At a certain conference last week (which I was fortunate enough to speak at I sat in a meeting of the Sakai technical committee. These are the people who drive Sakai. Not just the deciders but the doers. Being new to developing, it was particularly fascinating to see such a large group, all with different backgrounds, incentives, priorities, and views, come together to have these discussions. Sakai is an open source project, so while anyone can contribute there still has to be some kind of governing body.
The meeting was not brief, but real work got done the entire time. Decisions made and committed to (digital)paper, action items decided on and names attached to them. This was not a feel-good theoretical discussion about software, these were decisions that will likely effect the day to day work of these developers and many others for weeks or months to come.
It was inspiring to listen and learn, and I was very humbled that I was allowed to be a part of the meeting. The welcoming environment was clear from the word go; when I walked in and there were no chairs empty Dr. Chuck immediately said “Grab a chair from next door and come in!” Although I didn’t contribute anything (except a sarcastic fist shake and a smile when Ruby devs were joked about) I learned a lot about what writing software, especially OSS, in a large group is like. There was lively debate, and some people ended up disappointed if their view didn’t win the majority, but everyone still works hard and contributes.