By Stephen Downes
July 9, 2003

Information Politics: The Story Of an Emerging Metadata Standard
Good discussion of the politics and in-fighting that goes on behind the scenes in the adoption of a metadata standard, in this case, XBRL, a business reporting standard. What bothers me is that the author presents this as a good way to do it: "those who would promote a new metadata standard might certainly learn a strategy or two from these skillful operatives. Attention to tactical alliances, courtship of powerful players, and even the invitation to software vendor participation, are ideas worth consideration. The XBRL International Web site is a veritable roadmap for the advancement of a complex proposal." What he doesn't say explicitly is that these tactics come with a price, whether it be to favour a certain company's products or even to implicitly require proprietary technology. Should standards development always involve capitulation? I hope not. By Joan Starr, First Monday, July 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Copyright Cold War? The Polarized Rhetoric of the Peer-to-Peer Debates
This is a nice article that looks at the rhetoric behind the debate over file sharing and compares it - successfully - to cold war rhetoric. That said, I'm not completely satisfied with the result. Comparing the deliberately crafted rhetoric of record company industry representatives to occasional outbursts of hackers and posters on Slashdot seems a little unfair. And in the author's attempt to find common ground at the end of the article, he makes several points that file sharers would oppose. Indeed, he argues that file sharers should not be called file sharers because file sharers are not the owners of the material they share - but this is exactly the point in dispute. I think that had he compared the rhetoric of the RIAA with the more articulate defenses of file sharing, such as those offered by Lessig or even myself, his article would have taken a different form. By John Logie, First Monday, July 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Goodbye Bar Codes: Packages With transmitters on the Way
The press is abuzz with news about RFIDs - Readio Frequency Indetifiers - that will start appearing in products in stores this fall. The article predicts that RFIDs will replace bar codes with two decades; I predict it will be a lot sooner. RFIDs allow stores and other people to track merchandise both before and after the sale. This has led to some privacy concerns: "Simply stated, I don't think most people want their clothes spying on them." Maybe. But how long before having your own RFID personal identifier becomes the essence of cool? Not long. By AP, USA Today, July 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Elusive Vision:Challenges Impeding the Learning Object Economy
Via CogDogBlog comes this link from Macromedia to a White Paper summarizing discussion about learning objects from 18 luminaries in the field. After the usual introduction to learning objects, the discussion turns to the learning object economy, which is depicted by Masie as being "about content, content, content." The paper predicts five separate marketplaces, the first sign of awareness I've seen that there is this segmentation occuring. But they should not take this so calmly: this segmentation is not inevitable. Much of the work I've done is directly counter, in an effort to create a unified market, and avoid private (and proprietary) fiefdoms - it will only take the technology; the people will do the rest. The paper briefly mentions Kazaa and Napster, but doesn't even consider major fields such as RSS and OAI. By Laurence F. Johnson,, Macromedia, June, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Simulation Software Beats Traditional Approach in Online Course
It's just one study, so let's not be making any hasty generalizations. But "students in an online class who learned networking through a commercially available simulation scored higher and retained more course information than students taught with a traditional network-diagramming software package, says a Penn State researcher." By Unknown, Penn State Live, July 7, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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