Archive for January, 2009

Please Don’t Change That URL!

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

From BBC – Radio Labs – How we make websites comes this quote:

It’s nice if URIs are human readable. It’s also nice if they’re hackable. It’s an absolute prerequisite that they’re persistent.

Don’t sacrifice persistence for the sake of prettiness or misguided SEO. URIs are your promise to the web and your users – if you change them or change their meaning you break that promise – links break, bookmarks break, citations break and your search engine juice is lost.

As long ago as 1998 and 1999 the W3C and Jakob Nielsen were giving the same advice, so this isn’t exactly breaking news. But the BBC story shows that the command is taken seriously by the creators of one of the best reputed dynamic web sites on the internet. So why do lesser entities feel the need to intermittently destroy all the value created by their employees in the form of established web presence?


Homework Help = Cheating ?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

In checking out some of the people mentioned in this posting by Seb Schmoller (which I learned of via Stephen Downes), I was led to consider where is the borderline between helping a student to learn and facilitating cheating.

What is 0^0 equal to? – squareCircleZ

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

This post at squareCircleZ (a very nice enrichment and support website for students and teachers of mathematics) raises the conundrum of how to define 0^0 if all positive x give x^0=1 and 0^x=0.

Open Culture

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Open Culture is a website developed by Dan Colman (who moonlights as the director of Stanford’s Continuing Studies program). It focuses on educational video offerings such as the Leonard Susskind
Physics Lectures, and includes
a page of links to other academic YouTube video collections.

David MacKay: Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

In Sustainable Energy – without the hot air UK physicist David MacKay presents plausible back-of-the-envelope estimates of the scales of action needed under various strategies for reduction of global carbon fuel combustion. The numbers he uses are easily checked and his analysis can be re-run with revised parameters if needed. Only when a significant fraction of humanity is capable of actually doing both those things will we have any chance of making the right decisions.

By The Numbers

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

This article discusses the latest round of changes in the WNCP Math Curriculum. Somehow, after seeing perhaps half a dozen rounds of this game, the rhetoric of revolutionary change wears a bit thin.

TIMSS 2007 – How are we all doing in math? – squareCircleZ

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

The part I find most encouraging in Murray Bourne’s discussion of the latest TIMSS 2007 report on mathematics performance around the world is the distribution of gender differences – in particular the fact that the relative performance of females is stronger most especially in a number of Islamic countries. My top-of-the-head explanation for this is that perhaps mathematics is seen as relatively value-free (and perhaps more artistic than useful) and so is something that females can study without attracting adverse attention, and also perhaps that religious education is seen as more of a male prerogative. If so, then perhaps that portends a wonderful change of culture over the next generation as those with the greater power of reason will eventually find a way to take more control of their society.

Internet Safer Than Thought vs Flickr Perversion

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

In contrast to this study (which I came to via Stephen Downes)showing that the internet just isn’t the danger to children it is often portrayed to be, we have Alec Couros reporting on Open Thinking & Digital Pedagogy » Blog Archive » Flickr Perversion, which is about the unpleasant experience of finding some of his family photos identified as ‘favourites’ by a couple of apparent perverts.

Philosophy Talk: The Blog: William James and the Squirrel Example.

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Philosophy Talk: The Blog: William James and the Squirrel Example.
Yes, James does seem to be confounding a number of issues in that lecture
His resolution of the squirrel dispute (“Which party is right,” I said, “depends on what you practically mean by ‘going round’ the squirrel”) looks more like linguistic analysis than anything else, and his description of of the ‘pragmatic’ principle in the second paragraph as ‘If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle’ sounds more like a version of positivism.

It is only later in the piece that he identifies pragmatism with the kind of provisionalism that most scientists take towards their theories as being useful pro tem until they need to be refined in order to accommodate further observations ‘less as a solution, then, than as a program for more work, and more particularly as an indication of the ways in which existing realities may be changed’.

How Much is Too Much?

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

I have always believed that disprportionate reponse is justifiable (if struck once I will strike back unpredictably harder if I can so that there is no future temptation to estimate expected value of an attack). And I understand that in the event of military action some level of “collateral damage” has to be expected (and that even those opposed to a belligerent regime can expect to suffer the consequences of retribution if they have failed to remove it from power). But the scale of suffering now in Gaza (when comared to the ineffectiveness of the attacks which prompted it) does make me wonder how much is too much?

Prompted by this article (by Fares Akram in The Independent via Alternet)