Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Knut Yrvin

Monday, March 7th, 2005

"If you buy a bottle of water you shouldn’t have a law that prevents you to pour the water into a glass. You have to protect people from the technology. With DRM and patents, suddenly you are protecting the technology against people. If you have a car you need devices like airbags or safety belts by law: protective measures to help people save lifes. Now they do the opposite: they try to protect the technology because people may misuse it"

Listen Part 1 (MP3) – 25min – 11,7Mb

Listen Part 2 (MP3) – 35min – 16,1Mb

(Sorry for the lesser quality of the audio. Knut had problems with
the Skype setup under Linux. Hopefully Skype is soon released to fully
support the new ALSA sound architecture under Linux. I also had to
re-record my questions afterwards)

I had the opportunity to interview Knut Yrvin from Skolelinux. This interview is more like a case story about how they build an operating system for schools, how they beat Microsoft in their own game, how they stand against the new European patent law and how they do a lot of promotion about Linux in their own country with such a small amout of funding. Recently they received the Linux New Media Award in the category of Best Newcomer Linux Distribution.

Knut has worked 10 years in a Norwegian telephone company as an engineer
and in a couple of private compenies. He completed his studies in the
university of Oslo in computer Science. Knut Yrvin describes the
project and the history of developing Free/Open Source software as: “This is not a children’s game, it’s deadly serious”.

Knut Yrvin operates as the elected project leader of Skolelinux. I became interested in Skolelinux when I heard about it back here in Finland. In short it’s a Linux distribution specifically aimed for schools. What makes it interesting is the focused effort to carry out this project and its promotion in Norway.  Just let me say you this: they have done a pretty darn good job on that.

Just look at the map of schools. It sure looks impressive when we take into account that they also have their government supporting their efforts and Knut taking part in public debate on software patents, DRM (Digital Rights Management) and stuff like that. It’s not simply just pockets of hackers in some basements doing great technical things for their selves. They think about a typical end-user and get their developers in touch with schools to understand how they operate, what their needs are and how they work. Technical details are pushed aside and the focus is on usability and cost savings: "we need no 160 page installation manuals just to get a system up and running". Teachers should be able to maintain a Skolelinux network with only a few hours per week per hundreds of users. Recycled code on recycled computers.

The Skolelinux project helps people get started in using ICT in education. Skolelinux aspire to create a quality, full-fledged and preferable computer solution for schools. The other target is to localize Skolelinux into different languages, mainly the many different languages spoken in Norway. They invite outsiders to take part in their effort to deploy Skolelinux in their own region. So, if you were thinking about a Linux distribution specifically for schools in your own country, just save a lot of time and join their effort.

Skolelinux has chosen do-ocracy as a management method. I’m very interested to this because do-ocracy captures the pure essence of what online communities are doing when they build things together, be it software or content or something else:

In do-ocracy the person that does something decides. People who only talk have no meaning. In the other hand, people who deliver have meaning in our society.

In Skolelinux the developer always has to learn something new about the school situtation. They have to investigate how ICT is used in the learning environment. According to Knut, it’s better that people see
their selves instead that  they have some kind of mediators like sales men in between.

Software patents and DRM are discussed to great length. Skolelinux team is advising the local politicians in these issues. The main point is that software patents are a problem for the whole technology industry, not just Linux which is acting as a poster boy. Proprietary software companies like Opera also fight software patents. The only thing software patents bring is trade advantages to big companies. Unfortunately only big companies have the money to talk to politicians why software patents should be allowed.

We should protect people from technology. That’s why we have black boxes in airplanes. If something goes wrong, we can search for that box and see a complete trace of what went wrong. That’s why the source code of a technology should be open for inspection but also a reason to say no to DRM.

In the future, the biggest winners are probably the users because users have more options. It’s not the programmer but we have to remember one thing: most programmers in the world are not paid to program on the Microsoft platform. Previously they didn’t have many options. Now they have options and they will choose other platforms like Linux instead. Microsoft has done poorly in delivering developer interfaces, APIs, programming languages and standards. Number of developers writing in Java and LAMP exceed the number of people who write to Microsoft environments only. Because Microsoft has lost all those developers in their lock-in business model, they are going to loose the whole game.

This is a period where we have forgot the users demands and traditional economics of the software industry. Now we are going to rail this down and get back to normal again.

Some questions answered in the interview:

  • 1st part:
    • Who are you?
    • Skolelinux?
    • Do-ocracy?
    • Success of Skolelinux?
    • Debian vs. Fedora/Redhat?
  • 2nd part:
    • Recycled equipment?
    • Thin client solutions?
    • Political situation of ICT in education?
    • DRM and patents?
    • How is Open Source affecting the IT industry?
    • Winners?

"The real reason why Europe wants software patents is because they want to limit the ability of countries like India and China in their way to get into the European markets. This is a trade war. It has nothing to do with Open Source at all. It’s all about who is going to compete on the international arena"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with Knut Yrvin.
If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2005

Debian considered as the most scalable Linux solution

Commercial Linux distributions like SuSe and Redhat have problems in
delivering the same scalability what Debian offers. Debian is quick to
install and Debian hybrids like Ubuntu, Knoppix and Skolelinux provide
Debian-based solutions for different needs. The main scalability
benefit in Debian comes from the fact that it has a three year release
cycle with an easy upgrade between versions. No re-installation
required as it is with Windows or Redhat offerings.

