Friday, December 26, 2008

The 99 Things Meme

I don't know why, it just caught my eye. My life took quite a while to get revved up, but t has, especially in recent years, become very full. From Doug Johnson and Susan Sedro (who draws our attention to the American-European bias of the original list).

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - leave in plain font

1. Started your own blog. Several times, including this one.
2. Slept under the stars. Numerous times, most recently on the beach on Fuerteventura.
3. Played in a band. School band. Drums.
4. Visited Hawaii. Several times, on the way to Australia. Not outside the airport, though. But I'm slated for an actual visit next year.
5. Watched a meteor shower. Numerous times.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. That ridiculous turquoise lamp I bought for every cent I had at an AIDS findraiser while in university.
7. Been to Disneyland/world. Disneyland. Twice. Only main street, though; I wouldn't consider paying those kind of prices to see the rest.
8. Climbed a mountain. Several. Sulphur Mountain, in Banff. Also Tunnel Mountain. They weren't hard mountains. But I climbed them, and they count.
9. Held a praying mantis. Several times, as a kid.I haven't seen one in years. They are very delicate, very safe, dangerous only to other insects.10. Sang a solo. Many times. Badly. My most memorable solos were at Camp Opemmikon, as a counsellor.
11. Bungee jumped. No. It's not going to happen, either.
12. Visited Paris. No. I've never been to France, so here's a bunch of France-related things on this list I haven't done. Obviously, I'd like to go, one day.
13. Watched a lightening storm at sea. From an airplane. That counts, as it was way out over the Pacific.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. Woodworking and power tools. I've redone my dining room in the last year.
15. Adopted a child. No, and I have no plans to.
16. Had food poisoning. Ick, yes. Several times. I am as a result now very cautious about food.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. No, but I've walked to the top of Batu Caves and to the op of St. Peter's Dome. I just haven't sepnd enough time in New York to take the trip out to the Statue.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Many, many times. Including red peppers, indoors.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. France.
20. Slept on an overnight train. Many times, most recently from Barcelona to Cadiz.
21. Had a pillow fight. With a former girlfriend, in my attic apartment in Edmonton.
22. Hitch hiked. Many, many times. In 1975-76 I hitch-hiked to work and back every day to and from my job at the Rideau-Carleton Raceway, in Ottawa.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. Hasn't everyone?
24. Built a snow fort. Many, many snow forts, as a kid. They are over-rated, because there's not much point having a fort unless there's a war, which means you have to get the whole neighborhood involved. Which isn't so easy.
25. Held a lamb. I've held many types of animals, but not lambs. It never came up.
26. Gone skinny dipping. At the quarry near the highway near Metcalfe.
27. Run a marathon. No, but I did run the Metcalfe Walk (for charity) once, 20 miles. Came in 4th.
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice. No, I've never been to Venice. I'd love to, one day, before it sinks.
29. Seen a total eclipse. Several times. They're hard to avoid.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. More times than I can count. I especially like sunrises - nothing like the dawn of a new day.
31. Hit a home run. Once, in a real game. We philosophers were three runs down in the bottom of the last inning. I was first up, and had been hotting singles all day. This time, I belted a deep shot to left field and scored the first run. We scored three more runs in the inning for our one and only win as a team. The beer never tasted so good.
32. Been on a cruise. While I was on Gran Canaria. It was fabulous.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. In 2006. Andrea and I went to Hamilton for my brother's wedding, missed the date by a week, and had a vacation instead.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. So far as I know. My best guess is that my ancestors are from the Isle of Man.
35. Seen an Amish community. I think so, just a few weeks ago, on my way to the Bruce penninsula. Their buggies were all over.
36. Taught yourself a new language. Spanish. poorly. But I'm getting better.
37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied. Satisfaction has nothing to do with money, except for those times n my life when I was touched by deep poverty.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person. Never been to Pisa.
39. Gone rock climbing. I've climbed rock faces. Not officially 'rock climbing', though, with all the equipment. I'm claiming it anyways; it was a lot of work.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person. No. Obviously, I need to spend some time in Italy. The short time I was there, I spent at the ruins in Rome and the Vatican.
41. Sung Karaoke. Badly. But quite a bit, especially at the Inglewood in Edmonton. Most recently at the D2L conference last summer in Memphis.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant. Maybe one day.
44. Visited Africa. Yes, in 2006. South Africa and Lesotho.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight. Many times most recently in Cadiz.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. Once. In 1978, I was cycling down Bank Street - telephone poles were actually on the road, I hit one, bounced off a car, and wrenched my back.
47. Had your portrait painted. Several times (I'm assuming sketching and drawing count here).
48. Gone deep sea fishing. No, and I have no desire to. There's few enough fish in the sea as it is.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. France again.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. Snorkeled. Not as much fun as it looks. Works a lot better if your body doesn't naturally sink to the bottom.
52. Kissed in the rain. Not nearly as romantic as it sounds (people forget that rain in Canada is usually very cold).
53. Played in the mud. Oh, of course, many times.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater. My very first time, as a child, I saw the first half of taxi Driver (before my parents realized what a mistake they'd made).
55. Been in a movie. No. No particular desire (unless you include my own videos).
56. Visited the Great Wall of China. Sigh. One day.
57. Started a business. Active Janitorial Contracting, in Calgary, in 1982. Terrible idea.
58. Taken a martial arts class High school electives. I studied judo. Not for long, though.
59. Visited Russia. Sigh. One day.
60. Served at a soup kitchen. I don't think I've ever lived in a place with a soup kitchen. We do have a meals on wheels bus, though. But I haven't volunteered - not time.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies. I am going to assume that selling Boy Scout apples counts here, which I did as a boy scout.
62. Gone whale watching. Does it count if we nver actually saw any whales?
63. Gotten flowers for no reason. Daffodils.
64. Donated blood. Once, in order to learn that my blood type is O positive. Not sure why I never did again.
65. Gone sky diving. No. And it's not going to happen.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp. I have no real desire to either.
67. Bounced a check. Um, yeah. In my 20s. Lots. Haven't for decades, though.
68. Flown in a helicopter. One day.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy. I have an old munitions box filled with stuff from my childhood. Funny - I have't even seen it for ages, but it was in a dream of mine last night.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. Just this past summer. The Jefferson Memorial, too.
71. Eaten Caviar. But I don't like it.
72. Pieced a quilt. I don't even know what that means. It probably won't ever happen, though.
73. Stood in Times Square. And I took a picture of some nearly naked guy playing guitar.
74. Toured the Everglades. Never been to Florida.
75. Been fired from a job. Once. As a dishwasher at the Glebe Centre, a retirement home in Ottawa.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London. All the times I've been to London, and I've never even seen Buckingham Palace.
77. Broken a bone. Once. My right ankle. Playing volleyball.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. I owned a motorcycle in 1977-78 and drove it all over, flipped it a few times, ended up in a bush once, gave myself road rash a few times, and once went to Vermont.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. From an airplane.
80. Published a book. Two, actually, while I worked for the Development Education Coordinating Council of Alberta.
81. Visited the Vatican. And climbed to the top of St. Peters.
82. Bought a brand new car. But I bought one once with something like 9,000 kilometers on it.
83. Walked in Jerusalem. Never been close.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. Many times.
85. Read the entire Bible. More than once. And create a chat of all the people in it.
86. Visited the White House. I assume looking at it from outside the fence doesn't count.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Fish.
88. Had chickenpox. During Easter vacation in grade two. Can you believe it?
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury. It's not nearly as common in Canada.
91. Met someone famous. It depends, of course, on wat you call famous. I shook jack Layton's hand just a few weeks ago.
92. Joined a book club. BOMC. With my father, when I was in high school (we split the costs and the choices). I still have the books - both my books and his.
93. Lost a loved one. My father. Also, in Brandon, my best friend committed suicide.
94. Had a baby. Not going to happen, either, even though men can have babies these days.
95. Seen the Alamo in person. In 1980, when I was in Texas for a month. I also walked around the San Antonio canal. Lost all of the pictures from that visit, though - a disaster. Inexperience with my new 35mm camera.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake. Ew, why would I want to?
97. Been involved in a law suit. Several. I was sued once, by a student union president. And I led a million dollar lawsuit against the University of Alberta - which we won!
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee. Many times. I used to catch them as a kid.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Last Year's Predictions For 2008, Reviewed

It's the end of 2008, and while most people are predicting what will happen in 2009, I look back at those who predicted 2008.

