Blackboard-Still Trying to Be an Ivory Tower

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

Blackboard released their version of del.icio.us, rather arrogantly named scholar. And as Dan Cohen notes they should have just kept it hidden. First it is poorly laid out, and the aesthetics harken back to the early 90’s web design (how many colors can you get on a page) mixed in with bad CSS (look at all of those boxes). Perhaps they should take some of that money they are using to hire lawyers to file ridiculous patents and instead hire some people who know how to program.

But seriously, the larger problem here is that this social bookmarking site is only available to those who have blackboard accounts. So unless you are using Blackboard at your University, you can only look at this service. Someone needs to explain to the people at blackboard that social bookmarking works as an open format, that is you need large number of community users. The idea, I take it is to limit the social bookmarking community to “academics.” So that when you look at the microbiology tag you only see academic references not tags to porn fetish sites. Good idea, bad execution. First because it is difficult to mark off what is academic from what is not. Take a look at my del.icio.us account, and try and figure out what tags are for “academic” purposes and which are not. The point is they mix into one another, showing how my academic interests have social relevance. And so when someone is searching for tags on Dues Ex, they might also bump into by tags on Derrida. Ohh, but you say isn’t it useful to have an account with only tags for your class, where the students can see only relevant material. Well two solutions here, both better than Blackboard’s Scholar. First, create a tag that is for your class “Eng205z” for example, and that way all the links for 205z will be grouped together, or open another account (you see del.icio.us is free and open to everyone) that is just the links for your class, maybe your name plus the class number, like “DaveEng205z.” And the second problem for Blackboard is that tagging and linking is a numbers game, you need critical mass to make this work, and why would anyone migrate from an open system to a close system, with less users?

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