Business and Open Access

What exactly is the business model of Academia.edu? Will this be the future? To analyze the situation we must observe two different aspects, at first the technological side. Academia.edu is a website, the content there is pure digital. That is different to classical libraries which were based on printed journals. The second aspect is the idea of an Higher education market. That neoliberal ideology is different from Meritocracy which is widespread used in non-capitalist systems.

Academia.edu combines both features. It is based on modern technology and on the idea that education is a product which has to be consumed. And now we can answer the original question how to earn money with this idea. Because Academia.edu is not the first company who is trying to do so. Digital oriented education markets are also important for companies like Apple, Google and AT&T. For example, the business model of AT&T is, to deliver DSL bandwith to the customer and he has to pay 40 US$ per month. The business model of Apple is to sell ipads to the customer which costs also a huge amount of money. In that domain, Academia.edu is located. That means, it is one of the companies who identified a higher education digital market as their business model and are now trying to get as much customers as possible.

Perhaps it becomes clear, why most universities are not happy with this ideology. If an institution has selected the opposite as their market, for example a non-digital form of education plus a non-business lifestyle then he sees in Academia.edu the worst-case scenario. Let us go into the detail of how some universities of the past are working.

So called public universites are taking taxpayer money, they are not financed by customers, but by a socialist ideology which beliefes that earning money is wrong. The same universities beliefs also, that only printed journals are the right way of teaching, because digital pdf documents will lower the quality. What we will see is the perfect storm. If an university sees themself not as market driven but as a public institution which is outside the normal business sector and at the same time, sees their pathway into the future driven by printed books stored in a library, then this university has a problem with everything which is different. For example, with AT&T, Google Scholar but also with Academia.edu This explains, why Academia.edu is hated by most public universities, it is something which is out of their radar.

Gets Academia.edu money from the taxpayer? No. Has Academia.edu printed books? No. The logical consequence from a neoluddist view is, that it can’t be good. Everything which is market driven and which is digital has to be defeated. That is the reason, why Academia.edu gets so much pressure and why many professors are boycotting the company. They are not against Academia.edu they are only against technology and consumerism. Quotes:

– “I distrust it for an entirely different reason”

– “I can say that I am not real satisfied with the service.”

– “Academia.edu is academic spam.”

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/44632/is-academia-edu-useful/102246#102246

Let us investigate in detail, who money is earned in the education market. Everything is grouped around products. For example, the ipad is a product (physical goods), the AT&T DSL cable is a product, the Academia.edu subscription is a product, the Google website is a product, Microsoft Software is product, edutainment games are a software product and so on. The number of companies is endless. The consumer get access to the product through buying it. Sometimes it has to do with money, for example for the Apple ipad, sometimes the money is earned with advertisement. In nearly all cases the products are connected to technology. For example a DSL modem has to do with fiber optic cables, while a Search engine has to with a datacenter full of linux computers. What companies like AT&T and google are doing is basicly transform computer technology into consumer friendly products and compete for the money the enduser is able to pay.

This is the main difference to classical education system. Classical education 100 years ago was not focussed on technology but on institutions like a school or a university. It was not market driven but access to the ressources was based on structure of society, for example only a pastor was able to read the bible. The idea in the past was to exclude people from education because the ressource is limited, the idea of a market driven economy is to increase the number of sales, that means to sell the ipad as much as possible.

Academia.edu is focussed on a special aspect in higher education. The publishing of papers. THe system of the past was not market driven and the aim was to no publish too much. The normal way academic publishing in the past worked was, that a certain person for example a professor or a pastor has written a manuscript and he is allowed to publish it in the journal. In the workflow two things are missing. At first, technology and secondly the money.

Antipattern

In the last run, I want to describe an antipattern to Academia.edu. It is a system which can be called classical education in the past. A typical scenario might be, that we have an pastor which is a respected part of a smallville. He has read some books and now want’s to publish his own manuscript. He is doing so because he feels that there is a need to bring forward the education. It takes around 5 years until his manuscript get printed in a journal. With this plot is nothing wrong. It is pure neoluddism, because it is oriented on the society of the past and on classical printed books about a topic of the church. It is not possible that everyone is pastor, and it is not possible that the mansucript gets published on the Internet.

