Megan and I find ourselves grateful, as the year comes to a close. 2015 gave MakingBetter an amazing journey that was full of surprises. Most were wonderful and some were very scary. Through it all, we found ways to make our clients happy and successful doing work we believed in. When we had struggles and found roadblocks, we worked together to get over whatever the hump was and we got to a better place.
We created things with great people. Our projects ranged from designing and developing custom reporting for software products, training providers and large enterprises. We launched an online journal, the xAPI Quarterly, kickstarting the publishing arm of our business, Connections Forum, and we ran our first events, xAPI Camps that each were co-created with our participants. In January 2015, we planned for one and as the year closed we had four with five more scheduled in 2016. Our next one at the Autodesk Galleria in downtown San Francisco, February 11. We celebrated another amazing year with the amazing community, Up to All of Us, which will convene again in Sonoma County, February 12-15. We started a non-profit. More on that in a minute.
Grateful to Make MakingBetter Happen
Megan came on full-time with MakingBetter in June, this year. We took our first serious vacation ever in July. We spent a lot of time with our families and friends. We lived and worked, together, on our own terms for the first time in our lives. We dealt with emergencies and surprise medical concerns. We innovated when we needed to and we stuck to tried and true processes when we needed to, too. We lived well in 2015. I say all this because it’s important to celebrate success and to make sure that credit goes where credit is due. I write tonight grateful for a true partner like Megan, grateful for each and every client we had this year, grateful for each and every person who’s influenced how we do what we do, grateful for our sponsors and our partners and especially…
Grateful for the xAPI Community
It’s the xAPI community I want to talk specifically to now. There are a myriad of reasons why 2015 was good for Megan and I, but the one reason that stands out is the incredible gains in xAPI’s adoption that happened this year. We know there’s been incredible growth in xAPI adoption. Our business boomed and so did that of many software vendors who create solutions that are tailored to meet some of the many things people use xAPI for. We know projects are already being planned for the beginning of 2016 at a scale that equals the whole of xAPI adoption in 2015. These are measureable outcomes of an open source community that has been lovingly and painstakingly attended by the US Department of Defense and its particular initiative, Advanced Distributed Learning. xAPI is in every way a stunning success. It is proving that open government practices, a pro-entrepreneurial approach and an authentic embrace of open source can stimulate innovation, enable implemented approaches to complex and serious challenges, and catalyze economic opportunities. It is far from the applied research and development activity it was four years ago. It is a mature spec that is growing its own industry.
Grateful for xAPI’s Growth
xAPI is so successful that it’s actually becoming a challenge for ADL to support it to the scale it now demands. The Design Cohort program that began in 2013 became so well attended and populated that it couldn’t be supported by ADL anymore — they just don’t have the resources to do it on their own. The maintenance of the spec is labor intensive enough for the resources ADL has, that certification isn’t something they can handle on their own without stopping something else important. When SCORM was being created, it was an epoch ago for information and instructional technology, and ADL had over 40 engineers they could apply to SCORM alone. ADL now has dozens of high priority projects and there are maybe six full-time engineers they can resource for xAPI. Fortunately, those of us who brought to ADL the concepts that enabled xAPI’s creation knew that the day would come when specs and standards would need to move beyond ADL to truly mature. This is why open source was so crucial a path for xAPI. It’s because xAPI is licensed Apache 2.0 that anyone can take xAPI and mature it, and that’s just what we’re about to do, given ADL’s blessing and commitment to participate in the effort.
Grateful to Serve Our Community
The non-profit we started at the close of 2015 is the Data Interoperability Standards Consortium, or DISC (because, acronyms). There are many challenges to working with data: interoperability, security, privacy, professional competencies, validation, provenance, ethics, legalities, languages, formats, etc. We intend for DISC to offer the table where all communities of practice, individuals, organizations, governments and industries can work together to meet the complexities of working with data. It’s about more than xAPI, but make no mistake, xAPI is our priority in 2016. The transition from an ADL-organized xAPI Community to a DISC-organized xAPI Community will begin in the first quarter of 2016. By the middle of the year, we’ll have established working groups and special interest groups to explore ways in which xAPI may be extended as well as certification requirements. By the beginning of 2017, we’ll have a certification program in place and an array of tools that will make working with xAPI’s vocabulary much much easier.
That seems like a lot to get done in one year, and you’re right. It is a lot. But it will be done because it has to be done. xAPI is growing so much that if we don’t have certification in place by the end of 2016, we risk xAPI’s long term future. We predict a massive catalyst for international adoption to emerge by the end of 2016 in the way of procurement requirements for governments around xAPI, because having data that everyone can understand and can make use of is in the interest of public good institutions. When governments are a year away from requiring xAPI support and certified products are all that will be purchased, it makes right now the very moment where xAPI goes big. It is exciting, frightening and uncertain – and it’s fun, and this is what it’s like for us to be so fully invested when the stakes are this high. The fact that the stakes for xAPI are this high should be the reassurance everyone needs that xAPI really is a big deal and it’s worth our sweat to invest in its growth right now.
Grateful for a Future We Can Forge Together
Because xAPI is open source, and because xAPI will have an organization that is focused expressly on its maturity, it’s going to get the chance to grow in a way that no learning technology has ever had the chance to do. Megan and I are proud to have an incredible team on DISC’s Board of Directors from around the world who represent years of extraordinary work in leading professional organizations, the science of learning analytics, the development of industry organizations, professional practice and xAPI itself. Very soon, we’ll announce our founding Board of Directors and post our by-laws, our 2016 goals and objectives and we’ll open membership. xAPI will forever be Apache 2.0 and we intend to ensure that it remain open source and cared for by an open community as long as it remains relevant. The organization we’re creating will finally structure how decisions about it are made, balancing the needs of those most invested in xAPI requirements with the needs of those most impacted by xAPI applications. Without the burdens and caveats that come with moving this activity into large spec and standards groups, as a community and an industry with many verticals, we can design our own future with xAPI.
Grateful for Your Help In What Comes Next
There’s been only a few sketchy roadmaps for what Megan and I have been doing together as MakingBetter. There are even fewer notes on what we’re about to do with DISC in forming an industry organization to steward a major open source project with the cooperation of its existing stewards in the US DoD. But, this isn’t the first time Megan and I have had to work with a community to create something that didn’t previously exist. We’ve done it with Up to All of Us. We did it with growing xAPI into a fully realized community of designers, developers, content and data wranglers. We did it with figuring out how to get an idea for open source into and out of US government. And now we’re going to figure out, with the full interest by and for the community, how we grow the industry and professional practice around xAPI. It will require paying members and continued open community participation. It will require a level of dedication, enthusiasm and grit that hasn’t been demanded yet. Given all that, I’ve never been more confident in our abilities, all of us together, to figure this out. We’ve been able to plan and go off-plan and get this far. It stands to reason we’re going to go a lot farther together.
Megan and I are staking our business on xAPI. We’re staking our families on xAPI. We’re committing our lives over the next couple of years to the community and industry around xAPI and we are grateful to do so.
We wish you all the best for this holiday season and for the new year to come. We’ve loved hanging with you. We’ve loved working with you. We’ve learned so much in doing so and we can’t wait for the next level shit about to happen!