By Stephen Downes
January 5, 2005

Can Many Agents Answer Questions Better Than One?
James Surowiecki, in The Wisdom of Crowds, proposes that a group of people answering a question emsemble can produce a better answer than an expert answering a question on his or her own. This could be a quirk of people, but the theory says it shouldn't be. Enter this paper, in which the author (without reference to Surowiecki) asks whether a group of computer agents can answer a natural language question better than a single agent. The answer is yes, because different agents operate in different domains and may therefore offer appropriate answers in cases where the domain is ambiguous. By Boris Galitsky, First Monday, January 3, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Blogging from the Bottom: A Cautionary Tale
The most recent edition of Lore, a journal for teachers of writing, is online and features a section on blogging in education consisting of a baker's dozen short articles. Consisting of first person reflections of the blogging experience, the quality is, um, spotty. But there are nuggets that make the list worth reading, such as this bit from Eric Mason: "Blogging has allowed me a degree of control over my professional persona and has put me in touch with colleagues with whom I can discuss disciplinary issues." Will Richardson offers a time-saving list of the last few sentences from each essay. Alan Levine picks out some worthwhile quotes. By Various Authors, Lore, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Content and Access for Digital Scholarship
Not sure how long this has been available, but it just passed before my eyes on a mailing list and was well worth the look (and somewhat lengthy download). This long, detailed and image-rich powerpoint presentation is mostly a discussion of the Open Archives Initiative (though other services, such as Cite-Seer, are also mentioned). It provides a detailed look at the purpose of OAI, OAI search requests and data formats, available software and online archives. By Gerry McKiernan, WiLSWorld Conference 2004, July 27, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Putting Context Into Context
According to the author, design requires an understanding of context, and context has to do with more than just information about the current user and the current interface: the user may use the same tool in different situations, creating different contexts. For example, the user will have different goals at different times, be playing a different role, have different background resources and information, be in a different physical environment, and more. The article suggests that designers should anticipate these different contexts and design for them. By Jared M. Spool, User Interface Engineering, January 4, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Six Apart to buy Live Journal
A seismic event in the blogsphere, Six Apart - the company that produces Moveable Type, a popular blogging software, is about to acquire Live Journal (at least according to this report), one of the largest blog hosting companies in the world with about 6.5 million users. Pundits will talk about the user base - but what I look at are the features unique to Live Journal, and specifically, the social networking aspect to the site that is quite unlike Blogger or any other such service. By Om Malik, Om Malik on Broadband, January 4, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2005 Stephen Downes
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