Open source software projects can form a perfect example of a level playing field in software development. This is especially true for projects that have a meritocratic governance model in place, which by definition recognises all contributions to the project equally regardless of the person or organisation contributing. This is one of the reasons why we believe open source software projects are the prime example of open innovation in software.
It is therefore of no surprise that a lot of the materials that we write at OSS Watch are not just applicable to the Higher Education and Further Education sector in the UK (which form our remit as defined by our main funding body JISC). On the contrary, many of our documents discuss issues related to open source that apply just as well to the public sector at large, or to the commercial sector for that matter. I will highlight a few of the most relevant documents here.
Suppose you are in an organisation that’s developing software either for itself or collaboratively with other departments or other organisations. If you are considering the longer term sustainability of your software you might want to consider releasing your code under an open source licence. To better understand what software development in open source projects actually entails, our document that deals with getting to grips with the open development method could be of interest.
In many cases it is more beneficial to join an existing project community rather than trying to create your own. Joining an existing project means that you can tap into an existing body of knowledge and benefit from the development efforts of other, potentially myriad, developers. To better understand the mechanisms of contributing to an open source project some of more technical documents, like the one that explains what a software patch is, could be helpful. In any case you will have to make sure that all the provisions are in place to be able to contribute your code to the project.
If you are sure there is no existing project where your code will fit, you could consider starting your own open source project. In that is the case, it is important to consider what the right governance model is for your project. Do you want to go with the benevolent dictator model, which leaves all decision to one person or governing body, or do you want to create a level playing field by choosing a meritocratic governance model? Another important aspect in open source projects is ensuring the Intellectual Property is properly managed, which means that you should consider putting a Contributor Licence Agreement in place.
A completely different use case that we come across often is considering open source in a procurement process. Also then many issues are the same irrespective of whether your an academic institution, some other organisation in the public sector, or a commercial company. Our document on decision factors for open source software procurement could be useful in these circumstances. To get a more detailed and substantial view on existing open source projects, we have developed the Software Sustainability Maturity Model that guides you through the most important issues you should consider as an end-user of open source software.
To summarise, there are many aspects of open source software where our resources may be of use. All OSS Watch documents are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 England & Wales licence, so you are free to reuse our content as long as you mention where you got it from and make any derivative work available under a similar licence. These are the documents that were mentioned in this post:
- Sustainable open source
- Releasing your code under an open source licence
- Avoiding abandon-ware: getting to grips with the open development method
- What is a software patch?
- Can you contribute code to an open source project?
- Governance Models
- Meritocratic governance model
- Benevolent dictator governance model
- Contributor Licence Agreements
- Decision factors for open source software procurement
- Software Sustainability Maturity Model