BlackBoard is such an open stud

This is classic, and it’s so bad it’s almost good, which is what scares me about it.  But the misinformation campaign being run here about openness is dangerous, and the portrayal of  Bb NG as “a hip stud” who gets all the hot girls because he is so Web 2.0 just tells you how much Bb mocks you, abuses you, and insults your intelligence. Looks like everything I remarked on in The Glass Bees post is playing itself out quite well, “BlackBoard Can Haz All Ur Web 2.0z!”

Download BlackBoard on openness

Thanks for the link Tom, now how exactly are we going to approach our video response, for we got your Web 2.0 right here 🙂

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38 Responses to BlackBoard is such an open stud

  1. Jared Stein says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Moodle’s hot!

  2. Reverend says:


    But her taste in men is abhorrent, what a tool. She loses all her hotness simply through association 😉

  3. Scott Leslie says:

    You mean that isn’t a parody video? That was actually produced by Blackboard itself? With marketing like this, who needs to mount a defense? Does nobody else find this kind of, well, offensive,
    I mean on top of stupid? I expect not, in the current political climate, any attempt to critique the ludicrous gender issues going on in this video are likely to be met with cries of “get a sense of humour” or muzzling characterizations of political correctness. Sigh.

    Can’t wait to see the actual parody when you guys produce it, though when reality gets this absurd, it can be hard to top. Nothing like a little challenge though, eh Rev?

  4. Jon Mott says:

    They actually produced several of these and showed them at Bb World in Vegas this Summer . . . They’re here in all their glory:

    Let the spoofing begin!

  5. Mikhail says:


    The brains behind Bb continue to show that they can’t do anything remotely original by ripping off the latest Mac campaign. Sad.

  6. At least it’s clear that there was no prior art involved in the creation of the video.

  7. Jerry says:

    It gets worse – did you see the other five videos that Jon linked to in the comment above? They even have two with Stephen Wozniak representing Apple. Be warned – the level of pain associated with viewing is not trivial.

  8. Jon Mott says:

    You should have seen Woz drive in on his Segway to deliver his keynote . . . ‘Twas a sight to see.

  9. Alan Levine says:

    They are not even good parodies.I have seen better “I’m a Mac” knock offs by YouTube high schoolers.

    But that is way beyond the point. It is “All Your Content Are Belong to Us” How much do Moodle Gal and Sakai dude get to put their fingers in the pockets of Bb?

    Open-ness like a one way sucking vaccuum open-ness.

  10. Ed Webb says:

    The cumulative effect of watching those ads, apart from aneurism, is to remind us of the myriad ways in which Bb sucks, and reinforce quite what a deadbeat ‘brand’ it is. Yeah – I’m hatin’

  11. Martin says:

    If ever anyone questions whether ‘creepy treehouse’ is a useful term, just show them this vid.

  12. Andy Best says:

    Hey Jim, and all.

    I was reading the blog of Shanghai Edu-entrepreneur Ken Carroll who wrote that aggressive post on Edu-punk. His blog is like the anti-you! Really. Have a look.

    The funny thing is that when he does start to sincerely wonder about net-edu applications and how to solve his problems – read the post about Google – he’s oblivious to the fact that people like you, who he attacked, are at the cutting edge of the solutions. Or at least, your work can show him the way to answer his problems.

    Also – I’m thinking about my formative 10, no post coming though … and I’ve been re-visiting Logan’s Run the movie. I’m not sure why yet … it’s just right there.


  13. Neal says:

    Hey. I think y’all are being a little hard on Bb, in this case, and overreacting. All the folks in the video are Bb employees. I’ve worked with two of them personally and they are very nice and intelligent gentlefolk.

    Bb was clearly intending to make amateurish videos to be playful. And they were ripping off Apple’s add because Steve Wozniak was one of the keynotes at Bb World. It was intended as a parody. And it got a lot of laughs at the conference.

    There is a lot to legitimately criticize about Bb, Inc.

    Why waste energy criticizing a harmless, playful set of videos which are not likely to have any influence on anyone making any sort of purchasing or LMS decision?

