A few lessons learned while monitoring the vuFIND community:

Documentation needs to be evolving and accurate. Someone needs to OWN that responsibility and keep documentation up to date (and vuFIND are so lucky to have Demian Katz!). UNIX/man is not the best example for this.

Developer community, as we communicate, develop, ponder, annotate is also dynamic. Someone needs to OWN the responsibility of keeping track of RC1, or RC2, or Beta, or release 1.0, to TEST and determine which JIRA issues are those to be tackled, or left out, or, postponed.

Support address (for the rainy days when the sys person converted to Budhism or argued with a moving truck) is needed, so maintenance doesn't crush. Even though it sounds elementary, a list of contact admins is so critical for such rainy days, and for convincing library big wigs that paying six-digits to ILS vendors is on its way out.

This business model of OpenSource software becomes critical especially when something goes wrong, and preparing in advance (even if it assumes some costs) seems highly desirable. 

Ya'aqov Ziso

-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries on behalf of Eric Lease Morgan
Sent: Mon 12/28/2009 12:43 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [CODE4LIB] good and best open source software
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:

Eric Lease Morgan