Friday, July 09, 2010

No Show at D2L User Conference

I've been asked by quite a few people (seriously I have, approaching double digits) why I am NOT attending FUSION, the D2L User Conference that starts in a few days. I will very much miss hanging out with everyone at the Unconference Sunday night - in fact, I almost chose to attend this event without attending the rest of the conference, but decided against it. (CC photo by David Paul Ohmer)

A conference in July is never easy because there's just too much summer stuff, family-time, and all that jazz going on. But that's not the reason. We have severe budget cuts that are restricting our travel to these types of events. But that's not the reason.

Without further ado, here is my Top Five List for reasons why I will not be attending the conference this year:

Number 5: Location (actually this is a very distant fifth place)
  • I hate attending conferences in Chicago. Getting from the airport to downtown is as bad as flying into Denver.
  • Once I went out in Chicago with three friends for pizza and beers. Between the four of us we had one pizza and 6 beers. Our "guest check" was $120 before tip. This is the Midwest people - there's nothing special going on here at all. Get over yourselves.
Number 4: Screwups
  • I don't need to go into details here, let's just say that my days of being on the planning committee came to an end when some things were handled very poorly. Certain people will know what I'm talking about. Nuff said.
Number 3: Transparency
  • For three years (or whatever) during the Blackborg fight, all I heard from D2L was how "transparent" they were being with their clients - keeping the clients (and anyone else who might be interested) as informed as possible about how they were fighting the good fight for higher education in particular and against software patent bullies in general.
  • You lose all credibility (with me at least) when you then shut off all information and become as opaque as possible when the end game is reached.
  • Okay, I understand that you negotiated the silence during the end game as part of the settlement with the Evil Empire of BlackAngel, and that this particular item probably came at the insistence of Blackbeard, BUT STILL - this should have been a deal breaker. Don't tell me that you're transparent and all that crap and then just roll over and say "psych!"
Number 2: Deletion
  • The Desire2Learn website previously had a "Patent Info Blog" located at the URL that now contains just a single letter from CEO John Baker explaining (okay, not really) the settlement with BlackBart. In it he says "Consistent with our mission and vision, it's time for us to put the past behind us, and look to the future. As a result, we'll be taking down our patent blog tomorrow."
  • This patent blog had all the documentation, all the D2L assurances, all the maneuvers and counter-maneuvers that had occurred since the beginning of the litigation. It was an important resource. It was linked to by hundreds of people for many different reasons.
  • Of course Bb would have never posted all this information in the first place. By removing the information, the end result is that D2L looks just like Bb. Close-lipped and close-minded.
  • BTW. Thanks for the heads up in advance of deleting the blog. I hate to kill trees, but I went ahead and printed well over 100 pages of info from the blog site. I finished printing about 15 minutes before it started to disappear. Someday this will make for good bedtime reading.
Number 1: Desire2Quit?
  • Seriously? Laying down with the enemy? All the rhetoric over the years was just bullshit? "We're in it to win it?" The long chat we had last year at FUSION in St. Paul about how important it was to fight the good fight and how victory was within grasp - that was all a load of bull?
  • When you lay down with BlackVader, you become BlackVader.
So here's a list of questions that should be answered at FUSION 2010:
  • 1) Now that you are licensing the portfolio of Blackboard patents, in what ways have those patents impacted the newest version (9) of the Desire2Learn LE or other products?
  • 2) In what ways will those patents impact future versions of the Desire2Learn LE or other products?
  • 3) By licensing their patent portfolio, aren't you giving credence to the validity of the Alcorn patent (the subject of the litigation)? And if not, then what patents do they have that you do find valuable?
  • 4) Is there an end date on your cross-licensing agreement? If so, when? Either way, are new patents included automatically in the licensing agreement, or not?
  • 5) Did you ever get your 3.1 million dollar judgement back from BlackChasenSmall, or did that possibility go away in the middle of the night when the litigation ceased?
  • 6) What is the status of the Alcorn patent in the USPTO, or is this something you no longer care about?
Okay, so as you can see, I'm avoiding FUSION this year because pizza and beer in Chicago are just too expensive.

A few final points of clarification:
  • 1) I still think D2L is by far the best choice for a vendor-based LMS.
  • 2) I consider many of the employees to be friends, not because they work for D2L, but because they are engaging, smart, and good people. All at the same time.
  • 3) I hope the conference is a smashing success. I am not attempting to send any ill-will their way, but I am willing to boycott something when I feel strongly enough about it. This is one of those times.
  • 4) I haven't decided whether I will feel differently in 2011. Lots can happen between now and then (and probably will).


AJ Williams said...

Thanks for sharing your feelings (not that you have even been one to not share them!!).

I am on the planning committee for this year and we worked hard to provide a conference that will be fun and useful for everybody.

Time will tell if that work paid off in any way.

We will miss you, especially on Sunday night! If I have any pizza or beer, I'll check the price list first!

Anonymous said...

Gonna miss you at the unconference, Barry. I'll belt out a tune for you.

Melanie Morgan-Jackson said...

As a former planning committee member, I understand the situation you describe. As your friend I (and the SFCC crew) will definitely miss you at both conferences. I'll have to find another Blackjack partner!

Deborah Veness said...

I was very sorry to discover that the story of the fight was gone from the D2L website. Any chance you could re-create the archive, if you have hard copies?

I'd like to link to it from my own blog.