Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
February 13, 2003

The Law Against Sharing Knowledge Ironically, the full text of this article is available to paid subscribers only (one of the dumber content decisions the Chronicle editors have made); this link is to a mirror of parts of the article posted by Peter Suber. An excerpt: "Today...licensing is taking over the world of academic libraries, and putting scholars' ability to exchange information at risk. Stories of draconian contract terms in licenses from software vendors and the publishers of electronic databases and periodical indexes circulate like tall tales --but they are usually true....UCITA poses real threats to our traditional rights as scholars, researchers, and teachers. The free and unfettered exchange of information that has characterized the scholarly communications system for so long is in danger." UCITA, as the artilce explains, "is a model law, proposed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, that would set new rules in all states for licensing software and every other form of digital information." By Edward Johnson, Chronicle of Higher Education / FOS Forum, February 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How to Save the Music Industry Though this article is about the music industry, educational content vendors would do well to take note. Jimmy Guterman, himself a veteran of the paid content wars, writes that the music industry should "Reduce CD prices, abandon copy protection and invest in consumer-friendly technologies, [and] abandon current online efforts and buy Kazaa." Quite right. Until the content industry embraces widespread file-sharing it will continue to experience declining sales and revenues. By Jimmy Guterman, Business 2.0, February 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Even Sun Can't Use Java I cannot verify the authenticity of this memo. But even if it is not authentic, it is still a good summary of the problems with Java (and why I continue to this day to write my software in Perl): "1. The support model seems flawed; 2. The JRE is very large; 3. Extensions do not support modularity; 4. It is not backward-compatible across minor releases." Translated, that means: it hardly ever works, and when it does, it's only because you've installed this huge application, and even then, it runs slowly. By CmdrTaco (Rob Malda), Slashdot, February 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Slate Project This innovative project (discovered by following URLs on mailing list messages) is worth a larger look. "The Open Slate project fosters the construction and use of personal computing devices designed to facilitate information sharing in loosely structured environments. A key component is Chalk Dust, instructional applications and content developed using the open-source model. These concepts are aimed primarily at high school and college learning, but success will lead to much broader appeal." The idea is that students build their own computers, which in turn are used to access freely available online learning applications known as "Chalk Dust." "A key property of Chalk Dust applications is that they are open-source and available for free. The elimination of licensing fees is the only sane way to manage software distributions that reach every student. As attractive as zero cost is, what will prove to be more important in the long run is the access to source code. Ultimately, Chalk Dust applications will replace textbooks." By Gary Dunn, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

5 Things To Know About Users "The user's intentions, context, knowledge, skills, and experience are the essential things that every designer needs to know. Without this, the team is going to design something that seems useful, but they'll never know if it actually helps the user... Unfortunately, these five things are beyond what normal market research can tell us. Market research can tell us age groups, income levels, geographic regions, even purchase behavior. But it can't tell us the key things we need to know." Via elearningpost. I've tried to explain the impact of context on learning object metadata design. This article gets at some of the issues, partially. It goes beyond the five neat categories described in this article. But read the article to get a feel for what is needed. There are many more interesting items at this site. By Jared M. Spool, User Interface 7 West, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Hype on Hyperstories This is pretty cool: "The power of hyperstories becomes evident when, at certain intervals, learners can choose to change perspective and watch the same events unfold from another character’s point of view. The concrete events remain the same but the interpretation and feelings are different. What seemed an appropriate comment or behavior through one set of eyes now takes on new meaning from this other viewpoint." The product is by a company called substanz, and the author describes some samples used by the Boeing Leadership Center. By Paul Clothier, Learning Circuits, February 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Linguists Are Mixed About Text Messages As the old quote goes, it's a pretty unimaginative mind that can think of only one way to spell a word. At least, that's what I say when someone points out the inevitable typos on OLDaily (Rod counted five yesterday, but I don't think an extra space counts as a spelling mistake). Out of deference to my readers, I don't use the SMS abbreviations described in this article, though. But the people described there are facing the same constraint as I in trying to put out a daily newsletter: time. It simply takes too long to key in the words correctly in the King's English. Just be happy you get verbs, and take the spelling variations as the price of getting today's content today. "Language and languages change," said Carolyn Adger, director of the Language in Society Division of the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington. "Innovating with language isn't dangerous." And for now, I will take that to be the final wrd. By Melissa Trujillo, Excite News, February 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Is Spam Arrest Resorting to... Spamming? SpamArrest seems like such a cool service. If you send an email to someone using SpamArrent, it directs you to a page (that looks like this) and asks that you type in a word to prove that you're human, and not an automatic emailling program. I was going to list this last week. But it's just as well that I didn't. It turns out that SpamArrest - get ready for it - collects the email addresses of people sending mail verified by the service and sends them spam. At no point either before or after you confirm does SpamArrest indicate that the consequence of your action will be more spam. The operators of SpamArrest reply here but their protestations are a feeble defense of what is, in my view, a detestable business model. If you use SpamArrest, you should remove it immediately; I, for one, will not accept the additional spam as the price of sending you an email message. By Declam McCullough, PoliTechBot, February 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Case for Linux is a Cultural One - Thus Far The great Linux conversion continues apace, with the latest entry being my Dell Latitude X-200, an ultra-slim and ultra-modern laptop with wireless access built in. This computer became the next choice in much the way the last one did; something didn't work in Windows, so I decided to try it with Linux. The results were the same. This time, Windows had problems with the external CD drive, connected to the laptop with FireWire. Luc, our resident tech guru, tried to put Mandrake on it. Same problem. He also tried Red Hat and SUSE, with the same result. So we ordered a new CD drive. The problem is that FireWire is only partially supported in Linux; the drivers are available in beta form only. Of course, that's probably also true of the Windows-based drivers, only nobody actually admits that. Anyhow. This article is about the increasing use of Linux. It presents the issue as a cultural issue (which, to a degree, it is) as well as an economic issue. Overall, it's a pretty good description of the sorts of factors impacting an organization's switch to Linus. One warning: while this article cites some criticisms of Linux in a recent study by the META Group, it does not mention that the same study predicted that in a few years Linux will run on almost half of all new servers and that Mircisift would find itself offering support for Linux products. "We think Linux server stuff is going to be huge, and we don't think that's something Microsoft can walk away from," said Meta Group analyst Dale Kutnick. "We think Microsoft will (support Linux) because there are powerful economics. Microsoft is an economically driven company." By Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, February 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright © 2003 Stephen Downes
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