Thursday, September 19, 2013

Foradian Technologies Interview


1.    Please introduce yourself to our readers.

I am a researcher for Canada’s National Research Council, the federal government scientific agency. I specialized on online learning, media and collaborative technologies. Since 2001 at NRC I have worked on learning object standards and repositories, content recommender systems, collaborative content authoring technology, and massive open online courses (MOOCs). I am best known for my daily newsletter, OLDaily, which covers advances in educational technology, for contributions to connectivism, which is a learning theory based on distributed knowledge, and for the development of MOOCs.

2.    Why connectivism made our education more elaborative?

The central idea behind connectivism is that knowledge is distributed. What this means is that even a simple concept (like ‘Paris is the capital of France’) is not stored as an atomic fact or sentence, but consists rather of a state of connectivity and actuivation of a network of neurons. Learning this is the development and activation of these connections. This means that we can’t learn effectively simply by importing content (what Friere called the ‘banking theory’) but must actively engage and work with the knowledge. I often compare the learning process to be similar to developing physical fitness through exercise.

3.    Please discuss about the importance of designing a course?

While a course was traditionally thought of as a series of presentment facts, like a book, in today’s online environment the design of a course is much more like the design of an environment (to follow on the previous analogy, it is like designing a gym or exercise facility. This means that instead of charting a route through content, course designers need to present options and opportunities for learners to engage, interact, work with resources and create new knowledge.

4.     What are challenges in open online education?

The primary challenge I think is that it is very difficult to move from a system based on courses and credits to one where learners are more engaged and creative in learning. The existing system is based on the idea of attending college and university, at significant expense and opportunity cost. But we want learning to be connected to and part of a person’s personal or professional life, an extension of what we do every day rather than a replacement for it. This requires an advanced communications infrastructure, in order to facilitate access to professors and resources, but also a change in teaching philosophy.

5.    What is web based courses? How web based courses can contribute more to education?

I prefer to use the word ‘course’ in the traditional sense, which means ‘series’, rather than the sense in which we mean classes and tests and grades. The course is (as I offer it) a series of discussions or related activities around a theme or area of enquiry. It is not ‘taught’ in the traditional sense, but rather resembles more a community, where the course facilitators provide a communications environment and facilitate interaction, and where academics leading the enquiry are active participants in the community (not ‘guides by the side’ but rather exemplars of professional or expert practice). What makes it a course rather than (say) a community of practice is that it has a start and end date, and is more tightly focused. This has the effect of creating a new and temporary set of connections in the wider community, effectively shaking up existing communities and introducing people to new ideas and experiences.

6.    How technology help in improving the teaching practices?

The idea of ‘teaching’ in a connectivist environment is (to put it simply) to model and demonstrate expert practice. Technology makes it possible for experts to include novices and others in their day-to-day practice in ways unimagined even a decade ago. I recently mentioned the example of Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut who employed social media to share his experience of commanding the International Space Station. It was a ‘course’ in the sense that it had a limited three-month duration and was focused around a specific activity. But people participated through dialogue and social interaction, as well as through sharing and discussing the unique resources produced by Hadfield during the event.

7.    Do you think the online education is in the right direction? What makes this more useful and powerful ?

Online learning is still struggling to find its way. While free and open learning is of the greatest benefit to learners and society at large, it is still subject to commercial forces seeking to ‘monetize’ learning communities, often through enclosure but also through advertising and upselling. There needs in my mind to be a clear and consistent foundation of open access to learning which is publicly provided as a social good in order to ensure the widest benefits of our common culture and base of knowledge is passed on from generation to generation, and to foster the widest and most creative possible innovation. Commercial and economic activity should be derived from the fruits of the educational system, rather than tapping into the provision of it; it is analogous to the way commercial and economic activity is greatly magnified by the creation of a transportation infrastructure, rather than through the creation of private or toll roads.

8.    As a researcher, what do you think about the face of education in 2025?

I think it will look very different. Colleges and universities will exist, and will still offer ‘courses’, but these will increasingly be offered to people in the workplace (or in earlier stages of their education). Enrolment in a course will not be constrained by admission to an institution, and will be characterized by free access to information and resources. Time to participate (and often many of the learning materials) will be offered by existing and prospective employers. Evaluation will not be through tests and assignments but rather through computational analysis of the students participation in the learning and wider disciplinary network. Students won’t ‘study’, they will engage and participate, learning through performing actual and important social functions.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two Comments on 'Open'

Response to David Wiley (his post)

> Which initiatives that use “open” properly would you suggest the whole world read about instead of the Fauxpen Education Alliance?

I don't want to be a self-promoter, but...

I have planned and run all my MOOCs openly since 2008. Moreover, they have all been run using open source software (Perl Artistic/GPL) which has been available on my website and on Sourceforge since then. See

But everyone - *everyone* - has jumped on the Coursera / Udacity / EdX bandwagon, not because they're open, not even because they're better, but because they're part of that Stanford / Harvard / MIT nexus. The willingness of people (and media, and funders, etc etc) to run toward these initiatives, simply because they're from elite US universities, is what leads to these new versions of open.

Meanwhile I get flack from the Creative Commons community because the CC license on some of my writing is 'not open enough', because I don't (and couldn't if I wanted to) allow my work to be scraped and sold by content-farms.You can take my work and do whatever what you want with it (but you can't lock it behind a wall forcing people to pay thousands to see your annotated version of it).

