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by Stephen Downes
February 17, 2009

Catalina Island

A second set of photos from California, this from a day trip by ferry to Catalina Island, one of the spectacular channel islands that line the coast of the Los Angeles region. Stephen Downes, Flickr, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: ] [Comment]

My Business has Cracked!
Let me tell you a story. A long time ago a friend and I tried to start a business (I've done everything, don't you know). It was called 'Active Janitorial Contracting' and it was a failure. We got a few jobs, but never the big contract that would have let us hire people and expand. Eventually, we just let it go. Because the dream, you know, isn't the business. It's what the business lets you do. What was I going to contribute to the world through the field of janitorial contracting? I don't know - but it probably would have been pretty good, and I probably would have found my passion, one way or another. So - I'm sympathetic with Christine Martell, but note, you've only given up on a business, not something important, like your soul. The seven dumb things will live on, catching people, like me, like you - but so long as we have our art, we have everything. Christine Martell, VisualsSpeak blog, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment]

Go Wireless @ 11 Other Canadian Universities
I'm sure this took a lot of work, and was done with the best of intentions, but it is misguided. "Carleton's new wireless network called Eduroam is been appropriately named because it allows students from 12 Canadian universities (9 confirmed including Carleton, 3 finalizing details) to access each other's wireless networks when visiting another campus." Well that's great if you have the resources to pay tuition at one of the participating universities. If you haven't, then you're just out of luck. What these universities have done is to create an access cartel that blocks any non-cooperating institution - or self-managed learner - from accessing online resources at these campuses (and, no doubt, eventually, from accessing university libraries, repositories, and other academic services). Creating an access federation is not a step forward for public l;earning in Canada - it's a step backward. Open up the university wireless internet systems, and make learning the right of all Canadians, and not just a privileged few. Hamish, Educational Development Centre, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , ] [Comment]

The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age
Published studies continue to frustrate me to no end. Will Richardson points to this study, which contends that "consistent with existing literature, creative activity is related to a person's socioeconomic status as measured by parental schooling." It may be consistent with existing literature, but this study is no support for such literature. The authors take pains to represent their sample as diverse and non-biased. However, "We look at the content creation and sharing practices of 1,060 first-year students ... at the University of Illinois, Chicago." Well that's not a random sample at all! How would sharing practices compare for people not attending college? How do they compare in more egalitarian nations such as Canada or Sweden? We cannot draw inferences about the nature of people when the people represented are in a very special circumstance in a very singular culture. Eszter Hargittai and Gina Walejko, Web Use Project, School of Communication, Northwestern University, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

Web 2.0 Tools for Effective Teaching
Elaine Talbert (etalbert) has been performing a real service to SlideShare users as she has been collecting and posting the best and most relevant work in her 'web 2.0 tools for effective teaching' group on the site. The scale - 661 members, 1069 posts, 1426 slideshows - is impressive. But the proof is in the posts. I've been subscribing for several months. Here's what I found in my RSS reader today (about four day's worth). Some are btter than others, but none is bad, and all are worth viewing:

Elaine Talbert, Slideshare, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

Should Projects Be Required To Have Blogs?
I started the post thinking "yes" but ended it thinking "no" - favoring, instead, a mandate that 'projects ought to be open'. That is, people working on a publicly funded project should not do this work in secret, but should publicly document the development process as it occurs. This, though, can be done on an individual basis, through personal blogs, postings and websites, and not at all necessarily on a group blog. This allows (with a nod to Paul Walk) some researchers to stay in the background, if that's what they prefer, but still achieves the objective of making public work public. And it also avoids the need for policy and management around an 'official' project blog. Brian Kelly, UK Web Focus, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Creating Your Own Results Charts for Surveys Created with Google Forms
Tony Hirst is a master at finding ways to work with the services offered by companies like Google and Yahoo. He makes what can be a difficult application perform complex tasks, laying it all out like a how-to book. In this post, he describes the process of creating results charts from a web survey created using Google Forms. For my own part, I use LimeSurvey, a locally hosted application in PHP (though I'm conflicted about its use, because I don't really believe I can trust the data I would collect using such tools) but if you need to use a web-based tool, this is probably better - though more complex - than SurveyMonkey. Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment]

History of the Internet
I've seen this video in a number of places, most recently via Karyn Romeis. What I really like about it is that it describes not only the contributions of the U.S. military but also Rand Corporation, Britain's National Physical Laboratory and France's Cyclades. A more complete story, moreover, would have included more players. The development of the internet was not an isolated event, but rather, was a bringing together of contributions from around the world. Also on YouTube. Melih Bilgil,, Website, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , ] [Comment]

Here's what I wrote them: "Hiya Trackle People, First of all, my complements on your prelaunch publicity, which has been impressive. You owe your media company a bonus. Second, you can't do 'local news' in Trackle by zip code. The majority of your uses will be located outside the United States, and hence will not have zip codes. You have left people like me (living in Canada) no means whatsoever to track local news. Third, is there a way to create Tracklets? The volume of them suggests you have a mechanism. I think that allowing people to create custom Tracklets would be a game-breaker. Especially if you created a Trackle API that allowed them to be inserted from remote applications." Via Jane Hart, who will in turn have seen it in either New York Times, Yahoo Finance, Washington Post, ReadWriteWeb, CNET or TechCrunch - Come on, Jane - it's time to start citing your sources.

Update - Here's what they replied, just a few hours later: 'Hi Stephen, Thanks for your comments. We do understand our limitations vis-a-vis usage outside of the US. As we gather content providers to work with that can help us meaningfully offer the full repertoire our services outside of the US, we will take the current restrictions away. Yes, you are right. We do have a platform coupled with a publishing interface that we would like to offer the world at large to build tracklets relatively soon. Thanks again for your feedback. Best, Naveen Saxena, CTO/Co-founder." Various Authors, Website, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

Facebook Terms of Service Compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter
There has been a lot of fuss over Facebook's recent changes to its terms of service; this is pretty much the definitive article on the subject, comparing what Facebook has done with other major content sites such as YouTube, MySpace and Flickr. With the exception of Facebook, these sites (a) are clear that you have not granted them ownership of your material, and (b) terminate their right to use your content and information when you close your account with them. It is interesting and worth considering how these terms compare with the terms of educational websites, such as college or university e-portfolio sites and the like. Via academHacK. Amanda L. French, Weblog, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , ] [Comment]

International Verify Your Backups Day
I am completely in support of this: "I humbly submit that Friday the 13th, whenever it rolls around, should be considered International Verify Your Backups Day." This applies not only to the contnt you have on your hard drive, but also the content you have posted to mailing lists or discussion boards (former trdev users take note) and on various websites, such as Flickr, Blogger and Facebook. Adam C. Engst, TidBITS, February 17, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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