It is safe to say that most pundits did not predict the largest story of the year, the collapse of the economic system. And while most people saw change in government, fewer predicted the role the internet would play in the result. As for e-learning, 2008 was a year in which very little actually occurred(even in gaming, the headline reads Old Standby Back On Top). As Dave Cormier summarized, it was the year in which blogging declined, Wikipedia became old, people still didn't get it, and tentative experiments - MUVEs and MOOCs - showed only hints of what is to come.

Lisa Neal Gualtieri, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, eLearn Magazine, and Blog on education.

Predicted: Better prioritization will lead to more purposeful activities, such as social networking to make meaningful connections as opposed to demonstrating popularity. Less-democratic processes will lead to a clearer distinction between expert-generated knowledge and the overwhelming quantity of information available everyplace, making it easier to discern information quality. Ultimately, time is one of our most valuable resources, and I am hopeful that in 2008 it will be easier to learn, as well as to create and locate high-quality learning content.
Grade: B

Social networking came into its own in 2008, raising millions of dollars for social and political causes. And we saw attempts, at least, to popularize 'less democratic' processes in the writings of Andrew Keen, the growth of Citizendium and, of course, the Britannica Blog. But none of these made it easier to discern information quality, and it didn't become appreciably easier to learn or locate high quality content.

Richard E. Mayer
, University of California, Santa Barbara, US. Web page.

Predicted: When considering innovations in e-learning for 2008, it is tempting to focus on advances in technology—such as the use of games, virtual reality, and pedagogical agents. However, the most important innovations in e-learning will involve advances in our understanding of how to design e-learning environments that help people learn—such as how to design serious games, VR environments, and online agents that promote appropriate cognitive processing during learning. Basic research on learning and instruction will provide new guidance for instructional design, including which instructional features promote which kinds of learning for which learners.

Grade: D

Basic research did occur in 2008, as it does every year, but it is far less clear that we saw any particular advance in our understanding of how to design e-learning environments (unless you consider practical work such as CCK08 or Jokadia or Wikiducator). Looking up "Basic research on learning and instruction will provide new guidance for instructional design" on Google tells us the current state of affairs: an old ITForum paper on information age learning, Gagne's nine steps, and a 2005 paper on ISD. So general a prediction demands specific results, and this just did not happen in 2008.

Stephen Downes, Researcher, National Research Council Canad. Website.

Predicted: The "middle path"—proprietary lock-in services, like Vista, iTunes, Facebook, and Second Life, will be abandoned for more open commercial alternatives rather than free and open source software and content. "Personal networks" will be created by individuals to manage and share their contacts and information sources; people will "peer" into each others' networks or subscribe to filtered versions of each others' network feeds. Digital devices will be synched using online services that will offer a publishing option for "live updating." Finally, open academic publishing will have its strongest year. Many government agencies will require that funded materials be made openly accessible. Useful libraries and indices of open academic content will appear, pushing commercial providers to offer some free content just to stay in the game.

Grade: C

While people avoided Vista like the plague, nobody was abandoning iTunes, Facebook or Second Life (though, in fairness, the criticisms did begin to mount). Personal networks were created but, for the most part, were not used to create filtered feeds. Devices were synched, but mostly were used to make phone calls, listen to music and download apps from an app store. The number of Open Access mandates increased, commercial publishers leaned toward free, but useful indices did not emerge (though ticTOCs, released December 20, is a start).

Saul Carliner, Associate Professor, Graduate Program in Educational Technology, Concordia University, Canad. Website.

Predicted: I see these trends emerging: (1) continued integration of e-learning into the broader, everyday context of learning; (2) increasing interest in informal learning (and, as seen through ebbs of interest in performance support and workflow training, only limited incremental practical developments); and (3) a somewhat increased interest in digital video for learning as a side benefit of both the early 2009 transition from analog TV to HDTV in the U.S. and the hi-def DVD format-war seemingly being won by Sony's Blu-Ray technology.

Grade: C+

This prediction is essentially a projection of three existing trends, none of which demonstrated any particula strength, coupled with a known future event (the conversion to HD) and the projection of a very likely one (the win by Blu-Ray). The best part of the prediction is the observation that the increased interest in performance support and workflow learning would result in only limited practical developments.

Jay Cross, CEO, Internet Time Group, USA

Predicted: The suffix "2.0" will be appended to almost everything. Get ready for LMS 2.0, Performance 2.0, and even Google Search 2.0. But be careful when you get to Web 3.0, Third Life, and the other 3.0s. E-learning, knowledge management, corporate communications, and talent management will continue to converge. Some companies will mash them together and put it all under a CPO (Chief People Officer.) Finally, hierarchies will crumble as executives see the speed at which Web-savvy new hires penetrate silos, talk directly with customers, and get things done.

Grade: D

Yes, we got LMS 2.0, Performance 2.o and Search 2.0 - all in 2007 or earlier. No credit for predicting past events. Yes, we saw a convergence of e-learning, knowledge management, corporate communications, and talent management - in, for example, competences and skills databases. Yes, we saw the Chief People Officer. At Walmart. In 2004. A fad that didn't become a trend. But most of all, hierarchies didn't crumble in 2008 - though just about everything else did.

Michael Feldstein, author, e-Literate weblog, USA

Predicted: This year we will see universities begin to provide institutional support for Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools, not as replacements for the LMS but as adjuncts to them. Also, 2008 will be a blockbuster year for the participation of young people in the United States elections, thanks in part to the use of Web 2.0 sites to educate them on the issues and to mobilize them. Blackboard will show measureable market-share loss for the first time. All LMS vendors will benefit, but Moodle and Sakai will benefit disproportionately.

Grade: A

Detailed and specific predictions, all of which came true. The Open University, for example, was one of many institutions to develop a Facebook application. All LMS vendors adapted web 2.0 tools. Young people were a dominant inluence on the U.S. election, sweeping established candidates and pitting a choice between 'change' and 'maverick'. Blackboard did lose market share, with Moodle benefiting. Sakai, meanwhile, maintains only a sliver of the market.

Carol Barnum, Director of the Usability Center and Professor of Information Design, Southern Polytechnic State University, USA

Predicted: The WOW factor is upon us. A recent two-part story on NPR reported that one in five students is now taking courses via distance learning. With so many students learning online, more attention needs to be paid to the question of usability, particularly to understanding the user's experience. A few years ago, there was little mention of usability in the same conversation as e-learning. Now it comes up, even if the meaning is in the eye of the beholder. But, here's an interesting point, which could signal convergence: U.S. News and World Report 2008 Best Careers issue puts "usability/user experience specialist" on its list of top careers with bright futures. With the growing interest in e-learning and the growing prospects for usability specialists, there is indeed optimism that the two spheres will not only overlap but merge.

Grade: D

We saw a video on YouTube and a paper at E-Learn but no significant uptick in the importance of usability in online learning and certainly no signof the two spheres merging. And the U.S. news and World Report Chart? Usability specialist is still on it, but with only a 'B' for job prospects and on the bubble.

Mark Notess, Indiana University, Very There Consulting, and member of eLearn Magazine's Editorial Advisory Board, USA

Predicted: 2008 will be a banner year for distance learning enrollments. Economic and geo-political instabilities will lead more people to seek new employment credentials. The steep growth of baby boomer "first retirements" will also fuel the trend, as people in their 60s look for second careers or life enrichment. The distance learning build-out of the past several years will come into its own, but some of the persistent learner-experience issues will contribute to continuing high attrition. These issues will generate new research and experimentation, resulting (eventually) in major improvements to both program management and technology platforms.

Grade: B-

Bonus marks for predicting economic instabilities (geo-political instabilities are a given). As for distance enrollments, everything I could find (such as this article and reports such as this and this) showed that while enrollments were up, they were not dramatically up. The rest of the prediction was too vague to evaluate. What does it mean to say that a build-out will ' will come into its own"? And while there may have been "persistent learner-experience issues" but we don't know what they were, and there was no indication that attrition was more or less an issue this year over previous years.

Karl Kapp, Assistant Director, Institute for Interactive Technologies and Professor of Instructional Technology, Bloomsburg University, USA

Predicted: Content within corporations and universities is going to become more and more disaggregated and learner created. Truly valuable content will be found as short videos on YouTube, entries on blogs, or a favorite page on a wiki, none will be housed in a Learning Management System. In fact, I predict a corporate version of YouTube will emerge just as the academic version, TeacherTube previously emerged. Formalized "instructional design" will begin to look more like "instructional assembly," in that what is traditionally thought of as a course will really be the efforts of an instructional designer to assemble disaggregated pieces of related content into a coherent flow for novice learners or learners who are not comfortable with assembling the content themselves for whatever reason.

Grade: B-

Content did become more disaggregated and learner created, continuing a trend that has been evident for several years. Penalty for non-falsifiability: if valuable content were housed on a learning management system, this would not be evident to the wider internet. No corporate version of YouTube emerged. 'Inbstructional assembly' did not emerge as a wide practice. maybe in a few years.

Angeliki Poulymenakou, Assistant Professor in Information Systems; and Spiros Borotis, Researcher, both at Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece

Predicted: The proliferation of e-learning 2.0 will create new challenges for the quality of e-learning content, i.e. the need to create meaningful support structures to assist learners navigating through and evaluating the plethora of new user-created forms of learning resources. Moreover, emerging online social communities, e.g. Facebook and Myspace, will provide new and alternative ways of rapid e-learning through various applications and groups. Regarding the use of e-learning in Europe, an emerging field concerns the support for contemporary employment arrangements like flexicurity, as well as for ensuring the provision of equal opportunities.

Grade: C

Quality continued to be a challenge for e-learning content in new media, but no new challenges emerged. While support systems for learners would be useful, the need for them did not grow appreciably in 2008, and no new systems were created (it's interesting that in 2008 user-created resources were largely ignored by most commentators). New facebook applications and groups supporting learning were created, but not at any increased pace from preceeding years. Following from a 2006 report, Europe did establish a commission on Flexicurity, but otherwise discussion of the concept seems to have slowed in 2008.

Jane Hart, Head, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, UK

Predicted: Open source and other free tools will continue to dominate the e-learning market, but these will be used to create simple informational types of e-learning rather than complex instructional solutions. Here are some tools which I think will do well, or even better, in 2008: Google Docs (now that it has embeddable presentation functionality), Slideshare (with narrated presentations) will go from strength to strength, as will VoiceThread. YouTube and other video sites, including those that specialize in instructional videos like TeacherTube, as well as aggregators like SuTree, will dominate. Tools like Gcast and Gabcast will make podcasting even easier.

Grade: B-

While open source and free tools were important, it is hard to say that they "dominated" the e-learning market - not while commercial systems such as Blackboard and Desire2Learn are still viable, not while content creation tools like Camtasia and conferencing tools like Elluminate still dominate their sectors. Google Docs didn't enjoy a good year, though it remained popular. Slideshare remained strong, but has slipped a bit. VoiceThread flailed, languishing at 23 on Hart's list. TeacherTube, as noted, has been dropping. SuTree, Gcast and Gabcast/ Nowhere to be found.

Prof. James Hendler, Tetherless World Constellation Chair, Computer Science Dept., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, USA

Predicted: The Semantic Web is beginning to spread. It's already being used underneath a few popular Web sites, and there are a large number of start-ups springing up in the area. My prediction for the coming year is that users will start noticing more Web sites that seem to offer more views of more data and that they will be able to make more of their preferences known to applications. Within a couple of years, this will become expected of educational systems, especially library systems, and educational Web site providers will need to start learning more about this technology.

Grade: D

Not to put too fine a point on it, but predictions that the semantic web will spread have been around for years. And for years, that spread simply hasn't been happening. Same in 2008, which was the year of Ajax and the mashup, and not the year of the Semantic Web at all.

Curt Bonk, Professor, Indiana University, USA

Predicted: There is a distinct shift recently from the clamor over a particular technology or Web 2.0 tool to how they can be combined for multi-pedagogical and multi-technological experiences. There are Facebook groups for Second Life educators; Facebook groups established to generate research on YouTube; people blogging on their Second Life adventures and putting up related pictures in Flickr; classes creating wikibooks with students from around the world, which have these learners blog on their progress and create podcasts of their final products. Yet another multi-pedagogical/multi-technological example is when college students collect sounds from different cities or locations and index them using Google maps. A new term for these "mash-ups" will emerge in 2008 in various training and education sectors to help focus on the wealth of learning-related aspects or possibilities that can now be realized.

Grade: C

Some marks for predicting the clamour over combining things (no points for the undefined 'multi-pedagogical and multi-technological experiences'). The long second and third sentences are not predictions, but rather, descriptions of the state of affairs (at the end of 2007). No new term for 'mash-up' came into being in 2008.

Jonathon Levy, Senior Learning Strategist, Monitor Group, USA

It appears the moment we've been anticipating may be arriving. Much of our work in 2008 will address RFPs for new models of performance-based learning both from companies and universities! We are responding to requests for capture of tacit knowledge, and integration of resident expertise that people carry in their heads into a semantic knowledge ecosystem. There also seems to be recognition that there is no longer time for learning activities to be separate from the "doing." We see a growing market for innovative "smart tools" that transcend "e-learning" and imbed new knowledge acquisition into the context of doing actual work.

Grade: D

If there was a new market in performance-based learning, it wasn't really evident. Certainly, it had been talked about for some time, and companies like Accenture had launched human performance groups. But beyond the usual level of hype for things like Second Life (which even dropped off a bit in 2008) there was no particular emphasis on simulation or immersion in learning. The same with workplace learning and EPS systems. And 'smart systems'. No new developments over and above the general background noise that has existed for years. And nothing new on after 2006.

Seb Schmoller, Chief Executive of the UK's Association for Learning Technology (ALT), England

Predicted: My predictions for 2008: Effective use of RSS by learners, teachers, and learning providers will become more normal. Meanwhile the off-line capabilities of browser-based applications like Google Reader will grow, making a big difference for users with only intermittent Internet access. The hype surrounding social networking will abate, with a greater understanding developing about when social networking supports learning and when it is a distraction. And many more people will break free from Windows or OSX-based systems, and begin to rely instead on cheaper, lighter, disk-free devices, with their "stuff" stored somewhere on the Internet rather than locally.

Grade: B+

Pretty good predictions. More learners, teachers and providers used RSS; the jury is out on whether it was used more effectively, and the numbers were not staggering. Off-line browsing capacites did improve, but the impact was limited. The hype around social networking didn't abate appreciably, but it leveled off, with criticisms about the appropriateness of using Facebook in learning becoming more common (also, the popularity of the term 'creepy treehouse'). Windows and OSX proved more resiliant than predicted, actually gaining ground by occupying the OLPC platform. But cheaper, lighter, disk-free devices were huge in 2008.

Richard Larson, Director, MIT Learning Interactive Networks Consortium (LINC) and Mitsui Professor, Engineering Systems, MIT, USA

Predicted: The year 2008 will be the year in which open source educational materials will be co-invented by educators from around the world and will be as easily uploaded onto a searchable website as are the videos on YouTube. Quality control can be maintained either by official moderators, or—preferably—by market forces guided by user comments prominently displayed. The content can be incorporated into class-based or distance-based courses. Each educational entry can be small (an educational "snippet"), medium (30 minutes of a class), or large (one week's worth of work).

Grade: F

The YouTube of open leaning materials? Didn't happen? Quality control mechanisms? Nope - all that was tried with MERLOT years ago, and the whole quality-review thing just isn't catching on. Incorporating open learning content into courses? Sure - nothing new there (and not any easier, either). The concept of 'snippets' was "invented" long before 2008 - they were called learning objects or information objects. For a prediction, this really is a surprising submission.

Margaret Driscoll, Managing Consultant, IBM, USA

Predicted: The e-learning buzz for 2008 is virtual reality (VR) for training (the 3-D variety). Industry pundits are selling decision makers on VR's immersive, distributed, virtual, and collaborative attributes. This stuff is so cool that mainstream TV shows like "CSI: NY" have an option called "Second Live Virtual Experience," Sears has a prototype store, and MTV is already in season three of "Virtual Laguna Beach." Recall the e-learning tsunami of hype and you will quickly see the parallels. Look for a rush to create a VR training program, a lack of adequate funding and time to execute, and no grounding in educational practice or theory. VR is Valhalla for die-hard constructivists.

Grade: A-

Hard to say that this prediction, though narrow, wasn't spot on. As 2008 progressed, it was clear Second Life had peaked in 2007. By the end of it, organizations like Reuters had bailed and Second Life was fading from the mainstream. Google pulled the plug on Lively. "The companies that rushed to set up bases within the cult virtual world of Second Life appear to have wasted their time as many have shut down and others are "ghost towns", an Australian researcher has found."

Mark Oehlert, Innovation Investigator and Gaming Specialist, Defense Acquisition University, USA

Predicted: I predict that I will: (1) continue to look for social networking functionality to become integrated into e-learning platforms; (2) ask why/how standards like SCORM stay important/relevant as de facto Web standards like AJAX, REST, and SOAP seem to address the same issues in a more complete way (and if I am wrong here, please someone tell me); (3) continue to watch as gaming design and instructional design talk past each other and fail to find a satisfactory hybrid solution; (4) continue to argue that mobile learning (as opposed to "immobile learning?") will not cross into the mainstream as long as we continue to fail to adapt our design to the fact that most mobile devices are first audio devices and, distantly second, visual devices. Continuing to define "mobile learning" mainly by it association with one class of technology (cell phones) will have a similar effect.

Grade: D

Telling us what you are going to talk about for the next year is a bit of a cheap dodge. Also, predicting that things will not happen is also a bit of a dodge. A prediction that is a question is definitely a dodge. Yes, web 2.0 technologies were integrated into e-learning platforms, but this was announced prior to 2008.

Patti Shank, President, Learning Peaks LLC, USA

Predicted: Learning content, activity, and assessment authoring tools continue to improve. There are great tools with a short learning curve (for example, Adobe Captivate and Articulate Presenter) and tools with a longer learning curve that are really excellent (for example, Lectora, and Flashform). Savvy instructional designers are starting to realize that they cannot be involved in the development of all instructional content in their organizations. Designers are beginning to help others author content and that should leave the more complex projects, where quality of instruction and assurance of skills is needed, in the hands of capable instructional designers. One oh-so-hopeful prediction: Instructional design programs will begin teaching instructional designers to write. Why this critical skill isn't considered a must-have has me scratching my head.

Grade: B-

There's no real indication that instructional design programs began teaching instructional designers to write. Saying that the tools will improve is kind of like throwing rocks at trees in a forest. And designers have been helping others author content for many years now (these days you find mostly instructional design tools intended to assist authors). It's not all a wash though. It helps when somebody explicitly identifies cases where your prediction is being realized.

Clark Quinn, Quinnovation, USA

Grade: B-

Predicted: The cynical: There will continue to be "eLearning Solutions Providers" with no one on the executive/management team who really understands learning; a total LMS/CMS/Portal/eCommunity all-singing, all-dancing solution will be announced, but it still won't be the answer. The optimistic: mLearning will cross the chasm this year, and more organizations will take a wise perspective toward using technology to populate the "performance ecosystem." Both: Exciting new Web 2.0 applications will keep appearing, but we won't be better at avoiding hype and looking for real learning affordances.

I searched high and low for a 2008 announcement of "a total LMS/CMS/Portal/eCommunity all-singing, all-dancing solution" but didn't find one (I even left out the singing and the dancing). Did mLearning cross the chasm? That's a bit of a judgment call. It was certainly more popular, but not arguably mainstream, with most activity in the form of pilot projects and test runs. Exciting web 2.0 applications kept appearing, but arguably the economic crash has made us a lot better at avoiding hype - at least for the next few weeks.

Ben Watson, Director, Microsoft Learning, Canada

Predicted: Somehow in 2007 the power of the human touch passed the learning industry by when FaceBook, MySpace, and YouTube roared to life and gained prominence while search engines continued to grow their dominance by becoming the learning tool of choice for individuals. In 2008, expect the learning industry to continue to struggle to remain relevant as these technologies, and others, continue to bypass corporate-structured learning while individuals continue to vote with their virtual feet while creating relevant content on their own. Ironically, competing demands for attention will drive people to single-source as much of their learning as possible.

Grade: B+

The learning industry struggled to stay relevant. Many training departments failed their organizations. And with the crash in the fall, learning was first on the chopping block and schools, colleges and universities faced funding cuts. And we began to see a shift in emphasis from instiututions creating learning to students creating their own learning. We haven't seen the move toward single-source learning, though iTunes is definitely offering itself as a candidate.

David Porush, Co-founder and Chairman, SpongeFish, USA

New gadgets and communications tech tease us with visions that "it's all gonna change." Radio, television, the first PCs"—all inspired millennial prophesies of revolutions in learning. The simple fact is that most people still learn formally in classrooms very similar to the Sumerians' of 3200 B.C. What has changed most stunningly is the breadth and instantaneity of our informal learning. My prediction? Formal learning will still take place in classrooms or virtual simulacra of classrooms. But this year social networks for sharing what you know informally and personally will be the big news.

Grade: C

The key aspect of Sumerian classrooms, at least according to Porush (who appears to be the primary source for such references) is that "The discipline of the schoolchildren being tutored in script 'canalizes' their thought processes, reinforcing certain pathways." Formal learning can still be contrasted with informal learning, a concept that gained ground steadily in 2008. Were social networks for learning big news in 2008? Not particularly more than most anything else. A more concrete prediction would have been helpful here.

Philip Lambert, Vice-President, Red Hot Learning, Canada
Predicted: 2008 will be the year that serious games get serious attention from corporate training departments. More studies will show the positive learning effects of games, and, as practitioners quote positive ROI from serious games that far exceed the ROI provided by other forms of e-learning, many corporations will jump on this exciting new bandwagon. By the end of the year, it will be apparent that, just as in the early days of e-learning, people who do not know what they are doing will create games that do not teach effectively, do not engage learners, and are not used. This will lead some to question, once again, the validity of using games to teach.
Grade: A

Games received a lot of attention in 2008 and, in particular, as predicted, studies showed the positive effects of learning from games. Proving ROI was more of a challenge, generating some debate, but specific claims were made. In addition, other people built ineffective games. What's missing thus far to any great degree is the questioning. Just a matter of time, though.


Overall, the predictions were a pretty mixed bag, with lack of specificity, predictions of past events, and obviousness being the main culprits. 2008 was an especially difficult year to predict, and those who simply predicted 'more of the same' (more social networks, more virtual reality, more Youtube, more mobile learning) tended to fare poorly. It's likely that in 2009 the people who based their predictions around the current economic crisis will meet a similar fate. Predictions of an impact amount to predicting past events, but identifying the specific impact will be more difficult. And what will technology do in the mean time? If you focused on the economic downtiurn, you probably missed that.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Open Content, Enclosure and Conversion

This post is a reply to David Wiley, the latest installment in our ongoing discussion about the use of the Non-Commercial (NC ) clause in Creative Commons licenses.

There is not an easy way to approach these issues because there is such a lack of common understanding on so many of the points. Indeed, one of the challenges is to arrive at a definition of an open license that allows for such agreement.

I say 'definition of an open license' because I now believe that it is possible to arrive at one. But I think it will take a meticulous reworking of a number of the key concepts in order to arrive at this understanding.


One point of agreement I think we can find is in our support for 'free content', in the sense of 'freedom' expressed by Richard Stallman. By 'free as in freedom' he means the following four freedoms:
  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
  • The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements (and modified versions in general) to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
Now it is evident that by content we don't mean (exactly) 'software'. So the freedoms are not an exact match, and as Stallman himself says, you can't blindly generalize from software freedoms to other freedoms.

Nonetheless, we can invoke the spirit of the four freedoms to come to some sort of understanding of the content regime we would like to foster: one in which we are able to access (consume?) the content, for any purpose, one in which the source (or encoding) of the content is accessible (ie., non-proprietary), one in which we can share content, and one in which we can modify the content.

Content which respects the spirit of these four frededoms has come to be called open content, and that content intended specifically for educational purposes has come to be called open educational resources. The connection is with the term 'open source', which has come frequently to stand for (what Stalman means by) 'free content'.

No doubt Stallman would prefer that we use the terms 'free content' and 'free educational resources', and there is a good argument for that. But the use of the word 'open' is well-entrenched, and we'll use it here to mean the same thing as 'free', as discussed above.

Point of View

The four freedoms listed above can be interpreted from different perspectives. This will become very evident in the discussion below. For the sake of the current discussion, I would like to identify two major points of view:

- the content provider - that is, the person who current posseses the content, and would like to use or share it

- the content consumer, that is, the person who does not yet have the content in his or her possession, and who would like to access the content

This distinction is important, because there are two ways we can emphasize the impact of the four freedoms on content. The first emphasizes access, that is, that there ought not be any barriers to reading, running, or consuming the content. The second emphasizes use, that is, that there ought not be any limitation on how content is used.

One way of characterizing the point of disagreement is to characterize it as difference in point of view. Specifically, my own view involves an emphasis on access, such that content is not 'free' if there are conditions or constraints that prevent or impair one's ability to read, run or consume content. However, Wiley's view (from my perspective - he is free to characterize this differently) involves an emphasis on use, such that content is not 'free' if there are conditions or constraints that prevent or impair some use of content.

Both perspectives live happily together, except for one point of collision: the commercial use of content. Because, on the one hand, the commercial use of content (for example, offering it for sale) can create conditions or constraints that prevent or impair one's ability to read, run or consume that content. And on the other hand, the constraint to non-commercial use of content creates conditions or constraints that prevent or impair some use of content, specifically, commercial use.

That said, each of these perspectives also includes a countervailing perspective. On the one hand, proponents of commercial content may argue that commercialization does not prevent access, because non-commercial sources of content remain available. And proponents of open access argue that the commercialization of content is not actually a 'use' of content, but rather, merely the enclosure of content beind a barrier or wall.

Commercial Use: Agency

Whether or not a conflict in the different perspectives of 'free content' depends critically on what we mean by 'commercial use'. It is evident from the mere existence of the Creative Commons survey that there is considerable uncertainty on the subject.

I commend Creative Commons on its efforts to clarify the issue. The question of what constitutes 'commercial use' is replete with grey areas. For example, 'Is it allowed to show e.g. a CC-licensed photo on a webpage which also includes ads to the side if the image uses the 'non-commercial' clause?" We cannot reply simply on the 'verdict' rendered by Lawrence Lessig in such cases. We need some clearer understanding.

In order to narrow the range of disagreement, it is useful to divide the set of possible definitions of 'commercial use' into two major categories:

- first, the use of the resource by a 'commercial' organization (this definition parallels the definition of 'educational use' as 'use by an educational organization') such as a commercial publisher, content vendor, or the like, and

- second, the use of the resource in a commercial manner, regardless of the identity of the person or organization using the resource

This distinction is necessary because there is a class of arguments that depend on the characterization of the agency performing the use (such as non-profit or journalist) rather than the use itself. We see this in the Creative Commons guidelines: "Allowable NC users are: (a) an Individual (b) a Nonprofit educational institution/library, (c) a Nonprofit organization as defined under US or equivalent law... (etc.)."

But it should be clear that we can draw no clear correlation between the nature of the use and the nature of the user. Governments, normally non-commercial users, can engage in commercial activities, such as selling data or charging tolls. And people working for corporations can make non-commercial uses, for example, by merely reading a resource.

As in the case of 'educational use', the wording of the Creative Commons guidelines contains a particularly American bias, as though we can identify a 'use' with the type of 'user'. But these guidelines are quite arguably in error. We should not identify 'commercial use' with 'commercial organization' any more than we should identiofy 'educational use' with 'educational organization'.

The designation of 'commercial' must refer to a type of activity. This is merely a recognition of the success of the commercial sphere, a success so profound that commercial use of resources permeates every sector of society, from individuals running ads on blogs to non-profits selling reports or t-shirts to companies charging subscriptions or running ads.

