Daily Archives: December 21, 2006

Sixth Sakai Notes – Licenses,CLAs, and Why They Matter – Which Way Sakai? by Chris Coppola

This is one of a series of posts about the sessions I attended at the Sixth Sakai Conference. See Conference Schedule, which has links to the individual presentations. Many of the sessions were recorded, and most of the presentations can be found online.

Here are my notes/impressions for the talk Licenses,CLAs, and Why They Matter – Which Way Sakai? by Chris Coppola of rSmart, presented Wednesday, 1:30PM. Co-authors include Joe Hardin of the University of Michigan and Barnaby Gibson of ithaka.org.

The presentation can be found in PowerPoint format here.

Much of the material was based on the work done at the Licensing and Policy Summit that I attended back in October. See
Licensing and Policy Summit for Software Sharing in Higher Education: Trip Report
for my trip report.

Here are my notes:

Why CLA (CLA stands for Contributor’s License Agreement, a statement that attests to the authenticity of a contribution to an open-source project):

(1) need it in writing that contribution is forever;

(2) flavors of licenses
– what can you do with the mods
– if you are on a campus, can we use the contribution
– if commercial entity, can use if OSS license doesn’t force you to make code open

(3) need to makek sure code comes in under appropriate license

(4) want to make sure contributors have the right to make that contribution

Sakai uses Educational Community License (ECL), an OSI-approved open-source license

Broader context, 200-2006: Kuali Foundation (financial management), Research management

Anatomy of Community Source (this is not the notion of “community source” in the Microsoft sense):

Sakai is legal entity; inbound license CLA’s and CCLA’s (Corporate CLA, the corporate form of an individual CLA); outbound license ECL; IP management policy; license compatability.

Sakai: 135 items of 3rd party code; 32 different licenses.


Education for the Sakai community on the Licensing Summit, and report on ongoing work.

Chris mentioned later that they are about to submit revised ECL to the open-source initiative for their review and, hopefully, their approval. New ECL very close to Apache, and community is working with the Apache Software Foundation to include the necessary language in the next version of the Apache License so the whole community can move from ECL to Apache. (The needed changes to Apache License just apply to academic community, and so it is hoped they won’t be a matter of dispute. Cliff Schmidt of the ASF was at the Indianapolis summit, though not at this conference.)

The Joys of Yiddish: Outwitting history

I’ve sent a few e-mails in an exchange with Redmonk’s James Governor, in response to his request that resulted the the post Say it ain’t so, Sam.. In his blog James wrote as follows:

Open source maven and IBM change agent Dave Shields.

To which I replied:


I forgot to thank you for the nice comment, “Open source maven and IBM change agent Dave Shields.”

Maven! You are definitely not a “nig-nog.”

My wife’s mother spoke Yiddish and so she has more than the usual vocabulary in Yiddish. Since I’ve known her she has referred to someone who was clueless as a “nig-nog.” I always thought it came from Yiddish, as does “maven.” I used the term often, to demonstrate my own knowledge of Yiddish.

Then I recently learned she made up the term on her own several decades ago, so all those folks had no idea what I was talking about. I guess that’s often the case, even when I don’t say “nig-nog.”

If you’re in the NY area in the next few days, stop by and we’ll make some latkes just for you.


And thinking of Yiddish reminded me of a remarkable book by Aaron Lansky, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books.

It is a truly wonderful book. It has many great stories and is very well-written.

Perhaps the most memorable is about the salvation of a book that survived in only one copy. Back in the 1920’s a scholar in the Ukraine spent years compiling a dictionary or lexicon of the political vocabulary (or perhaps it was the history) of various political terms in Yiddish.

As the book was being printed and bound for distribution, an American visitor happened to be in the plant, and was given a copy. The Soviet Secret Police arrived within hours after he left, and systematically destroyed the printing plates and every copy of the book. People knew about the book, but since it had never been published, all assumed it had been lost.

Then the single surviving copy was found as part of Mr. Lansky’s work, and so the book wasn’t lost after all.

Writing lost forever is forever a loss to humanity.

