By Stephen Downes
February 11, 2005

Durl and Blogpulse-- More Link Digging Tools
So anyhow, my flight was cancelled, and so I leave in a few minutes for the airport. I am thinking more about my talk and my topic for Northern Voice, and it seems to me that the contents of today's newsletter are beginning to converge on a theme. This item contributes to that theme. By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, February 7, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Google, Wikipedia and More
I was talking with Chouki the other day, and what I said was, "Wouldn't it be neat if we could take every page in Wikipedia, do an associative analysis of the contents of each of the million plus articles, and use clustering algorithms to create a genuine dynamic folksonomy, rather than the highly artificial (and hence, unstable) structures generated by tagging." His response was, well, you could do that, but you wouldn't need to analyze a million articles; a subset would do it. And then he outlined some of the algorithms that would support such a system. Well, from where I sit, it appears that the people of Google are thinking much along the same lines, as they are providing funding and equipment to support the world's largest encyclopedia. By Dan Gillmor, Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, Etc., February 11, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Sensible Design Principles for New Networks and Services
The abstract states, "Based on an analysis about the reasons for past failures, we propose three rules for sensible network design process to avoid useless development efforts. First, the analysis of customer needs has to concentrate on practical uses that are likely to become everyday routines. Secondly, the development of a new technology must be based on well–defined, carefully selected core principles. Thirdly, during the development process the real experiences in real networks must be continuously taken into account." Or, as the author concludes: "As to the list of core principles, simplicity and realism are essential." Examples abound; counterexamples, sadly, also. By Kalevi Kilkki, First Monday, February, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Community Portals – The UK Experience. A False Dawn Over the Field of Dreams?
I understand why the author would say this: "To increase the sustainability of portal projects there is a need to 'work towards establishing common frameworks that will enable applications and services, from different sources, to work together.'" After all, it is precisely that failure that accounts for the indifferent success of community portals, the 'field of dreams' scenario, where you build it, and they do not come. But such an enterprise is perhaps best compared with constructing an artificial language: sure, it would make communication easier if evereyone used the standard - but who speaks Esperanto? The growth of community - and hence, community frameworks - is much more organic than that, a product of multiple simultaneous negotiations to create a network of compatible systems rather than a centralized planning department to create a structure. By Stephen James Musgrave, The Journal of Community Informatics, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Producing Social Network Environments
They told me my philosophy courses would never be useful, but this could have come straight from my metaphysics class: "People don’t exist in environments, they exist in themselves and their semilattice-esque relationships with other actors (communities, individuals, spaces, inanimate objects...)." Why is this important? When we are creating a learning system, we are creating a mechanism that allows people to interact with, to experience, and to learn from the world. But what is the nature of this system - is it an environment, as Lisa Kimball suggests, or is it the lattice of relationships described by James Farmer? I submit that it is a complex construction that enables, first, a wide variety of experiences akin to (and possibly extending upon) our experiences of the natural world: things to see, touch, do, and otherwise sense; and second, a mechanism for interpreting and comprehending this experience, a syntax, putting it into a structure, a semantics, which assigns it meaning, and a pragmatics, that gives it a context and use. By James Farmer, incorporated subversion, February 11, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Poking Around Weather via WAP/WML
I keep planning WAP / WML versions of this newsletter and Edu_RSS; I'm not sure how useful that woiuld be but I would like to provide the option. This link provides advice on how to do it. By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, January 29, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blogs @ Middlebury College
Interesting description with links to a description of blogging in learning as used by Middlebury College in combination with a content management system (CMS). Students get "the sense that there is a real professional holdingeverything together; this is essential in a writing course where, typically, students feel vulnerable and are apprehensive about sharing work." By Hector Vila, EDUCAUSE Community Blogs, February 2, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Students Forced to Carry RFIDs
It is, I suppose, no surprise to find the surveillance society being unrolled first in schools. What is troublesome, of course, is the inevitable drive to use a system that is intended to protect students as a means of controlling students. More on this item. By Matt Barton, Kairosnews, February 10, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

CiteULike and Connotea: Linklogging Goes Academic
Mostly a discussion of CiteULike, a system that "lets you build a 'personal library' recording bibliographic information and enabling you to tag papers for future retrieval and group sharing." Of course, that's how OLDaily started - as the output from the links I was saving for my own reference. A homegrown system. Now such a system is useful - it looks really useful when you see the ten-item version Seb posts - but my database now contains 8,271 items collected over the years. And I have found that, while I use my system, I tend to use it rather less than I might when, say, writing a paper. And consequently, there are many references in my papers that are not in my database, and vice versa. Collecting useful cites is easy - Edu_RSS now has more than a hundred thousand useful cites. Using them is harder - what I am after is an engine that will read what I'm writing as I write it and suggest appropriate references. Metadata? Well, no, I'm not going to tag a hundred thousand objects. What I am after is a way to capture the context in which these references were used, and then to create a cracking good search engine that recognizes when my writing has entered a similar context. By Seb Paquet, Seb's Open Research, February 10, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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