By Stephen Downes
November 17, 2003

Weblog Spam
I have tried to convince bloggers that push-style APIs (such as ping, trackback, and the like) are the wrong way to go, without much success. Some early spam seemed to vindicate me, but then came the anti-spam manifesto and a new blacklist. Round one for the bloggers, right? No. I agree wholeheartedly with Mark Pilgrim: "No offense to Jay or all the people who have contributed to the list so far, but how quaint! I mean really. Savor this moment, folks. You can tell your children stories of how, back in the early days of weblogging, you could print out the entire spam blacklist on a single sheet of paper. Maybe with two or three columns and a smallish font, but still. Boy, those were the days. And they wonít last. They absolutely wonít last." There's a simple logic here, one which the blog technologists ignored: you have to choose your content. That's why blogs were (are) so great: you could subscribe to a blog and get the great content without the garbage. But as soon as you let in the unsolicited content, spam arrives. As Pilgrim says, "Itís all been done. Itís all been done before, and it was completely all-consuming, and it still didnít work." By Mark Pilgrim, Dive Into Mark, November 15, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Cornell and Other University Libraries to Cancel Elsevier Titles
More on the cancellation of subscriptions to Elsevier journals as purchasers react to increasing prices and an unresponsive publisher. Consider this comment out of Harvard. "Under Elsevier's current pricing, the cost of online access steeply increases in response to any cancellations at all; thus we will have to cancel a significant number of titles in order to achieve any cost reductions. By changing our own buying practices, we also hope that we can influence the dynamics of the way that online journals are being sold." By Paula J. Hane, Information Today, November 17, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

We Are the Problem: We Are Selling Snake Oil
Well. "Training does not work. eLearning does not work. Blending Learning does not work. Knowledge Management does not work. Yet we collectively reify our denial and project the root of the problem out to an external institutional framework. We are the source of the problem because we are selling snake oil. It doesnít work but there is still plenty of money in it." So begins this wonderful rant on the Learning Circuits blog by Sam Adkins, who then backs up his comments. Some good comments follow. And yet... it's not all snake oil, is it? This isn't snake oil, is it? By Sam Adkins, Learning Circuits Blog, November 16, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Congratulations to the EDUCAUSE Review for coming out with an HTML version alongside the usual PDF! As I am in a hotel room in Dartmouth (Nova Scotia) today, the fast load was really appreciated. It looks great in Firebird, too. By Various Authors, November, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Muscles, Aches, and Pains of Open Source
People often talk about the dangers of depending on open source. This article begins by describing the risks a university takes with commercial software - "We are watching our providers fail, merge, and be acquired... Microsoft challenges us in other ways. We struggle with its licensing offerings. We struggle with the security of its applications." Fair enough, but how does a university participate in the development of open source applications, which typically involves sharing with other institutions? " Maintenance and support have neither the glamour nor the defined end points. They're not as much fun, and they last forever." Who will, asks the author, "furnish the muscles, the aches, and the pains?" By Annie Stunden, EDUCAUSE Review, November, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Copyright: What Makes a Use "Fair"?
Short but quality discussion of the concept of "fair use" as it has developed under law and jurisprudence in the U.S. keying on the four major characters: whether the use was commercial or not, whether the work was fact-based or fanciful, how much of the original work was used, and whether there a significant change to the original. By June M. Besek, EDUCAUSE Review, November, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Privacilla Criticizes Anti-Commercial Screed Against RFID Tags
Don't they realize, that when you start attacking critics of a technology as 'scare-mongers' that most people (including me) conclude that maybe there is something to worry about? After all, when the personal attacks start, it's because the reasoned defense has in some way failed (it's kind of like those radio broadcasts that begin, "Do not be alarmed. The government is in complete control."). So pencil me into the ranks of the 'scare-mongers' regarding RFID tags, those little transmitters inserted into clothing and other goods. Consider: "Under any scenario, there just isn't going to be post-sale data-collection about the movement of canned peaches." Oh no? Then how will they track down the contaminated cans? I am happy to be indifferent about RFID, but not until their defenders tell us the real story. By Press Release, Privacilla, November 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

'Dodgy-dossier Syndrome' Rife in the Workplace
I'm of two minds when it comes to citing sources. On the one hand, I think it's often useless - I once saw an academic paper provide a reference for the observation that the internet is growing. And it's often overdone, more akin to name-dropping than serious discourse. On the other hand, as this article emphasizes, it's important to track sources for important information or examples, so that otjer people can judge the original for themselves and avoid what in this article is 'dodgy research'. I have different standards of references for different works, but generally, if I depend on an external source to make a point, I cite it, and if I'm simply restating something that could stand on its own or is a metter of opinion, I don't. By Matt Loney, ZD Net UK, November 14, 2003 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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