Bookstore: Producing Open Source Software

A blog is not an open source project, so I’ve been working on how to set up the appropriate infrastructure. This has brought back memories of the days several years back when I last helped run a project, and has also reminded me what has changed over the years … and what hasn’t.

The key thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of the mail list; it’s the tool that lets all communicate in full public view.

A welcome change is that as open source has flourished and become more widely used and practiced, some good books have been published. Two stand out:

  • “Innovation Happens Elsewhere” by Ron Goldman and Richard P. Gabriel. This is the single best overview of the whole OSS arena. I’ll write of it more in a future post.
  • “Producing Open Source Software: How to Run a Successfl Open Source Project” by Karl Fogel. (Amazon entry).

Fogel’s work is the single best thing yet written about what it means to put the open source “rules” to practice: how to effectively participate in an existing project, how to start and grow a new one.

I plan to say more about it in a future post. Suffice it for now to say that if you have an interest in this area yet are new to open source, then this is the best place to start.

There have been some changes in the basic infrastructure required to run an open source project.

A key tool is the one used to maintain the project source code. For a long time the standard tool was a program called CVS, though recently a program called Subversion has started to achieve widespread use. (As an aside, I used CVS back in the Jikes days, and met Karl at one of th early LinuxWorld conferences. At the time Karl was working for a small company that supported CVS, and was selling CVS reference cards for a small fee. I bought several — more than I needed — in part to help him by sending some money his way. I come across them from time to time, even though I haven’t used CVS recently.)

I just noted in writing this that Chapter 8 of Karl’s book is titled “Managing Volunteers.” I’ll definitely have to go back and re-read that one.

There have of course been many refinements in the tools used to tracking bugs and project management, and even some new additions. (The tool RT, Request Tracker, comes to mind as I used this as I used it in a recent project to provide an archiving function; RT didn’t exist back in the Jikes days.)

What I find most interesting are the tools available now that either didn’t exist back then or weren’t widely used … or were widely used and I didn’t know about them:

  • Blogging software
  • wikis
  • content management systems (CMS’s)

We’re going to look at them over the course of the next few notes.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Shields. Licensed under the Apache License 2.0.

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