Yet the OU has now opened up its content, and for some good reasons. Some of those reasons are complex, but underneath it I think there are two principles one altruistic and one more selfish:I think there is another more fundamental reason for the need for open educational content. The outputs of content production are the inputs to future creative endeavors and individual and collective learning processes. If these outputs get locked up and ghettoized behind pay-per-view virtual walls well then Spider Robinson's timeless Melancholy Elephants tells of the consequences, for future creators in particular, far more elegantly than I can.
Altruistic reason for open content: there is more value in having the world see this resource than if we store it away or try to sell it
Selfish reason for open content: if we don’t do it someone else will, and then what are we left with
On a separate issue relating to Wikipedia, which both Martin and Patrick refer too, I admit to being one of the original skeptics who laughed and said it couldn't possibly work. An encyclopedia with apparently no quality control and no form of sensible editorial process - if ever there was going to be definitive proof positive of millions of monkey's with keyboards being unable to reconstruct the works of Shakespeare this was it. Yet Wikipedia did work and it worked because of fiercely dedicated communities of interest that sprang up around the collections of entries. If someone tried to pollute one of these entries with jokes or distortions they would get quickly corrected by the interested communities/individuals who monitored them closely. But Wikipedia grew and the real and the regulatory world came calling in the form of intellectual property and defamation laws and the tendency for certain entities to arrange the favourable adjustment of their own entries or those related to them. The Wikipedia folk were obliged to introduce an editorial control process and not be quite so open.
By coincidence, Wendy Seltzer is giving two lectures at Cornell University today on "Protecting the University from Copyright Bullies" (3pm there, 8pm in the UK) and "Righting the Copyright Balance" (7.30pm there, 12.30am in the UK), outlining some of the concerns I have about the influence of the entertainment industry on the future of content. Thanks to Fernando Barrio, whose blog I added to my newsreader after his entertaining presentation at GIKII 2 last week, for the pointer.