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by Stephen Downes
February 1, 2007

Blackboard Announces Patent Pledge in Support of Open Source Software
This is the big news today, of course. "The Blackboard Patent Pledge is a promise by the company to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems." That's good, though it's pretty clearly a response to the Free Software Foundation's success in getting the Blackboard patent reviewed. better to cut a deal before you don't have anything to protect, hm? And even then, it's not much of a promise. As the Sakai Foundation notes, in its response, "the Sakai Foundation and EDUCAUSE find it difficult to give the wholehearted endorsement we had hoped might be possible. Some of Sakai's commercial partners and valued members of the open source community will not be protected under this pledge." In particular, Blackboard wanted to reserve the right to take action against colleges and universities, something it needs to do, apparently, because of its current case against the Canadian company Desire2Learn. Bottom line? It's a cynical ploy intended to divide its opponents. The appeal should be carried through. The patent should be invalidated. Blackboard's nonsensical case against Desire2Learn should be crushed. Press Release, Blackboard February 1, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

The Egalitarian Nature of Blogging
Wesley Fryer quotes Scott Mcleod on the ever-emergent of blog list rankings: "I unapologetically admit that I care about my Technorati ranking. Why? Because I'm trying to make change. The bigger audience I have, the more readers I reach directly..." But what if this isn't true? What if the best way to influence people is to give away your ideas and to let other people take ownership of them? What if seeking to increase your ranking actually impairs your ability to communicate, because people become mistrustful of your intentions? There's two things. 'Being heard' is one of them. 'Dominating the conversation' is another. They're different. Wesley Fryer, Moving at the Speed of Creativity February 1, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

MyBlogLog - A Proper Community Around Your Weblog and 5 Reasons Why You Would Want to Install It
I have a MyBlogLog account. It's here. I've been on it for a few months now. It wants to charge me money for full stats, but I don't want that. It creates a sort of 'community' around my website. It has a sidebar where you can see the pictures of people who visited my website - well, only those visitors who have MyBlogLog accounts. But I don't like putting other sites' (slow) widgets on my web site (because they're slow). Do I use MyBlogLog? Not really. It would be neat if people who visit the site could leave some kind of calling card - that's why I created the referrer system so many years ago. But no such system should be housed by a single company (much less become the base for their business model). Luis Saurez, ELSUA February 1, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Are Librarians Totally Obsolete?
Another one of those articles that leaps to the defense of librarians. It's just not convincing. Many of the arguments are of the "we won't let you" variety - the author points out that not all books are digitized, that online collections require registration, that Google's book search doesn't work, and the like. These, though, are artificial barriers, created by publishers. Librarians - some, at least - collude with the publishers because they think it will keep libraries relevant. It won't. At the first hint that librarians will no longer provide free labour (indexing, sorting, enforcing accessrestrictions) for publishers, they will be disintermediated. Why do you think Blackboard signs deals with publishers? No, librarians, if they want to remain relevant, need to curate digital archives and manage e-print repositiories. There is the idea of a library as a big collection of books and journals you bought from publishers to make available to your staff and students. Many librarians cling to that idea. They shouldn't. It's over. Will Sherman, DegreeTutor February 1, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

Designing Websites for Learning and Enjoyment: A Study of Museum Experiences
I've gotta say, this article took all the enjoyment out of the subject. Not that the work isn't worthwhile, but if you're going to go to the philosophers to understand what is meant by 'enjoyment' (and you should) you could probably do better than prickly analytics like Perry or Warner (Perry: enjoyment is "non-evaluative, non-conative pro-attitude toward some actual object for what it is in itself, which object is a present doing, undergoing, or experiencing on the part of the subject or is something which is intimately connected with a present doing, undergoing, or experience on his part." - philosophy is full of stuff like that, which is why I no longer contribute to the philosophical literature). The diagram of enjoyment in Figure 1 is worth while, though. You can stop reading once you read the 'Method' heading; while it was a good paper up to there (I was just kidding about it eliminating any enjoyment) the remainder of the paper is devoted to a 'study' - how many times do I have to say this? Surveying five of your friends (or five of anything!) is not empirical science. Aleck C. H. Lin and Shirley Gregor, IRRODL February 1, 2007 [Link] [Comment]

The Audiocast Diaries: Reflections On Radio and Podcasting for Delivery of Educational Soap Operas
This is a great article, and I really appreciated the original organization. The author covers radio and podcast broadcasting with an eye toward educational applications. The discussion is mostly of the medium - very little is said about how these media can be used to support learning. No matter; the content is engaging and current and introduced me to some things I didn't know - like, for example, the 'FM Station in a Box' being made in Manitoba. Now I want one. Don't know if it would be legal, though. Interesting contrast, between the observation at the beginning of the article - "Governments began to regulate the radio industry heavily, turning it into a one-way medium, controlling content, and limiting frequencies and ownership" - and at the end - "Maybe this new technology, which allows two-way communications, will change radio back to its origins of a two-way medium, as it was in Marconi's day." More articles from December's IRRODL. Wendy Elliott, IRRODL February 1, 2007 [Link] [Comment]


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Copyright 2007 Stephen Downes

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