Open Source & Language

In an evaluation of v. 2.4 of Groove’s peer2peer software (v 3.0 is out in beta), a group of francophone reviewers looked at its functions. Since Groove is already upgrading, I didn’t go into much detail on the tech specs, and will wait until more reports on Groove come out. See my recent post on Groove 3.0.

What I found most interesting is that Groove has no intention at this time to come out with versions in other languages, and is not looking for any volunteers to help with localisation/translation.

Q: Is Groove Networks looking for partners to assist in translating Groove into other languages and/or testing under local environments?
A: No, Groove Networks is not looking for partners to localize Groove software at this time.

Now if you go to the ATutor site, you will see that there are many people working on version translations. The French version of the latest ATutor release came out at the same time as the English.

My point is that if you happen to work in a non-English environment, then open source makes more sense; because you will at least have the option to do your own translation.

CATA Supports Open Source

Last April, in a letter to the Treasury Board, the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance urged the Canadian government to support the use of open source and open standards.

These governments have been attracted to Open Source because it provides a foundation for lowering costs while increasing stability, scalability and security. This change in procurement strategy provides an opportunity for our members to capture new markets.

I made a similar recommendation to the New Brunswick government during their recent pre-budget consultations. Too bad I hadn’t seen this letter earlier. Notice how CATA believes that open source/standards would be advantageous for its SME’s (small and medium enterprises).

Thanks to Seb for pointing to this.

Link Errors

I just discovered a number of link errors on my previous posts. I had used the wrong kind of quotation marks when referring to a URL, and the link just pointed back to this website 🙁

I think that I’ve cleaned them all up, and have discovered a bit more about HTML, which I’m learning on the fly.

Future of Work

I’ve written a bit about the need for business models that are more flexible than the industrial age corporation. An effort to look at the future of work organisational models has been going on at MIT since the mid-1990’s. in 1999 the team at MIT wrote a manifesto on the changes needed for future work structures. They called for the creation of organisations that are environmentally, socially and personally sustainable.

Thomas Malone, author of the forthcoming book “The Future of Work,” has been involved with the Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century initiative at MIT, and in a recent interview talks about open source as a good busines model for the future, and applauds the success of e-Bay.

Malone also explains that all new work models have resulted from improved communications systems.

We’re now in the early days of the third stage – transitioning from business kingdoms to business democracies. Much more decentralized decision-making is now possible because communication is so cheap. We can afford to have vastly greater numbers of people well-enough informed that they can make a lot more decisions for themselves, decisions that, in the past, were only possible in central offices.

Decentralisation is becoming a fact, but whether it will result in environmentally, socially and personally sustainable organisations, remains to be seen. I guess it’s up to us. I look forward to reading Malone’s new book.

Honesty on the Net

An article in the New York Times [requires free subscription] discusses a Cornell professor’s small study of student behaviour, and found that they will lie more often off-line than online. At first this seems counter-intuitive, but:

On the Internet, though, your words often come back to haunt you. The digital age is tough on its liars, as a seemingly endless parade of executives are learning to their chagrin. Today’s titans of industry are laid low not by ruthless competitors but by prosecutors gleefully waving transcripts of old e-mail, filled with suggestions of subterfuge.

The Internet may be making us all more honest, because our words can live forever, so we’re more careful online. We also have a tendency to spill our guts a lot more – witness blogs. This essay was referred by NewsScan Daily, whose credo is "Be informative, have fun, and get to the point!"

New Models for Business

I’m exploring business models in my own work. I have been a full-time employee for most of my working career. Now I run my own consultancy and I am the director of education of a non-profit organisation, the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, which from time to time has opportunities for paid work. I am also affiliated with other individual knowledge workers, and we share in projects that we cannot do alone. The sub-contracting model, which I have also worked under, is much less satisfying – intellectually and financially. I’m not sure which business model will be best in the long-run, but if I did not work for myself, I would not be able to stay in this town. There are no “jobs” for me here.

