Kenneth C. Green's blog

On a “Less Commercial” EDUCAUSE

Dear Josh,

This post on Digital Tweed is a response to two of your recent Technology and Learning blog posts. The first, dated November 1st, called for a “calmer, less commercial EDUCAUSE 2016.”  The second, posted the following day (when do you sleep – or have time for your day job at Dartmouth?), was your (faux memo) response to my faux client memo titled “Partner is Not A Verb,” published by EdSurge prior to the EDUCAUSE conference and intended (primarily) for firms doing business with higher education.

Let’s start with your concerns about commercialization at the recent EDUCAUSE conference.  And let's begin by placing the EDUCAUSE conference in proper context.

With respect to you and others who view the pervasive corporate logos and commercial presence at the recent EDUCAUSE conference as impinging on the organization’s “academic” mission: get over it! 

EDUCAUSE and its precursor organizations, EDUCOM (for “academic” computing) and CAUSE (for “administrative” computing), were never “academic” associations and these organizations (current and past) never convened “academic” conferences. 

Rather EDUCAUSE hosts a professional conference for technology personnel who work in colleges and universities, including some attendees who were (or still are) academics. The “academics” include some faculty as well as the small but growing number of CIOs and senior IT officers, including folks like you,  who have come “into IT” positions from academic ranks rather than from the technology side: they are “academics” who have moved over into IT careers rather than “techies” who have moved up the IT ranks.

In 1998, CAUSE and EDUCOM merged to create EDUCAUSE.   The subsequent creation of a single IT professional association for higher education, based on institutional and not individual memberships, has made the fall EDUCAUSE conference the major annual gathering of higher ed’s IT tribes: attendees of all ranks and assignments come from large and small campuses, rich and less-affluent institutions, community colleges and research universities, and also from many other points in-between and across the terrain that is higher education, including the corporations that provide IT products and services to colleges and universities.

Can we agree that there is not much real “research” (or “academic” work) presented at the EDUCAUSE conference?  Rather the vast majority of panel sessions are topical discussions or campus case studies: the focus is often on a pragmatic narrative (“how we did X at Acme College”) as opposed presentations that emphasize rigorous methodology, real data, and thoughtful analysis (as opposed to insightful commentary). 

I’ll confess that it has been several years since I spent a significant portion of my EDUCAUSE conference hours attending panel and plenary sessions.  (How many sessions did you attend in Indianapolis this year, Josh?) However, my hallway conversations with those who do and my annual reading of the conference program confirm a long-held impression that personal and/or institutional experience, plus opinion and epiphany, still account for much of the content of the conference sessions.

As for complaints about the Exhibit Hall, again, please: get over it!  For many IT officers at smaller or less-affluent institutions, the annual EDUCAUSE event is the closest they may get to one-stop viewing (as opposed to one-stop shopping).  The hall provides an important opportunity for planned and random conversations with tech providers (a/k/a “vendors”) and tech users (a/k/a “colleagues”) that are informative and timely, especially as the EDUCAUSE event is at the front end of the higher ed (ops! I almost said “academic”) planning and buying cycle.

Finally, it is important to recognize that the catalyst for much of the “commercialization” you decry is, in fact, EDUCAUSE itself.  EDUCAUSE counts every dollar from every vendor. Moreover, much like airline frequent flyer programs, EDUCAUSE is quite clear that a firm’s annual spending determines the goodies and benefits (such as they are) that the association bestows upon its corporate affiliates (ops, again! I almost said corporate partners here!).  

In fairness, EDUCAUSE really does depend on the corporate money: institutional dues, conference registration fees, and various grants don’t cover the association’s annual expenses.  The fall conference is a major source of operating revenue. Moreover, the 2015 EDUCAUSE budget “project[ed] a deficit of $2.8M dollars and $1.5M in noncash depreciation expense,” to be covered by reserve funds.

And probably less known is that EDUCAUSE does restrict some corporate activities at the annual conference.  For example, it’s okay if someone from Alpha Technologies wants to take to you and few other campus officials to lunch at a local restaurant, away from the convention center.  But had Alpha Technologies wanted to arrange for a private (i.e., closed door) lunch meeting at one of the hotels adjacent to the convention center in Indianapolis last month, Alpha had to secure approval from EDUCAUSE to do so – and that approval was probably not provided.  

Why would EDUCAUSE not allow private lunch meetings? EDUCAUSE Meeting Planner Dan Stones reports that restrictions on private lunches in the hotel meeting rooms controlled by the association “are in place to prevent attendees from being drawn away from event programming, including content-based sessions and exhibit hall hours.”  (source: email from Mr. Stones dated 18 Aug 2015).  I suspect that many conference attendees are not aware of what some might call these “nanny state” restrictions; however, I do know that many EDUCAUSE corporate affiliates find them “unnecessarily intrusive and restrictive” (my polite assessment).

But please know, Josh, that much of the “commercialization” you and others rail against at the EDUCUASE conference is routine and common at other “professional events” for technology personnel in other sectors.  (The ultimate is the annual Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, where evening activities can include large private parties featuring high profile Vegas DJs and concerts featuring rock groups such as Fleetwood Mac, among others.) And truth be told, I suspect that a number of the various academic, institutional, and professional associations at serve higher education view, with envy, the money and accompanying resources EDUCAUSE secures from corporate affiliates for its annual fall conference.

Moving on, let’s discuss, quickly, your (faux memo) response to my six point faux memo, Partner is Not a Verb, intended for the young executives at “Acme Educational Widgets,” ahead of the 2016 education conference season. My faux memo was, admittedly, cautionary. To summarize and to comment

  • Partner is not a verb.
    • You wrote:  “We understand that we need to stop throwing around the word ‘partner.’ But what we can’t figure out is what word to replace “partner” with?”
    • My response:  I would encourage technology providers to think of campus customers as clients.  This may be simple semantics on my part, but to me customer implies one-time, transactional relationships, while client suggests a commitment to a longer term, almost fiduciary relationship 
  • Trust is the coin of the realm
    • You wrote:  “We get that trust is important - but how can we accelerate this trust thing? We at Acme need to operate on a fiscal time scale, not the tectonic time scale that higher ed seems to follow.”
    • My response: My rescue border collie did not trust me the moment she jumped into my car as we left the kennel.  It took time to build that trust relationship. And this is also true of the relationship between technology providers and technology clients across all sectors, including higher ed: building trust takes time.  Admittedly, colleges may (probably) take more time to make big tech decisions because of the committee structure that often involves multiple constituencies.  But campus officials are also understandably concerned about what seems to be the frequent turn of field personnel and corporate executives, an issue reflected in my comments about the recent Ellucian and impending Blackboard sales
  • Concierge, not “Logo Buddy” Relationships.
    1. You wrote: “In our experience with the higher education market, we have come to understand that all colleges and universities think that they are unique. They are doing a favor to us at Acme in deigning to become our customers.”
    • My Response:  Across all sectors and segments, almost all organizations would like to believe they are unique customers and clients.  The key issues here is are (a) don't assume that your “logo buddy” relationships with other firms are always effective and reliable; and (b) if multiple firms are involved in a campus contract, strive to simplify your customer service and support issues so that there is a single, reliable point of contact for the project, as opposed to multiple points for each aspect or part of the project.
  • Know that you are not your client.
    • You wrote:  “We understand that our higher education customers will have very different backgrounds, orientations, and appetites for risk than we have at Acme. We think we can manage that difference. What we at Acme struggle with is figuring out who exactly our client is.  Figuring out who the decision maker is at any given college or university is often an exercise in frustration. It seems that almost everyone on campus has a veto power, but almost nobody has full authority and discretion.”
    • My Response: The issue here is not about who represents the client in the decision-making, but about the real needs of the client.  Across K-12 and higher ed, well-intentioned ed entrepreneurs, often supported by significant venture funding, hope to transform educational experiences and organizations.  But there is often a huge gap between the actual needs of the intended clients and the personal experiences and great aspirations of the well-intentioned entrepreneurs.  So, at the risk of redundancy: it is critical to remember that, in general, you are probably not creating products and services for a version of you and the people you know, but rather for others who are most likely very different from you. And because you are probably not the next Steve Jobs (who listened to very few people), it is really important that you show respect for and listen to your prospective clients if you hope to be effective and successful in either the K-12 or the higher ed market.
  • Understand that your price is not my cost.
    • You wrote: The implementation costs campuses experience are “not the fault of our technology . . . [if] higher education customers were only willing to narrow their project scope and be disciplined about what the technology should do, than implementation costs should be nowhere near the multiples [on the licensing or purchase price] that you describe.”
    • My Response:  Technology providers are not responsible for campus implementation costs.  But providers should acknowledge the often huge gap between what it costs to buy something and what it costs to deploy it: installation, training, user support, and more – costs which may vary across sectors and segments.  Acknowledging and addressing implementation costs can be a catalyst for better product design and support services, and might even provide a competitive advantage.
  • Recognize that the network is neural.
    • You wrote: “Why is it that when something goes wrong with our technology that every customer and potential customers seems to know about the problem within a matter of minutes?  But when things go right nobody ever talks to anyone?  Does the higher education neural network only share bad news?”
    • My Response:  Admittedly, too often it does seem that only the bad news moves across the neural network. But consider the the culture: colleges and universities are, understandably very risk-averse clients compared to other sectors; consequently, negative comments often seem to overwhelm the positive – in reviewer’s comments about journal articles and book reviews and also in user comments about technology products, services, and providers.  But the good news does flow: on listservs, and in phone calls, conference sessions, and hallway conversations, IT officers across campuses really do routinely share the good and the bad news about their relationships with technology providers and their experiences with technology products and services.

As observers and bloggers, Josh, our role is to serve as the loyal opposition – with an emphasis on loyal, not opposition.  My hope for our public exchange is that this will serve as a catalyst for better and more informed conversations about these issues – the EDUCAUSE conference and doing business with higher ed – and that we have helped to aid and inform what should be continuing discussions.


Disclosures:   Blackboard and Ellucian are corporate sponsors of The Campus Computing Project.  And Campus Computing has, on occasion, hosted invitation-only lunch discussion sessions at the annual EDUCAUSE conference.

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Steve Jobs: The Movie and the Zeitgeist

Whatcha doing this weekend? Are you thinking about a movie? If so, then perhaps you should consider the new Steve Jobs movie, based in part on the authorized Jobs biography by Walter Issacson with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin who also wrote the screenplay for The Social Network, about Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Steve Jobs (the movie) has garnered generally strong reviews (NY Times, LA Times, Rotten Tomatoes), even as his widow, Apple insiders, and long-time associates say the film does not accurately reflect the Steve Jobs they knew.

The outline of the Jobs movie is now well known: this is a three act play, each segment built around the launch of a new computer: the Macintosh in 1984 at De Anza Community College, across the street from the Apple campus in Cupertino; the NeXT computer in October, 1988; and the iMac in June, 1998. 

The arguments about the portrayal of the Steve Jobs in the film notwithstanding, there is another way to view this movie.  It is a catalyzing reflection of the zeitgeist (“the time spirit”) that Jobs and those who journeyed with him brought to the “technology revolution” marked by the launch of the Macintosh, the NeXT Cube, and iMac. 

And the zeitgeist factor was significant, especially in colleges and universities. Although acknowledged only in passing in the NeXT segment of the film, higher education played a significant role in the launch of both the Macintosh and the NeXT.

In spring 1983, Drexel University was the first college to commit to buy the Macintosh for its students, months ahead of public presentation of the Mac in January 1984. And the Apple University Consortium of some two dozen elite colleges and universities provided a significant endorsement for the Mac concurrent with the 1984 launch.

Moving forward, the originally espoused raison d’etre for the NeXT cube was to create a workstation for university students and researchers.  While the NeXT machines were not a commercial success, Tim Berners-Lee used NeXT platforms to develop the World Wide Web.

Steve Jobs and his computers – the Mac, the NeXT Cube, and the iMac – helped to fuel the continuing, great aspirations for the role of technology in higher education.  And it is in this way that Steve Jobs, the movie, is a reminder of a zeitgeist – now seemingly long ago and far away – when computers still seemed magical and were still unique, not ubiquitous.

If you lived through this history, or want to know a little more about it, then Steve Jobs is worth seeing. 

Happy weekend!

Disclosure: Apple is a corporate sponsor of The Campus Computing Project and NeXT was a project sponsor for several years beginning in 1990. Additionally, I served as a consultant to Apple and the Apple University Consortium from 1985-1987.

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Amazon Does Downloading; Do You?

