Notes‎ > ‎OpenGovWest 2011‎ > ‎

Open Source & Community Sourcing

CS: Chach Sikes
JC: Jeremy Canfield
BM: Bibiana McHugh
AP: Alan Palazzolo
JC: Jeremy Canfield
GL: Greg Lind

BM: just releasing open source software is not enough, need to support the code

JC: Code for America

  • most focussed on solving acute city or agency needs by bringing in technologists to leverage what's already inside
  • build community of all government technologists at all levels, share code, knowledge about locations
    • search across the country for city-based applications and sharing the code
  • recognize that not all cities are ready to move into open source, could mean sharing code on top of proprietary systems

CS: Summer 2011 Code for America - city teams, all projects have source code available, using GitHub, participating in Google Summer of Code, attending hackathons and understanding what make them productive. Coders seen as heroes, need to make contributions from non-developers more visible

AP: application for local leaders to solve local problems. On the Seattle CfA team working with Philadelphia team. Value of write once, distribute as wide as possible across the USA.

BM: Code for America going to change the way government looks at open source. Procurement policies hard to get around, not suited towards open source software, esp. if it's new "like buying something that doesn't exist yet". CfA gives developers opportunities to undertand govt better. Agencies need policies around software procurement, not all open source software is the same,  same with proprietary. CivicCommons helps with research code, support options.

GL: Legal issues, understand the value of open source software. Reduce duplication of effort. Some RFPs built around products, not solutions.

JC: Code for America not a technology project, but a community building project. How to get people involved, building the right thing, sustainable.

AP: Drupal as example of sticking around because of the community as well as the code.

CS: define what you're building, define how to extend participation, the more clear you are, the faster time you'll involve people in the project. Different skillsets

GL: Govt. not the best at building beautiful apps, contests bring out designers. 

BM: trimet.org/apps developed off of Trimet's data. PDXBus 100,000 hits a day. App just needs to do what it says it does and use developer resources, not scraping.

Question: How to get started?

Trimet decided to use OpenStreetmap because proprietary data sets were too expensive, uses college students to improve the data, getting involved in open source community

JC: CivicCommons tries to be a resource to start open source projects. Share what the challengers are. Example: way better to start project in the open than it is to throw it over the wall. Bugs much more shallow. If it's been open the whole time, then things that shouldn't be out there doesn't get out threre. 

AP: when starting to use open source, start small after looking at the open source projects. Build a website using one of the open source CMSes to get a feel for OS.

JC: don't go for the big win right away, if breaking into open source, use a pilot project. OK to fail if it's a small project. 

Trimet: low initial cost in pilot project.

Question: if you have software to share to other governmental agencies, how would you talk about them to that? Agency-specific software, not like a CMS. How to get multiple agencies involved in one project.

GL: just put it on GitHub.

Chach Sikes: publish a description of the features of software you're building, roadmaps.

JC: for projects to share with other jurisdictions, important to already have trusting relationship.

Question: best way to share code? Some tools have barrier to entry.

CS: make code downloadable. Git and GitHub support communities are great, so tools to share code are well-documented with friendly communities.

BM: open trip planner worked with developers at the outset, so people came out of the woodwork who had already written aspects of it. Community can support software better than individuals who don't want text messages sent to them while at the movie.

JC: Other side of barrier of entry, maximize perceived benefit of crossing those barriers. That's a marketing effort. "Why should I contribute?"

Question: how does an activist get involved?

CS: hackathons need to be more interdisiciplinary.

Question: How to frame sharing?

BM: Open Source Licenses irrelevant from a user standpoint. New thing for procurement. Legal sign-off sometimes takes longer than developing the code.

Hard to get momentum from bottom up. Solved by "just doing it". If people are interested, they'll see how long it took to build, benefits to sharing.