Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Top 100 Alternative Search Engines

A nice article by Charles S. Knight and Richard MacManus on search engines. The authors write "Ask anyone which search engine they use to find information on the Internet and they will almost certainly reply: "Google." Look a little further, and market research shows that people actually use four main search engines for 99.99% of their searches: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and (in that order). But in my travels as a Search Engine Optimizer (SEO), I have discovered that in that .01% lies a vast multitude of the most innovative and creative search engines you have never seen. So many, in fact, that I have had to limit my list of the very best ones to a mere 100".
The authors have grouped the available search engines into different categories (e.g. clustering engines, recommendation engines, metasearch engines) and provided a list of the Top 100 alternative search engines. Well worth a look!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Future of Google Video and YouTube

On the official google blog, Salar Kamangar writes "In November, we officially closed our acquisition of YouTube, and since then we've received a number of questions about what will happen next. The summary is that Google Video and YouTube will continue to play to their respective strengths...YouTube will remain an independent subsidiary of Google, and will continue to operate separately. Google will support YouTube by providing access to search and monetization platforms and, when/where YouTube launches internationally, to international resources".

Monday, January 29, 2007

Situating Connectivism

To prepare for the upcoming Connectivism Online Conference, Geoerge Siemens has posted part one of an online presentation series: Situating Connectivism.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The 2007 Horizon Report

The 2007 Horizon Report is now available. The 2007 edition is a collaboration between The New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), an EDUCAUSE program.

"The 2007 Horizon Report, just as has been the case with previous editions of the report, highlights six technologies that the underlying research suggests will become very important to higher education over the next one to five years. A central focus of the discussion of each technology is its relevance for teaching, learning, and creative expression. Live weblinks to example applications are provided in each section, as well as to additional readings".

Download the 2007 Horizon Report (285K, 32 pp). this is a pdf file

Thursday, January 25, 2007

ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 Released

Scott Guthrie, General Manager within the Microsoft Developer Division, announced the final release of ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 (aka "Atlas").


ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 delivers a rich client-side AJAX library that provides cross platform, cross browser support for a core JavaScript type-system, JSON-based network serialization stack, JavaScript component/control model, as well as common client JavaScript helper classes. ASP.NET AJAX also delivers a rich server-side library that integrates AJAX functionality within ASP.NET, and enables developers to easily AJAX-enable existing ASP.NET 2.0 sites with minimal effort.

Future Plans

While the core ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 release is now officially shipped, we are definitely not slowing down. :-)

All of the ASP.NET AJAX 1.0 features will be integrated directly into the next release of ASP.NET (codename: "Orcas"). Visual Studio "Orcas" will also provide client-side JavaScript intellisense, JavaScript compilation checking, and rich JavaScript debugging support for ASP.NET AJAX scenarios.

We are also already at work on the next ASP.NET AJAX release, and will continue to add new features and improvements to the supported ASP.NET AJAX core.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yahoo's Acquisition Pattern: Smart and Cheap

A recent Read/WriteWeb blogpost gives an overview on Yahoo's recent Web 2.0 acquisitions and points to the new Yahoo acquisition strategy: smart and cheap. According to the authors "today, Yahoo spends very little in acquisition when compared to the dot com era".

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Recommended reads on informal learning

Formal and Informal Learning (Donald Clark)

Harold Jarche, one of my favourite bloggers, posted on recommended reads on informal learning. Harold also pointed to my previous post on informal learning.

Java to JavaScript Compilation with AJAX and Spring Integration

A nice article by Ben Alex on Java to JavaScript compilation. In this post, the author explores a new open source Java to JavaScript compiler named Java2Script Pacemaker (J2S), presents an initial Spring integration, and compares J2S with existing compilers such as Google Web Toolkit (GWT) and Open Laszlo. According to the author "J2S is currently differentiated from GWT in several broad ways. The first is its compiler technology, which builds on Eclipse Abstract Syntax Tree (AST) and therefore requires Eclipse. However, Eclipse JDT Core supports a headless mode and thus it wouldn't be difficult to execute J2S compilation from an Ant plugin or Maven mojo. The second difference is that J2S provides comprehensive runtime reflection and widget binding capabilities. GWT prefers compile-time JavaScript optimisations, at the expense of these runtime services. J2S – on the other hand – recognises that a combination of Moore's Law, improved browser JavaScript interpreters and JNI-like JavaScript optimisations collectively provide scope for adequate performance, whilst still enjoying fuller JRE emulation and other runtime services."

