The September issue of Wired Magazine (one of the few analog publications I still get), has an interesting look at what they call the Good Enough Revolution.
Think the Flip and other pocket-sized cameras that do “good enough” video. Hulu – good enough TV. Netbooks – good enough computers.
The Flip’s success stunned the industry, but it shouldn’t have. It’s just the latest triumph of what might be called Good Enough tech. Cheap, fast, simple tools are suddenly everywhere. We get our breaking news from blogs, we make spotty long-distance calls on Skype, we watch video on small computer screens rather than TVs, and more and more of us are carrying around dinky, low-power netbook computers that are just good enough to meet our surfing and emailing needs. The low end has never been riding higher.
All of these, and more, are examples of the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule.
You can think of it this way: 20 percent of the effort, features, or investment often delivers 80 percent of the value to consumers. That means you can drastically simplify a product or service in order to make it more accessible and still keep 80 percent of what users want–making it Good Enough.
Another example of the good enough trend is the increasing number of beta programs/web tools that are available.
It used to be that beta software, applications in the final phase of testing before release, was restricted to a small group of users and you actually had to know something (or somebody) to be included.
Now many companies consider betas good enough to distribute to the general public and sometimes even to sell, possibly even at a discount.
And, of course, the rapidly growing open source movement (which is now more than software) is all about content that is in a constant state of development.
So, how does this fast-moving “good enough revolution” supposedly going on in the real world relate to how things operate in our overly-large school district?
We spend a lot of money around here on running a large, professional Outlook/Exchange installation. Would the recently-released-from-beta Gmail be good enough?
Instead of paying millions annually for the use of Microsoft’s Office, is it possible 80% of our staff and students could do everything they need to do with Open Office or Google Docs?
Could Wikispaces or Moodle replace our multi-million dollar Blackboard installation?
Going beyond the IT issues, is the “good enough” concept something that could be applied to the way we write curriculum and create instructional materials?
This fall we are entering our second or third year of a project to build a massive database of content and test questions for teachers to use, a slow, methodical process requiring every word to be reviewed, re-reviewed, and approved.
Could we get a “good enough” resource much faster by allowing anyone (even those not in a central office job!? <gasp>) add their ideas and then letting the larger community decide what to keep and what to discard?
Ok, so maybe letting everyone in the system do their own thing, both in terms of IT and instruction, is not the best idea.
However, there must be a better way than the glacial, confusing, overly-complicated processes we have now.