Is consumerism and Meritocracy the same? Open Science

Quote: “the public education system. It was created to do just what it did—manufacture a neoliberal, social Darwinian, consumer driven market place that marginalized students along socioeconomic lines based on a score from a standardized test.“ page 14 “Neoliberalism, Social Darwinism, and Consumerism Masquerading as School Reform”, 2013, https://christienken.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Neoliberalism_Tienken_2013.pdf

According to this quote consumerism results into a Meritocracy system. But is this conclusion right? As far as i know, a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT Test) doesn’t measure the household income, but the skills to answers questions about Math, English and Physics. Or in detail: the students have to answer questions which are already known, at least by the professors, so they want to know, if the students have done their homework. Consumerism is something opposite. For example, if somebody is buying a book at Amazon, Amazon is not interested in his ability to read the english language, Amazon is only interested in money.

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Meritocracy multiple choice test

The first impression of a Meritocracy system is, that it is fair. Because all people are evaluated equal. But it detailed look shows, that the underlying multiple choice test is not able to bring science forward. It blocks scientific progress. Let us make a small example.

Suppose we have imagined in the year 1800 a SAT-test which contains 500 questions. The test was standardized against a group of students who have to solve the question in 60 minutes. What will happen if we are repeating the test 200 years later? The result will be the same, because it is very demanding to answering such question. Everybody who ever tried out to find an answer on logical, linguistic or mathematical problems will recognized this. Meritocracy advocates see in a standardized test a very good evaluation criteria, but they forget an important aspect. The questions itself make no sense. A sat-test is some kind of artificial language which has nothing to do with reality. The questions are abstract, that means, they were written for eternity. Let us make an example: in the year 1800 computers were not available and Matlab was not available. Answering the question correct can be done without knowing something. That means, it is possible that people will win the test, how are not familiar with higher mathematics or computers. Does this criteria make sense?

Meritocracy advocates are saying yes, because they believe, that a human has some kind of intellectual potential which can be measured by a SAT test, and that a good score will correlate to success. And they are right, a SAT test is doing this very good. But that is not the point. The problem with every SAT test is, that the answer is known. That means, the user answer a question, which was answered before. If a student selects for example the point a) in the question 1, he can be sure, that before him around 100k students have selected the same choice, and he can also be sure, that the answering book of the professor has selected the same. Because in the question 1 the task was to add “1+1”, and a) means 2. So a) is right.

But helps answering the question right to bring science forward? No, it is the opposite. If science answers questions, which are already known, it is not science, it is a second level school. That means, the creation of new knowledge is not the center of the focus, instead the students gets scores for something else. How a bad working school looks like can be easily described. It is only nessary to take a look in some of the worst examples worldwide, and we will find in any case some kind of test which has to be filled out by the students. The teacher is using the cane to get respect, and if a student fail he is forced to leave the classroom.

Let us go into the details of so called questions in a SAT test. Online I’ve found some example questions, https://www.universitylanguage.com/quiz/SAT/ A sentence is given, and the student has to say if a,b,c,d or e is correct. But why is the test asking the question? Because the answer is already known. That means, there is some kind of grammar, and according to that rule only one of the answers is true. The most important aspect is, that all of the questions are rhetorical. That means, a SAT test is not a Quora website, in which somebody want’s to know the difference between active and passive. Instead, the question was written down by a person, who knows the answer. But instead answering the questions of their student, the professor is asking them, what he knows. Does this make sense? Not really, because education has to do with teaching knowledge to people who are not knowing the answer. The Quora website makes sense: the question is posted by somebody who has no knowledge about the english language, and the answers were given by experts in that domain. A Sat test works the other way around. The result is frightening. The professor will loose, because he doesn’t learn from the answers, and the students will fail, because they doesn’t know the answers. What a SAT test is provoking is an unhealthy atmosphere of mistrust. It is some kind of ritual which ends in punishment. So they are learning respect …

Understanding Academic Meritocracy

Academic Meritocracy is the current system. It is not very well described in the literature, and most people are not aware of it, but it is there. It means basically, that education is connected to institutional education. Only students at a university get access to books and academic journals, and before somebody can enter a university he must do some kind of tests.

Education outside institutions is not possible and it is not rewarded. The best example are journal subscriptions which costs around 20k US$ per year, which is outside of the scope of non-academics. That means, everybody who want’s to read the new issue of Nature has to be part of Academia first. Education is seen as filter for a career. That means, a lawyer needs to study law first, the same is true for a doctor or the CEO of a company. The main principle behind education is, to exclude 90% of the people from it. IQ tests are not invented, because somebody is interested in the correct answer, but because most people will fail the test. That means, every test works with the principle that somebody fails and others not. The reason why is simple: Harvard has not enough free room to educate 300 million people. That means, it is not possible that every student can study at the university.

The description of Academic Meritocracy is incomplete without describing the opposite. The alternative to making test and selection is a consum-oriented society, in which the individual happyness is the goal. On a small level, this is possible today. For example if somebody is buying a book at amazon, or somebody is going to the public library. In both cases, the social interaction is shopping oriented. That means an individual has a demand, for example she wants to read a book about a princess, and the demand is fulfilled by the store / library.

The most interesting aspect of such learning experience is, that it is done outside of the education system. Usually, Amazon doesn’t ask if somebody really has understand a book and if somebody is asking in the library for the wrong book it is also not seen as a mistake. If we are observing the consumption habbit of certain people at Amazon, it is possible to map them to customer groups. An 18 year old teenager is interested in other kind of books, then a 40 year old woman. What is equal, is the idea of shopping in general. In most cases, the social behavior has to do with an individual need.

Instead of describing a future of Academic consumerism, I want to take a look back at the history of shopping. Under the URL http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/ some historic advertisement compaign were collected. Most of the companies didn’t exists anymore, but the general idea is visible right now. For example, there is a section with Food ads from the 1980’s. The main goal is to motivate the individual to buy a certain product and to increase the number of products. Surprisingly, the website has not only a section about cars, perfume and airlines, but also about books and comics. That means, written information is a good like any other too. It can be bought and needs marketing to sell it. For example, in the section 1920 books, is an advertainsment that any family needs a bookshelf. The idea is not, that somebody of the family needs a diploma or something like that, the message is only, that without a bookshelf it makes no sense.

In the year 1930 the ads became more offensive. They were printed in color, and this time, the family should by the complete edition of Marco Polo and Rudyard Kipling. Like advertisement from other sections (food or cars) we can debate if it is really necessary to buy the product. Perhaps the life goes on, without reading Marco Polo. But what is important, is the idea of consumerism. That means, the individual is seen as consumer, and the company want’s money from him.

Even from today’s perspective the idea of consumerism in Education is a bit uncommon. It is not broad discussed in the literature, and for the most people it sounds crazy. What seems normal in today’s society is advertisement for food and cars. That is something, most people are aware of it. But the ideology can be extended to Academic goods as well.

What later in times was popular were book clubs and webster dictionaries. In the year 1980 there is an ads available at http://www.vintageadbrowser.com/ for the Wall street journal. Perhaps with the idea, that the potential consumer can identify with the actor.

At the end of the short journey to book advertisement I want to describe a relationshop to todays Open Access movement. The idea behind Google Scholar is, that there the connection between a paper and a reader is equal to consumerism. The reader scrolls through the offer, and selects a paper he want’s to read. This increases the pagecount. He bought the product, by opening it in the Webbrowser. If he cites the paper in his own paper this is equal that he has profit from it. This reception experience differs from classical Meritocracy systems, in which the individual is evaluated according to a test. The paper is not evaluating the reader, but the reader is the judge over a test.

Let us describe a potential bottleneck in Academic consumerism. The main problem is, that the number of papers is limited. That means, Google Scholar can only show paper which are already in the system. To consume more papers, somebody must write them first. The idea is to reduce the production costs with user-generated content. This allows the society to consume more content. That is the basic idea behind Open Access, that the former planbased Meritocracy will be transformed in a consumer friendly knowledge economy.

