Posts Categorized: Work

Understanding DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) and copyright are all in the news today. I’m not a lawyer, and haven’t studied the legal field, but it’s becoming obvious that we all have to understand the impact of DRM on our lives. It’s no longer enough to be legal, as the laws, and their digital applications, keep changing. From The Shifted Librarian:

So in summary, iTunes, MS Reader, and Palm Digital Media DRM: bad.
This is what really scares me about libraries getting into the digital files business, even outside of all the issues surrounded subscription-based access versus ownership. When terms change on a whim, upgrades take away existing rights, and files become locked and inaccessible, how is this going to affect how we circulate titles to our patrons? It’s not like libraries have any leverage in this situation since publishers and Congress are doing their best to eradicate fair use rights, including the right of first sale.

These are the same issues that keep coming up with academic clients who are looking at selling learning content. Do you need to control content? How are you going to control content? Are your partners controlling content? What are the effects of controlling content? How will this influence your business model?
I should have followed my mom’s advice and become a lawyer 😉

Farewell TeleEducation

I had mentioned earlier that Teleeducation NB was going to close; the victim of government budget cuts. The news was finally been posted to the After 5 website [which is now offline], and the official closure date is May 7th, this Friday. Philippe Duchastel, the Director, has penned a final note [I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him], on TeleEd’s accomplishements and on what is left to be done:

For one thing, TeleEducation NB was very good at what it did: it led the way in creating a climate in which e-learning thrives in many sectors: our main universities and many of our colleges now use e-learning routinely; our school system enrols thousands each year in specialized courses offered online; and despite ups and downs, the e-learning industry in New Brunswick is still going strong. So e-learning is all around us.

Isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t then the mission of TeleEducation NB accomplished? Yes and no? Yes, e-learning is here to stay and thrive. No, we are not a model of an e-learning society as initially envisioned. A lot is missing. Take the government professional sector. Professional development of civil servants should be taking routine advantage of the benefits of e-learning. As should also the health sector. And the education sector [the professional development of teachers]. These are all sectors where tradition is heavy and that need to be ?¢‚ǨÀúbrought along?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ to e-learning.

There is another article written by the staff at TeleEd, reviewing the specific accomplishments over the past ten years – including the Program Development Fund. I am certain that every company in this Province tapped into this fund for online learning content development [I know, I evaluated the fund in 2001]. The staff cite the legacy of TeleEd as:

* Citizens have increased access to education
* Businesses have been established
* A culture of education as an economic development tool has been created
* Public and private sector organizations collaborate for the good of both
* New Brunswick has been recognized internationally as a centre for e-learning development and delivery

I agree with these, but have to add that many businesses have been "uncreated" as well. What really matters though, are the people.

Furthermore, this legacy is only a snapshot. We need to continue to innovate and create new pedagogical and business models. It will only be in the next ten years that we will see if TeleEd’s legacy has resulted in something lasting for the learning sector and the region.

I know that there is an initiative to continue with the "After 5" online ‘zine, and I have offered to write, edit or do whatever is necessary to continue the conversations that have been started here. After 5 was in its infancy, and just getting a following. Let’s keep the conversation going; and that includes you – the "anonymous instructional designer" ;-).

This just in: After 5 ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the e-learning newsletter for New Brunswick" will be available May 31, 2004 at LearnNB – Watch for it!

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

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.

Innovation and the Learning Industry 3

Dave Pollard completes his piece on A Prescription for Business Innovation in Part 3 of this series. I’ve previously commented on Part 1 and Part 2.

Simply put, we are living in an age when we cannot afford innovation, and cannot afford to be without it. Perhaps the most critical innovation need therefore is for creative mechanisms to finance, price and pay for the costs of innovation itself. Funding, pricing, and cost management are now inseparable parts of the innovation process.

Dave Pollard has created an innovation model that includes eight stages, and comprises three key processes – Analytical, Communicative and Creative processes. The eight stages are: Listen, Understand, Organize, Create, Experiment, Listen Again, Design, and Implement. Note how important "listening" is in this model.

My recent experience in the NB Learning Industry capacity initiative reflects that we are not listening enough. During the industry meetings this Winter, there was much discussion on "our" issues and needs, but very little on "broad ideas" from the market, key ideas from "pathfinder customers & competitors", "stories from the front lines", or an understanding of why customer wants and needs are not met. Maybe all of this information is proprietary, and not willingly shared, but we talked more about our needs, than our customers’ needs.