Proprietary providers fight patents

Many smaller and mid-size proprietary software companies have started
to object the software patents. Players like Opera Software have also
problems with software patents not just Linux and FLOSS projects. There
is also fear that foreign and local companies will come and patent
software and computer algorithms that have already been invented
before. The main argument used against software patents is that they
provide real trade advantages only to big companies.

Year 2006

Third-world countries implement Linux

Countries in Africa, Asia and South-America have started to implement
Linux and older recycled computers to close the gap in digital
literacy. Linux with older equipment is considered as a much more
affordable solution. Many new Linux distributions and translation
efforts take place in poorer regions of the world. UNESCO and other
global organizations are helping in this effort. Some have ordered
their institutions and businesses to use Linux only in effort to
prevent the flow of money to better developed countries.

VoIP services take off

Many different VoIP applications have taken off. New VoIP services are
announced almost every week as traditional telephone companies are
entering the markets. VoIP enables telephony over a network with better
quality and smaller cost. Many broadband providers have started to
offer QOS (Quality of Service) to traffic related to their proprietary
VoIP implementations.

Schools buy recycled computers

Linux has enabled schools to buy old recycled computers. These
computers come with Linux pre-installed. Schools are able to buy a
complete school computer network out-of-the-box from recycled computer
centers. This approach allows schools to buy at least twice as much
equipment than before. Linux uses less resources so the latest and
greatest equipment is not required.

Thin-client solutions widely in use

Schools have switched to thin- or half thin-client solutions. This
approach allows them to centralize applications on a server while
desktops act simply as stupid clients booting right from the network by
using the centralized server. Some thin-client solutions do not require
a hard-drive or even any cooling measures, reducing the cost associated
with power consumption, maintenance and licenses. Most of these
solutions run FLOSS software.

RIAA pisses youngsters off

The Record Industry Association of America has taken its last and fatal
step by completely pissing of the youngsters. First by suing their
consumers for listening to music and then using ruthless efforts to get
DRM approved and audio recording and copy devices like MP3 players
completely banned. Youngsters have found ways to fight RIAA ín a
network-wide effort.

Software patents get approved in Europe

The European Comission has approved the software patent and EUCD
related laws. This is in pursuit to block foreign competitors out of
the European software market. It allows Europe certain trade advantages
but mainly only to big companies. Very bizzarre patent applications of
software pieces that people might come up with by accident enter the
system. If you are writing software, you never know if you are
infrighting a patented idea.

Year 2007

Do-ocracy common in online cooperation projects

Many online cooperation projects take advantage of a management model
called do-ocracy. In this model the person that does something decides.
Those who only talk have no power in decision making in these projects.
This method especially applied to many FLOSS and Open Content projects.
They are full of people who write code and documentation and those who
do, have the opportunity to decide. Do-ocracy is a very effective in
means of shared knowledge creation.

Linux generates cost-savings

Many organizations have switched to Linux because it enables
cost-savings. Organizations are able to get faster up and running with
new equipment because the easy installation process and centralization
with thin-client solutions enable just that. Setting up a complete
computer network with servers and desktops often requires next to basic
knowledge of computer systems. Because it’s made easier to install than
Windows counter-parts, less resourceful organizations can do it their
selves. Complete outsourcing is not really required.

Year 2008

FLOSS developer gatherings improve delivery

Some organizations, especially schools have noticed that by supporting
FLOSS developer gatherings they have been able to receive some
resources to setup their IT infrastructure to work with FLOSS software.
Volunteer developers and FLOSS enthusiasts help schools and other
non-profit organizations to get their system up and running. They can
bring their computers to developer gatherings to get Linux and other
software properly installed.

Computer skills part of mandatory curriculum

Many educational institutions all around the world have included
computer usage as part of their mandatory curriculum. Using computers
and digital networks is considered as important as reading, writing,
mathematics and understanding of foreign languages.

Schools lack behind in IT deployment

Municipalities have big problems in offering local schools enough
computer equipment. This is because of huge budget cuts that have
forced municipalities to cut heaviest in the IT department. Day-care
and teachers salaries need to be covered for education to continue at
all. IT is considered as less important and especially projects that
try to improve and develop IT in schools loss most of their budget.
This sets schools way back in the development of ICT in education.

Linux ready for mainstream use

The penguin has finally matured on the desktop. Linux developers have
moved up-stack in their focus on Linux development. This is partly
because the desktop environment development has received a lot of
funding from major industry players. As a result Linux is considered
user-friendly on the desktop and ready for mainstream use. Several
reports support this conclusion. Government officials and politicians
urge their institutions to switch to Linux and FLOSS in general. It
simply just works.

