By Stephen Downes
September 5, 2003

Microsoft, City to Build School
Its last partnership with private enterprise, a much-maligned contract with Edison Schools, having failed, the City of Philadelphia is turning now to a partner with deeper pockets: Microsoft. "A $46 million high school dazzling with the latest technology - from interactive digital textbooks and computerized tablets to electronic play diagrams for the basketball team - will be built by the Philadelphia School District in partnership with Microsoft Corp., officials announced yesterday." I'm not sure of the wisdom of spending $46 million on 700 students, and I'm certainly not certain about the wisdom of letting a single company - which will provide " full-time on-site project manager, planning and design expertise, staff training, and continuing technology support" - such control over the educational agenda. On the bright side, parents and students will be easily able to enter the administrative system and change their grades. By Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Stopping the Clock on College Tuition
I could be wrong, but from where I sit it's a pretty safe bet that this plan is going to crash and burn, costing untold numbers of students their pre-paid tuition. The idea is that you pay for tuition now at today's rates, and receive your education later. The colleges - about 300 private colleges are expected to join the plan - will collect and invest the money, betting that investment returns will cover the cost of rising tuitions. I cannot count the number of ways this plan could go wrong, and if you doubt me, then I have only one word in response. Enron. By Eileen Ambrose, Baltimore Sun, September 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

eBay Mutes iTunes Song Auction
George Hotelling's song auction, described here yesterday, has been pulled by eBay, which claims that the sale violates its terms of services. Hotelling responds, ""I do not believe that my auction violates the downloadable media policy, I posted in my auction that I would not be violating it." Personally, I'm not sure I want companies like eBay to be playing the role of the judiciary. By Evan Hansen, CNet News.com, September 5, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Music Biz to Give File Sharers Amnesty
The Recording Industry Association (RIAA) has announced an amnesty program for file sharers who repent. "The RIAA will not pursue legal action if infringers delete all unauthorized music files from their computers, destroy all copies (including CD-Rs) and promise not to upload such material in the future. Each infringing household member will have to send a completed, notarized amnesty form to the RIAA, with a copy of a photo ID. " This reponse from the Mercury News is typical of the general reaction: "Me lose brain? Uh, oh! Ha ha ha! Why I laugh? Has the RIAA lost its mind?" Perhaps, but the music industry as a whole seems to be suffering a lapse these days. By Bill Holland, Yahoo! News, September 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

When Does "Own" Not Mean "Own?"
Good rant about the meaning of the word "own" and the problems faced by libraries with respect to DRM. "After much debate, we came to the conclusion that if a library purchases titles from ED, it does indeed own them. However, if it stops subscribing to the service, if ED folds the way Gemstar did, or if PDFs are replaced by another format, the library will 'own' a file that is completely and utterly useless." While you're on the site, check out her defense of aggregators, which led me to this criticism of aggregators, which led me to the David Weinberger item listed immediately below. By Jenny Levine, The Shifted Librarian, September 4, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Unspoken of Groups
Good talk explaining what's wrong with systems like Friendster and with makinking things explicit. It raisies issues I have touched on frequently over the last year. This quote is very important: "But here’s the problem: things aren’t about what they’re about. 'Aboutness' is also contextual and ambiguous. For example, if my blog entry on the JFK assassination links to the 1962 Sears catalog from which Oswald bought his rifle, the author of that catalog will not have labeled it as being about the JFK shooting. And if a scientist publishes a paper about a new polymer, she may in passing reject some closely related compound because it’s too sticky…but that may be exactly what you’re looking for. So, for you the article is about what the author tosses away in a footnote. Not to mention that in much of the best writing, about-ness is an emergent property. So, while the author’s intentions are an important clue, aboutness is ambiguous. Systems that too easily categorize and classify based upon a univocal idea of aboutness do violence to their topic." By David Weinberger, O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, April 26, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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