Wikipedia

The best example for an anti-Meritocracy system is wikipedia. The most interesting aspect in the encyclopedia is not, how many sources are cited or which topics can be found, but the workflow how the content is generated. Wikipedia works with anonymous authors. The principle is called “everybody can edit”. It is a good example for user-driven system, that means, Wikipedia is not a test for something else in life, Wikipedia is the test. That means, the website is not referencing to a later career, but Wikipedia stands for itself. That means, the only rule which can be found is knowledge itself. The idea is not, that Wikipedia is part of a university or give certain people in the society feedback, the idea is a virtual place in which a encyclopedia is created.

That is the main difference between Wikipedia and for example Stanford. Stanford is a anti-Meritocracy system, that means it has to do with a career outside of Stanford, and with a test. It can be seen as some kind of filter.

The main reason, why WIkipedia is rejected by classical university system has to do with the different incentive. Wikipedia doesn’t classifies the authors in groups, instead Wikipedia evaluates the content somebody has contributed. As far as i know, there is no multiple choice test for somebody who want’s to contribute and want’s to know how high is IQ is. Because it makes no sense to check if somebody can answer questions if the answer is already known. Instead the quality control works a bit different. It is called edit war and has the aim to let the correct content in the encyclopedia and delete the misleading knowledge.

Surprisingly, traditional Academia has no edit war. Instead, the quality control is done with the individual in mind. That means, if a certain student has answered 90% of the question right, then he gets a mark 1.

Is PGP legal for commercial usage?

The main problem with PGP is, that the current legal situation is unclear for most people. The reason is, that in the beginning of 1990s PGP was only used by a minority, which are calling themself crypto anarchists. Now we have the situation, that the internet is used widespread and most websites are using encryption at least for the login window. So what is the current situation about PGP?

The official website has a FAQ, http://www.pgp.net/pgpnet/pgp-faq/pgp-faq-general-questions.html which is vague. They are reference-ring to the export laws. Because anybody who is interested in cryptography can program his own version of the AES-128 encryption algorithm, the export restrictions alone are not restricting the usage of PGP. A more general insight is given by Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptography_law The question which has to be answered if it’s legal to use encryption in a real network, for example in the intranet for sending e-mails. What we can say is, that PGP and other encryption algorithm are perhaps legal for private usage and for academic purposes. In Google Scholar are at least 3000 papers available which explaining all aspects of cryptography including the usage of gnupg on the command-line. PGP can be seen as an advanced form of a winzip password, which is also able to encrypt a backup file. But, according to the current law situation, the dispute around FBI vs Apple, and the criminal investigations against darkmarkets in which e-mail encryption with PGP is used, it is very likely that pgp encryption for commercial encryption is illegal. That means, if a company provide a service which encrypts e-mails with PGP for the customer, this company will get problems with the law enforcement.

As far as i know, currently there is no dedicated law, which is referencing to PGP and defines it as a criminal act. But from the general situation of the last 15 years it can be seen as likely, that such behavior is illegal. That means, if a company wants to earn money with e-mail encryption and will get no problems with the law enforcement it will be very surprising and contradicts the normal plot. The more general question is, if law enforcement agency have the right to read e-mails which were send in the internet. According to the law, they have the right. The same is true, if the it-department has the right to monitor the internal traffic in their intranet for searching security relevant cases. They have also the right for doing so. If a single user is using pgp-like encryption this prevents the other side from doing so, and this is not allowed.

What is needed for the future is a better education system which explains to the user, that they should not use PGP, because it is wrong. Even a simple “Hello world” message which is encrypted in such a way is a criminal act which bypass the provider, the it-department and the law enforcement agency.

What crypto-anarchists are propagating can be summarized as follows. They are indoctrinate the people to use PGP often and for everything with the idea, that the law enforcement is powerless against a public which encrypts their e-mails. Cryptoanarchists are trying to convince the public, to increase the number of encrypted e-mails. That is not the way how serious discussion works. It is some kind of activism without discussion. For cryptoanarchists everybody is the enemy who wants to regulate encryption or forbid it. In case of doubt, even the government and the public is the enemy. This is a sign of a self-destructing movement which can’t be recognized as a legitimate opinion. The better choice is to let the user the opportunity to decide what he want’s. That means the user has the right to become a cyber criminal which is equal of using pgp or he can stay on the right side of the law and that means not using pgp.

