An automotive metaphor

Say your small college is a family of five, you're shopping for a car, and you're wondering what's out there. Here's are some of your options:

On the low-cost end you find:
  • The Word and Excel approach. This is like tying two bicycles together and calling it a car. It's cheap, it rolls, and you're gonna lose your groceries if you try pedaling home on that thing.
  • The roll-your-own Access-based system. This is a bicycle tied to a wheelbarrow, or perhaps a Flintstones-style, foot-powered car: either way, there's lots of hard work involved to make it go anywhere.
  • The K-12 program wedged into a higher education context. This is a riding lawn mower used as family transportation.
  • The fly-by-night company that barfs out something software-ish. This is the shifty used-car salesman pushing a beater '85 Plymouth with no muffler and the stuffing pulled out of the back seats. Also, it's on fire.
Then there are the big guys:
  • The giant hosted database with no interface. This is a 48' shipping container. I guess your family could just watch it sit there.
  • The LMS with all the bells and whistles. This is the luxury tour bus with the helipad and built-in swimming pool that gets two miles a gallon on the highway because it's too expensive to give it an oil change.
  • The open-source LMS. This is a school bus built out of parts from other vehicles and painted up to look like the luxury tour bus. Slightly better gas mileage on downhill slopes, though.
  • The huge, endlessly-customizable SIS with a three-year implementation period. This looks like you've ordered a custom-built Ferrari but by the time all the parts get bolted together you've ended up with a surplus U.S. Army transport.

Further, you'll need a team of mechanics to make sure your fleet of vehicles fits together. You'll also need a warehouse full of spare parts and some long-term maintenance contracts. Oh, and for some reason the window glass on the bus is all blacked-out—so you'll need to hire a third-party automotive glazier to design you a clear windshield.

Is that it?

Is that all that's available to a small college? Of course not. This is the Populi blog, and so now we're gonna liken Populi to the perfect family car... ready? Here goes:

Then there's Populi. This is the Toyota minivan, which seats five to seven, has a lifetime parts-and-labor warranty, and even has a built-in DVD player (if that's your thing) and magazine rack. Sure, it's nothing flashy, but it's good, dependable transportation just right for a wide variety of families.