This blog has been silent for a year now. One reason for this is that I have started a second degree, this time in law (University of Turku). Studying takes a lot of my time.
However, I’m still working for the OSSI project (part-time). We study company participation in free/open source software companies. You can find our research reports on the site. Also worth mentioning is a chapter on Richard Stallman’s philosophy in the Handbook of Research on Open Source Software: Technological, Economic, and Social Perspectives that I wrote with Tere. I’m also a co-author in The Protestant ethic strikes back: Open source developers and the ethic of capitalism that appered in First Monday. We are also participating in the OSS2007 in Limerick, Ireland in June.
For a software company, making a product free/open source software (FOSS) or participating in such a project is sometimes a wise business decision. However, for the effort to be succesful, the company must know how FOSS communities work and how they interact with companies. The OSSI project is an attempt to increase our understanding on the topic.
Karl Fogel has written a good practical guidebook from such a point of view. The book is
Producing Open Source Software. How to Run a Successful Free Software Project (O’Reilly 2005). The book is also available online under a Creative Commons license.
Fogel starts by describing how to start a new project effectively. Like Jamie Zawinski said, a FOSS license is not a magic pixie dust that will bring lots of developers to your project. For this to happen, the project must be attractive, it must be easy to start with and it must be promising. The developers don’t want project documentation, they want code. They don’t want management structure, they want screenshots. They want a free and open license. Unless the basic technical infrastructure is there, it is hard to have the project going.
After the infrastructure, he moves on to discuss project structures. The project can be a (benevolent) dictatorship, a skills-based meritocracy or some issues are decided by a vote. Because the structure is often informal, whether a company may affect the outcome of the project depends on the actual company developers working on the software. If the developers are skilled and receive respect from other community members, they will have a say on the future direction of the software.
Chapter five on money is particularily interesting. Fogel describes different ways of company participation and discusses the benefits and problems of paid developers in a volunteer community.
Other chapters give advice on communications, release management and how to attract and treat volunteers. Volunteers, after all, are essential. If the volunteers go, the project will, if not die, at least change dramatically. Chapter nine is on licenses and copyright ownership and assignment.
I think is the best practical guidebook to FOSS I’ve seen so far. I recommend you to take a look.
Beyond Cyberpunk is an interesting collection of historical texts on the “cyber culture”: manifestos, book reviews, and essays on technoculture.
Cyberculture is the lack-of-a-better-word label that is given to the place where computer technology meets popular culture. The current generation of young people have grown up with PCs, LEDs, and MTV. Technology is a seamless part of their lives. Computers are no more foreign to them than transistor radios were to the last generation. As technology has saturated it, youth culture (and avant garde culture) has started to express itself through a “techno-symbiosis” For good AND ill, a new cult of the machine is arising. This is an exciting time where a new domain of cultural expression is being created, debated, and negated. The purpose of this stack is to help fuel this critical debate in the 1990’s.
(Via Boing Boing.)
Last January-February I attended the Asia Source event near Bangalore, India. Asia Source was a wonderful meeting of FLOSS and civil society organisation people mostly from around Asia. I got to meet nice people and hear about interesting projects utilizing free software and related technologies (wiki, blogs etc.)
Frederick Noronha has now written a booklet with short articles and interviews covering many of the people and projects present at Asia Source. It is a useful resource for those interested in real-life projects utilising FLOSS in those areas.
From the Creative Commons blog:
A new book by author Phillipe Aigrain - “Cause commune : l’information entre bien commun et propriété” (or, in English, “Common Cause: Information Between Commons and Property”) has been released online in French under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. Selected extracts in English are also available online. Editions Fayard may be one of the first major mainstream French-speaking publishers to facilitate Creative Commons licenses. Let’s hope it serves as an example to open up more French-speaking (and other) content by mainstream publishers for freedom of use.
The book looks like an interesting foray into the politics of the “information age”. I wish somebody will translate it. Unfortunately, translations are forbidden by the license.