Year 2009

DRM technology widely used in devices

Digital Rights Management technology has been deployed in many devices
and software applications. DRM prevents playback and copying of content
that is protected by copyright laws. In devices it makes it illegal to
circumvent the copy protection of such a device. Some vendors have
released computer hardware like processors that take DRM into account.
Microsoft has included DRM in its operating system as a key component,
successfully locking out third-party content providers and still limits
the fair use of content even more.

Free music archive appears

After DRM was approved, politicians made it clear that there must also
be a music archive service not owned by the record industry. Such an
archive includes national classics and other stuff provided under the
common good. Profits from such a service is used for the common good as
well instead of filling the pockets of some proprietary multi-national
enterprises.

Year 2010

Microsoft loses because of developers

The core reason why FLOSS has broken the Microsoft model as the
dominant player in the software industry is because Microsoft lost a
horde of programmers to free solutions like Java and LAMP. Developers
became alianated of development on a platform which changes interfaces,
APIs, programming languages and standards every couple of years. FLOSS
alternatives provide a more steady environment to conduct long-term
software development.

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with George Siemens

Sunday, March 6th, 2005

"We often have a myopic view when we talk about technology. We always seem to think about how does technology influence learning. Sometimes these roles actually have to be reversed. We have to think about how learning influeces technology because there are greater changes occuring in our society and not just within technology"

Listen (MP3) – 39min – 18Mb

This time we bring a great interview with George Siemens for your listening pleasure.

George Siemens works as an instructor at Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The main theme is common trade and the program functions as a laptop program. Through this work he has played around with a wide range of emerging technologies. George is also a regular blogger and a writer at his elearnspace.org website for about 3 years already. His writings focus on elearning, technology, knowledge management and social trends.

George emphasizes personalized learning and networked activity within that. Recently he wrote about a new learning theory of the digital age called connectivism and also released a new website focused on that topic. Learning is strongly a networked process where a learner aggregates external contents into a holistic representation. Previous theories of learning were created during a time when learning was not influenced by technology. Connectivism is a learning theory that takes into account the way how learning is influenced by the digital age. For a better overview of connectivism, see his article about it.

There is also a lot of interesting details about decentralizing interaction and how the profile of a learner has changed: the average learner is older and many are switching careers multiple times during a life-time. This requires a very dynamic approach to learning. New methods are required to deliver evidence of the knowledge one possesses.

The half-life of knowledge is shrinking and is affecting many of these issues. Informality of learning is breaking down the barriers of traditional learning. Learning is now a continuous process. We can’t only offer a four year learning experience but we have to support learning that lasts for the rest of the life-time. Learners aren’t just empty vessels to fill.

George considers open content less important compared to Open Source software (the pipe) as it
doesn’t directly provide us with means to keep our knowledge current. If the content becomes part of the pipe and gets combined with the added-value of the pipe, it sure becomes very important.

Some questions asked in the interview:

"The pipe (connection) is more important than what goes inside the pipe"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with George Siemens.
If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2005

Educators demand a move to basics

Usability and simplicity are the new focus areas of technology
development in the field of education. This is the result of the widening gap
between innovators and less tech-savvy users. There is demand on both
edges: new innovations in the first and simple practical solutions in
the latter. Technologically mainstream educators focus more on finding and implementing little changes that bring good benefits  instead of moving to a completely new working environment.

Year 2006

Blogs and wikis capture informal learning

A notable research journal featured an article just recently about the ability of
blogs and wikis to capture informal learning experiences more effectively
than LMS provided by their educational institutions. This is because
they have access to these systems for as long as they want their selves
and also because these systems build on top of informal conversations of their daily experiences. Social
software is now also called as informal media in contrary to LMS which is described as formal media.

Education struggles to support informal learning

The need to support students’ informal learning as a continual process
has been noticed as one of the highest priorities but educational institutions
still lack the resources and methods to support these needs. Informal
learning consists of 80% of all learning and is still far from the
context and influence of formal education.

Year 2007

Learning approached from the complexity point of view

As many natural sciences have tried to understand the world by first
atomizing a task into small pieces and then trying to understand it as
a whole, learning theorists have now noticed that the same approach  to understand learning as a process doesn’t work. Learning is simply just too complex to cut into pieces and make any sense out of that later on. Learning has to be
approached from some point of view that brings order into chaos. They
have found interesting new things about learning by using network
theories as a basis to understand the complex nature of learning.

Learners bring connections

Previously LMS systems were very centralized and closed. Now their
functionality is more open. As a result, teachers have noticed that
learners bring important and meaningful connections to a learning
environment when it supports interaction in an open environment. Simple
closed chat and forum discussions aren’t enough. We have realized that
the process of interaction cannot be centralized.

Connectiveness a core competency

Latest research found that those who spend most of their time on
focusing on what they know today are lacking behind in learning results
compared to those who actively build connections to make sure that they
stay up-to-date in their own field. Knowledge becomes obsolete faster than before and results in requirements to focus more on meta-cognitive skills of searching, analyzing and evaluating the available information-mass.

ASP service businesses use FLOSS

Application Service Providers who offer software as a service have
started to offer a wide variety of Open Source solutions and software
with value-added services. They are not necessarily
distributing the source code used in their internal ASP service
servers – a set of features remain closed to provide a
competitive advantage. These new services are especially important in regional development and speed up the adoption of Open Source as providers start to offer such solutions to their customers.

