Archive for January, 2006

elearning2.0 linklog

January 27, 2006

Augmenting the very useful elearning2.0 blog by Mike Mallach, I just noticed today Mike’s nice distinction between blogging, linking, and delicious feeds: he practices what he preaches by including a separately-subscribable linklog. Mike’s rationale is definitely worth noting:

It has often occurred to me that I frequently see “blog entries” which are really bookmarks – in fact, because there is little work put into the tagging of these casual notings-of-other-content, they often have considerably less intellectual added-value than a well-tagged social bookmark. I can see why some bloggers are wont to “blog it on” by quickly quoting and linking – this passes on the hot links through chains of like-minded bloggers, allowing for some commentary along the way. And of course these posts are exposed to google indexing (whereas does not allow search engines to index its content), which makes life much easier for people looking for contexts in which people link to things. On the other hand, “blogging it on” does not naturally lend itself to the accumulation of categorically dense or rich resource bases – blog categories are like sections or departments, whereas tagging practices tend to throw a number of tags at each resource to reflect multiple uses and facets, and so tagging can lead to rich categorical schemas. For an example, see another view of my bookmarking – as a rich set of tag clouds – at the SIGOSSEE project Standards and Architectures Working Group resource base.

So we’ve added the linkroll as a blog-like view of the same resources that the SIGOSSEE resource base gives a library-like view of.

An extra benefit is that you can track more of my bookmarking by subscribing to the linklog’s RSS 2 feed than by subscribing to my main feed. I often bookmark more than 20 items a day – sometimes a lot more than 20 items. feeds only deliver the latest 20 items, so unless you refresh often you’ll miss some bookmarks when subscribing to feeds for busy bookmarkers. This is not a problem when subscribing to the full-content feed for the linklog; no matter how many items I bookmarked on a particular day, that day’s digest is one entry in the linklog feed.

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50 Things to do with RSS + Web2.0 Primer, Ideas for Educators

January 24, 2006

From Quentin DeSouza on comes a nice posting and an even better PDF article:

50+ RSS Ideas for Educators

The great thing about this is that it is clear, simple, full of ideas that you may have thought of but probably not articulated to your educator-colleagues, and, best of all, written as a beginner’s guide to everything from news aggregation to Web 2.0. It’s written for primary/secondary school educators, but has great applicability at University level and indeed in the workplace. Most hard-core techies will be very familiar with everything that’s in here, but if you can get a copy of this document virally circulated around your nearby educational establishment and/or corporation, go for it!

Definitely worth a look, and a nice improvement on the old “15 things to do with RSS” I blogged previously.

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Social semantic networks and ‘taste’

January 24, 2006

From Social Software News via Jack Vinson via Corante Web Hub via Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, comes a pointer to an interesting report by Hugo Liu, Pattie Maes, and Glorianna Davenport at the MIT Media Lab called “Unraveling the Taste Fabric of Social Networks” (PDF), which says

…. the natural language text of 100,000 social network profiles were captured, mapped into a diverse ontology of music, books, films, foods, etc., and machine learning was applied to infer a semantic fabric of taste. Taste fabrics bring us closer to improvisational manipulations of meaning, and afford us at least three semantic functions— the creation of semantically flexible user representations, cross-domain taste-based recommendation, and the computation of taste-similarity between people—whose use cases are demonstrated within the context of three applications—the InterestMap, Ambient Semantics, and IdentityMirror. Finally, we evaluate the quality of the taste fabrics, and distill from this research reusable methodologies and techniques of consequence to the semantic mining and Semantic Web communities.”

Just going to fetch it now….

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The New Sputnik: China’s Artificial Sun

January 24, 2006

The New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman argues (in an op-ed piece that you won’t see because it’s behind the New York Times counterproductive paywall, persuasively criticised here by Doc Searls) that what this generation needs is a new ‘Sputnik shock’ to trigger aggressive research and development to deal with the energy crisis that’s going to end life as we know it. He points out the ‘new Sputnik’ (threat) does indeed exist already, and in little pieces:

… our era doesn’t have a single Sputnik to grab our attention and crystallize the threat to our security and way of life in one little steel ball – the way our parents’ era did. But that doesn’t mean such threats don’t exist. They do, and they have a single common denominator: the way we use and consume energy today, particularly oil.

