Thursday, February 07, 2008

It's in the blood: Stinson plays bull-in-a-china-shop

private school - window detail
Originally uploaded by MLuotio.
This post began as a sort of "woe is me" post, and then I was planning on making some generalized assertions about exclusivity and privilege. And then I started writing. And this post isn't the post it started out to be... as is often the case.

For regular Muse readers, the following will both be predictable and perhaps snarky. For those of you who have found your way here from the listserv, you'll probably find it just plain distasteful...

If you're a regular reader, you'll need background. If you're here from the listserv, well, you'll just have to suffer through.

As I mentioned a day or two ago, I have been on a listserv for a couple of years. The listserv serves independent school faculty and administrators, and, until this latest bull-in-a-china-shop adventure, I'd thought I was headed to teach or serve in a leadership role at an independent school. Now... well, never mind....

This gist of this situation is that I wanted to get the content of the listserv as a RSS feed. It didn't appear there was one set up, so I created one. My execution was not the most technically proficient, having each post to the listserv post to a Blogger blog which then fed a RSS feed. The listserv content is published under a Creative Commons License, so I thought this was fair game.

Guess I thought wrong.

I've stirred a hornets' nest and now feel as if I'm in the midst of a firestorm. I've received some scathing rebukes. You can find a couple of them here, and here, and here.

As usual, the worst always stands out. When the boss says she wants to see you, don't you always fear the worst? Don't we usually remember the things that are said in the heat of the moment, rather than the kind and supportive whisperings that cover our day?

Then, in re-reading those posts, it occurred to me they weren't as scathing as I first thought. Flu? Or is my skin getting thin in old age?

Here then are some quotes from other feedback received on the list (and a couple off-line):
  • (The listserv) was a select group, there was a process to go through, and therefore a sense of exclusivity about who we are/were corresponding with.

  • This list is not now and never was a private list. Its contents are archived for all to read both at its sources and on Google. No one should have ever assumed any level of privacy on such a list.

  • It is the automation and the anonymity of the process that bothers me.

  • This is just another step toward collaborative learning - sharing this on a blog is another form of being heard and learning from each other.

  • I was naively still working under the assumption that this was a private listserv where we could be open, honest and helpful to each other, and the opinions, etc. were only shared with the group.

  • I find it amusing because we always tell the kids to think before they post things on Facebook, etc. Yet here we are, in some cases, baring our souls.

  • For some of us, (the listserv) felt private, precisely because we knew it was people who had enough of an interest in independent education who self-selected into the group and who were willing to take the time to participate.

  • My first reaction was, if a student of mine did what (Peter) did, s/he would be in very big trouble. And then I thought: should that be so?

  • I guess we are now involved in an internet version of "Liar, Liar" much for our ability to hide what we really are.

  • People seemed to have an expectation that the etiquette would not have substantially changed despite the substantial legal change CC-by-nc-sa brought with it. The terms of the list automatically CC license the "work" you post allowing anyone to, remix-it, change the wording, and re-present in any medium, in it's original or a derivative form (as long as it is attributed, non-commercial, and their product has the same license). If I want to make a podcast that is a verbatim reading of the list, I can. If I want to re-publish the list to a web site where I substitute ever forth noun with the word "smurf", I can. If I want to print it out, bind it in a book and distribute it for free, I can. If I want to use a thread as dialog for a feature film people pay to see, I can't.

  • There is this idea that somehow our listserv is for the good of the group that "signed" up for access . . . Somehow in my mind that means that I have chosen access to a limited group of people and ideas and that those same will indeed stay among the group with access to same.

  • I do think it is almost always a good idea to ask permission when making changes having an impact on a collaborative collegial enterprise like ISED. I speak from the slightly uncomfortable experience of having crossed this line once or twice in the past.

  • I guess flattening the world also means knocking down the ivory tower of the academy:) also

  • But this is a public listserv, and there is a lot of collective wisdom within the list. Getting it out to a broader audience via a blog is a good thing.

  • I think reposting to a blog is a great idea. Blogs are the successors of ListServs. We have the best of both worlds.

  • When I send an email -- whether to a group or just a friend privately -- I do so with the awareness of the possibility that it could end up in all manner of places. For that reason, if I really don't want a thought sent electronically to end up in strange hands, then I just keep it to myself or use the telephone instead. The Internet is a public community in my opinion, and once I post something in this public community, anybody can have it. That's what the Internet is all about.
    At least that's the way I see it.

  • I guess, in a way, we are all leaving behind an interactive story for others to discover.

  • I think that this is an email list for a specific group of people who have chosen to join. Whenever I send a post to this group or respond to another's post, I am looking for advice from all of you or answering another's request.

  • I think that anything, thus far released through the list under the CC - Attrib, non-commercial, share-alike is fair game as long as it follows the license. Under the CC there is no way to enforce a prohibition on automated reposting to a blog as long as it remains attributed and non-commercial. You will need to adopt a more restrictive license and that will be difficult to craft and nearly impossible to enforce.

  • Everything you post on (the listserv and other websites) has this same problem and be glad that someone thought the collective mind share of this group is worth redundant documentation, and look forward to the new content that can be layer onto this list and new ways of accessing it.

  • I think your idea is brilliant and can't understand why people are not happy. Keep moving forward and the rest will follow eventually.

  • I don't think it's a big deal, even though I posted early on that I wasn't sure I liked it - but a full explanation does in fact, change my mind. I was only worried that the essence of a back-and-forth discussion would lose it's context, but I don't think so now. I use Bloglines all the time - otherwise I can't keep up.
All of these are fairly balanced.

For the sea lawyers out there, I'm going to claim these quotes are "fair use' rather than use of licensed material under Creative Commons. (And, no, I have no idea if that's really the case, but I can just see someone stepping in and saying, "Hey, your' use of that material was outside the Creative Commons as you didn't attribute each quote to a particular person and thus violated the CC.")

Eagads, I'm feeling gun shy, aren't I?

Anyway, most of these comments are supportative, understanding, and inclusive in nature. A few hit me as slightly taking on a slightly privileged air (which is where this post was headed when I started), but overall, they do get it.

Am I guilty of "It's better to seek forgiveness than ask for permission" in this instance? Of course. Afterall, I have learned a few things from my years associated with the nation's fifth military force. ;-)

And of course friends and regular readers will find none of this at all surprising. We are who are, are we not?

As to why I post here rather than on the listserv: this is my venting. There are regular readers here who have been following my throughts about organizational use of Web 2.0 tools, and this is part of that ongoing discussion. For those who have come here from the listserv, welcome.

And, well, this all is not really a discussion, and no one actually reads anything I write, but it's fun to imagine it is so.

And, now, for the rest of the story.

Turns out there was already a feed for the listserv. Posted today on the listserv:
I 'm not sure how many know this . . . LSoft Listserv 14.4 contains an undocumented RSS feature. Here's the feed URL
I should have had a V-8.

Lastly, a question for the Vegas odds makers (after they lost their shirts with the Superbowl): What are my odds of actually getting an offer to join the faculty at an independent school?

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