Mr. Lansky’s book also reminds us that just one college course can set the course of one’s life. Mr. Lansky took a course in Yiddish, and the rest is history.

This was also the case with many of the students of a Williams College Professor of Art, as recounted in my post S. Lane Faison Jr., 98, Dies; Art Historian and Professor. Some of his students went on to pursue careers in art, and some achieved great success in doing so — all because of his teaching.

Another great book about Yiddish is The New Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Calvin Rosten, Lawrence Bush, R. O. Blechman (Illustrator), R. O. Blechman (Illustrator), Lawrence Bush (Revised by). It’s an update of the classic “Joys of Yiddish” published several decades ago.

On things you lost and wish you still had

As part of the e-mail exchange with Redmonk’s James Governor mentioned in my prior post, I wrote the following, in response to his description of me as “Open source maven and IBM change agent Dave Shields.”


I was also a “change agent” when I drove a taxi-cab. I’ve lost some of my favorite possessions over the years: the change machine from by taxi days, my NYC taxi-cab license, my NYC merchant’s license I needed to sell baloons, my custom-made pool cue (don’t worry, I never took into a real pool hall, just used it for fun); some of the books in Russian I bought in my first visit to NYC.

I also lost my K+E 4181-3 Log Log Duplex Decitrig slide rule, but have recently acquired a replacement courtesy of ebay. I’ll be posting on my blog about it soon. (I also bought a plastic pocket-protector with Caltech on it, and am looking forward to shooting the photo that will accompany that post.)

That suggests a new variation on the “five things you don’t know about me” game of tag going around.

How about listing things you lost but wish you had back? I’m thinking of small things with sentimental value, not big-ticket items such as youth.

The two I miss most are the hack license and the pool cue. I loved to play pool in my childhood. My mother took me to see Willie Mosconi, one of the finest players ever, when he once gave an exhibition in Albuquerque. He was the technical adviser for one of my all-time favorite films, The Hustler, directed by Robert Rossen. It had a wonderful cast. It launched the career of George C. Scott and included the best film performance ever by Jackie Gleason (his roles in the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies were ludicrous, as he was a good actor, and also a good pool player.) Mosconi can be seen in one scene racking up the balls.

The novel by Walter Tevis that inspired the movie is a classic in its own right.

I went to a few pool tournaments while I was in Los Angeles and then later in New York. The smoothest stroke I ever saw was that of Cicero Murphy. He was as graceful at the pool table as was Fred Astaire when he danced.

I just shot straight pool, with occasional rounds of billiards and snooker. My best run at straight pool was 39 balls, though this was on an old table that was so forgiving that it almost defied the laws of physics.

Paul Newman played the lead role in The Hustler, that of “Fast Eddie” Felsen, because Eddie liked to play “fast and loose.”

Fast and loose — works in straight pool, and also a good approach for blogging.

I guess there’s yet another game to be made of all this. How many blog posts can one generate based on a totally irrelevant post or e-mail by someone else?

Kudos to the baloon folks at WordPress

My wife and I once sold baloons part-time in Central Park. We never made a dime. We did it because we both loved helium baloons, and it was a fun way to be outside and meet children.

I just noted that WordPress has somea balloon folks, too. I happened to let my mouse hover over the title of a post listed in the “recent posts” section, and soon noticed a little baloon that opened up with the first words of the post. I don’t recall seeing this before.

Good job, WordPress. Keep up the good work.

Say it ain’t so, Sam.

I just went to look up the URL of a comment I recently made in response to a request from Patrick Mueller, one of IBM’ bloggers, to play the “five things you don’t know about me” game that is making the rounds.

I got the following response:


Unexpected exception.

Status Code 404.

Message Page not found or error parsing requested URL

Exception com.ibm.ws.webcontainer.webapp.WebAppErrorReport Page not found or error parsing requested URL.

I tried IBM’s blogging software early in 2006. To use it then was to launch a denial-of-service attack on it.

Suggestion to IBM bloggers: leave the firewall and use WordPress. It’s more fun and more reliable outside the firewall. You’ll also learn more from those who will only be able to read your blog because it is in the real world.

