Wookie: A case study in sustainability

At OSS Watch we periodically review all the resources on our main website to make sure they’re accurate and up to date. Last week it was time to revise our case study on Apache Wookie, which is a project I’ve been involved with for some time.

Wookie graffiti

OSS Watch became involved with Wookie while I was working in an EU project based at the University of Bolton. The project as a whole had done lots of interesting stuff, but as with many large projects the whole was somewhat less than the sum of its parts; the central joined-up platform wasn’t really going to take off after the project finished. However, in the process we had built quite a promising system for adding functionality to the core portal shell using the W3C Widgets specification.

Towards the end of the project I went to an OSS Watch event, and spoke with Ross Gardler about what we were doing. Ross explained the Apache Incubator model to me, and from there on I was hooked.

Fast forward to 2013, and Apache Wookie is out of the incubator and a top-level Apache project, and is now on its seventh official release (the last one was in April). Its not a huge project – the team is still small, though its far more diverse than when we started out.

The tempo of development has also slowed in recent years. However, in part thats due to the maturing of the software to a point where code churn for its own sake has a negative impact on the projects that depend on it. Most recent updates have been fixing bugs affecting deployment in various unusual configurations, driven largely from reports by users. So this isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

Something that has also had a very positive impact on the project is having a very active downstream project – Apache Rave. This has driven a lot of improvements to Wookie to improve integration and deployment.

Two major EU projects have been working with Wookie and Rave over the past two years, and are coming towards their end – one this year, and the other in 2014.

Unlike previous projects they have focussed on working with existing software projects rather than going it alone, and have contributed code, user studies and content.  This has been a great experience, and hopefully future projects can learn from this approach.

Wookie stands as an example of how OSS Watch can help take work from within the HE sector and turn it into a sustainable open source software project; and as a beneficiary of this approach I’m keen to offer the same help I received to others.

Do you think your University-based project has the potential to go further? If so, get in touch!

Read the updated case study on Apache Wookie at OSS Watch.

(Photo by Silus Grok, used under CC-BY-SA license)