Metaphors for Sakai Community

As a participant observer at the Sakai Foundation conference in Los Angeles in June, I noted the conference itself…

  • Was held at a world class hotel (The Bonaventure)
  • Was a ‘budget’ affair for which neither the hotel nor a 3rd party AV vendor was contracted other than basic “comes with” conference venue room sound, wifi, and room lights (the podium was dark, sort of a ‘witness protection’ feel to the speakers)
  • Efforts to stream sessions were ad hoc
  • Presenters used free tools  (I saw Ustream,, and etherpad).
  • Presenters tended to overspeak their geek to audiences that appeared to me to often be less weighted toward fellow developers and technology folk and just as likely to be faculty and administrators
  • Session topics were often misleading, I ended up in several which turned out to be nothing like their titles
  • Everyone I spoke to was very informal, very jovial, and glad to be there
  • It was hard to spot the ‘leaders’ – not by apparel, swag, name badges, showmanship, or technology. Very egalitarian.
  • I’d say roughly 85% of the participants were carrying iPads.
  • There were no big name keynote speakers, no one to stamp “green” or “bold” or “innovative” on Sakai by virtue of their cool presence.

How did it feel?

The Sakai community is like a farmer’s co-op. Everybody tils the soil, grows the vegetables, sets up a booth, pays the rent and votes about next year. Edamame sells better than broccoli.

The Sakai community is like a Mennonite barn raising. When one calls for help, the rest may grouse about the time lost, the inconvenient season, the proposed style, the materials and tools chosen… but still they show up, roll up their sleeves and pitch in anyway. (I don’t think they get fed well for their participation, and it will take longer to finish but the job does get done!)

The Sakai community is like histoplasmosis or DED (Dutch elm disease)  … unwitting people carry the ethos around from place to place and it spreads organically like bat guano droppings on ones boots or that firewood carried in ones minivan halfway cross the state. There’s probably an air born version as well. It’s contagious.