[UPDATE: 9-23-2011 9:54EDT] The original links to vendor searches on Open Book seem to be working again. I guess that means that the issue was a poorly-timed technical outage. In light of this, I take back my tentative speculations about Open Book actively suppressing results – I was wrong. Leaving this blog post up for historical reasons.
[UPDATE: 9-21-2011 1:46EDT] It looks like all vendor information is missing from Open Book at the moment. The contracts are still available by contract number (example). This may point toward an Open Book technical problem. Until a bit more is known, I think it’s reasonable to assume it’s an innocent accident. The general points still remain.
A few days ago I wrote a blog post about how CUNY and Blackboard have, in various ways, inspired my work in free software. In that post, I linked to a page that showed search results for CUNY and Blackboard from Open Book New York, a service provided by the NYS Comptroller’s office that lets citizens see how public institutions are spending tax money (a great idea, right?).
The blog post got many thousands of hits, and many hundreds of those users clicked on the link in question, which showed the amounts of CUNY’s current hosting contracts with Blackboard. This morning, one of my commenters, Brian, let me know that the link no longer worked. In fact, when you search Open Book for Blackboard, no contracts at all are shown for the entire state, while just a few days ago, a similar search turned up lots of results.
My decision to hotlink to the contract details in the original post, instead of spelling the dollar amounts in the text, was completely intentional. While I think that the high cost of Blackboard’s service is indeed an important symptom of a larger problem, I think that the dollar amounts have the potential to overshadow other considerations. So I linked, knowing that few readers would click through.
But now, because I don’t want that aspect of the original post to be lost, I’m going to bring to the foreground what I’d intended to leave in the background.
If removing the results was intentional, ie if Open Book removed the results at the request of Blackboard or of CUNY (I consider the former more likely, given the evidence), it is obviously quite disappointing, and lends a certain irony to the “Open Book” moniker.