I made this acronym about a year ago now after doing some analysis / thinking as it regarded sources for my master’s research paper. For whatever reason the idea has come back into my brain under a different banner…

TLDR; People can mirror what systems do to attack “problems”. Systems can be setup by hackers to do DDOS (distributed denial of service) in which traffic is flooded against a target, knocking it offline. I point to examples like Occupy Wall street / Arab Spring where people demonstrate this is possible in real life as well through non-compliance with social norms. I called this DDOSA or Distributed Denial of Systemic Authority.

The OER social model

Thinking on OER and OER-lite solutions, I see DDOSA as almost a reverse funnel; people systematically and intentionally unplug from previous workflows in order to disrupt through exclusion (the reverse of overwhelm by occupying a space is to disperse from a space). Done effectively, the DDOSA effect can also take place within peer to peer networks (which really, any good social movement is just a lot of these but with financial backing to hit scale at times). In this case, faculty get together informally and reject traditional publishing models.

Through exclusion, they reject the financial norms attached with content and reject notions that authority provided by publishing models is some how lesser then self-publishing. If only universities would recognize this as part of the tenure process… oh wait, they are starting to! Can we achieve this in other spaces? Like, oh I dono, platform centric spaces as well?

As a platform developer with a passion toward one of my university’s missions to transform education, I see DDOSA as particularly useful concept for approaching problems in the textbook and interactive media production spaces. Interactive media, like textbook publishing of olden-times, had traditionally been difficult to create, manage and maintain. So when those three get together, talk about a party!

A recipe for infinite vendor success

  1. Find a difficult UX problem (where difficult is only unique to education’s demands of adopting incredibly piss poor solutions historically)
  2. Form a company that has really awesome marketing, so much marketing that you can really trust that they know what they are talking about, even years after all the actual innovative people have left for greener pastures after the VCs and the marketing department took over. Who knows, maybe even use Twitter Bootstrap as your design framework and Facebook’s React for your application development. Talk up how impressive you design expertise is; I mean hell, you just took these two AMAZING frameworks and smashed them together so pat yourself on the back yo!
  3. Provide LTI integration, because this allows you the ability to either not extend the usefulness of your product fully OR entangle your client in potentially hundreds of micro-contracts that they will never be able to migrate off of. WINNING!
  4. Mark the code open source, even though your company authors 99% of the code base and doesn’t have a community driving development beyond support forums (I mean, PURELY hypothetically)
  5. Draw from a seemingly infinite well of university level RFPs from CIOs that call for the previous 3 requirements to be met, simple ways of explaining these complex problems, and then an organizational context steeped in tradition that makes everyone believe they need these products int he first place to be successful (I mean it was on hacker news and the Today Show, it must be good!)
  6. After establishment; put forth almost no effort knowing yes, you have “solved” a problem for education and done almost nothing to automate the deployment of this “solution” to 1000s of institutions thanks to the miracle that is entirely open source, F’ING FREE, automation, programming, server, and front-end technologies then funnel these “innovations” out through LTI, allowing the RFP process to be streamlined (hash tag #thanksDrChuck!)  *</end-snark>*

Another way out

But what if there was another out? (spoiler: there’s always another way out). What if we leveraged a technology and released the code for it in such a way that it couldn’t be put back in the bottle (aka behind endless paywalls and SaaS solutions that ride the same bare metal AWS instances that open ansible scripts loaded into jenkins servers could handle without humans…). What would such a solution look like? What happens when education leaves the technologies we provide behind? What if we encouraged faculty to abandon the solutions we’ve held to for so many years? What greater success stories would we write.

A recipe for infinite student success

  1. Treat existing vendor based implementations as base line, starting point, and legacy. Craft a support team and directive around sustainment and gathering of requirements for the innovation team. As Troy Martin, enterprise architect @ BYU told me: I tell vendors that we are the lego grid and they are the bricks, not the other way around. They can play on that grid, but ultimately, they are just building blocks.
  2. Form a crack development and innovation initiative. The entire goal of this group is to transform the processes of the existing organization. Disrupt one’s self or be disrupted.
  3. Release everything produced under GPLv2, MIT, BSD 3 Clause and other open licenses that can be repackaged and utilized by other platforms. Through open contributions that can be repurposed across communities, we can eliminate the current market place formation. Remember, divest from existing spaces in order to funnel dollars away from existing spaces into new areas of innovation and research. Your small changes in behavior and activism to encourage others to do so as well have lasting network affects on the organizations you divest from (and your own as you invest in your own future).
  4. Standardize all front end development practices on web components. I can’t stress this enough. If you remember one thing from this entire thing, it’s that what we’re doing with LRNWebComponents will be transformative for education long term because of the mindset. We are liberating our application layers of back end systems and making a pedagogically informed HTML specification that all major browsers can read nativelyI’ve been blogging a ton about this recently, here’s the latest in case you want to see the most recent insane thing we did (insane always relative to time investment to produce).
  5. Build your technology around the pedagogy, not the other way around. Take an instruction and instructor first approach to development and technology production. Don’t just select products; embed your team in classrooms and analyze what’s working in that context; then prototype around that. (I know a certain platform that’s been used successfully to do this at scale for years at a certain land grant institution….)

By encouraging faculty to utilize new, different, faculty-centric, and decentralized approaches from the norm; we can better explore what new norms we have yet to forge. What ways work better, or worse, or somewhere in between. By having a prototyping arm you also set yourself up for future success because you will always have noodle-y problems not being addressed or met with “we just don’t have the resources to attempt that” all over the place.

Imagine what world we will build when we all play on innovation’s team instead of who got the most users to implement X vendor product. What technology will we dream up when dreaming is faster, freer, sustainable, secure, and well designed ByDefault.

Then stand up, and help build the revolution.


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