By Stephen Downes
August 25, 2003

Meaning, Use and Metadata
The only way you can be certain that a word has a given meaning is when the word is used in some context. The only way, therefore, to determine whether a learning object has anything to do with 'rabbits' is to determine that it was actually used in that context. There is no prior determination that will tell you that this object is used correctly, or incorrectly, in that context. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, August 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Access, Content, Publishing, Learning
Web Tools newsletter steps right up to the mark this week with coverage of open access content and publishing. The coverage begins, naturally, with Creative Commons but runs the gamut, beginning with a historical perspective (including some important work by Sam Williams and George Siemens) and looking at some major contemporary arguments. After looking at some problems and solutions, the article provides a good set of links describing developments in the world of open access journal publishing, including links to PLOS and an open access initiative from Oxford. The list of open access projects in education will not surprise OLDaily readers, including MIT's OpenCourseware project and the Open-Education project. By Graeme Daniel and Kevin Cox, Web Tools Newsletter, August 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Sharing Leads to Abundance
"The days of knowledge hoarding are coming to an end." So begins this article by Don Tapscott and if we could only transfer this bit of insight from the corporate sphere to the commercial sphere society as a whole would be better off. But let's deal with the argument where it's based. "The modern corporation requires internal transparency, essential for effective knowledge work. Employees must share unprecedented amounts of knowledge, be given the latitude and authority for making decisions, and be self-motivated. As such, most need high visibility into the values, strategy, business processes, and operations of the firm to collaborate and work effectively." Exactly. Now replace the word corporation with the word society and you get the same result. Practices that are harmful to corporations are harmful to society as a whole. By Don Tapscott, Intelligent Enterprise, September 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

A Second Proposal
Discussion has heated up again at Creative Commons as David Wiley has posted a second proposal for an education-only Creative Commons license (and also on his blog). I have stated my opposition to such a license - an opposition he doesn't want to consider - and I will state it again: such a license favour educational institutions at the expense of individual learners, such a license begs the question of how 'educational' is defined and who will define it, such a license opens the door to the pervasive monitoring of 'educational use', and such a license allows commercial publishers to push more legitimate open and free content from the marketplace by protecting the commercial sale of such content in other domains. Moreover, there is no mechanism or principle for deciding on the nature or domain of such an educational license: it will be, essentially, whatever David Wiley says it will be. Some people may consider my comments to be like "hand grenades tossed your way from the peanut gallery," but I don't think the establishment of free content as some kind of charity from (and at the beck and call of) commercial publishers to be a good thing, and while the publishers would no doubt find the free publicity an educational CC license would bring to be worthwhile, it would in the long run come at the expense of students. David Wiley may have, as he says, a "personal itch," but some itches should perhaps not be scratched without due consideration of the consequences. By David Wiley, Creative Commons, August 22ff, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft Sends OneNote to School
Odd. I haven't received mine yet (the constant barrage of criticism probably hasn't helped - heh). But Microsoft is giving away its note-taking software, one-note, to certain academic institutions. The Academic edition will sell for $US 49 at academic bookstores, and $99 (after a $100 rebate) for non-academic users. Reviews of the beta version of the product were positive: "you can write, draw, annotate, highlight and edit anywhere on a page just as you would on paper. When used with a Tablet PC, it really can replace paper." Would I use it? I don't know: I have my own idea of what such a system should look like, and my intuitions have almost never aligned with Microsoft's. But like I say, I haven't received my version yet (or, for that matter, a tablet to use it with). Grumble grumble grouse grouse. By Joris Evers, infoWorld, August 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft Eats Crow to Protect Users
Even I feel something for Microsoft these days. As the article says, "the Lovsan, Sobig-F and Nachi worms that spread like wildfire this week showed that the hole left open in the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) protocol of Windows was big enough to drive a truckload of worms through." More importantly, the attacks have been devastating, bringing numerous enterprises (not to mention my own in-box, which is getting more than 1,000 SoBigs a day) to their knees. So much so that even Microsoft bailed and deployed a Linux system to handle requests for its web pages. It is, ironically, a good start - I think that Microsoft could build a masterful Linux distribution and make good money doing it. If Microsoft could somehow make the transition from selling proprietary software to adding value to freeware, it could carve an outstanding business from what is today still a niche market. This is what IBM is trying to do, but it doesn't have the strength to muscle into the desktop. My lesson for Microsoft for this year: change the mantra from "own" to "serve" and you will have a much more secure future - as, for that matter, will the rest of us. By John Hogan, Yahoo! News, August 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free ride over for VoIP?
The state of Minnesota has ordered VoIP (Voice over IP) providers to file for a telephone operator's license in a move which, while it will be welcomed by telephone companies (facing devastation as their primary business disappears), seems otherwise inexplicable. Minnestoa is only the first of a number of states to make the move. But there is some sense to the move: the state would like to collect taxes from the companies, and as well, would like to enforce such things provision of wiretaps for law enforcement. But of course such regulation has a way of getting out of hand, and if the purpose (as with so much internet regulation) becomes nothing more than the protection of existing businesses and pricing levels, then it becomes regressive. By Ben Charny, CNet News.com, August 25, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hi-tech Tome Takes on Paperbacks
It's like this thing that never dies: the e-book returns with a new brand (Hewlett Packard) and a new sales pitch (it can hold a whole library) but it's still the same single-function device it always was. If you want to do anything with text other than read it, this device is not for you. Then again, if you want something reasonable portable and with cute page-turning graphics, then you might be convinced to fork over for this latest in the e-book line. Chances are, though, the minute you want to clip an excerpt for a friend you will realize what a mistake you've made. By Jonathan Fildes, BBC News, August 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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