[Welcome to “500 Words”, the section where I share unedited, off-the-cuff musings about—whatever—in 500(ish) word chunks.]

It figures  I would return to Twitter—well, return to paying attention to Twitter—just in time to be hammered with links to Dennis Keohane’s epically shitty piece of click-bait “journalism” AKA “Did LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda just kill the ed tech space?”.

First, the answer: no.

Second, the honest headline: “LinkedIn Buys and I’m Now Going to Dump a  Bunch of Names of Companies and Education Terms Into my Blog Editor and Blather About Them”

Or, maybe: “LinkedIn Purchases; There Continue to be Multiple Companies Streaming Technology Tutorial Videos”

I won’t even try to guess what Keohane’s definition of “ed tech” is because I don’t think he has one. The world where—without a wisp of explanation—video purveyors like Lynda and Pluralsight, MOOCs and MOOC providers, LMS platform companies and significant LMS platform users, and the efforts of publishers that have diversified into scores of other areas, are all lumped together without even a pretense of understanding  or connective tissue isn’t the world I live in.

Even at its most literal, Keohane has it precisely backward. This isn’t big news in educational technology; it is a bit of news in technology education.

But in classic “that does not mean what you think it means” style, the acquisition is fascinating for reasons Keohane completely misses.

First, LinkedIn wasn’t just buying market share in a niche of tech ed, it was buying Lynda’s  users…or, more specifically, the spectral figures composed of those users’ data. In that way it’s not different from the constant acquisitions being made by the aforementioned publishing companies, it just looks different to blindered geeks because suddenly one of the biggest names in the world they are able to see through their technological haze is involved.

And even there Keohane misses the significance. Thus, point two: LinkedIn is different. The very characteristics that make it laughable as a social network of the Facebook kind make it interesting in this context. For all the data that Facebook has about its users and their habits, and for all its sometimes creepy methods of obtaining and using that data, when it comes to the world of education, credentialing and online learning—that turbulent and chaotic environment where shit is seriously going down right now—LinkedIn is a wholly different animal. LinkedIn isn’t just a big market, it’s a gigantic database with a social veneer. Where Facebook’s data is traditionally social, LinkedIn’s is significantly professional. Where Facebook’s data is mostly derived/intuitive, LinkedIn’s is structured. And all this not merely because of LinkedIn’s different purpose, but because its users are inherently motivated to enter and keep up to date the kind of professional data that Facebook (not to mention universities and other educational institutions and providers) can only dream of. We’re talking granular, current, accurate data that LinkedIn doesn’t have to intuit, sneak, cajole or buy…now potentially combined with the specifics of individuals’ goals, paths, achievements and professional networks. Even in the relatively limited areas focuses on, this could bring into sights a whole new consumer animal.

What will be interesting is seeing where LinkedIn goes from here. Will it go for the big game (no higher education institution feels threatened by, the interstitial space where MOOCs, for all their sound and fury, have signified much but changed almost nothing?

Sparks: Play and Constraints (David Kernohan)

David Kernohan on gamification and creative constraints:

for me, the negative experiences of game-ification come when the creativity of the arbitrator is not up to the task of responding and adapting to the creativity of the game player in ways that foster rather than restrict.


In open education (yes, I got there in the end) we are at something of a crossroads: where we are agreeing on constraints (what is open? where is open? how can we find open?). Those arguing for space to play are often seen as “unrealistic”, those arguing for rule structures to direct creativity are seen as “dictatorial”.

The simple truth is that we need both, and we need to recognise that. We need rules and requirements, but we need to be flexible enough to change as the world changes.

Paparazzi is Ultra-Handy

Screenshot of Paparazzi

Paparazzi is a super-handy little application that takes screenshots of web pages. Not the window of your browser, but the whole page, including those very long ones that you’d otherwise have to laboriously recreate with multiple, stitched images.

With Paparazzi, you enter the URL (it uses Safari so it can access sites that you have to login to), click a button, and choose what to do with the image (save, share, etc). No fuss, no muss.

Fair Use is Good Company Too

Fair Use Has A Posse

A few days ago, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska affirmed that David Adjmi’s play 3C was a legal parody of the Three’s Company television series. Preska made this decision based on a solid interpretation of the intention of copyright and the four factors.

I’m sharing this not just because it is a good ruling that supports fair use, but because Preska has some fine writing in her ruling.

About copyright in general, Preska notes that it favors neither “side” in general. Copyright, she writes:

“is designed to foster creativity. It does so by, in effect, managing monopolies in knowledge: granting one in original work to reward its creator, but ensuring it is limited, temporary, and does not operate as a moratorium on certain ideas. The law is agnostic between creators and infringers, favoring only creativity and the harvest of knowledge”

She describes how Adjimi’s play transforms the source materials:

Three’s Company’s sunny 1970s Santa Monica into an upside-down, dark version of itself. DLT might not like the transformation, but it is a transformation nonetheless.”

But she also notes, quoting the Supreme Court, that the 2nd factor isn’t “ever likely to help much in separating the fair use sheep from the infringing goats in a parody case.” So she cogently goes through the rest…without losing her own sense of humor.

The best bit is her writing on the fourth factor—effect on profits, real and potential—where Preska writes:

“Indeed, 3C appears to be intended for those who enjoy other of Adjmi’s ‘hard-edged,’ plays; and the Court is quite sure that a viewing of Three’s Company does not require one’s therapist. In light of the Court’s review of 3C and Three’s Company, and contemporary reviews of the production, 3C is not a potential market substitution for Three’s Company.”