So I think that the promoters of open need to look closely at what motivates them and what projects they support, and perhaps be less willing to jump on the next media meme because it pushes pageviews and signups, and examine the sort of software and content environment they want 'open' to really be.

To me, open isn't about the money (and it's precisely when it *does* become about the money that it becomes converted and corrupted). Open is about creating and sharing. Open isn't about elite universities and "the best professors in the world". It's about everybody being able to be a learner, and a teacher, and a member of the community.

I'm just saying. I'm not bitter, I don't even care - I'm just observing that people get the 'open' they deserve.
Responses to a discussion forum on the future of OERu. (the discussion)

- What is the OERu point of difference and does it need one? 

The primary (and perhaps the sole) point of difference between OERu and the other initiatives is the manner of course construction, using the wiki and (mostly) volunteer labour. Perhaps secondarily, the fact that OERu materials can be reused, though reuse permissions vary through the open online learning community.

- What differentiates the OERu collaboration from xMOOCs? 

Strictly the reuse permissions. The 'logic model' employed by OERu is (more cynically) also employed by, say, Coursera.

It may be that there is an argument to be made for the gretaer quality or usefulness of learning materials created collaboratively in a wiki environment, but as OERu has focused more and more on its university "founding partners" it becomes more like Coursera, and less like Wikipedia. In my view.

- What has contributed to the uptake and global interest in the cMOOCs and xMOOCs?

CMOOCs were around for a while without making a huge impact (though they were influential pedagogically). It is with Stanford's AI course - and the support of the Stanford media machine - in 2011 that the format became popular. The marketing was so influential that they were actually given credit for inventing the form, though we know that both MOOCs and OEREu were around before Coursera.

- What does this mean for OERu?

It's running behind in a race against well-funded marketing machines. No doubt board members on OERu "founding partners" have wondered why they weren't "involved in a MOOC'. OERu is not sufficiently 'more open' to attract notice from the supporters of xMOOCs, at least, not in the popular media and public opinion. Initiatives like Wikiversity and Curricki find themse;ves in the same position.

I don't think 'being a wiki' open education initiative will be sufficient to attract long-term interest (though this should not deter OERu and WikiEducator members from continuing to create and contribute valuable online learning materials). It will probably create funding pressures for OERu, as "founding members" look elsewhere to join the MOOC bandwagon.

Should OERu brand itself as a MOOC initiative? I don't think so - it would be like trying to retroactively give itself credit for being a part of a movement it wasn't a part of (like the way Alison is saying it created the first 'MOOCs' in 2007 because it released some 'openish' learning content).
But I think OERu can draw on its superior pedagogical knowledge and offer a more substantial learning experience than the Video+quize format of the xMOOCs. Maybe cMOOC people and OERu people should talk more.

- Are there other contemporary developments which the OERu network should take into account? 

Well, yeah. Can it get past the concept of a 'class' and 'university credit' (ie., the old-fashioned and not very open logic model) and embrace a model of learner-driven education? Can it nurture (and support existing) domain-specific communities with the sharing of resources, practices, war stories, activities, etc?

Before MOOCs became large the same community was talking about the concept of personal learning. The institution-based OERu model is a step away from that (as are the institution and course-centric MOOCs, both 'c' and 'x'). Can OERu find a way to merge collaborative (cooperative) community with personal learning?

- What questions should the OERu network be asking to inform its future? 

To me, the central (and existential) question always facing OERu (and WikiEducator) is: who does OERu and WE serve? WQho is intended to be the ultimate beneficiary of these initiatives? When a person contrubutes content to WE, who are they trying to help?

As the emphasis of WE has shifted over time from open learning to founding partners, the answer to this question has become murkier. When we see initiatives like Coursera and Udacity launch, it becomes relevant to ask how different OERu is from either of these. I'm not saying they are the same. But the difference is far less clear after the 'logic model' than it was before.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Notes from ALT-C

"The notion of students as change agents is a relatively new concpt."  -- Malcom Ryan

Rachel Winston

How we can shape the development of a new culture of learning by creating a new partnership between students and educators.
- political view of the prevailing culture

1. why NUS thinks is an ideal model
2. how you in your role can build these partnerships
3. Results from NUS work in students shaping environments

Values underpinning this type of learning culture
- students shiuld be active participants in the learning process
    - bulk of literature - based on time & effort
    - UK - student engagement - efforts to involve and empower students in shaping the learning environment
Why define engagement this way?
- because it's the right thing to do?
- offering an alternative to the consumer model of education (which reduces complex interactions to mere transactions)

What does partnership look like?
- academics are critical, and act to change things
- active students can do this too
     - when that stunet graduates, take that ethos of responsibility into the wider world
- students are keen to be influential in decision-making, if given the opportunity (cf D2L study) - changing from feedback to 2-way conversations
- partnership is often phrased in terms of student empowerment - but this often linked with taking power away from someone - student empowerment and staff empowerment may be linked, opposed to a centralized decision-making structure
- students may exhibit properties of consumerism unless we offer an alternative
- example - start by rethinking how you provide training - include students in the process - "when we train acadmics in technology, they will retrun to old habits" - also - model where delivery happens with only one academic present

