Twofish's Blog

June 16, 2006

My action plan

Filed under: academia, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 3:16 am

This is the second of two posts that continues the conversation with Stephen Carson about MIT OCW.  I'd like to keep the discussion focused on MIT precisely to keep the discussion grounded in reality.  We are of the consensus that any action plan that depends on getting faculty consensus to release material without the NC tag is dead in the water.  It's hard to get faculty consensus on anything, what the MIT OCW staff has done thus far is absolutely phenomenonal, which makes it even more frustrating that I can't use any of the material. 😦 😦 😦

The easiest then to have happen is to have someone convince me that I'm crazy and that my concerns about using OCW material are unfounded.  Specifically, I'd be ecstatic if

a) I could be assured that I can remix and contribute material without putting myself under any restrictions.  To give a concrete example, right now I'm looking for a good explanation of special relativity invariants to add to a wikibook on general relativity that contains original material that I wrote on what a tensor is.  I'd also like to find a text on axiomatic probablitity theory and incorporate it into a wikibook on quantitative finance.  (One thing that I do in order to understand mathematical concepts is take a book that was written in "math-language" and then rewrite it in English.  I think those glosses would be useful for people other than me.)

The problem is that I may in the future use these combined works for purposes that are clearly for-profit and commercial.  Any astronomy material that I create would almost certainly be used for any classes I teach at the University of Phoenix, which is for-profit and pays me money to teach.  Any text on QF or computer programming could be used for in house courseware in a for-profit corporation, and I might at some point want to set up a for-profit consulting or business around the materials that are created.  The faculty member who created the NC licensed work certainly has the right to do whatever they want with their text, but the problem is that by using it in certain ways, I'm compromising my right to do what I want with the combined content that I've created.

The other problem here is that if the MIT faculty member incorporates any NC material from someone else, the MIT faculty has made it impossible for her to commercialize the combined work product.  

b) I can mix and remix the material on the wikibooks site.  There are already a huge number of people there, and its the obvious site for creating texts.  The problem is that the GFDL license for wikibooks is incompatible with the MIT OCW license because of the non-commercial restriction.  One thing is that people *do* use Wikipedia and Wikibooks for uses that are clearly commercial.  As long as these uses are *non-exclusive*, that's fine with me.

If I can do both of these without violating the MIT OCW license then there is no problem.  I don't think I can.
Failing that, I'd like to be able to explain the problem to MIT OCW participants, and very, very politely ask that they voluntarily mark their OCW works with a tag that allows for commercial use.  I think that "Licensed under creative commons AR-SA" would work.

I think that in order to completely transform things, you don't need a consensus of MIT faculty, you don't even need a majority or large minority.  If only 2-3% of the 1700 courses at MIT were to release their work under a commercial use allowed license, this would provide a huge amount of source material for wikibooks, and I really do think that the impact would be revolutionary.

If all else fails, I can just pay cash.  There are a small number of courses that I'd like incorporate into wikibooks, and I can just go up to the faculty and ask them to name their price for putting their work under a commercial use allowed license, or I can go up to undergraduates and graduate students offer to pay them for putting their term papers under a commercial use allowed license.  I wouldn't be asking for exclusive rights to publish, merely a license that would let me put things on wikibooks on a non-exclusive basis.

This might be worth doing just to see what the market price of these things are.  I suspect the price for *non-exclusive* rights to republish are quite low.

Also there is a China link to all of this.  My model for how to do organizational change are the Deng Xiaoping reforms.  You change an organization by creating a small parallel process on the side that gradually grows and engulfs the pre-existing process.



  1. […] Which is a long-winded way of saying I appreciate Joseph Wang’s passion for open sharing, but I’m frankly not sure I can keep up with him and keep my day job! See his posts here, here, here and here. Anyway, I’m happy to keep up a dialogue, but unless we can bring a little more focus to it, I’m not sure I can respond effectively. I’d like to hear carefully reasoned support for the repeated assertion that the NC clause kills mass collaboration, as I’m still not convinced on that point. Why for instance, would Wikipedia have been less successful had they included an NC clause? Are there comparisons of NC vs. non-NC projects out there that demonstrate this effect? […]

    Pingback by OpenFiction [ Blog ] » A note about passion — June 19, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

  2. I am interested in teaching for the University of Phoenix but cannot find a website or contact information to begin this process. Can you please direct me to an employment office? Thanks!

    Comment by Kathy Rickwald — July 2, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

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