Stephen's Web

By Stephen Downes
March 3, 2003

IceWM Today's OLDaily is the first one produced on a Linux desktop. This link points to my current desktop environment, IceWM, a nice and simple desktop that feels a lot like Windows, but without so many of the annoyances. Most people use Gnome or KDE, but this one fits my needs. That's one nice thing about Linux: if you don't like the way one system does it, you just change systems and yet still have access to all your programs and files just like you did before. For email I'm using KMail (the other email program, Evolution, just died in the fact of an 800 email download from the Exchange server). It is taking me a bit to get used to the many options available in Linux, but I've managed so far with my only major problems coming where the Linux tools had to interface with Microsoft websites or services. By Marko Macek, IceWalkers, Undated [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Reusability Paradox This odd article, apparently written by David Wiley (but just as apparently credited to the The Reusability, Collaboration, and Learning Troupe at Utah State University) is intended to cast doubt on the usefulness of small (and thus more resuable) objects: "the more reusable a learning object is, the harder its use is to automate. Identically, the less reusable a learning object is, the easier its use is to automate." Why? Because "The internal context of a small object constrains the number of external contexts into which it could fit much less than the internal context of a large object does." In other words, a small object simply doesn't contain enough information to indicate where the object might be useful. On the other hand, while a larger learning object may contain a great deal of information relevant to its potential use, this very fact limits the number of places it can be used. All true, but this argument depends on a limited understanding of what can be known about an object, large or small. The authors are seriously misled by their characterization of internal and external context; there is no such thing as an internal context, and so the only contextual information to be had about an object is external. So I wouldn't give up on the project just yet; there is much more that could be said about context, objects and reuse. By David Wiley, The Reusability, Collaboration, and Learning Troupe at Utah State University, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

CBC Archives CBC standards for "Canadian Broadcasting Corporation," Canada's national radio and television network. Pete MacKay passes this along with the following comment: "Thanks to my friend, Wayne, who suggested this great site. At CBC For Teachers, you will find ideas for incorporating CBC's Radio and TV archives into your classroom along with lesson plans and activity sheets, which you can download. All the materials are provided at no charge." A wealth of information is contained in these archives including some of the memorable audio and video footage from the last five decades or so. By Various Authors, CBC, Undated [Refer][Research][Reflect]

CollegeLinux: Learning the Linux Way Interview with the dean of Robert Kennedy College (RKC) in Switzerland, David Costa, following the release of CollegeLinux, a distribution of the open source operating system intended for use in academic environments. "The first time I installed Mandrake (my first Linux distro) I was a bit disappointed to see no flash, no java, and not easy way to plug my computer into the Windows network. With CollegeLinux, 'Flash' is there and all the majors browsers plug in -- both Konqueror and Mozilla. You are set up for network sharing within 2 clicks. At the same time, you still get all the development tools, editors, and multimedia applications. We don't really compare CollegeLinux with a commercial distro. It is in a different league as they do provide an higher degree of support and documentation. Nonetheless, we made something different and not-for-profit." By Jill Ratkevic, DesktopLinux, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Persuasive Design: New Captology Book The author reviews B.J. Fogg's "Persuasive Technology," recommending it as good account of the use of interactivity on websites as a form of persuasion. The article could use a good editing. The writing is oddly unpolished, almost as though Nielson had hired a student to write the review. Nielson's discussion of captology will remind instructional designers of the uses of interactivity in education, and though not described in detail, it's hard to believe the principles aren't the same. By Jakob Nielsen, Alertbox, March 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Back to the Oral Tradition Through Skywriting at the Speed of Thought This is a light romp through the history of thought and communication, looking at the present evolution of email as representative of an oral tradition that has its origins in communual story-telling and modern incarnations as transitory as sky-writing. But, as the author reminds us, email (and online discussions) can also acquire the permanence of books, giving us the best of both worlds. True, scholars haven't taken to the new forms the way they might. But they will. By Stevan Harnad, The Future of Web Publishing, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

After 5 If you are a part of the e-learning industry in New Brunswick, Canada, then you will want to check out this newsletter produced by TeleEducation New Brunswick for the sector. Just launched, the purpose of After 5 is to foster the exchange of news and information between New Brunswick e-learning agencies. The newsletter is available in both English and French. By Various Authors, TeleEducation, March, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Online Library Wants It All, Every Book This account of the digital Library of Alexandria being implemented in Egypt is a generally critical review of the project. Noting that few people have used the specialized software, and that only 100,000 pages of mostly medieval Arabic works have been scanned, the author casts doubt on the feasibility of such a project in the contemporary publishing world. But there is room for hope as the project gains momentum and begins to access other collections, such as the million volumes being scanned at Carnegie Mellon University. By Robert F. Worth, New York Times, March 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why Content Management Software Hasn't Worked The same could be said of the LCMS industry: "Content management software hasn't worked because it was badly designed and massively over-hyped. Software companies lied about their products, charging criminal prices for crap software. It hasn't worked because organizations didn't understand content. They wanted a quick fix. They issued specifications that bore little relation to what they actually needed." By Gerry McGovern, New Thinking, March 3, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Timeline of Art History The "Timeline of World History" is one of the most frequently consulted books in my house. I love the volume: it is a graphic representation of the world's great civilizations. In the same tradition is this site, the Timeline of Art History. This is the sort of site that fills a Sunday afternoon, transporting the reader through centuries of art and art history. Via e-Learning Centre. By Various Authors, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Undated [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Experts: Copyright Law Hurts Technology Shifting grounds and shifting public support are causing even some strong copyright proponents to reconsider their position, according to this article covering the proceedings of a copyright conference at the University of California at Berkeley. Recent rulings, such as an injunction against a company that recycles toner cartridges, have undercut support for the law. "This is a travesty," said Alex Alben, vice president for the Seattle-based firm (about the ruling). "This is not what we intended when we created the DMCA." More coverage of the conference by Dan Gillmor is available here and at MindJack is available here. By Robert Lemos, CNet, March 1, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Snow Crystals This is as cool as anything you'll see online - stunning photos of snowflakes by various photographers. By Ken Libbrecht, Cal Tech, Undated [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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