Posted by: networklearning | October 2, 2007

Power-law distribution and openess – Be brave take the jump.

Have you heard of the ‘Power-law distribution’ law, it asserts that 80 percent of productivity within an organisation or company will be done by 20 percent of employees, or in other edu-blogging terms 80 percent of edu-blogging within an educational organisation will be done by 20 percent of edu-bloggers and that’s being incredibly optimistic (80% itself could be quite low output!) Hold that thought.

‘You’ve got to be crazy if you want to start a wiki operation from scratch you have got to have a sustainable community’
Wayne Macintosh Wikieducator

As before with the LMS software, many educational organisations look to invest time and money into in-house systemisation of technology with the vision of staff collaborating and sharing information and creating learning resources with colleagues within the organisation, for example through an in-house installation of a technology such as media-wiki or wordpress blog on their own server.

Fair enough, but is this sustainable? Probably not based on ‘Power-law distribution’.

Why bother with in house software installs? Some valid reasons to…

  • Enable closed environments for privacy
  • Provide storage space
  • Enable protection of IP
  • Protection of staff from the open internet
  • Market courses and service
  • Aggregate staff as part of a learning group
  • Have control off the content and who views it…

As Wayne Mactintosh of Wiki educator alludes in his above statement the reality is it’s hard work, costly and difficult to achieve sustainable community interactions which continually motivate contributions from members.

No matter what technological solution the organisation invests it’s time and money into as per the ‘Power-law distribution’ law they will still be reliant on a limited pool of enthusiastic innovators to develop skills and expertise and share with the rest of the organisation.

Whereby 20% of staff (If your’re lucky) will do the edu-blogging work in addition they will probably want to forgoe the carefully executed in house system and do their own thing using whatever technology they choose to keep up with the ever changing e-learning market. This is a good thing for organisation innovation.

So where is the sustainable profitiable and quality educational solution to the 80:20 problem for the progressive education organisation looking to implement edu-blogging and networked learning systems for their staff?

Support for any of the open learning mediawiki systems such as that have an active community base, contributors and flow of vistors look set to provide a sustainable and business solution for organisation’s that recognise the benefits of taking the road less travelled and systematically going open.

For example, it’s early days but the business oppportunities are out there for the early adopters of which has:

  • 4000 visitors per week and rising (Sep 07)- great organisational branding and marketing opportunities
  • An active communtiy of techies fruther developing the wiki educator platform for free
  • Free hosting of content
  • Anything you add to wiki educator you actually own the copyright, wiki educator doesn’t own the copyright you still retain the copyright and your intellectual property rights
  • Uses Creative Commons Share Alike licence. Which is a good thing because you get to leverage outside contributors innovations within your organisation saving time and money…

In terms of cost effectivess and achieving business objectives systemisating the use of open teaching and learning technologies such as wikipedia and wikieducator for accessing, marketing and developing your organisation’s educational resources under creative commons is a sound business and educational decision.


‘Its all about numbers’
Leigh Blackall – ‘Otago Polytechic

I recommend listening to this recording of Wayne Macintosh’s visit to Otago Polytechnic to discuss all things wiki educator for educational organisations.

Wikieducator and Otago Polytechnic

Currently the Illawarra Institute and Otago Polytechic is looking to implement a trial project with the Tourism and Hospitality Faculty to implement a business and education model using wiki educator (More to follow).

So why bother with time an money on house systems? Obviousily closed in house systems make sense in terms of protecting senstive information, managing aspects of child protection, managing assessment results, creating group learning environments…

From a business point of view will organisations with in house investment in edu-blogging technology enable co-creation co-sharing and co-collaboration on educational resource work in a cost effective profitable AND sustainable manner over a number of years? Maybe if the community members personal relationships are good… but probably not.

If the the vision is for sustainable collaboration and sharing of information within an organisation the future is open and networked using tools such as wiki educator and wikipedia and creative commons licencing networking with the other 20% of innovative edu bloggers from other organisations. Be brave and take the jump to openess.



  1. Good post Sparks. Surprised to see you left out a reference to the real power holder in NSW DET. It would seem that he understands 20% of whatyou are saying, probably because he has been perfectly happy being the 80% non contributor asking the other 20% to “state their business case”. Funny words for a public servant to education…

  2. It’s an old post prior to the DET paradigm shift in thinking to ‘It’s the Internet Stupid’, took a while but the DET lightbulb is flickering.

    I am doing a retrospective of my work over the past three years as part of the RPL process for updating my quals. I am glad I walked the talk and blogged my thoughts working through the underpinning networked learning theories and methods…

    Makes it easier to pull together an eportfolio and relive how clever I woz

    ‘Funny words for a public servant to education…’ did’nt you get the memo? Education is about learning to fullfill your function, if you don’t have a business case, where’s the function?

  3. […] on the open internet was based on removing barriers which seemed quite radical a few years back. Power-law distribution and openess asserts that 80 percent of productivity and collaboration within an organisation will be done by 20 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: