Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wikipedia censured?

This morning there was a lot of fuzz on the news because it is assumed that Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau and/or her husband Prince Friso of Orange Nassau have made changes to a page on Wikipedia. But isn't that the basic idea behind a Wiki? Wikipedia itself provides the following definition: "A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it". The philosophy is that because so many people can edit these pages. there will be a sort of self-correction mechanism which eventually will lead to high quality pages. Research has shown that Wikipedia is able to compete with the quality level of a formally published encyclopedia like Encyclopedia Brittanica. Well back to Mabel again, the fuzz is caused because she has changed a page about herself. From a legal point of view there is no hard evidence that she did it herself. The only identification comes from an IP number that relates to the palace she lives in. But is she the only one accessing the internet from there, or are there others too? And what if she did edit the page? If her change is incorrect others will probably re-correct it again (and so it already happened). The thing that worries me in this specific example is that the Dutch royal information service (RVD) wants to make specific pages read-only. What is this?? It's fundamentally against the open source philosophy behind Wikipedia. Who decides what's the truth and what I may read or may not read? The truth according to the RVD or prime minister Balkenende? Or is it because Mabel is controversial, because of her past relationships? Large organisations such as the CIA, the Vatican and the Australian government are also known for making self-serving changes to pages on Wikipedia. Are we at the threshold of a new type of censureship here? What if I would make the change back to Mabels' version? Will I be in the news headlines tomorrow? If you don't want to have pages changed: print a book, put it in 5 layers of plastic wrap, store it in a safe deposit which is guarded next to the royal jewelry in the Tower of London.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The students have arrived!

Today is the start of the introduction weeks for our new bachelor students. The main campus road (Drienerlolaan) is blocked with a sort of market with all kinds of activities, music and of course most student societies try to attract new members. There was a long cue of students waiting in front of the main tent. Here they need to register for the introduction program and receive all the necessary information. Some students carry bags, backpacks or even a hard-cover suitcase, indicating that they also have to check in for their sleeping quarters, wherever that may be. Looking back at my own introduction period (which is 24 years ago, gosh I'm getting old...;-) it is an exciting period of adventure. For lots of students it's their first step towards living on their own. No mom or dad to rely on for their daily needs, making your evening dinner, do the laundry, etc. From an ICT perspective they probably have high expectations, assuming that all ICT facilities are prepared to handle their needs. Our University has an IT profile, so it must be well organised you may think. However, students don't know that new software releases or complete new applications are installed in the summer, literally a few weeks before they start. One may really get stressed when things don't go as smoothly as you would like. From experience it is known that there are always unforseen circumstances. This year is no execption to the rule. The instructors will have to prepare their lessons and make their course sites. Will it just be a copy of the previous site again, or will this year bring us a true innovation? In the past years we always succeeded to get everything up and running on time. There is no reason to believe that it won't be that way this year.....-);

Monday, August 20, 2007

Taking a look at MS Sharepoint

In July we have finished our final report on our pilot experience with Sakai and have presented this to our Board of Directors. As predicted we are asked to initiate a follow-up project on MS Sharepoint which is an important factor within the federation of the three technical universities in the Netherlands (3TU). The follow up project cannot be as extensive as the Sakai project, due to time restrictions. This means that it will be more or less a quickscan. One of the consequences is that we cannot organise pilot projects together with our faculties. Instead, we are planning to make some site visits at institutions who already implemented Sharepoint in their educational organisation. In order to keep our stakeholders involved we will invite some teachers and students to join the projectteam during these site visits. Besides the pedagogical/organisational criterium we also want to take a look at the technical features in the sense of web services, interoperability and the use of (open) standards. This must give us insight into the way Sharepoint may be linked into a broader ICT architecture in which it has to work together with other (3TU) applications. Currently, I am writing the project plan. We hope to start in september. The good news is that most of the Sakai team members will also be involved in the follow up project, so we have the same reference background in this matter. The 'bad' news is that we are asked to put all effort into the research of Sharepoint and leave Sakai for the time being. The final decision on which application components will be used to deliver the range of required services will be made in 2008. Will Sakai still be a serious candidate for this purpose? Time will tell.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Back to business

Yesterday was my first working day after a long holiday break of 5 weeks. It's always difficult to get up and running the first day. Not only for my computer which needs to download and install all kinds of updates (and of course needs to restart) but also for yourself. Usually after a first working day I feel exhausted by the end of the afternoon. Yesterday was no exception to the rule. In July I spent quite some time in the south of Spain. Nice apartment, swimmingpool nearby, lots of sunshine and the Spanish atmosphere make it very relaxing to stay there. We always try to adjust ourselves as quickly as possible to the local time schedule of doing things, which basically means that everything happens a couple of hours later and at a lower pace than in the Netherlands. Moreover, during the middle of the afternoon it's rather quiet because of the siesta (or what's left of it). The evenings on the other hand are very lively and it's a great experience to go out at 9,30 pm and find out that all shops are open and that lots of people are out there, thus creating an active shopping scene. At 11.30 pm a lot of parking garages near a city centre show a 'complete' sign. At home most of the streets are abandoned by that time.
For me, the summer holidays are also a period without computers and/or communication with the home base. Although the webmail facilities are convenient enough to read your mail every day, I don't do it as a sort of defense mechanism. On the one hand because I know my out-of-office assistant has informed the sender that I'm away and that a quick answer is not to be expected. On the other hand, in case there would be an (urgent) message that requires any follow up it could spoil your day and the whole relaxing atmosphere. So I usually start reading my mail after I return in the Netherlands, a few days before I get back to work. This way the number of unread messages is acceptable on my first working day, and I have the illusion that I may continue my Spanish holiday pace for a while. This is indeed an illusion.... ;-)