I really like this topic, and I like how you're thinking about it. I
tried to ask similar questions in an article I published in July:

I think Jonathan and Nicole nailed it with community health, though
this leads to an additional consideration that I think is more nuanced
than the application/system vs library/module distinction. Scriblio
and SOPAC are built on top of very healthy (from a developer community
perspective) software that has been created with moderately technical
end-users in mind.

This also gets back to Jonathan's very good generalization of your
point about LAMP: "What are its requirements and level of difficulty
for deployment?" When the first few steps are as comparatively easy
for non-developers as a "Five Minute WordPress Install," I think that
has to count for something.

Brett Bonfield

On Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 2:21 PM, Nicole Engard <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I'm with Jonathan on the community health, one of the things I stress
> when teaching my open source classes is that the developer and user
> community is essential to the success and life of the product.
> Nicole C. Engard
> On Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 12:51 PM, Jonathan Rochkind <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Quality of code in general:   How well-designed is the code architecture,
>> for maintenance and debugging?   [This not only matters if you plan to do
>> in-house development with it, but matters for predicting how likely the
>> product is to stay 'alive' and continue to evolve with the times, instead of
>> you just being stuck with exactly the version you first installed forever.]
>> Developer Community: Is there a developer community around this software,
>> with multiple people from multiple institutions contributing? Or is it just
>> one founder maintaining it?  [One founder maintaining it _can_ work fine, as
>> long as that founder keeps maintaining it. MarcEdit is a great example.  But
>> the more of a community there is, again, the higher the reliability that the
>> software will continue to evolve in the future, even if the founder bows out
>> for some reason. ]
>> A related topic:  Do individual institutions do extensive local
>> customization to core code, which does not end up merged back into the
>> 'main' distribution?  Again, this effects long-term sustainability of the
>> software.
>> I wrote a bit on judging one aspect of open source in a Library Journal
>> article here:
>> I also compiled some opinions from me, Bill Dueber, and others, in what
>> 'good code' looks like in open source here:
>> I could also pick nits with some of your criteria, but, hey, if they're
>> important to someone they're important to someone. Some of htem are less
>> important to me (For instance: "Is it deployed on LAMP" I'd generalize to
>> "what are it's requirements and level of difficulty for deployment?"  We are
>> quite capable of deploying non-PHP solutions, but that doesn't mean that all
>> non-PHP solutions are equal for ease of deployment either!.  )
>> Eric Lease Morgan wrote:
>>> What qualities and characteristics make for a "good" piece of open source
>>> software? And once that question is answered, then what pieces of
>>> library-related open source software can be considered "best"?
>>> I do not believe there is any single, most important characteristic of
>>> open source software that qualifies it to be denoted as "best". Instead, a
>>> number of characteristics need to be considered. For example, a program
>>> might do one thing and do it well, but if it is bear to install then that
>>> counts against it. Similarly, some software might work wonders but it is
>>> built on a proprietary infrastructure such as a closed source compiler. Can
>>> that software really be considered "open"?
>>> For my own education and cogitation, I have begun to list questions to
>>> help me address what I think is the "best" library-related open source
>>> software. [1] Your comments would be greatly appreciated. I have listed the
>>> questions here in (more or less) personal priority order:
>>>  * Does the software work as advertised?
>>>  * To what degree is the software supported?
>>>  * Is the documentation thorough?
>>>  * What are the licence terms?  * To what degree is the software easy to
>>> install?
>>>  * To what degree is the software implemented
>>>    using the "standard" LAMP stack?
>>>  * Is the distribution in question an
>>>    application/system or a library/module?
>>>  * To what degree does the software satisfy some
>>>    sort of real library need?
>>>  What sorts of things have I left out? Is there anything here that can be
>>> measurable or is everything left to subjective judgement? Just as
>>> importantly, can we as a community answer these questions in light of
>>> distributions to come up with the "best" of class?
>>> 'More questions than answers.
>>> [1] There are elaborations on the questions in a blog posting. See: