Well the questions are pouring in (mostly due to my tardiness in writing this kind of announcement) and so, without farther ado…
## What Happened?
While it still feels a little strange to say it, as of 2 Fridays ago (2/8) I am no longer employed at Rutgers University. Over the last 9 years as first a student, then staff member, I’ve had the chance to: first study under, and then work with some incredible people. I’ve gotten to watch projects and services grow and evolve into solutions that are used every day by tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff.
Before addressing my personal situation, I feel the need to speak a bit about the Rutgers Sakai deployment which up until now has occupied so much of my thoughts and energy. I was fortunate enough to see myRutgers grew into a service providing tools and services to every student at Rutgers. Sakai usage is currently somewhere on that curve, with usage growing by leaps and bounds. This Spring’s semester in many ways feels like a qualitative shift in the nature of the service — marked by a huge increase in the number of students asking “where’s my class’s Sakai site.” This semester these questions are particularly significant, as many of them are coming from students in classes where either:
1. Class was not yet in session. This is a big change from the dynamic in previous semesters where students typically visited the first meeting of their class, and were then directed to visit the Sakai site. Now students are looking to visit the Sakai site to see the syllabus, readings, and get a leg up on going to that first class.
2. Their instructor had not created a site. Sakai seems poised to make the jump into ubiquity, as in some students minds it’s already there.
Now to handle the really common question — if the Rutgers Sakai deployment is so clearly poised for greatness, where am I going and why? Well…
Starting this past monday (2/11) I have taken a position with the CampusEAI Consortium, where I will be serving as the Director of Open Source Solutions. Recent years have seen a huge upswing in the popularity, and visibility of open and community source solutions in Higher Education. Sakai, uPortal, CAS, Kuali, and othes have garnered attention, awards, and deployments. Due to significant interest expressed by member institutions, CampusEAI is looking to complement its existing strengths on the Oracle platform with broader offerings in the open-source space.
## Answers to some personal-ish questions:
Are you moving to Cleveland?
No, I’m going to be based out of NJ, though Continental is certainly getting a good chunk of my time for the next few months as I schlep back and forth.
What does Lisa think?
She’s excited. Well, more excited when I’ve been gone < 2 days as opposed to > 3 days…
What do the kids think?
The kids are still getting used to not picking me up at Rutgers. They think it’s really funny that daddy works somewhere they can’t see. Sunday nights are hard. Phone calls are bittersweet. Coming back is good.
Aren’t you on the JA-SIG Board?
Yes. When my career change became definite I notified the board at the January video call. JA-SIG has always been a community of volunteers (stellar volunteers more often than not) and particular given my new employer’s willingness to continue backing my involvement in JA-SIG it was felt that there were no significant barriers to my continuing to serve in this capacity. As always, JA-SIG
So… is your Rutgers job open?
Yes. Though (see below) I’m hiring too…
## What’ll I be doing?
So what does this mean in concrete terms? My personal definition is pretty simple. We’re looking to help members deploy solutions built on open source software. Given my background, Sakai, uPortal, CAS, and maybe even Kuali are obvious possibilities. I think however, that it’s a broader story than just support for deploying a few specific products. Many institutions have experienced challenges in building around open-source due to shortages in staffing or specific skill-sets. Others have successfully deployed open-source solutions, but been burned trying to deepen integration, or due to staff turnover (a problem which I should note also happens around commercial solutions). So the goal of this new unit is to make deploying solutions built on open-source:
2. Cost Effective
3. Low Risk
5. Did I say easy?
Basically the goal is to allow schools to leverage the strengths inherent in the open-source development model:
* Try before buy
* Rational licensing and cost-containment (instead of getting wracked with heavy licensing burdens as you get “too successful”)
* Open implementations, generally of open standards
* Economy of scale versus custom developed institution-specific software
* Freedom from vendor roadmaps and strategy shifts — even to go as far as obtain competitive bids from multiple vendors on the same solutions
* Peer interaction with really bright people working hard to solve the same problems you see
So that’s the goal. Make open-source easier, removing barriers for schools large & small — the kind of topics that have continually been commented on lists, in journals, and at conferences. Reducing installation pain. Helping with patch management. Providing support and training. Taking the pain and risk out of going open-source, all while working to make strategic contributions to enable the production of more good software.
It should be exciting.
P.S. Did I mention we’re hiring? Drop an email talking about your love for open-source, and how you really want to join in making it easier: firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, and mention you saw the posting in my blog 😉