Tim Sweeney on open platforms and the metaverse (2017)

I feel especially as we’re building up these platforms towards the metaverse, if these platforms are locked down and controlled by these proprietary companies then they’re going to have far more control over our lives, over our private data and over our private interactions with other people than any platform in previous history.

[How are you going to keep the metaverse open] is a central question for the industry and something we think about a lot.

The great thing is that there are a lot of steps in that direction. There are open file formats now… the web was open because it was built on standards like HTML, Javascript, Jpeg – all these different file formats and internet potocols tied together to create an open web that anybody can participate in. It’s the opposite of Facebook or Twitter, which are locked-down, proprietary APIs and services controlled by companies, and you can’t write a client for these applications unless you get their permission.

So if we build the metaverse on top of protocols and all of the major players in the industry are committed to working together to define these standards and maintain these standards, then we can all interoperate as peers, and avoid any one company taking control over the thing, and having a monopoly over not just commerce, that’s bad enough, but also a monopoly over our private data and the ability to probe in really really scary ways into our private lives when we’re being connected through these digital tools.

Tim Sweeney – interview at GamesBeat 2017

Creative Commons resources – open source literacy webinar

Note: Links to resources are at the bottom. The footnotes are worth reading.

On Thursday I attended ‘Creative Commons Basics’, a webinar hosted by the Global Reading Network. It was very good.

Cable Green, Director of Open Education at Creative Commons, made an excellent presentation about the basics of Creative Commons licensing, followed by Q&A. I’ve done a fair bit of reading about CC licenses, but the clarity of the presentation and the texture of the examples shared really helped me to get a better understanding of how CC works.

Here are some highlights:

Education as sharing

  • Among other things, education is fundamentally about sharing.
  • Knowledge is an interesting kind of public good: once shared it’s non-excludable (it can’t be taken away) and it’s non-rivalrous (you having it doesn’t stop me from having it).* We didn’t get into how knowledge benefits from network effects (your knowledge can make mine more valuable), but that’s worth mentioning too.**

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Thomas Jefferson

A moral imperative

Given the non-rivalrous nature of knowledge, Cable argued for the moral imperative to share it: if we can help people by sharing knowledge at (next to) no cost to us – something the internet enables – then we’re morally obliged to do so***

The internet enables; copyright forbids

  • Almost all educational resources are created digitally (text, audio, video)
  • The internet enables the sharing of digital resources at effectively no cost****
  • Copyright restricts or forbids sharing and therefore, Cable argues, restricts education either directly or indirectly (see below)…

Free as in libre

Cable discussed the key distinction between free as in gratis – at no cost (the traditional internet description of this is “free as in, ‘free beer.'”) – and free as in ‘libre‘ or ‘at liberty’.

The difference is important: there are lots of resources available online that are free (no cost), but copyrighted, meaning that ownership or use is

  • precarious, in the sense that the copyright holder can revoke the right to use it, and has legal means to enforce their ownership
  • rigid, meaning that users don’t have the freedom to adapt and re-purpose the original material, or to give it away.

The clearest examples of these things are probably in the world of proprietary software where the source code isn’t accessible to users, and where licensing agreements expressly forbid editing and sharing with others.

The 5 Rs of Open Education

The antidote that Open Education offers to these restrictions are the five Rs (courtesy of David Wiley), enabled by Creative Commons licensing:

  • Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content (e.g., download, duplicate, store, and manage);
  • Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video);
  • Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language);
  • Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other material to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup);
  • Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend).

Read more about the 5Rs here.

Creative Commons Licenses

CC licenses are a free, open public framework intended to make it easy for creators to share their works widely while still retaining ownership of the work – that is to say, without transferring them entirely to the public domain (i.e. giving up their status as owners of the work).

