By Stephen Downes
December 14, 2004

The Long Tail
"For too longm" writes the author, "we've been suffering the tyranny of lowest-common-denominator fare, subjected to brain-dead summer blockbusters and manufactured pop. Why? Economics. Many of our assumptions about popular taste are actually artifacts of poor supply-and-demand matching a market response to ine cient distribution." With information technology, however, comes the possibility of niche marketing, and with it, the phenomenon of 'the long tail' - the millions of resources that each appeal to only a few people (like, say, most blogs) and yet which, collectively, form a larger market than most mainstream media. Some good analysis here. By Chris Anderson, Change This, December 14, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Libraries and the Internet
You've already read this item elsewhere: Google has signed a detail to scan library catalogues and out-of-copyright archives. Being 1,000 kilometers away from the nearest research library, a catalogue doesn't do me a whole log of good. But the scanned archives more than make up for it. By Jon Udell, Jon Udell's Weblog, December 14, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

2004 Hewlett Open Content Meeting
David Wiley writes, "this page provides access to documents from the 2004 Open Content Meeting hosted by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on September 30 and October 1, 2004. Great overviews from several of the major open content projects..." Projects described include African Virtual University, Alexandria Archive, Connexions, CORE, Creative Commons, National Repository of Online Courses, Open Learning Initiative, Open Learning Support and SAKAI. By Various Authors, Octover 1, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

New Media Research Networks Fund
Canadian Heritage has announced funding for research in new media. "Under this Fund, a group of public and private sector partners organize themselves into a network so that researchers can share knowledge, resources and facilities. This Network will develop a research program centered on a particular theme, which has relevance for the cultural sector and promotes innovation in new media or digital content interactive." A link to the application guidelines is on the site; click on the PDF version, as the HTML link simply takes you on a long aimless tour. Funds 75 percent, up to $600K. Deadline for expressions of interest: January 31, 2005. By Announcement, Canadian Heritage, December, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Podcasting for Beer
It seems like a natural match - RSS, music and beer (sounds like my weekends). "Beer company Heineken -- active as a sponsor of many music events -- has launched a podcasting show on www.heinekenmusic.com. The Heineken music events provide a constant stream of interviews, music, and life events." Commercial radio: bye. Educational podcasts are already springing up... yeah, yeah, I know, they'll never replace a professor with a blackboard. But try getting one on the bus or on an airplane. Software? Here. Prefer video? Try Blog Television. Or Cybersky. Want to create? You could use Prodigem or archive.org to store it and make it available. By Monique Van Dusseldorp, E-Media Tidbits, December 13, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

On Folly
Edd Dumbill responds to criticisms of the Semantic Web. the argument, in a sentence: "Both Shirky and Udell seem to be pretty much convinced the Semantic Web requires, from the outset, globally agreed ontologies. It seems more that they've set up a straw man. I had always envisaged that in the same way user interface and other conventions have emerged from the messy web, so would ontological conventions. Messy, but good enough." I will say, if you are building ontologies now, prior to use, you are probably making an error. Same thing if you're creating canonical vocabularies. Categorization is good (reason is impossible without it) but categorization belongs to the language, not the librarians. By Edd Dumbill, XML.com, December 8, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ACS Takes Legal Action Against Google
For crying out loud... The American Chemical Society (ACS) has filed a complaint against Google in a U.S. District Court over Google’s use of the 'Scholar' in Google Scholar. The what over what? "The ACS complaint contends that Google's use of the word scholar infringes on ACS’s SciFinder Scholar and Scholar trademarks and constitutes unfair competition." Earth to ACS: you do not own the word 'Scholar'. We'd be happy to let you have the word 'vulture' though. Via Corante. By Press Release, Chemical & Engineering News, December 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hey Phentermine Pusher: You Left Your Roach Prints in Our Spam Honey Pot
Alan Levine drops the gloves against the spammers. Woo hoo! Go Alan go! "Why not take your technical skill, spammer, and do something productive for the world, instead of wasting the time and energy of busy people with your unwanted, irrelevant, intrusive URL insert attacks?" By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, December 13, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Two-Punch Power of Weblogs in Education
This short article illustrates the impact of weblogs in learning: "By shortening and simplifying content publication and processing, personal Web publishing practices, like weblog authoring, content aggregation and syndication, and the formation of conversational networks, address a number of important needs of today's learning environment." Be sure to enlarge the image, which shows in a way the words can't the way a network of blogs, rather than a single blog, creates an educational environment. Links to a number of good examples. Via incorporated subversion. By Unattributed, BeatBlog, May 13, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

WebCT Campus > Vista > Future?
Commentary and discussion of the recent IRRODL on WebCT's future - or lack of same. Note Scott Leslie's commentary. I might add that in the last week I have received replies from people both at Blackboard and WebCT on items I've linked to in this newsletter. But of course they don't want them posted or quoted or anything like that. While I appreciate the clarifications (and they have been in some detail) it really bothers me that they are sent in such a private back-channel fashion. This means that there is no possibility of refuting them - and there are responses I would make to both. Blackboard, WebCT - if you don't like someone someone has said, respond to it publicly, in a blog or a public forum. Take part in the conversation. Send me a URL; I'll link to your commentary, I'll aggregate your feeds in Edu_RSS. Backchannel emails are so 1990s. By James Farmer, Incorporated Subversion, December 13, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age
George Siemens hits the mark nicely with this essay describing connectivism, the Information Age's answer to consructivism, behaviorism and cognitism. Most of what he outlines in this essay is what I have been advocating in the area of learning networks, but what Siemens has done is to express the principles, not as an organization of learning, as I have, but as a learning theory proper. I subscribe to the core principles of connectivism listed in the paper, but I would emphasize where Siemens does not that connectivism is essentially a learner-driven (as opposed to merely learner-centered) and decentralized approach to learning. I would also extend 'ability to see connections' to be something more like 'ability to see patterns of connections'. None of this is to take away from this paper, which I consider to be a substantial contribution, one that will be remembered well after this comment is forgotten. By George Siemens, elearnspace, December 12, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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