Category: Old blog posts

Social DRM

Posted April 24th, 2009

The other day I bought a book for my Sony PRS 700 digital reader.
And I was so delighted when I realised that distributed their PDF book without physical DRM.
On the footer of each page – there was information about me; who had bought the book. I have advocated the use of social DRM for many years (I spoke about the concept first time in 1995/1996).
In my view social DRM is the only sustainable method for distribution of content.

Unfortunately the content industry are buying into the fear of loosing revenue, and to protect itself it is providing more and more complex DRM systems, making it almost impossible for me as a user to buy and access content in an easy and practical way. Many content providers (movie, music, audio, books) are making it so hard for me to buy content – they are practically forcing me to use illegal methods for accessing the content. It is so much easier to use e.g. Pirate Bay to get music than it is to buy a record or track from i.e. the Warner Music Group.

In my view it is unfortunate that the content industry are buying into to fear based business model of DRM providers. I would argue that most of the users on internet (95%+) are decent users that would pay for the content if that was possible or easy to do. On internet as in society there will always be criminals, that would steal and use content illegally. The content industry have chosen a model for protecting their content with physical DRM on the premisses that most users are criminals and would steal the content. And by following that premise they are forcing most user to be criminals because the DRM system are to complex to use, and buying content is in many situations almost impossible it is therefore easier to download the material illegal.

It is also unfortunate that many of the content protection organisations are fighting for their life, and are still protecting a business model founded in the 1970’s on physical copying and reproducing of paper and cassettes.

The problem is that someone will always develop tools that breaches and brakes the existing DRM solutions, this would then lead to new more advanced DRM solutions that will make it even harder for decent internet users to access and use the content. A physical DRM solution is not a sustainable solutions for distributing content online.

Hopefully all digital content providers will follow the good example from and use social DRM for protecting distribution of their content.

Putting a “watermark” on a movie is rather straight forward, and tools for doing that is already embedded in the podcast server from Apple. It would be a rather small scripting job to develop a solution that adds social DRM on all movies that are distributed online.

I would assume that a audio voice could be added in a non hearing frequency to be used as social DRM when distributing music as well.

Say no to physical DRM, and do not develop content protection services on the premises of the criminals. It is time that content solutions are developed with the normal decent user in mind. This would automatically terminate the need for sites like PirateBay.

I think this approach in combination of a Creative Commons license would be the solution for the future.


ITLET – Culture, Language and Individual Needs

PUBLISHED: May 7th, 2009

At its Wellington NZ March 2009 meetings, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36/WG7 agreed to this new title and the following scope:

IT-related standardisation in support of diverse cultures, languages and individual needs in the field of learning, education and training, and its supporting technologies.

And Terms of Reference:

The responsibility of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC36/WG7 is to develop standards ensuring that relevant features and processes of Information Technology for Learning, Education and Training are adaptable to the requirements of individual users. SC36/WG7 standards support the principles and the objectives of the 2006 “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” and follow the principles of “Inclusive Design”.(1)

WG7 also serves as a resource, consultant, and reviewer of relevant activities facilitating a harmonised approach to accessibility within the scope of SC36.

Information technology that adapts to the needs of individual users enhances their learning experiences. Such adaptation may be based on culture, language and/or individual needs.
This adaptability also benefits ITLET developers as it supports ease of internationalisation, localisation, updating and customisation for a variety of purposes.

with the following specification of “Inclusive Design”

(1) Inclusive Design refers to the design of ITLET resources and tools that support the full range of user needs, including needs associated with culture, language, learning approach, age and disability. Inclusive design is a derivative of universal design that achieves the goals of universal design (as referenced in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities) by harnessing the adaptability of digital systems and content to optimize the design for each individual user.

Why does the new title of WG7 better reflect the types of standards we develop?

The former title “culture, language, human functioning activities” incorrectly represented the focus of the working group by placing emphasis on the restrictive concept of “human functioning” instead of on accessibility and “Access for All” and individual needs. WG7 members felt that the title “Culture, language and individual needs” better reflects the focus and underpinning of the area of standards that are developed in the working group as part of the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 committee.

The work of this Working Group, i.e., WG7, is focused on two multipart projects, namely ISO/IEC 24751 and a new project proposal on »Human Interface Equivalencies in e-Learning applications».
With regards to ISO/IEC 24751 whose title is Information technology – Individualized adaptability and accessibility in e-learning, education and training, there are currently three published Parts; namely:

  • Part-1: Framework and reference model  (Freely available at ISO)
  • Part-2: “Access for all” personal needs and preferences for digital delivery
  • Part-3: “Access for all” digital resource description

Since April, 2007, there have also been four additional Parts under development within this multipart standard. However, as progress on their development has been very slow, WG7 decided at its March, 2009 meeting in Wellington, NZ to request that these Parts be withdrawn. It was felt that those working on these parts needed more time to understand and integrate all the perspectives into viable standards projects. The following Parts are thus withdrawn.

  • Part-4: Personal needs and preferences for non-digital adptations of digital resources
  • Part-5: Identification and description of non-digital adaptations of digital resources
  • Part-6: “Access for all” digital resource description
  • Part 7: Description of events and places

WG7 has also started work on two new Parts in ISO/IEC 24751; namely:

  • Part-9: ITLET – Access for All personal user interface preferences
  • Part-10: ITLET – Access for All user interface characteristics.

These new parts are based on work and tools developed in the Fluid project. The goal of these new parts is to provide for a user interface experience that adapts to a person’s preferences on how parts of the user preferences should behave. This work is also linked to the W3C/WAI/ARIA project Working Draft (WD) versions of these new Parts are expected to be available for discussion at the next meeting in September 2009.

WG7 has also invited all member countries of SC36 to provide proposals for new additional parts to the ISO/IEC 24751 series of standards.

With regards to the second multipart project, i.e., «HiE’s in e-Learning Applications» this is the former Part 8 of ISO/IEC 24751 which was titled: “Access for all – language accessibility and human interface equivalencies (HIEs) in e-learning applications”. Because of its wider applicability than the existing ISO/IEC 24751 it has been re-issued as a new multipart project proposal with the title of “ITLET – Language Accessibility and Human Interface Equivalencies (HIEs) in e-Learning applications: Principles, Rules and Metadata Elements“. A working draft (WD) version of this standard is expected to be discussed at our next meeting in Umeå/Sweden, September, 2009.

Within learning, education and training, the ability to have access to information is important. It is also essential that the information be communicated to the user in such a way that it is comprehensible and can be used based on the learners’ capabilities, prerequisites, cultural context, and preferences.

In the 24751 Parts there are matching pairs, i.e., one part for identifying the preferences of a user, and the other for matching and describing the resources which corrrespond to the user preferences. This pairing of standard parts allows for personal preferences to be used to turn on or off different accessibility features in the computer, such as sticky keys, mouse cursor speed, contrast etc. However, one of the more interesting features of the personal preferences component is the “Adaptation” of content to match a individual’s personal preference. Some possible adaptations include:

  • audio representation
  • visual representation
  • text representation
  • caption

If a learning resource contains a picture, one person’s preference could be to have a “text preference” of all visual elements, to be able to understand and comprehend the meaning (semantics) of the picture. The textual adaptation of the picture should describe the picture in such detail that the same understanding and the expected value of the picture is understood in both representations. The same goes for images, audio, movies and other formats that have a graphical representations. Other adaptions could be that movies have captioning etc. to meet the individual needs of the learner.

If a picture has a textual representation, this textual representation is then an adaption of the picture.

Both personal needs and preferences and the digital resource descriptions are expressed as metadata. This has the advantage that «just in time accessibility» is easily achievable. For example, if a student is collaborating with a peer student whose individual need is for a textual representation of a picture, she could – while collaborating – provide a textual representation of the picture, describe this as an adaption of the picture and the textual representation of the picture is made available to everyone that is using the same resource, i.e. I have made the resource accessible just in time for my peer student, and for everyone else.

About WG7 new project proposal on «Human Interface Equivalences (HIEs)»

When we are providing alternative representations of the actual contents of a resource it is important that the alternative representations provide the same meaning as the content of the original resource. This is of importance when the alternative representation of the semantic content is in another language or a description of a picture/diagram/illustration.

Based on the expected actions from the understanding of the resource, the accuracy of the contents must be of a given quality. The consequence of misinterpreting information is different if you are taking an exam versus reading a comic strip.

The new work item proposal on “Language Accessibility and Human Interface Equivalencies (HIEs) in e-Learning applications” is addressing the need for semantic equivalent information, and this is different from a mere translation of a resource.

The need for different levels of semantic accuracy depends on the task that is expected to be based on the information in the resource. These are different if the resource is intended for:

  • Information
  • Decision making
  • Commitment

If the resource is used as the basis for commitment, it is important that this is understood by the user, whatever representation the resource has. And the level of semantic accuracy should be such that the same meaning and understanding are ensured. This one of the key requirements of the recently adopted  “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”. This standards project will support and comply fully with the requirements of this UN Convention.

Since we are living in a global environment and most societies are multi-cultural we must also provide information in a cultural context to ensure that we have an equivalent semantic understanding of the information, and that the citizens could make a decision based on the information received from any public entity.

Generations of web and accessibility

PUBLISHED: June 11th, 2009

The web have passed several generations of use and usage during the last 10-15 years. And as the web have evolved so have the expectations to what we use and can do on the web as mainstream. We see that each invention is just adding to what is already there, new services leads to new sites and information domains as the old ones in principal stays the same, or adopts some of the new features. In my view the web is now moving into its third generation, and we see the contours of the fourth generation. With the perspective that the web is a tool for knowledge sharing, and not a glossy brochure for marketing…

First generation:

The web is used for publishing of information, where the majority of users are consumers.

Second generation:

Producing information is much easier, and tools for sharing and producing information is easily available, the users are not only consumers – they are also producers. Producing and sharing information on the web is done with many different tools, all with an on-line awareness, the emerging realisation that not everything have to be done within the web-browser. Examples on tools used for publishing information could be twitter, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Wiki’s, blogs etc. All of these provide many different tools for producing content and for viewing the content.

Third generation:

The way we are producing information is changeing, we are collaborating more, and we are using the web as collaborative tool. We collect information from a variety of sources, mash these together, and we collaborate in developing content, not only text but also rich content.

Fourth generation: – this is more guessing –

The fourth generation of web will we see when we start doing things together on the web, not collaborating but sharing experiences, particpating in events. This could be virtual environments where we see new awareness technologies providing similar surroundings and where we could interact and share experiences and knowledge in new ways.

Web generations made simple

  1. Consume
  2. Produce
  3. Collaborate
  4. Participate

And how is this related to accessibility, and what challenges do I see related to accessibility?

First generation web:

This gave us the W3C/WAI/WCAG with a sender perspective on what information to put into the syntax submitted to the browser and tools used for rendering the information, and hoping that the receiver had tools (Assistive technology) to use and facilitate this information.
In this continuum we also find the Individualised adaptability work carried on by IMS-Global as AccLip and AccMd and later ISO/IEC 24751:2008. Where we have changed the perspective into a receivers perspective, with a set of personal preferences for how the information should be presented to meed my accessibility needs.

Second generation web:

As more tools emerged for browsing and producing information, the consumption-only-perspective of WCAG needed to be updated, and we got the WCAG2.0, and to meet the general production of information there is also an increased focus on the W3C/WAI/ATAG2 specification, which ensures that tools used for producing content is accessible, and that the content produced is also accessible. To put it simply ATAG is for input and WCAG is for the output of information.
As the web become more rich on content, and a combination of content, and dynamic update on content on a page – we got the work on W3C/WAI/ARIA

New parts are also being added to the ISO/IEC 24751 series of standards, we are also planning a revision of this standard to better meet a dynamic changing environment.

Third generation web:

When collaborating there is several accessibility challenges and to mention a few:

  • How should a system adopt to collaborators with different preferences and needs, if in a voice chat how to adjust to a user who prefer a text chat? How should the systems adopt, and how should the system inform the other participants about the change of “mode of operandi”.
  • How should more visual collaboration tools be made accessible, such as project management, work flow, story boarding, image processing, vide processing etc.
  • How to ensure a highest possible level of accessibility in a collaborative environment, how to notify usergroups that these specific activities are not accessible, and therefore are you excluded?
  • How describe collaborative processes in such a way that users with different needs could participate as equally as possible?
Fourth generation web:

This could be like providing olfactory information, tactile information embedded in the computer environments.
I’m not sure – I don’t know – your guess is as good as mine…

To summarise:

The current generation of web will always be the sum of all other generations pluss the new things – the same goes for accessibility, to ensure that we have accessibility – we need to provide both syntactical accessibility, as well as adaptations, as well as alternative representations of content, on all the devices we are using to access information. And we need collaborative systems that adapts and change mode to ensure that no one is left behind.