Monday, January 22, 2007

E-Loogle / E-Learning With Google

Google is entering the e-Learning market. Google offers the free Google Apps for Education with services like Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Google Page Creator, and Google start page. According to Google, "you can select any combination of these services, and customize them with your school's logo, color scheme and content. You can manage your users through an easy web-based console or use our available APIs to integrate the services into your existing systems — and it's all hosted by Google, so there's no hardware or software for you to install or maintain".

Google also offers Google for Educators, with services like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Blogger, Book Search. As decribed by Google, it is "a platform of teaching resources – for everything from blogging and collaborative writing to geographical search tools and 3D modeling software".

Other links:

Friday, January 19, 2007

Connectivism Online Conference

Geoerge Siemens announced the upcoming Connectivism Online Conference , an "open online forum exploring how learning has been impacted by ongoing changes. The conference will run from February 2 – 9, 2007. Key themes will include: trends in K-12 sector, trends in higher education, research and net pedagogy, technological and societal trends, and connective knowledge and connectivism". George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Terry Anderson, Will Richardson, Bill Kerr, Diana Oblinger will be presenting at this conference.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Microsoft Firefox 2007 Professional Edition

Starring on Yahoo! Answers

On Yahoo! Search blog, Tara Kirchner announced new features added to Yahoo! Answers. "Among the enhancements, the team introduced a new way for users to share questions that they find interesting on Yahoo! Answers, called "stars"", Tara writes. The starring concept is however not new. Google already has this feature in e.g. Google Reader.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The All-In-One Apple iPhone

David pointed me to the various capabilities of Apple iPhone. See it yourself in the YouTube video below :-)


Just came across this interesting Read/WriteWeb post on OpenID. "OpenID is being managed under meritocracy rules, just like any other big open source project. Specs are under continuous development. The current spec 1.1 will be deprecated in favor of the upcoming 2.0, which will feature YADIS service discovery, security enhancements, anonymous logging capability and XRI (i-name i-number)".
This post also contains the screencast I´m including below to show how OpenID works.

Note: click the play button to start

Prolearn Thematic Workshop on Social Software - Call for Participation

Prolearn's 4th Thematic Workshop on Social Software (in cooperation with iCamp and the Austrian Ministry of Education, Science and Culture)

Vienna, Austria, 2 March 2007

The workshop is designed to serve as a forum for researchers, practioners, and intermediaries related to Social Software and its use in Technology Enhanced Learning.The meeting will provide unique networking possibilities. It will enable discussions around innovative research results and findings, experience reports and will address further research needs, as well as case studies describing innovative applications of new Social Software learning environments and approaches.

We welcome all interested researchers, practitioners and intermediaries focusing on the aspect of Social Software for Technology Enhanced Learning to participate in the mornings for high level key note speakers and to contribute actively in the afternoon at the workshop.

Key note speakers morning:

  • A Model for Social Software / Community Mining Ralf Klamma, RWTH Aachen University, GER

  • Social Proxies - John Erickson, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, USA

  • The rise of Social Software and its technical / philosophical roots - Christina Merle, AUT

  • Social Capital - Volkmar Pipek, University of Siegen GER

  • Wiki Tools for Learning - Anja Ebersbacher, University of Konstanz, GER

  • Integrating Social Software in existing Learning Systems - Guido Grohman, IMC , GER (tentative)

Afternoon Workshops:
  • Workshop 1: Case study workshop

  • Workshop 2: Austrian track workshop

  • Workshop 3: Teacher workshop
Detailed Programme and Registration under:

Participation is limited to 100 persons.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Towards a Personal Learning Environment Framework

Responding to Stephen Downes and Wolfgang Greller:

In a recent post, Wolfgang writes "Many PLE discussions seem to suggest the creation of a one-stop-shop portal application for life-long learning organisation (e.g. PLEX). The aim is to bring a variety of dispersed web services together for the learners benefit and self-organised by the learner. Does this actually require a platform?...The question therefore is: If learners are totally capable of blending various environments together, be it flickr, VLEs, messaging tools, mobile phones, television, etc., why would we want some middleware to do just that?". In the same direction Stephen asks "What, indeed, is the value-add of the PLE?".

I totally agree with Wolfgang and Stephen that we don´t need a top-down integration of different services into a centralized platform like PLEX and Elgg do. In my opinion, PLEX is not more than a desktop application and Elgg is just another online portal or a new centralized LMS. We do however need a learner-driven bottom-up integration of different services into a unique PLE. In this sense, we don´t need a trusted site that supports OpenId and acts as an identity provider, our PLEs will be our identities. I argue here that we do need a learner-controlled unique integrated environment bringing together multiple services into one place. We liked and widely used RSS aggregators which collect RSS feeds from many sites and present the content on a single page. We would also like a federated search engine that allows searching of distributed multimedia repositories with a single query and present the result on a single interface. We tend to like all-in-one devices suitable for every purpose. I´m sure many of us will like Apple iPhone with a widescreen iPod, multi-touch display, digital camera, mobile phone, Web browsing, maps, searching etc. integrated into one device.

In an earlier post, I suggested a new learning approach based on "personal environments, loosely joined" and mentioned that a PLE is characterized by the freeform use of a set of lightweight services and tools that belong to and are controlled by individual learners. The idea is to provide the learner with a myriad of services and hand over control to her to select and use the services the way she deems fit to create her integrated PLE better adapted to her own situation and needs.

To the technical question of how PLEs can be best deployed, I believe that the challenge is how to design a PLE as an extensible framework that can be complemented with different supporting components. In a software development context, a framework is a collection of abstract classes and interfaces that are used to express abstract design. The developer can then implement the interfaces and abstract classes provided by the framework and create her own extensions. The design of a PLE can be similar to the design of an integrated development environment (IDE) such as the Eclipse IDE. Similar to Eclipse which has plugins for different programming languages such as C\C++, Python, Perl, Ruby, PHP, design tools and many more plugins, a PLE can be designed in such a way that it can easily be extended with new learning services and tools. Learners should be able to copy&paste, drag&drop and mash third-party services directly into their PLEs based on their needs and with a minimum effort.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


slideshare is a community site to share and discover slideshows. It has many of the features of YouTube.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

GWT: Compiling Java to JavaScript

While browsing through the Ajaxian blog, I also ran across this interview by Frank Sommers with Scott Blum, the Google software engineer behind GWT's Java-to-JavaScript compiler, talks about the challenges of turning Java source code into JavaScript.

The following questions have been answered by Scott:

  • Could you start by giving us an overview of the GWT development process?
  • What are the biggest differences in the JavaScript the GWT generates for the various browsers?
  • What happens to a Java class when it's compiled into JavaScript?
  • What are prototype-based objects?
  • What types of Java code are the hardest to translate to JavaScript?
  • You mentioned that browser-specific functionality is brought into the compile process from external libraries. Can you explain how that works?
  • Once you have those browser-specific versions, how do you deploy them so that each browser gets only the code aimed for it?
  • You said earlier that JavaScript is more flexible than Java. In what way do you take advantage of more flexibility in JavaScript to get, say, better performance, or more concise code?
  • In addition to excellent Java developer tools, what do you think are the biggest differences for a developer between writing a browser-based application in Java versus writing that app directly in JavaScript?
  • What are the GWT compiler's current limitations in translating Java code to JavaScript?
Well worth a look!

Ajaxian Predictions: Ajax in 2007

On the Ajaxian blog, Dion Almaer and Michael Mahemoff have posted their predictions for 2007.