- need to consider the impact of unis outside the walls and in the wider community
- need to learn lessons from FE - these are often involved in their communities - eg. FE teach English to the families of students who study there
- give learners the space to collaborate and influence they environment

- change requires dislogue - so talk to your neigbour now

Our research with D2L...
- students belive their abilities with tech at leash as high or higher that educators
- lots of examples here in partnership development
- Liverpool-Hope eg. initiatives to challenge institutional structure by starting dialogiues
- SU was very good with communicating with students throught the process
- Birmingham - projects innvoate in specific courses - led by SU - w/ student-staff teams bringing forward specific projects. Lessons - 1- students and staff collaborate in multiple stages - 2 - initiative was value-driven with the indent of building cultural change - not just drivers of productivity or boosted NSF scores

- on the idea that studetns can never be equal partners because they have not the background - students have the capacity - because undertsanding and engaging in these decisions is part of living in a community - being involved in process, not just waiting for product delivery - it's not about parity of tech and domain experise - it's about everyone exchanging dialogue in good faith, where each may have expertise in unique areas

- response distinguishing orientation & induction - 'I dodn't realise my dissertation was research until I left - I thought it was an extended essay'
- important to do it through SU - many engagements just involve a few students, who develop a sense of loyalty to the admin
- Q - distinction between 'representative' - vs just being a vocal active student with opionions; R - one of the things I see - people take an individual stant and make that student 'the representative student' - the only way to get the student voice is through the collective voice - which depends on SU processes beimg in place


Scitt Wilson, OSSWatch -

UK insgtitutions with OSS policies  - 71% (HE), 61% (FE)
but only considered equally 25 % of the time

Focus: awareness, policy & practice
- OSS options -  - things already been deployed in another government department
- inform, suggest, challege & contribute
- policies: create polcies which are agnostic, balanced; may incoude 'default to OSS' or 'OSS preferred' - eg. ICT Advice Note, Government Procurement Services

Rob Farmer & Kate Littlemore
'Study skills for academic success' - pre-enrollment course -
- was f2f 12 weeks 3hours/week - labour intensive
- reasons to go online: meet demand, flexible delivery, autonomous learning
- course design via 'CAIeRO'  process - structured 2-day workshop - see
- use of e-tivity template - see
- focus on task, not content, design with openness in mind (was very different from creating content; previous content-based approach has failed)
- course map
- was a mix between online activities & f2f (interestingly, nobody surveyed would have preferred a fully online course - "they take cajoling")
- "online learning is bad because I can't ask questions when I get stuck"
- design for mobile needs to be considered from the outset (ie., lists, not tables)

Roger Henry

- 'Your Business Future' - OERs in the business course
- videos...
- we used a lot of students in this project (also interns) -
- the reaction of business people to student interviewers was very different than to staff
- "I don't think repositories are the answer" - you wade though them looking for what you want - we pushed out to news groups and mailing lists, not so much repositories
- we ended up making our own stuff - it was easier (even our own stuff, licensing issues)
- we are saying "if you make something, CC it, and give dept ownership"
- internationalizing - the law if different, the culture is different (relevant also when you use others')
- work with students, but always work in threes - you have one creative, one who is organized and detail-oriented, and one who is completely unreliable
- comment on the need to get all people in the videos to sign permission forms allowing use of their words/image

John Clayton
- the 'deficit model' approach - "you are lacking and I will bring you up to speed" - is essentially a broadcat model, *vs*
- empowerment model - based on learner reflection and decision-making on what *they* want to learn
- we say we do this, but then we don't allow this to occur (good disgram slide 3)
- constructing personalized learning plans:
    - intuitive user interface
    - data interacts with distinct datatabases
    - PLP developed
- model:
    - disgostic form
    - mapped to learning profiles
    - delivers learning modules
Reflective framewors - what a learer needs to learn
   - the only way to do that is to create a rubric

Jess Power and Vidya Kaannara
- preliminary findings - instutitional blockages to the use and developoment of the vle
- digital literacy still a major chellenge in the use of a VLE - re: the capacity of staff and students (eg. to adapt to changes or changing technolofies)
- they're trying to replace existing practices rather than try new ways of doing things
- project methodology: identify gaps, design strategies to fill them
- findings - half of schools actually collect data, but there's no standard process, no clear link to strategy
- according to the literature: most institutions have digital literacy standards, minimum compliance, limited criteria for auditing

Bex Lewis
- working with ODHE - Organisational Development in Higher Education
- many OD practitioners not comfortable with digital literacies
- fears - distraction, overload, apocalypse when it breaks
- one person said - "I'm mostly self-taught because the formal learning is poorly designed"
- most of the (admin types) have iPads... - they use e-surveys, google docs, and universoty systemss
- reliability issues & eduroad - "It can take me up to 20 minutes to get everything up and running"
- What worked - email list

Jenny Mackness and Roy Williams
- we're not going to explain terribly much - this is a workshop
- we're looking at emergence....
      - self-organizing = independent, adaptive, unpredictable
- when you start self-organizing your learning, emergence and emergent learning will occur (we hope)
- so I should shut up - you should do, and I should respond
- what you need: frequent interaction between many people and resources with no-one able to follow everything
- examples: wikipedia