Year 2008

New boom of companies offering Open Source stacks

Educational institutions are receiving offerings from various new
service businesses which are offering complete Open Source stacks. These companies deliver a certain stack of an information infrastructure in a
customized manner. This saves a lot of time from institutions in their process of
gathering knowledge and plans on how to effectively deploy Open Source
software. As a result Open Source has become more financially driven through the diversity of different kind of service businesses.

Learners mad at losing access to past learning experiences

Students are furious and demand life-time access to knowledge they have
worked with, constructed and gathered in a centralized LMS.
Losing access to their LMS account is like losing access to knowledge
they say. After you have taken a course online and after you passed, you can’t
get in anymore. Disposing previous learning experiences as if they were
some kind of throwaway items is not accepted. As a result educational institutions demand better export features into their LMS solutions so that their students can move their learning history into a publicly available service.

Survey finds that people trust unknown online experts

A recent survey found that 85% of people trust certain online experts
they read in their decision to buy a product or a service. Trust in
online experts is highest in customer communities where people can read
third-party and independent commentary or issues and use Social
Reputation Systems (SRS) to sort out the most trusted experts. Least
trust was given to companies who present their ideas in a traditional third-person sales pitch.
More trust was given to companies which had employees blogging and
writing in first person about their daily work and products.

Year 2009

Teachers and students get tired of new technologies

The complexity of the LMS system has grown during the years. These
systems are growing in number of different tools and features on a
constant basis. Those who have used these tools right from the
beginning are able to handle the constant flood of new features. Others
feel alienated and just want something that does a certain job very
well. The demand for very focused and easy to use tools that are
easy to connect together in a customized fashion goes up.

Half-life of knowledge is shrinking even faster

Researchers have noticed that the knowledge you need in your daily
operations become obsolete more quickly than previously. This is
nothing new but they have compared the results of today to 5 years
earlier and it seems that the trend is not slowing down. As a result people
are getting more into informal learning and rely on expert communities,
where they can learn faster from those who know their topic very well
and are open in sharing their wisdom. Capturing their tacit knowledge
becomes important.

Connectivism as a method to develop learning environments

People have noticed the importance of networks and are reflecting on a
learning theory that makes more sense in a networked world.
Connectivism which views learning as more like a nervous system where
learning is a sequence of inputs and the network itself learns through
building better pipes, relations and connections to high-priority
resources proves to be interesting to many. This reflects on the latest
trend where the pipe is seen as more important than what is going
inside the pipe.

85% of online people rely of search engines

Most people with internet connections report search engines as their
core tools for filtering for information they happen to need at a
certain moment. The idea that such a pipe is not available at times
makes people feel uncomfortable and disabled – as if part of their
knowledge had disappeared. Many have dropped the personal requirement
to remember long and complex issues they come across because they are
able to access that information when they need it through their
intelligent data mining systems. Instead they focus on building
new connections.

ePortfolios focusing on capturing informal learning appear

ePortfolios were previously offered by their distinct organizations in
which the learner didn’t have the control and customization power of
their own ePortfolio. Open source software, cheap hosting and free
user-driven services provide new ways for learners to build their
personalized ePortfolio systems where they can put evidence of their
knowledge for everyone to see. Some people use more focused tools; others are satisfied with a simple blog.

Year 2010

Real-time data used for decision making

Top CIOs of various companies have almost real-time access to
information about their organization and markets. Instead of receiving
quarterly reports from various departments, they are able to follow
remotely in real time the work being done from customer satisfaction
surveys to closed sales. Real-time financial data proves to be
especially useful. Many organizations use aggregators that gather
information from various fields. There are service companies filtering
and providing the required information feeds.

Social software enters education

Centralized feature-driven collaboration products that use a lock-in
strategy start losing the game to more open social relationship-driven systems. In these systems the building of social relationships is more
important than the technical efficiency-driven features. A new mindset
that focuses on developing parts of interaction brings more value to
tools being used.

Mobile devices provide access from everywhere

Smart mobile devices help learners to access their collaborative
networks from everywhere. For example, a set of students may walk in
the nature taking pictures and describing the environment while in the
same time another team sits in a room connected to the internet
providing deeper analysis on the reportage received from the field.  Multimedia capabilities, location awareness and improved two-way communication interfaces enable a range of new possibilities.

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Stephen Downes – Part 2

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005

"The greatest non-technical issue is the mindset. We have to view information as a flow rather than as a thing. Online learning is a flow. It’s like electricity or water. It’s there, it’s available and it flows. It’s not stuff you collect. I don’t see myself sitting in my home collecting jars of water. I use the water as it comes. If you think the internet as an environment that is moving and shaping all around you, then you will have a better attitude to be able to handle the flood of information that is coming at you"

Listen 2nd part (MP3) – 29min – 13,4Mb

This is the second part of the interview with Stephen Downes. It continues right from where the first part ended. You might want to start from there. This time Stephen brings us great insight in the importance of open content and Open Source in education.