CC Licenses are made up of combination of the following yes/no options:

  • BY: If you use it, you have to attribute it to the original author in the new text. More on attribution here.
  • SA: Share Alike means that you have to share any derivative works under the same license as the original
  • NC: Non-commercial. You can redistribute it as long as you don’t make a profit doing so. Note that charging for work to cover reasonable reproduction costs and overheads (e.g. getting the work printed by a commercial printer and selling it for the cost of printing) has been ruled acceptable practice by a court in New York. Note also that this does not prevent others from making a profit from a service based on the CC:NC work (e.g. by charging for a course using the work, or a performance of the work).
  • ND: No derivatives. You are allowed to use the work for any purpose, but are not allowed to re-mix or change the work in any way.

Notes:

  • For any of these licenses you are not required to contact the licensor for permission to use it
  • These restrictions are not binding on the holder of the copyright – that is to say, if you share your own work under a CC: NC ND license, you are free to use it however you wish, including making a profit from the work and remixing it: “The NonCommercial limitation applies to licensed uses only and does not restrict use by the licensor.”
  • Note also that once a work is (legitimately) released under a CC license, the license is irrevocable – the work can’t be “un-CCed”… but the creator can make a different (revised) version of the work and keep it under any restrictions they wish.
  • Materials shared with any kind of CC: ND license do not fulfill the criteria of the 5Rs outlined above.

A Hierarchy of Free-ness

Credit: http://discourse.col.org CC BY NC

Links and Resources

Cable finished off by sharing a set of links to resources or interesting use cases of CC. Here they are:

Wrapping Up

Phew. Thanks again to Cable Green of Creative Commons and the Global Reading Network for an excellent seminar. In the spirit of Creative Commons and Open Education Cable is sharing the presentation under a CC license – I’ll share a link to video and slides if and when I have one!

Update: Here’s a .pdf of the slides form the session:

*I say “an interesting type of public good” because until it’s been shared it’s scarce and excludable.

**There are negative network effects to some knowledge too (you having them makes mine less valuable)

*** We didn’t get into cases where the fact that people have paid for resources makes them more useful – more likely that they’ll have an impact because a better quality of attention will be paid to them so that they’re more likely to be understood deeply, used and spread – and make it more likely that more resources will be created. Seth Godin is doing interesting experiments around this with the combination of his blog and free materials , podcast, and the Akimbo workshops.

****At no cost unless, in some cases, making them free reduces their value.*

Listen to the technology: Kevin Kelly and the giant copy machine

Technology often has built in biases, certain ways that it wants to be used. So the internet is the largest copy machine in the world by nature. It’s inherent in the thing. Anything that can be copied it that touches it will be copied.

So don’t fight that – work with it. Work with the fact that copies are promiscuous and it’st just going to go everywhere, it’s a superconductor for copies. You can’t battle against that, you have to say “okay, we can see how it is.”

Within the first four or five years it was clear that this was the way it was going to be… can you imagine if the music industry had accepted that from the front? It would have been amazing. They’re just coming around to it now, but [imagine] how far ahead they would have been if they’d just said “okay, this is inevitable, this copy thing. We’re just going to try to work with it. There’s thing to adjust, but let’s accept it.”


Kevin Kellya16z podcast: Not If, But How – When Technology is Inevitable

Further reading: The Technium: Better Than Free – 8 ‘generatives’ to thrive in a world of free copies.

See also:

GNU-GPL – a base of code

Richard Stallman famously wrote the GNU GPL, which is a license based on copy-left, not copyright. His position is the freedom to work with computers and work with software and work with software is hindered by copyright.

That in fact these are useful tools, and there are people who want to make useful tools and remix the useful tools of people who came before. Everything you use in the internet – that website that you visited that’s running on Apache, that email protocol, you’re able to do it because so many other entities were able to share these ideas.

So the way copy-left works is that if you use software that has a GPL license to make your software work better, it infects your software, and you also have to use the GPL license.

So if it works right, it will eat the world. So as the core of software in GNU gets bigger and deeper, it becomes more and more irresistible to use it. But as you use it the software you add to it also becomes part of that corpus.

