Tuesday, September 28. 2010
Sometimes forking a project is necessary to reassert community control over a project that has become overly dominated by a single corporate rules: see OpenIndiana and LibreOffice for recent examples. And in the world of distributed version control systems, forking is viewed positively; it's a form of evolution, where experimental branches that lead to new features or a stabler system or better performance get grafted back onto the accepted authoritative branch.
Yet a negative connotation can also be associated with forking a project, particularly if the word is whispered behind closed doors as an accusation of the behaviour of one or more parties in the community. Particularly in a small community, where development resources for a project built on the principles of software freedom from the ground up are relatively scarce, the spectre of a development effort based on that project that is not publicly visible can be troubling and opens the door to the accusation: FORK! Organizations that have staked their customers' satisfaction, and their own reputation, on free software that they expected to see flourish as others joined in the development effort, fret and worry that they'll be left behind with just the base for another organization's project and no easy way to reconcile the two.
In the Evergreen community, we're fortunate that we're small enough that we should be able to avoid these concerns. The Evergreen "trunk" code repository has been hopping; just take a peek at the revision log to see the rather torrid pace of development. Some major features are taking shape, such as acquisitions with EDI support, first-class serials management, outbound telephony, and more - evident in the Evergreen 2.0 alpha 3 release that the development team put together today. This is not a minor release!
And yet, and yet... during the exciting KCLS migration live-blog, Lori Ayre felt it necessary to write:
The answer is that much of it is already in trunk, and if it isn't there now, it will be very soon. None of this work is being held back. There is no KCLS fork. This is all Evergreen and anyone who knows how to download from trunk will be able to get at this code in very short order.
Well, I know that everyone involved with the KCLS enhancements are good people, and that that it is certainly their intention to make any of the enhancements available, and there is no intention to fork Evergreen. I know! Ironically enough, however, due to the prior actions of proprietary companies such as Relais' "announce that we will open source our ILL product in 2008; freeze the market; announce in 2010 that maybe we'll have something by the end of 2010" strategy, the broader library community has become more skeptical and susceptible to disinformation and FUD. I can't imagine who would want to sow discontent among the community of a rapidly maturing ILS project, other than perhaps proprietary competitors who have forgotten how to compete on the merits of their product rather than negative marketing. (Just a guess, mind you!)
Still: until the code for any remaining enhancements is available under an open source license, the possibility that those whispering, Saruman-like voices could be right remains an actual possibility. My suggested remedy for the easiest way to dispel those concerns, now and in the future for any project (Evergreen or otherwise), is to simply develop in the open:
Sure, there might be some material that you don't want to share: trademarked institutional logos or the like. But the bulk of what we collectively create should be able to be openly shared, not just when things are perfectly baked, but all the way through the process. Release early, release often, and keep the spooky whisperers at bay.
Monday, September 27. 2010
On October 13th, a very special event is happening: the Access Hackfest. A tradition since Access 2002, the Hackfest brings together library practitioners of all kinds to tackle challenges and problems from the mundane to the sublime to the ridiculous. If you can imagine a spectrum with three axes, you might be just the person to pose those challenges to the Hackfest participants!
What we're saying here, folks, is that we need suggestions for Hackfest projects. There are no limitations to these challenges: oh sure, you're bringing together complete strangers and asking them to accomplish in eight hours or less what the rest of the library ecosphere is incapable of or uninterested in solving during the rest of the year - but that's what makes the Hackfest MAGICAL. Example results of previous Access Hackfests are available from the Access 2004 web site, and Dan Chudnov's podcast that captures the spirit of the Hackfest from Access 2006 in Ottawa is available from Library Geeks.
We plan to keep the Hackfest suggestions secret until the moment of their unveiling on the morning of October 13th - can you feel the anticipation mounting? - so please submit your challenges in one clearly written paragraph or less (okay, the abstract should be one paragraph or less, but you can go into great lengths if you want to expound for those who get interested by the teaser) via the Hackfest submission form, or if you prefer, via email.
Sunday, September 19. 2010
Update 2010-09-28: Fixed link
Information Technology and Libraries ( ITAL) (ISSN 0730-9295) is a refereed journal published quarterly by the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA), a division of the American Library Association.
The September 2010 issue of ITAL contained an article by Sharon Q. Yang and Melissa A. Hofmann called "The Next Generation Library Catalog: A Comparative Study of the OPACs of Koha, Evergreen, and Voyager". As an Evergreen developer, I wonder just how much refereeing happened before this article was published. Certainly I am biased, but there are a number of problems with the study from my perspective:
As the article mentioned the latest release of Evergreen was 2.0, let me show you a screenshot of the default OPAC in Evergreen 2.0 as of the upcoming alpha2 release. Notice a few things:
Evergreen 2.0 inline advanced search interface showing AND and OR options
(Page 1 of 1, totaling 3 entries)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License.