The Knowledge Decentralization Manifesto (The Prolog)
*This is the start of a manifesto.*
*Consider this background reading*
There's an argument I heard brought up by a high level manager at a land grant institution (**cough**) that I've NEVER heard anyone in management make before and it really helped give me hope for the future. They said that while their higher ups would look at a problem and say why are we building what we can just buy; but that as they see it, the real question should be when it's this easy to build, why would you ever buy? (paraphrasing) "It's not even a question of buy, you can't buy this".
## It's not even a question of buy, you can't buy this
I'm happy to say the "this" in question was effecitvely NGDLE based solutions that were being presented as delivered through a certain system I may be rather fond of. (for context: See [ELMS:LN](https://www.elmsln.org/). The _only_ solution projecting to be a NGDLE.).
I recall a conversation with my former boss (ages ago). He said (relative to us rolling out a course need) "Ya but does it scale". To which I countered "If it doesn't is it not worthy of meeting a need?" Let's align these dicotomies. You in the buy crowd. You in the scalability crowd. In the educational technology establishment... Do you really think we need your 10 year old solutions packaged as new to our administration? Do you think, over the long haul (we'll say 2-3 years) that we collectively need you in order to present our ideas online, in the classroom, all around?
What rock do you hide under when we destroy a simple assumed data point: That corporations provide scale and stability that individuals cannot. To build vs buy then, this presumes that the individual is never going to be as powerful as the collective. It seeds control from how things SHOULD be done to teach most effectively to simply what pure capitalism can provide.
## Pure Capitalism to subgigate education
Now, without getting into my incredibly complex political views that no one can figure out (let's keep it that way). I. Heart. Capitalism. Capitalism has pulled countless civilizations and people out of crippling poverty and generated the insane (good and bad) society we have today. However, unfeddered capitalism, especially in regulated spaces (electricity, education, government) is a dangerous thing. When there are no rules or a space does not yet exist; yes, pure capitalism all the way, let's make this a thing. When there are intense rules, regulations, etc; you allow capitalism to consume a market and prevent it from ever escaping an [oligopoly](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oligopoly) (credit to colleague [@nikkimk](https://twitter.com/nikkimk) for enlightening me on this construct).
## Unleashing systemic decentralization
Pointing to some past writings on this topic before starting into a new one (I'm just a better writer now, my soul has not changed):
- [Unification vs Fragmentation of the LMS](https://btopro.wordpress.com/2011/04/) (2011)
- [Envisioning the LMS-less university](https://btopro.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/envisioning-a-lms-less-university/) (2011)
- [The post LMS era: Suite of Tools learning networks](https://btopro.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/the-post-lms-era-suite-of-tools-learning-networks/) (2013)
- [Will you be in business next century?](https://btopro.wordpress.com/2015/07/14/will-you-be-in-business-next-century/) (2015)
- ["Universities can't make software"](https://btopro.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/universities-cant-make-software/) (2017)
- [DDOSA](https://btopro.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/ddosa/) (2017)
So. Why is it that the paradym is about to flip and Buy is being made irrelevant. A few technologies coming together:
- [Web components](https://www.webcomponents.org/)
- [Docker](https://www.docker.com/) / server virtualization
- "[Headless" system developments](http://haxtheweb.org/)
- All of the above being open source (or at least the tools to provision to the cloud are)
## Some leading questions then...
- If you can sustainably* build in a day what you'd take months to buy, does buying make sense?
- If you can create in moments what you can buy in months, why buy?
- If you can improve the quality of life for your workforce through investment in an engaging technology solution to reduce costs and drive up innovation, why would you buy?
- If you will exist as an organization 5 years from now, why buy?
- If you buy solutions, will you *EVER* be able to differenciate in that problem space?
- If you buy solutions, will that motivate or demotivate your workforce?
*sustainabiliy here is something anyone can reuse, have handed to them and work with or learn quickly if a new employee is needed*
So how could this possibly be possible? Solutions in the purely capitalistic space of edtech are produced by massive companies. *we need them or they wouldn't exist*.
## Microsoft word's history
Back in the day of physical stores (LOL I KNOW RIGHT, WTF IS A STORE MILLENIALS!?) you used to go into Babbages and see a large software box on the shelf and say "Hello shop-keep, I would like to partake in some word processing". And the shop-keep would say "here you are, please write a check for $79.95 and you can have your 8 floppy disks to do the install, can I get you a storage case for those after you've done the install?"
So after you bought Word, you could take it home and install for several hours. But eventually, Word, text editors were no longer profittable. You don't have to buy Word in order to get a quality text editor, they are abundant. What happened? #theinternet. Ok no but really, beyond that. What happened is decentralization of a space (huh?). Solutions became so plentiful that big M's flagship became unsustainable to sell on it's own. Users decentralized from a solution space by leveraging a multitude of options. It was no longer feasible for big M to sustain pure capitalist ideals (we made the text editor, you now can enter text and be a business person, har har har) and so the model collapsed.
Wikipedia is a similar example when it comes to Encyclopedia Britanica (print version of the whole damn world's knowledge as currated by like 10 doods probably) or Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM (again, but instead of print slightly more interactive and on CD - Read Only Memory). An open, decentralized production methodology was able to **fundamentally transform and collapse a space**. From this example, I'll go to the lyrics from a song I love by Rise Against (which probably has a CD-ROM some place). It illustrates what point I'm getting at here.
> Voice One: "What are you talking about? America is not going to be destroyed."
> Voice Two: "Never?
> Rome was destroyed
> Greece was destroyed
> Persia was destroyed
> Spain was destroyed.
> All great countries are destroyed.
> Why not yours? How much longer do you really think your own country will last?
This brings me to an excellent article by Laura Gekeler titled [Innovation in the Business of HigherEd](https://lauragekeler.com/2018/03/15/innovation-in-the-business-of-highered/). TLDR; Higher ed talks about innovation but doesn't actually do it and if we continue to only talk, we will collapse under external threats by not being unique anymore.
If we continue down this path we will be like so many past empires laid waste by a lack of transformation. Transform, or be transformed. The next post will be about my plan to transform education in the next few years through intentional application of decentralized solutions and local empowerment. Through decentralization, _we will_ eliminate the need for crony capitalist endpoints in educational institutions (like LMSs) to continue to tie our hands and prevent the innovation we need to survive the coming societal transformation in the transfer of knowledge.