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CODE4LIB  November 2007

CODE4LIB November 2007

Subject:

Evergreen - an open project (was: A thought experiment)

From:

Dan Scott <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 9 Nov 2007 14:13:27 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (155 lines)

Hi Joe:

Just to respond to your comment about Evergreen's commit policy - there are currently at least two non-in-house developers (does that make us outhouse developers?) with commit access to the Evergreen repository; one of them being me, the other one being Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven (who is working on autotools-izing the code). Although models do vary, I think you would find that most open-source projects ask potential developers to submit patches to the mailing list for a time before those developers are granted commit access to the repository. The Evergreen process for contributing to the project is documented at http://open-ils.org/documentation/contributing.html

This process acts as quality control (has the person demonstrated that they understand the codebase well enough to be given direct commit access?) and mentoring (helping the person gain that understanding). I wouldn't expect Andrew to grant me commit access to the VUFind repository before I had sent a few patches, for example, even though I have a background in PHP development and some experience with Solr and MARC. It's a normal process - unfortunately, this "it's really a closed project" seems to be a common misunderstanding about Evergreen, perhaps because the idea of participating in an open source project is a relatively new idea for many libraries.

So - if you want to help build a better library system, I invite and strongly encourage interested library developers to join the Evergreen project and dig in. I think you'll find that we're very supportive, on the the mailing lists (http://open-ils.org/listserv.php) and in the IRC channel (#OpenILS-Evergreen on Freenode); we want your help, and will help you to help us!

