University's withdrawal from the American market and the continuing saga of Universitas 21. The gist of the story - and I am inclined to agree - is that these ventures spent huge sums on course development with no certain expectation of financial return. Part of it, I think, is that their business model was based on university-style tuition rates: but why would anyone pay such high tuitions for online learning when it should, by all rights, be cheaper? This business model led these ventures to spend much too much on course development, money that could have been muich better spent on developing marketing and services. Content is important, sure, but that's what learning objects are for. But the content isn't the course, and these entities never got that. By Lucy Hodges, Financial Times, April 25, 2002 [Refer][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes