Stephen Downes thinks I’m being too nice to Blackboard (which is the first time I’ve heard that particular criticism) by giving them too much credit for answering my questions during their webinar. He says it was all “just a needed warmup for court.”
I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make any sense.
To begin with, I didn’t ask a single question about the legal validity of the patent. In fact, the questions I did ask would probably not be allowed in court, since they are immaterial to Blackboard’s claims and D2L’s counter-claims. Furthermore, even if they were material, why on earth would Blackboard telegraph its answers in advance to Desire2Learn? If Matt Small wanted a “warmup”, he’d do what every other lawyer in the world does. He’d bring in a team of his own people and run a moot court privately.
I’ve been as hard on Blackboard as anyone. But I like to think that my criticisms are fair and supported by fact. It does none of us any good to demonize big corporations in general or even Blackboard in particular. If we want them to behave better, then we have to be prepared to work with them and recognize positive behavior–even when that behavior is motivated by self-interest. Matthew Small let me ask as many questions as I wanted in a very public forum, knowing that I would (and did) use his answers against him. He and the moderator could have cut me off at any time with ease, as anyone who has moderated a webinar knows. But they didn’t. I am confident that this was not any special concession to me, either; they were ready to take all comers and answer as many questions as were asked. Was this behavior self-serving on the part of Blackboard? Yes, in the sense that they know that stonewalling their critics surely won’t shut us up while communicating with us just might lead in a positive direction somehow. Honestly, I’d like to see more of that particular kind of self-serving behavior. Hence, I will continue to go out of my way to acknowledge it, praise it, and advertise it whenever I see it.