Forum .LRN Q&A: Response to continuation of dotLRN Governance

Posted by Carl Robert Blesius on

Jim, make sure and take a look at
The discussion has been open for more than a month, and the first we heard from Ben/OF was on Thursday (he was on vacation). We put everything on hold because we all really wanted him to be gatekeeper and for OF to take part in in the initial governance plan of dotLRN. I wish we could have changed his mind... but his post makes it official. If there is one thing that I have learned from all this, it is that Ben is governed by his will on this.

We have put A LOT of energy into this discussion with Ben, but WE MUST MOVE ON. Experience shows that energy we put into this subtracts from the success of dotLRN and we all strongly believe in the success of dotLRN as an open-source platform (regardless if it is a model that fits into Ben's open-source view or not). OpenForce is not essential to the ultimate success of dotLRN... we still strongly believe in dotLRN's success with or without them (although with them would have most likely have been a WIN-WIN situtation).

Don sent off one private mail to Ben and others that have been taking part in the conversation that I wish he had shared in response to this post before he left to climb mountains and band hawks and eagles for the week (far away from any form of network or telephone access). I am going to go out on a limb here and share quotes from this mail with the community without his permission, because I think these are essential parts of the disagreement that must be shared now and I am willing to suffer the consequences.

In response to Ben's definition of the building blocks of an open-source community (Joe Developers) Don wrote, "Some of us take a broader view of those who form the building blocks of our community. I've been trying to foster an atmosphere in the OpenACS community where Joe Documenter, Joe Tester, Joe User and Joe Funder are recognized as being every bit as important to our success as the developer community."

Don emphasized that "dotLRN would not be in existence if it weren't for Joe Funder, and much of the functionality reflects the needs of Joe User as specified" in a contract.

Don also wrote that OF would "be on much firmer ground if ... [Ben/OF had] done this project on a voluntary basis"

Don continued in saying that he has seen "several developers contributing freely to dotLRN despite ... [Ben's] claim that they've lost their previously clear reasons to do so. We've had community-provided applets, help on porting to PG, bug fixes, etc. I expect that to continue."

Enough. I had to share this. I wish Don was around to share the whole thing and add his two cents... but maybe it is better that he isn't... we have already lost enough time on this discussion as it stands.

I also think that the community should read parts of my reply to Ben's private E-Mail (above) that I would like to share:

I think I can speak for Al as well on one point (because this is the first thing I wanted to know before I said yes to his EB offer)... we are not interested in control... or deciding who is on the technical or user advisory board (yet it is obvious that it needs to start somewhere and what a better way than to pick leaders from the OpenACS community and have them create the initial boards?).


We (as schools) are interested in pooling resources Ben... the structures that are forming will allow us to do that more easily (we are already discussing how we are going to cooperate on external authentication).

I also find it very difficult to compare dotLRN governance and Apache governance (they are two very different animals).

In my view dotLRN is a product that MIT Sloan is opening up for a good reasons (it makes good business sense). I see dotLRN as a product of a very liberal non-controlling client-contractor relationship... between Sloan and OF (although I have not seen any contracts... or been given any special information) and I get the feeling that a lot of the architectural beauty in dotLRN is a direct result of your (and your teams) genius (and the freedom given to OF by Sloan)... not to mention the old ACES system and the 2 years of usage coming from Sloan. Which makes it even more sad and strange to see you drop dotLRN (before it is really finished... e.g. developer documentation... research module...).

I have to say that I disagree with your view about the success of dotLRN as an opensource learning platform... it will succeed. Obviously OF abandonment of dotLRN would throw a huge wrench into the process, making everything harder for all involved, but the MIT name, our name, the building momentum, and the OpenACS community are going to sell this Ben as well as other institutions that are waiting for dotLRN's official release. A lot of people are really excited about dotLRN and it is pushing a lot of momentum back into OpenACS.


Ben... I would like to see you change your mind... this is not in the best interest of all involved (or am I missing something?).

We have made our decision to go with dotLRN -> Sloans experience, vendor independence, a community driven effort, a community made up of schools and universities (to start with), and being built on a killer community framework are just some of the factors that play a part in this. We are sure of success Ben. The one thing that we all want to come of the "governance plan" is structures that promote community cooperation and community participation in development.

It is early to jump off Ben... I think you would be making a mistake and I would really hate to see you do it. Like I wrote above... I would like to see you change your mind (regardless of where the technology site lands).... just like you I would like to see a meritocratic structure and I think this has more to do with misunderstanding and failed communication than anything else.


In closing I would like emphasize that I am going to do my best not to take part in this discussion for a while... my experience has shown that it is counterproductive for all involved at this point. We need to minimize the damage and continue. Ben has blown a little hole in the dotLRN boat that we need to concentrate on fixing so we can sail on.