Archive for August, 2005

Google Talks Jabber – now!

August 24, 2005

Google’s long-rumoured IM service is out of the starting gate. Google Talk.

This is a big deal, as it appears to be (a) super-simple, Google-style, (b) voice-enabled, (c) built on Jabber/XMPP – the right decision, as we have long advocated, and naturally interoperable with our own BuddySpace and dozens of other clients, at least at the basic IM level. Hey- I notice that they even use the BuddySpace icon set (essentially) for their presence indicators; wise choice! Hope we get some attribution…

More later when I get a chance to hammer it, but I expect it to be good. I also expect someone to do a Google Talk / Google Maps bilateral hack to give them BuddySpace functionality… interesting to watch.

This also provides a long-awaited ‘seal of approval’ for Jabber/XMPP, already an agreed IETF standard, but languishing in the wings waiting for a big player like Google to come on board… now we should see some phenomenal growth in the Jabber/XMPP arena.

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Quick Skype Updates (video, 800 nums, $3Bn)

August 3, 2005

Skypeheads will already know all this, but here are some cool developments in the last 6 weeks (yes, even despite my “Skype: be afraid” posting back in May):

A. Multiparty video w sharing: third-party Vskype, tested and commented extensively on June 14th 2005 in SkypeJournal by Bill Campbell, with a further update on August 3rd (“Who’s afraid of video for Skype?“. In the original article, Bill writes:

Today Santa Cruz Networks ships the beta release of vSkype, the first multiuser video conferencing extension to Skype for Microsoft Windows. So begins the Skype Video War. What a cool arms race. There are three groups in the race. The IM people upgrading audio and video (AOL, MSN and Yahoo!), the Skype third party developers, and Skype itself.

Cool things I like…

1. It is encrypted end-to-end

2. Collaboration: I can share a PowerPoint or any other window on my desktop or even my whole desktop!

3. When one party talks their name under their pic changes colour

4. I can detach a video pic and resize it. Shown below. This is part of the vSkyper team at SCN. I detached Sam’s pic to a separate window. Sam is the SCN in-house anthropologist. I guess they hired Sam for his videogengic eyes and Sam wanted to do a PhD thesis on old people in Silicon Valley! (Grin)

[UPDATE: some nice user-testing experiences in an educational context, including plenty of screen snapshots here on the Moodle Forum.]

B. Free calls to toll-free (e.g. 800) numbers global beta:
Skype announced that here.

The following countries and number ranges are supported. We’re working on the rest of the world.

* France: +33 800, +33 805, +33 809
* Poland: +48 800
* UK: +44 500, +44 800, +44 808
* USA: +1 800, +1 866, +1 877, +1 888

We think this is a fairly big thing.

I agree completely: it is a very big thing. It’s not the free-ness as much as the functionality that is fantastic. I’ve had times when I’ve had some urgent interactions requiring me to call from the UK to a US company or service that only offers a toll-free 800 number, imagining that the whole world lives in the US. That’s the end of the interaction, because you simply cannot dial that toll-free US 800 number from the UK. Duh. Until now…

This feature alone is enough to over-ride my “Skype: be afraid“worries and get me to re-install Skype!

C. Skype almost sold to Rupert Murdoch for $3Bn:
Robert X Cringely writes, on July 28th 2005 [thanks to pointer from Chris Valentine]:

… my guess is Rupert Murdoch wasn’t really serious and mainly looked at Skype to see the company’s books and to learn more about the VoIP business without having to pay for the lesson. So what’s most interesting about News Corp. and Skype isn’t that the deal fell through, but that News Corp. even knew Skype was available. That means the company is probably being broadly flogged by an investment bank. It also means that whether News Corp. is the purchaser or not, Skype WILL be sold sometime in the near future.

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AI-and-ED: The Next Big Thing, plus Ken MacAllister’s cool links

August 3, 2005

Summary: a little impromptu interchange between myself and Ken MacAllister at the recent AI and Education conference, concerning “the next big thing” led to a few emails including a great one from Ken in which he included an extensive set of “KEN’S FUN LINKS : LOOKING AT THE STATE OF THE ART FOR CLUES TO THE FUTURE LEARNER’S REALITY”, well worth a glance towards the end of this posting.


The 12th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education (AIED 2005) took place in Amsterdam on 18th-22nd July 2005.