Book on web – need for a new paradigm

PUBLISHED: June 22nd, 2009

The current metaphor is book on web, most national and international projects are about on-line content development as an alternative to the text book. On-line content have several advantages compared to the printed book. But still we have not changed the paradigm and there are few if any discussion on how computers could be used to facilitate learning and knowledge building.

There is a lot of focus on content, reusable content, open educational resources etc. And when looking at “modern” on-line content we find animations, videos we find advanced simulations for better understanding – where you could manipulate different parameters to see what happens.

The book on web have been more advanced more sophisticated, the content delivered provides more possibilities than a printed book. But it is still content delivered to a learner – as if the content was still a book. The computer have to some extent replaces the binding of the content, instead of delivering the content in hard cover, the content is delivered within a “web-browser”. The focus is still on content in any form delivered to the learner.

When will we see a change of this paradigm? When will we deliver a set of tools for learners to use in developing learning? When will we see a shift towards delivering learning processes? When will see that computers in schools are used to facilitate learning and not only as a mechanism for delivery of content and simple collaboration?

Another interesting topic related to this is: how will a change of paradigm (if it happens) influence the use of metadata and description of the information used by learners?

With this in mind I personally think the work we are doing related to ISO/IEC 19788 aka. MLR (Metadata for Learning Resources) is important and that this work is more future proof than the existing IEEE/LOM work.

When learners start to collaborate, and when teachers start to collaborate and share; the organisation of metadata need to mirror this practice. Meatadata must facilitate fragmentation, dynamic updated and a distributed environment.

If this is a change we see happen – how should we pave the way to make this transition as easy as possible?

Position paper to CETIS Future of Interoperability Standards Meeting 2010

PUBLISHED: January 5th, 2010

This is my position paper for the CETIS – Future of Interoperability Standards Meeting 2010

Development of standards

There is a difference in developing a specification for a small community, and to develop a standard/specification with a global community.
In my view there are several challenges that need to be met and addressed.

In this position paper I will only mention the language challenge, and the possibility to participate in vocal discussions and read and write documents.
To ensure a more equal opportunity to participate, the value of a written process should not be underestimated.

However, another observation I have made in participating in internationals standardisation for some time is the understanding of the process, and what is discussed, and the tools that are used to support and foster the discussion.

In my view one of the bigger challenges in standardisation is to achieve a common understanding of what is discussed, and the level of precision in the discussion, and the actual problem addressed. Since people are participating in the process, and these people have different background and different understanding of the domain, and different understanding understanding of the problem that are addressed. Since we are working with ICT standardisation – level of technological understanding is also a challenge.

To achieve a better process – there is a need to harmonise the progression of standardisations development and to better identify the different stages of a standardisation development, and to agree on what the standard should specify, and what need to be left to the application developer. To support this separation of discussions we should also use different tools to describe and express the different stages. Different tools have different strengths in describing different aspects of a standard.

This is also important so that all participants could start at the same level of understanding, or almost at the same level, and to ensure that everyone will have the same opportunity to participate and contribute to the development of the standard or specification.

This is my proposal of stages that the development process could be separated into in the development of a standard, and where different tools could be used. It is also important that the previous stage is visited before one moves to the next, to ensure that the stages are coherent. It is also important to be pragmatic, and realise that as different stages are passed increased understanding of the problem could lead to changes in earlier stages, it is therefore important to update the result of the earlier stages to reflect this increased understanding.

1) Well defined problem

It is important to have a well defined problem, with scope, boundaries, what’s included and what’s excluded. This is a necessity to have as a starting point for the discussion.

To achieve a well defined problem use-cases and practical examples could be used to better understand the problem, and to identify boundary objects.
If the participants in the development of a standard or specification do not achieve common ground in defining the problem it will be harder to achieve agreement at the other stages.

2) Concepts

When the problem is well defined, the concepts involved and related to the problem need to be identified and expressed. When discussing and expressing concepts it is important the focus is on discussing concepts.

