By Stephen Downes
August 20, 2003

Bayes on RSS feeds - Unsuitable?
Seb tossed this link to me and I feel like I ought to respond. It begins with the tantalizing idea of using Bayes Theorem using some Perl modules to autocategorize blog content. Nifty idea. Could it work? Well, not according to the critics. It does not take into account the origin of the feed, it does not take into account the placement of the word, and it does not take into account the relative importance of the word (such as placement in a title). One critic writes, "If the author of the feed has already denoted the news item was 'technology', it would be wise to give this match a probability of 1 for the category 'Technology'." Well, hardly. To assume that people will categorize entities correctly is the height of wishful thinking, in my opinion. To make the Baysean approach work, what designers should do is evaluate not mere strings, but couples. I would express it like this: title~RSS (which means, roughly, title contains the string 'RSS'). If these are the elements used in the Bayesean calculations then the objections vanish. Mind you, I have just quintupled the number of elements to be considered, so there are other issues to contend with. But all of that said, I'm not ready to go Baysean just yet. My preference is a type of pattern-detection using Perl regular expressions. By Krishnan Nair Srijith, srijith.net, August 12, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Edumed News On-Line Newsletter
If you are interested in the convergence between e-learning and health (and yes, there is one, a very large one), then you may be interested in the Edumed News On-Line Newsletter at Yahoo! Groups. "Edumed News is a free on-line newsletter for news and events on distance education in medicine and health and other topics related to information technology applications in the educational area, such as Internet, telehealth and telemedicine, health informatics, etc. It is an official publication of the Edumed Institute for Education in Medicine and Health... a not-for-profit educational and research institution which operates the Brazilian Distance Education in Medicine and Health, a consortium of several institutions of higher education." By Renato M.E. Sabbatini and Silvia Helena Cardoso, Edumed Institute for Education in Medicine and Health, August 20, 2003 3:49 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Directorate E - Interfaces, Knowledge Content Technologies, Applications, Information Market
There's not a lot here other than a promise and a dream, but if you are looking for a sign pointing to the future of online learning, this is it: "Enabling ubiquitous access to personalised learning throughout life." Part of the European Sixth Framework, this site should fill out substantially over the next few years. By various Authors, August, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blogs Canada
This is definitely not the Government of Canada. But it is pretty funny in design, and if they can extend their reach beyond the LiveJournal universe, potentially useful as well. Blogs Canada is a large (though obviously partial) list of Canadian blogs, presented in a format remarkably similar to the Government of Canada home pages. I hope the good people at the GoC website can show the good humour and restraint needed to let this site be. By Unknown, August, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

W3C Issues Web Ontology Language Candidate Recommendations
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has officially filed OWL, its Web Ontology Language, as a "Candidate for Recommendation". Ontologies are used to define the meanings of terms used in metadata schemas. "Essentially, an ontology is the definition of a set of terms and how they relate to each other for a particular domain." By Press Release, W3C, August 19, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Microsoft to Lock Down MSN Messenger Network
Expect many disgruntled users as Microsoft moves to "lock down" its instant messenging software, citing "security issues" with third party software. The people most afftected will be those who use products such as Trillian, Imici and Odigo in order to communicate with other instant messaging clients such as ICQ, AOL and Yahoo. The spammers and hackers, on the other hand, having only Microsoft's vaunted security to overcome, are not likely to be even slowed by the change. By Joris Evers, InfoWorld, August 19, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Smarter Toys, Smarter Tots?
Forget online learning: this is where the big money is. "Parents spend $2.8 billion per year on educational toys for infants and preschoolers," according to this article (probably citing U.S.-only figures). But the gist of this story is that these toys will not deliver the educational improvement their marketers promise. "The boom," writes the author, "is based more on wishful thinking than hard evidence." Well maybe, but this article doesn't provide the hard evidence to prove it. Relying mostly on arguments from Ranny Levy, president and founder of KIDS FIRST!, the article stresses that online media, such as classical media CDs, cannot replace personal attention, because "Babies learn through multiple senses being rewarded simultaneously." Well, quite so, and it's true that an attentive person can provide such stimulation, but it doesn't follow that only a person can provide such stimulation. The author overlooks this little logical faux pas and descends into caricature. "Flashcards for an infant?" Yeah, right. Bad journalist, bad. By G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Christian Science Monitor, August 20, 2003 1:33 p.m. [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Fair Use Under Fire
The opening paragraph gets right to the heart of the problem. "A library customer checks out a new DVD from the library only to discover that it won't play on her Linux operating system at home. Another, who is blind, borrows an e-book from the library and finds that his text-to-voice software cannot "read" the product. Yet another user checks out a new music CD but can't get it to play on his laptop. These activities are absolutely legal, but technologies installed within equipment, tied to content, or built into a software program, make them no longer possible. This is digital rights management (DRM) in action." The remainder of the article contains discussion of this and other issues, but can give us nothing more hopeful than the vague promise that "the process is underway." By Carrie Russell, Library Journal, August 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RSSlets - Functional RSS Feeds
Via Scott Leslie comes this nifty link to RSSlets, a set of useful RSS feeds designed to grab dynamic data. This is where the real power of RSS shines (and imagine having dynamic data feeds embedded in your course). The RSSlets gather information on FedEx parcel shipments, logfiles, Google searches, comics and more. By abursey, Eightlinks, July 22, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Learning Molecules White Paper
The concept of the learning molecule is interesting, though not really revolutionary. The metaphor of the molecule, of course, has been used in many previous papers. An object-oriented approach, reusable templates - these also are in wide use around the world. One wonders, then, after reading this White Paper, just what it is that Ulises Ali Mejias at eCornell thinks he is patenting. By Ulises Ali Mejias, ideant, August 8, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2003 Stephen Downes
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