Friday, March 07, 2008

An Answer from John Baker

During my conversation with John Baker yesterday, I talked with him about the following:

I believe that this bogus patent and aggressive lawsuit has been the start of an anti-Blackboard movement within Higher Ed, which is of course exactly what they deserve. However, it should be of some concern to Desire2Learn that this movement may not be restricted only to Blackboard even though they are the current poster child for untrustworthy partners. In other words, is there a danger that the higher ed community will take this as a wake-up call to not only avoid deep ties to Blackboard, but to all vendors since any of them might potentially start acting in ways that are not collegial in nature?

My question to John: If the result of this lawsuit is that higher ed starts to avoid vendor relationships altogether and concentrates more on managing their own services via open source options - won't Blackboard's bad deeds actually hurt the entire vendor community, including D2L?

John's answer was: "This can't be a backlash against all vendors. I think it should be a backlash against vendors that have conflicting values with those of the educational community. Without investment dollars coming in from folks like ourselves and others, it will slow the pace of innovation which will do an injustice to all the students and faculty and institutions around the world. We don't want to let Blackboard win, if people latch onto fear attached to this and think 'oh, we need to do this ourselves now' - it doesn't even get around the issue because Blackboard has left it open to sue people who are implementing Sakai or Moodle or other things as well, so it's not going to get around the issue. I think what education needs to do is swing support to vendors that are more in line with their true values. We've gotten overwhelming support from the clients we've been talking to over the course of the last couple of weeks. Once we get past this issue with Blackboard, I think we're going to be in great shape because we're finally going to get an answer about does our work-around get around the patent or not, and as soon as we have that we're free and clear. We'll effectively be the only people out there in the world who are out from underneath a certain dark cloud. You know me, I always look for the sliver lining in everything. I'm anxious to get to that point, but at the same time we're not going to give up the fight against the patent validity. Even if we're out from under the cloud, we'll continue to fight it."

I may have missed a word or two here or there - but that is basically what he said to me so I feel pretty good about using the quotations on that paragraph. I thought that was a pretty good answer just off the cuff for a question that he didn't know that I was going to ask. I wish I was that smooth.

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