Protonmail

From the perspective of making encryption laws transparent the Ptotonmail case is interesting. https://www.reddit.com/r/ProtonMail/comments/7pqeul/legality_of_protonmail_in_the_united_states/ It is the first time, that a company want’s to earn money with strong e-mail encryption. The company is located outside of US and EU regulation, and the above cited reddit thread is asking if it is legal to use the service from within the US. According to the reddit thread it is unclear right now what the legal status is. And indeed, the website stays online and gets many new customers. But a look into the history of encryption law shows, that from the perspective of EU and US, PGP like e-mail encryption is illegal, not from a technical aspect because it is only an algorithm but from the social consequences. The idea behind encryption is, that no backdoor is available which allows law enforcement agency to read the content, and this prevents the investigations of security related issues.

That means, if the EU, FBI or Interpol are not able to handle the protonmail case in a sense that they make clear who is the law, the society will run into trouble which is called anarchy. This has to be prevented.

Here https://vimeo.com/216747532 the argumentation of a Protonmail engineer is given, which is equal to the crypto-anarchists ideology. He explains from timecode 08:00 that the government is the enemy and that democracy is hurd, if strong encryption is not possible. From the perspective of Protonmail this argumentation makes sense, because they are the activists. But arguing in a such a way makes no sense to reaching a consensus which is accepted by the people. What he explains is simply to use advanced technology for destroying trust into government. The interesting fact is, that this message has nothing do to with technical aspects, it is more a political ideology. So the question is, if Protonmail is really a tech-company or something else?

The Protonmail incident is interesting not because the service they have to offer, but because it is able to ask on that case what kind of encryption is legal and what not. https://www.csoonline.com/article/2449571/microsoft-subnet/paypal-protonmail-email-encryption-nsa-kickstarter.html is a blogpost from 2014 which mentioned, that Paypal locks out Protonmail because they are in doubt, if everything is fine with the company. What does that mean for the public? If somebody want’s to make a startup which is like Protonmail, that means a PGP like encryption is used to protect the users from government surveillance it is very likely, that this startup will get the same reaction from Paypal. That is a good news, because it helps the public to understand the difference between legal and illegal. The problem around PGP like encryption is not if it is allowed or not, the main problem is, that before Protonmail it was not clearly defined what the legal status is. That means, over decades PGP was only discussed from a technical perspective but not from a social point of view. What the status of the PGP software itself is, is relatively clear. PGP can be downloaded from github and many other encryption algorithm in sourcecode too. But that answers not the question, if such software can be used in a productive server with the purpose of powering a startup company.

From the above cited blogpost and other news articles which were published later it become clear, the Protonmail is not allowed in the US. And that means, that end-to-end encryption done by a commercial company is also forbidden. That means, not encrypting the e-mails is the only options, private customers and companys have. It is not a question, if they are on a technical level familiar with public/private keys it is a question of legal vs. illegal. If Protonmail is not able to make a serous business because of the law against cryptography, what will be the future of PGP? Right, there is no future. It will be used only in the darkweb or on theoretical computer courses which are explaining what encryption was in former times.

It is not the first time, that the government is killing innovation …

The question is not how to make end-to-end encryption, the question is what is the next technology which can be made illegal. The best what the government can do with Technology startups is to bring the founder to court and prohibit everything. From the computerhistory it is known, that first the copying of computergames became illegal, then napster service has declared as not wanted, now the Protonmail service .. who wants to be the next candidate? What is very good working technology, which has the potential to change the world, but is until now not official prohibited? It must be technology which is useful for the individual but not wanted by the government so it can be made illegal by law. In most cases before, not wanted technology is connected to the anonymous movement. That means, everything is forbidden which can make the people anonymous, for example, cryptocurrency, academic knowledge, encryption, filesharing and so on.

