By Stephen Downes
December 7, 2004

A Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research
I'm not really a big fan of taxonomies - their main use seems to be to give professors something to name after themselves. A taxonomy - being an organization of entities by keying on particular properties - is always relative to a use (and one would hope - but not always find - the properties relevant to the use). The only use identified for this particular taxonomy is that it is "useful to researchers who seek to pursue programmatic research and theoretical advancement from a variety of disciplinary areas," and is is so by virtue of being simple and universally applicable (or so says the author). It would help researchers form research questions. But (in my mind) not very good ones - we could ask, 'Does a member initiated or commercially sponsored community better foster collaboration?' And maybe even get an answer. But does being member initiated (say) cause collaboration? What would it be to even ask the question? Either the answer is contained in the taxonomy, or the taxonomy is meaningless to the research. Either way, there doesn't seem to be much point. Via Distance-Educator.com. By Constance Elise Porter, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , November, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Semantic Web, Digital Identity, and Internet Governance
Some observations on digital identity. I agree with this bit: "having spent more hours than I care to admit poring over specs and architecture diagrams from the Passport, Shibboleth, Liberty, and WS-Federation projects, I suspect (as does Doc Searls) that some other identity standard will prevail." But what? SxIP? Identity Commons? That we would have to choose one of these indicates a flaw. That we would have to pay money to have an identity indicates another. I've thought about this too. And it seems to me that, in the end, I will need to have something of mine (that I control, that only I can use) that vouches for my identity. If I have to depend on some central server - well, that's not the answer. because Jon Udell is right - if it has to be governed, we haven't done it right. By Jon Udell, Jon Udell's Weblog, December 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Thunderbird 1.0 is a go - which means I can upgrade now from Thunderbird 0.3, which I've been using for the last year or so (Thunderbird is the Mozilla-based email client - just like Outlook (but without the calendar - that's Sunbird - still in development), except it won't leak viruses or send spam to all your friends). By Various Authors, December 7, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Some people call it intuition. Some people call it making a snap judgement. Whatever it's called, it seems clear that the human mind has the capacity to reach correct decisions quickly on the basis of very little information. Well - decision, at any rate. Not always correct; it depends on the circumstances. The thing is, the same capacity that makes people suspicious of me because of my long hair is what lets doctors diagnose heart attacks on the spin of a dime. Anyhow, this item is a preview of a book about that phenomenon. I don't typically do book previews (so please don't start asking), but I liked the write-up. Via elearningpost. By Malcolm Gladwell, December 5, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

College Board Wants SAT Statistics Taken Off Web Site
Fair use or copyright violation? A group critical of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has posted results showing that minority and poor applicants scored lower than white and upper-class kids. The College Board, which owns the SAT, is demanding that the information be removed from the FairTest website, arguing that it violates copyright. The College Board should either create better tests, live with the criticism, or get out of the game; misusing copyright to squelch criticism isn't fair ball. Via University Business. Another report from the New York Times. By Ken Maguire, Associated Press, December 5, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

College Libraries: the Long Goodbye
Whatever replaces the library must be some kind of library, and that whatever replaces the book must be some kind of book. So it seems after reading this article, one in which the writer, a lover of libraries, comes to grips with the decline of the library (and appears to have moved into Stage Seven: Acceptance). But of course there's no reason to expet that online knowledge of the future will resemble the book and the library. But not everybody's ready for that yet. By Dennis Dillon, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 10, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Contrarian Finding: Computers are a Drag on Learning
Short article describing the Woessmann and Fuchs report on the impact of computers in learning. Some good bits:a reference to a school that doesn't use computers until grade 11, an unrelated comment by Todd Oppenheimer, and a zinger by Chris Dede: "Can you imagine what would happen if you had the same in business, asking if computers were interfering with performance? It would be a big joke." By G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Christian Science Monitor, December 6, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blogs, Tomorrow's Learning, and Why I Blog
Nice post that puts some pieces together, linking some motivtions for blogging with the idea of self directed learning with an observation on the range of learning available online, from the playfulness of Slashdot to the dedicated seriousness of an MIT course. The author writes, "What we each need to learn is idiosyncratic. The trappings of formal learning environments need to be approached with extreme caution. Learning needs to get back to play to succeed." By Jim McGee, McGee's Musings, December 6, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2004 Stephen Downes
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