Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
September 9, 2002

SoftWorld 2002 Today's newsletter is coming to you live from the SoftWorld 2002 conference in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada (my first visit to our Island province). Some good sessions so far - the Knowledge Breakfast with Doug Hall was worth the cost of admission in itself - I would heartily recommend him as a warm-up speaker for any e-business conference. Hall's projects can be found on his website at No, this is not a paid advertisement. More from SoftWorld 2002 tomorrow. By Various Authors, September 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What Can Business Schools Do to Avoid Bad Apples? Readers Respond A fascinating look at how business schools can "screen out" those students with questionable ethics. The bulk of the replies suggest that it either can't be done or shouldn't be done. But of course, that's absurd: they have screened out socialists for years. Oh all right, that's clearly an exaggeration, but let me put the same point a different way: it's not a case of somehow detecting and filtering some sort of innately defective moral fiber. The lack of ethics found in business school graduates is derived as much from hat the school teaches as in who it lets in. And just as few socialists are attacted to the values and methodologies advocated in business schools, so also people with questionable ethics would not thrive either were business schools to incorporate ethical behaviour into their values and methodologies. I'm waiting. By Various Authors, HBS Working Knowledge, September 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

No Longer a Bastion of Silence, College Libraries Expand Horizons to Coffee, Food, Companionship This little item, one of two today picked up from the University Business Newsletter, makes it clear that what libraries of the future will offer is not access to a stack of dusty books but rather a social atmosphere in which to read and research. "Melody Kelly, an associate dean at North Texas, admits she blanched at when idea of using a Starbucks to attract students to the campus library was broached earlier this year. 'We've been taking Cokes away from them for years,' she protested. But Kelly also acknowledged that students on the suburban Dallas campus had long flouted the library's no-food policy." From user-hostile to user-friendly design. What a concept! But why did it have to be Starbucks? Now if they put a Tim Hortons and a wireless LAN in there - why that might even get me back into the library! By Steve Giegerich, Associated Press, September 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Can a Test Gauge the Value of an M.B.A.? From the emerging trends department: an MBA certification test, to be launched in April by the International Certification Institute. As the article asks, "Do students need an impartial seal of approval of their competency, or do their degrees and résumés speak for themselves?" You might think that the reaction of educators would be contrary to the tests, but in fact some small quality schools are cheering for them. "An exam might level the playing field," said Kathleen Trexler, director of the M.B.A. program at Lehigh University's College of Business and Economics in Bethlehem, Pa. "We have a small school with individualized attention. That doesn't get the prestige factor of the big schools." By Maggie Jackson, New York Times, September 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interview: Mitch Ratcliffe, former Chief Content Officer, ON24 Some interesting bits in this interview with Mitch Ratcliffe, former Chief Content Officer, ON24 and currently, President of Internet/Media Strategies Inc. Note especially the difference between the cost of producing an hour of television news (more than $6000) and an hour of internet video ($600). This will drop even further (another instance of the 2x order of magnitude reduction in the cost of information I frequently allude to). Also note where he comments that one of ON24's big mistakes was demanding exclusivity over content, when all it needed was branding. I am inclined to agree with him that there may be a future in the content industry, but only in cases where the cost of producing content is dramatically reduced (2x order of magnitude) because the corresponding revenues are similarly decreased. Of course, almost nobody in the content industry is ready yet for such a model. By Bill Martin, eFinance Insider, September 4, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Intelligence in E-Mail: Are You Ready to Listen? This article may be of some interest to those conducting analyses of online discussion and chat transcripts. The point of the article is to describe how useful information may be extracted from large volumes of email. This approach is not new: a company called Tacit Knowledge was offering an email system data extraction tool a couple of years ago. But I do find this interesting: "From my empirical research, e-mail has the following properties: attitude, issues, requests, objects and sender type." Fascinating: two of the items - attitude and sender type - have almost nothing to do with what the email is about. They provide us not with content but with context. By V.A. Shiva, DM Review, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

History Teachers Unhappy with State Proposal OK, first of all I think the following sentence is a load of bunk: "Now you can certainly teach Greek philosophy to a seventh-grader, but what they'll come out with is that Aristotle is a philosopher and not much more." As somebody who read, understood and reviewed William L. Shirer in Grade 7 I can say categorically that some grade 7 students will understand Aristotle, if only given the chance. The real folly illustrated by this article - and the reason why it is listed here today - is that there would be only one way to teach history. Some people are ready (not just intellectually but also emotionally and culturally) for at least some Aristotle in grade 7. Others are not. Why oh why would anybody think there's only one right way to do this when it is so obvious that there is not? By AP, Columbus Beacon-Journal, September 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Internet Now Preferred Medium for Reaching Decision Makers If you had a message you wanted to reach e-learning managers or decision-makers today, what is the one medium you would use to get that message across? television? Newspapers? Magazines? No, according to this article, your best bet is probably the internet (and actually, along with a few similar pubs, you are probably reading the best bet right now (don't you wish you could advertise here?)). "[Business decision-makers] are focused on the task at hand, so that when ads are served to them they're engaged," said Chris Schroeder, CEO-publisher of Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive. "If I'm an advertiser, I want the business decision-makers when they're engaged and making decisions." For Mr. Schroeder, the Web essentially becomes an influencing tool. By Tobi Elkin, Ad Age, September 9, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes