Low Dimensional Topology

May 19, 2013

Flooved

Filed under: Misc. — dmoskovich @ 8:52 am

Exciting news in academic publishing!

There’s a startup company in the UK, called Flooved, who are on a mission to revolutionize scientific publishing. What sets them apart from many similar-sounding initiatives is that they seem to have a solid business model and they seem to be doing all of the right things, therefore my bet is that they are going to succeed.

What they do is to compile existing lecture notes, handouts and study-guides, and along the lines of the Open Access movement, to make them freely available online. The advantage to students is clear. The advantage to instructors is that more people read and use the material. The advantage to publishers who contribute content (are you listening, big publishing companies?) is that they get precise and useful information on how the students are using their content, and this helps them make informed decisions to put them ahead of the competition. Beyond this, the Flooved model makes education available to people worldwide, including to people who don’t have access to universities. Now, if only they could also provide assessment and accreditation…

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9 Comments »

  1. I’m confused. How is this different from posting “existing lecture notes, handouts and study-guides” on your own web page and letting Google find them?

    And what’s the business model? How do they expect to make money?

    Comment by JeffE — May 19, 2013 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

    • In my understanding, Flooved is adding value in the following areas:

      • Students can annotate the notes, add their own content, share annotations, highlight text, and ask questions of peers and of authors.
      • Flooved adds various markups to the files, so that they refer to one another, there is some integration of indexes, etc. This makes it much easier to switch between texts than google, and assimilates the texts into a big digital cloud of knowledge. I don’t know the details for how they do this.
      • Content is much better organized than it would be by Google, such as for instance that you could search only for past exam papers in this subject, or from professors who used this keyword in their notes, or whatever.

      Flooved’s business model is basically freemium, but they will have limited advertising as well. So the content is free, but the ability to utilize advanced features (annotation, study groups, etc.) is by subscription.

      Comment by dmoskovich — May 20, 2013 @ 9:52 am | Reply

    • Further to your question, I asked Hamish Brocklebank of Flooved about value for contributors, and his response was:

      Professors:

      We see three major value ads/reasons for them to contribute content:

      a. On a purely altruistic basis, as at the moment a lot of professors have a lot of great content which is only used by a very small minority of students which could be put to much broader use.

      b. We will eventually provide professors with detailed usage metrics so they can see not only how often their content is used but how students interact with it.

      c. Even longer term, once there is a lot of usage we want to be able to provide professors with a pedagogical metric along the lines of the impact factor for research,

      Comment by dmoskovich — May 24, 2013 @ 2:37 am | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on Flooved and commented:
    We always like it when people are discussing Flooved, if anyone has any further thoughts please do get stuck in…

    Comment by flooved1 — June 14, 2013 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  3. I took a look at flooved after some correspondence with the company about their wanting to post some (copyrighted) material of mine.

    After looking at their site, I am very unimpressed, and doubtful that they have a viable business model or that they presently are able to provide a valuable service.

    So far the bulk of their inventory is lifted from the MIT open courseware site, which is published with a creative commons non-commercial license. This is stuff which is already easily available and in fact much better organized and easier to find and access on the original MIT site (with all sorts of supplementary exercises, references, recommended readings, etc.)

    In fact the organization of this material on the flooved site is chaotic, since each chapter or section of the material they lifted from MIT is presented as a separate item, mixed with various other stuff from other sources, all on one level of their site hierarchy.

    I really don’t know what they hope to contribute by reposting MIT’s open courseware, but in a disorganized fashion.

    The terrible organization of their site should be easy to fix but their business model is not easy to fix: Eventually, flooved intends to sell advertising based on the content they are offering. That is, flooved intends to make money (at least pay salaries and costs) by taking advantage of material generously made available by MIT and other sources. I don’t see why MIT would not consider flooved’s use of their material as commercial use, and therefore impermissible under the creative commons license, but this is not for me to say.

    I would also like to know if various lecture notes which have been posted to university sites without explicit copyright or licensing notices, and which have been reproduced on flooved have been acquired by explicit permission, or whether flooved considers anything not explicitly restricted as freely useable in their quasi-commerical setting. If the latter, I would find this ethically questionable.

    The supposed added value from flooved is the ability to have a community discussion around their posted material, but I invite you to take a look at what they are currently able to offer and compare with math stack exchange, for example.

    What they are doing could be done better by the community.

    A lot of people produce a lot of good material, course notes, expositions, etc. and make it freely available. The problem would be to know that it exists, and to know what’s especially worthwhile.

    A searchable compendium, for example a cordoned off portion of the arxiv devoted to lecture notes might better serve the purpose of making material locatable. Actually, at present google search is probably a better bet for finding stuff than is flooved.

    Lists of recommendations by serious students and knowledgeable people would be more important for sorting out what’s especially good. This is something that the community can do and flooved cannot.

    And finally, the already existing mathoverflow and math stack exchange are, and are likely to remain, far superior discussion sites.

    Comment by Fred Goodman — January 23, 2014 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for this detailed commentary!

      I think Flooved’s greatest advantage, which none of its competitors offer, is the ability to hyperlink between texts and to comment directly into text. Also, one can assign reading to a class with their bookmark feature (Feature request: It would be great to have an explicit “assign reading” feature). So a comment in a textbook like “for a more detailed proof see Y”, with a hyperlink to “Y”, seems like a great resource!

      I don’t know much about business; but surely if the big textbook publishers deserve to succeed financially, then Flooved deserve financial success! They need to get more texts, organize texts in a better manner, better search functionality, make it more user-friendly for students, collaborate with established Q&A sites, learning software sites, and the likes, and I can imagine them succeeding brilliantly. Can you think of any better advertisement for buying a textbook than to have it widely used and hyperlinked to on a site such as Flooved?

      Comment by dmoskovich — January 24, 2014 @ 4:39 am | Reply

      • surely if the big textbook publishers deserve to succeed financially, then Flooved deserve financial success

        I vacuously agree with this statement.

        Comment by Jeff Erickson — January 24, 2014 @ 10:55 am


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