Sunday, March 29, 2009

Public or Public Facing? #jiscri

WriteToReply I've been chatting to Joss Winn on Twitter about his JISCRI bid, WriteToReply: Supporting Document Based Public Consultations on the Web. The conversation arose from my failure to grasp the purpose of the JISCRI BuddyPress site, (see Writing in Public Spaces).

It's hard to make an intellectual case against open access these days, but open access is concerned with the publication of what are essentially finished products. Open development of ideas is a much more challenging concept for most people (paralleled in the open science debate). While I think Joss' bid to develop WriteToReply is admirable in principle and worthy of JISC support (if JISC was a democracy, he'd have my vote ;-), I'm stumbling over the practicalities of developing competitive bids in public.

Last week someone commented on the culture of openness at UoL. We raised a wry smile and pointed out that the group of us who choose to engage with public channels such as blogs and Twitter are very much a minority, and the jury is still out as to whether this will be a beneficial career move :-)

The reality is that we carefully self-edit our public-facing personas. We constantly fight our Twitterette syndrome tendency to say exactly what we think of our students, our colleagues and our senior managers, because that's as undesirable as Tourette's itself. But when we're stumbling towards the formation of an idea or a bid, the problem is more complex, for we are in competition with others for the same inadequate resource pot. How do we establish priority of ideas and prevent intellectual plagiarism?

Joss thinks there should be two stages of bid marking, once by the community before submission and finally by referees after submission. Sounds dangerously close to democracy to me:
majority rule is often described as a characteristic feature of democracy, but without responsible government it is possible for the rights of a minority to be abused by the tyranny of the majority
Remember that in the Greek city states democracy was for the citizens - the slaves didn't vote. What if my owner decides my ideas are theirs? Who gets the money? Who does the work?