Thanks for your comment George…and your game commitment to continued repartée.

I’m not sure how you’re able to project sentiments of mediocrity into my post…especially given that it’s not clear to me how Blackboard 9’s innovation in fundamentally different than Sakai 3’s. Maybe you can explain, or perhaps you have the same anxious view about Blackboard’s product as well.

It seems a fundamental misunderstanding between our two efforts is that the Sakai community as a whole is not focused on innovation as a differentiator for its own sake. We have clearly already seen and will continue to see rapid and diverse innovation in Sakai, but it’s not the central pillar of the value that Sakai offers. And in case you fear I’m waxing mediocre yet again, let me be clear: Sakai supports and seeks innovation—in fact I would argue that Sakai’s open framework enables innovation far better than Blackboard’s proprietary model, and Sakai 3 will do so even more. Our work just has other qualities that we value more than continually trying to make a product seem “new” in order to sell more.

Above all, the “special sauce” Sakai offers its adopters is clear ownership and stake in the destiny of their technology and practices…something the proprietary model can never offer. There are certainly many in the Sakai community who adopt primarily based on functional comparisons, but the larger, strategic reasons to choose Sakai will always be more compelling.

As for price’s slippery slope, I fear it tilts toward thee. I keep hearing these same, tired reminders from certain interested quarters about how open source isn’t without cost. I think few people don’t get that fairly obvious truism nowadays and no one worth listening to would claim differently. The fact is, Blackboard and other proprietary products don’t run all by themselves either. Blackboard clients devote not insignificant local technical resources to implementation and maintenance as well. I don’t think there’s any question that an institution will pay less for Sakai with full commercial support, hosting, and necessary services than an equivalent Blackboard implementation, without requiring any more local technical resources than Blackboard would. If you want to compare notes, rSmart’s pricing is published for all to see and many fully-hosted Sakai implementations are managed by not-deeply technical teaching and learning staff without adding FTE or calling on dedicated local developers or system administrators. Is Blackboard’s pricing public? If Blackboard is truly less expensive, why not make your pricing public too?

Since you were so kind as to offer professional advice from one evangelist to another, I’ll return the favor. In case you haven’t noticed, Blackboard has a sizable public relations problem, most deeply among the constituency that buys your products. Addressing your PR issue will require real changes in Blackboard’s practices. I think until you guys fix that PR problem for real, trumpeting innovation and sowing seeds of uncertainty for open source sidestep what you really need to do.

Agreed: our paths are crossing more, and I welcome the opportunity to hang out with smart colleagues like you who are so willing to engage in wider debate. See you in Denver at EDUCAUSE.