Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
September 30, 2002

Web Site Fuels Debate on Campus Anti-Semitism Are university professors fair game for web sites featuring "dossiers" of those it opposes? The organizers of a site called Campus Watch think so as they compile and post information about colleges and professors they allege to be anti-semetic. The site is currently running very slowly (thanks, probably, to the New York Times article linked here). According to the Times, hundreds of academics have been writing to the site asking to be added to the list. "Many academics see Campus Watch as an effort to chill free speech about the Middle East... 'It's that whole mode of terror by association, with the cold war language of dossiers, and we're watching you.'" By Tamar Lewin, New York Times, September 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Keep Taking the Tablets Another article on tablet PCs - or, as I have been calling them for the last four years, PADs. With a projected launch date just six weeks away, they could sweep through the marketplace within just a few months. If they are anything like what I think they will be, count on it. With handwriting recognition, wireless ethernet (WiFi), and light weight, the tablets (maybe they will be called 'tabs') will be extremely popular with students, journalists, and... me! By Jack Schofield, The Guardian, September 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Howard Rheingold Interview with Virtual Community author Howard Rheingold echoing a theme that should be familiar to most readers by now: "Any time you have a competition between something that requires a top-down infrastructure and between something that can grow virally from lots of individuals, the viral will win every time." By Unknown, PopTech, The Blog, September 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Canadian Companies Rock at Online Learning 2002 More coverage of Online learning 2002 in Anaheim. This article, replete wih links to Canadian e-learning companies, makes the astonishing point that fully 30 percent of the exhibitors at the show were Canadian. Hard to believe? It shouldn't be. The author writes, "Its clear to me the Canadian e-learning sector is reaching critical mass... The companies themselves are already rocking and it is clear that a little support of the right kind could be extremely beneficial." The article also contains a nice summary of the top ten trends oserved at Online Learning 2002 - a list that accord with my own observations. By Paul Stacey, BC technology, September 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Conference Proceedings - Online Learning 2002 Still more from Online learning 2002 - this page contains dozens of handouts (or slide presentations) from the sessions. Simply the best set is from John Seely brown's "The Human Side of Knowledge Management" - I love the informat font used and the little pictures. Good content, too. Anyhow, hours of fun and entertainment await you as you scroll through simply reams of slides and presentations. By Various Authors, Online Learning 2002, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Dissecting Nielsen Series: Outsourcing Web services In a recent column Jakob Nielson recommended against outsourcing software design "to countries with cheap labor." This article is a strongly worded response with a simple point: not only are there expert designers elsewhere in the world, "the cultural gap that exists between the US and the rest of the world particularly Asia is much more acute when viewed from the US perspective. People in Asian countries have a much better understanding of the American lifestyle than it is the other way round." And if you need any further convincing, consider that the most usable (and popular) products available in the United States today are made by such companies as Sony and Toyota. Could a similar phenomenon be the in the future for the American software industry? By Manu Sharma, ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors, September 17, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why Salary Bonus and Other Incentives Fail to Meet Their Objectives This is interesting. We read almost constantly about the need to motivate online learners. I have always had my doubts about this strategy - as I said at NLII last January, maybe the problem is that you're trying to get them to do something they don't want to do. This thinking is reflected in this article about workplace incentives. "Motivating people usually means ‘making them do what you want.’ It is coercive and controlling, and people respond by rebelling." The author recommends removing the incentives and the plaques and to focus on better work. "We are most likely to become enthusiastic about what we are doing … when we are free to make decisions about the way we carry out a task. The loss of autonomy entailed by the use of rewards or punishments helps explain why they sap our (personal) motivation." By R. Dale Asberry, September 28, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Email Newsletters Pick Up Where Websites Leave Off Validated. Jakob Nielsen likes email newsletters and says that "users have highly emotional reactions to newsletters... you have an ongoing relationship with them." So much so that many people won't unsubscribe even when they stop reading the newsletter. Though Nielsen addresses some issues of content - "Newsletters must be designed to facilitate scanning" - he spends most of his time on issues of subscribing and unsubscribing. He also recommends content from the issue in the subject line, something I don't do. Should I? What do you think? By Jakob Nielsen, Useit.Com, September 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Digital Challenge: Are You Prepared? This KPMG report lays it on the line: "media companies are focusing too much on encryption and other defensive technologies while failing to develop proactive strategies that recognize and leverage their online intellectual property assets." In particular, "Media companies have so far failed to pioneer new business models that would rob piracy of its appeal. Preoccupied with defending the barricades against pirates, the industry has shown a deficit of creativity and innovation in rolling out products and services that can compete with the pirates." Or to employ the catchphrase I have been using recently: make it easier to buy than to steal. (p.s. the date below is not a typo - I call 'em like I see 'em) By Unknown, KPMG, August 32, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Case to Define the Digital Age Survey of the legal issues around the current challenge to the copyright term extension act in the United States. The case, led by copyright activist Lawrence Lessig, alleges that the extension will not foster the creation of new work (since the creators being protected are long dead). But the case may founder on the following truism: "When has it ever been illegal for Congress to pass bad laws?" That's the weakness of legalistic approaches to the copyright debate: the law is the law, even if the law is unreasonable. By Jane Black, Business Week, September 27, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Campaign for Cambridge Freedoms Dissenting academic staff at Cambridge have launched a website opposing proposals by the university to assert ownership over faculty work (below). The academic staff write that university ownership will undermine academic freedoms, will eliminate staff vetos on how work is exploited, will impact employment conditions ("many historians supplement their meagre salaries by writing popular history books"), will discourage the production of printed notes, and will discourage spin-off companies. The page links to coverage from numerous publications. By Various Authors, September, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on the Ownership of Intellectual Property Rights The original report from the Cambridge Council and General Board recommending that the university assert copyright ownership. By Various Authors, Cambridge University Reporter, July 24, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Measures of Learning in Higher Education This article never takes you too deeply into the world of assessment and evaulation (but just deep enough to tell you the difference between them, which is deep enough for some of us). In the usual Web Tools style, the article is chock full of links to the best of the web on the topic. Covers benchmarking, institutional review, measuring learning, and alternative assessment strategies. By Graeme Daniel and Kevin Cox, Web Tools Newsletter, September 30, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

College Questioning Site's Link Of course I wouldn't say that my commentary in Thursday's OLDaily was the key, but it appears that administrators at UCSD are now reconsidering their decision to order the removal of links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The issue, of course, is this: "If the university stands by its initial demand and succeeds in having the FARC link removed by way of the Patriot Act, the decision could set a precedent for other public institutions looking to eradicate controversial links and sites." By Amit Asaravala, Wired News, September 28, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes