No Hiding From Blackboard

Some former WebCT (bought by Blackboard) customers switched to ANGEL rather than move to Blackboard products. PDF Apr 14, 2009 Today, Blackboard announced it is buying ANGEL. You can run, but you cannot hide from Blackboard.

Some light reading for you…

  1. Learning, Together ANGEL Learning and Blackboard® have decided to join forces.
  2. Blackboard Plans to Buy Another Rival, Angel Learning | Chronicle.com
  3. Why HigherEd is rejecting Blackboard … | Laura Gekeler
  4. Open Thread on Blackboard/ANGEL Merger | mfeldstein.com

So the options left are…

  1. Blackboard-WebCT-ANGEL
  2. Moodle
  3. Desire2Learn (currently in patent troubles with Bb)
  4. Pearson eCollege
  5. Sakai

On Patents

News of the USPTO reexamination results of the Blackboard ‘0138 patent hit Slashdot yesterday. Naturally, both Desire2Learn and Blackboard are cautiously claiming victory. Certainly, as this is a draft and not the final decision, the next 60 days could result in significant changes to this preliminary decision. We will just have to wait and see.

How this plays out over the next couple months out to be interesting indeed.

Blackboard Won Suit Against D2L

Blackboard acquired patent ‘138 and brought a lawsuit against Desire2Learn. I would say 80-90% of the commentary about this case has been from anti-Blackboard crowd with about 90% of the rest from the let’s-wait-and-see crowd. Blackboard very much has been mum on the subject. I do not recall a blog of a single Blackboard supporter saying how great it will be for them to win this case. All I have seen are assurances from Bb they do not intend to sue into the ground open source (after EDUCAUSE got on Bb’s case).

I understand motivations for filing a patent request. I understand why they started the lawsuit after getting the patent. What I don’t understand is the reasoning for why the patent was awarded. Also, I don’t understand why Blackboard won the lawsuit. In truth, I probably both have more and less information.

  1. Examiner’s notes would describe the other bases of information about the decision.
  2. Transcripts of the trial would describe what information the jury heard.

Lacking, this information, I cannot really put myself in the shoes of the people who made these decisions to understand why they were made.

In the realm of public opinion, Blackboard certainly has given its vocal detractors very strong ammunition. Mainly the complaints are about using lawsuits to suppress smaller companies and establish dominance rather than innovation to win over new customers. It is about fear and uncertainty.

Drink the Kool-Aid!!

Step Back and Take a Deep Breath

Chris Hambly is asking for thoughts and reflections on Blackboard.

I deal with Blackboard nearly daily. We have one of the largest implementations of Vista. A choice to migrate to something else would affect around 180,000 people. So that choice will be very carefully maide. Of course, the longer we stay, the larger we grow and more difficult moving becomes. Unfortunately, that makes a careful choice more difficult to make.

I feel Blackboard is a publicly traded corporation. Therefore, many of its decisions are to get people with budgetary power to spend that money on Blackboard products. Yes, there are problems with Blackboard. From the looking I’ve done, people have problems with all of the equivalent products out there. Because the problems are more unfamiliar, its difficult to say whether changing would improve our situation.

The patent thing made me disappointed not angry. Less of the disappointment was directed at Blackboard, because given the state of affairs of its filing, I would have tried to get the patent as well. My most severe disappointment was to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for approving it. Perhaps this is because I’ve seen a history of the USPTO approving software patents which do not make sense. I am hopeful the USPTO can move to improve this.

Power of Assumptions

Being single, people offer up lots of places to find love offline and more frequently of late online. Almost everyone knows of the common profile browsing or question testing dating web sites. This site scares the hell out of me….

Welcome to a new era of human relationships. We’re the only introduction service that creates matches with actual physical chemistry. Our patent-pending technology uses your DNA to find others with a natural body fragrance you’ll love, with whom you’d have healthier children, a more satisfying sex life, and more*. Our personal-values-analysis provides a deep spiritual bond, to complete your path to truly amazing relationships. ScientificMatch.com

I wonder if a nerd was confused about what “chemistry” meant?

Maybe Now We’ll Be Heard?

Its funny. Apparently its time consuming for companies to conduct brand analysis (just know what is being said about them). So a niche has been filled by Scout Labs and others. (Hopefully Scout is paying attention and is reading this. Maybe Umbria will also comment their product is better. :D)

On the one hand, I think more companies ought to pay attention. In addition, I hope through honest reflection they use the reactions exposed online to make improvements. For example, I will pick on Blackboard (the company I pick on most). A complaint about documentation from Laura Gekeler’s blog resulted in a contact from a senior director offering help. There are dozens of people who blog about their experiences with Blackboard. I doubt most of them are on the radar of Blackboard’s marketing folks.

How many of these posts help to sway the impressions to Blackboard brands? My readership is tiny. The same compliment issued on my blog, Laura’s blog, and a top blogger would help the brand most coming from the top blogger. So far, except for the patent rumble, the top bloggers and sites like Slashdot have remained mostly silent. The profile of the typical blogger who will mention Blackboard is that of a user. Students mention having to use it for a class. Faculty members mention putting something up for a class they teach. Instructional designers talk about building classes. The smallest but most vocal group are the technical behind the scenes people (like me) who have to make this stuff run. None of these build a huge following. At best we read each others’ blogs so we influence each other than the masses.

Something that used to bother me is the appeal to being a publicly traded company as the reason why they are mostly silent. That is quite okay with me. Just fix it and don’t say anything.
🙂

tag: Blackboard Inc, , brand analysis, ,

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