More Prior Art for the BlackBoard Patent: Anyone Remember Phillip Greenpun’s ArsDigita?

Back in 2000, I was reserching content management systems for a legal aid website project I was working on and did some pretty heavy digging into ArsDigita’s ACS system. (that might be redundant as I believe the ‘S’ stands for system).

Anyhow, this system was developed by Phillip Greenspun of "Phil and Alex’s Guide to Web Publishing" and was used at MIT for some of the courses that he taught. If you have not read this book, it is well worth the time. Even after all these years (published originally in 1998), it has great insights and is enjoyable reading for website developers. The link leads to the free online version of the book, but buy the full-color, paper version – it’s full of beautiful photos taken by Greenspun.

I found a blurb from April of 1998 at the WayBack Machine on that describes some functions of ACS and refers to version 1.4 (which would imply that it goes back further).


example: participants in a class

If you have a bunch of people taking a high school or university course,the ACS can serve as the hub for distributing course materials,collecting questions, and fostering discussion. It has in fact beenused this way at MIT, Harvard, and lots of schools that aren’t inCambridge!

Anyway, the lessons from our experience are that the ACS works as wellas any other collaboration software for supporting folks in a class.Just be sure that they have a reason for using a Web service in thefirst place.

Architecturally you could set up everyone at a university in one bigACS. Then use the user-groups module to define various group types.The most important structures in a modern university are committees. Soyou’d have those sorts of groups to accrete administrators. Then you’dprobably want to think about a group of type "course". Students andteachers in a particular course would be lumped together in a user groupand could have a private discussion group…."

Emphasis mine.

Instead of "various group types" think "roles" which seemed to figure prominently in many of the claims in the BlackBoard patent.

I will get this into the Wikipedia History of VLE‘s later this week. That’s where the community seems to be coalescing for a single location for this kind of stuff.

Phillip Greenspun blogs here. I’ll bet he would make an excellent expert witness.

Comments are closed.