By Stephen Downes
May 13, 2003

What Makes a Publisher Important?
I like the direction this article heads, but I'm not so sure publishers will, if they follow its implications to their logical conclusion. The article proposes, in brief, that an article may be measured for importance by "the relative number of citations of a search engine as the evaluation criteria." By implication, a journal that accumulates a greater aggregate score is probably better than one with fewer links. Of course, this method ignores those journals locked away in proprietary databases (but they'r enever found, or read, anyway, so it may not matter). More to the point, the system is democratic to a fault: one person's link to a publication is given as much weight as the next's. This makes the most important publication of our time the "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" parody site, or some such thing. But hey. Maybe it was the most important publication. Now for the logical implication: it is likely that some publications will score less well than some personal websites. If I test Google with link:www.downes.ca I get 654 hits. Try the same test for the Journal of Distance Education - link:http://www.lib.unb.ca/Texts/JDE/ - and I get 100 hits. So - where should I publish my next paper? The answer is obvious - on my own website, where it is six times more likely to be read. Yeah! But this makes a bit of a mash of the idea of 'superior publications' - doesn't it? By Avi Rushinek and Sara Rushinek, Ubiquity, May 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

No One Standard Will Suit All
It began as a lonely voice in the wilderness but has grown into open revolt as delegate after delegate at the E-Learning Results conference comes forward with the same message: "there is no one standard to rule them all, nor will there ever be. However seductive the vision of universal interoperability may be, each and every community has its own needs and wants that need to be addressed." IMS, it would appear, now hears this. "IMS aims to gather international specification requirements, come up with flexible specs, which can be adapted or 'profiled' to meet local needs." What, then, of SCORM? "Blindly using SCORM is hardly the answer either- unless your community's needs can be satisfied by it. In this, Lisa Balzereit from the ADL co-lab, admitted, SCORM had clearly been oversold. One of the lessons ADL learned about the SCORM is to better manage expectations. Which was well exemplified by Dan Rehak, SCORM's chief architect, who pointed out the many times he'd been told that 'we want to adopt SCORM', which is countered by Dan's standard 'what do you want to do with it?'- and often they have no idea." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, May 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Not sure how it will go but I really like the concept, so I created the nation of Merlandia in the game of NationStates, a straight-forward world politics simulation. One thing I like about this is the pacing: you are presented with one issue a day. The game could be more sophisticated, but it's a wonderful idea, the sort of thing that would be great to to start the class on in September and have them play throughout the year. NationStates isn't quite ready for that level, though. Also interesting is the economic model behind this site: no fees or subscriptions, but the site is associated with a book, and the book is regularly advertised. By Max Barry, Jennifer Government, May, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

TidBITS Policy on Challenge-Response
If you're thinking of using a challenge-response (C-R) system to block spam, think again. The idea of C-R is that if an email comes from an unrecognized source, the email is blocked until the sender, in response to an email (the 'challenge') goes to a website and answers a question only humans can answer (the 'response'). This article identifies a number of C-R pitfalls. It leaves out the worst one, though: some C-R systems collect the senders' email addresses that pass the challenge, and send them spam. Anyhow. OLDaily Policy on Challenge-Response: OLDaily has already been hit by some C-R systems. I have sent the response, and gotten spam for my troubles. And like the authors of this article, I have too many subscribers to do this manually. And so, like most newsletter distributors, I will simply delete C-R requests. Yes, spam is a pain. But breaking my nice subscription system isn't the way to fix it. By Adam C. Engst, TidBITS, May 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google Branches Out Again with Overseas News
Going in exactly the right direction: Google News expands with Canadian, Australian and British news services (I won't comment on what perspective it could be that makes Canada 'overseas' from the writer's perspective)... By Keith Regan, E-Commerce Times, May 11, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Web's Impact On Student Learning
The author might be the first to agree that this survey of research in web-based learning is a bit misleading, since, as she notes, there has been little effort made to distinguish between the impact of the new technology and the impact of the learning design delivered, or employed, using that technology. No matter. What emerges in this comprehensive study isn't necessarily surprising - individual differences matter when assessing web-based learning, the web can be used to teach critical thinking, the web promotes interaction - but it is useful to see a base of support for these common assumptions. Some surprising results: first, the brains of children that gre up in the computer age may be wired differently than those of their older, more text-driven, counterparts. And second, we may have an innate disposition to view any media - including computers - as though it were alive, having feelings and capable of emotional responses. Which, of course, would make the blue screen of death doubly troubling. By Katrina A. Meyer, T.H.E. Journal, May, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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