Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
December 13, 2002

Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution Book publisher Tim O'Reilly sketches the major premises of the open content movement. For a content creator, argues O'Reilly, obscurity is a much greater threat than piracy. Indeed, we should think of piracy as a form of progressive taxation, a means of allowing a much wider range of content to be available to people of much lesser means. By Tim O'Reilly, Open P2P, December 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Beyond Couch Potatos: From Consumers to Designers and Active Contributors We all read (I would think) Alvin Toffler's description of how people will be involved in designing their own products. This smart paper goes well beyond that original observation, sketching a technical infrastructure for metada-design involving communities of practice and (as they are called today) power users. The paper proposes a seeding, evolutionary growth, and reseeding model for the the development of domain-oriented design environments and concludes with the observation that open source software development provides a good example of the process of consumer designed products. By Gerhard Fischer, First Monday, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

About the EDUCAUSE Core Data Service EDUCAUSE launches a new service that will conduct an annual campus IT survey, host a database containing survey results, and produce a publicly available annual report. By Press Release, EDUCAUSE, December 13, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Security Lapses on Campuses Permit Theft From JSTOR Database Much heat is being generated over a "sophisticated attack" exploiting an open proxy server in order to gain access to the entire collection of scholarly journals kept in the JSTOR database. JSTOR is a non-profit organization that creates digital copies of journals and sells the licenses to academic institutions. There is an extended discussion of the incident on the LibLicense mailing list in which the thrust seems to be that much more security is needed for online digital collections. But I must admit, the whole thing leaves me puzzled. First of all, the attack wasn't that sophisticated. But more to the point, there is, but the publishers' own admission, a limited market for academic journals. That's why, they tell us, the prices are so high. So how could anyone gain by stealing them? What are they going to do, go to underground university librarians saying, "Psst, wanna buy a journal? Cheap?" There is something about this whole episode that leaves me a bit sceptical. Something that makes me think that a crisis is being manufactured where none exists. By Dan Carnevale, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Tutor Restoration This article looks at the rise of test-prep services in U.S. schools and comments that "It is a sad comment on the state of many public schools that a separate private system has to be set up to help kids master material they should have learned in the classroom." One of the issues raised by the services is that they are available to affluent students but may be difficult or impossible to afford for students of lesser means. By Siobhan Gorman, Washington Monthly, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Librarians Receive Advice on Law and Reader Privacy Because of recent laws requiring maximal disclosure, U.S. librarians are being urged to destroy even necessary records as soon as possible. As Judith F. Krug, director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said, "We believe that what you read is nobody's business but your own." Those involved in online learning should take heed. The requirement to disclose information no doubt also applies to online systems. Currently, many LMS systems make detailed records of what students read. Perhaps this should be rethought. By Adam Clymer, New York Times, December 11, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Progress of Science and Useful Arts: Why Copyright Today Threatens Intellectual Freedom Exhaustively researched report on recent developments in copyright law and their effects on free expression. The author argues that the new laws have "badly upset the 'difficult balance' between rewarding creativity through the copyright system and society's competing interest in the free flow of ideas." By Marjorie Heins, Free Expression Policy Project, November, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes