It’s an open secret that I was inspired to write the first draft for Elgg (we’ll call it version 0.001) after experiences supporting and programming for one of the closed-source virtual learning environments. I felt, and still feel, that it is unfair for universities to be locked into expensive contracts for software they cannot alter to fit their needs. These are usually public organisations dedicated to advancing human knowledge; for me, using them for extensive profit has always felt a bit like stabbing society in the back. (A shame, because I’d quite like a Segway and a nice house in the country, if you want to know the truth.)
So I’m a little dubious about the WebCT / Blackboard merger everyone’s talking about this morning. That said, their website insists they’re going to slowly combine the features of both into a single, standards-based product. Standards = good, although they have to be open and they have to be sensible. For a standard to really work in this context it has to be simple, easy to code for and safe; the problem is, while I’m certain their framework will be watertight from a hacking point of view, it’s not in their interests to create anything simple and open. It’s in their interests to keep people using their software, and to buy add-ons from them.
Or am I being too cynical?