By Stephen Downes
April 17, 2003

Taxonomy Browser Online
This is pretty neat. The author has created a system that reads taxonomies or ontologies expressed in RDF format and represents them graphically. Readers who create their own ontologies can upload and view them. By Abdreas Harth, April 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

At Blackboard's Request, Judge Prevents Students From Discussing Security of Debit-Card System
The Chronicle covers the recent court action by Blackboard to block a student presentation exposing security holes in the LMS's payment system. Not a lot that's new here, except for an interview with a generally unresponsive (by court order) Billy Hoffman and a Blackboard representative who, not being restrained by court order, felt free to blather on about how bad the students have been. According to the Chronicle, Blackboard spokesperson Michael Stanton "said that Mr. Hoffman's research had reached a low point when he 'vandalized' the laundry-room switchbox. 'If I take a sledgehammer to an automatic teller machine, I'm a vandal. I'm not pointing out inherent security flaws in a system,' Mr. Stanton said." This is a stupid response. It is not possible to rob an ATM with a sledgehammer, and you certainly cannot (as Hoffman did) simply unscrew an insecure casing and derive the unit's complete functionality, emulate it, and create your own cash machine. If Blackboard's security is as flimsy as a screw-plate, then it is inherently insecure, and no amount of bad-mouthing the students who discovered this - and who tried to warn the company - can change this. It seems to me that if Blackboard wants to silence the students' discussion of the case, then they should apply the same logic to themselves. Or get some smarter spokespeople. By Andrea L. Foster, Chronicle of Higher Education, April 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

TALON Learning Object System
I got this item in my email. From the email: "A set of learning objects has been created that are designed for some of the important styles of learning and teaching. They include; visual learning, writing skills, critical thinking, time-revealed scenarios, case studies and empirical observation. The learning objects are designed and described in terms that the average instructor can readily understand and redesign for their own courses. They are also designed in such a way that they can readily be reprogrammed for new applications in other courses and subject areas, with little or no additional programming." I took a look at some of the objects (some others required plug-ins not supported by my browser) and they appear to be as advertised, though the site could provide more background and information. Still, if you need examples of learning objects, here's a few. By Jeremy Dunning, Indiana University, April 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Connecting Interested People to New Web Content With Syndication and Aggregation
HTML version of a set of PowerPoint slides providing an overview of content aggregation and syndication with RSS. It's a pretty good overview, explaining why RSS is useful and offering readers good resources should they want to follow up on their own. By Doug Ransom, Power Measurement, April 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Naval Academy Disciplines 85 Caught in Internet Music Raid
The U.S. Navy has disciplined students caught sharing files with demerits, extra work assignments and loss of privileges, a far cry from the court martials or expulsions expected by some. Interestingly, the punishments had very little to do with copyright violations and rather more to do with obeying orders. The students had been warned to curtail their activity, and "an academy official disclosed that the raid was spurred less by warnings from the recording industry than by a threat by a Defense Department agency to stop paying for the school's Internet connection." The Register also chimes in, adding barely concealed derision at the music industry's concern expressed about the students' using "multi-gigabyte drives" (which, of course, are standard on cheap new computers everywhere these days). By Ariel Sabar, Houston Chronicle, April 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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