Category Archives: Lumber

Open Access is [not] killing publishing

After yesterday’s post highlighting Jörg Lohrer’s riff on an old anti-copyright infringement slogan, I was inspired to make my own version of the ‘X is killing Y and it’s illegal’ thing. The original is here. Lohrer’s and mine are below.


Open Access is killing publishing” incorporates the image “Open Access logo” (PLoSCC0) and is based on “OER is killing education” by Jörg Lohrer, which incorporates the image Open Education Resources Logo (Jonathas MelloCC BY 3.0) and is inspired by the Home Taping Is Killing Music campaign and the tradition of parody derivatives.


OER Is Killing Education And It’s Illegal

When searching Photo Pin for ‘OER’, I came across this image:

Jörg Lohrer: OER is killing education and it's illegal
Jörg Lohrer via Photopin CC BY 2.0

Naturally, I was curious. The Flickr page offers little to go on at first blush. Is this just for some light trolling? What sort of reaction is it meant to provoke, and from whom?

To satisfy my curiosity, I dug a bit deeper, and to pay it forward (or spoil the surpise, depending on how you look at it), I share below the fruits of my research.

Lohrer credits the OER Logo and the Home Taping Is Killing Music campaign. The former is ubiquitous in OER circles, of course, and the latter has apparently been widely parodied (and is twice referenced via Roy in The IT Crowd, which I certainly approve of).

So…parody…which, of course, is clear from the picture to begin with. Threats to OER tend to be a bit more subtle.

What follows is a lot of clicking and reading, which y’all are welcome to do. Google reverse image search was largely useless, but a search for [“OER is killing education”] is fruitful. This shows up on the Web only on 15 January 2013 on both Flickr and Twitter; here’s the tweet that starts it all:

Overall, I expect this image is intended to critique (often hollow) arguments against the Open movement, both from (some) individual producers jealous of their IP rights and from (some) publishers who view themselves as necessarily the best arbiters of quality.

Anyway, that’s enough digital ink spilled over a fairly obvious and fairly obscure picture. It sure is a fun one, though, so I wanted to surface it. I will leave off with a few proposals for further iterations:

  • Fair Use Is Killing Copyright…And It’s Illegal!
  • Open Access Is Killing Publishing…And It’s Illegal!
  • Limited Copyright Is Killing Innovation…And It’s Illegal!

Any takers?

OER or OERs? There can be only one…

OER vs. OERs
I trust that the assertion is uninspired enough to warrant no notice and thus no offense, but it wants saying:

The term OER does not take an ‘s’ in the plural.

That is to say that the answer to the age-old question “OER or OERs?” is definitively the first and never the second. Moreover, one can create OER but not an OER; one can have OER but not one or more OER.

How do we know this to be so? We do not. In my case, I have the estimable authority of my own opinion; I have a strong visceral reaction to hearing the term OERs spoken aloud and only a slightly more subdued reaction to seeing it in print.

Other arguments are available.

Often, it seems that OERs is used to describe actual learning objects, whereas OER will be used to describe the concept of OER. That is, OER can be a concrete or abstract noun, and OERs is the plural of the former sort. That could wash if such usage were very strictly consistent. That both versions are often used inconsistently in the same source suggests either that both are correct or either is correct; in such a case, however, good style dictates that we choose one.

The collaboratively-edited Wikipedia page for Open Educational Resources overwhelmingly prefers OER, although this could be a result of one editor simply including more material than another, thus magnifying preferences. Sample sentences include:

  • “OER includes learning content, software tools…”
  • “Since OER are intended to be available for a variety of educational purposes, most organizations using OER neither…”
  • “UNESCO also champions OERs as a means of promoting access…”
  • “WikiEducator was launched to provide a venue for planning education projects built on OER, creating and promoting open education resources (OERs)…” [Note inconsistent use within a single sentence in this and the following sentence.]
  • “OER Commons also provides educators tools to align OER to the Common Core State Standards; to evaluate the quality of OER to OER Rubrics developed by Achieve; and to contribute and share OERs with other teachers and learners worldwide.”

The (possibly) collaboratively-edited Creative Commons wiki page “What is OER?” includes just one use of OERs, in a quote directly from the Wikipedia article.

Wikipedia attributes the creation of the term to UNESCO in 2002. Perhaps we could consider UNESCO the authority, then. The 2012 Paris OER Declaration contains 23 uses of OER and no uses of OERs. Hurray! But wait…

A 2010 message by UNESCO’s own Assistant Director-General for Education uses OER and OERs nine times each, once using both in the same sentence.

There is no easy way out of this mess. The preponderance of evidence seems to favor the authority of OER without clearly suppressing OERs. But if, by fiat, each creator can prefer one term to the other and is consistent in using one term over the other, at least we may hope that one will win out by overwhelming the other.

You know my heart, and if I lose I will try to be gracious but will probably choose to be wrong. Some losing battles are worth fighting, after all.


Image created using Text ASCII Art Generator by patorjk.  More sweet software here.

Brunch: A Plea: A Plea

Brunch Plate.
Photo adapted from: moriza via Photopin CC BY 2.0

There I was, listening to Alton Brown dissect the history of brunch in episode 232 (14.4) of Good Eats, and I learn for the first time ever that the first known use of the word brunch in print was in the article “Brunch: A Plea” by one Guy Beringer, published in Hunter’s Weekly in 1895.

That sort of thing excites me. “I’d like to read that article!” say I to myself.

Confidently, I typed "Brunch: A Plea" into my search bar. Result: lots of blog posts, magazine articles, blog posts masquerading as magazine articles, and a newspaper item or two.

“Oh, ha ha,” I think. “That makes sense.” I open a few likely ones from top results. Smithsonian. Mental Floss. Lots of links, but none to the source, and always the same quote, pulled by a Wikipedian from a 1998 New York Times article:

Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a postchurch ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting.” Beringer wrote. “It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

Hmm. Oh my.

filetype:pdf "brunch, a plea"

Uh-oh. Wikipedia references and external links: no. Google Books: no. Gutenberg: no. Library of Congress: no. WorldCat: no.

This is getting serious. And yet…

“Fool!” think I. “Work from the Wikipedia references! Track it down!”

Well, here they are:

Screenshot from Wikipedia page "Brunch" listing several citations.

Seven is the aforementioned NYT article. Six is of no use. Five, in a gentle diatribe against over-cautious imprecision in the dating of word origins in dictionaries, offers this:

For brunch, The Random House Dictionary says “1895-1900,” yet it is well known that Guy Beringer, the Englishman who coined the word, first used it in print in his article entitle “Brunch: A Plea,” which appears in Hunter’s Weekly in 1895. [Bold emphasis mine.]


So here it is: “Brunch: A Plea”: A Plea: somebody, please, track down the original article and give it to the Internet. We need this. I believe this particular story is factual; no real reason to doubt it and the Times piece quotes from it in several places. Nevertheless, the first-page-result writing on brunch in the past fifteen or twenty years knows about a single paragraph of Beringer and is quick to attribute his words to an article no one seems able to produce. Even Good Eats offered up the ubiquitous paragraph in full, leaving me little better off now than when I began.

Find this article, you win my thanks…and you restore the rights of brunching know-it-alls everywhere to tell Beringer’s story without shame.