Stephen talks about communities and what is actually a community and what kinds of communities people belong to. The internet allows people to pick very specific communities by topic out there. Communities are not anymore tied to a place but are more like networks, clusters and clouds.

Downes masterly compares the decline of traditional local news paper business to educational publishers and how educational institutions could turn their wave from buying content to creating content by taking a couple of radical steps. First of all they should make their resources freely available and secondly, stop paying for publishers of journals, books and online course packages. The resources freed by these actions could be channeled to teachers to help them create the same content and release their stuff  freely.

He argues that with FLOSS, the main benefit is not cost but customization and gives a couple of examples why. Customization could enable shared knowledge construction among students. The educational institutions should choose a simple Open Source core of content or software and start customizing it to their needs. Open Source is what makes it possible for a student to change the parameters of her/his own education.

The general concepts that will rule are things that are distributed, decentralized, open and serve the individual need.

Some questions asked in the interview:

  • Is community the primary unit of learning?
  • Open content?
  • Problems with adoption of open content?
  • What problems we have to overcome in open content in education?
  • Open source in education?
  • Winners and loosers?
  • Non-technical issues to solve?

"We have this picture of a community that’s comes from people like Edgian Wenger, John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong, that community is some sort of discreet entity, like a pre-Wittgensteinian definition where you have clear boundaries and you know whether or not you are in a community. But the concept of community that evolves out the capacity to exercise choise in joining or not joining a community now becomes fuzzy, it becomes something like a family resemblence. A community just becomes a vaguely defined cloud of clustered interactions that emerge from the center of individual actions. We have folksonomies, so we’ll have folksmunities"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with Stephen Downes.
If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2005

People reach far for communities of interest

New kinds of communities form around rare topics of interest. This is
possible because the internet enables fragmented groups of individuals
to find each other online. More socially oriented people find each
other in chat rooms, dating services and social networking
applications.

Circulation rates for news papers are in free fall

The circulation rate is dropping dramatically in the 18-30 reader
group. This is because the same information is available online in more
polished and complete form through services like WikiNews. News papers
are loosing significant revenues in advertisement due to services like
Greg’s list and Google’s long tail targeted advertisement business.

Collaborative filtering and social reputation systems spread

Online communities that utilize community data improve business. For
example, collaborative filtering based on user recommendations enables
people to find products and information they might be interested in
based on their purchasing and community habits. Many of these products
reside in the so called Long Tail as users discover the Long Tail.
Social reputation systems are used to create a sense of trust between
users.

Year 2006

Communities based on networks form

Traditionally a community was a place just like a neigbourhood or an
internet website. After the introduction of open architectures and
standards, people start to form communities that are evenly distributed
all around the world. The blogosphere is only one example of various
network based communities already out there.

Large university releases freely available educational content

Following the example of MIT OpenCourseWare, certain larger
universities has opened up their treasure chests. A couple of new
repositories of free educational material increase the availability of
free resources to educators. The release is also done as a marketing
act, resulting in buzz in the media who view these acts mainly as
positive.

Open content publishing gets harder

There are a lot of open content resources for educators available. The
problem is that most educational institutions require a certain book
when a course starts. The teachers based on old practices still require
something in printed form. Publishers of course refuse to publish your
open content unless they own it and in that case, they want a different
license. Only a couple of publishers of open content exist, not enough
to satisfy the demand.

Software customization reason for the switch to FLOSS

It’s not a question of cost but a question of what you can do with it.
Educators are tired of using LMS systems that do not provide everything
they want. Now they have realized that it’s impossible to find a
software that does everything out-of-the-box. Because of FLOSS like
Firefox they have noticed that there is only need for a simple core
that could be extended with small modules or software pieces. Students
and teachers can even program new features to satisfy their needs on
need basis.

Customer communities emerge

A
recent research article noticed that services like eBay and Amazon
thrive because they enable customer communities. In these communities
the product is not what is important but what people have to say about
them. Reviews and comments are considered by 80% as the reason for
their purchase of a certain item. Social reputation is built into these
system and customers are even sometimes integrated in the value chain
in role of service providers.

Year 2007

RIAA sues people who listen to free music

RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has gone after people
who listen to free music. They try to create an example that also open
content based music is bad. They lack proof and mainly refer to use of
commercial samples. This is a bloody mess, looking like the former case
about SCO accusing Linux for containing their unlicensed source code.

Divine between an open and a closed society fundamentally important

The advocates of open society rises as a result of FLOSS and open
content communities. Those who favour a more closed society where only a
few privileged people can say what they want clashes with the new
culture. The distribution varies from country to country. The problem
is hardest in countries like Iran, where people fight for their freedom
of speech with anonymous blogs and other tools.

Cost associated in publishing open content too high

It is really hard to publish a free resource. The cost associated with
publishing open content is high because publishers want to own the
copyright before they publish. Online learning object repositories
which are tightly connected to proprietary LMS systems also provide a
cost in releasing a free resource. The bar is set too high and as a
result teachers do not bother to develop open content.

