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SakaiCon Recap | Jason E. Shao

SakaiCon Recap

Sitting on a flight, returning from the Sakai conference — still trying to take everything in. There’ll probably be more musing on the significance of specific items coming up, but things that struck me enough to want to brain dump were:

* There was wide consensus during the planning sessions that there’s a desire to focus on quality: reliability, testing, performance, and other traits, over new feature development.
* The community is moving from a development -> production mindset. The transition of many of the core schools from pilots or development efforts into full-blown production instances has certainly changed priorities and outlooks.
* Increased desire to pick up open-standards in preference to inventing our own. JSR-168 (Unicon demoed a cool Portlet-Tool for Elluminate integration), JSR-170 and the good work Ian is doing to integrate with repositories like Jackrabbit and Xythos, CAS Authentication (vis-a-vis Dan M.’s sweet CAS-embedding UserDirectoryProvider)
* There’s a lot of commercial activity around Sakai. RSmart, Unicon, Oracle, IBM, bit players like Mark Norton & Zack Thomas. I sat in a presentation about the work I did with FIDM for CampusEAI. I even talked with another developer who has already resigned (as of Jan 1) from his university to join his part-time venture (with others) full-time. Certainly a large, vibrant marketplace.
* Many sub-groups are organizing around Sakai. In addition to our very own NYC Regional group, there are groups in California, Australia, the Netherlands, and other places. They’re holding events, sponsoring training, and moving forward.
* It’s not just regions — there are an increasing number of functionally aligned teams. Developers, Designers, and Managers are the best organized and served. I also saw a lot of User Support people or academic technologists as well. This is the group I suspect may be the next to organize — a CAFE track focused on bringing user support people up to speed or sharing experiences/resources would probably be really valuable.
* Lots of parallel activities. Many examples of SIS integrations, library integrations, documentation & training, tool development. Unfortunately, communication barriers and other difficulties seem to be producing several duplicate/parallel efforts (e.g. Yale’s SignUp tool, EDIA’s signup tool, Stanford’s efforts around this space) though there is a desire to collaborate.
* Some stuff is still too hard: authentication integration, CourseManagement integration, libraries work, documentation, training are all pain points, especially for smaller teams/schools.
* Strong community. It’s easy to get lost in a group of smart, affable people moving towards a common purpose. Had an excellent time, and there’s a good sense of camaraderie weaving throughout the community. People are friendly and helpful.
* Twitter – yeah, it’s kind of narcissistic, but at an event or convention it can certainly be a lot of fun. Both to do self-organizing (e.g. dinner?) and to pull in people who are in the circle, but not present.