April 18, 2003

Boggled in the Blogosphere

I don’t know if I’ve ever been more stunned than I was this morning reading Stephen’s recent comment to my Community piece… As the famous Monty Python skit goes, “some were bitter; others, confused.” Thoughts below.

I should preface all this by saying that only through the beauty of blogs is this whole conversation even possible… And at this point these comments are made as much by way of introducing myself to Stephen and others who may not know me as they are in direct response to Stephen’s comments. Anyway…

“I always felt you were on the other site. With the ‘sell everyone a CD-ROM and double our profits’ set.”

This comment tells me some of why these communities don’t connect. Even though Stephen knows my name, he knows nothing about me. The assumption that I could be in the “sell them a CD-ROM” crowd completely overlooks the OpenContent project I founded, whose whole goal since early 1998 has been to develop licenses which encourage people to open their content… The Open Publication License has been broadly used to actually accomplish Stephen’s “common goal of the provision of the materials for a basic education (K-16) for everybody on the planet” for 4 years now. Even commercial publishers (including O’Reilly, New Riders, Prentice Hall, and others) are giving their content away under it! My own learning objects book is published this way… The New York Times called me for comment when we lost the Eldred challenge to the Sony Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, for Pete’s sake!

Stephen’s comment also shows that he hasn’t read anything I’ve written in the last two years, which has all focused not only on how we could get free content in front of people (that’s the easy part), but how we could arrange for free human support for their learning in addition (for which research I won the NSF’s CAREER award in 2001). Not that I expect everyone on the planet to have read everything I’ve ever written; but I would expect at least a cursory glance before passing a summary judgment.

About the people on my list of folks in the “lo community,” aka my friends and colleagues, Stephen says:

“They also view education from that perspective, as…produced and sold by publishers, assembled…and dispensed to compliant recipient workers and warfighters.

From where I sit, no little bit of what inspires, if not their, then certainly their funders’, interest, is theft from the public domain…And they systems they build, and the standards they devise, support nothing other than private, exclusive markets into which no provider of free content could hope to enter, and into which the content cartels pour their wares.”

Where does this even come from?!? Myself and these other people are supposedly part of some transnational conspiracy to oppress mankind? Ironically, I’m blogging tonight from Philip Dodds’ (the Chief Architect of SCORM) home in Anapolis, after completing a grueling 10 hour meeting with many of the other people on “my list” about how we can combine resources (while making sure we avoid duplication of effort) to flood the world with open source tools for helping people do learning objects-based instruction… Just two days ago I did a 30 minute Public Radio call-in about Copyright and OpenContent… Etc.

Well, anyway, after my initial attempt to reach out to what appeared to be an amazing group of people interested in instructional technology, Stephen’s post was somehow not the warm welcome to “the lo community” I anticipated I might receive. It was as if my friends and I were civil rights activists, and in the very process of reaching out to build additional bridges were publicly described as racists. I guess this quote sums it up:

“Yeah, maybe it’s my perception, and note reality. I don’t know - like I said, I’ve never heard anything from you or the rest of the other community.”

Then how could you possibly say these things about us, let alone say them publicly?

Anywho, I have to give Stephen props for his creative use of ST:TNG dialogue (and from one of my favorite episodes, none the less). And I can also honestly say that I bear no hard feelings against him; misuderstandings happen all the time. But Stephen, you have to do more research before you accuse newcomers looking for the hand of friendship of such heinous crimes. You might shrink your community when you really mean to grow it. Fortunately, I’m already addicted to this whole thing and will not be unplugging anytime soon.

Posted by david at April 18, 2003 12:08 AM | TrackBack
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