By Stephen Downes
May 15, 2003

Secret Standards Business?
Some great links from last week's EDUCAUSE Australia, thanks to the good people from The Networker. More tomorrow. In this first item: many have thought this, but few have come right out and said it. The standards building process sometimes resembles a secret society, with its own (canonical) vocabularity, meetings in exotic places, and a special handshake. Good for Jon Mason to take on this perception directly and talk about what would be needed to lay it to rest. First, the positives: despite the wreckage (and yes, there is wreckage) and the hype (yes, there is hype), the need for e-learning exists. And just so, because of the benefits they offer, the need for standards continues to exist. Standards aren't intended to control people urges Mason, they are intended to help people cooperate and interact. But though there is a well defined process for the establishment of standards (insert the usual diagrams here), there is also a need for a community of practice to inform and guide the standards building practice. Mason writes, "Like anything else, the activities associated with standardisation of e-learning technologies would be better informed from wider stakeholder buy-in but this remains a key challenge. In other words, transforming this activity from a commonly perceived 'secret standards business' toward open academic debate and engagement would deliver benefit to all concerned." PDF format. By Jon Mason, EDUCAUSE 03, May 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

An Expeditionary Approach to E-Knowledge
A forward looking presentation arguing that "software systems that enable e-learning, knowledge management, and performance support will merge their capabilities. The resulting e-knowledge capabilities will enable a fresh set of 'killer apps' involving the sharing of e-knowledge." I think that's true, and I think they're a lot closer than many people think. But once again, let me remind the reader that the innovation that accomplishes this revolution will be small, simple and massively distributed, and manifestly not some new type of enterprise software. I like the "Nouns - Verbs - Context" diagram in this paper, though I still see the progression as more akin to moving from syntax to semantics to (two types of) pragmatics. PDF format. By Jon Mason, Don Norris and Paul Lefrere, EDUCAUSE 03, May 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Education Network Australia: Discover, Communicate, Collaborate!
History and description of Education Network Australia (EdNA), the major educational metadata standards body Down Under. Future work for EdNA includes plans to "establish and extend online knowledge networks, by stimulating the growth of online learning communities through setting up and maintaining hubs, networks and partnerships." Worth noting in this plan (and I wonder how some EDUCAUSE delegates reacted) was a committment by EdNA was a committment to open source and a distributed resource discovery system ("a single EdNA search will be capable of simultaneously accessing the EdNA metadata repository, harvested repositories and any number of searchable external repositories"). I am looking forward to the day when DLORN can harvest EdNA metadata. By Gerry White, British Council Meeting, February, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Transformed Academy
Pretty good slide show (though it starts slowly with a few hackneyed cliches ('Technology is the tool, not the...')) outlining four major areas of change faced by universities: mission and markets, organizational structure, leadership, and assessment. This is a presentation aimed at (and in the language of) university executives. Things that stood out: the need for collaboration, and the emphasis on predictive, not merely descriptive, models for needs assessments. Big PowerPoint file with many pictures. By Brian L. Hawkins, EduCause 03, May 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Integrating Content Management With Digital Rights Management
In a report sponsored by ContentGuard, the authors discuss the use of digital rights in content management systems. Some good diagrams illustrate fairly clearly the mechanisms involved. No mention of Open Digital Rights Language (ODRL), the major competitor to ContentGuard's XrML. The document spends a lot of time talking not merely about the sale of online content, but also the exchange of proprietary documents within an organization (which is also the marketing Microsoft used to promote its Rights Management Server, mentioned here a few months ago (click '[Research]', select 'Digital Rights Management' and you'll find the article from February in the resulting search)). As I was reading this item I found myself wondering whether the mechanism used to protect corporate secrets ought to be the same as that used to protect a content vendor's copyright. It really does seem like overkill. PDF (which wouldn't let me cut and paste, claiming that my computer is out of memory). By Bill Rosenblatt and Gail Dykstra, Media Technology Strategies, May 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Wireless Fidelity
Interesting discussion that ponders the concept of a wire-free connection from coast to coast by dairy-chaining wireless nodes. Some good explanations of the different types of wireless networks. This whole scheme reminds me of the days of Fido-net, when bulletin board service (BBS) operators accomplished much the same thing in pre- public internet days. By Tim Swanson, May 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

SCO warns businesses over Linux liabilities
SCO, which said that it would not go after Linux users when it sued IBM, has gone after Linux users, sending letters to 1,500 corporations warning that their use of the open source software may result in financial liability because of patents. Critics say that SCO - which has now stopped distributing its version of Linux - has essentially declared war on the Linux community. Others suggest that SCO - which didn't actually invent anything, acquiring its rights (if any) via purchases - is simply trying to make itself an attractive take-over target. Yeah. Like Iraq. By Stephen Shankland, ZD Net, May 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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