The Open Agenda – where’s the source?

Just back from the very hectic FAM10 conference and the RAPTOR project board meeting in Cardiff. RAPTOR is looking great by the way – have I mentioned that before? 🙂

It’s now time for me to start putting some serious head time in to the future of Shibboleth and where the Shibboleth Consortium takes the software and what form the Shibboleth “Foundation” in whatever form may take.

I was thinking about this last night, and it was particularly relevant that @iandolphin24 chose to tweet at that very moment that JASIG and Sakai are planning a merger. JASIG and Sakai are perhaps THE most successful open source organisations operating in higher education today (although I would have to give a nod to Moodle as well and of course we have to be looking towards Apache in more general terms) and are the models that I would immediately go to when thinking about where next for Shibboleth. There is some great stuff for me to think about here, and some very good people to talk to.


‘Open’ is the word of the moment. Open data, open science, open access, open educational resources – you cannot move without being ‘opened’ in education at the moment. The OER movement is proving to be particularly persuasive for organisations such as HEFCE, with open access still high on many people’s agendas despite its more controversial status. However, when that list is ticked off, open standards and open source are often ignored despite the diligent work that goes on in these areas, such as the good people at OSSWatch and CETIS in the UK. It is still incredibly difficult for an educational institution to include an open source platform or software implementation as a serious contender in a procurement process.

So where am I going to with all of this? Well for me the last couple of years working with JISC and the UK federation, my tagline has been “standards compliant, technology neutral” and I absolutely believe that this should continue to be the ongoing mantra of the UK federation. I also think we have done some good work on persuading people that open standards make good business sense in terms of avoiding the lock-in of the proprietary system. However, if we are really going to position Shibboleth well, it is time for me to think hard about the importance and the business proposition of open-source once again, having left OSS Watch in the hands of better people than me many years ago. I think it is time to get open source back on that ‘open’ list, which is why the JASIG / Sakai news is very very interesting.

Interestingly, life is all about the positioning at the moment. I’m thinking in similar terms for REFEDs, and the place REFEDs has in the world of Kantara, OIX and Identity Commons. More on this very soon I would imagine.

As I mentioned in my talk at FAM10 (when I wasn’t talking about Penguins), I believe that it is important that education has a strong voice in these areas, I believe we have specialist requirements and I believe it is important that we make sure that educational institutions help shape the access and identity management space and don’t just leave it in the hands of the commercial world to tell us what we can have.

So that’s all going to be easy to sort out….right? 🙂 Better stop messing around with blogs and get to it!