Tag Archives: publishing

Blockchain & Decentralization for the Information Industries

Announcing the launch of the first Massive Open Online Course on Blockchain & Decentralization specifically focused around libraries, museums, archives, publishers, and the rest of the information ecosystem! Registration is now open and the course itself begins March 11th and runs for 6 weeks. Did I mention that the course is free?

I am the course designer and instructor for this MOOC, which is my first time designing a learning experience like this. Myself along with 4 very talented San Jose State University i.School students who will be acting as TAs for the course, will be monitoring the course and participating in the discussion boards to make sure that everyone progresses through the following outcomes.

  • Describe and explain the early uses of distributed ledger technology and the design of current blockchain systems.
  • Recognize the differences and similarities among various decentralized systems, and determine the most appropriate blockchain applications.
  • Compare and evaluate the advantages/disadvantages of using blockchain or other types of technologies for different applications.
  • Identify the ways blockchain can be applied in the information industries.

This course is the penultimate outcome of an IMLS grant given to San Jose State for the Blockchain National Forum, which was held in 2018. The final outcome will be a book which will be published this year, with chapters written by attendees and experts, summarizing and expanding on the lessons from the Forum (full disclosure: I wrote one of the chapters for the book as well).

The course is designed without any expectation that participants know anything about blockchain or decentralized technologies before beginning the course. It will walk you through details and introductions to the technology, all the way through existing services and systems and finally to what a decentralized future might look like. The full course breakdown looks like this:

  • Week 1 – March 11-17
    • Overview and History of Blockchain
  • Week 2 – March 18-24
    • Issues, Considerations, Problems
  • Week 3 – March 25-31
    • Decentralization
  • Week 4 – April 1-7
    • Systems & Services
  • Week 5 – April 8-14
    • Use Cases – Public Libraries, Academic Libraries, Museums, Archives
  • Week 6 – April 15-21
    • Future Directions & Next Steps

The course is a combination of mini-lectures that set up each week’s content, a selection of content relating to the topic (including readings, video, and audio), and then a discussion board where people can ask questions and talk about each week’s topic. At the end of each week there is a short quiz, and successful complete of the quiz will earn badges for each week, as well as a cumulative course badge and certificate at the end.

Please share this announcement widely! I’d like everyone who is even remotely interested in learning about Blockchain and decentralized tech to sign up and work through the course.

I’ll see you March 11th in the course!

Commoditizing our complements

In business and economics, there is a concept that is often expressed with the phrase “Commoditize your complement”. A complementary product is has some form of necessary connection to the product in question…the usual example is automobiles and gasoline. As Joel Spolsky puts it:

A complement is a product that you usually buy together with another product. Gas and cars are complements. Computer hardware is a classic complement of computer operating systems. And babysitters are a complement of dinner at fine restaurants. In a small town, when the local five star restaurant has a two-for-one Valentine’s day special, the local babysitters double their rates. (Actually, the nine-year-olds get roped into early service.)

All else being equal, demand for a product increases when the prices of its complements decrease.

Thus the concept of commoditizing (making available uniformly and interchangably) your complement. If you can decrease the cost of your complement, you by necessity increase the cost of your product. Microsoft learned this very early, and went on to great success, making hardware (the complement to it’s product, software) a commodity product…it didn’t matter if you bought from Dell, or Gateway, or Asus, or IBM, or Lenovo, or…the list goes and on. Those companies struggled to make money in a market driven to complete interchangability, while Microsoft made billions on software. A reversal of this strategy, as Marco Arment has pointed out, is Apple is attempting to commoditize software via its iOS and Mac App Stores, because its product (where they make their profit) is the hardware.

My questions to the library world: What is our product? What should we be commoditizing in order to make our product more valuable? The concept isn’t just about money, it’s about market values, even when the market in question isn’t measured in dollars but in reputation, importance, and community value. What should we be pushing to commodity so that our business becomes more valuable to our communities?

I have my theories, but want to hear yours.

 

Delaying ebooks

I was going to blog about the recent article describing how publishers are going to be slotting ebooks into their traditional Handcover-then-Paperback release schedule. I was going to point out that treating digital objects like physical objects has never worked, will never work, and to expect it to work is a fundamental error of modern media.

I was going to do that, but then Chad Haefele over at Hidden Peanuts did it for me. Go read it.

From his post:

Scribner has created an ecosystem where piracy is literally the only option for potential customers who would otherwise line up to give them money, AND that piracy delivers what’s actually a superior product with no DRM.

Yep, that’s pretty much what they’ve done. And, like the music industry, they are going to shoot themselves right in the foot.