As I've stated before, I've been impressed by Wes Fryer's efforts to flesh out issues at this years NECC down in San Antonio.
First, he shined a light on the NCEE conference planners' original "code of conduct" language re: whether your Average Joe audience member could backchannel record/publish content from keynotes and sessions alike. Agreeing with him, I said I was quickly losing faith in this sort of "big show" conference and wondered how much longer bloggers-with-leverage would attend NECC and other traditional trade show set-up's given this collision of publication expectations. Eventually, Wes' efforts inspired conference planners to re-tract part of the "code", now allowing folks to record/publish without explicit permission from the conference itself. Gotta give credit to Wes and ISTE/NECC for that shift.
Second, Wes also pulled our attention towards a more thoughtful/neutral inspection of Pearson's involvement in this year's "EduBloggercon", complete with their boom mikes, big company aesthetics, and unclear goals with the final content. Instead of just b*tching or calling for a boycott on all Pearson products (gulp; tough when they're the leading educational publisher, sportsfans), he instead used a calm voice and sat down with a major Pearson rep, offering a podcast of Q's/A's so that we can judge for ourself whether Pearson had a 'right' to be there, whether Steve H. owns any responsibility in bridging the tension (and explaining a few things on his own), and what it all means down the road for future blogger meet-ups at education conferences like NECC.
I continue to respect Wes' approach re: tone/reflection.
On the other hand, I think Wes was a bit kid-gloved with Pearson/Dr. Roberts, and I have little faith that Dr. Robert's initial answers (or lack thereof at times) to Wes' questions suggest a real evolution in corporate thinking.
As I said in my 2nd comment on Wes' thread:
Ultimately, this is not about ownership.
This is a matter of communication.
Before I share the longer comment I left on Wes' blog explaining what I mean by that comparison, let me re-iterate 2 key things first:
- Wes' approach will ultimately benefit us all.
- I greatly respect Steve H. I also hope he'll step up and talk about the pros/cons -- in an honest manner -- of the how this was all perceived by others before/after the fact. Again, that will benefit us all.
My original comment:
Been mulling a few assumptions and questions in my head since first commenting last night. Here is the big picture of what I’m thinking through:
Ultimately, this is not about ownership. This is a matter of communication.
First, on a very practical level, someone/org needed to organize (Steve H.) or offset the costs of (Pearson?) the use of space, power, equipment, furniture, schedule, planning, et al of the “EduBloggerCon”. No conference/hotel is going to give away any of the above no matter how much “open-source” and “2-way convo” semantics are thrown around by participating bloggers (et al). It would be naive to question any company (such as Pearson) being involved or any person/org (Steve H.) putting it together ahead of time to his/its professional benefit. Bloggers/Teachers may want it to remain a free-sharing atmosphere, but someone’s got to keep the lights on and send out the invites.
Second, anytime an event shifts from a relatively “impromptu” meet-up to an “anticipated” performance due to popularity and Google Juice, the grass roots warm-fuzzies are going to be replaced with a bit of impersonal mechanization in future years. This feeling will be magnified if you have a combo of original evangelists (who helped inspire/legitimize it year one) and anxious newbies (who heard about it virtually the first time around, eager to see it F2F the second time) coming together…as well as the sudden arrival of an corporate outsider.
Given these 2 assumptions/reflections, I can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about. “EduBloggerCon” would NOT even have existed had Steve H. not pulled the organizational levers; likewise, it only makes sense from a professional (yes, teachers: that word has many connotations!) point of view to solidify and off-set the costs of the event through partnership. Anyone that has a problem with lack of warm-fuzzies in v2.0 of “EduBloggerCon” is either waxing nostalgic or naively.
Or maybe not.
As I said above, this is not an issue of ownership.
It is, however, a matter of communication.
Skipping the but-it-doesn’t-feel-good-to-me reactions that any person is allowed to have, there isn’t much value in charging Pearson (directly) or Steve H. (indirectly, although I’m struck by the nearly non-existent conversation by fellow-bloggers/’colleagues’ to request that Steve H. throw his voice into the mix, esp. given any expected/potential/assumed professional/proprietary/financial gain on his part) with tarnishing the nostalgic nature of our collective memory of year one of “EduBloggerCon”.
On the other hand, this is a profound opportunity for talking about communication. Intentions matter little if there aren’t clear statements ahead of time and after the fact. Likewise, legal details, publication promises, competitive leverage, and signed agreements/releases matter little if the very evangelists in question are being talked around (or ignored).
Having listened a second time to Dr. Roberts’ replies to Wes’ questions, I could not help but hear the standard business response (mix defensive marketing posture with standard legal prep) in her answers. There was a great deal of instinctive focus on why Pearson had a right to be there and how it behooves them (as the largest educational publisher on the planet, paraphrasing Dr. Roberts) to pay attention to something like “EduBloggerCon” (hence, why she/Pearson approached Steve H. to get involved/record/edit/publish). On the other hand, there was very little acknowledgment of what the majority of “EduBloggerCon” participants/fans wanted to hear:
“We respect what you’re doing. We’d like your input on how we use/share the recordings we’re making. We understand that traditional business practices may run counter to the spirit of blogger meet-up’s like this…and we want to find a way to learn with/from you. Yes, we need to off-set our investment (time/resources), but we also want to ensure that we remain a legit ‘partner’ in this evolving educational/2-way publication landscape. Oh, by the way [in a nod to Dean S. above], we’d like to offer all participants/audience members a complimentary breakfast and invite anyone interested to participate in a series of discussions and virtual forums over the next year to flesh out some of the most salient ideas. Please let us know if you’d like to be involved. And thank you for letting us join the conversation.”
Or something of that spirit.
I suspect that if anyone listened to the podcast in full (once, twice, more), they’d hear little of that in her literal answers or tone of voice. Likewise, I have a great deal of respect for Wes’s tone/optimism, but I also wonder why the Q’s came across more like underhand softball tosses than honest professional inquiry based on some legitimate concerns by a wide range of participants and distant viewers/listeners alike.
As I hinted at above, I’m also very surprised that Steve H. (a man I respect and have enjoyed F2F time with in the past; a guy who has been consistently weaving together a formal network of educators the world round through a variety of digital tools) has not been asked to a) explain/defend the original contract, b) his communication before/during/after this year’s “EduBloggerCon”, and c) how he’d like Pearson/himself to go forward to maintain everyone’s faith in his/their judgment.
Again, this is not an issue of ownership. It is, however, a real issue of communication.
Claiming, “We have a right because…”, will only alienate. Choosing, instead, to listen and to honestly respond with humility will create fans and allies.
And we’re all better for the 2nd option.
Respectfully, I look forward to this comment thread’s evolution, as well as hearing more from Steve H. and Pearson as time unfolds.