By Stephen Downes
October 21, 2003

Preview announcement of Pitch, a new journal devoted to instructional technology produced by David Wiley and the crew in Utah. It looks like a nice format: Creative Commons licensing, RSS feeds, and yes, even a form of peer review. The model closely resembles Kuro5hin's reader review model. By Various Authors, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Students Find $100 Textbooks Cost $50, Purchased Overseas
It's a practice that has persisted for years, but which is being cast under a new light thanks to the internet. In a nutshell, a textbook that sells for a lot in North America sells for a lot less elsewhere in the world. The motivation is simple: "Foreign sales would be impossible if book prices were not pegged to local market conditions." Of course - aside from ripping off American students - this practice has the added side-benefit of preventing any local textbook industry from developing in these countries, because they cannot compete with the rock-bottom prices. In other economic sectors, they call this "dumping" and it it is usually prohibited under trade agreements. In the publishing and content sector, it's called business as usual. By Tamar Lewin, New York Times, October 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Dusk and Dawn
Got an email or two from the author to announce this new elearning blog (which, if the sequence of nouns in the title is any clue, must be a moonlighting gig). Some good content already. I like this comment: "Bidding for work is killing learning design. Why? Because you only get one chance, so nobody dares take any risks." By mindful_learner, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why Personalization Hasn't Worked
More proof that if you're looking for fish, you won't find them on your front lawn. According to the author, personalization hasn't worked - and the bulk of the column is devoted to explaining why. "This is no surprise. What is surprising is that some organizations still cling to the hope that portal and personalization software will solve their content problems." But this is the view from the lawn. If the author would look beyond the realm of corporate websites, he would find personalization thriving. Individual subscription lists at Yahoo! Personal e-mail alerts from Google. Individual blogs from Blogger. And much, much more. When you have only one, bland, message that you are trying to broadcast, personalization serves no useful function. But if you want to give people the opportunity to speak to each other, personalization has already proven its worth. By Gerry McGovern, New Thinking, October 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Docent and Click2Learn Agree to Merge
Some rumours circulated over the last few days, but this press release on the Click2Learn site makes it official. A confrence call was held this morning to outline the terms, under which each of the two companies will be acquired by a third, new, company (to be called Click2Docent?). The resulting company (merger issues aside) will be a powerhouse in the field; this merger should prompt other activity in the sector. By Press Release, Click2Learn, October 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Source of Worry for Microsoft
Two not unrelated news items. The information mavens here at NRC have concluded that it cannot be secured, and so have disabled access outside the building, which has prompted me to install the Mozilla Thunderbird email reader, which even in beta is much nicer to use. The second item: the State of Massachusetts has decided to abandon Microsoft for future IT purchases (specifically, "Massachusetts Administration and Finance Secretary Eric Kriss instructed the state's chief technology officer to adopt a policy of 'open standards, open source' for all future spending on information technology."). The lesson: closed-source, in addition to being needlessly expensive, is insecure. Of course, we all know that... but inertia, some dirty tricks and a powerful lobby continue to prevent us from getting the software we really need. By Associated Press, Wired News, October 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism?
Via WebloggEd comes this good article about how weblog journalism compares to the traditional form (and, by extension, to traditional learning). Most of the changes are based on the changing power relationship: because everybody can blog, the direction of information changes, and it becomes less of a commercial enterprise and more of a gift economy. Be sure also to follow the links in the comments for more useful observations. By Jay Rosen, PressThink, October 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Bots, Blogs & News Aggregator
It's a little self-promotional for my tastes (and I wouldn't boast about having 'discovered' blogs in 2001), but this article contains many useful links to blogging software, aggregators, and individual feeds. Distributed as PDF with cut and paste disabled, which of course serves no useful function and simplky makes my job harder. By Marcus P. Zillman, October 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

eFolio Minnesota
This is a great link and very definitely a sign of things to come. Significantly, Martin - who blogged this - keys in on exactly how this sort of service should develop: "What would make this sort of thing even better: Integration with a blogging, RSS feeds, an XML file specifying standard CV-type elements that can be harvested by outside aggregators (are there standard formats for CV-type data?), and e-portfolios for projects, not just for single individuals, together with some system for managing the overlap between individual and group work." Sounds like the specs for a great open source personal identity feed, the sort of thing that could (and should) be linked to from blog posts, FOAF files, corporate websites... By Martin Terre Blanche, Collaborative Learning, October 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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