# Wednesday, 04 December 2002

Who Can Help When Searching

Who Can Help When Searching for Online Resources?. Here are a few thoughts about where to find local help when searching for online instructional resources--and how to be self-supporting. [EduResources--Higher Education Resources Online]

What are the two worst things that can happen when an instructor begins to search for online learning resources? The instructor may find nothing or the instructor may find thousands of resources. Finding too little is discouraging and will most likely turn the instructor away from attempting to use online resources in the future. Finding too much is overwhelming and can also turn an instructor away from using online resources just because it is inordinately time consuming to sift through hundreds or thousands of possibilities. The third worst happening is finding some learning resources but determining that they are all of poor quality and therefore of no real use. The fouth worst outcome is to locate some useful resources and then determine that they are too expensive or that they require specialized software unavailable to students.

Absolutely, but then:

... it's important for instructors to do two things: one, learn enough about general and discipline-specific online resource sites to do some searching on their own; two, having learned what questions to ask, investigate the institution and locate what departments do provide local assistance. A third desirable option would be for instructors at an institution that does not have a help center to set up their own support group, using a listserv, weblog, and occasional luncheon meetings. This local support group will fill a gap and might eventually influence the institution to establish a more formal unit for instructional support.

Education (worldwide) needs to do more than this, as I've said before, software that supports peer-review (it was one of the intentions behind Profundis search) is my preferred 'solution'.

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Dare On XML Schema Ive Finally Made Time To Read Dare

Dare on XML Schema.

I've finally made time to read Dare's  W3C XML Schema Design Patterns: Avoiding Complexity.

Dare wrote his article as a "counterpoint" (though maybe "derivation by extension" is more apt, to Kohsuke Kawaguchi's W3C XML Schema Made Simple.  Kohsuke sums up his view by saying

Consider W3C XML Schema as DTD + datatype + namespace

though you might add "- Notation", since he points out that Notation declarations shouldn't be used because they aren't compatible with DTD Notations.  This is probably decent, if conservative, advice.  Judging from the comment I noted the other day, and from the comments on Kohsuke's article, the most controversial statement in either article was

 Do not try to be a master of XML Schema. It would take months.

which is pretty much the point of both articles: learn what's useful and ignore all the nooks and crannies; they'll just get you into trouble.  This is essentially conceding the argument of the anti-Schema crowd that WXS is too complex and ambiguous, but regardless, people are using WXS by choice or compulsion, and these articles are an attempt to steer users towards the best practices.  And as far as I'm concerned, it's true.  I've tried to wade through Patricia Walmsley's Definitive XML Schema, but as a friend of mine said, it's "dry as day-old toast".  I feel better served by getting a more succinct guide and filling in the details later, if ever.

Dare loosen's Kohsuke's guidelines a bit.  To start, rather than eliminate the use of local declarations, Dare takes the time to explain the elementFormDefault behavior that put Kohsuke off.  It seems like Kohsuke's recommendation could be modified to say "use elementFormDefault='qualified'", which is one of Dare's recommendations, and more useful advice to boot.  I don't see a particular problem with unqualified, except that I prefer the way qualified looks, and it seems like that's Dare's justification too.  The other justification might be that unqualified interferes with default namespace declarations.

I don't quite get the recommendation on built in types.  The initial list of recommendations says "Do use restriction and extension of simple types.", but the actual recommendation is to use the builtin simple types.  Dare's recommendation is to use the simple types and consider avoiding the subtypes of string and integer.  I've seen (and written, truth be told) schemas that start building levels on top of the simple types, and really all this achieves is a less readable schema.  The OTA schemas are very much into subclassing simple types, and others I've talked to who've worked with OTA agree.  The OTA defines types like StringLength32, which may be a valid restriction, but probably not a great first class type - it's true that lots of elements are 32 character strings, but this seems to me to be a micro-optimization in the type system.  It makes sense to declare this type if all the StringLength32 data suddenly became StringLength64, but then you have to carefully consider whether the data's really related to another use of that type and likely to stay in sync.  This seems like a paralell to the Inheritance vs. Aggregation considerations in OO design, where you should consider whether a new type really IS-A instance of another type.  I'd say that it's not necessarily a good idea to declare named simple types, unless that type information is really going to be reused. 

One other point that Kohsuke made was that when restricting complex types, you have to repeat the entire definition of the base type, and that validators have a difficult time with restriction.  Dare gives some concrete examples of the validation problems, but doesn't really offer much besides "here's the rope, don't hang yourself".  Restriction has its appeal, maybe because it doesn't work like the type systems I'm used to, but given the problems, I'm not sure complex type restriction is worth even a qualified endorsement.

Overall, Dare did a better job of explaining his rationale that Kohsuke.  Kohsuke's guidelines are a bit too conservative, but my trouble with Dare's guidelines comes from features qualified with "use carefully".  It's good to get an explanation of the pitfalls, but I felt like the justification for situations when the feature should used were pretty weak.  Maybe this subject needs 2 articles, one for the "safe" parts, and another for the ones that need extra care.

[Gordon Weakliem's Radio Weblog]
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nbsp A Cool Piece Of Software Called SoftMac

...  a cool piece of software called SoftMac - which lets you run Mac applications under Windows XP! [IUnknown.com: John Lam's Weblog on Software Development]

You need a Mac ROM from a Mac you own and not yet to OS X.

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If One Were To Be Very Moderne CJ Should Look At Not Only NET Server Side But Also Use Of Web Services I Dunno What Thenbsp

If one were to be very moderne, CJ should look at not only .NET server side, but also use of web services. I dunno what the user profile is, but this is the sort of thing MS enable on Office XP: Office and Web Services
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# Tuesday, 03 December 2002

Multimodal User Interfaces

Multimodal user interfaces. ...

The bird song is a nice idea:

One participant described a system that translated server logs into birdsong. When the servers were healthy, there was a pleasant ambience of happy birds -- a baseline pattern that supplied information without requiring conscious attention. As the servers became stressed the birds became more agitated.

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# Monday, 02 December 2002

This Trend Toward An Industry Emphasis On Usability Criteria In The Selection Of Software Needs To Be Emulated In Education Spe

This trend toward an industry emphasis on usability criteria in the selection of software needs to be emulated in education. Specifically, the usability of learning resources should be a major consideration in the construction of learning repositories and course management systems (and, for learning repositories, findability must also be a major concern since instructors can't begin to evaluate for use what they can't find). ___ Consumers start to demand usability. Patrick Thibodeau writes about the growing role of Common Industry Format for Usability Test Reports when organisations make enterprise software purchasing decisions. To quote: The Boeing Co. is changing the way it buys software and is making a product's usability[~]the... [Column Two] [EduResources--Higher Education Resources Online]
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BlogGazer Is Phillip Pearsons Blog Browser For Windows A H

BlogGazer is Phillip Pearson's blog browser for Windows. [Scripting News]

Apparently a craze - why and for how long?

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WiFi Comes To Rescue Of GSM In Rural Broadband Test P

WiFi comes to rescue of GSM in rural broadband test

Sounds like a whizzy solution to me, who has neither broadband nor cellular coverage (accept upstairs with your arm in the air).

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