Monthly Archives: June 2014

Dear Google – You Need A Tip Jar So I can Show the Love

Google – Yesterday you saved me $2000 and there is no way to say ‘thank you’. If there were a place to “tip” Google I would certainly give you a nice tip.

Here is my story.

Two days ago, my wife came into the house and wondered why it was so hot even though we had turned the air conditioner on hours earlier. It did seem to be a bit warm so I went out to look at the compressor.

The fan was not spinning but it was hot and making a low hum – not good. Then I used a stick to push the fan to see if it was bad or sticking bearing – the fan spun freely but did not start. Our house was built in 2001 and many of the homes in the neighborhood have been replacing their 15-year old air conditioners. And it was in a series of very hot days so I knew it would take forever to get it fixed – groan. I turned off the power and figured I would use Google Search to do some research on how much this would cost me.

First I just tried to find out how much a new condenser would cost installed – so I googled “AC Condenser price” and “installation cost AC condenser” . There was no clear answer so I figured I would just go get the model number of my existing Carrier condenser and Google it to find the replacement cost of the exact same condenser.

So I started typing ‘carrier 38ckc036340’ and as I was typing – the following screen came up:

I was intrigued by the mention of ‘capacitor’ as I knew that it was pretty common for lots of electronic things to fail because of capacitor failure. So I looked at a few pages and then switched my search to ‘carrier 38ckc036340 fan stopped’ and quickly found this page:

Carrier A/C condenser not working (fan doesn’t come on)

The picture looked pretty easy to interpret so I turned off the power to my AC unit and opened it up. Not only was my capacitor top obviously bulging, I had a stripped wire that I was surprised had not shorted these past 15 years.

A couple of machine screws later I had the capacitor off. A quick motorcycle ride to the appliance parts store and $35.00 later I had a new capacitor. I popped it back in and the AC started working immediately:

So here is the upshot. Google’s type ahead saved me as much as $2K – not only did it save me money but I was able to complete the repair in about the same amount of time it would have take a repair company to call me back.

I know who helped me here and want to share the love. But there is no “tip jar” to drop $5 or $20 into to thank “Google”.

I think that you should make this part of AdWords. Put it in the AdWords rectangle as shown below. I know that I need to show the love to (a) the site with the money-saving knowledge and (b) Google for getting me there – so a profit split from the tip jar would put the right incentives in place for all.

Now in the future as search ads become less and less valuable (especially on the non-video internet) – you might find that a tip jar model is a great source of revenue.

Let me know if this works out for you. You could share a bit of the love for me coming up with such a cool idea by clicking on my little Leave Tip button.

Sakai Value Proposition in Light of the Unizin Announcement

Note: In this blog post I am not speaking for anyone other than myself as a faculty member in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, individual contributor to the Sakai community, and incoming chair of the Sakai Project Management Committee (PMC). I am not in any way involved with the Unizin effort at the University of Michigan. Full disclosure: I do consulting work as the Sakai Chief Strategist for Longsight, Inc. – A leading provider of hosting and development services around Sakai.

Related: Only on Canvas (Unizin) from Inside Higher Education.

There seems to be some confusion as to how the creation of the Unizin effort ( might affect the Sakai community. Those who have not looked at Sakai in some time might assume that as the University of Michigan and Indiana University start to invest resources to support the Canvas LMS that Sakai will be left with no resources. Thankfully this is not the case as over the past ten years Sakai has become a rich and diverse international open source community. The following graph shows the participation levels of the various institutions on the Sakai developer list over the past ten years.

Looking at the graph, you can see how the Sakai project started with about seven schools that contributed the bulk of the initial code and provided essential leadership that helped the community to grow. Building the initial Sakai code base was very labor and capital intensive. But now that Sakai is on par with the other LMS systems in the marketplace the need for large-scale investment from Universities is greatly reduced. In a recent survey, Sakai represents a 9% market share in US higher education based on FTE.

Sakai no longer depends on the founding schools to move the project forward. Schools like Michigan, Stanford, Berkeley, Cambridge, Oxford, Cape Town, Columbia, and Indiana got us started in the early years – but over the past decade the Sakai community has become very rich, diverse, and sustainable. The Sakai community now has contributors from over 100 organizations around the world. Schools like Rutgers, NYU, Stanford, Columbia, Cape Town, Oxford, and others continue to provide community leadership and strong representation from higher education. These direct contributions from higher education institutions are increasingly supplemented by significant investments from successful Sakai Commercial Affiliates. The global nature of the community coupled with the open cooperation between higher education resources and commercial resources working on the same code base leads to a very robust ecosystem that will sustain Sakai for many years.

The Sakai product is a stable, performant and compelling learning and collaboration platform with an exciting and innovative development roadmap. The Sakai 10 release (2Q14) focuses on making Sakai cloud-ready and greatly reduces the hardware requirements to run Sakai. The Sakai 11 release scheduled for 2Q15 adds mobile capabilities and a completely redesigned responsive user interface as well as further improvements to Sakai’s scalability and cloud readiness.

Growing world-wide adoption has also been translated into significant levels of growing worldwide contribution. We’re an open global community supporting globally relevant software. Sakai features more languages than any commercial LMS because open source allows those with an interest to invest in a translation to meet their own needs.

Recall that Sakai was created in part to reintroduce competition into an LMS market space dominated by a single commercial provider. We along with a number of other LMS providers succeeded in reversing the trend towards single provider dominance. We welcome the innovations and competitive spirit that Instructure has brought to the market. The goal of Sakai is to make the entire learning ecosystem better rather than a simple focus on Sakai’s market share. Competition between Sakai and Canvas both in the marketplace and on various campuses will only make both products better to the benefit of teachers and learners regardless of the product they use.

I think that we are going to see larger higher education institutions supporting multiple LMS platforms as a steady-state situation for their campuses going forward. A school already might be actively teaching Sakai, EdX and Coursera – these systems provide capabilities that are “additive”. With the increasing trend toward outsourcing the hosting and maintenance of these systems (including schools that use Sakai) it is less important to only have a single LMS for the entire campus. Campus IT increasingly is maintaining a portfolio of services from multiple vendors to meet the needs of faculty, staff, and students at the university.

Supporting more than one LMS gives faculty a choice in a way that a single one-size fits all LMS has never been able to provide. It also means that faculty can experience unhurried migrations from one product to another since there is no rush to “shut down” an open-source LMS that does not have an annual license. And as the multi-LMS campus becomes the norm, standards and interoperability like those from IMS Global come to the fore. And Sakai is ideally positioned to work with Canvas and others to rapidly innovate around data portability and software interoperability.

TSUGI – An Standards-Based Learning Tool Framework

Over the next few weeks I will be writing some blog posts about my new approach to teaching and learning technology. You can see a few of my recent talks about my ideas on SlideShare.

The overall goal of the TSUGI framework is to make it as simple as possible to write IMS Learning Tools Interoperability™ (LTI)™ tools supporting LTI 1.x (and soon 2.x) and put them into production. The framework hides all the detail of the IMS standards behind an API. The use of this framework does not automatically imply any type of IMS certification. Tools and products that use this framework must still go through the formal certification process through IMS (

My overall goal is to create a learning ecosystem that spans all the LMS systems including Sakai, Moodle, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Canvas, Coursera, EdX, NovoEd, and perhaps even Google Classroom. It is time to move away from the one-off LTI implementations and move towards a shared hosting container for learning tools. With the emergence of IMS standards for Analytics, Grade book, Roster, App Store, and a myriad of other services, we cannot afford to do independent implementations for each of these standards. TSUGI hopes to provide one sharable implementation of all of these standards as they are developed, completed, and approved.

In the long run I expect to develop Java, Ruby, and other variants of TSUGI but I am initially focusing on the PHP version because it allows me to be most agile as we explore architecture choices and engages the widest range of software developers.

In the long run, I hope to make this a formal open source project, but for now it is just my own “Dr. Chuck Labs” effort.
Even in its current form it is very reliable and very scalable but I am not eager to have too many adoptions because I expect the code will see several refactor phases as various communities start to look critically at the code.

If you want to watch this evolve see

Learning Tools Interoperability™ (LTI™) is a trademark of IMS Global Learning Consortium, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. (