Publishing Trap communication and development – licensing choices and impact tracking

What’s this post about

On the lead up to launching the Publishing Trap there were a number of questions we had to think about when working out how we would share the game and the resources. We think the game has value and not only have we put a lot of time and energy into it (in our own time on top of the normal duties of our day jobs), we’ve also invested our own money in making it look nice. Although we’re not ruling out the option of making a commercial product out of the game, we always had it mind that the resources should be released as an open educational resource. It seemed rather at odds with the game’s ethos to make it a proprietary product that people could only access if they shelled out their own cash, or were at a rich institution who could afford to spend money on allegorical board games.

Ultimately we decided to license the game under the most restrictive of the Creative Commons licences – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDervatives (CC-BY-NC-ND). We also decided that we wanted to make it available from our own website ( and ask that people provide their contact details before we gave them a download link. Given some of the questions we’ve had about the licence and the method by which we’ve made the game available we though it was worth sharing with the community how we reached those decisions and what we think the implications and opportunities associated with them are.

Creating translations and other derivative versions of the game

A number of people have asked us about whether they are allowed to create translations or other derivative versions of the game (e.g. country specific, or perhaps a digital version).  These are not automatically permitted under the terms of the CC licence we’ve chosen, but that doesn’t mean we’re ruling these out under any circumstances. In fact as they are in fact essential to the plan (see below). However, we also want to remain in touch with what happens with the game and to learn from the process of mixing our ideas with the ideas of others. Essentially we want people to work with us to make the game work in different contexts, but we’d like to know who’s interested in advance so we can agree how it will work. We still have a strong creative vision for the game and we want to pull the best ideas into the Publishing Trap world and apply the same look and feel (if Lisa hasn’t already had enough of us by then) so the game can be the best that it can be. In future we may decide to release further iterations under a more permissive licence but for now we’d like to keep the beta version as is. But if you are interested in making a derivative version we’d love to hear from you (please email us) to talk about it!

Creating a development community

Jane’s notes on the workings of the Publishing Trap

We want to create and sustain a community around the game because we can see some of the ways in which it could be developed. But we also realise that this could be so much better if we could harness the energy and enthusiasm of people interested in the challenges of changing academic publishing models. My original vision of the game’s complex 3D model is still a possibility which eventually we’d like to get some designers and testers to work on with us. Another aspect of the game that we’re already aware could be worked on is if people could do more with the money and if the impact made a bigger difference to the progression of the characters’ careers. Finally we wonder whether ‘joy’ or ‘wellbeing’ should be an additional currency or aspect of the game.

However, what we noticed with Copyright the Card Game is that other than anecdotally we didn’t really know who was using it and what they thought of it outside of the sessions we ran ourselves. We’ve been lucky enough to work with people in other countries on developing non-UK versions of the card game and were keen to encourage the same for the Publishing Trap. However the reality is that neither of us have the time to set up a development community site for the Publishing Trap right now, so the thing we wanted to do first was get the resources out there in a controlled way and see what people thought of it first.

How to measure ‘impact’

This is sometimes regarded as a bit of a dirty word. And those of you who have played the game will recognise that we try to make sense of what it means it in simplified but hopefully insightful way. However, even though this project wasn’t funded, nor part of our duties of employment (meaning there is no contractual requirement on us to measure impact) we still wanted to capture in some way how popular and valuable it appeared to be. Jane has written recently about her experiences of researching the challenges of working with open educational resources (OERs) and although there is clearly a benefit in “just getting it out there” we realised that future development of the game would require some understanding of how many people were interested and who they were. We have therefore made the resources available from our website and set up a registration system so that we ask people to leave their contact details and name of institution when signing up. We also have a tracker on the game resource download link. So far 144 people have registered for the download and there have been 754 hits on the resources page.

Is our plan to get rich from the game?

Whilst we are not by any means averse (or even adverse) to releasing a commercial version of the game, our focus is on doing good stuff, not on making money. The game is about open practice and we have no intention of undermining the ethos of the game by using an inconsistent model for developing and communicating it. So whilst we don’t know what the future will bring we can be pretty sure we’re not going to make future iterations only available under a proprietary licence for £500 a pop. However, nor would we consider doing a load more work with no additional funding and then dedicating it to the public domain under a CC0 licence. It’s about balance. Maybe one day we’ll make a board game about the choices you go through as a maker of board games based on open licensing choices. Or maybe not – it’s all starting to get a bit ‘meta’.

Our approach to personal data

We’ve had at least one person ask us why we want people to provide their personal data in order to get access to the resources. This is a serious and important issue and one that we might actually try to incorporate in future versions of the game. Hopefully it’s clear from the above that our interest in asking for this information is so that we can understand who’s using the game and make it even better. Yes, there may be some commercial (likely cost-recovery) activity around the game at some point in the future but we won’t use the contact list to try and ‘upsell’ products that people don’t want and we most certainly will never give the details out to any third party. Finally as per data protection laws (and basic courtesy) we will remove anyone from the mailing list who asks us to.

In summary

Thanks for making it this far. I’m going to try and summarise the above in the shortest number of words:

  • Even though it’s got an ND licence we want to encourage derivative versions – please get in touch to discuss
  • We want to create a sustainable development community, but it’s early days and we have day jobs and (just about) lives outside of
  • We want to know who’s using the game so we can do amazing stuff in the future rather than just releasing it into the void
  • We all need money to live on, but we didn’t make the game to make money
  • We take personal data issues very seriously and if you give us your name and contact details we won’t do anything dodgy with them

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