M. Douglas Wray

Microsoft attempts to quash OSS Recommendation

Changing the Report, After the Vote

from InsideHigherEd.com

Except for David Ward, president of the American Council on Education, every member of the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education found enough to endorse in the draft the panel produced last month to support it over all. All of them, certainly, also found some aspects of the report objectionable, yet swallowed those objections and agreed, at a public meeting August 10, to sign the report. The panel’s members agreed at the time that the report would undergo only minor copy editing and “wordsmithing” between then and when it was formally presented to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings later this month.

That agreement was nearly imperiled last weekend, though. Gerri Elliott, corporate vice president at Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector division, sent an e-mail message to fellow commissioners Friday evening saying that she “vigorously” objected to a paragraph in which the panel embraced and encouraged the development of open source software and open content projects in higher education. The paragraph read like this:

The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of open-source and open-content projects at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling the open sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Such a portal could stimulate innovation, and serve as the leading resource for teaching and learning. New initiatives such as OpenCourseWare, the Open Learning Initiative, the Sakai Project, and the Google Book project hold out the potential of providing universal access both to general knowledge and to higher education.

While she agreed with the underlying idea that technological innovation aimed at sharing educational materials and furthering collaborative learning is essential, Elliott said, she took issue with the commission’s decision to weigh in on “the manner in which the underlying software is developed.”

“It is certainly a surprise entry and was absolutely never discussed in any of the meetings I attended,” Elliott wrote, adding that she would “never sign” a report that contained the paragraph as written. She proposed alternative language from which the word “open” was conspicuously absent.

A few hours later, just after midnight on Saturday, Charles Miller, the panel’s chairman, wrote in an e-mail that he believed Elliott’s proposed changes were “an improvement and consistent with the work of the commission.” He said the panel would make the changes “if there are no objections.”

But the objections came quickly, and in varying degrees of intensity. Charles M. Vest, president emeritus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that he was “generally comfortable” with Elliott’s suggestion but that he thought it essential that “open content” must stay. (“Open source,” he agreed, does not necessarily translate into “access to knowledge,” but “we must absolutely consider both commercial software platforms and open-source development as parts of the mix.”) MIT has been a pioneer among colleges in making its course materials freely available online.

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Jesus Bloody Christ! Microsoft is getting more and more heavy-handed about trying to f–k with Open Source Software. Sometimes I think they’d like to just start shooting OSS developers.

The tide is slowly turning against them and they’re getting clumsier and clumsier in their hamhanded attempts to interfere with business and education turning to cheaper, safer solutions.

IMHO, Bill Gates will always be de debil, no matter how much money he gives away.

Stop screwing around with OSS!

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