Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
January 28, 2003

The Information Railroad is Coming You've probably read most of the points in this article before, but the railroad metaphor is compelling and the article is superbly written. Beginning with a closer look at the impact of technology on books and libraries, the author works nicely through an examination on the impact on teaching and the role of the university. The series of questions at the end of the article left me disappointed. These are questions that have answers, and I wish that he had taken a stab at them. Still, this article may well succeed to convince people of the coming change where so many previous articles have failed. By Wm. A. Aulf, EDUCAUSE, January, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Ensuring a Free and Open (Source) Society Quite simply, "Many governments have come to see proprietary software as a threat to their democratic institutions and have started crafting legislation to meet the challenge." The implications of the use of open source data and processing in a free society are profound. A government's use of data in an open source environment is transparent, for example. Data that is part of the public record cannot be altered to change history arbitrarily (as some academic journals have been doing). The security and reliability of critical processes - such as electronic voting - is most easily established using open source. I join with the author in urging policy-makers to consider Peruvian Senator Edgar David Villanueva Nunez's letter to Microsoft (unlike the author, I will actually link to it (newspapers still have some learning to do about the web)). By Ron Stone, Globe and Mail, January 24, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Elements of Digital Storytelling This important work offers a thorough analysis of the elements of online interactivity. While it doesn't contain everything it could or should, it is far-reaching and innovative. If you are interested in online communication, don't miss this work.

Update - I have just seen the press release on this sent today by New Directions for News. To say they have "finally done what so many have tried" is nonsense. To say they have "cracked the code of interactivity" is nonsense. Look, the work they did is very good. But it is by no means the invention and breakthrough claimed in the press release. For example, this document in no way addresses the measurement of interaction. It doesn't distinguish between human-human interaction and human-computer interaction. It doesn't identify feedback mechanisms, such as agent verification, content verification, or expression verification. It doesn't consider the effect of interference on interaction. The work offered by the authors is by no means entirely original or complete (and I'm sure they would be the first to admit that). By Nora Paul and Christina Fiebich, University of Minnesota, December, 2002 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Several consumer products to get 'tagged' By the end of the year, products are going to begin shipping with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags embedded in them. The chips are ting and can be attached to packages of razors, bottles of shampoo, or clothing. Most of the discussion on RFIDs centers around the commercial applications with some discussion of security. they will also be used in schools to track inventory and resources. But if you saw my house you would know immediately what the killer application will be: a hand-held consumer scanner that helps you find that book, that package of razors, or that nice sweater anywhere in my house. Seriously, when everything is tagged, why look for anything again? Simply scan and it will point directly to the item. Later applications will include a PDA, cell phone and, of course, tell the time (yet another million-dollar idea brought to you free from OLDaily). By Michelle Kessler, USA Today, January 27, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

E-Commerce Standard Plans Made Public This proposal gets a number of things right. It is royalty free. It is open. It meets a variety of clear needs. And it is widely endorsed. In a nutshell, "the Universal Business Language (UBL). UBL is a standard for XML document formats that encode business messages, such as purchase orders and invoices." Potential problems? As the lanuage continues to be copyrighted by OASIS, it may revert to a royalty-based format if it becomes widely used. It is also grounded in ebXML, and will suffer any encumbrances placed on that. So we're still in "wait and see" mode. By Thor Olavsrud, InternetNews.Com, January 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Not Your Father's Encyclopedia What could be Britannica's major competition is not published by World Book or any other corporation. It's not published by anyone: it is the free and open source Wikipedia, a collection that has just reached its 100,000th article. The Wikipedia is the work of thousands of volunteer authors. Anyone may volunteer to submit an article and anyone may edit an existing article. It sounds chaotic and disorganized, and not at all authoritative in the manner of the traditional enclyclopedia. But the articles - those I reviewed, at any rate - are surprisingly good. And perhaps it's time we got over this need for an authority figure in any case. It's our language, and Wikipedia should be our enclyclopedia. By Kendra Mayfield, Wired News, January 28, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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