Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
November 14, 2002

The Blog Realm: RSS, Aggregators, and Reading the Blog Fantastic Today's newsletter is quite early because I'm creating it from a cybercafe in Rome. Cybercafes close quite early here, and I want to make sure I don't have to go running out of ancient Rome just to send a newsletter. I'm sure you understand. Such is the life of the blogger (though the name doesn't really fit). The authors of this article would understand. What force could be so powerful that it would drag someone away from the Roman Forum? Readers, on the other hand, are less dedicated - I had someone tell me the other day that they actually miss the occasional issue. Yikes! But that's the way it's supposed to be, why I have archives and search and research capabilities. The idea of a blog is that my manic dedication means that you, the reader, don't have to be. This article surveys many of the tools available that allow readers to be less dedicated. That would be death to any other sort of publication, but it is life to a blog. Now I'm off to dodge the traffic and maybe find a café latte. See you tomorrow. By Greg R. Notess, Online, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Grounds for Identity The author makes the same point I made in passing during my talk in Milan: that personal identity ought to belong to the person and not to a service provider or some other agency. You would think that this would be straightforward and obvious, but it's not, at least, not to industry. The response is to create a digital identity system for the rest of us. "If we create the protocols, APIs and other standards that let customers relate at full power with the companies they choose, consumer becomes an obsolete noun. The companies now in full charge of the identities they confer on each of us will no longer have full control, because now they will have to relate and not just distribute." By Doc Searls, Linux Journal, November 8, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Just Can't Hardly Give It Away: Generosity Versus Copyright Good article on the desire of people to give away content. "Alas, it has also become nearly impossible to avoid copyright law's protections for the creator. Now generous creators find it difficult to put their works in the public domain for all to use, copy, share, and improve." The article surveys a variety of mechanisms for giving away content, including the GNU project and copyleft, EFF's Open Audio License, BioMedCentral, the Open Archives Initiative, and more. By Carol Ebbinghouse, Searcher, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

OAI Compliant E-Prints From the FOS news: "Max Rauner argues that OAI-compliant eprint archiving has the potential to break the power of the journal publishers. Read his German or Google's English. Unfortunately Rauner perpetuates the myth that open-access initiatives don't endorse peer review. Next time read the BOAI and its FAQ." By Max Rauner, Die Zeit, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Object Repository Access and Exchange Web Service Specification The Le@rning Federation’s Learning Object Repository Access and Exchange (LORAX) Specification defines a web service for interacting with the Exchange repository of Learning Objects. The web service provides a simple programmatic interface allowing client systems to discover and download metadata and Learning Objects from the Exchange using the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). This draft (version 0.3) is good work and should be considered by any agency considering the use of metadata repositories. PDF file. By Various Authors, Le@rning Federation, July, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Virtual Counseling It's hard to see the down-side of online counselling, but the Chronicle has managed to find one: the potential for lawsuits. According to the article, "many college counselors, even those who run Internet sites, wonder if that is taking online counseling too far. They say they would worry about maintaining student privacy online and protecting themselves from lawsuits." Well look: privacy is of course important, but no more so online than in any other environment. I think this article is a dramatic over-reaction, the sort spawned by a lack of knowledge about internet technologies than by anything else. Would you really be sued because you didn't read a suicidal student's email on time? It's no more likely than being sued for missing a phone call, or being out of the office. By Scott Carlson, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Philips, Sony to Buy Intertrust Several people sent me this item. InterTrust is a digital rights management company that recently obtained a patent for a digital rights watermarking system. It's hard to say what the eventual impact of this purchase will be on e-learning, though it's safe to say there will be an impact at some point as publishers trying to enforce digital rights will have to take players like Sony and Philips much more seriously now. The other major player keeping an eye on this will be ContentGuard, a leading promoter of the (somehwat proprietary) XrML digital rights markup language. By Press Release, Yahoo, November 13, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Body Without Memory: An Interview with Stelarc Interesting item looking at the mediation of machines in the body's perception of the world. I agree with this: "A body has a matrix of meaning imprinted on it from the external world, which influences all its behavior, even on a neurological level." But I don't agree with what follows: "The interface: man-machine, erases perceptual meaning, revitalizing a body long considered in err, and ruled by rationality." The machine mediates, it does not erase. It amplifies, filters, abstracts. It becomes a part of the body, not obviating our innate capacities but rather extending them. By Mark Fernandes, CTheory, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Laptops Not Yet Maine-Stream I find this interesting - the main barrier to the use of laptops in the Maine laptop project, at least according to this item, seems to be the teachers. Hence the cute title. Judging from some of the content, I believe it - one teacher, for example, asks students to write down any interesting URLs they may encounter. Write down? The project is only a few months old, though, and I'm sure by the end of the year the reports will be positive. By Katie Dean, Wired News, November 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Evaluating PayBITS Interesting article describing how users paid for articles voluntarily using a system called 'PayBits' at the 'TidBits' e-zine for Mac enthusiasts. Though there are too few examples to identify any real trends, it is worth noting that the PayPal overhead made per-article transactions problematic as the company charged about 30 percent for a one dollar donation. The author makes the point that practicality does not guarantee that an article will be supported, an observation that makes me happy. Worth a read; skip by the links after the first paragraph (they are simply to previous articles on the subject - why wouldn't the author title them?) and follow through the awkwardly designed page to read the stories of each individual article. Thanks to Scott for the story suggestion. By Adam C. Engst, TidBits, November 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2002 Stephen Downes