Category: Open Source (page 2 of 2)

On the death of Google/Apache Wave (and the lessons we can learn from it)

This article is entitled ‘How not to replace email’ and details both the demise of Google Wave and it’s open source continuation, Apache Wave:

As of a month ago, the Apache Wave project is “retired”. Few people noticed; in the seven years that Wave was an Apache Incubator open source project, it never had an official release, and was stuck at version 0.4-rc10 for the last three years.

Yes, I know! There’s been a couple of times over the last few years when I’ve thought that Wave would have been perfect for a project I was working on. But the open source version never seemed to be ‘ready’.

The world want ready for it in 2010, but now would seem to be the perfect time for something like Wave:

2017 was a year of rapidly growing interest in federated communications tools such as Mastodon, which is an alternative to Twitter that doesn’t rely on a single central corporation. So this seems like a good time to revisit an early federated attempt to reinvent how we use the internet to communicate with each other.

As the author notes, the problem was the overblown hype around it, causing Google to pull it after just three months. He quoted a friend of his who at one time was an active user:

We’d start sending messages with lots of diagrams, sketches, and stuff cribbed from Google Images, and then be able to turn those sort of longer-than-IM-shorter-than-email messages into actual design documents gradually.

In fact, I’d argue that even having a system that’s a messaging system designed for “a paragraph or two” was on its own worthwhile: even Slack isn’t quite geared toward that, and contrariwise, email […] felt more heavyweight than that. Wave felt like it encouraged the right amount of information per message.

I feel this too, and it’s actually something we’ve been talking about for internal communications at Moodle. Telegram, (which we use kind of like Slack) is good for short, sharp communication, but there’s a gulf between that and, say, an email conversation or threaded forum discussion.

Perhaps this is the sweet spot for the ‘social networking’ aspect of Project MoodleNet?

Wave’s failure didn’t have anything to do with the ideas that went into it.

Those ideas and goals are sound, and this failure even provided good evidence that there’s a real need for something kind of like Wave: fifty thousand people signed a petition to “Save Google Wave” after Google announced they were shutting Wave down. Like so many petitions, it didn’t help (obviously), but if a mediocre implementation got tens of thousands of passionate fans, what could a good implementation do?

Helpfully, the author outlines some projects he’s been part of, after stating (my emphasis):

I’d say the single most important lesson to take away here, for a technology project at least, is that interoperability is key.

  • Assume that no matter how amazing your new tech is, people are going to adopt it slowly.
  • Give your early adopters every chance you can to use your offering together with the existing tools that they will continue to need in order to work with people who haven’t caught up yet.
  • And if you’re building a communication tool, make it as simple as possible for others to build compatible tools, because they will expand the network of people your users can communicate with to populations you haven’t thought of and probably don’t understand.

It’s a really useful article with many practical applications (well, for me at least…)

Source: Jamey Sharp

The origin of the term ‘open source’

I didn’t used to think that who came up with the name of a thing particularly mattered, nor how it came about.

I’ve changed my mind, however, as the history of these things also potentially tells you about their future. In this article, Christine Peterson outlines how she came up with the term ‘open source’:

The introduction of the term “open source software” was a deliberate effort to make this field of endeavor more understandable to newcomers and to business, which was viewed as necessary to its spread to a broader community of users. The problem with the main earlier label, “free software,” was not its political connotations, but that—to newcomers—its seeming focus on price is distracting. A term was needed that focuses on the key issue of source code and that does not immediately confuse those new to the concept. The first term that came along at the right time and fulfilled these requirements was rapidly adopted: open source.

Tellingly, as it was the 1990s, Peterson let a man introduce it for the term to gain traction:

Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned “freely distributable” as an earlier term, and “cooperatively developed” as a newer term. Eric listed “free software,” “open source,” and “sourceware” as the main options. Todd advocated the “open source” model, and Eric endorsed this. I didn’t say much, letting Todd and Eric pull the (loose, informal) consensus together around the open source name. It was clear that to most of those at the meeting, the name change was not the most important thing discussed there; a relatively minor issue. Only about 10% of my notes from this meeting are on the terminology question.

