The UMass Amherst ICT Summit

When you’re asked to open an event and the previous year’s special guest was none other than Nolan Bushnell, well, you don’t say no. Attending the summit was a rare privilege – an opportunity to spend the day in an intimate setting surrounded by educators, students and open content experts. The summit was videotaped and the footage should be published soon, so I’ll keep my comments brief and let the speakers speak for themselves.

Among the many great folks I met during my day in Amherst, I shared the first panel with two amazing speakers, Kate James and Charlie Schweik. Kate’s the Senior Manager for User Experience for MIT’s OpenCourseWare offering, and hearing from her about all the behind the scenes legwork that goes into making MIT’s knowledge available to the world was both humbling and inspiring. It was also a wonderful reminder about the successes we find in failure; MIT’s decision to open their course materials was, according to Kate, due to internal analysis that MIT had missed the market window for monetizing online courses. Today, the site sees traffic from virtually every country and more than one million visits per month, almost half of them self-learners. Check out the OCW Site Statistics for more fun facts or this article in Science on MIT’s decision to undertake the OCW initiative.

Though I’d exchanged emails with him, I’d not met Professor Schweik prior to the summit. His approach to analyzing the ebbs and flows of open source communities is best described in the abstract for his forthcoming book, which I am greatly looking forward to reading. This paper is also of interest, and is a great introduction to Professor Schweik’s approach and methodology.

My thanks to the UMass ICT Summit team for inviting me to speak, particularly to Professor Patricia Galvis-Assmus, Director of the IT Program. My thanks also to Dennis Spencer of the IT Department. I’ve never been to a conference where I was treated to a collaboration song, and it’s a fond memory. I hope next year they’ll make a move towards even greater collaboration via karaoke.

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