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Sakai O' Deployment and Management: Open Source Collaboration and Learning for Higher Education

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The original Sakai software descended from work by Indiana University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of Michigan, uPortal, and the Open Knowledge Initiative. Lots of the original code came from University of Michigan’s framework, known as CHEF, the CompreHensive collaborativE Framework. (Programmers do love to stretch their acronyms.) As the new shared infrastructure matured, a joke ran through the community that this was Iron Chef, a reference to the Japanese competitive cooking show. It seemed right on the surface: this collaboratively built framework was stronger, smarter, faster, and more international than any of the preceding single-institution systems. It also felt right as an observation of the community in development: programmers and academics coming together across varied institutional cultures interacting in some highly formalized ways to duke it out over which implementation choice was best. Who would win the challenge? An established programmer from a long-committed university or a smart upstart designer from a tiny consulting firm? The software was ultimately named for the “King of Iron Chefs,” Hiroyuki Sakai, with hope that it would be the winningest of all education and collaboration frameworks.

After a couple of years, an effort to rewrite the backend services was undertaken. This started out as the kernel rewrite effort, morphed into the kernel rearchitecture effort, then got clear enough that it became two separate but aligned efforts called kernel 1 and kernel 2. A major user interface redesign was undertaken at the same time, addressing both the user interaction and user experience layers. Because the production version was numbered in the 2s, work on the next generation of the frontend of Sakai became variously known as Sakai 3 and 3akai (pronounced three-ak-EYE). It got maddeningly confusing to talk about Sakai 2 on K1 as distinguished from 3akai-ux on K2. The kernel team resolved on nakamura as the name for the backend services. This name benefitted from referring both to an Iron Chef, Koumei Nakamura, and to the first Japanese national to scale K2, Shoji Nakamura. Let it never be said that Sakai programmers don’t love the act of naming.
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