Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Short, modular, and open

Tim O'Reilly, The Connection Between Short, Modular and Open, O'Reilly Radar, January 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...While movie studios were protecting their two-hour movies from redistribution on the net, viewers are forming new habits on new devices [with short YouTube clips]. The medium changes the format in which content is delivered.

I think about this a lot in the context of publishing. The web has put a premium on short-form content, both because it's easier to read in the ADD style that today's interrupt-driven technology is driving us towards, and because it's easier to build collaboratively. This is why some of O'Reilly's most successful new publishing projects...are all built around short-form content.

In this regard, I was interested to see Lawrence Solum make the same observation about legal writing on the web:

This Article analyzes the shift of legal scholarship from the old world of law reviews to today's world of peer reviews to tomorrow's world of open access legal blogs. This shift is occurring in three dimensions. First, legal scholarship is moving from the long form (treatises and law review articles) to the short form (very short articles, blog posts, and online collaborations). Second, a regime of exclusive rights is giving way to a regime of open access. Third, intermediaries (law school editorial boards, peer-reviewed journals) are being supplemented by disintermediated forms (papers on the Internet, blogs). Blogs and internet conversations between academics are expanding interdisciplinary legal scholarship and increasing the avenues of communication among legal scholars, practitioners and a wide array of interested laypersons worldwide.

Solum is particularly insightful to link short form content and increased participation. I long ago noted that one of the under-appreciated elements in the success of open source software projects was their modular design, which is an essential element of what I've elsewhere called an architecture of participation. It's easier for people to collaborate around small chunks, and to build up larger works piece by piece, than it is for them to work together on a large, complex project with many dependencies....