Open edX, out of our control

Saturday 22 November 2014

This week at work we ran the first Open edX Conference, bringing together people using Open edX, the open source platform that powers edX. It was an exciting, exhilarating, exhausting time.

It was our first time organizing a conference, and we did it on short notice, about four months. Where we didn't know what to do, we mostly made it be like PyCon: 30-minute talks, 10 minutes between talks, a few opportunities for lightning talks, etc.

Judging from the #openedxcon tweet stream, and from talking to people afterward, people seemed to really like it.

I gave part of the edX keynote, and as usually happens when I give a talk, there are things I know I am going to say, and things that seem to just pop out of my mouth once I get going. I was showing two examples of long-tail Open edX sites, and making the point that edX would never have put these particular courses online itself. I said,

It isn't really open source until stuff just starts happening that's completely beyond your reach.

But it got tweeted as:

"It isn't open source until stuff starts happening that is beyond our control." - Ned Batchelder @OpenEdX #openedxcon

How meta: I say something, then the community turns it into something else, beyond my control! This was widely re-quoted, and was repeated by our CEO at another edX event later that week.

There's a difference between "beyond our reach" and "beyond our control." Not a huge difference, but I was talking more about reach at the time. But maybe that's a sign that things really are working, when it is beyond your control, and it's still good. Just like I "said."

And Open edX is going well: there are about 60 sites running 400 courses, all over the world. EdX has as outsized goal of educating a billion students by 2020, and Open edX will be a significant part of that. The 160 people at the conference were excited to help by running their own sites and courses. The conference was a success, even the parts beyond our control...

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[gravatar]
Ben Hyde 1:53 PM on 25 Nov 2014

:)

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