The event was held at the Nevada gaming institute, and was overall, a well-structured day. The driving ideology was that of the unconference – “… a facilitated, face-to-face, and participant-driven conference centered around a theme or purpose.”
However, it seemed that the theme or purpose of the event was not about Open Source – it was as if it were a Blackboard self-help group, trying to solve the issues and failings of this proprietary software. Some of the issues were a little shocking – someone proposed that they had “a need to search the content of [Blackboard Vista] repository” – it came as some surprise to me that this wasn’t already possible in such a mature product.
I was pleased that we were able to help and inform the other attendees about more open technology and standards, such as OAuth, resource-orientated architecture, creative commons licensing and more.
One session I lead on was titled – controversially – “Why [bother with] Portals?” – in which I wanted to get a discussion on what students actually use. The point I wanted to make was that URLs are the base currency of the internet – search engines produce lists of them, people bookmark them, and URLs are used when sharing information between people.
This means that there is a very large responsibility on the content providers not to change URLs, or they will devalue the very resources they are trying to get people to use. This is the reason why persistent URLs are a crucial thing to aim for.
I hope that we were able to bring extra value to the meeting, due to the fact that, unlike the vast majority of attendees, we do not have a Blackboard background.
However, I do think that the event needed to have more emphasis on real-world open source projects such as Sakai and Moodle, and examine how best to intergrate their systems with external systems.