I’m a ‘Sputnik child’, so am especially attracted by such arguments.  As I posted earlier in a commentary about John F. Kennedy’s promise to reach the moon based on things “not yet invented”,

The lunar effort (indeed the post-Sputnik space race from 1957 onwards) triggered a massive investment in science, mathematics and technology in the early 60’s that led directly to the training and (I believe) correlated attitude of the generation that went on to create the Arpanet/Internet, the Mac, the PC, the iPod, Silicon Valley and… well, you can see where this is going…

But Friedman doesn’t go far enough (ignoring that his plea for energy solutions has been argued by others for as long as I can remember).  I humbly suggest that the Sputnik shock is right in front of us, in one big package, as reported here on Xinhuanet:

BEIJING, Jan. 23 —  It was learned from the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) that it will have completed the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) which aims to explore infinite and clean energy resources of nuclear fusion by this March or April. By then, Hefei will become the first institute in the world to have built an all-superconducting non-circular section nuclear fusion experiment facility, which is generally known as an artificial sun.

I have huge difficulty actually believing the Xinhua story, but hey, if it’s true, then we’re into a new era, with China, already developing faster than a speeding bullet, ramping up by several orders of magnitude. Fasten your seat belts. And re-enroll your kids in those physics and mathematics classes!

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Saw Thames Whale…

January 21, 2006

…by chance while in London today (while it was on the rescue barge heading east, just after 4PM); alas, an unhappy ending.

OU/BBC on The Google Story

January 19, 2006

To be shown on Friday 20th January at 7PM, BBC2 , according to an Open University Press Release:

Professor in Information Management Elizabeth Daniel, from The Open University Business School, has written an article to support the programme, ‘Google: Organising the World’s Information’ which can be found on the OU/BBC programme website,

Professor Daniel examines the principles of information management and identifies five key themes: ownership, identification, lifecycle, storage and audit. She argues that these five key principles underline that information management is as much about people and processes as about technology.

Read Prof Daniel’s full article here.

Udell tag spam challenge

January 19, 2006

From Jon’s Radio

Here’s a challenge for Flickr or third-party hackers: let me refine my query results by removing unreliable taggers.

Nice one, Jon; another great idea!

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Animators Create Online School

January 19, 2006

Personal Tech Pipeline | ILM, Pixar Animators Create Online School has invested nearly $1 million to build a social network where students from 37 countries can study character animation with 54 working artists from Pixar Animation Studios, Disney Feature Animation, Sony, Blue Sky Studios and others, according to Beck, co-founder, whose credits include Cars, which Pixar is scheduled to release this summer.

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More Google Talk and Jabber/XMPP

January 18, 2006

Stowe Boyd flags a really significant development in the Jabber space, in a recent entry entitled Google Talk and XMPP, mentioning that they are joining the ‘federated space’ of Jabber IDs that enables any two IM users (in the ‘right family of technologies’, that is) to communicate, regardless of their ‘home server’.

I first blogged excitedly about Google Talk and Jabber XMPP here, back in August, writing

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…

Well, we’re another step closer to this beginning to ‘bite’. It used to be considered somewhat difficult to swim against the tide of the proprietary messengers: the concept of MSN, Yahoo! and AIM ‘closed worlds’ is just like that of the closed email environments of CompuServe (remember them?) and AOL back in the 80’s and 90’s: crazy! In contrast, having a ‘user@server’ addressing scheme, such as those supported by Jabber/XMPP, Google Talk, and (duh) the entire world’s email, is clearly the right way to go. And if you want to swim against the tide, you can’t have a bigger whale on your side than Google!

The original posting referenced by Stowe is here on
(ah yes, now I remember… I was trying to blog this earlier in the day but that Blogspot link was blocked by a public-access WiFi point as being a porn site! Go figure…)

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Broadband comes to backwater; too little, too late?

January 15, 2006


Over the years (!!!) I have documented the saga concerning my embarrassingly long wait for broadband. Well, the good news is that on Friday, 13th January 2006, a BT engineer arrived to do things (details below), and the less-brain-damaged of my two domestic lines is running at just over 1Mbps. This is the culmination of a wait of

  • *over 2 years since broadband became ‘available’ in our area (September 2003)
  • *over 8 years since I installed wireless 2Mbps broadband in the school around the corner
  • *over 11 years since I first saw ADSL from BT research labs

Hey, I’m a patient guy (I have to be, right?), but as you might expect there is more here than meets the eye. In fact, I have been calm and accepting since meeting with the key protagonists some time ago: in several meetings involving the action group at BroadBand For Milton Keynes,, and the key players at BT concerned with delivering broadband to Milton Keynes, I got to understand the BT perspective and the difficulties they faced. For example, I came to learn how Quality Of Service is taken seriously enough by BT that they did not want premature rollout of high bandwidth to leave a swathe of disappointed customers. This is entirely reasonable. Also, I came to learn how the history of growth in Milton Keynes led to numerous artifacts, with new houses in old villages served by old trunking and ancient copper that wound its way in seemingly random paths, at the whim of the early construction teams (meaning that although I could see the broadband-enabled exchange from my window, the line circled through many miles of old routes, creating an impossible situation). BT indeed finally (summer 2005) dug up and replaced some old trunking in order to improve the overall signal strength to a relative small group of customers, and we are genuinely grateful for this effort and expense.

