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Like the other BOD thought pieces, this was originally written in March/April of 2007

Vision for Sakai

Sakai is a scholarly community of academics, researchers, and developers from around the world focused on creating the most widely used software platform for scholarly collaboration, and doing this using open source methods.

Scholarly community

When I say a scholarly community I mean that the community's purposeful action is directed first and foremost by the users--those using the platform for scholarly collaboration. The key leaders and stewards in the community must be driven by the voice of the user. The Kuali Financial System community is the best example of this I'm aware of in our meta-community. The developers in the Sakai community are passionate about building a software platform to address the user's needs. Developers fall into three groups: framework developers, tool developers, and UI developers/designers. The framework developers' key challenge is balancing the divergent needs of a coherent user experience, and a modular, service oriented design that promotes massively parallel development of new functionality. Moodle, Drupal, SugarCRM, and Mozilla are organizations that excel at this balance and might provide useful examples. Tool developers find excellent documentation and a welcoming community. This has been one of the key factors in the speed at which the community innovates and addresses even niche needs of small groups. The user experience, and the technologies that support it are seen as key elements of the software architecture. UI technologies are chosen carefully in close collaboration between the UX architect and the lead software architect. The user experience architect is a strong voice for the users in the community and a tremendous percentage of online and f2f community dialog is about the user experience. This dialog leads to real improvement with each release. There are regionally and domain-specific (k-12, corporate learning) focused Sakai communities.


The Sakai software has a sophisticated framework designed for the enterprise. It has consistent and reliable integration interfaces that simplify its use with campus portals, authentication systems, student systems and other official sources of data. It has strong reporting APIs. The Sakai framework is seen as a set of services, apis and, in fact, "contracts" that are thoughtfully designed to endure over time. These core service contracts enable rapid innovation of enhancements and new tools. The framework has great developer documentation. The community makes it very easy for new developers to become proficient developing new tools and add-ons since this is widely seen as one of the keys to success. More than simply a framework for scholarly collaboration, the Sakai CLE is designed to be deployed easily with the implementers desired selection of tools. Tools are easy to find, assess, and deploy. Tools fall into categories that make assessment of their suitability for production use easier. A comprehensive set of criteria is consistently used to group tools into production, provisional, and contributed status. Further, the Foundation hosts a number of distribution "profiles"¿ that tailor the platform and selection/configuration of tools to various segments like k-12, community colleges, research intensives, small privates, and others.

Most widely used software platform

The Sakai community recognized early that to build a vital community, it must be widely adopted and used. With that in mind, the Foundation established a core set of values and practices for community behavior, and software design that focus on this important objective. More colleges and universities worldwide use the Sakai platform than any other alternative. The platform has become the de facto standard for research and experimentation on new scholarly collaboration tools. Grant agencies all over the world favor projects that commit to new work on the platform. In addition, the Sakai platform has become the de facto reference implementation for many of the scholarly community's standards organizations. Due to it's widespread adoption worldwide, the platform accelerates adherence to standards and specifications much the way Tomcat does for the Servlet specification.

Open source methods

The Sakai Foundation is constantly perfecting it's community source methodology, which is a community focused and directed way of using and developing open source software. At the core, is a not-for-profit entity that employs a coordinating staff and provides the legal structure for pooling community resources, focusing community energy, and protecting community intellectual property. Those who were once concerned about the community's dependence on a few key contributors now clearly see "fault-tolerant" organization that draws reliability, innovation capacity, and longevity from a diverse and representative contribution-base.

The Sakai Foundation

The Sakai Foundation exists to coordinate the activities of the community of contributors and protect the community's intellectual property. The Foundation is a member organization to pool the financial resources of contributing stakeholders and uses the collective funds toward that end. The Foundation does two key things for the community: Protects the community's intellectual property. Rigorous process & analysis of all IP. Protection from threats. Coordinates the community's collective resources and energy. The Foundation staffs key coordinating positions and facilitates community collaboration through online tools, and face to face meetings.