By Stephen Downes
February 27, 2004

The Weblog as the Model for a New Type of Virtual Learning Environment?
The author of Auricle nails it. "In the weblog, however, the announcements, articles, stories are the raison d'etre' so much so that, not satisfied to present articles from one source, the weblog has the temerity, due to the adoption of the RSS standard, to receive syndicated stories from other sources and, in turn, offer it's own portfolio of articles for use by others. For example, a blog supporting a programme or module could be the vehicle by which faculty post date and time-stamped short articles relevant to the course but which also link to related, but distributed, learning resources which are presented via RSS feeds. Such feeds can be static or dynamic so that updated RSS formatted information will be reflected in whatever application is displaying it, e.g. a la Auricle's RSS Dispenser. Here then is the basis for a distributed, not centralised, information and learning object system." (My emphasis) By Derek Morrison, Auricle, February 25, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thirteen Ways To Save Orkut
Orkut is an interesting experiment in social software that is about to die as the anti-Orkut diatribes begin to mount (and rightly so). In this article, the author offers her prescription to save it. She proposes that Google not demand rights to all the content, that it allow for gradated social relations, stop promoting popularity contests (and about time - I have zero 'sexy' points), allow friends of friends to do something other than spam each other, show updates, improve nagibation (the community message boards are especially bad) and improve displays. These are useful suggestions - and yet, Orkut would still die. Orkut will still do nothing, only in a more user friendly way. Orkut - and any of these other sites - must do something beyond networking. Nobody stands around in a room and chatters about nothing, and the same holds true of an online community. By Rebecca Blood, Digital Web Magazine, February 25, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Statement of Requirements for Search Interoperability
The U.S. government is not alone is wanting to support a single search standard across government offices, but it offers everybody a helpful hand as it posts this discussion document outlining basic criteria for such a standard. Which seems like a good idea, but... rather than go through the time and expense of having every department change its search service and function to a single standard, it makes more sense to provide a single service - a 'gateway', if you will, that will accept search requests and submit them to various departments in the format they already support. This latter is (more or less) the approach that was taken by eduSource, with the result now that we can connect to repositories around the world without forcing them to comply to our standards. Oh, and people: please date your documents (as Rory would say, there have to be some standards)!!! By Eliot Christian, U.S. Federal Interagency Committee on Government Information, Unknown [Refer][Research][Reflect]

"Off-shoring" Manifesto/Rant: Sixteen Hard Truths
I disagree with only one of these points offered by Tom Peters (point number 14), and as for the rest, find myself somewhat bemused to be in concord with a business writer (who are usually far behind the trends - witness Forbes discovering RSS just this week). But what Peters offers here is a set of themes I have hit on before (plus a few extras) centered around the idea of the globalization of education, opportunity, and ultimately, wealth. I do wish to add one amendment (in addition to my outright opposition to 14): free trade works, yes, but not without social mobility. Unless people are as free to move about as goods and capitals, individual rights, freedoms and prosperity will be harmed by free trade, not improved. By Tom Peters, February 21, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

CSS Your Way to Learner Control
Good article that explains why Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) should be used to allow learners to control the appearance of web pages. Even better, it provides an example of how it works. I wish they had included something of importance to me, scalable text (I am playing with this on the Edu_RSS Listings page). I would use more CSS with OLDaily except that the controls require Javascript, which is in turn rejected by many email clients because of security flaws in Outlook. Additionally, non-compliance by a certain browser also makes coding script for CSS more of an art than it should be. If you want to learn CSS and other design tricks, my advice is to find a site like Mandarin or Webreference that will show you something new every day. By Thomas Welsh and Fred Condo, Learning Circuits, February, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Vantage Point: Free Online Scientific Journals Make Sense
Some great turns of phrase in this short article, including this: "Just as midwives can earn a living without claiming ownership or control of the babies they deliver, publishers can and should be paid a fair price by the sponsors of the research - a 'midwife's fee' - for their role in orchestrating peer-review, editing and disseminating the results. But they should not be given the baby - our baby - to own and control." By Patrick Brown, Stanford University, February 26, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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