Business models come in varying sizes. Rob Paterson explores open source as a potential new business model. He sees the need for a new metaphor to replace the old one of the corporation. For instance:

A corporation that had as its purpose the need to serve its physical community would I suspect be transformed immediately. For instance, what if we had a corporation on PEI whose goal was to supply all Islanders with renewable energy at prices that were competitive or better than fossil fuel? Imagine generations of Islanders working to truly serve our own society?

I’ve been thinking about business and organisational models as I watch our downtown core change. We have about five empty storefronts within a one block radius of the only street light. These are small businesses that have recently been forced to close. When I talk to people in town, the general feeling is that we need more companies to set up business in town. This seems like business planning through wishful thinking – “Let’s have a corporation move in and look after us”. People want corporations to move here, because corporations are what they know. No one is saying that we should create a commune, a co-operative, a node, or a network – because these are unknown. There are few models to create these, and fewer still that are recognised by the banks.

So maybe the problem is the corporate model that governments, individuals and corporations take for granted. Corporations have the access to financial capital that is necessary for new ventures. Most individuals do not. The problem may not be the economy, it may be the tools and models we use to make it work. As I have posted before – what if every individual had the rights of the Corporation? Would this help us to create more sustainable and community-friendly business models?

What, more laptops?

Stephen Downes recently attended the RIMA conference in Quebec where, among other things, he covered Seymour Papert’s presentation on learning environmentalism. It was wide ranging presentation, and here is an interesting statement on laptops in schools:

"Putting laptops in schools, he [Papert] noted, is not tantemount to educational change, but it’s the seed of educational change. It is the act of putting the change in motion. But it couldn’t have come from within. Ask educators what the proper ratio of computers to students is, and you may hear, %:1, 6:1 – but the proper answer is 1:1 – but that is something that can be said only outside the system."

So it’s not about the technology. It’s about planting seeds of change, and as any internal consultant can tell you, change from within is difficult. The kids want change, the parents want change, Governors and Premiers want change, but those in charge of the education system don’t think that radical change is necessary. Neither did the politburo.

Evaluating LMS & LCMS

Here is a list of some system evaluation tools and postings available on the web:

The Edutools site is a not-for-profit information resource, with a focus on academic course management systems, both open source and proprietary.

EdTechPost matrix with many links to EduTools.

The Commonwealth of Learning conducted an Evaluation of five Open Source LMS in mid-2003 (Moodle, LON-CAPA, ILIAS, dotLRN, Atutor). The two finalists were ATutor and ILIAS.

Xplana OpenSource Evaluations from May 2003, which groups systems by type (PHP, java, etc).

Simon Fraser University LMS selection committee website, with many resources.

Brandon-Hall offers some free resources and a number of reports for purchase.

Groove 3.0 beta Available

Just to show that I don’t only write about open source products, take a look at Groove’s latest peer2peer offering. This is a product that allows for real-time file sharing. Pricing for Groove is not out of this world, and they say that they have academic and non-profit discounts, which I will be looking into for some of my clients. Groove is a unique product, filling a specific niche, not more of the same wrapped in new marketing hype.

Stowe Boyd gives a positive review of Groove 3.0 in Corante after blasting the last version. Make sure that you also read Robin Good’s comments on this review, because there’s always room for improvement.

Laptop Furor

The Premier of New Brunswick is trying to get a pilot laptop project going for Grade 7 students in one of our schools, but there has been much vocal resistance. His interest in the subject was sparked during a visit to Maine, where laptops were recently introduced into the school system. The initiative appears to be a success in Maine. I’ve already commented that I used to be against the idea of technology for technology’s sake, but laptops give students a wide range of opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. These include access to courses online, connections with other schools in other countries, use of blogs and wikis for knowledge creation, and others.

Now there is non-profit organisation in Britain lobbying for laptops in all schools. The author of the Digital Equality report from Citizens Online stated, "The very process of education is dependent on technology and not having equal access to laptops is like some pupils using pen and paper while others use slate and chalk."

Human nature is funny. If you say you can’t have something, then everyone wants it. If you have something to give away, then no one wants it.