Posts By: Harold Jarche

Intellectual Property Legislation

In Mark Federman’s post The Fundamental Problem with Intellectual Property Legislation, he reports on an interview with Jack Velenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America. In the interview, Valenti shows his ignorance of the fact that copyright laws are infringing on a lot of people (at least 2 million Linux users) who are doing what should be "legal" activities.

And that’s the problem. There are a lot of things that Jack Valenti – and the legislators whom he lobbies with stunning effectiveness! – don’t know, and haven’t realized about the issues of copyright, the evolution of culture, the cultural history of their (and other) countries, and the reversal of conventional distribution and marketing models in an age of instantaneous communications.

One of the problems is the disconnect between policy makers and the creators (not publishers) and users. Fortunately courts in Canada are more enlightened.
It’s true that "markets are conversations", and I believe that politics is conversation as well. It’s just that some of us are only allowed to converse every four years or so. If you think that copyright issues are important – copyright is inextricably linked to innovation and creativity – then get informed and join in the conversation.

Would you turn down a speaking opportunity?

One more reason that blogging is becoming a business medium is provided by Robert Scoble, the famous Microsoft employee who blogs.

I think the time is coming where executives and employees who blog well are going to start getting promotions. Why? Ask your execs what happens to them when they start turning down keynote opportunities at major industry conferences. Ask what happens to them when they consistently get invited to speak at industry conferences and they do a good job at it.

As a free agent, most of my business comes from referrals. Speaking at conferences or workshops has been my best venue for meeting prospective clients, because you are not giving a marketing pitch, and the audience is receptive to what you are saying (or should be, if you’re doing a good job). I’m relatively new to blogging, but it will be interesting to see over the next year or so if my customer contacts come more from my blog than from speaking engagements.

Via Lilia

Analysing Human Performance

Klaus Wittkuhn has written an excellent article on the systemic approach required in human performance analysis. This article appears in the March 2004 edition of "Performance Improvement" published by ISPI. The wealth of practical advice in PI is one more reason to become a member of ISPI (unabashed promotion here).

Wittkuhn discusses an aspect of performance analysis that has been bothering me for a while – how can you take a systemic approach when there are overlapping systems as well as multiple sub-systems in any organisation? Where do you start and where do you finish?

Wittkuhn discusses the idea of emerging properties (e.g. the whole is more than the sum of the parts) but also provides a template for intervention, that is practical but considerate of the fact that you cannot engineer human performance. Human performance is an emergent property of an organisation, and is affected by multiple variables.

Witthuhn’s approach for improving performance is to first address what he calls the "Steering Elements". These "ensure that the right product is delivered at the right time to the right place", and include – Management, Customer Feedback, Consequences, Expectations and Feedback.

Once the steering elements have been addressed, then look at the "Enabling Elements" – Management (again), Design, Resources and Support.

Only after the steering and enabling elements (the non-human factors) have been aligned, should you look at work performance. The rationale here is that it is only within an optimized system that we can expect optimal human performance. As Wittkuhn states:

It is not an intelligent strategy to train people to overcome system deficiencies. Instead, we should design the system properly to make sure that the performers can leverage all their capabilities.

This is the most succinct operationalization of performance technology that I have yet read, and I hope that it also makes sense to you. If not, please comment.

Buying into Open Source?

Though directed at the K-12 academic market, the Open Options site by the Northwest Educational Technology Consortium is still the best single resource that I’ve found for any organisation wanting a balanced perspective on using open source software. The site covers everything from total cost of ownership to the philosophy of open source. There are other sites that will give you more specific details (click on the "OpenSource" taxonomy link, under the heading of this post, for a number of references and comments).

In a recent evaluation of four systems that I conducted for a client, I was very impressed by the functionality of the open source LMS when compared to established vendors. Many open source systems now offer support services for a fee, providing additional assurance to users. When looking at open source or proprietary systems, you have to "compare apples with apples", and most importantly, understand your own needs before you make comparisons. Marketing experts tell us that most purchases are made for emotional reasons, so it’s best to establish your criteria before you go shopping.