    How about a little substance in the discussion?


  14. Reverend says:


    That’s a fair point, so here is my response. What there is to criticize in this ad is the hijacking of the term open, when all they have done is create a single-signon solution for these open source apps that is in their interest. The only data that is “integrated” is login and password. You can’t export things from Sakai or Moodle to Bb, and you certainly can’t push data out of Bb to either of these open source applications. I did, indeed, give a little credit to the video recognizing it was so bad it was almost good, and I have nothing against the Bb employees as people, rather I have issues with this companies willful bastardization of the term open. It is profiteering at its worst, and behind the cute message (which is sexist at best and truly offensive at worst) is a PR attempt to take the work of thousands of people thinking independently in this field and package it up as if BlackBoard where actually playing along. This isn’t play, this is the worst kind of misinformation and propaganda a “leader” like Bb can engage in, one which has resorted to internecine litigation against smaller companies to keep their position of pure and utter dominance in the LMS world. So, I’m sorry Neal, I don’t feel bad at all, and this is an entrenched battle that is all about false PR and advertising, and it is high time we called them on it and dug in for our own version of guerrilla warfare, for we don’t have the money nor the inclination to sue them for stealing ideas from the world of Web 2.0 applications, which is certainly what they would do if they could. We will win the hearts and the minds of the people through sheer and utter genius, just you wait and see!

  15. Neal says:

    Hi Reverend,

    My understanding is that the planned openness of Blackboard NG goes beyond single sign-on and includes actual integration of class data over the web using their Learning Environment Connector that Bb initially developed to let BB Web CT-ish products play well with Blackboard products.

    Iowa State is partnering with Blackboard to integrate Moodle in Blackboard and Syracuse is partnering with Bb on Sakai.

    I am not happy about Bb’s patent and subsequent lawsuit against D2L, and it definitely lost them significant PR points at my institution.

    And while I think NG looks pretty cool from what I’ve seen at it, I’m not convinced that it gets to the heart of any sort of transformation of teaching and learning. I am cautiously optimistic that it will be a product with less clicks and a more intuitive interface.


  16. Reverend says:

    Sorry Neal,

    I get a little worked up about this stuff. However, you’ll be happy to know I am seeking help 🙂

  17. Neal says:

    Hi Reverend,

    No problem. Everyone who isn’t seeking help, probably should be 🙂


  18. Andy Best says:

    Jim, rant or no right, you are right on this.

    I’m sure that across the whole educational and cultural landscape corporate products do their job well and that products of large companies are useful in their own limited ways.

    But that’s not the issue at hand.

    Lets go right back to the Teach a Man to Fish principal. Open means ‘open’ for people to develop themselves and in collaboration. Defined packages such as Blackboard make are not the same thing as open source and have no business marketing themselves in that way. On any level.

  19. Reverend says:

    @Mike and Andy,

    You’re right, I have discontinued my help seeking and I am donning my survivalist gear. The time has come, to say fair’s fair, to pay the rent now to pay our share!

  20. The time has come, a fact’s a fact. It belongs to them, let’s give it back!

    Yes, I don’t want fake Jim Groom. I want real Jim Groom.

    Ok, I’ll be honest, I was looking forward to the parody. If it doesn’t happen, I will be very very sad.

    I know people that went over to blackboard, great people. I’d love to see them again. I’ll drink with them anytime. Open invite. And I would never fault them for working within that company to do what they can to make a product better.

    But this isn’t about them.

    Are we really going to not produce a hilarious parody of the parody because the 800-pound gorilla has some nice people working there?

    I vote the parody gets made.

    WWND? (What would Negativland do?)

  21. Neal says:

    My point about the people in the video is not that Bb, Inc should be spared scrutiny, parody, ridicule or scorn because they have a number of people working for them that I enjoy interacting with and for whom I have respect, but rather that IMHO they were not engaging in a devious marketing ploy with these videos, mostly doing it for fun and entertainment. That’s how I took it. If they were trying to make a point about coolness, attempting to slap feminism in the face, and hypnotize me into believing that Bb truly is the ultimate open solution, I would have expected them to hire professional actors and make a slicker presentation, with a stronger message. But I could be wrong and maybe I’ve been duped!

