Notes from Educause 2007 (part 1)

I spent last week at Educause in Seattle. With lots of warm sunshine and only one day of rain, Seattle delivered uncharacteristically beautiful October weather. Still, I spent most of the week inside. I’ve already written about the Sakai Board Meeting that took place on Monday the 22nd. Here are some highlights from the first half of the week:

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Educause: Sakai Board Meeting

I thought I’d get a quick note out to everyone before Educause starts in earnest. Warning…this has no content related to teaching, learning or collaboration.

On Monday we held a Sakai Board meeting. There were no new Board resolutions coming out of this meeting, so there is little of real consequence to report. Mainly, I gave a report on finances, which I’ve been spending a lot of time on lately. The Board has fiduciary responsibility for Foundation funds, of course, and as Executive Director I need to make sure they have the information they need to feel confident that they are attending to this responsibility correctly. I’m also working on a 2008 budget and I felt that it was critical to get a fairly deep understanding of what we’ve been spending money on. So I’ve poured over approximately 1,000 line items in the various Sakai accounts for 2007. While many of these could be easily categorized by the description of the I coded many of them by hand, which took awhile, but really was an effective way for me to understand what was there and to establish a scheme to use going forward. Boring, but necessary. This will be part of my Sakai Foundation Update presentation at Newport Beach (don’t forget to register for the conference!).

There was a lot more conversation, though, after the official board meeting closed. This was mostly for my benefit as I’m sure many of the board members have been over this ground many times before. My purpose was to understand the board’s thoughts on the short term goals for the project and how the Sakai Foundation could best support those. We also talked a bit about the longer-term direction of Sakai as a product and as a community. I provided some grist for the mill via a document containing some of the questions I have had about Sakai and potential answers. I’ll be revising that this week and sending it out to the community lists for comments and feedback. From there I’ll finalize the 2008 priorities and budget, hopefully get it approved at the Newport Beach Board meeting, and share the result as part of my presentation.

Educause has been interesting so far, but I’ll write a separate post about that, hopefully tomorrow. If you’re reading this at Educuase I want to remind Sakai, Kuali or JA-SIG members that the Community Source Reception is tonight from 6:15 – 8:00 at the Sheraton Grand Ballroom B. I hope to see you there.

JISC and Sakai

I spent yesterday morning at Berkeley, which was hosting a delegation from JISC and HEFCE, both institutions that support higher education in the UK. Given the increasing presence of Sakai in the UK, I thought it worthwhile to explain a little about these organizations to the Sakai community. Others know more than I do (Sakai Board member Ian Dolphin is working at JISC, on loan from Hull).

First, almost all universities in the UK are public (the exception is University of Buckingham). Public dollars flow to these institutions through a complex system administered by HEFCE (The Higher Education Funding Council). A fascinating read if you’re interested in how to distribute large amounts of public money. And we are talking large amounts…HEFCE distributes over 7 billion pounds (14+ billion US dollars) every year. Wow.

Some of this money (I think about $150 million US) goes to JISC. The mission of the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) is to provide world-class leadership in the innovative use of information and communications technology to support education and research. Essentially, they are trying to do work that benefits all the institutions that get HEFCE money. In that way, it is a lot like what we’re trying to do in the community source worlds of Sakai, Kuali and JA-SIG.

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Seven to Three, Three to One

Tribe wins

I have no way to connect this to Sakai. Enough said.

Socialism and Sakai Commercial Affiliates


I was recently having a glass of wine with someone who was unfamiliar with the notion of open source. She is a relatively new employee at a for-profit company in the Higher Ed space and, upon understanding the Sakai community source model, said “that sounds like socialism!” I wasn’t sure if the comment was meant to be pejorative (I live in Berkeley, after all), but maybe she’ll add a comment and let us know…We can debate about how well that label applies (it mostly depends on your definition of the term) and a variety of proprietary software firms have applied the “communist” or “socialist” label to open source. And there are certainly strands of anti-capitalist rhetoric in some open source communities. Other open source projects are explicitly profit-oriented or at least profit-friendly.Since I’ve been spending a fair amount of time recently talking to Sakai commercial partners, I thought it might be a good time to discuss why I believe the success of these organizations is important to the Sakai community at large. Continue reading

Fluid and Sakai

I’m sure this will be the first of many entries about Sakai and Fluid. At least it should be if we’re both doing our jobs.

As you probably know, the Fluid Project is, in their own words:

a worldwide collaborative project to help improve the usability and accessibility of community open source projects with a focus on academic software for universities. We are developing and will freely distribute a library of sharable customizable user interfaces designed to improve the user experience of web applications.

Last week was the Fluid Summit, where a number of folks from the community gather to work, plan, share information, debate and even socialize. I was there only two days (Thursday and Friday) but that was enough for me to understand Fluid a lot better and even to dispel some misconceptions I have. Here’s a quick summary of my observations:

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