On Wednesday, I attended the second day of the two-day Open Edge-Open Source in Libraries event, held in the National e-Science Institute, South College Street, Edinburgh. I went for a number of reasons: to find out more about Open Source Software (OSS) and how it is being used in UK libraries; to see if anyone mentioned anything about Open Access journals; to meet some friends; to follow up a lead from A real low cost alternative to expensive library search database systems; and for a day out!
The Twitter hashtags for the event are #haggisandmash and #openedge. By clicking on those links you can see any tweets that were made about or at the event. These can be useful for a number of reasons – if you don’t attend a meeting, it’s possible, to some extent, to follow what goes on by reading such tweets, and attendees often use them to communicate during an event.
Being retired, I had no affiliation on my name badge.
The e-Science Institute is a lovely venue for a meeting, and I was really impressed with the way the meeting was run. The food was OK as well.
I won’t try to blog about all the things I learnt about OSS, but my understanding of it now is much better. Previously, I’d assumed that it was mostly for techies.
Many people will be familiar with Open Office, a viable alternative to Microsoft Office. There’s also Git, is a free and open source, distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects. And there are many, many more examples – see, for example, the Open Source Software Directory.
There are now many OSS applications available that are relevant to libraries, and it is obvious that OSS is not only gaining momentum but is perhaps at a tipping point. So far, libraries in the UK have lagged behind those in the USA in their takeup of OSS, but this is beginning to change. For example, the University of Staffordshire announced on 7th December that the library will be implementing Koha to replace their SirsiDynix system. Support and hosting of the systems with be provided by PTFS Europe. VuFind is an Open Source resource portal designed and developed for libraries. EPrints is an Open Source platform for building repositories. Of direct interest to me is Open Journal System (OJS), an open source journal management and publishing system. JournalTOCs has been liaising with the developers of OJS (probably the most popular Open Source software used by OA journals), and now the most recent versions of OJS have their RSS feeds enabled by default on installation.
Generally speaking, with OSS, costs are lower, there’s better security, and often rapid innovation.
At the risk of confusing things, I repeat John Norman’s equation about OSS:
2 + 2 + 2 =3
Well, from that you’d think that OSS doesn’t make much sense. In the example, three organisations use and contribute to some Open Source Software, and each of them input two ‘units’ of effort. Their combined output is, however, the equivalent of three ‘units’.
But, consider the traditional model for proprietary software where three organisations purchase the same software product. The cost of purchase is the same as two ‘units’ in the above example, so:
2 = 2
2 = 2
2 = 2
As far as the combined output is concerned, therefore, and in terms of what each institution gets in return for their purchase:
2 + 2 + 2 = 2
In other words, as shown by the first equation, you tend to get more out of OSS than you put in.
Heh heh – maybe you had to be at the meeting to understand those examples 🙂
Here is much more information about the event.
JISC fund OSS Watch, which provides unbiased advice and guidance on the use, development, and licensing of free and open source software.