Some of Dion´s predictions:

  • Someone tries to coin Ajax 2.0.
  • A large amount of apps have flash AND ajax, and users don’t know or care.
  • A widget api means componts can run on many frameworks using one api.
Some of Michael´s predictions:
  • Google Office. Finally!
  • With its excellent documentation and pattern language integration, the Yahoo UI library becomes the standard weapon of choice among mainstream developers seeking a pure Javascript framework. In the Java world, GWT makes great strides as the platform becomes richer and design patterns emerge.
  • Mobile web development continues to suck.
  • Javascript increasingly recognised as the world’s most popular “second language” and becomes popular as a lingua franca to describe generic programming concepts. Several attempts at server-side Javascript frameworks.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Javascript Flickr Slideshow

jsFlickrSlideshow is a "javascript slideshow that shows images from Specify tags and/or users to limit the slideshow. Uses the "canvas" object, works in firefox and internet explorer using the excanvas.js library. Easily integrate into any web page". Check the project page or try out a demo.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Personal Environments Loosely Joined

With each new wave of technological innovation, the traditional way to explore the evolution of the educational model is to focus on how to best integrate the new technology into the learning process without influencing the traditional pedagogical principles and policies imposed by formal educational institutions. Recently, with the rise of new Web 2.0 tools and services (e.g. blogs, wikis, RSS, mashups, social tagging), many researchers are going the same way by exploring how to best include these tools into the traditional academic and corporate learning process. I believe however that in doing so, educational Web 2.0 technologies will go the way of previous technologies (e.g. LMS, LCMS, CMS, LO, LOR); i.e. much hype followed by a slow death. Actually, the problem of today´s educational model is a culture problem rather than a technology one.
Mejias states that in the past couple of decades, we
´ve heard about the potential of e-learning to transform the way we learn. Despite isolated achievements, the success record is on the whole not very encouraging. In my opinion, failures in the traditional educational model mainly result from the fact that we are trying to solve new problems with old ways that would not work in the new global competition era. In an earlier post, I pointed out that we need a fundamental shift toward a more social, personalized, open, dynamic, emergent, and knowledge-pull model for learning, as opposed to the one-size-fits-all, centralized, static, top-down, and knowledge-push models of traditional learning initiatives. I suggest here a new educational model that goes beyond the traditional classroom and educational institution boundaries and presents a new way of thinking about teaching and learning. This model is similar to the Hollywood industry model where different contributors come together for a particular film or show; they work together until the project is complete; they do not have a "permanent" relationship with a studio or entertainment company. This new educational model is based on personal environments, loosely joined. Personal Learning Environments (PLE) and knowledge networking are the cornerstones of this model. A PLE is characterized by the freeform use of a set of lightweight services and tools that belong to and are controlled by individual learners. Rather than integrating different services into a centralized system, the idea is to provide the learner with a myriad of services and hand over control to her to select and use the services the way she deems fit. A PLE driven approach does not only provide personal spaces, which belong to and are controlled by the user, but also requires a social context by offering means to connect with other personal spaces for effective knowledge sharing and collaborative knolwedge creation. PLEs can be aggregated to form a dynamic learning community. Siemens defines a learning community as "external structures that we create in order to stay current and continually acquire, experience, create, and connect new knowledge". The outcomes of a learning community can be reviewed and assessed by experts or other communities. A key requirement here is a new culture that allows knowledge to flow and rewards rather than punishes collaboration initiatives. Collaboration has to become the norm and a meaningful part of the performance evaluation of learners. A learning community might need a person(s) who would just act as a knowledge broker, knowledge co-creator, mentor, coordinator, and facilitator of the learning experience rather than as a traditional teacher. Membership in multiple knowledge communities including learning communities (LC), communities of practice (CoP) and communities of interest (CoI) is allowed. Wenger for example writes that communities are everywhere. We all belong to a number of them. Some have a name, some don't. We are core members of some and we belong to others more peripherally.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.