Every now and then we all see this…
The reason we see it, is because we use this resource nearly everyday. No matter how many times we want to complain about students only using Wikipedia, we know that it is an excellent source of information.
Wikipedia and other websites like it, comprise a very valuable set of growing knowledge bases that school communities depend upon. However, how many schools are actually inserting a line-item in their annual budgets that reads, “Open-Source Project Contributions” ?
I would say not many. I know mine does not have any method for inserting a donation to an online resources such as Wikipedia. Every school needs to start embracing and supporting these initiatives- but there is a challenge- the dreaded accountant. We all have one or more of these bean-counters telling us where we can spend our money, and how we can do it.
Even though I feel the best strategy is to replace accountants with robots, which we can easily re-program, I know this is not practical …just yet 🙂 .
So until we can replace accountants with robots, we all need to start looking at any kind of IT reform plan from an accounting standpoint, before we make any proposals. In this case the issue would be getting a line-item added with a checks-and-balance system to send money to the top five open-source projects the community is using.
Now this is not as easy as it sounds. Take the concept of annually sending money to Wikipedia. First , you need to figure the cost of adding additional proprietary databases to the school, and make sure for good measure you include the cost of making them accessible off-campus. Off-campus access is much more expensive and requires static IPs owned by the school.
Then you make a proposal and clearly show that the school has three options:
1. Add databases to the budget that will give the community access to information equal to Wikipedia.
2. Do nothing and hope other people send money to Wikipedia.
3. Make a donation annually, that is documented, and communicate with Wikipedia that you would like to develop a relationship with them that includes access to archives and future off-line versions of the site (which they have according to the book Wikinomics).
When asked how much do you want to donate- take 5% of the cost of the offline subscriptions and use that number. This can be refelected in an accounting report as a 95% cheaper option that comes with a local resource – just in-case one day the Wikipedia closes it’s doors.
The process always needs to include creating a comparison of costs and value, showing what happens if no action is taken, and creating some form of value that can be seen as an asset.
Knowing it is a good idea, and proving mathematically and socially it is a good idea are not the same thing. Not only that, going through this type of process really helps one evaluate the resources used in the community, and the cost of doing things a different way.
There are always Pros and Cons, and often when I start a process like this the outcome is not the result I initially predicted. It usually saves me from making horrible mistakes, and I encourage everyone to start thinking more often from an accounting standpoint.
Yet…I still cannot wait for the robots.