Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
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Vision Statement

Stephen Downes works with the Digital Technologies Research Centre at the National Research Council of Canada specializing in new instructional media and personal learning technology. His degrees are in Philosophy, specializing in epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of science. He has taught for the University of Alberta, Athabasca University, Grand Prairie Regional College and Assiniboine Community College. His background includes expertise in journalism and media, both as a prominent blogger and as founder of the Moncton Free Press online news cooperative. He is one of the originators of the first Massive Open Online Course, has published frequently about online and networked learning, has authored learning management and content syndication software, and is the author of the widely read e-learning newsletter OLDaily. Downes is a member of NRC's Research Ethics Board. He is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken at conferences around the world.

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Stephen Downes,, Casselman Canada

Generative AI exists because of the transformer: This is how it works


This is an outstanding explainer that is (unusually for the Financial Times) open access so anyone can see it. It takes the reader step by step through a clear and logical explanation of how generative AI works, and in particular, the innovation that results in transformers (the T in GPT). It should (in my opinion) put to rest fears that such systems are 'copying' content. True, they learn from it, but what they learn amounts really to nothing more than how words are arranged in a sequence, and what sequences are most common. Don't miss this! Via Bryan Alexander.

Today: 311 Total: 311 Madhumita Murgia, Financial Times, 2023/09/21 [Direct Link]

WordPress blogs can now be followed in the fediverse, including Mastodon

As the title suggests. This includes my WordPress blog I installed the mplugin last May and already have 12 followers! To follow it, click on the Follow button on my blog, or search for in Mastodon and follow! Note that this is my political blog (as the title suggests) and has nothing to do with edtech, photography, or any of my usual interests. Also, I haven't added much to it recently - maybe this should change now that I might get (more) readers. Anyhow, here's the WordPress announcement with instructions, from Matthias Pfefferle & Automattic. This plugin provides 2 blocks: 'Follow me on the Fediverse' and 'Fediverse Followers', which will display your followers from the Fediverse on your website.


Today: 26 Total: 203 Haje Jan Kamps, TechCrunch, 2023/09/21 [Direct Link]

Fixing Search


This article makes a convincing case that search engines have not kept up their end of the bargain they originally struck with content providers. Originally, the exchange of content (from the provider) for traffic (from the search engine) was a fair one. But over time the search engine, which is itself an advertising vehicle, has provided less and less traffic, redirecting it instead to services it - and not the publishers - controls.The proposed solution is attractive: an API-based search that provides algorithmic choice, multi-sourcing, provacy, and much more. But how, then, would the search engine make money? This is where the article is much weaker. "One option is that the browser would itself show ads as part of its displaying the results." Ick. From where I sit, the answer is more obvious: the content providers provide the API search. This is what RSS was, originally, and what JSON feeds are today. The publishers have only themselves to blame for not pursuing this approach. Via Boris Mann.

Today: 31 Total: 137 Robin Berjon, 2023/09/21 [Direct Link]

8 micro tips for remarkably better typography


These eight tips will definitely improve your typography, but the best bit is at the end: "Typography is so much more than just tips.... Great typography, meaning typography that blends perfectly with the content, consumes the reader completely, and makes a text easy to read, requires a holistic approach." Quite right. Via Mike Taylor.

Today: 11 Total: 196 Matej Latin, UX Collective, 2023/09/15 [Direct Link]

Global visibility of publications through Digital Object Identifiers


This article looks at the use of digital object identifies (DOI) worldwide and reaches exactly the conclusion you would expect. "The study reveals that a considerable amount of publications from developing countries are excluded from the global flow of scientific information due to the absence of DOIs, emphasizing the need for alternative publishing models." Why as this? "The main DOI providers correspond to 15 large scholarly publishing houses, mostly created in the 19th century... The oligopoly of scholarly journal publishing, which is mainly controlled by companies in developed countries, makes it difficult for developing countries to establish their own scholarly publishing traditions... direct registration of DOIs in Crossref, the main DOI provider, is subject to a fee even for non-profit organizations and public institutions. This can be a barrier for these institutions." Via DigitalKoans.

Today: 14 Total: 157 Houcemeddine Turki, Grischa Fraumann, Mohamed Ali Hadj Taieb, Mohamed Ben Aouicha, Frontiers, 2023/09/15 [Direct Link]

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Sept 21, 2023 7:37 p.m.

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