By Stephen Downes
January 8, 2004

OPML Generator
This is very cool. OPML stands for Outline Processer Markup Language. It's a type of XML format used to make lists, such as the list of websites you read or RSS feeds you subscribe to. A number of RSS headline readers have started generating OPML files so people can share their reading lists - if you have an RSS reader you can find out how to locate your OPML file here. Then, the missing link: Dave Winer set up a site where people can submit links to their OPML files. The site harvests them and creates subscription lists for each weblog! Outstanding!

As Alan Levine summarizes, "And that is where Dave's experiment is hitting a cool chord. At the Share your OMPL site there are more than 140 different sets of OPML files contributed. As a larger aggregate of what people are reading in their RSS tools, there are some interesting slices of looking at the world of feeds. There is popularity, the top 100 feeds. You can use other people's feeds to see who a particular person has on their roll. And very very cool, you can use the site to find among those listed who has a subscription to a specific RSS feed URL...."

I've spent the day playing with all this (instead of fixing my website like I said I would). First of all, I created an Edu_RSS OPML file. This was needed not only to share my list of feeds, but to generate a working example of an OPML file everybody can see (examples are a bit hard to find). Then I created an account at Feeds.Scripting.Com and registered myself and my feed. So now I can see who subscribes to OLdaily via RSS and the list of my own subscriptions. Great stuff!

But wait, there's more. Not everybody uses an RSS headline reader to read websites and blogs - I know thousands of people read OLDaily by email. And not everybody has a website. No problem. I created a super-easy OPML generator that you can use to create your own reading list and send it to Feeds.Scripting.Com, even if you don't use a headline reader and even if you don't have a website. Moreover, I am releasing the source code as open source (GPL) software, free to anyone who wants it. So now anybody who wants to share their reading lists can do it quickly and efficiently. By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, January 8, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Law of Content
The most important thing I said last year was this: Apple uses music to sell iPods, not iPods to sell music. I will refer to this henceforth as "AUMSINISM". Clip this out, print it in foot high letters, and post it on your wall. If you don't get this, then you don't get the information economy. More generally: Content sells products, but is not itself a product. Oh, sure, companies like Apple will pay people to produce content. So content producers will still get paid. But the content itself has value only if it encourages people to purchase things that cannot be duplicated. Like iPods. Like computers. Like a personal lecture. Like residence at a university. Like a home microscope. Like a wristwatch. If your product is content based, or if your business plan is not some application of this law, then you will not survive in the information economy. (P.S. the ,ink is to my December 30 essay, provided only because the system requires a link.) By Stephen Downes, Stephen's Web, January 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

I'll Take Social Software for $1,000 Please, Alex
This criticism of the concept of social software is based on the premise that, for social software to be useful, people have to use it, and that there is a disincentive for major users - the "social entrepreneur" - to use it. The author explains: "I have hundreds of contacts, but the value I derive from introducing people far exceeds any advantage I would gain by entering them into a system somewhere. Moreover, the value I derive from my hard-earned network is sacrified for the 'good' of the system. If anyone, or even just my associates can find out everyone who I know and everything I know about them, I am no longer indispensible. What would possess me to give away my personal 'competitive advantage'?" This is, of course, just another variation of the argument for content hoarding. It doesn't succeed either. If the value you create is based on 'knowing', then your livlihood will be undercut by someone who has the same knowledge - in this case, the same (or similar) network of contacts - and who shares it freely. Moreover, the people you know, who derive value from your introductions, will value more a network that creates more introductions, so they will tend to gravitate toward networking with people who share their networks. That's why I share things like my OPML file (see above) and encourage my subscribers, if they want, to share their contact with me. My livlihood doesn't depend on my being the only person in my network to read, say, Roland Tanglao (via whom this item was discovered). But it does depend on my being able to learn from such people, people I would only discover via an open network. As Jerry Zawodny says, don't think of the social network as the product, "Start thinking about how adding a social networking component to existing systems could improve them." AUMSINISM. Just like content. Update: More from Richard Stokes here. By Richard Stokes, StartUpSkills.Com, January 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Students tune in to View Surgery
Six years ago in The Future of Online Learning I wrote that investments in videoconferencing technology were a waste of money. And, of course, the money spent on dedicated systems using expensive ISDN connections were just that. But with the advent of video over IP and with the emergence of really big screens (thanks to digital projectors), everything changes. That's why, this year, I predicted a "resurgence of videoconferencing." This article describes the sort of thing I mean: students watching a live knee replacement and asking questions of the doctor while the operation is being performed. It's not something I would ever watch, but I know great learning content when I see it. Now, we just need to get this level of interactivity working on the desktop. By Andrea J. Cook, Rapid City Journal, January 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Interview with Bernie Trilling
To the 3 Rs, argues Bernie Trilling, we need to add 7 Cs in order to prepare today's children for tomorrow's work force: "critical thinking and doing, creativity, collaboration, cross cultural understanding, communication skills, computing skills, and career and learning self-reliance" (the last one is a bit of a stretch). Trilling, senior director of Think.Com, bases his list on more than 40 workshops with groups of educators, and parents. It's a good list. There isn't item in it I would not consider essential. By Mitch Weisburgh, PILOTed Newsletter, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Types of Information
This nice link shared yesterday on the IETF discussion list is one of the better summaries of the types of information I've seen. Well designed for web-based reading, this page combines images, tables and examples to clearly elucidate the concept. By combining Clark's types with Merrill's performance levels, we get a "content performance matrix learning model". By Kathy Tyner, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Internal Memo Confirms IBM Move to Linux Desktop
A few years ago, IBM gained a large price advantage by installing its own office suite on the computers it sells, rather than Microsoft's Office - I know because I bought two IBM desktops and a laptop at prices hundreds of dollars less than competing systems from Gateway, Dell, etc. So this next phase of IBM's plan is logical - to replace Windows with Linux in-house, probably as a prequel to using Linux as its primary distribution OS, thus undercutting the competition (who must add the cost of Windows to the sticker price) even more. AUMSINISM. By using Linux in-house, IBM developers will be spurred to advance development of the open source OS and clean up many of the usability glitches that still make Linux daunting for the average consumer. This is a much bigger threat to Microsoft than most people realize, as other equipment manufacturers will have to switch to keep pace with IBM's pricing... no wonder Microsoft has launched a (widely criticized) anti-Linux campaign and yet, at the same time, is asking people how they like their Linux and is even reputed to be considering replacing Longhorn with Linux in its next operating system release. By Mike Magee, The Inquirer, January 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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