OSS Watch team blog
Is your software open or fauxpen?
Using a series of questions covering legal issues, governance, standards, knowledge sharing and market access, the tool helps you to identify potential problem areas for users, contributors and partners.
Unlike earlier models designed to evaluate open source projects, this model can also be applied to both open and closed source software products.
We’ve used the Openness Rating internally at OSS Watch for several years as a key part of our consultancy work, but this is the first time we’ve made the app itself open for anyone to use. It requires a fair bit of knowledge to get the most out of it, but even at a basic level its useful for highlighting questions that a project needs to be able to answer.
fOSSa 2014 will be in Rennes, France, on 19, 20 and 21 November 2014.
This year the event has three themes:
- Crypto Currencies in context & let’s look under the hood
- Open knowledge creation : Crowdsourcing scientific research
- The new hardware bazaar
For more information and to register visit the fOSSa website.
Sadly I won’t be able to make it this year, which is a shame as its a great event with lots of interesting topics.
This week saw the launch of KAIYUANSHE (开源社), an association comprising both companies and universities with the aim of providing developers in China with education, tools and services to foster a healthy and robust open source ecosystem.
KAIYUANSHE from the outset is working through two core programs. The first, Open Source Star, helps software developers apply an open source license to their projects, and specifically recognize those that use one of the several available OSI-approved licenses.
The second program is called Open Source Ambassadors. Through this program, the alliance aims to recognize individuals and organizations who are actively engaged in community efforts, for their work to champion best practices and collaboration.
At OSS Watch here at the University of Oxford we’ve also been collaborating with the new initiative, providing access to our content and tools so that they can be localised and translated. You can find Chinese versions of some of our briefing notes on the KAIYUANSHE website already, and I’m sure more will soon follow.
Initial members of the association include Ubuntu Kylin, Microsoft Open Technologies, GitCafe, CSDN and Mozilla. For more information visit the KAIYUANSHE website.
Last weekend I organised the first OggCamp to be held in Oxford. OggCamp is an annual free culture unconference, where 300 people with a variety of interests related to open source, open hardware, creative commons and more meet up to share projects, ideas and experience.
As an unconference, the vast majority of the scheudle is decided on the day. This means that we never really know what’s going to happen, but we always have a great range of interesting talks, and this year was no different. Talks this year included a demo of a hydrogen-powered Raspberry Pi, the beginnings of a project to create an open source wireless presentation dongle, software-defined radio, and several live podcast recordings.
Alongside our 3 presentation tracks, we had a fantastic exhibition hosting stands from the events sponsors as well as a number of local hackspaces. Projects being showed off included a vintage teletype connected to Twitter, an open source CNC router, a home heating automation system, and a persistance-of-vision display using a bike wheel.
The result of all of this was a fantastic weekend full of fun an inspiration. Next year’s event isn’t in the works yet, but I’m already excited for next time.
Back in August Wikimania came to London and I heard some interesting discussion there of Wikipedia’s approach to open access materials and the tools they are developing to support that approach. This github repo contains some interesting open source projects designed mainly to automate the process of identifying cited external resources that can be copied into Wikipedia’s repositories of supporting material wikisource (for texts) and upload.wikimedia.org (for pictures, video and sound).
open-access-media-importer for example is a tool which searches the online repository of academic biology papers PubMed for media files licensed under the Creative Commons attribution licence and copies them into the wikimedia repository. Where the files are in media formats that are encumbered by patents, the script also attempts to convert them to the patent free ogg format framework.
In the same github repo is the OA-Signalling project presents a developing framework for flagging open access academic papers using standardised metadata, perhaps integrated in future with the systems being developed by DOAJ and CrossRef. This wikipedia project page explains further:
Some automated tools which work with open access articles are already created. They impose nothing upon anyone who does not wish to use them. For those who wish to use them, they would automate some parts of the citation process and make an odd Wikipedia-specific citation which, contrary to academic tradition, notes whether a work is free to read rather than subscription only. The tools also rip everything usable out of open access works, including the text of the article, pictures or media used, and some metadata, then places this content in multiple Wikimedia projects including Wikimedia Commons, Wikisource, and Wikidata, as well as generating the citation on Wikipedia.
During the sessions in which open access and these tools were discussed, many participants expressed strong dislike for academic publishers and their current closed practices. Clearly for many the idea that Wikipedia could become the de facto platform for academic publication was a charming idea, and more open access was seen as the best route to achieving this.
Many years ago I worked in a digital archive, and one of the problems we faced was that academics who were depositing their databases and papers wanted to be able to revise them and effectively remove the earlier, unrevised versions. Naturally this made our jobs more challenging, and to a certain extent seemed to be opposed to the preservation role of the archive. My experiences there make me wonder how the same academics would react to their papers being hoovered up by Wikipedia, potentially to become unalterable ‘source’ copies attached to articles in the world’s most used reference work. On the one hand it is a great practical application of the freedoms that this particular kind of open access provides. On the other hand, it perhaps risks scaring authors into more conservative forms of open access publication in the future. Personally I hope that academics will engage with the tools and communities that Wikipedia provides, and handle any potential friction through communication and personal engagement. And in the end, as these tools are open source, they could always build their own hoover.
We’ve decided to change the way we publish our newsletter, so instead of having a separate site over at http://newsletter.oss-watch.ac.uk, from now on we’ll be posting a monthly round-up of our activities on this blog. If you’re only interested in these round-ups, you can subscribe to the feed for the Newsletter category. We’ll still be publishing event reports, analysis and opinion pieces on this blog as before.
This month is a bumper edition covering what we’ve been up to over the summer. With Kuali announcing its move to a company-based governance model, Scott has looked at whether this means the end of “community-source”, and whether its choice of an AGPL license poses a risk of vendor lock-in.
We’ve also continued our work with the VALS project, helping over 60 FOSS organisations submit over 250 project ideas. The participating universities have now signed up for the programme, and students are submitting their project proposals.
Finally for this month, Mark attended the first AGM of the Research Software Engineers UK group, who are seeking to champion and support software developers working with researchers.