By Stephen Downes
October 13, 2003

Connexions — Education for a Networked World
Another bright spot for learning. From the website: "The Connexions Project is a collaborative, community-driven approach to authoring, teaching, and learning that seeks to provide a cohesive body of high-quality educational content to anyone in the world, for free. Connexions involves two basic, interrelated components: a Content Commons of collaboratively developed, freely-available material that can be modified for any purpose, and free/Open Source software tools to help students, instructors and authors manage the information assets in the Content Commons. Connexions provides an open, standards-based approach for sharing and advancing knowledge to benefit the global educational community." What Connexions now needs most of all (in my opinion) is an RSS feed; this will make the free content widely available. Any volunteers? By Various Authors, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Another Whack at Spam
That tired old proposal, to combat spam by charging an email tax, has surfaced again, this time thanks to Tim Bray. This is such a bad solution I cannot criticize it enough. Why? because it kills free publications such as OLDaily. Bray says, "That means that some formerly-free list subscriptions are now going to cost you a penny a message. Deal with it; it’s the price of killing spam." Unacceptable. If all you can get online is commercial content, then the only message you will read is a commercial message. It would cost me $600 a month to send out OLDaily under this plan. Sure, maybe my costs would be underwritten, but a lot of content unpopular to governments and commerce would simply be wiped off the net. What's worse, it wouldn't even stop the spam, since advertisers are used to forking out cash to get their message across. This is not a recipe for killing spam, it's a recipe for killing the free (as in freedom) internet, and it must be stopped at all costs. By Tim Bray, Antartica, October 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Canadian Public Broadcasters - Online Educational Resources
Web Tools Newsletter continues its coverage of national public broadcaster services for education this week and turns its gaze to Canada. Where it finds... nothing. "We fail to find any Schools Broadcasts as such, or sections labelled Educational - they simply aren't there." The authors find the explanation, sort of. In Canada, education is a provincial responsibility, so instead of a national broadcast education program, we find a series of provincial ones, each approaching the subject slightly differently (though, as the authors note, "the CBC's transformation now looks suspiciously like the adoption of a broad educational vision"). Though they link to several provincial initiatives, such as The Knowledge Network and TVOntario, they miss some of Canada's major provincial educational services, such as the Open Learning Agency, Learn Alberta, and Canal Savoir. It's OK, though. Nobody in Canada understands the entire Canadian system either. By Graeme Daniel and Kevin Cox, Web Tools Newsletter, October 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Semantic Web, Today
Via elearningpost comes this short article describing the semantic web. The author should probably have taken a little time to draw out the concepts, but this is an excellent introduction. Even more impressive is the treasure trove of links at the end of the article, several of which follow in this newsletter. By Juan C. Dürsteler, Inf@Vis!, October 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web
This is a great article describing clearly how the semantic web will change our relation to information - and to each other. As I read this article, I began to sense how what I will call "semantic opacity" will be necessary for the semantic web to work properly. In the new semantic web, everyone will have access to statements like "[Citibank] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy)" and "[The Sherriff's Department of Dallas, Texas] says (Dave Trebuchet) has (Bounced Checks)." But do I want the world to know what Citibank or some Sheriff's department thinks about me? Semantic opacity is the idea that not all information is available to everyone always; it is a sort of screen or information fog that keeps people on an essentially "need to know" basis. The semantic web won't work without it. By Paul Ford, FTrain.Com, July 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Navigating the Net Just Got Easier
Amblit is a semantical web browser "with an intelligent semantic agent and an integrated content manager." There is no demo available on the site, and you have to pay money for it sight unseen, which means that it will never become widely used. Too bad. By Various Authors, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Welcome to the Protégé Project
This is a very interesting piece of authoring and editing software intended to facilitate the creation of ontology based knowledge engines. Unfortunately written in Java (so it is very slow, even on good machines), the interface is demonstrated with a newspaper ontology and content interface. The software is open source and extensible, which means you can download it and try adding your own features. This is a fascinating piece of work that would take a while to understand completely, but which is definitely pointing the way to next generation online content. By Various Authors, Stanford Medical Informatics, October 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What Price Music?
When CDs were introduced in the mid-1980s, the record companies re-released their old stock in the new format at double the price of the original vinyl. People recognize that, and they recognize that 99 cents a song is no real saving over the current, inflated, price. "Adjusting for inflation, it is about 10 times more than 45-r.p.m. singles cost during their heyday in the 1950's." People know this. Compared to the price of a coffee, a song is still cheap (though I don't know where people pay $US 3.99 for a Starbucks). But when you buy a coffee, you don't sign a contract, you don't face use restrictions, and you don't give your name, email address and credit card number. The proper cost for a song is closer to 9 cents than it is 99 cents, and the proper business model is an immediate, anonymous, restriction-free transaction. So we still have a way to go here. By Amy Harmon, New York Times, October 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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