 

Earlier this month some 40 million Amazon Prime subscribers in the United States were informed of an unexpected, no-cost upgrade: Prime subscribers learned that they can now download video to their Apple and Android mobile devices, for free!  Subscribers have up to 30 days to view downloaded videos – movies, documentaries, TV series, children’s shows, and more.

There is a lot to like about the new Amazon Prime download option. Much, but not all of the Amazon Prime Instant Video inventory is now available, including many “major motion pictures” plus titles from HBO (Entourage, The Wire, The Sopranos) and PBS/BBC (Downton Abbey, The Last Enemy), as well as Amazon’s own video productions including Alpha House, Beethoven on the Hudson and Transparent.

One immediate impact of the new Amazon Prime downloading option will probably be that Amazon Instant Video serials and movies will replace movies rented or purchased from iTunes and other sources as airplane entertainment on the many of the digital devices used by travelers crammed into coach seats.  Too, the new downloading option for Amazon Prime will no doubt increase the pressure on both Netflix and Hulu to offer downloading for their subscribers.

This is yet another example of the technology experience in consumer market raising expectations for similar technology resources and services from colleges and universities. And for tens of thousands of students and faculty at two- and four-year institutions, the reference point has now become “why is it I can download a movie from Amazon but not the video materials from my classes?

The rising role and importance of video in instruction brings to mind Thomas Edison’s 1913 prediction about the role of motion pictures in education: "Books will soon be obsolete in the public schools. Scholars will be instructed through the eye. It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed in ten years.” Edison’s bold prediction is enhanced by the fact that it was offered a more than a decade ahead of the 1927 movie, The Jazz Singer, widely regarded as the first feature-length “talking” motion picture.

Although the “motion picture” has yet to supplant the book in K-12 and college courses, a century later there is no question that video content is an important component of both on-campus and online instruction. Consider the numbers on video and lecture capture from the fall 2014 Campus Computing Survey:

  • 68 percent of the CIOs and senior IT officers representing 470 two- and four-year colleges and universities agreed/strongly agreed that “lecture capture is an important part of the campus plan for delivering instructional content” and is highest – 85 percent – in public universities.
  • 70 percent of the institutions that participated in the fall 2014 survey reported that they provide video lecture capture services.
  • CIOs and senior IT officers estimated that 28 percent of classes make some use of online video content (highest in private four-year colleges at 32 percent) and that about 7 percent of the courses at their institutions use video lecture capture (highest in public four-year colleges at 9 percent). 

Ok: I can hear the comments that these numbers should not be surprising.  And yes, I know: students are mobile, most have smart phones, and wireless is almost everywhere on campus and many places off-campus. 

Yet I suspect that most of current campus video content is streamed, but not available for downloading.  And wireless is not everywhere. 

There is great convenience to having either segments or a the full 30/60/90 minute video from a challenging class session/lecture on my mobile device (laptop, phone, or tablet) as opposed to being location-dependent (my residence, my campus, or a local Starbucks) for high speed signal that provides access to video course resources.

Admittedly, enabling students to download video course resources involves more than just flipping the proverbial (digital) switch.  There are technology and copyright issues that must be addressed.  And copyright gets a little more complex when the content comes from third-party sources: YouTube and TED talk videos; Kahn Academy modules; materials prepared by commercial producers and educational publishers, or clips from the Sunday morning news programs. 

Then too there are the “engaging lectures from Professor Wilson’s celebrated course on The Iliad and The Odyssey.”  While Prof. Wilson has agreed to have her campus capture these lectures, she may not be willing to let current and (and future?) students download these acclaimed lectures.  

(Sidebar: One of the more interesting stories about intellectual property and faculty self-image I’ve heard in the past 15 years involved an instructor who refused to let his institution continue to “replay” video lectures produced under an acknowledged “work for hire” agreement.  He had lost fifty pounds in the years since the initial recording and was determined not going to let the world see his “former” self.)

Although the Fair Use provision of the current Copyright Law may allow faculty to show a few minutes of To Kill a Mockingbird or A Theory of Everything in their classes, Fair Use does not allow instructors or campus media personnel to upload movies or other commercial content to campus web sites for student viewing and downloading.

Amazon Prime has thrown a digital gauntlet at the feet of academe, one that again highlights the impact of consumer experiences on student expectations.  Consequently the question at hand is not if but when  (how soon) your institution will enable the downloading of locally captured or produced video content.  

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Amazon Does Downloading; <br>Do You?

Looking Beyond the Tale of Two Tech Company Sales

It has been an interesting summer for some of the companies that are major software and service providers to colleges and universities.  On July 29th Reuters reported that Blackboard’s owner, Providence Equity Partners, was planning to sell the company at auction. And on August 12th, Reuters posted news that buyout firm TPG Capital was the likely winner of an auction for Ellucian, the firm that provides the Banner, Colleague, and Power Campus administrative software platforms to hundreds of colleges and universities. Two days later, a press release on the Ellucian web site announced a “definitive agreement” by the current owners, investment firms Hellman and Friedman and its co-investor JMI Equity, to sell their majority stake in Ellucian to TPG and Leonard Green Partners.

Collectively, Ellucian’s three ERP or administrative systems platforms (Banner, Colleague, and PowerCampus) are used by more than three-fifths of the nation’s public and private, non-profit colleges and universities to manage their finances, student records, personnel files, alumni information, and other critical operational data.  The Reuters reports suggests that the sale price for Ellucian will be about $3.5 billion. 

By way of background, Ellucian was the new name given to the merger of two (previously) competing administrative software companies. Hellman and Friedman bought Datatel in 2009 from another investment firm. Ellucian emerged after Hellman and Friedman bought SunGard Higher Education in 2011 and then merged the two companies, under the Ellucian name.

As I wrote on August 4th about a potential Blackboard sale (asking price: about $3 billion), this may also be a good time for Ellucian’s owners to sell Ellucian. As noted by EdSurge, big money is currently pouring into education market investments.  During the first six months of 2015, venture capital investments in education firms totaled $1.6 billion, while the value of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) totaled $6.11 billion.  For the three-year period from January 2012 – December 2014, education market M&A activity totaled $28.1 billion.

If the both Blackboard and Ellucian sales close by December 31st, the aggregated sale price for these two companies will surpass the total ed market M&A activity for the first six months of 2015: an estimated $6.5 billion for just Blackboard and Ellucian during the final six months of the current year vs. 177 transactions totaling $6.1 billion from January-June 2015.

There are some interesting similarities in the Blackboard and Ellucian announcements.  In both instances, the “hold time” (how long the seller owned the company) was relatively short: Providence is selling Blackboard after four years; Hellman and Friedman is also selling Ellucian four years after merging Datatel and SunGard Higher Education into one company.   And in both instances, the sellers understandably seek a significant return on their outlay for the initial acquisition and any additional investments.

(Sidebar:  For the record, I am not an “academic socialist,” a term that some IT industry executives have used privately to characterize their campus clients. Kudos and financial rewards should go to investors who take on risk, grow firms, and then have an opportunity to realize a return for their investment and their efforts.)

With both the Ellucian and Blackboard sales, the immediate concern of many campus IT leaders will be what does this mean for us?  How will this affect us?  What are the short- and long-term consequences of a new owner for one of our key technology providers?

Specifically campus IT leaders will want to know a) if Blackboard’s and Ellucian’s new owners will seek to recover the cost of the purchase and follow-on investments by raising licensing fees; (b) if the new owners will make necessary investments to upgrade and enhance products and services; and (c) who on the current executive suite management team and which field personnel (who deal directly with campus clients) will remain in the months after the Blackboard and Ellucian transactions close. 

But if I step back, what strikes me about the Blackboard and Ellucian sales,  as well as other similar M& A transactions that occur both the K-12 and higher education markets, is the distance that increasingly separates owners from campus clients, and in many ways even separates managers from campus clients.  

The owners – investment firms – are separated (buffered) from direct contact with campus clients by the management at the firms they acquire.  Moreover, as the tenure of executive suite and field personnel declines – as people increasingly move from job to job and company to company – the individual and institutional relationships that are critical to buyers and sellers the higher ed market often suffer. 

Let me place this in a broader context: the continuing lament I have heard over the past two decades from higher ed IT officers about their corporate contacts is that people on the corporate side, be they executive suite personnel or the account executives who visit their campus, “don’t stay.”  To paraphrase the comments of one campus official:  “It takes us 12-18 months to build a relationship with a new person and then, poof, they are gone a year or two later and we have to start all over again.”

Admittedly, higher education is not unique with regard to the distance that increasingly separates owners from clients and the buffering role of management. A quick look at the portfolio of any of the firms involved in the Blackboard and Ellucian transactions reveals that these investment firms (and others) own dozens of companies across several sectors of the economy.

But rightly or wrongly, many campus officials feel that higher education is a “special sector” and consequently seek special treatment (discounts and additional services) from their technology providers.  They also often want (demand!) more information from their tech providers than their counterparts in other sectors.  And unlike equally complex organizations in the for-profit sector, higher education cannot amortize its errors.  Consequently, colleges and universities are often slower to make major decisions because they are (understandably) very risk aversive.

The question of “distance” between owners, management, and clients really centers around the issue of investment firms making short- or long-term investments.  Admittedly, some investment firms – for example Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway – are known for making long-term investments: they “buy and hold.”  Following a major investment or acquisition, Buffett generally retains the current management and gives them resources and autonomy to grow.  Interestingly, a quick scan of the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio reveals no education companies, and also no tech firms.  His close personal friendship with Bill Gates notwithstanding, Buffett has explained the decision to avoid tech investments as a search for operations that are “virtually certain to possess enormous competitive strength ten or twenty years from now. A fast-changing industry environment may offer the chance for huge wins, but it precludes the certainty we seek.”  That same reasoning may also explain why Buffett has avoided investments in the education market.

But other firms do invest in the education (and ed tech) market, seeking to “do good and do well.”  So much as campus clients ask their technology providers to provide a three-to-five year roadmap for products and services, new owners would also do well to offer their education clients a three-to-five year roadmap of their investment plans for the firms they acquire:

  • Do they plan to be “long” or “short” on the education and ed tech firms they acquire?
  • Are they going to raise prices, and if so, by how much and over what period of time?
  • Will they invest in the firms they acquire to improve products and services? and
  • What are their plans for the people in the executive suite and those who are “on the ground” who have the most direct contact with campus officers and end-users?

Trust is the coin of the realm in the relationship between colleges and their technology providers.  And transparency is a key component of trust.  The investment firms that buy higher ed technology providers would do well to be transparent about their long-term plans if they hope to become or remain trusted tech providers to colleges and universities.

Disclosure:  Blackboard and Ellucian are corporate sponsors of The Campus Computing Project.

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Doonesbury Does Academe

Give credit where credit is due. Few observers capture and skewer academe and academics as well as Doonesbury, created by Garry Trudeau. The weekend and Sunday strips about the mythical Walden College efficiently and effectively capture, in four to eight panels, much of what gives cause for concern to both insiders and outsiders about academic culture and higher education.

It’s no mystery why so many college profs tape Doonesbury strips to their office walls and doors. Trudeau offers a magnifying mirror to the life [and culture] we have chosen.

Trudeau gets extra points for Sunday’s strip on adjuncts. In a scene reminiscent of the longshoremen begging for jobs in the 1954 Academy-Award winning movie On the Waterfront (or day laborers in the parking lots at many Home Depot stores across the country), weary part-timers in tweed jackets wait for the Dean to make an early-morning appearance just outside the main gate to Walden College. The Dean needs two subs to teach remedial English, plus a “professor-type” for a student film. 

There’s a small (but growing) cottage industry of guidebooks about life in graduate school and academe.  A significant contribution to that literature would be a compilation, in print or on the web, of Trudeau’s Doonesbury panels about Walden College.

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Buying Blackboard, Redux

Let the speculation begin. Perhaps that’s the best initial response to the news last week that Blackboard (Bb) is up for sale, again. The potential sale comes just four years after Providence Equity Partners purchased Blackboard for $1.64 billion.  The report that Bb may be on the market follows the annual Bb World Conference, where potential buyers were, no doubt, backbenching the event and talking with Bb clients.

Speculation about potential buyers was rampant in April 2011 when Blackboard’s management announced it had received two unsolicited buyout offers.  An April 2011 Forbes article suggested potential Bb buyers included Google, IBM, McGraw Hill, Microsoft, News Corp., Pearson, Oracle, SAP, and SunGard Higher Education (now Ellucian).  Not surprisingly, most of the predictions about the potential buyers in 2011 were wrong.  However, at the risk of shameless self-promotion, this observer wrote that "my hyperactive inference engine suggests that the probable bidders are investment firms rather than companies that currently play a major role as content or technology providers to the campus market.”  Ultimately Providence Equity Partners was the winning bidder; the purchase closed in November 2011.

