By Stephen Downes
September 15, 2003

Edu_RSS Topics
As promised, more from Edu_RSS. Today we release the Edu_RSS topics page, a set of subject-specific RSS feeds available in multiple output formats (four RSS versions, HTML, Javascript with SOAP and Atom/Echo available shortly). The idea of Edu_RSS topics is that the input from 130 or so RSS feeds is aggregated and organized according to topics. The topics are defoined using Perl regular expressions (but we are also adding SQL topic definition and will use more advanced filtering techniques in the future). Each topic is then output as a separate RSS feed, resulting in a highly filtered but comprehensive coverage of specific topic areas. Please note that this is a work in progress; there are still some glitches in the filtering mechanism, RSS 2.0 produces odd errors, other RSS feeds need proper titles, help is not yet available for SOAP, and the pages still aren't pretty. The purpose of this release is to demonstrate the idea of RSS aggregation and filtering - after all, if we can do this for RSS feeds, we can do it even more easily with learning object metadata or RSS-LOM. By Stephen Downes and Raphael Blanchard, Stephen's Web, September 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Why VoIP is Music to Kazaa's Ear
We have a not-so-quiet revolution in the making here. Voice Over IP (VoIP) services have not really taken off, partially because of bandwidth limitations and partly because of the cost. There's no real incentive to use your computer as a telephone if it's not really going to save you anything. Enter Kazaa (yes, the file-sharing company) with Skype. Essentially, Skype is free VoIP system. Yes, that's right. No more charges for makingf long distance calls. Interestingly, "Skype does not mean anything. It just sounds good, and the dot-com domain name was available." Kazaa's Janus Friis asserts, "We hope people will start saying, 'I'll Skype you' instead of "I'll call you," which means 'I'll call you without paying any rip-off per-minute charges and with superior better-than-phone quality.'" Like I said, a revolution in the making. By Ben Charney, CNet news.Com, September 11, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open-Ended Manifesto on Research and Learning
This very interesting document contains many good bits, containing especially an explicit recognition of the social dimension of learning, an idea of the complex and social function of artefacts, the importance of knowledge sharing, the role of creativity in researchj and learning ("not a representation of the research lab but rather a representation of the type of system we already find in the areas of creative businesses. Examples to look out for are the music or the film industry"), the realization that research must take place in and as part of a network, and much more. By Hans Siggaard Jensen, Learning Lab Denmark Quarterly, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Community Learning Networks Initiative
For those of you in Canada, The Office of Learning Technologies is inviting Expressions of Interest under the Community Learning Networks (CLN) initiative. CLN supports cost-shared community-based pilot projects. These projects develop and test innovative approaches that help Canadians overcome barriers to using learning technologies, help adult learners find and keep employment and support lifelong learning by using information and communications technologies. By Announcement, Office of Learning Technologies, September, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Hey (Hic)... This Merlot is Tasting Better
Following a critical post at CogDogBlog, there is movement at MERLOT on RSS and Alan Levine is moving the "bad dog" meter a bit. Be sure to follow the link to the discussion. Not that MERLOT is without doubts and hestitations. "They still seem (IMHO) overly concerned about some evil entity harvesting dynamic generated RSS (i.e. a feed from a custom search result), cracking the secret meta-data and exploiting it to offer a non-MERLOT-ian service." By Alan Levine, CogDogBlog, September 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Virtualization of University Education: Concepts, Strategies and Business Models
This paper delivers exactly what the title promises: a comprehensive outline of various concepts of virtual learning, an overview of strategies (including organizational and management strategies), and business models. It also outlines some potential issues or problem areas, and concludes with a set of general recommendations. There isn't really anything new in this paper, but it would make a nice overview for people new to the field. By Kelvin W. Willoughby, Instructional Technology Forum, September 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

WSIL meets RSS
WSIL (Web Service Inspection Language) is an XML format that describes the services offered by a website. It performs the same function as UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration of Web Services), but while UDDI is centralized, like a phone book, WSIL is decentralized, like a network of business cards. As the author says, "In many ways, WSIL is like RSS for Web services." Though not specifically designed to announce the existence of RSS feeds (it is intended to advertise web services) WSIL can be adapted for that, and this article describes the implementation. By Timothy Appnel, tima thinking outloud, September 13, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

BitPass, Shirky and The Good Idea that Refuses to Die
Detailed response to Clay Shirkey's criticism of micropayments by Scott McCloud, the author of The Right Number, an online comic sold for twenty-five cents via Bit Pass. Significantly, McCloud observes (correctly) that "Shirky’s first two examples have nothing to do with the business model of BitPass—the company he’s trying to rhetorically obliterate!" And McCloud takes on Shirkey's fame versus fortune argument: " A little fame should make you a little fortune. A lot of fame should make you a lot of fortune. And at no point should fame drive you into bankruptcy and annihilate your livelihood." All well and good, but let's look at BitPass. I find two major issues with the service. First, when offering content selections, it only offers commercial selections - and hence, free content is squeezed out of the market. And second, if you want to buy McCloud's cartoon, it's Bit Pass or nothing. I call that a monopoly, and monopolies undermine markets. By Scott McCloud, September 9, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Selling Online Content—25 Cents at a Time
Another response to Clay Shirkey's article, this one enthusiastically endorsing the inflated price of twenty-five cents per comic (try a tenth of that, or less), and like Scott McCloud's article, touting the Bit Pass payment system. By Henry Jenkins, Technology Review, September 10, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Letter to Web Services, Semantics, Semantic Web and Ontology Communities
This proposal and establishment of a working group is dedicated toward the establishment of a Universal Data Element Framework, and is designed to provide a (semi) intelligent identifier, attached in some way to a data element (perhaps as an attribute within schemas or in an RDF based reference file), that can be resolved to produce an exact identification of the data element meaning." UDEF would, in other words, provide a translation mechanism for tags used in different metadata schemes. By John Hardin, udef.builders, August 18, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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