Monday, March 28, 2011

Automatic for the people

“Automatic for the people.”
                       -  Dexter Weaver, owner of Weaver D’s

Every once in a long while you come across one of those stories that stay with you for the rest of your life.  These stories make an impact, because of their emotional resonance or their simplicity or the way they hit you in the gut.  One of those stories for me was when I researched and album title in the 1990s. 

I was a fan of the band R.E.M. and in 1992 they release an album cryptically titled Automatic for the people.  My curiosity was piqued.  I needed to know what it meant.  The title referred to one of the mottos of Dexter Weaver, owner of Weaver D's Delicious Fine Foods is an Athens, Georgia.  It was their way of saying, “Everything we do is for the people, our customers.”  It’s an amazing, diverse place that transcends all of the racial, class, and professional categories we try to shove ourselves into.  It is truly for everyone.

I had a lifelong story.

So why talk about this now?  At this year’s OSIsoft User Conference we are announcing a revolutionary and radical change in the way we approach learning.  Beginning sometime this Spring (whenever we can process the content), we will begin offering all of our voice and video computer based training content for free using YouTube as the delivery infrastructure.   

One of the failures of learning is not getting it to the people that really need it.  Classroom learning is great but it serves such a small slice of our customer base.  Computer based training on disc usually sit s on a shelf somewhere, languishing unused after an initial browsing.  It is frustrating to have such great content and serve so few people.

When we found the Khan Academy ( ) a light bulb went on.  Based on the Google/YouTube infrastructure, it is a delivery mechanism that a small company could never reproduce.  We could stream videos but the features like transcription, translation into over 50 languages, crowd sourcing, and the best web analytics on the planet are simply out of reach for a small company.

And the best part is the price = free. 

As learning providers we finally have the mass market tool.  We have a tool where we can reach all of our customers, anytime, anywhere.  As we were assembling this project one of our stakeholders said “This is as close to a no-brainer as we will ever have.”

Or as I mused, Automatic for the people.