Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All media, all the time, on demand

CreateSpace, the new name of Amazon On Demand, lets you publish and sell books, movies, cds, videos, and dvds (no 8 track tapes, sorry). There are other on demand, do it yourself publishers, such as iUniverse, Xlibris and Lulu.

In related news, Google now allows people in the news to comment on the actual coverage of them.

So if you've got something to say, sing, or show - do it. And if you don't like what others say about it, say something back.

So what for philanthropy? Implications fall into several categories:
  • Information access and credibility
    • Where do you get your information?
    • How do you know whether its trustworthy?

  • Knowledge Sharing
    • What do you do with your information?
    • If you share it, in what medium? Who does that medium reach? Who does it miss?
  • Ownership
    • What information do you own?
    • What information do your grantees and partners own?
    • What does these ownership arrangements mean in terms of use, value, and impact?
  • Professional structures
    • What skills do you need to have to do your job - reading, writing, and Photoshop? Video editing or DVD encoding?
    • How will you interview or meet with people? On YouTube or in SecondLife?
    • If you don't do these things, are you missing something or some groups?
  • Impact
    • Are these do-it-yourself technologies useful to your grantees/partners?
    • What happens to the cost of outreach or publicity? Can dollars be redirected?
  • Meaning
    • Does any of this matter to me or my philanthropy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more that there are some very real implications here for nonprofits! The trends you mention, in the areas of knowledge management, distributed publishing, and community-driven feedback loops, are totally relevant to how we produce, manage and distribute knowledge in the third sector.

I help to co-manage a recently launched electronic publishing forum for nonprofit research called IssueLab. Pretty much the whole reason we exist is to help the sector do a better job of sharing the findings and analysis that we all work so hard to collect. Not only is this body of research incredibly hard to find, but it is also rarely opened up to feedback from other researches, journalists, activists, or funders. An infrastructure like what we see in academic research circles simply doesn't exist for nonprofits. For instance, if you were planning your own research project or considering funding one, how would you do a literature review of existing nonprofit research on a given topic? Would google give you search results that included research done by smaller nonprofits who might not have a great web presence? What about nonprofits who have done great research but aren't in operation any longer?

We recently did a survey on this topic and found that only 20% of respondents make all their research available online. That's pretty amazing. That means that 80% of them have done research that only a small audience will ever access.

But beyond just archiving nonprofit research - it would be great to see the kind of broad distribution, discussion and debate that we see in other online forums/sectors. In the next version of IssueLab we plan to introduce exactly the kinds of feedback loops we have come to expect in more commercial spaces. Users will be able to comment on the usefulness of a given piece of research, or offer feedback on what other research questions are raised by the work.

And in terms of implications for ownership - this is another interesting issue that we are tackling right now at IssueLab. We are looking to develop tools that can help NPs who contribute their work to better understand whether they have rights over their "own research", what those rights are, and more generally encourage them to release their work under a creative commons license that would allow for its reuse, repurposing and wider distrbution. (This is a bigger discussion that I would love to hear NPs take up sometime/somewhere).

There are a million related issues that I could go and on about :) But I think your list of implications is a great place to start. The paradigm shifts we are seeing in online publishing and in community-driven media are going to bear out in a bunch of interesting ways for the third sector - if/when - we engage with them. Thanks for encouraging us all to do so!

Gabi Fitz
IssueLab: bringing nonprofit research into focus