It is good that Creative Commonjs is reconsidering its definition. The disasterous interpretation authored by an anonymous contributor, offers no help whatsopever, is not part of the license, and should (and would) carry no legal force, save perhaps in the United States.

Commercial Use: Characteristic Properties

In this this section I would like to argue for the possible contentious position that what we shoudl want to characterize as 'commercial use' is not in fact a use of the resource at all, but rather, as suggested above, a practice of enclosing the resource.

The key to understanding this lies in understanding that the nature of the use is not dependent on the user. A person working for a corporation can engage in quite innocent and non-comercial uses of content; indeed, this is the most common use of content, by corporate and non-corporate users alike.

The question of 'commercial use', indeed, comes up only from the perspective of a content provider, as described above, and never from the perspective of a content consumer. And, indeed, the typing of a use as 'commercial' occurs only in the contex of redistribution.

It is this sort of consideration, in my view, that leads David Wiley to say that "the ShareAlike clause is the root of the license compatibility problem - not the NC clause." And I certainly agree to a certain degree - that it is in the (putative) sharing of the content that the impact of the non-commercial cluse is felt. I will reurn to the question of the Share-Alike condition below, and focus on the ides of sharing in particular for the moment.

In particular, I want to be clear, that some types of sharing constitute commercial use, and some types of sharing constitute non-commercial use.

What types or sharing constitute comemrcial use?

- the charging of a subscription fee to access content
- the charging of a tuition fee to access content
- the placement of advertising on a resource
- the requirement that one become a member of an association
- the requirement that the consumer provide information, which will later be sold
- the requirement that a person purchase a device or viewer

This list could probably be extended. But the general gist is clear:

Sharing constitutes 'commercial use' if and only if conditions are placed on access to the resource in such a way that access is possible only if the sharer receives compensation for having shared the resource.

In other words, commercial use isn't actually 'use' of the resource at all, in any straightforward sense, but rather, is the enclosure of that resource, where the purpose of the enclosure is to provide some (financial) benefit to the provider.

From these considerations, the reader should be able to see plainly the basis for my advocacy of the non-commercial clause. From the perspective of the consumer, the placement of conditions on access creates a barrier to access, one that entails that the resource is no longer free.

Now recognize that opponents may say that this is not necessarily the case, that if the resource is licensed under Creative commons and yet used commercially, that there will always be some free (as in the sense above) way to access the resource.

But, there is nothing in Creative Commons that makes this the case - nothing in Creative Commons that would ensure that such a resource can be freely accessed. It could easily be that the only way to access such a resource would be to pay for it, one way or another.

Sharing, Combining and Conversion

Before dealing with the poblm of enclosure, I would like to address directly the suggestion that the 'Share Alike' (SA) clause is the source of the difficulties.

To me, it is evident that, no matter what they may say, the authors of the CCLearn Report find the non-commercial (NC) clause, not the SA clause, to be the source of the problem. I realize that, as Wiley says, "the license compatibility section of the report is very clear in stating that the ShareAlike clause is the root of the license compatibility problem - not the NC clause."

However, when we get to what the authors actually recommend, they write: "Therefore, the standard terms of copyright licenses associated with OERs should permit adaptation and translation in ways that allow OERs to be combined, shared, adapted, and recombined without restriction. The license that achieves this purpose most effectively is the Creative Commons Attribution Only (CC BY) license." Why eliminate the NC clause if you don't think that NC is the problem?

In fact, the elimination of SA allows the resource not only to be distributed commercially, it allows attribution to be removed, and indeed, allows it to be distributed under any license whatsoever. It is hard to see how any license that allows such reuse could be construed as 'free' under the definition outlined above.

Let us look, for a moment, at the origin of the SA clause. As Richard Stallman and Eben Moglen write, "The 'share and share alike' or 'copyleft' aspect of the GPL is its most important functional characteristic." The reason for this is that, without the copyleft provision, a software developer could take some GPL code and incorporate it into his own commercial and proprietary product. Under extreme conditions, he could claim ownership over this code, and even litigate in order to prevent its original con-commercial usage.

It is exactly this sort of process SA restricts in the case of Creative Commons licensed content. Here's Wiley again: "By-SA can’t be recombined with By-NC-SA, neither By-SA nor By-NC-SA can be combined with the GFDL, and any public domain or CC By licensed resource remixed with By-SA, By-NC-SA, or GFDL licensed resources is forcibly converted to those terms (as part of the larger remix - the original remains unchanged, of course)."

Now let's understand what this means. It means that, if I have created a resource that I license as Non-Commercial, a person cannot combine my resource with some work of their own to produce a new resource that can be used commercially. The SA clause, in effect, prevents people from subverting the intent of the original NC condition. Remove the SA, and you may as well remove NC, because there are no restrictions on how the combined work can be used at all.

This is depicted as the compatability problem, or even as CC Infighting. But it is, in fact, nothing of the sort.

The Share-Alike license does nothing to prohibit an NC work from being used in conjuction with a non-NC work. For example, a page of readings provided to a student could link to one of my essays, licensed under CC-NC-By-SA and one of David Wiley's, licensed under CC-By. There is nothing incompatible about the licenses, unless one wants to convert the NC content into commercial content.

In short, SA doesn't prevent you from using NC content, it only prevents you from converting it into non-NC content through some process of combining or merging.

This is (interestingly) exactly how it works in the world of software. A developer cannot merge GPL software into some proprietary application, thus producing a proprietary application. But they can use an proprietary application - Cold Fusion, say, in combination with an open source application (Apache, say) to create a new product or service.

So why can't content developers work with commercial and NC content in this way? Why can't they continue to respect the original conditions of the license? There is no good reason - unless they want to enclose the original NC content. Unless they want to convert the NC content into commercial content, and restrict access to it, contravening the author's intentions.

Wiley depicts SA thus: "In this sense of copyleft’s unyielding, unapologetic, impatient, forcible conversion approach to interacting with materials that use a kinder, gentler license, we may appropriately call copyleft clauses the 'Spanish Inquisition of the open education movement.'" This is, frankly, ridiculous.

Share-Alike is not the problem. Share-Alike is what ensures that material created under the NC license remains under the NC license. And it is NC, not Share-Alike, that opponents really wish to suppress. NC, not SA, that they feel is the 'Spanish Inquisition of the open education movement'. Because, you see, they don't want open education at all - but rather, education that was formerly open, but which is now enclosed, which now may be purchased only at a price.


The first part of Wiley's objection to my position concerns the definition of 'non-commercial'. It is my hope that the discussion above has elucidated my meaning to a significant degree. While I agree that there is possibly not a widespread understanding of the term (the survey results may provide some indication) there should be no particular constraint preventing us from agreeing that this is what is meant by 'commercial' use: the enclosure of content behind some commercial barrier.

By identifying 'commercial' use as 'enclosure' I need now to address directly the second part of Wiley's argument: "I have never understood (and I really, deeply, sincerely do want to understand) Stephen’s line of argument describing how OERs licensed with, say, the CC By-SA license (lacking the NC clause), can be cordoned off by for-profit interests."

Let me explain. Suppose a person, Fred, creates a resource called 'XYZ'. And suppose Fred posts XYL on his own website and licenses it CC By-SA.

Cordoning can be created very simply. A third party, Omniplex, can copy Fred's resource and place it on their own website. Omniplex then creates the cordoning by requiring that a person purchase a subscription to their website in order to view the resource. For clarity, we'll call this new instance of the resource XYZ-c.