Angie Clonan & Luke Miller - Healthy MOOCs - University of Sheffield
- School of Hearth and Related Research MOOCs
- indecesion - weren't sure what a MOOC was - platform indecision
- why MOOC? prove feasibility, increase profile, recruit students
- Platform criteria: needed to be open, simple sign-up, familiar environment, suite of collqboration tools, established and relianble, scalable
- Considered Moodle, Coursera, FutureLearn, Wikispaces, decided on coursesites(Blackboard Learn) (uni has since signed with FutureLearn)
- Developed: template, short course (5 weeks), 'MOPE' (platform) - challeneges: diverse learners, production
- Marketing - social media, mooc-list, etc
- delivery: daily maintenance, intro week (which was the businest), after that it was largely self-running
- size: 1394 joined, 1057 registered, 603 started, 135 continued to end, 73 certificates issued
- Engagement: 858 blog posts, 875 discussion posts, 78 journal posts
- Dev time - all 1600 hours (approx)
- qualitative - "amazing feedback"

Helen Whitehead - University of Nottingham - NOOC
- JISC-funded PARiS project to create OERs in sustainability - we wanted to embed OERs in the curriculum
- Key askects: don't attack academic freedom, crowded curricukum, interdiscipkinary, sustainable pedagogies (eg. collaborative learning, formative assessment)
- activities aimed at behaviour change
- accessed exiting ebooks
- Innovation: needed to be practical, support employability agenda, innovative use of Moodle, measure use of 'disruptive' pedagogy on teaching across the university
- Process - developed structure, flexible assessment, post-grad researchers used as facilitators
- built our own online community before building the MOOC
- worked well - lots of discussion throughout
- analysis: the style we adopt as tutors/facilitators shapes the length and tone of students postings (so be careful how you modelm things) @@@@@@@@@

Nicola Beddall-Hill - Thetford Tomb Raiders
- looking at Hpward family tombs originally in a Thetford priory & moved to Framlingham
- based on scans of tombs, and examined bits that should be there (after the move, but weren't)
- based on am iOS weeb app - put out a tender and had a company do it
- question - "How do we become mediators of that information" - to find audience needs, used focus groups, surveys, etc - key was "not just another tour guide please"
- issues getting it running: people without iuPads, people without WiFi
- most people found it enjoyable
- will be available as "Thetford's Tudor Tombs"

Larry Reagan and Bruce
Leadership Challenges in the Rapidly Changing Global Culture of Learning / Sloan-C
Global foces:
  - change in value proposition - questioning the value of higher ed, driven by enormous costs to attend
  - historical/cultutal legacy - we may change how we define 'the academy'
  - changes in learning experiences - concepts of courses, classes being challenged / who grants the credential? (Badging - amazingly popular)
  - democratizing of learning
  - reducations in funding from government & public sources
  - growth of (competitive) online markets
  - integration of industry - more vocational
Institutional Forces
  - changing notion of the contract with the learner - move from attendance-based to competency-based models (and 3rd parties are doing this)
  - financial impact of online learning - increasing prevalence of market pricing (pushing up prices)
  - open and free courseware (MOOCs, etc)
  - lifelong learning
  - evidencde of ROI - eg., late-degree completers
  - demand for improved retention and completion
  - disruptive forces (pedagogy and technology)
Individual Forces
  - progressive leadership
  - collborstive leadership
  - globaal competitive awareness
  - business orientation - marketing sense, financial management
  - being agile in fast waters
  - drinking from the fire-hose
  - systems perspective- integration of  ultiple systems and network
  - consumer (customer) focus
  - opportunity oriented

Wendy Hall
What a Difference a Web Makes
- Standing on the shoulders of gialnts: Vannavar Bush, Ted Nelson (deeply intertwingled), Doug Englebart, Vint Cerf, Bob Khan (not just the internet but the democracy of it)
- 'associative linking' - camputes a semantic relationship between the elements (links in the metadata)
- TBL - the web - 'the most successful information srchitecture in history' (a lot of buzz around huperlinking at the time - there were systems around (eg Gopher) but cost money) ("we were talking about microcosm, he was talking about this thing that wasn't yet called the WWW -- ")
- Alt-C 1994 - Soton paper on mircocosm -- we were being prescient in microcosm about the semantic web
- Why the web son:
  - big is beautiful - the web is everything (everyone will use it or no-one will - winner-take all eg. one FACEBOOK)
  - scruffy works: let the links fail to make it scale
  - democracy rules: open, free and universal (it's an experiment that can never be rerun (but there's ways we could kill it)
  - but we lost (for a  time) conceptial and contextual - the semantic web
  - missing links - search engines fill the gap
- "You couldn't build Google until there was enough of the web to make it."
- the web is a network of netword that grows because we put stuff on it
   - web 2.0, wikipedia, (compare with microcosm - which linked to dictionary definitions - but you had to buy the OED to do it)

Friday, September 06, 2013

gRSShopper Setup (2)

Making Optlists

Preparing for the MOOC-REL course I filled in a full set of optlists.

An 'optlist' is the information required to create a dropdown list. These lists create predefine options in the forms people use to create new posts, events, pages, etc.

So, for example, a 'post' might have a field called 'status'. Normally it would just be a plain text field, and you'd type in the name of the type. But it's easier just to select a value from a predefined list. The 'optlist' defines this list.

