THE PASSIONATE SKEPTIC
Thor May 1997
Note 1: This paper makes a number of concrete suggestions about publication standards within TAFEs. However, it goes beyond simple technical recommendations to identify an existing situation of plagiarism and low publication standards which undermines the very educational mission of tertiary institutions.
Note 2: The document has been circulated privately to educational managers and others, twice, within a two year interval. The silence has been deafening: there simply seems to be no genuine interest in reform.
Table of Contents
introduction // 1. definition of Colour Sheet Publication // 2. issues affecting Colour Sheet Publication // identification of authors // copyright or freeware? // acknowledgment of sources // editing & refereeing // archiving // reproduction // updating, modifying & adapting material // appendix "A": sample freeware software licence (GNU) // GNU terms & conditions // GNU "no warranty" provision // how to apply the GNU licence //
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Colour Sheet Publishing (c) Thor May 1997; all rights reserved
Colour Sheet Publishing
This is a discussion paper to encourage TAFE staff to standardize some of the conventions for publishing short documents and booklets. Such material is constantly being developed and recycled for teaching or general information. The views expressed below are my own.
1. Definition of Colour Sheet Publication
A colour sheet publication (CSP) is taken to be any document of several pages which is produced with a view to reuse, but which is not professionally edited and bound for commercial distribution. Thus a CSP is something more than a one-off teacher's worksheet, but rather less than a book. Such documents are typically given a coloured cover page; hence the name.
2. Issues affecting Colour Sheet Publications
The following are some issues which are relevant to colour sheet publications. The list is not exhaustive.
* Identification of author(s)
* Copyright or Freeware?
* Acknowledgment of sources
* Editing & refereeing
* Reproduction quality
* Updating, modifying, adaptation
* Out-of-College distribution
3. Identification of authors
Every CSP should show the name of the original author, the date of original and subsequent versions, and the source department & institution. There are many good reasons for encouraging this practice.
* TAFE colleges are awash with anonymous documents of doubtful lineage. Many have been cobbled together from fragments of earlier material, almost always without acknowledgment, and very often in complete violation of the original context. Such documents are widely used for teaching, but it is almost impossible to judge the contribution of present users to their creation.
* In an earlier age it was common practice for all institutional documents to be issued in the name of the chief executive officer. Huge government departments had every letter apparently signed by a minister or departmental head. Newspapers were notionally "written" by editors: journalists remained anonymous ... and so on. In theory this was supposed to ensure a common policy and impartial performance. In practice it led to a loss of personal responsibility and dull, bureaucratic time-serving. There are clear signs of this in the TAFE system. By contrast, the role of authorship is clearly recognized in established universities. The glory, as well as the risks, of putting an author's name on a document motivate much academic output and help to keep the writers honest.
* When the author of a CSP is known, later users are in a far better position to make optimum use of the document. They can clarify unclear points, challenge doubtful or wrong information, praise what is praiseworthy and suggest improvements for later editions. When the document has a publication date, they can make an informed estimate of whether quoted facts need to be updated.
* There is one class of TAFE document which does commonly show authorship. This is the committee meeting product, to which everyone and her parrot appends their name. It is the old story of safety in numbers. Such material is almost guaranteed to be empty rhetoric, for no committee has ever made an invention, written a novel or even produced a decent text book. Curriculum documents are a prime example. The production of this kind of vacuous material is inseparable from institutional life, and should certainly follow CSP guidelines. However it cannot be decently used as a true measure of CSP publication standards.
4. Copyright or Freeware?
Both authors and institutional heads tend to be instinctively possessive about any material that has an air of permanence. Copyright notices are slapped on the flimsiest documents, apparently with a supposition that they will earn millions when sold to some unnamed Asian government. This sits curiously with standard TAFE practice of plagiarizing everything that is worth plagiarizing. There are very good reasons for reserving restrictive copyright to documents which are professionally published for commercial gain.
* TAFE students cannot be expected to develop a respect for the concept of copyright when it is routinely ignored by TAFE teachers who properly judge that a CSP can only be useful when it is freely copied.
