The Most Important Thingâ„¢


You'd never know it by looking out the window, but it feels like a whole bunch of changes are in the works this season. Personally, professionally, and more broadly. Some quick backstory - after co-unkeynoting at the BCEdOnline 2006 conference with Brian and Stephen, we wound up at a local pub to debrief and just hang out. It sounds corny, but that conversation became one of the cornerstones I keep coming back to when thinking about what I'm doing, and where I'm going. (oddly enough, Dave Matthews just came on my iPod with "Where are you going?" Man, how I love the uncanny psychic shuffle mode...)

It all comes back to a comment Stephen made, describing a realization he had during his hiatus. He said something along the lines of "I just think - is this thing that I'm doing right now - is this the most important thing I could be doing?" (actually, I don't think he said it as a question, but that's how I remember it, and it's my memory so deal with it).

Is this the most important thing I could be doing? If not, what should I be doing instead? And what do I have to do to get to a point where I could be doing that?

So, obviously, the most important thing I can do is to be a good father. Everything else is secondary. Everything. But, part of being a good father is being able to provide a roof and some food. So that means that at least part of the time, the most important thing I can be doing is the Day Jobâ„¢ in whatever form that takes. So, slogging through seas of copy-and-paste, although soul-sucking and seemingly unimportant, is actually The Most Important Thing in that it keeps the Mac & Cheese flowing.

With the major priorities taken care of, I've been trying to apply ITTMITICBD? to lesser priorities, to projects, tasks, etc... That's been less successful, but has started shaping how I think about things, even if it hasn't had a visible impact on what I'm doing.

What are the Most Important Thingsâ„¢ from the perspective of my Day Jobâ„¢? Here's where I likely differ from my Institution's official stance (which will likely revolve around mundane things like "making money" and "maximizing efficiency" or some other dreck). I work in a university. A publicly funded research institution. The Most Important Thing I Could Be Doingâ„¢ is to work with individuals, inside the University community, and perhaps more importantly, outside of it, to ensure that people have access to what we're doing here. This is a research university, and it shouldn't be a privilege afforded only to those that can gain access to the hallowed halls. We should be bending over backwards to make sure everybody has access, in whatever form we're able to provide.

So, I'm going to be focussing my energy on things like Creative Commons, Open Education Resources (not Learning Objects), personal publishing, remix culture, and things that empower individuals rather than Institutions. Which means I'll likely be a pariah, but hopefully not a martyr on campus.

My ability to contribute to this has changed over the years. I can no longer kid myself that I can write code. I'm not a coder anymore. I can edit code. I can understand what's going on, but I'm not a coder anymore, if I ever was. But, I think it may be more important for me to take up the mantle and just walk the walk. Showing how this stuff could work in a practical way. Writing. Presenting. Workshops. Acting as an agent of subversion, then hopefully of change. Helping to guide our clients toward more open practices where appropriate (and, no, not everything can be Open). I might even bite the bullet and finish off the Master's degree, using it to let me write more about this stuff.

Of course, keeping the number 1 Most Important Thingâ„¢ in mind, I'll have to do this in ways that don't risk the day job, so waving a Che flag and marching across campus yelling "Vive la revolucion!" might not be in the cards. Baby steps...

See Also