It's fun and heartwarming, but it's also a great example to show people about the power of the network. As I understand it someone suggested the idea on twitter, Dean then put together a Google Doc with the lyrics and contacted people in Alec's network to assign them lines. They then uploaded or emailed him the video clips, which he then compiled together.
Here's why I think it's interesting, beyond it being for Alec who's a great guy and featuring some of my favourite online people.
- It illustrates Clay Shirky's point about the cost of organisation collapsing. I'm sure it involved a good deal of effort on Dean's part to organise and compile, but imagine the effort it would have taken in a non-socially networked world.
- It demonstrates the reciprocity economy. Why did all these people contribute, many of whom (I'm guessing) Alec hasn't even met? Because he shares a lot of resources online, responds to people and is seen as a valuable member of many people's network. This was a way of saying thankyou.
- It shows the ease of production. As well as organisation being easy, this demonstrates how the production of multi-media artefacts is truly democratised now.
- YouTube isn't television. One of the complaints people such as Andrew Keen make about web 2.0 is that it's not professional. That isn't the point, this would never exist in a professional context, and yet it works very well as a piece of YouTube content.
- You can't predict what is learning content. This is part of my problem with OERs, they seem to predetermine what learning will take place. I have made many of the points above in various places, but I wouldn't have said 'what I need is a birthday video to demonstrate these'.
Speaking of using the video to demonstrate points, I was part of the OU's annual LearnAbout Fair the other week, which is a well organised internal event, where people host different stalls demonstrating projects or technology. I was on the 'User generated content' stall, and put together a bunch of examples in a wiki, including Alec's birthday vid. I think people did really get it through these examples, perhaps more so than with the standard ones of Wikipedia, etc. Oh, and a belated happy 40th Alec.