Perhaps the most surprising aspects of last week’s news about a potential Bb sale are that (a) the sale is happening so soon, just four years after Providence took the company private in 2011, and (b) the rumored asking price is somewhere between $3.0 – $3.4 billion, a hearty bump in value in less than 48 months.

There are two dimensions to the speculation about the current Bb sale.  The first, and most obvious, is who would buy.  The second, and perhaps less obvious, is why sell now.  

Let’s begin with speculation about potential buyers.

As in 2011, Blackboard has lots of moving parts. However, Bb now has more “parts” – 12 parts/product platforms today vs. just seven four years ago.  While the LMS remains key to the Bb franchise, the company today is not the same one purchased by Providence in 2011.  Over the past four years, Bb has experienced the usual “adjustments” that follow a major acquisition, including significant turnover in senior management and some large layoffs.

Bb’s higher ed LMS franchise, which was always the company’s cash cow, continues to erode.  Data from The Campus Computing Project and from other sources document the continuing decline of Blackboard’s share of the higher ed LMS market.  At its peak, following the WebCT acquisition in 2004, almost four in five campuses had standardized on a Blackboard LMS platform; today that number has dropped by roughly half. While still dominant among larger institutions, Bb’s competitors are garnering winning reviews from LMS review committees and consequently winning campus contracts.

But the market share and revenue erosion of Bb's higher ed LMS may have been offset in recent years by rising revenue from other Bb units, a new focus on services to the K-12 market, and some newly acquired companies.  Well before the Providence acquisition in 2011, Blackboard had a long history of growth by acquisition. And a quick scan of the company’s press release archive points to six acquisitions over the past three years: some focused on the K-12 (ParentLink and SchoolWires), some focused on higher ed (CardSmith, Perceptis, and MyEdu), and one to enhance video conferencing capacity (Requestec).

So who would buy Blackboard?  As in 2011, my best guess is that the likely buyer is an investment firm like Providence, rather than an educational publisher or a software company (e.g., Google or Microsoft).  There are just too many working parts and operating units in the “new and expanded” Blackboard that do not complement or supplement the activities and investments of publishers such as Cengage, Pearson, McGraw Hill, or Wiley (e.g., the Connect and Transact business units).

Among investment firms, Hellman and Friedman LLC (H&F), which purchased Datatel in 2009 and SunGard Higher Education in 2012 (the combined firms now known as Ellucian), would seem to be a possible bidder.   H & F’s investments include Renaissance Learning, which offers “cloud-based assessment, teaching, and learning solutions for the K-12 market.”  Renaissance’s K-12 market position might nicely complement and supplement Bb’s recent K-12 acquisitions and initiatives. And Bb's higher ed applications (LMS, notification services, card services, mobile, and analytics, ) also complement the ERP applications from Ellucian.

But as long as we are engaged in idle speculation, one (very?) long-shot potential bidder might be Amplify (owned by Rupert Murdock’s News Corp.) which provides tablets and curricular software for the K-12 market.  If Murdock (or his sons, now positioned for succession) wanted to make a big entry into higher ed, buying Blackboard would be one way to do it.

Moving on, the question of why sell now is very interesting.  Four years is a very short “turn” for this kind of investment.  The short turn cycle and significant asking price of $3.0-$3.4 billion suggest that Providence and Blackboard are “highly confident” that the company has its financial, operational, and technology portfolios in good order.  Too, the rumored asking price suggests that Providence's management believes its oversight of Bb has led to significant gains in revenue, and by extension, value.  

All things considered, this probably is a very good time for Providence to sell Blackboard.  As noted by EdSurge, lots of money is currently pouring into education market investments.  During the first six months of 2015, venture capital investments in education firms totaled $1.6 billion, while the value of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) totaled $6.11 billion.  For the three-year period from January 2012 – December 2014, education market M&A activity totaled $28.1 billion.

Yet the speculation about potential bidders and buyers may be too much Inside Baseball (or Inside Bb) for most folks in higher ed.  A recent Wired article, published before this year’s Bb World Conference, characterized the company as an “overgrown education giant” that has infiltrated many schools and colleges, a sentiment shared by many academics.  Titled “The Reeducation of Blackboard, Everyone’s Classroom Pariah,” the Wired  article suggests that Bb’s updated LMS platform reflects many essential, timely, and useful enhancements.  Blackboard, says Wired, “is catching up to the competition.”

Will these changes matter – either to end users on campus or to potential bidders for the company?  Maybe. That Providence thinks Bb might fetch somewhere around $3 billion (or more) reflects real confidence in real changes and improvements over the four years.  Still for all the changes made in  (and still planned for) the LMS that remains central to the company’s market position and revenues, Bb is engaged in a very competitive battle to retain campus clients.  Indeed, perhaps the most important press release that I did not see as I scanned the company’s PR archives this week was the announcement of a former LMS client returning to Blackboard.  The return of former LMS clients as a metric for success is as important as rising revenues and the company’s profit margins.

Still, for campus clients the question of what company or investment firm owns Blackboard is less important that what new management will do and if it will invest in the company.  A big fear, of course, is that the new management will not invest in improving, and as appropriate, integrating, Bb’s various platforms and services.  Rather, the reasonable fear is that management will increase licensing and service fees, which would affect already stressed K-12 and campus technology budgets.

For the moment, however, let’s remember this is all speculation about if Bb sells, what selling price might be, and what new management will do after an acquisition. 

If Bb sells for anywhere near the rumored asking price of $3 billion, it will be a big win for Providence. 

If (or when) Blackboard sells, the best that the rest of us can do is hope that the sale to new management also ultimately results in a big win for K-12 and campus clients – as reflected in reasonable licensing fees and continually improving products and services.


Disclosure:  Blackboard, Cengage, Ellucian, Google, McGraw Hill, Microsoft, and Pearson are corporate sponsors of The Campus Computing Project.

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Kuali Goes For Profits

Tenth anniversaries for technology companies are (or should be) big events – a real cause for celebration.   A tenth anniversary, especially for tech firms that focus on the higher education market, means that you have survived major challenges: product development and launch, market acceptance, funding, personnel changes, product upgrades, multiple (and increasingly expensive) EDUCAUSE and other ed-tech conferences, and more. 