PS: I finally tracked down the URL: Some things about Dave.

(Part of the game is to tag five others after you respond, though I have declined to do so as IBM has a policy of not participating in “chain letters.”)

Sixth Sakai Notes – Institutional Elearning Using Bodington – UHI and Oxford Case Studies, by John Smith and Adam Marshall

This is one of a series of posts about the sessions I attended at the Sixth Sakai Conference. See Conference Schedule, which has links to the individual presentations. Many of the sessions were recorded, and most of the presentations can be found online.

Here are my notes/impressions for the talk Institutional Elearning Using Bodington – UHI and Oxford Case Studies by John Smith and Adam Marshall, presented Thursday, 1:30PM.

The presentation can be found in PowerPoint format here. There is also an additional document, AtlantaHierarchy20061204.

The nicest part of the presentation was to hear it, as all the speakers were from various parts of the U.K. Each speaker had a slightly different accent. The speakers from Ireland, Scotland and Yorkshire were notable in having very subtle variations. Somehow I find English as spoken on the other side of the Atlantic more lyrical. The regional differences here in the U.S. have been largely flattened, so that such variations as remain are more pronounced, such as in “Southern” and “Texan” English.

I would like to think that just a few doors down from The Ministry of Silly Walks can be found The Ministry of Dilly Talks, a small group that exports speakers from the U.K. to enliven various conferences throughout the world.

There were several presenters, not just the two listed in the conference schedule.

There were only a few people in attendance, so the presentation was quite informal, with lots of questions from the audience. Thus the presentation did not closely follow the materials available for download cited above, and so this post is based on my notes.

The first speaker was Sean Mehan, of UHI.

Bodington is an eLearning system written in Java that was started in 1997. It will be integrated on top of Sakai.

There is a collaboration group called Tetra, named after a fish. See tetra. This is an enterprise application for use in the UK and European universities.

It uses “eFramework,” a SOA addressed to education, research, etc. This is the JISC e-framework. (TODO: give URL for JISC and explain what it is.)

Bodington is free open-source virtual learning environment.

The next speaker was John Smith, UHI, from Scotland, Northern Ireland.

The pedagogical range is SUO (??) to PhD. Their variant called CLAN.

Chose Bodington since it had developer community, with folks from UHI, University of Leeds, and Oxford.

It has a component architecture.

e-Campus – legacy, library, digital repositories and learning environments, etc.

The “funding council” is a close collaboration of universities and governments in the U.K. In response to a query, they mentioned that all universities in the UK are government-funded.

CLAN has a notion of virtual “building.” There are then floors in the building, divided into rooms. This defines notion of “hierarchy” in institutions. This notion is used to managage access rights, and has proven to be flexible.

There are “portal” aspects to CLAN. See the CLAN Interface slide.

Every resource has a unique URL.

There are authoring tools, and “course Genie” (??) is used to convert a Microsoft Word document into HTML format. I think this comes from “Horizon Wimba.”

UHI has been using the system since 2003. They found it hard to shift people out of Blackboard and Wb CT. Bodington is more flexible, and open-source gives them the ability to change the software in response to user requests, while they are unable to customize Blackboard.

Next followed a section on Bodington at Oxford, by Dr. Adam Marshall. Oxford re-branded Bodington as WebLearn. (WL)

In 2006 there are 6790 user, 41317 resources (a “resource” is roughly a page, or URL), 1831079 hits a week. The users include Medicine/Science (37%), LifeSciences (22%), Humanities (18%). 50% of registered Oxford users have logged in.

They have opened (enabled?) search via Google. The content is open, and so is available to other institutions, with 31% of accesses not from Oxford. They mentioned this was advantage over Blackboard (BB), as BB’s license was only for use within an institution and did not allow access from outside the institution.

They can include student groups, and “societies” in the system.

What they liked about the system included fine-grained access control, flexible roles, and open-source. The open-source alllowed them to extend (add?) tutors and researchers, and support for users from other institutions.

