Educause 2009 – Day 2

Thursday started with a bang – a typically brilliant and inspiring talk by Lawrence Lessig, where he systematically expounded the reasons the same copyright paradigm that might work for big entertainment artists doesn’t serve the needs of creative artists, science, or education. The video should be available at this link so I won’t try and recap the session, but it’s worth watching.

Lessig did have a great Peter Drucker quote that I wanted to capture: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Educause’s leadership award was presented to the late, much lamented, Seminars in Academic Computing meeting (the Snowmass meetings, which took place annually from 1971 until 2007). Bob Gillespie, formerly of the UW, was one of the founders or SAC and was one of the folks there to accept the award. They had a great slide show of photos from the years of Snowmass – made me realize just how much I had learned from attending that meeting, how many relationships had been formed. It’s sad not to have that intimate and informal gathering venue anymore.

I spent some time catching up with ECAR’s Toby Sitko, and we discussed updating my 2007 ECAR Research Bulletin on social software. I’d like to devise a way of involving the community in the authorship and editing of such a document.

Greg Jackson gave a session on the institutional requirements around p2p file sharing mandated in the Higher Education Opportunities Act. The Dept. of Education rules that lay out how to interpret the law’s requirements were finally issued just last week. Under the rules institutions have to have “written plans to effectively combat the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material…” The session made me think that I need to go back to the draft of the plan we’ve been working on and make sure that it includes all of the required elements. We also need to make sure that the notice that is sent to students regarding copyright contains all the elements required in the rules. Educause will be maintaing a list of legal downloading sources that institutions can point to to satisfy the requirement to “To the extent practicable, offer legal alternatives to downloading or otherwise acquiring copyrighted information…” That list is now available at

During lunch there was a meeting of ITANA (IT Architects iN Academia) that was well attended. The group laid out areas to work on during the future conference twice-monthly conference calls. The next meeting, this coming Thursday, will feature an analyst from the Burton Group discussing enterprise workflow systems, which the group has been working on.

I spoke on a panel discussing research support at universities in the net@edu Campus CyberInfrastructure working group meeting. Other panelists included Kurt from Princeton, Kevin Moroney from Penn State, and a fellow from Guelph University. Seems like research support is an area that’s emerging with some differing models at different campuses. There seemed to be some interest in finding a venue for continued discussion of these support models with an aim of discovering and sharing strategies that work (and perhaps those that don’t).

Jim Loter and I met with Jim Helwig who leads the portal team at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. We spent some time discussing the re-visioning effort they’re going through – they discovered that not only do people want to access everything in the portal, they also want to access portal content in other locations where they are, like iGoogle, Facebook, SMS messages, etc. Jim showed us in some detail how they’re using uPortal to organize university content. They have (at least) three ways of building content into channels in the portal: actual portlets built to the JSR168 standard; RSS feeds; and an “active menu” type of channel that they built.

I met with Klara Jelnikova from Duke. We both serve on the Common Solutions Group (CSG) Steering Committee, so we spent some time discussing the future of CSG, which is undergoing some reconceptualization this year. We both agreed that much of the value of CSG is in the sharing of information among like-minded institutions and in forming loose common directions, rather than in trying to formulate concerted group action. I was struck by the thought that I would hate to be thinking of CSG in the same past tense nostalgic way as the Snowmass meeting.

Klara and I talked about trying to do some work around understanding federated Active Directory infrastructures that integrate well with our campus ID infrastructures. There appear to be four use case areas: federating multiple ADs within a campus; federating ADs across different campuses and institutions; and federating AD with other identity and directory platforms. I need to sit down with RL Bob Morgan and Nathan Dors and get their thoughts on this set of topics.

Klara and I hooked up with Asbed Bedrossian (USC), Charlie Leonhart and Heidi Wachs (Georgetown), and Jim Loter (along with Charlie’s mom) and had an excellent dinner at TAG in Larimer Square. Lots of good conversation and bonding ensued.


Educause09 – Day one

Educause is in Denver this year. Despite the fact that it snowed last week here, this week the sun is out and it’s hitting the 70s during the day – beautiful weather. Not that I’ve seen much of it, being busy running around the convention center.

It’s nice to see a lot of folks who I haven’t seen in over a year and renew some relationships – Lev Gonnick, Hae Okimoto, Joan Gettman, Kathy Christoph, Jim Phelps, Greg Jackson, Terri-Lynn Thayer, and loads of others.

Started off last night at the opening reception at the exhibit hall. Got a chance to chat with some folks from MediaSite about our questions about using external storage with MediaSite servers – the answer is MediaSite doesn’t care as long as it looks like a Windows drive. I also got a chance to meet Alex North, one of the Google Wave developers from Google’s Australian office.

Then we were off to a reception with Microsoft. Spent a bunch of time talking with some folks from Louisiana State and then yakking the night away with Frank Lobisser about Microsoft, UW, our kids, and skiing.

This morning started off with the keynote address by Jim Collins, author of Good To Great. Some insightful leadership insights, and I can see why he’s a high-paid, in demand speaker – he’s very effective.

I met with David Lipari and Andrew Petro from Unicon to chat about uPortal and LifeRay portal software and the future for portals in general. Andrew made a nice observation that web portals serve both as an initial discovery point for resources and as a default interface when you can’t use your highly configured device.

I learned that uPortal is better than Liferay at dynamically reading users & groups from external sources (Liferay wants to store that data within its system). The permissions system within uPortal is replaceable, so you could theoretically just use an external permissions system instead of the internal one.

uPortal 3.2 will have a mobile theme, based on detecting the mobile user agent from the browser. It is possible to pass the user agent string to portlets so they can also configure themselves differently for mobile devices

Liferay has more content management features within the portal.

uPortal has a more developed story for accessibility than Liferay does at present.

Shibboleth access is built out for uPortal with user attributes. Unicon did a project with the University of Chicago using Shibboleth and the web proxy for delegation of authentication, which might be of interest to us.

I had lunch with Kent Wada from UCLA, where we talked about various policy initiatives around privacy, e-discovery and the like.

This afternoon I attended a session given by Sayeed Choudry from Johns Hopkins on the Data Conservancy project, which is a NSF Datanet project.

David Morton and Jim Loter and I met with Jason Ediger from Apple to chat about iPhones in higher ed. He’s got a great glassy stare he gives when asked about Apple’s future plans.

I then attended a session by David Staley, Lev Gonnick, and Adrian Sannier on “Leading the University as a Platform”, where they differentiated the role of the “platform” from the old style command and control environment. Lots of good thoughts in this one.

Next was a discussion group on ITIL in higher ed. A group of people from some schools had done some implementations of ITIL, mostly around incident and problem management, which was interesting to hear about. Everybody recommends starting with small steps, mostly around the service catalog (which we did!).

I closed out the afternoon at a session on Google Wave, which featured two Wave engineers actually building waves in real time. That was quite a useful session. I think Wave has the potential to be a very significant tool as it grows up.

Went by the Google reception at the Public Library, but it seemed like the Google student representatives outnumbered attendees, so I left and went and had dinner with David Morton.

Tomorrow – Lawrence Lessig, and I’ll be on a panel about research support at the net@edu cyberinfrastructure meeting at 3:30 – come on by!