As a principal or participant in a start-up that makes it ten years, you can now call home to tell your parents that your company, launched with good intentions, great energy, grand designs, bold aspirations, and never enough money, is now successful: at ten years, you are now an officially accomplished entrepreneur, even if your parents are not sure what your products or services do, or even what business you are in.

Yet many of the true believers in higher education’s Open Source Community, which seeks to reduce software costs and provide better e-Learning and administrative IT applications for colleges and universities, may feel that they have little reason to celebrate the tenth anniversaries of Sakai, an Open Source Learning Management System and Kuali, a suite of mission critical, Open Source, administrative applications, both of which launched in 2004.  Indeed, for some Open Source evangelists and purists, this was probably a summer marked by major “disturbances in the force” of Open Source

Reassessments

As reported by Inside Higher Ed in June, Indiana University and the University of Michigan, two of the founding institutions behind the launch of Sakai in 2004, announced plans join other universities to form Unizin, a membership-based consortium of “universities coming together in a strategic way to exert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape.”  Although much of the public explanation about Unizin focuses on the control and sharing of digital content and educational resources, the consortium’s LMS platform will be Canvas by Instructure, a for-profit LMS which has gained significant market share in both the K-12 and higher education markets over the past four years. As co-founders of the Unizin consortium, Indiana and Michigan will abandon Sakai (and where the institutions also served as co-founders) and migrate to Canvas.

Instructure proclaims Canvas to be an Open Source LMS, similar to Moodle and Sakai: the source code (or “secret source” of the application) for Canvas is publicly posted and individual institutions can download the application and run it on campus computers without paying a licensing fee for the software.  However, in practice it is fair to say that Canvas by Instructure operates more like a commercial LMS (think Blackboard or Desire2Learn) and than as an Open Source community.

That Indiana and Michigan are migrating to Canvas from Sakai is a big deal.  As I noted in my “Looking Beyond Sakai” comments in June about the Unizin announcement, “what should we make of what seems to be the impending transition from Sakai to Canvas by two universities that were ‘present at creation’ for Sakai and whose support for Sakai no doubt played an important  role (a) in providing credibility for Sakai and (b) in the LMS deployment decisions over the past decade of some colleges and universities to migrate to Sakai as their campus standard LMS?”

Many of the same institutions and individuals involved in the efforts to create Sakai were also involved in the development of Kuali.  Now many of these same individuals and institutions seem to have “twice abandoned” early, strategic, and significant individual and institutional commitments to a community-based vision of Open Source applications for higher education with the late August announcement by the non-profit Kuali Foundation Board that the Foundation will launch a for-profit commercial operation – “a professional open source firm,” also referred to in documents on the Kuali Foundation website as the “Kuali Commercial Entity” (KCE) – to support the continuing development and campus deployment of Kuali administrative modules: financial management, human resources, library content management, research management, a student information system, and other applications.

The Sakai and Kuali decisions, often involving the same people and institutions, suggest a broad reassessment of the effectiveness of the community-driven structure of both the Kuali and Sakai initiatives.   Each decision – to migrate from Sakai to Canvas and to create a for-profit commercial services firm for Kuali – suggests that the current structure of these two Open Source communities was not working well for key institutional participants.

However, in many ways these reassessments of Kuali and Sakai were inevitable.  Ten years in, the institutional and individual participants and the leadership were obligated to take a close look and do a careful assessment.   The outcome of these seemingly parallel assessments suggests that infrastructure matters, and that innovation really requires infrastructure.  The “build it and they will come” strategy is not a sustainable business model.

In both instances, the decision of some of the Sakai pillar campuses to migrate to Canvas, and that of the Kuali Foundation Board to create a commercial services firm, reflects recognition of the need for more infrastructure and organizational structure than each community – Kuali and Sakai – currently provides to current and potential clients and community members.  (Note to the OCR/Open Source Curricular Community: attention should be paid, as similar issues are at play in the conversation about the infrastructure required to provide long-term, sustained support for OCR curricular resources.)

Is There a Real Market for Kuali?

Recent blog posts from individuals associated with the Kuali Foundation suggest that Kuali deployments in the US higher education market are growing, if slowly: according to Kuali Foundation president (and Indiana University CIO) Brad Wheeler, a decade after the launch of Kuali, “59 institutions are in production with various Kuali products, and another 100 use Kuali Ready, our business continuity product.”

Yet lingering in the background of this conversation about Kuali going for-profit (and for profits) is a larger question about the actual market for Kuali administrative applications.  In theory, the 4,500-plus degree-granting public, private, and for-profit two-and four-year colleges in the United States are potential Kuali clients.  But in practice, the number is far smaller, perhaps just 1,000 or 1,000 institutions – the roughly 600 US colleges and universities that enroll more than 10,000 students (and account for approximately 55 percent of the total headcount enrollment in US colleges and universities), plus perhaps another 400-500 colleges that enroll 5,000-10,000 students.  Certainly the nation’s truly small colleges – some 1350 institutions that enroll less than 500 students but which account for more than fourth of the number of degree granting colleges but account for just 2 percent of the total postsecondary headcount – are not likely Kuali clients.

But also instructive is the assessment of CIOs and senior campus officials about the likelihood that their institution might migrate to an Open Source ERP application in the reasonable future – by fall 2018.   And here the data from the 2013 Campus Computing Survey tell an interesting story.  CIOs and senior IT officials from less than 10 percent of the institutions that participated in the fall 2013 believe that there is a high likelihood that their institution could be operating an Open Source ERP application by fall 2018.  Even among major/large research universities and large public master's institutions, presumably the core market for Kuali applications, the numbers are often small, generally under 10 percent, save for a student information system (SIS) application, where senior IT campus officials at about about 15 percent of public universities, private universities, and public master's institutions could envision an Open Source SIS running at their institution by 2018, even as the application is still under development.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

The Kuali 2.0 (or “Kuali Commercial Entity/KCE") announcement raises some interesting questions about operational and funding issues.  Here’s my list.

      •  Funding Kuali 2.0.   Academics often have a problem with money – and profit.   That’s apparent in statement from the Kuali Board about how it intends to fund the new for-profit KCE:  “The commercial entity will not take Venture Capital money and will not have a Wall Street IPO. It will be funded by investors with patient values-based capital, who align with our mission, who aren’t just in it for a quick exit.”  