Customer satisfaction linked to collaborative toolsets

as a key factor to their success several businesses have picked
customer facing collaborative toolsets, customer support and improved
interaction of their services. Those who have invested most in such
services have the largest user base, directly linked to more sales and
better customer satisfaction.

Year 2008

Publishers talk about piracy

Many publishers talk about piracy and how teachers are stealing their
content. Some teachers have releasing mixed versions of commercial
content under open content licenses and presenting the content as their
own. These are only a few cases but this scares off some of the
teachers and some try to avoid open content as suspicious.

Publishers fight open content and educators face no alternative

Institutions are having difficult time being able to afford things like
journal articles, course text books, online learning packages because
publishers are increasingly selling these in bundles or subscription
packages. The mechanism they use is to make it so difficult for an
individual to publish that the only selection that a college or
university has is from the commercial offerings of these publishers.

Customization companies and communities emerge

Previously customization information was only available from the
software vendors as sparse technical documentation. Now when we have
open interfaces, web services and multi purpose modules, people have
started companies and formed new kind of communities which exchange
ideas and show off their customized environments. Sites dedicated to
open LMS integration and customization have also emerged.

Year 2009

Smaller institutions stop paying for publishers

Some smaller and quicker educational institutions have been able to
switch from buying content to creating content. By cancelling journal,
book and online course package purchases, these institutions have freed
up a lot of money in their budget. This money is used to pay teachers
to create and publish open content. They now have the same amount of
material at the cost of a fraction.

FLOSS covers most platform implementations

FLOSS has been highly successful especially in platform technologies.
Several vendors have opened their core platforms and create commercial
value-added services on top of them. Platforms like Plone get better
and better, because more and more businesses and people rely on the
capabilities that enable them to skip the platform stack in software
development completely.

Year 2010

Publishers’ fortunes decline

The tipping point has been crossed as the capacity to produce and
distribute educational resources by individuals has increased. Some
publishers of educational content have gone bankrupt after open content
and less content-intensive teaching methods like collaborative learning
did the same for their business as what blogging and online content did
to local news papers.

Role of professional journalism changes

Professional journalists are not anymore the unique sole producers of
the information. Their role has changed. Those who have been able to
keep their job have become more like simulators, editors and organizers
who put this openly available information in context and evaluates it,
waves it and helps the general public to participate in.

Decentralization the key for business

Skype, blogosphere, Flickr, wikisphere and others have shown that
decentralization is key to scalable business and information systems.
Those that have taken a more decentralized approach where content is
not available only from a single place and those who benefit from open
P2P application networks have generally win over competitors with more
centralized approaches.

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Antti Kauppi

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

"Decreasing the Digital Divide is the Question to be solved. How to integrate
the ICT and internet services to be accessed for everybody, how the communities
and citizens can participate in decision making using internet, by all meaning
how to get the technology and its services closer to the citizens. The remarkable progress can may be found in libraries or … the integration of the ICT and
Television. TV is something that almost all people watch every day"

Listen (MP3)    – 29min – 13,2Mb

Antti Kauppi is the Director of Palmenia Continuing Centre for Education in the University of Helsinki, which
is the  largest continuing centre in Europe. Palmenia offers services
from hard sciences to information skills in teaching and learning including ICT.
At the early 1990’s Antti was developing the open learning enviroments for
business colleges: the business projects, the business simulations and the
business games. They developed the business game for the Helsinki Polytechnic
and the University of Hawaii where students studied by using business game through the internet.
The students also used other appications to communicate (email, fax, and so
on)

Mr. Kauppi is interested in integrated,
wireless technologies and services. Maybe PDAs, mobile phones and TV at last opens up the interactive enviroments for
everybody. Learning
enviroments will also be affected by
technology: the learning enviroment will be integrated with multimedia and ICT and as a result, will have a huge influence in education.

When we talked about the FLOSS, Antti took
the practical and experienced point of view on that issue. The benefits of
FLOSS enviroments are yet to be realized. Today, Antti perceives that the
visible benefits can be found from good e-Learning
enviroments for schools. Antti remarked also, that Open Source will unify
people who are using software in content
production. That means that a greater amount of the content will be produced by the users themselves.

This frees the content for
different uncontrolled purposes, but at the same time the reliability and validity cannot be
guaranteed. However this development
can lead to a situation where there might be closed systems beside those
open content alternatives. At the moment it is difficult to see which one of these will
take the lead in the future.

Another interest of Antti is the progress
of “the Open World” and “the Business world”. How to combine FLOSS and business?

Antti believes that the educational world will be much more closely connected
to the “everyday” life in the future. The school is not anymore just the
building where students are studying in 45 minute periods, but schools
can be seen as learning resource
centers that are related to the objects of learning.  The enviroment is open and has different
working places including the virtual enviroments and simulations. The computer desktop is a way to access the world. Most important benefit of the technology in education is an opportunity to bring
the world closer to the schools where it can be seen as a wider working enviroment, where the
students no longer work in a closed classroom.

The reverse of this development is the digital divide which can
already be seen in our society. Our Discussion was very fruitful and gave me
many things to deliberate.

