Josh Baron, Director of Academic Technology and eLearning at Marist College and now the new Sakai Foundation Board Chair, recently posted a great article in Campus Technology detailing Marist's nuanced evaluation of Sakai and its community source provenance: Community Source Evaluation Strategies: Is Sakai Right for Your Institution? The article is a must-read for anyone at an institution considering the adoption of a learning environment—open/community source or proprietary—as all of Josh's lessons pertain to both options.
I'm especially glad to see Josh include "Functionality Requirements" as only one of Marist's five important evaluation criteria categories, putting it alongside Support Requirements, Community Health, Reliability/Scalability, and Innovation Drivers. All too often I've see institutions focus primarily on functional requirements in their technology choices, often at the expense of wise, strategic decisions that Marist's other categories take into account. Every system will leave you with functional gaps...it's the other stuff that will matter most in the end.
Reading through Josh's piece, I was also struck by how the structures of commercial support for open/community source underlie each of Marist's evaluation categories, and how well Sakai's robust commercial ecosystem helps buttress Marist's case for choosing Sakai. I'll briefly cover each category below.
Today we learned from RWW's Marshal Kirkpatrick that the US federal government is considering the adoption of OpenID and other related open identity technologoies and practices for citizen identification on government websites.
This is big news for several reasons. First, by adopting OpenID, the governement would be putting the ownership and control of digital identity exactly where it should be: with the citizen. Second, a very large and conservative player—the US federal government—is taking OpenID seriously, which will do much to support OpenID's continued adoption and evolution. Third, the government will work to establish criteria for OpenID provision that may help us all select credible and worthy identity providers. I'm sure there are more implications as well that will start to surface as government support for OpenID becomes better defined.
The Sakai community is in a special moment. We are celebrating our continued development of a full-featured, world-class, enterprise collaborative learning environment with the release of Sakai 2.6. At the same time, we are extending our early work on a next-generation Sakai 3 platform that will take us to new levels of sophistication in teaching, learning, collaboration, research, and technology.
Simultaneously, outside the community, big events have had profound effects on us. New paradigms of open education and new political winds provide different opportunities and challenges. Continued litigation and consolidation in the proprietary learning technology ecosystem and drastic budget cuts combine to force us to rethink basic assumptions and well-laid plans.
Many inside and outside Sakai are thinking about how best to meet their needs and plan for the future in this special time. How should we support education online? What learning environment should we adopt? How should we allocate resources between maintenance and innovation? How will we manage transitions from one system to another?
I came away from recent Sakai Boston conference thinking that there are two basic facts now more true than ever:
First, our current circumstances prove that technology decisions are best made following long-term strategic vision, not short-term expedience or purely functional and technical criteria.
And second, the best place to work out the answers to our hard questions is as a part of the Sakai community, that is, within Sakai's practice that follows a community, open source model.
I come to these conclusions based on the following points that I think any institution considering how to balance their resources and ambitions in this special time should carefully consider.
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.
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.
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.
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.