Ending the Stephen/David Saga

So I believe it is safe to say that (1) Stephen and I have agreed that we don’t really know each other, and (2) that our interests are similar. Below is hopefully the last (this is taking up waay too much bandwidth) public response in the on-going saga…

A few final thoughts on Stephen’s reply to my posting early this morning.

_”There is overlap. I have been to OpenContent before, but there is nothing on the site that would connect it to you (and in reading the press coverage I see I would still be hard-pressed to find the connection).”_

I’ve tried very hard to not let OpenContent turn into a “Dave-glorification” thing. The purpose is to get free and open content out to the world, not to build a reputation for an individual.

_”If I’ve disregarded OpenContent, it’s because I have yet to find the library of content – I guess there was a directory, but it has gone away.”_

Right. The centralized directory idea just didn’t fly. While it was supported for about a year, the amount of OpenContent licensed material (as located on Google) *not* registered dwarfed the central index, and the appearance was that the total of all works licensed under one of the licenses was in the index, which caused it to look artificially small. So I turned it off and pointed people to google.

_”Same with Eldred. I have followed the case fairly closely as it progressed through the courts. Nothing in the coverage told me that you were associated with it; nothing on your home page gives me such an indication either. Again, it’s probably there, and I probably simply missed it.”_

I was not directly associated with the Eldred case, but as someone who has been working in the space for a very long time, I got a call from the Times to comment on the verdict. My point in mentioning this was that, although there is absolutely no self-promotion on the OpenContent website, many people have discovered that I care passionately about this area… I only stuck this in so that my claims to be a believer in open educational opportunity didn’t sound hollow.

_”I would suggest – though I will leave it to you to confirm – that you have read little of my work. When you wrote on learning objects, when you wrote on self-organizing comminities, and now more recently as you write about blogs and RSS content syndication, you show utterly no awareness that I – and many others – have been working on these things for years. To return the comment, ‘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.'”_

It is true that I have read very little of your work. However, I have also made no public criticisms about the quality of your research or the purity of your motivations, specifically because I am *not* familiar enough with your work to feel justified in doing so. I would disagree with your claim that I have not shown an awareness of others working in this area; the contents of my blog point to a variety of other people’s writings on the topic (I am especially a fan of “Seb”:http://radio.weblogs.com/0110772/), and I am always quite explicit about the fact that “Brian Lamb”:http://www.reusability.org/blogs/brian/ can be blamed/thanked for pulling me into this world with his persuasive thinking on these issues.

_”‘Why didn’t this group do such a thing before?’ Part of my thoughts range around the question of whether such a discussion would have happened at all had the outsiders at the recent IMS meeting in Vancouver not ripped into the organization for not doing just that.”_

I can assure you that this meeting had no relation to the Vancouver meeting you speak of, especially since I can honestly claim that I have no idea what “ripping” you are talking about. I will have to go read and see. But to suggest that we are “doing the right deed for the wrong reason” is again to question our motives, which I really wish you would stop doing.

_”And part of my thoughts revolve around the question of whether the people in that room have even heard of, much less contemplated following, the Canadian eduSource project, which is devoted to doing just that.”_

I recently spent a day at NewMic with Griff Richards, talking about precisely this topic: how can we (specifically EduCommons) collaborate and interoperate with POOL/SPLASH/eduSource. I’ve also been talking to Rory McGreal. Now that I think about it, considering the limited amount of bandwidth I have (being an untenured assistant professor with dissertation oversight, teaching, and other responsibilities), I’m actually talking to a relatively large number of people. And I don’t apologize or feel embarassed if I’m leaving some people out. There are only so many hours in a day, and I am doing my level best.

_”In a similar vein, now that companies like Apple and Macromedia have decided to pour money into eduCommons, what becomes of it? Maybe nothing, but maybe a move away from things that look like open source and open access and toward proprietary software, hardware and standards. I honestly don’t know, but I would love to see from these companies a declaration of a committment toward these goals.”_

These companies are all partners on a research grant proposal to the National Science Foundation. They are committed to donate software, hardware, and services. We are committed to do nothing with regard to them, and will do absolutely nothing that will interfere with the core mission of the EduCommons: Open Sustainable Learning Opportunity (hence the name of my OSLO Research Group at Utah State University) for everyone.

_”Had you been involved in projects, as I have, over the last few years trying to create a genuine learning marketplace, you would know more.”_

These are the pieces of yours that I have read, and the center of my limited disagreement with your approach to learning objects. I don’t believe that there will ever be a learning marketplace for objects, or an educational object economy, or whatever one might call it. The “content cartel” have learned their lessons through mp3s, dvd-cca hacking, and adobe ebook scandals. I don’t believe they will ever willingly chunk, digitize, and market their content. So no market. I also believe that time spent working on micropayment schemes, digital rights management schemes, and other related issues is time ill spent which could be dedicated to actually creating content and supporting learning. Between the OCWs, OLIs, and other projects of the world there will be enough content freely available. When our SourceForge project gets up and running there will be even more. For my purposes, the myriad issues around supporting commercial learning object deployment are wasted time.

As a sidebar, I find it interesting that in the Milan paper you are concerned with ‘ensur[ing] that providers are not faced with a priori membership fees or similar tariffs in order to gain access to potential purchasers,’ when your criticisms of my working group were based on it being too concerned with content vendors’ concerns.

_”I do know some things, though (these are not criticisms, they are observations). I know hat I haven’t ready any posts from you to WWWDEV, WWWEDU, DEOS, IEEE-LTSC, ITFORUM, e-learning leaders, or any of the many mailing lists on the topic I read. I haven’t seen any of your posts on any of the various discussion boards. Maybe you simply post to different lists, maybe you don’t post at all.”_

If you haven’t seen me engaged in the learning objects debate circles you frequent, it’s because the majority of my bandwidth recently has been focused on finding models to support the free provision of human support to learners who have access to open content. It’s been 5 years since OpenContent released its first license. The idea has caught on. MIT is freely releasing materials, Carnegie Mellon is freely releasing materials, others are freely releasing materials. There’s more to do here (like facilitating smaller projects via the new SourceForge-type project), but I think the heavy lifting is done. There are free learning objects, and there are going to be a lot more. I’m now trying to figure out how there can be a person to ask your questions to, when you don’t understand your free learning object, who will answer you for free. This is why my focus is on OSLO, on opportunity, not just content.

_”You are meeting with Philip Dodds and others with a noble purpose in mind. That’s great. Can the communication flow the other way, from out here and into Dodd’s living room? Can we see, from SCORM and ADL, from OKI and OCW, from IMS and LTSC, a recognition that these issues exist and some sort of endorsement for the principles I outline? Or if not, why not?”_

I believe you are aware of the meeting I will be hosting this summer (dates still TBD) about the SourceForge project. I anticipate Philip and a large number of others from that group being there, specifically because they want to participate and have bi-directional communication with others who believe in the same principles they do.

So, thanks to everyone who suffered through our engaging in a public discourse about our personal lives and philosophies. Now back to using technology to better support learning.