TransferSummit/UK: 24-25 June 2010

Every two years, OSS Watch hosts an international conference, and registration has just opened for our 2010 event. At TransferSummit/UK, business executives, technologists and members of the academic and research communities will be able to meet and discuss requirements, challenges and opportunities in the use, development, licensing and future of open source technology. In an array of presentations – from quick-start sessions to real-world case studies to emerging showcases – international speakers from the worlds of commerce and academia will cover a host of topics. These will be divided into three tracks:

- Innovation: aimed at executive-level attendees, this track provides a top-level immersion into the world of open source. Topics include foundations, infrastructure, licensing, governance, community-building and more.
Development: aimed at technologists, this track highlights the day-to-day practice of putting open source into action. Topics include version-control, IP tracking, user engagement and more.
Collaboration: aimed at both technical and non-technical audiences, this track offers real-world case studies, proofs of concept, first-hand accounts and market trends, and analyses what’s up-and-coming in open source.

In addition, attendees will enjoy a keynote presentation, breakout sessions, a gala dinner at Keble College, ample networking opportunities and, an optional extra at no additional cost, a BarCamp on Saturday 26 June.

To be held in the historic city of Oxford, TransferSummit is being organised by OSS Watch, in partnership with key individuals and organisations from the open source community, including the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the University of Oxford.

Registration is now open (note we have 100 free tickets for people from the academic space; drop us a mail with your credentials to get the discount code).

Get the most from open source accessibility with help from OSS Watch

Open source accessibility and Assistive Technology projects offer very real benefits to FE colleges and the individual students they support. The zero licence cost of open source plus the freedom to copy and redistribute are well known and provide great flexibility in how programs are deployed. More significant benefits derive from those projects that practice open development and thereby allow anyone to contribute or collaborate. Users can obtain community support from other users and developers, they can formally report issues and collaborate on new features, perhaps specifically required for individuals. Further, if the college creates it’s own in-house adaptations these can be passed over to the project becoming available in the next version for all to benefit from.JISC OSS Watch advise FE colleges and HE on engaging with open source projects and those that practice open development. We do not advise on specific programs or projects, rather we help you understand and evaluate open source so that you can confidently select programs and guide you in ways to most effectively engage with existing projects. We are expanding our understandingly of how and why open source is important in the accessibility domain. For example we have a case study on AccessApps from the RSC Scotland North & East and another on the ATutor accessible VLE. These can be found on our website along with articles that explain how to get the most out of open source software and how to develop software in an open community.If you use any open source tools that you think would make good case studies then please let us know. We are also interested in hearing of FE or HE projects that we can advise.Website: http://www.oss-watch.ac.ukRSS feeds: http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/rss/Twitter: http://twitter.com/osswatch

Project:Possibility accessibility project code in Google Code

Project:Possibility have recently published the code from 17  open source accessibility projects on Google Code. Teams of computer science students from USC and UCLA  developed these projects when participating in the lively extra curricula accessibility coding events organised by Project:Possibility. Now the students  have moved on, leaving the open source code available for others to exploit, whilst taking with them the memory of the experience and hopefully an appreciation of open accessibility.

Those of you familiar with OSS Watch will know our position is that projects are successful when practising open development with a diverse community. When introduced at the project’s inception this leads to optimal chance of sustainability by minimising barriers to entry and contribution. So you may wonder why I was involved in such a ‘code dumping’ activity?

The answer is largely one of resource as the Project:Possibility team are all volunteers, and the limited time  students have in the events which are designed to get them excited about accessibility concepts and technologies. That’s not meant to be an excuse as we would dearly like the students’ work to seed innovative open accessibility and assistive technology projects with active user communities. However we have to prioritise until further resources are found and while the teams work with basic open development tools like version control, more attention could be given to then practice of open development, even if only through introducing template project tools and governance models.

Working for OSS Watch has already refined my understanding of open development and  I hope Project:Possibility will be able to introduce best community practices in the Semester programme where experienced mentors join the teams. That is unlikely to be practical for the fast paced and high energy weekend ‘code-a-thon’. The results of these 2 events have been impressive with highly motivated students producing  interesting and useful projects. Anything done to make projects sustainable and develop into mature projects with active users communities will be a huge plus. The code produced is often raw, as you would expect from the style of events and the fact that it is effectively prototyped, even if the style has been more ‘big design up front’ than agile. However this shouldn’t be an issue as open development is very comfortable with early and frequently code releases.

Project:Possibility has already attracted some external interest in the projects such as the mobile currency reader, but how much better it would be for  interested parties join the students while they are active or for the students continue after the closing ceremonies. I’d personally be happy if we managed that with just one project. This may be possible as Project:Possibility are addressing the resource issue and the first step will be recruiting a CEO who will concentrate on strategy and raising more resources, including funds. We are naturally interested in hearing from anyone who would like to contribute in anyway.

My choice of Google Code as the new public home for projects was based on considerations such as :-

  • light weight tools cover the basic requirements and are easy to learn;
  • easy to setup each project and can have a shared account to manage all projects;
  • popular space with many other student projects;
  • related student friendly activities such as Summer of Code and GC university;
  • relatively easy to move code and resources in and out (e.g svnsync for code);

OSS Watch has an introductory guide to setting up a Google Code project if you’d like to investigate.

So now the code is more easily available we can hope that someone will find it and make use of it. However what is really needed is for interested users and developers to take the Google Code projects and grow active communities around them. Such wishes rarely come true, but perhaps someone reading this will take a first step?

Open source education – ensuring students develop the skills they need

When I first became involved with Mozilla through working on a Mozilla Foundation accessibility grant, I quickly discovered the impressive open source educational work at Seneca College in Toronto, lead by David Humphry and Chris Tyler. Students on the computer science course get the enviable opportunity to work on projects that immerse them directly in some of the most successful open source development communities, contributing to programs such as Firefox, Thunderbird, Open Office and Fedora (Linux).  These projects are not just academic exercises, rather they are strategic for the open source projects, and students contributions are accepted into the projects. As a result students get incomparable experience working on large code bases and in the process acquire the open source software and community development skills that are highly sought by companies all over the world.This work started with Seneca introducing Mozilla technology in their courses and soon Mozilla joined in, with key people giving lectures and making themselves available to the students. If you visit Seneca’s Mozilla IRC channel you will find a vibrant community where students, faculty staff, Mozilla staff and volunteers are busy discussing issues, working on projects and having fun.This morning I spotted a tweet from Mark Surman, Mozilla Foundation’s executive director,  that linked to this excellent paper by Chris Tyler explaining how Seneca approach open source education.OSS Watch, like Seneca and Mozilla are serious about open source education as the way to address the skills shortage. Along with the others members of the Teaching Open Source collaboration we are working to ensure students, educational institutions and industry alike acquire the open development skills that are so critical for much modern software development.