About

Member of the Board of the Polish Linux Users Group. Human rights in digital era hacktivist, Free Software advocate, privacy and anonimity evangelist; expert volunteer to the Panoptykon Foundation; co-organizer of SocHack social hackathons; charter member of the Warsaw Hackerspace; and Telecomix co-operator; biker, sailor.

Formerly President of the Board of the Polish Free and Open Source Software Foundation; CTO of BRAMA Mobile Technologies Laboratory on Warsaw University of Technology and a student at Philosophy Institute on Warsaw University.

Table of Contents

languages:
02.07.2016Dzień, w którym cenzura Sieci w Polsce stała się faktem pl 152 13.04.2015Needless haystacks en 151 12.03.2015e-Dockleracje pl 150 19.01.2015Ban on encryption is not about banning encryption en 149 13.01.2015Not Free as in Beer en pl 148 30.12.2014GPG Key Transition en pl 147 18.12.2014Siła wyższa pl 146 04.12.2014Internet in Poland to be porn-free after all? en pl 145 27.11.2014Block everything! en pl 144 02.11.2014Introducing: rysiek's law of unavoidable consequences en pl 143 09.09.2014Stop paedophilia en pl 142 22.06.2014Even with EME, Mozilla will become "the browser that can't" en 141 21.06.2014EuroDIG 2014 en pl 140 19.06.2014Hacker in the Digital Affairs Council en pl 139 30.05.2014Public consultations and anonymity en pl 138 18.05.2014Why being a pirate is not worth it en pl 137 15.05.2014On Mozilla, DRM and irrelevance en pl 136 14.05.2014Not-quite-good-enough-Mundial en 135 12.04.2014Irresponsible non-disclosure en pl 134 29.03.2014Ecologic, Ford and surveillance en pl 133 15.03.2014Otwórzmy edukację pl 132 10.03.2014Blurry line between private service and public infrastructure en 131 08.03.2014IM IN UR MINISTRY, CONSULTING UR INTERNETZ en pl 130 17.02.2014Encrypted VoIP that works en pl 129 11.02.2014So you want to censor the Internet... en pl 128 02.02.2014This is why we can't have nice IRC en 127 31.01.2014Decentralize where your mouth is en pl 126 30.01.2014A link cannot be illegal en pl 125 30.01.2014Copyright reform debate lives on en pl 124 26.01.2014Neat HaCSS, or let's de-JS the Web a bit en 123 27.12.2013Information Account Number en 122 14.12.2013HaIPu en 121 20.11.2013Friends of TTIP and data protection in Brussels en 120 19.11.2013Social media, Polish Pirates style en pl 119 05.11.2013A rude comment en 118 20.10.2013TEDx Warsaw Women and privacy en pl 117 03.10.2013Copyreform at CopyCamp 2013 en pl 116 22.09.2013Long-expected KMail2 rant en 115 18.09.2013Facebook for schools en 114 12.09.2013In which I call upon United Poland parliamentarians to guarantee citizens the right to Internet free of surveillance en pl 113 08.09.2013Complaintivism en 112 04.09.2013It's his own fault en pl 111 19.08.2013Lies, damn lies, and analytics en pl 110 27.07.2013Shortest Internet censorship debate ever en pl 109 22.07.2013How information sharing uproots conservative business models en es 108 22.07.2013Posts' markup is now available en pl 107 11.07.2013Kultura wolna i legalna pl 106 07.06.2013Internet is not a problem en pl 105 05.06.2013Libel Culture en 104 17.05.2013Wojtuś Fatalista i wolność w Internecie pl 102 17.05.2013Why I find -ND unnecessary and harmful en es pl 101 28.03.2013Wolność nasza codzienna pl 100 17.03.2013Nie wszystko korpo co o wolności w Internecie pl 99 15.03.2013♫ Odpowiadam na e-maile ♫ pl 98 11.02.2013One year anniversary of Anti-ACTA en pl 97 30.01.2013Nie ma haka na słabe dziennikarstwo? pl 96 30.01.2013Fighting Black PR around OER en pl 95 29.01.2013HOWTO: effectively argue against Internet censorship ideas en pl 94 20.11.2012Border conditions for preserving subjectivity in the digital era en pl 93 19.11.2012Social blogosphere en pl 92 07.11.2012Embrace fragmentation en pl 91 02.11.2012SERVICES.TXT en pl 90 24.10.2012Apple finally jumped the shark en es 89 24.09.2012Breaking the garden walls en es pl 88 24.09.2012Minister i Kultura pl 87 24.09.2012Melbourne CryptoParty video message en 86 16.09.2012On sailor's sensitivity, or "the starry heavens above me" en pl 85 22.08.2012Black PR around Polish e-Textbooks en pl 84 15.08.2012Regaty utracone pl 83 24.07.2012Hypochristian Love en 82 24.07.2012Some new Layout Goodness en pl 81 17.07.2012Party 2.0 en pl 80 16.07.2012Prawo autorskie po ACTA pl 79 13.07.2012Party as a system hack en pl 78 10.06.2012Are corporations dangerous only in collusion with governments? en 77 09.06.2012Proxies! Proxies everywhere! en 76 05.06.2012Automagic re-publishing from Twitter to StatusNet en pl 75 18.05.2012TPSA/Orange and GIMP, or a word on 5 users en pl 74 16.05.2012Słowo o Warsztatach MAiC pl 73 15.04.2012Schowaj gadżeta pl 72 05.04.2012Perfect ToDo-oid en 71 27.03.2012Subjectively on Anti-ACTA in Poland en pl 70 25.03.2012On copyright in Budapest en pl 69 23.03.2012Kościoła poczucie odpowiedzialności pl 68 20.03.2012Learning to Internet en pl 67 19.03.2012Kościoła wiara w wiernych pl 66 29.02.2012Brussels Safari #1 - EP press conference and ITRE en pl 65 21.02.2012Because ACTA is passé en pl 64 20.02.2012Privacy of correspondence, EU-style en pl 63 17.02.2012Polish PM on ACTA: I was wrong en pl 62 12.02.2012Anonymous vs Corponymous en pl 61 10.02.2012To have a cookie and dowload it too en pl 60 19.01.2012About ACTA at Polish PM Chancellery en pl 59 19.01.2012Free as in United en pl 58 16.01.2012Towarzystwo czuje się oszukane pl 57 10.01.2012Terms of Using the Service en pl 56 05.01.2012Corporate lack of patriotism en pl 55 04.01.2012Terroristcopters en pl 54 03.01.2012IceWeasel and Privacy en pl 53 28.12.2011Good Uncle Stal... Putin en pl 52 25.12.2011Useful Bash defaults done right en 51 21.12.2011Google Mail, or how mail becomes publication en pl 50 20.12.2011Occupy Gotham en pl 49 11.12.2011Copyfraud en pl 48 08.12.2011Multikino Wikipedia FAIL pl 47 27.11.2011Nie miejsce na pl 46 18.11.2011One-way cutting en pl 45 12.11.2011Tolerancja dla Kościoła pl 44 11.11.2011Users and Citizens en pl 43 30.10.2011Adhocracy and Net4Change en pl 42 18.10.2011War on Fun en pl 41 16.10.2011Boli mnie w krzyżu pl 40 14.10.2011Technocomplacency en pl 39 10.10.2011I Can Haz? pl 37 09.10.2011Election Silence in Poland en pl 38 03.10.2011Kibice i kampania pl 36 02.10.2011E-textbooks, Johnny Mnemonic, business and the Net en pl 35 19.09.2011CC Global Streaming/Summit/Party pl 33 19.09.2011Czy jest coś takiego jak darmowe śniadanie? pl 34 12.09.2011Faktycznie Super pl 32 12.09.2011Diaspora-Based Comment System en 31 11.09.2011Conflict of values en pl 30 06.09.2011Wolność słowa to nie wolność od myślenia ani od krytyki pl 29 06.09.2011On-line privacy and anonymity: case in point en pl 28 04.09.2011On being careful with words en pl 27 03.09.2011W obronie QR Code pl 26 31.08.2011Stolica Nie Tak Święta pl 25 29.08.2011Of malware, hot steam, privacy, using one's brain and paedoparanoia en 24 29.08.2011Kragen Thinking Out Loud en pl 23 18.08.2011Ból, blizny, dziewczyny i wiosła pl 22 07.08.2011Worst. Woodstock. Ever! pl 21 27.07.2011Willpower, productivity and cycling en pl 20 19.07.2011Neo FreeRunner as a WiFi Soundcard en 19 10.07.2011A Weekend with lawyers en pl 18 09.07.2011One step closer to ideal en pl 17 04.07.2011Apostasy in Poland en pl 16 28.06.2011YAFR (Yet Another Facebook Rant) en pl 15 19.06.2011Wiara w priorytety pl 14 17.06.2011Important meetings, fun meetings en pl 13 13.06.2011Ooops I en pl 12 30.05.2011Playing with Node.js en pl 11 25.05.2011Mozilla, Google and the Location Bar en pl 10 24.05.2011At Sector 3.0 conf en pl 9 23.05.2011Layout, CSS and RSS/Atom en pl 8 15.05.2011Startup Weekend Network Fun Fun Fun en 7 11.05.2011Nowy szef Bramy pl 6 10.05.2011World's Smallest Open Source Violin en pl 5 10.05.2011Po kolejnym spotkaniu w KPRM pl 4 08.05.2011Inspiracja na niedzielę pl 3 08.05.2011I horizontally the whole blog is that serious pl 2 07.05.2011I can has brag en pl 1

Fighting Black PR around OER

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I have already written about the black PR campaign waged by the traditional publishers' lobby against the Polish open textbooks government programme, and I have given a talk on 29C3 on this topic. Time for a write-up of the arguments used by the lobby — and how to counter them.

As I have written before, it is crucial to understand that what the anti-OER lobby actually cannot swallow is the "open" part — the libre licenses the textbooks are supposed to be published under, as they uproot traditional publishers' business models.

However, because openness in education is such a good idea, the lobby knows full well they cannot attack it directly. Instead, they argue against the whole programme on other grounds.

I shall present the arguments I have encountered during the last year, and ideas how to counter them.

Cost

The most-often used argument against the programme: creating the textbooks will cost a lot of public money, which could be arguably better spent.

The fact of the matter is, however, that traditional textbooks are not cheap at all. In Poland a set of textbooks for a single child for a given year costs around €150. Taking into account that average pay in Poland is around €1000, and net minimal wage is €280, this is not a small sum of money. The whole Polish school textbooks market is currently worth around €250mln.

What's more, the Polish government subsidizes poorer families for them to be able to buy textbooks, to the tune of €32mln annually. The cost of the whole e-textbooks pilot programme (creation of 18 textbooks for grades 4-6 of the public schools) is to cost €11mln.

Once created, open textbooks can be reused, updated, remixed and improved by anybody. This means that the cost (from the general public's point of view) of creating them will be to a large extent a one-time investment — which cannot be said about traditional textbooks, which are restrictively copyrighted by the publishers'.

The argument is hence moot.

Equipment

It is very unfortunate that the open textbooks programme in Poland is called "e-textbooks", as that creates ambiguity as to the role electronic equipment (laptops, tablets, e-book readers) will play in it. Ambiguity that is being exploited by textbook publishers' lobby by scaring the general public with costs of equipment purchase (supposedly covered by the parents), upkeep, and with related problems (charging, theft, malfunctions, etc).

The crux here is that the programme is not about equipment, and that equipment has a completely secondary role in it. The main reason for the programme is the openness. It's true that electronic versions of the materials will be prepared, but all materials will have print-ready versions, and all materials will be available in open formats, precluding requiring any particular make of equipment.

Open textbooks will be available to students (and other interested parties) via the Internet, and it will be possible to print them out in schools and libraries. This also has the added benefit that students will not have to carry heavy books every day with them — an argument that might seem superficial, but is raised time and again by parents, teachers and medical practitioners.

The most absurd take on the equipment argument is that "tablets do not create a second-hand market, as traditional textbooks do". This is something that actually was present in one of the articles by publishers' lobby, and is wrong on both accounts. Tablets do enjoy a thriving second-hand market, while traditional textbooks in Poland — in no small part due to deliberate actions by the publishers, like bundling exercise booklets within textbooks — have a hard time in supporting it.

Quality

Traditional textbook publishers claim that only their expertise in textbook creation can guarantee their proper quality, and that no "crowdsourced" textbook effort can match it.

First of all, the open textbook programme in Poland is not simply crowdsourcing the creation of textbooks. The programme mandates 4 higher education institutions as subject matter partners and one highly-regarded technological institution as a technological partner. The textbooks are to be prepared by experts in their subjects in cooperation with education theorists and practitioners.

Secondly, openness of the process and the resources can only help their quality, as the more people are watching and able to engage with the process, the sooner errors get fixed. This is the model the whole free/libre/open source software community works in, and the adoption of FLOSS (especially in science and technical communities) seems to confirm its quality. This is also the model Wikipedia works in, with good results.

Finally, open educational resources projects around the world prove that the crowdsourcing model works and delivers high quality educational materials.

Had the publishers been genuinely concerned with textbook quality, they would release their textbooks under open licenses, allowing for their fast improvement by a large community. They have not, hence it is safe to assume that — unsurprisingly — quality is not their main concern.

Unfair business practices

Textbook publishers claim that the government programme constitutes unfair business practice, and they even sent a letter, threatening legal action against any higher education institutions that would consider taking part in the programme.

Legal analysis of said letter clearly shows that that claim is not at all supported. It is preposterous to claim that a government programme can be an act of unfair business practice; besides, the publishers were invited to partake in the programme — they declined.

Regardless, however, of government involvement in this project, if indeed offering free and open materials would constitute an unfair business practice, we would have to shut down Wikipedia and make FLOSS illegal — they, too, offer free and open materials and solutions; they, too, endanger certain business models.

Finally, the real reason for this letter was to stifle and halt the open textbooks programme — had all the higher education institutions taken it at face value and declined to take part in the programme due to fear of litigation, the programme couldn't have continued. This was a scare tactic, and indeed treading the line of unfair business practices itself.

Market destruction

This programme, it is claimed, will destroy the market worth €250mln, and cause thousands of people to lose their jobs.

The fact that a given product or service puts a given business model in jeopardy is not an argument against this product or service. It is a clear sign it's time to seek a new business model. And open textbooks allow for new business models — textbook publishers could, if they only wanted, build new business models on them. For example, they could offer high quality printing services, or adapt open textbooks to particular needs of particular profiled schools.

It is additionally claimed that the destruction of this market will harm the whole economy. This is a broken window fallacy — the fact that parents will now spend less money on school textbooks doesn't mean that this money will not get spent at all.

IT industry will reap the profits

Somebody has to create the infrastructure in schools, somebody has to get equipment support contracts... j'accuse! The whole programme is just a money grab by the IT industry, say the textbook publishers.

In the light in the previous "market destruction" argument, it is odd when the lobby uses this argument. After all, had this been true, their fighting against the IT industry market would itself constitute an attempt at "market destruction".

This argument is all the more peculiar when we remind ourselves of the fact that this programme is not about equipment, and that money goes not to IT companies, but to open textbook authors. Once we realise that not a single IT industry lobbyist was present on any of public consultation meetings regarding the programme, the argument falls squarely into the realm of absurdity.

Centralized education system

This argument is calculated to play on emotions of people still remembering the socialist state in Poland, by claiming that this is a way of introducing a centralised education system.

This is nothing new, however — during the last 25 years all textbooks had to be vetted by the Ministry of Education. Open textbooks can only loosen the grip of the central government on the educational resources, as anybody will now be able to build upon a vetted textbook.

Death of books (and death of culture)

And the final argument: children are already spending too much time in front of computer screens, and it is ever harder to get them to read a book. Making the textbooks so that they are to be read on a computer screen or electronic device will only make things worse and will spell the end of books as we know it.

Believe it or not, this was also claimed: our culture is a culture of the book, and if the books die, our whole culture will die with them.

And of course yet again we have to remind ourselves that the "electronic" part of the programme is not the relevant part, and that all materials will be available in print-ready versions.

Then again, there is a question of means and of the end. Access to information, to education, to knowledge is the end, and the paper book is just the means. Whether or not it dies is yet to be seen, but we already have many other — some arguably better — means of accessing the written word. It seems safe to assume that our culture is not threatened.