Sakai Project Planning Meeting in St. Paul

As Dr. Chuck indicated in a comment to an earlier blog post of mine, the St. Paul Sakai Project Planning meetings were quite efficient and successful. A number of topics were discussed and I’ll provide a brief summary here. As usual, while we made some concrete proposals about how to move forward, no decisions were made. All of these proposals will be circulated on the lists for comment and feedback before they become official. With that caveat, here are some highlights (forgive the length):

The Sakai Kernel

Ian Boston gave an update on his efforts to extract a “kernel” build for Sakai. This has been successful and you can expect to hear more from Ian sometime soon. The general agreement in the room was that the Kernel Release for Sakai 2.6 (we called it “K1” in the meeting) would not include a re-factoring of the kernel services. Re-factoring work would be targeted at the next major release after 2.6 (we’re calling that Kernel Release “K2”).

Could the kernel services and the user experience change enough at that point to be calling that release of Sakai 3.0? Idle speculation at this point in time….

MySakai, Fluid and the UX Initiative

It was great to meet Nicolaas Matthijs, one of the movers and shakers behind the MySakai work at Cambridge. If you haven’t been following this work it is time to pay attention. There are two main thrusts to this work that I think are important. The first is the obvious “Web 2.0” interaction style that echoes the work that Nathan Pearson has been producing as part of the UX Improvement Initiative. If all goes well over the next few weeks and months we should begin to see some of Nathan’s work coming to life using the CamTools approach. Mix in some work with Fluid and things are pretty darn exciting from where I sit. If you haven’t seen Mara Hancock’s excellent blog entry on the perfect UX storm brewing in Sakai (in a good way!), you should read it now. It exactly captures my thoughts.

The second cool part of the MySakai approach is technical. In this case Sakai services are providing JSON formatted data which can be consumed by AJAX-based widgets. I think this is cool because it opens up Sakai to a whole new class of developers. You don’t need to know Java presentation technologies to write tools. I’m trying to figure out whether I can write a LISP-based widget 🙂

In any case, there’s clearly a lot more work that needs to take place before we can definitively declare that this is an important future direct for Sakai. But it is hard not to be pretty excited about what’s happening. And Nicolaas, you’re going to have to give me (and I expect others) some coaching on the pronunciation of that last name….maybe’ Glenn’s daughter can help

My Top 5 Priorities for Sakai 2.6

We had a brief exercise of presenting our top priorities for Sakai 2.6. I think this was quite interesting and we should think about repeating it in Paris. My goal in suggesting this activity was to surface common themes, if any. I’ll hold off on summarizing this because Peter has everyone’s items which he’ll be posting when he’s back in the office next week. In the mean time, here were my top 5 (in no particular order):

  • Structured Content Authoring
    • An easier way for non-technical faculty to author content in Sakai.
  • UX improvements
    • With enough implemented to show it is inevitably happening
  • Lower development bar
    • A way to develop/modify Sakai without Java skills
    • Easier/faster for current developer
  • Accessibility
    • No iframes, etc.
  • Quality: Reliability/Scalability
    • Kernel refactoring

And my second five (which I didn’t share at the meeting):

  • Better tools for Sakai administrators
  • More features and scalability from Site stats (or something like it)
  • Goal awareness Sakai tools
  • A nice installer for Mac, Windows and Linux
  • Better site archiving

Better resource co-ordination across institutions

There was a conversation about how we could get more resources directed at issues that would benefit everyone immensely but never seem to bubble to the top of any individual institution’s list. A concentrated effort to get the XML out of the database was used as the canonical example. One model for tackling issues like this is to have some group of development resources that could be deployed to tackle these problems. For a variety of reasons (from practical to philosophical to budgetary) most of the group agreed that this was not possible. Instead, an idea that was floated in the hallways at Newport Beach was revived–the notions of a “Resource Managers Meeting.” This would be a meeting of a group of folks who manage resources that work on Sakai locally. By sharing information and priorities (and with a little pushing from the Sakai Foundation Staff) the hope is that this group could collectively find a way to priorities some of the items that need attention. Working this way is a compromise between a completely organic process and a truly centralized one. Instead, we’re saying that with more frequent and structured communication and some co-ordination from the Foundation we can do a better job of addressing issues that are of long term importance but not a burning fire for any one institution. I think this is the right approach for the Sakai community.

A group of managers (Lance Speelmon from Indiana, Clay Fenlason from GT, John Lewis from Unicon, John Norman from Cambridge, Kirk Alexander from UC Davis, Oliver Heyer from Berkeley….did I get this right) got together for breakfast on Friday and gave it a try. Some loose agreement came out of this meeting to focus efforts on the UX Initiative and fixes related to Alan Berg’s static code review.

This was just a trial run at what such a meeting might be like. I think it was fruitful enough to repeat the activity in Paris and perhaps even have a call between now and then. Stay tuned…

Content Authoring

On Friday there was a fruitful discussion of the “Content Authoring” needs. I owe the community a summary of that conversation as well as another community phone call. You’ll see the summary appear on confluence next week.

Sakai Outreach

A group of us spent a fair amount of time on Sakai Outreach, mostly focusing on the redevelopment of the website. You should see an update from Anthony Whyte next week on this topic

Other updates

  • Steven Githens did a great interpretive-dance explanation of Entity Broker and some new capabilities of that system.
  • There was a discussion of the Assignments 2 project led by Lance Speelmon and Clay Fenlason. Clay has already posted on list about this.
  • There was also a brief update on the Content Hosting Service and JSR 170. Nothing monumental coming out of that update I can remember. Maybe others will have something to say.

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  1. […] Sakai Project Planning Meeting in St. Paul […]

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