Another can of worms

Following on from my post on intellectual property last week, a few of the comments made threw up yet another can of worms.

Blogs, particularly, but other types of social media can have an enormous amount of time invested in them. Some people I know pretty much dedicate most of their spare time to blogging and as a result, their blogs are something that if we could value, would be worth a substantial amount of money. Some people have secured jobs as a result of their excellent social media presence. Others have been asked to write books. Some people develop a lucrative speaking career. Some go on to have careers in media. All based on their blogs.

So what happens to the blog if there is a divorce? Is it like other items of value and forms part of the settlement? Here is Australia, a general rule is that assets are divided 50/50 before children are taken into account. If a blog can be valued (and I know there are sites around that place a dollar value on the number of posts, hits, comments, etc) can it and should it form part of a settlement? Could you or should you have to buy out 50% of your partner’s share of your blog? What if you couldn’t afford that? What if they claimed half of the blog was theirs? If they cooked dinner every night while you blogged away and if the blog has such value, they might well have a try.

It’s all a bit of a nightmare.

The comments last week particularly focused on blogs and social media accounts being left in a will; URLs, usernames and passwords being recorded so that access to them could continue after the blogger departed. Again, some blogs could be of significant value and if they were bequeathed, what would be the result? Could a beneficiary sell the blog if they couldn’t/wouldn’t continue the work? What if the blog wasn’t mentioned in a will? Lots of people don’t even have a will, let alone think of adding something intangible like a blog. Would beneficiaries take the matter to court if there was a dispute over the bequeathing of the blog?

As mentioned in last week’s post, the use of social media has outstripped some of the understandings we’ve had as a society for many years. We need to start talking about some of these issues to help develop procedures for such instances.

Intellectual property: a word of warning

Almost two years ago I went to a DEECD inservice, where intellectual property was discussed. A presenter outlined that if we developed work at school, using school time and school resources (such as a computer) then the intellectual property belonged to the school. Initially, for about two seconds, I was shocked. But it all made sense really quickly, that’s why we get paid, to essentially sell our souls.

People who work for, say, Lego or Greenseas Tuna and develop a new line of toys or flavoured tuna don’t actually expect to be paid over and above the work they’re paid to do. They’ve been employed to develop these new lines and by doing so, they are fulfilling their role at work.

So if you work in your own time and use school resources, some of the work belongs to you and some to the school. How on earth would you ever work out who owns what in that instance? I guess you’d have to hope that there is never an issue arising with such work.

Taking the DEECD advice into account, it then follows that if you tweet, Facebook or develop blogs, wikis, etc. in work time using work resources, this actually belongs to your workplace. If you leave your workplace for another sector, you may actually be required to give up some or all of the examples above. Makes you think, doesn’t it? Almost panic, in fact.

What of people who kindly share their work, developed at school, but don’t attribute it to their workplace but just to themselves? What of people who sell such work on Scribd?

So what about if you do work in your own time, with your own resources, but make a wiki, for example, with your school name and/or logo on it? Expect that you might need to fight for it. I know of a friend who did all her work in her own time, using her own resources and no links whatsoever to her workplace and her school STILL tried to take it away from her when she moved on.

Some of these scenarios are nightmarish, so it could be useful to ensure that they are covered in the school or workplace social media policy. As the pace of technology outstrips policy and legislation, it may pay you and your workplace to be ahead of the game to ensure no nasty surprises down the track.

Too much noise? How many is too many to follow?

It has been wonderful to see the number of educators getting around to joining Twitter, getting a blog happening, etc. After all, that’s what we want isn’t it, to have educators connected globally, being able to collaborate and learn from each other?

I know that personally I have learned more from teachers on Twitter in the past (almost) two years than I had from any other avenue in my whole 20 odd years of teaching.

But when is too much really too much? Following 1500 or so people on Twitter is stimulating and invigorating as well as one of the fastest and best ways to keep up to date with educational demands and developments. But I’ve been mulling over the idea for a while that I probably got more out of Twitter when I was only following 500 people. Lately I am finding a lot of “noise” (don’t worry, I know I contribute to it too) where people who only joined Twitter for work purposes now include personal tweets. I am finding that many of the gems I used to find are lost amongst the noise. And I can’t keep following people at the rate I have been. But how do I decide who to unfollow? It seems very unfair to dump any of my Twitter buddies.

The same goes for following blogs. Now that just about everyone is a blogger, who do we follow? How many is too many? Do we subscribe to lots and read very few? Do we cull madly and only follow the very best educators on the planet and actually read their entire posts? Who decides who the best people are?

I’ve come to the conclusion that 10-20 blogs is the most that I can follow properly. And by that I mean read entire posts, think about what has been written and how it might affect my educational practice.

What’s the use of “reading” hundreds of blogs that I just skim and then leap onto the next one, on my quest to get my Google Reader below 20 unread items? I feel that this is what I’ve been doing lately and obviously there’s no way we can follow everyone we’d like or want to, without doing ourselves (not to even mention our families) and our creativity a great disservice.

Now that we’re all writing, who is going to do the reading? Does it matter if our words go unread? Sometimes it does and there’s nothing like getting feedback through comments, but being able to blog and think about and work through issues while we write is the best reason for me to blog, even if no one reads my posts.

Would love to hear from anyone else feeling the same way.