I was interviewed for Inside Higher Education in regards to the BlackBoard/Sakai Connector:
I added a comment to the article:
When dealing with a company – we should always assume that their purpose is to increase profit. Increasingly, companies realize that by creating *truly open* ecologies around their product – they make *more* money rather then less money. When customers perceive the market as “fair” generally overall investment increases across the board. When there is a real or perceived battle between open source and proprietary companies, many organizations with money “stand pat” and invest in neither until things settle down.
Part of making a truly open ecology is standards – I work with IMS (www.imsglobal.org) and we have been developing standards like IMS Learning Tools Interoperability and others that touch on these areas. Blackboard is participating in these efforts and we hope that much of the aspects of the connector will ultimately be covered by formal, published, and interoperable standards.
But it is a delicate balancing act – products and standards move at different paces – if we wait for a perfect standard – products will be held off forever. If we never build a product – we never reveal the fine technical details needed in the standard.
When I look at all of this, the balance tips towards being engaged in the effort and trying to influence the direction to ultimately improve the experience of teachers and learners regardless of what enterprise CMS system their school or campus happens to have installed.
I think that we as a community (or at least a few of us) have a choice. We can either be part of this effort and affect it so as to produce the best possible outcome for everyone – or we can ignore it and hope it goes away.
If we choose to ignore it – BlackBoard will not stop – Sakai is open source with a commercial friendly license – Sakai’s commercial partners already take Sakai modify Sakai and sell product / service around it. How is BlackBoard doing the same thing somehow different? If company *A* sells services and software and promotes Sakai use that is great and helps build the Sakai community – but if company *B* sells services and software and promotes Sakai use – that is bad and clearly straight from the Devil? At least we should be consistent.
Feel free as an individual or even a school to like or hate BlackBoard all you like – and perhaps part of the reason some folks like Sakai is because they hate BlackBoard – whatever gets you working – I am happy to see that. But please don’t suggest that by being part of Sakai as an adopting institution or contributing developer – that somehow we all signed the “anti-BlackBoard” pact.
Sakai is about “freedom and choice” – Sakai is about win-win not win-lose – Sakai is about making teaching and learning better. Sakai is positive energy – not negative energy.
Think about the Apache web server – The Apache Foundation and the Apache Community does not think of WebSphere as the Devil. As a matter of fact revenues from WebSphere fund developers to work on the free Apache that we all know, love, and use. WebSphere and Apache HTTPD are not enemies – they are *alternatives*. Having commercial and open source products that are compatible and closely aligned – increases our freedom.
Open Source is there to make sure that we keep our freedom and alternatives – when an Open Source community decides that increasing market share at all costs is a high priority – then it has become a company that happens to release its source code – instead of an open source project. When this happens, the entire value system changes and frankly we then lose that magical quality that is open source.
I think that this is a good opportunity for the Sakai community to reflect a bit and perhaps think about our core values and the extent to which we all really understand what “open” means.