Learning Conference(s)

I’ve been talking to a few people about one of the suggestions that emerged from the industry meetings this Winter, and that was to have a regional conference around learning. As many of you know, CSTD has committed to let the NB chapter organise an elearning conference in May 2005. More details on that should be available after the chapter meeting in Fredericton in June. Date and location will be posted here, as soon as it’s confirmed.

Many of us discussed how to work as a learning industry during LearnTec at NBCC Miramichi last May. This discussion resulted in the RDeL initiative, LearnNB and CSTD-NB. Obviously things get done at conferences!

So the question is – how can we best coordinate our efforts and create a conference that brings in the best learning professionals as well as potential purchasers. This Fall we will have LearnTec in Miramichi as well as NAWEB in Fredericton. NAWEB at the University of New Brunswick is now in its 10th year, with international participation. Why not join the two conferences, or even add a third like Texpo? I’m sure that there are others that I’m missing, particularly in Nova Scotia or on PEI.

What do you think? Should any conference also have a virtual component? Could we set up high speed video conferencing between each conference, so that you can attend a session at a distance, but with a small group and your own moderator? Should we focus on specific themes? Does it make sense to have a conference of conferences?

Universities and Course Management Systems

Steve Epstein responds to an article in Syllabus describing the purchase of a proprietary course management system. Epstein feels that universities should not purchase CMS because they would be provided for free by content providers (read: textbook publishers). Epstein states:

In doing her financial analysis, Pletcher reported that she "considered license fee, plus five years maintenance, plus installation costs." Missing from the analysis are the cost of faculty development and the cost of faculty support. While these costs will continue with any campus based CMS, they are not necessary. Moreover, the cost of the present system, $3.3 million over five years, could be reduced to zero.
The cost of a CMS system is not necessary because publishers will provide them for free. For several years, leading publishers have provided electronic content that can be imported into many leading CMS. If the school paid for a CMS, this content can be used with the college’s system. If the school does not pay for the CMS, the content can still be used.

This potential model, of paying for the content and not the delivery system, shows that once again the medium of the Internet is spawning new business models. Any purchaser of technology systems has to clearly understand what the possible business models are – or wind up spending $3.3M more than was necessary.

Business Blog Consulting

Rick Bruner has created a blog on the business aspects of the medium. This is an excellent site for corporate professionals, especially sales & marketing, wanting to know how to use blogs for more than just personal journals.

Business Blog Consulting is a site devoted to demonstrating how effective weblogs can be for communicating with customers and marketing to new customer prospects.

Via Lee Lefever.

New Word for Your Web Dictionary

Here is one that fellow bloggers will appreciate. Chris Mackay at Tantramar Interactive has introduced me to a word that describes a new kind of worry – "googlanxiety". It’s from Richard Akerman’s Manifesto Multilinko (another Canadian blog!):

Googlanxiety – The worry that if you don’t post daily, Google will stop indexing your site so often and ranking you so highly.

Not that I’m ranked so highly, but I was up to a 5/10 yesterday and now I’ve dropped to a 4/10. But does it really matter? My Google ranking, which was 0/10 last year, hasn’t increased my client base 🙁

Not so subtle effects of technology

One more example that the "medium is the message" is this commentary by James Farmer on a class moving from the FirstClass web course management platform to WebCT Vista. Apparently the structure of the group discussion areas is different – namely that WebCT allows learners to go directly to sub-group areas without passing through the main (instructor-controlled) discussion area. There is now less structural control, as the instructor’s comments in the main discussion area are not being seen as often by students:

Net conclusion?��Ǩ�� students are showing lower participation rates, groups aren?��Ǩ�Ѣt following tasks, Elizabeth is having to ramp up her involvement dramatically and shift her pedagogy towards a much more directed one and, without any change in course content, type of cohort, activities or assessment the entire course is changed?��Ǩ�� all because of the structure of the environment.

As I commented yesterday, the pedagogical methods used by instructors are important, but so is the selection and use of technology. According to McLuhan’s laws of media, every medium (technology) enhances, retrieves, obsolesces and reverses some aspect through use.
Educators have to clearly understand instructional technologies, so that they can use them wisely.

[James has some diagrams on his site, an aspect of this blog that I’m missing, but should soon address with the next version of Drupal]