When something dies and is reborn, the usual symbol for this in Western literature is the phoenix. As a result, everything from football teams to companies are named after this mythical bird rising from the flames.
My favourite example of death and rebirth, though, is the Ouroboros:
The ouroboros… is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magical tradition and was adopted as a symbol in Gnosticism and Hermeticism and most notably in alchemy…. The ouroboros is often interpreted as a symbol for eternal cyclic renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The skin-sloughing process of snakes symbolizes the transmigration of souls, the snake biting its own tail is a fertility symbol.
What I like about using the ouroboros as a metaphor is that it explicitly recognises individual or organisational self-cannibalisation as a positive thing. Just as the snake needs to shed its skin to remain agile, so we need to renew ourselves, often through ‘digesting’ our ideas and experience and then taking them in new directions.
Did you know that ‘spork’ is a registered trademark? Me neither. So in this post we’re going to refer to the original fork/spoon hybrid from the early 20th century: the venerable ice-cream fork.
Our ice-cream fork has three prongs and a spoon-like bit. Let’s use this as a metaphor for getting started with productisation, the process of turning internal business capability into commercially viable products.
Let’s also use an acronym, ‘SIR’ to remember this:
Sense-check — is what you’ve already built wanted by other clients?
Insight — what have existing clients told you about their needs/problems?
Research — what kind of jobs do potential customers have to be done?
Once you’ve scooped up all of this creamy goodness into the spoon-like bit of your ice-cream fork, then you’re ready to give it a taste. Is it what you were expecting?
What comes next is the exciting part! It involves spending time with your team coming up with potential ways of taking what you’ve already got and making it relevant for new audiences. But that’s a whole other series of posts.
To me, the value of the Ice Cream Fork of Productisation is that it provides a nice balance between researching and building. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote to illustrate what I think is an appropriate balance between the two:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
I’m busy ideating, and talking to people around, Project MoodleNet. When you’re explaining something that doesn’t yet exist, you’ve got to use touchstones and metaphors, starting from where people are to help them understand where you want to go.
In these discussions I’ve been using three things to help me:
A great ‘landscape’ image from Bryan Mathers (see above)
It’s worth, I think, unpacking the third of these — if only so I’ve got a public URL to point people towards when I reference it elsewhere! It’s an imperfect metaphor, as it involves more technical understanding than we’ll require for Project MoodleNet.
Anyway, here goes…
WordPress and Moodle are similar
Free (as in freedom)
Host your own version
Have it hosted for you
How Jetpack works
Jetpack is a meta-plugin, a ‘plugin of plugins’ that adds lots of functionality to self-hosted instances of WordPress. In fact, it’s pretty much a no-brainer to activate Jetpack if you’re self-hosting. It connects your instance to your wordpress.com account, giving you:
Faster page loading (via CDN)
Detailed site stats
Where’s the value for the organisation behind WordPress?
So lots of value for users, but (you may think), what’s in it for Automattic, the organisation behind WordPress? Well…
Secure, fast WordPress sites maintain brand value
Better metrics around installation numbers
Ability to upsell to customers direct from dashboard
Why is this a good metaphor for what we’re doing?
Project MoodleNet will be a standalone social network for educators focused on professional development and open content. It can be supercharged, however, by using a similar model to what WordPress have done with Jetpack.
Imagine users logging into a institutionally-hosted Moodle instance using their Project MoodleNet credentials because the two are connected in a similar way to how Jetpack works for the WordPress ecosystem.
To be clear, I’m not proposing that Project MoodleNet offers the same services as Jetpack, I’m saying that it serves as an example where you can create value in two places and additional value by linking them together.
This would mean…
Teachers: professional social networking within their existing learning platform.
Instructional designers: faster access to curated open resources.
Sysadmins: better security and potentially reduced hosting costs.
(if you’re wondering about ‘reduced hosting costs’ it’s because we’re tentatively looking at how IPFS could be used in the wider Moodle ecosystem)
This isn’t a perfect metaphor by any means, and so I’m looking for other ways to explain what we’re trying to achieve. However, the combination of Bryan’s image, referencing Thingiverse, and explaining JetPack is helping those I’m talking with to understand the kind of thing we’re trying to build.