If you’ve been involved in the open Connectivism and Connective Knowledge courses, you’ve likely heard Stephen and I rant on some variation of “the knowledge is in the connections” or “the knowledge is the connections”. This principle applies not only to knowledge growth, but also to organizational value networks, social networks, underpins the concept of the semantic web, and so on. Connections matter – they change the impact and attributes of the entities they connect.
Companies realize this. Each new connection or connection-format that is under the control of an organization increases the value for the end user. Something as simple as the system wide clip-board for copying and pasting between applications adds huge value to the end user of a system (those that don’t recall how liberating this feature was when introduced in Windows likely had a similar sense of “woo hoo” when iOS added copy/paste functionality). Being able to mashup real estate data with Google maps generates more value than each element does alone. OpenStreetMap demonstrated the importance of connecting maps with user contributions in Haiti.
In CCK11, our discussion this week has been on personal learning environments and networks. Toward the end of our facilitator session today, Stephen and I were talking about new models of “lock-in”. Microsoft, with it’s Windows and Office platforms, was technically able to lock-in users and lock-out competitors. With the open web, companies are finding it extremely difficult to lock-in customers. Data flows fairly smoothly from one system to the next with API’s and import scripts. What’s a company to do??
Well, the obvious answer is to seek lock-in around something that can’t be readily moved – not for technological reasons, but for sociological ones. Facebook does this extremely well as it
pollutes with its “like” feature and “Connect with Facebook” services. Consider the inclusion of “friend’s likes” into Bing searches: “With the like button now in place on more than 2.5 million websites, Facebook’s open graph is now at the scale where we’d expect Bing’s integration to start having a meaningful impact on search results.”
This is a different type of lock-in than what we’ve experienced in the past and one that produced two new concepts in our CCK11 meeting today (recording is available here – scroll down for Feb 25 session):
Social lock-in – where we are reluctant to move to new social networks because all of our friends/colleagues are part of our current social network service. When Twitter was experiencing downtime issues a few years ago, some individuals moved to Plurk, Identi.ca, or other services. But, in the end, the social lock-in of Twitter was sufficient to pull many back. We’re experiencing this to some degree in our work/research building a social learning network at Athabasca University – The Landing. If learners have a developed online identity and use proprietary services like Facebook and Twitter, what’s the motivation to create a separate social network within a learning context?
Connective lock-in – where we have lost control of our ability to define and shape connections because the proprietary connection tools ((Like, Facebook Connect, Twitter) are so ubiquitous and services (Delicious, EverNote, DropBox) are so easy to use.
As Stephen noted in our discussion, we should have control of our own connections. We shouldn’t offload the knowledge that exists in our connections to a mediating software service that then mines those connections to generate economic value. An important part of PLE/Ns is giving individuals the skills and technology to control our connections. And in the process, own our own knowledge. Unfortunately, open connection-forming protocols that allow us to connect with others and share content are not as developed as the Facebook Connect/Twitter models. This is an important topic that needs more discussion in relation to personal learning environments/networks and education.