Sakai Board Elections 2008

By now, everyone has seen the Sakai Board election slate at:

Sakai Board Candidates

Avid readers of my blog will recall my rant about having not having any commercial members elected in this round:

Editorial Position: Sakai Foundation Board Members should be from Higher Educatiion

To summarize – I am not “anti-commercial” – I just think that giving 1-2 board seats to a commercial partners does not end up doing a good job “representing commercial interests”. For the company that gets a board seat, *their* commercial interests are well represented – but different companies have *very different* interests in Sakai. I made the case that we needed a way for *all* commercial partners to participate in strategic discussions – not just the lucky one that gets elected to the board.
My feeling is that academic board members – whilst they may have subtle differences in local agenda and needs – there is far more commonality than disagreement – and with 6-7 academic representatives – we will hopefully have most of the main perspectives represented.

Back to my point…

That said, I want to talk a bit about the slate of nominees. This is a great bunch of folks! The nominating committee has assembled a great set of nominees – like open source somehow tends to accumulate some of the best technical talent – the folks who are nominated are pretty great in terms of commmunity leadership talent. If I were ever to want to form a different non-profit board – this group of folks would make a damn fine founding board.

I am pleased to see some of the leaders from the top contributing schools (John Norman – Cambridge and Stephen Marquard – University of Capetown). Both have contributed a large amount of technical leadership, technical resources, and community leadership and community building. You can see in the visualization of Sakai activity that both UCT and Cambridge are strong long-term contributors to Sakai and also are increasing their commitment to Sakai at this time.

Maggie Lynch is a teacher and represents the teacher perspective – the recent successful regional meeting at VA Tech shows how badly we need to voices of teachers in our thinking. Funny – some teachers actually *like* Sakai – while all us tech folks always want to dramatically change and improve Sakai – because it is our “pride and joy” – sometimes stuff that just works – is also mighty nice. Also perhaps we need to separate the UX complaints between “transition complaints” that are effectively “I am pissed cause I lost one feature from the last LMS we had” – to real UX complaints that actually lead to improved software functionality like “I have tried as hard as I can try with this new software and while I like most of it – this little thing needs fixing”. Again – a teacher perspective is badly needed to balance the overwhelming tech and commercial perspectives that currently “own” community direction and thinking.

Speaking of Virginia Tech, John Moore has made himself available – John has been a solid leader and contributor to Sakai and other open source projects from the beginning. The recent teacher’s workshop at VA Tech is hopefully the beginning of a whole new set of contributions that will greatly richen our community.

Both Per Wising of Stockholm and Sean Mehan of University of the Highlands and Islands bring a much needed viewpoint from the international community. Sakai has been too US-centric for too long – the increasing technical leadership from Cambridge and increasing participating and leadership from folks like Per and Sean will lead the Foundation to the right perspective for the whole community – where the growth will increasingly happen outside the US.

Both Per and Sean also have the advantage that they have been involved in Sakai for a “long time” – but they were not involved in Sakai “from the beginning”. Those of us who were in Sakai at the beginning have a lot of baggage (myself included). While some baggage might be counted as “valuable experience”, most baggage is just baggage and not helpful in forming the right vision for the future of the product and the community. Both Per and Sean came into the community after the (somewhat explosive) initial formation of Sakai – they came into the Sakai community with eyes-wide-open – they could see the what was right and what was wrong with the product and community – and not always viewing it through the foggy lenses of living through the experience (like I and many others do).

I am glad that I am not voting. I do think that we should *all* vote for John Norman to continue for three years – Cambridge is so essential to the future of Sakai – I think that we should show John the love in our votes. But for my second choice – it is so painful to have so many good choices. I wish we could vote for 3-4 people this round – but ah well at least we are choosing amongst great alternatives.

Good luck to the voters and candidates.