By Stephen Downes
January 17, 2005

Pmachine-pro for Free
As James Farmer notes, "PmachinePro (a type of blogging software) has been discontinued in favour of ExpressionEngine which means itís now free! So for some pretty funky features this might be worth a look!" PMachinePro is written in PHP, making it a fairly easy install (and easy for programmers to customize). By James Farmer, Incorporated Subversion, January 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Patents, Open Standards and Open Source
There are some serious disputes over software patents and open standards, and Wilbert Kraan nails the point of contention exactly: "The anti versus pro software patent debate also has major consequences for the process of setting interoperability standards. Inclusion of someone's known patent in a standard immediately locks the open source competition out of that market, and often discriminates against smaller commercial software houses and newcomers." By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, January 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Media Lab Europe to Close
"The move comes after reports of financial difficulty for the institution, which relied on government support and private investment to keep afloat. At one time, it was hoped that the lab would be able to become self-sustaining, with revenue coming from patents, licenses and continual private sector support." Via Mark Oehlert. By Matthew Clark, ElectricNews.net, January 14, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Technorati Launches Tags
There has been a lot of buzz in the last few days about Technorati Tags. Alan Levine offers a summary. More. More. Drawing on similar concepts used by Flickr and del.icio.us, the idea is that you create what amounts to a hidden link in a blog post to point to a Technorati topic: the topics, in turn, are created by users, a type of Folksonomy (if these names and terms are mysteries to you, click on the [Research] link to find more information - my own version of Tags, which I've been using for several years. Ross Mayfield compares tags to wikis and suggests that they represent a form of emergent intelligence.

Tags aren't the answer, though. As Dave Winer asks, why should tags point to Technorati? Why should they point to a service you have to ping before being harvested (Technorati reports that OLDaily hasn't been updated for 469 days). How long will it be before people begin misrepresenting their content using tags? Not long. But even if all this works, take a look at this tag index - the popular tags are uselessly general, while useful tags will never be displayed in such an index. And it 's just not worth the effort (the proof of which is this article, which while it waxes enthusiastic about tags, informs us that dc:creator="self"). Now I believe in folksonomy, the wisdom of crowds, and emergent intelligence - network phenomena generally. What I don't believe in are tags - or more accurately, I believe the tag is in the text and the text gets harvested. By David Sifry, Sifry's Alerts, January 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The rumour floating through the either is that Google are soon to announce that they won't be calculating PageRank for links with a rel="nofollow" attribute. The idea would be that all links in comments would have this attribute, thus reducing the incentive to spam the lists. By Simon Willison, Simon Willison's Weblog, January 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open-Source Biology Evolves
According to the article, "an Australian organization advocating an open-source approach to biology hopes to free up biological data without violating intellectual property rights." The model is very similar to open source software: biologists don't give up the rights to their creations, but they also make them available for anyone else to use, provided that whatever is created is released under the same terms. By David Cohn, Wired News, January 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Redland RDF Language Bindings
This has been around for a while, though the Perl implementation appears to be only a couple of months old. Redland is a set of free software packages that provide support for the Resource Description Framework (RDF). It's written in C, but there are bindings to Perl, Python, PHP and more. If you play around with the RDF query demonstration for a bit, you'll get a feel for how it works: there are sample queries using RSS, Learning Object Metadata (LOM), Dubmin Core, and FOAF. The library is free and open source software released under the LGPL (GPL) or Apache 2.0 licenses. The library is used in a large number of projects, many of which I've already looked at enviously. Via Cecelia Hickel in RSS-DEV. By Dave Beckett, University of Bristol, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Scott's Workblog
CETIS's Scott Wilson has launched a blog, a welcome addition to the online learning blog community and sure to be added to many reading lists. His first post, addressing the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) of the future, aligns brilliantl with the picture I have been painting in these pages: "I think the VLE of the future is going to be less like an information portal, and more like an aggregator." He continues, "as well as coordinating with offerings from learning providers in the traditional sense, the VLE of the future will connect very strongly with informal activities that inform learning, integrating with applications like 43Things, LiveJournal, and del.icio.us." Great stuff; I look forward to many more posts. His RSS is here and he also includes a FOAF (pay attention to these; we'll be reading much more about them this year). By Scott Wilson, January 17, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Shoeless and Bark Online Project Blog
Jennifer Wagner wrote in EdTech today, "I have never yet had a blog which was not compromised by someone posting inappropriate and harmful information which then becomes available to my students and participants." I know how that feels; I cleaned out more detritus from my own website this weekend. What Wagner does instead is to use a phpbb bullentin board system instead. So technically it isn't a blog - but maybe blogging is more about attitude. It does illustrate that you don't have to use blogging software to get the same effect, and if protection is more important, something like phpbb may be the way to go. By Jennifer Wagner, January 17, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RIT press to be on-demand
Rochester Institute of Technology's Cary Graphic Arts Press has signed a deal with Lulu.com to print the Institute's publication on an on-demand basis rather than as a standard press run. The plan eliminates the risk inherent with academic publishing: returns of unpurchased stock. Each copy is printed as it is ordered and "We can make a profit off of one book." According to Lulu.com's Stephen Fraser, who sent the link, this may be the first North American institution to adapt the on-demand printing model, though as he notes, other institutions have explored the idea. By David Tyler, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, January 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

The Music of Titan
To wrap up the day's links on a lighter note, this is the world's first piece of music recorded using sounds from Saturn's moon (it also holds the record for the piece of music with the most distantly separated sound sources). Direct link to the MP3 of the Music of Titan. By Stephen Downes, NewsTrolls, January 15, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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