Open innovation at PICNIC 2008
Three sunny days in September. Thousands of sunny people, including myself, gather for a three day event at the Westerpark in Amsterdam. PICNIC 2008 has started, with a promising program filled with famous speakers, writers, businessmen and women, leaders, and interesting geeks. People who made it in business, technology, world peace, or online. Great to listen to, and above all, inspirational. A pretty expensive type of inspiration I must say, with people paying over €1200 to get a three day pass.
Fortunately, I was able to attend a special track, called Enquiring Minds, for researchers or people with an special academic interest in a relevant field. Which could be anything, considering the wide range of topics covered by the conference. 25 of us academic researchers, scientists, or all-round investigators gathered that beautiful morning in an old but nicely renovated building on terrain of the (late) Westergasfabriek.
Each participant was asked to explain his/her research to the others in three minutes. Some interesting topics were covered, ranging from the (the future of) arts and media, internet security, gaming and education, social software, co-evolution of knowledge production and ICT, and many more.
I explained the others that my own research aims at trying to describe and model the relationship between contributions (in online networks; i.e. blog posts) and the contributor in terms of trust, quality, and expertise. Have a look at the illustration below. It tries to depict a person who is contributing content in an online network, possibly within an organization. People, both experts and non-experts, may use (read/visit) and evaluate (rate) this content. How do expertise of the users of this content, and the type and intensity of use, can be used to profile both the contributor as well as the contribution? Quite a BIG question, I know, maybe that’s the reason I have not really started it yet (need some focus?!).
Unfortunately, I have not really been at talks of people really focusing on this topic (merely acknowledging the need for research, which is good), but there was a lot of action on social media, and success factors. In my job at a small software company (doing exactly the thing I intend to research), we create social software that empowers the user to contribute, the first and most essential step needed in order to measure the mentioned relationships (between “contribution-use/users-contributor”). It is therefore very important to know what makes software social, why people use it, when a social software project fails. So that’s has been the red line of my conference, and the subject of this short record of the event.
So what makes social software really social, what is successful and what is not?
I read several publications about this subject, and was interested in how these theoretical elaborations correspond with the recommendations, issues, and notes mentioned by some speakers on the conference. Some of these people were researchers, some of them were entrepreneurs who experienced success themselves. They explained trends and explained how the Internet and relating technologies offer great opportunities for more open, transparent, innovative, more efficient, and distributed ways of innovation and collaboration. And how we are moving towards a more people centered online environment, where friends in common, proximity, shared taste and objects matter. In the following sections, I deal with this in putting forward
What we can expect in an open system of assessment is that achievement will be in some way ‘recognized’ by a community. This removes assessment from the hands of ‘experts’ who continue to ‘measure’ achievement. And it places assessment into the hands of the wider community. Individuals will be accorded credentials as they are recognized, by the community, to deserve them.Furthermore;
How does this happen? It beaks down into two parts:
- first, a mechanism whereby a person’s accomplishments may be displayed and observed.
- second, a mechanism which constitutes the actual recognition of those accomplishments.
Eventually, over time, a person will accumulate a ‘profile’ (much as described in ‘Resource Profiles’). We can see this already in systems like Yahoo Games, where an individual’s profile lists the games they play and the tournaments they’ve won.The piece on “Resource Profiles” is recommended for people interested in the subject.
In other cases, the evaluation of achievement will resemble more a reputation system. Through some combination of inputs, from a more or less define community, a person may achieve a composite score called a ‘reputation’.
In still other cases, organizations - such as universities, professional associations, governments and companies - may grant specific credentials. In such cases, the person may put forward their portfolios and profiles for consideration for the credential.
Jeff Cobb adds to this the possibility of old-fashioned assessment, certification, and testifying. He also mentions
The first involves individuals gaining reputation points over time based upon their participation in learning conversations and activities. The process, as I understand it, would be similar to how sellers on eBay or reviewers on Amazon build reputation, though Siemens points out that we would need to know the identity and credentials of the person assigning reputation points in order for the value of points to be fully assessed. Reputation, in other words, should not be arbitrary.
The second has more to do with drawing connections between learning content and activities using a process similar to the recommendation system at Amazon, i.e., “The person who bought ‘x’ also bought ‘y.’” In the world of learning, this process might translate to “The person who read this, also read this” or “The person who studied this thinker also studied this thinker.” I’m not entirely certain I follow Siemens line of thinking here, but I believe the point is to ensure a certain quality, consistency, and intensity of learning in a particular subject area over time.
An association with a strong enough brand within its particular niche may possess sufficient authority to play a valuable validation role on its own.And that is what I think too. In a way, people are brands, and if someone’s reputation (=brand) is high, his or her word is believed… He or she can then perform duties as assessment, and certification.
Ellen Sjoer and I went to the OpenLearn conference last week in Milton Keynes, England. The conference about open content in education had four main themes;
|OS communities||Formal education|
|FLOSS learning in formal education||Learning from OER today|
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