    As far as openness goes, I think it is not such a black and white issue, and I believe it is possible for commercial tools to follow standards and have work flows and features that promote openness. Its more a matter of degree.

    And I’m sorry Reverend, but I already put in a call to my close friend Tina Turner. She is on her way to reprise her role as the Acid Queen in Tommy to offer you some much needed help, protestations to the contrary.

  22. Neal says:


    Well my extremely witty, urbane, satiric and pointed rebuttal somehow did not post.

    I’ll try an abbreviated version. By pointing out the fact that the folks in the movies are Bb employees, I was trying to show that this was not a slick Bb, Inc. marketing manipulation, but something done mostly for fun and entertainment, imo.


  23. Reverend says:


    Why in God’s name would BlackBoard want to slap feminism in the face? Man, if that is their idea of a joke, then they obviously don’t realize a large majority of the men and women who use their product are feminists–that’s just a plain stupid approach to the culture they serve–but when you’re a monopoly I guess you can afford not to care that much, can’t you? And this approach re-enforces how little they understand about the culture of teaching and learning. And I have to agree with Mike and Andy above, you point out and defend the individuals in the video and suggest it was tongue and cheek, fair enough I hope they had fun. But the fact remains that what they are suggesting is patently false, NG is not open, period. I don’t see any of ambiguity that you do, it’s just the lowest form of opportunism. A gutless attempt to commodify the zeitgiest, and I have to say this isn’t about corporations per se, but the way in which one particular corporation has consistently taking and adversary role to the whole logic of openness, and finally seeing the writing on the wall decides to play cute. As an organizational stance it is disingenuous and hypocritical. And I hate to point that out to you, but your friends have chosen to work within that logic, so by extension have become part of that game. No one is innocent under the eyes of the right Reverend 😉

    More importantly, I am a big Tina fan, I can’t wait to meet her. My favorite song of hers goes a little like this:

    “We don’t need another LMS, all we want is life beyoooooond the firewall.”

    @Andy and @Mike,

    man, and I thought I could get away with being cute and conciliatory in my comments (you know I am all about the love), you guys keep me straight—I will never give in. But I do like Neal’s style, the tête-à-tête is very important, and quite fun for me, as long as Goodwin stays out of it 🙂

  24. Jon Mott says:

    At the risk of prolonging an already overlong discussion here . . .

    I thought Dr. Chuck’s comments on the “openness” panel at Educause (Bb CEO Michael Chasen was on the panel with him) were right on the money. He said that open source / free software isn’t automatically “righteous” and corporate / closed source software isn’t automatically “evil.” What we want is more openness and flexibility in the learning process. How we get it is almost immaterial.

    If Blackboard is moving in the direciton of being more open (that’s better than more closed, right?) we ought to applaud them and encourage more of the same. We can still pursue our idealistic notions of openness and debate semantics (and I tend to agree with many of the comments here about the “true” meaning of open), but let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    Having said that, Bb could certainly be more open. Tool modularity and interoperability would be nice. . . . On the panel at Educause Chasen said he could envision a day when clients used a third of the tools in Blackboard and plugged & played other tools to meet unique needs. That implies a more open framework for mashing up Blackboard with other apps. Oh, and while we’re at it, a standard methodology (web service!) for integrating a CMS with an SIS would be dandy.

  25. Jon Mott says:

    Oh, and if I seem like too much of an apologist, I’m a uniter not a divider. 🙂

  26. Reverend says:


    But how do you square any of this with BlackBoard’s draconian practices of suing or swallowing the competition. I don;t think BlackBoard move to openness is a good faith effort, and I really don;t feel compelled to applaud a single sign-on adapter that allows for links to Sakai and Moodle courses in the Bb kingdom. This isn’t just about rhetoric, it is about practice, and I feel far too many people in the field cut Bb too much slack, and forgive them their contentious and litigious disposition when it comes to promoting their product, particularly because they can’t push the actual features they have because in the end the are less than impressive. And despite you previous suggestion, I don;t see it as a teaching and learning tool at all. The have not been innovating, they have been litigating–and I see the openness campaign as a kind of despicable one given their very recent history. Did you look at NG in Orlando? I did, pretty closely with a rep, and I found it a far cry from anything open or innovative, hence my ire at this ad.