* Where TAFE teachers feel obliged to ignore the copyright of CSP documents, their judgement becomes blurred with more overtly commercial material.
* The growth and dissemination of knowledge depends upon the free, generous exchange of information. Universities have worked on this principal for centuries (and lately become at risk of forgetting it). There is a strong argument that TAFEs, as publicly funded institutions, have an obligation to make their teaching materials as widely available as possible, in the least restrictive manner.
* The ease of software piracy has created whole new modes of publication in the electronic media. Many tens of thousands of computer programs are now available as "shareware" and "freeware". A typical freeware distribution notice is attached to this paper for the reader's information. A large proportion of the commercial software programs now on sale have been available free (or at nominal cost) in beta versions prior to sale. The software publishers have calculated that pre-commercial distribution is their best form of advertising, and that innumerable enthusiasts will find faults to correct in the programs that their own testing could never uncover. The photocopy machine is the hardcopy equivalent of a disk-copy program, and the arguments which support electronic freeware are equally powerful when applied to paper.
* A copyright mark can be as restrictive or free as an author wishes. However, it seems desirable to adopt another sign for the brief identification of "freeware" as opposed to "commercial ware". Freeware would still carry an obligation to acknowledge the author, but forgo any commercial restriction on usage, somewhat after the style of the attached software notice. For convenience, this writer has adopted <fw> as a freeware mark.
5. Acknowledgment of Sources
Arguments have already been made for the author identification of CSPs. With this comes an obligation for users, and especially those who modify, borrow or adapt the original CSP to identify the original contribution. Equally, CSP authors themselves must be absolutely required to indicated the sources of their own information. Proper referencing is standard academic practice. It is taught to Australian TAFE students in Communications courses in a desultory manner. In practice it is ignored or subverted by a majority of TAFE students, and on any reasonable assessment, by a large percentage of TAFE staff. Pious utterances are made whenever the issue is raised in public, but nothing effective happens. No other matter so undermines the credibility of TAFE institutional standards. Plagiarism is a defining characteristic of present TAFE practice, putting it on a level with many Third World educational systems.
6. Editing and refereeing
Teachers are busy people. It is not uncommon for CSP materials to be assembled on the "just in time" principle, and from whatever is nearest to hand. Indeed, many of us work best under pressure. However, before a worksheet becomes a slightly more dignified colour sheet publication, everyone's best interest will be served by a little professional care.
* Potential CSP material should be reviewed by one or more referees who have expertise in the document's topic. Such referees should be asked and expected to operate within a reasonable time frame. Academic papers are normally reviewed by anonymous referees, but this is probably not viable in the confined hot-house rush of a TAFE college department. The point of CSP refereeing is not to evaluate original contributions to knowledge, but to save everyone from the embarrassment of gross technical errors. This can be done with tact.
* In the nature of things, most CSP material will be produced by an individual or a small team of people on a one-off basis, and as an adjunct to their normal activity. It will help to raise overall standards however if departments can identify particular staff as "editorial advisers". An editorial adviser would be a person with excellent literacy, and hopefully some talent for the technical skills that editors need. The editorial adviser would be familiar with the principles applying to colour page editing, and act as a mentor to people in the department who were attempting a CSP production.
There is presently no way of knowing what CSP documents have been produced in most TAFE colleges. There is no systematic institutional memory from person to person, course to course or department to department. What happens is that a proportion of prior materials is found or inherited accidentally, then cannibalized in the most haphazard manner. This passes for creativity. Particularly moribund sectors may teach CSP modules mechanically year after year, long after the authors have been forgotten and the original context lost. In the worst cases, documentation which was originally plagiarized becomes absorbed by osmosis into successive remakes of the original, and may even be claimed as "copyright" by the institution.
* TAFEs can make a major contribution to raising their own standards and reputations by systematically cataloguing all CSP material. When publication involved the one- off typing of paper masters there may have been some excuse for neglect. The expense of creating, storing and accessing paper archives could perhaps outweigh many benefits. Now virtually all typed material is stored on computer disk. This is quick to copy, easy to distribute, and with the help of a good database could be accessed almost instantaneously.
* In a very few years every TAFE campus (like all major commercial sites) will be linked by local and wide area electronic networks. This is already the case in universities where staff have immediate access to each other and to a wide range of information services on personal computer workstations. Such an environment lends itself to the efficient archiving and dissemination of information. We should expect that teachers (and other staff) will draw upon and contribute to large libraries of worksheets and CSP-type material. Electronic searches will quickly locate all information on a given topic. Data will be downloaded to a workstation, synthesized and printed in the required quantities. This description is not science fiction. It is already happening in institutions which are ahead of the game, and has been standard practice in some multinational corporations for several years. No TAFE which hopes to remain viable can continue to operate on a "type it and lose it" system.
* An earlier paragraph mentioned the institutional obsession with copyright, as a kind of cargo cult dream. Anonymous CSP booklets, cobbled together in successive versions from unnamed sources will never earn any college a good reputation or real commercial returns. A substantial electronic database, properly designed and with attributed contributions by professional staff is another matter. Not only would such a database have value in itself, it could be a vehicle for staff to systematically develop sound commercial material. Particular topics, ideas or projects could be taken up by successive generations of staff. We all see further by standing on the shoulders of our predecessors, when we know who they were and what they really intended.
It is within my memory that in-house reproduction was a painstaking, messy business with spirit duplicators. Now we consume forests for the photocopy machines. In spite of OHPs and computer projection panels, paper will remain central to the classroom dissemination of information. Projected material cannot be taken away by students, and tends to mesmerize them into a massive, non-productive hand- copying exercise. It is not unknown, however, for photocopied material to pass through so many generations that it is difficult to read. This is bad enough on a worksheet. I have seen a number of CSPs that are virtually illegible in places for the same reason. Not only do such documents fail to convey their message, they are a graphic advertisement for bankrupt creativity in an institution. The proper archiving of master copies (preferably electronic) is an obvious answer to this problem.
9. Updating, modifying and adapting material
A trainer is someone who has the job of communicating a fixed menu of information or a explaining the way to do a narrowly defined job. A teacher is someone who takes each student, helps that person to understand his or her potential, and assesses what information or skill, in what form, well best enable that student to develop. Trainers can, and often do, work with the same "training modules" year after year. Good teachers are constantly adapting, editing and evaluating their content material to meet the needs of each new student group, for no two students are the same. So- called "competency curriculums" are too often an attempt to turn teachers into trainers. Nevertheless, there is often a need to encourage teachers to work towards some broad common goals with their students, and there is always a need to coax trainers to massage their fixed program to meet the real needs of their clients. Properly sourced CSP material, archived and accessible has the potential to help both teachers and trainers to become better at their jobs.
* CSP material which is dated, and whose author is known can be usefully archived and accessed by these keys, as well as by topic. Once such documents can be reached with minimum effort by teachers and trainers in a hurry, their best elements can be borrowed (with acknowledgment) and synthesized with other ideas. When the archive is comprehensive, there should be a progressive improvement in material available across a broad range of topics.
* Once teachers and trainers know the full curriculum history of a topic they can realistically evaluate its use, refine its application and develop the best possible materials for its exposition. Nobody should have to reinvent the wheel, but they should have more than a wrecker's yard to choose from in developing better wheels. 10. The out-of-college distribution of CSP documents
All of the advantages for the proper editing, authorship, acknowledgment of sources and efficient archiving of CSP material outlined above can be multiplied many times over where resources are pooled amongst institutions. Many readers will not need reminding that the artificial competition being imposed by DEET is having a net negative effect on the service to clients. It will be a double tragedy if this new meanness extends to the exchange of information.
* Technology is bringing us to the threshold of a revolution in the dissemination of knowledge. The mass education systems of the last century have discounted individual abilities and interests. The sheer volume of demand forced educators to deliver omnibus curriculums to undifferentiated hordes of students. It is interesting indeed that pedagogy has mimicked industrial production, but usually with a time lag. In a post industrial age commercial goods and services are increasingly customized. The access to information can also be customized for our students, but only where it is properly organized and accessible in the widest possible forum. For TAFEs, the conscious development of CSP materials as outlined above is a prerequisite to this new information age.
APPENDIX `A' : SAMPLE FREEWARE SOFTWARE LICENCE
The following document has been attached by a software company, GNU, to its "freeware" products. It is included as a discussion sample and guide to the kind of thing that might be developed for Colour Sheet "dead tree" publishing.
GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE Version 1, February 1989
Copyright © 1989 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 675 Mass Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Everyone is permitted to copy and distribute verbatim copies of this license document, but changing it is not allowed.
The license agreements of most software companies try to keep users at the mercy of those companies. By contrast, our General Public License is intended to guarantee your freedom to share and change free software -- to make sure the software is free for all its users. The General Public License applies to the Free Software Foundation’s software and to any other program whose authors commit to using it. You can use it for your programs, too.
When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Specifically, the General Public License is designed to make sure that you have the freedom to give away or sell copies of free software, that you receive source code or can get it if you want it, that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things.
To protect your rights, we need to make restrictions that forbid anyone to deny you these rights or to ask you to surrender the rights. These restrictions translate to certain responsibilities for you if you distribute copies of the software, or if you modify it.
For example, if you distribute copies of a such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must give the recipients all the rights that you have. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must tell them their rights.
We protect your rights with two steps: (1) copyright the software, and (2) offer you this license which gives you legal permission to copy, distribute and/or modify the software.
Also, for each author’s protection and ours, we want to make certain that everyone understands that there is no warranty for this free software. If the software is modified by someone else and passed on, we want its recipients to know that what they have is not the original, so that any problems introduced by others will not reflect on the original authors’ reputations.
The precise terms and conditions for copying, distribution and modification follow.
GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION
0. This License Agreement applies to any program or other work which contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it may be distributed under the terms of this General Public License. The "Program", below, refers to any such program or work, and a "work based on the Program" means either the Program or any work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications. Each licensee is addressed as "you".
1. You may copy and distribute verbatim copies of the Program’s source code as you receive it, in any medium, provided that you conspicuously and appropriately publish on each copy an appropriate copyright notice and disclaimer of warranty; keep intact all the notices that refer to this General Public License and to the absence of any warranty; and give any other recipients of the Program a copy of this General Public License along with the Program. You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy.
2. You may modify your copy or copies of the Program or any portion of it, and copy and distribute such modifications under the terms of Paragraph 1 above, provided that you also do the following:
a) cause the modified files to carry prominent notices stating that you changed the files and the date of any change; and
b) cause the whole of any work that you distribute or publish, that in whole or in part contains the Program or any part thereof, either with or without modifications, to be licensed at no charge to all third parties under the terms of this General Public License (except that you may choose to grant warranty protection to some or all third parties, at your option).
c) If the modified program normally reads commands interactively when run, you must cause it, when started running for such interactive use in the simplest and most usual way, to print or display an announcement including an appropriate copyright notice and a notice that there is no warranty (or else, saying that you provide a warranty) and that users may redistribute the program under these conditions, and telling the user how to view a copy of this General Public License.
d) You may charge a fee for the physical act of transferring a copy, and you may at your option offer warranty protection in exchange for a fee.
Mere aggregation of another independent work with the Program (or its derivative) on a volume of a storage or distribution medium does not bring the other work under the scope of these terms.
3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a portion or derivative of it, under Paragraph 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Paragraphs 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:
a) accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Paragraphs 1 and 2 above; or,
b) accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party free (except for a nominal charge for the cost of distribution) a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Paragraphs 1 and 2 above; or,
c) accompany it with the information you received as to where the corresponding source code may be obtained. (This alternative is allowed only for non commercial distribution and only if you received the program in object code or executable form alone.)
