By Stephen Downes
February 3, 2004

Microsoft Balances Patents, Standards
This is the sort of issue faced every day by companies and organizations working with things like XML - should their work be patented and protected, or not. The article makes much of Microsoft's flirtation with anti-trust laws, auggesting that the use of patents to lock out competitors would be viewed unfavorably by the judiciary. But I doubt that this bothers the company. A more significant line is between protection and adoption: standards are useful only if people use them, and if standards are proprietary then people are less likely to use them. From my side of the fence (ie., not being part of Microsoft) the same question is posed differently: does it make sense to develop for such and such a standard, or will Microsoft ruin it for everyone? This is complicated by the shell game that surrounds the adoption of standards by international bodies, the promotion of a standard as 'open' when in fact applications of the standard require royalties, and more. And, of course, it's not only Microsoft playing this game: just as SCO is trying to pull out the rug from under Linux users and Sun walks the same fine line with its ownership of Java, no doubt many more surprises lie ahead. By David Becker, CNet News.Com, February 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ClassTalk Puts Damper on Classroom Noise
Interesting bit of software that will allow classroom designers to adjust the accoustics of a classroom so that the instructor's voice is optimally heard, even above the din, and hence saved for years of hoarse-free lecturing. By Jack Kapica, Globe and Mail, February 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Very Black 'Little Black Books'
The intent of this short article is to sound a cautionary note about social networking services, and the author presses all the hot buttons: "Anyone can be subjected to the interest of a stalker" and "people everywhere are under the twin clouds of terrorism and dangerously powerful and unregulated national security and law enforcement agencies." And, in looking specifically at Plaxo, which advises stupid people to upload their entire address book, the worst case scenario is described. Part of his concern is well founded: despite what the websites may say, nothing hinders these services from sharing personal information with companies, governments, and your neighbour's dog. And in addition, providing your own personal information (not to mention someone else's) is something that should be undertaken with caution. But let's not overstate this: true, you may be found in some countries to be a suspected "terrorist sympathizer" because you once exchanged email addresses, but this is not the fault of social networking services, and reasonable people cannot be expected to live in fear of being tarred through 'guilt by association' - or to tolerate a legal system in which this has become the norm. By Roger Clarke, February 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Raimundas -- Journalisms -- Sharing and linking
"I wish I owned such a device that would monitor the more mobile times in my life: take the picture, author the writing and beam it up to some public platform. But no, I still have to hassle. Weblogging is a mess." Interesting. As Roland says, read the whole thing, even though its conversational format does ramble a bit. What you are getting here is not just content, but the feel of an online conversation. Don't just look and the content and the words here. Feel is important. That's why those that simply write about the web, without actually living it, so badly miss the implications of the new technology. By Raimundas Malasauskas, 16beaver Journalisms, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Universities Speed Up Open-Source Plans
The financial and security arguments are, in my view, overwhelming, and so it is no surprise to read that university IT departments are moving toward implementing open source solutions. With the Linux desktop close (but not quite ready) a major transition to open source applications for individual users could be only a year or two away. By Caron Carlson, eWeek, February 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Athens: Managing Access to E-resources
As the article says, "Athens is fundamentally, a repository of organisations, usernames and passwords that protects online content, with secure single username access to a variety of electronic resources." No privacy with this system, I guess. By Fionnuala Cassidy, ScotFEICT, February 3, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Response to Science and Technology Committee
This text of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers's written testimony to a British House of Commons Committee allows that open access journals may exist and be treated equally with respect to Research Assessment Exercise and other selection exercises, but plays down the impact of rising journal prices, noting that the number of articles per journal has increased. Most interesting is the comment that journals compete for authors, not readers. Also worth noting is the submission's unsunstantiated assertion that the authors of unrefereed preprints may be legally liable for damages caused by any errors or omissions, a responsibility that does not seem to extend to their paid counterparts. PDF file. By Various Authors, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, February 2, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Iridescent Software Illuminates Research Data
Article describing software that helps "scientists easily identify obscure commonalities in research data and directly relate them to their own work, saving money and speeding the process of discovery." As Peter Suber comments, "Like other intelligent text analysis software, Iridescent applies first and best to the ocean of free data on the public internet. In this case, Iridescent is optimized for reading Medline abstracts." I think this is a good point, and I think that software like this is the way of the future. But data locked behind subscription walls will not be found using such tools. By Mike Martin, NewsFactor, January 27, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Digital Learning Commons: Libraries in the 21st Century
Because it plays the rol of the intermediary, the library faces unique pressures in the information age, an era of disintermediation. This article, though, depicts a rosy future for the library as a 'digital commons'. "Libraries are in the midst of shifting from 'an in-person environment--library as place--to a hybrid--library as function.'" By Unknown, The Sophist, January, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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