Use (user?) case: hierarchy and access control; shared logbooks; personal MyWebLearn (private space). System allows deep linking from the front page.

Oxford offers M.Sc. in e-learning. For this they make the first few modules public, but close off the rest of the system so it is available only to enrolled students.

Can share logbook with other people.

Each user gets their own space, which can be used to support their own web site.

Future plans: need favorite feature(s) in Sakai; looking for integration of tools and services.

Next, Matthew Buckett spoke about “Integration Directions.”

He is one of the Oxford “techies.” Bodington in Java, with servlets. There is concept of portal similar to the usual notion, but it is more tightly integrated.

The service layers are tied together. They are investigating possible strategies for integration in the short term.

They are porting tools (I think this is not “tool” in the usual sense): events, permissions, hierarchy, search, presentation, preferences.

Sakai tools are inside Sakai, porting over Bodington tools. Adaptor linking and placement; Sakai users mapped to Bodington users; remove security (Sakai), since breaks when they add their notion of hierarchy.

Bodington has tight integration, based on database.

As an aside, it was clear teir notion of hierarchy is very important to them, and they are seeking to implement it within Sakai. It will be an interesting test of the Sakai architecture if they are able to bring this off.

To do Sakai tools in Bodington is harder. Issues include database integrity; iframe, need to “fake” Sakai placement; no site, users.

Data migration issues: import/export; works with tool overlap; Sakai import already done.

They support large sites. Oxford opens content to large grou, 30,000+ users. Sakai doesn’t scale well to this size.

The next speaker was Dr. Ian Boston of the University of Cambridge, on “Hierarchy.”

The hierarchy service: organization of users and groups within a site; organization of tools and resources in a site.

Bodington: instance organized hierarchy; resources placed at nodes in hierarchy; tools operate on resources.

Oxford: 10,000 nodes.

In Sakai, 2.1 defined hierarchy. but the notion was new and never quite made it into the production version. There are many ongoing discussions, as we work to add this to Sakai.

There is a gap in Sakai in groups and permissions. Sakai needs to add hierarchy to its notion of permissions.

We are working on the current implementation of Sakai to provide simple hierarchy service; JDBC based for simplicity and performance; full path is a priimary key (PK); us Sakai to overcom MySQL limitation.

Inheritance: resolution is expensive; Per request service, inheritance leads to depth of tree search per node, many reads and few writes; publish resolution on change.

Last speaker was Sean on “Federated Sakai,” linking together multiple Sakai instances. They have project, Guanxi, http://guanxi.sourceforge.net. The name comes from the Chinese word for a trusted 3rd party that is used to establish a relationship between two potential business partners. They are using the “shibboleth” technology.

A Live CD with Boddington was distributed as part of the presentation. I have a copy but haven’t yet had the time to try it.


First, aside from Sakai, just this brief overview of Bodington provides good evidence of nearly a decade’s work of work on eLearning in the UK, work involving a number of universities and other educational institutions, and work that has enjoyed wide use and acceptance.

More importantly, the Bodginton community is not going to continue on a solitary path, but is trying to incorporate the novel aspects of their work into Sakai, and to provide tools that will assist conversion to Sakai and otherwise promote interoperability.

I think it worth noting that this joint work is only possible because both projects use liberal Apache-style licenses and so are able to share code without concern about license roadblocks. A related observation was made at the Indianapolis Licensing summit by an attorney in Barcelona who had been engaged to assist in an extended collaborative effort around open-source involving a number of universities in Catalonia. He said that early enthusiasts had promoted the use of gpl, and this had held back progress in the project, and he was still trying to sort this out.

links for 2006-12-21

  • Pages

  • December 2006
    M T W T F S S
  • RSS The Wayward Word Press

  • Recent Comments

    daveshields on SPITBOL for OSX is now av…
    Russ Urquhart on SPITBOL for OSX is now av…
    Sahana’s Respo… on A brief history of Sahana by S…
    Sahana’s Respo… on A brief history of Sahana by S…
    James Murray on On being the maintainer, sole…
  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

  • Top Posts

  • Top Rated

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Top Rated