Administrators can crate optlists by clicking on [New] Optlist in the admin screen(the direct link is http://yoururl/cgi-bin/admin.cgi?db=optlist&action=edit ) and providing the following information:

Table: the name of the table

Field: the name of the field

Data: this is the list of options. It's a structured list: optiontitle,optionvalue;optiontitle2,optionvalue2
Just type out the just. (You can experiment with this to get it right).
For example: Approved,A;On Hold,O;Retired,R

Adding Fields to Tables

Setting up the optlists, I noticed some fields were not updating properly - I would enter the value and it would just disappear when I updated the form. This happens when the field is not defined in the table.

I can add a field to any table using the Database functions. Click on the 'Database' tab in the admin screen and look for 'Manage Database'. Select the table to look at, then select 'Show Columns' from the drop down. This will tell me the names of all the fields in the database.

To add the new field, type the name of the field in the space and select 'Add Column' from the dropdown.  

Note all table column field names begin with the name of the table. So, for example, to add a 'title' field to the 'event' table, the name of the field must be 'event_field'. This way, every single field in the database has a unique name.

Note to change the list of fields that will be displayed for any given table in admin.cgi, go to the edit_record() function (it's the content beginning my $showcols = ...). This is hard-coded for now but will one day be part of the general admin screen. You will need to do this if you add a field that wasn't previously defined.


I noticed things like the delete buttons were not working. Many of the basic functions (including delete alerts and login status updates are handled by the grsshopper.js Javascript library. The templates were still pointing to the older downes.js I was using previously. So I changed the script include to read src=""></script>

While I was looking at this I checked the grsshopper.js script. It is supposed to be configured by the installer but that does not always work properly. That was the case here. First, it was an older script. Second, the site information wasn't correctly added.

You can always get a correct up-to-date grsshopper sscript from my website:
I downloaded this (you would replace with your own base URL).

Then I reset the values at the top of the script (these are needed to make the 'login' script at the top of the page work properly):
var base_url = "";
var cgi_url = "";
var title_cookie = "

Thursday, September 05, 2013

gRSShopper Setup Log

This is from another site (more shortly) but I'd like to share he especially for people interested is messing around with gRSShopper but not being able to get it to work. The steps below are actual steps I followed today, warts and all, to set up a new instance of gRSShopper on a clean computer. Perl modules requested had been installed for me (you can see the list below in this post).

1. Test SFTP access to web server - opened Filezilla client and tested SFTP connection to the website with the credentials provided to me. Test succeeded. Located web folders at /var/www/html and /var/www/cgi-bin

2. Test SSH access to web server - opened PuTTY and tested SSH connection to the server with the credentials provided (same as for SFTP). Test succeeded.Test SU with credential provided. Test succeeded.

3. Test mysql access with root password provided. (> mysql -p). Test succeeded.

4. Test Apache server by entering the URL or IP into a web browser. Test succeeded. Test location of web pages by creating a test index page ( in this case, in /var/www/html/index.htm ) using vi. Test succeeded. Changed owner and group to 'apache' and tested again. Test succeeded.

5. Create gRSShopper database on mysql.  > CREATE DATABASE database; 
    Give a user admin privileges: mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON database.* TO user@localhost IDENTIFIED BY 'password'; 

6. Gave my user access to apache group: >usermod -G wheel,apache myusername
and then changed owner and group for /var/www/html and /var/www/cgi-bin from 'root' to 'apache' 
then gave write access to apache to cgi-bin: >chmod 775 cgi-bin

7. Created a UMCourse 'databack' in GRSShopper from the Change 2011 course archive
Ran on - this creates an archive of the current version of gRSShopper (which includes the newly created data pack)
 (People who are not me would access the most recent code archive, which includes data packs, from or )

8. Saved grsshopper_0.51.tar.gz from and uploaded to UdeM site at /var/www/cgi-bin

9. Used PuTTY to extract the files: tar -zxvf grsshopper_0.51.tar.gz

10. Ran server test script: http://url/cgi-bin/server_test.cgi
This generated an error. Checked error log: > tail /var/log/httpd/error_log
Result was: Exec format error
Downloaded server_test.cgi to my local machine, opened it for editing, and moved the line
to the very top of the file (even before the comments). Tried it again. This worked. (Went and fixed this in so this problem never happens again). 

This script tests for required modules. It's kind of old and told me I was missing  XML::Feed, XML::Feed OPML, XML::LibXML and Net::OpenID::Consumer.

So I rewrote the server environment test to reflect current Perl module requirements (all models are loaded in load_modules() if you're interested). I uploaded to and also the UdeM site, so in the fulture the script will work a lot better for people. 

I ran the new server_test.cgi script with the following happy results:

gRSShopper web server environment test.

