Thank you for posting your honest views here, Nate. I agree that rSmart has been a wonderful commercial partner to the Sakai Foundation, as has most of our commercial affiliates. I also appreciate that rSmart allows for the free expression of views from its employees even when they are in disagreement.
I have been a part of the merger efforts as well, as part of the Sakai Board and as an elected member to the joint founding board. I agree that most of us in the open source and community source software movement have more in common than we have different. I believe all of us have a passion for serving education and for providing options for education to spend less money while still receiving quality software that specifically meets our needs. I also think that, no matter what side our community members are on, that they have good and logical reasons for their opinion and their vote.
In terms of how the merger is progressing, I would say that it is going through the proper channels and it is getting a healthy debate in both the Jasig and Sakai communities. There are some members who do not see this as something we should take on at this time, and believe it is a distraction. There are those, in both the Jasig and Sakai communities, who question the financial incentives/disincentives for joining together. There are many others (I believe this is the majority of the membership) who believe the time is ripe to create this type of consolidated organization and open the door for others to join us in the future. It is hard work to bring communities together. It is even harder work to communicate the vision and get buy-in for the change.
In terms of timing, something I’ve learned from my long time in Academia and in the software industry is that there is never a perfect time for change. There is never a perfect time to take on additional work. And, if we wait for the perfect time, we will find that we never move forward.
Is this a distraction to our work? I don’t know that I would characterize it as a distraction. I can say that over the past year it has taken enormous amounts of volunteer time from the people involved in that work. Has it distracted us to the point that we are failing to provide sufficient support and oversight to our two products–Sakai CLE and Sakai OAE? I don’t think so. I believe that those who make this claim are tying our work around fiscal management, cutting costs, and upping collections to our work on the merger. This is not the case. Just as colleges and universities have faced budget constraints over the past three years during this recession, so has the Sakai Foundation. That required us to cut costs and manage budgets more carefully. Fortunately, our work with Jasig has actually brought us new members and new revenues from those who see a partnership and cross-platform work in a very positive light.
For myself, I have spent countless hours talking to Sakai members both for and against the merger. I have spent additional hours reviewing and questioning the financials of both Jasig and Sakai and evaluating what our joint organization would gain or lose. I have spent a few hours talking to leaders in other open source organizations and getting an appreciation for where we have additional synergies. I believe our work is justified and I truly thank all of those who have taken the time to participate and to carefully craft and review all of the documentation.
In the end, I’ve come to the conclusion that we WILL be a stronger organization together than we are separately. I believe this will also make us more attractive for new members and for added international participation. I believe, as a stronger organization, we will attract other open source projects which can gain economies of scale by affiliating with us and/or merging with us.
Will it be easy? No. Will it take additional time and effort? Yes. Is this the best time to do this? I don’t know, but why not? Things are not going to get easier for Sakai. Things are not going to slow down in the next few years and provide a period of time with nothing else to do. The beauty of community source development is that we give our members a choice. Our members are our customers and they get to vote on how we proceed — unlike customers of proprietary systems who have no choice in the direction of their software.
If our membership votes Yes, we will move forward with the merger and I believe be a stronger organization for it. If our membership votes No, then I believe the work was still worthwhile. We have forged a deeper relationship with Jasig that will serve us well in the future. We have also done the work to established a foundation upon which to explore common synergies between Sakai and many other open source projects. Whether we ever merge with anyone or not, I think that foundation is critical to our strategic planning moving forward.
I believe the effort has been worth it. I believe the merger of our organizations is right and right for this time. I believe that the addition of other organizations is the future is not only a possibility, but a probability. I believe we will all win, and in the end Education will win. I am willing to make that happen and will work hard to make it a success.