Saving the World from Failed Sharing?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve given away more content than I’ve protected.

Check my Flickrstream and you’ll find 117 pretty slick images that you can use in your presentations tomorrow.  Check my presentation collection and you’ll find comprehensive resource pages for 31 different workshops.  And check the Radical Archives and you’ll find over 800 posts that are bound to challenge your thinking.

With few exceptions, that content — lesson plans, professional development activities, images, and ideas — is just about as free as it can be to anyone who stumbles across it.  That’s because I believe that sharing makes everyone stronger.

When I protect my content, I can’t get your feedback on the work that drives me.  Worse yet, when I protect my content, I disrespect the impact that the thinking of others has had on who I am.  Having been shaped by peers who have freely shared with me, I see my efforts to give back as a digital responsibility.  To borrow without sharing is fundamentally selfish, right?

In a lot of ways, that attitude makes me a Creative Commons success story.  After all, cofounder James Boyle DOES argue that the Creative Commons was “designed to save the world from failed sharing.”  By making it easier for content creators to give others permission to use their original works, the Creative Commons has removed traditional barriers associated with Copyright restrictions.  To put it more simply, that means you can use the content that I share under CC licenses without having to track me down and ask me in advance.

But despite the best intentions of the Creative Commons, we’re still surrounded by examples of failed sharing.

Take this image, for example:

It’s the most popular thing that I’ve ever created.  It’s been viewed 26,000 times on Flickr alone and every time it shows up in my Twitterstream — which probably happens 3-5 times a week — it’s retweeted and favorited again and again.

It has also turned up in countless workshops and webinars.  Presenters dig the conversations that the image makes possible and are jazzed to use it to force people to rethink the role that technology should be playing in their schools and districts.  At one popular #edtech conference this year, I had a buddy tell me that the image was used in three of the eight sessions he attended.  He was actually sick of seeing it!

It even showed up in a session that I attended last year — which was a really weird experience for me!  

What made the experience even weirder was that the presenter did nothing to identify the creator of the slide.  Some friends who knew I had made the image were indignant on my behalf.  I think they wanted me to confront the guy to protect my content.  “Getting credit” was something that they believed I deserved — particularly because they knew I was in the session.

My first reaction was to look inward, though.  “Maybe if I’d put my name on the freaking image, I’d get the credit y’all think I deserve!” I said.  

And there’s truth in that reaction.  In a digital world where content can be shared and replicated quickly and easily, we have to do a better job identifying our original work IF getting credit is something that matters to us.  My mistake as a creator was failing to place any kind of identifying information on the image and then sharing it out through Twitter — a place where the originators of ideas are quickly lost in an ever-changing stream of 140 character messages.

But I’ll admit that I was more than a little miffed at the presenter.  

It’s not that I wanted to be publicly celebrated.  In fact, getting credit was the last thing on my mind.  After all, the ideas shared on my slide are nothing more than a tangible expression of the collective intelligence of dozens of influential people who have pushed my thinking around technology over the past ten years.  If anything, THEY deserve the credit for getting ME to the point where I could create that image.

What bothered me was that the presenter did nothing to indicate that HE wasn’t the creator of the slide.  He just presented it, used it to start conversation, argued passionately about how important it was that we focus on the learning opportunities that technology makes possible, and then moved on.

 That’s failed sharing — and it’s something that I think we’re ALL becoming increasingly guilty of.  

Because we live in a world where anytime/anyplace access to content is just a click away, we’ve stopped valuing the contributions of creators.  Stumbling across amazing work — whether it’s a stunning image, a remarkable lesson plan, or a terrific idea expressed eloquently in words — has almost become mundane.  Content that we would have once happily paid for is now just another message in our feeds.

Easy access to double doses of awesome has caused us to forget that the creators of the content that we are using deserve to be valued.  That leaves me worried simply because failing to intentionally and openly value the people who move us will stifle the desire to create and to share and inadvertently cripple the vibrancy of the intellectual spaces that we’ve embraced.

For me, this all means that  I’m going to work to give credit every time, all the time. 

If I can clearly track an idea that I’m wrestling with back to an individual, you are going to know about it.  If an idea that I’m wrestling with has been influenced by a bunch of people, you are going to know about it.  If I have no clue who originated an idea that I’m wrestling with because I lost their name in the Twitterstream, you are going to at least know that my thinking was nudged by someone who willingly shared and that I’m thankful for their contribution to who I am as a learner.

Any of this make sense?

(PS: My buddy Michelle Baldwin was writing about this stuff not long ago.  Check her post out here.)

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Related Radical Reads:

Creative Commons Resources for Classroom Teachers

What Do YOU Know About the Creative Commons?

Looking for a New Slide to Share?  Try These.

 

 

 

10 thoughts on “Saving the World from Failed Sharing?

