July 20, 2016

Martin A. Schmidt

Dear Provost Schmidt,

My name is Ed Carlevale and I’m an MIT web developer whose work has made a fundamental contribution to MIT’s footprint in the energy sector. I am writing to request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss web development at MIT. MIT is presently considering contracting with Pantheon to provide Institute-wide external hosting. Stanford University, UCal Berkeley, and MIT Medical already host on Pantheon, and this is the right move for MIT. I’ve been urging it since 2010 when I invited Pantheon founder Matt Cheney to introduce the platform to the MIT community. But the real issue to be decided, and the reason I’m writing to you, concerns the development of the MIT distribution that will be used to power its fleet of sites. Harvard’s experience with Open Scholar should be both cautionary and encouraging. On the one hand, Open Scholar launched thousands of new sites at Harvard. On the other, its complex code is a beast to maintain and impossible to extend, so that high-end Harvard sites have to go outside the system to build one-off, stand alone sites. Like MIT’s Drupal Cloud, Harvard’s Open Scholar is built with Drupal but exists outside the Drupal ecosystem, so that it neither benefits from nor contributes back to that ecosystem. Seven years ago it was difficult to see a perfect way forward for academic web development, but some clues were available and I tried without success to present them. Since then, the main technical challenges have either been solved or are solvable. But implementing these solutions will bring a paradigm shift. And that paradigm shift requires an MIT-wide engagement, so that the best possible solution is reached and agreed upon. In close, I would be very grateful for the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these ideas further.

Kind regards and thanks,

Ed Carlevale