Will the for-profit KCE seek investment from current and future institutional clients?  Many institutions (and individuals) have already made significant “cash and kind” contributions to the development of Kuali over the past decade.  Is there a potential “grandfather” clause that might allocate stock in the new KCE based past on past investments and contributions?

Alternatively (or additionally), what about a Kickstarter strategy, open to the “Kuali Community” and other individual investors? For example, say that I have written Kuali code and that I am upbeat on the prospects for the KCE, even if I know that there is no “pot of IPO gold” ahead, but only small payments to shareholders (i.e., dividends) from the actual profits of the firm.  Will I be able to invest in the KCE?  And if I do invest, would my investment have any liquidity: in other words, how do I sell my stock in the KCE three, five, or ten years from now?

      •  Profit Targets?   How much “profit” will the KCE need?  How much profit will it make? What are the profit targets set by the management and the KCE Board?  And what are appropriate profit targets, given the larger mission of the Kuali Community and history of leaders and members in this community, including members of the Kuali Foundation Board,  for railing against for-profit software companies such as Campus Management, Ellucian, Jenzabar, Oracle, and Workday, that provide major administrative/ERP applications to the higher education market?

      •  Who Profits?  As the new Kuali Commercial Entity (KCE) will be for-profit, the underlying question is “who will profit?”  In most commercial ventures, Board members are rewarded for their service with stock and or cash payments for attending Board meetings.  Will the board members of the new, for-profit KCI be rewarded for their service?  Will the institutions or individuals who contributed code to Kuali over the past decade be profit participants?  How will the new KCE address potential conflict of interest issues if current or former CIOs, CFO, or other campus officials who are (or were) Kuali clients are also KCE board members?   And what about employees of the new KCE: will they participate in a profit sharing plan?

      •  Raiding Talent.   Where will the KCE find technical talent to enhance and advance Kuali code?  Were I the CIO, CFO, or Registrar of a campus that has contributed code to various Kuali applications or installed a Kuali module, I would carefully guard my “Kuali coders” to be sure that they don't jump from my campus for better, higher paying jobs at the new, for-profit KCE.

      •  Operating Costs.  Sales and marketing, along with user services and support, represent significant operating and overhead costs for any software company. The new KCE will have to add these functions and services, which means hiring people and building sales and support organizations. If the goal of the Kuali community is to reduce the cost of administrative software and the support services to campuses, how much will these essential company functions and services add to the fees charged to campus clients by the KCE?

      •  Why Not rSmart?  To use the words of the Kuali announcement, higher education already has “a professional open source firm.”   rSmart, launched in 2004 concurrent with the launch of both Kuali and Sakai, has been standing up, standing with and investing in Kuali support services for a decade.  Chris Coppola, president and co-founder of rSmart, has served as an elected Board member of both the Kuali and Sakai Foundations. 

On the assumption that it often is wiser, better, faster, and less expensive to borrow or buy than build, if the Kuali Foundation Board felt the need to align the Kuali movement with a “professional open source firm,” the looming question is why not align with rSmart, which has supported Kuali since its inception, rather than take the significant time and incur significant costs to build a new company from scratch, one that will now compete with rSmart for what is, at present, a small market for Kuali services and support?  This is, in essence, what the Unizin campuses, many of which are also deeply involved with Kuali, did with the decision to migrate from Sakai to Canvas: the Unizin campuses turned to an existing provider rather than create a new one.

The new KCE will now compete with rSmart, which has a decade of (presumably successful) experience and expertise with Kuali code, Kuali clients, Kuali deployments, and serving the higher ed market.  The competition between these two firms can only add to the operating costs of each as they compete for talent and clients. 

Moreover, given the obvious ties between the non-profit Kuali Foundation and the new for-profit KCE, the question emerges about a level playing field between the two companies: will the KCE be advantaged because of its close ties to the Kuali Foundation, or will the Foundation steer a neutral course, favoring neither company with early information about Kuali code, strategy, and related issues?

An Evolving Narrative

Admittedly, the KCE story – both the public explanations as well as the somewhat less public back stories – are only beginning to emerge. As with any start-up, there is a creation story, there is the "how we plan to grow the company" narrative, and there will be iterations on both as the company evolves. 

 

Disclosure:   Blackboard, Campus Management, Desire2Learn, Ellucian, Instructure, Jenzabar, Oracle, rSmart, and Workday  are corporate sponsors of The Campus Computing Project.

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The Beginning of the End of Internet Entitlements?

There is significant grist for the campus technology policy mill in the news that UT-Austin is reviewing plans to charge student “uber-users” supplemental fees for very high levels of bandwidth consumption.  The student fees vary depending on weekly bandwidth activity: the base level, 10 Gb (gigabytes) weekly, is included in the room rate for on-campus students.  The supplemental fees begin at $27/annually for students who consumer more than 10 Gb but less than 50 Gb weekly, and rise to $60 annually (academic year) for students who use as much as 500 Gb weekly. (For contextual purposes, the DVD file for many two-hour long commercial movies can be about 4-5 gigabytes.)

The first issue, as noted in Carl Straumsheim’s August 4 report published by Inside Higher Ed, involves net neutrality: even as virtually all organizations that lobby on behalf of academe in Washington have come out in a single (and very loud) voice supporting the concept of net neutrality, the proposed policy at UT-Austin would create a very similar fast lane/slow lane structure that many academic experts rail against in their arguments in support of net neutrality.  

[SIDEBAR: A recent three-part series in Wired offers interesting information on and significant insight into the truly complex issue of net neutrality. Part 1 (“What Everyone Get’s Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality”) argues that the much-feared fast lanes are already here and may have helped to save the Internet from chaos.  Part 2 profiles Tim Wu, the Columbia University law school professor who is often cited as the “father of net neutrality.” And Part 3 (“The Case for Net Neutrality’s Nuclear Option”) describes the two-class structure of the FCC’s Internet regulation, involving common carriers and Internet service providers (ISPs), and the consequences these categories have for the future of the Internet.  Taken together, these three article provide an ample dollop of cognitive dissonance for individuals on all sides of the net neutrality issue.]

Bandwidth Management Discussed

Inside Higher Ed's weekly news podcast, This Week, will explore this issue, and other issues, on Friday. Lev Gonick, former CIO at Case Western Reserve University, will share his expertise. Sign up here to receive email notification about the publication of This Week.