3) Properties

When the concepts are defined it is time to start discussing the properties of the concepts. What are the properties, what should be described as a part of the standard, what should be left to application profiles. Depending of the nature of the problem addressed, the types of properties that are needed would differ, and the number of properties that should be a part of the standard.

4) Datatypes

When the properties are defined, then the type and nature of each property need to be specified.

5) Controlled vocabularies

If any of the datatypes are strings or could consist of a set of variables the discussion should be on the need of a controlled vocabulary or the nature of the possible string values.


Example of tools for the different levels that could be used:

  1. Archimate, text documents
  2. cMap tools
  3. UML
  4. UML / Database Schemas
  5. Tables, text documents

If the discussions are separated on more abstract levels, before we are approaching more detailed levels the process of developing standards and reaching consensus would/could be more effective. It is crucial to spend enough time on the abstract levels before we start discussing how the information is to be represented. In my experience progress will be hard if we at the same time are discussing the problem, the concepts of the problem and the properties of the problem, when the discussion is mixed between the levels it is hard to agree and make progress.

The point is not to start a discussion on the suggested levels, but rather raise a discussion on the importance of separation of discussions going on. And that each level should use the tools best designed for that level. We should also have agreement on the more abstract levels, and the problems we are trying to solve before we start working on the details.
Within a group we need consensus at each level before we move on to the next level.

Since development of a standard usually takes some time, it is important that all stages are well documented so that newcomers to the project could read all documents and be up to speed without the need to restart all discussions and pass through all development stages at once. The documentation about the process, and the agreement reached at each level will also benefit the users of the standards, since they could have a better understanding of choices made in the development of the standard.

Position paper for “The Future of Interoperability Standards – Technical Approaches”

PUBLISHED: September 22nd, 2010

This is my position paper for the ” The Future of Interoperability Standards – Technical Approaches” meeting as part of the “ICOPER Best Practice Network”.


How is the future of interoperability of standards, I think the future is bright – if we need to weare shades – I’m not sure.
As the world of ICT is becoming increasingly more complex, where almost any device is somewhat connected. There is an increasing focus on the need for interoperability. Connected systems are no longer from one vendor, or developed on one system. The ICT infrastructure have grown so big that no vendor or supplier or software company can control it. Therefore interoperability is the foundation of connectiveness of ICT systems, and enable a free flow of information between systems, and users of these systems.

Since the world is becoming increasingly more complex, I think it is premature to have the idea that everything we would like to express or exhange of information could fit in any given model. We need to develop a more pragmatic approach to interoperability, we need to focus on a flexible model, and the tools used for exchanging and processing the information need to have a high tolerance of error processing.

Based on implementations and how the different tools manages errors, hopefully a best practice will evolve.

Categories of standards

To simplify and as an attempt to explain, I would like to distinguish between two different types of standards (There are many others and nuances to these categories.). That I think need a different level, and accuracy of interoperability.

  • Descriptive standards
  • Protocols – Connecting standards

In general the difference between the level of these standards in my view is that “Descriptive” standards have a higher level of human interaction, than “Protocol” standards that are more consumed by machines.

For standards that are closer to the human side of interaction the level of flexibility should be higher. Standards that are to be consumed by computers only, and not to be seen by any human, the level of flexibility should be nil. e.g. http protocol, tcp/ip, etc.


We have several levels of interoperability, and this is connected to my previous position paper on the process of Development of standards. In this position paper I argue that we should harmonise the discussion, when developing the standards. I would argue that we need to look differently at how we specify standards with regard to interoperability.

With semantics I understand the meaning of thing, and this is a requirement to understand the value of the message submitted or shared among different systems. However the labelling of the data should not be important.

To achieve a more flexible interoperability scheme we should look at architectures of information domains. If a information segment belongs to the same architecture or are of the same architectural constructs there should be possible to have some level of interoperability between systems.

Graceful degradation

The future of interoperability standards lies within the possibility to degreade gracefully. To accept errors, to accept user flaws.

We should learn from how the use of HTML and web-browsers emerged. I would argue that the main reason for why the “internet” is a commodity today is that the earlier versions of web-browser managed errors gracefully, was forgiving, and tried its best to meet the intention of the authors of the data. Such a pragmatic approach is the future of interoperability of standards – that is if they are descriptive. However machine to machine communication should not be so pragmatic