By Stephen Downes
January 19, 2005

Preventing Comment Spam
It's official. As I suggested yesterday, the 'nofollow' tag has been endorsed, not only by Google, but also by Yahoo and MSN search, along with a host of blogging software companies (listed in this article). The discussion lists expressed in general scepticism about the possible reduction in comment spam, but enthusiastic about the way a new standard was created through this sort of community consensus. By Various Authors, Google, January 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Picasa 2.0
Google is giving away for free a photo album application called Picasa. "Picasa is software that helps you instantly find, edit and share all the pictures on your PC." It's such a good idea, and as Steve Yelvington points out, it "could promote broad use of standards developed by the newspaper industry and have a profound effect on the searchability of images on the Web." By Various Authors, Google, January 19, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

President Discusses No Child Left Behind and High School Initiatives
George Bush outlines, in very broad strokes, educational policy for the new administration (which resembles that of his previous term, not surprisingly). The speech stresses two major points: raising the bar for achievement, and requiring that schools demonstrates results in return for federal funding. Without discussing the merits of the policy, let me stress the urgency of education for the United States by citing this report, Mapping the Future, from the CIA: "The number of US engineering graduates peaked in 1985 and is presently down 20 percent from that level; the percentage of US undergraduates taking engineering is the second lowest of all developed countries." By Press Release, Office of the Press Secretary, January 12, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

ContentGuard Talks DRM Futures
The Register cuts and pastes an article from Faultline and comes up with a one-sided puff piece that describes the history of ContentGuard's attempt to monopolize digital rights expression, fails to even mention ODRL by name, and doesn't ask what happens to open source when royalties are applied to the use of DRM. By Faultline, The Register, January 19, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RSS 1.1: RDF Site Summary
The new proposal is published and open for discussion. "RSS 1.1 is a content syndication format intended to update and replace the popular RSS 1.0. It is an application of the W3C's RDF and XML languages. It has better internationalization support, utilizes more up-to-date facilities of its constituent languages than RSS 1.0, and fixes a number of other issues with the RSS 1.0 specification. RSS 1.1 is as extensible as RSS 1.0 and can even make use of its extension modules." By Various Authors, January 18, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Are Extensible Programming Languages Coming?
The reaction on the oXML list (where I heard about it) to this Slashdot article was brusk, but then again, Slashdot folk haven't taken kindly to the proposal, either. But I think there's something to it: a programming language written in XML that can be accessed through intuitive interfaces corresponding to your favorite source code editor. As Wilson writes, "next-generation programming systems will store source code as XML, rather than as flat text. Programmers will not see or edit XML tags; instead, their editors will render these models to create human-friendly views, just as web browsers render HTML." By Michael, Slashdot, January 18, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Skypecasting in EFL
Skype, as many of you know, is a free internet voice chat service (aka an internet telephone - and for a fee, you can call a regular telephone). With the recent advent of podcasting, attention has turned to the idea of recording Skype conversations. It can be done using Windows XP and $40 worth of software, as this article described (one day, I'm sure, it will be possible to record calls with the push of a button). Mac users, don't despair. You can follow these instructions and Teach Four Two. If you are wondering - yes, you can Skype me or add me to your contact list. My Skype ID is Downes. By Aaron Campbell, under the influence of epoche, January 12, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Smithsonian Global Sound Collection to Libraries Worldwide
You won't find this in your CD store, a collection of more than 30,000 tracks containing "animal sounds, beer-drinking at an African homestead, calypso, classical violin instruction, drama, poetry, sounds of the deep ocean, the office, the ionosphere, a frog being eaten by a snake and great performances of traditional music from virtually everywhere in the world." It is the Smithsonian Global Sound and it is being published online to be made available to libraries throughout the world. This will probably be a subscription service; it is using the same software as the Alexander Street Classical Music Library. Via Peter Scott's Library Blog. By Press Release, Alexander Street Press, January 14, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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Copyright 2005 Stephen Downes
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