While marveling the events of the last several weeks, Jim Farmer suggested that it might be worthwhile to pause and reflect back on the sequence of events. I thought that was a good idea, so here it is. I don’t claim that it is any sense a definitive history. To the contrary, it’s just my personal experience of the situation. But it taught me something, so I thought it might be worth sharing.Wednesday, July 26th: Colleague Bernie Durfee forwarded an email from the Sakai listserv about the patent. At first, I didn’t take it very seriously. That night I got an email from Jim Farmer, which caused me to take another look.
Thursday, July 27th: I actually read the patent and nearly fell out of my chair. Later that day, I posted about the patent, including a good chunk of the filing. (I am certain that I was not the first person to post about the issue, by the way. Academic Commons definitely preceeded me, and I believe there were others as well.)
Friday through Sunday, July 28th-30th: I exchanged emails with a handful of colleagues reflecting on what the patent might mean. At that point, we still had some hope that the patent filing was defensive. The general sentiment was that we shouldn’t overreact. Nevertheless, we also agreed that we should start quietly documenting prior art via some sort of history of the LMS wiki page. On Sunday, I posted the stub page on Wikipedia. I believe that the Moodle community documentation effort started on or about the same time.
Monday, July 31st: An e-Literate reader alerted me to the fact that Blackboard had filed suit against Desire2Learn. We received independent confirmation from several sources by the end of the day. Needless to say, there was a great deal of disappointment among those of us who were (and still are) hoping for an amicable resolution. Meanwhile, the Wikipedia entry already had a dozen prior art entries by the end of the day.
Tuesday, August 1st: Word started spreading about both the lawsuit and the Wikipedia page. By the end of the day, there were 30 prior art projects listed. I believe (though I am not certain) that Stephen Downes started his dedicated Blackboard patent news page. Blackfate (to my knowledge, the first blog devoted exclusively to the patent litigation crisis) also went live.
Wednesday, August 2nd: Blackboard posted a web page on their web site focused on the patent. Once again, many of us were disappointed by the lost opportunity. Their FAQ is particularly misleading. Meanwhile, Slashdot picked up the story. e-Literate received 9,000 visitors in a single day.
Thursday, August 3rd: The community effort picked up steam, with a number of edubloggers weighing in. Al Essa started his excellent series of posts educating us all about patents, patent law, and Blackboard’s evident strategy. The Wikipedia page had over 100 prior art entries by the end of the day.
Friday, August 4th: I posted the translation of Blackboard’s patent claims, once again finding myself horrified at Blackboard’s audacity.
Saturday, August 5th: Desire2Learn posted the “wrapper” to the Blackboard patent filings as well as the lawsuit documents. An article on the lawsuit hit the Kitchener Record in D2L’s home town. The Wikipedia page had over 160 prior art entries by the end of the day, many with increasingly detailed annotations and links.
Sunday, August 6th: EdTechTalk hosted a Skypecast on the Blackboard patent and DOPA. Guests included Martin Dougiamas, Stephen Downes, and many other smart people. At the talk, Martin announced NoEduPatents.org. Meanwhile, Jim Farmer began uncovering and documenting dangerous edupatents filed by other companies, including eCollege.
Monday, August 7th: The Times of India ran a piece speculating on whether the Blackboard patent will have a negative effect on India’s e-Learning industry.
Tuesday, August 8th through today: More conversation, more documentation, more good posts, but no huge public developments. Although the Slashdot spike has passed, Blackboard-related posts on e-Literate continue to average about six hundred visitors and about twelve hundred page views every day. Meanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education and O’Reilly Radar have both run pieces on the story. Interest is clearly not abating.
The next weeks and months are likely to be equally interesting and eventful.