Now the respons is very clear. It may be true that XYZ-c has been cordoned by Omniplex. But so long as XYZ is available on Fred's website, anyone can access XYZ. So XYZ isn't really cordoned off, just one instance of it is. And people who access the resource, on seeing the CC By-SA license, could take the cordoned version and place it on any other website. Right?

Quite so. But we must now understand, Omniplex's biggest competition is now fred, the original source of XYZ in the first place. Anything that can be done to ensure that users access XYZ-c, and not XYZ, will be in Omniplex's corporate interests. And, in fact, XYZ-c has an arsenal of resourcs at its disposal to ensure that this is the case.

Thios is just a partial list of the strategies that are employed by agencies in the position of Omniplex:

- a climate of litigation is created such that, only content from trusted corporations, such as Omniplex, can be 'known' to be copied legally, such that users no longer trust that they have the right to use Fred's XYZ, but trust XYZ-c. Or Fred is required to license DRM software in order to 'prove' that the resouce is legitiomately distributed

- legal and other overheads can force Fred's website off the air - for example, threats of legal action from Omniplex, threats of civil or criminal action on unrelated matters, lawsuits (justified or not) from anti filesharing agencies, DOS attacks, domain squatting, and more

- SEO manipulation - Omniplex not only employs an aray of spammers to ensure premium placement for XYZ-c, these same tactics are used to push down Fred's Google rank by discrediting him; Omnicorp also has the resources, where Fred does not, to purchase search engine placement

- exclusivity of market - in the same way you'll never find free books in the bookstore, Omniplex would like to set up online markets where only XYZ-c, and never XYZ, is listed

- formal requirement - tuition required to enrol in an accredited course needed for a degree pays, in part, for instances of XYZ-c. Or, students are required to purchase XYZ-c from an 'official' marketplace (so-called to prevent 'piracy')

- proprietary platform - in some environment - Amazon Kindle, say - only XYZ-c is available; XYZ is not available, because the owners of the proprietary platform will not license Fred to place it there

Now what should be emphasized here is that this is only a partial list of tactics that Omniplex could use. What is significant here is that, once it obtains the right to offer XYZ-c, an enclosed version of XYZ, it has considerable incentive to ensure that XYZ is sunk out of view, or preferably, made difficult or impossible to legally obtain.

It should be noted that there is nothing in Creative Commons, over and above the NC clause, that prevents this. As soon as content can be legally enclosed, it is as though a veritable horde or commercial providers descends on it, converting it into spam-bait, converting it into Google-ad carriers, converting it into subscription content - and each and every one of them engaged in the common interest of ensuring that the original sinks from sight and disappears.

Again, perspective is useful here. Wiley writes:

"The Open Learning pilot at BYU that will launch in January will be using the CC By-SA license. We own the copyrights on the material we will be sharing, which is why we can set the terms of the license they will be distributed under. There is nothing any corporation, entity, or individual can do to strip us of our rights, to prevent us from distributing our material, or to interfere with our provision of free educational materials to the world in any way. And any corporation, entity, or individual that would ever try to modify and then charge a fee for our materials is required by the SA clause on our materials to simultaneously freely license their derivatives under the same CC By-SA."

Quite so. BYU's rights remain completely untouched by any commercialization of its materials.

But, unless they agree to put it into a proprietary format, or to place it into an exclusive (pay) marketplace, it will not be offered on (say) Kindle or iTunes, etc. (Please note that even if these marketplaces offer free content, were they to gain anything like a strong market share the free content would disappear, just as it does in bookstores).

Unless BYU agrees to license its material to a commercial carrier, and support it with advertisements, then it will be impacted by selective content metering, the unbalanced web distribution what may result after the failure of net neutrality.

Unless BYU licenses DRM technology from ContentGuard, and unless BYU enters into legal agreements with all its authors, it runs the risk of being identified as a distributor of pirated material, or worse, those that reuse BYU's materials run the risk of being accused of piracy, as they will be unable to prove (through some licensing system) that they are using the material legally.

And that's just BYU. Its users are in an even worse position.

It's quite true that BYU currently receives good Google rankings. But this is only because Google is not competing with BYU. Companies that offer products or services that compete with Google are demoted in search rankings. Google's Knol - despite having no initial linkage or credibility - vaulted to the top of search engine rankings, well above the original locations of CC licensed materials.

Users of BYU materials would never find it under such conditions. They could only obtain the Google-supported versions. So, they would have to view the Google ads and subject their browsing to Google analytics, after being required to log in using their Google IDs.

Even worse is the plight of people who are unable to access BYUs materials in their original online format. These are people who do not have internet access, or whose government blocks BYU (and other educational providers, such as Amnesty Intrernational or UNICEF).

These people can access BYU content only through commercial cellphone services, or on commercial DVDs or in print. These are expensive - ironically, the poorest people in the world are paying the highest price. And yet, the providers of this content are lobbying the government against internet access because it is a form of unfair competition. because it threatens their business model.

Just the way commercial educatiuon and televsion providers took legal action to prevent the BBC from putting educational materials online. Just as ISPs - who had no intention of providing open access - took legal action against cities who wanted to provide free public wireless internet.

It is, quite frankly, beyond me how anyone can look at all comprehensively at the state of commercialism and the internet and expect any other outcome. Anyone who expects any other outcome is living in fantasyland. There is no domain, where commercial activity was allowed without restraint, where the commercializers did not take over and ultimately wreck the domain.

Grounds For Agreement

I suggested at the top of this article that they may be room for some sort of rapproachment between David Wiley and myself on this issue. Because, after all, we in fact are on th same side, both working toward the development and distribution of free (open) content and educational resources.

Let me begin by being clear about my position on commercialism.

- first, it doesn't bother me at all is a person or an organization makes money by adding value to work that I (or anyone else has created. This is, indeed, the foundation of the productive economy, the idea that, by producing value, a person is rewarded

- but second, it does bother me if a person or organization makes money by subtracting value from work that I (or anyone else) has produced, by limiting access to it, by making it more difficult to obtain, by casting doubt or legal concerns about its use

People should not be rewarded for making free things more scarce. Especially when society as a whole benefits so much from their abundance, the creation of artificial scarcities, whether through law, litigation or technology, is a fundamentally destructive and hurtful activity. people should be punished for creating scarcities, not rewarded, as such is the source of illusive, and ill-gotten wealth, founded on misery and deprivation rather than growth and development.

The grounds for agreement are thus these: if we could build these into the license, then the non-commercial clause would not be needed.

It's important to note that these conditions are already in the GPL. Not only is the principle of copyleft embedded in the license, so also are the mechanisms that make it impossible to prevent a person from using the software. By ensuring that the software user always has access to the source, and that no subsequent development can hide the source, there is no way to create an exclusive commercial marketplace.

The GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) attempts to recognize this. "If you publish or distribute Opaque copies of the Document numbering more than 100, you must either include a machine-readable Transparent copy along with each Opaque copy, or state in or with each Opaque copy a computer-network location from which the general network-using public has access to download using public-standard network protocols a complete Transparent copy of the Document, free of added material."

In other words, the GFDL attempts to create a condition that would prevent enclosure by at leas some of the mechanisms mentoned above. By requiring an "opaque copy" the GFDL prohibits the wholesale and exclusive copying in a proprietary format. People using "public-standard network protocols" must be able to access the content.

