Apple Sued Over Book Deals

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued Apple and five big book publishers for price fixing. The story is that back in 2010, Steve Jobs encouraged the six to meet in order to discuss ways they might be able to defeat Amazon’s effective discounting for e-books. Their plan supposedly included agreements to set their prices for e-books higher. The Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have already settled with the government and ended their deals with Apple, but the Penguin Group USA and Macmillan have not settled and claim no wrongdoing.

Google 101 (and maybe 102)

I had planned to do a post about using Google search more efficiently and call it Google 101. I collected a bunch of links, but then I thought that it might be better to put it on one of our LibGuides at PCCC.

So, check out which is a collection of tips and links to help you use the features of Google search and its related tools and services better.

I find all my students are using the Google Basic Search all the time and just typing in a few words to begin a search. They don't get much from the services offered, but they are satisfied with the results.

In fact, Google has gotten smart enough to figure out what you're probably trying to find even if you don't do it very well (like guessing at your typos and pre-guessing at what you are probably going to type next).

I am disappointed that Google removed the "advanced search" link on the home page. I'm guessing that it may be because the basic search is a lot more intelligent. When I start typing "incredibly loud" Google suggested incredibly loud and extremely close (for the book & film) which is actually wrong - but clicking that actually took me to the correct results on extremely loud and incredibly close. The search is smart enough to learn the mistakes most people are making when they search.

One quick tip is useful if you want to search a specific website (especially if the site doesn't have its own search feature) you can use Google to search the site. Put site: in a search as a modifier.  For example, you could search "social media" and get information on social media from the Starbucks corporate website.

Most students - and most teachers - don't know how search engines like Google do what they do. A basic description from says "A search engine uses software robots, called spiders, to build lists of the words found on Web sites. When a spider is building its lists, the process is called Web crawling.The usual starting points are lists of heavily used servers and popular pages. The spider will begin with a popular site, indexing the words on its pages and following every link found within the site. In this way, the spidering system quickly begins to travel, spreading out across the most widely used portions of the Web." 

Google searches are NOT case sensitive - "passaic county" and "Passaic County" will return the same results. A search will return results that include ALL of your search terms - putting "and" between terms is unnecessary, and Google also ignores common words and characters such as "where" and "how", as well as certain single digits and single letters.

Google uses stemming technology which means that it will sometimes search not only for your search terms, but also for words that are similar to some or all of those terms.

Google searches across all types of content including images, news, books, maps and videos (but not currently Google Scholar results except for JSTOR)

The term "cached" means you can see the contents of the web page when it was last indexed, so that if for some reason the site link doesn't connect you to the current page, you might still find the information you need in the cached version.

One of Google's big innovations was that it uses PageRank™ which ranks the popularity of the page based on how many other pages link to that page and the popularity/authority of those linking pages.

"Sponsored Links" are really ads paid for by businesses in order to be at the top of the results pages when you search. Companies pay Google each time someone clicks on one of these link/ads.

Like Wikipedia (although that's a whole other topic), students are using these tools, so I think we need to educate them on how to use them well.

Holistic College Admissions

Interesting look at admissions at "elite" colleges

"How They Really Get In" By Scott Jaschik via
Most elite colleges and universities describe their admissions policies as "holistic," suggesting that they look at the totality of an applicant - grades, test scores, essays, recommendations, activities and so forth.
But a new survey of admissions officials at the 75 most competitive colleges and universities (defined as those with the lowest admit rates) finds that there are distinct patterns, typically not known by applicants, that differentiate some holistic colleges from others.

Most colleges focus entirely on academic qualifications first, and then consider other factors. But a minority of institutions focuses first on issues of "fit" between a college's needs and an applicant's needs.
This approach - most common among liberal arts colleges and some of the most competitive private universities - results in a focus on non-academic qualities of applicants, and tends to favor those who are members of minority groups underrepresented on campus and those who can afford to pay all costs of attending.

Reading the Blackboard Tea Leaves

If you are trying to do some tasseography about the announcement yesterday that Blackboard has acquired acquired Moodlerooms and NetSpot, here are a variety of links that have come to me via email, listservs and tweets.

Everyone should keep in mind that owning those companies is not anything close to owning Moodle. The two companies acquired are leading providers of Moodle (which is free and open sourced) service solutions to the education market. Moodlerooms is in the USA and NetSpot is in Australia and they are both official Moodle Partners. Part of the announcement said that each will continue their current programs to support clients with no changes to their leadership or their support and service models.

Why is Bb moving in this direction? Two reasons culled from posts by the company's CEO & CTO (see below) are "...this shift is the result of the broader perspective that has come over the past few years as we have updated our vision and mission. Rather than focusing just on the LMS market, we're looking at the entire student lifecycle within the education institutions we serve... online learning continues to grow all around the world, applied to increasingly diverse learning challenges every year. As usage deepens, needs not only expand, they also become more specialized. The result for education institutions is the need for increased choice among systems with different strengths and deployment models to best suit their particular situation.”

Blackboard Announces Continued Support for Angel – this is a change from the previous “expiration” date of October 2014 for Angel and from Blackboard’s tendency to eventually discontinue other products has acquired.

Senior leaders from Blackboard, Moodlerooms and NetSpot signed a Statement of Principles affirming that their work would continue a number of key initiatives currently supported by Moodlerooms and NetSpot, including contributions of software code to the open source community, financial support for the Moodle Trust, and continued support for community gatherings like Moodlemoots.

Blackboard Launches Open Source Services Group – “a new effort to support clients using open source education technologies. With the announcement, the company will continue to focus on its flagship Blackboard Learn™ platform as well as ANGEL and Edline, while also helping institutions successfully manage open source learning management systems (LMS) including Moodle and Sakai."

Blackboard Appoints Sakai Foundation Board Member Charles Severance to Lead Company’s Sakai Initiatives – “a longtime leader and one of the founders of the Sakai community, to a senior role to lead the company’s initiative on the Sakai open source learning management system.” And here is Chuck Severance’s own blog posting giving a fairly extensive explanation of why he accepted this position and his excitement for the future.

Ray Henderson (CTO and President, Academic Platforms for Blackboard) describes their plans in his blog post: Evolution Unbound: Blackboard Embraces Open Source – “…should we expand our offerings to include multiple LMS products, particularly the open source products that are now more widely adopted? Our answer is yes.The long game for Blackboard is to bring the full complement of our solutions across the student lifecycle to more institutions”

Michael Chasen (CEO) and Ray Henderson write An Open Letter to the Education Community – “The high level change is this: Blackboard is becoming a multiple learning platform company that supports both commercially developed software as well as open source solutions.”


Blackboard Acquires Moodlerooms, NetSpot (Sacramento Bee article) 

Blackboard, MoodleRooms, NetSpot: First Reactions (Inside Higher Ed)
Tony Bates’ blog

Blackboard Buys Mooderooms & Embraces Open “This announcement will make my OER friends nervous, but I think it has the potential to bring new investment and energy to open platforms. 

You Can Acquire Open Source Companies, But You Can’t Buy Open Source Community

Blackboard Inc. Buys Moodlerooms and NetSpot, with Eye Toward Open Source