Some questions asked in the interview:

  • Who are you?
  • ICT in the past, first memories?
  • The state of the technology and education today?
  • Future ways of using technology?
  • Technology changes,
    impacts on education in the future?
  • Media Convergence and education?
  • Open source and
    education?
  • Education and the future?

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with Antti Kauppi. If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2006

Networked applications used more often than closed

There will be several more fashionable
blog/wiki/decision making sites for different kinds of organisations and
communities. The solutions which are rapidly taking advantage of  these internet tools will strengthen to
flexibility and development of the information process and have also the
advantage of competitiveness. However, these tools are managed by administrators who try to prevent  misuse of these open tools. At the same time schools, universities and other educational institutions continue discussion and debate on how to work with these tools.

Students take temporarily  the power of learning processes by using open
communities


The students have already involved in the use of
different kind of communication tools, including chats, forums, virtual
enviroments and communities they feel necessary. The content used in school
education and what is available in the network conflict. Teachers feel powerless in
checking the validity and reliability of the study contents they receive from students. Teachers get tired and frustrated because of technology and bad design. Another source of unmotivation is the decereased resources to teach.

Year 2007

FLOSS opens education

FLOSS role in education is the way to open the world. It
offers
learners possibilities to learn, discuss, argue
and reflect on issues from different perspectives. It also connects learners with similar interests to produce new software and content. The popularity of FLOSS is not only affecting the ideal world scenario but also frees certain financial
resources on the field of education.

Year 2008

Open source world and business world struggle for markets

The contest between free and open peer-production world and commercial business world is greater but some businesses have found a way to integrate FLOSS in their business models in a meaningful way. Mainstream still continues to
develop ICT in two directions: Open source connects people who are using
software more in content production. The tools of content production will be created more by the users themselves. This development
has lead to a situation where there is a thicker line between the closed
systems and the open communities. 

Year 2009

Learning everywhere

The school is not anymore just a building
where students are studying in 45 minute periods. Schools can be
seen as learning resource centers which are related to elements of
learning. The enviroment is open and contains different working places including virtual enviroments and simulations.
The virtual desktop is an access point to the world of education. The most important benefit of technology in education is the opportunity to decentralize learning from closed classrooms to open spaces.

Year 2010

Business world and open communities nearing each other

ICT, TV and other media devices have
been integrated as one centralised entity. These models of controllers have
been developed for the need of citizens to manage all the micro-processed  equipments. Open Source communities and business actors have agreed that education
is the key to fair and ethical competition. Education is one that can’t
be measured by the quantitative variables like financial costs, quantity of
courses and mass education.

Education changes from individual learning to
collaborative learning


The evolution of behaviorism is only a reflection of the past, found from museums and collections. There is worldwide understanding and practises of powerful collaborative working methods binded geniously with
individual thinking. Technology enables easy utilization of such methods in education. Renaissance and glorification of traditional interaction and face-to-face
meetings will increase.

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Stephen Downes – Part 1

Monday, February 28th, 2005

"On controlled metadata taxonomies: My copy of Schopenhauer is at one point of time a resource used in my philosophy class and sometimes a thing that works as my door opener. Both are perfect examples of use of Schopenhauer. How do I classify that, is it a book or is it furniture?"

Listen 1st part (MP3) – 29min – 13Mb

The first interview I conducted for the future of FLOSS in education was with no other than Stephen Downes himself.  It was my first experiment with Skype recording. The connection had some problems and recording peaked at times, so I’m sorry for lesser quality of the sound but the content is excellent.

There was a lot of good stuff so I decided to cut the interview into two separate pieces, 30min each. This is the first part, the second part will be available later (it’s even better than the first).

Stephen Downes works for the NRC (National Research Council of Canada) in Moncton, New Brunswick. He is part of the e-Learning research group which is attached to the Atlantic initiative of Institute for Information Technology.

As Senior Research Officer he is given a fairly free hand to pursue a research agenda in the field of e-Learning and is the author of OLDaily, a newsletter of issues related to educational technology. Previously he specialized in learning objects and in what manner
learning objects are organized, arranged, syndicated, distributed and displayed to
potential learners typically using a LMS (Learning Management System) and the techology
underlying that.

I asked him about learning objects and DLORN (Distributed Learning Object Repository Network). It’s a good start to be the basis of an open content learning object repository which could support shared construction of learning objects.

In comparison to that federated searches and controlled metadata are discussed. He is very critical about closed learning object repositories that are not visible to Google or any other search engine. He brings up the scalability problem of federated searches and the problems assosiated with describing learning objects.

As an alternative method he suggests third party metadata, which generally allows people to describe how a certain object is used instead of what it is. This kind of third party review lacks in federated searches.

Then we discuss the future of his Edu_RSS service. Downes brings up a very interesting idea of combining content production with social networking. This is achieved from the use of FOAF (Fried-of-a-Friend) in association with personalized and shared resource feeds. People could see what their friends are reading and writing. This could potentially help people to find others interested in the same topic in the field of education to work with.

Some questions asked in the interview:

The second part of the interview is here.