Checking PERL version... OK
Checking for CGI. This module handles form input functions. OK
Checking for CGI::Carp. This module displays error messages. OK
Checking for DBI. This module handles database functions. OK
Checking for LWP. This module connects to other web servers. OK
Checking for LWP::UserAgent. This module emulates a web browser. OK
Checking for LWP::Simple. This module emulates a web browser. OK
Checking for File::Basename. This analyzes file names and is used for file uploads. OK
Checking for File::stat. This examines files and is used for file uploads. OK
Checking for HTML::Entities. This encodes and decodes strings with HTML entities. OK
Checking for Scalar::Util 'blessed'. This is a set of useful utilities. OK
Checking for Text::ParseWords. This is used to extract lists of words from strings (ignoring delimiters insider quotes) OK
Checking for Net::Twitter::Lite::WithAPIv1_1. This connects to Twitter and executes the new Twitter API) OK
Checking for Image::Magick. This connects to Twitter and executes the new Twitter API) OK
Checking for DateTime. This converts dates and times) OK
Checking for DateTime::TimeZone. This manages time zone conversions) OK
Checking for Time::Local. This manages local time) OK
Checking for Digest::SHA1 qw/sha1 sha1_hex sha1_base64/. This excrypts passwords and access tokens) OK

11. I created a secret data directory and placed a file in it called multisite.txt
This file contains the database information for the website. It is a tab delimited file with the following values:
url    database_name    localhost    database_user   user_password
Needless to say it is not included with the gRSShopper distribution. You can edit the top of to set the database values, or define the multisite.txt script location at the head of (or it defaults to /cgi-bin/data/multisite.txt )
(Note for later use - the capcha table is also located in the data directory)

11. I ran the initialization script by running http://website/cgi-bin/admin.cgi
(this actually redirects to initialize.cgi but I like to run it from admin.cgi just to test admin.cgi and  the redirect).

Result: server error (*rats*). Check the error log again. Error:  Can't locate MIME/
Updated server_test.cgi to include MIME::Types  (heh heh)
Used CPAN to install MIME::Types

Once again I ran the initialization script by running http://website/cgi-bin/admin.cgi
This produces, as it should, a large message saying:
gRSShopper Initialization - Unable to Access Database

12. I initialized the database by clicking where it said and got an error:
The requested URL /cgi-bin/initialize.cgi was not found on this server.
I changed the name of the file /cgi-bin/initialize.cgix to /cgi-bin/initialize.cgi
(this is so I don't accidentally run the initialize file on my own site. Heh. You will want to simply remove this file when you're done here.)

12a. Step 1 - database initialization. Check the values in the form. Changed the value of Data Directory to the location of my secret data file. Things like name and tag can be changed later. Clicked submit.

12b. Step 2 - data pack selection. I selected the UMCourse data pack I made earlier. (Note: so long as initialize.cgi remains on your computer, you can switch to any other data pack. You can also create new data packs and switch back and forth. Just be careful - switching data packs will wipe out your existing data, so you must be absolutely sure to save the existing data as a data pack before you switch.) 
The data pack creates directories and database tables for you. It also loads Javascript, Image and CSS files associated with the current install. These sometimes get mixed up and I'll have to fix some stuff below. The installer isn't perfect.

12c. Step 3 - testing the login cookie. It gives me great pleasure to say the cookie has been successfully read.

The installer then creates an admin user ID and anonymous user ID. Note: the default password isn't 'L60iAoNSIza8k' of some such string. It's 'admin'. I need to fix the installer message here.

13. Click the link to be taken back to cgi-bin/admin.cgi where you will be presented with an 'Error' message and a prompt to login.

The link to login was wrong, it's the default at the top of  I edited grsshopper.cgi so now if it detects the default (and always wrong) 'yoururl' cgi-bin location, it defaults instead to the (usually right) url/cgi-bin location. If this fix doesn't work for you, you'll have to type the URL of the login.cgi script manually (you can edit the location of your cgi scripts in admin.cgi (though you really shouldn't unless it's messed up, because you'll mess it up)).

Login isn't functioning properly. The problem is that we're using a numerical URL - eg.
Normally the system sets the cookie domain by dropping the first part of the URL - eg. yields a domain of -- but this doesn't work for two part domains (like or for numerical domains. Clearly I need to fix this.

But for now, I edited login.cgi to explicitly set a cookie domain. It's at line 65 --
our ($Site,$dbh) = &get_site("page");        # Get Site Information
$Site->{co_host} = "";

and this works just fine.

14. I forgot to include the 'boxes' in my UMCourse data pack so there are none. Also, all the URLs for the scripts and CSS in the templates are wrong. Also, the page data wasn't saved. I don't know why. I need to revise this part of the data pack creation script, maybe. Anyhow, I can sort of start from scratch. I can create boxes, pages and other content using the admin screen. In this case, I simply copied the box and page content from the site to get us started here.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

'Completely Wrong' but Not In Error

David Wiley writes,

"A careful reading of the post he links to, however, shows that this is completely wrong. The problems described in the post are the result of two issues: (1) Reusers of CC BY licensed research articles are not obeying the terms of the open license, and (2) There is some confusion regarding who should pursue legal action against those who are not obeying the terms of the license."

I'm not addressing (2) at all, save to observe that if it is a person pursuing legal action, they will most likely be crushed by a corporation. I don't think there's any dispute there.

With respect to (1) Wiley does not state exactly what "terms of the open license" are being violated. I argue "none" - which of course is my point, and leads to the "I told you so". But what terms does he think might be being violated? Reading the original post offers several possibilities:

- the suggestion that 'By' requires that the publisher be named (which in this case might be PLOS or whatever). But if you read section 4.b you see the wording of 'and/or' is being used, which has the logical status of 'OR' (as opposed to XOR, or exclusive OR). That means the condition is satisfied if ANY ONE of the disjuncts is satisfied. The author is named, and hence the disjunct is satisfied. So it's not this.

