On November 18-19, edX hosted the first Open edX Conference (#openedxcon) in Cambridge, MA, at Radcliffe Gym on the campus of Harvard University. Open edX developers, operators, and fans came together to meet face-to-face and learn from each other in two packed days of formal presentations and ad-hoc conversations. For the Open edX team, it was an invigorating and rewarding event. It confirmed that we are doing many things right (being open and transparent) and that we still have a lot of work to do to better support our community (streamlined submissions). It served as validation that Open edX is not a sideshow, but a dynamic, vibrant movement.

For the two days that followed the conference, we invited community members to the edX offices to participate in our first open hackathon. It was our most successful hackathon yet, with people attending from 5 continents — Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and North America! Our teams felt great affirmation working side-by-side with all of you; your energy and ideas produced unique and exciting projects that we hope to merge into the platform. Two hugely positive events, one after the other, well summarized by this tweet!

View image on Twitter

So, thank you to all the speakers and participants from near and far who brought tremendous energy to the Open edX Conference (and hackathon!), and indeed thanks to the entire community for the life you breathe into the Open edX platform.

More please…

In our opening talk, Ned (@Nedbat) and I made a commitment to be open… to your praise and your criticisms. We love the praise! Keep it coming — we have egos! But, we also heard you loud and clear on many areas of development that need more attention, specifically:

  • Creating more documentation for developers — Whether on XBlocks, or APIs, or analytics, current and future contributors need more information for how to be successful in building components for the platform.
  • Creating more interfaces — APIs, APIs, APIs, we just need more!
  • Developing turn-key deployments — Everyone agrees that it is just too hard to get up and running quickly with either sandbox or small-scale deployments. Our first named release, Aspen, was a step in the right direction, but we know there is still a lot more to do.
  • Making the contribution process easier — With acknowledgement of the improvements made thus far (thank you Sarina and team), it’s still difficult to predict what will happen with a pull request. People are looking for more clarification about the criteria and process we apply when handling pull requests.
  • Forking the edX.org site into its own branch — We have long planned to make this part of our environment and deployment strategy, but we have not yet executed. Nonetheless, we are committed to operating our site in the same manner that we ask all of you to operate yours.

All of these initiatives are part of our plans for the first half of 2015. Please see our current roadmap and bookmark it for future updates, which we publish at the beginning of each quarter.

… and greater clarity

Finally, there are a few items that we talked about needing greater clarity:

  • Governance — Thanks to those who used their “unconference” time at the end of the second day to round-table on governance. We got a lot of good feedback and will be working on our governance policy over the next few weeks. Please feel free to join in on the conversation on the edX code e-mail list.
  • Technical initiatives — The public roadmap, which focuses on features and functionality, helps people understand what is being developed so they can work in and around those planned items. But without a technical roadmap, it’s hard to know how we intend to develop the platform. We have a pretty good idea of our technical direction — so we can publish that, too.
  • Satellite teams — For groups coalescing around larger development projects, we have provided our guidance and expertise as needed, but we don’t have a lot of formality around that process. We don’t want to impede progress or old-fashioned organic bootstrapping, but working with edX designers and developers will help the process flow more smoothly. We are interested in having more group and individual contributors talk with us during their design processes.

Look for documentation, blog posts, and general communication on all these topics in the coming weeks. Your feedback has been invaluable in helping us refine our points of view and we hope you will continue to talk with us. We’ll share our more evolved thinking soon.

Thanks again for a great event. Your energy and positive spirit make my job all the easier! Onward!

Beth Porter is the VP of Product at edX. She is always eager to get feedback directly from people using the edX platform and members of the Open edX community. Please write to her at bporter@edx.org. Follow her sometimes food-related and sometimes work-related tweets at @ebport.