Thursday, January 09, 2014

inBloom Underpants Gnomes

Here's the inBloom version of the Underpants Gnomes business plan:

  1. Collect data -- from everyone, at their expense
  2. ???
  3. Non-profit

Mercedes Schneider said yesterday that "InBloom is arguably a monopoly." At this point, inBloom is just a startup whose business plan is based on convincing us to consciously give them a monopoly on this data on a national scale. This is a convincing pitch only to their fellow gnomes.


Bill Fitzgerald said...

Hello, Tom,

From what I see, you're missing it on this one.

Given that Pearson, eScholar, Infinite Campus, etc have been in this space for years, and that every state is running a datastore to address reporting requirements laid out in NCLB - I don't see how what inBloom is doing is substantively different.

What are you seeing that I'm not?

Tom Hoffman said...

The difference is the *everyone* part.

Bill Fitzgerald said...

What is the likelihood of every state in the country migrating off their existing datastores onto inBloom?

Even if inBloom convinced every state to do this (unlikely) and even if there wasn't an enormous national outcry (like the Obamacare and Common Core opponents had a demon spawn of political wingnuttery), the entire process would require 2-3 years of aggressive development and data migration.

And even then, what's the business model? Blackmail everybody about everything?

The thing I really can't get past is why people are so wound up about this now, when the data collection has been ongoing, stored in the cloud, for a fee, accessible to vendors, for years.

In all seriousness, you have an incredible understanding of these issues - but on this one, I don't see where the hyped risk equates with the actual risk.

deutsch29 said...

It is the "who" behind inBloom that makes it "arguably a monopoly" in education data mining.

Do not underestimate the "who."

deutsch29 said...

The "gnomes" are advancing privacy legislation in Louisiana, Colorado, and New York.

Tom Hoffman said...

Hi Mercedes,

I think the difference in your overall analysis of the situation is that you think the reform movement at this point is more competent and well-coordinated intellectually than I do. We certainly both agree that they're politically powerful and extremely dangerous, particularly when they can work from the shock doctrine playbook.

But I think there is danger in treating these people like they are evil geniuses. As someone who works in the same field as inBloom, it is a stupid idea, extremely likely to trigger a backlash. Of course, launching the year of Snowden hardly helped either.

There are much more subtle, incremental, technically sophisticated approaches to this problem that Gates could have taken that would ultimately be unstoppable. Believe me, I've worked on them (and Gates passed on funding that work over 10 years ago, because they aren't as smart as they think they are).

The same is true of pretty much the whole agenda. They just straight up botched every part of the Common Core other than the lobbying. They've thrown in with a bunch of strategies which, in the end, don't work.

Rick Hess is an evil tool, but I read his CC critiques as a sincere attempt to avoid the mess they're in now. The Tea Party backlash is not a double bank shot strategy, it is a bipartisan coalition coming apart at the seams.

None of this means we're out of danger, of course.