David Wiley's Open Publication License also contains text to address some of the issues raised here. For example, "Mere aggregation of Open Publication works or a portion of an Open Publication work with other works or programs on the same media shall not cause this license to apply to those other works." Mere aggregation does not cause conversion. And additionally, the license requires that, if a modification is made, that the location of the original be identified in the modification.

And the licensing condition he adopts for Flat World Knowledge - the CC By-NC-SA Plus license - also recognizes these concerns. the 'plus' is a commercialization license, with conditions: "it will grant blanket permissions for anyone and everyone to make Commercial Use of FWK-published textbook materials in the context of the FWK Marketplace." Within the FWK Marketplace. Why? Because the biggest threat to FWK is some commercial entity coming along, taking all their content, and creating a competing, closed and completely commercial marketplace.

So I think that Wiley recognizes the grounds I have for concern. Where we have a disagreement is regarding the best way yo address them. I have - for lack of anything other than a blunt instrument - opted for reative Commons Non-Commercial. Wiley has both written his own license and worked with an amended bersion of Creative Commons.

What Next?

I think we need to recognize that Creative commons was never more than a placeholder for the sort of arrangement we really wanted some time in the future. A placeholder that would allow people to share their work in the absence of a commons that wouldn't be immediately set upon and destroyed by commercial interests.

But Creative commons is on the verge of outliving its usefulness. The idea that there would be distinct CC licenses for each of 200 jurisdictions was a non-starter. The possibility of commercial CC licenses will destroy the common currency of open (free) content. And the idea of codification itself, of there being a legal statement of what is allowed, was probably misplaced.

What we want is not some narrowly defined legal text that will give abusers loopholes through which to crawl, but rather, a more generally defined statement of intent that can be interpreted by the court, not circumvented hy legal (or technological) trickery. After all, ethical and charitable behaviour can never be legislated as a set of principles or laws, but can only exist as the result of a good intent, a frame of mind. We abstain from murder, not because there's a law against it, but because it is wrong.

So we want, I think, something like a 'free content declaration', a statement we can link to that identifies our desire, as providers of open content, to ensure that it remains open. In other words, I think now that Wiley's approac of creating a separate license wll be better, in the long run, than following (and being bound by) the Creative Commons license.

We want, in common, to say, I think, that by identifying our content as 'free content', we want:

- to ensure that any person is able to access this content - to read it, or view it, or play it, as the case may be - which means that free content itself must be in some sort of public-standard network protocols

- to have the source of this content - a link back to the original which is always available as an alternative to the shared, or copied version

- to allow people to sare this content, to make it available in different formats and in different places, but not to create conditions or an environment where access to the original content is impaired, or access to the extant content is not free, not open

- to allow people to build upon this content, to improve it, and to share these improvements under whatever license they wish, provided that such improvements provide direct, accessible and unimpeded access to the original content

Now these con ditiopns are very general, and are not intended to be the 'letter of the law'. they are expressed as intentions, to be interpreted, not as principles to be defined. And we can, from the discussion above, discern that intent: it is our desire that content not be enclosed, but rather, be set free.

I believe that something like this is the common ground on which David Wiley's and my views of open content rest, and hope that some such statement is the foundation on which we can progress in the future.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Responding to Dave Pollard, A Paean to Activists.

There is a parallel between your argument here and that of an individual who, faced with his own mortality, decides there is no point working toward a better life.

Civilization will collapse, sooner or later, either of the illnesses that currently afflict us or of some unknown future disaster. But it does not follow from this that civilization is not worth enhancing, improving, saving.

Ernest Becker wrote in The Denial of Death that "human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism." (quote from Wikipedia).

The denial of death may be a fool's errand, in the long run. But it is also the only thing that gives meaning to hope and happiness, love and adventure. The very act of 'living in the moment' is the only rational response to a death that is, ultimately, irrational.

When we seek to improve ourselves, to enhance our moments of happiness, to stay healthy and build a more secure future, we are doing this not in spite of the ultimate failure of all our endeavours, but rather, because of it. We rage against death, not because such rage will ever be effective, but because to acquiesce is to die immediately.

Like the other activists who work - nay, who devote their lives - to the preservation, enhancement and growth of civilization, I do it because it is the only rational response in the face of the mortal threats it faces very day.

I was born at the dawn of the space age, in the shadow of nuclear holocaust, within short living memory of a horrible world war, in an age of global conflict. The seeds of our self-destruction were intermingled with the seeds of our immortality.

As did most members of my generation, the post-baby boom generation, we saw in this grounds for cynicism and concern. This particularly given the reaction of our immediate predecessors, the narcissist inward-looking self-serving materialism and hedonism of the baby boomers.

But rather than retreat into a generational fetal position, as they did, members of m generation began to organize and to create something new. It is no coincidence that the baby boom generation gave us presidents Clinton and Bush, while the post baby boom generation gives us Obama.

Activism isn't about guarantees of success. It isn't bout knowing that, in the long run, your work will lead to a better future. Activism is about being alive, about there actually *being* a civilization to which we all belong, and about that civilization being worthy of a life, being worthy of a future.

Even were we to think that the current ills afflicting our society are terminal, we continue the struggle. For, of course, a great many of us do not, for we do not see the death of the current state of civilization as death, just change. And even those who feel we cannot survive continue to build a legacy, to build an achievement worthy of literature and song.

It is as though we activists believe that it is not enough merely to live well, it is also important - perhaps most important - to die well. To go out swinging, with our heads held high, believing to the last breath that there is something worth living for, something worth fighting for, that so long as there is a breath in our body the dream lives on and can be carried forward.

When faced with the immanent extinction of humanity, I ask, is there anything of civilization worth saving? Is there anything of civilization worth preserving? Be it an idea or an artifact or a culture or a practice, I say then, dedicate yourself to *that*, and civilization, whether it lives or dies, will be worthy of your efforts.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why Copyright?

Point form notes from Michael Geist's talk this morning in Ottawa.

Why has copyright become a 'cool' issue? Reasons:

- people organizing themselves online
- facebook groups
- twitter campaigns, etc
- examples

Government 2.0
- 2001 copyright consutation - 600 responses was huge
- today - British - "Ask the PM"
- other forms of interacting with public
- government blogs, government Facebook accounts

Our Digital Future
- Iron Sky - amateur production - alternativ funding
- Flickr and other content uploading - Facebook
- Culture - eg. Tetes a Claque
- CBC using BitTorrent

Our Knowledge
- Crowdsourceing - Wikipedia, wikitravel, etc.
- Wikitravel press - 400 page guide - POD - new, fresh
- Encyclopedia of Life, Project Gutenberg, Librivox
- Open access,
- the Canadian journal Open Medicine - editorial independence
- Open Journal System

Our Education
- open education - OpenCourseWare
- Moodle, open source software, BitTorrent
- Open books - more people buy the book if it's freely available

Our innovation
- the justification for copyright always seems to be innocation
- but we see company after company flourishing in Canada under current copyright

Our Consumer rights
- what we can do with CDs - listening to it with the device of our choice
- region coding - wanting to view media purchased elsewhere
- ebooks and ebook locks
- cell phones - it would be an infringement to unlock your cellphone to swicth carriers c-61
- is about copyright choices
- we could have chosen to move toward flexible fair dealing
- eg. by adding the phrase "such as" to the list of allowable circumstamnces
- eg. television recording "time shifting" - vs broadcast flag
- anti-circumvention provisions prevent fair use/dealing
- c-61 was, for all intents and purposes, a copy of DMCA - but worse