- the suggestion that the reprinted should have puublished the CC license URL, as indicated in section 4.a of the same license, where it says, "You must include a copy of, or the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) for, this License with every copy of the Work You Distribute or Publicly Perform." This one is a bit trickier. CC-by is not viral; there is no 'share alike' clause attached. So presumably there is no requirement to license the reprinted version as CC-By. The wording of 4.a seems to suggest that the CC-by license *is* viral, "You may not offer or impose any terms on the Work that restrict the terms of this License or the ability of the recipient of the Work to exercise the  rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License."

Now if he wants the basis of his response to me to be that CC-by is viral, or that CC-by is the same as CC-by-SA that's fine, but I think the statement of that argument should be clearer (minimally, the statement of that argument should exist).

- the suggestion that the use violates some additional license terms imposed by PLOS. But the document cited is not actually a 'PLOS license', it is a page that is 'about' the CC-by license, and could hardly be taken to define it. The BioMed Central license isn't a CC license and thus outside the domain of this discussion.

Given all this, it is reasonable to believe that the reprinters thought they were working within the limitations of the CC-by license, that they were IN FACT working within the bounds of that license, and that therefore they were not, as he suggests, "not obeying the terms of the open license."

Maybe he meant something different, but it would be necessary for him to at least state what it was in order for me to evaluate the claim.

The second part of the post (presumably still showing I am 'completely wrong') asks, "How does adding the NC or SA clauses magically either (1) correct user behavior or (2) identify who should pursue legal remedies against those misbehaving users?"

I do not suggest that adding the 'NC' clause serves to identify who should pursue legal action, so any discussion of (2) is irrelevant. The NC cause does not suggest who should take legal action (though common sense would suggest that it is the copyright owner who should take legal action).

With respect to (1), I actually *did* offer an argument, but it is not restated nor refuted here. I argued (and maintain here) that the addition of the 'NC' clause creates risk. True, it doesn't prevent bad behaviour on the part of publishers. But it creates the greater possibility of a lawsuit if the publisher reuses the material, because the publisher is more clearly violating the license by offering the previously free material available for commercial sale for material gain.

This argument may not be persuasive to Wiley; I recognize that. But when I am called 'completely wrong' I think minimally there's an onus to acknowledge that I at least made the argument, and offer some sort of token refutation.

Moncton's Downtown Debate

I watched the City Council meeting via the live video coverage online Tuesday September 4 and followed all the debate on the downtown. I did not have access to the reports (it would be nice if they were made available to internet viewers).

Then I read Brent Mazerolle's coverage, which represents a different perspective from what I saw. Hence, his article in plain text with commentary and corrections by me in italics.

What should Moncton’s Main Street be?
by brent mazerolle

Should Moncton’s Main Street be only for pedestrians or should it remain driver friendly? And is allowing parking on the street friendly or unfriendly to drivers?

Nobody suggested that Main Street is currently "diver friendly". One comment that came up a lot was the congestion and traffic on Main. The actual issues were: should Main Street be converted to a pedestrian mall? Should the City continue it's parking meter program. It is odd (and even a little suspicious) that the two contrary approaches should surface at the same time, and it was suggested that the parking meter project is why it took so long to receive the report on civic malls from city staff.

Different ideas for the heart of downtown dominated much of the discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting of Moncton city council.

True. The discussion of the mall report presented by City staff took maybe a half hour. The discussion of the parking meters took a lot longer.

Council received two reports from city staff at the meeting. One weighed the merits of the idea of closing part of Main Street to motor vehicles and creating a pedestrian mall for July and August each year. The other was a report on the successes and failures of a one-year pilot project that reintroduced metered on-street parking to part of the street.


Ultimately staff painted a bleak picture of the potential consequences of a two-month street closure and a relatively positive picture of Main Street parking.

This is really a matter of interpretation. The street-closure studied the results from similar programs in other cities, and wasn't so much a study of how it would work in Moncton. And the parking study was definitely mixed.

Council had initially tasked staff with looking at the pedestrian mall concept back in April of 2012. An interim report was shown to council in a briefing this past February, but the public presentation of the final report was delayed to allow the one-year parking project to come to term.

True, but this delay was not an 'official' delay; it appears to be more of a foot-dragging kind of delay.

City staff’s research found certain conditions must be in place to create a successful pedestrian mall and Moncton lacks a number of them.

No, that's not what it said. It was a report on tendencies in other cities - under what conditions the malls were successful, under what conditions they weren't. It wasn't a comprehensive study of all mall projects (one council member mentioned a significant exception). I don't think it looked at Europe at all.

To be successful a pedestrian mall must have a varied mix of uses, a large population of captive users including a strong resident base, heavily programmed activities, incorporation of efficient public transit and a location on a side street as opposed to a main thoroughfare.

These were all mentioned. But again, they were not found to be requirements, but tendencies.

Strong anchors on each end of the mall that serve both as pedestrian generators and help to enclose the space are also key, while centralized or co-ordinated retail management and well planned and extensive parking adjacent to the pedestrian mall are also important.

I don't recall this point being made. Some council members did point to the desirability of the mall as an adjunct to an events centre.

The area should already have a high amount of tourism and location in a college town or near a college neighbourhood is critical.

Again, that's not what was said. Rather, it said that malls with a strong tourist crowd or near a college were successful. Notice how Mazerolle has converted the 'IF' in the report to an 'ONLY IF' in this paragraph.

