Ignacio Valdes and Carl Leitner: Musings on Decentralized Source Control, Metcalfe’s law, the network effect

<ed.note>I get jazzed when I see described online the Eureka moment when people begin to grasp the power of the digitally, distributed enterprise-enabled collaborative results-only work environment (thanks Cali Ressler, Jody Thompson and Peter Yim for all the appropriate descriptors). Question: How long before institutional investors during quarterly investment calls will begin asking about and demanding this globally cooperative approach to problem solving from C-Suites? 50 to 80% of US youth are gamers (many multi-user games, virtual worlds, mobile devices) and we have political, taxation, chambers of commerce, HR departments, and educational paradigms that teach independent problem solving and the ability to “dependably” drive into cubevilles as the chief measures of employability. It’s time that biz schools begin listening to the like of Jane Mcgonical and her vision of the future and now work (see Superstruct). This exchange is from the American Medical Informatics Association Open Source Working Group listserv. Update: note the trajectory of Open Source for America as described in the following email.</ed.note>

From: Ignacio Valdes

Significant work that is yielding results has occurred in the last year such as in the VistA community. But I think I am just beginning to ‘get’ the power of Free/Open Source. The state of the art for open source development with collaboration, source control, packaging and integrated websites like Launchpad.net is becoming just mind-blowing.

Think of development that resembles a multi-player video game with few stop signs or speed limits. That seems to be what is available on Launchpad.net. It isn’t just source control, it has a higher level of abstraction through the ability to route branches that seems to allow meritocracy in a way that old school developers like me marvel at. It is a little difficult at first to get your head around. It seems to be software as a bunch of state-space vectors. Crazy.

Which plays into Metcalfe’s law or the network effect to Electronic Health Record software. The ability to interplay software vectors at will is just amazing and may allow unusual things to occur in the near future.

I hope to be harnessing this paradigm soon.

— IV

From: Carl Leitner

We have been using Launchpad to host our iHRIS software suite: https://www.launchpad.net/ihris-suite

We also use it to host the customizations we have done for different Ministries of Health, Faith Based Organizations etc. For example:
https://www.launchpad.net/~ihris+zanzibar
https://www.launchpad.net/~ihris+kenya
https://www.launchpad.net/ihris4pnc

We have found it very convenient for managing the various in-country implementations, and we have provided training on the use of bazaar and launchpad:
http://www.capacityproject.org/hris/blog/index.php/2009/11/first-local-ihris-developer-training-course-conducted-in-tanzania/

Although Ubuntu and Launchpad have gone a long way in easing the learning curve for people not coming from open-source, we have occasionally stumbled. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to have a conversation to develop a shared “best-practices” document for those of you working in low-resourced settings.

Cheers,
-carl

# # # #

OSFA Members,

For some time now, the OSFA Steering Committee has been considering an OSFA deliverable for 2010: a grading/report card on the various U.S. government agencies and their policies and practices as they relate to open source software and openness more generally. (By openness, we intend the same meaning as the Obama Administration: participation, collaboration, and transparency.)

With the Administration’s issuance last month of its Open Government Directive (http://www.whitehouse.gov/open/documents/open-government-directive), we quickly came to an agreement that this is a project that should go forward — but with a new beginning.

We would first like to issue a set of “Guidelines for Open Government Plans,” to help inform the different agencies as they each seek to publish their mandated Open Government Plan by the April 7th due date. We are opening this discussion today; our expectation would be to issue this set of guidelines the second week of February, thus providing the agencies with sufficient time to take them into account.

We have supplied a first draft, which we expect the OSFA community to significantly improve. Our current draft is at opensourceforamerica.org/guidelines. Your comments and advice are welcome, AND please add them to the mail thread located at the bottom of the page so that we can capture them. And if you have a blog or issue a newsletter, please assist us in promoting this effort. We really would like to see our membership and influence grow.

Following publication of our guidelines, we will then begin work on a set of metrics/questions that we would intend to use to grade the agencies late this spring, following the April 7th launch of their Open Government Plans.

Thank you in advance for your assistance,

OSFA Steering Committee