  1. DANIEL T. POLLITT

    Thanks Bill. I actually Tweeted @ you last week about this very image and using it. I’m a former classroom teacher and recently completed my PhD work using iPads in my classroom. I wanted to use your image in a white paper discussion technology implications and iPad usage–and my university writing center was very helpful in giving pointers on Twitter, Facebook, etc., and social media fair use and citation recommendations. I summarized some of their recommendations here:

    http://dtpollitt.blogspot.com/2014/03/how-to-cite-social-media.html

    Thanks for all your work, Bill!

    Dan

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Hey Dan,

      First, sorry that I missed your Tweet! Sometimes I get lost in the stream — and other times I turn it off completely!

      You are more than welcome to use the image as long as you cite me as the creator!

      And looking forward to checking out your post. Everyone could use a bit more training in how to cite content found in social spaces.

      Rock right on,
      Bill

  2. Pingback: What I’m Learning: Failed Sharing is a Thing. | Learning is Change

  3. melbee1673Mel

    I have always felt strongly about acknowledging people for the work they do, and even so have been guilty of attributing things to the wrong people. I think it’s really important that we do find ways to easily (and permanently) identify our work. Creative Commons licences are good, but they are rarely attached to the work, more likely displayed on the page where the work is made available. When there are so many people out there that just save the image directly from the page (or worse – from the Google search results), the license and the original creator quickly become forgotten. And unless someone takes the time to track down the original author, mistakes like the one you mention above are going to become more likely.

    The other thing that I’d observe is that it’s going to take a big cultural shift. I convene an Educational Technology unit for pre-service teachers and a significant theme of the course is the appropriating and remixing of other people’s work. I’ve noticed that there seems to be a fairly universal attitude that ‘I can take whatever I want from the internet’. I work hard to develop understanding of Creative Commons and the need to carefully cite all references, but am often met with the attitude: ‘it’s just education, can’t we just do whatever’? My answer is always an emphatic NO! As educators we are duty-bound to model best practice, and this includes the use of other people’s ideas and works. Still, with many of my students (and my peers) accustomed to torrent sharing and the good old right click/save routine, I think it’s going to be difficult to make this approach a mainstream one!

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Mellie Bee wrote:

      When there are so many people out there that just save the image directly from the page (or worse – from the Google search results), the license and the original creator quickly become forgotten.

      ——————–

      First, great comment Mellie Bee.

      I wonder if the default setting on Google Image searches should be for content that is licensed CC-A only? Maybe Google is part of the problem because the default setting for image searches is to return everything unsorted. If content that was freely available came back first and copyrighted content was hidden by default, wouldn’t that make it easier for users to use things fairly?

      Bill

      1. Mel

        That’s not a bad idea. I dunno if Google will go for it though!
        I’ve always tried to get the kids and the teachers I work with to do a Creative Commons search, but it’s not as easy…

  4. Chris Jakicic

    Great post, Bill. I have been guilty of this in the past and am really working hard to cite sources and credit ideas. I find it amazing to go back into the primary research documents and see what the actual study results were! I, too, sometimes see “my stuff” being used by others. I’ve consciously made a decision that anything that helps others get better at this difficult work of teaching is a good thing! I think, however, what Ali said about context is what’s bothered me in the past. I might have a slide with an example of what NOT to do and– not having heard me speak– someone uses it as an example of what to do. I like the free reproducibles ST includes with our books because I know that these are the “right stuff.”

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Chris wrote:

      I think, however, what Ali said about context is what’s bothered me in the past. I might have a slide with an example of what NOT to do and– not having heard me speak– someone uses it as an example of what to do.

      ——————-
      This has been an a-ha for me in this conversation Chris. Not only do we owe creators attribution for the work that we borrow, we must also guarantee that we are not misrepresenting their original thinking in our mashups. Context does matter — and clarifying context when we use someone else’s thinking is our responsibility.

      Bill

  5. Ali Collins

    What you say here I really important. It’s not just about “owning” content or getting paid. The creator of content also provides context for what’s vein shared. You are an educator and your experience informs what you create. It is gettin commonplace for people to take what others say on Twitter and our social media platforms and repost it, often without permission and devoid of context. This can even be harmful in some situations. I like that I has become easier to share, and agree with you that that this ease requires us to more diligent in crediting the creators if what we share. Thanks again for gettin me thinking!

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Ali wrote:

      It is gettin commonplace for people to take what others say on Twitter and our social media platforms and repost it, often without permission and devoid of context. This can even be harmful in some situations.

      ———————–

      This is another good twist on the conversation, Ali. Not only do we owe creators credit for the thinking that moves us, we owe them the respect that comes along with sharing their content in the right context. When we intentionally decontextualize the content that we share in an attempt to make a different point, we weaken the trust that sharing depends on.

      This is about strengthening a culture of sharing — and that can only be done when we intentionally respect the people who are giving their content and ideas away.

      It’s a fun conversation, that’s for sure…
      Bill

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