From this point, Tim O’Reilly had to agree and popularise it, but:

Coming up with a phrase is a small contribution, but I admit to being grateful to those who remember to credit me with it. Every time I hear it, which is very often now, it gives me a little happy twinge.

Source: opensource.com

A useful IndieWeb primer

I’ve followed the IndieWeb movement since its inception, but it’s always seemed a bit niche. I love (and use) the POSSE model, for example, but expecting everyone to have domain of their own stacked with open source software seems a bit utopian right now.

I was surprised and delighted, therefore, to see a post on the GoDaddy blog extolling the virtues of the IndieWeb for business owners. The author explains that the IndieWeb movement was born of frustration:

Frustration from software developers who like the idea of social media, but who do not want to hand over their content to some big, unaccountable internet company that unilaterally decides who gets to see what.

Frustration from writers and content creators who do not want a third party between them and the people they want to reach.

Frustration from researchers and journalists who need a way to get their message out without depending on the whim of a big company that monitors, and sometimes censors, what they have to say.

He does a great job of explaining, with an appropriate level of technical detail, how to get started. The thing I’d really like to see in particular is people publishing details of events at a public URL instead of (just) on Facebook:

Importantly, with IndieAuth, you can log into third-party websites using your own domain name. And your visitors can log into your website with their domain name. Or, if you organize events, you can post your event announcement right on your website, and have attendees RSVP either from their own IndieWeb sites, or natively on a social site.

A recommended read. I’ll be pointing people to this in future!

Source: GoDaddy

Open source apps for agile project teams

A really interesting post about open source apps, most of which I’ve never come across!

In this list, there are no project management apps, no checklists, and no integrations with GitHub. Just simple ways to organize your thoughts and promote team communication.

Will be exploring with interest.

Source: opensource.com

Barcelona to go open source by 2019

Great news for the open source community!

The City has plans for 70% of its software budget to be invested in open source software in the coming year. The transition period, according to Francesca Bria (Commissioner of Technology and Digital Innovation at the City Council) will be completed before the mandate of the present administrators come to an end in Spring 2019.

It also looks like it could be the start of a movement:

With this move, Barcelona becomes the first municipality to join the European campaign “Public Money, Public Code“.

It is an initiative of the Free Software Foundation of Europe and comes after an open letter that advocates that software funded publicly should be free. This call has been supported by more than about 15,000 individuals and more than 100 organizations.

Source: It’s FOSS

How to run an Open Source project

Although I don’t use elementaryOS on my own laptops, we do use it on the family touchscreen PC in our main living space. It’s a beautifully-designed system, and I very much appreciate way the founders interact with their community in terms of updates, roadmap, and funding:

Every month this year, we’ve published a blog post outlining all of the updates that we’ve released during that month. We’ve made a strong effort to support Loki with regular bug fixes, new features, and other improvements. We’ve also made some big policy and infrastructure changes. It was a busy year at elementary!

This is the kind of thing I’m looking to emulate with Project MoodleNet in 2018. 

With their upcoming ‘Juno’ update based on Ubuntu 18.04, I may just switch to elementaryOS, as ‘Loki’ was good enough for me to voluntarily pay $25 for it, in an age when even proprietary operating systems are ‘free’ 

Source: elementaryOS blog

2018: the year of Linux on the desktop?

There’s a perpetual joke in open source circles that next year will be ‘the year of Linux on the desktop’. GNU/Linux, of course, is an operating system that comes in a range of ‘distributions’ (I use Ubuntu and Elementary OS on a range of devices).

In this article, the author outlines 10 reasons that Linux isn’t used by more people. I think he’s spot-on:

  1. Fragmented market
  2. Lack of special applications
  3. Lack of big name applications
  4. Lack of API and ABI stability
  5. Apple resurgence
  6. Microsoft aggressive response
  7. Piracy
  8. Red Hat mostly stayed away
  9. Canonical business model not working out
  10. Original device manufacturer support

That being said, I’m all-in on Linux now. I can’t imagine going back to the vendor lock-in provided by macOS, Windows, or Chrome OS.

Source: Christian F.K. Schaller