Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
October 16, 2002

Calendar I'm beginning to pack for another week on the road. Saturday it's down the highway for NAWeb to give a talk on learning objects [disclosure: conference fee waived]. Then I fly to Ottawa for a seminar with Brandon Hall where I look forward to a lively interchange. Finally, it's back to Fredericton where I will be speaking on e-learning and government at TExpo [disclosure: conference fee waived]. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Weblogs and Ethics Interesting bit about the ethics of weblogging. It seems that a number of writers were invited to a Microsoft conference where they were given some insider product briefings. The webloggers turned around and wrote enthusiastic reports. Mitch Tarcliffe, in this item, voiced his objections. Doc Searls issued an apology for not being more open, while Nick Denton, who did acknowledge the free trip, lashed back, writing, "While weblogs should hold themselves to high standards of transparency -- after all, frankness is the defining quality of the medium -- let's not pretend that the traditional media organization provides a shining beacon of journalistic ethics."

For me, the whole question of ethics is a bit tricky - not because Microsoft thinks I'm worth flying to Redmond (I'm not). But let's face it, I don't travel on my own dime. Usually, my employer (the National Research Council) pays the ticket. NRC likes it when I get conference fees waived by speaking, and they like it even more when I get travel costs covered. The latter doesn't happen a lot. I don't receive anything from corporations - just as well, because as a government employee such gifts cause me more grief than gratitude. So how does this affect my coverage? Well I can only report on the conferences I visit, so there is a bias toward conferences that don't screen their papers accept my work. I'm a little bit softer in some instances than I might otherwise be, slightly more inclined to be charitable toward papers I've seen or companies I've met.

So, what are OLDaily's journalistic ethics? How about this: I will report any external support I received - whether it be travel or conference fees - in my coverage of an event. Otherwise assume that NRC has paid for it (if it comes out of my own pocket, you absolutely will hear about it). NRC, and by extension, the Government of Canada, get a benefit of the doubt by virtue of being my employer. Additionally, I am also bound by the government's extensive conflict of interest regulations, which means there aren't any freebies behind the scenes. By Mitch Ratcliffe, RatcliffeBlog, October 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

School Blog or Not "Should Bryant Elementary implement its new web presence using Web log tools?" Good question - and what better forum for addressing the topic than to post research and ideas on the topic in blog form as they occur. I really like the genuine uncertainty with which the author, an involved parent, approaches the topic. The author has also "created a school site review blog for deconstructing other school web sites. Purely my own opinionated views but I wanted to keep track of them. I think I'm now seeing some patterns and uncovering some best practices. Overall the best sites also are the sites with most prominent news - at least, I don't think I'm imagining this correlation." By Unknown, Bryant Elementary, October 6, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Multi-Media Refrigerator At $US 8,000 this internet fridge is still on the other side of usefulness... but it is a tantalizing glimpse of what's ahead. Available in only one colour (titanium), the fridge lets you watch television, send email, play music, take pictures, leave messages, post a calendar, and organize recipes. Oh, and it keeps your food cold too. By Various Authors, LG Appliances, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Next Web Overview article touting the benefits of the semantic web. Not especially technical and I would quibble a bit with the way the semantic web is represented. Interesting description of a project by Autonomy that scans text and identifies key ideas based on the placement or frequency of words that are associated with certain concepts. By David M. Ewalt, Information Week, October 14, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Vision of Intelligence This and the next two links are not new but they pass the distraction test: if they distract me from really urgent work for more than an hour, they get to be listed in OLDaily. This article is an overview of visualization technology. After a quick intro, it describes a number of fields where visualization technology will be useful. Links to some applications are provided. This link, and the next two, were posted yesterday on the argumap group at Yahoo. By Dan Sullivan, Intelligent Enterprise, May 28, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Visual Thesaurus Perhaps a little mis-named, Visual Thesaurus takes a submitted search term and returns similar or associated words. A lot more powerful than it looks: the site allows you to select from several types of relationship (for example: 'is like', 'is part of', 'pertains to', etc.). Definitions are provided in the side-bar. Visual Thesaurus was created using a product called ThinkMap, a general purpose visualization engine. By Various Authors, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Kartoo Visual representation of search results. Type in a search term and Katoo displays site results - represented as variably sized buttons in a visual field - and joins them with lines representing common concepts. Good idea, and the Flash interface is elegant. By Various Authors, October, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes