Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Six months of changes in Sakai...

Six months can be a long time in technology markets, and I have created this blog to provide you insite on changes we have made to out Sakai service. Only six month ago we moved over to Sakai 2.7. Bringing in new social networking features, it opened a door to new ways of thinking that make Sakai a warmer place to work in. By allowing Sakai users to form Connections among work colleagues (a bit like friends in Facebook) it allows groups of similar minded individuals to form up without the requirement of a worksite. The standard social networking kit in 2.7 is pretty basic and although people hooked up quite quickly, it soon became apparent that something else was needed to help it make better sense.

Adrian Fish had already begun developing the floating chat tool that would take advantage of Connections and it was launched just last month. This tool allows users to chat with Connections that are already logged into Sakai. It's been a great hit with our users. We noticed that even in the wee hours of the morning that people were still hooked into Sakai chatting away. We think this tool is an essential ingrediant to any collaboration platform, even for asking simple questions like, 'Time for a coffee?' or 'Have you seen this link?'. Not content with getting the core chat running, Adrian then set about some newer features, such as the ability to 'ping' connections that are not already logged into Sakai. This feature emails recipients an invite to chat with you providing them an additional opportunity to stay in the loop. We think that floating chat will become available in Sakai 2.9, but stuff doesn't always go to plan :(

Then Dan Robinson and Stevo Swinsberg decided to expand out the Profile2 feature set. Building a place to post to your own or your connections profiles, this is a space to share information among your social sakai contacts; we only launched it 10 days ago so we are still looking at user issues. To date, nothing dramatic has emerged and that is usually a good sign. The current publishing space is a bit limited in scope and we'll be adding new features throughout the year based on user requests. Dan also tidied up the people search facility within Profile so that presentation of results is much better making it easier read.

So, in six months we went from Sakai CLE to Sakai CLE with social connectivity. Last year some of my eBusiness students complained that Sakai was hard to get into (being the second VLE at Lancaster); since deploying 'boosted' Sakai users tell me they really like the experience for the additional functions we have added. We note also that the addition of social tools has improved Sakai 'Stickiness'; a term used to describe how long people stay logged in for. I guess this is what we should expect. Importantly also, due to implementation of Profile2 with our additional features, our latest clients tell us that profile2 was one of the strongest choice factors for choosing to use our technology. Moreover, discussions are now underway with central uni services to roll out Sakai across campus later this year. Watch this space!

During the next 6 months we'll be evaluating user data in various ways. For example, we have collected Connection formation data and can link this aggregately to other data arrays (e.g. propensity to chat, complete profile, activity in worksites etc) plus user survey data. With this information we'll be able to determine segments of user's and track back user acceptance issues from it. After all, the new ways of working won't be to everyone's taste, but it'd be nice to be able to find out who they are and tailor a service about them too.


  1. Nice work lads, keep the updates coming! Where can we get the floating chat.


  2. Hi Steve, sorry its been so long.

    Adrian is still ironing out a few bugs, be ready soon though.