By Stephen Downes
October 23, 2003

e-learning Stakeholders and Design
The comment from elearnspace reads simply, "If the designer isn't in contact with the end user, how can the learning environment / software / course / resource be designed to optimize their experience?" It points to the necessity of feedback, but while I would agree that feedback is useful, I draw the line at saying it is necessary. It is possible to design very good, if not optimal, systems with zero user feedback. Many things - from great works of literature, to great art, to innovative software, have been designed this way. "I write my songs for myself," is the way many artists put this sentiment. Not only do I think that this devel-may-care attittude exists, I think it is actually necessary. Innovation is disruptive, and disruption produces negative feedback, and if the feedback guides the product, the first thing to go would be the innovation. I like to listen to and read comments, because they let me know when I'm onto something. But I would never ever design - or write - based only on the feedback. By Jeremy Hiebert, Headspace J, October 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Source Course Management Systems
Via George, here is a very nice list of open source CMS software compiled by Scott Leslie. My quick count adds up to 46 separate systems, each with a link to the software home page, and many linked to reviews and commentary. Great job! By Scott Leslie, EdTechPost, October 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

How to Hate Microsoft
This is one of those articles where the comments are much, much more interesting that the item itself. In the new Longhorn Blog Microsoft employee Robert Scoble asks readers for feedback on the forthcoming Longhorn operating system in an effort, he writes, to create a system users can't hate. It has resulted in an outpouring of raw sentiment, including a longish post on digital rights and content distribution from myself. By Robert Scoble, The Scobleizer LonghornBlog, October 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Search Inside the Book
Amazon.com's new 'search inside the book' service provides a granularity of search that the designers of learning object technology have so far only dreamed of. I wonder where they got the licenses to search inside all those books. By Unknown, Amazon.Com, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Spam: How It Is Hurting Email and Degrading Life on the Internet
This new candidate for the Ig Noble Awards investigates and concludes: "Spam is beginning to undermine the integrity of email and degrade life online." No, really? By Deb Fallows, Pew Internet Project, October 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why We Must Stand On Guard Over Copyright
This brief article outlines why many nations - including Canada - are reluctant to adopt the strong copyright protections demanded by the U.S., and describes some of the tactics being employed to widen this regime despite these nations' reluctance. The author suggests that the less stringent copyright regime desired by these nations may be sacrificed in ongoing trade negotiations in order to obtain concessions in other areas. It would be a mistake to sacrifice any current leverage we may have in the information economy in order to obtain short-term and illusory gains in more primary industries. Having an export agreement with the U.S. is one thing. Having the U.S. respect its terms and conditions - as anyone in the Canadian softwood industry will attest - is quite another. Selling out on copyright will buy us nothing, and will cost us a developing industry. By Michael Geist, Toronto Star, October 20, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

National Occupational Classification
Some discussion in the DEOS list on competencies is producing some interesting links. This one, for example, is the result of Human Resources Development Canada's (HRDC's) efforts in 2001 to describe all occupations in Canada (for fun - select the first link on each page, and be treated to the description for 'cabinet minister'). Another link on the same topic is the ASTD Models for Workplace Learning and Performance. By Various Authors, Human Resources Development Canada, December 31, 200-31 8:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Students Fight E-Vote Firm
I have linked to the story about the Diebold electronic voting controversy frequently in NewsTrolls (see the research here) but this is the first time the issue has intruded into academia. The company is trying to respond to criticisms that its voting machines can be (and may have been) rigged, and it is doing so by invoking the DMCA to force people to stop linking to some revealing memos, prompting a group of students to launch an "electronic civil disobedience" campaign against the company (see the students' press release). "They're using copyright law as a means of suppressing information that needs to be public. It's a great example of how copyright law can be against the public good rather than for it, as it was originally intended. It's not like people are reading these memos in order to steal Diebold's election system. (The company is) trying to use this law, and specifically the mandatory take-down section, to conceal flaws that directly affect the validity of election results. This is a threat to our democracy." By Kim Zetter, Wired News, October 21, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

AAUP–ARL Statement on Scholarly Communication
Statement by the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) and Association for Research Libraries (ARL) that mostly preserves the status quo, with a slight nod toward open access: "What each library and press does complements the work of the other and completes the cycle of scholarly communication, for readers without access to scholarship are as crippled as scholarship without access to readers." By Various Authors, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Marketing Science, Marketing Ourselves
The point of this article: "We need to ask whether we really want or need to proceed further down the market-driven path. Is some implacable economic mechanism forcing us to do so - is the deck stacked?" Enthusiasm for the pre-Cold War model of noncommercial academia, writes the author, stems from the idea that the academic has a committment to open enquiry, separated from personal or national prejudices. This has produced a heritage of credibility - "It is difficult to imagine this level of believability being awarded to a politician, a lawyer, or a corporation executive, let alone a car salesman." Commercial and sponsored research, though, risks damaging that credibility. "We should not delude ourselves that the final price will not be much higher than has been paid thus far when the bill is presented. When the sole value of anything we do is measurable only in dollars, we will be just like everybody else, scrambling in the economy for what they scramble for and having no more credibility than they do." By David C. Montgomery, Academe, October, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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