Widget Bashing

Last week JISC CETIS put on a WidgetBash event. OSS Watch pitched in since W3C Widgets are an area we are particularly interested in having taken some code from the University of Bolton into the Apache Software Foundations incubator as Apache Wookie (incubating).

This two day event focused on getting people up to speed on building widgets. Our approach was to give some very light touch training and then get our hands dirty on code. Overall the two days were extremely successful.

in the run up to the event I had committed a few new widget templates to Wookie in order to make it easy for people to get started. This turned out to be a great tactic. Some attendees used these templates as a base for their work, looking to enhance them, one attendee even submitted a patch to fix an error in my work (which I have now committed to the project, thanks Sam Rowley). Another attendee reported that one of the tutorials was misleading (another issue I have now addressed, thanks Simon Booth).

A team from the Manchester Metropolitan University enhanced a widget they had already created to tell students which labs had available PCs in them. Now it’s a fully geo-locating widget that sorts the results by proximity to the users position (interestingly using the tutorial Simon helped us improve). Another team from Strathclyde enhanced the Moodle Plugin for Wookie; now widgets are able to get a little more context from Moodle and thus provide more targeted information to the user. We hope to see patches and contributions from both these teams.

Many other participants who had never build widgets before reported that they’d learned a great deal. There were plenty of “almost working” enhancements to our templates as well as completely new widgets. Again, I look forward to applying their patches.

Why not come and join us on the Wookie project and find out what it’s all about.

You can read more about the two days on Sheila’s blog.

UK Government Open Standards Survey

There’s no date on his introductory post, but Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, has provided an opportunity for us to state which open standards for IT we want the UK government to use. This takes the form of an on-line SurveyMonkey survey that is open until 20 May 2011.

Government must be better connected to the people it serves and partners who can work with it – especially small businesses, voluntary and community organisations. Government ICT must play a fundamental role in making life easier and I want to ensure that it does.

One of our first goals is to organise Government data and systems using an agreed set of standards that make our ICT more open, cheaper and better connected.

If you’re a business or community organisation, helping us choose the right standards will make it easier for you to do business with Government.  It will also help us open up data, better informing your decisions, and hopefully prompting innovation.

There’s a lot of detail in the very long list of obtuse standard numbers, but fortunately a mechanism is provided to skip sections you aren’t interested in. Otherwise you can vote on each standard on a scale between mandatory and don’t use. Refreshingly for a survey, there are spaces for you to add your own thoughts (though you can’t add each on a new line as requested).

I spotted couple of typos and more seriously, the Microsoft originated ISO/IEC 29500 Office Open XML is incorrectly called ‘Open Office XML. This is bound to lead to confusion as the alternatively listed ISO/IEC 26300:2006 Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) standard was originally implemented in OpenOffice (and is now implemented by LibreOffice).

Open standards play well with open source software developement and we encourage you to take the survey. However do bear in mind the government’s past record in implementing open technology policies. You might also want to look at Glyn Moody’s related post about the Government’s definition of open standards provided in the procurement policy note.

Can’t make it to Open Source Junction? We are live-blogging

Open Source Junction: Cross-platform mobile apps (Trinity College, Oxford, 29-30 March 2011) is almost upon us. There’s still time to register (registration closes on 24 March), but if you can’t make it, keep up with all the action by following us on the #osjmob11 twitter tag. We will also be live-blogging proceedings throughout both days of the event, at:

Live blog day 1

Live blog day 2

All social media activity, including live-blogging, will be available via the Open Source Junction blog.

Open Source Junction: cross-platform mobile apps

The open source mobile app space is getting increasingly crowded. The recent opportunities for developers to produce and distribute mobile apps through a range of app stores is taking the developer world by storm. If, as the saying goes, all people dream of writing a poem at least once in a lifetime, then perhaps there aren’t many developers out there either who haven’t dreamed of building a great mobile app themselves.
I don’t have any stats on the percent of open source developers producing apps for app stores. However, a number of concerns reported in the past by open source developers contributing to the Mac App Store suggest that alternative solutions, such as the rising Android Market, may stand better chances to attract contributors used to work in an open development fashion.
The popularity of the mobile apps in the developer world is reflected by the significant number of events organized on related topics. A quick search on Eventbrite listed 283 mobile-related UK events within the next few months. As expected, most of these events target business audiences. Some of them, such as OSIM, specifically explore solutions for developing and distributing mobile open source software.
As the education sector tries to keep pace with the recent developments in the mobile world, a number of academic projects have looked at how mobile solutions may help educational institutions fulfil their teaching and research remits. Most of these projects address issues specific to their teams’ teaching or research interests. As mandated by JISC’s software collaboration policy, more than one institutions took part in these projects and the software produced was released under an open source licence. However, as far as I am aware, no long term mobile partnerships between the academic and industry sectors emerged as a result of these initiatives so far.
This is precisely the type of event missing from the crowded mobile software space. There are virtually no events bringing together business and academic developers working on open source mobile apps aimed at building sustainable partnerships using lessons learned from open source development.
OSS Watch has identified this opportunity, and in collaboration with 100% Open has put together a series of two-day workshops in order to fill this gap. Open Source Junction aims to connect industry and academic innovation emerging in open source mobile technologies. The first event in the series focuses on open source cross-platform mobile apps, and will take place on 29-30 March in Oxford. More information about the programme, speakers and sessions is available on the registration page.
If business and academic teams working together on open source mobile apps is something that appeals to you, whether you are a developer, a researcher, a project manager, a mobile open source strategist, or a funder interested in industry-academic partnerships, then you can’t miss this workshop. There are no other UK events where open source and mobile apps join forces and academic and business developers rub shoulders together in one of the most atmospheric historical venues in Oxford.
I hope to see some of you there.