Several recent developments signal a promising new level of maturity in the Sakai community and product. The Sakai Foundation (SF) has created two new staff positions that will together enable the SF to better coordinate and communicate our work in Sakai.
Long-time Sakai community member Clay Fenlason is the new Sakai Product Manager. Clay is an excellent choice to coordinate our community’s already successful work to further develop Sakai as a coherent, reliable product with a meaningful roadmap. Pieter Hartsook joins our community as Sakai Communications Manager. I don’t know Pieter well yet, but was impressed by his experience and intelligence at the recent Sakai Boston 2009 conference and expect him to become an enormously valuable participant in our efforts to tell the Sakai story more effectively internally and externally. Read more about these new positions in SF Executive Director (ED) Michael Korcuska’s blog.
This new maturity is further demonstrated by the formation of a community-based Sakai Product Council (SPC), which will “ensure exceptional quality and cohesiveness of Sakai product releases in support of varied teaching, research and collaboration needs” in the words of SF ED Michael Korcuska.
I’m honored to be named to the SPC along with key community contributors Noah Botimer, Eli Cochran, Michael Feldstein, David Goodrum, John Lewis, Stephen Marquard, John Norman, and Max Whitney, along with the new Sakai Product Manager, Clay Fenlason. As the SF ED, Michael Korcuska will also serve on the council as a non-voting, ex officio member. You can read more about the formation and ongoing activities of the SPC on the Sakai wiki.
In Boston, the SPC had our second ever and first face-to-face meeting and we began to sketch out some of our attitudes, roles, and processes. There was also significant discussion about the SPC in the product coordination meetings held just before and just after the conference, as well as during the various conference BOFs focused on further defining the shape Sakai 3. It’s still very early, but we appear to have settled on some shared understanding of how we will undertake our charge to shepherd Sakai’s integrity as a product. Here’s my own personal take on some early SPC thinking, but I invite other councilors and the community at large to weigh in and further develop and critique these thoughts.
First, we agree that we share two basic attitudes toward our work on the SPC. We agree to carry out our work and deliberations as publicly and transparently as we can, using existing Sakai community communications channels (primarily the Sakai mailing lists). We also agree that although each of us represents specific constituencies and institutions within the community, as councilors, we will be informed by our specific viewpoints, but attempt as best as we are able to act for the good of the community and product as a whole.
Second, we discussed three basic roles we expect the SPC to play. 1) To consider the coherence and completeness of the whole Sakai product and advise in the formation of the product roadmap. 2) To evaluate the status of new product development projects against characteristics established by the community. 3) To resolve significant issues blocking timely product release.
Third, we began to outline some of the processes we might follow in our evaluation of project status. We agree that the community should shift to work using the product development process already proposed. We see an immediate task to work with the community to define a series of specific characteristics that we will ask projects to demonstrate in order to move to the what the process above calls “Product Development” status in the community product. We expect to collaborate with the community to develop those characteristics using existing models as a starting point (eg, the Sakai tool “scorecard”, the portfolio community procedure for feature requests). We expect that projects will produce their own demonstrations that they meet these specific characteristics for community and SPC review. We expect to help provide guidance to projects on how they can develop and demonstrate these specific characteristics.
We also began to outline what role the SPC will play in the Sakai release process, where we will be focused primarily on evaluating the status of new capabilities. We identified that we may have two evaluation processes, one more lightweight, to use when new features are added to existing Sakai capabilities (eg, new features for a Sakai 2 tool already in the product), and another, heavier process, to use when whole new clusters of capabilities are added (eg, a whole new Sakai 2.x tool, everything in Sakai 3). We are thinking that in a given release cycle, the Sakai Product Manager (Clay Fenlason) will be the primary shepherd of new capabilities up to code freeze, ensuring they are considered by the SPC. While from code freeze to formal release, the release/QA/security teams will be the primary shepherds of those new capabilities along with the entire product. During the release process, if the Product Manager and release/QA/security teams agree that an issue is blocking release that can’t be resolved via typical community collaboration, they will then bring the issue to the SPC for resolution.
We understand that we may have to think differently about Sakai 2 and Sakai 3, given their very different architectures and maturity. We also agree that we are open to helping the community shift to different product release practices. For example, there might be a separation between a slimmer, core Sakai product and a number of Sakai extensions that might follow independent release cycles. Any such changes would obviously take place only after full community deliberation.
Last, but not least, we agreed that while we do not necessarily think that the SPC formation process was ideal, we do agree that the outcome was sound. We think the current SPC represents a good balance of different experiences, skills and viewpoints and that we will be able to work together effectively. We agree with our basic outline of structure and governance that it will be best if the community revisits the SPC formation process only after the current SPC shepherds at least one complete product release cycle, so we can establish and evaluate core practices before we make substantial changes.
As a councilor and community member, I look forward to working with all to demonstrate that the SPC, the new SF staff positions, and the new processes we are initiating will indeed combine to raise Sakai to a new level of maturity as a product and as a community.