In my opinion the next hot candidate are PGP public-key for researchers who are publishing papers in so called journals. The next logical step is to forbid this technology too, so that the researchers can no longer communicate anonymously over the internet. From this technology it is known, that it is very interesting for the users, but not wanted by the government, because the government hates e-mail encryption!

Academia.stackexchange works great

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/108873/rules-for-using-an-electronic-text-as-the-texbook-for-a-class

On the internet I’ve read an interesting question, about the copyright situation in academic classes. In my answer I cited some standard literature like:

– Scholarly publication and copyright in networked electronic publishing, 1995, page 9

– Electronic collections and wired faculty, 1997

– Aggregation or aggravation? Optimizing access to full-text journals, 2000

In which the details of copyright law, fair use and Aggregation subscriptions were discussed. As far as i can see, the Academia.stackexchange forum like my post so much, that it gets lots of upvotes and downvote. It is wonderful how open and free we can discuss topics of electronic publishing and distance learning.

question: Postal history of pre-internet research workfow

I’ve discovered a topic from the postal history which looks interesting for me, but which is very hard to find information for. At first, I want to give some information what I’ve found so far, and then I want to describe open questions.

From the timeline, it is the area 1990-2000, that is the pre-internet age in which communication took place mostly without the internet. The traffic in the postal systems raised and was used for everything: documents, letters and forms. In that time epoche, scientific printed journals were used for scholarly communication between researchers. They were produced with a dedicated workflow. It starts with a manuscript, which was send by the author to the publisher. A typical manuscript had around 20 pages and was send in an envelope over classic postal service. The submission was read by the journal and a copy was send to potential peer-reviewers, also with the postal service. At the same time, the author starts researching information for a new topic. Usually he done this with a university library. For requesting information from other libraries, an interlibrary loan was used which was send as book shipments to reduced costs. The shipment was done over the postal office from the university. If the publisher was done with peer-reviewing and formatting of the manuscript he put the article in a journal, and send it as a book-shipment to the library.

So far the information I could collect from reading old descriptions how the postal workflow looks 25 years ago. An open question is, how exactly the artifacts are looking; for example, the envelope the researcher used for sending the manuscript, or the book shipment which was used for interlibrary loan. I guess, that special postal rates, stamps and duration were important to handle the traffic. The stakeholders were distributed, and the postal service was in between the author, publisher, printing house and library. I’ve searched for philatelic article in that domain. What I’ve found so far is “Postage Subsidies for Periodicals: Recent Developments”,http://www.kevinrkosar.com/Kosar_Postage_Subsides_for_Periodicals_Postal_History_10-2009_.pdf Has anybody more literature or images from envelopes used for book shipments?

question: How does the mailroom in a university library work?

Every library had in the past a mailroom, at least until the year 1998. [The emergence of the paraprofessional in academic libraries: Perceptions and realities, 1992 ](https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/41545/crl_53_02_99_opt.pdf?sequence=2) That is a place in which incoming shipment are sorted, for example new issues of a printed journal.

Literature about mailrooms in general for example in hospitals or business is available. But the mailroom workflow in libraries is not very often described. So my question is:

1. How does the incoming package with a journal look like? It is shipped with “reduced book mail”?

2. What are the library workers doing with the incoming mail? Did they have barcodes for identifying the package?

3. How long does it take until a new issue is available for the library users, some days or longer?

UPDATE
In the above cited youtube video a scene is visiable, in which an academic journal is shown inside the shelf of the mailroom. It is the first time, that I’ve found such an image. That is funny, because it is the normal way, how scientific journals are delivered to libraries at least from 1970-1998. Old-school libraries are working today with the same principle. That means there is a physical printed journal which come in with the postal service and it is put into the shelf of the mailroom, and then it will be put to the archive of the library.

I think, we should tell the story a bit in detail, because it is the inner working of academic libraries. Not opinion based discussion about Open Access and electronic publishing is the way forth, but describing the past of printed journals.

One single issue of an academic journal can cost over 100 US$, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/information-culture/why-are-journals-so-expensive/ That means, it is 9.1 necessary to install a surveillance camera for monitoring the mailroom workers, that they don’t steel the new issue of “Journal of Coordination Chemistry”.