[The sad saga of how Milton Keynes got locked into ancient cable infrastucture that neither BT nor NTL wanted to upgrade is documented elsewhere. And yes, we looked into dedicated private lines, satellite, wireless self-start community, you name it: not feasible.]

So what’s the problem? Well, in the negotiations with BT over the connectivity for our little backwater community, I maintained only one consistent position throughout, which can be summarised as follows: “Regardless of what speed we achieve now, the key thing is to be elevated from perpetual second-class citizenship, because it’s obvious to anyone that much higher speeds are on the way for the rest of the {world; country; region; town; village}.” BT understood the stance, but I’m convinced that the future prospects are just as grim, even given the fibre-to-the-home trials that are now underway in other parts of Milton Keynes. The next section explains why.

Too little, too late?
Now I read, in a New York Times article, (“Hey, Baby Bells: Information Still Wants to Be Free” by RANDALL STROSS, 15th January 2006) the following interesting commentary:

In California, Comcast cable broadband provides top download speeds of 6 megabits a second for a little more than $50 a month. That falls well short, however, of Verizon’s 15-megabit fiber-based service offered on the East Coast at about the same price. But what about the 100-megabit service in Japan for $25 month? And better, much better: Stockholm’s one-gigabit service – that is, 1,000 megabits, or more than 1,300 times faster than Verizon’s entry-level DSL servce – for less than 100 euros, or $120, a month.

Ha! Americans are grumbling about how the phone companies are holding back progress with mere 6Mbps and 15Mbps connections! Take another look at my graph… this is about as reliable a long-term experiment as you’ll ever see in this niche: 10 years = 10x speed, as the graph clearly shows. That means I can expect 10Mbps by 2014, 100Mbps by 2024, and 1Gbps by 2034 (remember Stockholm has it as of 2005). That’s appalling. Am I greedy? I don’t think so: history shows that the consumer appetite for memory and bandwidth is insatiable. Music yesterday, video today, HDTV/Hollywood full-screen 6.1 Dolby tomorrow (or yesterday if you live in the right place). So, BT, no self-congratulatory remarks, please: there is absolutely no room for complacency!! And yes, I am indeed grateful for the understanding, time, work, and expense that went into dealing with our little backwater: it is much appreciated – really!

Finally… as promised above:

Summary of my own saga, quoted from my earlier blog entries

[24 September, 2003: Broadband In Milton Keynes Saga, Diary Entry 1]

today the new longer-reaching broadband is meant to be available.

Step 1: find a sensible URL, so Google broadband BT, which gives me

Step 2: No obvious ‘news’ anywhere on the site about the 24th September ‘changes’

Step 3: Enter my number into the ‘Broadband Availability Checker’… it comes back with

“For Telephone Number 01908xxxxxxx on Exchange BRADWELL ABBEY
Your exchange has broadband ADSL. However, the length of the telephone line between you and the exchange is too long for broadband ADSL. Thank you for your interest.”

[19 April, 2004: ADSL at home at last?]

The image at the top of the current blog entry is a modified version of one I optimistically posted earlier, believing I would get 512Kbps in April 2004, so the line still fits].

The graph on the right shows the longest experiment I’ve ever run (by chance), having been a steady domestic online user since 1973/74.

[5 July, 2004: Miserable NDO/BT/ADSL MK Trial Customer]

[Yes, that’s me: but hey, having personally risked my neck climbing up a church tower and helping to install the first wireless broadband relay point for the Milton Keynes schools network many years ago, I figure I’m entitled to feel a little sore about now apparently being the LAST person in the entire UK to receive a broadband connection… read my open letter below].

[21 July, 2004: More ADSL MK Trial saga]

Question: Will this user-for-32-years-of-the-Internet-since-the-original-ARPAnet-days and early-settler-of-the-broadband-wireless-landscape really be the last person in the UK to get domestic broadband? Here’s a followup to the 12-step saga I began earlier. [SUMMARY: on-again-off-again-on-again ‘possible’, ‘maybe’, ‘absolutely no way’, ‘I completely give up’ and finally ‘wait a minute, I have an idea…’]

[13 January 2006: Installation, success!]: A BT engineer arrived, and downgraded my ISDN line, as required for ADSL (my normal domestic line is still ‘out of reach’ of the ADSL-enabled exchange, although the 2 lines are side by side in the house; ‘Business ISDN’ was all I could use over the past few years, which is a separate saga). My upgraded FreeServe/Wanadoo dialup account, after a minor side-saga with Wanadoo (they had not emailed me the new account name, which differs in a very subtle way from the old account name), is now live and kicking. Hooray! Thanks, all, especially Nick and co at BB4MK, and also Haley and co at BT, for bearing with me and all the others throughout.

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