As a member of the program committee, I had been asked by conference chair Gord McCalla to attend a panel session held on the fiinal day, entitled “The Next Big Thing in AIED”. My fellow panellists (Tak-Wai Chan, Albert Corbett, Monique Grandbastien, Judy Kay, Riichiro Mizoguchi, Julita Vassileva) and I were asked to prepare simple 3 minute statements on whatever we liked to fit that title.

I couldn’t be there on the day, but had agreed to beam in remotely and make my presentation using FlashMeeting. Although the tool is at its best when deployed for large multi-user videochat meetings, it was simple to set up (thanks to Bert Bredeweg for dealing with the Amseterdam setup), and we deployed it in 1-on-1 mode, with me alternating control between myself and the ‘audience view’.

My 3-minute presentation is here.

The other presentations can be heard following mine (please note: this is merely an ‘opportunistic’ feed, not set up for that purpose… the main goal was to facilitate the 3-minute presentation from me to the audience… so the audio and video quality are well below par).

What trigerred this blog posting of mine in particular was an interesting audience commentary and vision of the future from Ken MacAllister, which you can hear pretty clearly here.

Ken presents an interesting scenario of future learners empowered by the many expected breakthroughs in pervasive and ubiquitous computing technology. But there’s a catch, and an interesting little dialogue then ensues between me and Ken, spilling over into some nice emails from Ken reproduced with his permission below.



August 2, 2005

Yow: can’t believe I posted “Zen, debugging, and the art of (not quite yet) wakeboarding” all the way back in July 2003. OK, so it’s taken me two years to get up on a wakeboard. What the heck. Mind you, I don’t actually try this very often, but I had a great opportunity last week, and a fine instructor named Andres spotted the ‘bug’ in seconds: ‘lean your shoulders forward, with your arms straightened, instead of pulling back on the rope’ he suggested (my leg position was already good enough). Presto-mundo: I got up effortlessly on the next go! Woohoo! I’m not saying what happened next, except that it was ‘good enough’, I didn’t get hurt, and progressed adequately on each successive turn.

Mega-thanks to Andres for the crucial tips, and to Leo, Grahame, and Jo not only for being phenomenally supportive and patient throughout, but especially for convincing me that just sitting there as a ‘lakeside observer’ (my original intention, i.e. this trip was not for me to wakeboard) was completely absurd! Plus a tip ‘o the hat to Les for the photo, and of course Ed and the rest of the fantastic crew at Xtreme-Gene: what a place!

FOAF finally allows Wikipedia-style identity

August 1, 2005

In a March 14 2005 posting about Digital identity: FOAF vs swarm intelligence I moaned about a few things that still annoyed me with FOAF, and praised the swarm intelligence idenitity-confirmation capabilities of Wikipedia, writing:

I notice on wikipedia that there are no less than 13 different people named Michael Jackson who have wikipedia entries!!! Yet the ambiguity is easily and nicely dealt with: if you go to the ‘main’ or ‘naive’ Michael Jackson entry the first line tells you “For other people with the same name, see Michael Jackson (disambiguation)” and you follow that link you get to a nice clean listing of the full contingent of 13 Michael Jackson entries, with their own unique URLs. In no case is there anything even remotely resembling FOAF’s popular ’sha1sum’ hash-coded email address which maps onto a provably-unique digital identity.

Who is ‘Michael Jackson’ then? Who owns these wikipedia entries?

Answer: No one / everyone, in true wikipedia style; and it seems to work remarkably well! There’s a fantastic lesson buried in here for FOAF/rdf/digital identity hackers, and it so simple as to be rather embarrassingly obvious: You are not, and your friendship relationships are not, nor will they ever be, your FOAF file, no matter how slick, detailed and up-to-date it is. You are probably not even, contrary to current wisdom, what you blog. More likely, in the best tradition of wikipedia and swarm intelligence, you are simply what other people think you are.

Well, here’s some good news. Dan Brickley writes: is updated….

I’ve added (as long planned per IRC meetings) an inverse
of primaryTopic called isPrimaryTopicOf. This is a convenience to encourage the easy use of pages such as wikipedia entries when trying to join together info about things that are awkward to identify.


Excellent: Dan had tipped us off about this during a visit to KMi back in June, and I’m pleased to see this included.

[Thanks to Tom Heath for the tip]

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