“Creating pedestrian malls does not create pedestrians,” Sébastien Arcand of the City of Moncton’s urban planning department told council. Rather, they tend to succeed in larger centres in places where they can build on already considerable amounts of pedestrian traffic.

This is accurate.

More than 200 North American cities have experimented with pedestrian malls since Kalamazoo, Mich., was the first to try one in 1959. Only about 15 per cent of those remain today.

Again, it would have been useful to study Europe.

Staff also found a recent survey of 72 communities that constructed pedestrian malls showed 56 of those communities have completely or partially reopened theirs to vehicle traffic and an additional 10 per cent are considering such an action.

Yes, but take this in context. In most cases 'reopening to vehicle traffic' rarely means abandoning the mall. Rather it means (as in eg. Ottawa) the mall being a mall during the day and a street at night.

When pedestrian malls have not been successful communities have experienced issues with vandalism, litter, safety and reduced business activity.

I don't recall litter being mentioned. The vandalism issue surfaced when malls were unused and unpopulated, and especially side-street malls. Reduced business activity was cited, but not as a general consequence of malls, but as a sign of unsuccessful malls.

Many cities have also been challenged by the ongoing costs involved in programming events to draw people to the pedestrian spaces.

I don't recall this point being made.

Nevertheless, the recommendation in the staff report to council was to consult the public to see what it thought of a summertime pedestrian plaza, effectively an echo of what was in the original resolution giving staff their marching orders to investigate the idea.

The presentation from city staff was very different on this point. The report recommended consultation because City Staff were directed to make this recommendation. But staff were very clear in expressing his view that he did not support consultation, saying it "would be throwing good money after bad."

A variety of forms of consultation could be used, with the cheapest method being an e-mail survey at the cost of an estimated $500. Using the city’s existing ForumMoncton Online would cost about $3,500, while a telephone survey of residents would cost anywhere from $12,000 to $26,000.

The main recommendation was to consult Moncton's online citizen panel. I don't know Mazerolle would say this.

At this point, Moncton’s city manager Jacques Dubé said really, based on the information staff had uncovered, “we’d recommend this whole exercise cease now.”

True. City staff really don't like the idea.

The comment did not sit well with either Mayor George LeBlanc or Ward 3 Councillor Daniel Bourgeois, the latter having made the original motion to investigate the idea back in 2012. LeBlanc pointed out to Dubé that his comments contradicted what the staff report said in writing, and Bourgeois characterized the comment as going against the spirit of public consultation.

Agreed. I think there is a bit of a conflict there.

Within staff’s report to council is consideration of other ideas, though they are essentially different riffs on what the City of Moncton does now — closing parts of streets to accommodate special events.

Ultimately, council voted to go ahead with some form of public consultation, but what that might entail was not completely clear.

I got the sense that it would mean consulting the online citizen panel (which to my knowledge has never been consulted on anything, as I'm on it, and have never been consulted on anything). But who knows.

Meanwhile, one year after the City of Moncton instituted on-street parking on parts of Main Street and Queen Street, the project seems to have been mostly a success, even though a majority (65 per cent) of downtown businesses surveyed found the results of the parking on their bottom lines to have been revenue neutral.

It's unclear what would lead Mazerolle to call the results 'a success'. There was a DMCI survey which was (as a Council member pointed out) very unscientific and unrepresentative, and should not be taken seriously. There were, for the most part, no business gains. There were significant reports of increased traffic, and staff at the Delta reported complaints from guests trying to get in and out. Two council members reported cycling difficulties, though city staff said only one complaint from cyclists was received (that would be me, I guess, as I sent in a complaint).

The key reason behind trying the parking project had been to try and stimulate business for downtown merchants.

By that measure it is a significant failure.

“For years, we’ve heard from business, ‘there’s not enough downtown parking,’” the mayor noted, calling upon Downtown Moncton Centre-Ville Incorporated general manager Anne Poirier Basque, who was in the council chamber observing, to ask if she had an explanation for the lacklustre results. She didn’t.

Not only did she not have an explanation, she hummed and hawed and basically broke down on the point.

Having said that, the public at large gave the on-street parking a fairly significant thumbs up, seventy per cent of them saying they liked it and wanted it to continue.

This was the biased DBCI survey.

While its lack of impact on business may have disappointed him, the mayor said the parking’s overall popularity wasn’t a surprise.

“I don’t think I’ve heard a single negative comment,” he said.

This is something that should be challenged, because I know there have been negative comments - he even heard some in the hour or so before he made the remark.

There have been a number of tweaks over the past year, though. The original 110 parking meters has been reduced to about 90, because some parking spaces were found to interfere with the smooth flow of traffic, especially Codiac Transpo buses.

Council further reduced that Tuesday night, by voting to remove 16 metered spaces that had been installed on the north side of Queen Street after a citizen complained they made cycling hazardous.

This is probably the major result, that Council will remove the Queen Street meters. It is worth noting that Council members were told that the existing empty spaces in the Peace Centre parking lot would more than absorb the impact of this closure.

There were also some really outrageous statements from city staff during this discussion that were not reported. For example, Dawn Arnold asked whether there were any east-west bike lanes downtown, and she was told "no, because bicycles can go wherever they want." There are no plans to improve bicycle access downtown because "we want downtown to be a destination."  

Video of the meeting can be found here.