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November 25, 2010

Changes to RSS Feeds
I've made some minor changes to the way I manage my RSS feeds.

First, the regular RSS feeds (RSS 0.91, RSS 2.0) will now update through the day, with posts being displayed as they are created.

Second, I have created a new RSS feed, which displays the entire daily newsletter in one RSS post. Subscribers will receive this new post once a day, around 5:00 pm Atlantic time ( 9:00 pm GMT).

So, if you like the way the OLDaily RSS feed is now, do nothing. Some of your items will arrive earlier, that's all. But if you think there are too many OLDaily posts, cancel your old subscription and subscribe to the new once-a-day subscription.

To subscribe to the once-a-day version, click here or go to http://www.downes.ca/news/oldailycombined.xml.

Four Drupal tools that solve 90 percent of your sitebuilding challenges
Steve Yelvington, Steve Yelvington's media weblog, November 25, 2010.

So we're having a bit of a techie issue of OLDaily today. It happens. :) This post describes four Drupal modules that, as the title proclaims, solve 90 percent of your sitebuilding challenges. I could quibble about that (the implementation in Drupal is clunky, and as I see today following up this item, Drupal modules still have major documentation issues (though I was very impressed with the long list of functions in View). What's more important about this item than it's implementation, and why I'm mentioning it here, is the applicability of those four concepts generally. The thinking behind custom content, custom views, and panels is that every site is a one-off. So you're not restricted to the same content and operations as everyone else, but can design around completely new kinds of content.

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Finally, cross-browser visual control over forms
Jeffrey Zeldman, Zeldman.com, November 25, 2010.

It's a bit geeky, but this post describing a cross-browser (and cross-JS library) set of stylings for forms strikes me as a really cool idea. "For more, including demos, options, screenshots, thanks, and the library itself, read Smith's write-up at SonSpring | Formalize CSS."

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Why the iPad Newspaper is Doomed
Ryan Tat, Valleywag / Gawker, November 25, 2010.

Why won't The Daily (Murdoch's, not mine) succeed? "Slower news-and at a higher price." Also, "there will be no inbound links, and reportedly no outbound links to the web, either." Which means nothing pushing viewers toward you. And it will be hard to generate revenue. "At 99 cents per week, the newspaper will generate only $5.1 million in subscription revenue for every 100,000 subscribers [per year] - minus Apple's cut, typically around 30 percent." Yet "Murdoch's newsroom expenses alone should easily run north of $7 million." Why might it work? Well, it is marketed through Apple, and there is a huge coolness factor to the iPad. Murdoch makes enough from other enterprises to keep it afloat for quite a while. And even though Wired could only attract 30,000 readers to the iPad, maybe 2 or 3 hundred thousand isn't unreasonable for a general interest newspaper.

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New gossip site reveals private lives of students
Althea Manasan and Bree Mantha, CUP Newswire, November 25, 2010.

I'm not sure it's highbrow enough, but then again, we don't really a large highbrow community in Canada. At least, not that I know of. "A new gossip site promises to expose what goes on behind closed doors on university and college campuses across Canada. Room 110, a website modelled after the television series Gossip Girl, officially launched last week, describing itself as 'Canada's first ‘reality blog.'' Offering a voyeuristic look into the private lives of people on campuses across Canada, the site features photos, opinions, rumours and speculation about students from 19 schools, including the University of British Columbia, Dalhousie University and York University."

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Subscription Models for Lifelong Students
Tony Hirst, OUseful Info, November 25, 2010.

As usual I am in agreement with Tony Hirst. "For all the talk in the funding crisis debate today about what new models might emerge around university funding, I think the point that there's a global network of knowledgeable folk and open information resources has been missed. I'm not a team player, I'm a network player. And whilst some might argue that we may always need teams, I think we'll increasingly make use of networks and ad hoc comings together too."

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The OER Meal Deal
David Wiley, iterating toward openness, November 25, 2010.

David Wiley is having a crisis of openness faith because it turns out that licensing things openly doesn't produce any material benefit. Stephen Carson from MIT's OpenCourseWare wrote, "The costs… of openly licensing are actually the costs of licensing under any terms, including full copyright, and it wouldn't cost any less to do [MIT OCW under] full (C)." And as Wiley notes, none of the "lengthy, detailed list of benefits people receive from MIT OCW" is derived from the use of an open license. People could benefit just the same if the license were full copyright. I suggest (in the comments) that the main benefit is being able to copy the material. Mike Linksvayer says, "Freedom is free, or rather open does not equal open wallet, who knew!"

And Scott Leslie argues, "I for one have not been trying to argue that the open licenses aren't important, but that by putting ALL of the focus on them we overlook exactly this point – that making things open (in all senses of the word) as part of our actual teaching and learning process, and not simply as a 'publishing effort' (which the focus on 'open as only license' seems to promote) is the path to 'sustainability.'... The 'movement,' though, seems more stuck on using licenses as a way to have the 'resources' open but keep the rest of their business unchanged, to have their disruptive cake and eat it too, if you will." Exactly right.

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Open source gesture based computing
Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, November 25, 2010.

I have long thought mouse gestures would be a great way to drive an interface. Now there's an open source set of tools that will help you build this functionality. "Called DepthJS, the software is on GitHub and open for collaboration. Check out the video above. It looks pretty good. Some of the gestures appear more dramatic than I would want to use to navigate the web with, but perhaps that will change in time. If a gesture-based interface could capture text input as well, that would be even cooler. Cursor motion alone, however, is all it takes to evoke a vision of the future in which Kinect-like devices are used to control all kinds of web-connected devices."

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Doug Never Says Anything
Doug Peterson, doug – off the record, November 25, 2010.

This is cool - a button you can add to your blog that will automatically summarize the post for readers. I've seen systems like this before - basically the way they work is to give each sentence a ranking based on its salience - how many of the most important words it uses, for example - and then displays the five (or whatever) highest ranking sentences in order. There are different algorithms for selecting important words or phrases, and matching these to sentences. NRC was involved in something like this about ten years ago.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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