  27. Andy Best says:

    Let’s keep perspective here.

    We don’t need a company like Blackboard to promote or ‘move towards’ openness. We have openness.

    It is completely available but has a tenuous position in a society of extreme consumerism and private competition.

    Edupnks r gonna tear’t all down!

  28. Jon Mott says:

    I don’t really square this with Blackboard’s behavior. Perhaps it’s because I don’t expect a lot of altruism out of them–I expect them to agressively pursue profit. That’s their history, that’s what I imagine they’ll continue to do.

    I’m torn between being a pragmatist and an idealist. I’m all for building a post-CMS world . . . I presented on that topic at OpenEd. But I also have to worry about the here and now, and that means supporting 45,000 users of Blackboard at my institution. There’s not an immediately viable alternative for us (happy to take that debate offline with anyone who disagrees). We’re taking some significant strides toward creating a more open learning environment (e.g. building a stand-alone gradebook), but we’re not abandoning Blackboard any time in the near future.

    So the more “open” (notice the quotation marks) Bb is, the better off we’ll be as we figure out what the future looks like. So, I will continue to applaud and encourage all such efforts by Bb even if they fall short of what I hope online learning environments eventually become. Either Blackboard will evolve to provide such a space for teaching and learning or we’ll outgrow them.

    And yes, I’ve seen NG, and I’d agree it’s not as open as the PR campaign implies. One of the biggest ways Bb is still “closed” is the way almost every CMS in existence is still closed–Bb is an institutional walled-gardens instead of an open learning network that provides flexible learning tools for students & teachers across time and institutional boundaries.

  29. Keeping this thread going — I think the deal is to look at, as a system, what Blackboard’s actions do to the community as a whole. I agree, for-profit is not evil. And corporate is not evil.

    I think iTunes is a perfect example of this. They stunted the market for a long time, reduced diversity, and initially adopted horrific formats and policies.

    They also did some good things, and many of them more recently — selling DRM-free music was a good example of a major step.

    But how many people believe they would have pushed for those things had other options, legal and otherwise, not been nipping at their heels?

    The endgame of all corporations *as systems* is to control the market, to reduce choice and competition, and to foster over-reliance among their consumer base. The minute you have investors, the day you go IPO, that’s the mission the corporation as system embraces, whether or not any of the system’s constituent parts want to admit that.

    That said, a corporation can do great things in pursuit of market domination. I’ve worked at companies that without doubt produced products that taught dyslexic children to read when they otherwise would not have, and companies that made vast archives of revolutionary era papers available to scholars for the first time. When the market ecosystem is good, capitalism works.

    But Blackboard is particularly suspect because they have no real competitors, which gives them a wider berth than they might have. That’s not evil — that’s just a fact, and it makes the situation somewhat more intense.

    So I think good things came come about with Blackboard, but ultimately only if we keep the pressure on them. In the current environment, with no power to offset them, I just think 90% of our job is to be in opposition to them, only stopping for that 10% if it is a really, really great opportunity, and it doesn’t further unbalance the power structure.

  30. Martha says:

    I think there’s another aspect to this that’s important to re-emphasize (and certainly many of the commenters on this post and the author make a point of making this point regularly — even religiously 🙂 ). Whether Blackboard is evil or not is not really the point. The bigger point, I think, is how institutions of higher education have allowed this conversation to be dominated by commercial interests for too long.

    Blackboard will always be a corporation, and, as Mike points out, as such it will always look out for its market interests. That’s it’s job, whether we like it or not.

    But we work at institutions that are NOT corporations. Public or private, our schools *should* have a different mission. And we should be committed to leading the conversation about how technology is affecting and changing that mission. We should not be letting commercial interests lead that conversation. Period.

