There are two reasons I’ve been writing more than usual about music lately. One, I’m trying to follow my own advice to fledgling bloggers, which is to write about the stuff that you are genuinely most interested in, and not worry too much about what you think you’re supposed to write about. Two, I can’t stop seeing parallels between what I see as the smarter analyses of the current state of the music industry and that of the educational domain.
History tells us: convenience wins, hubris loses. “Who is going to want a shitty quality LP when these 78s sound so good? Who wants a hissy cassette when they have an awesome quadrophonic system? Who wants digitized music on discs now that we have Dolby on our cassettes? Who wants to listen to compressed audio on their computers?” ANSWER: EVERYONE. Convenience wins, hubris loses. [check Fredric Dannen’s comments here]
I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out.
…In the end you get what you pay for. I won’t spend another dime paying engineers to build false control, making listening to music harder for music-lovers. I will put all of my energy into making it easier and making the experience better. I suggest you do the same.”
I can’t help but substitute the proper nouns for ones closer to my own experience. In a sense, I’ve been adopting a strategy like this for some time myself. When I meet with someone who says they want a blog or a wiki, but all of their questions are about privacy, and control, and roles, and structure, and monitoring, and management, I do my best to answer… and to an extent those things can be addressed. There once was a time when I was so determined to get people using social software that I was willing to engage programmers to make the tools behave in a way that they were never intended — with results that were occasionally rewarding, but more often highly labour-intensive and with disappointing outcomes. Now, if the common-sense middle-ground strategies (and thank you edublogosphere for your tireless efforts to develop and share these approaches) don’t assuage the concerns, I’m likely to smile and say something like, “you know, maybe what you need is a Course Management System, UBC supports the biggest, baddest CMS on the planet, let me hook you up with some people.”
Which may be an improvement, or it may be a cop-out… but I wonder what the online education milieu might look like if we as a profession adopted something like Rogers’ pledge. And where might we focus our efforts instead?
If, on the other hand, you’ve seen the light too, there’s a very fun road ahead for us all. Lets get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music. The opportunity is in the chasm between the way we experience the content and the incredible user-created context of the Web.
…Lets envision the end state and drive there as quickly as possible. Lets not waste another eight years on what is obvious today. Lets build the tools of a healthy media Web and reward music-lovers for being a part of it.
What I find heartening is that everywhere I go I hear more and more educators, many of them in positions of real influence in their institutions and beyond, talking this kind of language, thinking hard about what knowledge-lovers need and how we might build a healthy media Web that supports and rewards them. What I worry about is that for whatever reasons, we find it hard to let go of the strategies that have caused us so much pain and hassle in the past, and keep digging ourselves in deeper and deeper…