Yes, yes, we've all heard the news by now. BlackCT Wednesday has hit. Will it be remembered as The Day the Music Died? I don't think so. Unfortunately, it could be remembered as The Day the Music Was So Badly Wounded That It Became Barely Listenable for a Really Long Time.
You know. Kinda like the '80's. Except with software. Before I blahg on, let me highly recommend Scott Leslie's excellent post on the topic, which is dead-on in every respect. But the point that he--and others--are making that I really want to highlight is the danger to the future of interoperability, which, as you know if you've been reading this blog, I believe amounts to a danger to future innovation in the LMS space in general.
IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS ARTICLE YET, AND YOU CARE ABOUT THIS STUFF AT ALL, GO READ THE ARTICLE RIGHT NOW. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.
There. Now that you've read it, let me remind you of this critical and precient passage:
My opening statements raised the spectre of an e-learning monoculture developing unless we reduce our dependency on a few mainstream commercial players. The JISC et al vision plus work taking place in the international open source community suggests that this is exactly the wrong time to be 'locking in' to any one solution. Unfortunately, key decision makers within institutions may not be receiving the message and place greater emphasis on bringing themselves into line with the enterprise decisions already made by other institutions in their regional or collaboration cohort.
Now is exactly the wrong time to be locking in, because we're just now starting to figure out what these durned things should really look like. And what they should look like is not like either Blackboard or WebCT. Let me emphasize that I don't have anything against either of these two companies or the people who work at them. While I don't particularly like either product, I don't think they're evil, I'm not ideologically opposed to large companies, and I'm not ideologically opposed to proprietary software, either. I don't want Blackboard to die; I just want them to evolve. But this move at this time in this space is potentially very bad for innovation in product category that really isn't mature yet.
I stand by my earlier claim that monolithic LMS's are doomed in the long run. The componentized, standards-compliant approach just makes too much sense on too many levels. But Blackboard may have made a move to substantially retard this process of natural selection. The big dinosaur can survive for quite a while by eating all the little ones. That makes it unsafe for mammals for the foreseeable future.
Now is the time. It will take Blackboard some time to digest WebCT. The FOSS communities need to get their acts together on standards and pick up the pace of innovation. If we don't learn to start hunting in packs really well really soon, we may be living in fear of B-Rex for some time to come.