Source code for a work means the preferred form of the work for making modifications to it. For an executable file, complete source code means all the source code for all modules it contains; but, as a special exception, it need not include source code for modules which are standard libraries that accompany the operating system on which the executable file runs, or for standard header files or definitions files that accompany that operating system.
4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, distribute or transfer the Program except as expressly provided under this General Public License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense, distribute or transfer the Program is void, and will automatically terminate your rights to use the Program under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights to use copies, from you under this General Public License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.
5. By copying, distributing or modifying the Program (or any work based on the Program) you indicate your acceptance of this license to do so, and all its terms and conditions.
6. Each time you redistribute the Program (or any work based on the Program), the recipient automatically receives a license from the original licensor to copy, distribute or modify the Program subject to these terms and conditions. You may not impose any further restrictions on the recipients’ exercise of the rights granted herein.
7. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.
Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of the license which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of the license, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.
8. If you wish to incorporate parts of the Program into other free programs whose distribution conditions are different, write to the author to ask for permission. For software which is copyrighted by the Free Software Foundation, write to the Free Software Foundation; we sometimes make exceptions for this. Our decision will be guided by the two goals of preserving the free status of all derivatives of our free software and of promoting the sharing and reuse of software generally.
9. BECAUSE THE PROGRAM IS LICENSED FREE OF CHARGE, THERE IS NO WARRANTY FOR THE PROGRAM, TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY APPLICABLE LAW. EXCEPT WHEN OTHERWISE STATED IN WRITING THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND/OR OTHER PARTIES PROVIDE THE PROGRAM "AS IS" WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. THE ENTIRE RISK AS TO THE QUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS WITH YOU. SHOULD THE PROGRAM PROVE DEFECTIVE, YOU ASSUME THE COST OF ALL NECESSARY SERVICING, REPAIR OR CORRECTION.
10. IN NO EVENT UNLESS REQUIRED BY APPLICABLE LAW OR AGREED TO IN WRITING WILL ANY COPYRIGHT HOLDER, OR ANY OTHER PARTY WHO MAY MODIFY AND/OR REDISTRIBUTE THE PROGRAM AS PERMITTED ABOVE, BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR DAMAGES, INCLUDING ANY GENERAL, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE PROGRAM (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OF DATA OR DATA BEING RENDERED INACCURATE OR LOSSES SUSTAINED BY YOU OR THIRD PARTIES OR A FAILURE OF THE PROGRAM TO OPERATE WITH ANY OTHER PROGRAMS), EVEN IF SUCH HOLDER OR OTHER PARTY HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.
END OF TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Appendix [GNU] : How to Apply These Terms to Your New Programs
If you develop a new program, and you want it to be of the greatest possible use to humanity, the best way to achieve this is to make it free software which everyone can redistribute and change under these terms.
To do so, attach the following notices to the program. It is safest to attach them to the start of each source file to most effectively convey the exclusion of warranty; and each file should have at least the "copyright" line and a pointer to where the full notice is found.
<one line to give the program’s name and a brief idea of what it does.> Copyright (C) 19XX <name of author>
This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 1, or (at your option) any later version.
This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.
You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 675 Mass Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
Also add information on how to contact you by electronic and paper mail.
If the program is interactive, make it output a short notice like this when it starts in an interactive mode:
Gnomovision version 69, Copyright (C) 19XX <name of author> Gnomovision comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY; for details type 'show w'. This is free software, and you are welcome to redistribute it under certain conditions; type 'show c' for details.
The hypothetical commands ‘show w’ and ‘show c’ should show the appropriate parts of the General Public License. Of course, the commands you use may be called something other than ‘show w’ and ‘show c’; they could even be mouse-clicks or menu items - whatever suits your program.
You should also get your employer (if you work as a programmer) or your school, if any, to sign a "copyright disclaimer" for the program, if necessary. Here is a sample; alter the names:
Yoyodyne, Inc., hereby disclaims all copyright interest in the program ‘Gnomovision’ (a program to direct compilers to make passes at assemblers) written by James Hacker.
<signature of Ty Coon>, 1 April 1989 Ty Coon, President of Vice
That’s all there is to it!