    At one point, in the not so distant past, innovative technologies were *coming out of* our institutions. But for some reason, when it comes to edtech, we’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into believing a corporation (driven by market interests) will have our best interests at heart.

    Actually, lots of innovative things are *still* happening at our schools wrt technology — they’re just not necessarily happening in this area. (Although it’s nice to see more and more schools turning their creative and intellectual efforts in this direction.)

    So, I think the ads are kind of inane and dumb. I don’t find them particularly funny, but I don’t usually find corporate humor funny. I don’t think they necessarily suggest that Blackboard is bad or good. I think they do suggest that Blackboard is a company, doing what all companies do — making money and marketing a message.

    We can’t control that. But what we can control is how we choose to engage with companies like Blackboard. We can choose to reward what we believe is true innovation (whether it comes from commercial or the open-source community) and we can commit a voice of LEADERSHIP to this conversation.

    Okay, backing away from the podium and returning to lurk in the shadows now. 😉

  31. Pingback: Tran|script, by Mike Caulfield » Blog Archive » Jim Groom, Killer Catfish.

  32. Reverend says:


    Exactly, that is certainly a major part of the concern, the idea that vendors deliver some kind of innovation wrapped up in a box. And I agree entirely that universities are as much to blame in this relationship. So, no argument there. What drives me crazy, however, is the dishonesty companies like Bb use when packaging such products for universities, and I see it as a two-front battle: talking with faculty about the reality of edtech at the university and the other where I make enlightening posts like this one 🙂 Point being, I’m not overly concerned with administration and leadership as so many are, that effort happens on an interpersonal relationship in hallways and face-to-face discussions. The battle will be fought in the teaching and learning trenches–not the executive suites of higher ed or corporate America.

  33. Martha says:


    I wasn’t really suggesting that the battle needs to be fought solely by the “dark side” (or, the administration, if you prefer). I actually think leadership on this issue needs to come on all fronts — from the down-in-the-trenches edtech survivalists to the i-have-seen-the-light administrators.

    When I use the term “institution,” I’m referring to the entire organism. 🙂 That includes you. Perhaps institution is the wrong word — perhaps it’s too loaded.

    It seems to me the best administrators are ones who understand the importance of interpersonal relationships and hallway interactions. I know they seem few and far between, but you and I have both known at least one CIO who falls into this category!


  34. Reverend says:


    Once again I can’t argue with your last point, and a good leader is hard to find–to misquote Flannery O’Connor. But one of the things I have been struggling with is thinking about institutions as organisms, for if we start to embody it in such a biological metaphor, ultimately we might suggest that the higher admins are the brain who give commands, and the faculty and staff are the hands that do the labor, etc. Bad illustration on my part, nonetheless, I dont think of this space as an organism in any holistic sense, but rather as one that is chaotic and can change from any space–so I actually do I agree with you in end—I’m just like you trying to search for the right words so that the plain from which the change happens seems more even and brings people to the table whether they are invited or a part of this institution or not. Does that make any sense?

  35. Joël Fisler says:

    Where’s the OLAT girl??? 🙂 What a great “bad taste” video, hihi

  36. Good discussion mostly. Well done Groomy, keep firing out the flame thrower.

    I find apologies for Bb frustrating, but I guess they have to be tolerated or we end up being called religious and black and white. Andy Best’s comment was great!

    And Jim! You sample Mad Max, and quote MidNight Oil! I’m surprised edtech survivalist doesn’t have a more Australian theme to it in the actual videos.. I’d recommend The Bush Tucker Man if you’re ready to get true blue dinky dye.

    But I wanna drop another pop song lyric on here, before I start teaching Groomy how to say Gday:

    “We don’t need no Learning Management.. da de da, we don’t need no fire wall.. No dark web or another control panel .. admin, leave those teachers alone. Hey! admin, leave those teachers alone! All and all, its just another brick in the wall…(All in all you’re just) another brick in the wall.”

  37. lucychili says:


    This kind of animal might give food for biological organisational thought =)


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