Lovecraftian rant about the horrors of Blackboard

Anyone who's ever had the misfortune to attend or work at an academic institution that uses the horrible classroom software Blackboard knows that it is a worse-than-useless exercise in technological sadism that is responsible for more pain and suffering than practically any other technology in educational history. But it takes the eloquence of Dave Noon's epic, Lovecraftian rant to truly express the loathing that Blackboard inspires in its users: "After generations of dry-throated croaking and lung-starched wheezing, their tongues swollen with thirst and punctured with abscesses that never heal, these distant people will bring forth a new language to survey the boundaries of their pain."

At first, their speech will flow together in single, blasphemous strands of adjectival protest; they will speak without subjects, no proper names or pronouns to jolt them into the kind of self-recognition that could only serve as a spur to mass, urgent suicide. In time, their words will be hacked into tinier fragments of salivated fury, as their lips and tongues and few-remaining-teeth jostle ruthlessly to disgorge themselves into the foul space that separates one antagonist from another. With arm-sized splinters of trees that were fortunate enough to perish centuries before, they will jab massive holes into their upper palates to accommodate the new sounds needed to register their misfortune and threaten each other with gross physical harm. Inbred mutants with hideous nasocranial deformities will gain selective advantage in the linguistic struggle for existence. They will use this new language to enslave one another, to plot out gristly sprees that might be called murder if there were anything near to law restraining them, like a weak sphincter, from unleashing their worst. There will be decades of forced labor, violent spasms of resistance and recrimination carried out with grossly disproportionate injury to bystanders who are, alas, never as innocent as they seem.

On the outskirts of this new language, lurking on its crimsoned frontier, will lie words that will themselves have been cast into exile – foul offgassings within a lexicon that itself stands as a towering monument to the boundlessly obscene, words that will curve backward and devour themselves, each one an afflicted universe in the process of total collapse, words that exist for microseconds before streaking, unremembered and unmourned, into the void.

Christ, I hate Blackboard [Dave Noon/Lawyers Guns Money]

(via Hacker News)

Notable Replies

  1. No doubt BlackBoard is dreadful. I would recommend Canvas by Instructure any day. Luckily that is what my place witched over to after spending years on WebCT. The cool thing about Canvas that it has iPad apps and is built around making it very easy to grade. Don't get me wrong it has its moments, but much better than nearly anything I have used.

  2. Elusis says:

    Taught in it full-time for nearly three years. For 18 months of that, we kept being promised an upgrade to a newer version at some ever-moving date in the future.

    I once counted how many clicks it took me to set up my courseroom including "private feedback areas" for each of my 25 students. The number was well over 1000. I had RSI within a few months of starting that job, and all the physical therapy and adaptive technology in the world couldn't really mitigate the effects of the horrible design, impossibly kludgy UI, and shitty Java implementations.

  3. LDoBe says:

    Java is an affront to humanity and should be destroyed. It has literally no place on the desktop and only serves as a vector for malware infections. Only the laziest, most unsympathetic coders would insist on using it. It's easily replaced with a number of other, better implemented frameworks, for instance .NET, which itself isn't wonderful, but is certainly better than Java.

    Every time I see an unnecessary java applet I die a little inside.

  4. Have you seen the percentage of campus laptops with a distinctive glowing fruit adornment? Desktop java is, indeed, a pox on mankind (and really has no place in a 'web interface'); but it does have the advantage that there is a JVM for approximately every turing-complete thing with sufficent RAM. Other options, less so.

  5. LDoBe says:

    Fine then. Most of this stuff could be coded in python easily enough. And python's fairly portable. Use that instead.
    Anyway blackboard is a webapp. Whenever I used it, it was just a java plugin in a browserframe that went back to some server on campus. It should have been written in HTML, Javascript, CSS, some kind of database (take your pick) and perl/python/php/ruby/asp/coldfusion.

    There's no reason to use Java for anything really anymore. There are tons of solutions to replace it, and a number of apps I support at work crash every time a Java update rolls out. Also any time IE gets updated. Also anytime chrome gets updated. Also anytime a new version of the corporate VPN client is pushed out. It's a godawful mess right now. Our time-keeping system has been broken for a week because of a non-optional java update we can't block unless we block Java from even using HTTP ports. Which would break the timekeeping applet all over again.

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