By Stephen Downes
January 24, 2005

In Praise of Simpler Standards?
Such a pleasure that Scott Wilson has joined the blogosphere, and we're still in the heady first few days of his blog where every topic is new (it gets harder in the second year, when you realize you made the same point before, somewhere). In this item, Wilson outlines other values he thinks are important in specifications work are: utility, precision, free, open and clarity. He then looks - critically - at how e-learning specifications stack up. Personally, I think that the e-learning specifications will have to be rewritten. This column is a good example of some of the reasons why: scope-creep, excessive "what if?" analysis, and premature optimisation. Bonus Wilson: why Sakai isn't ready for prime time. By Scott Wilson, Scott's Workblog, January 21, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Open Source Enterprise Weblogging
Derek Morrison explores the mysteries of WordPress MU installation, and that he is up to part three suggests that there are mysteries aplenty. WordPress is an open source blogging application; the 'MU' stands for 'Multi User' and allows an enterprise - such as a university - to allow multiple users to create blogs. Part one, part two (which details the mysteries of installation), part three. By Derek Morrison, Auricle, January 20, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

IMS Publishes Service Oriented Architecture Whitepaper
Wilbert Kraan summarizes this paper, which was presented at Alt-i-Lab last summer, and has just been published by IMS. The topic of the paper is software services, that is, mechanisms for application programs to interact with each other. The authors describe a framework of consumer oriented services (that is, services described from the point of view of the consuming application), which may be software-specific (think of a Firefox plug-in, for example) and provider oriented services, which are software-neutral (think of a web page, for example - these examples are mine, and are not in the summary or the paper)). The E-Learning Framework, writes Kraan, is built very much on the same principles as those outlined in the paper. Well that's true, but so is the World Wide Web - but we didn't try to draft the entire WWW framework before trying it out, we created it iteratively, adapting as our user base and our knowledge increased. By Wilbert Kraan, CETIS, January 24, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Putting It All Together: Identity Management on Your Campu
Notes from what appears to be a conference session on the management of student identities on the university computer system. Big problem number one: all the good identities (user names that match the person's name, for example) are gone. Some discussion of authentication and identity management systems (IdMS). This item is worth a quick read, but it should be a blog post somewhere, not a PDF stored in an institutional repository. The EDUCAUSE abstract is still written in future tense, which is a bit funny. By Thomas J. Barton, A. Michael Berman, Amy K. Brooks and Bret L. Ingerman, EDUCAUSE Resources, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Free Software Magazine
Short article announcing the launch of Free Software Magazine. As the article notes, the idea of the magazine is to make the ideas behind free and open source software accessible to readers. By cel4145, Kairosnews, January 24, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Access to Knowledge (a2k) Treaty
WIPO is considering a possible treaty on Access to Knowledge as part of the development agenda (Summary) at a conference being held February 3-4 in Geneva. Some suggestions are posted on an A2k-specific mailing list. The proposal, submitted by Brazil and Argentina, states, "A vision that promotes the absolute benefits of intellectual property protection without acknowledging public policy concerns undermines the very credibility of the IP system." I think this is an important point, and despite the scant evidence that WIPO has taken these concerns into account in the past, I remain hopeful that future negotiations will put access on the agenda. Much more reading. Provisions such as Peter Suber's would go a long way toward ensuring access to scholarship. Most of the library associations' proposal is also worth supporting. By James Love, ip-Health, November 24, 2004 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Users Confuse Search Results, Ads
According to the article (which cites, but doesn't link to, this this Pew report), "Only one in six users of internet search engines can tell the difference between unbiased search results and paid advertisements," even though the paid results are clearly marked as such. People say that reading is a basic skill, and I suppose it is, but until a person has mastered the basics of media literacy (such as distinguishing between advertisements and search results) they cannot be said to have a basic education. But what happens when those who benefit from the gullibility of readers are those who have a major say in education policy? More. By Associated Press, Wired News, January 23, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

From their email: "The elearningeuropa.info portal has changed its look and structure. The aim of these changes is to provide a new navigational structure making it easier to find content and enhancing the possibilities of participation. The process of reconstructing the portal is taking place gradually. New sections and functions will be added over the coming months." No RSS feed. By Press Release, ElearningEuropa, January 24, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Numbed by the Numbers, When They Just Don't Add Up
Not really a column about online learning, but the lessons in this article ought to inform anyone with an interest in media or public policy. Without context, numbers lose their meaning, and often, the reader must supply the context. For example: "When Harvard announced that it was allocating $2 million more to financial aid for poor students, bringing the total to $82 million a year, was it really being generous? Well, in 2004, $82 million was about six days' income from the Harvard endowment, and the heralded $2 million increase that prompted this fairly prominent article was the equivalent of what the endowment earned every 3 hours and 36 minutes." By Daniel Okrent, New York Times, January 23, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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