Archive for the ‘My Published Work’ Category

Bacon for lunch

November 9, 2009

Last week I interviewed Jono Bacon about his new O’Reilly book, The Art of Community. Jono is the open source community manager for Ubuntu, a popular version of GNU/Linux. As such he has a wealth of experience in setting up and running a virtual software development community. His key argument is that community is essential to the development and sustainability of open source software projects and to achieve that you need to foster a sense of belonging.  His book outlines the practical reality of going about doing that. You can read the interview on the OSSWatch website.

Microsoft tacks the winds of change

November 2, 2009

Microsoft have done two important things this year. The first, Windows 7, you will no doubt have heard all about. Indeed, judging by the number of TV adverts for the launch last week you may be starting to get heartily sick of hearing about it. The second, though, is less well known but much more controversial: they’ve recently committed some of their hand-crafted-in-Redmond code to GNU/Linux. I’ve been writing about different aspects of this for a few people, but the first to publish is Prospect magazine. It’s quite a short piece in terms of the complexity of the issues, but will give you a taster of what’s to come.

Pioneering a low carbon future with Enterprise Architecture

August 8, 2009

It’s been a busy August so far, putting the finishing touches to a report on Enterprise Architecture (EA) which has just been published by JISC TechWatch.

EA is a strategic management technique which aims to align business strategies and goals with information systems. The process involves mapping out both the current situation within an organisation, what’s termed the ‘as is’ and then laying out a vision for the future, the ‘to be’.

It has been in use in the commercial world for a decade or so, although it is new to the education sector. The report synthesises the results of a year-long pilot project by a group of pioneers who looked into the day-to-day practicalities of introducing this technique into the higher education institutions. In particular they looked at the use of The Open Group’s TOGAF method for this kind of work.

The report comes to a number of conclusions, but I think the most interesting relates to the potential for the technique to be used to help the sector move to a low carbon future. As the report makes clear low carbon ICT is an area of activity that is strategically conducive to the EA approach as it needs long-term planning within, and possibly between, institutions. Work is already underway in the sector on the feasibility of shared data centres and the introduction of EA can only help these initiatives.

The report’s called Unleashing Enterprise Architecture and you can have a look at a PDF of the report on the JISC TechWatch website.

The Open Source revolution has only just begun

June 22, 2009

A few months ago I interviewed Gianugo Rabellino, CEO of SourceSense, for a piece for Oxford University’s OSS Watch service. Gianugo is an engaging fellow and clearly passionate about open source software (OSS). For him we are in the midst of a revolution, and, as he told a workshop just before I interviewed him: “revolution is hard stuff. Heads get chopped off. There is violence. There is turmoil. But in the end you get to a new order of stability in which some new things are taken for granted.”

For him OSS is much more than a debate about who owns the code and what kind of licence it has. It is a revolutionary new way of working that is about the development of an open and collaborative community centred around that code. He sees this as the profound change that OSS has brought and argues that this way of working is widening rapidly beyond code to cover other information products (such as scientific research). The term Open Development Method has been coined for this and you can read more in the article “Avoiding abandon-ware: getting to grips with the open development method”

Doing Enterprise Architecture

March 23, 2009

For those of you who have noticed the dearth of blogging recently, I can now unveil all. Since Christmas I’ve had my nose to the grindstone working on a new futures project for JISC. It’s going to be formally launched at JISC’s annual conference in Edinburgh tomorrow, but I’ll give you a sneak preview now.

The project is called the Enterprise Architecture pilot programme, which is a complicated way of saying we went ‘native’ with a small group of universities for a year while they were trying out something called enterprise architecture, or EA, a strategic management technique which helps large organisations align their business processes with their ICT and data/information sources. It’s supposed to help manage business change and enable what’s sometimes called the ‘agile’ organisation.

We’ve been involved in developing something called an Early Adopter Study, where we’ve written some introductory material and overseen the production of some quite detailed case studies from the participating universities. Despite being used in the corporate world for over a decade, EA has very little in the way of ‘warts and all’ case studies, so it will be interesting to see how this goes down.

For us it’s been more about trying out a new report format – there’s a lot of quite adventurous stuff goes on in universities but people don’t often get to hear about it. So whereas we were already involved in forecasting and speculation, this is a little closer to home in that it’s looking at some of the ‘toe in the water’ stuff.

The report’s called Doing Enterprise Architecture: Enabling the agile institution and you can have a look at a PDF of the report on the JISC TechWatch Website.

Justin Erenkrantz Interview

February 4, 2009

Towards the end of last year I did an interview with Justin Erenkrantz, the President of the Apache Software Foundation. Apache is a non-profit virtual ‘company’ which specialises in open source software projects and is famous for giving the world the Apache Web server (amongst many other things). The interview was for Oxford University’s OSS Watch service, which was hosting the workshop where the interview took place.

The thing I found interesting when I interviewed Justin was how little pieces of open source history came together—how people’s reactions to certain events were key in creating more formal structures. The final piece is called Meritocrats, cluebats, and the open development method and if you want to know why you’ll have to read the piece.

Open source development

January 6, 2009

One of the live issues in the software world at the moment is whether or not open source code can have long-term sustainability. That is, if there is no clear proprietary ownership can a user be sure that the code will be maintained and developed over a long period? Back in October I was commissioned to write up a workshop hosted by Oxford University’s OSS Watch service that looked at some of these issues. The article, “From a trickle to a flood”, has now been published.

One of the big issues is the methods, or models, that are used to create the code. There are a number of models that are being explored by different open source groups but the Oxford event focused on just one: the open (sometimes called the ‘community-led’) development model.

In this model a diverse community of developers and users work together for the longer-term benefit of the product. The argument is that sustainability can be achieved through the development of a wide and diverse community, a kind of eco-system, which nurtures and supports the code over the long term. The model works with what Harvard Internet lawyer Yochai Benkler has theorised as commons-based peer-production, a process by which everyone who contributes also gets something back that furthers their interests. One of the keynote speakers, Gianugo Rabellino, CEO of SourceSense, described it this way: “It is a bunch of folks, working together, with diverse motivations, and who are not bound by any strong tie – we don’t for example work for the same company…” He goes on to say that: “it is not just grabbing software, attaching an open source licence to it and dumping it somewhere. It is more about understanding and working with others. For me, it is the natural way to express oneself in a connected world”.

For people who are not used to working in this way I think these are quite hard concepts to grasp. There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that Gianugo was talking from the heart. He really believes what he says and lives the open development method as a kind of credo, which is what makes it so fascinating.

Richard Stallman challenges education

June 30, 2008

I recently mentioned an interview I did with software pioneer and happy hacker Richard Stallman, when he was on a rare visit to the UK. The resulting piece has just been published as Richard Stallman on the road less travelled. The reference to Robert Frost’s poem was an attempt to sum up the way in which Stallman has always flown in the face of the mainstream. And his views on education are no different.

For the first time, Stallman outlined his views on the role of proprietary software use in schools and universities, which are less well known and could prove pretty controversial. One of the things we discussed involved commercialisation of software produced during the research process. He called on university research staff to actively resist moves to develop proprietary software during these projects, saying:

“Here is what every person developing software in a university must do when necessary. When the program is just vaguely starting to work, go to the administration [management] and say ‘If I can release this as free software, then I’ll finish it. Otherwise, I’ll just write a paper about it’ “.

Several years ago I had a job in computer-related technology transfer at a university and had a lot of day-to-day contact with the commercialisation and IP ‘protection’ staff. Although a lot of computer science researchers will agree with Stallman, I can’t see this going down too well with the IP department.