Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
August 19, 2002

Verba Volant Someone took the time to subscribe me to Verba Volant, a service that "brings you a maxim selected from amongst the greatest philosophers, writers and poets of all times, translated into over 60 language and dialects by volunteers all over the world." The concept was too delicious to resist. By Various Authors, Logos Group, December 31, 200-31 8:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Webcams Let You Take a Look at Who's Instant-Messaging You I'm on the road a lot and therefore depend on instant messaging (specifically, ICQ) to keep in touch. I have contemplated using my webcam, but so far that has been impractical. That might change with the product described in this article, the Logitech IM Video Companion. Logiteck, of course, makes one of the most popular webcams. Of course, as the article suggests, the idiots in change of IM software (mainly at AOL) who have prevented interoperability between systems may yet stymie the use of this software. Another relevant question is whether it will be free; as the article suggests (and as i discovered to my dismay), Logitech charges users to use its (very bad) online webcasting service, and supports no other software for its camera. By Jefferson Graham, USA Today, August 19, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Living in the Blog-osphere Having created two of the world's first 100 weblogs in 1998 it is a bit daunting to read that more than half a million blogs are now being published. As this article accurately captures, blogging is more than just writing; it is a lifestyle. The key to being a blogger, notes the article, is a keen desire to share and to be "a participant, not a potato." By Steven Levy, MSNBC, August 26, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open With Caution What if software style licensing were applied to books? It might say something like, "By breaking the seal you agree to the terms of the license and if you don't agree you should return the book unopened... the book remains the property of Omnicare... In the event that you do not agree with any terms of this agreement you should promptly return the material unopened... the license [is] nontransferable and terminate[s] immediately if the Licensee or his or her employer cease[s] to be an Omnicare customer... the licensee [is] prohibited from disclosing any of the information in the book to third parties." How do I know? These are terms from an actual shirnkwrap book license. By Ed Foster, InfoWorld, August 12, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Ghosts of Classrooms Past: A Web Teaching Tool Languishes It was supposed to be the wave of the future. School web sites would keep parents informed, students up to date, and would allow interactivity between all through groups to increase. It didn't happen; instead, most school web sites languish empty and out of date, their usage measured in single digits. What happened? Well, it turned out that it's a lot harder than people thought to post regular updates. And not all schools and teachers wanted to post updates. In many cases, the service or hosting company went out of business. But mostly, it seems to me, it bogged down in a bureaucratic mire. Like this: "My argument to the county was that if I wanted to post homework assignments, it didn't do me any good to wait a few days. Their argument was that they wanted to monitor what went out." By Jeffrey Selingo, New York Times, August 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

UofW Students Worried by Microsoft Deal Can you call it undue influence if a software company convinces a university to teach a course that would probably be offered in any case? That's the sticky question surrounding this deal between Microsoft and the University of Waterloo where, after eight months of negotiations, the Redmond company agreed to donate $2.3 million to Waterloo while the university agreed to create a mandatory course teaching Microsoft's C# programming language. Concerns were also raised about research being funded under the plan being intended specifically for Microsoft's benefit. The program would create mathematically oriented handwriting recognition for Microsoft's Tablet PC. Also, a commentary by the same author. I agree with this: "I'd feel much better if the universities actually stated their position on how far they think they can allow a benefactor to determine what students study." By Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, August 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free Culture Speech by Lawrence Lessig to the Open Source Convention held then end of July in San Diego. Lessig illustrates better than most some of the dangers of new copy protection legislation, illustrating, for example, how Adobe's ebook reader restricts the copying of such works as Middle March and Aristotle's Politics. Such technologies are, argues Lessig, effectively privatizing knowledge that is, and should be, in the public domain. By Lawrence Lessig, Open Source Convention, August 15, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Freeing Information This article is of note because it comes from a mainstrea, source - ABC News - and because it advocates free online academic journals. "Free online access to those pricey professional journals in which scientists report their findings could allow a biologist in Afghanistan, or a doctor in Peru, or Joe Sixpack in California to tune in to what's going on in the world of science. And it shouldn't cost any of those folks a nickel." By Lee Dye, ABC News, August 7, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter?

Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list at

[ About This NewsLetter] [ OLDaily Archives] [ Send me your comments]

Copyright 2002 Stephen Downes