Access and Feeds

Open Source / Open Development / Open Design: Leveraging Transparency for Greater Success

By Dick Weisinger

Open Source is  “a software development method that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process,” says the Open Source Initiative.

Open Source software has had many successes with perhaps Linux been the most noteworthy example.

William Eshagh, Technology Manager for the Nasa Ames Nebula project, commented on NASA’s experience with Open Source code development, saying that “our efforts have validated the benefits inherent to releasing open source software.  In furtherance of NASA’s open source efforts, we are currently working toward expanding our flexibility to engage in bazaar-style, bi-lateral open development where code is developed over the Internet in full view of the public from the outset.  This approach holds the promise of increased software quality, reduced development costs, accelerated software development cycles, reduced barriers for public-private collaboration, commercialization of Agency technology, and a higher rate of technology transfer both to and from NASA.”

But while Open Source is typically envisioned as being all about distributed team members working in collaboration to build a shared resource, there are big variations in how “open” many of ‘Open Source’ projects are to collaboration and there are also variations in the development styles used on the different projects.  Very often the development model used for building the software is a direct predictor for the success of the project.

“Open Source” implies that source code used to build a project is available, but it doesn’t necessarily address whether, for example, bug reports can be accessed or contributed to, nor whether code contributions from outside the core development team are acceptable.  “Open Development” is a term that  tries to further classify the “openness” of a project by going one step further in addressing how transparent and inclusive a project is to the general public.

Thierry Carrez, Release Manager for Openstack, wrote that “Open Development is a transparent way of developing software, where source code, bugs, patches, code reviews, design discussions, meetings happen in the open and are accessible by everyone. ‘Open Source’ is a prerequisite of open development, but you can certainly do open source without doing open development: that’s what I call the Android model and what others call Open behind walls model. You can go further than open development by also doing ‘Open Design’: letting an open community of equals discuss and define the future features your project will implement, rather than restricting that privilege to a closed group of ‘core developers’.”
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