I’m a strong supporter of OpenID, the personal identity management technology that let’s you take charge of your own online identity, usernames, and passwords instead of farming yourself out willy-nilly to every site on the web. I don’t support OpenID for the technology itself—OpenID is just a collection of tools that are part of the machine that will enable something way more important: the user-centered, open web.
What’s the user-centered, open web? It’s the web you already know and love (and hate), made better with extra you, right at the center of it all. I could go on about its advantages for people, business, government and communities of all shapes and sizes, but others have done a much better job and I’m really trying to get to a different point here.
Lately I’ve started to worry a bit about OpenID. We’ve seen some recent promise realized to be sure, like Facebook’s progress toward adoption, logging in to Sears with OpenID, and local Portland OpenID pioneers Janrain hiring @peat. Progress like that balances the sad demise of Vidoop, Portland’s other OpenID darling, which I’ve commented on elsewhere.
Yet something else has been gnawing at me for a while. Back in February, 2009, the OpenID Foundation (OIDF) that coordinates and supports OpenID development and adoption hired a new Executive Director (ED), Don Thibeau. I don’t know Don and I’m sure he’s a fine and capable person, but I was expecting someone more, well, open, and webby. Don’s background didn’t seem to match OpenID’s open, webby provenance, community, or future.
At the time, I figured that maybe the OIDF board of directors picked Don specifically for his background in business and government to help legitimize OpenID with the businessy, government types that we need on board to support widespread adoption and to help build the OIDF into a sustainable organization. That strategy made a certain amount of sense to me. The OIDF ED should be able to garner the attention and respect of the more buttoned-down communities that have substantial power over the practices and technologies where we want OpenID to intervene AND be able to help the OIDF grow and prosper.
But it’s been almost half a year now and I have yet to hear anything from Don. I have not seen a single post to the OIDF mailing lists, nor any blog posts, or even mere website announcements or old-school press releases. Don, where are you? Even my simple inquiries about the apparently broken credit card payment process for OpenID membership have gone unanswered.
If the OIDF is immersed in ensuring its own sustainability and important behind-the-scenes evangelizing and deal-making, that’s great. But the open, webby community that has been evangelizing, building and adopting OpenID heretofore and meanwhile needs to know what is going on. The ED reports to the OIDF board, but the position’s real constituency is the broader OpenID community. Inform us, involve us, respect us. If deep, sustained, open community engagement isn’t possible as the primary function of the OIDF, then something is seriously broken.
I want to stress that I’m not leveling any personal criticism at Don himself. I imagine he’s very busy with work that benefits the OIDF and OpenID. In fact, I have so little information about Don and what he’s doing that there’s really nothing to laud or criticize, and that’s exactly my point. Open up, often, as your first impulse, and make community engagement your first priority.
This last April I had the privilege of telling a story on stage at Back Fence PDX, the innovative storytelling event brought to us by @melissalion and Frayn Masters at Portland’s Mission Theater. At Back Fence, regular folks get up on stage and each tells a true, personal, unrehearsed story that lasts no longer than eight minutes, all linked to a general theme for the evening. Melissa and Frayn preselect the storytellers and audition their stories before the event, so it’s not an open mike. Back Fence is more like blogging live in a nightclub.
My story for the evening’s “fish out of water” theme recounted some misadventures in my unorthodox schooling and an all-too easy walkabout in wild Utah that together ultimately led to the simple lesson: when all else fails, study hard for the SAT.
Watch my whole 8-minute story below. Excuse the choppy video and wear your headphones to catch the audio.
In June, Back Fence was back, this time with a story from the whitest African-American I know, Rael Dornfest, the craggy mind behind the now-mythic Values of N and a user experience engineer at Twitter. Rael told the tale of his family’s wild ride into the dark heart and eventually out of apartheid South Africa to the tune of that night’s theme: “caught red-handed”.
Also in June, Back Fence featured the precariously Kentuckian @jshardison with a real “don’t try this at home” story dripping with Southern atmosphere and exploded bits. I have no idea what this man is or does, but I just try to stay at a safe distance.
Videos of Rael’s and Jeff’s stories weren’t captured, but bring your funny bone, your dy-NO-mite and your “what have I done lately” for social justice to Back Fence this coming Fall. Get thee hence for local, organic, homemade entertainment.
For those of us in the Portland tech community who welcomed Vidoop, saw our friends and colleagues go to work for them, and—in my case at least—starting using their OpenID provider service myVidoop—the whole series of events is mostly sad. I truly liked everyone I met from Vidoop and really appreciated their work and contributions to our community, like their hosting of the CyborgCamp 2009 pre-party.
I strongly agree with Chris that the fall of Vidoop can not be read as a failure of OpenID or other open web technologies, standards, or practices.
It is in fact the strength of OpenID that I was able to switch my OpenID delegation to our other local Portland identity provider, Janrain’s MyOpenID, in a matter of minutes and have no interruption in my identity services. What happened with Vidoop proves the value of controlling my own identity via OpenID and merely using providers and other services as I need them.
Vidoop: I’m truly sorry. For those of you who needed to learn lessons, I hope you did. For all the Vidoopers and their customers, I hope what happens next is a good thing.
For OpenID: I’m with you even more than before.
Something odd happened to me today. I ran into a complete stranger on the Internet.
I signed into chat, and almost immediately had the conversation below with someone I didn’t know, going by the handle “toweringcoho”. I was at a largish gathering and had bonjour turned on as usual, so assumed it was someone in the room—even though I didn’t bother to look to see what chat connection toweringcoho was using.
A quick Google search suggested that “toweringcoho” is the name of one of a series of IM bots that randomly connect to otherwise unconnected chat users.
And that’s how I met Sunil Khiatani from Hong Kong. It took a while for both of us to figure out that we were NOT talking to robots, and a bit longer to introduce ourselves. In the end, we had a worthy conversation, got to know each other a bit, and went on our ways.
I’m not sure if these IM bots are supposed to be malicious, but I liked what happened. It was like going on a kind of unintentional dérive in text only.
6:45:55 PM toweringcoho: Hi, Billy Mays here with another fantastic coho.
6:46:40 PM Nate Angell: wish I knew what that meant…
6:46:52 PM toweringcoho: hmmm
6:46:59 PM toweringcoho: take a wild guess
6:47:04 PM Nate Angell: salmon?
6:47:23 PM toweringcoho: you definitely aren’t turing complete
6:47:39 PM Nate Angell: human error
6:48:06 PM toweringcoho: are you related to skynet?
6:48:51 PM Nate Angell: maybe on the distaff side
6:49:14 PM toweringcoho: ahh
6:50:01 PM toweringcoho: here’s the thing though, will skynet be porgrammed with the 3 robot laws and if so would it still be able to nuke us?
6:50:28 PM Nate Angell: did the 3 robot laws really work out? have to refer to the text
6:50:54 PM toweringcoho: dunno about the text, but in the movies they didn’t
6:51:55 PM Nate Angell: isn’t the book always better than the movie?
6:52:21 PM toweringcoho: naw
6:52:28 PM toweringcoho: fight club is better movie wise :D
6:53:22 PM Nate Angell: didn’t read fight club
6:55:24 PM toweringcoho: so who are you? :P
6:55:41 PM Nate Angell: @xolotl
6:55:56 PM toweringcoho: huh?
6:56:11 PM Nate Angell: you definitely aren’t turing complete
6:56:30 PM toweringcoho: yeah yeah
6:56:57 PM Nate Angell: that should be enough to go on
6:57:20 PM toweringcoho: naw it isn’t
6:57:45 PM Nate Angell: there’s this thing called google…
6:58:15 PM toweringcoho: nad what should I be searching for
7:01:19 PM Nate Angell: @xolotl
7:01:34 PM Nate Angell: it’s a pretty unique character string
7:02:31 PM toweringcoho: you’re nate angel?
7:03:23 PM Nate Angell: no, I’m Nate Angell
7:04:05 PM toweringcoho: ah close enough
7:04:08 PM Nate Angell: or, perhaps A dog-like deity, Double of Quetzalcoatl
7:04:10 PM toweringcoho: how come you’re contacting me :P
7:04:25 PM Nate Angell: you contacted me
7:04:48 PM toweringcoho: I did???
7:05:10 PM Nate Angell: I think there’s an AIM chat robot that connects random users
7:05:14 PM Nate Angell: and we are victims
7:05:30 PM toweringcoho: ahhh
7:05:36 PM toweringcoho: strange
7:05:58 PM toweringcoho: thi is my yahoo account though
7:07:41 PM Nate Angell: i think they are all connected
7:07:52 PM Nate Angell: so you know me, want to iintroduce your self?
7:08:16 PM toweringcoho: alright
7:08:27 PM toweringcoho: I’m Sunil Khiatani, I’m a coder in Hong Kong :D
7:08:37 PM Nate Angell: very cool
7:08:40 PM Nate Angell: what do you code?
7:08:56 PM Nate Angell: Sunil Khiatani doesn’t sound very HK ;)
7:09:21 PM toweringcoho: at the moment, stuff for work. Web Services in ASP.NET and C# :\
7:09:30 PM Nate Angell: sorry
7:09:33 PM toweringcoho: been trying to do OSS coding but I’ve been lazy
7:09:41 PM Nate Angell: that would be better!
7:09:53 PM Nate Angell: as you may have learned, I’m a bit of an OSS zealot
7:10:22 PM toweringcoho: haha yeah a lot of people freak out when I tell them that I’m an indian born in Hong Kong that has a fairly american accent
7:10:31 PM toweringcoho: yeah I think I did, what do you code ?
7:10:34 PM Nate Angell: i guess HK has all types
7:10:36 PM toweringcoho: bbs.. loo
7:10:50 PM Nate Angell: I’m not much of a coder
7:11:13 PM Nate Angell: but I usually evangelize around http://sakaiproject.org http://drupal.org and http://openid.net
7:11:35 PM Nate Angell: there are many worthy projects, depending on your interests
7:11:50 PM Nate Angell: I encourage you to broaden your skills/interests with OSS
7:16:25 PM toweringcoho: I have a few interests
7:16:46 PM toweringcoho: but i think I should focus on the KDE desktop, it’s waht i like and use the most
7:19:26 PM Nate Angell: that’s a worthy project