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by Stephen Downes
August 22, 2008

Let'S Just Scare the #$%& Out of Them, Ok?
A police office displays a girl's MySpace page at an assembly, then repeats what a predator said he would do based on the profile. Not only is this totally abusive behaviour, it is naive and unthinking. As I say in the comments, "This is ridiculous. You don't govern your life according to ‘what a predator would do'. Ask a predator if he saw you walking down the road… or on the beach in a swimsuit… or working at McDonalds…. and the answers would be equally chilling." Will Richardson, Weblogg-Ed, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

You Provably Can't Trust Yourself
This is a pretty complex piece of writing, which the author happily summarizes about halfway through: "As soon as you start trusting yourself, you become unworthy of trust. You'll start believing any damn thing that you think, just because you thought it. This wisdom of the human condition is pleasingly analogous to a precise truth of mathematics." The article looks at variations of what are essentially Godelian arguments that show, essentially, that you can prove anything within a system, but you can't prove the validity of the system itself from within the system. That's why individuals need other individuals, in order to know they've learned, and why political parties need other political parties, for the same reason. Eliezer Yudkowsky, Overcoming Bias, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Our Abilities, and the Future of Civilization
My response does not appear to have survived Larry Sanger's moderation process (which is why I put copies of my responses on my blog). But in essence, I am commenting on his suggestion that some of the points Nicholas Carr makes in his ridiculous "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" essay may actually be valid. They're not - the presumptions in carr's post - and Sanger's exegesis - are contrary to simple observation. Which makes their assertion all the more astonishing. Stephen Downes, Half an Hour, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Microsoft Patents PgUp-PgDn
Because, you know, it wasn't obvious from the PgUp and PgDn notation on the keyboards. That is why the patent for paging up and down, filed in 2005, was granted this week. Mike Masnick, TechDirt, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

APIs for Finding Location
Ignore the specifics of this (unless you're really interested in Geolocation APIs) and head straight for the diagram of Yahoo's FireEagle service half way down the article. You can even blot out in your mind anything about FireEagle. What is important here is how the diagram neatly shows the way different devices interface with the platform.

This diagram is generically true - it doesn't matter what the platform (FireEagle or Google or whatever) and it doesn't matter what the application (Location information, or whatever), the system always looks like this. Clip and save for your 'future of the web' presentations. Ionut Alex Chitu, Google Operating System, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Should Teachers Adjust Their Teaching to Individual Students' Learning Styles?
A number of bloggers are happy to consider the case closed after viewing this video - D-Ed, for example, and Tabor and Chris - from Dan Willingham, who has been getting some mileage publishing with the Hoover institution. There are no learning styles, says Willingham. There may or may not be learning styles. But this facile treatment hardly closes the case. As I comment here, "To determine what is 'learned' by determining how much of a list of things they can remember is a very shallow view of learning [and] similarly, 'the shape of Algeria' is hardly typical of what we would want a student to learn in a class. Explanations about 'how we learn' must first correctly describe 'what we learn', and in this the video (and attendant papers, which I have read) falls far short." The unanimity with which they all declare the issue resolved based on such flimsy evidence is suspect.

How do I lean on the matter? Well, I think that we need to take into account the different capacities people have to learn. There is no point showing a blind person a visual aid, no matter how central you think it is to the presentation. The same concept will have to be taught another way - that's not just some unsupported supposition, that's pretty plain empirical fact. Other factors may also come into play - some people may be less able to learn from evidence, as a study I talked about earlier this week suggests (no mention of that in the Willingham video that followed shortly after). Similarly, you would not generally do well teaching in Russian to an English speaker. So there's something about the learner's knowledge, capacities and inclinations that must inform how we teach these students, and dogmatic protestations to the contrary (which is really all that we are seeing here) are a disservice to the community. eduwonkette, Weblog, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: , , , , ] [Comment]

Debunking the Creepy Treehouse: the Functional Mall.
The creepy treehouse metaphor is in danger of being streteched too far, argues John E. Burke. Adults and teens can hang out in the same environment: witness the shopping mall. But, "There's a rule, and let me make it transparent: transactional interactions are accepted, social interactions are not." John E. Burke, Edumorphology, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

The New Nature of the Firm
I agree with this: "For enterprise 2.0 to work, it needs to embrace democracy in the workplace, something that rarely exists in industrial, command and control, organisations - which account for almost all of our businesses. Businesses run as monarchies or oligarchies but very few operate as democracies. We are so accustomed to this structure that most business people would say that it is impossible to run a business as a democracy. We know they are wrong and that there are democratic business models that work today." Harold Jarche, Weblog, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Lifecycle of Emergence
People for some reason seem to think that the alternative to power and control is chaotic individualism. Thus in response to my recent power corrupts post I receive responses like, "I'm sort of surprised by the apparent endorsement of a radical individualism in your comment," from Bob, and Vicki Davis adds, "If we didn't let anyone be in charge of anything, I just don't see how our society would function. Power is a natural part of the structure of life." I have repeatedly emphasized that there is a third principle of organization, one that is at least as 'natural' as any sort of power structure, and one which is far from simple rampant individualism.

From this short article: "Networks are the only form of organization used by living systems on this planet. These networks result from self-organization, where individuals or species recognize their interdependence and organize in ways that support the diversity and viability of all. Networks create the conditions for emergence, which is how Life changes.... In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level." Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, Berkana, August 22, 2008 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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