And if enough people contribute to it, what we’ll end up with is an open, inspectable, improvable base of code that gives us a toolset for weaving together the culture we want to be part of.

Seth Godin Akimbo, November 21 2018 – Intellectual Property

An open, inspectable, improvable base of code.

For software.

For tools for making software.

How about for educational outcomes? For assessments?

For a set of tools and resources for running an organisation?

The hope of Audacity

In my blitz session to get my first podcast episode recorded I struggled to get to grips with Audacity. I’ve since watched this, and I think I’ll be using it for editing the first proper episode.

Still not sure about the glitch with the file though.

Anyway, thanks to Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income – there are links to a couple of his podcasting courses at the top of the homepage.

Hybrids (4): Intersections and you

This is the fourth of a series on the role of hybrids in innovation. This is where I put the ideas of the previous posts to work using the principle of ‘combinatorial innovation’ to look for fertile soil for cross-breeds between my work in educational development and other areas.

Translation and Contextualisation

In a way, this whole post is about these two things. Can you take information – ideas, tools and resources – and make them useful and accessible in a new place? Where do you have the local knowledge – local to place, or a set of people, or a field of activity – that is needed so that things from another place can be useful to others?

Open standards

The worldwide web is possible because of a shared, consensual, non-propriety and completely open agreement about how to mark up text for display in your computer’s web browser (HTML).

Could an open standard help people and products to work together in your industry? Could you be the one to start writing and popularising it?

I wonder if education in Indonesia could benefit from a set of open standards:

  • For desirable outcomes for education as a whole
  • For standards and competencies at different stages of children (and adults’) development in different subjects (e.g. literacy, mathematics) that could allow ‘interoperability’ between educational resources made by different groups
  • For what makes a good lesson, curriculum, or resource (e.g. suggested standards to guide writers of children’s books)
  • For how to design the above
  • For how to train teachers to use the above

I’ve got lots of questions about how far consensus can go on these things, but I think there’s a lot of potential.

Further Reading

Open source

More than 85% of the world’s smartphones run on the Android operating system. Android is a version of Linux, a free operating system that is developed by a community of volunteers and professionals across the world. Being open source means that not only is the software free to use, but the source code – the bits of computer program used to make Android – are available to all to study, edit and upgrade. Volunteers gain so much from the system, that when they improve a piece of the software (often to solve a problem that they face), they’re happy to feed the improvements back into it, creating more value for everyone in the process.

Can you ‘open source’ all or part of what you do, creating value for everyone in the process?

Digital

Perhaps this should have been first on the list. What do cheaper computing, cheaper data and storage, cheaper video, cheaper sensors of all sorts – mean to you? What would it mean if they became free – because relatively, they are becoming so.

What do you need to know, what skills do you need to develop, so you can make the most of these, and make them useful to others?

Physical

What’s getting faster, cheaper, easier to use? For example…

  • Physically transporting goods from one place to another in a world of driverless cars and maybe, drones
  • Electronic products
  • Print-on-demand

Virtual

What can you do online – maybe even automatically – that previously had to be done in person?

Actual

In a world where we can do so many things online, what are the things that really are better when we’re together in person? Why are they better in person, and how can we make them better still?

AI

Of course AI. I know almost nothing about it, but finding the people a level or two above me is high on the list. It might not be for you, but make sure that you know that for a fact.

Likewise blockchain.

Information. Architecture?

A lot of these things come down to information being more abundant, and more accessible than ever before. Is there value in looking deeply at how your field hangs together, and how it intersects with other fields, and clarifying things – for you and everyone else?

This is fun – this video with Peter Morville is a decent place to start.

Tools and Howtos

Can you make and share tools to help other people do what you do? Can you teach people how to use them?

Thanks to…

It goes without saying that Kevin Kelly, Tim O’Reilly – and everyone mentioned in my earlier WTF post are the major sources of these ideas.