Dan Scott
Systems Librarian,
Laurentian University

>>> On Fri, Nov 9, 2007 at 12:22 PM, Joe Lucia <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> After Chris Barr forwarded my message from NGC4LIB, I signed onto this
> list so I could see any replies.  A bit of "response latency," then, but I
> do want to react to what Carl Grant wrote.  He made some very pertinent
> points and I think he's right on many points.  To some degree, we are coming
> at the same question from different directions and with complmentary
> solutions.
>
>    I am aware of the emerging breed of commercial players offering support
> services for open source applications in libraries, and I am very happy to
> see them in the library technology eco- system.  At least one of those
> companies (LibLime) is working with Palinet (my regional network) to provide
> implementation and support options for open source in libraries without
> local means to take on those tasks.  That is great. Such companies will
> clearly occupy a very important niche if open source applications are going
> to become mainstream / widely adopted solutions in libraries.
>
>    Let me stress that I am not against for- profit private sector ventures in
>  this arena by any means.  They will be essential, long term, to make open
> source alternatives viable for many libraries.  But what I was trying to
> describe was a "landlocked" resource pool within libraries right now, in
> terms of software support funds and technical talent, that could potentially
> be liberated to flow in the direction of cooperative / collaborative
> development work that is not concentrated in a relatively few commercial
> nodes but that is instead molecular and broadly participative.
>
>    I think such a movement needs to start in those libraries with the means
> to put technical staff at work on developing applications, using
> lightweight, open tools and the sorts of "web services" approaches elsewhere
> advocated on this forum.  I envision something rather more consortial than
> corporate in this regard.  If I wanted a drop- in in one- size solution for
> resource discovery, from a "corporate" supplier, for instance, I'd have to
> say that WorldCat local looks pretty darn interesting.  But the kind of
> locally- iterable, modular, extensible toolkit that I think positions
> libraries well for experimentation and innovation requires lots of talent in
> lots of places trying little things and somehow developing a vetting process
> that streams the best stuff into regular releases of continually evolving
> software.  I laud Evergreen to the skies, but (unless I am poorly informed)
> I believe that commit- level access to the source code is pretty much
> in- house at the moment.  Which means that  incremental changes and
> innovative extensions in local settings won't automatically flow into the
> mainstream release.  Whatever the case, I'd be the first one in line to
> argue than the Evergreen model is better than the closed- shop offerings of
> current library software vendors.
>
>   I know that I am speaking to the converted here, but I am trying to
> describe a "network effect" transformation of our technical infrastructure
>
>  that involves more than only the re- direction of our software support funds
> to a commercial supply chain for open source applications.  That commercial
> supply chain is important and it will grow as our collective investment in
> legacy library vendors erodes over the next 3- 5 years.  But I think what
> happens in our local settings (as we re- think what libraries do and what the
> work of library staff ought to be) is at least equally important.  What if a
> 150 good library developers really were to be working collectively on a
> suite of library tools using a shared modular architecture?  That is
> fundamentally different from the supplier model that would work for a core
> portion of the library software market that requires certainty & security.
> But in contexts where rapid innovation is privileged and supported, the new
> collaborative development environment would be a huge boon.  I think that
> such a migration of creativity from product- oriented contexts (i.e. here's
> fixed deliverable a firm can install, support, and enhance, for you, the
> customer) to a "shared risk / shared advantage" cooperative would enable us
> all to be more experimental and to garner the results of those experiments
> more quickly.
>
>    OK, maybe I'm being naive and overly optimistic.  Before I close, though,
> I want to re- state one theme from my earlier musings: libraries are by their
> very nature cooperative entities.  Our regional consortia provide ideal
> venues for experiments in coalition building around open source application
> support for those of use who are looking to do more than contract for
> services from CARE, LibLime, etc.  Those consortia are business operations,
> non- profit, but commercial, and their business environment is changing as
> well, as OCLC repositions itself in the networked information landscape.
> They (the regional networks), too, are looking for new business lines and
> new opportunities. I suppose at some level I am saying let's create new
> cooperative contexts as the largest legacy cooperative we have, OCLC, begins
> to operate more like an entity in the for- profit sector than as a library
> collective.  And what better arena to do this in now than open source
> technology development?
>
>
> On Thu, 8 Nov 2007 15:42:17 - 0500, Carl Grant <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
>>I'm seeking some help understanding here.   From my perspective
>>(again, that of a long time vendor of "commercial software" having
>>recently moved to "commercial service for OSS software") this is
>>exactly what a number of us (LibLime, Evergreen, Index Data, CARE
>>Affiliates) are *trying* to do.   We're not only providing the
>>services to allow libraries to adopt open source, we're also doing
>>the marketing and selling that libraries seem to require before
>>they'll even consider the option.   It would seem to me that if
>>libraries would move to adopting the open source faster by working
>>with companies like these (or others) we would see a couple of
>>interesting results:
>>
>>1.      The shift to OSS logarithmically expand.   This profession tends
>>to be low on risk taking until they see enough leaders move to show
>>them they won't get burned.   The problem with leaders here moving is
>>that they do it with their own software support, which causes the
>>smaller, less resource rich institutions to balk thinking they can't
>>afford to do it.   Yet, if we could get more business for the
>>commercial firms providing support, they'd grow and be more visible
>>and known to the rest of the profession --  who would then also follow
>>along.
>>
>>2.      The commercial firms would also make a shift to using more open
>>source, more quickly.  Existence they understand and they'll move
>>when they see the train is leaving the station.  This will ultimately
>>benefit their customers, maybe not as much as the pure OSS adopters,
>>but then we all know, the pure OSS option won't be for everyone.
>>
>>So, I think the "framework" is already in place or being put into
>>place by many of us.   We've got mechanisms in place to minimize
>>forks.  We've got software development controls in place.  Now, maybe
>>someone wants to take exception because these are "for- profit" as
>>opposed to "non- profit" firms?  But, if you really want to see
>>growth, more resources attracted to the cause, then the for- profit
>>status is the right vehicle.  Sure, you don't want to see profits out
>>of line, anymore than you did in the proprietary side.   But I think
>>if you've talked with any of the people leading these kinds of firms,
>>you'll usually find they're not driven by profit, they're driven by
>>altogether different causes ranging from "right- thing- to- do", "taking-
>>care- of- customers" to "just- want- to- produce- brilliant- code" to
>>personal satisfaction.  Do they want to run successful, growing
>>companies?  Sure, but so do librarians want to run successful
>>operations.   The commons would be supported just a successfully and
>>I would argue, more so, with this framework.
>>
>>If the same numbers Joe mentions came knocking on the doors of the
>>firms available to provide what is described, this train would
>>already be long gone from the station!
>>
>>Isn't the right framework (slightly different I agree) to achieve
>>what Joe has described --  already there?
>>
>>Carl
>>
>>Carl Grant
>>CARE Affiliates
>>www.care- affiliates.com
>>

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