By Stephen Downes
March 1, 2005

Using RSS Enclosures in Schools
The key sentence is the next to last: "Drill this all down a bit and you could see the potential in terms of individualizing content through individualized feeds. James is running down that path too." Make sure you follow the link. By Will Richardson, Weblogg-Ed, March 1, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

RAND Worldwide Launches SOLO Learning Tool
From the press release: "Rand A Technology Corporation... is launching a new learning tool called SOLO (Searchable Online Learning Objects). SOLO provides users of engineering software applications from developers such as Dassault Systemes, PTC, and Autodesk, access to an online searchable database of learning objects that will assist them with their day-to-day use of the software." Oh, hey, does that mean users of these learning objects will not be signing up for 39-hour university classes or programmes of study? The somewhat sparse SOLO home page is available here. By Press Release, Rand A Technology Corporation, March 1, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Oh, What a Tangled Web...
Discussion of the use of content management systems to manage unruly university websites. Readers will blanche at the prices being paid - "the average price of a web content management system in 1999 was $500,000. In 2003, it was $150,000. Today, mid-market CMS systems fall into the $50,000 to $100,000 price range." It is only at the end of the article that you see a reference to open source content management systems, a reference that is, unfortunately, not sufficiently informative; readers would have no idea of how Drupal, for example, stacks up against the commercial systems. By Jean Marie Angelo, University Business, March 1, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Implementing Real-world Structured Searches
Is this how folksonomies are supposed to work? "Hint to conference planners: If you want the blogosphere to synchronize its coverage of your event, pick a tag and promote it." No, that's just the big spike speaking again. This is better, isn't it: "there are also implicit tags - namely links - that identify items about the conference." Of course. That's what I demonstrate here. "Can these ad hoc syntaxes be collaboratively extended?" Yes. That's what I propose here (and elsewhere). And in a related item, more discussion on tag spam and the, um, "interestingness" of results. And in another related item, Matt Locke writes that folksonomies "are only useful in a context in which nothing is at stake." Now some people may disagree with me, and that's fine, but I'd sure like to know why. By Jon Udell, InfoWorld, February 25, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Drugs That Speak To You
I have spoken on numerous occasions of fishing rods that teach you to fish and strawberry jam that gives instructions on the manufacture and use of the product. Learning, I said, would be embedded in everyday fixtures and devices the way writing is today. The devices would use RFID and content would be located via a distributed learning resources network. People didn't disagree with me but I saw a lot of those "there goes Stephen again" looks. Well, now it exists, at least as a prototype. By Asina Pornwasin, The Nation, February 28, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Concepts and a Design for Fair Use and Privacy in DRM
I don't think this is the answer, but the reasoning in this article is worth sharing. "We propose approaching this problem by a set of new design concepts bringing access to process context information to DRM license control systems. These concepts provide privacy by separating user and product identities and by enabling distribution history tracking." All very fine, but I doubt that I will ever see "hardware locking" as an "advantage". By Pasi Tyrvšinen, D-Lib Magazine, February 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

'Blog People' Respond
Facing criticism on the American Library Association Council for an article criticizing Google Scholar published in the L.A. Times and an ill-conceived follow-up about the "Blog People", ALA President Michael Gorman is now claiming to have written in jest. "The piece (LJ, February 15th 2005) was intended to be satirical," he writes on the ALA Council list server. Does anyone believe this? Of course not. This is satire. He adds, "My views on 'blogs' have nothing to do with my activities as ALA president-elect or president," thinking, perhaps, that nobody would notice the words 'American Library Association' in the credits for both articles. "Nice. Really nice. Good use of the ALA presidential bully pulpit. No citations, of course," comments Council member K.G. Schneider on the same list (likely sources have now been found). Much more discussion on the Web4Lib archive. Other members raised concern about the now-tarnished image of the ALA, a concern well-founded as criticism has swept from its roots in the conservative blogosphere (no doubt motivated by Gorman's opposition to the Patriot Act) to a widespread and general condemnation. Writes Rochelle, "I've read more concentrated bad-mouthing about libraries, librarians and the ALA the past two days, than I've ever seen, and that's not A-OK." The damage done by Gorman's comments far outweights the good work undertaken by the Council in Salinas, and at a fraction of the cost. And the public silence by the ALA on Gorman's published position indicates acquiescence. The ALA should act, and clear the record. By Jessamyn West, librarian.net, February 25, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

Unanswered Questions about Open Access
The purpose of this," writes the author, "is to put the brakes on the Open Access bandwagon." But despite its being published by a professor in a published journal, the article is filled with weak argument and outright misinformation. The first concern is that open access publication wity reduce the author's standing; "One suspects that Open Access materials will not be oft-cited by others." In fact, research proves exactly the opposite, that open access materials are more frequently cited. The author warns of publishing fees for open access journals, stating that he has never paid such fees. But publishing fees are the norm in commercial publishing, and much less so in open access publishing. He suggests that open access may cost libraries more: "what are the likely up-front fees for Open Access that libraries will be asked to absorb." The answer, thus far, is 'none' - a statistic conveniently ignored. Finally, he asks, "what of the publishers? From their perspective, if it isnít broken, why are we fixing it?" Perhaps he is not aware of the crisis in serials publication. More and more, as I watch the the defenders of traditional scholarship acquit themselves, I wonder how they could have discovered knowledge at all amidst the flim-flammery, deception and blatant fabrication that seems to characterize so much of it. By G.E. Gorman, Library Link, January, 2005 [Refer][Research][Reflect]

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