If we want to innovate, Dave Pollard’s model provides us with a starting point – Listening. We can provide a forum for listening through the Web, especially blogs. Remember that "markets are conversations", and innovation starts by really listening to those conversations. This is why we have to keep our R&D community of practice open to the public. Are there any users of learning products and services who have some advice for this industry? Post it here.

Update for the education community: George Siemens comments on Dave Pollard’s three articles as well:

Much of what he writes is applicable to education, training, and knowledge management. Formal education really needs to explore what innovation means in delivering learning. So much potential…yet so little focus.

Blogging’s Perfect Pitch

Lee leFever has won Judith Meskill’s Perfect Pitch Competition. If you didn’t know about the competition, it was looking for the perfect elevator pitch (e.g. no pictures) explaining the business benefits of blogging to the uninitiated. Here’s a piece of Lee’s pitch:

By making internal websites simple to update, weblogs allow individuals and teams to maintain online journals that chronicle projects inside the company. These professional journals make it easy to produce and access internal news, providing context to the company ?��Ǩ��� context that can profoundly affect decision making.

If I could have referred to this pitch last week, I would have appeared much more erudite in Halifax 😉

Congratulations, Lee!

“To be, rather than seem”

Lee LeFever hits the nail on the head with this Esse Quam Videre (to be rather than seem) post about weblogging in business. It’s just too easy to see through the smoke when you post every day. You have to be yourself, or you’ll get caught. Lee talks about this idea stemming from the Cluetrain Manifesto (worth the read in spite of its rant style). From Rick Levine’s section of Cluetrain, "Talk is Cheap", is this excellent sidebar – "A knowledge worker is someone who’s job is having really interesting conversations at work." That would be most bloggers, I would say.

Blogging, like e-learning, is not for everyone or for every business. What’s great about blogging is the low barrier to entry. The bad part is that once you start, it’s tough to get off the "blog train". That’s the thing about interesting conversations; you want to keep them going.

For businesses, the trick is to find a balance. First you have to find out what you are passionate about, and who your audience may be. Then determine how much time you can spend blogging, without adversely affecting other business processes. For us free agents, blogging is marketing, market research and research all rolled together. The rewards are long term, I hope 😉

Explaining Blogging for Business

Tomorrow I’ll be in Halifax for the Nova Scotia eLearning Summit. As a panelist during the "eLearning in the Corporate Environment" forum, I will have ten minutes to focus on weblogs and provide:

Practical, real-life examples of how companies/organizations are using elearning to strengthen their competitive position, streamline employee training and bring value to customer relationships.

This is like getting the perfect blogging elevator pitch, which is currently being sought by Judith Meskill, but unfortunately her competition isn’t over yet, so I can’t view the collective wisdom of the blogosphere.

So far I’m cobbling together ideas from Rob Paterson, Jay Cross, Robert Scoble, Kathleen Gilroy, and Lee Lefever. I’ll also tell how blogging has become an essential part of my free agent business. I’ll publish the feedback when I return.

Innovation and the Learning Industry 2

Dave Pollard continues his discussion in A Prescription for Business Innovation Part 2 and gives us further principles of innovation strategy:

Flat, small, responsive, democratic organizations are inherently more innovative.
True innovation only occurs where there is consensus that there is an important problem to solve and a sense of urgency to solve it.
Competition is now dysfunctional, a vestige of earlier times of resource scarcity, and cooperation is now essential to effective innovation.
The customer is now king and needs only better decision making tools to become the sole driver of economic activity, rendering obsolete the need for marketing, branding, and other producer-driven mechanisms of influencing customer actions.
… organizational structures, processes and behaviours more commonly associated with businesses run by women are gaining traction in the New Economy, and that bodes well for innovation.

This is a current interest of mine, as I’m moderating a community of practice around elearning R&D in the region. The central issue is how to get a disparate group of companies, united by geography, to collaborate on innovation in the form of a problem, project or issue. As Dave Pollard writes:

Perhaps this is a universal trait that we need to consider when designing innovation programs: Everyone loves to engage in social activities that are fun, challenging and unthreatening, but when the social activity impinges on individual ‘territory’ or property, or on scarce resources, social and collaborative behaviour ceases and confrontational, competitive behaviour takes over.

I believe that the key to this community of practice will be to find that fine balance between collaboration and confrontation, but also holds peoples’ interest.