"If you sit down to get started and look at tagging a million objects, you’re looking at a major investment. Only large companies can afford to do this but most of the world is not made of large companies"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with Stephen Downes.
If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2005

Metadata based search still not useful

The LOM (Learning Object Metadata) exists in order to make learning
objects discoverable so that people can execute a search. Yet this
still doesn’t work in practice as institutions don’t have the resources
to describe every single object they create. The keyword and title
fields are the ones people fill the most. The other properties provided
by metadata searches are next to unuseful.

Year 2006

Amateur audio and video enters learning

Cheaper and more accessible tools for recording audio and video have
enabled teachers and students to produce learning results and teaching
materials with new kind of low-end tools they already possess. For
example mobile phones include cheap and low quality but functional
features for sharing their experiences and ideas in audio and video
form.

Folksonomies used as a basis for new ways of content classification

Researchers approach the problem of controlled vocabularities through
folksonomies, where people can describe any content with words and
keywords that come to their mind. Researchers use a large amount of
users to conduct these experiments. Based on their free-form organic
tagging behaviour they try to come up with insight on how to build
better information classification systems.

Year 2007

Learning objects more like software

Previously learning objects were mainly static combinations of text,
images and illustrations. This was because of the lack of
sophistication in various authoring tools. As authoring tools gained
more functionality, learning objects started to look more like
interactive software pieces.

Learning object repositories based on crawlers appear

In spirit of Google and Technorati, new LO repositories appear. These
new repositories are less controlled and provide a different business
model than their predecessors. Their functionality is the same of the
web, based on bots that crawl various resources for learning objects
and automatically extract metadata out of them. A teacher simply just
releases the LO on a website and bots will aggregate the content. A
second layer is built on the search engine to support reviewing and
third party metadata.

Teachers protest against controlled metadata

When people search, they want metadata results from multiple sources,
not from a single provider. Yet user contributed commentary and review
capabilities of commercial learning object repositories are lacking.
Providers refuse to change the policy because it’s against their
business plan to control the search and the metadata. Extended metadata
capabilities are provided only to paying third party providers.

Content tagging businesses appear

Anyone who has tried to encode learning object metadata knows what a
pain it is. This is a major investment as only large companies and
institutions are able to afford tagging with metadata every object they
create. New businesses have appeared to serve these organizations with
professional tagging services. The cheapest providers are located in
india and other low-cost labor countries.

Year 2008

FOAF combined with search results

Services have appeared that combine Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF)
information with content being searched. This approach is combining
social networking with content production. Developers have learned from
the previous failed attempts like Friendster that social networking
alone is not enough. These new kind of systems enable users to follow
what their friends read and write. Content based social networking
applications lower the bar to find other people to create open content
with.

Constructivism talked even more

Because of Wikipedia and other similar systems where knowledge is
co-created successfully, the educational philosophy of constructivism
has once again gained a lot of debate and discussion in education. Even
companies look at constructivist approaches to carry out on-job
learning, although they use different terms to describe it.

Communities build their own content repositories

Many online communities and courses have built their own searchable
resource repositories for very specific and focused areas of interest
based on the needs of their community. Software tools to create such
resources are available to everyone. The interesting thing is that
these repositories often carry out live information crawled from the
web. Managers/teachers pick and screen the sources of information they
want. Users/students are able to personalize the resulting feeds of
information to fit their needs.

Federated search faces scalability problems

The dominant model to setup a network of learning object repositories
has faced problems in growth. Only the most resourceful organizations
have been able to enter the network as each one of them has to be able
to carry out every single federated search on the network. The larger
and more popular the network has became, the more there are propagated
searches and bigger server requirements. Distributed open content
repositories based on more economical approaches have grown faster in
popularity.

Year 2009

Open content repositories surpass commercial repositories

Open content based repositories surpass commercial repositories in
popularity, contributions and offering. Commercial providers talk about
lack of quality but they are losing. Educators do not need pretty
looks, they need something that gets the job done. Open content is
easier to publish because of decentralized nature, availability of
certain authoring tools with CC built-in and the fact that federated
repositories require you to setup your own repository which takes a lot
of resources to build.

Structure of metadata still argued

Experts have not yet come into agreement of general purpose taxonomies
for tagging content resources with metadata. This is because the way
you describe an object and the way you classify an object, changes from
person to person and from time to time. Even in very focused
communities there is controversy of how to seamlessly tag the resources
they create. The most successful examples come from cases where the
rules are open ended.

Year 2010

Use considered as the most important property of a resource

Previously learning objects were described with metadata that described
what the learning object is. As the availability of content for various
purposes have increased, the information of what a resource contains is
less relevant to teachers. Teachers want to know how and for what
purpose a resource is useful. This is achieved through purposeful
combination of third party recommendations, comments and use scenarions
with objects.

Source of reliable news changes

When the commercial media started to quote Wikipedia in their articles,
the reliability issue was finally solved. Knowledge of Wikinews’s power
spread to the general public. Anywhere and anytime when something
relevant happens, people who are so into the case have a vast ammount
of time and combined effort to write the news. Enthusiasts and experts
do the job better together. Some media companies changed their business
plan to use independant reporters as a vechile.