The second issue for uber-users at UT-Austin is really about Internet entitlements.  Historically most institutions have worked on an “all you can eat” model of Internet service.  Students (often, not always) paid an IT fee that included generally unrestricted Internet access; faculty and administrators at many institutions pay a monthly connection fee, also typically without restrictions on bandwidth consumption.

It should come as no surprise that the demand for bandwidth – both wired and wireless – has exploded in recent years.  Students, faculty, administrators, and staff have multiple devices – desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones – which they have, understandably, felt entitled to connect to campus networks. Moreover, video – including instructional content from the Khan Academy, the podcasts and vodcasts of course lectures, the video archives of campus presentations by distinguished speakers, and the media projects prepared by students – has become an increasingly ubiquitous part of the academic experience.  A growing number of campuses now stream their athletic events over the Internet, intended for both on-campus and off-campus/alumni audiences. And then there is the explosive growth of streaming video content in the consumer market, perhaps best symbolized by Netflix, which at times accounts for up to a third of all after-business hours Internet traffic. 

Colleges and universities have long known that a large proportion of the student activity on the campus network is not connected to academic work.  This emerged publically decade ago during Congressional hearings when Members, supported (indeed urged on) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), charged college and university officials with being indifferent, at best, to the illegal P2P piracy of digital music over the campus networks.

But good, bad, or otherwise, most campuses have maintained an “all you can consume” policy on bandwidth, and most campus users feel entitled to bandwidth for all their devices. 

Yet some change may be inevitable. You may recall that at one time your plane ticket included a meal and checked baggage; today however, food and luggage are, for most travelers, unbundled services and involve additional fees.  Internet providers – be they the CIO on your campus who is responsible for wired and wireless services or the CEO of the commercial service that provides broadband to your residence – are all looking for new sources of revenue.  As we all consume more broadband, consumption fees, common in some other countries, may well become part of landscape both on campus and in the consumer market.

Whatever the resolution of uber-user fees UT-Austin – as of late last week the policy was “on-hold” pending additional review – the public discussion at UT-Austin will serve to fuel more campus conversations about bandwidth entitlement and how colleges and universities should address the explosive demands and accompanying rising costs of providing more and better/higher speed bandwidth to students, faculty, administrators, and staff.

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The Beginning of the End <br>of Internet Entitlements?

Summer Reading from THE NEW YORKER Archive

Vox .com reports that  the New Yorker magazine has opened its archives to the public for the next three months.  Libby Nelson at Vox has selected a dozen articles from the archives, half K-12 and half higher ed, that all make for interesting and informative reading, any time of the year.

The K-12 articles include profiles of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and former Bush administration education official Diane Ravitch, once a strong advocate for education reform efforts such as No Child Left Behind and now a staunch opponent, plus what happened after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg promised to invest $100 million to help transform Newark’s public schools.

The higher ed articles Ms. Nelson selected include reporting on the US News and World Report rankings by Malcolm Gladwell, Clay Christensen’s efforts to disrupt higher ed and other sectors, Stanford’s ties to Silicon Valley and what it means for the rest of higher ed, and a profile of Patrick Henry College, an institution that trains faith-based students to be politicians.

Also available from the archive is Laptop U, published last year at the peak of MOOC madness. You may think you know a lot about MOOCs and online ed (and perhaps you really do!)  But  Nathan Heller’s May 2013 article will take you deep into the development work, as a good portion of the article is about the effort at Harvard and by edX to convert a classic Harvard classics course into a MOOC: it’s the hero’s journey,  both challenged and also aided by technology.

So your calendar permitting, settle into a comfortable reading chair, your favorite beverage by your side, and click through the links cited above.  Enjoy!

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The Facebook Furor

Tens of thousands of academics and other observers of Internet life who did not know the name Adam Kramer on Sunday night certainly now it now.  But on the chance you’ve been “off the grid” for the past 24 hours, Adam Kramer is the Facebook data scientist who served as a the lead author on a research project that manipulated the positive and negative information in the Facebook News Feed to assess the emotional impact positive and negative news on some 690,000 Facebook users. 

To quote Mr. Kramer and his co-authors from the abstract of their work, recently published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences in the United States (PNAS), their work tested “whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.”

A short, January 2011 profile of Kramer published by the American Psychological Association reveals that he earned his doctorate in social psychology at the University of Oregon. Based on his graduate experience at a prominent research university, which presumably included some exposure to the ethics and appropriate protocols of (and informed permission for) research involving human subjects, ya gotta wonder how this particular Facebook project got past the design phase without someone (anyone?) expressing concerns about human subject issues.  

As many observers have already noted, its one thing for Facebook to apply “big data” analytics to unobtrusive, transactional data; it’s quite another to “manipulate the environment” (i.e., mess with the News Stream on a Facebook account) to assess the emotional impact of the manipulation on some 690,000 Facebook users.

But while much of the uproar about Facebook’s inappropriate manipulation of human subjects has been  (appropriately!) directed at Kramer and his co-authors, missing from the commentary I’ve found on the Web thus far is any mention of the role of the (academic?) reviewers who read the manuscript and ultimately recommended it for publication by the National Academy of Sciences..  (Note: Forbes reports that researchers at Cornell passed on reviewing the final paper, although Cornell researchers did help design the study.)

Perhaps like you, esteemed reader, I just don't get it. Conventional (and consensual) wisdom suggests that the Facebook study failed two (count 'em, TWO!) reviews related to human subjects research protocols. The first failure was the work of the design/research team which, given their university training and presumed experience with institutional review boards (IRBs), should have known that the methodology -- manipulating the News Feed without consent -- was inherently problematic. And the second failure seems to be that of the editors and reviewers at PNAS who apparently failed to take Mr. Kramer and his colleagues to task on human subject issues when they reviewed the submitted paper and subsequently recommended it for publication.

In his commentary on this episode of Facebook’s newest assault on user privacy, NY Times Bits blogger Mike Isaac writes that “Sometimes, being wrong on the Internet means having to say your sorry. And by now, Facebook is very, very good at saying sorry.”   

Yet as my 10 year old son said to me one day, many years ago, when I tried to apologize for some parental sin of commission or omission, “sorry isn't good enough.”

Sample Media Coverage of the Facebook Furor:  New York Times, NY Times blog, NY Times Op Ed by Jaron Lanier, Wall Street Journal, Forbes,  Time Magazine (which includes Kramer’s explanation and apology from his Facebook page), Meet a Facebook Data Scientist (March 2012), American Psychological Association profile (Jan 2011)

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